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Ludwig Classic Birch 14 x 6.5

Ludwig Classic Birch 6.5x14

Penny Larson - February 2002

Taken from a post on RMMP

This is from Ludwig's former Rocker Pro line, now renamed Classic Birch. This snare is part of a full kit that I have on order. It came in about two weeks after I ordered it.

Ludwig Classic Birch 14 x 6.5The Classic Birch line is 7 plies and 7 mm thick of a Finnish Birch and Italian Poplar mix. The drum is covered in Silver Sparkle wrap. It is fitted with Ludwig Weather Master Heads, a Medium batter and a Snare Side (I believe this is their "X-Tra Thin Snare" head, as they always only had one weight of snare side head. It was silly to keep calling it extra thin since it's the only one they make). I put on a Pearl die-cast batter hoop, and I will be adding a Pearl die-cast snare-side hoop as soon as it comes in.

The drum has eight Elite double-sided lugs, the P-85 strainer, and the new die-cast butt. I took the top head off to replace the rim and I took a fairly close look at the bearing edge. I was more concerned with the finish than it being perfectly flat. Overall, the edge is what I expect from any production drum. It was slightly rough (as in not fine sanded), so I took some steel wool to it for some light work. I was very pleased after just a couple passes that I had it to a smoothness I liked. I'll wait to check out the bottom edge till I get the snare-side hoop, but it looks good through the head. I love the edge that Ludwig uses: it's a very sharp cut right out to the edge (looks like about 45 degrees). I've always liked the sound from this type of edge. Also, Ludwig uses a very broad and fairly deep snare bed. I believe this is one reason that even people who aren't fans of Ludwig seem to dig their snares.

I really dig this finish. My only other experience with a sparkle was when I was in drum corps and we had green sparkle snares with white marine pearl multi-tenors! It was quite the color clash. The wrap seems applied very well with a slight overlap at the seam. I believe Ludwig is cementing the wrap on the Classic Birch and Maple drums. It sure looks it anyway. Having dealt with a wrap that was taped on years ago that had puckering at the lugs, this shows none of that. I guess time will tell how durable it is, but it looks great.

So, how does it sound? Well, I played it a little before changing the hoop, and with the triple-flanged hoop it sounded great. I was very impressed with its even sound. There was a little more brightness than I normally expect from a wood drum, but it was still warm overall (I think it has to do with the use of Birch, as I'll explain a little further on). The heads were at a medium tension as were the snares. I'd say this sound would work for a general-purpose drum very well. My taste tends to run to a dry snare, however, so it might not have enough body for some. It was not what I would call "thick" in any way. In its factory-fresh state, it would be more than good enough for the vast majority of times when you wanted a wood snare.

After I replaced the triple-flanged batter hoop with the die-cast and adjusted the tuning, the drum really started to surprise me. I left the stock heads and snares in place, as I happen to like Ludwig heads and snares. I began by cranking the bottom head to very tight range. I brought the top head up to a medium-tight tension after putting on the die-cast hoop. I tightened the snares a little, but not as much as I do sometimes. I guess I'd call the snares medium-tight as well. Set up like this the drum grabbed me!

I could not believe how good this drum sounded! It was very articulate and sensitive. I could play anything I wanted and the drum went with me. I tend to do a lot of double strokes, both in ghosting and in fills, and the drum always gave me what I wanted to hear. The drum responded all the way down to the quietest that I could play. The snares were always speaking clearly. The sound at moderate and loud volumes was surprising. The tone thickened up with the die-cast hoop even at a higher tension. The rim-shot was almost chunky. The drum now gave a very dry articulate but also full-bodied mature sound when played anywhere on the head. The articulation reminded me a lot of my 6"x13" Ludwig Classic Maple Power Piccolo, while it had more depth of tone and breadth of character than that drum due its added depth and girth. The cross-stick sound was bright and woody.

I think this is about as close to the perfect all-around snare for me. I have always preferred wood snares for general-purpose use, and I think it may be a while before this snare loses its top spot on the totem pole. Let me compare the Classic Birch to my Classic Maple. The Classic Maple that I have is also a 6.5"x14", but it is finished in the Purple Shadow finish as opposed to a wrap. The Classic Maple has 10 lugs as opposed to eight, and has Gibraltar die-cast hoops top and bottom. It also has Pure-Sound 20-strand snares. At the moment it has a Remo Coated CS with the dot underneath on the batter side and an ambassador snare-side head, but I'm very familiar with it with a variety of head combinations.

The Classic Birch seems to have what is considered the birch tone. That is, the Classic Maple has an even tone, with well-balanced highs, mids, and lows, while the Classic Birch has a clear focus on the highs and lows. I have often felt that the articulation of the Classic Maple was a little muddy. I am starting to suspect that it is the type of wood. I have always really dug the sound of Ludwig drums, and I think I now know why: poplar. I believe that the poplar opens the attack of the drum's sound and mellows the mid-range while still providing good sustain and depth. I think the poplar and birch work well together and are very complimentary. The maple sound is very good, and I would say is less "colored" in that it seems to be very neutral. I really prefer the personality of the birch/poplar mix, though. I've heard the term "pre-EQ'ed" in reference to Birch drums. I believe that's what I'm talking about here. The drum sounds dialed in to the right sound, and I am happy!

In conclusion, I'd like to say that I paid about $140.00 for this drum. It is in the new Interstate catalog for $151.98. This drum is a STEAL! It is probably my second least expensive snare drum (I have a hammered chrome Peace drum that was about $110.00), but at the moment I think it's my favorite. The sound is exactly what I was looking for. I don't think anyone could go wrong grabbing one of these drums. Don't be afraid because the shell isn't 100% this wood or that, it's the sound that matters, and to my ears, this drum sounds incredible.

Well done Ludwig.

Take it Easy, Penny

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