The biggest problem Tama is facing today -as well as the other major brands- is double: on one hand, it is indeed very difficult to improve what is already unbeatable. In the last few years, the degree of excellence of any of the flagships of these makers is astounding. On the other side, even if you were able to take things further than the rest of your competitors, customers may not be able to perceive it. It really has to be apparent that you have made something better or new. With the new Tama Star Series, the Japanese brand has probably done the only thing they could do: to insist in what has distinguished them from the rest, the innovation in the hardware that sustains its excellent drums, which has a long history of value, quality and improvements since the times of Camco.
What doesn’t seem a wise choice is the name of the Series. Tama Star can hardly be perceived as an alternative or a step ahead before the long shadow of the name StarClassic, which has been the more powerful name for the brand’s flagship for many years. If we add other established names for Tama such as SuperStar or ImperialStar, the briefness and simplicity of the term Star suggests more of a low price entry line. Not the biggest mistake ever, but they should have tryed a little bit more by adding another more suggestive word to the term Star.
The new Tama Star Drum Series brings a whole set of innovations and changes, some of them pretty striking, as they suggest a comeback to the origins or a review of some classic parameters. To begin, the Series comes with extra-thin shells with 5 plies of maple or bubinga wood. Reinforcement hoops are also 5-ply (Sound Focus Rings). In maple’s case, the total thickness is 5 mm. The core is a 2 mm. thick ply surrounded by internal and external 1.5 mm. cross-laminated layers. Tama says that the thicker, more solid central core adds more body and warmth to the open and clear sound of maple. This way they can get the same effect as in other much thicker layouts. Bubinga shells are 4.5 mm in total, with five bubinga plies plus an inner one made of cordia. Some finishes are offered with an external cordia layer added. According to Tama, these bubinga shells are much thinner than their equivalent in the StarClassic Series, so that the wood vibrates more easily and produces more resonance. The Sound Focus Ring reinforcement hoops are 9 mm. thick and perform a good sound projection, keeping a good sustain.
Of course, every finish is perfect. The beautiful center wood inlay stands out as a decorative ribbon around every drum piece, with the winged logo of the Tama Star Series. This insertion is offered in three options: the inlay on the external part of the drum shell as an standard option, or it can also be placed inside the shell next to the reinforcement rings, or there can simply be no inlay at all. Truth is it gives a touch of discreet, noble elegance.
As Sonor did with the new Protean Snare Drum, Tama has stepped back in time to shape the bearing edges of the shells rounder, instead of cutting them sharp as it is commonly done today. This produces a bigger contact surface between the drumhead and shell, allowing vibration to travel from the drumhead to the wood more efficiently, giving way to a fatter sound. Besides, the highest point of the shell is 3.5 mm. from the shell’s outer surface, which improves the contact between wood and skin. An interesting detail is that this time the’ve opted for Remo Coated heads in the Tama Star Series instead of the traditional Evans of the StarClassic, another major change. It seems clear that Tama has been measuring and trying all possibilities to obtain the sound they were searching for in this new Star Series. The inside of the shells is exquisitely finished by hand with oil. Other signs of quality are the vent holes on every shell, surrounded by small wood rings with a darker color than the rest of the shell.
In the second part of this article, we will cover the great amount of changes made by Tama for the hardware of the Star Series. It is really amazing what they’ve done since there seemed to be no more room for enhancement or improvement…
This post is also available in Versión en Español.