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Pearl Rhythm Traveller Review

Pearl Rhythm Traveller

- Leif Madsen

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  * Note:  This is an unbiased review of the Pearl Rhythm Traveller.  All comments made are the sole opinion of the author.  No money was received for this review, and the author actually bought the kit being reviewed.  If you have an questions or comments, contact the author directly at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


There have been a large increase in the amount of portable drum kits in the drum market lately as everyone seems to be striving for a small, light kit.  Pearl is no exception.  The new Pearl Rhythm Traveller is an interesting kit which basically allows you to carry everything in one or two trips from the car.  The way this kit is designed is portability.  Every drummer knows what it's like to have to make several trips back and forth to the car or van to carry all their equipment. This is even worse if you're in bad weather, a bad neighbourhood or moving all this heavy equipment up several flights of stairs.  With the Pearl RT kit, this is no longer the problem, and with a suggested list price of $695, almost anyone can afford it.

Silent Practice

  The Pearl RT kit comes with Pearl's own Muffle Heads which are a black, mesh type material.  You just put them on the drums as if you were putting on plastic heads. Tighten them down, and you get instant silent practice.  The heads feel pretty realistic to regular drum skins.  The problem that I found was that if you over tightened them, you get a kind of rubber pad feel with the stick being thrown back at you.  The easiest way to avoid this is to just keep the tension at 1/4 or 1/2 turn past finger tight.  When playing with the mesh heads on the kit, it really is silent, and makes absolutely no noise except for the snare.  Since the snare is double headed, it allows the bottom head to vibrate a little bit, and the snares ring.   I actually like this because you get the sound of a snare drum, without all the loud noise that you are trying to actually avoid with the mesh heads.

As far as strength of the mesh heads, you have no concern.  I have played the kit fairly hard, and never had a problem with the heads stretching or breaking. I think a basic rule of thumb is that if you don't dent or break real heads, then these heads won't either.  Just use common sense and don't bash them with 2B or marching sticks.  The only problem with the mesh heads that I found was with the bass drum head.  It tends to eat up the felt on the bass drum beaters.  Another person I know who has an RT kit has a solid felt beater on his pedal, and it just chews it up.  Perhaps using a light plastic beater would solve this problem, or using an impact pad?

 Live Performance - can you really?

As far as using the kit for live performance, I suppose that depends on the situation.   If you are looking for a kit that will project over a Marshall stack then you have come to the wrong place.  If you are looking for a kit that you can play in a small jazz trio situation then you may have found a nice kit. The drums were tested using Remo Ambassador Clear on the toms, a Remo Coated Ambassador on the snare with a Remo Diplomat Snare Side head.  A Remo Powerstroke 3 with Falam Slam pad was used on the bass drum.

The kit has a decent, open sound to it.  The bass drum really surprised me with a very full, bass drum sound that is much like a John Bonham sound.  That is the extreme with no muffling what so ever, but with perhaps a little felt strip across the batter head, you would have a nice sound.  The toms were decent, and had more sustain than I thought they would have, although not as much as double headed toms would have.  The toms have a very strong attack.  I think the toms could stand to be double headed to allow more sustain like a short stack drum kit. The snare drum has a decent open sound which would probably sound better with a 2 ply head or muffled head.  I tried using a Zero Ring on the snare, but still had a very ringy sound to it.  I think it was just a little "to" open.

 If I was to play live with this kit, I would probably swap out the RT snare for another smaller sized snare, and definitely mic the drums and run them through an EQ so as to get some more control and tone out of them.  I think they would work pretty good on stage, and would definitely not have as much of a stage volume as a regular kit.

 Hardware - Double Braced?

Yes - the kit does come with double braced hardware.  It is definitely a very  light double braced hardware though.  I have a Pearl 800 series double braced boom stand, and it is much more stable than the RT hardware.   Don't ignore the RT stuff though, it is build very well.  It holds up the floor tom very well, and I have never had it fall over on me.

 The hi-hat stand is smooth and good feeling.  It has absolutely no trouble being used with real cymbals and isn't sluggish at all.   The strap driven bass pedal feels very nice, and almost has an accelerated feel to it, but not overly.  Quite silent with no buzzes, squeaks or rattles.

 Plastic Cymbals - The One Flaw

The plastic cymbals that came with the drum kit definitely need to be reworked. They are a keyhole shaped piece of plastic.  You basically have a full bell shape with a section of a "cymbal" protruding from it.  The cymbal has a piece of neoprene rubber (such as that found on a mouse pad) attached to the plastic so that you get realistic cymbal bounce.  The rubber doesn't seem to work to badly, except that it could be attached more permanently rather than with the peel and stick method of attaching it.

 The problem that lies within the plastic cymbals is the shape.  When you play on the cymbal, it constantly turns on you no matter how tightly you clamp it down.  It can be quite annoying to be playing, and having to concentrate on either hitting in a perfect down stroke or turning the cymbal back while playing.  The cymbal could stand to be re-engineered.  I think simply making it completely round would suffice.  I don't even mind the feel of the rubber on the plastic.  It is also quite quiet. 

Conclusion

For the most part, the Pearl Rhythm Traveller has done what has set out to do; to be an affordable, portable practice kit.  The mesh heads work out very well, and the hardware is as strong as you would need to be for a light kit. There are a few suggestions that I would have for Pearl if they were to redesign the kit.  First I would get rid of the plastic cymbals and make them a fully round cymbal.  No one wants to have to worry about aligning a cymbal every few hits.   Second, I would strongly consider making the toms double headed.  Not only is it more aesthetically appealing, but it should give you a more controlled, sustained sound.   Also, with the experience with the snare's bottom skin resonating just a little bit, perhaps the bottom skins on the toms would to just a little bit.  That way you get a more realistic sound.  Third, what ever happened to those old Pearl lugs from the 80's that allowed you to quickly snap the lug cases down, and remove the rims quickly.  I think using them, even strictly on the top rims would be a great way of quickly switching heads back and forth, therefore increasing the practicality factor.  Overall I would give the Pearl Rhythm Traveller an 8.5 out of 10.   Adding a couple of little things would increase the usefulness of the kit in all applications.  Anyone looking for a cheap practice kit should definitely check out the Pearl Rhythm Traveller kit for a closer inspection.

Leif Madsen Pearl Rhythm Traveller Review





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