DW vs PDP Drum Kits – In-depth Look & Unbiased Comparison

Author: Joseph Scarpino | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

DW and PDP, are two easily recognizable names in the drumming world but, did you know they are virtually one and the same? Yes, that's right! DW owns and operates PDP drums but they do not make PDP drums.

DW manufactures their drums, shells, and everything else in California, USA. PDP drums, while engineered by DW, are made mostly in Asia.

DW kits are revered for their sound, versatile hardware, and customization. The downside is that DW kits do carry a pretty hefty price tag. The solution was for DW to create a new brand in the year 2000 called PDP aka Pacific Drums and Percussion.

DW created PDP with the intention that this new brand would serve as a beginner to mid-tier entry to drummers who weren’t quite ready to buy a DW kit.

We know that a direct comparison here may sound silly. The intention here is to look at offerings from both DW and PDP to discuss their value, qualities, and function.

DW (Drum Workshop)

You’ll find that in the drumming world DW drum kits are often the envy of many players. Since their inception in Oxnard, California in the year 1972 as a school for drummers by Dave Lombari, DW has certainly come a long way and become one of the top innovative manufacturers of not just drum shells but, hardware, pedals, and thrones as well.

Arguably one of their greatest innovations to date is the HVX construction process of their shells. HVX refers to how DW constructs their layers of wood that create the drums shells in a unique way. This method was created by John Good with its purpose being for drummers to have well built, pitch matched drums, without all the guesswork.

DW states that the HVX method of building the shells guarantees that pitch of each drum will decrease as it gets bigger. This process can be used with any of the wood DW uses from the common Maple to the legendary Purple Heart wood.

DW owners or prospective owners like the fact that DW drums are handmade in the USA by people who are also passionate about drumming. This may not mean anything to some people but, to others it’s a big deal. While other manufacturers farm out their shells, DW makes the effort to ensure their customers get the best that DW can produce.

Obviously, when something is made by hand it’s going to cost more. As with any brand, there are DW dissenters who believe that DW drums are overpriced or just not worth what you pay for them.

You’ll hear them say things like how they’ve played maple shelled kits from different manufacturers and a DW maple shell kit back to back and didn’t notice a difference. Or they’ll say things like; “it doesn’t matter what the shell is made of, it’s all about the head”.

Yes, the head has an effect on the sound but that statement is utter nonsense. That’s like saying if I put Formula 1 tires on my car, then it’ll perform just like a race-car, the other parts don’t matter.

DW is largely an expensive brand with great prestige attached to the name. When you look at the options available, the engineering involved, the craftsmanship, the quality of hardware, the customization options, you can see why they are pricey.

Some of that price undoubtedly is built right into the name. If you want to pay for that name it’s up to you.

PDP (Pacific Drums & Percussion)

The PDP brand primarily focuses on being affordable while appealing to drummers who like a more progressive or modern aesthetic.

PDP was born from DW’s desire to create price accessible drums and drum products for beginner to intermediate level players.

The engineering team at DW has a penchant for conceptualizing new products that may be considered to be “non-traditional” for the DW product line. By forming PDP, this allowed the company to test out new ideas at an affordable price without worry of harming the DW brand.

While some take the position that PDP is only an after-thought of DW that helps DW make more money, I would disagree here. While PDP might cut a few corners to reduce cost, like having an 8 lug kick drum as opposed to a 10 lug kick drum, PDP kits play and sound quite nice.

The Concept Maple Series from PDP acts as an exemplary model of their overall philosophy. This line is a highlight of the brand! Because of its affordability and value, it has been widely adopted by drummers around the world. Sleek modern looks, versatile hardware, and some nice sounding shells make this kit quite impressive for the money.

Are They Really that Different?

If you plan on buying a DW kit for twice as much as a PDP kit, you’d expect it to sound twice as nice. Let's say for argument's sake you took a DW and PDP kit of similar builds, tuned by the same guy, and recorded in the same room, you may notice a few differences.

The DW kits shells tend to have a better low end with a warmer tone that decays in the perfect amount of time. When the DW kit is tuned up, there is really no need for gels or dampening of the snare or toms.

How Much Will I Spend on a DW or PDP Kit?

First I have to say that in terms of drum quality, I’ve very much found the expression, “you get what you pay for” to hold water. When I jumped from a $600 to a $1200 kit, I definitely noticed a multitude of differences.

That being said, we are looking at two different tiers of drums here. DW is inherently more expensive than PDP.

If you’re absolutely determined to get yourself a DW kit, that’s great you’re going to love playing it! The kit you’ll most likely see being used by DW players is from DW’s Performance line of kits.

Depending on what variation you choose to buy of the Performance kit, it will cost you in the realm of $2700 to $3800. The large variation in price stems from the ability to add more toms to the kit should you wish to do so.

Even if you’re an amateur, a DW Performance kit can help you sound like an absolute pro. Although you’ll still have to practice those chops yourself.

PDP also has some amazing offerings to earn your hard-earned dollars. The PDP Concept series definitely deserves your attention.

