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Thread: New Gretsch Renowns - The Purchasing Process & Review

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    Default New Gretsch Renowns - The Purchasing Process & Review

    After years of playing maple Ludwigs and building and playing a couple of Ludwig based maple kits, the time had come to acquire a set of drums where the wood grain could be seen and the tone was round and pure. The years spent behind what had become my signature piano white drums had run its course and it was time for a change.

    The shell pack criteria was to be 10”, 12”, 14” and 16” toms with the 16” as a floor or as a short rack tom and either a 18” x 22” or 18” x 24” virgin bass. The toms were to have a RIMS type of isolation mount and maple was the material of choice. A snare wasn’t a necessity as I have 2-3 I’m fond of and over the years I had acquired all the hardware I needed so this would save me a couple of bucks.

    While I do play out and record as much as time allows, I don’t do this for a living and it doesn’t pay the bills. So, as a working father of two college kids, I had to keep cost at or below $1500. To ease some of the financial pain, I had also calculated that selling my current set of Ludwig maples would help reimburse my expenditure.

    My first impulse was to look into building another kit, not by purchasing used shell, but by buying new Keller shells with the needed hardware and shoot a clear automotive poly-urethane over either the raw blonde maple shell or maple use one of the tint/stain colors that let the grain show through. The problem I have found in building drums is that you really don’t know what you get until the entire process is done. Sometimes a set sounds like it was meant to be together, sometimes not. So when building drums in small volume, a given degree of hit & miss is at work. With this in mind the thought becomes, “what if I spend all of this time and money on these shells and at the back end either A) I screw them up or B) I don’t like the way they sound?”

    The decision was made for me after crunching the cost of shells, parts and materials in an excel spread sheet. I discovered it was a little more than my $1500 allowed...so this option was out.

    That led to researching new mid priced kits such as PDP-LX, Gretsch Renown & Catalina, Mapex Pro-M, and ddrum Dominion. I didn’t even look at the Ludwigs (maybe time for a complete change?) and while I can’t point to any logic, mid priced models by Yamaha, Sonor, Pearl and a couple of others just didn’t float my boat. I also quickly discovered that the high end used market via ebay and craigslist wasn’t going to work as prices for DW Collectors, Grestch USA, Pearl Reference, Mapex Orion and a few others were out of my range.

    After months of comparison shopping all over, I found a set of new Gretsch Renowns with the requisite 18 x 22 virgin kick and 10” , 12” and 14” toms in what they term Autumn Burst at a Guitar Center an hour from home about a month ago. A little detective work revealed that, by referencing part number, the model year had come to an end and the “new” models were on the way. RNE 825 XX being the Old part number and DGR 156 XX the new one. (XX =Color codes: AB= Autumn Burst, BB= Blue Burst, CB = Cherry Burst etc.) It was therefore a safe assumption that with the new ones on the way, that any retailer would be willing to deal on “last year’s model”. Guitar Center also has a price match policy that includes equivalents for sales tax and shipping. So leveraging this information made it easy to be aggressive. After some haggling and price matching proof, I walked out the door for $1190 and they threw in a 8”x 7” matching tom as well as 3 mount arms and 3 clamps. To confirm my suspicion that they were motivated to get these out the door, they offered free financing for a year!

    Let me start by saying the finish and fit on these drums are simply stunning. A rich tobacco burst like stain under a clear coat that seems to be 3 feet thick finished off with each piece of gleaming, flawless chrome hardware attached with a rubber mount. No metal except the screws come in contact with any of the wood, including the bass drum claws.

    I had a gig subbing for a blues band scheduled for the day after I got these so I figured why not, right? At the gig I quickly discovered that these toms were not nearly as forgiving as my old kit when tuning things up. Out of the box the toms come with Evans G2 clears and some unlabeled clear resonant heads. After taking some time to tweak things I got the toms to where they weren’t too bad but not zll that satisfying. The good news here is that the kick, fitted with a EMAD batter and G1 resonant head sounded huge...dare I say thunderous. (even un-mic’d). In fact, there was a guy in the crowd who claimed to play DW Collectors who was very complimentary about the kick’s low end punch.

    During the course of the gig I made the determination that a brand new set of drums sounding “not too bad” wasn’t gonna cut it. So, new heads for the toms were in order. I decided that G2 Coated up on top with G1 coated below would warm things up along with some of those plastic studio/zero rings for control options. BINGO. Nice and fat with a decay that didn’t seem to have any unwanted overtones. My regular bass player made the comment that they were “...very pure sounding drums...” which I think is a good descriptive.

