Alan van Kleef’s etched VK initials adorn the drums he hand crafts, appropriately, in Sheffield - the UK home of fine silverware.
We have previously reviewed VK drums in bronze, steel and aluminium, but now we have a silver shell - yes, real solid silver.
You might ask whether this is a serious instrument or a vanity trophy for those few with limitless disposable income. Well, silver’s atomic number is 47 and Alan will build no more than 47 of these drums. Our drum is number 12 and he recently sold number 13 in America. The 47 drums will constitute the Ageless Collection, Ag being the chemical symbol for silver.
The shell is 14"x41/2" of 1.5mm thick 925 (92.5 percent pure) sterling silver sheet, the raw cost of which alone is close to £2,000.
It is rigorously tested before receiving its hallmark (positioned below the etched VK logo) from the Sheffield Assay Office. Rather than welding, the shell has an interior stainless steel joining plate, secured with aluminium rivets. Alan says this works better as the silver is relatively soft and there is no waste (all the silver shavings are meticulously scooped up!).
Other metal parts are stainless steel and handcrafted by VK. These include the flat hoops and bass drum V-Klaws, the beautifully polished round lugs and the sturdy VK-007 strainer, which has a calibrated tension knob.
The 14"x41/2" shell has a natural brushed silver finish. VK provides jeweller’s gloves for handling and each drum comes with a specially made, silver-coloured, foam lined Hardcase. The case also has a VK stainless badge riveted to it.
Within the throw-off there is secreted a custom made V-Key. A neat idea, although we found it easier to use a standard drum key, which slipped onto the rods more easily.
Vanity acquisition or no, the drum certainly performs as a quality snare drum. Silver being softer and less dense than, say, steel, the drum has a darker sound, more like copper.
There is a fatness to the centre backbeat, which is low-pitched and satisfying, despite the drum being only 4½" deep. It’s a contained and focused beat, concise with a fairly short sustain, so you don’t need damping. Good for recording and miking.
The cross-stick response is also taut and precise. The ring arrives when you whack the rim shots. This is exaggerated by the thick steel flat hoops, which constrict the sound less than flanged or cast hoops.
All that steel and silver combine to make for a vibrant metallic, almost harsh hitting brash clatter. As you tune ever higher the sound becomes ever more resolute.
Eventually, it actually reminded us of a Roland V-Drum style tight snare sample (and we mean that in a good way); that table-top rattle with a crunchy splat and almost digital machine gun clarity.