The initials SJC derive from Scott James Ciprari who founded the SJC Drum Company in 2000 with his brother Mike.
SJC sources quality shells and hardware and - in a classic American-style operation - processes, finishes, personalises and assembles each drumset. The company is highly regarded for the care taken in production, catering for a top-end custom market.
SJC’s large ‘family’ includes stars like Tre Cool of Green Day and Josh Dun of Twenty One Pilots. The problem, as with much US-built product, is the high cost for UK buyers. Answer: do what all the big companies do and get kits built in the Orient, rather than back home in Massachusetts.
So, folks, today we present one of SJC’s first kit made in Taiwan: the Navigator, which Mike Ciprari says is, “built around the specs of our custom (US) offering. We’ve got a handful of artists using the Navigator kit on tour right now and they love it!”
The future bodes well with Gear4Music now the exclusive European retail partner for all SJC products. Costs are further kept down by the fact this kit is currently available in just two shell-pack options and in one Satin Stain colour.
Although assembled in Taiwan the kit boasts North American maple shells (6.2mm toms, 7.2mm bass). This puts it in the same category as SJC’s US-built kits and it would be a brave soul who looked at these shells and decided they were materially inferior. The question is, can the Taiwanese operation achieve the same level of care taken by the American crew, on which SJC’s reputation rests?
Well, any number of drum kits available today testify to the high standards of Taiwanese workmanship, and the Navigator is really good. We doubt it will make an iota of difference to the tuning and sound if it is minutely less lovingly pored-over than its American counterparts.
We reviewed a USA-made SJC kit in 2012 and were especially struck by the silky finish of the bearing edges - always a good standard to judge a drum by. The bearing edges on this Navigator are also admirable, but maybe just slightly less super-refined. Or are we imagining it? It’s a tiny thing, but it’s what you pay top-dollar for.
The Navigator quality shines through in the finish also; the Navigator finish is super-smooth. Inside, the maple looks top class.
Hardware and metal fittings this time are chrome-plated and gleam expensively. The tom isolation brackets - with standard four-point support - add hugely to the weight of the small toms. They are mammoths of luxuriously chromed steel, built for the heaviest use, but all that extra weight means you will need stands with the bulk exhibited by the Foundation X series for stability.
Tom mounts and the mega bass spurs have wing nuts with black oval insert grips that are rather chic. As are the cast bass drum claws with their rubber inserts and rubber scratch buffers. Really, you’d be hard-pushed to distinguish the Navigator from SJC’s custom US product. What it comes down to is this: by accepting a narrow choice you get a kit that is virtually as good as a super-hip American SJC for a much-reduced cost.
The Navigator shell pack is 22"x18", 16"x16", 12"x8" and 10"x7" and there is a full professional complement of lugs. It’s immediately a little brighter than the recently-reviewed Pathfinder, which you would expect from its harder maple shells.
You really notice it with the bigger bass drum and floor tom, both of which are substantial drums delivering a fulsome rocking clout. Maple is popular because it’s such a good all-rounder, not dominating on highs or lows, but giving a plump, broad character, adaptable to just about any musical style.
The accuracy of build, the truly round shells and quality 45° bearing edges allow a good tuning range. The Taiwanese budget twin-ply Evans coated batters are rather coarse and crunchy, although they soon got smoother as they were played-in.
These drums will in any case adapt to your favourite head choices as well as any maple set around. It’s the familiar contemporary voice of the modern maple drum set.