Sep 3, 2008

The Omnipresent Eames Tom Toms

You might notice an ongoing theme in many of my session posts - The ubiquitous Eames tom toms. Why, you ask, do you use those Fire Engine Red beauties on almost every session? Good question.

Short answer: Because they rule!

Longer and more labored answer: Because they simply sound better in most studio environments than any other drum I've ever used. At this point many of the engineers/producers I work with ask for them by name. Why? (See short answer)
Seriously though, Eames drums are completely hand-crafted instruments made one at a time by Joe MacSweeney at his workshop in Saugus, MA. Joe took over the company from Ralph Eames a number of years ago and is one of the only drum smiths in the country to actually make his own shells. (Most so-called "Custom" drum companies use shells made by Keller or Asian suppliers). Eames shells are made from North American birch and Joe actually uses the same 19th century drum lathe that was used by the iconic drum maker Geo. B. Stone at his Boston factory. It is quite a site to behold; the inside of the shell to be sanded or edged is grabbed and secured by the chuck arms of the lathe and then the drum is rotated by an adapted alternating current motor.
The toms I own are 9 ply shells, but Joe offers 6, 9, 12, and even 15 ply drum shells. He was the first drum maker to build a monster hi-plied snare drum shell - before Ayotte, Pearl, or anyone else. There is a clarity of attack and a pure note to the drums that makes them my go-to picks 9 times out of 10 for recording. They have more character than any production maple shells I've heard.

You can have Joe drill the shells for any type lugs you want or he can supply the lugs and other hardware. I made a decision a number of years to go with Slingerland Sound King lugs because I liked the look of them and had access to a good amount. I put die-cast hoops on top and bottom (except for the 15x15 tom which seems to work better with a triple-flange on the bottom) and suspend the rack toms on Pearl OptiMounts (which I think are the best designed and most stable of the isolation mounting systems) .

I generally put a coated Remo Emperor on top and a clear Ambassador on the bottom. For bigger rock sounds I go for just a slight pitch bend by tuning the bottom head a little higher than the top. Too much difference between bottom and top and you get what I like to call the "Basketball Effect" or a rubbery pitch bend that sounds like a rubber ball hitting the floor.
Their favorite microphone seems to be a Senheiser 421 angled in around 3-6 inches from the head. Put the mic through an API or a Neve pre and you got yourself some big ass toms on your record.


  1. I know there are plenty of variables that can change the answer to this question, but in general terms, do you think birch's suitability for the studio is lost in a live situation? I've been eyeing Eames for awhile, and my biggest hang-up is that 99.9% of drumming is done outside the studio, most of that un-mic'd.

  2. Alex,
    No, I haven't experienced that issue. I use my Eames toms live all the time and often in completely acoustic situations and find they are exemplary and their sonic qualities stand out over maple.

  3. Hm. Maybe a drive to Joe's is in order.

  4. IMHO, there are no better all around drums, except maybe Craviotto's.