The Recording Custom series has a long history in the world of drumming. The kit originally launched in the mid-’70s as the YD-9000, taking on the Recording Custom name in the mid-’80s. Over the years, the Recording Custom has changed in a few ways, but its all-birch shell has remained the unwavering trademark of the series since its inception. Yamaha recently collaborated with drumming icon Steve Gadd to revamp the Recording Custom for 2016. According to Yamaha, the result is a “refined, focused sound with…deeper tones.” Let’s dig in!
The Review Kit
We received a six-piece Recording Custom kit with a surf-green finish (list price: $4,419.99). Included were 7×10 and 8×12 rack toms, 13×14 and 15×16 floor toms, an 18×22 bass drum, and a 5.5×14 aluminum snare. Other finish options include high-gloss solid black and classic walnut, as well as a matte-lacquer wood. The kit features 6-ply North American birch shells with 30-degree bearing edges and redesigned Hi Tension lugs that are weighted to enhance lower frequencies.
A 20″ bass drum on a floating riser is also available (and is used by Gadd). The riser minimizes interference from the floor, which results in greater resonance from the shell. Yamaha offers a beater that has an extended rod to ensure that the drumhead is struck precisely in the center. All Recording Custom toms are equipped with Remo Coated Ambassador batter heads. The bass drum comes with a Smooth White PS3 resonant and a Remo Coated PS3 batter. Completing our review kit was the new Recording Custom 5.5×14 aluminum snare.
The Beauty of Birch
A problem with some shells that are designed for enhanced depth and low-end resonance is the loss of articulation and stick definition when tuned low. However, the Recording Custom shells overcame this obstacle with ease and provided a perfect balance of focused fundamental tone, crisp attack, and quick decay. The extra attack and short sustain were extremely helpful when playing fast, syncopated patterns between the bass drum and toms, or when embellishing patterns with floor tom hits without overwhelming the balance of the groove with too much resonance. The 16″ floor tom instantly recalls the deep, dark, articulate sound Gadd used in his famous linear pattern on Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
The 22″ Recording Custom bass drum came with a ported resonant head, and we added a little muffling to minimize some of the resonance and emphasize the drum’s naturally deep and punchy attack. With the drum tuned low, you can feel the depth of the tone throughout your body. The attack was more than just a sharp slap, it was a clearly defined point of the beater hitting the head enveloped by a round, deep tone.
As we pushed the toms and bass drum into higher pitches, the resonance remained completely controllable via tuning. In short, the 6-ply Recording Custom birch shells gave us a wide range of sonic options to work with, from deep and punchy to crisp and resonant.
Recording Custom Snare Options
For the first time ever, Recording Custom snares are offered in several metal options (starting at $935), including 1.2mm brass, stainless steel, and aluminum. Each shell features an outward center bead that “opens up the tone of the drum for crisp, articulate performance,” according to Yamaha. All of the 5.5×14 Recording Custom snare models come with a set of Steve Gadd signature ten-strand snare wires that are designed to offer additional sensitivity, a more natural tone, and greater dynamics.
The aluminum snare that we received was incredibly sensitive and gave an explosive crack when tuned high. At medium to low tunings, it remained sensitive enough to articulate subtle ghost notes while having a throatier attack with short decay. The versatility of the aluminum snare was a perfect complement to the Recording Custom kit.