Tama Starclassic vs Starclassic Performer – Which Is Right For Me?


So you’re thinking of buying a new Tama drum kit. Now the nitty-gritty decision making begins… what drum kit should you buy? Well hopefully, this comparison of their latest offerings – the Starclassic Walnut/Birch in Molten Blue Ice Fade and the Starclassic Performer Maple/Birch in Sky Blue Aurora – will give you all the information you need to choose the perfect kit for you…

Who are Tama?

Legendary drum makers, Tama, have been unstoppable in their quest for affordable, high-quality drums since their 1974 conception. With classic lines such as the Star, Starclassic, and Superstar – named after the family name Hoshino (translating to star field) – this is a company rooted in rich, familial history.

Tama drums are renowned for their construction and sound. Being used by big-league drummers like Stewart Copeland, Lars Ulrich, and Mike Portnoy – they have captivated audiences the world over for their power, articulation and presence. Their factory knows this, hand-producing some of the most expertly-crafted drums you can get. All this at an accessible price – what’s not to love?!

Now you’ve fallen in love with Tama (and rightly so), you want to know which kit is right for you. With the newly reintroduced Starclassic Performer Maple/Birch and the beautiful Starclassic Walnut/Birch being released with great new finishes, let’s start here. First thing first…

What do they sound like?


This iteration of hybrid shell blends two distinct kinds of wood. Combining shells isn’t new to Tama, but this combination is said to be the perfect ratio of the two. Walnut is big and warm. On the darker end of the spectrum, the low-end and mid response is phenomenal and instantly hits the sweet spot.

Responding well to lower tunings, it still exudes more attack than Maple and great tonal controllability that is ideal for studio use. It does lack brightness, however. By putting all its eggs into its richness-and-warmth basket, it is somewhat limited in its versatility.

Birch is incredibly easy to work with, hence why drum manufacturers love it. They also admire its tonal qualities such as balanced projection, punchy body, and short sustain. Its natural mid-scoop is partly the reason Birch is a studio favourite – the incomparable translation from drum to the speaker is renowned for studio use and actively sought after.

Its short sustain and loud projection make it great for live use too, using its brighter tone to cut through mixes and gives sound engineers an easy run of things. The short sustain is the main drawback here, offering great tonality on the toms and kick. But if you like a snare that really sings, this wood might not do what you want.

The construction of the Walnut/Birch hybrid shells is as follows – two inner-plies of American Black Walnut with four outer plies of Birch on everything but the kick, with the kick featuring an extra layer of Birch.

Now, using the power of imagination, you can picture a warm, rounded tone with plenty of attack that Tama describe as ‘not only punchy, but sweet and mellow’ – a very tasty tone. This combination produces a drum that is distinctly Tama, but with the feel and sound of something new. A great combination for those looking for a solid and reliable recording kit with the capability of live performance.


We all know Maple. It’s been the most popular wood for drum shells for decades by being a real all-rounder. The wide tuning range is adaptable to any style too, with the mid-range resonance – coming from its denser structure – producing a balanced tone that’s powerful. It lends itself to drummers that play multiple genres on one kit that turn to tuning and dampening to alter their tone. More freedom, less hassle.

Perfect for those looking for adaptability, it is the ideal choice for player experimentation and exploration to find their sound. The drawback of this is that, if recorded, it needs the most EQ work due to resonance and its (highly advantageous) undesignated preferred tuning range.

These Starclassic Performer shells are constructed as two inner-plies of Maple with four outer-plies of Birch, with the bass drum adding an extra ply of Birch to the outside.

Using the power of imagination again, and combining with the same Birch from earlier, you get a drum kit that effortlessly travels between genres in a sort of tonal invisibility cloak. Pronounced attack and mid-range give punch, power, and rugged versatility.

Ideal – as the name suggests – for the performer, this Starclassic Maple/Birch combination is a shell that produces clear and punchy tones, that combines Maple warmth and Birch clarity seamlessly.

Both of these kits come with Evans heads as standard, giving you a great tone straight from the box and a useful starting point to experiment with your tunings and what you want your heads to add to the tone.

Personal recommendations? Coated heads would really bring out the richness from the Walnut/Birch combo, but the Maple/Birch would really project with clear heads. Completely player preference and situation-dependent though!

What hardware do they have?

Hardware can have a massive impact on the sound and durability of a drum kit. Often going unnoticed, things like rims, tom mounting systems, even the tom legs impact the sound and response you get from the drum. Tama knows this, bringing a wealth of time-tested, experienced hardware options like stands and holders that are trusted by the pros.

With the two kits in question, these little features are expertly crafted to bring out the tone of the shells and cater for their use.

Both kits feature the Star-Cast Tom Mounting System. Mounted to the lugs of the rims, this mounting system provides maximum resonance and stability to the drums with minimal shell contact.

Tama has gone all out on this system. Crafted with aluminium for a lightweight, sturdy construction, this mounting system adds minimal weight to the drums that make it easier to transport than previous models. The aluminium allows for truer tonal vibration of the shell too – a nuanced way of saying ‘the shell can resonate without interference’.

