Spaun Drums Designer Series Spruce Mahogany review

Spaun lives up to its custom-shop reputation with an option-packed new series

  • £2,155
  • $2,499

MusicRadar Verdict

The Designer Series offers drummers a massive selection of custom options at a fairly competitive price. The spruce/mahogany configuration is not only a beauty to look at but sounds incredible too.


  • +

    Superb build.


  • -

    Very little to count against this kit.

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Celebrating over 20 years of custom drum building, Brian Spaun has built an enormous range of kits and snare drums utilising a wide range of materials. 

The new Designer Series enables customers to choose from over a dozen woods, or even combine multiple types into one shell. Here we are taking a look at one of the possible outcomes of the Designer Series, which comprises spruce and mahogany shells. These two materials are often used together in acoustic guitar manufacture for their complementary tonal qualities, but this is the first time we’ve seen this classic combination of tonewoods in drum form.  


The vast list of woods available within the Designer series includes birch, beech, poplar, ash, mahogany, spruce, maple, chestnut, bubinga, oak, walnut, cherry, padouk and wenge. These woods can be chosen as pure shell materials or combined to a custom specification. Shells can be built to any configuration, with the option of reinforcement rings and horizontal or vertical grain orientation, and are available in an enormous range of finishes. 

Shell hardware, such as hoops and Spaun’s proprietary Solid Brass Resonator (SBR) lugs, can be finished in chrome, brass or flat black. There is even the option of choosing your very own customised signature badge for a truly one-of-a-kind drum. 

Our three-piece review kit comprises a 12"x8" rack tom, 16"x14" floor tom and 22"x18" kick drum. We have also been treated to a matching 14"x6½" snare drum, which is available separately. The tom and snare shells consist of three plies of mahogany on the inside and equal plies of spruce on the outside. The slightly thicker bass drum incorporates an extra layer of mahogany. 

On each drum the outer ply features a central band of mahogany with a vertical wood grain, while the remainder of the surface is made up of spruce in a horizontal orientation. The shells are finished in a satin clear coat, which enhances the natural look of the kit. Again, in the interest of customer choice, the Designer Series offers everything from clear satin and high gloss, to stain and wrap finishes. 

Designer and builder Brian Spaun tells us that the combination of woods used for the outer layer is purely aesthetic, but mentions that “the visual aspect forces you to read about what exactly the shells are made of”. Bearing edges are Spaun’s signature double 45-degree, which results in a very sharp peak. The central point perfectly divides the inner plies of darker mahogany from the lighter spruce. The matching wooden bass drum hoops appear to be spruce with just an outer layer of mahogany, completing the kit’s two-tone look. 

All hardware on our review kit is finished in chrome, including triple-flanged hoops and SBR lug (single lugs for toms and kick, dual lugs for the snare). Bass drum spurs are solid but a little spindly relative to the weighty feel of the kit, especially when compared with the over-sized and seriously chunky floor tom legs; so chunky, in fact, that the brackets won’t hold standard diameter legs from another kit. The included tom mounting system is a basic RIMS style setup with a ball-joint bracket. With the RIMS mount removed, the tom looks fantastic on a snare stand, although this does choke the sound considerably. 

Supplied heads sport the Spaun logo but are made by Evans. The kick is fitted with a clear EMAD and pre-ported gloss white reso head with large Spaun logo in black. The toms are single-ply clears top and bottom.  

Hands on

We put the Designer kit through its paces on a couple of gigs and a recording session and the general verdict is that this kit ticks all the right boxes. The spruce/mahogany combo creates a highly-resonant yet punchy and dark tone. The softer spruce is categorised as possessing strong low-frequencies with a broad dynamic range, and also works well alongside other woods. The heavier mahogany brings a defined attack and is also rich in lower frequencies. 

Placing the harder mahogany on the inside brings a darker flavour to each drum and also helps produce a quick, punchy attack. The 22"x18" bass drum personifies these qualities perfectly. The drum unleashes a monstrously low boom with a quick, clicky attack that’s helped by the supplied EMAD head. With a fraction more tension in both the batter and resonant heads, plus a small dampening cushion positioned against the former, the wide open shell is tamed into the most beautifully punchy and tone-filled bass drum. This 7-ply beast is just the ticket straight out of the box and barely needs any attention on the tuning front.  

With just a little more tension in the heads, we find a sweet spot, which delivers maximum tone but also maintains the lower frequencies

The 12"x8" rack tom is not as easy going as its big brother and takes considerably more time to locate the sweet spot. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the tom sounds excellent when tuned down low. It produces a seriously tubby tone, once again supported by a quick attack from the inner mahogany plies and the razor-sharp bearing edges. Taking the tom up a touch in search of a purer note, we are met with unwanted grumbles which prove tricky to tame. Investing a little more time, we soon get to know the drum and have it singing to perfection. 

The 16"x14" floor tom also offers an astounding level of low-end and works surprisingly well tuned just above wrinkle on both sides. Frankly, it packs a heck of a punch, which is followed closely by a thunderous rumble below. Again, with just a little more tension in the heads, we find a sweet spot that delivers maximum tone but also maintains the lower frequencies. 

Our three-piece review kit comes in at £2,155, which does not include a snare drum. We have been sent a matching 14"x6½" snare drum, which is available for an additional £425. This sensitive and articulate drum sounds absolutely fantastic in a range of low to medium tunings. A real superstar in the studio, the snare dishes out a relatively dry backbeat (using a few blobs of Moon Gel) with bags of response from the snare wires and plenty of low-end. The 6½" depth lets the tone simmer for a while before dissipating. Cranking the snare to ear-splitting levels isn’t so successful, but it fits perfectly with the rest of the kit and would make for a great rock set-up. That said, these drums produce such a well-rounded tone that they would fit perfectly in a host of other styles too.

Tom Bradley

Tom is a professional drummer with a long history of performing live anywhere from local venues to 200,000 capacity festivals. Tom is a private drum tutor, in addition to teaching at the BIMM Institute in Birmingham. He is also a regular feature writer and reviewer for MusicRadar, with a particular passion for all things electronic and hybrid drumming.