The 14" x 5.5" Milkwood Shell
If you’re wondering what kind of tree Milkwood comes from, join the club. Dunnett created the proprietary “Milkwood” name to keep the actual species of wood secret (no word yet on whether you shouldn’t play this drum if you’re lactose intolerant, but you might cry over a spilled Milkwood drum).
The Milkwood shell, to my ear, was not nearly as versatile as Dunnett’s steel shell. The Milkwood projected ample lows and a decent range of highs, but not as many mids. It did produce a round, vintage sound. Rimshots on this drum were wide-open sounding with beautiful, inoffensive overtones. I found the Milkwood’s sound to be somewhat like a birch snare drum but with longer, less articulate notes.
I first tried the Milkwood snare at a loud outdoor jazz concert with a quartet that included a singer belting out Frank Sinatra-era standards. The singer happens to be my uncle, so he was kind enough to let me play a lot of drum solos. The Milkwood’s vintage sound and bouncy feel were a perfect match for this standard jazz setting.
I later tried the Milkwood drum on a medium-volume duo gig in which we played many styles of music. On the more backbeat-oriented songs, I thought the drum sounded a little too old school, and I longed for the more articulate, modern sound of the steel drum. That’s not to say that the steel shell is a better drum than the Milkwood; they’re just different, with the Milkwood being more specialized.
The 13" x 6.5" Titanium Shell
I’ve noticed a trend toward deeper 13" snare drums and am somewhat familiar with the size range because I often use my own deep 13" maple snare as a secondary snare (to the left of the hi-hat) on gigs. I find deep 13" snares to be excellent for playing cutting, full-sounding backbeats, but I do not typically use them as a primary snare because they seem to lack warmth and breathiness and the higher quality side-stick sound of the larger diameter 14" snares.
Dunnett’s deep 13" drum is the first titanium shell drum I have played. To me, the titanium had similar sound qualities to aluminum. It was clear, articulate, dry, and projected mid frequencies incredibly well without too many overtones. This particular drum also had the breathiness that other drums in this size range miss. The titanium seemed to project slightly louder than aluminum, but I wasn’t sure if that was because of the material or the way that Dunnett made the drum.
I tried this drum on my fusion gig at El Torito. It produced an absolutely stunning, popping backbeat and maintained a full, studio-quality sound at soft and loud volumes. As good as Dunnett’s deep 13" titanium snare sounded, it still did not offer the kind of side-stick sound I would want from a primary snare. Nevertheless, this is one of the best deep 13" snare drums I’ve played.
Custom drums do not typically come cheap, and Dunnett’s are no exception to that rule. According to Dunnett’s January 2007 price list, the drums list at $625 for the 14" steel shell, $695 for the 14" Milkwood solid shell, and $995 for the 13" titanium shell. Given the quality, sound, and expressiveness of these drums, I think they are without a doubt worth the money.