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Ludwig Epic Kit

Ludwig Epic - same configuration as review kit

Ludwig Epic - Funk LCEP22FXBB

Ludwig refer to themselves as ‘the most famous name on drums’ and if you were to ask drummers to name the most well know drum brand ever, nine out of ten would probably name Ludwig.  Undoubtedly the Beatles explosion of the 1960’s did the company no harm, exposure wise, with Ringo sat behind his Ludwig set and the subsequent boom of budding drummers all wanting to copy and have a Ludwig set too.  And lets not forget the late John Bonham of Led Zeppelin with his Vistalites. Well, that’s may be of the older generation among us who can reflect on all those yesteryears, but what of today’s youngster’s? Now that maybe a different story, so curtains up and enter the Epic. Yes, it’s a Ludwig, but first and foremost Ludwig wants you to refer to it as Epic.  For me I think its clever marketing on Ludwig’s part, here we have an historic classic brand trying to engage with a younger audience.  Have they succeeded?  Let’s find out.

The Ludwig name dates back to 1909, founded by William F Ludwig and Theobold Ludwig. 2009 saw the company celebrate 100 years in business. Quite a milestone for this American manufacturer, however you still have to compete in today’s competitive market. And in 2010 as has been the case for a few years now the consumer is spoilt for choice out there. Each year the bar appears to rise in terms of quality and value for money providing more bang for your buck!

A couple of points I would like to make early on is the fact I had no idea of the Suggested Retail Price for the kit before I started the review and this was my first personal experience with Ludwig drums.  I have never owned or played a Ludwig kit before (and I fit into the older generation bracket here), so I began this review with a completely open mind.

So what my first impression as I began to unpack the kit? Wow! I was impressed from the off.  The first feature to hit me was the shell hardware, a kind of brushed vintage looking bronze.  Ludwig refer it is a pre-antiqued plating.  Appealing to today’s drummer, young and old alike - I think it will be a hit all round.  Over the past few years we have seen the introduction of nickel, black and even white hardware as an alternative to the standard chrome, but this is a little different.  In my opinion it’s stylish and classy looking though I should point out that the tension rods were standard chrome plate.. 

Each drum was finished in Natural/Blackburst. This had black at either end of the shell with natural wood in the middle. Over this is a nice rich glossy lacquer, which also bought out the lovely grain patterns of the timbre. This finish coupled with the bronze pre antiqued hardware looked the business.  There are a further three finish options available for you to ponder over in the Epic range, Red Fade, Mahogany Burst and Artic White.

Same colour as review kit

The review kit provided was a Funk LCEP22FXBB shell pack, which consisted of  22x20” bass drum (undrilled), 8x7”, 10x7.5”, 12x8” rack toms, 16x15” floor tom and a matching 14x5” snare. The shells were an ultra-thin 6-ply Birch/Maple/Birch hybrid. I had the heads off each drum for a close up inspection of the inner shells; I could not find a single fault - perfectly round with crisp smooth bearing edges. Each drum had an ink stamped identification, with date stamp.  The outer shells were as the inner - perfect. Each drum had a somewhat bold scrolled Epic name plate, which incorporated the famous Ludwig emblem bottom centre.  I think these looked great and were in keeping with the kits statement.  A little more on the hardware, the lug boxes were small, attractive and unobtrusive, updated Classic Keystone according to Ludwig attached to the shell via two small  screws with a black plastic plinth backing plate.  However, the ones on the bass drum were slightly larger, here the plastic backing plinth also had a clever loop incorporated to which the tension rod passed through.

Bass drum claws had a protective backing to eliminate potential hoop damage from metal to wood contact.  Every tension rod ran smoothly through each lug box thread and after endless calls in previous kit reviews I have done, Ludwig has used black plastic washers under the tension rods - Halleluiah! To me this far better, eliminates metal to metal contact and the tension rods sits better against the hoop. Of course this is all in “my opinion”, but it gets a star rating from me. Well done Ludwig R&D!  The air vents were threaded with a plastic grommet to protect metal to outer shell contact.

Each of the three rack toms came with independent suspension mounting rims, again in brushed bronze. The mounting brackets were a rounded affair that accepted an L arm to attach to a cymbal/tom stand.  One gripe I did have was the use of large butterfly style tightening screws; these were used throughout, on the tom mounts, bass drum spurs and floor tom legs. A smaller more elegant design would have been far more attractive (again, in my opinion), and apart from the cosmetic look they will pose an issue for cases as you will need to look at the next size up, for example the 12” tom will need a 13” etc.  Bass drum spurs were practical with plenty of adjustment, floor tom legs were of a good length, thus providing enough height for the high sitters amongst us.  The 10 lug snare drum deserves a mention, again well turned out with perfectly functional and uncomplicated strainer, which I personally really liked, that will stand the test of time.  I have always liked the look of a matching snare with a kit and this was no exception, it kind of sets it all off on stage.

