What equipment upgrades or tweaks will improve the sound of drums?

Having just purchased a few quality vinyl recordings  of Elton John after watching Rocketman ignore his band, I'm looking for ways to improve the sound of Nigel Olsson's drumming.  My current system in a Line Magnetic tube amp, Rega Planar 3 w/Ortofon Blue Cartridge, and Audio Physic Step Plus speakers and a JL Audio sub (can't find model no right now).  I'm looking for the punch his drumming deserves.
TT upgrade?, cartridge? Other tweaks?
How well have you adjusted the crossover, phase/time alignment and levels, between your mains and sub? Are you able to reach realistic levels(ie: have enough dynamic range/power for the room size and liveliness)?
How big is the room?  How big is the sub?  Specific  model would help. 

Enjoyed Rocket Man but I too missed that his classic band got no mention.

Any specific tracks you are looking to deliver the percussion better with?
Udog ...

The lower you get the noise floor, the better the percussion will become.

Better wall outlets. SR Blues perhaps?
SR Blue fuses.
Herbie’s tube dampeners
PPT Total Contact paste.
PPT Omega E Mats
PPT "Stop It" devises.
PPT "The Gate." 

If you do the above, you’ll be able to hear the springs rattling on snare drums and you’ll be able to discern in which direction the brushes are moving on the snares and cymbals. You will be able to hear the difference between vintage drums with animal-skin heads and modern drums with acrylic heads.

If you like rim shots, hard whacks, very defined bass drums, kettle drums, and percussion with dynamics to die for ... take heed in what I’ve posted above. Combined, these items will take your system to levels you have never dreamed possible ... without changing or upgrading any equipment at all.


Excellent advice above.

At T.H.E. Show in Long Beach in early June, I was walking around a large open space called The Market Place. It was where the less deep-pocketed vendors were hawking their wares.

Amazingly, realistic drum sounds were coming from the end of one row. I was in shock and disbelief when I discovered that these incredible sounds were coming from little bookshelf speakers. I just stood there - gawking in astonishment. Eventually, I saw that they were being driven by an old funky HT integrated. How could this phenomenal percussion be coming from this extremely modest rig? It didn’t make any sense. But, it was definitely happening. A subwoofer would be needed to fill out the bottom.

The bookshelves were Tonian Labs F6 speakers. MSRP $2500
The music was a CD: Drum & Bells.

Nothing like vibration isolation of the turntable and electronics to tighten up the bass and extend the frequencies another octave lower. Snap, crackle, pop!
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Having just purchased a few quality vinyl recordings of Elton John after watching Rocketman ignore his band, I’m looking for ways to improve the sound of Nigel Olsson’s drumming.

Most of the above is all good. Especially oregonpapa with the Synergistic Research Blue Quantum Fuses, etc. SR PHT, ECT and HFT are some more that will give you a lot for the money.

But seriously, and this is coming from a guy who has been listening to Elton and Nigel from the beginning, the biggest difference will be if you can get your hands on a really good copy. Which I am sorry to say none of the reissues, MoFi or otherwise, are very good. What the industry hypes as audiophile is really the same old stuff only sometimes on quieter vinyl. And not always that, even. And believe me, having multiple copies, including even multiple copies of MoFi, reissues, and original pressings purchased both new and used, I know.

The situation is so bad that I had just decided Elton was like Springsteen: great music, no good recordings.

That was until I tried Better Records. My White Hot Stamper of Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player is a game-changer. Honky Chateau is genuine demo quality! Not cheap, but worth every penny https://www.better-records.com/search_adv.aspx?sp=elton+john&option=s_name&min_price=1&m...

All the punch and drive of Nigel’s unique kick drum you are ever gonna get is on there. Super articulate bass. Elton palpably, eerily present. His piano, everything, rendered leagues better than any of my other pressings. Seemed insanely spendy at first. But they sound so good the way I look at it now is I finally have records worthy of the system.
Another trick is get yourself a couple of fine 15 inch woofers playing up to 400 Hz. Small speakers and subs nice but they won’t do this. By the way Bruce’s E Street Shuffle is at least to me of reference quality and his artistically peak.
millercarbon >>>

  • "Seemed insanely spendy at first. But they sound so good the way I look at it now is I finally have records worthy of the system."

Spot on with the good copies. Tom Port of Better Records gets super-premium prices for his "Hot Stampers." I’ve heard plenty of them before they get to Tom. I have a good friend (Robert) who sells to Tom and he’ll bring them over to my place to play them here first. And sometimes, I end up with Tom’s rejects. Lucky me.


