It is great to have a huge 20 piece drum kit wrapped around you entirely as you channel your inner Neil Peart (RIP).
However, most of us do not have roadies and big trailers to haul that kind of behemoth set!
In my long career as a musician, (don’t ask how long… never too old to ROCK!), tearing down and setting up drum kits has been one of the most frustrating things. It takes a lot of time… AND space. Not to mention the wear and tear on your actual kit.
So when I was really fed up with trying to fit my kit and guitars in my car, I heard about the Pearl Rhythm Traveler drum set. I was curious, so I went to check it out at a local music shop.
At first, I must admit, I thought, “This kit is so DINKY. It can’t possibly sound that good”; I snubbed my nose at it and walked away.
But then, soon after, I heard some pretty sick beats bein’ laid down, so I turned around and saw, to my surprise, that the salesman was playing the Pearl Rhythm Traveler! And… who woulda thought… it had some really killer tones!!
But even tho’ the sound impressed me, I still couldn’t help but think, “How could a little kit like this one ever compete, really, with my BIG kits??”
And that is the question, isn’t it? Can it??! Well, before I answer THAT… a little back story!
Stairway To (NOT!) Heaven
It was the day of the gig. Another opportunity to head out to yet another smoked-filled bar, and convince yet another roused-up crowd that OUR band… is the stuff of legend!
After hours of loading, we are finally on the road. The smell of old French fries, spilled beer and week-old smoke (that somehow has now become PART of our saturated equipment) fills the air of our now very cramped band van.
Despite the “odour de la ROCK”, the excitement & adrenaline of the imminent gig has us all laughing, and debating just how much we are going to “rock their faces off”.
We pull up to our destination at last. Oh, great! A “No Parking” sign by the slightly crooked load-in door. Not the first time for THAT red-carpet welcome! Guess its time to circle the block and hope there is a spot somewhat close.
We manage finally to snag a spot just around the corner, so we walk to the venue to get the lay of the land. Making our way inside the dim-lit bar, we meet an older guy. He looks pretty weathered, like maybe he’s fully lived the rock & roll life… perhaps a bit too much.
“Hi. I’m the sound guy.” Oh. That’s why.
He instructs us that “load in is through those doors and up the stairs”.
Wait… what? What was that last word??
Did he just say… STAIRS??!!!
I ask you: is there anything worse for loading in when you’re in a gigging band than… stairs??? HATE THAT!!!!
I mean, come one – we have 4x12s, amps, guitars, a keyboard, my incredible HEAVY full drum kit complete with a wrap around rack…
Anybody know how to use “the Force”??!
Well, we couldn’t find a Jedi to “air haul” our stuff, but we were able to at least move our van closer and park on the street with our hazard lights on. That meant we could load in without a long slog TO the venue at least.
Later, after way too many trips lugging our heavy equipment up and down those stairs, I feel like I never need to work out again. I just want to sit and catch my breath.
But I don’t, of course. I can’t. This is rock & roll, people!! What do we do?? We put on our best rock star faces and start greeting people, that’s what. Connecting with the audience starts even BEFORE the first beat of the first song. We gotta see who our audience is!
When the feeling of having run a marathon wears off, we’re ready to start the actual show. So what if the stage is so tiny that the drums barely fit… even WITHOUT the rest of my band!
The vocalist/guitarist has to stand on one side, and the keyboard player is forced to actually stand on the floor! Is this really happening?? Good thing it was a low stage.
Of course, in this kind of venue, with a stage this small, you at least know the sound system is gonna be amazing, right?!
Wait? Is that the sound of laughter I hear coming from your mouth??
Yea, yea, okay. The sound sucks too! All we hear is a muddle of different fighting frequencies. We each smile and hope we’re keeping the rhythm tight and the pitch centered and… soldier on…
But hey – at least the drunken crowd seems to love us! I even get a couple free drinks from some new fans before the gig is done. Overall, we rock some faces, raise the roof, and almost forget that…
Uh, yea. We still gotta load OUT down those @#$%!% stairs again!! If you have ever played an all-out, balls-to-the-wall rock show, then you KNOW how spent you are afterwards. Especially after a couple “grateful audience member” drinks!
But we do it. We take it in stride. But being the drummer, I can’t help but notice… I kinda have MORE and BIGGER stuff to slog than anyone.
And it’s getting old.
At the next band rehearsal, I notice that some drum lugs seem to be loose, and one is even missing entirely from my bass drum. Seems like I’m repairing my kit after every gig now.
There’s got to be a better way. This latest concert, on top of years of shows just like it, starts me seriously considering… “Should I buy an electronic kit? Find a smaller touring kit?? Suck it up and stick with what I have? Switch to CAJON??!!”
A Traveler Beckons from Afar!
After much debate I decided to try an electronic kit. I chose the Simmons electronic kit (yeah, the one like everyone has) since it seemed to maintain a good reputation. At least… that’s what I’d heard.
I started practicing in my home with it, and at first… it was great! I must admit that I loved making crazy fun sounds and beats with all the effects it had.
