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Vintage View - Cadeson

I was looking around www.mikedolbear.com (as is my wont) and found a request for info on Cadeson.  Well, in a previous life I was sure I’d written about their drums so didn’t consider myself a stranger to them. This turned out not to be the truth since they’re not on my long list of ‘Drumchecks’ for International Musician. However, I certainly had come across the drums numerous times at the many NAMM and Musik Messe shows I’d found myself at over the years. They were certainly never exactly well-known here in the UK and seem to have enjoyed better success in Far Eastern countries closer to their Taiwan factory. This makes shipping considerably cheaper to neighbouring countries like Japan, Korea, NZ, Australia, Malaysia, Brazil and Thailand. Various European countries are/were important customers for them as well as the mighty USA but of course shipping to them would be at a premium.

So, Cadeson are a family operation based in Taipei City which is in the South of the island where the company was founded in 1985. They make everything in their own factory including shells, stands, nutboxes, screws and even saxophones. Because of this they can’t really be classified as an OEM operation since as far as I’m aware they only make for themselves and even describe themselves as ‘custom drum makers’.  They boasted that (unlike most other drum makers in the ROC) from the very beginning, their shells were made from North American maple, but they’ve also made them from birch, basswood and even bubinga. Additionally they’ve put together various amalgamations of any and all of the above woods. Their drums certainly weren’t entry-level products by any stretch of the imagination because they obviously pay a great deal of attention to detail. 

Besides their obviously conventional outfits called ‘Stadium’, ‘Studio’, ‘Twist’ and ‘Blast’ they produced some very interesting drum sets in maple, bubinga and walnut. There’s even a  set called ''Big Power'' which can be reconfigured into two separate kits for face-to-face teaching with teacher and student facing each other. The bass drum and its ''Woofer'' connect face-to-face so each player has a bass drum batter head facing them, in effect playing the same bass drum! 

The ‘Glaze’ series is a 5mm thick acrylic-shelled set with a 20 x 16” bass drum, 16 x 15, 14 x 12, 12 x 9 and 10 x 8 toms and a 14 x 6” snare. The set was unusually hung on a curved rack with equally curved uprights which contained a couple of boom cymbal stands. 

The ‘Nagashi Compact’ is Cadeson''s version of a ‘nesting’ set constructed from birch with 22 x 18, 16 x 14, 14 x 9, 12 x 6 and 13 x 5” snare – all designed to make it possible to put drums inside drums (Russian doll style) to make them easier to transport. Cadeson also had a cocktail set which came with a 14 x 24” upright shell used as a combined bass drum (bottom head) and tom (top head). In the fashion of many more modern cocktail kits, there’s a 10 x 5.5” tom attached alongside an 8 x 5” mounted snare. 

Another set Cadeson produced was a less salubrious one called ‘Stadium’ which came in two versions with different tom sizes.   ''Blast'' came in four different materials - walnut, cherry, maple and bubinga -  with regular-sized isolated mounted toms and 18” deep bass drums and a very studio-friendly ‘Nashville style’ 16 x 14” floor tom.

''Studio Wiz'' is a very thoughtful set with some rather precise mounted tom sizes. As well as the regular 14 x 14” floor tom and 18” diameter bass, there’s a 12 x 8.5” tom, a 10 x 7.75” tom and 14 x 5.5” snare. The ''Studio'' series has six-ply maple shells and six-ply matching glue rings, and like all Cadesons every drum was fitted with Remo heads.

You could get the drums in many finishes: fades, satins, glosses, sparkles in various colours including purple, silver, brown, yellow, natural and diamond blue. There seems to have been at least four distinct Cadeson badges which I’m afraid I’m unable to date: a gold rectangle, a silver rectangle, black circle and a golden shield. 

For a non-mainstream drum company, they were actually responsible for quite a lot of snare drums too and in some unusual materials. Their ‘Blast’ drums had cast hoops with a marquetry bead round the centre of their bubinga, maple, cherry or walnut shells. Others had birds-eye maple shells. The narrowest 5” shelled Cadeson snare drums had double-ended nutboxes while the deeper versions all had single low mass versions.

There were some curious metal shelled snare drums made from aluminium alloy with cast hoops and according to their catalogue some from chrome-plated iron with a convex centre bead. They also produced rather impressive-looking, hand-hammered, phosphor-bronze, snare drums with gold-plated, die-cast hoops which came with 4”, 5.5” and 6.5” shells. BTW I’ve seen Cadeson Maple snare drums for sale on line for $324.

Cadeson’s fixtures and fittings of are a great deal more salubrious than most which we’ve seen from the ROC. The tom holders are particularly substantial and they have at least two versions of their double-strutted wide legged tripod stands and their hi hat and bass pedals had two-piece footplates and chain drives. The spurs were very like many others from the ROC with swivel mounts fixed to the shells and telescopic, non-penetrating legs. They fitted isolating tom mounts which were attached to all their up-market sets, while other lesser quality sets like Stadium made do without them.

They seem to be better-equipped and better-made then just about any other sets from the Republic of China which has to impact on the price which may be why we aren’t seeing anything of them at the moment here in Europe. They may perhaps have priced themselves (or have been priced) out of the market, although the $1600 I saw on the net for ‘Studio Wiz’ which seems like a serious kit, doesn’t seem too bad. I’ve also come across a ‘Studio Wiz’ for $2974. However without spreading bad news as far as I can ascertain they weren’t exhibiting at NAMM this year which may not be a good sign. 

It’s safe to assume these really are proper drums though and with the possible exception of Mapex nothing like what we normally see (or used to see) coming from the Republic of China. They’re something of an anomaly since they’re certainly nothing like entry-level quality, they’re up-market and could best be described as mid-priced mainly because of the way they were marketed. Cadeson claimed that because they produced everything in house this avoided the OEM price mark-up which was typically passed-on to the customer. 

Bob Henrit

March 2016

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