Fitted on both these kits, both shells produce their true tone and vibrate feely – Tama articulation amplified. What’s great about this piece of gear is that it comes chrome-plated to match other hardware and produce a seamless, clean, and professional aesthetic for any situation. Also, being low profile, tighter setups and more personalized combinations help you flow effortlessly from drum to drum.

One change between these two in their tom mounting designs are the brackets. Starting with the Starclassic Walnut/Birch, they come fitted with Quick-Lock tom brackets. Offering a new and innovative memory lock design that’s also in aluminium, these brackets maintain the lightweight body of the Starcast mounting system.

What’s innovative about these brackets is the in-built memory lock. Simply sliding a switch, the bracket splits into two parts – memory lock and tom bracket – for a beautifully elegant design. With rubber lining further isolating the toms’ resonance (rack and floor), the memory lock remains on the tom arm or leg for accurate and quick setups.

The main difference with the Starclassic Performer is that the memory locks and brackets are separate entities. Performing the same job as Quick-Lock, the aesthetics are slightly different. Adjustable by a standard drum key, these are universally useful and provide the same reliability and stability you’d expect from memory locks. This feature is mainly for the busy drummer that wants that familiarity of a time-tested feature.

Honest opinion time: They’ll give you the same reliability and functionality that you’d expect from a quality product. But the Quick-Lock system looks cool and – I think we can all agree – flicking a switch probably feels pretty cool, too.

On the StarClassic Walnut/Birch, you get additional features that give it that premium touch and justify the price point. Small details that often go amiss, but features such as air-cushioned floor tom legs that absorb the shock of the drum help put this kit in the next level. Really helping to isolate the drum, reducing choking, and increasing sustain – the small amount of air keeps all the tone focused.

It also includes a Swivel-Wing tom holder. Not only does it have all the functionality of Omni-ball holders we’re used to, but it also features 100mm of forward and backward movement. When combined with the low-profile Star-Cast system, your set-up can be as tight or far away from each other as you’d like. It adapts to your technique and the way your body moves, helping you get the most from your setup.

In the Starclassic Performer’s defence, this issue isn’t something that drummers scream for all the time. Not that it isn’t highly appreciated, but it does help solidify the Walnut/Birch as a premium model.

The Performer utilizes the MTH800 double tom holder which still has the unique swivel wing and Omni-ball holders, but just not the same forward/backward customisation. This part of the kit is really about your ideal setup wants and needs. Accuracy and functionality in both, but one with the extra ‘pizzazz’.

Now for the real question…

What do they look like?

This year, Tama is releasing both of these in two completely new finishes. Let’s have a look at the Starclassic Walnut/Birch first:

A stunning finish of Molten Blue Ice Fade. With the chrome hardware too, this kit looks as cool as ice with an air of freshness about it. What’s great about the fade is the chrome seamlessly blends into the lighter part of the shell – great for those looking to keep the hardware visually minimal.Tama Starclassic Walnut/Birch

Having a look at the Performer, the finish matches the same design as the classic and incredibly-looking, Caramel Aurora – but in blue instead. Not a cop-out by any means, because it looks trance-like with the presence of a tested design. It is also bounded by the chrome hardware beautifully. And that natural bass drum hoop detail really makes the kit pop.

Tama Starclassic Performer

Does blue ever go out of fashion? According to these stunning kits, it’s stronger than ever.

So which is right for me?…

Overall, you won’t outgrow or fall out of love with either of these kits in a hurry. They both have a gorgeous exterior that compliments any situation, leading to admiring eyes and the all-important nod of approval from other drummers. What splits these two drums comes down to the use case, and that is determined by the owner.

If you play mostly live shows and are looking for projection, sustain and versatility – the Tama Performer will give you that in spades. The versatile shell construction of Maple and Birch give you the optimum balance of tone and tuning that helps you effortlessly glide between genres without so much as a change of sticks.

Don’t forget the Performer’s main goal of simplicity and practicality for the working drummer who needs reliability and familiarity, foremost.

If you are a studio player, someone who spends time fine-tuning and exploring and creating the best sound for a track, then the Starclassic Walnut/Birch is right up your street. Made for recording, the shells exude rich, warm, and punchy tones that are dying to be recorded and played over and over again. With a natural proclivity to be deep and punchy, the Walnut/Birch includes hardware that helps accent these features and bring out the tone you pay for.

With these two kits destined for different arenas, they can still enter the others with minimal issues. It’s all about preference and personal choice with drums. As ever, you should try and play the drums in person to see if they match with the sounds in your head.

They are both high-quality kits from a premium manufacturer with decades of trained, detailed experience which really does come across in both models.

Once people go the Tama route, they are usually instantly struck by their sound and uniqueness. This is something all Tama admirers love about their drums – they all have a distinct personality that only Tama could create. These are no exception. Could they help begin your Tama journey?…


Content Writer - Drums

With almost 6 years of drum related experience - professional playing from bars to festivals and recording - Myles' passion for the drums started with the famed Cadbury's gorilla advert. Hearing that dunun, dunun, dunun, dunun, dun-dun has since guided him through higher education, music school and Bachelor's and Masters degrees, focusing on creating and capturing a great drum sound. He is most likely to be found in a YouTube hole or gigging with his function band Citrus Funk.



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