Author: Dawson, Michael
Date published: March 1, 2012
It's a bit Ironic that Ludwig, the company that defined modern design with the first mass-produced bass drum pedal in 1909, has slowly fallen out of favor with many drummers when it comes to hardware, as other manufacturers have stormed ahead with more innovative, high-functioning stands, pedals, and accessories. Yet longtime Ludwig players and collectors still swear by the classic Speed King pedal and the original Atlas series flat-base cymbal and hi-hat stands, which were first released in 1963. The Atlas series got a facelift a few years later when Ludwig rereleased the line as Hercules, which featured tube legs instead of flat steel. But it wasn't until four years ago that the company decided to get back in the hardware game and began researching and developing fresh ideas that could revive the series and meet the stated goals of "high-function, durability, and a distinctly Ludwig vision."
The new Atlas hardware series consists of three lines: Pro, which includes the heaviest and most durable models for the touring professional; Classic, which is reminiscent of the original series and features lightweight, compact designs for city-based players; and Standard, which includes medium-weight stands for gigging professionals with budgetary concerns. We were sent a complete set of Atlas Pro hardware for review.
LAP37BCS STRAIGHT/BOOM AND LAP27CS STRAIGHT CYMBAL STANDS
All Atlas Pro hardware features heavy-duty, double-braced legs, new high-tension tube joints with integrated memory locks that Ludwig claims to offer "twice the amount of tension with half the stress to the support tubing," and a distinct art deco-inspired look, complete with keystone-imprinted thumbscrews and pressed Ludwig logos within the chrome finish.
The two Atlas Pro cymbal stands, one straight ($219) and one with a collapsible boom arm ($245), are very solid, sturdy, and hefty. The Aerodyne dual-axis, gearless titters allow for very easy positioning. These are top-notch cymbal stands for players who demand extra strength and stability.
LAP23SSL PILLAR CLUTCH AND LAP22SS STANDARD SNARE STANDS
There are two snare stands in the Atlas Pro series, one with a standard snare basket and low-contact basket grips ($225) and one with Ludwig's patent-pending Pillar Clutch ($249), which has sliding basket grips that are designed to fit snugly around the drum's hoop without squeezing it. This stand can accommodate 10'' to 16'' drums.
The Pillar Clutch has a gearless, dual-axis tilter system that allows for infinite angle positioning. Two of the basket arms are on hinges, so they can fold up easily, and the entire basket is removable for more compact storage. The hinged design was a little disconcerting, because there's no way to lock the arms in place, so they had the tendency to swing open and closed when I carried the stand without a drum attached. (Ludwig informed us that production models will have tighter fittings.) The Pillar Clutch model also doesn't collapse onto itself like a traditional snare stand; you have to invert the basket-if you choose not to remove it-in order to fit it in a hardware case.
Where the Pillar Clutch snare stand excels is in its positioning flexibility, its ability to hold small and large drums, and the way it allows the drum to resonate much more freely than with a traditional basket that squeezes the bottom hoop. Drummers who prefer to mount their rack toms in a snare stand will be amazed by the difference the Atlas Pillar Clutch makes. We tested this stand holding 10'' and 13'' rack toms, 15'' and 16'' floor toms, and several 14'' snare drums, and then put the same drums in a standard snare stand. The difference was like night and day. The Atlas Pillar Clutch didn't inhibit the resonance in any noticeable way.
The LAP22SS standard basket stand also allows for a noticeably more open tone, thanks to its Low-Contact grippers. Both stands are heavy-duty and very sturdy.
LAP3T1 AND LAP3T6 AERODYNE TILTER CLAMPS AND THRONES
The LAP3T1 ($69) and LAP3T6 ($79) Tilter Clamps allow you to mount additional cymbals and accessory instruments on the boom arm of the LAP37BCS straight/boom cymbal stand or on any other hardware that uses 12 mm tubing. Both feature dual-axis, gearless filters. The LAP3T1 offers about 6'' of horizontal reach, while the LAP3T6 extends about 10''.
The new Atlas thrones have a red and black vinyl exterior, designed after the classic Atlas logo. The spindle-style base is big, sturdy, and heavy, and the seat connects to the spindle via a large metal plate. Both thrones are stuffed with high-density foam and are quite firm. The round-top version ($249) is a little softer than the bicycle seat ($269). I personally preferred the latter, but both feel solid and are built to last.
LAP12FPR DOUBLE PEDAL
The aesthetics of the Atlas Pro double pedal ($775)-brushed-aluminum finish and racecar-style footboard-are modeled after the classic Speed King. The performance of the Atlas Pro, however, is completely different. Where the Speed King is lightweight and notoriously noisy, the Atlas Pro is sturdy and squeak-proof. It has a Monarch dual-chain-drive cam for smooth, fluid action with little horizontal movement and extra power. The spring connects to the pedal post with a Bearing-Pivotal adjustment that allows the spring to rotate slightly with each stroke, to minimize resistance.
Ludwig's new Precision Universal linkage system has no give at the joints, so there's no lag from the time you press the pedal to when the beater moves toward the head. As a result, both pedals perform very fluidly and provide a powerful stroke. The offset cams add extra acceleration as the beater gets close to the head, which creates a quicker feel. Ludwig completes the nouveau-retro vibe of this pedal with medium-hard felt beaters with a slightly recessed red stripe around the center. I've been using a vintage Ludwig felt beater for years, because I prefer its meaty, punchy sound, and these new versions produced very similar results. Like the rest of the Atlas Pro line, this is a no-fuss, play-it-straight-out-of-the-box double pedal that looks cool and is built for high performance and night-after-night reliability.