Johnny Craviotto’s award-winning solid wood snares were made famous by DW. Here he’s turned his attention to a pair of vintage-styled brass drums, which have been designed and produced in conjunction with Adrian Kirchler of AK drums in Italy. A limited number of drums are available in two sizes: 14"x5½" and 14"x6½".
Apart from their depth, the two drums are identical. Everything is nickel on brass – the shells, the lugs and the hoops. The shell is 0.7mm gauge brass, making it the thinnest brass shell on the market, and probably the thinnest of any metal shell. Although there’s a central strengthening bead recalling vintage Ludwigs, Kirchler describes the shell as onepiece, formed by “a process of rolling and hand-hammering”.
He also hand engraves each drum to include the name ‘Craviotto USA’ and serial number in one diamond panel, before shipping it off to the USA for Craviotto to assemble and finish off. The drums are fabulous lookers, with the Craviotto diamond motif cropping up everywhere.
The 10, two-point mounted tube lugs sit on diamond-shaped blocks, and even the snare butt-end plate is mounted on a solid, diamond-shaped plinth. Bearing edges are slightly rounded and formed in the old fashioned way that you see on 1920s/‘30s Ludwig heavy brass shell snares.
The edge is bent over at 30 degrees then back in until it reconnects with the inner shell, forming a triangular cross section. This is then soldered so that it forms a solid triangular channel. This is obviously labour intensive, so adds to the cost. But the effect is to make the drum extremely strong, and to increase the edge sensitivity. The bottom edge also has a snare bed pressed into it, which is just less then 1/8" deep.
Hoops are 2.3-mm triple-flanged, nickel over brass again. Such a drum deserves only the best snare strainer, and this comes in the reassuring shape of the Trick GS007, specially labelled with the Craviotto logo. The 20 strand wires are high-carbon steel, specifically manufactured for Craviotto. Rounding off the package is a fake fur-lined soft carrying case.
When hearing Argent/Kinks drummer Bob Henrit play the 5½" drum live, it sounded perfect, just like a snare should. Cutting through while un-mic’ed with clarity, authority and a full tone. However, after playing it for a long period of time, the richness was nearly overwhelming. The snare is so ripe it’s almost too much of a good thing. The sound is so thickly snarey, you occasionally – ironically – hanker after a thinner, clonkier tone on some tunes.
The 5½" is ideal for powerful, funky rock or even metal. Chad Smith apparently nabbed the first of these drums ever made, and we can see how it would be a perfect drum for a player like him. You get oodles of snare response, however hard (or soft) you play. The extra thin brass shell imparts depth, warmth and musicality, while the superb bearing edges and crisp, perfectly aligned, properly bedded snares respond to their full potential.
The 6½" is more of the same, yet more rowdy. The centre backbeat is correspondingly darker while rim shots can be pretty wild, yielding a great clonk and a healthy ring – there’s even a hint of the steel pan about it. It’s never a nasty clang, though, and is easily controllable with a deft bit of damping.
The fact the drums are so well constructed also means you get a wider tuning range. Even tuned right down, the drum still holds its tuning, giving a really thick and dirty blat. As you pass back up to mediumbright tension you get a glorious wet slap when you play backbeats and rim shots. Up high, you get the ultimate clarity without losing the snare response, and it never sounds thin.
Both drums are also super sensitive and, with that special vintage bearing edge, would surely be great for orchestral work, the edge sensitivity being everything you could hope for.