    The music I play is typically bluesy, R&B-ish, sorta funk and sorta Rock & Roll...not much of the jazz thing going on. Given this type of music, I’m finding there is a very narrow range where these drums sound pleasing. Each drum also seems to have its own personality as well... the kick is no problem, the 10” and the 14” are relatively easy to dial in. However the 12” is fussy and requires some extra time...but it’s well worth the time spent. (Note: No comments on the 8” tom as I have yet to use it and will likely sell it off...just one less thing to carry around)

    Additional tweaks have included a 5” port in the front of the kick head to allow for a mic mount inside and less rebound from the beater, and I’m finding these toms don’t like to have the batter head too loose. In fact when I tune now, I get them where they start to sing top and bottom at about the same tension and then loosen up the bottom head to just to where things start to fatten up. Use the sound rings for more control, or leave them off if you want them to sing.

    As mentioned earlier these are not as forgiving as the old Ludwigs and the stock heads didn’t do much for me. (You Remo folks myight consider Pinstripes batters and clear Ambassador Resonants). But boy when you find that sweet spot they are, to my ear, better than anything I’ve played or owned. Ask me and I’ll tell you there may not be a better sounding, better looking kit out there, especially in this price range. These might be one of the best drum values currently going. (Current retail on these seems to be between $1550-$1650 with snare). If you can find a clean kit on ebay or craigslist...even better.
    So even though its only been a month or so...there you have it...Hope this helps
    Last edited by Counttewfour; 07-26-2008 at 06:51 AM. Reason: typos - spacing

  2. #2

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    Great assessment of the Renowns. I got mine a couple of months ago after 15 years of playing electronic drums. After 30+ years of playing, I would love to spend on a high dollar set but kids come first. I was very pleased with my set from day one. Heads are pretty good but not great. Tuning was fairly straightforward for me. Took some tweaking though. The bass drum is exactly as you described and part of what sold me on the kit.


    I will definitely look into getting the coated tom heads after your review.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: New Gretsch Renowns - The Purchasing Process & Review

    What a great review. Thanks for sharing that with us. If my next set wasn't gonna be a Mapex ( gotta stick with them), It would be a gretch kit. They make some nice stuff. It's good to see an older established drum company still being competetive and still Garner the respect the Gretch name should. I'm glad they have not gone the way of Rodgers and Slingerland. Mere Charactures of what they once were. My skin set up is what you have the G2 coateds and clear G1 reso's. Man did that make my Mapex come alive. Like you said My kit sounded so fat. I'm playing a Mars series kit, I can just imagine how your kit sounds since your playing on a higher end set. SUHWEET I'm sure. Good luck with your new "toy" and jam away.

  4. #4

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    very nice review...my eyes are kindof sore after reading so many lines without any spaces...good review though. I was pondering the kit, but mapex Saturns have my name on them...sigh...very nice though...we could use more of this content on drumchat.com than arguing about metal `music.`

    tks!
    My Kit - Mapex Saturn 6 Pc., Iron Cobra Double Pedal, 14 Sabian HHX Evolution HH, 20 Avedis Ping Ride, Zildjian 16 Vintage Crash, Zildjian K 17 Thin Dry Crash, Sabian HHX Evolution 16 Crash, Evans Heads, Sennheiser Mikes

  5. #5

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    How did the coated heads change the sound for you? I have mine tuned like you. Batters slightly higher than reso heads and the drums nice tone without the "boing". I have heard about a trend back to coated tom heads. I think I used them back in the mid 70's when I got my first kit.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by gunit View Post
    How did the coated heads change the sound for you? I have mine tuned like you. Batters slightly higher than reso heads and the drums nice tone without the "boing". I have heard about a trend back to coated tom heads. I think I used them back in the mid 70's when I got my first kit.
    As with most things this is subjective and a matter of perception. But to my ear the coated heads seem to provide three things:

    1) They warm things up a bit

    2)They provide more control.

    3) They gravitate to a lower fundamental note.

    I will however say the difference is subtle...Perhaps it’s the additional weight the coating provides. This little touch of added weight to the resonant head would appear to provide the biggest change.

    Since my original posting I’ve gigged a couple of more times and the heads have really settled in. (It’s been my experience over the year that drums heads have a “break in period” before they develop consistency much like guitar strings). So on my last couple of outings, the Evans G2 batter and G1 resonant head are really seem to be “happy” and I'm getting a feel for where they really like to be.

