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Gretsch RN2

Gretsch Renown RN2 Drumset and Full Range Hammered Black Steel Snare

More classic appointments to the brand’s top import lines.

by Michael Dawson

The professional-grade Renown series drumset has been very popular among touring, gigging, and session drummers for its combination of classic Gretsch quality, clean and contemporary tone, and competitive price point. For the second-generation version, called RN2, the company incorporated more of the features found on the high-end US-made Brooklyn and Broadkaster series. We were sent the RN2-E825 shell pack (7×10, 8×12, 14×16, and 18×22) in satin tobacco burst finish, plus a 5×14 Full Range series Hammered Black Steel snare. The shell pack lists for $2,499.99 (which includes a matching maple snare). The Hammered Black Steel snare lists for $549.99.Shell Pack Specs
RN2 drums, which are made in Taiwan, feature 7-ply Gretsch-formula maple shells with the company’s signature 30-degree bearing edges. There are no reinforcement rings, and the interiors are painted with Gretsch’s legendary Silver Sealer. The rack toms have five lugs per side, the floor tom has eight, and the bass drum has ten. The lug casings, tom brackets, memory locks, bass drum spurs, tom mount, and thumbscrews are stylized to give this kit a classic Gretsch look, which is complemented by timeless round-badge nameplates.The rack toms come with the company’s discreet off-the-shell mounting system that connects to two lugs without obscuring much of the drums’ classy satin finish. The tom mount attaches directly to the bass drum, which makes setting up this kit quick, easy, and consistent. I prefer this type of mount, as opposed to flying toms from cymbal stands, because I can lock in the tom position without having to adjust cymbal bases and booms to get my crashes and ride where I want them. Even if the extra weight of the toms on the bass drum sacrifices some tone (I didn’t notice any), I feel that this was a smart decision by Gretsch, especially for gigging/touring drummers who have minimal time to make adjustments on stage. It’s also worth noting that the tom brackets and floor tom legs Gretsch uses on the RN2, as on the US-made lines, are big and chunky, and they lock into place very securely. I doubt you’d ever have to worry about them slipping in the middle of a gig.

For Renown RN2 toms, Gretsch swapped out the die-cast hoops for its newer 3mm, double-flange 302 design, which was previously only available on US-made Brooklyn and Broadkaster drums. The 302 hoops bridge the gap between the open sound and flexible feel of triple-flange and the more rigid feel and focused snap of die-cast. These hoops definitely helped give the toms a tight, clear tone without choking the sustain. They also produced strong and chunky rimshots.

Tone for Days
I’ve tested a few Renown kits over the years and have always been impressed with their no-fuss, easy-to-tune contemporary sound. The adjustments Gretsch made for the RN2 have made these kits even more versatile, offering a big, warm tone with plenty of attack and projection, plus all the clarity and control you’d need to employ them in the recording studio.

The most notable difference I found on the RN2, when compared to its earlier incarnations, was in the length of the decay. I was able to get the RN2 toms and kick to produce crystal-clear pitches quickly and easily at several tensions (from high and tight to low and loose). The sustain remained clear and balanced, and the decay was long and smooth. Tuned tight, the RN2 toms sang like timpani, and tuned low, they thumped without becoming papery.

The 18×22 RN2 bass drum was the least versatile of the kit, but not because it couldn’t be coaxed for many different sounds. It’s 18″ depth made it a little impractical for use as an everyday gigging kick, especially when playing in cramped quarters, and it needed to be hit a little harder than a shallower 22″ drum would in order to get the heads and shell to vibrate fully. But when going for a punchy, powerful kick tone for modern rock or pop, the 18×22 RN2 is a killer. It pushed a lot of air and had a ton of low end, and the articulation was crisp without being clicky.

The RN2 toms came with Remo Clear Emperor batters and clear single-ply bottoms. The bass drum came with a Clear Powerstroke 3 batter and a coated P3-type front.

5×14 Full Range Hammered Black Steel Snare
Rather than include a matching maple RN2 snare to review, Gretsch supplied one of its new 5×14 Hammered Black Steel snares. This drum has a 1.2mm steel shell that’s been uniformly hammered across the entire surface, which helps give the drum a drier and more focused sound. It comes with die-cast hoops, twenty-strand wires, a standard side-lever throw-off, a Remo Coated CS White Dot batter, and a clear, thin bottom.

Steel snares are known to have a lot of power and articulation, plus considerable overtones. The Gretsch Hammered Black Steel sounds as strong and cutting as any steel drum I’ve played, especially when cranked up, while also having a tighter and more controlled tone. Its sensitivity is superb, and the overtones are smooth, so no muffling is required. This drum has potential to replace a few in my collection that I often go to when I need a tight, Chad Smith–type “pop.” But it’s not a one-trick pony. This Full Range Hammered Black Steel snare has plenty of versatility to complement the all-purpose sounds of the RN2 kit. Well done, once again!