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My (Preliminary) Ddrum Reflex Uptown Review

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  • My (Preliminary) Ddrum Reflex Uptown Review

    So Ddrum gets a bad rep on pretty much every online drum forum out there. Yeah, they are new to the game, they had bad QC in the beginning, and in general people dismissed them as a drum company because they only used to make dinky little electronic kits. Well, I took a chance and purchased a Reflex Uptown 6 piece kit from them just to see whats up with their acoustic offerings.

    Skip ahead if you just want the review:

    As a primer to this short review, I want to explain why I began looking at Ddrum and didn't stick with the big manufacturers when buying this kit. Yes, Tama, Pearl, Yamaha, etc. all make nice kits and have a huge range within their lines to pretty much meet the needs of anyone, but at the same time, I find them a bit boring. My first kit was a Tama Rockstar DX. Not a bad beginner kit, but 20 years later, the Rockstar is still there, made of the same materials, with the same bearing edges, similar hardware, etc. The kit hasn't changed in 20 years. Take a look at the Starclassic kits and they really haven't changed in 20 years either. Still made of maple, diecast hoops, lacquer finishes, etc. Basically the exact same kit for the last 20 years. Pearl is the same way. The Export is back, and its the same as the old Export. Yeah there is the Reference drums and the Masterworks, but if I wanted to spend that much money on a drum kit, I would probably look at more exotic manufacturers. Basically, these companies bore me. Show me innovation, show me new things that no one else does, show me that you are at least trying to make a better product than you were 20 years ago and not just cheapening the kits out to make a greater profit margin.

    So back to Ddrum. Ddrum caught my eye with their Dios Bubinga kit. I randomly was searching out exotic wood kits and came across this kit. $2200 for a 6 piece bubinga kit. That same thing from Tama costs 3 times that much. Then there is the Dios Walnut kit. Again, an "exotic" wood (especially when looking at the big boys) for ~$2000. The Paladin Walnut kit can be had for ~$1200. I wasn't looking to spend this much on my next kit, but it was good to see a manufacturer out there making kits out of exotic woods and not marking up the crap out of it. Then I ran across the Reflex line. The kit is made entirely of Alder. No one, I repeat, no one makes an alder drum kit. Only Ddrum. That intrigued me. I like the idea of using a wood that no one else uses. It makes it a bit more rare in a world full of maple and birch drums. So I bought it.

    Here's where the review begins:

    The packaging: Overall it was very well packed. The usual Russian doll packing setup was done, with everything all wrapped individually and protected with cardboard. The bass drum had full size cardboard spacers around it (top and bottom) to keep the drum from moving and to keep it away from the outer edges of the box in case of overzealous shipping companies. Bubble wrapped and boxed floor toms and snare. Overall everything was well packed and nothing was damaged in shipping. This is very different from my Gretsch Catalina Maple kit, which was so poorly packed that the bass drum was damaged in shipping and the whole kit had to go back. Poor packing by Gretsch lead to damage in shipment.

    The first look: Upon first inspection all the drums look really nice. Nice glossy finish without any flaws, scratches, cracks, etc. The bearing edges look pretty solid through the heads. The end grain pores don't look to be too pronounced and there doesn't appear to be many flaws that were fixed with filler or just left as cavities. The interior of the shells were very "dry" and the Red Alder interiors had a bit of rough feeling. Mostly this was just the grain begging to be conditioned. Very pretty reddish-brown interiors and the grain of the wood is heavily pronounced. Very nice appearance, but needs a good conditioning. Heads are made by Evans for Ddrum. Probably some Taiwan plant making them and not made in the USA. 2 ply, really heavy, batter heads with single ply reso's. Should work for a bit, but heads are a personal preference and will likely get swapped out to suit the end users needs.

    The shells: Shells are made entirely of Alder. Both sap and heart wood is used in the construction. The heartwood is the outer and inner plys (and one layer in the middle for some reason) and the inner plys are the sapwood (white in color). Overall a very heavily grained (exterior and interior) kit. Some may like this, others may like the really smooth grained maple kits. For me, I wanted something that made a statement. These shells really do that. 6 ply shells for the toms, and 8 ply for the bass and snare. Overall they are pretty thin. Approximately 5-6 mil for the toms. Light weight as well. They look to be nice and round, but I haven't measured them. I don't have a light table, or any table for that matter that is accurate enough to check the bearing edges for flatness, so I can't comment. The bearing edges, however, were fairly smooth to the touch in both directions. They need just a quick touch with some steel wool and they smooth out nicely. They are a relatively sharp 45 degree inner cut with a back cut that is probably around 30 degrees. No round over, or softened edges. Its a pretty pronounced edge on the top. After removing all the hardware, sanding the interior of the shell, and conditioning it with tung oil, it looks and feels much nicer. There is some splintering of the inner ply from the drilling of the holes. Alder is very soft, so its to be expected. My Catalina Maple's are just as splintered and that is a harder wood than this Alder. If you do the John Good tap test, the shell has a nice tone to it. The resonance doesn't last as long as something like a rock hard maple shell does, but that's just a characteristic of Alder. Its a very soft (as soft as poplar and basswood), so it wont ring like a harder wood does. This should lead to less overtones.

