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November 24, 2006 | Reviewer: Paul Matcott
Distributor: PRO MUSIC (07) 3375 6400

gretsch catalinaThe Gretsch Drum company began in the USA in 1883, and has a rich history of drum manufacturing that still continues today, with Gretsch being one of a handful of American family makers that have been involved with drumset manufacture for over one hundred years. Gretsch drums are known for their warmth of tone, with more rounded bearing edges (45 degree edges) to help boost lower frequencies – the sound is big and rich in the bottom end, with a nice fat attack. Whilst for many years Gretsch drums were hard to come by here in Australia, they are now readily available, and the company has a range of kits to choose from. The Gretsch Catalina Maple Shell kit is a medium priced all maple kit complete with Gibraltar series 5 double braced hardware, and is a new release kit featuring a free 16×16” floor tom.

The Look
The kit comes with a 22” x 18”bass, 10”x 8”, 12”x 9”, 14”x14”, 16”x16” toms, and a 14”x 6” snare drum. All drums are made from maple, and are finished in UV Gloss. The kit that I reviewed was a cherry red colour, and the overall look was excellent. The drums come with 2.5mm triple flanged hoops except the bass drum which comes with matching wooden hoops. The shell construction was consistent across all drums, and the gloss finish was impressive. Quite a few friends commented on the great look of the kit when set up, and I have to agree that the kit looked very good. The mounted toms come with RIMS style mounts (GTS suspension mounts), which are of the L-bracket ball and socket type. Tuning lugs on all drums including the bass drum are standard design, and the overall look with these is very streamlined.

The Sound
The shells themselves are all maple, and are not lacquered at all on the interior. The shells are designed on the thin side, but still have a very strong feel about them. The kit came supplied with factory heads, and as I expected, the sound was very warm. The four toms all proved tunable across a wide range of pitches, though for me, lowering the pitch on each drum gave the most satisfying sound. In the upper range, the small toms in particular were a little deader, though changing heads to Remo Clear Ambassadors gave a much more satisfying jazz type sound.

Maple has a tonal characteristic all of its’ own and this kit did sound like a full, warm and rich set of drums, with good attack and projection across all drums. The bass drum was easy to tune to get a solid tone, together with a very good beater attack, and appealed to me as solid sound suitable for any style of music. Tuning it down a little gave a deeper note with a lot of definition that I thought would work very well in a Big Band setting. I took the kit to a Blues band rehearsal, and the sound of the bass drum blended extremely well with the Fender precision bass; it was easy to get the attack of both instruments to complement each other.

The maple snare drum was a real highlight for me – I like the sound of wood, and the drum I reviewed was just perfect for the kit. It was well constructed, with nice even edges, and it tuned up very readily. I tried the drum tuned high with lots of bounce for those faster rolls, and also tuned low to go with a fat backbeat sound, and both extremes were very satisfying. Overtones were not a problem, and I found it easy enough to tune the whole kit without getting a lot of unwanted snare resonance for example.

In summary, the Catalina kit sounded very good all round, with my preference, based on the time I spent and the heads I used, being for a more Rock, or amplified music sound (I still think that with judicious choice of drumheads, this kit would be just as good in a more acoustic style such as Jazz). I would buy the snare drum on its’ own!

The Hardware
The kit I reviewed came with Gibraltar Series 5 double braced  hardware, and I have to say this was also a big plus. In my opinion a lot of the medium priced kits on offer have done good things with the drums, but some of the hardware offered along with these drums has been disappointing. Setting up your kit and playing night after night is what drummers do, and anything that limits your ability to play your instrument properly and comfortably is downright annoying. Hardware on any kit, but especially on better kits that are going to be used regularly, need to be strong to support the set up and playing of the drums. No-one wants the footboard on the hi-hat to break in half when you get a little overexcited during your solo! Gibraltar has been specializing in hardware for a while now and have a range of equipment that is cost effective and that works well. Again, it is not top of the range Rolls Royce hardware, but it is very functional and very affordable. The Gretsch Catalina Maple kit came with a Gibraltar snare stand, hi-hat pedal, bass drum pedal, one boom arm cymbal stand and one straight cymbal stand (you could upgrade to four cymbal stands and a double bass pedal for not a great deal more…). The GTS Suspension system for the mounted toms was effective and easily adjustable, and the legs on both floor toms were sufficiently long enough to cater to most set-up options. Overall, the hardware side of this kit gets a big tick!

I must confess to some skepticism about an all maple shell kit on offer at this price range, believing that it must necessarily sound ‘cheaper’ than more upmarket and costlier maple shell kits. I readily admit to quickly changing my mind about this kit as soon as I played it. It sounded very good all round, and whilst not replicating the sound of a $6-10,000 hand made maple shell kit, it sounded surprisingly good to me. I got the kit in boxes, and had to assemble it all myself, so I got a good look at the way it goes together, and again I was impressed with the overall feel and look of the drums. One more thing that might be useful to mention is the basic configuration: if you play a range of styles and are looking for a kit that can cut it both electrically and acoustically, the six drums might just prove very useful. I tried the kit using just the 10”, 12” and 14” toms as more of a jazz kit (tuned accordingly) and it worked well. I found I could also configure the kit with just the 12” tom and the two floor toms, and it worked very well as a power Rock kit, so I could happily live with just this one kit to cover a variety of styles.

The Gretsch Catalina Maple Shell kit is in keeping with this idea – a very good looking and distinctive sounding Gretsch kit, at a price that warrants a serious look by anyone shopping for both quality and especially value for money.

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