Tama has a history with excellent drummers and excellent kits. With legends like Stewart Copeland (from The Police) swearing by and always relying on Tama drums. The Imperialstar is Tama’s current entry-level rock drum kit. So how does it stand up to the competition, and is it a good choice for starting or experienced drummers who want to get an entry level kit? Is it worth the price? Is it sturdy enough for your purposes? Most importantly how does it sound?
Tama Imperialstar Review
First things first: Out of the box how does it look?
While the kit comes in multiple colour schemes accounting for your own taste. There are five wraps currently available for the kit. Bronze Mist Metallic is first, then Black and Platinum Grey, Midnight Blue, and Finally a Vintage Red wrap. The mainline version and the one in most of the pictures that Tama has of the kit is the Midnight Blue wrap. The Midnight Blue comes in Hairline Paint scheme and looks very stylish and seems to have been painted with stage lighting in mind.
As for the Shell itself, as an entry level kit, Tama decided to for a think poplar shell. Thin shells are unusual for Entry level kits, as thicker shells can be used as an attempt to make up for a lower quality wood. In this case, though the choice of poplar as the shell allowed a thinner shell than usual for an entry level kit. The bases and stands are all a high-quality metal, with the stands themselves being double braced. Making for an aesthetic and sturdy looking kit.
What’s in the box?
Tama offers multiple different kits under the Imperialstar name, the standard kit that you can get is around 34Kg(75 lbs) and includes the following drums and hardware.
- An 18 x 22″ bass drum, mounted 8 x 10″ and 9 x 12″ toms
- A 14 x 16″ floor tom
- A 5 x 14″ snare drum
- HP200P Iron Cobra bass drum pedal
- Boom cymbal stand
- Straight cymbal stand
- Hihat stand
- Snare drum stand
- Drum throne
- Meinl HCS 14″ HiHat cymbals
- Meinl HCS 16″ crash cymbal
- Meinl HCS 20″ ride cymbal
This is generally a pretty solid selection of drums, cymbals and hardware for an entry level drum kit. There are other drum kits under the Imperialstar line as previously mentioned. These kits may have small differences to the one listed above. So for the purposes of this review, it is the above-listed kit that is discussed.
What about the hardware and quality?
As mentioned already the shells are made of a thin poplar. The sound quality of these shells is better than normal for an entry level kit, but it leaves something to be desired when compared to maple or mahogany. Tama’s previous entry-level kit was made of mahogany in comparison. The poplar prevents the sound of the kit from being perfectly crystal clear in comparison to higher quality kits, but it does give it a brighter tone which some drummers may actually prefer when compared to other shells.
To compensate for the thinner shells. Tama decided to fit the kit with smaller lugs than their previous entry level kit, meaning that you can get a lot more from the thin poplar shells than you may originally think. All in all, for the quality of the toms, the drum is surprisingly good, internal padding prevents any unwanted reverberation which is nicely executed in the kit. The batter heads leave something to be desired but that can be easily resolved. Seeing how the kit is put together, it really comes to life when pulling of rim shots and cross-sticks.
Most importantly- and the part we’re most excited about in the kit- is the snare drum. The snare drum is at a quality that no one would imagine in an entry level kit. It’s almost over-kill really, it’s so good that it makes the rest of this otherwise great kit look bad. The attractive thin black snare has an impressively sharp sound with a lovely character.
As for the bass drum. It’s an area where Tama tried to innovate, while most of the innovations are a general improvement it’s important to look at them critically. The hoop of the bass drum is made of glass fibre, this is an interesting choice. Usually, in entry-level kits, you get metal hoops, which generally were of significantly lower quality and adversely affected the sound of otherwise decent bass drums. In general, the glass fibre hoop is a welcome addition to Tama’s entry level kit. The alternative is wooden hoops which would have been less resistant to wear tear and scratch. There doesn’t seem to be a major difference in sound quality between the two types of hoops, so Tama’s choice here is welcome.
Another addition that Tama added to the bass drum that is welcome although not an innovation. This addition is the inclusion of a metal base to the bass drum pedal. It is generally well known that a metal base will give playing the bass drum much-needed stability, as well as just being the nicer option in this case.
Tama also added spurs to the bass drum which is one of the more questionable additions. While they may make the bass drum easier to manoeuvre and place, they seem to have a bad habit of slipping out of place when setting up.
How does it compare?
Compared to Tama’s previous entry level drums the Imperialstar is an impressive showing. Multiple aspects of the kit are of a quality that one doesn’t associate with entry level drum kits. This is especially apparent with the plainly delightful snare drum. Other additions though place the Imperialstar entry level kit in a very good place for the purpose of this review. The stands are double braced as previously stated, this in itself adds such an important element of security and sturdiness to the kit which you can’t trade for anything when it comes to ensuring that your beloved kit doesn’t accidentally get smashed. This focus on sturdiness is actually a consistent trend throughout the components of the kit. From the steel bass drum pedal to the glass fibre hoop which avoids the fragility inherent in wooden hoops.
In summary, the Imperialstar is clearly an improvement over Tama’s previous beginner kits. Compared to other kits it generally manages to better than them at least one thing while keeping an excellent baseline quality.
- An Impressive snare drum
- The metal base of the bass drum pedal adds impressive quality and stability to the kit
- The double braced stands and the high quality give the kit an impressive stability that lets you just go to town
- You should expect an impressively long lifespan from the kit and consider the quality of the material and Tama’s reputation with long living equipment
- A decent asking price for a kit of this quality
- While subjective the kit itself looks very sleek and stylish especially in the standard Hairline Midnight Blue wrap
- Many of Tama’s attempted innovations with the kit may initially seem like they may make the kit more convenient but may end up being more gimmicky and add more awkwardness to the kit than they resolve.
- The heads that come with the toms are generally the weakest of the kit and are disappointing considering how impressive the rest of the kit is.
- The sound of the poplar shell may not be that popular with many drummers and may not sound as clear as you hope. Your mileage may vary with this point as well as the some people prefer the sharpness of the sound that the poplar shells give the kit
If you are considering getting this kit the most important recommendation is also getting yourself a set of higher quality heads and tuning them up. As previously stated the heads are generally the weakest part of this kit. Thankfully this is comparatively easy to fix and by getting yourself a better set, and with the right tuning you may end up with a kit that doesn’t sound like it is entry level when played well.
Otherwise, spend some time getting accustomed to the kit and setting it up as it has some gimmicks. This is generally not too bad as the solid construction of the kit really lets you go to town on it without worrying too much.
So should you get the Imperialstar kit?
While your needs may vary, in general, you will have a very hard time finding another entry level kit that can keep up with the Imperialstar. It’s an excellent choice for getting started with your drumming or even as an upgrade if you currently have a very shoddy entry level kit but don’t feel ready to move up to something that is more advanced. With some slight work on the kit you can get a performance that will really impress you.