A cardboard kit? That doesn't need tuning? And professionals love? Bob Henrit has the facts
Remo Belli's kits with their processed 'cardboard' shells have been available for some time now, but it's not until very recently that it's been discovered these sets could have a future with professional drummers.
The first generation of drums with PTS heads were aimed accurately at beginners and students; they sold cheaply, were relatively unsophisticated and sounded great! I don't believe they were meant to stand up to a lot of battering since their fixtures and fittings were not exactly gargantuan. However, the Remo company policy of offering the sets to 'top flight' professionals has resulted in a change of fittings. (I wouldn't be at all surprised if even more changes were contemplated.) They now have a list of endorsement artists who will obviously demand a very high standard of both drums and support systems.
Like the other Remo sets I've appraised, Encore has those Acousticon SE shells which are built in America. They aren't exactly made from cardboard; it's a laminated wood-fibre material about ¼" thick and impregnated with a resin. This process hardens the material and gives an edge to its resonance. According to Remo different resins will give different sounds (presumably from brittle to warm) but as far as my ears are aware these are the same shells that I reviewed last year on the 'Discovery' set.
The big difference between that set and Encore is in the nut-boxes. PowerSnaps are hinged casings which allow the heads to be changed without having to remove the tension screws. (The idea itself is not new and most people will be aware of Pearl's version of it. I seem to remember that an Australian called Sleishman had one a few years ago.) PowerSnap doesn't seem to need any detuning at all – you simply unhinge the bottom of the casing which is articulated. This allows the tension screw to swing free even though it's still located into the 'ear' in the hoop. A piece of plastic rod which locates inside the box itself accepts the tension screw and locks it solid. It's a simple, but effective principle.
Encore's bass drum measures 22"x16" and has eight nut-boxes, 'T' handled tensioners and pressed steel claws per head. (The tensioners are very reminiscent of Slingerland's Oriental ones.) It has metal hoops which are inlaid with plastic and the set I saw was fitted with Ebony heads. The tom tom holder receiver block is set well forward as are a pair of telescopic spurs which are angled forward and have optional spike or rubber tipped ends. (These thick rod spurs locate into blocks which have a wing bolt tapped directly into them.) Remo fit a felt strip damper to the batter head which is something many of the other manufacturers don't at the moment.
As per usual Remo supply three toms with this particular Encore kit. The two mounted ones are 'power' depth (12"x11" and 13"x12") while the floor tom is the usual 16"x16". The smaller toms have six of those PowerSnap nut boxes per head and the large tom has eight. Just like almost every other manufacturer Remo uses square headed tension screws and triple flange, pressed steel hoops. The double-bent legs fitted to the floor tom locate into cast blocks which also have their retaining screws tapped directly into them. These drums not too surprisingly are fitted with Remo heads: Ebony PinStrips to the batter sides and Ambassadors below.
The snare drum too is extra deep. It's the usual 14" in diameter but 8" deep. It also has those swivelling nut boxes, eight for each head, and triple flange hoops. No internal damper is fitted to this drum or the others, but all have air holes which aren't set equidistantly between the heads. (The bass drum has its one positioned underneath). There is a 20 strand metal snare fitted which locates into your actual snare bed. (A snare bed is an indentation cut into the bearing edge to rebate the wires and allow their very centre to touch properly. Most manufacturers simply graduate the bearing edge down a little at those positions and back again to accomplish the same thing.)
I got a distinct sense of 'deja vu' when I looked at the ancillaries which are available as an extra to go with this set. I had already reviewed them when I wrote about another Remo set last year. They're known as Dynasty and are very much top of the range stands and accessories. The whole 'pack' of hardware is to be available for something like £180, and for that money you'll get one boom and one straight cymbal stand, snare drum stand, hi hat pedal and bass drum pedal.
All the stands have double braced tripod legs, wide bored tubes and the same sort of quick lock attachment you find on racing bikes to adjust tube heights. Both cymbal stands have truly massive bases while the regular one has three stages with a sprung ratchet tilter with an extra-long support rod. There's the usual collection of felt and metal washers and of course a locking wing nut.
