Ludwig Classic Birch Series
I’ve owned drums that were made in the late ’60s and early ’70s for most of my career. I have, however, played a wide variety of drums, from old to new, provided by concert venues on the road for the last 22 years. In acoustic jazz situations, it is rare to find a drum set made in the last two and a half decades that works as well as the older ones.
The Ludwig Classic Birch Series are reasonably priced and cosmetically very attractive. The set I evaluated has a beautiful dark green wood finish and retails for about $1,300. These drums might be perfectly fine for close-miked recording or for playing nonacoustic, live music, but I have some problems with them. I found the 20-inch x 16-inch bass drum to be incompatible with the 8-inch x 10-inch, 8-inch x12-inch, and 14-inch x 14-inch tom toms. I tried different tensions and dampening and couldn’t get much more than a dry thud. In 2002, Ludwig will introduce an 18-inch birch bass drum that should work better with the small toms. The toms and the bass drum all came with clear heads that don’t blend with an ensemble as well as coated heads. It also makes no sense to equip an ostensibly jazz bass drum with a front head that has a microphone hole.
As usual, with many newer, noncustom drums, they seem to be built for separation in sound, both from drum to drum and as a whole, from the other musicians. The toms have a nice round tone; however, they seem to flatten out a bit when you really lay into them. The 5 1/2-inch snare is not as responsive at low volumes and with brushes as I would have liked (I’ve been playing a Ludwig hand-hammered bronze LB550K snare for the last two years, and I love it).
The hardware, made in Taiwan, is relatively light and not too bulky, a nice feature for jazz players who usually carry their own equipment. The high-hat stand and the bass pedal both worked smoothly and felt comfortable.
I would have liked more time to experiment with coated or Fyberskin 3 heads on Ludwig’s birch drums, however, all things considered, Ludwig’s Maple Classic Series is probably the way to go.