Techtonic Unplugged Rock kit
The Unplugged name refers to the fact that previously Soar Valley Music's Techtonic drums have been plugged-in electronic kits. Now SVM has decided to branch into acoustic drums.
Following 18 months of development, the drums are made in Tianjin, China, to SVM's own specification. It's a complete, ready-to-go package which includes a full hardware set and even basic cymbals.
"The fact that the snare has 16 lugs, not 20, helps the sound to breathe, making the drum lively and un-constricted."
There are two kit set-ups. Reviewed is the Rock kit with 22x16-inch bass, 12x9-inch and 13x10-inch mounted toms, 16x16-inch floor tom and 14x5½-inch snare drum.
The other is a Fusion kit with 20x16-inch bass, 10x8-inch and 12x9-inch mounted toms, 14x14-inch floor tom and the same 14x5½-inch snare. Both kits are available in Black, Red or Blue plastic wraps.
The review kit's red wrap has some sparkle in it. The kit is supplied in two cardboard boxes, one containing pre-assembled snare and mounted toms, together with unassembled bass drum and floor tom, ie: you have to whack on the heads yourself.
The other box contains the hardware and cymbals. Shells are 6-ply, 6.5mm poplar wood, which is almost white and is cleanly sanded on the inside leaving a slight nap. The bass drum even has inlaid poplar hoops, classier than the metal hoops typical of earlier starter kits.
Small, single-ended generic oval lugs are mounted on black nylon isolation gaskets. There are 12 on each of the small toms, which is fine, but also on the 16-inch floor tom, which is not so fine. There should be 16 on a drum this big, but it's not unusual for budget drums to economise this way.
Likewise there are 16 lugs on the snare drum and bass drum. That's enough for the snare, in fact it may even be preferable (see 'Hands On'), but on the bass drum 16 is the minimum for a drum this size, ie: 22-inch diameter.
Heads are the familiar Remo UTS and the front bass drum head has a 5-inch hole (pre-ported) - sensible for a starter kit.
Hardware comprises a single straight cymbal stand, hi-hat and bass drum pedals, snare stand and lightweight stool - all double-braced for strength. The double tom mount is a solid unit with ball and clamp 'L' arms plus click-in memory locks providing reasonable positioning and stability.
The bass drum spurs are heavy duty with calibrations. Plus there's a 16-inch cymbal, pair of 14-inch hi-hats and even a pair of 5A sticks.
The great thing about a budget set of drums is that, tuned and played half decently, it will sound almost as good as a kit costing several times more. The bad news is that the same is not true of cheap cymbals.
The rudimentary brass cymbals here fulfil the package but are no way up to the standard of the drums and hardware. We're afraid you will have to buy a proper set of cymbals sooner rather than later.
In fact Techtonic offers a Dream cymbal pack (good quality Chinese cymbals) with an extra boom stand, which will double your outlay as it's another £300. A painful but realistic eye-opener.
So back to the drums. The budget Remo heads are industry standard and the straight-sided poplar shells are good for the money, cleanly finished with acceptable bearing edges. Get the heads pretty evenly tuned with clear intervals between the toms, slap some padding in the bass drum and you're off with a big, reverberant sound.
As for the snare, once the batter head was tightened up to just above medium, with the snare wires not too tight, within five minutes of playing it was sounding promising. Twenty minutes of bashing and it was sounding superb.
The thin poplar shell, deepish snare beds and 16 tuning brackets give an up-market woody tone. The fact that the snare has 16 lugs, not 20, helps the sound to breathe, making it lively and un-constricted.
The pull-away strainer is clunky and rough-edged yet works fine. But generally the hardware is impressive. Stands are doublebraced with slot-in memory locks at the crucial joints.
The single chain-drive bass pedal is a Pearl look-alike. It's rudimentary and probably won't stand too much heavy-footed teenaged stomping, but should hold up for a few years. The hi-hat has a firm dual chain-drive, but the base has a slight tendency to slip.
The only real criticism was with the height of the snare stand. It only extended to 20-inches and although this kit may be aimed at starter drummers there are plenty of lanky teenagers who won't appreciate finding their snare drum way below their knees.
Soar Valley has put together a worthy starter package at an agreeable price. There's nothing here that hasn't been seen before but that's no bad thing. It's a generic starter package, similar to the popular Leedy NRG. As for the low snare stand, SVM has promised to get it changed.
Capable of great sounds for a budget kit. Good snare.
As with most budget options, the cymbals sound cheap and don't match the drums for quality. Snare stand doesn't extend far enough.
The snare drum sounded particularly good and the whole kit is capable of great sounds. New drummers be aware that you will have to fork out for decent cymbals to match the quality of your drums sooner rather than later.
Pricing: Techtonic Unplugged Rock kit, £329 Dream cymbal upgrade pack including extra boom stand, £295 RMV head upgrades from £36
Drum Shell Material
Black, Red (as pictured) or Blue plastic wrap