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Hands-On Review: Pearl Vision Series Drums

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Visionary drum designs made affordable

By Brad Tomlin

The word vision means “the ability to see.” The word is also defined as the ability to imagine, create, and see ways to improve things—all of which apply to Pearl’s Vision Series drums. Vision drums are another manifestation of the driving concept behind Pearl’s award-winning Reference Series— to optimize the sound of every individual drum within the set.

In both the Reference and Vision Series, each drum is treated as a unique instrument, with a shell constructed to enhance its individual frequency range. The Vision Series makes this concept available at very affordable prices. Pearl has broken the long-held practice of giving uniform thickness and wood type to all the drums within a specific set. In short, when you play a set of Visions, you’re playing a custom drum set.

Balancing act

Pearl has done much research into drum shell acoustics and the way sound is affected by wood composition and thickness. Birch and basswood shells were selected for the Vision Series, woods that by their nature offer both punch and low-end impact. The key to the sound lies in the varying plies that are used for the respective drums—six plies for the rack toms and eight plies for the floor toms and bass drum.

Birch’s tight structure accelerates rebounding sound waves, accenting the mid to high frequencies and enhancing the drums’ punch and brightness. Basswood’s softer composition slows down the sound waves, promoting mid to low-frequency response for deep bass tone. The balance between birch and basswood creates the dynamics of the Vision drums’ sound.

Pearl Vision Birch Artisan II New Fusion Shell Pack

The Vision thing

Vision drums are available in both VSX-covered finishes and VLX-lacquer finishes. The black strata covered finish on the VSX set that I tried out had a slightly retro vibe to it. The natural wood finish on the edge and inner surface of the bass drum hoops provided a nice contrasting visual note.

I received a 5-piece Vision Series VSX Fusion Drum Set from Pearl for evaluation. First I set up the drums in my home studio, and after a very quick tune-up, the drums sounded good—amazingly good. There seemed to be fewer distracting overtones than most drums have. It doesn’t hurt that the drums come fitted with Pro Tone Pearl heads that have a thin muffling ring under the head around the edge to eliminate excess ring. The sound was clean and punchy, with just the right amount of sustain.

The tom mounts are Pearl’s I.S.S. (Integrated Suspension System) design. The I.S.S. mounts attach to the rim, which eliminates contact between the mount and shell, allowing the tone to resonate unimpeded. It’s almost as if all that’s needed to tune them is to dial in the proper frequency for each drum. The 10" x 8" high tom had a penetrating punch to it, while the middle 12" x 9" tom provided a clear, resonant mid-spectrum tone. The 14" x 11" suspended tom sounded surprisingly full and deep for its size, with tone that suggested a much bigger drum.

The bass drum tone was full and fat, providing a fitting foundation to the set. The Perimeter EQ bass drum heads produced a deep low-end thump, even without the customary step of cutting a hole into the front head. The Perimeter EQs have internal sound rings to keep excess ring under control. The classic-looking lugs and bass drum spurs were all fitted with rubber gaskets for quiet, reliable performance.

Steel snare par excellence

Pearl Vision SensiTone Steel Snare Drum

There’s something about a great metal snare that’s like nothing else in drumming. Yes, I like the warm sound of wood like most drummers, but nothing compares with the response you get with a fine metal snare drum like the SensiTone steel model that comes with the Vision sets. Grace notes and press rolls are expressed with subtle clarity. Rimshots crack like rifle shots and when you dig into the sweet spot, the brightness and volume of the drum ensure that its voice is never lost in the crowd. Overall, the SensiTone snare drum compares favorably with much pricier metal “collectible” snares that I have played in the past.

Sound hardware

Pearl 900 Series Drum Hardware Pack

The 900 Series hardware included with the Vision drums is well-designed, heavy-duty stuff—good enough to bring home the Musikmesse International Press Award for hardware in 2007. The two included standard and boom cymbal stands feature Uni-lock cymbal holders that are sturdy, adjust easily, and stay put. The bottoms of the stands spread wide and are fitted with sure-grip, over-sized rubber feet for stability. The parallel Sure Struts are designed to resist lateral movement, keeping rattles and squeaks at bay. The chain-drive bass drum pedal and hi-hat stand are quiet and responsive. All joints are fitted with rubberized inserts to prevent any metal-to-metal contact, keeping the action flowing quietly and securely.

Sound check

I received the Vision set for testing just before a gig with a rock and blues band. This was an excellent opportunity to put Visions to the test, as the band plays everything from quiet ballads to screaming guitar-centric jams.

The Vision drums delivered the goods, responding with punchy dynamics on shuffles and rock tunes, while handling the subtleties of quieter jams with ease. My band-mates were enthusiastic about the drum sound, and were surprised when I told them that Vision drums are priced for beginner- and intermediate-level players.

The idea that a drum set is composed of individual instruments seems to have gotten lost in this age of mass production. With their Reference and Vision Series, Pearl has brought this design concept of drum individuality front and center, and the payoff in the sound is undeniable. Once you’ve had Vision, you’ll never look at a set of drums the same way.

Features & Specs

Pearl Vision Specs

  • 6-ply 7-1/2mm toms
  • 8-ply 10mm bass & floor tom
  • Wood bass drum hoops with matching finish
  • 2-ply tom batter heads
  • Perimeter EQ bass drumheads
  • Reference-look bridge lugs with rubber gaskets
  • Reference-look recessed BD claws with rubber lining
  • Bridge-type bass bracket
  • Uni-lock tom holders
  • 900 series hardware
  • I.S.S. tom mounting system

VLX 5-Piece Standard Drum Set

  • 22" x 18" bass drum
  • 12" x 9" and 13" x 10" mounted toms
  • 16" x 16" floor tom
  • 5-1/2" x 14" steel snare drum
  • Snare stand
  • Bass pedal
  • Boom, straight, and hi-hat cymbal stands
  • Transparent lacquer finish

VSX 5-Piece Fusion Drum Set

  • 22" x 18" bass drum
  • 10" x 8", 12" x 9", and 14" x 11" mounted toms
  • 5-1/2" x 14" steel snare drum
  • Snare stand
  • Bass pedal
  • Boom, straight, and hi-hat cymbal stands
  • Durable Delmar-covered finish

Tags: Acoustic Drums Pearl

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