Here are the different descriptions of the woods that I found for drums. Maybe this will help you tell the differences. It's actually pretty interesting stuff that wood can make that much of a difference.
Woods like Albasia falkata are used as a substitute for American hardwood maple as well because it will finish extremely well and is cheap. To my ear it imparts a bright attack
tone and is most appropriate as an inner layer.
Maple is a general overall warm sounding product, it can reproduce frequencies of the drum fairly well across the spectrum. True slow growth old forest maple trees are most prized due to the narrow growth rings and straight grain. The wood resonates extremely well and the finishes are well accepted. Newer and reforested trees do not have as tight a growth ring habit and are not as prized as old growth timber. Solid shelled snare drums made of burled or Birdseye maple are very warm in overall tone but also impart a very bright attack
. Maple is generally thought to have very even tone across the spectrum and is prized by many drummers.
True mahogany from USA or Honduras will have about a 20% increase in low frequency resonance over the maple drum, mid and high frequencies will be the same from a reproduction point of view, but because the Mahogany has the 20% low end increase, the perceived tone is warmer. Certain deep red timbers from South East Asia are sold as a 'Mahogany', or 'Mahogany Finish' although they are not true Mahogany from USA or Honduras. It’s most likely called mahogany due either its common appearance (dark red) or due to the nature of the forestation being depleted and the stigma attached to it. Asian 'Philippine Mahogany' is often sourced from the endangered Dipterocarp forests of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Dependant on the source tree the timber types are often known as Meranti, Lauan and Keruing. Hence the name Philippine mahogany. The species known as Khaya Nyasica or African mahogany are more plentiful yet still endangered and therefore, not plentiful at this time.
Birch is a very dense tough wood, blond in color that tools well. It will have about a 10% loss in reproduction of low end compared to Maple and about a 20% increase in the high end, with the mid range remaining about the same, so the Birch kit will definitely be a “harder” and “brighter” sounding kit. Birch is derived from fast growth trees that are commonly large in diameter and finish reasonably well. Birch is often referred to as a naturally “EQ’d” drum set. This came from its popularity when used in recording studios where the attack
portion of the sound was an important ingredient in recordings dating back to the late 60’s. It made it easier to get the drums to cut through the mix with minimal effort.
Poplar is derived from fast growing straight medium hardwood trees and is a less expensive alternative to Birch and Maple. Its finish can be somewhat green in color and is therefore used in the inner ply layers as substitute for more expensive and less plentiful woods. To my ear it takes on more of the tone of birch or mahogany than maple.
Basswood is a great less expensive hardwood that mimics the sound of Maple to some, mahogany to others. Yet it is more plentiful and gives the manufacturer a price advantage. It in many ways is an upgrade to luaan, or ramin and is often used as a core wood with a bit more of the lower register tone to it than realized out of maple. For this reason I tend to think of it more like mahogany than maple.
Lauan, Luaan or Luan:
By any spelling is a less expensive alternative to woods like basswood and “true” mahogany. To my ear it does not sound like true mahogany, but more like that of birch. This is a inexpensive filler type wood. It is in fact a species of endangered wood called “ramin” and or “meranti”. Actually, several other woods fall into this category too and are often referred to as "lauan" by various spellings. Lauan is “a coarse textured stringy wood with a wavy interlocked grain pattern, it has a pale creamy-red colour. Light but strong and durable it accepts stain and varnish well and can be polished to a high finish but remains somewhat porous. Red Lauan (Shorea negrosensis) is the mother tree of true Meranti. Natural inhabitants of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, they are large trees; 61.5m (200 ft) in height with a trunk of up to 2m (6ft 6in) in diameter. Asian 'Mahogany' is often sourced from the endangered Dipterocarp forests of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Dependant on the source tree the timber types are often known as Meranti, Lauan and Keruing. Hence the name Philippine mahogany.
So now, what's your favorite type of wood?