Tiki Snare Drums review

Idiosyncratic custom snares

Using traditional methods, veneers are applied with Pearl glue, an iron and a specialist 'veneer' hammer

MusicRadar Verdict

This is a fabulous pair of snares - each with their own particular sonic palette and personality. For the 13", some Latin, jazz-funk or jazz; the 14" drum would be versatile enough to cover just about any other genre.


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    Great sounds and character. Build quality.


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Preston Prince (drum builder/reston Prince (drum builder/drummer/BIMM educator) and his wife Lowri formed Tiki drums in 2008. Preston, a native New Zealander (hence the Tiki brand and logo), followed his sister over to the UK, where he was subsequently offered an apprenticeship in furniture restoration.

This gave him all the necessary skills and experience to pursue his passion for vintage drum restoration, which progressed into the formation of Tiki Drums.


"Each snare begins its musical journey in Italy, where the shell blanks are made to Preston's exacting specifications"

Each snare begins its musical journey in Italy, where the shell blanks are made to Preston's exacting specifications. They are then shipped direct to Tiki Drums' Hove workshop where the kiln-dried blanks are hand-crafted into a "drum for life" snare. This involves trimming the shells to size, inserting and glueing reinforcing rings, veneering, hand-cutting the bearing edges, drilling, staining/oiling, bolting-on each piece of hardware and finally, attaching the familiar diamond-shape metal Tiki badge.

With the bearing edges cut to 45°, it is the sharpness not the angle which, according to Preston, ultimately affects the sound. The precise, razor-sharp trimming on the snares gives minimal contact between the shell and head which, with the triple-flanged hoops, should help create an 'open', incisive sound. The maple of the 13" and mahogany/poplar blend of the 14" snares will help to warm-up and mellow the overall tone.

Using traditional methods, the veneer is applied with Pearl glue, an iron and a specialist 'veneer' hammer. The iron heats the glue granules, transforming it into a sticky, workable fluid, while the hammer 'pulls' the glue from under the veneer.

It's a finely balanced technique of heat and a wet cloth, preventing the glue from solidifying while avoiding scorching the precious veneer. The slender chromed tube lugs and the blend of wood grains in their deep, reddish-brown hue results in a stunning vintage-style exterior. Inside too, we are treated to a silky smooth, blemish-free surface providing further visual feasting.

The snare features the Dunnett '845' George Way throw-off - probably the most understated and simplistic designs of any available - Ronn Dunnett (of Dunnett Classic Drums), made improvements to the original George Way design and functionality. What makes this so unique is that the only moving part is the actual cross-shaped 'beer tap' lever, relying on the tension of the strainer string to maintain its upright or 'on' position.

Any snare adjustment is made via the butt-end where a knurled tensioning nut is held in position against the butt-end shell attachment with a sprung bolt. This is fixed by a nut with four notches serving as both an anti-slip device and positioning guide for precise snare adjustment. The snare strainer is held in position by nylon string which simply slots into the lower, horizontal portions of the butt-end and throw-off lever - making any snare head or strainer swap a rapid process.

Hands On

"Even with the lightest touch, the drum manages to sound as good as it does when given a good wallop"

Fresh out of the boxes, both snares are evenly tuned and tightly tensioned (significantly so with the 14" drum) - so that our thumb is barely able to push into the batter head. It's the smaller of the two drums which is the first to venture out on some gigs - the first is a posh wedding in Bath where the band had to keep things low and subtle. Initially, we begin by playing with brushes, with 'figure eights' producing a rich background swish and occasional flutter, ideal for the quieter surroundings.

As the audience warms, it's a gradual progression onto a pair of 5As and some cross-sticking producing a beautiful rich 'tock' - great for those Latin-esque rhythms. When it's time to pump it up, this 13" snare pushes each song with a crisp, tight backbeat. What particularly impresses us is that even with the lightest, most delicate touch, the drum manages to sound as good as it does when given a good wallop.

The table-top tensioned 14" figured sycamore proves to be a versatile, good 'all rounder'. As the stick tips 'buzz' and blast their way from the centre to the outer edge, a wicked overtone is evident - even amongst the stick frenzy.

Moving back towards the centre, the overtone reduces significantly, becoming more of a controllable 'undertone', where it's possible to charm every bit of depth and power from the mahogany/poplar shell. Whether using birch rods (when subtlety is required), or a pair of sticks when the band starts cooking, this snare is up for it.