In drumming circles, Pearl’s appeal, at just about any price point, is that you get a great bang to buck ratio. Always have; always will.
Its Export series, for example, is the stuff of legends. First introduced way back in 1982, it has endured and then some and today is still regarded as something of a benchmark in the entry-level/intermediate space.
Going further upmarket, Pearl’s Masters series are top quality drum sets by anyone’s standards. Whatever your level, it seems Pearl has your back covered.
In our roundup of the best cheap drum sets available in the marketplace today, the Pearl New Fusion Roadshow took pole position against some pretty stiff competition. Read on to find out why it came out tops.
Know what you want? Get the latest pricing for the Pearl Roadshow New Fusion on Amazon.
Get the show on the road
Every drummer has to start somewhere however and with this in mind, Pearl’s Roadshow series is aimed at the entry-level tub-thumper who wants a kit that’s a step-up in terms of quality from the real bargain basement stuff that’s out there, yet doesn’t cost the earth.
Pearl is one of the largest, and indisputably one of the most highly regarded premium drum kit manufacturers around with a span of legendary endorsees that include Bill Berry of REM, John Farriss of INXS, Aerosmith’s Joey Kramer and Mike Mangini of Dream Theater to name just a few.
Take all that expertise and pedigree, bottle it and distill it into a high quality, cost-effective package and you have the Roadshow series. Yep, there are obvious compromises to keep the price low but not too many. A lot of cheap drum sets on the market are also cheap sounding. Not so with the Roadshow series.
Roadshow series drums are a good investment because they can be upgraded as you evolve as a drummer. Straight out of the box they’re perfectly acceptable but performance and quality can be taken up a notch through relatively inexpensive purchases like additional drums, drum heads and better quality cymbals. It’s a win-win situation.
There are four models in the Pearl Roadshow range: Fusion, New Fusion, Jazz and Rock along with a myriad of color options such as jet black, charcoal metallic, red wine and bronze metallic which incidentally all look fantastic visually. We think the best all-round kit is the New Fusion so we’ll focus on that in this article – but ultimately your decision will depend to a large extent on the style of music you’re into.
All models in the Roadshow range have five drums with the exception of the Jazz kit which is altogether more lightweight with four. There are subtle differences between the different variants – for example some kits are more heavy-duty than others: the Fusion, for example, has a 20 x 16” bass drum while both the New Fusion and Rock kits sport 22 x 16” versions for a deeper thud. The Jazz meanwhile favors a distinctly less trouser wobbling 18 x 12” kick drum.
The Jazz kit does what it says on the tin really: it’s a four-piece rather than five and has the smallest snare and kick drum in the line-up. Definitely more Buddy Rich than John Bonham!
The Fusion sits on the fence a bit, occupying the middle ground. For versatility and flexibility across multiple genres, we reckon the New Fusion is the best option to go for.
In terms of the drum shells, it would be unrealistic to expect a top-end maple shell kit in this price bracket but the 9-ply poplar used in the Pearl Roadshow series is a pretty good compromise. The bass drum, snare and three tom-tom shells on the New Fusion are all manufactured from 7mm 9-ply poplar.
Again we’re in ‘describe a sound in words’ territory but poplar shells produce a tonal quality that isn’t a million miles away from birch – bright with good attack and projection. It’s a medium strength wood that has been used in drum shell construction for decades.
Properly tuned, the 14 x 5.5” snare is crisp sounding and snappy. The 22 x 16” bass drum on the New Fusion and Rock kits in the Roadshow range are the largest in the series so expect a reassuring thud. Also included are slip-free feet to keep things in place and a rack fixture for mounting the toms. Triple-flanged hoops are used on all drums
The drum heads are an area that’s ripe for upgrades. You get a single-ply snare, toms and bass drum heads that are OK, but investing in something like a decent set of Evans heads will improve the sound significantly. Again, perhaps not necessary at first but something to aspire to further down the line.
A nice touch is the hand-cut 45° bearing edges used in Pearl’s Roadshow drums. The bearing edge is where the drum head meets the drum shell and is where much of the tonal character begins. Not an area to take shortcuts with and fortunately Pearl doesn’t. Makes tuning a lot easier as well.
Fully assembled – especially for an entry-level drum kit – the New Fusion feels well-made and solid. All the supplied stands are dual-reinforced and height and angle adjustable – which is good because let’s face it when you’re mid-performance keeping the groove, the last thing you want is for everything to collapse!
The ride cymbal, hi-hat and snare drum stands are firmly anchored via their respective tripod bases and double-braced legs and interlocking tilter adjustments are also welcome additions to keep things in place. Even the supplied throne is double-braced.
The bass drum pedal is fully-adjustable – you can tinker with the angle of the beater and the tension of the spring – and it’s chain-driven.
At this price point inevitable compromises have to be made and with practically all entry-level drum sets in the marketplace, cymbals seem to draw the short straw.
Down at the budget end of things, cymbals tend to be something of an Achilles Heel and the main area where costs are cut. Crash/ride cymbals in particular often sound more like trash can lids than parts of a drum kit and hi-hats are similarly harsh sounding and tinny.