Remo's boom stand has just two vertical stages with the quick release clamps plus a ratchet holding system for its counterweighted arm. The cymbal tilter itself is the same as its 'straighter' brother. The snare drum stand is in many ways like several others – it has double braced tripod legs like the other stands but uses a 'ball and socket' mechanism to hold the playing angle solid. A basket type holder protrudes from the ball and the whole unit will go very low. (This of course is something of a necessity for an eight inch deep snare drum.) The arms of the basket are bent at right angles and sheathed in thick rubber. It's an exceedingly stable unit.
The hi hat stand has a plate to match the bass pedal's with a toe-stop and a bike-type chain to link it to the centre-pull mechanism. Its legs are, of course, double braced and the bottom framework has a couple of spurs tapped into it to immobilise it further. The mechanism has two expansion springs which are fitted outside the down-tube and adjustable in the normal way. Another 'quick release' lever adjusts and locks the playing height and there's a very Oriental looking top cymbal clutch and bottom cup fitted. (All of the 'quicklock' mechanisms have a knurled nut to take up the slack so that they always lock with the lever in a convenient position across the tube.)
The bass drum pedal has a single post which is adjustable in height and a cast two piece footboard. There's a toe stop fitted to the top of the plate and a bike chain 'strap' which fits onto a cog attached to the beater axle. It has a cam action which serves to throw the beater at the bass drum head and this is, as per usual, adjustable. (You may move the beater closer to the head should you so desire.) Another adjustment is for the strength of the expansion spring. A single cam lever locks the pedal's jaws to the bass drum hoop and there's a drum key operated screw fitted there to set it up initially. The other things to comment upon are the twin spurs set into the frame work and the felt beater. Both the bass and hi hat pedals are very smooth mechanically. Of course the Remo company don't make these stands and pedals themselves, but they are picking the very best of the Oriental stuff available. (Obviously the big names in Japan are making more salubrious stuff, but for the price, and from an independent manufacturer, this Dynasty stuff is good.)
The double tom holder arms are longer than usual, but this is presumably to accommodate the 'power' toms. Like several others these arms are made from wide bored tubular steel with a ratchet knuckle joint. They fit into a sturdy double block which is bolted to the bass drum (with a plate inside) and both toms have a single block bolted to their shells to take the other end of the tube. I must say that I wasn't too sure about the holder itself. It didn't fill me with too much confidence as far as its strength was concerned. Certainly I'd recommend that you kept some sort of head on the bass drum with a hole cut in if necessary. (Often fibreglass and phenolic bass drums flex too much without this added stiffening.)
A by-product of the quick change head capability of the PowerSnap nut boxes is that you can, if you so desire, nest the drums or some of them inside one another. This would make them more portable, mean less cases, but they'd be heavier. (The extra deep sizes would confuse the issue since you can't put both toms inside the floor tom, nor even the snare and smallest tom.) However, if you wanted to cut down on a case or two you could.
I have no reservations at all about the sound or appearance of this Encore set. The tones are clear and strong although I fancy that these Ebony heads tend to thicken them ever so slightly. I don't believe that this is psychological because these black pinstripes seem to have a slightly flatter sound anyway. The finish is impeccable too and according to Remo it's impossible to crease the Quadura plastic which is also scratch resistant. Regular sets come in solid colours but should you want it a striping kit is available; bands of white, chrome, black, red, blue or gold are available for you to fit for yourself. Designer series, which is the name for the set which has already had the customising done at the factory has a different front head for the bass drum too. It's black with a red Remo logo which runs vertically.
Do I hear you asking why Remo would want to make drums from compressed board when he could just as easily make them from plies of wood? Well, there could be an ecological reason, but I think from my previous conversations with him that he has always been interested in finding a valid new shell material. Acousticon is strong, gives very true bearing edges and can be 'tailored' to produce the different sounds I mentioned earlier. It's not the first time that materials other than solid woods have been used either. A couple of companies had a go at Phenolic (which is similar to Remo's concept), while most of them produced Perspex shells. Stainless steel had its turn as did Fibreglass. We've even had Aluminium sets! So, Remo Belli's company have done their homework and come up with a good sounding kit at a reasonable price. As I said in my last Remo article: If they can't make great sounding drums after 25 years in the plastic head industry, who can?
The up-market Remo sets are to be handled by John and Ivor Arbiter who are available on ((Contact Details).)
Review by Bob Henrit
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