by Rick Van Horn
Fred Beato's name has been synonymous with high-quality, innovative drum bags for many years. Tom Shelley's Universal Percussion is equally well known for the design and distribution of quality products that are manufactured offshore for exceptional affordability, such as Wuhan cymbals, Attack drumheads, and Cannon hardware.
Not long ago, Fred and Tom got together in a joint venture. Fred would design a line of drum bags that would meet the needs of contemporary drummers. Tom would arrange to have Fred's designs manufactured in China, where low material and labor costs could help make the resulting bags more affordable in the US market.
The bags resulting from this joint venture have been dubbed the Beato Pro 3 and Pro 4 series. Between them, the two lines offer a wide range of sizes and features.
Although it's out of numerical sequence to do so, I want to start with the Pro 4 series. These are economy bags designed to provide minimal protection at minimal prices. They're made of a strong, water-repellant nylon material, using extra-heavy thread. The insides feature a soft, scratch-resistant surface, but no padding. Each bag features heavy plastic piping at the edges, as well as a heavy-duty zipper. For what they are, they're well designed and well constructed.
However, the only way I'd recommend these bags for serious gigging purposes is if you handled your drums yourself, and then only if you loaded them in and out of a car from the trunk and seats. I wouldn't feel comfortable loading them into a van or pickup truck, where the loaded bags would likely slide on the metal floor of the vehicle and bump into one another. I don't think the fabric would wear well against such sliding, and the drums would not be protected from any impact.
On the other hand, if you tend to leave your drums in a storage area or a rehearsal space, the Pro 4 bags would make excellent "dust cover" containers. This might make them especially appealing to student drummers who keep their drums at home. The bags are also inexpensive enough to be used as "case liners" within ATA-style road cases, making the drums easy to pull out of the road boxes.
Pro 4 bags are available in five-piece Standard and Fusion sets, for drums only. No cymbal or hardware bags are offered in this series.
The Pro 3 series is, in a word, impressive. These heavy-duty Cordura bags are well padded to protect their contents. Each drum bag comes with a shoulder strap, heavy-duty zippers, and a separate circular compartment for accessories (perfect for spare heads). In a nice design touch, two side handles and a third handle perpendicular to the others provide carrying options. Heavy-duty webbing is used to reinforce the bags where the handles are attached. Drum bags are sold individually or in Standard and Fusion drumkit sets.
Pro 3 hardware bags are extremely well designed. I particularly liked the way the zippers open around the top perimeter of the bag, allowing the top flap to be pulled back out of the way, exposing the bag's contents in a "trunk-like" manner. Top carrying straps have a padded grip; a handle at one end is covered with rubber for comfort.
At the other end of each hardware bag is a set of built-in wheels, making transport very easy. My only complaint with the bags is that the bottoms, though stiffened, are not rigid. So if you put a load in the bag and start to wheel it away, the bag sags in the middle. This problem can be reduced somewhat by keeping the hardware within the bag extended enough to run from top to bottom, providing internal support. A solid bottom would be even better, but that might increase the cost factor beyond the "affordable" range that the bags now enjoy.
Pro 3 cymbal bags come in two versions. The basic model is a no-frills padded bag with one interior compartment, one smaller compartment, strong web handles, and a shoulder strap. The Deluxe model offers five internally divided spaces, one outside cymbal compartment, and a large outside pouch that also contains four drumstick sleeves and a zippered accessories compartment. The bottom of the bag is reinforced with a wide base and plastic feet. This is a really nice cymbal bag!
Pro 3 stick bags are available as one- and two-pair marching stick quivers, and also as six-, six-plus-, and twelve-pair traditional bags. Each is made in the same manner as the drum, hardware, and cymbal bags, with excellent construction and a reasonable amount of padding.
For as long as I've been writing columns and reviews for MD, I've preached that an investment in drum equipment should be protected by an investment in cases or bags. The problem comes when the first investment exhausts the drummer's budget, eliminating the possibility of the second investment—at least right away. The new Beato bags should help solve that problem.
Now, I don't believe that anything is a value simply because it's inexpensive. It must also have the quality and functionality required to do the job it's designed to do. By that definition, the Beato Pro 4 bags would be valuable as dust covers or extremely light-duty carrying bags for drums. But they would not serve well for serious gigging drummers.
On the other hand, the Pro 3 series offers drum, cymbal, hardware, and stick bags that should more than meet the needs of any drummer playing out locally. And when that functionality is combined with the bags' impressively low prices, now we're talkin' value.
(800) 282-0110, www.universalpercussion.com