With the Roadshow series however things are somewhat better in the cymbal department than many others we’ve seen at the budget end. Yep, as sure as the sun rises each day, you’re going to want to replace the cymbals pretty soon but in that interim period where you’re weighing up if drumming is for you, they do the job.
With the New Fusion you get a 16” brass crash/ ride and a set of 14” brass/hybrid hats. They’re acceptable – for the time being.
What’s in the box?
The nice thing about Pearl Roadshow drum sets is that you get everything you need supplied in the box. With the New Fusion, the inventory list comprises:
- 22 x 16” bass drum
- 14 x 5.5” snare
- 16 x 16” floor tom and two (10 x 8”, 12 x 9”) rack-mounted toms
- Three stands: snare, hi-hat and ride/crash
- 16” ride/crash cymbal
- 14” Hi-hat
- Chain drive kick drum pedal
- A pretty sturdy – albeit small – drum throne
- Set of sticks
- Limited two-year warranty: https://pearldrum.com/support/warranty/
For the money, it’s hard to complain about how the Pearl New Fusion Roadshow kit sounds. It’s certainly one of the best sounding budget drum sets out there.
As we’ve noted, the cymbals are just about acceptable. The hi-hat is reasonable but the crash literally is like hitting a pan lid. It should be renamed a ‘trash’ cymbal. You’ll know when it’s time to replace these.
The supplied heads are more acceptable and perfectly usable but again, for a modest outlay you can improve things drastically. The Pearl heads are single-ply, but upgrading to double-ply variants takes the sound to another dimension.
Good examples are Remo Emperor, Remo Pinstripe and Evans G2 but there are many others. You could also dampen them with rings and use moon gel for an even warmer tone. Some dampening in the bass drum department will also help to keep resonant overtones to a minimum.
We all know it’s tough for drummers rehearsing at home sometimes because of not wanting to upset the neighbors but luckily help is at hand. Drum mutes, like these from Evans, can enable you to bash away to your heart’s content without engaging in a civil war with those next door.
It all comes together
Pearl Roadshow drum kits may be fully-featured in terms of hardware but their supplied instructions for assembly leave a lot to be desired.
All you get is a flier – but this directs you to a series of set-up videos on YouTube which luckily are pretty good. Most of the world will have an internet connection but not everybody will so printed assembly instructions should really be supplied with the package in our opinion.
You’ll certainly want to check out these assembly videos by Korn drummer and Pearl endorsee Ray Luzier:
Why you need to tune your drums
Drum tuning is unquestionably one of the most valuable skills a drummer can ever learn and done properly, it can transform the sound of even the most basic of kits.
Down at the budget end of things, it’s arguably even more important because the materials used in the construction of the kit won’t be the best so you may really have to work to get the sound you want. Proper tuning is the right place to start.
If you decide to take drum lessons, any teacher worth his or her salt will point you in the right direction but if you’re going solo you really need to learn this stuff. Correct tuning will remove any unwanted overtones ringing out all over the place and will make your entire drumming experience much more enjoyable.
We can definitely recommend this video from Jared Falk. He goes into detail about why it’s important to have tuned drums and explains exactly how to do it.
Jared is obviously an experienced drummer who probably tunes by ear most of the time, but when you’re learning – and even when you’re more proficient – a dedicated drum tuner like the DrumDial is an investment that you’ll value time after time.
Another informative video on tuning specific to Pearl drums is this one by Nate Morton (NBCs The Voice):
What we liked
- Great value for money. Probably the best quality entry-level drum kit you can buy
- Relatively inexpensive upgrades – cymbals, skins – can take the sound up to another level
- Everything included to start drumming
- Very professional looking. Plenty of color options
What we didn’t like
Cheap sounding cymbals
No dedicated assembly instructions included
The drum throne is comfortable but small. Hold on tight
Who should consider the Pearl New Fusion drum set?
It’s clear that the New Fusion is aimed at the beginner end of the market – but this in itself is multi-faceted.
If you’re a parent looking to buy your son or daughter a decent entry-level, relatively cheap drum set then the Pearl New Fusion is for you. Or perhaps you’re a middle-aged closet Keith Moon who’s always wanted to get behind a kit and start bashing away? The Pearl Roadshow series drums are also for you.
Or you might be a pro or semi-pro that just wants an inexpensive ‘throw in the back of the car’ kit for local gigs? With some tweaks and upgrades, Roadshow drums are for you.
Roadshow series drums are essentially potential stepping stones to greater things. You may well aspire to higher quality Pearl drums like the Export series, but probably not in the beginning.
Think of the Roadshow series as dipping a tentative toe into the water to see if drumming is for you.
The Bottom Line
At its heart, the Pearl New Fusion five-piece drum set is a nice sounding, well-made entry-level kit – but factor in the likelihood that you’ll want to upgrade the cymbals and probably the skins before too long.
We see this as a good investment though; in this way you have a beginner kit that can be upgraded to intermediate relatively cheaply.
To get the most from the New Fusion, take the time to check out the assembly videos and learn how to tune the drums properly. It really does make all the difference.