Hands-On Review:Tama Superstar Drums

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Tama Superstar Drums

A star is reborn

By John Foster


Remember the '80s? I realize that I date myself by confessing I remember Tama's original Superstar line from that bygone decade, and recall fondly their deep, warm sound. So when I heard that Tama was bringing back their legendary Superstar line, I was very intrigued. Tama is replacing their very popular and long-running intermediate Rockstar series with a newly redesigned and reengineered Superstar Series. I was curious to see how the current version of Tama drums would stack up against those great-sounding drums from the past.


Tama Superstar Drums Test-driving Superstars
The five-piece set of Superstar Customs I received to evaluate was beautifully finished in custom amber fade lacquer. Some new drum sets can take a very long time to tune up and get them sounding right. Not so with the Superstars. After a quick, rudimentary tune-up, these drums really sing. The toms speak with clarity and resonance, without excess ringing. This may be largely due to the birch shell construction. Birch wood has bright and punchy acoustics with a naturally attenuated quality that keeps the sound from being overly harsh and brash.


The Tama drums come equipped with quality Mylar Power Craft heads that produce a rich, punchy sound. The heads don't require tape or any other dampening as many other new drums do. For recording, some light muffling might be in order. The 5-1/2" x 14" snare drum provides a very wide palette of sounds from razor-sharp and lively at the rim to deep and fat at the center. The snare throwoff releases to the outside with a simple flick of the thumb for a high tom- or timbale-like sound. The bass drum has a deep, sonorous, cannon-like presence. The set overall has an extremely solid, quality feel about it.


It's the wood
The bass shell is made with seven inner plies of birch. An interior and an exterior ply of basswood are finished in silky layers of lacquer that show off the attractive wood grain pattern very nicely. The snare and toms have a similar structure, only using six interior birch plies rather than seven. With their liquid, almost-glowing amber finish, the drums have a real aura of quality about them. The inner bass drumhead is equipped with a ring muffler that dampens excess vibration and allows for deep, fat tone. The attention to small details is exceptional. Tama's unique Soundbridge low-mass drum lugs are designed to float over the surface of the shell, making minimal shell contact, helping the drum resonate to the fullest, and providing extra protection during transport. For total insulation, the bass drum tuning rods have rubber affixed to all points where the lug makes contact with the hoop.


Click to Enlarge Hardware: ready for the road
The Star-Cast tom mounting system is the same system used on Tama's top-of-the-line Starclassic drums. It provides total tom isolation for unencumbered shell resonance without compromising your ability to make easy head changes or effecting tuning adversely. Again, wherever the mounts touch the rim, rubber isolation is applied to deaden any possible vibration.


Superstar kits ship with a complete Roadpro hardware pack, including an HP200 Iron Cobra Jr. bass pedal, standard and boom cymbal stands, as well as solid hi-hat and snare stands. Tama's new Roadpro line of hardware offers strength and flexibility without excess weight. The tom holder provides a solid support structure with a versatile Omni-ball that adjusts quickly and easily to nearly any angle. The stands feature nylon bushings on all stress-bearing connectors for totally noise-free operation. A new quick-set tilter allows instant changes to cymbal angles. Triple-flanged zinc die-cast hoops provide precise seating of the drumhead to the rim, critical to good sound and ease of tuning.


Freedom of choice
Superstars come in a choice of three different configurations. Superstar SL Customs, the variety that I had the pleasure of testing, feature the lacquered basswood finish mentioned earlier. Players who are constantly touring might want to consider the Superstar EFX and FX Series, which have the same birch with inner basswood as the Customs, with a durable covered finish on the outside in place of the basswood exterior. These covered finishes typically deflect scratches and dings better than a lacquered finish. The EFX drums feature attractive contemporary wrapped finishes, while the FX Series have vintage finishes for a classic look.


Everybody is a Star
Tama drums bring to mind Stewart Copeland's full-on drumming assault with the Police; Lenny White laying down his virtuoso jazz-rock fusion; John Blackwell powering Prince's dazzling funk; Kenny Aronoff nailing the groove with power and precision behind any number of top artists. Superstar drums have all the elements today's rock drummer needs to join this gallery of legends.


What's old is new again
Tama's revival of the Superstar line is not so much a re-creation as a new creation, in almost every respect. Tama aimed high in their design and conception, and the result is a very musical and versatile set of drums. Developing rock, funk, and jazz players have a sweet new option when it comes to finding a set of drums that is inspiring to play and will take them to the highest playing levels without great expense. Touring pros will find that Superstars are rugged road kits that look sweet and sound totally professional. What goes around comes around, and Superstars have arrived . . . again!


Tama Superstar: Enjoy world-class drums at a price that's down to earth. Musician's Friend carries the entire selection of Tama Superstar drums at the lowest prices anywhere.


Features & Specs:



Superstar SL: Custom SeriesSuperstar EFX Series
  • Bass: 7-ply birch shell/interiorand exterior basswood plies
  • Toms and snare: 6-ply birch shell/interior and exterior basswood plies
  • Lacquer finish
  • Star-Cast tom mounts
  • Zinc die-cast hoops
  • Soundbridge high-tension lugs
  • Roadpro hardware
  • Quick-tilt cymbal stands
Same as Superstar SL Series with:
  • Bass: 7-ply birch shell/interior basswood ply
  • Toms and snare: 6-ply birch shell/interior basswood ply
  • Contemporary wrapped finish
Superstar SK Series
Same as Superstar EFX Series with:
  • Vintage wrapped finish



All 3 Tama drum series are available in the following configurations:

5-Piece Standard5-Piece Fusion
Same as above with:
4-Piece Set
  • 22" x 18" bass
  • 12" x 9" and 13" x 10" toms
  • 16" x 16" floor tom
  • 5-1/2" x 14 snare
  • 10" x 8" and 12" x 9" toms
  • 14" x 11" floor tom
  • 22" x 18" bass
  • 12" x 9" tom
  • 16" x 16" floor tom
  • 5-1/2" x 14 snare