I could not be more excited to post this review. First of all, the two snare drums we’re looking at are great. But second, and perhaps more importantly, I get to give them away.
That’s right. Thanks to the wonderful team at PDP and Drum Workshop, I’m giving both of these drums away to you guys. I’d strongly encourage you to read the entire review and watch the video, but if you absolutely can’t wait, scroll down to the bottom for instructions about how to enter your name for a chance to win.
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Note: I recorded this demo without any muffling and a very sensitive condenser mic on the snare drum which is why you can hear so much of the drum’s sustain and overtone spread.
Also, thanks to Youtube for that excellent preview still.
The Concept Series
PDP by DW’s Concept series was designed to introduce a boutique feel to drummers working on a limited budget. The Concept drums are made in the company’s Mexican factory under strict guidelines outlined by company heads. They’re offered in a limited variety of finishes and sizes to better manage price points, but include many of DW’s high-end hardware features.
All in all, the line represents yet another in a growing list of excellently crafted instrument families being brought to market at outlandishly low prices. The price to product ratio on drums like these is just ridiculous. Let’s talk more about them in the wonderful medium of long-form text.
1mm rolled steel shell with two large beads about an inch from each edge and a plated black nickel finish; 2.3mm steel triple flanged hoops; True-Pitch tension rods; 10 chrome twin-turret style lugs; Mag throw; 45 degree flanged bearing edges; 20-strand steel wires; medium-shallow snare beds; DW by Remo 1-ply coated batter head and thin, clear snare-side head
- Great value
- Huge, powerful sound
- Dryer, fatter than expected
- MAG throw and True-Pitch rods add real value
- Excellent look
- Can feel a little one-dimensional at times
- Exceptionally aggressive when played with rimshots
- A little heavy
DW and PDP bill the Concept Series Black Nickel Over Steel (BNOS from here on out) as a drum designed to produce bright and versatile tones. I think that description is accurate, but it paints a bit of an incomplete picture in my mind. The drum is definitely bright, but I was more struck by how fat the response to each note was. We’ll get back to that in a second. Let’s get through the particulars first.
The drum’s rolled 1mm shell felt immensely strong, and seemed largely unburdened by the small twin-turret style lugs. Those lugs had a nice look that recalled DW’s signature turret hardware, but added a nice bit of visual separation as well. The flanged 45 degree edge was smooth, and the drum wasn’t out of round at any point. The seam was clean and unmarred both inside and out. The plated black nickel finish looked great, plain and simple.
Sorry in advance for the bad pictures. I’m still learning how to take photographs that don’t look like crime scene documentation.
One of my favorite aspects of this drum was the included MAG throw. I think the MAG throw is one of the best on the market right now, and to see it on a drum at this price is a major plus. It’s easy to operate, reliable, and looks kind of a like a part that would be on Johnny 5 from Short Circuit, so that rules.
To round things out, the 2.3mm steel hoops were sturdy without restraining the drums sound. Modest snare beds kept the wire sound very present, but weren’t wide enough to comfortably accommodate a set of 42 strand wires (too much extra noise). That’s probably for the best though, as the drum was already very excitable and had what I would call a wire-first sound. Finally, a pair of deep, externally facing beads placed about an inch from the batter and resonant-side bearing edges added strength to the thin shell.
I love steel snare drums. One of my oldest and most cherished drums is a 14×6.5″ rolled steel drum, and I measure most other steel snares against it. It’s big and loud and brash. The BNOS had plenty of that – in fact it had a little too much of that when I really laid into it (more on that in just a second) – but it’s got a much dryer and broader sound in the middle. The high notes sing about as long as I expected, but the low end and mid-range tones get out of the way fast. That truncated sustain probably helps reinforce some of the dryness I’m hearing.
It’s also loud as hell.
I know, I know. There are no “loud” drums. What I mean is that it has a very high threshold in the upper frequency range that the human ear is more prone to perceiving as loud. I brought this drum to a rehearsal, and as soon as I hit it, one of the band’s guitarists said “Wow, that thing is… aggressive.” I think that’s a decent assessment of what the drum is capable of when you really lay into it. It eats up a lot of space, especially with rimshots.
To my ear, most steel drums lead with a bang. The PDP Concept BNOS, on the other hand, leads with a big, wide splat. There’s plenty of brightness in the attack of each note, so the drum cuts like the dickens (I don’t think I’ve ever said that before, but it feels right here). But the standout characteristic for me is that fat, airy middle. I’ve never read or heard anything about beads affecting sound, but I wonder if the deep beads near the top and bottom of the drum are contributing to that dryness along with what looks like a slightly rounded outside edge.
It’s a great sound for heavy backbeats that need to hang tough with loud guitars or project in large rooms. It’s a little wily, and there were plenty of overtones to obsess over tuning out, but for a drum at this price point, I found a lot more to like than dislike.
The included DW by Remo heads played very bright, and some of that high-end sheen cooled off when I swapped in an Aquarian Texture Coated. I wouldn’t say either head choice was better than the other, but each helped benefit a particular sound. Tuned up high, it had a great ringy, reggae sort of sound. I found the musical sweetness of those high notes surprising, but they really dug into my ears. I wouldn’t suggest playing one of these drums without hearing protection if you’re planning on bringing the batter head tension above medium. Actually:
PSA: Wear hearing protection every time you get behind the kit. I didn’t for years, and now I’m paying for it.
