Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Beverley Super De Luxe (New Standard) snare, circa 1964

In early 2017 I snapped up a Sonor Vintage Series with Red Ripple Delmar wrap. A few months later a similarly wrapped Beverley snare popped up on eBay UK that seemed to be begging to be united with my Sonor kit. 

The snare looked a bit rough, but the seller claimed that the wrap was intact and that the drum seemed to have no major issues. Fortunately the seller was totally correct. The drum arrived quite dirty, but everything was in working order. Within an afternoon I had it cleaned and polished. 

Before and After - Same light conditions
I was particularly impressed by the ultra-smooth birch shell, with the usual Premier-style beech rings. Also worth noting is the extra deep snare bed. I'm not enough of an expert to tell you the measurements, so I posted a shot below. Most of the little "star" washers broke apart when I removed the lugs. Not the end of the world.

Lovely birch shell with deep snare bed (top-right), before clean-up

Fortunately the snare matches the much newer Sonor kit almost exactly. The Sonor's Delmar Red Ripple wrap has a bit of a brighter overall tone, but the Beverley wrap has held up incredibly well and has plenty of shine. 

Sonor Vintage Series with Beverley Super De Luxe Snare
Click for higher resolution - Notice some chrome pitting
Foe even more photos, you can visit my gallery on OneDrive.

As you can see in this 1964 catalog, this model is indeed "Super De Luxe" despite the badge that says "New Standard."
1964 Beverley catalog
Regarding the name of the wrap, at first I thought it was Oyster Wine, but Joe Cox pointed out my mistake. Now I'm thinking it is Sunset Pearl. Drop me a note or leave a comment if you know the definitive answer!
Sunset Pearl listed in a 1964 catalog (BE = British Edition?)

And the sound? Superb. Fat and woody at medium/low tuning. The snare has high rims, so I have to focus on hitting the center lest I hit too many rim shots. Also, the high triple-flange rims don't work with a Sonor slotted key. I have to tune it with a screw driver.

A little video...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Beverley Script Badge Drums

Every so often we buy what looks like a hunk of junk and try to turn it into a playable kit -- or even a nice kit. A few months ago (autumn 2015) I bought a Frankenstein kit consisting of two "script badge" era Beverley drums (pre-international birch with earlier lugs, 12x8, 16x16) and one later Blue Badge era (mahogany, later lugs, 20x14).

SPOILER ALERT: If you want to see the end result now, scroll to the bottom and then come back up here. Main idea: These old Beverley pre-international drums are fantastic.

Also, before I get started, I want to correct some misinformation that's out there on the net: Beverley made Pre-International sizes. Don't let anyone tell you they didn't. They did.

So back to FRANKENSTEIN, as I call him/her/it/them. Here's what the drums looked like...

Notice the following major detractors:
  • Horrible sticky-foil "wrap"
  • Later B&H era Beverley badges
  • Extra holes in kick (typical of Premier and Beverley that originally had disappearing spurs, particularly when on a mahogany shell)
But also a few items that gave me hope:
  • Lugs seemed to be in nice shape
  • Chrome generally looking tolerable
  • Original slotted rods and kick rods
  • No extra holes in toms 
  • Original "tall boy" hoops in decent condition

When I took possession, I quickly peeled back the horrible foil "wrap" to find shells in OK condition, but covered -- COVERED -- in nasty glue.

To make a very long story short, this crap did NOT want to come off easily. I had to use gel-type paint remover to get it off, but the shells remained stained.

The birch drums fared a bit better:

But the mahogany had quite a bit of glue stuck in its deeper grain:

Some outer ply came off on the floor tom. Notice the dark middle ply. MAHOGANY. Pretty obvious that this is a birch-mahogany-birch drum. That made me pretty happy. I ended up filling the "holes" pretty easily with wood paste. I've read that wood paste can crack on drums. Hopefully it will hold up. I'll report back if it doesn't.

Once I finally got the drums cleaned and sanded, I had to decide how to finish them. Since the drums are mixed (birch toms, mahogany kick) I couldn't really oil them (no natural finish). The most obvious thing to do would have been re-wrap. But as you probably know, decent wrap is expensive. I promised myself not to spend too much on this job, so I ruled out wrap.

