Sonor Performer Plus Kit
Bob H bounces back, with a lacquered-finish kit that costs less than you'd think
The Performer Plus series sets are obviously made to Sonor's rigorous standards and difficult to fault except on a couple of minor cosmetic points. This is probably due to the fact that the set I saw had also been seen, and presumably touched, by several thousand people at the British Music Fair. To all intents and purposes it utilises all the tried and tested holders, receivers and fittings that we've discussed and written about in the past. It definitely is meant to be a medium priced set, but it's difficult to spot where the corners have been cut with the drums, unless you were to compare them with a Signature Series set. The stands, though, are where you can see a little more evidence of the saving.
The set I saw had seven drums, but in reality it may be bought with as many components as you desire. All the drums are powerised, so you get an extra couple of inches of shell depth for your money. Now your basic five drum set comes with a 22" bass drum, 12", 13", and 16" toms and a 6½" metal-shell snare drum. However, if you want a seven piece set they'll supply you, for a further £275, with a 10" and 14" tom too, complete with a stand to mount them on. The shells for the Performer drums are made from a sandwich of Beech with Birch as the filling. The bass drum is made from nine plies while the toms are made from six. In common with all modern Sonors, there are no glue-rings, only the usual clean, sharp and smooth bearing-edges. The plies are crossed alternately and butted to each other at right angles.
Bass Drum: The Performer Plus bass drum has a 16" deep shell with chrome metal hoops, and 20 of Sonor's normal nut-boxes, cast 'T' handled hoops and some rather uncharacteristic pressed-steel claws. I'm in two minds really about those metal hoops. I can only presume that they are cheaper than wooden ones, since all budget sets appear to be fitted with them as a matter of course. But, Sonor fit them to other sets too, with the exception of the Signatures and Lites; it certainly gives them a slightly more edgy sound. Anyway, Sonor's hoops have a channel formed into them, and a rubber/plastic block to locate the bass drum pedal.
The double tom holder receiver block is cast and massive and fitted towards the front to allow the toms to sit closely together, yet a comfortable distance away from the player. There's an air-hole fitted underneath the drum to allow it to breathe more efficiently and release the internal pressure. Unlike most drum companies Sonor still fit a felt-strip damper to the batter head of their bass drums. The spurs they use are the usual bent rod sort, which in this case are bent into a triangle curved to allow it to fit comfortably against the shell when packed away. The apex of the triangle is the business-end which digs into the ground, with an optional rubber or spike tip. The side opposite the spike locates into one of Sonor's well designed 'prism' blocks. These are two-piece, open jawed blocks which have a 'V' machined into each side of them to locate the circular rod more securely. These are used for tom legs too, and are held shut via a large 'T' screw. (I can't understand why Sonor don't fit four of their slotted tension screws where the drum rests on the floor. It would certainly be more convenient, allow the bass pedal to be better accommodated, and possibly save them money.)
Tom Toms: As I said you can have the usual three toms, or an additional two if you really want to have a comprehensive set up. They're all 'square' sizes, so at least a couple of inches deeper than they used to be, except for the floor tom which still measures 16"x 16". (Interestingly enough, Sonor were the first, and so far the only modern manufacturers to add extra depth to their floor toms. The one supplied with Signature Series measures 16" x 17".
All the toms have Sonor's large, slotted tension screws and triple-flange hoops as well as the usual cast nut boxes. The smallest tom had a total of 10 of these, the 12" and 13" had six per head, while the 14" and 16" had the usual quota of 16. Having seen Sonor's triple flange hoops being made from a single plate of steel, I've always had a sneaking suspicion that they are ever so slightly thicker than anybody else's, except for Pearl's 'super hoops'. Certainly they fit thicker ones to the batter side of some of their Signature drums. As usual with a power tom, these Performer Plus drums don't actually have any internal dampers, but they do have external ones.
All the mounted toms are fitted with a cast receiver block which is big, strong and very supportive. It has a great deal more 'gubbins' inside the drum to support the tube from the tom tom holder further along its length. Of course, in these days of Gary Gauger's RIMS the philosophy is to keep everything clean inside the drum with nothing fixed to the shell. But, if you're going to have a disappearing-type holder, Sonor's is certainly the most thoughtful and kindest to the shell.
The only other thing to comment upon are the double bent legs which are made from substantial rod, fitted with rubber feet and knurled where they're held fast by those prism holder-blocks.
Snare Drum: The metal shell snare drum supplied with these Performers is pretty much your typical Sonor job and measures 14" x 6½". Its shell is surprisingly heavy with a single centre bead for strength, and a slightly rolled inverse flange. It has the normal triple-flange hoops too, and just eight double-ended, waisted nut-boxes with slotted tensioners. There's a snare bed pressed into the bottom flange to allow the mid-length, 22 strand wire snares to lay more easily against the lower head. These snares are attached to the strainer by cord, but since their 'butt' plates have a slot in them too, you could just as easily use plastic strips to attach them.
The on/off mechanism itself is cast with a side-cam action and screw adjustment for the snare tension. The actual lever which accomplishes this on/off action is longer than usual, and extends over the top of the snare-tension thumb-screw which is thoughtfully sprung. The butt end is formed from substantial pressed steel and, like the aforementioned strainer, has screw locked jaws to hold the cord from the snares. In sympathy with the toms, the company don't fit an internal damper to this snare drum, and that more or less wraps it up.
Heads: With the exception of the snare and the front of the bass drum, all the drums were fitted with Remo's see-through Ambassador heads. The snare has a coated Ambassador batter, and a normal Ambassador snare head. The coating I find gives a deal more audible penetration to the snare and strangely makes the drum sound more modern. It's weird this, because the coated Ambassador is the Weather King head which Remo started out with more than 25 years ago! The front head of the bass carries the Sonor logo, and is a black see-through Ambassador equivalent called Ebony.
