George Way Snare Drums Tested!
The Many Voices Of WayAs with any snare, even if its looks could kill, if its sound dies, it’s not worth purchasing. I held onto these George Ways for more than a month, which gave me ample opportunity to test them out both at home and on several gigs. With that amount of playing and testing, I can confidently assert that the same quality that marks these snares’ appearance also comes through in their refined sound. Given the similarity in all specs on these snares (same size, same hardware, and same heads), it’s amazing how each snare’s different shell material distinguishes its sound from the others. But let’s start with some similarities.
Each drum produces sensitive and breathy snare response with lots of length to the note. I played each snare with sticks, multi-rods, and brushes, and even with the softest of brush playing, that breathiness managed to sing through. Snare response remains consistent from center to edge on each drum. Notably, although Dunnett’s snares are famous for having rather deep snare beds, the George Way snare beds look much shallower. So, which snare bed – shallow or deep – offers better snare response? The mystery remains. Dunnett has now proven via his Dunnett and George Way models that each bed can work equally well if done right. Beyond snare response, each George Way snare fortunately lacks any box-like sound qualities, or any of those annoying high-pitched ringing overtones that can sometimes shriek through.
As for their fundamental sounds, these snares range from warm to bright, with the maple Studio model anchoring the warm end of the sound spectrum, while the chrome-over-brass model mans the helm on the bright end. Specifically, the Studio model speaks with lots of mids, a few lows and highs, and a dryness that produces a surprisingly balanced and vintage-like sound. The Studio model is not as cutting or profound sounding as a solid shell maple snare would be, but I’ve yet to hear a ply model that is. Rather, the Studio model has similar sonic qualities to a vintage Rogers wood snare I own (which also has a reinforced maple ply shell).
I’m guessing the vintage sound qualities on the newer George Way model have a lot to do with the thinness of the shell, the reinforcement hoops on top and bottom, and the fact that the shell’s interior is finished with white paint. Having now reviewed several snares for DRUM!, I’m convinced that finishing a wood shell’s interior goes a long way toward balancing out the sound because it seals the wood’s pores. Besides its sound, this Studio model has a cushioned bounciness to its feel, which makes it very comfortable to play.
Unlike Dunnett’s metal snares, which have non-flanged simple-cut bearing edges, the George Way metal snares feature more traditional flanged (i.e., fold-over) bearing edges. Does this choke their sound? Absolutely not, but it does allow each metal shell model to retain a nice degree of warmth and focus.
The Aero model offered a welcome opportunity for me to finally review an aluminum shell snare. I’ve long considered aluminum to be an unsung hero of the snare shell universe. Aluminum speaks with more warmth and woodiness than most other metals, and its lack of a wide overtone series gives it a naturally EQ’d quality that’s versatile and perfect for recording. Besides all of that, aluminum is light, which makes it easy to tote around to gigs.
The Aero, I found, stays true to aluminum’s best qualities, producing a pleasing blend of lows, mids, and highs that are very evenly balanced with respect to each other. The Aero, perhaps because its shell is ultra-thin, speaks with a fatter, lower pitch than several similarly sized aluminum snares I have played. Still, the Aero has more liveliness to its sound than the maple-ply Studio model. Overall, the Aero’s lively yet warm metallic sound makes it an incredibly versatile drum.
The Hollywood model sounds more energetic and brighter than the Aero, with a fundamental sonic quality that’s dynamic, full, and enveloped in a beautiful and quickly diminishing overtone series. This drum does everything you’d expect from a high-quality chrome-over-brass snare (i.e., lively response, full sound, tremendous dynamic range) but with a subtleness and lack of harshness that make it particularly appealing. After I played this chrome-over-brass beauty for a few days, I picked out a few snares from my own collection that didn’t compare, sold them on eBay, and then called Dunnett to let him know I’d be purchasing this model and only returning the other two. It’s that good. Just in case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t try to extort a good price in exchange for a good review. I simply couldn’t part with this snare.
Quite honestly, I’m not enough of a vintage snare aficionado to know whether or not these snares replicate the original George Way snares they’re named after, but to me, that doesn’t really matter. From my perspective, these snares are each superb, regardless of whether they’re authentic to the George Ways of the past. Each exemplifies elegant simplicity with simple-to-use throw-offs, classic-looking lugs, attractive fold-over flanged hoops, high-quality chroming, and shells that sound as good as they look. Beyond that, the George Ways are all priced well under $1,000, which, given their quality, seems like a bargain.
MODEL Dunnett George Way Snare Drums
SHELLS Studio: 4-ply electronic-bonded reinforced shell; Aero: ultra-thin seamless spun-aluminum shell; Hollywood: extra-heavy AAA chrome-plated brass shell. Each snare comes with roll-formed bearing edges.
SIZE 14" x 6.5" for each snare
FINISH (Reviewed) Studio: natural-maple lacquer; Aero: anodized aluminum; Hollywood: AAA chrome-plated brass.
FEATURES Eight streamline casings, 845 throw-off, triple-flanged hoops, Remo single-ply coated snare batter heads.
PRICE Studio: $659, Aero: $795, Hollywood: $825
The Geo. H. Way Drum Company
4587 57th Street, Delta, B.C., CN