Remo Snare Kit
This is a development of the pre-tuned kits which I watched Louie Bellson and Harvey Mason showing off at a clinic a couple of years back. Since then the kit has been trimmed down to a 14 by 8 wooden snare, the shell of which comprises 19 layers of ply compressed to a mere 5mm with engineering resins. The inside is sealed but still rough to the touch, while the outside is finished in a chrome-plastic wrap (rippled) and an extra "Gold strip" (loose plastic band).
The beauty of this drum is not (fortunately) in its looks but in the design of its "Powersnap" quick-release lugs. If the idea of pre-tuned heads is going to seem more attractive than simply turning a key on one regular head, they have to be easily and speedily interchangeable. A lug hinges at the bottom so that, by pulling it away from the shell, the tension can be released and the claw removed, all in one movement. Simple and ingenious.
Since the damping devices also operate underneath the head this is doubly valuable and also avoids those embarrassing moments when you lose a lug or washer from a conventional snare and have to scrabble around on all fours amidst the debris of a rehearsal studio looking for it. However, with more than a couple of turns of tension you still have to slacken these heads with the key before you can physically pull out the lugs and flip on a different head.
The three supplied heads are set at Dark (low), Mellow - this is an American company (medium), and Bright (high) tensions. Even off the drum they have pleasing inherent tonal qualities (samplers and percussionists take note) and certainly sound perfectly adequate when slapped on to the shell. The built-in hoop is obviously made of a much cheaper and lighter alloy than the standard type and this contributes to a duller, more diminished rimshot crack than I would normally expect. How long do these heads retain their set tension? The Mellow head of the test set was higher in pitch than the Bright one, which had obviously seen more use (more stick marks) and had suffered accordingly. Will constant rimshotting break these weaker hoops? Users would be well advised to gradually move the head around the drum and spread out the punishment.
The damping tray sits between head and shell and does cut out some overtones. The sponge hoop then sits in the tray, the head rests on it and more harmonics (and volume) are eliminated. Replaced by a sponge disc, the drum is down to practice volume. With the extra disc in the bottom of the drum, resting on the snare head, you'd have to go some to annoy your granny. I found the tray-only sound the most convincing — the sponge ring was too dead, and the discs were great for practice. Add to this a hoop cut from the outer two inches from a regular head which you plonk on to the top of your batter head and you have all possibilities covered.
I liked the snare action and the dry, grainy sound of the plastic strands but most unreservedly loved the case. We all know they are essentially rubbish but this one, made by Bobadilla in California, shames any British effort that I've ever seen. And as an enthusiastic player of cases I can report that it sounds as good as it looks.
Great fun, good value for money. An alternative, rather than a substitute for the traditional snare which will help conventional tuning by offering some kind of standard sound to compare with. I would like to see an alternative, slacker snare head included. This would give the drum more tonal depth to complement its clear, crisp top end. There's also nothing to stop buyers from trying a conventional hoop and head for more, relatively cheap variation. I loved it.
Review by Andy Duncan
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