Yamaha Custom Drums, Part 3

As a follow-up to my previous post about the rarely-seen Yamaha Custom Drums series from the mid-1990s, I came across a PDF of Modern Drummer from October 1996.  An article about these drums (and some other new offerings from Yamaha) begins on page 32.

For those of you who are too lazy to click on the link, here’s the review:

Yamaha Custom Series

by Rick Van Horn

Yamaha’s new Custom drum series is not so much a new batch of drums as it is a new way of selling drums. The concept is to offer customers the opportunity to create their own custom-created drumkits from a “menu” of options.

Here’s a quick rundown of the options available. Shell choices include maple or birch, and individual drums within the same kit may have different shells if desired.  Drum sizes include ten bass drum sizes (with or without tom mounts), three floor tom sizes, thirteen tom-tom sizes, and three snare sizes. (All toms are fitted with Yamaha’s YESS mounting system). Lugs may be Yamaha’s familiar high-tension, chrome-plated models, or the small, low-mass Maple Custom model (in either chrome or gold plating). Rim choices include standard 1.6mm or heavier DynaHoop 2.3mm triple-flanged steel.

Then we come to finishes. Twelve new colors are offered in the Custom series, and the buyer may select either a monotone lacquer finish or a custom-created “fade” finish that moves from one shade to another. How the colors move from top to bottom of the drum is also up to the buyer.

Yamaha Custom Drums

Add all the options together and you come up with something like 6,612 possible choices for a kit. As I said, many of these choices have been drawn from some previously existing Yamaha features. However, a few are distinctly new to the Custom series, so let’s take a look at those.

We were sent a birch-shelled kit with small lugs (a totally new combination). It included a 16×22 bass drum, 9×10, 10×12, and 11×13 rack toms, a 16×16 floor tom, and a 6 1/2xl4 snare – all fitted with the new, heavy-duty 2.3mm steel rims.

The drums were finished in a combination color scheme that faded from a deep blue to a marine green. It was beautifully done, and the look was set off by the gold plating on the lugs. (All other drum hardware, like claw hooks, tension rods, and tom mounts were in chrome.)

Overall, the construction quality – including bearing edges and all other machining elements of the drums – was top-notch.

Birch-shelled drums are nothing new for Yamaha; the classic Recording Custom series has had them for years. However, the shells on Custom series drums (whether maple or birch) receive the same interior finish given to the Maple Custom Vintage series (described in the review of that kit below). This treatment gives the Custom series drums a distinctly livelier, more reflective sound than that of the Recording Custom drums I’ve played. The fact that the drums were fitted with clear Ambassador heads added to this quality.

Birch drums are, to me, the chameleons of the drum world. I’ve found that they respond more dramatically to drumhead changes – creating a totally different character with each head swap – than do maple drums, which seem to keep at least some of their tonal character no matter what the head choice. Even though the addition of the Maple  Custom Vintage interior finish modified this characteristic somewhat, I still found that changing to heavier heads on the  Custom kit resulted in a very distinct change in response and tonality. I count this as an asset, because it means that one kit can be easily “converted” to adapt to a variety of situations. (And if you prefer the consistency of maple to the adaptability of birch, remember that you have that option in the Custom series.)

The 2.3mm steel hoops on the drums are claimed by Yamaha to”center the tone, add bottom, and tune cleanly.” I can’t say much about adding bottom, because I didn’t have the standard hoops to put on the drums and compare. But I did notice that the drums were very sensitive to tuning changes – a little went a long way – and they did produce clear, distinct tones when tuned evenly. On the snare drum, the rims provided sharp, cutting rimshots.


One could say that in creating the Custom series Yamaha has just re-invented the wheel. However, in today’s era of “custom” everything, it seems as though consumers each want their own wheels, so perhaps Yamaha’s move is a savvy one. The new series offers top-level quality, time-tested components, distinctively new appearance options, and a couple of new acoustic features as well. With all those possibilities available, I’d figure just about any drummer could “build” his or her dream kit.

Now, dreams aren’t always easy to attain, and they don’t come cheap. The Custom kit program is only available through Yamaha ProDrum Network dealers (which are generally the larger retailers who deal in significant volume). Additionally, custom orders through this program will take approximately five months from ordering to shipment.

Finally, here’s a representative look at pricing, based on our test kit: 16×22 bass drum – $1,630; 9×10 tom – $605; 10×12 tom – $615; 11×13 tom – $630; 16×16 tom – $925; 6 1/2xl4 snare drum – $800.

The kit was shipped with an HW-830 hardware package (cymbal stand, cymbal boom stand, snare stand,hi-hat, and bass drum pedal) priced at $725, along with a double tom mount and some other goodies that would cost a few dollars more.

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