View Full Version : Music City Custom Masters Maple Reserve Review & Photos

02-17-2018, 11:27 AM
I was a long-time Reference player, then a six-year Reference Pure player. (You can see my comparison review of those two series as a 2011 sticky post in the Reference Pure forum.) This week, I pulled together my first all-maple kit -- a Music City Custom Masters Maple Reserve in black diamond finish. In this review, to some extent, I'm going to compare my new Masters Reserve kit to the Reference Pure because that's my most recent frame of reference (pun honestly not intended).

My order process through Fork's Drum Closet of Nashville could not have gone more smoothly. I was prepared for a 4 week wait, but I actually took delivery 3 1/2 business days after my order went in. 5 1/2 days counting the weekend. The shells are dated 2 days after my order was placed. One advantage of being in the Nashville area is that shipping time to the shop is measured in hours rather than days.

My last Reference Pure kit was a 6-piece but I decided to go simpler with this kit -- at least for now. The shell pack sizes are 13", 16", 22". I'm playing these with a Ludwig chrome-over-brass 6.5" Supraphonic and a Zildjian K assortment. The initial 20" K Crash Ride is on a test ride competing with a 22" K Dark Medium Ride. Hardware is all Pearl -- 930 series stands and P3002D Demon Drive direct drive double pedal. There is a temptation to order a 10" tom for these drums -- it's been maybe 15 years since I played my one and only 4-piece kit. But that would be the lazy way out. I went with a 4-pc. setup this time in order to force myself to be more creative.

My opinions are just based on setup, tuning, and playing in my practice space. No gigs yet -- I just completed the setup this week. Also, my comparison is from the memory of my Reference Pure kit -- it's not here anymore, so I can't do a strict A:B comparison.

Here are my impressions from the first week:

Workmanship -- Workmanship on the two series appears to be equivalent. Beautiful finishes. Excellent shell and edge work. The wrap execution is perfect. The only fly in the MMC ointment was that they forgot to attach the bass drum badge at the factory -- but they included it and the screws in the literature package. They drilled the holes for it, so attaching the badge was an easy five-minute fix with a tiny screwdriver.

Appearance -- I loved my Reference Pures and my Reference kits before them . . . but I never grew to love the beefiness and visual complexity of the lugs. They are excellent lugs -- functionally second-to-none. I just have a more minimalist aesthetic sensibility. In other words, I like lugs that are as invisible as possible while still doing their job with excellence. Lugs shouldn't attract attention to themselves. The Masters lugs are just about perfect to my mind. They function perfectly, very smooth tuning, and they are only as big as they have to be. Beautiful, simple design. Score one, in my book, for the Masters. If I got to design my own ideal lugs from scratch, they would end up looking and functioning an awful lot like the Masters lug.

Tuning -- Quality (or lack of quality) usually shows most dramatically when you tune a drum. Ease of tuning is pretty much the same between the Reference Pure and the Masters Reserve -- which is to say, extremely easy and precise. This is the natural result of using high quality lugs and perfect bearing edges. There were NO surprises or glitches or binding. I use a Tune-bot and, with the Tune-bot, tuning these drums takes very little time and effort. Perfect.

Tone / sound -- This is where there is a quantifiable difference between the Masters and the Reference Pures / Reference series. All three series sound great. But the Reference Pure and Reference bass drums and floor toms seem to produce a bit more volume for a given amount of input. They also seem to produce a little more low-end in the mix. The Masters drums, on the other hand, produce a more specific, defined note. As you would expect, given the similarity in woods and bearing edges, the mounted toms sound very similar among the three series. The Masters drums always feel alive and they produce excellent, musical tone all the way from double-soft to triple-loud. This is something you don't always find in a set of drums. But if you're a dynamic player (as I am), the Masters Maple Reserve kit lets you make the very most of your dynamic skills. You can make music with these drums! There's no dead "thud" or plasticky sound in these drums at any dynamic level!

Bottom line? I think I'm going to like these Masters Maple Reserve drums a lot. For me, musical tone over a broad dynamic range is very important. I want grace notes and the first part of a crescendo to be as musical as the louder notes. These drums do that -- something that not many drums do as well. Also, it helps when the drums you play look great -- and these do.

As always, your mileage may vary.

02-17-2018, 12:14 PM
Simply elegant. Congrats. A close up pic of that wrap maybe on the kick would be nice to see.

02-17-2018, 12:28 PM
Simply elegant. Congrats. A close up pic of that wrap maybe on the kick would be nice to see.

Here it is, with a lot of reflections:

02-17-2018, 02:02 PM
Beautiful kit. Great finish and I’ve always loved the Masters lugs. Enjoy.

02-17-2018, 02:24 PM
Awesome kit!! Congrats and enjoy!! Thanks for the review as well.

02-18-2018, 10:12 AM
Great looking kit and from your review, a great sounding kit as well. Thanks for sharing and enjoy!

02-18-2018, 03:06 PM
I was glad to see Pearl bring back the classic 4 ply MMX maple shells. Probably the best shell they've ever produced. I love that finish. Well done man!

02-19-2018, 06:39 AM
Awesome kit! Congratulations! I'm guessing it will grow beyond just one more tom : )

02-19-2018, 09:08 AM
Congrats on your new kit, looks great! But isn't the badge on the bassdrum facing the wrong way?

No, it's facing the way I like it. It's all those others that are facing the wrong way. :cool:

02-19-2018, 10:24 AM
Beautiful kit and great review. In reviewing the MRV against my MCX kit, I have to say you hit the nail on the head with the tone of the 4 ply shells as I have found similar differences. The MRV definitely have what I've been looking for in a recording kit which is why my special order (wine red) will be going out this week.

02-19-2018, 02:44 PM
Ah ok, my apologies, I'll delete my posts. I didn't read your review, just saw the picture and jumped to the wrong conclusions, my mistake. Interesting choice with the badge.
Enjoy the drums!

11-28-2018, 09:36 AM
Awesome kit! Congratulations! I'm guessing it will grow beyond just one more tom : )

Well, the growth has begun. Yesterday, I ordered my "one more tom" . . . a 12 x 8. Official ETA is 2 to 3 weeks. The original kit was delivered in 3 1/2 business days. I'm quietly hoping for a repeat performance.

11-28-2018, 11:01 AM
Nice kit. :)

01-23-2019, 02:38 PM
did the other tom ever arrive????