Updated: October 24th, 2022
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.
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, but both have their pros and cons. The EXX725S gives you a wider range of tones than the EXX725, but has a kind of tonal hole in between the 12” and 16” tom. The EXX725, by contrast, doesn’t have that hole, but gives you a smaller tonal range. I’d go with the EXX725, 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 versions 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.
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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, then 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:
(You can find the right heads for your purpose through this article.)
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.
Don’t want to take my word for it? Read what John thinks about the Export – after reading this review, buying the kit and testing it out for his purposes.
Current Pearl Export Deals
As part of the Black Friday craze, this seller has just heavily discounted the Pearl Export. This is probably the best time of the year to get it… (spotted on November 25th, 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!
If this Pearl Export review was helpful to you and if you decide to buy the kit, please consider going through one of the buttons / links on this page. This way I’d receive a commission at absolutely no extra cost to you, and you’d reward me for the care and effort I put into all the reviews here at kickstartyourdrumming.com.
If you’re concerned that I make some products appear better than they are, check out my affiliate disclosure to learn why this isn’t so.
I hope this Pearl Export Series review was helpful to you. Thank you for reading and have fun choosing and playing your drum set!
FAQ about Pearl Export
What wood is Pearl Export made of?
The new Pearl Export is made of hybrid Asian mahogany and shells. Yet throughout the wide variety of Pearl Export drums kit produced by the company, there was a use of other kinds of wood, including maple, birch, carbon fiber and even tamo and bubinga.
Tama or Pearl – Which One is Better?
The main difference between Tama and Pearl is the fact that Pearl Export doesn’t come with cymbals while Tama Imperialstar does. The result is that buying Pearl Export is more expensive, compared to Tama Imperialstar.
Would the Pearl Export be a great kid for a 6 year old who is starting his drumming career? We think that he could grow with this kit.
Question: which size kit would you recommend from the Export series?
Hey Andrew! If I would start all over again and my parents offered me a Pearl Export top start with, I’d be over the moon. But: how tall is he/she? Would be good to know, but for the time being I recommend you get a drum throne that is fully adjustable (many have only certain height levels). And consider going for the Export EXX with the smaller bass drum (20” instead of 22”). This way he/she’ll be better able to reach the toms, and soundwise it makes no considerable difference.
Thanks a million Yannick, really appreciate your comment.
I have ordered him the EXX705MBR in Black with Sabian Cymbal set.
Then can you maybe tell me if one should cut a hole in the Pearl Export 20″ bass drum head or not?
Very cool Andrew, I hope he’ll have lots of fun with it!
A hole in the bass drum serves 2 purposes:
If you decide on doing it, here’s a simple method.
Hope that helps!
Jacob Wong says
No not for a 6 year old, because if he doesn’t like drumming after a year you wasted 700$. Better get a cheap 2nd hand one for the first few years, but when he hits 11-12 consider the Export because not only does it sound good it is also a beautiful piece of furniture.
This argument makes sense, Jacob. Thanks for sharing!
However, Andrew asked about a kit his son could grow with. So I assumed he was quite certain that his son wouldn’t drop drumming after a year again. Sure, you can never know, but who am I to judge that without knowing anything about Andrew’s son.
Hope you see my point too!
I have a Crash drum (190 €) it have a trashy sound, I checked your two guides for Pearl Export and for Pearl Roadshow, and my question is: is it worth the price difference? Should I spend more money on a Pearl Export? I’ve been playing drums for 4 years and I need to go to the next level.
By the way, your guide is awesome! Thanks, regards
I haven’t played the Crash myself, but from what I hear and see both the Roadshow and the Export would be a serious upgrade. Specifically you’d get:
– Better-sounding shells
– Better-sounding stock heads (which could be further improved through brand heads)
– Better-looking and more sturdy hardware
– Slightly better-sounding cymbals
Of course, “better” in all those statements reflects my subjective opinion, but you can easily check if it aligns with your taste by listening to the videos I’ve provided of the Roadshow or Export in action. That’s not 100% accurate of course, but comparing their sound to your Crash will give you a rough estimate.
Hope that helps!
Thanks for the fast answer!
I bought some new aquarium skins for my drums and it sounds better but it is not the sound that I want yet, and I am thinking that is because of my drums it self.
Is worth it to spend 200 more dollars to buy an Export or is there not a big difference between the two? Please let know. Thanks
Yes there is a difference – the most important in your case would be that the Export has better shells (both in terms of material and production / quality control).
So if you have new heads and know how to tune and you’re still not getting the sound you want, this is a strong indicator that you need a different / better drum set.
I didn’t make my self clear sorry, I meant to know if between Pearl roadshow and Pearl export it is worth it to spend more 200€ and buy the export or it is not worth
Oh, I see. That depends on how long you want to stick with it.
The Export is a kit for an advanced drummer with very good hardware and good shells that you could easily play for decades. The Roadshow is a step up from your Crash, but – assuming you’re getting better and better and playing more and more in front of people – you’d want to upgrade the Roadshow in a few years time too.
