Alright, we’re back again with a third and final Canopus snare drum review, which means we’ve sadly reached the end of our 2015 Canopus tour. Heartbreaking. If you haven’t yet, please go back and check out the review and videos of the other two Canopus drums I’ve reviewed this year – the Yoshihito Eto Signature and the Neo Vintage M4. Both stellar instruments.
The subject of this review is a real knockout. Please watch the video below. The audio does not do the drum justice, but it should give you some idea of what to expect.
Size: 5.5 x 14
Shell: Phenol Fiber
Finish: Deep Ocean Wrap
Hoop: Steel 2.3mm
Snare Wire: Plated Canopus vintage wire
Lugs: Solid Tube Chrome Lug
Months ago (too many months ago) when three Canopus boxes landed on my front door, I eagerly tore through the tape and hoisted each drum high into the air as Mufasa did to Simba so many years ago. I was excited. I knew Canopus’ reputation, and I couldn’t wait to check out each drum because of it. I was so pumped to dig into the birch/maple blend of the Yoshihito Eto signature, and I was supremely curious about the 12-lug over 6-lug, hybrid-shelled Neo Vintage M4. Admittedly, I was a little less amped about the subject of today’s review, the Neo Vintage M3 Phenol Fiber snare drum.
I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never been blown away by synthetic or synthetic hybrid shells in the past, and while the Phenol Fiber composite of the M3 was a new frontier for me, it just didn’t pique my interest.
Until I played it.
Sorry for my language here, but holy shit. What a monster. This drum is sensational. I tried and tried to come up with a worthy comparison, but I’m at a loss.
Before we dive into the sound, though, let’s talk about the shell. Per Canopus’ description, the Phenol Fiber shell is a composite of layered “craft paper” and phenol resin. The layers are then heat treated for hardening – something that creates a permanent cure as far as I can tell. I did a little research about phenol resin, and apparently, once the compound has been heated to a solid, it’s takes a lot of heat to get it to soften or separate.
The interior of the shell, which I’m assuming is un-stained Phenol Fiber, looks a bit like the faux wood veneers you see on chipboard furniture. It’s dark tan in color and has the slightly porous look you’d expect from something like mahogany, but it’s glossy and smooth to the touch. The shell looks to be just shy of a half inch thick, and feels very sturdy in hand.
The bearing edge is plenty interesting as well; the outside cut is rounded up to a semi-sharp peak which immediate dives into a steep interior bevel. It looks like an edge that blends the crisp attack of a sharp double 45 with the smoothing effect of that outer round. The snare beds were shallower than I expected, but quite wide, leaving plenty of room for larger wire sets if preferred.
On the outside, the shell sports a beautifully rich dark blue coloring that vacillates between black and the deep ocean blue after which the finish is named. It’s really striking. There’s a very subtle hint of sparkle beneath the gloss that dances just a bit under the right lighting. My photographs do not do it justice.
To complete the package, the M3 features small, centered, single-point tube lugs; the same P-85 style throw included on the other Canopus drums I’ve reviewed (to reiterate: simple, slim, and effective); a single half-inch, grommeted vent; a Remo Coated Ambassador batter; and a Remo Hazy snare side resonant-side head. It’s a simply appointed drum with very little in the way of frills.
Sonically, though, this drum is anything but simple. It is outrageously full and complex. At a medium tuning, the drum is fat and cracking when struck dead center. Every note has a bright, cutting top with a big beefy bottom that betrays the shell’s 5.5” depth. The included 2.3mm hoops keep the drum lively and open, but the shell doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of weird overtones. Each note, especially those played a little louder, has a sharp attack drawn from the rigid and reflective shell, with a touch of warm color to follow from the woody paper component.
Really, the Neo Vintage M3 sounds a bit like two different snare drums at the same time. It’s got the fat crack of an aluminum shell up high, and the bassy richness of something like bubinga on the bottom. Low volume strokes are a little less complete, drawing out more of the wire sound than shell tone. The drum is supremely sensitive at all levels.
Speaking of wire sound, I think those shallow beds help bring up the snare response a bit. Notes played in the center without the support of a rimshot have a lot of snare response in the mix. If the wires are too tight, they can sound papery at times. I tried swapping out the included plated vintage wires with a set of Puresound Twisted strands, which are a bit dryer, and really like the results a lot. I think this drum has so much character that experimenting with a variety of wire types would be a lot of fun.
Tuned up high, the M3 has a great, crisp chattering sound that feels ideal modern jazz play. It’s light and dynamic, but still has some beef to bolster each note. Dropped down low, the drum really sings in a big way. The core note is longer and higher than I would have expected. It needs a bit of muffling when you start to approach the wrinkle zone, but what drum doesn’t? I thought a small piece of gel muffling dialed it in perfectly, offering gushy splat with enough crack on top to cut through unmiked guitars.
I brought the M3 on a gig in a medium-sized room and it absolutely killed. It sounded almost exactly the same on stage as it did in my practice room/testing dungeon. That’s pretty remarkable.
The Canopus Neo Vintage M3 is easily one of the five most impressive snare drums I’ve ever played. It’s woody, cracking, fat, and rangy. The drum plays deeper than it is. It’s equally capable of handling big walloping back beats and delicate jazz comping. The only thing I didn’t care for was that the snare response, which I found to be a little overwhelming under some strokes, but that was easily rectified with a different set of wires – plus, it’s purely a preference thing. Overall, this drum is an absolute knockout. I bought it, and it will likely replace several snares in my collection.