The standard fit heads were not up to much, I have to say - they were Ludwig branded Remo UK clear single ply, with a brush coated on the snare, which are made in China.  Now, again here there are two ways of looking at this.  Would you prefer to see a better quality used, for example a Remo US Coated Ambassador or an Evans EC2? If so, would you be prepared to pay for it and which would be your choice?  Or have Ludwig taken the right approach, put a cost effective head on? Yes, they will do for a while but don’t expect longevity, and then you have the option to change them for your preferred preference. 

I kept the factory fitted Ludwig Remo’s on for a “non gig” work out, they lasted for about two hours of playing and then dents started to appear in the toms and snare batters. Also at this point the batter heads on the toms started to lose tension.  Basically they went very dull and lifeless. Better could be said of the bass batter head, which was a clear, single ply and with an inner dampening ring. This provided a deep resonating thud in conjunction with an intact (no hole) front ebony logo head, again incorporating an inner dampening ring with a white Ludwig 100 year centenary logo. Despite budget heads I did get some pleasing results regarding the overall sound from the snare to the 8” which, as you would expect was high in pitch down to the low 16” floor tom.

Natural Black Burst

Now thanks to Remo and Evans I was provided with two different sets of heads for the purpose of this review. Remo’s selection was white single ply coated Ambassadors along with a clear Powerstroke III bass batter head.  And from Evans, two ply clear EC2s with an Emad bass drum head and a white coated snare head. So off with originals and on with new! 

Firstly the Evans EC2s, I used these on a general function gig in a reasonable sized venue, covering a wide range of music. They suited the kit nicely, and the 10” and 12” toms sounded excellent (I did not use the 8”) - really deep, focused with plenty of attack. The 16” floor tom was particularly pleasing - I had this drum tuned down very low without any head flapping. The bass drum with both heads intact was like cannon, well at a depth of 20” deep you would expect that, it’s quite a monster of a drum to tame, but with the Emad and the smaller of the two outside foam dampening rings in place, that was enough to take out a lot of unwanted ring resulting in full boom delivery out front. The snare had a good crack when cranked up and the Evans coated head did not require any additional dampening. 

Onto the next scenario, which was an outdoor big band gig, which was tailor-made for the coated Remo Ambassadors.  It did take a while longer to get the whole kit tuned just right, though with a little patience I had to the kit sounding a million dollars.  For this gig I used just the 12” rack tom and 16” floor tom and being in the great outdoors I tuned the whole kit higher than I normally would so the drums would carry and cut through the brass section.  Again the bass drum was un-dampened, however the Powerstroke III did provide a little more natural ring, but it cut for sure. The snare also cut well and retained a good tight buzz for ghost notes and accenting with brass.

I had two very different playing situations here, but what I got from both, was the kits ability to cut through, yet with tone and projection, whatever heads were fitted. All the toms were very resonant. I put this down to two areas; the blend of two woods the shells are constructed from, birch and maple, and the fact that they are quite thin.

I did receive a set of functional double braced Ludwig CS300 hardware to go with the kit, however the kits are only available as a shell packs, and hardware is additional apart from the rack tom mount L arms which you do get included.  Though on a plus point Ludwig have been running a promotion on Epic five piece kits, where you get a sixth drum free (the 645 Promo), in the case of the review kit it was the 8”x7” rack tom.

Ludwig Epic lug

So to summarise, for me the whole experience of this kit was refreshing and impressive. What came across after a thorough inspection was attention to detail, simple things for example the design of the plastic backing plinth on the bass drum lugs. The Epic range may sit below the Ludwig high end kits like the Legacy and Classic series in respect of current ranking, but it definitely punches above its weight. It may also be made in China and not America as its famous forefathers and current higher end range are, but don’t let that put you off either. 

In my introduction I asked ''had Ludwig succeeded?''. Well, in my opinion most definitely. It will undoubtedly appeal to all age groups. Ludwig has certainly got their marketing spot on here. I always ask myself the question, would I be happy to own and gig this kit week in week out and with the Epic it’s a definite yes. 

Oh and I almost forgot the cost. The review kit (Funk LCEP22FXBB) comes with a suggested retail price of £999, though I expect you will find a good deal to be had.  To be honest I would have put a much higher price tag on it and was presently surprised when I found out.  So all in all this is a fabulous instrument, taking into account the build quality, the performance and the price and above all it’s a Ludwig. Classic!

For those interested in finding out more about Ludwig and its history a useful source of information is www.vintagedrumguide.com/ludwig or check out the whole current Ludwig range at www.ludwig-drums.com

John Griffin
June 2010

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