Gretsch vs Ludwig – Who Makes Better Sounding Drum Kits?

Author: Brett Clur | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Gretsch and Ludwig both play a huge role in the history and development of the drum set. Both brands have been around for over 100 years and have seen many famous drummers playing their kits.

Whether it was in the bebop era or the modern pop era, you would have seen either a Gretsch or Ludwig drum kit being played somewhere in the world.

What sets these two brands apart from all the other drum brands? Which brand makes better-sounding drum kits? Let’s find out.

Gretsch - Overview

Gretsch was founded in 1883, making it one of the oldest musical instrument companies in the world.

Although the company produces more than just drums, the drum set division gained massive popularity in the early 20th century, thanks to the boom of jazz music.

Gretsch drums are typically played by many jazz drummers today, continuing to reflect how well they work in jazz settings. Their natural sound and smooth overtones cater well to the style.

Many Gretsch kits work well for other styles as well. There are several famous rock drummers that swear by Gretsch kits, loving them for their punchiness and boominess.

Gretsch drums use hardware that makes them instantly recognizable. They often pull off a vintage vibe, lending well to the rich history that they have.

Ludwig - Overview

Ludwig is a bit younger than Gretsch, only being founded in 1909. However, the drum brand gained massive popularity in the 60s, thanks to Ringo Starr and The Beatles.

Ringo became the most famous drummer in the world and suddenly everyone wanted to play on a Ludwig drum kit.

Ludwig drum kits are often identified as rock drum sets. They have incredibly powerful tones and the shells are often quite large compared to other kits. It’s not uncommon for a Ludwig set to have a 24” bass drum. Massive.

Although Ludwig drums aren’t as popular as they used to be, there are still a large number of drummers in the world who love and play them. Similar to Gretsch, they also have a rich history that would make any Ludwig owner very proud.

Gretsch vs Ludwig

Flagship Kits

The Broadkaster has been Gretsch’s flagship kit for decades. It was used by many of the jazz greats in the 1930s and it’s still used by the great drummers today.

The shells are a mixture of poplar and maple, giving the drums a vintage sound that is loud and wide open.

The Broadkaster works very well for jazz and rock settings. You can tune the toms high to resonate freely for jazz and you can tune them low to boom for rock. It’s an incredible kit that represents the highest qualities that Gretsch has on offer.

Ludwig Legacy Mahogany Drum Kit

The flagship kit of Ludwig is the Legacy Series. Similarly, it also lends the same design as the famous Ludwig kits from the 20th century. The mahogany shells produce wide and warm tones that display a huge amount of low end.

Entry-Level Kits

Although Ludwig and Gretsch both have beginner kits that are cheap and packed with everything you need, the Gretsch Energy Series and Ludwig Accent are arguably the least popular entry-level kits on the market.

The real competition comes in the form of the Gretsch Catalina and the Ludwig Element Evolution. These kits wouldn’t be classified as entry-level, but they are very affordable and great kits to have as a beginner or intermediate drummer.

The Catalina is one of Gretsch’s most popular kits. It has a few different variations such as the Jazz Club setup. The drums are made from mahogany, giving them warm and resonating tones.

The Element Evolution is an all-in-one package from Ludwig, coming with drums, hardware, and cymbals. It can be classified as one of the best kits for beginners thanks to the Zildjian I cymbals that come with it.

Everything in Between

Both brands of drums have extensive product lines full of high-quality drum sets. Two notable ones would be the Ludwig Breakbeats and the Gretsch Renown. These kits are vastly different from each other and offer very specific qualities.

The Breakbeats is a compact kit intended for traveling and gigging. The drums are small and the hardware is light, making it easy to carry around and set up quickly. The hardwood shells make the drums sound surprisingly good.

The Gretsch Renown 5-Piece Drum Kit

The Gretsch Renown is a pro-level kit that costs just over $1,500. This makes it very affordable compared to other pro kits that are north of $2,000 or even $3,000. It’s a maple kit that has versatility as its standout quality.

Whether you’re playing on live stages or recording in studios, the Renown will do a fantastic job.

Artists

Since both brands have been around for so long, they’ve had many of the greatest drummers of all time play on their drum kits. Some of the drum legends who played Gretsch kits were Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Max Roach, and Philly Joe Jones.

Mike Johnston Playing a Gretsch Drum Kit

Current famous drummers who endorse Gretsch are Mike Johnston, Mike Guiliana, Keith Carlock, Stanton Moore, and Taylor Hawkins.

