Had a chance to play a very nice set of Mapex Black Panther Velvetone (maple/walnut/maple shells) this past weekend for a conference, and the drumkit was loaded with kick ports on all the toms and two kickports on the bass drums.
22b/10/12/14f/16f w/ 14 snare standard 6 piece kit in regular sizes (not shallow toms)
The snare was cranked tight and was crisp and had plenty of body, rim shot had plenty of life but didn’t blend with the shell’s tone as much as a metal snare would. The SonicSaver hoops (Sticksavers copy, really) did a good job focusing the tone from an Ambassadors batter head, the rest of the hardwares felt solid to the touch and strainer adjusted with a satisfying ‘click’.
Bass drum was the highlight of the kit. 22×18 thump in the chest, the more I lay into it the more low frequency seemed to open up. Noticeably deeper than maple shells, but the warmth was retained by the sandwiched maple plies. I’m a fan. Hardware quality also very high but the spurs design seems outdated compared to other big names like Pearl / DW / Yamaha that uses bigger gear-teeth that instills confidence.
Toms : Yuck. All the toms were fitted dead pin-stripes and Factory Remo reso with a Kickport FX opening a 2″ hole at the bottom. They might work wonders on studio sessions, but on the a live set they are positively concert-tom sounding, with the 10″ being the biggest offender. No body at all, just attack. The 12″ was decent, considering the 2″ hole.
14″ floor tom was absolutely dead no matter what I do, I tried tuning up the batter, the bottom(with hole) but to no avail.
16″ floor tom was the saviour of the bunch, plenty of boom and I got the same sense of “bass opening up” when I lay into it.
Hardwares : Everything worked as it should except for the nylon joints that are designed tight so even when you have loosened the bolt you would need to excerpt force to adjust the tubes. This is a super annoying design because when you raise up the toms, the friction would pull the tripod up along with the top portion, so you need another arm to keep the tripod in place, and then a third arm to tighten the bolt. That means it’s not always possible to adjust your stands from behind the kit and at times you need to walk around to the front to do so. C’mon even Gilbraltar got it figured out.
Would I own a set of walnut drums? I wouldn’t mind, actually there’s a 4-piece shell pack on ebay now for $1,600. Skip the Mapex hardware, snare and the 14″ tom, leaving only the good stuff. It would be a toss up for me between these walnut drums and a set of DW Design Series.