Nowadays you can expect the shells to be perfectly round, devoid of blemishes on the inside and finished with clean bearing edges for more accurate tuning. The shells are essentially the same as those on the budget kits, also manufactured in Taiwan or China, except that they often have a single ply of top quality hardwood bonded to the inside, for improved projection and tone, or to the outside, to enable a decent lacquered finish with a nice grain. This trend started with the Export some years ago when a single ply of birch was added to the inside of the shells. Another example would be Yamaha’s Stage Custom Standard series, which has the same nine-ply Philippines mahogany shells as the budget YD, except that the outer ply is replaced with a single ply of birch. This is then given a natural matt finish to show off the grain.
Then, going up one more level, the Stage Custom Advantage has an additional inner ply of Falkata wood with the grain running vertically to help projection. Plus the shells feature special colored metallic finishes. I must mention the special case of the Californian company Drum Workshop, which combines the best of both worlds with its Pacific drums by getting its hardware made in Taiwan but its shells made down the Pacific coast in Mexico, again using a cheaper labor force.
Pacific also manages to include 100 percent eight-ply maple and birch shells for the first time in the middle bracket. There are plenty more types of shell and finish to choose from. They include Ludwig’s Rocker, which has a choice of plastic finishes over nine-ply shells with an inner ply of maple, while the Rocker Elite has lacquered finishes. Mapes’s M, meanwhile, has seven-ply basswood shells with an outer lacquered ply of maple, while the Pro M has thinner basswood/maple shells and hand-rubbed lacquer finishes. Pearl’s Export Select (ELX) has nine-ply mahogany shells with a UV-lacquered exterior, while Sonor’s 2001 has mahogany shells with a wax stained finish and metal bass drum hoops, powder coated with a color inlay.
Premier, meanwhile, uses lacquered finishes on its Cabria Exclusive, as does Pacific on the LX. Six-ply mahogany shells with UV lacquer finishes and natural maple bass drum hoops feature on Gretsch’s Catalina Elite, while Tama’s Rockstar Custom has one inner ply of basswood with seven Philippines mahogany, a choice of eight gloss lacquered finishes and rather tasty Accu-Tune bass drum hoops made from glass fiver reinforced plastic. Middle range kits usually include stands and pedals, but not cymbals or a stool/throne.
However, they are also sometimes available as a so-called eshell pack’, usually a five shell kit including a snare drum, but minus stands and pedals. Be careful to ascertain what’s being offered: photographs may include stands and cymbals, but the price may be just for the shell pack. eRock’ and efusion’ formats are the most common. They might also be advertised as estage’ and estudio’ formats, which are more or less the same thing. If you see a ejazz’ kit mentioned this would probably be a 20” bass drum with a single mounted 12” tom and a 14” floor tom, with or without a matching wood snare drum. Optional extra add-on sizes may also be available if you want to extend your kit. Choice is greater than with the budget ranges, but not so wide as with the top lines.