With the Live Custom Hybrid Oak we got the newest upper class creation from Yamaha for testing. Maple, birch and beech are familiar woods in the construction of plywood boilers. Oak, on the other hand, is rarely used in mass production. Yamaha has always been open to research into alternative boiler materials. When the first generation of the Oak Custom series came onto the market in 2000, the focused, compact sounds were intended to appeal primarily to rock drummers as a group of buyers. Also the Live Custom Hybrid Oak, the currently further developed product generation, is – as one can easily overhear in the name – designed for live use. You can find out here that the set does at least as good a job in the studio and much more.
For testing we got a four-part “Rock Set” with a 22″ x 18″ bass drum, 10″ x 7″ and 12″ x 8″ toms and a 16″ x 15″ floor tom. In addition there is a double tom holder and three Floortom legs. The whole set comes in two big boxes, all three toms are stacked on top of each other and already filled, only the separately packed bass drum has to be equipped with skins and hoops. A good opportunity to take a look at the shell construction.
The boilers fall out heavily
The seven-layer boilers of the set are comparatively powerful. The bass drum is 8.8 millimetres thick, the toms are 7.3 millimetres thick. The novelty in comparison to the construction of the predecessor, the Live Custom, is a middle layer made of phenolic resin, which is supposed to amplify the projection of the already hard boiler even more. In earlier Yamaha series, this mixture was used to seal the outside of the boiler. If you stroke your fingers over the relatively pointed and far outside burrs, you can see and feel very well how hard the used oak wood is. Another novelty is hidden inside the bass drum kettle. The clamping brackets are provided with small weights at the attachment, which, according to Yamaha, should provide even more presence in the low bass segment. All the cabinets are painted black on the inside, which gives a very nice optical contrast to the black nickel-plated cabinet hardware. The exterior finish has also been tinkered with, UZUKURI is the name of the elaborate procedure, at the end of the multiple sanding and varnishing process the matt, glossy, open-pored wood structure of the boilers comes out very nicely. Our test set has the colour Charcoal Sunburst and belongs to the more discreet part of the finishes. A total of five, in some cases somewhat more colourful looks are available. There is also a successful range of single drums, from 8″ Tom to 18″ Floor Tom, and various bass drum sizes between 18″ and 24″ to choose from.
Uncompromising hardware solutions
The two Hängetoms are equipped with the Yamaha YESS 3 Tom mount, which is less discreet than the previous versions due to the large mounting plate. Worth mentioning are also the massive feet of the bass drum and the appealing and functional designed Floortom brackets. The included tom holder for mounting on the bass drum is the well-known triangular Yamaha model, in the third slot a cymbal stand or similar can be attached.
The heads of the set were made by Remo USA. On the bass drum a clear drumhead is combined with a black resonating drumhead, both in pre-damped Powerstroke 3 version. The toms have clear Emperor heads and also clear Ambassador resonant heads. The matching colored veneered tensioning tires are slightly bevelled at the edge of the skin support, the percussion skin tensioning tire is already equipped with a rubber for mounting the pedal.
There are no small compromises of a haptic or technical nature, which you often have to make even for sets beyond the 2000 Euro class. Everything on the Live Custom Hybrid Oak is perfectly crafted, so the kit already gives a lot of pleasure when handling the drums. However, no bargain price is called, with the current selling price of 3198 Euro the haptics corresponds to what one would expect in the upper class.
The Live Custom Hybrid Oak Snare in 14″ x 5,5″
The optional snare measures 14 x 5.5 inches and is identical to the toms in terms of boiler construction. With the Q Type lift-off and the comparatively wide carpet with 25 spirals of carbon steel rustling on the underside, it reminds me strongly of the recently tested Yamaha Recording Snares. The only difference is that the 1.6 mm versions of the Recording Customs are replaced by 2.3 mm versions, of course in 10 mm increments. A coated Ambassador Coated percussion skin and an Ambassador Resonant Fell complete the package.
As I was already very impressed with the handling of the live custom drums, the sound leaves nothing to be desired, on the contrary! The drums sound really fat from the driver’s position, with a great mixture of sound and attack. The attack signal of the big Tom boilers doesn’t fizzle out to a short pöck like you know it from some old sonor drums, but leads to a singing, full and musical tone with high dynamics. I have rarely encountered this mixture before, as modern, rocky tom sounds are usually associated with very short tones.
The two Hängetoms can be tuned surprisingly low, but I enjoy the second, slightly higher tuning even more. Here I almost have the impression to have single-layer skins on the drums, the whole thing sounds so open. The Floor Tom is sovereign in both moods, convinces with a fat and deep sound and also sounds higher and excellent with more tone. Especially the latter is not a matter of course with all 16er Floor Toms.
The low bass part of the bass drum is enormous, especially when delivered with a closed resonance skin. This should be of particular interest to drummers who play unmicrophoned in their own rehearsal room. In recording situations, the low cut is quickly applied when too much low bass is used, because too many basses simply close up the mix. But even when punched and slightly damped, the bass drum can convince with a rich kick, it always plays directly and fast, despite its comparatively long kettle. The whole set not only blossoms under the microphones, but is also acoustically present in the room. Even if the toms with single-layer Coated Ambassador heads sound a bit warmer and even a bit more open, as I found out in a later test run, the focused overall sound remains. So if you swear by soft retro sounds, this set is not a good choice.
The snare also has a considerable vocal range. Also here there is a good mixture of attack and woody tone. I found the sister snare from the recording series a bit more universal, but with the Live Custom Hybrid Oak Snare there is a very assertive crisp snare with a lot of depth. The carpet signal is clean, but with a good audible Raschel portion in the overall mix, you have to like that or switch to a model with a little less spirals. My favourites are the high, very high and medium low ranges.
But just listen for yourself, in the following video you can get an idea of the vocal range of the snare.
Conclusion (5 / 5)
The Live Custom Hybrid Oak can really do something! The kit combines assertive sounds with depth, uncompromising workmanship and sensible detail solutions. With its high vocal range it is also the ideal solution for a modern sounding studio drum set. The powerful, compressed sound, yet dynamic sound of the oak hybrid boilers can make you happy across styles, whether in pop, rock or metal contexts, or even in the bustling “gospel chopper”. Sure, the instrument is not a bargain and doesn’t show off optically with exotic precious wood veneers or gold hardware. Instead it scores with what in my eyes and ears is most important for a (semi-)professional player: sound, feel and workmanship. The optionally available snare is also convincing, with its high vocal range and attack-emphasized sound it forms an optimal sound addition to the set. Therefore full score and explicit anti-recommendation!