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Max Series Drumset

Leave your gaff tape at home! These alder/maple drums have a big, articulate, and controlled sound right out of the box.
Originally a Swedish electronics company, ddrum began offering acoustic drumsets after being purchased by Florida-based Armadillo Enterprises in 2005. Some of ddrum’s acoustic drum innovations include the first all-ash shell and the more recent all-alder shell.

We reviewed an all-adler Reflex Rally Sport kit in the August 2016 issue and were impressed by the fat, controlled tone it provided. The company also offers drums with a blended alder/maple shell, called the Max series, which we have for review here. Let’s take a look.

The Components

The Max series is available in two three-piece shell packs, in either Piano Black or Satin Natural finish. The Max 322, which is what we have for review, comes with an 8×12 rack tom, a 14×16 floor tom, and an 18×22 bass drum. The second shell pack, the 324, also features an 8×12 rack tom and a 14×16 floor tom, but with a traditionally sized 14×24 bass drum. Both shell packs sell for $999.

Add-on Max series toms can be purchased separately and are available in 7×8, 7×10, 9×13, 14×14, and 16×18 sizes. Two matching snares are offered, in 5×14 and 6.5×14 sizes. And there’s a limited-edition five-piece Max configuration in Purple Sparkle Burst that includes 7×10 and 8×12 rack toms, 13×14 and 14×16 floor toms, and a super-deep 20×22 bass drum. It sells for $1,299.

Max series tom shells are 6-ply (two plies of maple and four plies of alder), and the bass drums are 8-ply (two maple and six alder). The bearing edges are cut to 45 degrees on the inside and 30 degrees on the outside. The black nickel–plated hardware includes solid-brass mini-tube lugs, 2.3mm triple-flange hoops, ddrum’s Fixtpitch suspension mount, heavy-duty spurs with retractable spikes, and rubber-tip floor tom legs. The bass drum comes with matching Piano Black wood hoops and the company’s Resolift, which comprises a round rubber insulator mounted to the bottom side of the shell so that the drum is elevated off the floor by about 1″ to help increase sustain and low end.

Our review kit came with U.S.-made Evans drumheads, including Clear G2 tom batters with Clear G1 bottoms, and a Clear EMAD kick batter with a matte-black EMAD front featuring a small porthole and a white ddrum logo.

The Sound

Maple is the most commonly used timber in drum making because of its evenly balanced frequency response and open sustain. Alder has a much darker, warmer, and more focused tonality. Pairing the two woods together creates an interesting drum sound that maintains the big, reverberant note associated with maple, but with the excellent clarity, attack, and super-quick decay provided by alder. No matter how I had these Max series drums tuned, from cranked to wrinkled, or how fast I played, every note had crystal-clear articulation plus a big, fat tone. I was a bit concerned that the 18″-deep bass drum would be a bit difficult to get to speak, but it had superlative attack, almost like what you would get from using a wooden beater.

Tuned super-high, the Max toms crack like popcorn without sounding choked, and medium tunings are about as studio-ready as you can get, producing a full, round tone with a quick decay that required no gates or muffling to mitigate sympathetic hum. Super-low tunings had tons of smack with a very short but full sustain. The floor toms, especially the mammoth 18″, become like mini-kick drums at lower tunings, which served well for articulating seamless, quick tom/kick licks.

Microphones responded well to the Max kit. The kick had great punch, click, and low-end heft and no troubling low-end rumble. The toms hit quickly and got out of the way even quicker, which would make them a breeze for sound engineers to get dialed in. The super-short sustain of these drums may be a bit off-putting for players who prefer to milk the most out of every tom hit, but for anyone playing styles of music that require ultimate snap and control, while still desiring a round tone, the Max series would be an excellent choice.

Michael Dawson