You’ve heard many conflicting views about the Pearl Export Series? That’s no surprise, since Pearl shipped the one millionth kit of this series in 1995 already. So there are thousands of opinions on the web. And often they don’t state which of the many versions of this kit from the past 30 years they are referring to.
So in this Pearl Export Series review, you’ll get one complete opinion based on hands-on testing and thorough research.
I’ll focus on the two most recent model from the Pearl Export series – the EXX and EXL – introduced in 2013. I’ll show you their shortcomings. And I’ll tell you why I think Pearl Export drums still make for one of the most reliable beginner-to-intermediate drum sets out there.
One word of caution: Pearl Export quality cannot be bought for nothing. So if you’re not willing to invest a few hundred bucks or simply want to see the Pearl Export compared to other sets, check out my best beginner drum set review.
Pearl Export Series Review At One Glance
Inside the Pearl Export package
The Pearl EXX comes in two versions with different shell sizes:
- the EXX725 has a 22” bass drum, 12”, 13” & 16” toms
- the EXX725S comes with a 22” bass drum, but 10”, 12” and 16” toms
No setup is better or worse. The EXX725S gives you a wider range of tones, the EXX725 has a kind of tonal hole in between the 12” and 16” tom. I’d go with the first version, but then again, perhaps a wider range is exactly what you’re looking for.
In any case, you’re overall playing won’t suffer from any of those setups and 99,9% of the audience you’ll ever have won’t notice it at all.
Both version further include:
- 14×5.5” snare
- P930 Demonator bass drum pedal (I’ve reviewed this- as a double bass pedal – here)
- Hi-hat stand, straight cymbal stand and boom cymbal stand from the 830 series
The Pearl Export EXL mirrors the EXX725S package, but comes with a lacquer finish (hence EXL). That means, the set is more glossy and you can see the wood grains.
I think both sets look professional, but the EXL has an edge over the EXX. And this important, because whether you’re on stage or in a band situation: other people will judge you based on how you and your drum set look like.
So please decide whether you find these sets appealing or not. And don’t touch them if you don’t. I’ve made this costly mistake once and it’s not funny.
Shells & tone
Both the Pearl EXX’s and EXL’s shells are made using Pearl’s “Superior Shell Technology”. This a fancy way of saying that the shells resonate very well, because they are airtight. And this will potentially give you a better tone. (I say potentially, because the tone also depends on the heads and their tuning. We’ll get to that in a minute.)
What also does well in terms of tone is Pearl’s “Opti Loc” mounting system on the toms. Pearl refrained from drilling a hole into the two upper toms which gives them yet some more resonance.
While this increases the tonal quality, you won’t be 100% versatile when positioning the toms. Rather, you’ll have to accept the preset levels.
What else contributes to the potential sound of your shells? Their wood of course. And in the case of the EXX and EXL, Pearl uses poplar.
Poplar is generally found in lower-priced drum sets while higher-priced ones use maple. And it seems to me that some people frown on the Pearl Export simply because of the monetary value ascribed to those woods.
To be clear: it is true that maple vibrates more / better, because it is thicker than poplar. What comes out though, are simply two different tonal qualities: maple gives a darker, “richer” tone while poplar produces a brighter, more focused tone.
But: please consider that most people’s ears aren’t that well-trained. I, for once, have been playing drums for 19 years and I think I wouldn’t be able to tell a maple from a poplar set just by listening.
If that’s different for you, and you want maple sounds, they Export won’t be for you. If you’re like me, bear with me for sound examples – and the power of tuning.
Heads & sound
Plain and simple: the heads that come with the Pearl EXX or EXL don’t sound very decent by only tuning them right (learn how here):
I got a slightly better sound out of the Pearl Export in my band’s rehearsal room by using tape. Still, you won’t achieve recording quality with the stock heads. That’s unfortunate, but it is also normal for drum sets in that price range.
Plus you can fix it: buy good new heads and tune properly and your Pearl Export set can sound as fabulous as this:
Sturdy, sturdy Export hardware
With their double-braced stands, the hardware that comes with the Pearl Export (830 series) is sturdy and will last a long time even if you’re constantly playing live and assembling / disassembling your kit.
In contrast to the less expensive Pearl Roadshow (part of my best beginner drum set review), you get one more so-called “boom” stand to mount a third cymbal on. These stands are more versatile than straight ones, and can come in handy if you want to position your crash cymbal above the toms.
Finally and contrary to many other sets, the Pearl Export also comes with a pedal that doesn’t only look nice:
It is modelled on Pearl’s professional Eliminator model and widely considered the best pedal for its price:
The thing about cymbals
Unfortunately, cymbals aren’t included. That’s not cool, but normal.
The reason behind this is that the top drum manufacturers don’t produce cymbals and vice versa. Only some lower-priced kits come with cymbals, but these usually suck.
So you’ll need to buy cymbals and if you don’t want to spend a fortune (more than the set) by buying each cymbal individually, you can check out my best budget cymbal pack review.
The two Pearl Export series drum sets (standard and lacquer version) come with a great set of hardware and one of the best out-of-the-box pedals on the market. They look professional in both versions and the EXL’s lacquer finish can (in my eyes) even compete with higher end drum sets.
On the other hand, the poplar shells are not everyone’s favorite and the stock heads aren’t great either. But even on a budget you can replace the latter with good heads and make that kit ready for anything – even studio recording.
What’s quite cool is that the Pearl Export’s price has stayed the same since its launch in 1982. And I think it’s a good price too, since other sets in the same price range might come with better wood (birch), but don’t have any hardware included.
Current Pearl Export deals
The best selling kit ever is now available at an entry level price. Just go through this link and click on the “used & new section” underneath the product description. You’ll then see the Amazon warehouse deal right on top. If it’s not turning up, make sure you’ve selected “New Fusion”, “Jet Black” and “Without Cymbals” on the product page. (Spotted on January 25th, 2017.)
>> I don’t see why, but the Pearl Export in lacquer finish has just dropped a stunning $1,000 and is even cheaper than the Export’s standard version. This is crazy! If you want it, get it before it’s too late… (spotted on Feburary 19th, 2017)
What are your experiences with the Pearl Export series? Or do you have a question left? Drop me a comment below and I’ll answer – 100% of the time!
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I hope this Pearl Export Series review was helpful to you. Thank you for reading and have fun choosing and playing your drum set!