Canopus seems to be obsessed with sound. The high-end Japanese drum maker believes that three characteristics — shell material, construction, and bearing edge profile — are responsible for most of a drum’s sound.
For example, the company experimented with 25 different shell designs before finding the ideal combination for its 10" tom. However, it decided that the formula only applied to the 10", and went on to create a shell design unique to each tom size in its catalog. For this reason, unlike many boutique drum manufacturers, Canopus doesn’t offer a myriad of drum dimensions to suit every possible taste, and even matches each shell diameter to a specific depth that it believes sounds best for that size. As a result, Canopus recommends its 22"-diameter bass drum in a 15" depth. So, if you’re into fashion more than sound, and require a vented snare and 20" x 20" kick drum, you might want to shop elsewhere. To be fair, though, the company does offer a few other sizes for bass drums and toms that will accommodate popular requests, such as a 22" x 18" kick.
In an effort to reduce unwanted overtones and maximize shell resonance, Canopus similarly marries bearing edge profiles to specific drum sizes. Drummers often muffle the head to reduce excessive ringing, but Canopus prefers to sculpt bearing edges that allow heads to vibrate to their fullest without unwanted overtones. The company prides itself in creating a bass drum bearing edge that produces a fat sound without high overtones that require additional muffling or porting the resonant head. But Canopus doesn’t stop there. Its reinforcing rings are proportional and vary in size depending on the size and desired tone of the drum. Even its die-cast hoops are designed to contribute to the drum’s tone.
I received a kit from Canopus’ R.F.M. series, which arrived fitted with die-cast hoops and brass hardware. Sizes included a 22" x 15" bass drum, 10" x 7" and 12" x 8" toms, 14" x 13" and 16" x 15" floor toms, an 8-ply 14" x 6.5" maple snare, and a 14" x 5" steel snare. All shells were thin and made of 100-percent American maple (barring the steel snare), although the company offers a wide variety of other shell options. Canopus makes its own snare wires and uses proprietary Bolt Tight washers on every drum, which are meant to prevent detuning and add warmth to the sound.
The toms and bass drum I received were finished in Charcoal Oil, which had a light sheen and revealed striations in the wood grain. The maple snare was painted in an opaque high-gloss Black Lacquer finish, and was the only wood drum that didn’t use reinforcing rings. Canopus offers a variety of finishes but leans toward traditional tastes — perfect for jazz drummers. The brass lugs were gold colored, as were the die-cast grommets, even though the rest of the hardware was chromed. Though I generally prefer when lugs and hoops match, I thought the combination looked good with this Charcoal finish. Canopus thoughtfully included several spare lugs of each type in case one became cross-threaded.
The bass drum boasted ten lugs per head, and came with a tom mount, which I prefer for sheer convenience. The bass drum claws didn’t have gaskets to prevent hoop marks, but there was a rubber liner to protect the hoop at the pedal attachment point.
I also received a full assortment of both heavy-duty and light hardware. The hi-hat stand was very lightweight (6.2 lbs) with small-diameter tubing, yet includes some nice features that make it usable in professional situations that don’t require bulky gear. It had a spring tension adjustment, rotating tripod base legs (with a relatively small spread), spurs to secure it on carpeted flooring, and newly designed hinges and bearings for smooth motion. The flat-base snare stand was also compact, weighing only 5 lbs, and came with a ratcheted tilter.
A throwback to hardware from the 1960s, the flat-base cymbal stand will work best for a ride cymbal that isn’t played very heavily. The tilter is simple, but too insubstantial for many of the gigs I play. Gentle jazz drummers with bad backs will love it since it weighs only 3 lbs, though it’s pricey at $117.
The hybrid throne and tripod-base cymbal stand, however, were excellent and innovative. This hardware uses some aluminum parts to reduce overall weight without affecting strength, just like old Slingerland hardware and DW’s flat-base stands. All of the other hardware was good, solid stuff as well.
Our test snare and toms sounded very good with their supplied coated Ambassador heads, as did the bass drum with its Powerstroke 3 batter. When tuned for rock, the toms and bass drum had a fat tone with a slightly dry character — exactly what Canopus had in mind. Each tom blended well with the others and offered a wide range, easily tuning up for jazz, with a nice round tone. If I wanted a bit more sustain from the toms, I’d swap clear resonant heads for the coated ones.
You might think a 15"-deep bass drum wouldn’t have enough bottom end, but the 22" x 15" bass drum delivered a big sound without being too boomy. You could port the head or muffle it if you like the way that feels, but it wouldn’t be necessary otherwise. The drum is also pleasantly lightweight.
Both snares came with simple and quiet side throw-offs, 8-lug die-cast hoops, and Canopus’ Vintage Wires, which recreate the Slingerland snare wires that graced so many vintage drums. (Canopus also offers Back Beat snare wires for rock drummers.) The steel drum offered a nice crack, good brightness, and plenty of sensitivity for lighter play. It also had a fuller tone than I would normally expect from a 5"-deep steel snare, yet didn’t ring with excessive overtones, eliminating the need for muffling. The maple snare also sounded quite good, with a full range of frequencies, and would be fine in either a rock or jazz setting. Each snare drum provided strong, clear rim-clicks when playing ballads and Latin grooves.
Canopus wants the acoustic sound of its drums to translate perfectly in the recording studio. You can judge for yourself if the company accomplishes that goal by visiting canopusdrums.com, where you will find unprocessed recordings of various kits. I think you’ll agree that the drums sound very good without EQ, making them a good choice for studio work. Now why don’t more manufacturers do that?
Canopus drums sound great and are reasonably priced for high-end drums. Rock drummers who want the wildest finishes will probably look elsewhere, but if you value substance over style, Canopus may have just the drums for you.