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 student level Pathfinder, encouraging early entry to the SJC. 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.
The kit is pictured with mounting stands and bass pedal; these are not included in the shell-pack price, but can be added.
Sizes are 20"x16" bass, 14"x14" floor, 12"x8" and 10"x7" mounted toms, and 14"x6" matching wood snare. The shells have twin plies of cherry on either side of a three-ply core of Agathis wood, making up a seven-ply shell.
Agathis is new to us when it comes to drum shells, although it’s used widely in guitar construction. The cherry is laid horizontally on the outside and vertically on the inside displaying its attractive reddish-brown stripey grain.
The face cherry has a smooth finish and the shells are generally impressive, precisely circular with level and true 45° bearing edges. The wood bass drum hoops are painted flat black and are less impressive. Put pressure on them and they start to creak, and the back edge that pushes against the head hoop (ie: the bit you don’t see) is patchily painted.
Talking of black brings us to the hardware which is powder-coated. Black may look cool, but requires extra care as powder-coats chip and mark easily.
Fittings-wise, the standout feature is the SJC small shield lug (and badge) which gives the company its distinctive image. Budget kits usually have a depleted number of lugs, but with the Pathfinder it’s only the 14"x14" floor tom that is lacking with 12 rather than 16.
Small tom mounts are the inevitable isolation style, but because they only have two points of contact they are supported lower down by a rubber buffer which pushes against the shell. This sort-of defeats the purpose, but then with the buffer pushing against, or free from the shell, we couldn’t detect any significant change in resonance.
SJC suggests the Pathfinder, with its small sizes, is ideal for the student or hobbyist. The smaller sizes do take up less room, but they are also fashionable with a punchy sound.
The softer mahogany-like Agathis confers a warmer, darker tone and there is plenty enough resonance and sustain, certainly for home use, rehearsals and recording, on to modest live venues.
If you tune too low the sound gets a bit muddy, but you may like that. Mike Ciprari logically points out that, “Agathis produces slightly deeper tones than maple, so with the smaller sizes of the Pathfinder, this creates a well-balanced sound all around the kit.” Agreed.
Matching wood snare drums thrown in with budget kits are often a tell-tale light weight, but this one is respectably heavy - a good sign. At 6" deep it has beef, adding to the darkly commanding Agathis wood tone. Again, it is a bit murky when tuned down, but from medium tension up it has a lot going for it. Not the snappiest, but robust and dense.