These must be two of the most distinctive looking snare drums ever made. With wood shells in bubinga and maple they make up half of Tama's new Warlord collection. The other two drums (not featured) have metal shells in steel and bell brass.
The dark brown drum is called Masai and has a 10mm 12-ply shell, made from 100 percent bubinga (African rosewood) with a quilted bubinga outer ply. The maple drum is the Valkyrie and has an even thicker (13mm) 15-ply shell with a figured maple outer ply.
Considering most normal snare drums are around 6-8mm, these are extra heavy. Both shells are finished in a gloss lacquer with fashionable two-tone fades. The Masai is a rich chocolate brown, while the Valkyrie has dark edges with a blonde maple middle.
Aside from the shells, the drums are identical. All metal fittings are finished in brushed black nickel, which perfectly complements the dark wood finishes. Heavyweight Star-Cast die-moulded hoops and unique chunky lugs are all in proportion, completing a strikingly handsome design. The strainer has a short-throw, radial action lever, which is as smooth as they come.
The 20-strand hi-carbon steel snares have brass end-plates and are strung with super-tough Kevlar cords. If you prefer though, you can swap them for 15mm black nylon straps, which are also provided.
The snares can be tensioned from both strainer and butt ends, and the butt plate is cleverly designed so that, using a drum key, you can remove it while the snares are still attached. This allows you to change the bottom head or alter its tuning while keeping the snare attached and at the tension you've set.
The dark crystall
The most distinctive cosmetic feature of the drums is the Warlord Collection lugs, which could set off a new trend in drum fittings. They are basically tube lugs but each tube is decorated at both ends with heavy, gothic-style squared posts. There's also a large star-design badge with a similar vibe.
What's more, each lug and badge has a small jet black Swarovski crystal inserted centrally. Jewellery aside, the 10 lugs and their bolts work a treat. Tama's Hold Tight, cup-shaped stainless steel washers have rubber rings that won't loosen however hard you play.
The cool drum key that is supplied, being longer than usual, is easier to engage without dropping.
A rule of thumb is thin shells for toms, thick shells for snare drums. Thick shells have a brighter attack, lots of volume and a shorter decay - exactly what you want in a snare. The Warlords are even heavy, full, loud and responsive.
The sound varies dramatically over the batter head depending on where you strike. The centre sound is thick and short while the edge sound pings brightly with a much longer resonance. With the heavy cast hoops the rim shots clang with awesome power.
Each drum is supplied with an Evans G1 Coated batter and a perimeter damping O ring, but you really don't need the latter. Balance is so keen with the combination of attack, tone and after-ring just right for most purposes.
We managed to get a slightly preferable sound from the maple drum. It has a bit more resonance and a warmer, wetter sound, while the bubinga has exaggerated top and bottom, but marginally less middle. That gives it attack and clarity but less breadth. It's barely noticeable though, and both are formidable.
All four drums in the collection are only available with 14"x6" shells. The most expensive by far is the Praetorian, which is made from 3mm thick cast bell brass. The fourth drum is the Spartan with a 1mm stainless steel shell and retails at £599.
In the shops, these baddies come with a free, hard-shell case.
The only complaint here is that the lugs limit their appeal to a particular market. Everything about the build shouts quality - the woods and finishes are immaculate and are perfectly complemented by the brushed nickel fittings. The throw-off is smooth and cleverly designed, and the snares are sharp and snappy.
The drums sound as good as any wood shell snare you're likely to encounter and the price tag is not unreasonable for such quality. A pleasure to review.