    Additionally, the sweet spot I referred to earlier is easily maintained now. This appears to be a VERY good combination. (...and this from a guy who spent 35+ years playing Pinstripes)

    For smaller venues and/or to keep the sound guys-engineers happy, the plastic “zero/studio” rings have always been helpful. This proved to be the case a week or two back in this little place we played with one wall of floor to ceiling window glass and tile flooring.

    At the risk of repeating myself... these Gretsch's are a VERY nice set of drums.

    Hope this Helps

    Counttewfour
    Last edited by Counttewfour; 07-28-2008 at 12:27 PM. Reason: typos

  7. #7

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    It definitely helps. I am looking for a little more warmth and control. I found the tones I want from the drums but especially inside, I end up using control rings to cut down on the ring, but I find they muffle too much.

    I used to play Remo black dots and pinstripes way back when as well.

  8. #8

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    Finally a JPG to go with the review...for us drum geeks.
    Details:
    Gretsch Renown, Gibraltar GS 350 rack, Zildjians from back in my High School/College days (don't ask, probably older than you are) and DW throne, 5000 pedal & hat. Sounds great, EZ to transport and fits almost any stage.
    Counttewfour
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Counttewfour; 07-30-2008 at 08:02 PM. Reason: Typos...yet again

  9. #9

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    Counttewfour,

    Two things. Firstly, nice set! I was going to go with the same color but did not want to wait and liked the retro Silver Sparkle. I think I will try the coated heads when I get a chance. Second, did you cut the bass drum hole? Mine is closed but I would like to be able to fiddle with the rolled towel in my bass.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by gunit View Post
    Counttewfour,

    Two things. Firstly, nice set! I was going to go with the same color but did not want to wait and liked the retro Silver Sparkle. I think I will try the coated heads when I get a chance. Second, did you cut the bass drum hole? Mine is closed but I would like to be able to fiddle with the rolled towel in my bass.
    Thanks...as mentioned in the original post/review, I've always liked the idea of seeing the wood grain.

    Bass Drum hole...yes I did. It's sort of standard thing for me. I don't think you can see it, but I have an Audio technica ATM-25 mounted inside (the mount simply goes under the lug screw washers on one of the lugs.)

    To cut the hole, I simply purchased one of those stick on 5" hole things. I figured where I wanted to cut the hole, stuck it on and then used an Xacto knife with a NEW blade, using the raised sruface of the stick on hole as a guide. (get a big bread board to cut on). Once I got it cut, I took a small piece of 400 wet/dry sandpaper to clean up the edge of the cut and made it nice and smooth to the touch.

    This allows easy access to the Mic if I need to plug in, it fattens up the tone and reduces pedal beater rebound. ( I play foot up and tend to bury the beater in the head...call it a bad habit)

    Hope this helps

    Counttewfour

  11. #11

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    Hello all, my first post here. I agree the Gretsch Renowns are a great deal. My last set us a Premier Signature set with all Paiste signature cymbals that I paid well over $7,500 for (my step-son now has this set). I've decided I missed playing and shopped around for another set.
    My new set is the Gretsch Renown Ebony Burst fusion shell kit. I paid $900 for it (10,12,14 toms, snare and kick) at a GC, traded the snare to another GC plus $250 for a DW natural finish snare (matches the kick ring). Also bought a Gibralter rack (marked way down), DW9000 Hi-Hat and footpeddle, and a Paiste 16" Fast Crash. I had a pair of old (1970s) Zildjian A hi-hats and Paiste 2002 ride and crash. I have now spent about $1800 on a set I love. I've changed the tom heads out to Evans EC2's made an unbelievable difference and an Emad bass head, best bass sound I've ever heard.
    I know this was a long first post, but got the hello, what my set is and my opinion of the Gretsch Renown kit out all at the same time.
    Last edited by ehc0720; 08-04-2008 at 02:40 PM.

  12. #12

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    Since the new purchase referenced at the beginning of this thread I’ve been playing nothing but the new Gretsch set since I bought it...(18 x 22, 10, 12 & 14)

    However, last weekend I subbed at a private party playing covers that were all over the map...Given It was a outdoor gig and I didn’t know anything about the venue, I left the new kit at home and trotted out the Ludwigs I’ve had for years (18 x22 virgin, 10, 12, 14 and 16). I left the new drums in the studio as I just wasn’t ready to take any chances with them just yet...

