Tama Superstar Classic Drumset
by Dave Ciauro
Competitively priced with a nod to the past and tones for the contemporary.
Tama’s all-maple Superstar Classic kits are now available with a striking Jet Blue Burst lacquer finish, which complements the drums’ spirited sonic presence. Maple drums produce classic drum tones, boasting punchy, enthusiastic brightness with residual warmth. Tama’s Superstar Classic series feature well-crafted, versatile drums that make for a great all-around kit at an affordable price point.
We were sent a seven-piece Superstar Classic shell pack to review (list price: $1,499.98) that included an 18×22 bass drum; 7×8, 8×10, and 9×12 rack toms; 12×14 and 14×16 floor toms; and a 6.5×14 matching snare. All of the shells have 45-degree bearing edges. The snare and toms are 6-ply (5 mm), while the bass drum is 8-ply (7 mm). The bass drum is furnished with maple hoops, the snare and toms come with triple-flange hoops, and the rack toms feature Tama’s Star-Mount suspension system, which is said to enhance sustain. All of the drums are outfitted with low-mass single lugs and the original T-style badge used on Superstar drums in the late ’70s. The stock heads include Tama’s Power Craft II clear single-ply (10 mil) on the toms, a coated single-ply snare batter, a clear single-ply bass drum batter with an internal muffling ring, and a stylish cream-colored non-ported bass drum resonant head.
Although single-ply heads may not be everyone’s preference, they are an honest indicator of a drum shell’s innate tonal character. Playing on a larger Tama kit like this one brought to mind some of my drumming heroes, such as Simon Phillips, Brann Dailor, Stewart Copeland, and Charlie Benante (all coincidentally Tama artists), so I took the drums through the high-to-low tuning spectrums with those players in mind.
I kept the batter and resonant heads at the same tension at all tunings, with the exception of the snare drum. The resonant snare head was tuned to a G (approximately four full turns above wrinkling), and it remained at that setting through all the tuning ranges. No muffling was used on the snare and toms, and a little muffling was used inside the bass drum.
I began at the top end of the tuning spectrum to test the 8″ tom’s choking threshold. It was able to go up to the note A, which was approximately two turns above wrinkling. I tuned the 14″ floor tom an octave lower. The remaining toms were tuned to melodic equivalents, which turned out to be G octaves between the 10″ and 16″. The 12″ fit nicely at D. The kick drum was tuned an octave lower than the 14″ floor tom, and the snare batter was cranked up to an A.
My drum room is quite lively, so leaving the bass drum wide open resulted in it sounding a bit too explosive. To remedy that, I rolled up a towel and secured it with gaffer’s tape to the batter head, which is a muffling technique used by Simon Phillips. The towel tamed the overtones perfectly without compromising the bass drum’s sound. The drum’s low-end punch was impressive and held a nice high-end attack without being boingy. The snare and toms sang and cut at this tuning, offering a tight, crisp attack and a bright tone that coaxed me into playing a plethora of melodic tom phrases. The kit was very touch-sensitive, allowing for excellent dynamic control.
For medium tension, the snare was tuned to G, the kick an E, and the toms at E (8″), D (10″), A (12″), F (14″), and D (16″). The kit breathed the most at this setting, as each individual drum felt like it was tuned to its sweet spot while also sounding fierce. The toms had a nice, even decay that stayed focused enough to prevent fast coast-to-coast fills from becoming muddled. They lost some sensitivity but still had plenty of presence and tone.
For the lower tuning range, the intervals between the drums were narrowed. The tone became more prevalent, and the drums sported ample attack. The snare was tuned to an E, the kick to G, and the toms at C# (8″), A# (10″), G (12″), D (14″), and C (16″). This tuning served well for more note-heavy drumming styles, such as metal, thrash, or gospel.
These Superstar Classic drums had a wonderful tonal familiarity without sounding old-fashioned. They remained full of life across the tuning spectrum and inspired me to play more melodically. One design feature to point out is the swiveling thumbscrew on the rack tom mounts, which makes positioning the drums a breeze regardless of the configuration. This is a very well designed drumset with a fresh, modern aesthetic, sonic versatility, and an impressive price point.