Wood Fiberglass Drumset
The innovative hybrid shell that defined the company forty-plus years ago is back…and better than ever.
While American companies like Ludwig, Slingerland, and Gretsch established their now-classic drum sounds in the late ’60s with all-wood makeups (3-ply maple/poplar or mahogany/poplar for Ludwig and Slingerland, 6-ply maple/gum for Gretsch), something a bit more adventurous was taking place across the Pacific Ocean at the Pearl factory.
In a quest for a new sound, Pearl utilized the luan mahogany shells that had been a staple for the company and its OEM brands since the 1940s and tried applying a thin layer of fiberglass to the interior. (The company also made all-fiberglass drums.) The result was a unique tonal combination that retained the warm, thumpy tone of luan coupled with the crisp attack and strong projection associated with fiberglass.
This year, Pearl revived the Wood Fiberglass series, with notable upgrades. Like the originals, the shells are 7-ply with a thin fiberglass inner ply. They have been improved, however, with the use of denser kapur in place of the original luan mahogany. Kapur is known to produce warm, full-bodied tones with an emphasis on lower frequencies.
The shells are 7.5 mm thick, and the inner layer of fiberglass is applied by hand to ensure consistency from drum to drum. The toms have sharp 45-degree bearing edges, and the bass drum edges are fully rounded. The Wood Fiberglass series is available in four lacquer finishes (piano black, antique gold, satin cocoa burst, and platinum mist), and in three traditionally sized configurations. The FW-903XP includes 8×12 and 14×14 toms and a 14×20 bass drum; the FW-923XP includes 9×13 and 16×16 toms and a 14×22 bass drum; and the FW-943XP includes 9×13 and 16×16 toms and a 14×24 bass drum. We received the FW-923XP setup featuring a 22″ bass drum, in platinum mist finish.
Wood Fiberglass toms come with Pearl’s Superhoop II steel hoops and Remo UT Clear Pinstripe batters and UT Clear Ambassador bottoms. The rack tom has an OptiMount suspension system that connects to two adjacent lugs, on top and bottom, to minimize pressure on the shell and to maximize sustain. RL10/20 Session-style lugs are included on the drums. All of the hardware, including the bass drum claws, is insulated with molded rubber gaskets.
The bass drum has a Remo UT Clear Powerstroke 3 batter and a UT Coated Powerstroke 3 front head with an offset porthole. The telescoping spurs feature a spike tip and retractable rubber feet. The floor tom legs come with Pearl’s R-40 rubber feet, which are designed to maximize tone and resonance by floating the drum off the floor.
Kapur is known to have rich low-end frequencies, so when you marry that with the cut and projection provided by the fiberglass you have a unique drum sound that packs a lot of power and attack while retaining a dark, fat, punchy tone with focused decay. The sharp edges on the toms give them a strong attack, while the Pinstripes help center the pitch, shorten the sustain, and accentuate the lower overtones. The round bearing edges and PS3 heads used on the kick keep it controlled and deep sounding, while the fiberglass provides the crystal-clear snap and click desired in most contemporary live and recording situations.
I took the Wood Fiberglass into the studio, along with a similarly constructed 6.5×14 Hybrid Exotic kapur/fiberglass snare, to track a dense industrial rock tune that required deep, punchy drum tones with a lot of modern edge. Before I tweaked the tunings for that, I first tested the drums across their entire range, from high (rack tom at C, floor tom at F, bass drum at F an octave below) to medium (rack tom at A, floor tom at D, bass drum at D an octave below) to low (rack tom at F#, floor tom at B, bass drum at B an octave below). The drums sounded incredible and felt completely at home at all three tunings, producing focused, balanced tones with snappy attack and a deep, dark timbre.
None of the drums, including the kick, required muffling, and they recorded very well. The kick is tailor-made for gut-punching modern rock, especially with one mic inside the drum and another placed a couple inches from the center of the resonant head. When I tracked the Wood Fiberglass, tuned low, for the aforementioned industrial rock tune, it gave me exactly what I wanted (dense attack, short sustain, and rich, low tones), without any additional tuning tweaks, muffling, or EQ adjustments.
The Wood Fiberglass FW-923XP three-piece shell pack, with the 22″ bass drum, has the surprisingly affordable street price of $1,055. You can check out a video demo of all three tunings at moderndrummer.com.