Yamaha 9000 Series
Pete Randall paradiddles and chickachickabooms on the Yamaha YD9124W and reports back to base camp.
Peter Randall reviews the YD-9124W kit
The Yamaha Group of Companies was established in 1887 and, apart from making a very comprehensive range of musical instruments, they also produce motorbikes, skis, tennis racquets, furniture and various alloys. The pre-1976 Yamaha drum kit had its merits but could never really be considered comparable to the big name American and English kits. These old Yamaha kits are still around and are fairly well made except for the fittings, but they somehow don't have that look or feel of quality. The 9000 series drums and hardware are very much a quality, top-of-the-range line, with no corners cut, and prove that the Japanese are now ahead of other countries in the production of high quality drums and accessories.
The kit reviewed consists of a 24in x 14in bass drum, 18in x 16in floor tom tom, 13in x 9in and 14in x 10in hanging toms, and 14in x 6½in snare drum with wood shell. The kit has two straight cymbal stands, one boom, a hi-hat stand, snare stand and bass drum pedal and, of course, tom tom holder and floor tom tom legs. The bass drum has the normal ten rods and claws on each side and comes with natural wood hoops. The most interesting aspects of the bass drum are completely new-style spurs and two square-headed tension rods at the bottom playing side of the bass drum. This is an excellent idea, both for tensioning the bass drum head while set up, and allowing more room for the bass drum pedal.
The spurs are a little similar to Pearl in some ways with a knurled collar which, when rotated, increases the length of the spur. The part of the spur fixed to the bass drum is on a block with two grooves running down and across. The parallel position fixes the spur in a playing position and the vertical groove locks the spur in flush with the drum shell when packed up. The whole mechanism is tightened by a rotary nut with three protruding rods about ½in long rather like the locking mechanism you see on watertight doors in submarines or on bank safes - simple but very effective. As with the rest of the kit, the bass drum has the joined nut boxes rather like Premier, and all the heads are Yamaha rather than Remos. The heads are probably the only letdown on this kit; more about them later.
The tom toms all have triple flange rims and square-headed tension rods. No dampers are fitted to any of the toms, but this is not really that important because Yamaha make a very effective external mute rather like the Rogers which clamps on to the rim of the drum and can be adjusted for pressure and degree of dampening. The tom tom holder receiving plate is a substantial cast block with a hexagonal slot cut in the centre which receives the hexagonal arm from the holder. Once in place, this is tightened via a very large wing nut set at the top of the tom tom receiving plate. The floor tom tom has three legs all held to the drum shell by an eye bolt assembly similar to Ludwig and other makes — nothing really new here, just a slightly different design with large wing nuts for tightening.
The snare drum is a formidable looking object with a very large super-sensitive style snare mechanism. To explain this mechanism in minute detail is a task I am not going to undertake as it would probably take up a whole page or so. The most obvious thing about this snare drum is its sheer volume and responsive feel. Yamaha have left nothing to chance on this one. The snares themselves are adjustable from every conceivable point with double rows of 10 snare wires with a lever operated snare throw off and two screws at the middle centre of the snare mechanism which adjust the lay and position of the snares. A large knurled round knob adjusts tightness on both sides. Inside the drum, all the screws which hold the snare mechanism and nut boxes in place have large washers and locking washers. The inside is finished off very well and looks as good as the outside. The one thing I did notice on the snare drum which seems to have been forgotten is the grooved tension rods. The toms and bass drum tension rods have a small groove down one side with a plastic insert to stop 'slipping' out of tune, and these seem to have been omitted on the snare, the most played drum of the kit. Instead of these, it had normal tension rods. This seemed to me a rather small, but important, oversight — maybe Yamaha did not think it necessary on the snare.
The tom tom holder on the kit is one of the most sophisticated but easy to operate holders around, with two ball and socket mechanisms which are locked by two large wing bolts at the top of the ball joint, locking it into place very securely. The people at Yamaha are very guarded about the actual material this plastic-looking ball is made of, but the basics are of some sort of plastic with a metal added for strength. The hexagonal rods, which come off the ball joint assembly, insert into the hanging toms, and the single tube on the lower part inserts into the bass drum and is held in place by a wing bolt. Inside this fixture is a nylon bush housed in a metal seat. The nylon will reduce wear and scratching on the tube. There is also a supporting metal plate under the bass drum shell for extra support.
