Hands-On Review:Getting better all the time
It's going on two decades now since Tama debuted their Rockstar drum sets. The original hit the ground running and have gone on to become a huge success. But rather than rest on their laurels, Tama has continued to upgrade and evolve what has become the most acclaimed "standard" set in the business.
Examine a current Rockstar set and you'll see little resemblance with that original mid-'80s forerunner. Only the foundation of the line-the covered Philippine mahogany shells remains the same. Tama has constantly upgraded the Rockstar line with vastly improved hardware and mounting systems while managing to hold the line on prices.
The last kit standing
When the February, 1998 issue of Modern Drummer magazine conducted its "shoot out" of nine different sets in the $1,200 price range, the Rockstar emerged as the decisive winner. Citing its superior tom mounts and sound as well as the best bass drum of the bunch, the Modern Drummer panel concluded, "Our consensus favorite is the Tama Rockstar".
Getting down to particulars
Not content with this acclaim, Tama has gone on to make further upgrades including the incorporation of the Star-Cast free-suspension tom system, Roadpro stands, and the HP 200 Iron Cobra Jr. pedal. Given that the Star-Cast system and Roadpro stands are found in Tama's top-of-the-line Starclassic Maple set, the fact that Tama has held the pricing on the Rockstar sets after upgrading is nothing short of amazing. The heart of the Rockstar is its shell construction. The big-time resonance comes from a 9mm, eight-ply structure consisting of seven plies of Philippine mahogany and an inner ply of basswood that's then wrapped with a road-durable finish. No corner was cut in the making of these . Instead of the partial gluing or taping techniques used by competitors, Rockstar wraps are glued over their entire surface so they look better, last longer, and afford maximum shell protection.
A better bass
When Modern Drummer compared the Rockstar kick drum with the competition they were clearly wowed. In giving the Tama set their thumbs-up, the magazine said, "The bass drum was outstanding with tremendous depth and power... far and away the biggest and best drum sound in the group".
That praise came as no surprise to the Tama folks. They've invested a lot of time and research into both shell construction and hoop design to ensure their kick stands out from the crowd. A big part of the bass drum's sound is a result of Tama's Accu-Tune hoops. Made of high-tech, glass-fiber reinforced material, they require no T-rods or clawhooks; ensure more stable, accurate tuning with less weight; and deliver the increased resonance demanded by modern music. An angled groove at the bottom of the hoop affords secure pedal attachment so that in the throes of performance you'll never be faced with a runaway pedal.
At one time it was common practice to build bass drum spurs right into the shell where they severely diminished resonance. Tama led the way around this problem by developing pioneering hardware that involved no penetration of the shell. Their new MSB10 bass drum spur bracket with a two-piece cast design offers both easy setup and a secure, solid footing for your kick drum. And speaking of footing, the Iron Cobra Jr. pedal features the same offset Power Glide cam, beater-angle adjustment, Spring Tight tension adjustment, and movable hoop clamp of its renowned, older sibling. Put simply, it's far and away the best kick pedal offered with any set in the Rockstar's modest price range.
Ahead of the rest
A lot of seemingly bargain-priced sets turn out to be not such a great deal once you discover that the included heads simply don't cut it. Before you can hope to produce acceptable sound, you've got to go out and replace the entire set-and that adds up to a significant extra cost.
Tama does it right by delivering Rockstar sets with their own Custom drumheads made of Dupont Mylar ensuring pro performance practically right out of the box. The bass drum heads feature O-rings so you don't need to snag that pillow off the bed to get internal muffling. Again, the folks at Modern Drummer were impressed with the Rockstar heads during their comparison tests. Here's what they had to say: "Several of the kits suffered due to their poor-quality, virtually untunable drumheads." They went on to add, "Tama Rockstar on the other hand comes fitted with professional quality heads that give it a terrific overall drum sound."
Better toms, better mounts
With the addition of Tama's Hoop Grips, it became possible for the company to offer the acclaimed Star-Cast mounting system's advantages to players whether they use die-cast or triple-flanged hoops. Though there are many free-suspension mounting systems out there, they're not all created equal. With the Star-Cast system, you get complete, unrestrained sound without the negative effects on tuning and time-consuming head changes that are the downsides of less sophisticated systems. The unique Hoop Grip holds toms with minimal stress on the hoop and no contact with the shell for unencumbered resonance.
The Rockstar comes complete with Heavy-Duty Pro Hardware that reflects years of evolution and refinement. Innovative inserts in the upper and lower tubes of stands do away with annoying noise and wobble. Reversible cymbal nuts and bottoms provide protection for your cymbals. The Escape Claws snare basket cushions let the drum float for a bigger snare sound. The basket itself rotates independently while the asymmetrically spaced basket arms eliminate contact with the snare butt and strainer. The hi-hat is equipped with a strong, super-smooth double-chain pull and gives you complete footboard adjustment.
Tama also includes a video featuring drum titans Kenny Aronoff, Mike Portnoy, and John Tempesta packed with tips for setting up and getting the most out of your set. On top of that, Tama will send you an RW100 Rhythm Watch featuring a metronome with proof of purchase of any Rockstar set bought by 12/31/02. And to sweeten the deal even more, Musician's Friend will throw in a free dust cover. Isn't it time you gave that toy-like starter kit to your kid bother and got serious with a Rockstar?