9 Best Tama Drum Sets

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Tama has been one of the leading drum brands in the world for decades. When it comes to finely crafted Japanese drums, you don’t get better than Tama.

The brand has a relatively impressive range of drum sets. However, most drummers instantly think of the Starclassic line when someone mentions Tama. The Starclassic kits have a legendary reputation.

In this guide, I’ll show you a few of the Starclassic kits, along with other top-quality drum kits that the brand offers.

Tama Starclassic Maple – Best Overall

Tama Starclassic Maple Final

The Tama Starclassic Maple (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is undoubtedly Tama’s most popular professional drum set. This has been the go-to gigging kit for so many years, as it produces incredible tones and the hardware quality holds up extremely well over time.

The toms are expressively warm, and they offer excellent resonance that focuses on the mid-range.

The die-cast zinc hoops control those tones really well, so they’re a lot tighter than what you get from drums with triple-flanged hoops. The extra control from these hoops also stops you from needing to muffle the drums as much.

The other top-tier hardware features on the kit are the rubber claw hooks, the Air Pocket rubber feet, and the Hold Tight washers.

Everything about this drum set is premium, making it the ultimate option for a drummer looking for a professional instrument.

If there were one thing to make this kit better, it would be for the bass drum resonant head to have a porthole. However, this isn’t something Tama offers with any of their kits, so you’ll need to replace the drumhead if you need a porthole to place a microphone through.

Shell Material: Maple

Size: 10” rack tom, 12” rack tom, 16” floor tom, 22” bass drum

Tama Star Maple Factory Vault – Premium Option

Tama Star Maple Factory Vault Final

The Tama Star Maple Factory Vault is one of the highest-end drum sets available on the market. This thing is seriously expensive, but it offers all the top-tier design and build features from the Tama brand.

While you get a standard range of flagship Tama Star drum sets, the Factory Vault kits are a special few that are aimed at collectors and other drummers that want the best possible drum sets.

Starting with the sounds, these drums have 5mm maple shells to produce traditional warm and focused tones. They also have 5mm focus rings to make the tones a bit more powerful.

As with all high-end Tama kits, the die-cast hoops round out the sounds with their stronger build. They make the shells a bit heavier, but they do an incredible job of tightening up the sounds from each drum.

Another distinct feature that you’ll find on this Factory Vault set is the beautiful finish. You get a natural maple veneer mixed with a few finish options that really make the drum set stand out.

Again, this is the most expensive drum set that Tama offers, but it’s definitely the best one if money isn’t an issue!

Shell Material: Maple

Size: 10” rack tom, 12” rack tom, 14” floor tom, 16” floor tom, 22” bass drum

Tama Club-Jam Pancake – Best Budget Option

Tama Club-Jam Pancake

The Tama Club-Jam Pancake (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is a highly unique drum set. It falls under the category of compact kit, but it’s even smaller than most portable sets due to the shells being shallow.

Both the rack tom and floor tom are only 3.5” deep, and they don’t have bottom heads. The result of this is that the toms sound really punchy. They have short sounds with no resonance, but they’re quite powerful.

This isn’t a traditional drum kit sound that most people go for, but this kit would be perfect for busking on the street, where all the resonance of a kit disappears anyway.

The snare drum has a bottom head so that it performs like a typical snare, but it’s also small with a 12” diameter. It sounds high-pitched, but it has a surprising amount of sensitivity.

The 18” bass drum has a 4” depth, so it’s also quite flat, leading it to have a short and powerful sound.

If you’re not looking for a busking kit, you could also consider getting this kit for a child. It’s small enough to fit very comfortably in a bedroom.

Tama has a few higher-end compact kits, so you should check those out if you’re looking for a gigging drum set.

Shell Material: Poplar

Size: 12” snare, 10” rack tom, 13” floor tom, 18” bass drum

Tama Imperialstar

Tama Imperialstar

The Tama Imperialstar (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is Tama’s main drum kit option for beginners. The whole design idea behind this kit is that you get a full set of drums with decent sound quality, along with hardware and cymbals to create a complete setup.

