Sonor: Perfect Tools For Those About To Rock
Phil Rudd And Danny Carey Signature Snares
By John Nyman
Originally published in DRUM! Magazine’s April 2010 Issue.
The Internet carried word of the new Phil Rudd and Danny Carey Sonor Signature snares well ahead of their arrival on my doorstep. Online opinions at drum forums flew hot and fast as soon as photos of the drums were made public.
Old guys like me who learned to party hearty while listening to AC/DC liked the idea of a Phil Rudd snare but bemoaned the Danny Carey drum’s graphics.Young Tool fans liked the Danny Carey drum’s perceived power but were cowed by its price. And more than a couple of folks were suspicious of the “plastic” throw-offs on both drums.
When they arrived, I tore into the box, worried that I was about to meet some cheap souvenir drums. I would soon discover that nothing could have been further from the truth.
PHIL RUDD SIGNATURE SNARE
To do a really authentic test drive on Rudd’s siggy snare it might be most appropriate to just hit backbeats on the thing and see what it’s like: “One, whack! Two, whack! Three …” But that doesn’t make for much of a review, so I played a lot more than that, even playing some rolls and some (gasp!) jazz with his drum. The Phil Rudd snare’s design is a no-brainer, a solid reissue of good ideas (largely borrowed from Rudd’s fav snare, Sonor’s Horst Link Signature Brass). Ten lugs encircle a 14" x 5", 1mm-thick brass shell plated in chrome. Chrome-over-brass is one of the most enduring snare drum compositions. In fact, it’s a safe guess that many early rock and pop songs that shaped Phil Rudd himself were cut on a chrome-over-brass snare. And though Rudd helped shape my playing, the first gig I took his new signature drum to was not a rock assignment, but rather a restaurant jazz job. I almost regretted it. Not for any sonic reason, though, but for the sake of my lower back. This thing weighs a ton!
Adding to the weight of Rudd’s drum are die-cast hoops, which, in addition to adding weight, focus and “dry out” the sound. Plus, I’d wager that Rudd might pulverize rolled hoops in the course of a week’s gigs, so die-cast it is. I did no pulverizing that night, but did enjoy, at light volume, the classic articulation, pop, and focus of the drum. I also enjoyed the mirror-chromed finish, the smooth fit and clean lines, and the plastic throw-off that actually worked just fine but did not earn any points for silkiness. The drum also features Tune-Safe lugs, designed to avoid detuning while being pummeled. I love the idea, but I did not get to play any really loud gigs that put the lugs to the test.
Rudd’s snare is crisp and defined. Each note is centered, focused, as if it lives in a small little pocket. Off-center, New Orleans–style beats were lovely, still full of snare buzz but with increased ring. Later, on rock gigs, I enjoyed the authority of the drum’s definition, and the power of rimshots. Rimshots are not integrated, but are a couple of clicks louder and more focused. Not quite like two different drums, but close.
The downsides of this snare are the Chinese Remo heads, the less-than-silky plastic throw-off, and the weight. But, yeah, I’d buy one. It’s a really good drum.
DANNY CAREY SIGNATURE SNARE
Danny Carey’s Signature snare is a chameleon in wolf’s clothing. At 14" x 8", this sucker is big! The thin (1mm) bronze shell is polished to a mirror-like finish and has both geometric graphics and Carey’s signature etched into the shell under a protective clear-coat finish. The ten Signature series lugs are handsome and the 2.3mm rolled hoops allow for a low profile and suggest an open sound to come.
I was surprised by its sound and versatility. At 8" deep, I was braced for a low thwack, a meat-and-potatoes sound that was mostly potatoes. I was so wrong. The Carey snare is cousin to a timbale, and it has a musical, constant ring to it. The depth of the drum adds throatiness, and the thin brass shell is likely the source of the sandy articulation that lets each note be heard clearly. Rimshots add a pronounced woodiness, but not a completely different sound — more of an integrated knock.
The range of this drum is outstanding. It arrived with a medium tuning. From there I tuned it low, very low. It sounded fat, authoritative, but did not lose distinction nor gain any honks, buzzes, or dissonant frequencies. Mostly I tuned the top head, adjusting the bottom head a little this way or that. I’ve tuned a lot of drums in the last 35 years. And I’m no tuning guru, but I did find the Carey snare very easy to tune.
I tuned it up really high, too, chasing down the obvious fun to be had with its timbale-like singsong character. Up high it became crisp, light, and belied its own shell depth. I faked a little bebop jazz on it, playing the normal feathery drags, pops, and rolls. The Carey snare sounded fine despite being several generations away from home.
On the down side, if you pressed me, I’d say I wasn’t thrilled about the included UT (Chinese-made) Remo heads. The top hoop sat rather low and close to the head. I don’t know if that’s a function of the hoop’s profile or a matter of the head sitting tall, but visual inspection implicates the head.
Nor was I thrilled about the plastic parts used in the throw-off. But the Sonor throw-off (same as on the Rudd snare) seems rugged enough, and is handsome, and the contrasting black color is appealing, but it isn’t a butter-smooth tracking device. It feels more like an old-school throw-off, which is less and less appealing given the availability of silky-smooth, boutique throw-offs these days.
But the sonic versatility of this drum is outstanding. In fact, I’d say the sound is versatile in inverse proportion to the looks of the drum. It looks tall and tubby and is a funny color and is festooned with graphics of a particular style. But it sounds great tuned up, tuned down, tuned in the middle — plus it’s sensitive, it’s authoritative, it can be tickled or bashed and will do fine in a variety of musical and dynamic settings. It is an excellent drum. If you had only this drum, you could cover most all bases, but you’d have to deal with lots of strange looks from bandmates. It’s not a drum of subtle appearances.
Danny Carey Snare: 1mm mirror-finish bronze shell with tribal, geometric designs; 2.3mm rolled hoops
Phil Rudd Snare: Tune-Safe lugs; 1mm-thick mirror-finish chrome-over-brass shell; die-cast hoops
Danny Carey Signature
14" x 8" Snare Drum $1079.99
Phil Rudd Signature
14" x 5" Snare Drum $659
The Carey drum is outstanding, surprisingly versatile, and adventurous in tone and appearance. It’s also quite expensive. The Rudd drum is an homage to proven standards and is a big winner that, like Rudd himself, does the same-ol’ same-ol’ thing, but does it really well, and at a great price.