Each pressing is so important in getting the best sound, even to the point that I know of collectors (me included) who will have two copies of the same recording because side one, for example, sounds better on one record, and side two will sound better on the other record. And in addition, there are so many recordings that sound better or worse from cut to cut. Same thing for CDs. Yes, we are down-right obsessed.

I wish you were close by. I’d love to dig deep into the vault and pull out some gems for you to hear.

For me The High Fidelity MC O.5s brought better base. Easy to use and not that expensive in the scheme of things
Don’t know where the OP is, but its safe to bet that, even with a sub, if those small speakers, about the size of kef ls50s, are not in a small room like what they were designed to be in, its a very bad bet that tweaks alone will do much other than put money better spent in the vendor’s pockets.

First thing first. 

No secret here.

It's not clear what your "quality vinyl recordings" are. IMO, reissues are always a disappointment if you have the opportunity to play a period release.

Reissues are fine, but only as a last resort for my ears

Seek out original presses. Your system is fine, LM gear seems to be solid, so you should be using a phono amp on on the same level for maximum vibe.

I never had a problem with drum performance when I had a P5. The plastic  subplatter, when replaced with one of the aftermarket models seemed to add more authority to percussion and bass.  

It might just not be in the original mix; so no matter what you upgrade it’s not going to happen. Maybe look into other bands or drummers such as Danny Carey of Tool or other heavy handed drummers. I don’t recall any albums of Elton John having the drums being mixed up front. 

Agree with much noted above but not sure upgrading any component or tweak is going to remaster what the engineer did in the studio. Also the theatre you saw Rocket Man in, as I did, the system is EQ so heavy on the bottom end you’re never going to duplicate that for many reasons including the size of the room and the amplification behind those speakers and subs. Not going to happen... sorry.

Seriously the best thing you should do first is work on your room if you haven’t such as room treatment and speaker placement. Everything I said above is true too. Good luck. If you haven’t discovered Tool... you should.

it was a great movie and sad how his parents treated him. I’ve always enjoyed Elton John but after seeing the movie I have much more respect for him and the struggles he conquered. Don’t forget the room treatment.

I am imagining the speaker placement isnt the best it could be . Odd furniture creating reflection . Distance the speakers the same from your side walls . Dont be against a wall in a corner or have a metal filing cabinet within your angle of reflection. I know it sounds like obvious points but its important to have the perfect sound stage before  being accurately dissatisfied. Sub woofer is going to have very little to do with good drums. Your mids and tweets are going to give the tone and life to percussion. Do i have to mention tube rolling has an immediate and significant change to drums. Be like changing out the drum kit with each tube. Soundstage perfection then  tubes . In that order. 
I think it’s all in the recording and how the recording was done .
I realize your discussion revolves around vinyl playback however you need to hear these spectacular recordings .
For 25 bucks you can judge for yourself, Tonian Labs percussion recordings are shockingly realistic though so far only available on CD .
The recording industry could definitely take lessons from Tony Minasian of Tonian Labs .
As fate would have it in some cases people are sitting right smack dab in the middle of a standing wave. Can you believe it? It’s bound to happen sooner or later. Try walking around the room a little to see where the drum sounds louder, fuller, deeper. Also, try sitting on the floor.
The new cd from The Raconteurs gives you some heavy drumming and top notch sound. Vocals too!

IMO and in upgrading audio components, larger power supply caps in the amp would help with increasing the bass output level.  From there you can swap out the transformer if it is a lower grade unit, add AC filter chokes to add clarity, dynamics, tone and speed, change out the amp capacitors to Nichicon and V-Caps (I prefer them), and add Caddock output resistors, etc.

Happy Listening

Look into the LessLoss line of cables especially their LessLoss C-Marc power cord . I hooked the Power cord up to my Pass X250.8 which in turn lowered the noise floor significantly but also has that" Live" factor in spades.
Huge Elton and Nigel fan here.  I've never found Eltons recordings to be worth a crap except for his newer and awesome Peachtree Road album and his live albums.  

His older recordings are just bleak on anything other than vocals IMO.

However if you're interested in cd or dvd, check out his live concerts.. In particular the One Night Only concert and the Live at the Royal Opera House concerts.  

The drums in those are what I'm wanting to hear.  Mixed well, powerful, and made my Klipsches dance!

I know this is about vinyl but if you want good drums with Elton, you have to get away from his old original recordings.

Listening to drums live, I am immediately struck by two things....that drums have both tonality and impact...and when being reproduced on home audio, if either one is missing, they will never sound like drums sound live.