Instead I opted to use natural SHELLAC mixed with BRONZE POWDER. You see, I had some materials leftover from my recent clean-up of my Golden Sun Premier B303, so I thought I would use them on Frankenstein.

The process is pretty simple: You simply dissolve the bronze powder in the shellac and start brushing it on. You have to make sure the powder is evenly dissolved, and you have to use a quality brush: The finish is only as good as your brush.

This is an intermediate stage. Notice it's still pretty ugly.

I applied many layers - probably about six. I did not sand between layers since I found that too much material came off during sanding, even with 600 grain.

The final stage was to spray with Talens Acrylic Varnish (Glossy 114). This gave the drums a touch of shine and smoothed over a few of the imperfections. Overall I ended up with a pleasant finish. We'll see how it holds up. The other day a bandmate hit the kick with a mic stand and the drum came out unscathed. So far so good.

Here are some shots iof the finished kit. Pardon the mismatched kick hoops. I used what I had around.

And here's an original badge as well as some that I printed with a 3D printer. They look alright, but aren't quite up to my standards. The main problem is finding a way to fix them to the drum. I need to make some time to visit a screw and nail shop. I'm sure there's a solution.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Here Comes the Golden Sun: Premier B303, early 70's

I've come a long with Premier drums since my first post about Beverley Blue Badge here on this blog. A couple of years ago I basically knew nothing about Premier except that my hero, Keith Moon, played Premier. As I've mentioned elsewhere in this blog, for most of my drumming career I didn't care about drums as something other than something to play. I didn't know the history of any of the brands and never really bothered with any geeky details.

Well that all changed big-time in recent years.

And regarding Premier, I now consider it one of my obsessions.

For a couple of years now I've been eager to get a kit with 14x8 toms (like Mr Moon), so when I was recently invited to join a new The Who tribute band down here in Budapest, I finally had a perfect excuse to finally make a move.

Stacked up at Will's Drum Shop
Using various Facebook groups, I found this lovely kit for a good price at the legendary Will's Drum Shop in Sunderland, UK, owned and operated by Will Wright. If you don't know about Will and his shop, and if you love drums, be sure to read this article from the Drummer's Journal. It's worth your time.

Anyway, all I knew was that the sizes were what I wanted (12x8, 14x8, 16x15, 22x14) and that the kit had plenty of signs of wear and some extra holes on the kick. The price was right, so I placed total trust in Will's reputation and bought the kit without much pissing around, so to speak. Here's what it looked like stacked up at Will's shop (right).

When she arrived, I realized the main issue was certainly the extra holes. A previous owner had removed the disappearing spurs and added the Premier folding spurs. The job wasn't very well done, but the spurs do the job, and holes can be filled.

The edges on the 14" tom were really horrible. As former Premier endorser John Maher from the Buzzcocks has said on the Premier Group on Facebook, Premier made great shells but did not always cut the best edges. Again, no worries. I've already had them recut.

And now I'll let the pictures speak a thousand words. You can see that I've polished them up nicely. You can't hear how great they sound, so just take my word for it. When we have "Who practice" I really find myself in the room with The Who... it is THAT sound from LPs like Who's Next and Quadrophenia. Perfect. I have G2 Clear on top and Coated Ambassador on the botom. My theory is that the clear head will be more like Moon's Everyplay Extra, but I have no proof except that I'm hearing very Moonie sounds with this head combo.

This was the key to getting these babies clean and shiny
Newly painted hoops

Mahogany shells lightly sanded and polished with beeswax

My weapons: CX-80 is a teflon spray that really brought out the shine in the wrap. 

P for Premier. Love it.
All polished and shiny. Teflon spray did the job.
The kick has a funny little cowbell holder... Another extra hole, but I don't care!
The oval mount has a small stress fracture, as is typical of this model.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tama Imperialstar King-Beat snare: Replacement Lugs

Far left = lugs prone to crack

It's a well-known fact that early-80's Tama Imperialstar "King-Beat" snares and some Superstar (Mastercraft) models have lugs that are prone to crack under extreme pressure.

