Friday, June 3, 2011

Gretsch Catalina Maple Drumset Article by Ben Meyer

Gretsch’s Catalina line has been around for a few years now, so what makes this maple kit different from the original? Professional-quality heads, 30-degree roundover bearing edges, better hardware, and some new badge artwork arejust a few of the many upgraded features.

I was pleased with the fit and finish of the new Catalina Maples from the moment I started unpacking them. All of the bearing edges that I examined were smooth and  free of the rough spots that I sometimes find on mid-price drums. The chrome hardware looked great, and the highgloss transparent ebony finish, which lets some of the maple grain show through, was flawless. (Cherry gloss and amber finishes are also available.) The white coated Gretsch-logo resonant bass drum head really helped set off the finish on these drums.
I also noticed that the functional but generic hardware of the original Catalinas had been replaced by chunky, professionallooking Gretschbranded tom mounts and floor tom leg brackets. These additions help make the kit feel more high-end and less like a foreign-manufactured likeness of the original. I definitely would expect to pay more for these drums than their actual street price if I saw them in a store window.


As impressed as I was with the appearance of the updated Catalina Maple kit, I was really excited after I got some sounds. The snare and rack toms ship complete, so I was able to give them a good whack right out of the box. I was pleased to hear a warm, open tone from the 8x10 tom on the very first hit. The other drums tuned up easily (7x8, 9x12, and 16x16 toms are also included), and I was pleased with the evenness of the sound from one drum to the next. The toms matched each other well, and none of them stuck out as being  livelier than another, as is often the case with less expensive drums. The inclusion of Gretsch’s high-end, noninvasive GTS tom mounts definitely plays a part in this. The toms came fitted with coated single-ply batter heads and clear singleply resonants, all from the newly developed “Gretsch by Evans” line. These heads seemed very similar, if not identical, to Evans coated and clear G1s, and they gave the drums great sustain and warmth. It’s refreshing to find a major drum company selling mid-price drums with professionalquality heads.

As I expected from its beefy 18x22 dimensions, the Catalina bass drum sounded huge. Though the included premuffled Gretsch by Evans clear batter head gave it nice punch and fullness, I could tell that the drum would kick you in the gut at twenty paces when outfitted with one of the popular pre-muffled heads commonly seen today, plus a bit of additional dampening. So I replaced the stock batter head with an Aquarian Super- Kick II and added a little muffling for the resonant head, which produced the huge punch I had expected.

The 6x14, eight-lug snare sounded great out of the box. It was tuned fairly high, giving it nice sensitivity and a musical ring. After a bit of tweaking, I found
that the drum fattened up nicely when I tuned it down and applied some muffling. The coated single-ply Gretsch by Evans batter yielded a widely usable sound.

I was looking forward to putting these drums to work, and I was able to use them on several gigs where I played a range of styles, including country, rock, and more jam-oriented material. The toms’ strong Gretsch character revealed itself while I was playing a rock standard by an artist whose drummer is a well-known Gretsch endorser. It’s no small feat for a mid-price set to achieve a recognizable—and good—signature sound with stock heads and very little tweaking, but these drums did just that. This is surely due to the inclusion of classic Gretsch features like five-lug rack toms and 30-degree roundover bearing edges. The less sharp edges gave the drums a very warm sound and a bit less stick attack. The thicker 7-ply, 7.2 mm maple shells worked well with these bearing
edges, which are similar to those found on Gretsch drums from the 1950s and ’60s. All that said, these Catalinas had a modern sound that would easily be at home in any style of music.

The new Catalina Maple drums delivered strong, resonant sounds in every room I played them in, and they responded well to being muffled to suit the acoustics of each space. I’m always interested in getting non-drummer perspectives on my sound, and the engineer on the first job where I used the Catalina Maples commented that they were some of the bestsounding drums he’d heard in a while. The bandleader on another gig said he liked the look of the kit and thought the white bass drum head was a nice choice. It’s always good to keep the boss happy! With a street price of around $900, the new Catalina Maple drumset is a great
value, especially considering its solid build and great sound.


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