Righteous and Red: Cherry Bomb Snare
While the invention of aluminum revolutionized beverage cans in the ’60s, it also impacted snare drum design when Ludwig introduced the Acrolite model. Its thin, beaded, spun-aluminum shell became a popular and enduring design and a benchmark sound. The Acrolite ruled the aluminum roost until recent years, when a number of new aluminum snares boasting shells of various thicknesses appeared on the market. Several name drummers, including Billy Ward and Dave Weckl, now play aluminum snares as their primary instruments, and with impressive results.
The most outstanding example of a fine aluminum snare drum that I have played is the Cherry Bomb from Underground Drum Company. The name, of course, comes from the outrageous all-red design of the drum. Admittedly, I don’t own a kit that is trendy enough to provide a home to such a wild design, but you, dear reader, are probably drooling in anticipation of adding this red rocker to your favorite set. Keep in mind, though, that this snare isn’t just a showpiece – the Cherry Bomb performs with as much bold authority as it presents.
Metal MattersAluminum has its own distinct sound and, to my ear, that sound is amplified in the Cherry Bomb, which I attribute to its 3mm-thick shell. While brass tends to give a wet-sand thunk with ringing edges, and steel gives a precise, aggressive bite with a bit of singing tonk, meaty aluminum shells give a sandy, slightly breathy tone, with a punch that is rounded off but still aggressive. There’s a musical ring to aluminum that floats atop the metallic bite. It’s a versatile, sensitive, and rocking good sound.
ConstructionThe Cherry Bomb is all red. The aluminum shell is red. The die-cast hoops on batter and resonant sides are red. The eight vintage-style tube lugs are red. Even the grommet on the air-vent hole is red. Powder coating is responsible for most of the crimson tint, while the shell’s scarlet hue is anodized. Standing out from the red tide is the handsome, machined aluminum and steel of the Trick snare throw-off, which color-matches the drum’s 16 steel tension rods.
The excellent sensitivity of the beefy set of 42-strand wires may be due to the relatively deep and wide machined snare beds. The gorgeous 14" x 6" shell isn’t seamless, but while the nicely groomed seam is clearly visible, it just barely distracts from the smooth interior of the drum. Speaking of grooming, you’ll want to check out the narrow and slightly rounded bearing edges at the top and bottom. If you need a precise bearing edge, machined aluminum can give it to you.
Metal-to-metal contact points are buffered with nylon gaskets. Each tension rod rests on two washers: one made of nylon and the other steel. The very groovy Cherry Bomb badge is fixed firmly with tiny Allen-head cap screws. More black Allen-head screws secure the throw-off and butt, while black Phillips screws fasten down the lugs. There’s a Udrum label inside, hand-signed with date and serial number. In other words, this is a drum carefully made with great attention to detail by a craftsman with steady hands.
Under The SticksI played as many different styles on the Cherry Bomb as I could, putting it through the paces. Second-line stuff (imagine a Stanton Moore impersonation) was particularly fun. The Cherry Bomb gave a fat snare tone from dead center, but moving off-center (the norm for second-line beats) added a loud ring to the fatness, rather than simply swapping snare buzz for hollow ring, as some drums do. The evolving sound, as the sticks steered from center hits to the outer edge, was like turning a knob on a reverb unit. Buzz rolls at the edge were not exactly symphonic – too many overtones for that – but the precision of the snare response remained, though it was colored by the ringing.
The drum’s meaty voice spoke both loudly and softly. I had no trouble with the Cherry Bomb on restaurant jazz gigs, where low volume was the rule and dynamics were demanding. Of course, I also played loudly, and the Cherry Bomb delivered a vigorous crack, but not the kind that induces a headache.
For variety, I tuned the drum lower and set the snares looser, and found the Cherry Bomb to be a great rock drum. I once heard L.A. rockabilly alt mainstay Jerry Angel on a jump-blues gig, with a killer, crackin’ snare. Chatting with him after the set, I couldn’t help noticing the drum was tuned medium-low, and the snare wires rattled so much I thought the throw-off had slipped its position. But while Jerry pummeled it, the sound in the audience had been deceptively focused. The Cherry Bomb, too, likes loose as well as tight tuning.
The Trick throw-off on the Cherry Bomb made it easy to experiment with different tunings and wire tensions. It has three indents that guide you into four positions as you rotate the lever from on to off: “off,” “barely on,” “loosely on,” and “tightly on.” Adjusting the tension knob affects all three “on” positions in equal amounts. I think this is a handy option, especially if the songs you play call for different snare sounds.
MODEL Cherry Bomb
SIZE 14" x 6"
PRICE $487 (US)
THROW-OFF Trick Percussion
FINISH Red anodized/powder coated
LUGS Eight tube lugs
Underground Drum Company
The Cherry Bomb is a great drum. Finely crafted with attention to detail, it embodies a combination of design choices that work well together to make a drum that is versatile across the dynamic spectrum. Aluminum is a proven voice for snare drums, and the Cherry Bomb is a sterling specimen of what the metal can do. It has a retail price that reflects the painstaking craftsmanship put into the instrument, but doesn’t vault it into the rarefied air of the collector. This is a worthwhile “player’s drum” that happens to look great. Personally, I don’t need an all-red drum, or I would be sending Udrum my favorite message, “Sorry! Your review item was lost in shipping!”