I hope that answers your question!
Yes i am tottally enlightened, thanks for the fast answer, regards
Happy to help!
Hi, I just wanted to ask you one question.
Do you think the Pearl Export EXL in lacquer has a sound that would fit in a metal band? I play in a progressive/death metal band, and I’m very fascinated by the nightshade model.
Would you suggest me this drum kit?
It would fit there very well, indeed. I know many metal drummers who swear by the Export. None of them have Youtube videos, but you can see the Export @ metal action here.
Hope that helps!
Ok, that’s good to know! And which kind of heads would you suggest me in order to have a much more suitable sound for this genre?
This article should help you out there:
Hey Yannick – thanks for the great info.
Where do you stand on buying used kits? I really don’t know what to look for, but am looking to get my 13 year old a kit. He has been playing for a little over a year, loves funk and rock.
It seems like the Export is ideal, but just seeing if new or used is the way to go. I’ve seen used kits for $400 – $500, but that seems a bit too good of a deal.
Thanks for your question!
Great you’re looking at the Export. Yet: there literally are a hundred different models of it floating around the market, so I can’t really tell you if $400-500 is a good deal without knowing at least the year it was produced in. I guess for the price it would be an older model (probably 90s, 2000s), which isn’t bad – but again, I can’t judge without further info.
For current Export models you can often find good deals yourself by just searching Amazon for a bit. Check out, for example, this Export at a few dozen bucks less.
This only took me 2 minutes to find, and perhaps you can find an even better deal by following my tutorial here.
In any case, for a current Export model, this would be a good price. And the kit would certainly be an awesome first drum set for your son.
Hope that helps!
ron graham says
goodaye yannick, whats your take on nil breather holes in these drums as i rationalize that a degree of choking and shell stress etc is prominent without them
I’ve never cut any additional holes into either shells or heads for durability purposes and I’ve not experienced anything out of the normal wear and tear with my drums (that also goes for the time when I played the Pearl Export). The only times I cut a hole into my bass drum head is when my kit is supposed to go into a studio or on a stage where the sound engineer insists on having the mic inside the bass drum.
Hope that helps!
Charlie Wells says
Hi Yannick – first let me say thanks for a very insightful and thorough review of The Pearl Export Series. I bought my first Export kit in 1980, and still have it. I’m considering buying a new Export kit in the gorgeous honey amber finish. I was wondering if you have had a chance to play a kit with the new hybrid poplar/ mahogany shells? If so, what are your thoughts on how they may differ from poplar only? Thanks again.
Thanks for your question!
I haven’t had the chance to play them myself, but have talked to a few drummer friends who liked them well. That doesn’t guarantee you will too, so consider that:
So you can expect the blend of the 2 to produce a sound that’s somewhere in the middle of the above thus giving you the best of both worlds.
Hope that helps!
Aditya Rasal says
I have just ordered the Pearl Exx drum kit. I read that the TH701 Tom holders come with the shell pack but I doubt the floor tom legs. Will they come along or will they not?Tell me fast as I have already order the kit.
Thanks for your question! Where did you buy them from?
Usually,floor tom legs are included. They are for sure if you went through the links on my site here.
Wishing you lots of fun and success with the kit!
Randy Teresi says
I just acquired a pearl export series drum set and am surprised how good it sounds. I’ve done some research and found that pearl uses a Japanese wood and some of the early versions of the export may have been maple. Is that Japanese wood poplar? I just bought a crystal beat drum set after playing on a vista lite for 20 years. It sounds different than the vista lite. The shells are much thicker and they are not as loud. My pearl export has a wrap on it and I’m thinking about removing it and staining the shells. The wrap is white and in great condition.
Thanks for your positive feedback on the Export – I’m happy you like it!
As Pearl is a Japanese company and also manufactures there, chances are the wood is from Japan. However, without knowing the exact model you own, it’s fairly hard to say 🙂
Did you mean 725s when talking about the tonal hole between 12 and 16 inch toms? Doesn’t the 725 has the 13 inch tom?
You’re absolutely right, that was hiccup on my part. Thanks for making me aware – it’s corrected now.
Matt sisak says
I am trying to identify the wood my bass drum is made from. It is a Pearl Export 22 x 18 and has a very deep low tone. The plate on the drum does not match any of the plates I have seen online. It is a rectangle plate but each corner is curved in. There is no serial number on the plate. I have another Pearl bass drum the same size but has a much higher pitch. The plate identifies this as an early 80’s modal.
That’s a tricky one – especially from afar and without images – but let me point you to some places that may help:
Here you can confirm the approximate age of the kit by means of the plate.
As for identifying the wood, I’d ask on this or that forum by posting an image of the bass drum. Someone might be able to recognize it.
I hope you’ll find an answer there!
Dean Bizzai says
I got back into drumming after 30 odd years, did some research & found Pearl Export series was in my price range that comes with 13×9 16×16 & 18×16 (rack & floor toms) no other drum company did these sizes without paying heaps of money and in lacquer !