Sakae Almighty Maple Kit
Sakae's 90-year history of drum production includes a four-decade stint spent building Yamaha's top lines. First introducing its own name kits in 2009, it ended its association with Yamaha in 2013.
The Almighty series is one of the first Sakae ranges from 2009 and is available in either all-maple or all-birch guises. Both options are identically priced and share the same multitude of finish choices; Sakae actively encourages mixing and matching birch and maple drums to suit your taste. The Almighty shell-pack sent for review is an all-maple variant.
Sakae chose the title Almighty for the range as it felt that the finished drums had a powerful tone and it wanted the name to reflect this. The review kit is made up of a 22"x18" bass drum, 10"x7" and 12"x8" toms and a 16"x14" floor tom.
An alternative shell pack featuring a 22"/12"/13"/16" layout is also offered for an extra £50, while a truly comprehensive selection of diameters and lengths for each drum can be ordered on an individual basis.
In price terms, Almighty sits between Sakae's flagship maple/bubinga Celestial line and its vintage-themed Trilogy series. This places it firmly in pro territory, where quality trumps affordability.
While the kit is reassuringly expensive, there is nothing lightweight about it. Picking up any of the drums reveals a level of solidity that's on a par with a rugby team's front row; each component seems to have been engineered for maximum strength and then built without compromise.
The shells are 6-ply and made from premium grade North American maple. While the number of plies is consistent across the kit, the bass drum's individual plies are thicker than those on the rest of the drums (1.3mm plies making a shell thickness of 7.8mm compared with 0.9mm plies and 5.4mm shells on the toms and floor tom). Familiar diagonal seams are visible inside the straight-sided shells and the bearing edges are cut sharply at 45°.
Sakae's air vents are oversized at 15mm and on the bigger drums are found in increasing numbers - three on the 16" floor tom and four on the bass drum.
A huge array of lacquer finishes - identical across both Almighty Maple and Birch - is available and the Silver Sparkle of the review kit has to been seen in the flesh to really appreciate its quality.
The size, number and brightness of the metal flakes buried within the lacquer gives the finish a depth and radiance that provokes audible gasps from anyone clapping eyes on it.
The first location that we played the kit in was a dingy windowless rehearsal room; simply setting the kit up seemed to double the lighting wattage, bringing illumination to corners accustomed to perpetual darkness.
If it shines like a fully-decked Christmas tree in such gloomy conditions, under stage lights a set of sunglasses (or possibly welding goggles) will be required to get anywhere near it.
The chrome-plated shell hardware is of an equally high standard and the triple-flanged 2.3mm Righty Halo hoops and cast bass drum claws are clearly strong enough to cope with a 2B-wielding Neanderthal. Meanwhile, the bass drum spurs are of such proportions that it would take something akin to a dray horse to persuade it to shift.
While many manufacturers are shrinking lugs for minimal contact, Sakae takes the opposite view. It believes that heavier lugs make for better vibration transmission to the shell edge, leading to deeper lows and increased sustain.
The resulting Transmit Lugs (as Sakae has named them) make a refreshing bucking of the trend and also feature in Sakae's unique Cradle Mounting System, in which the mount slots into a bracket clamped directly to two lugs at the bottom of each drum. This system is also fitted to the floor tom, employing six of the eight lugs at the resonant-head end of the drum.
While the term 'over-engineered' is often used as derogatory, the impression here is of a kit designed for almost any eventuality; even the floor tom legs have retractable spikes fitted to secure the drum in the slipperiest of circumstances.
Rebadged USA-manufactured Remo heads are fitted as standard - a Powerstroke 3 combo for the bass drum and clear Emperor batters and Ambassador resonants on the toms.
Surprisingly, undrilled bass drums are only available by request (though at no extra cost). The tom mount present in the bass drum doesn't prevent it from thumping out a colossal note, big enough to create ripples in any glass of liquid in the vicinity.
It's deep - very deep - but not dark or lacking in focus. Considering the amount of low frequencies it pushes out, the drum is superbly defined - rather than lingering into throbbing sustain it decays rapidly, leaving a breath of bottom end. Each stroke is the dictionary definition of authoritative and we struggle to imagine a backline loud enough to render it inaudible.
The toms take their tonal cue from the bass drum and deliver full, saturated notes. Each individual drum is capable of such profound depth that it sounds more like the next diameter up (with the exception of the 16" floor tom which goes one better, putting in a convincing impersonation of a 20" bass drum).
Listening to the toms in isolation (tricky as they invite repeated playing) the quality of tone is apparent - they are rounded and expansive, overtone- free and gloriously resonant.
Indulging in a tribal pattern around the toms it becomes clear why Sakae called the kit Almighty - it feels like a wrathful deity is wreaking havoc with my senses.
Though we didn't get an opportunity to record the kit, the strength of signal that each component and the set as a whole produce suggests that it would be utterly at home in the studio (for further evidence listen to the audio clips on Sakae's website).
The kit is staggeringly powerful; within 15 minutes of our first encounter with it our ears are ringing and we have to resort to earplugs. Bizarrely, we find ourselves wondering if these drums are too efficient, almost clinical in delivering such a huge sound and the addition of the odd flaw would make the package more human.
In a way, it's a bit like driving a modern car but missing the character of something older and less well built. But, to continue the analogy, if you're clocking up the miles day-in day-out, the modern car - with its more advanced design, comfort level and all-round reliability - is clearly the better option.
So it is with this kit; it's a serious tool for the serious musician, robust enough to deal with life on the road whilst offering a refined, polished voice in the studio.