With the Tama Starclassic Walnut / Birch we have one of the most interesting new introductions from the 2019 portfolio of the Japanese manufacturer available for testing. Tama redefines its upper middle class with this set, besides the new wood ingredient walnut the kit has a few features on board, which should appeal especially to professional and ambitious players.
With drums made of Bubinga wood, Tama was the first company to jump on the West African tropical wood bandwagon on a grand scale. Beside the Tama Starclassic Bubinga and the Star Bubinga introduced later, the slightly cheaper Starclassic Performer Birch / Bubinga sets were a long runner in the program. Due to the Washington CITES Agreement, musical instruments made of tropical wood also came into focus, i.e. every instrument, no matter whether string, plucked or percussion instrument, now requires a trade certificate. This could be one of the reasons why Tama is now using walnuts instead of bubinga for his successor. The second type of wood, birch, is still a firm and largest component of the kettle mixture.
Roadworthy optics and classic sizes
For the test we got a four-part shellset in the sizes 22″ x 16″ bass drum, 10″ x 8″ and 12″ x 9″ toms and 16″ x 14″ floor tom. The hardware includes three Floortom legs and a double tom holder for mounting the two toms on the bass drum. The slightly different sizes (medium bass drum and slightly longer hanging toms) show that Tama takes a middle course. I’m curious how this will affect the sound.
In addition to a five-piece set that includes an undrilled bass drum, shorter hanging toms and a second floor tom, there is also a basic kit with two 12″ x 8″ and 16″ x 16″ toms and a 22″ x 14″ bass drum to choose from. With five foil-finished finishes and eight paintwork finishes, ranging from classic to experimental, the inclined buyer is spoilt for choice. In addition, there are four snare drums and a large range of single drums available to order. So you really can’t complain here.
The crafts can begin: this is how the set looks unpacked.
The six-layer, six-millimetre thick Tomkessel consists of two inner layers of walnut and four layers of birch, the eight-millimetre thick Bass Drum consists of a layer of birch wood glued together. The colour of our test set is Jade Silk, a leaf-green Delmar foil with a classic ripple look, and the tension tires of the bass drum are also suitably laminated. There’s nothing wrong with the workmanship, compared to the Starclassic Maple tested at that time, it’s noticeable on closer inspection that the burrs of the walnut/ birch kettles, especially on the bass drum, are a little less finely ground and not elaborately sealed. With rising prices beyond the 2000 Euro mark, the attention for the workmanship in the very fine details usually also rises. So at least my experience of the last years with the big manufacturers Yamaha, Tama and Pearl.
Test Tama Starclassic Walnut Birch Battery Head
Even when assembling the set – the bass drum and the floor tom still have to be fitted with skins – the high-quality look of the hardware is great fun. Smooth-running Starclassic Lugs (ten on each side for the bass drum, six or eight for the tom and floor tom), solid but still relatively light zinc cast tyres on the toms and the rastered and thick rubberized telescopic legs of the bass drum are all fine details that make your work easier. All important parts are of course underlaid with rubber. It is worth mentioning that Tama uses a double dome holder for the set, but the tube of the holder does not protrude into the bass drum, but is shielded by a plate inside the bowl. All three toms have the Quick-Lock system installed, which means that the tom holder and floor tome legs can be secured in a desired position. Instead of loosening the screw, you flip a switch and pull out the drum. The lower part of the holder then remains as a memory clamp on the tom holder or Floortom leg.
Das Quick-Lock System ist an allen Toms verbaut
Der MTH 1000 Tomhalter, der unter anderem auch beim S.L.P. Studio Maple Set zum Einsatz kommt, ist sehr flexibel einstellbar, nur die Höhenverstellung am oberen Teil des Halters ist aufgrund der ausladenden Dimensionierung der Quick-Lock Brackets etwas eingeschränkt. Etwas gewöhnungsbedürftig finde ich beim ersten Aufbau, dass die beiden Hängetoms im montierten Zustand relativ großes seitliches Spiel haben. Nach ein wenig Recherche im Netz scheint das aber laut Tama kein Bug, sondern ein Feature zu sein, das mit „Sustain-Gewinn“ begründet wird. Im Spielbetrieb halten beide Toms optimal die Position und lassen sich mit der Star Cast Aufhängung – im Gegensatz zu Mapex’ Saturn-Version – auch direkt und präzise auf den gewünschten Neigungswinkel justieren. Trotzdem könnte ich mir vorstellen, dass die Quick-Lock Halterung insbesondere für Spieler, die sich eine sehr starre Montage ihrer Trommeln wünschen, nicht die optimale Lösung ist.
Batter Bearing Edge
Wie üblich setzt Tama in der Starclassic Serie auf Felle aus dem Hause Evans. Die G2 Tomfelle sind doppelschichtig und klar, bei den Resonanzfellen setzt man auf etwas preisgünstigere PowerCraft II Versionen, die aber ohne Frage ihren Job machen. Die Bass Drum ist beidseitig mit vorgedämpften EQ4 Fellen bestückt. Auf geht’s in den Spieltest.
Conclusion (4.5 / 5)
Friends of clear, direct and musical drum sounds get full service with the new Tama Starclassic Walnut / Birch. The sound of the walnut-birch-mixing kettles holds attack and depth at the same time, especially in low and middle registers the set convinces with its straight, but unmistakably woody sound, which sounds anything but gaudy or sterile. With a high usable vocal range, good workmanship and mostly very successful hardware solutions, the kit positions itself as another workhorse in competition to products like the Mapex Saturn, the Yamaha Tour Custom or the Pearl Masters Maple Complete. A large number of finishes and single drums are also available. Only the Quick Lock tom suspension, which works in playing mode without any problems, but allows an unusual lateral radius of movement, especially with the two suspension toms when touching the kettle, will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Otherwise I can give the four-part an unrestricted anti-test recommendation.