Cheshire-based EcHo Custom Drums is one of the more innovative UK brands to have arrived in the past few years. The choice of shell material for the Apollo 2 kit on review is aluminium, a choice illustrative of EcHo's USP.
Unlike almost any of its peers, EcHo eschews wood altogether as a shell material; instead it has channelled its expertise into building beautiful metal-shelled drums.
Apollo 2 drums are a design progression from EcHo's original Apollo line and feature thinner shells (2mm as opposed to 3mm) and no reinforcement rings.
This lightens the shells considerably, making them comparable in weight with equivalent-sized wood drums. The review kit is a three-piece shellpack made of an 18"x16" bass drum, 12"x8" tom and 14"x12" floor tom.
High-grade 1050A aluminium is cold-rolled into cylinders which are then butt-joined by a coded TIG welder. Bearing edges are hand-spun at 45° and sit above the blazing sheen of the shell interiors.
"The thud that emerges from the bass drum leaves us scratching our heads. It's a Tardis of a drum"
The standard of construction is remarkably consistent as the shells are, without question, the most accurately round this writer has ever encountered with a truly impressive tolerance of just 0.5mm across all the drums.
EcHo offers a wide choice of lug designs; on this kit EcHo's modernist turret-style custom aluminium lug is used.
Each lug consists of a single circular block of milled aluminium punctured by a threaded stainless steel tension rod locating bar - and yes, they are as beautiful to look at as they are to describe.
Rubber grommets cushion the lugs at the point of contact with the shell, with a single bolt being all that is required to fix each lug.
While it's possible to order a kit au naturel with just a coating of clear lacquer, EcHo can supply pretty much any finish under the sun including wraps, brushed and sprayed lacquers, powder coating and chrome or nickel plating.
The black sparkle of the review kit is a high-quality wrap, expertly fitted. EcHo also offers the option of engraving and EcHo's title has been etched on the front of the optional 45mm-deep aluminium bass drum hoops; it could just as easily be your name, or that of your band.
Such small diameters would usually point to drums suited to jazz or acoustic settings; the fact that the toms are shod with Evans Level 360 G2 batter heads while the bass drum sports a Kickport as well as an EQ4/EQ3 combination suggests a kit keen to dispute such assumptions.
"We thrashed it at a punk rehearsal, gigged it with a ska band and jammed jazz funk. On every occasion it slotted right into place"
From the off this is confirmed - the thud that emerges from the bass drum leaves us scratching our head. It's a Tardis of a drum, producing a note of depth and proportion that exceeds even the most optimistic of expectations.
Everything you want in a bass drum - a solid, punchy note with focussed low end - is present in generous proportions and it's genuinely loud in an acoustic setting.
Attaching a pedal riser - enabling the beater to hit dead centre - increases the power further, while miking it up finds it seriously eyeing up dub territory. We can only speculate at what a 24" diameter kick might sound like. The pureness of aluminium as a shell material can only explain such a massive performance from a diminutive drum.
Moving onto the toms, that pureness comes beaming through with gusto as they breathe attack and body at every stroke.
Tuned low to the point of wrinkling they still retain a sharpness, while spinning the tension rods clockwise finds them reluctant to choke off. Some of this can be attributed to Evan's superb Level 360 heads, but EcHo deserves equal credit for building shells with such strong fundamental tones.
Fitting single-ply batters brings an even cleaner edge to the toms, with the notes ringing on warmly and a wide range of tuning options still possible.
While we had the kit we thrashed it at a punk rehearsal, gigged it with a ska band and jammed jazz funk. On every occasion it slotted right into place; it is a truly versatile set of drums.
Aluminium doesn't just make fine snare drums; in the right hands it can be scaled up to make equally outstanding toms and bass drums.