Here we have an ingenious set-up from one of Britain's longer established bespoke drum makers, Jalapeno. David Nuttall has been handcrafting drums since 1998, using best Finnish birch and favouring thin shells which he bends using no heat, wetting or internal pressure. His drums are distinguished by their vertical inner and outer plies, and Jalapeno's own solid brass nut boxes.
The Pack-Away is similar to Yamaha's Hipgig, although the concept is much older (Asba released a 'Russian Doll' kit in the 1970s). The idea is that you have a bass drum and a ﬂoor tom, made as normal then sliced in two so that the other drums can be packed away inside.
The review kit is 20"x18", 10"x9" and 14"x14", along with 13"x5" and 10"x4" snares. The Elite toms have extremely thin 3mm six-ply shells, and the Classic snare drums and bass drum have 6mm 12-ply shells, all with reinforcing rings. Snares boast smooth Nickel Drumworks strainers.
The small tom comes with a RIMS low-mass bracket attached to a Pearl Uni-Lock bass drum mount. A Gibraltar platform mount raises the 18" kick off the ﬂoor and ensures your bass pedal strikes dead centre. The kick also has a 150mmx35mm slot cut into the bottom so that you can insert an internal mic.
One big improvement on previous such kits is the use of industrial-grade elasticated polymer fasteners to hold the two split shells together. Each shell has three such fasteners, which are seriously tough and are not going to rattle or rust like metal catches.
The review kit ﬁnish is white satin wax with black chrome hoops and black nylon ﬁttings, both ﬁnishes being harder-wearing than powder coating. It's a striking look, especially teamed with white Paiste cymbals. Finishing the shells entails multi-layers of oil, then several layers of wax, resulting in a hardwearing surface that does not mark easily. Finishing oils are also used to seal the insides.
In comparison with the super slick sanding offered by major manufacturers, Jalapeno's shell inners are a little rougher. Why? Nuttall suggests that you look inside a violin or acoustic guitar where the wood is left unsanded and untreated. OK, so you don't usually see inside violins, but David's point is that to maximise the woody timbre don't over-ﬁnish the insides. It's a compelling view and, indeed, the inners look like those vintage drums that have a great sound.
Setting up the kit took just a few minutes. The ﬁve drums came packed into a single 18" hard case (included in the price). Sure, it's heavy, but the case is on rollers and just about manageable. Obviously, you'll need extra cases for hardware and cymbals.
The two split shells (bass drum and ﬂoor tom) have internal overlapping locating/reinforcing rings, so they slot together perfectly, forming an airtight seal. The rubber fasteners then pull the two halves together quite forcefully, reuniting the shell to be lined up exactly as it was before cutting.
When confronted with a shell that's been chopped in two, you would expect some loss of resonance. Well, if there is any loss of resonance on this kit, we struggled to hear it, certainly with the bass drum. The ﬂoor tom, however, initially seemed a little less resonant than the (uncut) small tom. Sound comes largely from the heads anyway, and once the split shell's strapped back together it fulﬁls its main function as an acoustic chamber.
Jalapeno ﬁts double-ply Aquarian Super-2 coated heads on the toms, with Classic (black) Clear resonants, and the result is a dense, warm sound, almost like calfskin. Listening to the kit provided a lively, Latin jazz vibe. Changing to familiar clear Ambassadors, the toms positively zinged.
The slot in the bottom of the bass drum increases punch and reduces boom. It works since the drum is lifted well off the ﬂoor by the Gibraltar bracket. The supplied Aquarian Force-1 clear batter was ideal.
As either a main or secondary snare, the 13"x5" is a cracker. Fitted with an Aquarian Focus-X (with perimeter damping and centre dot) it sounded bubbly, woody and warm. There's little extraneous ring, the tone is fat and rim shots are deliciously ripe. The 10"x4" snare (with coated Super-2) is similar but much higher pitched and sprightly, with a piercing, ringing dink on rim shots.
All Jalapeno shells are a good 8mm undersized, and together with the razor sharp 45-degree bearing edges, tuning is noticeably easy.