Having never played the drums before I initially had nothing to compare. But now that I have had 4 or 5 lessons using a regular drum kit I can review the Arbiter Flats from a beginners perspective.
I bought this particular kit second hand, the drum kit consists of a heavy duty rack to mount all the various bits on. 3 single skin rack mounted toms, a skinny rack mounted snare and the single skin bass drum. There is two cymbal stands integrated into the rack and a separate hi hat stand and pedal. The standard cymbals include 13″ hi hats, a crash and a ride/crash.
Being a beginner the single screw tuning made them very easy to set up initially. I have heard that some people have had difficulty getting older skins to tighten enough to give them the required tone but I haven’t had any problems and the skins are original.
Directly comparing to the regular kit that I play during my lessons I would say that the skills required to play are identical across the two kits. If I spend time practicing at home before I go in for my lesson then it only takes a few hits to be back in the groove, with one or two exceptions. Firstly the snare drum, the snare drum proved to be very difficult to get a good punchy sound from it. It’s difficult to describe but I found I could only produce a loud tsst sound which did not replicate the tight crack that I experienced on the regular snare at the lesson. So my first upgrade was the snare, I bought a cheapo second hand drum kit from someone at work to use for spares and the snare seems adequate. It also means that the floor stand that it is supported on gives more positioning variation and makes room for more toys on the rack.
The second exception is the bass drum, or more importantly the pedal. I have still not exactly figured out the reason but the CB drum pedal combined with the Arbiter Bass drum just suits me perfectly. I feel like I can pummel away with out overpowering the rest of the drums and the action just seems to fit. When I go for a lesson I take the first ten minutes shifting around my seat and fiddling with my technique to try and get the bass drum going. My tutor lent me a big dog pedal to try at home and I didn’t get on well with that either. So whether by design or whether it is just suited to my foot action the CB pedal is a great match for the Arbiter and me.
Lastly, cymbals. If you read any forum, magazine or talk to anyone about drums then it wont be long before they are waxing lyrical about the benefits of brand name and even specific models of cymbals. Hogwash I initially thought, as the locals say I am a bit “grippit”, don’t like to spend money on anything unnecessarily so I normally look for a bargain wherever possible. But having played some quality and expensive cymbals during my lessons I am starting to understand why cymbals are so important. The hi hats on the arbiter kit are okayish, but I often find I am subtly repositioning my striking point or the angle of the stick to fine tune the tone, whereas the quality hi hats seem more forgiving and more audibly pleasant. The same with the other cymbals, I look forward to hitting a crash or alternating between the hi hat and the ride when playing a beat during the lesson. On the Arbiter cymbals I physically cringe and hope no one is outside listening, everything from the sound, the tone and the duration of the sound is deeply unsatisfying and even the feel, the feedback through the striking hand grates on the cheapo cymbals.
Which is good really because if you want to play the drums like I did, but didn’t really have room for a full kit then the Arbiter Flats are a brilliant compromise that with a little upgrading will see you through from absolute beginner to progressing learner without holding you back at all. The sensation of playing the drums is the same and the grin factor from generating a fair amount of noise (they are nearly as loud as regular drums from the players position but just don’t carry as far) is identical.
To cap it all I was able to squeeze a cow bell in on the rack where the snare drum mount was before so now I have a bit more choice of sounds to play with. All in all I am thoroughly please with my set up and I think it will stand me in good stead for the forseeable future.