CRACKING RETRO RADIANCE
PDP SX Series Acrylic Snares
Pacific Drums & Percussion now has acrylic snare drums for sale, making PDP yet another in a growing list of companies to go retro and offer see-through tubs. Five different sizes of acrylic-shelled, SX series snare drums are available, including 14" x 5", 14" x 6", 14" x 7", 13" x 5", and “popcorn”-style 10" x 6", outfitted with different varieties of black and chrome hardware.
PDP offers a total of eight colors in the SX line: Purple, Amber, Coke Bottle, Blue, Amber, Hot Rod Green, Hot Rod Pink, Clear. Not all colors are available in all sizes, and PDP has been changing the catalog a bit, so check availability and grab what you want when you find it. The mud-flap girls, for instance, have been shown the door at the factory. There won’t be any more of them made.
A WORD ON ACRYLIC
I had a great time getting all retro and gaudy with the four sample drums I received in the mail, all of which carry terrific visual impact. I have always felt acrylic is a fascinating material for drums. Where rich, lacquered woods make the eye linger, acrylic makes the eye wonder. Harder or softer light sources make the color change slightly, and the transparent material allows the audience to look both at and through the drums.
Acrylic drums were all the rage in the early ’70s. Several companies were offering them in various configurations. But acrylic now, as then, can be a demanding partner. The basic sound of acrylic is a bit harsh, like a super-hard wood. Of course, the sound absorption capabilities of plastic are about nil. Tuning acrylic snare drums is not as easy as tuning, say, a brass snare drum. Nor is acrylic particularly mellow in tone. Sharp, bright, and loud are the order of the day. This is great if you just need loads of crack and cut – a common need in what we geezers call a “contemporary rock ensemble” – but less appropriate if you play loads of musical styles and need a very versatile snare drum.
That said, it’s more important to be a versatile drummer than to have a versatile drum set. And it’s just plain fun to have some cool drums. For cool and stunning looks, you could do worse than to snag one of these beauties.
The 13" x 5" snare is purple with chrome hardware, and purple just happened to match the psychedelic contact paper I recently plastered on my p.o.s. practice kit. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t see me toting around a purple snare drum in public. But in the right context, purple looks really cool. The 13" diameter of this 5" deep drum made it quite versatile within the parameters of the shell material. That is, the drum tuned up well to popping, cutting high pitches, and also tuned down quite respectably to a lower pitched bite. In general, the 13" diameter is a size that some professionals (Billy Ward comes to mind) have been touting for years. This drum was enough to make me believe the hype.
The smaller-than-average head was not awkward to play, and gave enough room for cross-stick work. The chrome finish is excellent and the lugs are good quality (even though PDP lugs are not a personal favorite, as I think they look like DW lugs that were run over by the band van). In fact, all of the drum’s mechanical parts were sound.
The included batter head on the 13", however, presented some problems. The drum comes outfitted with a clear, American-made Remo head. The clear, single-ply batter keeps the drum’s cosmetic theme intact. And I clearly remember being a kid and drooling generously over photos of clear-headed, acrylic drums played by famous drummers including Joey Kramer, John Bonham, Billy Cobham, and many others. But it’s a phase I’ve apparently grown out of, as I can’t say that I think a clear head is the best choice sonically on an acrylic snare drum. The clear head kept the snare’s sound stubbornly in the bright and harsh category, and I was unable to mellow it out at all. And of course, I couldn’t play brushes on it either.
14" PINK SNARE
The two 14" snares have American-made coated Remo heads, and the added warmth of the coated head serves to mellow the strong character of the acrylic. The coating is also crucial for brushwork, though we don’t anticipate scores of jazz drummers buying acrylic snares in pink or purple.
The pink one, in 14" x 6" and with chrome hardware, has a very girlie look but a fairly macho voice. Tuned to a medium tension, it has a certain throatiness, crisp and clear sensitivity, modest definition at higher volumes, and generous off-center ring. The sound was good, if unremarkable. But the look? The pink changes quite a bit depending on the light that falls upon it. With natural light from a nearby window falling on it, the drum shell’s bearing edge took on a vivid, construction-zone orange glow. It was wild. And sometimes the that orange tone spread, combining with the pink like a 50-50 ice cream bar; other times it is just flat-out pink. But apparently, pink is not just for girls anymore.
14" BLUE SNARE
Sibling to the pinky is the 14" x 5" blue snare, also with chrome hardware. And though blue is my least-favorite color in the batch, this was my favorite drum. With its coated Remo batter head, it tuned up readily to high and medium tensions, had crisp response, musical and modest off-center ring, and a mellower attack than the others. Logic tells us it’s the size, not the color, so I’ll cast my vote for the 14" x 5" size as my favorite PDP SX series snare. The web site says it’s also available in Amber and Coke Bottle colors, and black and chromed hardware.
The 10" x 6" Hot Rod Green snare, the size often called a “popcorn” snare, is quite a fun auxiliary drum. It has more snap and thwap than ring and sing. Some might prefer a metal-shelled drum for the timbale-style licks that little snares bring to mind, but this little green hornet has an effective sting and a distinctly high, tight, dry voice that makes it work great as a rather dry, secondary voice on your kit. It has black hardware and comes with a tom-mount style clamp. I fastened it to a tom arm and enjoyed the high-pitched options it offered. The green is rich, very early Hot Wheels in hue, and the black hardware makes the drum look really dramatic.
These drums sound decent, and are undoubtedly the coolest-looking snare drums I’ve seen this year for under $400. Back in the day it was typical to have an acrylic kit matched to a metal or wood snare. These PDP SX acrylic snare drums have me daydreaming about wood or fiberglass kits matched to acrylic snares. Check the web and the stores for available combinations of shell color and hardware finish, and rock on!
MODELM SX Series Acrylic Snare Drums
- 13" x 5" $363.99
- 14" x 5" $363.99
- 14" x 6" $363.99
- 10" x 6" $327.99
- 14" x 7" $545.99
COLORS Purple, Amber, Coke Bottle, Blue, Amber, Hot Rod Green, Hot Rod Pink, Clear.
FEATURES Option of black or chrome hardware, choice of eight colors
Pacific Drums & Percussion
Drum Workshop, Inc.
3450 Lunar Court
Oxnard, CA 93030