Accessories: I found the stands slightly confusing. They look typically Sonor, but with perhaps just a dash of the Orient. I know they are totally made in West Germany but there's something about them which looks different. Could it be that the chrome plating is not the same? As you'd expect, all the stands are extremely solid, with outsize tubes, double braced tripod legs with large wedged feet, and very strong clamping mechanisms. Shaped jaws made from spring steel lock shut via a large carriage bolt and wing nut made from a piece of bent rod. (A plastic, wear-resisting ferrule slips in between the jaws.) The top of the cymbal stand has its outside diameter reduced and the usual Sonor cast ratchet tilter with the equally usual collection of washers and our old friend, the bent rod wing nut which is prevalent on this set. Sonor have a boom stand too for Performer Plus which is based on the straight stand, but with an eye bolt fixed to the top of the third stage to retain the heavily counterweighted boom. Tilterwise, it's exactly the same as its straighter brother.
The hi hat has the same double-braced legs, with a two piece cast footplate, and a metal strap attaching it to the centre rod of the mechanism. There is no adjustment for the action, but it feels pretty good anyway. Twin sprung spurs are set into the framework, with a Signature-type bottom cymbal cup which is made from some sort of nylon/plastic. This is an ingenious piece of equipment which sort of resembles a cotton reel cut in half at an angle around the circumference. As you rotate the two pieces, the top angle where the cymbal sits, changes. Since both the cut sections have splines formed into them, once you've set your angle it will stay put. The turned-from-solid, top cymbal clutch is Sonor's old tried and tested one which has a hexagonal hole in its centre to locate onto the equally hexagonal centre rod.
This particular Sonor snare drum stand is among my favourites. It uses a basket-type holding mechanism with a screw through the centre of the basket to pull the rubber sheathed arms up tightly against the snare drum. There's a very substantial sandwich clamp to lock the playing angle solid. This allows the drum to swivel on a large nut and bolt completely independently of the wing nut and bolt which locks everything solid. Here too we find one of those bent rod wing nuts which are flattened in their centre and then drilled and threaded.
The bass drum pedal supplied has been around successfully for quite sometime. It too has a two-piece footplate to match the hi hats. It looks at first sight to be a pretty basic pedal, but for all that it's pretty sophisticated with just the right amount of adjustment. It has a cast, inverted 'U' framework and a single expansion spring which is adjustable from the bottom via a large wing nut. The action, as I said, is not at all basic. There's a very large cast boss fitted onto the axle which the fibre strap wraps around. This 'gears down' the action and since it has several holes tapped into itself, allows you to change the angle of the footplate without it affecting the position of the bass drum beater relative to the head. The cam itself is also adjustable to further accelerate the beater.
Furthermore, the whole unit attaches to the bass drum in a most dignified manner via a large 'T' screw set into the left side of the framework facing upwards. All you need to do is to put your hand down from the seated position to twist the screw and lock the jaws, which are also pivoted on the left side of the frame against the hoop. The portion which locates into the channel is specially shaped so that it fits very securely. The beater position can be easily adjusted from the sitting position too by way of a splined, threaded collar which is located on the axle itself. The whole bang shoot is completed by a substantial pear-shaped felt beater which is beautifully balanced. It's a very easy to use, smooth pedal. Performer Plus shares the normal tom holder with all Sonor's other sets. In essence it's a totally adjustable piece of equipment consisting of a splined tube which locates into the receiver-block mounted to the bass drum shell. It has a rectangular, cast block affixed to its very top and it's here that the arms for the mounted toms are clamped. It has cast memory clamps in all the pertinent positions as well as more of those bent-rod wing-bolts to lock the ratchet arms in place. This retention apparatus is much the same on the spurs and tom legs. Anyway, these ratchets are cast and splined and form a knuckle joint to enable you to adjust your toms to any position. All Sonor castings are specially strengthened with solid 'skeletons' inside them to make sure they last. Should you decide to go for a seven drum set, your extra stand will consist of one of these holders fitted onto a tripod-base just like all the others in the set.
The shells are all very clean and tidy inside, but unusual in that they don't have any washers behind their nut-box screws. The system used allegedly cuts out rattle and strain and neither the company or anybody else seems to have had any complaints. (I used to have a Trixon kit many moons ago which had its 'boxes' fitted in precisely the same fashion.)
Soundwise Performer Plus is a typical, upmarket Sonor drumset. It's very round and warm with very little 'bang' to it, although there's a great deal more than on the Signature sets. The bass drum goes thud very nicely and the toms have good clarity and depth. The snare drum is nicely edgy too, even though ostensibly it's not particularly sophisticated. I must say, Sonor have always made bright, breathy snare drums, which I feel come very close to Ludwig's. As I've frequently intimated, with rare exceptions, you get what you pay for! The appearance of the set was excellent, apart from the maltreated finish, which I mentioned earlier, and the image-cheapening, stick on chrome-tape badge which I'm pretty sure they'll be changing.
I must say that the unfortunate marks on the set only go to show just how careful you have to be with a natural wood or lacquered finish. However, we need to weigh this up with the knowledge that any shell without a deadening plastic covering stuck to it will put out a better sound. So, it's worth getting a lacquered or natural set, providing you're prepared to take great care when packing and unpacking it.
To sum up, here's another good set from Sonor which is slightly cheaper than their others, but still with the same strong sounds and attention to detail, as well as a lacquer finish.
Sonor Performer Plus - RRP: £980.
Info: Sonor UK ((Contact Details))
Review by Bob Henrit
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