The Tama Speed Cobra 310
As I’ve so subtly eluded to before, I’m not quite what you would consider a gear head.
When things like my hardware and pedals break, I’m usually just annoyed. I enjoy the luxury of not thinking about my gear when I play drums, and I’d prefer to keep it that way.
But sometimes reality knocks, our shit breaks, and drummers like me have to reluctantly venture into the local Guitar Center to scope out something new. This weekend, my old DW 3000 Series finally decided to call it quits. I’ve primarily used this pedal on my student kit, which is a sparkly blue Sonor Safari.
Though I may play as much as 8 hours per week on my Sonor, I try not to be particularly obsessive about the kit and it’s configurations. I like it to be flexible, for myself and my private students. I didn’t want to replace my DW 3000 with a 9000, and my main pedal (Mapex Falcon) isn’t an ideal fit for the 16″ kick drum on the Safari. I wanted to keep it under $100, and I needed something that had a “light” feeling to match this very petite drum set. There was no way a heavy, expensive, slugger of a pedal was going on this kit; that would be like putting mud tires on a Honda Civic.
I originally gravitated towards the Iron Cobras. I grew up playing Iron Cobras; I remember them being solid and not too heavy, but I found them to have a little more weight than the early pedals I grew up with. Regardless of whether or not that’s true, I found the newest Iron Cobra Models had a bit too much thickness to them, both aesthetically and in the pedal’s feeling. So, the Iron’s were out.
I then moved on to the Tama Speed Cobra 910 model, which is the new Tama pedal I was familiar with from advertisements. It was obvious that this pedal was designed to be slimmer than the Iron Cobra, which I liked. Though both the Speed Cobra and the Iron Cobra are in a similar price range, it is important that you go play both of these pedals before deciding what’s best for you. The longer footboard of the Speed Cobra alone makes it feel completely different than the Iron Cobra. Because my Mapex Falcon also has a slightly extended footboard, I was already accustomed to how longboards feel.
I decided to go with the Speed Cobra, but I then noticed the price tag. $179.99, which we all know is essentially $200 by the time you leave the store. So, I went back to scanning the pedal area of the drum department. I was really hoping to find a used pedal for a better price.
An employee walks up to me while I’m sifting through boxes of pedals, and points out that I “missed a good, cheap pedal.” He directs me to a Tama Speed Cobra, out of the box, marked as $79.99. I immediately thought that he had found a used pedal, and I assumed that something was probably wrong with it. I grabbed the pedal and placed it next to a brand new Tama Speed Cobra to compare them. We compare the two models for about 30 seconds, and can’t figure out why one is marked $100 cheaper than the other. There are no immediately obvious differences between the two pedals. Same length, same height, same materials, same colors.
Then I noticed that the footboard of the cheaper pedal read “Speed Cobra 310”. I checked the tag once more, and realized that I was essentially holding a brand new “junior” model bass drum pedal. But what was so junior about it if I can’t tell the difference? This pedal was the same size, shape, color, and structure as one priced $100 higher. I had to do a little more research.
Ironically, there isn’t a ton of information online that clearly details the differences between the Speed Cobra 910 Model and the Speed Cobra 310 Model. From what I’ve gathered online, here are some notable differences between these models.
The 310 does not have an independent beater angle adjustment. Not a deal breaker for me.
The 910 has a better beater than the 310. I planned to replace the stock beater either way.
The 310 has a downgraded bass drum clamp. This one I care about, but it’s more important to the gigging drummer than a stationary one like myself.
There are some differences in the O-rings used, as well as the bearings and oils, but I cannot find details online that outline the exact differences on these. Long term, some of these things would probably affect the lifespan of the pedal.
Though there are additional differences between these two pedals, none of them were overtly apparent to me; even when I had both models in front of me. Now curious as to why these pedals were priced so drastically different, I had to put them both on drum kits to really feel the difference. I played both the 910 and the 310 models for about two minutes each, on the same drum set. Though there were mild differences in the feel of the pedals, the footboard and springs were the same; how different could they really be?
In my opinion, the extra $100 on the price tag of the Speed Cobra 910 is for an accessory package. The 910 comes decked out with some cool extra features that will likely improve the overall functionality of the pedal throughout it’s lifespan. The 310, however, is essentially the raw, stripped down version of the 910. When you remove all the bells and whistles from the 910, you’re left with the 310. To me, this says that Tama has placed a value on its Speed Cobra “Accessories.” That value of those accessory upgrades, is apparently more than the cost of the actual pedal.
Look at it this way. You can buy one Tama Speed Cobra 910 for $180, or you can buy TWO Tama Speed Cobra 310 models for $160, and still have money to take you and the buddies to Chipotle. This, my friends, is a no-brainer.
I couldn’t justify paying more than double the cost of the 310 for some extra features. I felt that the “junior” labeling was intended to keep me away, or perhaps meant to project that this pedals is somehow made differently. But to be completely honest, this pedal performs for me at a professional level, excluding the beater, which I promptly replaced with a Custom Lowboy Beater, seen in the picture above.
Though I wouldn’t take a pedal like this out on an extended tour, I have no doubt that it will reside happily on my practice kit for years to come. The build quality of the 310 is very solid, and I find that to be the overall most important factor when assessing a pedal’s quality. For someone who doesn’t intend on moving their drums (and pedals) frequently, you will likely find that the price difference from the 910 to the 310 is simply not worth the upgrade.
So if you find yourself in a position like me, or just need a back up pedal that doesn’t break the bank, make sure to keep this pedal on your radar. The bang for buck ratio is absolutely off the charts, and I’m stoked to be able to recommend this pedal to my younger students. $80 in the drum industry is a pretty minimal investment, but a pedal like this could easily last 5 years if cared for properly.
The Tama Speed Cobra 310 is the first kick drum pedal I have found under $100 that I can confidently recommend to other drummers; I think that says a lot!