Rockula’s Reviews- Molecules Drum Company

Acrylic drums aren’t anything new
Created by Bill Zickos in 1959, mass marketed by Ludwig in 1972 and popularized by John Bonham, these drums were referred to by the un-initiated as “see through” drums
There were endless variations of both solid and transparent colors (there were even drums made of various pieces of acrylic, forming stripes and swirls)
The originals aren’t considered to be very good quality drums due to the weakness/thinness of the shells and bad bearing edges Advances in chemistry and drum making technology in general produced much better quality acrylic drums by 2001 when Ludwig reissued them
Since then, there have been countless major and independant drum companies that have produced their own version but acrylic drums have remained pretty much the same in concept since the beginning
The drumming community is split on their attitude towards these drums with some sticking to the “If it ‘aint wood, then it ‘aint a drum” camp and those who are more adventurous and looking for a non-traditional sound

If you’re reading this and you’re not a drummer then how can I describe the difference?
The answer is simple, they sound how they look
Bright, ringy, and loud with less warmth than wood
Of course, you can use any of countless modern drum heads and muffling devices to control such unruliness but you would defeat the original pupose of the material
It has always irritated me to see a bunch of tape or dead sounding heads on an acrylic kit
Yeah, a see through drumkit is cool looking but it also needs to sound as big as Bonham
Mufflling anything on a set of acrylics is like putting regular sized tires on a Monster Truck
Trying to make them sound like “normal” drums defeats the purpose

Flash forward to NAMM 2012 and  new type of acrylic drum debuts
The company is called Molecules and they offer a completely new take on the concept
http://moleculesdrumcompany.com
The head is mounted on a traditional round drum cut shallow like a timbale with normal lugs with an acrylic bubble attatched underneath
There is no porting (a hole designed to let air escape) in the toms but the bass drum has a hole just beneath the front of the bubble of the bass drum (a necessity due to the fact that bass drums almost always get mic’ed from a hole in the front head)
There is absolutely no way to tell what these drums sound like except for hearing them in person (there are audio samples on their site but anything can be manipulated to sound good nowadays)
I did as much research on them as I could on the internet and determined that the response was about 50/50
The people who liked them seemed qualified to have an opinion (like Billy Cobham and the editor of Modern Drummer) and the people who hated them were mostly made up of people who never even heard them in person and were running their mouths on drum forums
However, me being an un-conventional drummer, I was not convinced by anyone’s opinion so I had to try them for myself
I like to tune my drums “dirty”
That means that I tune them barely up to  tension and look for the lowest note possible on each drum (even the resonant heads)
This results in an overly ringy and boingy sound that drives most sound men crazy but provides a very unique sound v.s. the normal cardboard box sound that most hard rock and metal drummers aspire to these days

I finally decided to take the plunge (after being assured that I could get a refund if I didn’t like them) and bought a shell pack consisting of a 12″ mounted tom, 16″ floor tom and 20″ bass drum
The first thing a drummer is going to notice is that the drum shells are larger than the head, so there are going to be  case issues
The manufacturer says that they fit into normal drum cases but I have yet to figure if they go up one or two sizes (for instance, the 20″ bass drum is going to need a 22″ or 24″ case, which I haven’t determined yet)
The bass drum was packaged with a Drum Workshop cradle that supported the unusual shape (no spurs or hardware of any type on the bass drum)
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/drums-percussion/molecules-drums-acrylic-bass-drum?src=3WWRWXGP
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make the bass drum fit on the cradle but eventually got it set up
The mounted tom came with a standard RIMS style mount and bracket for an “L” shaped tom arm
The floor tom came with RIMS as well but had an interesting design in that the legs had to bend around the shell
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/drums-percussion/molecules-drums-acrylic-floor-tom/h86761000001001?src=3WWRWXGP&gclid=CIHPw7bQi7QCFWGnPAoduHcAhQ
It looks like the manufacturer took some normal tom legs and inverted them so that the band on the bottom would go around the bubble
The legs then fit into a slightly larger tube with rubber tips for the floor and a memory lock to keep your settings
This proved to be a fairly rickety design and in that the memory locks are free floating and not affixed to either piece

The bass drum came with an Aquarian Super Kick II and the toms came with Response 2 heads
As I mentioned earlier, I hate heads with muffling in them but tried “the maufacurer’s recommendation”
This made the bass drum very tight and gave it some low end but that is never the sound I go for
I removed the bass drum head and went with an Evans G2 clear (my 1st choice is a Remo Emperor but no stores had a 20″ in stock in my area)
This made the sound more open and to my liking and I didn’t have to change the heads on the toms because the heads are the type I already prefer
Once I got it set up and tuned, I struck each drum individually and noticed a strange sound
That’s when I realised that it sounded like the high pitched “ping” that you get when a basketball is bounced
This made sense to me because I imagined that spherical objects direct sound in the same way (this is an assumption)
However, I didn’t notice the basketball overtones when playing the whole set
The spherical shape made them respond quick and tight with separation between the notes
I would imagine that speed metal drummers would like them, seeing as they use heads that sound like cardboard to make normal drums sound dead
Later that evening, I rehearsed with my band and put them to the test
We have a medium-small sized room and the drums didn’t sound so good from the other side of the room
They sounded amazing when you were right on top of the kit which is unusual because my normal drums sound terrible up close but much better farther away (preferably in a different city ha ha ha)
We ended up having to put a mic in the bass drum because it did not have the volume of a normal bass drum
The toms sounded just fine
Afterwards, I set them up in a very large concrete warehouse room to do a photo shoot and they sounded huge
This is somewhat of an unfair judgement because anything sounds big in that room

These drums are not for the average rock musician
They cost just as much as a regular set of acrylic drums but at around $2500 for the 3 piece shell pack (just drums, no hardware), it is still out of most people’s price range
The second problem is the shape themselves
As I was setting them up, I must have dinged them several times (there was a big scratch on both the bass drum and floor tom when I pulled them out of the box)
Setting these drums up requires careful movements so that you don’t bump them on the hardware
These scratches won’t show up when viwing them from the audience but they are visible from close up
The next problem was the cradle that supports the bass drum
It took quite a while to figure out the adjustments and when I did, I ended up kicking the drum off the cradle so I had to MacGuyver a bit by feeding small diameter rope through the bottom lugs and tying them to the crade

The final assesment?
You are going to have to be incredibly protective of these drums when you gig with them
The toms are good, but the bass drum is going to have to be mic’ed in order to be heard
If you can get past that, then you will be the proud owner of the most unique drumset in your town
If not, I would reccomend the regular type of acrylics

And, no
I’m not putting goldfish in them

2 comments to Rockula’s Reviews- Molecules Drum Company

  • Bob Knott  says:

    Somebody’s watching you.
    I am impressed by your research and
    presentation. Although, for the most part (being a non-drummer) I really must admit
    I had no idea what you were talking about.
    Keep up the good work. If by chance you (Rockula) read this, let me know. DAD…

  • Mark  says:

    Thank you for making a REAL review. I am seriously considering buying a large set of these, but have been astonished by so many reviewes on discussion boards by people who have never played them. Your review was objective and useful.
    I have always preferred concert toms to resonant toms, but few manufactured create matching sets anymore and I thout this might fit the bill. And I think they look cool.

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