Drum sites are full of guys lamenting a busted lug on their beloved old 80's Tama.

Looking for replacement lugs?

Well, you've just found 'em.

I'm gonna keep this post short and to the point:
  • Do not try lugs with 2" (51mm) spacing for your old Tama snare!!!
  • You need 1-15/16 inches (49mm)
  • You can get 1 15/16" lugs in Europe from ST Drums
  • This baby right here: ST-LUGSNDO80
They will work perfectly for your Tama snare. I also heard they may work for Rogers Dynasonic, which apparently also has 1 15/16" spacing center-to-center.

My snare with ST Drums lugs, model ST-LUGSNDO80

This is a 2" lug. It won't work.

You want this. From ST Drums. Model ST-LUGSNDO80.

(Pardon my cats)


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Premier Hi-fi COB snare (1967-1970): The Odyssey

Some of you know the buzz of excitement when you find
Hi-fi: The drum that got me going...
an interesting drum for sale. You smell a potential score that will fill a hole in your collection, and you start to tingle. You check a few photos, ask a few questions, and you turn to the Holy Drum Geek Triumvirate for answers: Friends, Facebook, and Forums. And then you jump.

In this post I'll share what I've learned about late-60's Premier metal snares. Some of this stuff I knew, but most of it I learned while trying to figure out exactly what I had bought without having ever seen it in person!

Feel free to comment or send me a note if you know more about anything I claim here or anywhere on this blog!

What makes a Hi-fi a Hi-fi?

In case you're new to Premier snares, the Hi-Fi is a late 60's addition to the Premier line. It came in wood and metal (see below) with a standard strainer (called a 632, I believe), as opposed to the more common parallel strainer offered on most other Premier snares at the time (like the earlier Royal Ace or the Hi-fi's contemporary, the 2000).

Metal is metal is metal

1969 Catalog Page
In this post I'll only look at the metal version of the Hi-fi. (For info on birch v. mahogany, check my Beverley article.) Take a look at most pre-1970s Premier catalogs and you'll find that their metal snares were made of... well... metal. What kind of metal? That's another story. Metal is metal, right? At least it was in the good old days!

Here's a page from the 1969 Premier catalog. Notice that the lower Hi-fi is made of... Metal. (Insert smiley here). And look a bit lower down this blog post at the 1972 catalog. By 1972, clearly the Hi-fi has changed, but it's still made of... you guessed it: Metal.

I scoured lots of sites and the Premier experts seem to agree that the metal for most pre-1968 Premier snares was brass. But once we get past 1968 or so (during the transition from Pre-International to International size shells) you also find lots of references to aluminium Premier snares. That is, pretty soon after introducing "metal" Hi-Fi's, Premier switched from brass to aluminium as their metal of choice. Why change? I hate to be cynical, but based on what I've read about the history of Premier (and all other major drum brands from those days) it must have been a cost saving measure. 

1972 Catalog Page

What about the badge? Dating?

So like I mentioned, you can tell a Hi-fi by the strainer. That's the easy part. But what year is my Hi-fi? Is it an earlier brass drum, or maybe a later aluminium?

With Premier, badges can tell a lot, but not everything. For example, look at the 1969 catalog above. Notice that there are two different badges on the same page. The wooden drum has the newer badge, while the metal drum has the older badge. Hmm... in fact, even in the 1972 catalog we see the same "different badge" effect, but this time with the wood and metal switched.  

Either way, for my purposes it was clear that my drum must be from somewhere after 1967 or so when this "new badge" was introduced (even if nobody told the folks who made the catalogs for Premier).

Most confirmed brass Hi-fi's seem to have come with the older badge and often had the Hi-fi name on the badge, so at first I suspected my drum was a later 1970's model, and likely aluminium. I felt better when I learned that the "new badge" came without a serial number until 1970. Assuming that's the case, it seemed safe to assume that my drum is from 1967-1970. (Side note: Serial numbers at Premier don't help with dating since they were only provided to allow you to track your assets for insurance purposes.)

