Sticking it to ‘em

Monday, 16 December 2019 1:46 pm

Back in 2011, I was trying to get hold of Carbostick, the maker of carbon fibre drumsticks, for the first digitalDrummer round-up of sticks for e-drummers.

Coincidentally, Dutch drummer Wouter Menken was also trying to contact them to buy some of their sticks and their custom Carbo-Rods.

While I couldn’t reach the company, Menken eventually tracked down Carbo owner and founder Peter Kuppers, who had stopped making sticks in 2013, and instead of buying sticks, found a business partner.

Menken has revived the carbon fibre designs which are now being sold under the Kuppmen (Kuppers and Menken) brand.

Besides the original carbon fibre sticks, the new company has added RebounControl sticks specially designed for electronic kits.

We tested both designs – and don’t get confused: we use the English spelling of ‘fibre’ while Kuppmen uses ‘fiber’. Like the choice of wood or carbon, both are correct!

Carbon Fiber 

These charcoal-coloured sticks are a touch shorter and marginally heavier than most of the 7A sticks we have tested in the past. They measure 39.3 cm in length, and 13.5 mm in diameter at their broadest point. They weigh in at 52 g – slightly more than the Techra e-rhythm carbon sticks we reviewed in May 2018.

The tips are oval-shaped and “untreated” – ie the same carbon fibre material as the shaft.

Unlike wooden sticks which struggle with perfect pairing, the Kuppmen sticks are all uniform – same weight, same length and same diameter. That’s one of the benefits of artificial sticks compared to natural wood.

The sticks have a natural feel which is strongly reminiscent of varnished timber rather than smooth plastic.

The fulcrum is just behind the midway point, and this feels comfortable to hold, and easy to control.

Overall, the sticks felt “natural”, by which I mean very much like wood. And that’s probably a good thing for most drummers who have grown accustomed to a certain feel.

The real benefit, according to the maker, is durability. Kuppmen claims its sticks last up to 10 times longer than wood. For e-drummers playing mesh or rubber heads and rubber cymbals, this is probably a non-issue as stick breaks are very rare. However, the move to metal cymbals does add more stress to sticks and may provide some impetus for a change.

While we tested a 7A sample, the sticks are also available in 5A and 5B.

RebounControls

These sticks are identical in length and diameter to the Carbon Fiber model, but they are slightly heavier (58 g) thanks to their “secret weapon”, an anti-rebound ring around a third of the way from the tip.

In the words of the inventor, the main difference between these and the ‘regular’ carbon fiber sticks is the rebound. “We managed to produce a drumstick that reduces the rebound. A drumstick with a kind of shock absorber in it,” according to the website.

The anti-rebound ring (the exposed section of a ‘shock absorber’ drilled into both sections of the stick) actually moved the centre of gravity back slightly – but not enough to make much difference to the feel of the stick in your hand.

It does, however, make a difference to the feel of the stick over mesh, where the rebound is certainly curtailed. I’m not sure what Kuppmen has done to the front section of the stick, but the treatment has reduced the bounce by about 5% - just enough to take the bounciness out of the average mesh head. Don’t expect an exact replica of the mylar experience, but you can count on slightly less bounce. And let’s face it, drummers have been playing comfortably on super-bouncy mesh heads with ‘regular’ sticks for some time without too much complaint. It’s really just a matter of getting used to the feel and then muscle memory kicks in. Where the RebounControl would be valuable, however, is for someone who mainly plays acoustics and has to switch to a mesh kit from time to time.

Like the ‘regular’ model, the RebounControl sticks are available in 7A, which I tested, as well as the heavier 5A and 5B versions.

Overall

As we’ve said in every stick review to date, this is probably the most personal choice in drumming – weight, length, diameter, tip material and shape are all highly subjective. Now there’s another choice – wood versus carbon fibre. I  can’t imagine many people will pick up a Kuppmen for the first time and say “Wow, this is going to change my playing forever!”, but I do envisage people noting a comfortable performance feel and being lured in by the promise of the long-lasting quality of solid carbon fibre sticks.

The sticks may be hard to find, although they are appearing in more stores around the world and do get listed on Amazon, with pricing around €28 for the regular sticks and €38 for the RebounControl.