If you are reading this, it means that you have probably decided to buy your first set of drums and you are now fluctuating between a few models, which is a big deal. Therefore, we have taken it upon ourselves to acquire and test one of the most popular entry level drum sets so we can provide you with this extremely detailed review.
A quick history lesson
In 1995, Pearl Corporation manufactured its one millionth Export drum kit, and by that put an end to the beloved Pear Export drum set. Little did they know that it would eventually rise back from the abyss in 2013 bearing a new name; Pearl Export EXX.
The drum set has truly endured the tests of time and emerged victorious. Ask any drum enthusiast; they will tell you how the Export series was a game changer for all beginner and amateur level drummers from its creation in 1982 until its temporary discontinuation, delivering the best quality gear and sounds that can be offered within quite the affordable price range.
The year is 2018. Over the past five years, Pearl has been experimenting with the series and applying some changes here and there, leaving us with impressive results like the Pearl EXL and the EXX, which will be the center point of our review.
The Pearl EXX is available in two different setups that differ in shell sizes and in turn, the tonal range produced.
To start with, both models contain the standard 22’’ bass drum. But, while the EXX725 offers 12”, 13” & 16” toms, the EXX725S comes with 10”, 12” and 16” toms. As for the sound, the big difference between the tom sizes within the EXX725S set itself provides a wide tonal range, yet leaves a tonal gap between sounds. On the other hand, the EXX725 provides a smaller range in size and tone; not to mention, the lack of a wide tonal gap.
You have to keep in mind, though, that the gap is a very difficult thing for an untrained ear to notice. So, either way, it won’t matter which model you choose when it comes to the audience. It all comes down to you and your preferences because it is your drum set. And although you will be playing for people, let’s not forget that we, drummers, do it for own selfish motives. Oh, that sweet joy of jamming alone!
When you open the box you will also find a 14×5.5” snare drum, a P930 Demonator bass drum pedal which is a hybrid between the Eliminator and the Demon series, a hi-hat stand and finally, two cymbal stands.
When it comes to the Pearl Export EXL, the whole reason behind the letter change is the lacquer finish. The EXL is shinier than the EXX; that’s about it for the differences.
Other than that, the models are available in five complex-named colors that we have taken the liberty to arrange according to their level of awesomeness; Red Wine, Smokey Chrome, Jet Black, Arctic Sparkle and Electric Blue Sparkle.
Shells and Tone
The shells are made of a mixture between poplar wood and Asian faux mahogany which adds depth and warmth to the beat and gives the set a vintage rich reddish color. However, the poplar seems to be a topic of criticism since it is not as thick as other wood types used in expensive drum kits, which is true. However, this does not mean that poplar is bad.
In fact, poplar proves time and time again that it can take a beating on stage despite being a main component in an entry level, low-priced drum kit. Also, granted, maple provides a warmer sound with a longer sustain because it gives stronger vibrations while poplar produces a brighter tone with a fast attack, but these are just different sounds. Much like the single ply and double ply drum heads, there is no good or bad. It just depends on your style.
The complete product that is the shell of the EXX, as well as the EXL, is molded using the Pearl standard “Superior Shell Technology” which sounds very cool. On the more technical aspect, the shell is tightly fitted to make sure the vibrations are sealed inside, which should provide a significantly more focused sound. As an added bonus, the upper tom shells do not even have mounting holes. That is how dedicated Pearl is to sound quality.
The absence of the mounting holes resulted in Pearl using an “Opti Loc” mounting system to hook up the upper small and large toms. As it latches unto only two upper lug bolts, the main vertex that is the load bearer actually lies bolted through one of the tom’s two air vents. Experts consider it a step up from previous mounting systems such as the Integrated Suspension System (ISS). Nevertheless, the Opti Loc does not allow full freedom when it comes to positioning and set up adjustment which means that, although you will get a supreme sound quality, you will have to make due with factory set positions.
Metallic components and Hardware
The metallic element in the modern Export series has been scarcely used by Pearl’s designing team to maintain the highest sound quality possible. What is more, the metal parts, including the rings, are made of chrome, which does not react with water or oxygen i.e. it does not rust. In addition, there are rubber pieces lodged between the parts where the chrome bits come in contact with the wood for extra resilience and durability.
The chrome rings are linked to either sides with poplar plies which are completely adjustable, giving you extra control over the resonance, attack and sustain of your sound. Furthermore, the plies are also a main part in controlling the drum set and keeping it from falling apart in the middle of a song, all the while giving you a beat with a defined attack and a short sustain.
