Not a brand to often challenge more established names in the UK, Dixon has nonetheless managed to turn out some pretty credible, affordable offerings over the years. And the inexpensive nature of some of their snares has led to plenty of drummers adding one as a second snare to an existing set-up.
While the general impression of Dixon might be of good value, if fairly run-of-the-mill, things could change on the evidence of the brand's Artisan range. They're rather more fetching than you might expect from a 'budget' brand.
The four drums all share something in common in that they're all 6½" in depth. Yep, even the diddy little 10" runs that deep. But beyond that, pretty much everything is different. In terms of shell material, the 14" drums are variously made of bubinga, nickel steel (ﬁnished in black chrome) and, would you believe, ceramic marble; the 10-incher is steel.
Finishing is remarkably good across all the drums here, and each is very nicely appointed. The marble and bubinga snares are ﬁtted with classically-styled tube lugs and die-cast hoops, which add a distinctly 'pro' edge to proceedings, while the two steel shell drums have long bridge lugs and triple-ﬂanged hoops. This tailoring of shell furniture to instruments is a welcome touch, and demonstrates a thoughtful approach to product design that gives an indication of Dixon's rather more upmarket aspirations for the Artisan series.
Dixon has also seen ﬁt to include smooth, positive-feeling snare throw-offs in the mix, something that inspires conﬁdence in the drums' longevity and ability to cope with regular gig hardships.
With the dramatically different shell materials showcased here, it's no surprise to ﬁnd that each of the 14"x6½" drums have personalities distinct from one another, despite their common dimensions.
Bubinga is a wood that crops up on the radar more frequently now than ever, and its typically sonorous, rich tone is much in evidence here. There's a delicious smoothness and developed, low-end-favouring balance that's very satisfying, and coupled with the generous depth of these 14"s, it makes for a great, fat old-skool funk tone. Those die-cast hoops help to ﬁght any ﬂabbiness too, so the Dixon's tone remains taut.
Where the bubinga snare spoils us with its plush sound, the marble 14" barks to get our attention. There's a very positive 'forward' edge to each note and its voice is characterised by real clarity - great for slotting into a thick mix of guitars. As with all the Artisans here, the snare is excellently responsive, from tickling-at-the-edge stuff to full-bore backbeats.
The 14"x6½" nickel steel is arguably the most 'normal' drum here, but that's not to say it's any more common-or-garden in terms of tone than its more esoteric siblings. Instead, it delivers a great slice of cracking top-end underpinned by low/midrange that'll cover Zeppelin, Foos, Metallica, and AC/DC without breaking a sweat.
Finally, the cutesy 10"x 6½" would be a great choice for a secondary snare if you need something utterly different from your main. Tight, high-pitched, but again blessed with the fatness that comes from a 6½"-deep shell, it'll poke through anything, but will particularly suit electro, funk or perhaps hip hop situations.