A smooth, strong, and stable method for tensioning an entire drum with a single key.
Stemming from founder Samuel Welch’s desire to create a drum tensioning system that allows the user to quickly “tune for the room,” Colorado-based Welch Tuning Systems offers American-made maple snares and drumkits featuring nearly free-floating shells with 90-percent fewer holes and hardware on each drum thanks to a slick cable-tensioning setup. While not the first company to use cable to tension a drum, Welch has engineered and patented several unique components that it believes makes its system far superior to all previous offerings.
The Artistry series drumset we received for review included a 9×12 tom, 12×14 and 14×16 floor toms, a 14×22 bass drum, and an 8×14 snare. The toms and bass drum are constructed from 8-ply maple shells with double 45-degree bearing edges. The snare features a 10-ply maple shell with single 45-degree edges.
The drums came fitted with Evans drumheads, with G2 Coated batters and Genera Clear bottoms on the toms, an EMAD2 Clear batter and EQ3 Resonant on the bass drum, and a G1 Coated batter and Snare Side 300 bottom on the snare. The toms had 2.3 mm triple-flanged rims, and the snare was outfitted with die-cast hoops.
The first thing that drew my attention to these drums was the prominent look of the metal cable and pulley system against the satin-black finish on the shells. The snare has a natural glossy finish. The pulley fixtures are attached to the hoops, where you’d otherwise find tension rods on a conventional drum. This means that the only fittings that come into contact with the shells are the tuning mechanism—which is similar to a large tuning peg found on an upright bass guitar—the snare throw-off, the bass drum spurs, the floor tom mounts, the vent gaskets, and the badges. As a whole, the kit is strikingly beautiful.
When set up with no muffling applied to any of the drums, this Artistry series kit was easy to tune for the room, and it projected beautifully. At low tensions, the toms had a deep growl that retained clarity and punch. Even when placed on a snare stand, the 12″ tom sounded larger than its size would suggest. The drums choked up a bit when placed under a lot of tension, but there was plenty of headroom to explore between choking and completely loose in which the toms and bass drum produced deep and resonant tones. They also blended very well with each other.
Even though it’s relatively shallow, the 14×22 bass drum produced a deep and resonant boom. Only a small bit of muffling was used to dial in the resonance for a more controlled sound when recording. The snare had plenty of sensitivity at tensions from low to medium-high, but it did tend to choke up a bit at high tension. Center hits yielded fat backbeats, while rim shots spoke with the deep, authoritative “knock” you’d expect from an 8″-deep shell.
When the drums were under microphones while tracking a mid-tempo rock song, they absolutely sang. The toms were open, full, and punchy, and the bass drum, which had a small packing blanket inside and lightly touching the heads, lent a massive low-end punch. The only other drum that needed a bit of dampening to eliminate unwanted overtones captured by the microphone was the 14″ floor tom. That said, it took very little time to get a pleasing mix of the kit through the studio monitors.
Points to Consider
No fine-tuning of the top versus bottom heads is possible with the Welch tuning system, since there are no individual tension rods that allow for it. If desired, the tension of the tuning pegs can be changed via an adjustment screw, allowing you to lock down the tension of the cable once you’ve found your tunings. In the few days that we spent playing these drums, the tuning stayed put.
To test the process of swapping drumheads with this cable system, I disassembled and reassembled the 14″ floor tom before the session. Although it was a slightly more involved process, it was relatively simple to put everything back together, and I was able to get a good sound from the drum very quickly.
At the moment, Artistry series drums are available in four finishes: Satin Black, Gloss Cherry, Gloss Maple, and Gloss White. These finishes comprise twelve coats of lacquer. Three-, four-, and five-piece shell packs are offered, and street price ranges from $1,149 for a snare to $5,795.00 for a full five-piece kit.