By now, you have obviously noticed that Pearl has a knack for using high-tech pieces with catchy names. That is why their use of the “Uni-Lock” should not be a surprise for you. A Uni-lock adjustable tilter is a thing-a-majig that puts raw power within your two hands. It simply allows you to take full control over the angle at which the cymbals rest; a gift highly valued by every drummer. Another bonus feature is that Pearl makes uni lock tilters for drums resting on tubes ranging from 1 to 7 or 8 inches.
Since we are talking about locks and cymbals, we also have to address the cymbal stands. Other than being able to alter the size of the Boom arm, all stands are fitted with tight locks for stability. As for the sizes, various tubing sizes are available for the stands; an impressive range that goes from 12mm to a full inch.
Another point worth mentioning is that unlike other drum sets, like the Pearl Midtown Drums, where Pearl tries to maintain compactness, this kit includes an extra “boom” stand. A hardware item well known for being far more flexible than normal straight stands. So, you can go ahead and mount a splash cymbal above your toms, it will not be a problem. Go crazy. Invent your own mega drum set for Bonham’s sake.
All in all, the hardware is guaranteed to hold your kit together through the roughest, toughest drum solos, while the locks are designed to maintain their firm grip no matter how many times you disassemble your drum kit.
The Bass Pedal
The bass pedal is a key piece of a drum kit that is often underestimated in most beginner drum sets. but taken care of in both, the EXX and the EXL. Carefully designed to hit with one smooth motion, the P930 Demonator design is inspired by the professional pedal series, Eliminator. It also shares some traits with the Demon series. See where ‘demon’ and ‘ator’ come from?
According to our experience with the EXX, the pedal’s sensitivity levels were in that sweet spot where you do not need an excessive force to floor the pedal yet, you feel some resistance that causes you deliver the perfect hit. It is a fluid motion until the center-oriented arm connects with the skin, the optimal amount of force letting out a sound that is not only strong and well defined, but also clean and three dimensional. Of course the pedal’s positioning from the bass drum is adjustable. Same as the arm length. Here would be as good a time as any to remember what your physics teacher said about the moment of the force. The longer the arm is, the larger the force applied on the drum skin becomes. Force multiplied by distance, baby!
They are not there.
Didn’t see that coming, huh? Well, they don’t call it a Pearl five-piece drum set for no reason.
A ‘no cymbal’ policy is usually the case for well-known drum manufacturers because they choose to specialize in the making of a certain drum set component. A decision mostly taken for the sake of cost-efficiency and the profit margin.
It is not impossible to find a drum manufacturer who makes their own cymbals, but it would probably end up being like that one time on Friends when Rachel made Thanksgiving dessert.
Same thing applies here as to the cymbals. Because of the same concept of specialization, it would be better and cheaper in the long term if you just buy heads and cymbals from an original manufacturer of those items rather than settle for a low quality sound courtesy of a company that does not put effort into making its drum heads.
The Final Verdict
As you can see, Pearl did a fine job with the new Export series.
Despite having their own drawbacks, like the absence of cymbals, low-quality heads and the poplar shells (for the sake of being thorough, we’re taking the worst into consideration and counting the poplar as a drawback), the Pearl EXX and EXL both are accompanied by a durable hardware set, as well as a high-quality bass pedal, making them one of the most suitable and long lasting sets.
Lastly, for such a vintage looking kit that delivers what it promises regarding durability, comfort, sound quality and appearance, it’s remarkable that the price level has been constant in respect to the budgetary limitation of start-up musicians. Personally, we like to believe it shows that the company still maintains a pure appreciation for music and musicians.
The changes made by Pearl in the 2013 Export series took the 1982 series to the next level by transforming the set into one worthy of competing with professional drum sets. Which makes one wonder about how good a professional Pearl drum set can be.
We have to give credit where it is due. The idea of using mahogany and poplar together is a daring choice that is not common for drum manufacturers. Yet, it ended up enriching the color of the drum set, in addition to the sound, as well.
After reading all of this, you should have developed a clearer idea regarding what you want. In case this article has simply made everything more complicated and you still don’t have a clue, trying to envision what type of musician you want to be will definitely help. And if that doesn’t work, you can always reach out to other musicians or just take a walk to your local music store and talk to someone there.
Good luck on your quest and may the Gods of Music stand by you on the search for your sound.