Tama has recently expanded its popular and competitively priced Sound Lab Project (S.L.P.) snare drum series to include three full drumsets. The Fat Spruce kit features all-spruce shells, a wood not often used in drum construction, for a unique sound that we found satisfying and fun to play. The Dynamic Kapur kit features all-kapur shells. Kapur is a rainforest hardwood that offers a dry, dark tonality but is still rich and lively. The Studio Maple has all-maple shells and natural-finished hoops. We were sent all three sets to put through their paces.
Fat Spruce: Look and Build
Spruce is classified as a soft wood and isn’t used often for ply drum shells. Although it’s considerably softer than more common timbers like maple or birch, spruce is strong and flexible and has a long history in the manufacturing of musical instruments, like guitars and pianos, as well as stave- and solid-shell drums. Tonally, spruce has a rich mid-range and a full bottom end.
The S.L.P. Fat Spruce comes in a four-piece configuration with a 14×20 bass drum (8-ply, 7 mm), an 8×12 tom (6-ply, 5 mm), a 14×14 floor tom with legs (6-ply, 5 mm), and a 6×14 snare (8-ply, 7 mm). All four drums feature a gorgeous dark satin finish, die-cast hoops, and mini-tube lugs. The kit came with Evans G1 Coated single-ply batter heads. The bass drum has a classy-looking antique white resonant head.
A new, interesting innovation featured on this kit is the Direct Flexi-Mount, which maintains a low profile while also promoting resonance. It’s a two-piece system with a connecting plate drilled into the shell and an L-rod receiver with a hinge to allow some range of motion. I was surprised by how small yet functional this mount was.
Fat Spruce: Sound
The Fat Spruce drums sound huge. The tone is warm, round, and full. The kick drum is especially impressive; its sound is much larger than that of a typical 14×20 drum. All I did to tame some of the overtones was place a rolled-up tea towel between the kick pedal and the batter-side head, and the drum sounded gigantic while still having the punch and playability of a smaller kick. With no muffling, the toms sang nicely, even at a medium-low tuning. With a dampening gel applied to the batter heads, they warmed up beautifully. The die-cast hoops helped focus their tone as well.
The snare on this kit is the same S.L.P. drum that Tama debuted a few years ago. It has a huge tuning range, so you can get that classic ’70s deep tone easily, and when tuned higher it remains warm and fat.
My favorite thing about the Fat Spruce kit is the feel of playing it. “Buttery” is the first word that comes to mind. Some drums can have a stiff and hard response, but the Fat Spruce drumset felt smooth and soft. The three-piece shell pack (no snare) is available for $1,299.99. The snare can be purchased separately for $329.99.
Dynamic Kapur: Look and Build
Kapur is a beautiful wood that looks like mahogany combined with bubinga. The finish of the Dynamic Kapur kit is a dark burst that accentuates the dark ripples in the timber. All of the hardware is chrome. This drumset really pops under stage lighting.
The Dynamic Kapur setup is a six-piece configuration with a 16×22 bass drum (7-ply, 6 mm), 6.5×10 and 7×12 toms (6-ply, 5 mm), 12×14 and 14×16 floor toms with legs (6-ply, 5 mm), and a 6.5×14 snare (6-ply, 5 mm). These drums come fitted with Tama’s 1.6 mm Sound Arc hoops, which are inspired by vintage “stick saver” rims and feature an inward-bent top flange. These hoops are said to control the tone a bit more than traditional triple-flange versions. This setup has the same mini-tube lugs as the Fat Spruce kit.
Dynamic Kapur toms come with Tama’s new Star-Mount system, which is similar to the company’s popular Star-Cast mount but has four points of support on the rim rather than just three. The eyebolts can slide horizontally to accommodate different setups. The Star-Mount is light, low profile, and sturdy, and it looks good.
Dynamic Kapur: Sound
The Dynamic Kapur is designed to have a focused sound with enhanced attack and dark tones. This is unique because you usually don’t get both attack and warmth from a drum. This kit also has an underlying fatness that I really enjoyed.
The Dynamic Kapur kit made me want to play fast grooves and chops. The entire set was very responsive at all dynamics, and I could hear all of the nuances in fills and grooves with a lot of ghost notes. This kit would be right at home in funk, gospel, fusion, progressive rock, and metal. Every note has presence, and the drums resonate with a satisfying fullness. And the combination of attack and fatness is unique and pleasing to the ear.
While I preferred to tune the toms and kick medium-low, the snare felt more at home at a high tuning. Tuned up, it maintained the dark tone of the wood with the extra crack and snap usually found in a metal drum. This snare also had a higher volume ceiling than other wood drums I’ve used. The five-piece shell pack lists for $1,699.99, and the snare is available separately for $299.99.
Studio Maple: Look and Build
In my opinion, the Studio Maple is the best looking of the three S.L.P. kits. The finish is called Gloss Sienna and is similar to a light tobacco burst. This kit comes with natural maple hoops and arched single-ended lugs. The four-piece shell pack includes a 16×22 bass drum (8-ply, 6 mm), 7×10 and 8×12 toms (6-ply, 5 mm), a 16×16 floor tom with legs (6-ply, 5 mm), and a 6.5×14 snare (6-ply, 5 mm).
The rack toms feature the Direct Flexi-Mount, and the shells have maple Sound Focus reinforcement rings, which help strengthen the shell and color the sound to be a bit more old-school. The bass drum has 22 mm maple hoops.
The bottom snare hoop has two straightened sides to allow the drum to fit into a snare basket more easily. The rack tom hoops have flattened sides as well, so they can be placed close together when mounted on the bass drum. The bottom floor tom hoop has small cutouts to leave space for the legs.
Studio Maple: Sound
The Studio Maple isn’t just any run-of-the-mill drumset. It exhibited the articulation and brightness typical of maple kits, but the wood hoops and Sound Focus rings warmed up the tone tremendously. The drums also had a more open voice and pronounced resonance, while the reinforcement rings helped tame some of the sustain. The result was a round and full sound with pleasant overtones and brilliant clarity.
The wood hoops caused me to play differently. I found myself going for more spacious grooves, and I ended up playing on the hoops a lot more than I ever have. The hoops produced clear, natural rim clicks as well. I was worried about their durability, but they felt sturdy and showed no signs of wear after hours of testing. I wouldn’t recommend smashing rim shots on the snare all day long, but other than that, you can feel free to go to town on these. The four-piece shell pack sells for $1,699.99, and the snare is available separately for $399.99. If you’re looking for a high-quality drumset that won’t break the bank, any one of these Tama S.L.P. setups will serve you well.