It costs close to $1000, making it a lot pricier than many other entry-level options, so a lot of people consider it to also be a decent intermediate choice.

The sound quality and hardware quality are fantastic, so I tend to agree. I also think that this kit has the best finish options compared to every other entry-level drum kit out there. Tama really does make the best finishes, and you can see those here.

The poplar shells on this kit sound great when tuned low, as they have a particular focus on the low and mid-range frequencies.

The snare drum is the one drum that sounds decent when tuned high. When the rods are tightened, you can get a great cracking tone.

The cymbals included with the set are the HCS Series from Meinl. These are brass cymbals with shimmering sounds. They’re not the best, and they’re definitely not as musical as cymbals made from bronze alloys.

However, they’re good enough for newer players, and they’re durable enough to last just as long as any high-end cymbal. Other entry-level kits often come with cheaper brass cymbals that break easily.

Shell Material: Poplar

Size: 14” snare drum,10” rack tom, 12” rack tom, 16” floor tom, 22” bass drum

Tama Starclassic Performer

Tama Starclassic Performer

The Tama Starclassic Performer (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is the most affordable version of the famous Starclassic drum kit. While it’s almost half the price of the Starclassic Maple, it still stands as a top-tier drum set for professional players.

The cool thing about this particular Starclassic kit is that it has hybrid shells. This means that two different types of wood are used to make the plies.

You get standard maple plies for warmth and resonance, and then you get birch plies to add punchiness from the accented high-end frequencies. This makes the kit quite loud and musical.

This kit also comes with two floor toms, giving you excellent value for money. If I were looking for a premium drum kit that would keep costs low, the Starclassic Performer would be right at the beginning of my list.

With the die-cast hoops and amazing finish options, there really isn’t much separating this kit from the higher-end Tama kits.

However, it just doesn’t have the premium hardware features, like the Air Pocket rubber feet or large claw hooks.

You can also choose between having your rack toms mounted to stands or the bass drum with this set. I love that feature, as different drummers have various preferences in that area. It just makes the kit a lot more versatile.

Shell Material: Maple/birch

Size: 10” rack tom, 12” rack tom, 14” floor tom, 16” floor tom, 22” bass drum

Tama Superstar Classic

Tama Superstar Classic

The Tama Superstar Classic (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is the top intermediate drum set from Tama. It’s the most affordable maple drum kit the brand offers, but it’s good enough to be used in any professional situation.

The main thing I love about this kit is that you can get it in a 7-piece configuration. That means you get a snare drum, three rack toms, two floor toms, and a bass drum.

A giant setup like this is perfect for drummers that play styles like metal and gospel, as those styles rely heavily on busy tom fills and patterns.

It’s also great to have so many drum shells so that you can mix and match them to create different setups for various situations.

All the drums sound warm and powerful, with the rack toms producing more musical tones than I originally thought they would.

The only thing that really separates this kit from the higher-end Star and Starclassic kits is the shell hardware. The metal parts are a bit flimsier, and they don’t contribute much to the tones of the drums.

A lot of drummers aren’t bothered by that, though, so this is a fantastic option to consider. There are a few big maple kits like this available from other brands, but the Tama Superstar is the one that holds a big reputation from the 80s and 90s.

Shell Material: Maple

Size: 14” snare drum, 8” rack tom, 10” rack tom, 12” rack tom, 14” floor tom, 16” floor tom, 22” bass drum

Tama Cocktail Jam

Tama Cocktail Jam

The Tama Cocktail Jam (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is unquestionably the most unique drum set on this entire list. You don’t see cocktail drum kits very often, and Tama is one of the few brands that makes one.

They used to make a very popular cocktail kit under the Silverstar line, but the brand has since made a new cocktail kit after that line was discontinued.

