Pearl GLX 22 D50 'Super Gripper' Kit
I'd been invited up to Pearl U.K in Milton Keynes to review their new GLX drum kit. For those who've never ventured to Milton Keynes before, take my advice and get good directions: had it not been for a friendly cafe owner, I might still be going round roundabouts in hopeless confusion!
I eventually arrived (about two hours late) and was shown around Pearl's offices and warehouse. The warehouse looks very organised, with hundreds of different-sized boxes filling the large hangar-like room almost to the roof. A small area is set aside for visitors to play, dissect and generally abuse the new products - one of which was the new GLX Super Gripper kit which I'd come to see.
Generally speaking I like Pearl products for their simple design and competitive price, which is a big plus these days. All the hardware in the Pearl range is good value for money, starting with the 700 series, 800 being in the middle and 900 at the top. Pearl drums first came to these shores about twelve years ago, and were originally marketed, along with Ludwig and Hayman, by Dallas Arbiter. Now with competition like that, all from the same company, you'd think that any unproven new Japanese drums couldn't last the course, unless they had something special going for them.
Pearl did. They were cheap, well made, and sounded good. Dallas Arbiter eventually developed internal problems, so the Pearl agency went to Norlin Music. Pearl survived, but a few years later 'Pearl U.K.' was founded, in order to be the only workable answer to doing the products justice. Much like Yamaha's U.K. arm, it's run and financed by the head office in Japan, but staffed mainly by British employees.
Anyway, now it's time to get down to the kit itself. The Pearl GLX 'Super Gripper' system offers a unique major plus, in that the lugs are hinged so that head-changing time is cut by half. The basic principle of this is similar to something Hollywood drums used to do some years ago, and, frankly. I'm surprised somebody has not thought of reviving it till now. On the outside, the lug looks very much like any other drum lug, but its hidden secret is revealed when detensioning. Instead of having to unscrew the tension rod all the way out to take the rim off, just make a few turns and the lug hinges forward, allowing the tension screw to float free. The tension rod seats into a piece of brass that is coated in plastic and lugs horizontally in the lug the brass nut being drilled to accommodate the tension screw.
Another useful feature on this kit is the use of plastic washers on the tension rods which prevent a drum detuning.
The Bass drum is 22"x16", and has a total of 20 'super-grippers' with the usual 'T' handles, which have been slightly remodelled so as not to damage the wooden hoops.
The finish on this kit, as on all this series, is a clear lacquered look. This wood look is something we are beginning to see a lot of just lately from Pearl, Yamaha, Premier Black Shadow and Gretsch (to name just a few) - but, to be fair, it was Gretsch who started this craze for fine wood finishes, and they probably still have the edge on the competition in this area.
The double tom holder is very much the same as the one Pearl have stuck with for the past seven years; with one minor difference in that the ratchet arm goes down about ten degrees further than before, allowing even more angle adjustment
The spurs seem to be unchanged, and work perfectly well (having owned a Pearl kit myself for about four years, I can vouch for that). In fact, the only thing I have to say in criticism is that the front lower section of the spur works itself loose on the join, but this is nothing much to worry about unless it breaks off altogether. I've seen this happen a couple of times, but it is pretty rare, believe me!
The toms on this 5-drum kit measure 12x10 and 13x11, with the floor tom the usual 16x16. Super Gripper nut boxes are used on all 6 each side for the mounted toms, and 8 each side for the one on the floor. Taking another leaf out of the Gretsch book, Pearl have fitted 'Super-Hoops', which aren't exactly the same die-cast Gretsch types, but are like a thicker version of the normal pressed steel. This, in effect does make a difference to the sound of the drum - basically improving it. Try putting one of the normal pressed steel hoops on and you can hear the difference; a thinner, more open sound, not what many younger players want these days. By comparison, Super-Hoops give you a fat, thick; loud and full sound, and if that's what you want that's what you get. Given the right heads and tuning they also work extremely well for small drums (8" or 10" or 12"), making them sound a bit bigger than they are.
