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Pork Pie Drums has been around since founder Bill Detamore started making drums as a hobby in 1987, but despite nearly two decades of building a devoted fan base in the drumming community, the company still retains somewhat of an underground feel. A smaller-scale manufacturer, what Pork Pie may lack in sheer size, it makes up for with daring designs that are both ear-grabbing and eye-catching. For its snares, drum kits, and hardware, the philosophy appears to be staying the original course: center the products around high-quality, often handmade materials, and keep the passion for drums alive. Let’s check out a few of the company’s unique snare drum offerings.

12" x 5" “Little Squealer.”

The first of the group to get scrutinized was the 12" x 5" “Little Squealer” ($500). With an 8-ply maple shell, the Little Squealer follows the company tradition of a visually arresting presentation, although not with the outrageously hued lacquers and wraps that it creates on a regular basis. Instead, this drum is adorned with an ebony satin finish and black chrome hardware that come together for a highly attractive appearance that absorbs light, instead of dazzlingly reflecting it. The overall effect makes the Little Squealer appear to be made of brushed metal instead of wood, and the drum quickly earned the nickname “Darth Vader” in my studio for its stark, dead-serious presence.

Closer examination revealed a tight fit and finish, with a relatively smooth snare throw-off mechanism, and all lugs and tension rods working as they should. Hoops are triple-flanged steel (as opposed to die-cast), and their fluidly arched curves add to the artful effect of this drum’s visual design. The snares have steel wires and steel ends. Unlike the other products in this review, which are made in Pork Pie’s Canoga Park, California shop, the Little Squealer is made in Taiwan.

On the snare stand, the Little Squealer proved to be a very fun and flexible addition to the kit. It has the athletic feel of a piccolo snare, while delivering the fuller, stronger punch of a bigger drum. Tuned high, it could skip along quickly and crisply with the live drum-’n’-bass/electronic styles that I play frequently, but it also works well tuned lower, sounding like a larger drum than it actually is – all the better to dig down into slower, harder pockets. I preferred to kill the ring with my trusty PureTone muffler, but the drum also sounds great unmuffled. Rimshot the drum and expect a sharp bang with lots of highs that really cut through the rest of the kit, plus any other instrumentation piled on top of that.

Like any good instrument, the Little Squealer provides inspiration all by itself. It’s fun to play, especially encouraging fast strokes, double-stroke rolls, and creative fills with its bounce. The fact that it’s equally comfortable in a big rock pocket makes this black hole of a snare drum even more appealing.

13" x 7" Amber Piglite

While the Vistalite inspiration of the transparent acrylic amber-finished 13" x 7" Amber Piglite ($660) is easy to see, this is no blast-from-the-past throwback. Instead, it’s a drum that blends a vintage sound in with a modern feel. Coming out onto the snare stand, it makes an immediate statement that this is a drum with an attitude and purpose. The thin, elegant tube lugs form a perfect line with the tension rods, a minimalist design that shows off the maximum amount of the 7" thick burnt orange shell.

The shell and affixed hardware have some interesting touches. The aforementioned lugs are solid brass and chrome-plated, attached again to triple-flanged steel hoops. Snare wires are high quality steel, with solid brass ends. Pork Pie says their bearing edges are “always perfect,” and so they were here. Looking inside, the immaculately smooth edges and meticulous internal lug hardware makes the Piglite attractive on the inside or outside.

The sound is a big, exciting interpretation of great ’70s rock snares, with its own character mixed in. A drummer could do a lot worse, for example, than to pick this drum to emulate the delivery of a player like John Bonham. The thin acrylic shell helps to give the drum more bite than maple, while the larger depth gives the sound an inner punch and strength. The steel wires and brass ends of the snares add a touch of brightness and snap for a really full flavor.

Playing this drum can feel pretty darn good. Go to town with slowhand trash fills, and the sound of the Piglite seems to bring out deliciously old-school qualities in your toms. Likewise, nailing this snare in the pocket again and again is a real joy. For a big sound that’s musical without being overpowering, with a dose of old-school thrown in, this drum would be an excellent choice.

14" x 7" Bullet Hole Vent Snare Drum

“Clown puke” are the words that Pork Pie itself uses to describe the hardware on this visually ballistic 14" x 7" snare with multiple vents ($1,050). And by multiple, we don’t mean two or three extra holes – my count came up with 72 holes drilled in an arrowhead-type pattern through the 8-ply maple shell. You want ventilation for your snare drum? You got it.

Surrounding the edges of these holes is a silver glass glitter finish. Hues like bubble gum pink and bright blue abound on the powder-coated hardware, giving this big snare drum a carnival atmosphere. If you want something with visual impact behind the subtle flair of the Piglite, here’s your drum. Even the most demanding extroverts should find this snare meets their criteria for arresting presentations.

Due to the much faster and more complete rush of air outside all those vents, the response of the drum is very dry. While the size can allow the Bullet Hole drum to achieve big volumes, the drum is also noticeably crisp and sensitive at very soft volumes. Many snare drums seem to “mush up” when played at pp or ppp, but this drum remains precise at the small end of the volume scale – surprising for a drum that comes off like such a big brute.

Hit it hard, and you’re the Hammer of Thor, very strong and cutting. The same steel/brass snares as the Amber Piglite add a nice bite and attack to the drum. It’s a big sound with some high-end attitude thrown in, as sharp, clear, and well-controlled tones ring out ever so briefly above a distinctive, punchy sound.

The large outrush of air did seem to translate into less rebound for the stick, however, so I noticed my arms and wrists getting fatigued a little more quickly if I was doing a lot of fast, single-stroke playing. The holes also give an interesting side-benefit: they (don’t laugh) serve as a snare-powered air cooling system. Tap the drum or wallop it, and a cool-feeling dry puff of air soothes your knees and lower thighs (provided you’re wearing shorts or a skirt). Hey, anything helps under those hot lights!

This is a drum that feels good whether moving fast or bringing down a large pocket landing on 2 and 4, and would bring welcome definition and foundation to many a rock and pop record. What’s more, striking the Bullet Hole is just extremely satisfying – once you start playing it, you don’t really want to stop anytime soon.

The Verdict

Beyond solid craftsmanship, unique designs, quality sounds and good value, these Pork Pie drums bring an intangible sense of excitement straight to the player. For drummers, studios, and/or producers looking to add a new sound to their arsenal, any one of these snare drums would be well worth a look.

DETAILS

Model: Pork Pie “Little Squealer” Snare Drum
Size: 12" x 5"
Price: $500
Shell: 8-ply maple
Finish: Ebony satin
Heads: Remo Coated Ambassador (top), Remo Snare-Side Ambassador (bottom)
Features: Black chrome hardware, triple-flanged hoops

Model:Pork Pie Amber Piglite Snare Drum
Dimensions: 13" x 7"
Price: $660
Shell: Acrylic
Finish: Amber
Heads: Remo Coated Ambassador (top), Remo Snare-Side Ambassador (bottom)
Features: Brass/chrome-plated tube lugs, brass-end snares

Model: Pork Pie Bullet Hole Vent Snare Drum
Dimensions: 14" x 7"
Price: $1,050
Shell: 8-ply maple
Finish: Silver Glass Glitter
Heads: Remo Coated Ambassador (top), Remo Snare-Side Ambassador (bottom)
Features: Dozens of vents, powder-coated hardware, brass-end snares

Contact

Pork Pie, 7241 1/2 Eton Ave., Canoga Park, CA 91303. 818-992-0783. http://www.porkpiedrums.com

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