The Concept series offers a variety of color choices and even different wood finishes. If you’d like you could get a 5-piece Maple Shell for about $900 or even go big and get a 7-piece kit for around $1300. An absolute bargain for the quality you will get from PDP.

Does PDP Have a Kit for Beginners?

The answer is yes! Instead of buying a drum kit from some fly-by-night company off Amazon, look at PDP!

PDP offers a 5 piece drum set called the Center Stage kit, for around $600. You are much better off getting a kit from a reputable company like PDP even if it costs just a bit more than you wanted to pay.

You’ll have better hardware, better-made shells, and a better finish.

There are no offerings from DW in this range.

A PDP kit sounds nice as well but, distinctly different when playing. The PDP kits tend to sound more open with some level of undesired harmonic overtones when playing the rack and floor toms. Placing a gel here or there might be necessary to quiet down those unwanted sounds.

The tunability of each kit respectively may have something to do with the lug count. You’ll notice when looking at most bass drums that there are 10 tuning lugs on each side. A detail also present in PDPs snare line, unless you opt for something more expensive. PDP kick drums have a total of 8 tuning lugs on each side.

Are PDP Drum Kits Good?

What is “good” is largely a subjective thing. So that being said, yes I do think PDP makes some good drum kits.

PDP for what you get for the money PDP makes great sounding kits, with a large variety of color options, built with versatility in mind. The fact that you are basically getting DW level hardware and DW designed shells at a lesser price point is a win.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, you shouldn’t be looking at this from the point of view of; is Brand A better than Brand B, at least in this case. It’s evident after spending some time playing on these kits that DW and PDP both have the same mission in mind.

I would buy one or more kits from each of these brands if I could afford it. I’d get myself a DW Custom Kit for at home and studio work. I’d also love to get my hands on PDP Concept Exotic Shell pack for gigging. It looks beautiful and with a quick change of heads it can sound amazing.

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About Joseph Scarpino

Joseph is a drummer and lyricist from Asbury Park, New Jersey. When he is not on stage, on tour, or in the studio, you can find him behind a camera, directing, or in front of that camera, acting. Joseph enjoys many genres of music but he most frequently listens to Heavy Metal, Punk, and Hard Rock.

11 thoughts on “DW vs PDP Drum Kits – In-depth Look & Unbiased Comparison”

  1. There’s a lot missing from this article. Older PDPs were made in Mexico and Taiwan, now China. Mexico kits are made with the same North American Maple as DWs, by DW. Many older PDPs had 10-lug bass drums. Performance are nothing like Collectors, but are very similar to PDP Concepts. No discussion of Birch and Maple, or reinforcement rings (only on Collectors). Gels are a matter of head choice and tuning, not shell makeup. No reason to mention cheap PDPs. DW Collectors are great drums, high-end PDPs are amazing for the price. I could go on forever…

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  2. 50 year studio and gigging drummer. I’ve played Pearl, Ludwig and Slingerland. I’ve played on Yamaha, Sonar and Gretsch. A few years ago I bought a PDP Concept Maple 6 piece set and they are by far the best sounding set of drums I’ve played on. Very well made. You can tell when you pick them up. Heavy. Great looking too in the red to black look. Extremely happy.

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  3. This is a weird article in ways – odd to compare DW essentially with DW. But it’s not about whether DW Collectors will make someone sound great without the chops, we all know that won’t happen. It’s all about the sound.

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  4. I guess we were not comparing the DW collector’s series? How would they compare to the custom series, and PDP series? My Maple shell Collector’s series were built June 1999! Thanks

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  5. No, a DW kit will not make an amateur drummer sound like a pro! Now, I love a great sounding DW kit, but I heard a great drummer once say that a pro drummer playing an entry level kit will always sound like pro!

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  6. My PDP kit was made in Oxnard California and is stamped on the inside of every shell, so I’m not sure this article is accurate.

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    • I got a real nice DW design series kit maple shells three piece, I think it was 699.. with a matching snare for an extra 399.. sounds pretty reasonable for DW?

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    • This made me go to my shop/studio and check my kit I just purchased a month ago. Now my badges say “Oxnard Ca” on them, but the stamp on the inside is a “date” stamp. I do have a sticker in each shell that I will have to take the head off to read but I’m pretty sure, not positive that is has China writing on it. Do you have a pic of the stamp on yours? I’m very interested in learning more about this. I have been told that the shell construction is the exact same and the shells and hardware are shipped to China and only finished and assembled in China. Which would basically make PDP and DW pretty much the same. Mine sound awesome and I still haven’t replaced the stock heads yet.

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  7. I’d be careful about ordering a custom DW kit. Mr. Scarpino is right about the price point and it’s only going up. I was disappointed twice by custom orders. The best DW kit I owned was a floor model I heard someone else playing in ’96 when they were using Keller shells. Buyer beware for that amount of money.

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  8. I bought a pdp kit quite a few years age at a price very very much lower than they are now, I have played drums over 50 years I did need to change the heads, they are excellent particularly for what I paid for them, todays prices make them OK value

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