But soon enough my latest drum bubble had to burst. The more I played, the more I realized: I just don’t like the feel of an electronic kit. To my touch at least, the Simmons kit had little give, or bounce, and I… I… I just couldn’t get used to it.
Add to that that the pedals would slide all over the place so I actually had to DUCT TAPE them down while I was playing. Like THAT looks real professional.
Oh, but wait… they also had trigger problems. The samples would sometimes cut in and out, or abruptly cut off too fast… as if there was some kind of brick-wall noise gate on them. What’s up with that?!!
Ah, infatuation. It’s fun while it lasts, but… those relationships don’t usually last long, and neither did mine. Yes, I DID try the Simmons kit LIVE a few times. They worked “OK” for lighter, basic beat-type music. But for hard rock?? Oh, man… they didn’t bring the sound, the look… or the feel.
No. Just… no. NEXT!!!
Frustrated, I headed back to the drawing board. I stopped by my local Guitar Center and readied myself for a good, long browse. There’s something almost spiritual about hours in a music store anyway. Good for the soul (if not the bank account).
As mentioned earlier, soon enough the salesman reeled me in by bringin’ the skins of the Pearl Rhythm Traveler kit to life. I, of course, sat down and jammed out some gnarly beats to see if I COULD conjure up such an impressive sound and, lo & behold, I could!
And that was that. As fast as a flam in a Speed Metal band – I was hooked and purchasing those wine-red little drums.
Stairs? SCHMERZ! BRING ‘EM ON!!!
Unboxing and set up
When I got my new kit home, I have to tell you – I was a bit confused with the set up. See, both the snare AND the floor tom connect to the bass drum. Hadn’t really noticed that in the store.
Once I got it figured out though, I found setting it up to be super easy. I tuned them to my liking and added dampening to each drum to give ’em a smoother tone.
The kit comes with a hi-hat stand and stool, but I opted to use my own, as the one I’m used to playing is of higher quality. No biggie.
And, yes, the set also comes with hi-hats and a crash/ ride cymbal. But, ya know what? They’re not so great. They’re “basic sounding” beginner cymbals – totally cool if you’re a beginner! But since I, uh, play real shows, I just ditched ’em for my own Zildjan ZBT set. No comparison there!
I added some more cymbal stands also, for another crash and a china cymbal (still thinkin’ about you, Neil Peart!).
My verdict after some months with this new kit?? It’s a KEEPER! Totally love ’em, and yes, they DO get the job done in most cases.
One thing’s for sure: my feet and back are undying fans!!!
The Snare that dares!
Let’s break the set down, piece by piece, so I can be specific about its pros & cons. Think of this section as testing for Sound Check. 😉
First, the snare. This 13×5 fully-assembled outta the box drum is like a groove slave that dares to take on the world.
It’s connected to the bass drum via an hardware arm that’s mounted on the pedal side of the bass drum.
Do I like it? OH, yea! I found it to be similar to my previous Pearl snare drum, both in tone, responsiveness and size.
It has a bright, tight sound that cuts through the mud of a live set, not to mention a great “pop” when doing some tricky stick work.
Its all about that bass
When starting my journey, I was looking at 18” and 20” bass drums. I am happy this came with a 20×8.
The bass drum features a 20×8 shell, heads on both sides (including a sound hole), a pedal bracket connector, and two separate mounts for all toms and the snare.
The foot pedal is connected to a bracket that raises the drum a couple of inches. I’m glad it does, because it gives it the usual, comfortable height that I am accustomed to on my full-size drum set.
This kick drum has some good thump for being smaller. I tuned it pretty tight as that is the tone that I prefer and I believe it really makes it shine. Regardless of how you tune it though, it’s a solid piece that can bring the beef to most shows, no problemo.
The heads are very responsive, with a great kick back. I’ve performed many an acoustic show where I only played this kick, along with some cymbal work. It shone through beautifully every time!
Tom tom makes you nom nom
Ok, its true: when I hear a drummer doing a sick beat only on the tom tom’s?? I start to drool. MORE LOVE to TOMS!!
This kit features first, second and floor toms. Both the first (10×5) and second tom (12×5) are connected to the bass drum via the front mount, using a double tom mount.
The floor tom (14×5) is actually mounted to the bass drum as well, via an arm hardware piece mounted on the rear side of the drum.
Unlike the kick & snare, all the toms have only a top head, leaving the bottom open for volume and tone.
It took me a while to get the toms where they felt comfortable, particularly the floor tom. Like most drummers, I’m used to having my floor tom actually… well… on the floor! Not being able to move it out and in as I pleased was irksome at first. Because it’s mounted, you are more limited in placement than a free-standing standard floor tom.
After some play, however, I was able to find its “sweet spot” for my technique and reach, so now it maintains a very comfortable position for me.
The tone of these three toms are all a bit brighter then I was familiar with. Makes sense, right? They’re smaller.
Can you get ’em down to standard tom size tones?? Well… not really. If you try to tune them down, the heads just make a “blat” type sound that’s more like playing a thick hanging shower curtain than a drum!
So I just keep ’em tuned up where they resonate best. After a little dampening for hushing ringing overtones and focusing the sound… I think I’ve got ’em dialed in and am very pleased with the result when I play live.
