Cheshire-based EcHo Custom Drums is run by the father and son duo of Dave Quinn Sr and Dave Quinn Jr. Together they build a wide range of custom handmade kits and individual snares, octobans, timbales etc.
To take full advantage of the coded welding skills of Dave Jr, the shells come in a choice of brass, copper, carbon steel or aluminium. EcHo's speciality is aluminium, with its first all-aluminium shelled kit, the Apollo, proudly launched at the 2011 Jobeky Drum Show.
Dave Sr talks enthusiastically about EcHo's new 'top of the shop' Apollo 2 series thus: "Many, many hours have gone into perfecting these new kits... to entice drummers and their various styles."
He goes on to say that they have worked for over 12 months, investing in "design, development, trials and experiments". This review shell pack is a four-piece, an all-aluminium shelled set, comprising 10"x7" and 12"x8" rack toms, 14"x12" floor tom and a 22"x18" bass drum.
Rather than being the handiwork of a seasoned woodworker, the shells are wholly fabricated and engineered by hand. The 2mm thick shells (1mm thinner than the original Apollo), are created by rolling and shaping the aluminium.
The edge seams are joined together with a single vertical weld, forming a perfectly round cylinder. The bearing edges are shaped and hand-spun to create a perfectly true surface for the heads to nestle on.
Manchester's industrial past is evident ('echoed', if you wish), by the range of the metal fittings, including the oversized zinc-plated bolts attaching the EcHo metal badge. Due to the profile of the bearing edges, there is a sizeable contact between the Evans 360 batters and the edges themselves. This should help generate a healthy low-end fundamental tone via the heads and through the aluminium shells.
The drums are finished in a bright brushed 'Cherry Red Bake'. This looks amazing against the chromed hardware of the RIMS-type mounts on the rack toms and 'toaster' lugs. Rubber gaskets isolate each metal component from the shell wall and the claws of the bass drum rims but, oddly, not on the leg clamps for the floor tom. The solid aluminium bass drum hoops and insides of each shell are colour-matched in the Cherry Red Bake finish.
The 22"x18" bass drum is fitted with an Evans EMAD 'Externally Mounted Adjustable Dampening' batter. Unlike other dampening 'systems' of fluffy pillows, 10-tog quilts and other desperate measures, this system allows the player to adjust the dampening virtually from the comfort of their own drum stool.
Echo has also thoughtfully included a chrome finish KickPort which is installed in the front head. This kick enhancing device is said to act in similar way to a port of a bass reflex speaker cab.
Just a few light taps around each of the toms shows they are evenly and well-tuned. While they are pitched about a 'third' apart, the two heads of each drum are tuned the same, to achieve maximum resonance.
Some drummers may prefer either the top or bottom heads to be a different pitch, as this can give a pitch bend to each strike but, for now, we are keeping the tuning as is. Striking the drum and waiting for the result shows a healthily long and consistent note, this tuning seems to wring-out every bit of resonance from the shells.
With their much higher pitch, the two rack toms prove their metallic character with a blistering attack. With the help of the Evans 360 twin-ply batters the overall drum sound is also warm and full of body.
For our tuning preference, we reduce the pitch of the floor tom slightly - taking it down and then bringing it back up (to maintain lug tension), to just under its 'factory' pitch. There is some loud cracking as the heads make their way over the large, curvaceous bearing edges. It is here we find the tuning 'sweet spot' and this comparatively small floor tom begins to 'sing' - a little power house, belying its diminutive proportions.
No sooner had we angled the chunky bass drum spurs and clamped the pedal onto the rim than we found myself giving the drum a good wallop! The sound had us instantly grinning from ear to ear like some weird cat - after all, we are talking about drums made in Cheshire!
Any preconceived ideas of how an aluminium bass drum ought to sound goes straight out of the studio window - yes, this kick is certainly punchy and loud but it is also well-focused and has a truly lush low-end.
For those who have a preconception of a clonky and brash sound from drums made of aluminium - you will be in for a pleasant surprise.