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  • Yamaha Recording Custom

    By Dendy Jarrett |

    Yamaha Recording Custom

    Birch beauties are back!


    by Dendy Jarrett



    My first exposure to Yamaha's Recording Custom series came around 1985. I was managing a large percussion retail store in Florida when we received our first Recording Custom set.  There was much lusting that day over that cherry woodgrain kit. I mean ... Steve Gadd was playing these drums ... so you instantly knew there was something special about them.


    Yamaha as a music instrument company has been around since 1887, but they didn't start making drums until 1967 - so they've had 50 years to refine their manufacturing.  And refine they did! 


    When the Yamaha Recording Custom series came on the scene, they quickly became the gold standard for recording drums. They are arguably the most recorded drums in history. Yamaha single-handedly created the buzz for birch. Birch became their marketing campaign as they promoted the focused and punchy sound over the dark sound of mahogany and the bright 'ringy'' sound of maple.


    Back in the early days of Yamaha Drums, having a "Made in Japan" designation was not necessarily considered a "quality" thing, but they let the product do the talking. It seems every time manufacturing has transitioned from Japan to Taiwan and now to China that we've been through the same weary adjustment period. However, you shouldn't let the fact that these drums are produced in China worry you. The name of the game is quality. In 2010, Yamaha invested $10 million in their Hangzhou Xiaoshan plant and in 2011 re-introduced all their high-end drums, which are now manufactured in that facility.


    In 2013 Yamaha decided they would bring back a revamped Recording Custom. They, of course, brought in the great Steve Gadd as their test pilot. With the abilities of the new China plant, they re-introduced the new Yamaha Recording Customs at the 2017 Winter NAMM show.


    The Subject

    Surprisingly, Yamaha reached out to ask what configuration I wanted to test, rather than sending a kit of their choice. Here's what I requested:

    • 22X14 Bass Drum
    • 12X08 Mounted Tom
    • 16X15 Floor Tom
    • 14X5.5 Brushed Stainless Steel Snare Drum
    • 800 Series Hardware (and they included a  throne!)




    Perhaps it’s because I’ve been on the manufacturing side of the drum industry or it’s because I’ve been around this industry so long, but I notice the little things like packaging. This kit was packaged extremely well with minimal waste. When you buy a drum set, you may not realize how much expense and time goes into engineering the boxes. The kit with hardware weighed about 170 lbs. As you can imagine, the drums themselves, with so much painted surface, would be easy to damage during transport if the packaging were not well designed. The result of poor packaging results in a lot of returns and unhappy retailers and drummers. It was very apparent that Yamaha had top-notch engineers work on the packaging design. With that, we’re off to a good start.




    Quality - Quality - Quality

    The moment I opened the mounted tom, it screamed quality. The Surf Green finish is flawless - it even looks wet. I had let Yamaha decide what color to send, and their choice couldn’t have been more on point. The Surf Green is not a turquoise and not a robin's-egg blue, but a nice melding of the two. The color is very classy,  with a vintage appeal. The bass drum hoops have a mid-brown, honey-wheat finish that is extremely complementary to the Surf Green finish. The attention to detail on this kit is par excellence. The finish, again, is flawless, but so is the chrome work. There are no rough edges to be found, no "burrs" on the hardware, and no blemishes in the chrome whatsoever.


    The inside of the shells are finished in a dark brown (yet attractive) paint/stain. It gives the drums' interior a flawless finished look. To further point out the attention to details, the bass drum hoops (the end that applies pressure to the drum head counter hoop) are finished in a complementary black finish - with no raw edges on these hoops.


    What really struck me (again it’s the details) is that the bass drum rods had no greasy mess on the tips, and they don’t need it. The threading is so accurate on these lug casings that there is no drag, no problem getting the tension rods started or tightened, and no lubrication necessary.




    What’s New?

    One of the biggest changes made to the new Recording Customs is that the previous generation was produced with Hokkaido birch sourced from Japan. The new Recording Customs are produced with a quality North American birch. The bass drum and toms feature a very thin 6-ply shell with newly redesigned, weighted, full-length lug casings.  These casings are designed to enhance the low fundamental tone. The drums are also fitted with the classic Y.E.S.S. tom-mount system instead of the latest Y.E.S.S. III because they want  to limit the sustain on the drums, which further enhances the fast and focused decay and sound.




    • Lug – Newly designed Weighted High-tension Lug (one-piece)
    • Shell – 100% North American Birch 6-ply (with inner dark brown paint/stain)
    • Bearing Edge – 30 degree/R1.5
    • TT/FT Hoop – Triple Flange Hoop (Steel 1.6mm)
    • BD Hoop – Wood Hoop (brown honey wheat finish with black head facing detail)
    • BD Claws – Die-Cast with anti-scratch/anti-vibration neoprene insert
    • TT/FT Head – Top: Remo US Coated Ambassador/Bottom: Remo US Clear Ambassador
    • BD Head – Front: Remo Smooth White PS3 with Yamaha Logo/Batter: Remo PS3 Coated (the 18” BD features a Remo Coated Ambassador)
    • Tom Mount – Y.E.S.S.
    • FT Bracket – Open Type
    • BD Leg – Convertible Type (18” is a lifted style BD for beater centering)
    • Snare Drum – Brushed Stainless steel 10 lug
    • MSRP – Starting from: $4,920.00

    The hardware supplied with this kit is the 800 series, which I’ll cover in a later review of the hardware only.



    A Sound Impression

    Certainly, the drums look spectacular. But how do they sound? Well, they sound so outstanding that they’ve convinced me that I should switch my personal kit from maple to birch. They're easy to tune; I'm struck by how much tonal change a subtle turn of a drum key can make on one tension rod. Dialing in the sound you want on this kit is easy, and with some proper tuning, you need no tape, gels, or other devices on the heads. Additionally, I think it makes a big impact on the sound that US- built Remo heads are on these drums (instead of off-shore built Remo heads).


    The snare drum is a thing of beauty, but be warned – it's heavy! The weight probably helps with the solid sound. You’d think that this kit would be supplied with a wood drum for recording; but, honestly, the 10-lug tuning capabilities of this drum with the very accurate sensitive throw-off gives a fantastic sound. Despite being metal, it didn’t have the normal ringy-washy overtones of a metal drum. The sound of the snare complemented the sound of the rest of the drums.





    I’ve seen a lot of change in this industry - some of it good, and some not so much. This change with the Yamaha Recording Custom is very (very) good. When the first generation Recording Customs were at their pinnacle, they were setting the bar as the benchmark kit which all other manufacturers pursued. So you might wonder why change anything, and could they even be any better? Well, don’t take my word for it – take Steve Gadd’s: “The aim was to bring the Recording Custom Series up to date. I told Yamaha through the [design] process, the goal should be that everything is a step up. They still feel like the Recording Custom, when you take them out of the box – they don’t feel new, they feel comfortable and …that’s good. The bass drum has a nice fat sound, the drum responds to different heads on it, and my goal was to have a simple snare drum design that could respond to a wide range of tuning. I think we did a great job—the new Recording Customs sound great and I think you’ll like them.”  


    And I certainly do!  -HC-









     To Purchase Yamaha Recording Custom Drums


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    Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Executive Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.


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