I used to think there was a huge difference until received my latest kit from Yamaha. My first kit upon signing with them (in 1997)) was a sparkle green lacquer. I was later told by my friend and rep at the time that the sparkles were the thickest of all finishes they put on drums, even out of the wraps. Has to do with the specks that create that "sparkle" finish". needless to say it was the worst sounding kit I've gotten from them......though after 13 years it's starting to warm up.
From that point on I always ordered clear finishes, with the exception of a very thin, custom matte black paint job I had done two kits ago. They all sound great, the black one admittedly the better of the bunch (this may have nothing to do with the paint......and all drums were/are Maple Custom, not absolute).
A few years ago I picked up a 1940's Slingerland Rolling Bomber kit, snare and all, that came with original white (somewhat yellowed) pearl/oyster finish. I knew nothing about them but bought it because it looked so damned cool, thought it'd make a nice living room piece. I was pretty floored when I brought them home and changed the heads, I've since used these drums on a lot of recordings.
When it came to ordering a new touring kit I wanted one in the same vintage looking finish of those Bombers. The only thing Yamaha could do was a wrap so I went with it (I'm much less picky about a touring kit than recording....all subtleties are quickly lost in a club or arena).
I have to say, not only are they beautiful, they're the best sounding kit, BY FAR, that I've received from them! They sustain for days, much nicer than my previous, lacquer finish kits. I can only imagine how good they'll sound in 20 years!
I also have a 70's Gretsch in a blonde natural finish and they sound ridiculous (in a good way). Never mind that the original tom mounts are 4" in diameter and are bolted directly into the drum. That doesn't stop the 40 year old maple shells from singing like a bird
I'm converted now. If a kit sounds good, it sounds good. I don't care if it has a wrap or not and I no longer believe it's that important.
sorry for the novel, just my 2 cents