So, the question is, do you have any "records" in you collection now, other than Elton John, that give you tonality and impact...and sound like live drums?  If not and if none of the recommended records and tweaks do the job...then more costly upgrades may be required??
I just dug out and listened to, an album that was probably the most requested, by my customers, for demos. Ry Cooder’s, ’Bop Till You Drop’. Great mix and mic set-up on the kit. Of course, that’s an LP, stamped in 1980. Don’t know how well someone might have remixed it, for a newer format. Another excellent recording(CD, this time) is Audioquest’s, ’Jazz Masters’. Both will provide all the bottom definition, tonality, palpability, etc, you could want. No trouble, at all, following what the rhythm section’s doing. eg: The Bass(each note, defined) and Kick(beater on skin, there), presented as two distinctly separate voices/entities. The Bassist, on ’Gloria’s Step’(from the Audioquest CD), I’d favorably compare to Pastorius. He plays the Bass, like Sandoval plays Trumpet. Now, for something completely different: Dead Can Dance’s, ’Into The Labyrinth’(especially, ’Spirit Dance’).......
Many good comments here.
I played drums for 20 years and Nigel Olsson had one of the best sounding kits. I saw Elton twice at MSG in the mid 1970s and the drums were certainly a highlight for me. The mix was perfect and the drums sounded melodic and dynamic, and they went deep.

I wish there was a recording that could come close to capturing Nigel's sound.

do you have any "records" in you collection now, other than Elton John, that give you tonality and impact...and sound like live drums?

This is worth looking into to test your system.
I also agree with lowering your noise floor to make the detail more revealing.
Lastly, have you rolled any tubes? Telefunken and premium Amperex can provide realistic sonics with deep bass extension.

A Decca or London cartridge ;-) . No, seriously. I saw and heard Nigel live with EJ in 1971, and his Slingerland drum kit sounded similar to Keith Moon’s Premieres: big and boomy!
Duncan Browne + Simon Phillips "Streets of fire".
Find it on vinyl or YouTube.

Duncan Browne, a genius sadly died young, was the founder
of the group Metro that did a legendary first record.

I would be remiss by not giving a shout out to my New Dark Matter, the quicker picker upper. NDM eliminates both visible red and invisible infrared stray laser light in CD players in less than a picosecond. Restoration of bass frequencies is one of the primary benefits of NDM. I estimate 50% or more of the bass information and dynamics is simply missing in action due to the scattered light problem.

geoff kait
machina dynamica
we do artificial atoms right
:-) All you need is the right powerful speakers, I won’t tell you which, but you can guess!

Hey in_shore. I just got off the phone with Tony Minasian and he'd like it if you could contact him as he has some music files he'd like to share with you. 

All the best,
I am in Total Agreement with those who have suggested -

Unless you have addressed your AC/ Power, your system is probably performing at 50% of its potential, if that. I would suggest not to switch out your existing components until you address your Power delivery.

It took me a long time to wrap my mind around it, but once I was exposed to the differences it actually makes - I never turned back. So much more depth in everything, and the level of detail is uncanny.  

One aspect that helped me come to terms with this was for me to conceive my system as a whole investment, and the power delivery as another component - like a amp within my system.  

Look to Power Chords, Cables, Power Distributors, AC Enhancers to invest in.

Good Luck, Have fun
Getting good drum sound goes a long way to getting accurate musical sound, period.  It is in my experience getting an electronic and speaker chain that doesn't distort the harmonic structure of the instruments, including the drums.  After that, it is power.
I suspect your source material. Do you get good drum sounds from other recordings? Elton was/is a big pop star who has sold millions of records which have been massed produce for an audience that is largely ambivalent about tonality. To the record company he was a cash cow and they probably did everything they could to maximize profits from his recordings. Quantity over quality, not to mention that his early recordings were probably mixed and mastered for AM radio. With the exception of the kick drum and possibly a large floor tom the frequency range of most drums is the same as the male vocal range so if your system reproduces good male vocals is should reproduce good drums provided they were recorded, mixed and mastered well.
The 17-11-70 live recording is fine with lots of energy from Elton and powerful bass & drums. Clean enough (free of distortion) to play quite loud. 

For newer drum & bass try e.g. William Parker - Drum & Bass Interlude.
Thanks for all of the suggestions and comments.  One of the first things I did a while back was to deal with the power issue.  I noticed that when a dehumidifier ran, sound sucked.  So, a Torus Power Conditioner, dedicated line, etc, reduced those issues.  Isolation also key. Symposium Stealth Iso made a big difference.  I have not tackled all of the phase issues with the sub.  The recordings....all Better Records versions of Hot Stampers.  At first a skeptic, but damn, they can't be beat.  Agree with the Mofi dissapointments with other recordings.  I have had good drum sounds, just looking for the extra snap, bite and boom.  I like to think I'm pretty close.  I have borrowed amps with more power and still believe this could be offer a major improvement. Will be playing around with tube rolling and all the other little additions you have suggested.
Thanks all,