BY JOHN NYMAN
SLAMMING YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
The top tier of popular pedal design has long been dominated by a couple of major drum companies (do I need to name names?), but with their newly redesigned Intruders, Gibraltar makes a play to bust into the primo-pedal big leagues. I got my feet all over these new 2006 models in three configurations — dual chain, direct drive, and strap.
First off, Intruder pedals look damn good, starting with the carved-up, ninja-cool pedal board. The matte-black/semi-chrome color scheme is also well placed. Under it, the base plate is aluminum and vaguely flexible (there’s Velcro on the bottom and a holder on top for the included “tool kit” — a drum key/wrench and two Allen wrenches). The frame’s goal posts are very slightly curved, which subtly enhances the sleek, stealthy look. A pebbled matte-black finish on the goal posts contrasts nicely with the chrome of the axle, spring hub, cam, beater, and mounting wing nut. Very sharp.
Travis Barker once said in an interview that he avoided adjusting his pedals much. He played them straight out of the box to avoid becoming dependent on any particular tweakings. Hmmm … Well, he may be saving himself a lot of time, but he’s certainly missing out on the fineries of custom footwear. Gibraltar claims to ship their pedals factory adjusted (and I’ll give you a little preview of the verdict right now: Yes, the Intruders do play great, straight from the box), but for those who like to fiddle with knobs, you can play all day long with an Intruder’s many available adjustments. You can tweak, of course, spring tension and beater height. You can rotate the beater to play on the felt or on the hard plastic face. Further, the Intruder’s beater face is “self-aligning.” And you can adjust the pedal board height independently of spring tension and beater angle. You can also tailor the grip size on the hoop clamp, and then fasten the pedal to your drum with the offset “worm drive” wing nut. What you can’t adjust, however, is the toe stop, because there isn’t one.
A compliment is due for the beater. In addition to the self-aligning feature, it’s held in place by a squeeze rather than a pin. Many pedals use a bolt that drives directly into the beater shaft, but the Intruder’s beater goes into a sleeve, and tightening the bolt pulls the sleeve tight. I like this better. And the memory lock places the beater on the correct axis and height. Pedals have gotten so good in the last decade that we’re really getting down to details nowadays, and this is a nice detail.
Okay, so the new Intruder pedals are quite handsome and flexible, but there’s only so much information that can be tallied before a drummer has to actually stomp on the things. So that’s what I did. How well do they play? Quite nicely, thank you very much.
First up is the 9611DC Dual Drive Chain pedal, with its very slightly nonconcentric cam. Lively is the word that comes to mind. The action is butter-smooth, and the aluminum base plate gives a bit of flex. It’s fast and responsive, and footwork transmits strongly through the dual chain drive. Is the flex a good thing or bad? Hard to say. There are drummers who want complete rigidity in all parts that aren’t designed to move, but I like it because it gives that lively feel of the old-school strap pedals, only modernized.
The 9611DD Direct Drive pedal has an extreme cam action, owing to the length and angle of the direct drive linkage. Wham! Each foot stroke steps right off a building. Snap! This fast action is favored by some, reviled by others, but it’s sure nice to have a choice. Construction of the direct drive mechanism is excellent, well finished, and with all indications of high quality — no wobble, no wiggle.
The 9611SD Strap Drive pedal has a cam that appears to be even more concentric than the chain drive’s, though my measuring methods (“eye-balling it”) were less than scientific. This round cam is notable, however, because other companies offer the strap style over offset cams, similar to the cam on the Direct Drive Intruder. Straps give an almost inexplicably organic feel to the stroke, akin to the difference between playing a plastic head and a calf head. There’s a slight give. However, the 9611SD uses what appears to be a nylon/fabric strap, not Kevlar or some other miracle fiber, and the problem with straps, particularly for heavy hitters, is that they stretch and fail. Also, the strap does not rest in any sort of channel and alignment, which could become an issue. Now, before these Chicken Little predictions make you swear off the 9611SD, I admit to taking this pedal to a number of gigs (lower-volume shows, needing plenty of sensitivity), and it felt terrific.
I do have two small suggestions. All three pedals had a hard time getting a grip on my slightly spare, after-market bass drum hoop. It would be nice if the toe clamp went just a little smaller. Also, there is a growing segment of the drum population that is digging single-piece footboards: It would be nice to see the Intruder in an optional “longboard” style.
Boasting new design features and a razor-sharp look, Intruders are an overall impressive play by Gibraltar to be the best in the business. Don’t skip these if you’re shopping the high-end stuff. They measure up to anybody’s standards.
MODELS & PRICES
Gibraltar Intruder Bass Drum Pedals
9611DC Dual Drive Chain………….$189.75
9611DD Direct Drive Pedal………..$189.75
9611SD Strap Drive Pedal…………$189.75
Padded carrying bag, self-aligning beater, drum key/wrench, and two Allen wrenches. Double pedal versions of each model are available for $450.79.
Kaman Music Corp., 20 Old Windsor Rd., Bloomfield, CT 06002. 860-509-8888. gibraltarhardware.com