    The Hardware: One word can describe the hardware: Heavy. The kit comes with 2.3mm triple flanged hoops (but they feel thicker/heavier than the 2.3 hoops on my Gretsch), "face off" lugs, heavy duty floor tom mounts, and a very rigid tom mounting system that bolts to the face of the lugs. Everything is very heavy duty. The little face off lugs may not be everyone's style, but I dont think they look any worse then DW's turret lugs. They are actually smaller then the DW lugs, and they serve a secondary purpose in that you can pull the faces off and screw things in to them. Ddrum mounts the floating tom mounts to two of the lugs on the toms, but you could probably mount microphones to them very easily for a studio or live setup. Each little lug is quite heavy duty. Good mass to them, nicely constructed and the chroming is well done. Memory locks are supplied with everything, so that's a nice feature that some of the big boys like to omit on their lower end kits. The tension rods are standard thread and of the 16 I pulled off when conditioning the 14" floor tom, each one had perfect threads with no gumming up from the use of power tools to install them. One thing i will say is that each little screw and tension rod was "dry". No oil was used during the install, so I would recommend putting a dab of oil on them to keep their action nice and smooth when tuning.

    The sound: Well, I haven't gotten here yet, and I may never get there. This kit was purchased as an A2E conversion for my next project. I may tune up the heads and give 'em a go, but ultimately I am going to throw mesh heads on it and trigger a 2Box module. There are other reviews out there that let you know how the kit sounds, and overall they think they sound pretty good. So yeah, I dont have much to comment on them

    Overall: From everything I have seen, touched, smelled, etc. I am pretty impressed with the kit. I think its quality is better than my Gretsch Catalina Maples. This kit cost a bit more then the Gretsch due to the finish, but if you get a lacquer finish on this same kit it is right there with the Gretsch in pricing. Overall, I wouldn't dismiss Ddrum if you are looking for a kit that's a bit different then the mainstream stuff. I like that Ddrum is trying to use different woods in their line up. I like that they don't have such a big name, and I like that that they don't charge a huge premium to have their name on the bass drum head.

    So that's my preliminary review of the kit's components. I will get my own photos up in due time, but for now I have more drums to strip and condition the interiors.
    Last edited by Tommy_D; 04-08-14, 04:31 PM.
    I think my work is done here.

  • #2
    This is fascinating. Looking forward to the next installment!
    TD-30++ (TD-30, Diamond Electronic Drums 14x5 snare+Ludwig Atlas Pro II, 2xPDX-8, 2xPDX-6, VH-11+Gibraltar 9607DL-LD, 2xCY-12C, CY-13R, KT-10) + DA200S, almost all on an MDS-4 and a bit on the floor.


    • #3
      One good thing about this Ddrum kit is that the vent grommets are all screw in, so they are easily removed to put a 1/4" jack in there. My Catalina Maples were pressed in and I have to cut them out with a dremel tool. PITA!!!!
      I think my work is done here.


      • #4
        Looks like nice kit.


        • #5
          Here are some photos of the 14x14 floor tom I conditioned with Tung Oil:

          Bare interior after hardware removal:

          Bearing edge:

          Exterior of shell with no hardware:

          Interior of shell after Tung Oil:

          Interior of shell with hardware installed:
          I think my work is done here.


          • #6
            Absolutely gorgeous. Inside looks as nice as the outside!
            TD-30++ (TD-30, Diamond Electronic Drums 14x5 snare+Ludwig Atlas Pro II, 2xPDX-8, 2xPDX-6, VH-11+Gibraltar 9607DL-LD, 2xCY-12C, CY-13R, KT-10) + DA200S, almost all on an MDS-4 and a bit on the floor.


            • #7
              Tommy, did you dry sand the interior and then apply tung oil? I've read that wet sanding using tung oil is a viable method to fill the grain and provide a beautiful, lasting finish, inside or out. Apparently, you wet sand using tung oil and progressively finer grits initially, and then apply more coats over the course of a year. There's a rule of thumb that goes something like, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, and once a year forever. Probably not necessary in your application, just something I read along the way.
              Roland TD12 module / DIY Kit in progress, Gretsch Blackhawk A (soon to be E) kit.


