Arbiter Flats Lite Drum Kit

An introduction to Arbiter Flats

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Welcome to this PlayRecord.Net article all about the revolutionary Arbiter Flats - Lite kits. We've been impressed with and selling the Flats - Lite kit for quite some time now, and felt it was about time to let you all in on why these kits are best sellers!

I've been drumming for 12 years now, starting with an unknown 7th hand - chipped red drum kit, that cost me 90, had two massive tom toms that were exactly the same size (which later turned out to be marching drums) a wooden snare that was held together by the paint on the outside and cymbals that were made from baked bean tins by a drunken drumming enthusiast (or so it seemed!). Quite a kit. It lasted a couple of years of serious beatings before I upgraded to another horrible cheap & nasty kit, that I cannot even remember the name of, most probably out of shame, until finally collecting a Premier heritage kit in blue marble that has been my best friend ever since. It has a thunderous 22" kick drum that seems almost as deep as it is in diameter. The kick could cut through any live sound and come through sounding sweet, the toms high and crisp and a snare sound that complements the kick perfectly. Like I said, I have stayed with this kit since. It suits any genre I play, and all I've had to do was upgrade my double kick drum pedal, new cymbals as finances would allow (the ONLY problem with any musician, no?) and new skins, which Mr Bank Manager kindly lent me the dosh for. Perfect.

Except for a few fundamental flaws. I cannot drive. I have no car, or chauffeur for that matter, and my kit is BIG. And I mean big. So, gigging has always been a significant problem for me. Always bugging people for a lift, which reduces their enjoyment of the gig to a couple of lemonades and some back work helping me lug the kit about. Then when you finally arrive there, it takes 4 of you to carry the whole lot in and set it up just in time to play your sound check. Nightmare. Then you play, and have to quickly tear down the entire kit, every cymbal stand, every piece of hardware, pack it all up, lug your drums back out, with your hard cases scraping on the floor and collapse just in time to get into the car for that journey home......only to unpack everything and carry it all back into your flat.....up all those stairs.... anyone know what I mean?

Of course, this IS hard work, but I, as all musicians, persevere and suffer for our art. Its part & parcel of being a drummer and wouldn't give it up for the world. But surely there has to be an easier way?.... And there is. Before I start ranting and raving about the Flats, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you that I DO actually own them myself. And now, after owning them for some time, wouldn't give them up. Here's a breakdown of what the Flats actually are, how they work, how they fit together, how you can transport them and most importantly, how they sound & play.

We shall cover:
What's in the box
What each part is
Typical set up
Transporting your kit
AT - Advanced Tuning system
How the kit plays / sounds
Live / Recording
What next?

Lets start with what's in the box:

10", 12" & 14" single headed toms
12" x 2 snare
20" single headed kick
Hi-hat stand
Boom cymbal stand
Straight cymbal stand
Snare stand
Chain driven kick drum pedal
Ratchet based tom holders
Crash cymbal, pair of Hi-hat cymbals and a crash / ride cymbal.
Vic Firth drum sticks

Arbiter Flats lite toms The Toms are single headed, meaning that there is literally only 1 drum head or skin. The shell is very thin, only about 2" and this is then held to the cymbal stand via a ratchet clamp. The heads are Remo, a well established and highly professional make. Anyone who has used Rototoms will know exactly what the toms are like. Of course it throws up the image of a boomy, open, muddy sound that is kinda floppy, but once you actually hit one of the drums you will be pleasantly surprised. The AT tuning, that is revolutionary to drummers, means that getting that right sound is as easy as turning one screw with your drum key....and that's it! Gone are dozens of tension rods that must all be tightened to each other, but more of this later.

Arbiter Flats lite snare drum The Snare is the one part of the kit which I, like others, were the most sceptical about. How many customers have I heard cry "What about the snare sound!!!"? Many, believe you me. And again, here is where I was most surprised. I couldn't actually wait to get the snare out of its plastic wrapper before I had hit it with my free Vic Firth sticks. After I heard it, I ripped open the packaging and spent a good 3 minutes just holding the snare and hitting it. Its just a normal snare! And a crisp, tight snare at that! Yes, it is kinda like a regular snare anyway, its the only drum to have 2 heads on the kit, but to be fair - you'll never have a snare with one head thats gonna sound good as you need two heads to excite the snares properly. The small size (12") ensures that piccolo style sound, which is generally quite a high pitched snap! Next I tried rim shots, hitting the snare and the rim @ the same time, and again was surprised by the quality of the sound produced. No cheap & nasty pinging noises, just a great snap and high click. The snare, which is a vital part of the kit and one which should be tuned to perfection, can now have its sound changed depending on what sound you want for each SONG played live. Imagine that.

