Fledgling drum manufacturers DrumCraft are gaining a reputation for producing quality German- designed drums at sensible prices.
Their range (divided up into four separate series), starts with the entry-level 'Series 4', mid-range 'Series 5', up to the intermediate 'wrapped' models of 'Series 7' and onto the pro-level 'Series 8'.
This top of the DrumCraft range offers a selection of kits with wood or acrylic shells, individual wood or metal snares, a choice of optional add-on drums and range of hardware.
Each of the four snares has an air of the former GDR (before the Berlin Wall came down), by blending industrial aesthetics with robustness and functionality. Apart from the fact they each have metal shells, these Series 8 drums also share many other similarities including lugs, tension bolts, heads, throw-off and hoops.
The hoops are beautifully contoured giving strength yet allowing a modicum of flexing "in a variety of tuning situations". The curvaceous upper flange forms a wide crest which should give some tasty cross-sticking and guard against any of that nasty stick-shredding.
Tension is applied by precision machined stainless steel tuning bolts which screw into each brass insert of the double-ended lugs. These solid-looking lugs closely follow DrumCraft's hardware design ethos of combining geometrical shapes.
Heads of choice are the USA-made Remos with a Hazy snare/resonant head and CS (Controlled Sound) batters. These boast a 15cm diameter 'black dot' bonded to the underside which apparently gives increased focus while adding extra resilience.
Each drum comes with a Nickeldrumworks snare throw-off, featuring a clear polycarbonate lever/casing encompassing a steel cylinder with integral knurled adjuster. This unit is designed by USA drummer/designer Greg Nickel of Nickeldrumworks who says inspiration came from nature "where all the shapes are curved and not at right angles". Greg spent many hours perfecting the locking mechanism so that it wouldn't stretch the strainer each time tension was applied.
Both of the steel snares feature a non-beaded shell which appears to rely on the lugs and hoops for strength and rigidity rather than ribs or beading. While the welded seams are not visible from the outside, it is easy to identify where they are located without having to peer inside. Due to the shiny chrome plating and fairly thin steel, any imperfections are easy to spot simply by looking around the outer perimeter of the drum.
Without any doubt, the bronze snare is among the heaviest we have ever reviewed - weighing in at well over 10 kilos, this is a drum of muscular proportions. While it's big and bold it is also beautiful with the superb machining evident on both of the bearing edges. The bearing edge of the snare head itself flattens out smoothly for the snare strainer to nestle into and help avoid any strainer rattles. The Aluminium drum is just as well machined and equally impressive - except of course, this drum is much, much lighter by comparison.
With each snare perched upon the table, the first job is to get all of the heads up to a fairly even pitch. With a robust hoop and openness of the head, the slightest variation in pitch between each lug point is extremely easy to pin-point and the silky-smooth tuning components make any adjustment effortless.
Requiring an extra-wide precautionary leg-spread of the snare stand, the monstrous bronze snare is the first into the snare basket. 'Buzzing' around the outer edge, it produces a warm, wispy sound with a sympathetic strainer buzz demonstrating its sensitivity. A gradual move towards the centre instantly quashes any overtone as the sound changes to a rich, 'woody' sound which rises in volume faithfully with each increase in stick velocity.
Striking the icy cool Aluminium snare gives the illusion of playing a wooden shelled drum with the perfect balance of dry shell and a smidgeon of openness from the batter. The composition of the shell makes the drum a lot more 'open' than other less dense cast models but the benefit of this should help with projection. Like the Bronze, it is wonderfully sensitive, from the slightest tickle to a firmer wallop, this drum manages to produce some impressive dynamics.
It's the two steel snares which are next up - the shells have a pronounced ring which is enhanced through the higher tuning registers where both drums seem most comfortable. More noticeable on both these models than the other two is the impact on the sound of the black dotted batter - striking away from the dot the sound is not quite as thick as with a stick-blast to the centre (as we would perhaps expect), but the sound created is more powerful and 'thickened', like suddenly slapping on some low frequency EQ.
Both the aluminium and bronze snares are incredibly impressive. The two steel models are not nearly as good but, with the help of the excellent outboard components and the fact that they are roughly half the price of the other models, certainly helps elevate them.