Count me in as a co-vagabond with The Pearl Rhythm Traveler’s tone and feel!
The cymbals and hardware game
Yea, this little baby comes with all the hardware needed to start you off. It features a two-piece cymbal package: 13” Hi Hats and a 13” Crash.
A full hardware package including:
- Chrome cymbal stand
- Chrome Hi-Hat stand with black base
- 4 black L-arms
- Aluminum clamp for mounting the low tom to the cymbal stand
- Aluminum/black bass drum pedal
- Two sided beater (Felt/plastic)
Some kits also have a separate snare stand, as well as aluminum hardware verses black.
As I mentioned already, I was not a fan of the cymbals that came with it. To me they sounded similar to the cymbals that come with ones of those kid drums. They were too thin and bright sounding and (in my opinion) sounded cheap.
Replacing them with my own Zildjan ZBT cymbals makes the whole kit sound so much more professional.
All the hardware and brackets are good quality though, and, hey, I haven’t broken any yet so… that’s a good sign.
I opted to use my old hi-hat stand as well. It’s a little more solidly-built. Don’t get me wrong though, the stand it comes with works just fine and doesn’t present any problems.
Oh, one more change: I swapped out the stock drum pedal for my Mapex bass drum pedal. You know how it is: you get your foot used to a particular pedal, it’s hard to deviate. I’m just more accustomed to the feel and control of the Mapex.
But there’s nothing bad about the kick drum pedal that comes with this kit. In fact, I DO use it occasionally with my “suitcase drum” and it works wonderfully (wait for the article on THAT one later!).
Additionally, I added a couple of other cymbals and stands to the kit to make it more of a full sound. I play harder rock music sets often, so… what can I say – a girl’s gotta ROCK!!
Once I had the set up I liked, including the things I added, I never looked back. I love this little kit.
Yea, it’s a little smaller and tighter than what I was used to, and yeah, that was the whole point of buying ’em! I know!
Once I got this kit set up and personalized to my liking,ever since I’ve adored it. It’s light, compact, but yet super punchy, with a big boy kick drum sound that’s sure to give you that metaphoric punch in the face!
Then there are the size benefits. I can lug this thing around everywhere without any issues. It fits easily in my car and in a small room.
I was even able to fit the drumset and a small amp in a wagon to carry through downtown San Diego, California.
Also, I of course faced the dreaded stairs for load-in once again and, thankfully, this little kit made it a much more enjoyable, and tolerable, experience.
The Rhythm Traveler has become my primary drum set for touring and practice. Got no choice now, ‘cuz I sold my full-size Pearl kit! Yup. I just wasn’t using it any longer. And since I’m a music teacher as well, the small size works for any little tykes I might be showing how to rock!
So now, whenever I want, I can switch from the full 5-piece, to a paired-down set (bass, snare, hi hat and crash/ride), OR to only playing the kick drum and hi-hat. Recently it’s been more of the paired-down version, seeing just how far I can go with that set up. Pretty versatile for such a good-sounding kit!
My Ending Fill!
So, yea – this little drum set is amazing! I highly recommend it to anyone who’s struggling with load-in and space issues – you’re never gonna wanna go back! I’ve used it for rock, punk, folk, Americana… it always sound complementary
If you NEED behemoth kits that you can hear from miles away, then, more drum power to ya. This kit’s not for you.
But if you’re looking for a lightweight, brave, quality kit that never wimps out or sounds weak…. you just found it!
Watch out for the little guys (or gals). They pack one mean punch!!!
Caveat Emptor: Little details may differ between these kits, but here’s what mine came with:
20X8 Bass drum shell
10X5, 12X5 and 14X5 Tom shells
Fully assembled 13X5 snare
Black lugs, mounts and brackets
13″ Brass Hi Hats
16″ Brass Crash/ Ride
13″ Black plastic single hat
13″ black plastic cymbal
Black 20″ rez head with white pearl logo,
Clear 20″ batter head with integrated “o-ring”, 10″,
12″ and 14″ “Pearl Protone” dual ply hydraulic (oil filled) tom batter heads
coated 13″ batter head and clear 13″ rez head already assembled on the snare.
Chrome cymbal stand,
Chrome Hi-Hat stand with black base,
Three black L-arms,
Two black bass drum spurs,
Aluminum clamp for mounting the low tom to the cymbal stand,
Aluminum/black bass drum pedal,
Chrome snare stand,
Two sided beater (Felt/plastic),
Two 20″ Black anodized aluminum hoops with black wrap inlay,
10″, 12″, 14″ black rims
two 13″ black rims already assembled on the snare,
12 black claws for the bass drum
bag of chrome T-rods.
- Mahogany shell construction
- Black drum hardware
- Full hardware and cymbal pack
- Three color options: Matte Black, Wine Red and Pearl White
Where to buy
Honestly… these little bad-@$$&s are hard to come by. Once players have ’em they don’t tend to get rid of ’em! But keep an eye at GC or Reverb.com or the local store of your choice. You never know when one might pop up and make your day.
It sure did MINE! 😉