(Also note that I'm focusing on a very short period here from 1967 into the early 70's... I won't discuss earlier or later Premier badges.)

Lugs and Beer Barrels 

Some examples of  Premier die-cast hoops 
Obviously my drum had 10 lugs. Since later Hi-Fi's were often 8-lug, I considered this encouraging.

Next I noticed that my snare has a tighter, rounder style die-cast hoop, which I learned is called Beer Barrel. It was the standard Premier hoop in the 60's and before (feel free to add detail in the comments below). After that, perhaps by 1972 or so, the design changed slightly to what many call Streamline hoops. All veteran Premier-watchers know this like they know mahogany from birch, but it's something I had never noticed. Maybe you had never noticed either? Maybe you care? :-)

Anyway, this little piece of Beer Barrel evidence got me excited. From what I know about Premier (and Rogers and others), after a major transition they would use whatever old components they had on hand (shells, badges, labels, lugs, hoops, etc) until they were gone. So I was thinking that I must have old hoops with a new badge.

The hoops, by the way, are non-magnetic. If you can believe what you read, they are made of mazak, part of a family of alloys with a base metal of zinc and alloying elements of aluminium, magnesium, and copper (thanks, wikipedia). 

And the shell?

I bought the drum based on this photo and  a few more
So back to the shell. As you can see, my drum shows a few scratches, but no pitting. Seasoned snare collectors know that it's rare to find an older chromed aluminium snare that doesn't show at least some pitting. Even my very pristine Cosmic 21 shows some very minor pitting. This drum (my Hi-fi) showed no evidence of the usual aluminium pitting.  And following the logic of "old hoop, new badge" I ended up thinking I must have old hoops, new badge, old shell. That is, I must have a "leftover" brass shell, or simply from the days before they introduced aluminium.

And the sound?

So finally the drum arrived! At first I was concerned because a household magnet gave the ever-so-slightest resistance. Barely noticeable, but confirmed by my friend as something real. Nonetheless, folks in my community (Friends and Facebook) confirmed that a magnet sticks to steel like it sticks to your fridge, and that I shouldn't worry about la resistance. I also read that chrome plating can also cause minimal pull.

When I finally played the drum (with original Everyplay heads top and bottom), it became quite evident that it's indeed brass, as most of the Facebook Premier guys had told me it would be. It has "that" brass sound -- quite round with a nice "donk" to go along with just enough crispiness. I'll try to post a sample as soon as possible, but the current video on YouTube of an earlier Hi-Fi brass (not mine) gives you the idea (posted below).
One tidbit of info I am missing: I'm thinking there must have been a change in tone control that helps folks date their Premier drums? I can't find any details, so if you have some info, please comment or drop me a note. 

The Cleanup

All cleaned up
I took the drum apart, probably for the first time in its lifetime. The drum was very well cared for, and only one slotted tension rod and insert showed some rust. The lugs are nearly perfect, with one or two scratches here and there on a few lugs. It weighs in at 1952 grams with lugs, strainer, and butt attached. Each lug is 61 grams, so stripped to strainer and butt it's about 1300 grams. There is one ding on the bottom edge and the badge has what we might call a tear. But for a 45 year old piece of equipment, I'd say it's looking fine. I can also mention that there's a very smooth weld. Nicely done. Superior to the weld on my ~2010 George Way (Dunnet) Bronze snare.

Not my video, but gets the idea across very well!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Premier Series Classic, Elite: Bullet Review

In October 2013 I picked up a fine Premier kit from the UK. Here's what I got:
  • Premier Series Elite, Maple, 12x9 and 16x16 toms
  • Premier Series Classic, Maple, 22x18 kick drum
  • Update - Summer 2014: I added a 10x8 Maple Elite 
Update: January 2015
I love these drums more and more each time I play them! They are the only drums I've played that can actually make a set of Evans Hydraulic sound explosive instead of dead.

Now read on to see my original analysis and impressions....