The cymbal stands are very solid and it would take a maniac to knock them over. The legs, which are double braced, have a very wide spread; maybe a bit too wide. If you had five or six of these around your kit there would be little room for anything else and you can be sure the bass player would trip over one and send your best Zildjian flying! The tilters are operated on a ratchet system and very large wing nuts hold the various sections together. The snare stand has the same plastic ball joint at the top of the centre tube, which is a bit more visible. Around the socket section of the mechanism which houses the actual ball are staggered grooves which grip the ball. A hexagonal rod protrudes from the centre of the ball which is attached to the basket mechanism. Height can be adjusted over a wide range and even low set-up is possible. The covered arms hold the snare drum firmly and thanks to the nylon bush in the leg clamp, there is no slipping while you are playing. The whole basket mechanism can be moved along the hexagonal rod, so if you have problems finding a comfortable position between your legs with snare stands, or they get in the way of something else, give this one a try.
The hi-hat stand has an adjustable single compression spring with a two piece heel plate and a hard plastic linkage between foot plate and centre rod. The centre rod makes the centre-pull mechanism very positive and at the bottom of the saddle unit is an adjustable spur. A nylon bush in the clamp part prevents slipping, and a memrilock-type clamp means everything will stay in place. The angle of the cymbal can be adjusted (as is normal these days) with a small locking screw. The hi-hat had a very nice action and was extremely smooth without any trace of vibration or creeping. The single legs all have large rubber feet which perform well.
The bass drum pedal has a similar two-piece heel plate with sprung rods which slip into slots at the base. A rather ingenious locking clamp, which is operated with one simple movement of a side lever, clamps the pedal to the bass drum. The cam action is as smooth and positive as the hi-hat and, where most other pedals have leather or fibre straps, Yamaha have a tracked plastic strap which works on a similar principle to an army tank with caterpillar tracks, each part gripping as it goes round and slotting into its respective groove. The main part of the bass drum pedal seems to be an updated version of the Rogers Swivomatic pedal, but is more robust and a little more in keeping with today's requirements. The bass drum pedal retails at £56.48, which is a little on the expensive side, but if you have been searching in vain for a top quality pedal that will last well without looking like part of a World War One tank, this is it.
This kit has a very meaty sound and even sounded good when tensioned up tight. The bass drum had no dampers or felt strips fitted and therefore sounded a bit boomy. But this would soon be rectified with a couple of felt strips. The snare was amazing — very crisp, loud and lots of bottom end, although I did not take too well to the Yamaha heads. Nevertheless, the drums sounded good, and would be even better with Remos or similar.
The boffins at Yamaha spent a long time asking drummers about how they would like a drum or pedal to be designed and made several prototype kits, pedals, stands, etc, gave them to a list of American session and rock drummers, which reads like a Who's Who of the drum world, and asked for criticism and evaluation. At each stage of this process, the kits were taken back to the drawing board and modified until a general idea of everybody's dream kit had been realised.
The review kit is chrome finished with a wood snare drum - so far I have only seen this and wood finish kits. All the 9000 series kits are made of birch plus mahogany, and both finishes look very smart. The only criticism I would make is that the wood finish kit is very easily marked and, I am told, this is partly the reason for joined nut boxes, which protect this finish. If Yamaha had employed a hard lacquer (like Gretsch) on their wood finish kits, then the possibility of damage would have been greatly lessened.
Yamaha are winning some of the top drummers over with these excellent drums, among them James Gadson, Jeff Porcaro, Hal Blaine, Shelley Manne, Jim Keltner, Jim Gordon and a whole lot more. The only thing that may put some people off is the price. The individual hardware and snare prices are as follows: Snare drum SD 065B £107.41; Hi-hat stand HS 901 £50.93; Snare drum stand 55 901 £42.59; Cymbal stand CS 901 £31.48; Cymbal stand CS 902 £39.81; Bass drum pedal FP901 £56.48.
Peter Randall is an ex-pro drummer now working as a salesman at Henrit's Drumstore in Central London.
Review by Pete Randall
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