Tama produces a full line of drums from hand-made limited edition models to mass-produced models for beginners or budget-minded drummers, in a wide range of sizes, materials, and finishes. Tama brands its professional drums as Starclassic. Regular production models are available in 100% bubinga shells, 100% maple shells, and birch/bubinga hybrid shells, as well as metal-shelled snare drum models made from brass. Limited edition models may feature special woods and/or finishes. All Starclassic drums feature die-cast hoops, as opposed to the more common cold-rolled triple-flanged hoops. All Starclassic drums are currently manufactured in Japan, but Tama plans to move some of its mass production of Starclassic drums to its Chinese factory to enable its Japanese factory to focus more on hand-made limited edition models.
The Superstar and Imperialstar lines are cheaper, featuring birch/basswood hybrid shells and 100% poplar shells, respectively. These models are all manufactured in China. In the 1970s and 80s, Tama’s “Superstar” and “Imperialstar” lines were the sole premier products of the company.
Tama has a summer and winter release of new types of drums every year. These releases coincide with the National Association of Music Manufacturers (NAMM) Biannual convention. Twice a year, at these times Tama restocks the shelves of the specialty drum shops with new limited edition and limited production drums. Specialty drum shops and chain music stores get supplied with mass production drums as needed. Add-on toms are special order drums made to expand an existing drumset, and are available through specialty drum shops.
Tama Drums are hand made. On most Limited edition and limited production drums, the inside of each shell is signed by the person who crafted the drum. Most Limited Edition sets have matching snare drums, while most other sets are sold as “shell packs” without a matching snare, or with a metal snare from the same line. Tama was one of the first companies to offer super heavy duty hardware, and a free floating drum mounting system (StarCast) at the time of its appearance the mounting system was unique as unlike standard tom mounting systems where the mount is attached to the shell, the StarCast system suspends the tom from its upper rim, allowing the shell to resonate freely for a much improved sound.
Original Tama Superstar drums, as well as Imperialstar and Fibrestar have become collectors items. There are groups devoted to restoring the Superstar drums with mahogany finish thanks in no small part to the influence of Neil Peart of Rush using them. Lars Ulrich of Metallica is escpecially a fan of their double bass custom sets Tama Imperialstars, combined with titan hardware have been a favorite of gigging drummers and Stewart Copeland, amongst others, because of the ruggedness and wrap finish.
Tama’s cordia wood Artstar line (again introduced by Neil Peart’s iconic red prototype) ushered in an era of thinner drum shells. The artstar was Tama’s turning point away from heavy and thick shelled drums. Tama’s cordia/birch wood artstar II were aimed at the competitions higher priced drums with an exotic finish. The lower price made them a bargain compared to European brands. The modern equivalent of the artstar II, are the limited/exotix made of maple, koa and bubinga.