  • Lovely black sparkle with no flaws detected 
  • Compared to the finish on the Natal I recently owned, this is superior
  • In short, top-flight professional finish

  • Thin maple shells - not reinforced
  • Everything seems very round
  • The toms have perfect edges
  • Internal lacquer in order
  • Very minor rough spot on the inside of the kick at the tom mount (where they drilled the hole for the tom mount)

  • The ultra-classy die-cast hoops on the Elite toms are my favorite thing about this kit
  • They are elegant, tasteful, not too bulky
  • Really lovely with their rounded lines, matching well with the oval Classic/Elite lugs
  • The kick drum hoops were fine, flawless
  • They are low-profile, which means you can position somewhat lower that with standard hoops
  • Also, if you are sloppy, the low-profile hoops help prevent mistaken rim shots ;-)

Rods, lugs
  • Standard rods; all were straight (which is not always such an easy achievement -- for example, on my Natal a few rods were a bit off)
  • The design of the oval lugs is a matter of personal taste. I like 'em!
  • One unique feature of these lugs is the "nyloc inserts" that are intended to prevent de-tuning. The inserts create a tighter feel when you screw in a rod. This makes a head change slightly more effort, in particular on the kick. I can't finger-tighten the kick rods as a result. 
Update: July 17, 2015: While playing a song in which I ride the rims pretty hard, three of the six lugs de-tune completely. It's safe to say the Nyloc inserts are pretty useless. Sorry to say.
  • The kick claws are another favorite of mine. Check the design. Quite lovely.

  • The kick spurs are solid, they were squeaky and stiff on arrival, but a little silicon spray solved that 
  • Originally I said "Not the smoothest gear I've seen on a high-end kit" but now that I've had it longer, I need to say this is a solid kit.
  • For example, I also picked up a Yamaha Club Custom. While it is a different beast altogether, it feels very light in comparison. For a tour, I'd choose the Series kit. Solid gear.

  • First off, let me say I tune with the assistance of a Tune-Bot
  • With Ambassador X heads and stock Ambassador Clear reso I had trouble controlling head ring. That is, regardless of the tuning I always ended up with a very long resonant sound with a musical ring. This is not a problem in itself. In fact, it could be considered a great thing, as you probably know!
  • HEAD COMBO UPDATE. Ambassador X top with Coated Ambassador bottom gave musical and pleasant tone at a relatively high tuning. I lost some of the explosiveness I had with the Clear Vintage Emperor, but the drums really sing now in a nice way. I chalk it up to the coated reso as a natural pair for the Ambassador X.
  • When I switched to Clear Vintage Emperor, I found that this exceptional resonance became a huge asset. The drums became explosive, with a lovely low frequency musical tone. On other drums I've found Clear Vintage Emperor too dead for my taste. But they are truly wonderful on these Elite toms. It seems to be a great combination for a deep, explosive rock sound that is still lively and resonant. 
  • The Clear Vintage Emperors also work well tuned up a bit to around a 2A. They lose a little of that "feel it in your guts" feeling, but give a more musical tone for pop or jazz.
  • I really look forward to experimenting with other heads! My theory is that the 3mm undersizing of the shells helps exaggerate the sound and resonance of the head. 
  • Maybe we can say that these drums favor "Head resonance" over "shell resonance"?
  • For example, for rehearsals I put on some Evans Hydraulic Glass that I had on hand. On these drums, even the Hydraulic heads sing! I was amazed, but it's true. On my Yamaha Club Customs the hydraulics went THUD, but on the Series kit they actually ring out with a nice mellow note.
  • So far my impression is that these drums have less of that "typical modern Maple drums" sound. Again, I think it has to do with the undersizing and extra "head resonance" over "shell resonance"?
  • My impression is that I'm getting more attack and highs than I had with my Natal Maple. I reserve the right to add details here!
  • On my Pearl MHX I found the die-cast "MasterCast" hoops deadened the sound, but these Premier die-cast hoops don't seem to have the same impact. I think they are simply lighter? Certainly they are prettier!