Arbiter Flats lite kick drum The Kick was my other concern for the Flats Lite kit. The kick I was used to was a monster 22" beast, that I had perfected to make me smile every time I hit it. How could I move from that to use a 20" kick that was....well... a bit empty looking to be honest. Easily. Boomy kick? No problem, slack that skin off. Clickier sound? Tighten it right up - all only 10 seconds work to change. My only real niggle with it being that fast foot work often stifles a few of your beats. The sound is produced when the kick pedal beater hits the skin, and if the beater is left near the skin then its going to stop the skin vibrating (obviously), but good technique dictates that when you use your kick drum, your beater should always return to the open, ready position. When your doing quicker beats, the beater hits the skin when the sound from your previous hit is still being played, which dampens your previous beat, producing a baggy kinda sound. This effect can be controlled however, depending on the tightness of the skin.

Arbiter Flats lite hardware double braced

The Hardware(including the hi-hat stand, the cymbal stands and the snare stand) are all double braced steel hardware which is where the only weight of the kit comes in. All the hardware is sturdy, has a professional finish, and can be broken down into easily transportable pieces.

Arbiter Flats lite kick drum pedal The Kick Drum Pedal is a standard, chain driven affair, with a 2 piece footplate, one that fits snug into the other to maintain grip on the kick drum, with 2 expansion springs and the beater is standard felt. Its a decent enough pedal to start with, but, most seasoned drummers will most likely want to swap this for whatever pedal they've taken to using. I would suggest a Stagg PP-1200 double kick drum pedal, which is, for a cheaper make, a fantastic pedal,which I use myself.

Arbiter Flats lite tom holders clamps

The Tom holders are steel, with a good finish, that feel sturdy and secure - and clamp onto any stand.

Arbiter Flats lite cymbals sabian solar

The Cymbals are from Solar, which is a cheaper make from cymbal makers Sabian. They are, for the beginner, quite adequate, for a player of some time they may feel that these cymbals are a little too brassy, a bit brash but there are plenty worse cymbals out there! Adequate but not the selling point, which obviously lays with the drums themselves.

Transporting Your Drum Kit

This is another genious part of the Arbiter Flats Lite kit, transporting them around. As we all know, drums are not portable instruments like a guitar or a saxophone or a flute, and gigging drum kits is hard work. Your gear gets shunted around by others, who probably may not treat it with the respect it deserves, theres loads of bits to get together, its all HEAVY, and you need 1 full car or half a van just for your stuff, forget about the PA for the time being.
The Arbiter Flats Lite kit has the option of being fitted into 2 bags. Yes, thats right,just 2 bags. The two bags are slightly different, with one bag for your hardware and another for your drums. The hardware bag is a sturdy sports bag type affair, whilst the drum bag is a padded round bag where your drum heads sit. This is extremely padded and will guarantee the safety of your drums. This means that you can quite happily waltz into your gig / practice area, with a couple of bags over your shoulders. If you've got more stands and cymbals, put the stands in with the rest of your hardware and the cymbals in with your drums.
Check out this link here to the site to see the Arbiter Flats Bags.

Arbiter Flats Lite Drum Kit

The Kit Set Up

When you get the Arbiter Flats Lite kit, it comes in one complete box. Open this up and you have two larger boxes inside, one with the Arbiter Flats Lite hardware in, the other with the Arbiter Flats Lite drums in. Once everything is out of the boxes, start with the kick drum. The kick drum requires the kick drum pedal attaching and then the support feet attaching. The kick drum pedal has a two piece foot plate, put the metal bar flat on the floor so the top part goes through into the hole of the front of the pedal, un screw the tensioner all the way and then attach the pedal to the base plate of the kick drum. This should fit snug onto the plate, then screw the tensioner all the way so it holds it firmly in place. The beater should hit the skin when it is fully vertical - not slightly forward. If this is the case, there are two small screws on the inside of the kick drum shell by the feet clamps that can be undone and allow the kick drum to tilt slightly. Next - attach the support feet. These are the two black plastic parts with metal feet. They also have rubber feet which screw on. Put the feet on, with the metal screw-on tighteners on first then put the bar on the support unit through the clamp on the drum. Put both on and get them so the kick sits comfortably on the floor and then tighten them all the way up.
The snare stand extends and folds out - like a normal snare stand - use the tightening nuts to hold in place, and fit the snare into the holder until the rubber parts of each arm are holding the snare - not the metal. This is done by the spinning adjuster about halfway down the stand.
The Hi-hat holder comes in two parts. Extend the legs and tighten. The rod of the top part feeds into the tube in the base part and screws in and then there is a tensioning screw at the top of the base part of the stand. Adjust the top tightener to which height suits you - this is where the bottom hi-hat cymbal sits. Put the bottom hi-hat cymbal on here. The Hi-hat clutch looks like this:

