DW Design Series Review

Ultimate Buying Guide

Introduction:

The DW Design Series is the most affordable kit in the DW catalog. The company is well-known for making high-quality expensive kits and this kit offers many of the same features with more accessibility. 

If you love how DW kits sound and are intrigued by the hardware that is used, this kit is something to look into. It serves as a fantastic entry-level product for the DW brand. With that being said, this kit is definitely used by pros and amateurs alike. Let’s get into the details. 

Key Features: 

The Design Series drums are made from North American hard rock maple wood. The maple wood gives them a warm tone that works well in a variety of musical styles. The hardware used on the shells makes the drums sing beautifully, typical of a DW drum set. 

One key feature of the kit is that it packs a loud sound. It’s arguably louder than many other drum kits out there. This makes it a great option for hard-hitters and anyone playing in large venues. 

The selling point of the kit is that it’s an affordable DW option. However, it still comes in at what many prospective buyers would call a hefty price. 

 

Build Quality
97%
Performance
99%
Price to Value Ratio
99%
PROS: THINGS WE LIKED
  • Beautiful singing tones
  • MAG throw-off on the snare drum
  • Expert DW craftsmanship
  • Most affordable DW kit
CONS: THINGS WE DIDN'T LIKE
  • It’s still relatively expensive
  • Rack tom clamps aren’t included with the shell pack

 DW Design Series Review:

What To Expect from This Kit

 

Wood and construction 

DW kits are known to utilize many unique types of wood. The Design Series kit, on the other hand, is made from the classic maple wood that many kits are made of. The North American maple gives these drums such a great tone. 

Thankfully, the stock drumheads sound pretty good, so you don’t need to change them out as soon as you get the kit. One noticeable thing that separates this kit from the higher-priced DW kits is the white resonant head on the bass drum. It’s one of the biggest separating features. 

The drums are constructed using a Vertical Low Timbre shell with a horizontal outer-ply, allowing them to resonate freely and be very responsive. The Design Series drums are made in off-shore factories, causing the price to be lower than the custom-made American DW kits. 

Hardware

The kit uses the famous True-Pitch tuning rods and snare MAG throw-off. The True-Pitch Tuning rods make tuning the drums incredibly easy, allowing you to get the right tones you need from all the drums. 

The MAG throw-off incorporates a magnet in the snare lever, making turning the snares on and off a fast-flowing process. It’s fantastic for when you need to turn the snares off in the middle of a song. 

Unique to the Design Series kit are the mini turret lugs. These are the round lugs that hold the tuning rods. They’re slightly smaller than the ones on the DW Performance and Collectors series kits. 

Price to Value Ratio

A lot can be said for the amount of quality DW has put into this kit. The hardware is immaculate while the shells produce beautiful tones that sing and standout in most styles. The drums can be tuned low to sound large and high to sound piercing. 

The price-to-value of this kit is very good. You get all the famous DW design features at a price that many drummers can afford. The standard 5-piece set has 5 finish options to choose from, giving you a bit of variety in your choice. 

DW Design Series Kit Review

Different Configurations

Standard 5-Piece

The standard 5-piece version of the kit comes with a 14” snare drum, 10” and 12” rack toms, a 16” floor tom, and a 22” kick drum. The toms mount onto cymbal stands. However, the shell pack doesn’t include clamps, meaning you need to purchase them separately. 

This version of the kit has five finish options – Black Satin, Cherry Stain, Gloss White, Steel Gray, and Tobacco Burst. Each finish looks really good, especially under lights on a stage. 

The 5-piece Design Series kit is what you’ll most commonly see. There are, however, two other versions of the kit that are quite interesting. 

Frequent Flyer 4-Piece

The Frequent Flyer is a jazz kit that is built for travel. The shells are smaller and lighter while the rack tom mounts to the bass drum instead of a cymbal stand. The kit is made with a combination of HVLT and HVX maple shells that give it a strong attack with resonating harmonics. 

The highlight of this kit is the snare drum. It’s the same Design Series snare from the 5-piece. However, compact kits are known to have fairly weak snares, making this snare a great addition to the setup. 

The kit has all the same finish options that the standard 5-piece has.

Acrylic 5-Piece

The Design Series is also offered as an acrylic version. The acrylic shells are a lot louder, making the kit great for rock and metal drummers who need punchy tones. The main reason to get an acrylic kit is the visual aesthetics of it. 

These transparent drums look great on stages and allow lighting to pass through them to get many cool effects. The acrylic version is slightly more expensive than the standard 5-piece, but not much more. 

Competitors

Gretsch Renown

 

The Gretsch Renown comes in at a very similar price to the DW Design Series kit. The Renown has 7-ply maple shells that give it each drum a fairly bold sound. The drums use Gretsch’s 302 hoops. These hoops are used in Gretsch’s top-quality kits and they’re very flexible, allowing for a better sound. 

The kit comes with a 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, a 16” floor tom, and a 22” bass drum. These sizes are the exact same sizes as the drums on the DW Design Series. 

 

Pearl Session Studio Select

 

 

The Session Studio Select is a pro-level kit from Pearl that comes in at a similar competitive price to the DW Design Series. A nice change of pace, though, is that the shells are made from a mixture of birch and mahogany, giving the drums a rich and resonating tone. 

It’s called a studio kit because it works fantastically in studio environments. The drums translate extremely well through microphones and work great in a variety of musical styles. 

The shell pack doesn’t come with a snare drum. However, it includes an extra 14” floor tom, giving you more low-end to play around with. 

Tama Superstar Hyper-Drive Duo

Tama shows their innovative abilities with this kit. It’s a classic Superstar Classic kit with shallower toms and a bit of a twist (not the classic model). The main drawcard is that the 14” floor tom has snares on the bottom with a throw-off, allowing you to turn it into a deep snare drum. 

The rack toms on this kit sound extremely punchy, having a strong attack with little sustain. The floor toms sound beefy and are packed with low-end. No standard snare drum is included, but you can use the 14” floor tom as a snare if you needed to. 

Other than the 14” floor tom, the shell sizes are the same as the DW Design Series shells. 

Things To Consider:

DW Design Series in the Studio

The kit performs very well in studio setting thanks to the maple shells. They’re easily tuneable and are subtle enough to be easily worked with regarding mixing and EQing. Since there is a large tuning range, the kit will work with any type of style that needs to be tracked in the studio. 

DW Design Series for a live Gig

Unsurprisingly, the kit also works well in live gigging situations. It’s punchy enough to make an impact and it looks incredible on a stage. Most DW kits look fantastic on stages. 

The Frequent Flyer version is fantastic if you travel and gig often while the acrylic version is great if you’re going for aesthetic appeal. 

Helpful Resources

DW Design Series Review
  • Performance
  • Build Quality
  • Value
4.7

Final Thoughts

There are many lower-tier pro kits on the market and the DW Design Series is one of the standout options. You’re getting most of that DW high-quality design at an accessible price, meaning the kit has an excellent price-to-value ratio. 

With three unique versions of the kit on offer, it caters to a wide variety of situations. Someone who gigs every night could get the compact version while someone who has a cool lighting setup could get the acrylic version. The standard version is the most versatile, working for every situation you can think of. 

Overall, it’s a wonderful drum set that pros happily use. If you’re looking for something new to tickle your taste buds, you have to check out the DW Design Series. 

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