You could really say this about anything, but it seems especially true in the world of drum set design: New or different ideas are often met with skepticism and mockery. Whether it’s a truly novel innovation, or a refined update to an old standard, each change usually elicits a chorus of “Why would I need that when mine is already the best, bro?” responses from the general public (read: the Internet).
Thankfully, that kind of attitude hasn’t stopped builders all around the world from trying to break the mold a little bit. This is especially true of the boutique market, where there seems to be a never-ending supply of updates, modifications, and inventions, ranging from the “Why didn’t someone think of that before?” practical, to the “What the eff is that?” bizarre. The subject of this review, Superdrum12, certainly falls closer to the former, although maybe not at first glance.
The entire Superdrum12 line is built around a very simple concept – every drum the company makes has 12 lugs instead of the usual eight or ten. But, the company isn’t trying to attract new eyes and ears with gimmickry. Instead, it has thrown all its eggs into one very effective basket, because, at the end of the day, it’s pretty awesome.
“Hold on, now. How could adding extra lugs to my snare drum be awesome? More mass on the shell means less freedom of movement and less resonance, right?”
A valid point, and possibly the exact reason these drums sound so nice. We’ll get back to that, but for now, let’s take a quick look at the three drums we’ll be reviewing.
The good people at Superdrum12 shipped over three snare drums from the company’s current lineup, including 14" x 4" and 14" x 8" chrome over steel models, as well as a 14" x 6.5" brass. Right out of the box, the drums looked surprisingly unremarkable. That’s not to say they were aesthetically unappealing, but rather, that they were very plain in appearance.
Each model used the same small rectangular lug, chrome parts, and simple, practical appointments. I know some drummers may want a little more visual flare from their set centerpiece, but I actually found this look refreshing. Superdrum12 isn’t trying to fool you with eye-popping looks. Instead, it’s totally focused on making the most effective 12-lug drum possible.
“So, if the looks aren’t doing the trick, how do they sound?”
Well, that’s where these guys shine. Superdrum12 founder, Dave “Bedrock” Bedrosian, told me that the unique sound of every snare the company makes comes from the extra tuning precision afforded by additional lugs. Many people will tell you that a ten-lug drum is more easily tunable than a similar eight-lug model. Makes sense, but I think there may be something else going on here.
I’d be willing to bet that some of that Superdrum12 sound comes from the extra weight on the shell. Because each of the snares I reviewed had a total of 24 lugs, it could be said that at least part of the snares’ character is a result of the impeded resonance mentioned above – but in a really good way.
Alright, that’s two paragraphs about the “Superdrum12 sound” with no mention of what the drums actually sound like. So, let’s break it down.
Let me start by saying that, I love steel drums. That bright, cracking character with a little pinging wildness on the end always kills me. The steel snares I received from Superdrum12 were truly unique, however. Both drums had all the cutting presence I expected, but with an added warmth and focus that just baffled me.
Again, these were both highly polished, flat steel shells, but they didn’t have any of the unwieldy over- and under-tones that I expected. With the right tuning, I could bring a little of that sweet ring out to back up rimshots, but for the most part, these were suspiciously clean and controlled drums. They almost sounded as though they’d been very, very effectively muffled by a studio engineer – lively but microphone-ready.
Additionally, whereas most steel snares I’ve played in the past seem to almost hyperbolize the shell’s depth – deeper steel drums trend toward huge, booming cannons while shallower models usually pack even more ear-piercing crack than other shells of the same size – the chromed Superdrum12s both played a little more toward the middle.