Liberty Drums Maple Shell Pack review
This month we feature a selection of hand-crafted wares from another of the UK's custom drum houses based in Yorkshire. Liberty Drums started some 10 years ago and in 2006 it became a Limited company, officially pinning it firmly onto the UK drum map. With increasing sales in the UK and indeed areas around the globe, Liberty Drums is slowly but surely expanding.
The driving force behind Liberty Drums is founder, Master Craftsman and CEO Andrew Street. Andrew says with the ever-expanding range of his "healthy, contemporary" drums, he sees potential for further growth in the UK and overseas markets. With future plans set to include new ranges and own-brand hardware, they are definitely one to watch.
This review set is just one example from a range of shell packs, kits and individual drums to choose from. In recent years, we have reviewed examples from Liberty Drums' catalogue, including the Liberty 'R' Series (specifically designed for the studio), and the shallow depth toms of the MPX. Other models include Custom Maple, Maple Pro and this review set in 100 percent Maple.
As each drum emerges from the array of predominately large Hardcases, a first peek shows there is something distinct and altogether compelling about them. Perhaps it's the truly epic bass drum, the brutish pair of floor toms or matching blue finish on the inside of the shells. Staring at each drum in turn, we quickly realised it's the lugs - or, to be more precise, the offset positioning of them.
There are a few custom drum manufacturers using this lug format, including Orange County, SJC, DR Customs and more mainstream companies such as Gretsch for their Catalina Club Mod Series. However, this is not the first kit from Liberty Drums to have this feature - the aforementioned MPX kit, with its shallow toms, also has offset lugs.
The lug positions in this case, do nothing to effect the sound but give a unique, customised appearance. The snare is the only drum in the set where both heads share the same lugs and these are positioned a more conventional location - in the centre of the shell.
This five-piece shell pack includes 16"x16" and 18"x16" floor toms and a jolly hefty 24"x22" kick - so, the bottom end is more than catered for. For the slightly higher end of the audio spectrum a 14"x61⁄2" wooden snare and 13"x9" suspended or floating tom are also included.
All of the shells are made from plies of USA Rock Maple - this North American maple is a material favoured by many high-end manufacturers for its warm sonic properties. The bearing edges are perfectly cut into the maple plies with a razor sharp pinnacle giving the greatest possible resonance.
A Royal Blue Polyurethane covering of each shell provides a hint of the fine grain contours under the lightest coats of the dark blue lacquer. This is also on the inside too - a trademark of Liberty Drums. Andrew Street says,
"Sealing in the wood is something most companies don't do due to cost. I think it's important to protect the wood from the elements, thus extending the resonant properties, long term. All Liberty shells will have a coat of lacquer internally and generally keeping the theme of the external colour."
Each drum features Limited Edition badges with graphics depicting the Union Jack and a crown. Andrew says these badges were designed to celebrate the company's first visit to NAMM: "There are only 100 of these special edition badges, we're proudly flying the flag as a UK manufacturer."
Considering the size of the kick, the claws look minute in comparison. Each of these has recessed tuning bolts but, quite strangely; do not come fitted with rubber gaskets to avoid any possible penetration into the colour matched rims.
The suspended tom is fitted with a Noble and Cooley 'Coolmount' RIMS-type mounting bracket, which simply slides into position on a stand into a specially designed slot. The clever design eliminates the need for wing nuts, tuning bolts etc and can speed up set-up time.
The set-up is the same as featured on the Liberty Drums stand at the recent NAMM show in California. With the exception of the snare and the kick, there are the obvious signs the kit was played with some force in the States - someone has enjoyed themselves!
Luckily, there is no denting evident on those clear Evans heads, however, the toms are not left in a good state of tune. So, each one is slackened off completely and we begin to work firstly with resonant sides - the tension bolts bring the pitch up rapidly and smoothly. Once taut, just a slight twist of the key is all that is necessary to make a definite pitch difference at each lug point.
With the toms reasonably tuned, the combination of the maple shell and dual ply of the EC2s creates a beautiful warm tone while maintaining a reasonable attack. Striking each one in turn allows you to hear both the shells and heads vibrating in apparent unison, which aids the sustain.
Some hefty flams upon the two floor toms is reminiscent of Queen's 'We Will Rock You' or 'Love it Loud' by KISS - these toms have the ability to create some incredibly powerful rhythmic statements and need to be played loud.
Completing the lower end of the sonic spectrum, the colossal kick has been 'ported' with a hole pre-cut into the white Evans EC3. This should, in theory, increase the bass response - just in case the size isn't quite enough. One pedal strike is enough to send shock waves from this incredibly powerful-sounding, almost sub-sonic kick. You have to just sit there wondering why things have suddenly fallen off the walls and dropped from the ceiling.
The whole drum needs time to recover from each strike, so attempting to play incredibly fast with double pedals could be a waste of a good drum - two of these monsters would be almost too awesome to bear!
In complete sonic contrast to the bass drum is the wonderful-sounding snare, which, when table-top tensioned has the ability to track the sticks with absolute precision and sonic clarity, it is so articulate. With an infinite variety of strainer tensions from the Trick throw-off lever and the wide tuning range, this snare is versatile; going from fat, chuggy and loose to something crisp and exacting.
As with the sound of any drum within a kit, this snare has the ability to influence each stroke. Dead centre we have a good all-round drum with a dry and rich woody snare drum sound. Heading towards the edge, the drum sings as it opens up with an easily controllable overtone - this snare is versatile and wholly addictive.