The unveiling of Chad Smith as a DW endorsee in 2016 had the air of a high-profile football transfer deal to it; the Red Hot Chili Peppers sticksman enjoys global recognition and is known almost as much as an individual as he is a band member.
With its new star signing on board it was therefore only a matter of time before DW popped the question to him about marketing signature instruments.
In the event, the arena-rocking funk-bruiser chose DW sub-brand PDP as the vehicle of his signature snare drums, to keep the results within reach of more - particularly younger - drummers. Chad came up with the concept, specs and sizes and PDP duly unveiled not one but three Chad Smith snares at NAMM 2018 - 14"x6", 13"x7" and 12"x6" models.
Judging by his recent kits, Chad is a keen advocate of the unique looks and sound of acrylic drums, so it’s probably no surprise to find the trio of snares are built from clear acrylic. Their transparent appearance is enhanced by the choice of clear heads top and bottom, leaving only the shell hardware and snare wires interrupting a vision of absolute purity. This Chili Pepper-like degree of commitment to the cause makes the drums visually striking and a lighting engineer’s dream.
Like almost all modern acrylic shells these drums have been cast and so are seamless, making for a strong and acoustically efficient shell. A quick check for roundness finds them well within tolerance but not without a little divergence. We’re slightly surprised as you’d imagine that if the moulds in which the shells have been cast were true then the shells would be also. The shells are all 6mm thick, have PDP’s customary - and accurately cut - 45 degree bearing edges with small roundover and well-proportioned snare beds. Double-ended PDP dual-turret lugs are found on the 12" and 14" snares (six and 10 respectively) while the 13" has 16 individual lugs owing to its greater depth.
The lugs have been sourced from PDP’s Concept series, which the three snares are nominally part of. DW’s chunky MAG throw-off and butt plate are fitted as standard, as are fine-threaded True-Pitch tension rods. The chrome plated triple-flanged hoops are 2.5mm thick whilst the snare wires are 20 strands apiece.
Chad would be the first to admit that he’s not the quietest drummer on the block and the choice of acrylic is therefore entirely in keeping with his approach. Unlike wood, acrylic has no grain, variations or imperfections to imbue the shell with personality, What it lacks in subtlety, though, it makes up for in charisma; like an extrovert making an entrance to a party, the assembled know when acrylic is in the room.
First up is the 14"x6", which gives a typically throaty bark with a noticeable - but sympathetic - ring. A dab of Moongel knocks the ring back and lets the note punch through. It’s quite a middly-sounding drum with much of its brightness subsumed within the note, making it ideal for fat backbeats and tooth-rattling fills. As with all drums, dead centre is the dry spot - and noticeably dry and clipped it is, too, loosening off as soon as the sticks start to wander edgewise.
Moving onto the 13"x7" brings a different response; the attack increases perceptibly with the front end of the note really slicing across. Behind it there is similar amount of grunt to that found in the 14" (thanks to its generous 7" depth), making it a really ballsy customer.
In comparison with the 14" - a good, solid snare drum - the 13" seems harder, faster and leaner, like a gym-ripped version of its big brother. It’s tight enough for funk and powerful enough for rock and, rather like Mr Smith himself, can jump back and forth between the two effortlessly. In common with the 14" it’s also wonderfully playable, covering the dynamic variations of ghost notes, buzz rolls and rim shots with equal emphasis. Its response to cross sticking is remarkably strong as well; the woody tap that results carries as much definition as a full stick hit.
With a smooth batter head the only brush action that you could reasonably expect to elicit is a train beat, but this is conveyed with similar clarity. We couldn’t quite bring ourselves to spoiling the aesthetics by fitting a coated head…
While the 12"x6" loses an inch in diameter and depth its volume generating capabilities don’t seem in any way affected; if anything, the added focus keeps its projection on a par with its bigger siblings. The note is even brighter and sharper and it snaps at the barline like a terrier on the trail of a scent. Though convention would dictate that this is an accent drum, in reality it’s more than robust and expressive enough to be used as a main snare in any genre - such as hip-hop, dance/electronica, nu jazz etc - that requires high tuning and needlepoint precision.