The whole idea behind this kit is that all the drums are stacked on top of each other to give you one of the most compact drum sets available.

You can also play this drum kit while standing up, which is a unique feature that doesn’t get offered by typical drum sets.

You get a bass drum at the bottom of the set with a reversed pedal that faces a beater upward. The pedal comes with the kit, as you can’t really buy pedals like this on their own.

The floor tom, rack tom, and snare drum are then mounted above the bass drum, and they’re laid out in the typical drum kit setup.

These shells are made from birch, so they’re very punchy and powerful. The two toms also don’t have resonant heads, so they don’t resonate at all, giving short sounds instead. This makes the Cocktail Jam another good Tama kit for busking musicians.

I wouldn’t recommend getting this as your main set, as it’s just too different from a typical setup. However, it’s an awesome alternative drum kit to have to use in various small gigging settings.

Shell Material: Birch

Size: 12” snare drum, 10” rack tom, 14” floor tom, 16” bass drum

Tama Club-JAM

Tama Club-JAM

The Tama Club-JAM (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is another compact drum set option. However, this one has more standard sizes, making it a more versatile option compared to the Cocktail Jam and Club-Jam Pancake kits.

This kit also has a unique shell blend of poplar and mersawa plies. It’s one of the only drum sets I know of that uses mersawa wood, giving it special tones that you don’t easily find anywhere else.

While this kit is bigger than the other compact options, it still has a very small footprint. The 13” snare drum and 10” rack tom have standard depths, but the 14” floor tom only has a depth of 7”, which is the same depth as the rack tom.

However, that floor tom can be tuned surprisingly low, so it still sounds big and booming in low tunings.

Another feature that I love about this kit is that it comes with a cymbal arm to attach to the bass drum. You can place your ride cymbal here instead of using a standalone cymbal stand. It saves a lot of space, aiding in the whole compact setup idea.

While Tama offers several compact drum kit options, I’d say that this is the most standard one, so it’s the most reliable pick for any drummer needing a proper setup that is just a bit smaller than usual.

I also love all the finish options. The Aqua Blue finish is the one I see the most, but you get five other ones of various colors to choose from.

Shell Material: Poplar/mersawa

Size: 13” snare drum, 10” rack tom, 14” floor tom, 18” bass drum

Tama Stagestar

Tama Stagestar

The Tama Stagestar (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is Tama’s most affordable full-sized entry-level drum kit. This set comes before the Imperialstar in the brand’s product line, and it’s only catered to beginners, while the Imperialstar can be used by more experienced players.

If you’re looking to get into drumming and you don’t own any gear yet, this drum kit package is for you.

With a full set of poplar drum shells, brass cymbals, and hardware, you get everything you need to start learning how to play.

It’s definitely the worst-sounding drum kit on this list, but tonal quality is something that beginner drummers don’t worry too much about. You can also use muffling techniques to make it sound a lot better once you set it up.

The one aspect that really impresses me about the kit is the included hardware. The stands are solid, the bass drum pedal feels great to use, but the drum throne has to be my favorite inclusion.

Entry-level drum sets typically come with weak drum thrones that are hard to adjust. This one has a round top and a spindle height adjustment system, which is something that you find on high-end thrones. You could definitely continue to use this throne once you get a better kit in the future.

Again, I wouldn’t suggest getting this kit if you already play drums, but it’s the perfect option for any new player.

Shell Material: Poplar

Size: 14” snare drum,10” rack tom, 12” rack tom, 16” floor tom, 22” bass drum

What To Look For In a Tama Drum Set

Shell Material

One of the biggest aspects to look for in a drum set is what material the shells are made from. Most drum shells are made from wood, and you get various types of wood that cause the drums to have distinct sounds.

The Tama brand has experimented with various types of wood over the years, but the main types you’ll find on Tama kits these days are maple, poplar, mersawa, and birch.

The most common ones are maple and poplar. Poplar is common because it’s the cheapest wood, so all the lower-priced drum kits have poplar shells.