    While different, sounding, they sounded great! (the sound guy loved ‘em) ...gonna be tough to sell ‘em.

    But more importantly I discovered that in playing the bigger kit, I really missed the low end and Rumble the 16 floor tom gives you... didn’t count on this... bottom line is you can’t get a 14 to sound any bigger than ....well...a 14...shocker, right?

    So I just ordered up a 16 x 16 floor from Gretsch... I’ll keep you posted as to how it stacks up.
    Thanks
    Counttewfour

  13. #13

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    This is an excellent thread.

    Thanks for all the great information and entertainment!
    Signature here

  14. #14

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    Counttewfour, I understand the need for the 16X16. I have the Catalina Maple kit (which bows to the Renowns), and I really like the 16X16 on my kit too. I can play a 5 piece, but I prefer the 6.

    BTW, I agree with Bish that this thread has been very informative!
    Quoting gonefishin: Just have some bacon with ya when you go pick her up..........youre an instant chick magnet.


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  15. #15

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    Nice read, cool thread.

  16. #16

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    the renowns i played with coated over clear g1s, well tuned fairly low and open (fusiony) were no less than amazing sounding. the 14" floor was perfect. the quality is outstanding. until pearl came out with a masters kit for the same price, the renowns didnt have any equal IMO.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by funkymcstain View Post
    the renowns i played with coated over clear g1s, well tuned fairly low and open (fusiony) were no less than amazing sounding. the 14" floor was perfect. the quality is outstanding. until pearl came out with a masters kit for the same price, the renowns didnt have any equal IMO.
    HOLY MOLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Cool kit

    Counttewfour

  18. #18

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    Gretsch has got it goin ON!

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by ehc0720 View Post
    Hello all, my first post here. I agree the Gretsch Renowns are a great deal. My last set us a Premier Signature set with all Paiste signature cymbals that I paid well over $7,500 for (my step-son now has this set). I've decided I missed playing and shopped around for another set.
    My new set is the Gretsch Renown Ebony Burst fusion shell kit. I paid $900 for it (10,12,14 toms, snare and kick) at a GC, traded the snare to another GC plus $250 for a DW natural finish snare (matches the kick ring). Also bought a Gibralter rack (marked way down), DW9000 Hi-Hat and footpeddle, and a Paiste 16" Fast Crash. I had a pair of old (1970s) Zildjian A hi-hats and Paiste 2002 ride and crash. I have now spent about $1800 on a set I love. I've changed the tom heads out to Evans EC2's made an unbelievable difference and an Emad bass head, best bass sound I've ever heard.
    I know this was a long first post, but got the hello, what my set is and my opinion of the Gretsch Renown kit out all at the same time.
    ************************************************** *******************

    Ehc0720...Welcome to the Forum and sounds like you have a wonderful set. A close friend of mine lives in Phoenix and collects drums...snares, primarily. He still has his original 1960's Gretsch RB kit in Champagne sparkle...probably one of the best sounding kits I ever heard or played on. Be sure to post some pictures of your kit...we'd love to see them.
    There's a lot to be said for Time Honored tradition and value.

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  20. #20

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    Beautiful kit thanks, for the review, and I am glad you are happy with your purchase.

  21. #21

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    Update: 16 x 16 Gretsch Renown floor tom special order

    Note the date on the quote/post below - August 22nd.

    Today is Oct 28, 2008
    When I ordered this drum back in August, I was told that lead time was 8-10 weeks...I figured "I can live with this"... Keep in mind that this a special order and must be paid for in advance, but I was still okay with it.

    Well I checked on the order a little earlier this morning and NOW I find out that:

    1) The drum may not arrive until lated December or Early January.

    2) That whomever informed me of the original lead time didn't know wht they were talking about and that 4-5 months is not unusual with the overseas Gretsch orders... Say What?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?! (This was confirmed with a call to Kaman, the folks who distribute Gretsch)

    As much as I would like to have choked the guy on the other end of the phone...it really wasn't his fault... (However accurate information at the time of order would have tempered my expectations)

    Cancelling the order didn't make sense as I'm already 9 weeks into the wait so cancelling the order would simply set me back....well... 9 weeks....