Tom mount
  • Luckily I have a single tom mount since the double tom mount I've seen in photos is bulky and unattractive to me and some of my friends
  • It's a standard old-school ball mount: solid and reliable
  • The flush suspension system is elegant, but I admit I prefer solutions that don't mount through the tuning rods. This makes head change annoying. But the aesthetics are in order.
  • With the flush mount, I was getting some buzz from the suspension mount making contact somewhere. It's the only problem I've had with these drums.
  • Also, the metal on the suspension system is not filed very well. It sits very close to the drum, so the slightly rough edge could scratch the finish. I put a little electric tape on the rough edge just to be sure.
  • Overall it seems the flush ISO suspension mount is the Achilles' Heal of these drums
  • UPDATE September 2014. The excellent folks at Premier in the UK provided "British Collection" ISO mounts for my Elite toms. These work better with the die-cast hoops. While I still dislike "through the rod" solutions, the toms are floating nicely and all buzzing is long-gone
  • TIP: If you pick up one of these kits with die-cast hoops, consider getting "British Collection" mounts. 
Elite with "British Collection" ISO mount
Overall build
  • To me, this feels like any other solid modern Pro-level kit 
  • High-end for sure, but this does not feel like an ultra high-end kit 
  • Pardon the car analogy, but I'd call this a solid Honda or Mazda or even an Audi, not a Bentley (that's a complement, I think). 
  • (Premier does have a "Bentley" line (One series, or their new Modern Classic) but they are in another price category.)
  • If you can get one for a solid price, you will be happy
  • Great modern drums if you get them for the right price (since the list prices I see on Amazon and many sites make no sense at all)

What's the difference between Classic and Elite?
Classic and Elite = Same shells
  • As far as I can tell, nothing except the badge and the die-cast rims on the toms. 
  • The finish is absolutely the same. 
  • Based on my reading of Premier marketing material and other sites, Classic came only in shell packs in limited finishes. My kick was an orphan who is now happy with its Elite brothers.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Natal Maple Drums: Bullet Review After One Year

For a little more than a year I was the proud owner of a Natal Maple US Fusion X. This was the first Natal kit sold in Hungary, so I had no idea what to expect when it arrived. I was not disappointed.

Recently I decided to sell my Natal to a friend. But that does mean I don't love it. It really is a fine kit. If you see one for the right price and you need a modern kit, do not hesitate to consider it!!! Natal's pro kits are as good as anything I've seen from the production lines of Asia, Europe, or the Americas.

Lots of big tom runs in this track. Really a good example of the lively sound I was getting.

Short stack sizes, as follows:
  • 10 x 6.5" 
  • 12 x 7" 
  • 16 x 14" 
  • 22 x 18"

 Wood and shells
  • Maple, nice and thin, and smooooth
  • Fantastic edges coated with thin wax to make a nice bond with the skin
  • Flawless -- Natal quality control seems to be working
Sound, tuning
  • Lively, resonant, with a full, round tone
  • Tons of attack thanks to the 45 degree bearing edges
  • They tune up in a flash, and hold their tuning very well thanks to special nylon-dipped tuning rods 
  • Very sensitive to smallest turns of the key
Some friends really disliked the large round lugs, each emblazoned with a big Aztec-style sun. I kinda like them, but I admit they are a bit extreme.  I recently saw the new Natal Spirit mid-level kit and actually prefer the Spirit's smaller lug.  Still, they are well-made and do the job well. All lugs are well insulated with rubber gaskets, as you would expect these days.

Tom mount
The tom mount is probably my favorite part of the Natal solution. They really nailed an elegant mount, with the "RIMS-like" suspension system attached to two of the lugs.

The White Metallic lacquer finish was nice, but not amazing. I also saw a Silver Sparkle kit recently and also found it less-than overwhelming. The natural finishes I've seen are more impressive. For example, the Natal Bubinga with a natural finish is truly lovely (much more so in person than in photos).  I should note that the Natal Spirit kit I saw also had a fantastic vintage natural finish. For a mid-level kit, it impressed me as much as any of the natural Yamaha Absolute finishes I've seen!

(This is an updated version of an older post about my Natal kit, originally published in June 2012)