A gorgeous mid-priced lacquer-finish kit with high-quality features and pro-level tones.

Earlier this year, ddrum reintroduced the Dominion series, which is the company’s birch-shell counterpart to the all-maple Dios line. These drums are designed to provide professional-grade sounds and performance at very competitive prices. (A five-piece PVC-wrapped Dominion shell pack costs just $599.) For those of you who are looking for a kit with a little more visual appeal without too much added cost, ddrum offers Dominion kits with an ash veneer finished in Green Burst, Natural, Red Burst, or Transparent Black high-gloss lacquer. We received a five-piece shell pack with the Transparent Black ash veneer. The price for this set is $949.

First Inspection

The five-piece Dominion shell pack includes an 18×22 bass drum, a 5.5×14 matching birch snare, and 8×10, 9×12, and 14×16 toms. The bass drum has matching wood hoops and comes with an adhesive-backed hoop protector that you can install to prevent the pedal clamp from damaging the wood. The kit also comes with two stand-mountable tom arms, standard floor tom legs, and a drum key. The bass drum claws come with plastic gaskets to insulate the metal from the hoop. The toms are outfitted with Asian-made Remo Pinstripe heads. The snare has a Controlled Sound Coated Reverse Dot batter and super-sturdy die-cast hoops. The bass drum has a Powerstroke P3 Clear batter and a solid Powerstroke P3 front with a white ddrum logo.

All of these drums feature ddrum’s small Classic Dominion box lugs, and all of the bearing edges are cut to 45 degrees. The rack toms have discrete suspension mounts that are low-profile and connect directly to the shell so as to not impact positioning flexibility, choke off sustain, or be burdensome when changing drumheads.

The bearing edges are cut sharp and clean, and the high-gloss lacquer used on the ash veneer is evenly applied, giving the kit a nice, high-quality sheen. The interiors of the shells are unfinished and roughly sanded, which could benefit the tone by breaking up the internal reflections. It might require some additional sanding and sealing to extend the lifespan of these shells, especially if they’re going to be used extensively outdoors or in locations that aren’t climate- or humidity-controlled. Though in all fairness, I can’t recall seeing finished interiors on comparably priced shells from any other company.

The snare strainer is simple to adjust and holds its tension well. The throw-off lever disengages perpendicular to the shell, allowing for quick and easy changes from snares-on to snares-off. The bass drum spurs are equally simple and sturdy, and they feature slightly oversized thumbscrews that are smoother and easier to operate than the thinner, wing-style versions found on other kits. The rack toms have the same thumbscrews on the mounts and leg brackets, which helps make quick position changes faster and easier. They also hold their tension very well.

Tune ’Em Up and Go

After unboxing the Dominion kit, I proceeded to do an initial tuning to get the drumheads properly balanced and seated. I’ve been a fairly outspoken critic of the Asian-made Remo heads, but the UT Pinstripes and Controlled Sound Coated batters included on this kit proved to be top-quality and easy to tune, and they were the ideal sonic matches for these birch-shell drums.

For the toms and bass drum, I started with a tried-and-true interval with the batter heads pitched about as low as they could go (Drum Dial reading: 70) and the resonant heads a bit higher (Drum Dial reading: 75). Without any fine-tuning, the drums sounded big, punchy, and pure, with a full resonance and a tight, focused decay. The intervals between the toms was musical, and the timbre was evenly balanced from the 10″ down to the 16″. Birch shells are notoriously crisp, punchy, and focused, without a lot of lows.

The Pinstripe heads accentuated the snap and control inherent in these birch shells while also maximizing their depth. Tuning the bass drum lower removed some of its boominess while emphasizing the attack and punch. Tuning the top and bottom heads on the toms identically allowed the shells to sing to maximum sustain, but even still, they remained focused and controlled.

For the 5.5×14 matching snare, I got the heads tensioned and seated strictly by feel. I tuned each lug of the batter head one and a quarter turns above finger-tight, and I tuned the bottom lugs three and a quarter turns above finger-tight. That tension put the drum in a medium-tight range, which felt and sounded ideal for this particular drum. The snares responded quickly and cleanly to all stroke types and dynamics, and the Controlled Sound Coated batter head attenuated just enough over-ring to introduce a focused “dot” to the attack without eliminating the clean, clear sustain of the birch shell. Rimshots and rim clicks sounded strong and clear thanks to the die-cast hoops, while dead-center strokes had a full, dense tone.

Tuning the batter higher elicited more attack and snap, while tuning it lower provided some satisfying depth. I must reiterate that no muffling or detailed fine-tuning was needed—at any point in this review—to get these drums to sound balanced, open, and pure. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say that before about a mid-priced drumset. These Dominion Birch drums are nice.

By Michael Dawson