Arbiter Flats lite kit hi hat clutch
Undo the bottom screw and take off the bottom felt. Put the bottom part of the clutch through the cymbal hole of the top hi hat and then put the bottom felt on the bottom and screw it so it grips the felt & screw above. Put this on the hi hat by feeding the rod through the clutch and tightening when you have reached a satisfactory height.
There is a straight cymbal stand and a boom cymbal stand. The boom cymbal stand is the one that has an arm that comes out at a tangent. Either can be used for either cymbal, but lets set up using the straight stand for the smaller crash cymbal and the boom for the larger Crash / Ride cymbal. The stands simply unfold out at the legs and tighten by the screw. Then adjust the height of the stands as required and tighten the tensioning screws located on the shaft to hold in place. Set the crash up by the hi hat - adjacent to the kick drum and the Crash / Ride by the other side of the kick drum. The cymbals go on by unscrewing the top of the stand and removing one of the felts, putting the cymbal on and then adding the felt and a screw to tighten and hold the cymbal.
Once you have the kick, snare, hi hats and cymbal stands set up with the cymbals on - now its time to add your toms. Take a tom holder and clamp it onto the straight cymbal stand - the one that is holding your Crash cymbal. Don't tighten it up all the way as you will need to re-adjust later. Do the same with the other 2 clamps but on the boom cymbal stand and put one higher than the other, and again tighten them so they grasp the shaft of the stand but do not tighten fully. Taker the smallest tom drum and attach it to the clamp on the straight stand. Feed the clamp through and tighten it until it holds it tight. Find a height which suits you in relation to the snare drum. Sit on your seat and have the hi hat on your left foot (for right handed people), your kick comfortably on your right foot, the snare in between your legs and level. The height for the tom depends on how you have everything else set up - so just adjust it to where it seems natural and most comfortable for you. Duplicate this method and set up the second & third toms, the mid & low tom respectively. The mid tom needs to be the same height as the hi tom and then the low tom about the same height as your snare, but whatever feels right for you.

The Advanced Tuning System

Arbiter Flats lite kit Advanced tuning

The AT tuning system from Arbiter is a drummers dream come true, and on reflection, one that I am amazed hasn't transposed to the mainstream drum industry. The principle with the AT tuning system is that you only tighten the drum from one tension rod, to remove a skin or to tune. Unlike regular drums, that have several tuning points around the heads that all require slackening right off and removing to change a head and all tuning to tune the drum. With AT - Arbiter advanced tuning - all that is required is one tension rod slackening off to remove a head, and the same tension rod to tune up with. This enables precision tuning for different drums, inbetween songs - it really is that quick!
"Arbiter AT tensions the head by adjusting the circumference of the "Vee Clamp", an innovation long proven in high-pressure engineering applications such as jet engines. A steel counterhoop is gripped by one of these clamps and stresses the head as it tightens against a lower ring sprung into a groove cut accurately into the shell. As the drum is tuned the split lower ring contracts within its groove, maintaining its circular form and strengthening the drum.The clamp can be unhinged quickly to enable ultra-fast removal and refitting of drumheads (even between songs)." (see the picture above)

How The Kit Plays / Sounds

As I said before, I was literally stunned when I heard what the kit actually sounds like. Regular drums are BIG, in size and volume and looking at pictures of Arbiter Flats Lite kits didn't encourage me much! Since getting it set up and giving it a run for its money I was astonished. The snare has a variety of sounds available, with my particular favourite high-end snap, with no horrible sustain that should have come from a snare drum from such a cheap kit! The toms surpassed most Rotadrums I have heard, giving a clear, well defined and earthy tone, a very rounded and open sound, but one that is very pleasant on the ear and doesn't ring out, the sounds are rounded and cut out nicely. The kick can thud quite nicely or get a very appealing open boom sound that whilst not likely to travel far except from miking up, sounds fantastic. Since they are one skinned drums there is a totally different range of sounds available, whilst still maintaining a kits vibe. The kit can so very easily be switched and adjusted in no time at all, with very little effort - making fine tuning your arrangement and position a doddle, which is essential for any musician.

Playing Live / Recording

Yes indeed, the Arbiter Flats CAN be used for live gigs. Admittedly they are quite low volume, but in an acoustic set they would hold their own nicely and the sounds produced tend to blend in well. For anything else such as a really large / busy pub gig or anything much louder than that you will require at least the kick miking up. The snare is, after all, a regular snare as it is the only true 2 headed drum in the kit, and carries well. The kick can have regular drum mikes clipped easily to any where on its rim or have a larger Kick drum mike positioned easily just in front of where the kick drum pedal hits the skin. This applies to recording as well. All the drums are perfectly formed for having mikes clipped on. Indeed, one of the selling points of the PRO Arbiter Flats kits is that they are very easily used as triggers for other platforms.

What Next?

The next step from here is to either:

Upgrade to an Arbiter Flats Pro Kit or;
Buy upgrade Toms / snares / kick drums individually Already on our site there is the Arbiter Pro Flats kits. These are essentially the same as the Arbiter Flats Lite kits and share all the same principles. The hardware is heavier,slightly more robust and the drums tend to be slightly larger as standard.
The individual drums are set to go up on the site over the next few weeks. This means that you can buy the clamps and as many extra toms as you like. Filled up your cymbal stand? Add another stand, another cymbal, and you can get even more drums on there! They will clamp to any stand - so the limit is your spending and your desire for drums!

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