Designed as the replacement for the S Classix and Delite series, the Sonor ProLite drum kit was given its first airing at NAMM 2012. Only a month earlier though, the award-winning Delite had been given a whole new range of finishes so, to us, it seemed a little surprising that Sonor chose to end the series.
With the demise of the Delite, the new ProLite went straight into second position in the Sonor ranks, retaining all of the great features of the Delite (and S Classix too), while sporting a few new ones too.
In the flesh, the Tribal Red of this five-piece review kit is every bit as drool-worthy as the photos suggest - the contrast of the cavernously deep, shiny chromium plating against the red background and black abstract pattern creates a finish which is sublime - it doesn't seem to matter from which angle the kit is viewed, there is always something which catches your attention.
Fortunately, the appeal isn't simply skin-deep - the thin Vintage Maple shells are beautifully made from hand-picked, environmentally sourced Canadian or North American maple. Each 2mm (approx) slice is cross-laminated and glued involving heat (up to 110°C) and compression - heating the glue and squeezing the plies together, creating a perfectly round and rigid shell.
The Red Tribal finish is one of the most labour- intensive processes but this is not a wrap or spray job, it's a veneer. Some of the veneers are stitched in position as well as glued.
Sonor offers the ProLite series in three distinct pricing tiers, depending on size of the drums but also the type of finish chosen. Although there are off-the-peg kits with a selection of standard sizes, each drum is available as an optional extra. So with a standard configuration which may have 10", 12" suspended and a 14" floor tom (as in the review kit) it is also possible to add to your kit, for example with an 8" suspended tom or a 16" floor tom. Also, the 14" snare comes with the option of die-cast or triple-flanged hoops, depending on your preference, and, of course, the all-important budget.
Newly designed for the ProL ite is the Dual-glide or DGS snare throw-off mechanism and butt-end. At first glance this does seem to be an overly complex affair, with the throw-off 'riding' evenly and smoothly on two tubes within the mechanism itself.
The lever is so smooth in fact, that if you feel inclined you can actually turn the snare on with your knee, leaving your hands free to continue a roll from snare-off to snare-on perhaps. The design of the strainer attachment makes it possible to remove the whole strainer during a snare head change without having to alter any snare settings.
Once the hoop is released, by pressing the two buttons at either end of the throw-off, the strainer simply lifts away from the drum. The Dual-Glide throw-off took the Sonor design team over 12 months to perfect - it is an engineering masterpiece.
Mounting for the suspended toms is provided by newly designed T.A.R. (Total Acoustic Resonance) suspension mounts, which gives the mounting hardware complete isolation from the shell wall. This metal bracket is made-up of three individual metal pieces, shaped for maximum strength, while cut-outs help keep weight down to a minimum.
The upper and lower portions are held in place by large rubber grommets - or as Sonor prefers 'APS' (Advanced Projection System) isolators. Sonor has maintained the sleek design of the TuneSafe lugs, with single-ended type for the bass drum and toms, while the snare has double-ended versions. Each lug has nylon inserts which grip around the threaded portion of the tension bolt, avoiding any possible detuning.
With the exception of the bass drum, the kit has arrived from the Sonor factory with each head pre-fitted and tightly tensioned. Attaching the pair of perimeter-dampened Remos to the large kick is a smooth process but, unless you have the might of a stout Bierkeller Fraulein, finger-tightening the tension bolts is near impossible - before the 40mm-long tension bolts enter the TuneSafe lugs, the rubber inserts/gaskets (within each kick claw) grip extremely effectively, avoiding rattles and providing additional insurance against detuning.
Before gigging, we tensioned the kick so the batter was just over the flapping stage and its resonant partner only just a little more taught. We dropped the tension and pitch of the tom batters by approximately half a turn and (apart from minimal tweaking), keeping the 'factory' tension on the resonant heads and snare.
During the soundcheck, the kit was subject to a few direct-centre hits with a few edge-to-edge rolls, as well as the usual full-on blasts around the whole kit - overall the sound was impressive but we warmed immediately to the snare in particular. There is no better place to hear the kit than 'out front' so, after getting the bass player to give the whole ensemble a few good blasts while we stood there, we realised the whole set actually sounds stunning.
We are also treated to an undeniably rich and authoritative snare sound - not unlike a vintage Ludwig Black Beauty. While this might seem unlikely, especially as the two drums are made of entirely different materials, this is one of those rare moments where the whole band agrees.
The bass drum was 'felt' equally as well as it was heard and the toms gave up all of their maple warmth in perfect balance with bass drum and snare. Standing in a variety of spots around the venue, there was no evidence of any of the overtone from the snare when sat behind the kit.
It is amazing how much confidence great sounding drums can provide - leaving us to concentrate on the songs and enjoy the playing experience. The smooth action of the dual-glide snare lever is as impressive as it is complex. When the throw-off lever goes into the 'on' position, it doesn't snap shut, instead it simply 'glides' smoothly into position with barely a whisper.
The kit remains wholly untouched by any dampening methods. The die-cast hoops of the snare appear to gate the drum slightly and the pre-dampening on the kick just allows the whole set to sound stunning straight out of the box. The whole kit is one huge-sounding set, spilling out and projecting far into the venue where not just me and the band but everyone has the chance to enjoy it.
All of the gigs we did with the ProLite kit were with an original 'full-on' rock band - there was no holding back, just some high-volume playing. There was no evidence of detuning (no bits falling off either!), just an amazing sounding set.