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It wouldn’t be a conversation about the GOATs of drum manufacturers without Ludwig’s name being thrown in the ring. In this regard, Ludwig are basically the Fender of drum kits, both being industry standards and producing consistently quality products time and time again. Hell, Ludwig themselves say they’re “the most famous name on drums” and with their legacy, how could you not?
Dating back to 1909, Ludwig has produced some of the most iconic pieces of drum related equipment, including their Black Beauty Snare Drum first released in the 1920s, which are still produced to this day.
By 1923 Ludwig were the biggest drum manufacturer in the world and they hit the masses in the ‘60s as The Beatles’ Ringo Starr performed on live TV bashing on a Black Oyster Pearl Ludwig kit. Ringo was so proud of owning this drum set that he left the Ludwig logo upon the skin of the bass drum (something not common at the time).
From this success Ludwig grew exponentially and bolstered their place at the top of the market with quality, durable drum sets that have stood the test of time.
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Fast forward to 1972 and Ludwig dropped their first incarnation of the highly revered Vistalite series, sending shockwaves across an industry that had primarily relied on birch and maple for over a hundred years. These new, moulded acrylic shells served as a coming of age for synthetic shell design, a far cry from the acrylic shells experiments of Bill Zickos and the like. These were robust, lightweight, and featured a distinct but nonetheless desirable tone which proved an instant winner in the drumming community.
The Vistalite kits were soon showing up on stages around the world, cutting an iconic figure among the sea of glam rock pomp and increasingly complex stage production. But the Vistalite’s legacy is based on more than looks alone. Alas, it was their ability to produce little in the way of overtones that made them such a hot commodity, across various genres and styles. The quintessential ‘70s kit, the Vistalite’s projection and durability saw them make many a convert of those more accustomed to wood shells. Suffice to say, the stigma had been lifted and a new classic was borne.
Like their predecessor, the new look 50th Anniversary Vistalites feature the same distinct attack and enviable projection, and they look cool. Very, very cool.
They are manufactured under strict guidelines pertaining to shell integrity and with refined factory practices that ensure today’s Vistalite produces pure, unabashed tones through a fully-stabilised shell and dual reinforced seams to ensure long lasting stability and consistency. The newly machined 45 degree bearing edges are also a sight to behold and absolutely scream durability and longevity.
Unmiked, the Vistalites were plenty loud and bright, proving a perfect concert kit for being heard over a loud band or ensemble. The shells themselves are reasonably weighted when compared to more traditional wood designs, but this is to be expected of acrylic drums.
As to be expected for drums of this ilk, they behave themselves extremely well in regards to tuning and timbre.
With absolutely no dampening and combined with their clever construction, they were a breeze to tune; the resulting tone slightly dry and very focused. There’s plenty of attack on display, but the lack of overt overtones are such as to not make you instantly hunt for dampening. Instead, you get a pleasing tone at any tuning range with an openness that makes you want to use a lighter head, because that slight dryness controls the sound. In the mix with the band, the toms sound a little EQ’d even.
On first impressions, the rigidness of the rack tom made me want to think there was a chance this drum may be lacking in tone somewhat, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. This drum is a monster and has every bit of thump and punch to it when tuned low. There is plenty of body to the sound and a good amount of sustain from the shell without ringing out uncontrollably. When tuned higher it gets a great snap to it that really cuts through the mix, and it goes even further when you tune it right up. It has a ripping snap to its tone that I personally found ideal for tuned up reggae sounds for great effects should you wish or tuned lower for a real meaty sounding thump that would be right at home in any rock outfit.
The same holds true for the LS901V Vistalite snare, whose unique and snappy tonality make it a valuable addition to any drummer’s arsenal. Again this drum can convincingly voice in a variety of tuning options making it an extremely versatile option across multiple genres.
In most instances, you can’t go astray choosing a Ludwig kit, and the 50th anniversary Vistalite is no exception. Available in Fab, Pro Beat, and Zep configurations and with 22”, 24”, and 26” kick options, there is plenty of personalisation available here.
With so much flexibility allowed to customers in diameter, depth, and colourway, there’s truly something for everyone here. The ‘70s finishes are purely optional, but the singular, pure voicing and Ludwig proprietary design make the 50th Anniversary Vistalite a bonafide winner, aesthetics aside.