Celebrating its 10th birthday this year, Animal Custom Drums first set out to bring custom- built drums to the masses at an affordable price-point.
Based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, the boutique company headed by boss man Carl Gavins is still very much following the same mantra. With the new 'Tourer by Animal' range, Animal intends to bring a selection of hand-built shell packs to the market whilst preserving an element of customisation for the consumer.
The 'Tourer by Animal' kit is available in a number of shell pack configurations including a three-piece set-up in 12", 16" and 22" sizes costing £945, through to a five piece in 12", 14", 16" and 22" with a 14" snare for £1,348.
Many finishes are available from a wide selection of wraps and some newer, natural satin finishes. The wraps on offer include several sparkle and glitter variations in addition to Black Pearl, White Pearl and a classic Black Oyster finish.
For the natural satin finishes, an outer veneer of exotic wood is utilised, such as Olive Ash (as review) or Bubinga. The finish of the review snare is Zebrano. All natural wood veneers are finished in
a hand-rubbed wax for their smooth satin patina.
Our four-piece review kit consists of a 13"x10" rack tom, 16"x14" floor tom, 22"x16" bass drum and a 14"x61⁄2" snare. Unfortunately there is no mounting clamp included for the rack tom, although the un-drilled shell does come complete with a basic RIMS-type suspension system. Don't worry though, at least floor tom legs come as standard.
There is no disputing this as you play the kit and each drum sings with musical intent.
The price of the review kit comes in at a total of £1,399 which includes the snare drum; the cost of the shell pack without the snare is £1,122. This leaves the individual snare costing just £277: seemingly a bargain price for a handmade drum.
All Tourer kits are constructed purely of Scandinavian birch, 4.5mm for the toms (with optional re-rings), 6mm for the bass drum and an optional 4.5mm (with re-rings) or 6mm for the snare drum. With the natural satin finish options, the outer veneer brings the thickness from 4.5mm to 5.1mm. All shells feature full cut 45° bearing edges with a small 45° outer return.
In terms of hardware, the Tourer is supplied with a choice of vintage style die-cast beaver-tail lugs or more modern die-cast Shaw lugs with black rubber gaskets (as review). Each drum also sports a cut-out chrome Animal logo and a small sound hole finished with a small chrome grommet.
The bass drum features vintage style claw hooks for its 20 tension rods which add to the overall aesthetic, especially, we're sure, when paired with the beaver-tail lugs.
The hoops on the toms and snare are 2.3mm triple-flanged chrome while the bass drum uses natural maple wood hoops. The bass drum spurs are heavy duty and are the type that can only be locked in at one angle. In addition, a drum key is necessary to adjust the telescopic spurs as there are no wing nuts.
The kit comes supplied with Aquarian heads: a Super Kick I clear on the bass drum batter and a white unported Force II on the resonant side; Response 2 batter heads for the toms and Classic Clears on the bottoms.
The snare drum features a Texture Coated head on the batter and oddly, a stray Remo Ambassador snare side. The snare drum also comes equipped with 24-strand Puresound wires with nylon straps and a generic classic-style cast throw-off.
For those of you that have read our gear reviews before, you'll likely know that we're suckers for a natural wood finish. Simply put – if it's made of wood, we want to see it as god intended.
Well, the good news is that this kit fits the bill perfectly. Upon removing the first drum from its box, an involuntary squeak of excitement could be heard emanating from our studio.
The darker Zebrano veneer with its striking wood grain is particularly eye catching and complements the look of the rest of the drum kit very nicely indeed. The lighter coloured Olive Ash of the toms and bass drum is more on the subtle end of the spectrum and has a more typical woodgrain pattern.
Without any kind of lacquer present, it is clear to see the huge seams where the veneer has been joined on each drum. Luckily though, the joins are fairly neat and tidy throughout.
Now, on to the sound. We would have liked to have spent a little more time getting to know this kit but unfortunately, our time together was limited. As creator and Animal head honcho Carl Gavins puts it, "A thin birch shell will give you lots of resonance and a nice smooth tone which the player can then tailor to their musical needs."
There is no disputing this as you play the kit and each drum sings with musical intent. The bass drum thumps away happily, producing a subby note, helped by the Aquarian Super Kick I batter.
This is a lively drum and requires a little attention and extra dampening to keep it in check. The large 13" rack tom and 16" floor tom were most content at about the lowest tuning possible. Certainly this configuration as it is would lend itself to big beefy Bonham-style playing or perhaps some Dave Grohl-inspired shenanigans.
Cranked up nice and tight, the snare demonstrates a beautifully open sound with a kind of roundness to it.
Tuning the toms up brings the resonance to life even more but doesn't work as well with the size of these tubs. Given the sheer volume of choice in shell sizes though, there is surely a kit for everyone in the Tourer.
The 14"x61⁄2" snare drum meanwhile plays delightfully well and we're sure it comes as no surprise to learn that this is an exceptionally lively drum.
Its sound is agreeable through all tuning ranges but sits particularly well at a medium pitch. Cranked up nice and tight, the snare demonstrates a beautifully open sound with a kind of roundness to it.
Rim shots sing and the backbeat is nice and fat thanks to the sensitive response of the 24-strand snare wires.
On a random side note, we couldn't help but feel that the look of the resonant bass drum head 'cheapened' the look of the drum kit overall. A strange fight to pick, admittedly. It's just too strongly reminiscent of classic 'school' kits like your Session Pro or Thunder. Perhaps just us? Either way it doesn't take much to replace a bass drum head, does it?