The delivery of an Ayotte kit is always a reason for celebration. For starters it happens rarely, so it's a bit of an occasion. Secondly the drums are always phenomenally good. Like world-class good. So let's see how this lot measure up shall we?
The short answer is that they measure up as follows: 22"x18" kick, 12"x10", 14"x11" and 16"x14" toms (all with all-maple shells) and a 14"x5½" Keplinger steel snare. And they all look mighty fine. The wonderful aesthetics of the kit involve a number of factors (in fact pretty much every aspect of the kit contributes something to the beauty of the whole), but naturally it's the stunning translucent deep purple finish that immediately gets the mouth watering.
Hardly show-offy, the finish implies the kit doesn't need to flag up the fact that it's special. It's like a classy Sophia Loren compared to some custom drum-makers' OTT Jodie Marsh-isms.
Glancing around the kit presents your eyes with a feast of fabulousness. All the metalwork is alluringly designed - the unusual Tune Lock rods/lugs allow for quick head changes and look smartly funky, while the hi-tech looking bass drum spurs have the appearance of a surgical device. Even such potentially clumpy aspects as the tom cradles (or 'Suspension Bridges' as Ayotte would have it) are curvy and cool.
In short, there's little about the Ayotte that doesn't impress from a visual point of view.
Of course, one of the other instant eye candy features (but which is actually more about pleasing your ears than your mince pies) is the presence of wood hoops on all the toms. An Ayotte trademark, the hoops are a bit of a drumland icon as far as we're concerned. They do add a bit to the price, but their unique, organic looks immediately set Ayotte kits apart from the rest of the crowd.
The fact that all tension rods necessarily sport bass drum-style claws simply adds to the quirky appeal.
All of the above has concerned itself with the kick and toms. But the Keplinger snare that accompanies them is equally worthy of excited hyperbole (a matching maple snare is also available, at slightly less cost). The drum is, as mentioned, a regular 14"x5½" - but in terms of weight it's anything but standard. This is one phenomenally heavy beast, thanks to a 3mm brushed stainless steel shell - the finish gives the drum a purposeful air - and the (by now expected) wooden hoops, which again lend their groovy oddness to proceedings.
Such is the size of the hoops that a slight alteration in technique might well be necessary, simply because they stand proud of the batter head to a greater degree than standard triple-flanged or die-cast types. But the fatness that they bestow on backbeats, and on rim shots in particular, justifies the effort.
Let's get physical
Believe me, the snare drum needs the fatness from the hoops to be able to keep up with the rest of the kit. To put it plainly, this is one hell of a huge-sounding, dynamically impressive kit. It's one of those rare set-ups that seems to defy the laws of physics in that no matter how hard it's pushed, it simply roars louder.
Its dynamic limits seem to stretch further than we can go, in either direction. Played softly, the toms in particular offer up a whisper that could charm birds from the trees. At the other end of the spectrum, they don't simply get louder, the tone gets bigger too, until it's arena-sized. The bass drum lives up to the same gold standard.
The amount of super-low frequency (and we're talking throbbing sub-bass here) that's on offer is breath-taking. You'll need decent right (or indeed left) foot technique to get the most from it, but when that beater bounces from the head the walloping fundamental note is absolutely glorious.
And again, it's very difficult to plumb the depths (or heights) of the bass drum's ability; it's the kick that keeps on giving, matching each step up in velocity with more, bigger, noise. It simply never sounds strangled or maxed-out. It's utterly wonderful.
In light of this all-conquering brilliance, the only gripe about the Ayotte fades to become decidedly trivial, although it does affect day-to-day enjoyment to an extent. Almost every fastening apparatus on the kit seems to require a drum key to undo and do it up - not a huge issue if you a) set it up and never move it, or b) have a tech to do everything for you. But a bit of a pain if you fall into any other category. As 99 percent of us probably do.
Would we let such a thing put us off this kit if we were seriously looking to invest in such a beast though? Not a bit of it. It's a teeny price to pay for such genius tone, and the pros far, far outweigh the cons...