              • #8
                I dry sanded with 220 grit paper just to take down the fine bits of grain that were popping up. Then I applied a coat of tung oil, let it dry for 15 minutes and sanded it with synthetic steel wool (no mess with this stuff). Applied another coat of tung oil about an hour later and let it dry for 15 minutes, sanded with synthetic steel wool, let it sit over night. The next day all the oil soaked in and it was fully dry.

                I think my work is done here.


                • #9
                  Can I ask 'why' you conditioned the shells with the oil? Was it to prolong the life of the wood?


                  • #10
                    They were really dry. Dry wood will eventually crack and I just didn't want that happening. If you look at teh bearing edge photo you will see how chalky the interior of the shell was. My old Tama's after 20 years are still good to go. My Catalina's were pretty good, but these were very dry, like kiln dried, dry. This is the first time I have put tung oil on the interiors of my drums. Many say it doesn't have an effect on the sound, so that's good. It does have an effect on the appearance, which is awesome in this case. It really brought out the natural red color of the wood.

                    The tung oil is like a liquid wax that penetrates the wood and seals it. Add enough coats and you can buff it to a gloss finish if you like.
                    I think my work is done here.


                    • #11
                      I donno if this counts as posting in a thread that's "too old" or whatever, but I really enjoyed reading this!
                      I've always been interested in what Ddrum comes up with, some stuff are just weird or feel like they're trying a bit too much to be special in some way. But mostly I think that Ddrum has some really sweet looking drums and from what I've read/heard over the years they offer a very good price/quality ratio.

                      And now you've gotten me paranoid again, now I feel like I have to check the inside of my drums and condition them so that they don't crack or something. :O


                      • #12
                        I think they look stunning Tommy! Seems like these are decent drums and value for money. Hope you are enjoying them!


                        • #13
                          Sadly this project has gone nowhere since I oiled up that 14" floor tom. Way too much work going on at the new house. Im finally moving in Friday the 30th. Still have lots of work to do at the house, so this one may still be on temporary hold until I finish up the projects with the new digs, but I will get to it. Thanks all for being interested in the project. Updates will eventually come.
                          I think my work is done here.


                          • #14
                            So I have had a chance to disassemble all the drums, sand, tung oil and polish the shells, and install my Trigerra triggers inside the drums. One thing I learned about these drums is that the shells are incredibly soft. Alder is just a really soft wood and very difficult to work with. Sanding the inside of the shell was a PITA because the wood would try to splinter if the slightest edge of your paper caught the wood grain. Ugg...

                            Overall though, the drums look great when polished and assembled. The chrome on the lugs is generally good, the shells have a nice glossy lacquer that shines in the light very well, the heads it came with are garbage and are not round/flat, so tuning is a no go. So, you need new heads for the kit.

                            So, whats left to say? Sound? I don't know how they sound. I trued tuning the kit, but the heads are garbage and wouldn't tune up because they are not flat and true. So I just put the Silent Strokes on and started my A2E 2Box conversion. I still need to build my short riser for the kit, which might happen this weekend, and once that is done I can try setting it up for a couple photos.
                            Last edited by Tommy_D; 12-17-15, 03:42 PM.
                            I think my work is done here.


                            • #15
                              Another update! My A2E is going really well. I'm just about done with the full conversion, but I have to wait until some right angle converters come in so I can make some wiring to my jacks mounted in the air vent holes. It should be a clean set up once completed. I got my module mounted, the wiring is all set and cleaned up. Overall it looks really nice. Regarding the Ddrum quality, their hardware on the drums is pretty solid. I really like the mounting system they have on the "face-off" lugs. It makes lots of sense to me to have the mount attached to the lug instead of running a tension rod through the mount. No chance of bending those rods or anything like that. That's a good design by Ddrum. A bad design is their memory locks. There is so much play in the memory locks that you can rotate the drum about 3 or 4 inches left to right with it locked in place. Most locks have about an inch of play when the drum is locked in place, but these can really move. Its more of a vertical memory than a rotation memory. Fortunately the mounts are a clamp style that puts pressure over the whole length of the mount instead of having a little screw press on the tom arm, or an eye bolt that grabs on. Its solid once its all locked in to place, but the memory lock could have been designed with a lot less play in it.

                              I have tuned up the resonant heads with the TuneBot and the drums have a surprisingly nice tone to them with the silent strokes. They aren't easy to tune up due to the poor heads, but they still all tune up and create a quiet tone.
                              Last edited by Tommy_D; 12-17-15, 03:41 PM.
                              I think my work is done here.