The snare drum on this kit is the best thing I've seen come out of Pearl for a long time. While testing I couldn't help going back to the snare for a few more whacks. It's a great sound, and I'd rate this right alongside Ludwig's 'black beauty' as a classic brass-shell snare. The snare mechanism is the 'Gladstone' type, with Super-Hoops and Super Gripper lugs, and the shell has an inverse flange at about 45 degrees. There seems to be no strengthening bead around the centre, and a shallow snare touch area on the underside gives a very resonant sensitive feel to the drum. The snare mechanism (designed to be adjusted at either side) gives more than adequate control of snare pressure, the 20-strand snare itself jutting out a little from the shell when mounted. The on/off system comprises a cast block, which locks on radially. It has a positive feel, and doesn't look like the sort that slips off with vibration. The snare wires themselves are held on by two strips of plastic, which seems to be a fine system and one which almost all drum companies are now adopting.
I would like to take a moment here to explain, for all you drummers with plastic strips on the snare, that they are replaceable by cutting up old heads into strips the same size as the original (although Yamaha and Tama use extra thick, strong versions). The best ones for this purpose, I find, are those smooth white heads, as opposed to the rough-coated types. So there you have it, skin-bashers!
The cymbal stands on this kit are all from the 800 series, with double braced legs which I believe are designated C800W and B800W - the 'B' standing for Boom. Basically, these are very simple units, with nylon inserts at the joined section and a very large tilter mechanism which keeps the cymbal well away from the stand, no matter what angle you have it set at. The snare stand is excellent, and is similar in principle to the Yamaha 9000 series in its actual cradle angle adjustment. Numbered S900W, this really is a versatile unit which, like the rest of Pearl's hardware, is simple to operate. Just turn the screw that locks the arms into place to the open position, and put the snare drum into place; then reverse the exercise and the snare is locked onto the arms. Adjust the height of the stands to suit, and the only thing that remains is to adjust the angle of the snare drum itself. This is a very easy exercise, as all you do is set the locking wing nut on the cradle to almost any angle you want, screw it up, and forget it - very impressive! I would like to see how this stands the test of time over a period of years being constantly set up and broken down, though.
The bass drum pedal wasn't in the same class unfortunately, and seemed to lack speed and smoothness. O.K., perhaps as a spare pedal and certainly not bad as such, but very much the same as a dozen other Japanese/Taiwanese pedals from other manufacturers. P800 is the code number, and I really tried to like this pedal, but (especially having borrowed one recently when my trusty Cameo broke down) I just couldn't come to terms with it. I don't know why, because the basic twin post side-spring principle has worked well for other makes, but it seems noisy, lacks power and looks a bit 'cheap and cheerful'.
H900 is the number of the hi-hat stand here, which seems all very fine with regard to smoothness and speed. Two twin posts house the springs, and the pedal is joined to the main stand by a nylon link, which must have something to do with the silent action. Actually, I would have preferred the 800 series hi-hat personally - but this is splitting hairs, as the two models are almost identical except for the 800 having a single spring at the centre and a lighter look about it.
The Pearl GLX 22 D50 kit is available in black, red, wine, walnut or natural maple - all of which look very stunning. The most appealing parts of it, for me, were the snare stand and brass shell snare drum, real winners I feel, and not costing an arm and a leg either!
The kit isn't cheap, but I'm pretty sure that a lot of shops will sell it for around £200 less as a discount price, so, that being the case, it's worth the money. By the way, the snare drum also comes in maple I'm told, and I really wanted to take one home with me to try on a gig. Unfortunately, Pearl hadn't received the maple samples from Japan at the time of review, so I settled for a brass shell, which certainly lived up to its impressive appearance.
I look forward to trying out the maple shell as soon as it arrives. The kit apart, the snare drum alone should sell well. If it doesn't, I'll eat my kit case, stands and all!
Black Lacquer finish - 5-Piece Kit £1622 7- Piece Kit £2084.38 Wine Red, Walnut or Natural finish - 5-piece Kit £1516.56 7- Piece Kit £1949.10
More details from Pearl (U.K.) Ltd., (Contact Details).
Review by Peter Randall
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!