Product Close-Up: Three-Piece Drumset and Matching Snare
By Brian Hill
Upholding decades-old family traditions while exceeding the tighter tolerances of the modern age.
For drummers seeking classic, vintage-style sounds, WFLIII is here to help. More than six decades ago, William F. Ludwig Sr. developed a 3-ply drum shell formula that featured a ply of poplar sandwiched between two plies of maple. That classic formula is back, via grandson William F. Ludwig III’s new company, WFLIII. We were sent a traditional four-piece drumset with a natural maple finish to review in what the company calls its Jazz configuration.
The shell pack included an 18×22 bass drum, a 9×13 rack tom, a 16×16 floor tom, and a 6.5×14 snare. Each drum shipped with a handsome black “WFLIII” monogrammed fabric wrap for protection. Designed with old-school attitude but built with modern technology, these drums feature a shell with a classic blend of a cross-grain inner ply of poplar to help enhance the low-end frequencies. The shells are thin, which also allows them to resonate richly.
The drums are hand cut with 45-degree round-over bearing edges, and 5-ply maple reinforcing rings are glued to the interiors. WFLIII reimagined the vents in these shells by incorporating them as cutouts in the metal logo badge. This new vent is said to allow air to move more freely in and out of the shell to help create a richer and more vibrant sound.
All of the hardware on our review kit was chrome plated. The hoops were standard 2.3-mm triple flange steel. The snare came with die-cast box-style lugs that were reminiscent of those found on drums from the 1930s, while the bass drum and toms had die-cast beaver-tail lugs. All lugs featured the “III” logo and were fitted with rubber gaskets to isolate them from the shell. The snare also featured a Trick three-step throw-off and a set of twenty-strand wires. The bass drum had beefy, adjustable and retractable spurs.
I spent considerable time and energy examining these drums inside and out, repeatedly taking the drums apart to try out different head combinations. As expected, coated heads elicited plenty of attack, while clear heads brought out richer tones. Regardless of head choice or tuning, however, these drums produced big, fat, warm, earthy sounds with classic vintage resonance. The 18“-deep bass drum produced plenty of low end, plus it had strong midrange frequencies that kept it from getting lost in a mix.
When tested in louder environments, these drums penetrated through with clean, undistorted attack, a melodic sustain, and an even decay. The drums were equally responsive at lower volumes. The snare produced a nice, full punch with a sensitive yet wide response from the wires.
WFLIII Drums has certainly succeeded in its desire to provide the drum market with high-quality, vintage-sounding yet modern-made instruments. They are without a doubt world-class instruments that are made to last—and they’re sensibly priced. WFLIII drums come in a variety of configurations, sizes, and finishes, and you can build your own custom snare or drum kit at wfliiidrums.com.