Dropping the tension on the batter head offered up a doom-y, wobbling splat that maintained enough cutting power to muscle through a lot of other noise. One small gel muffler dialed the tone in tremendously and gave up a nice, cushy boom that had me leaning into the huge, hyper-compressed sounds of ’80s Huey Lewis and Steve Winwood records. That was a lot of fun.
But overall, I think I enjoyed the drum’s medium tuning the most. It was certainly aggressive, but once I got a handle on my touch, it proved to be a surprisingly sensitive and rangy sound. The fact that this drum retails for less than $230 is pretty remarkable. I think it would be an excellent “out the door” drum or backup snare for working drummers. There’s a lot to offer here.
I do have to point out that the drum was pretty heavy, although it wasn’t out of line with what one would expect from a deep steel snare. That’s just something to keep in mind if you’re picking one of these up for a gigging drum.
10-ply all-maple shell with a hand-applied satin black finish; 2.3mm steel triple flanged hoops; True-Pitch tension rods; 10 chrome twin-turret style lugs; Mag throw; 45 degree bearing edges; 20-strand steel wires; medium-shallow snare beds; DW by Remo 1-ply coated batter head and thin, clear snare-side head
- Insane price
- Bright, punching sound with warm sustain
- Good range
- MAG throw and True-Pitch rods add real value
- Nice look
- Sharp attack at all volumes
- Significant snare buzz
- Snare wire clips were scuffed and appeared to be installed incorrectly (easily fixed)
- Plastic snare straps are frustrating
How about $169, huh? This is a 10-ply, all-maple snare drum with great hardware (same appointments from the BNOS) that retails for the less than $200. The world is bananas. This is a great drum.
Aesthetically, the soft, satin charcoal finish is nice enough to sit comfortably next to a wide range of kits, but for the most part unremarkable. There’s a little bit of woodgrain popping through though, which is nice.
Sonically, the Black Wax drum wasn’t exactly what I expected. Under hard hits or soft, the snare had a lot of bark up top. There were way more high frequencies coming off the edge than I expected, which I’m sure was due in large part to the 3/8″ thick shell. This thing cracks.
But despite its 6.5″ depth, it didn’t have quite as much guts as I expected from a maple drum in this size. Instead, it trends more toward a chattering and bright tone. It actually reminded me a lot of a 5.5″ drum I reviewed not long ago in that it had a strong crack up top with a warm-ish middle with a very modest low-end finish. It was extremely sensitive, but kind of flattened out after the middle of the note. I think the 6.5″ helped give the drum a little bit of sonic weight, and made it easier to find lower pitches, but it otherwise played a lot more like a shallower snare.
That same sound persisted when the drum was tuned low. There was a good gushy honk on the low end of the note, but very few errant lows to eat up microphone space. That made the drum a nice fit for recording.
The whole thing changed when I cranked the batter head though. All of the sudden, I was getting a meaty “pock” with a really sharp punch which sounded a lot like a thin-shelled 13×6.5″ snare I have. It almost felt like those lows were hiding in the drum, but didn’t come out until the batter came up high enough. That turned out to be my favorite spot for this drum.
To see how far I could take that sound, I swapped the stock coated single-ply head out for a coated Evans Heavyweight batter, and the thing just took off like a rocket. What a huge sound. The extra mass on the head brought up some of the missing throaty bottom while table-top tension kept the crack alive. Rimshots sounded like rifle shots in the most literal way I can recall hearing. It was a perfect modern prog, djent, metal sound. Just monstrous.
I did run into a minor issue with the snare wires. Right out of the box, the clips were scuffed and scratched (I’ll throw in a set of DW snare wires for the winner of this drum). I couldn’t get them to sit right either. They were either barely touching the resonant-side head, or they were choking the drum. Thankfully though, it turned out to be a very simple issue with the installation that I fixed by removing and reinstalling them. After that, they performed as expected.
However, the drum was exceptionally prone to sympathetic vibration no matter where I had it tuned. I’m not entirely sure if that was a symptom of the wires or the drum itself, but it was a little frustrating, especially at lower volumes.
And one more note about the snares: the drum shipped with plastic snare straps. This is a price-driven product, so I understand, but they were a little finicky out of the box and needed a few days to settle down. Were I to buy one of these drums, I’d replace them with grosgrain ribbon immediately.
PDP and DW created a pair of ridiculously powerful instruments in the Concept Black Nickel Over Steel and Concept Black Wax snare drums. They’re both fairly aggressive drums that probably won’t feel right for every player, but they’re very well-crafted and more versatile than I was prepared for. And at these prices, I’d happily grab one to keep handy as a gigging drum for long tours or dive bars where I spill beer on myself and my pants and my drums every time what the hell.
Only valid for residents of the continental United States. Entry valid through September 30, 2016 at 11:59 PM EDT. Entries collected after October 1, 2016 at 12:00 AM EDT will not be eligible for consideration. Entry names will be collected in a single document and assigned a number. A random number generator will be used to select one (1) first place winner and one (1) second place winner. The first place winner will have their choice of the two available drums. The second place winner will receive the second.
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