You’ll get strong low and mid-range tones from poplar shells, but the higher frequencies are quite weak.

Maple is just the most common drum shell type in general. Maple kits always sound very warm and balanced.

Mersaw is arguably the least common type of wood. It’s very similar to poplar, but I’d say it has a better sound in the high frequencies.

Finally, birch is a thick wood that causes drums to have punchy tones. The high frequencies are strengthened, so you get sounds that are a bit louder than other woods. That’s why birch kits are excellent for live gigging.

Tama also sells a few kits with hybrid shells, which means that they mix plies to create unique sounds.

Shell Hardware

The shell hardware on a Tama kit refers to all the metal parts other than the wooden drum shells. These metal parts hold a kit together, and they contribute to how the drums feel to play as well as how they sound.

The biggest thing to mention about high-end Tama kits is that they all have die-cast counter hoops. These metal hoops are thicker and heavier, leading them to control tones a bit better. They also strengthen the shells, making them more durable.

I’m a big fan of die-cast hoops, and it’s one of the biggest reasons why I love Tama drum sets. The lower-tier Tama kits have standard triple-flanged hoops. Those drums have more open tones, and they’re not as heavy.

You should also look at lugs, tension rods, bass drum spurs, mounting mechanisms, and floor tom legs. All these features will look different on various kits, with the top-quality ones having more involved designs.

Snare Drum

All of the drum kits in the Tama Star and Starclassic lines don’t come with snare drums when you buy them. That means that you need to look at separate snare drum options to go with whichever kit you choose.

Any Tama kit below the Star and Starclassic lines does include a snare drum, so you’re good to go with those.

The cool thing about Tama is that the brand has an incredible range of snare drums to look through.

If you want something more affordable, you should look at the S.L.P. line. These snare drums have mid-tier price tags, and all of them sound incredible. There are even cheaper snares in Tama’s Metalworks line, but I’m not the biggest fan of those.

If you’re happy to spend a bit more, then you should look at the snare drums in the Starphonic range. These are all really high-end snare drums with excellent sounds and features.

You can also find high-quality standalone snares in the Starclassic and Star ranges.

Finish

Finishes aren’t a make or break feature to consider, but it’s something that I always tell people to put some thought into.

The finish of a drum kit establishes how it looks, and you should want a drum kit that you love to look at.

Thankfully, Tama is one of the best drum brands when it comes to beautiful finishes. All the finishes on the Starclassic and Star kits are so distinct that most drummers can instantly recognize that they’re looking at a Tama drum set.

The finish options on the Stagestar, Imperialstar, and Superstar Classic drum sets are a bit more standard, but they still look really good.

Cymbals and Stands

The Tama Stagestar and Imperialstar drum kits are the only ones from Tama that come with cymbals and a full set of hardware stands.

If you don’t own any drum gear, you should choose one of those two kits. If you pick any of the other kits on this list, you’re only going to get a shell pack, which is just a set of drum shells.

You can then buy hardware separately, but it will increase the overall price of getting a full drum setup. Cymbals can also become very expensive when you get a full set of them.

The cool thing about the hardware in those entry-level kits is that you can continue to use all those stands when you upgrade. While they’re entry-level stands, they still work very well with high-end drum sets.

Price

Tama offers an impressive number of drum kits that cost under $1000. If that’s your budget, you’ll easily find something you’ll end up loving.

You’ll need to spend between $1500 and $2500 to get one of the Starclassic Performer kits. For the standard Starclassic, you’ll likely spend between $2500 and $4000.

The Star kits, which are Tama’s flagship option, tend to cost over $4000.

Top Tama Drum Sets, Final Thoughts

One thing I love about Tama’s product range is that it’s quite simplistic. There aren’t too many different lines of drums, but all the lines have multiple drum kit options within them that offer varying features.

Check out the list above, choose a kit that you love, and then enjoy all the good things that come from playing a Tama drum set!

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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