    Additionally........Since the order was placed I've been keeping an eye on the market to get a feel for value of this drum and what the kit might be worth down the road if I decide to sell it. (just on a hunch)

    I have yet to find a 16 x 16 Autumn Burst Renown floor tom....not on Craigslist (National serach) , not on ebay and no retailers I've talked to stock them. Bluntly put, if I want a 16 x16, I'm stuck waiting. (Note: Kaman won't break up in stock kits which have the 16 x 16 drum and sell it as a componet drum....as much as I hate to agree... it does make business sense)

    So ask me and I'll tell you that this kit in this configuration, 18 x 22 virgin, 10, 12, 14 and 16, all original, will likely command a premium....as they appear to be VERY rare.....anyway....that's my rant.....

    So... as much as they are wonderful drums, be prepared for a very long, dare I say, unreasonable wait if you order any non stock configuration drum that is not manufactured in the Ridgeland, South Carolina factory.

    Kinda gives new life to the phrase "slow boat from China"


    Quote Originally Posted by Counttewfour View Post
    Since the new purchase referenced at the beginning of this thread I’ve been playing nothing but the new Gretsch set since I bought it...(18 x 22, 10, 12 & 14)

    However, last weekend I subbed at a private party playing covers that were all over the map...Given It was a outdoor gig and I didn’t know anything about the venue, I left the new kit at home and trotted out the Ludwigs I’ve had for years (18 x22 virgin, 10, 12, 14 and 16). I left the new drums in the studio as I just wasn’t ready to take any chances with them just yet...

    While different, sounding, they sounded great! (the sound guy loved ‘em) ...gonna be tough to sell ‘em.

    But more importantly I discovered that in playing the bigger kit, I really missed the low end and Rumble the 16 floor tom gives you... didn’t count on this... bottom line is you can’t get a 14 to sound any bigger than ....well...a 14...shocker, right?

    So I just ordered up a 16 x 16 floor from Gretsch... I’ll keep you posted as to how it stacks up.
    Thanks
    Counttewfour
    Last edited by Counttewfour; 10-30-2008 at 10:51 AM. Reason: typos & spelling

  22. #22

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    Ugh!! I detest having to wait for gear, even if it's only a week! But I see your point, that you don't really have a choice since it's been 9 weeks already. Hey, maybe they will surprise you and it will come early - there's always hope, right?
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  23. #23

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    i just stopped by a guitar center the other day and the sales guy there showed me theyre "renown graveyard" where previous employees opened renowns to see the colors and finishes yet failed to keep the shells together. Anyhow there was a 15" or 16" floor tom in your color in the back. look them up and ask about it, they are the guitar center at 7 corners Virginia. They transfer instruments for free i think.

  24. #24

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    I just purchased a 5 piece Inca Gold kit.They are the best sounding drums I've ever played! I'm waiting for my 8" add-on tom... I purchased all TAMA hardware,with Iron Cobra dbl bass pedals,and the Iron Cobra Hi-Hat stand too.I removed the Evans G2 heads,and put a set of Remo "Emperors" with Moon Jels.I'd prefer a 16" floor-tom,but the 14" fits in perfect as a "fusion kit"...

  25. #25

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    Well, after 137 days the 16 x 16 Gretsch Renown Tom FINALLY got here. (Order date 08-25-08... delivery date 01-09-09). (but who's counting? ...ME THAT'S WHO!!!!)

    Yes it IS gorgeous, yes it does sound big and f-a-t. It does indeed add the desired low-end rumble that the 14” floor tom was simply not capable of producing. Additionally the tone does not disappoint. (Note: it does tune up very easily once I swapped out to a Coated G2 Evans up top and a G1 resonant head)

    But nearly 6 months for a special order item that you PAY FOR in ADVANCE?!?! come on!!!. Beware if you’re ordering from Gretsch/Kaman and their dealer network. The answer I initially got when asked about delivery time was 60-90 days. Now in defense of the dealers, I don’t believe that they’re getting good information from the folks at Kaman, who in turn may not be getting good information from the folks in production.

    So in conclusion, when purchasing the Gretsch Renown drums you get great, beautiful drums that sound as good as almost anything out there for a VERY reasonable price as long as you buy what is in stock. (My six piece with the additional floor tom now nets out at about $1380..... $1580 for the total kit, less the $200 I sold the 7 x 8 tom for)

    But realize they are produced overseas (China) and any custom ordering are subject to delays. If you can live with the configurations offered, Gretsch Renowns are hard to beat.

    Would I do it again? Yes... The drums in my opinion were/are worth the wait...but it would have been nice to know going in what was going to happen.

    Hope this helps
    Counttewfour
    Last edited by Counttewfour; 01-12-2009 at 03:33 PM. Reason: Typos

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