This review is the first of a two-part appraisal of Tama's spanking new SLP snare drums.
Altogether there are eight snares in the SLP or 'Sound Lab Project' series. This month it's the four metal models under the microscope - a review of the wood shelled snares will follow later.
The design methodology for the Sound Lab Project was to create a line of snare drums that would easily be identifiable with a particular genre or drumming style. During much experimentation, Tama's R&D people considered shell composition and thickness, rim style and type, strainer and so on.
The end result, for what Tama describes as "the keystone of any drummer's sound", is a set of snares with their own unique sonic and visual identity.
While there are distinct differences between each model, there are also many common elements. These include the snare throw-off, non-adjustable butt-end, 'hold-tight' tension rod washers and the excellent Evans single-ply batters and snare heads. Tama needed some sort of datum line, which using the same heads ably provides.
Of the snares up for review, the two that seem to be closest in terms of build and appearance are the Vintage Steel and Super Aluminium. Both boast retro-style brass tube lugs and include the newly designed triple-flanged 'Sound Arc' steel hoops.
These were specially developed for the SLP series and feature a small inward-facing top flange. Tama says this design aspect will enhance the natural tone, while enabling better control over tuning.
Peering inside the 1.6mm-thick aluminium-shelled model shows a much larger pair of flanges that also protrude inwards by around 15mm, but these are part of the actual shell, forming the upper and lower bearing edges. Apart from the slight depth deficiency, the only way to tell each of these apart at a single glance is by the slightly smoky yellow hue of the nickel-plated Vintage shell.
The brutish Black Brass and comparatively cute Sonic Steel look so dissimilar it is hard to imagine these models are from the same series.
The brass is the only model not to feature a centre ridge, which coupled with the relatively small Starclassic streamline nut boxes creates an illusion that this drum is much deeper than the Sonic Steel. Upturning the bold as brass model shows off the larger-than-life 42-strand snare strainer - this time however, it is big and that is no illusion!
We particularly like the contrast of the brushed nickel of the Sonic Steel's shell against the chrome plating on each of the other metal components. These include the hi-tension lugs, which form a bridge over the centre ridge, and the triple flanged Mighty Hoops. With the exception of the plating and the 1" diameter reduction, the hoop design is one of the few similarities with the Black Brass model.
Fresh from the factory, the tension is fairly tight and most of the snares only require the slightest tweak to get the pitch the same at each lug point. Once cranked up as near pitch-perfect, it's the 5"-deep aluminium drum that is the first to be awarded with a firm wallop.
Instantly this gives a powerful and authoritative crack with little or no overtone from the head itself but, just for a split second, a satisfying ring emanates from the shell. We instantly warm to this drum; it is full of a character that belies its depth - time for some funk!
The Vintage Steel has a much fatter and a more open sound than its aluminium cousin, evoking a vibe matching its 'vintage' description. Its ready acceptance of a wide range of tuning makes this a surprisingly versatile drum, but it's great for those 'loose' songs that require subtle feel, where ghost notes effortlessly flow to gently blend in the gaps and not just some on-the-beat strict quantise.
The Sonic Steel cries out for reggae off-beats, where a sharp tuck into the groove can give a track an amazing lilt. It would be great as a second snare beside something of contrast.
As for the brass beast ... this model sits at the opposite end of the music spectrum, where the dreadlocks give way to tattoos and sweat. This drum rocks: it is deep and dark and demands to be struck loudly with little finesse and where the double pedals go into overdrive.