However, I had no real need to completely update my kit. Last winter, this all changed when I decided to purchase the Pearl Midtown Series.
The drums I had been playing for 4 years is a bit of a “hodge-podge” consisting of fairly loud and aggressive pieces like a Pork Pie Patina Brass snare, Tama Maple Starclassic rack & floor toms, and a Pearl marching band bass drum (fitted to be a set kick). All cymbals are Zildjian A Custom Series. This setup had worked just fine for me when I was playing the occasional show in my band “Echo Texture”. But eventually, we started doing more shows, plus I joined another band (with my brother, Jon), which brought prospects of even more shows. I came to the conclusion that having a smaller, more portable kit, would not only make gigs easier, but could also fit into my smaller office room for practice.
1) the Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove ($399)
This kit would fit what I was looking for, but I’ve never really liked having someone’s ‘issue’ of an instrument. As much as I appreciate Questlove and enjoy The Roots, it just smelled like a gimmick.
2) TAMA Club-Jam ($399)
This kit would basically fill my needs and I’m a Tama fan myself, but there is a bass drum-mounted cymbal “arm” and extremely shallow shell sizes for the toms. I was turned off by both of those things.
3) PEARL Midtown Series ($449)
Even though the Pearl Midtown does cost a bit more than the other two, it looked the most like something that is a full, professional kit, but smaller. I didn’t sense any big limitations or major turn-offs, and everything I’ve ever owned from Pearl has been worth its weight, so I put in my order for a Midtown Series.
Even though this is an entry level kit (Made in China, etc.), the look and craftsmanship are downright impressive. The white kick head with natural wood showing on the inside of the kick hoop is a classy touch on this darker kit. As a self-professed destroyer of drum heads, sticks and cymbals (always a work in progress), I was curious as to how they’d react in real world use…
I’ve been hauling this thing to rehearsals for a new project every week or so and it makes moving my rig incredibly easy. I can literally pick up the snare, floor tom, rack tom, and kick with plenty of room to grab my cymbal and pedal bag, and walk! Granted, I did have to spring an extras $99 for the Pearl Midtown (2) bag set that makes this all possible. Obviously, I think it was well worth it.
The basic feel of the drums were sturdy and solid, although I could tell that the heads weren’t going to satisfy my needs for long. In fact, the stock skins were thin, cheaply constructed and had somewhat of a toy-ish sound, which are all “no-go’s” for me.
Once I changed all of the tom batter heads to REMO Clear Pinstripes, with an EVANS HD Dry Snare head, the kit had exactly what it needed! Although the overall volume of the kit is slightly quieter than a full size kit, there is still plenty of thud and punch to the mini-kick and the 13” snare can be get…LOUD.
The audience and/or microphones don’t care how convenient it is (or not) to move an instrument, they only care about what’s coming through in waves; and these drums sound wonderful. They look to be built for cocktail jazz, coffee shop sort of stuff, but I can personally vouch that they respond surprisingly well on heavy-handed stuff like Deftones, Pantera and Type O Negative. They also sound fantastic for anything funky- they’re crisp, full, and punchy when hit at full force; but also sensitive enough for quieter jazz applications. From some of the recordings we have already done with this kit, it has become evident that these drums have no problem sticking out in a mix, even with their smaller size. The kick sounds more like a 20” and the snare now sounds like a firecracker (when needed)!
#1- The heads. As I mentioned earlier, the heads that came on the kit were not good. No big surprise, it is a sub $500 kit after all. Just know you’ll probably want to spring for some upgrades once you get the Midtown, at least on the batter side.
#2- Tuning. The drums are not hard to tune at all. I found it very easy to just quickly tune up the new heads by ear. The issue is staying in tune. I’m an adult playing full tilt on these small drums, so some instability is no real surprise; but for a drumkit that seems to have been designed for the gigging musician, this means re-tuning very often.
#3- Bass Drum legs. These don’t have a very solid ‘click-in’ for the most desired angle, just a dot. This forces one to look at it while setting the bass drum up, as opposed to just using feel. I could “see” this being an issue on a dark stage, for example.
Not only can I share my drums with my 7 year old son in a small practice room, but that same kit can come with me to rehearsals, gigs (small OR large), and recording, all with a huge amount of confidence. Well done Pearl!
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