Although Ringo was the main catalyst for Ludwig’s popularity, another wildly famous drummer that boosted their brand was John Bonham.

He’s arguably one of the most well-known rock drummers to have lived, further raising Ludwig’s association with rock drumming.

Current drummers who endorse Ludwig are Questlove, Vinnie Colaiuta, Carmine Appice, Jason Bonham, Frank Beard, and Nicko McBrain. 


Conclusion

The answer to which drum brand has better-sounding kits is a subjective one. While Gretsch drums are often associated with jazz and Ludwig kits are associated with rock, they both have kits that work well in those styles.

There are plenty of rock drummers playing Gretsch kits as there are several jazz drummers playing Ludwig kits. With both brands having rich histories in drum manufacturing, they both have great construction processes that lead to excellent drum kits.

While Gretsch has the Renown kit that is great for pros on a budget, Ludwig has the Breakbeats kit that is fantastic for easy gigging. I’d suggest checking both brands out to decide which drum kits you like better.

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About Brett Clur

Brett has been drumming for almost two decades. He also helps his students get better at drumming. He can be found on Instagram (@brettclurdrums), where you can regularly catch glimpses of his drumming.

10 thoughts on “Gretsch vs Ludwig – Who Makes Better Sounding Drum Kits?”

  1. Elvin Jones; Tony Williams; Charlie Watts; Taylor Hawkins; David Scally Jr. – all are great drummers of taste, and they all play(ed) Gretsch Drums.

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  2. I have now retired from a long career of drumming and I respect all of the above comments, but for me it has always been ludwig drums, they did everything I asked of them. God bless WFL.
    Regards, Roger. UK.

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  3. I’ve been using gretsch for 60yrs. That great gretsch sound has converted ludwig players, some over to gretsch. The brooklyn stands out ! But renown holds its own. Have a 1950s brooklyn ! Won’t sell. Been offered big bucks but hell no !

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  4. My very 1st kit owned was Ludwig which I loved very much. I truly wish I would have not sold those. I currently own Gretch Catalina Club kit with the extended bass drum. Played so many stages with this kit & love it! In conclusion it is a very hard pick between the two. Both are very great companies that I would recommend.

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  5. When you’re looking for that big, bad Hard Rock sound, deep powerful tones that can cut through anything, Ludwig is my choice. Just listen to Kiss, Eric Carr, Creatures of the night Album. Nothing but Thunder!! Big Tip of my hat to Grestch!! They make unbelievable drums!! But for my ear it’s Ludwig Classic Maple. Peace to my fellow skin bashers!!

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  6. For the record, for his entire long and prestigious career, Vinnie Calaiuta has played Gretsch drums, except for less than a year in 2012-13 during which he briefly signed with, then shortly afterward abandoned Ludwig to return to Gretsch. So he’s clearly made his preference known!

    I have to agree. I’ve played Ludwig, Slingerland, Rogers, Sonor, Tama, Yamaha, and Pearl kits, and while they’re all good, I LOVE my Gretsch drums: both my Vintage ’60s drums and my new Renown 2 kit. Would not trade them for any of the above!

    Three great drummers who play (ed) Ludwig: Joe Morello (deceased. Dave Brubeck Qut), Nate Smith (bandleader of Kinfolk), and Carter McLean (was lead pit band drummer for the musical Lion King)

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  7. Gretsch! Definitely #1. I’ve been playing for 60 years now, and have played on many drum kits. Ludwig, slingerland, roger’s, dw, sonor, percussion plus, pearl, Tama. Price value. Bang for the buck! Still Gretsch still the better. Even if all the brands just mentioned! If they gave me what ever I wanted for “Free”! My first choice would be “Gretsch”! The best sounding Drums
    Ever! So if you are reading this,and considering a set ? Whether you’re just starting out, or been at it like myself! Consider this! It’s not just about price. If you intend to commit to playing for a lifetime, or just a hobby. Do your homework! Check out all brands, and then make a decision! Because they are not CREATED equal! You wouldn’t buy a car with out checking it out, and driving it.
    Would you? No! Why would I buy a set of drums that cost $6000.00 if I can’t test them! Look at what your buying very carefully! You get what you pay for! Do your homework, and compare. I love my Gretsch, and swear by them! They won’t let you down! Only you can! Just like the music! It will never let you down, only you can do that! Sorry for being so long winded! Be well stay safe, and God Bless.

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