For more than half a decade the Mapex offshoot Black Panther has been producing exotic and experimental snare drums. The latest pair to stalk the shelves share the same shell material - steel - but differ radically in construction.
Back in black
The first drum is the BPST4551A, which is a 14"x5½" 10-lug snare with a 1mm thick steel shell. The exterior of the shell has been rendered smoky black and polished to a deep shine. Being a Black Panther, virtually all of the shell hardware is also black - the lugs, the 2.3mm pressed hoops and the snare strainer and butt.
The tension rods are also of a darker hue than plain steel. The whole effect is pretty stunning. In use, the snare delivers an archetypal metal-shelled sound, opening with a crisp, warm crack that bites in all the right places. The relative thinness of the shell ensures sympathetic overtones and just the right amount of ring.
Rim shotting magnifies its qualities and stick response is excellent, with brushwork being particularly pleasing. It's delightfully playable and sweet-sounding.
The second snare, the BPST455SLB, is an altogether different proposition. This time, the shell is 3mm thick solid steel, which increases to 5mm at the top and bottom with additional bands of steel that Mapex terms Sound Control Rings. The shell begins life as a cast steel pipe, which is then cut down and routed.
This drum also has 10 lugs and is dressed with the same black hardware, the only exception being the hoops, which have been upgraded to die-cast examples. Rather than being polished, the shell is etched with a fine diamond-based pattern that gives the drum an almost industrial look. A tattoo-like stencilling in the same vein creeps halfway across the batter head.
With this amount of metal at hand, the drum gives the sort of taut, controlled rifle crack that would make dogs in the next town yelp. There is a hardness to the sound that suggests that the snare would rise to any volume of music without breaking sweat. Overtones are virtually non-existent.
The snare is a Special Edition model and the price includes a decent zip-up, semi-hard case. Production is limited to 300 drums worldwide, with about 60 in the UK.These two snares differ considerably but offer plenty to the type of player that they are aimed at.