Drums Review : Arbiter Flats – Super portable. At a cost.

Drumming is fun, but setup and teardown sucks. I am constantly looking out for new approaches to reduce set up time: memory locks, cases with wheels, lighter materials, even drums designed to pack inside one another like Russian Dolls. When the Arbiter Flats first came out they caught my attention almost immediately.

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The Arbiter Flats was designed to fit into one 24″x10″ round bag, kind of like a super sized cymbal bag. Initial reviews on sound and construction seemed favorable, especially considering their lack of shell depth.

I inquired a distributor from Eastern Canada who wanted $1300+ for a set of those pancakes, at which I politely declined. Seriously, $1300CAD could net me me a full set of Pearl Exports with hardwares and some decent cymbals. In fact there might even be money left over to pay for a roadie for a few shows, but I digress.
So, let’s take a look at the components:

Stainless steel rims and hardwares, Plastic shells and mounting plates- the drums alone weight about 25lbs when packed together, excluding cymbals and stands.
The plastic mounting plates (think a R.I.M.S. mount) extend out from the drum shell but doesn’t receive much reinforcements, and thus a few plastic mounting plates on mine have cracked. The carry bag forces 1 side of the bassdrum mounting plate to be placed near the ground, and one must be careful to set the bag down gently or otherwise the weight will crack the bassdrum leg mount. Mine cracked on both sides. My 10″ tom also had a cracked plate and I have no idea how that came to be.

The 1-lug tuning system works well, but getting the special hoop on the drum is best accomplished with three hands.
Like other reviews out there, the sound is round and very resonant, for a drum with an 1-inch shell.
But the Flats snare just sucks. It’s a actually a 14×2 plastic shell that allows for a duel head set up like a regular snare drum. But the one lug system can’t tune high enough to achieve a crisp sound before the snare head hoop bottomed out. It’s OK for the Motown sound, and that’s about it.

It saves a lot of room when packed up because of the lack of shell. However when set up for play the footprint is same as a regular kit, as you can see from the pictures I snapped.
Why? Well because when you are on stage, Most drums are actually nested in the centre, and it is the cymbals and cymbal stands that extends out and take up precious stage space. The Flats would be great for storage, but when set up to play they are about the same as another other kit.


– 1 lug system can give you a good sound.
– Great idea for small players, as you can set the toms up real low.
– Can move the whole drumset in one bag (gently!)

– Does not save you stage space.
– Mounting plates prone to crack. (I fixed mine with epoxy)
– Expensive for what you get.
– Can’t tune high enough for poppy snare sound.

In the end:
Should have marketed them as auxiliary roto-toms or practice drumkits.

You can also check out additional information about Arbiter drums here : http://hubpages.com/hub/Arbiter-Drums .

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4 Responses to Drums Review : Arbiter Flats – Super portable. At a cost.

  1. georges mitch says:

    How to obtain the kick alone ?

  2. Drumatics says:

    Try the arbiter distributers if you are in EU.

    Or just ebay… but just so that you know, the kick sounds really thin.

    The toms are great for giving out round tones. But when it comes the kick it will give you a really flat – bass tone.

    It’d work for jazz or some quiet songs, but don’t expect any “oomph” from it.

  3. Flats User says:

    Arbiter Distributer where? Arbiter are out of business for a while now, basically, its second-hand stuff, ebay and whatever from here on out and/or up a creek without a paddle basically.

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