November 2001

Pearl Session Custom

I once saw a Pearl kit covered in blue denim: the drum set that matches your pants! Initially showcased near the drum shop’s entrance, it endured a march of shame to the middle and then the rear of the building, ending up down the hall next to the bathroom, where it was cannibalized for parts. Need a Pearl tom holder, leg or lugs? Grab ’em off “bluejeans.”

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Pearl Session Custom Drums

By the mid-’70s, Pearl was evolving beyond its humble ’60s origins—remember Kent drums? Star? Jet?—with improved quality and innovation. Pearl has since fully abandoned such desperate pleas for attention with its Session Custom series.

Since I prefer 16-inch bass drums, the Session Custom’s 17-inch x 22-inch kick appeared monstrous, so I didn’t use it on gigs; its tremendous booms would have scared my friends. The 8-inch x 10-inch, 9-inch x 12-inch and 12-inch x 14-inch toms were beautiful 45-degree-bevelled all-maple shells, each outfitted with Pearl’s SuperHoops, plastic collars on each T-rod, and molding backing each lug, nameplate and even the sound holes! Combined with their OptiMount suspension “system”—an overused word in drum literature—which uses four rubber cushions to isolate the mounting brackets from the T-rods, Pearl has perfected a true system, preventing any contact between metal and wood, ensuring maximum shell vibration and resonance. The 5 1/2-inch x 14-inch snare drum shared all the same attention to detail, plus the strainer and butt plate were also isolated from the shell.

The eight lugs were each hollowed out in the middle, again making for less metal-to-wood contact. By adjusting the snare tension (keeping the tuning unchanged), I could go from a tight, Roy Haynes thing to a looser, funkier, fatter sound, while maintaining crisp snare response evenly over the head, whether playing in the center or toward the hoop. These drums sound great, and they look just as good; the review kit was a gorgeous cherry-red wood finish under a thick high-gloss lacquer.

The P-101P bass drum pedal boasts some welcome features. The heel plate’s Power Shifter adjustment allows the footboard to be moved into one of three positions along the Power Plate, altering the angle and leverage of the chain drive for strong, normal or light playing. The Quad Beater has two different shapes, each in both felt and hard plastic surfaces, for warm or sharp attack. Pearl’s hoop clamp system attaches the pedal to the drum via a wing bolt alongside the footboard rather than directly underneath it. The H-850WN hi-hat stand is simplicity at its best, with a large spring tension adjustment knob enabling fine-tuning of the direct-pull design. An added bonus is the rotating convenience of the Omni-Pod legs.

The tom mounting arms have rubber plugs in the ends to reduce sympathetic vibration, and along with the S-850 snare stand, B-855W boom and C-855W cymbal stand are all precisely adjustable, since Pearl’s design eschews the compromises inherent in the ratcheted teeth of most cymbal and drum tilters, opting instead for their smooth and secure Uni-Lock system.

That said, there’s much to like about the Power Shifter Eliminator H-2000 hi-hat (“featuring Pearl’s new PosiLink Twin Cam Drive System”) and P-2002C chain-drive double pedals. My chops are admittedly way down, not having played double bass since I was in high school (it was de rigueur back then), but its action is fabulous. And the hi-hat is better still: even the clutch is improved (“the strongest gripping system available”), and it sports the new dual-leg design. This is the smoothest, most frictionless hi-hat I’ve ever played, due to the two cams and the two double-link chains.

There’s the rub. With these pedals’ Interchangeable Cam Systems (color-coded black for normal factory-installed “linear action”; white’s slightly lighter “oversized linear” feel; the blue “progressive” with a light feel that “accelerates with speed and power”; and the “radical progressive” red’s off-center axis providing great response, “extreme power” and “aggressive acceleration”) and their customizable, reversible Traction Plates with individually configurable Traction Grips, where is this high-tech over-engineering going? I can see it now: pedals with microchip sensors, monitoring foot pressure to constantly tweak the pedal’s action, providing the most natural playing experience you’ve ever had. Just don’t forget to periodically check the power supply, so your pedal’s “system” doesn’t crash.

1 Comment

  • Jul 10, 2009 at 04:18PM Kevin Brady

    Hi Jim. I just caught this article and had to chuckle. I (blushing here) was probably one of the very few people who actually purcahsed, owned, and played a denim covered Pearl. Until just now, I thought I may have had the only one ever made! I was 14 at the time (or thereabouts) and my local music store had this set that had started out in the front....moved to the middle.....and finally to the back where it eneded up as a deal "too good to pass up". I talked my Dad into buying this 6 piece set to replace my 3 piece Olympic set. I played it until I was 19 and lost out on a band audition because, as they said to me " you have great chops, but we just can't be seen with a blue-jean drumset". That was the end of that. Anyway, 30 years later and I purchased another Pearl set....this time sans denim!!

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