January 16, 2008

Gear Review: Black Panther 5.5"x10" Natural Maple snare drum

"Good things do come in small packages... This little guy will give you added pop to every performance... Thin premium maple shells deliver superior crisp tone and the off-the-shell isolated mount provides maximum resonance."

This is how the 5.5"x10" Black Panther Natural Maple snare drum is described on Black Panther Drums' website. The marketing people from Black Panther (which is a subsidiary of Mapex Drums) sure said it right, but I have more to say. I got my own BP popcorn snare drum last December as a birthday gift to myself. It also serves as an upgrade to my previous 6"x10" PDP 805 snare drum. No disrespect to my old PDP popcorn drum, but this cat is waaay much better!

First of all, it's a high-end model, of course. Second, it's a Black Panther, so I get to enjoy its high-end specs, looks and sound. Here are the specs of this snare drum, copied from the website...

"SPECIFICATIONS: 5.1mm shell thickness, 2.3mm Chrome Powerhoops, fully adjustable throw-off and butt plate, 20-strand snappy snare."

Adding to that, the drum was stocked with a Remo Ambassador Coated batter head and a Remo Ambassador Snare Side clear resonant head. The drum was neatly packaged in a box within an attractively printed Black Panther box, which has a built-in carrying handle. The Black Panther crew are also thoughtful for including a complimentary satchel (bag) for every Black Panther drum sold. It is not designed to be a heavy duty carrybag for the drum, but it's meant to protect the drum from dust, scratches and the elements during transport and storage.

Going back to the specs... Yes, it's a thin-shelled maple drum, which is well-crafted and flawless. It's in natural maple finish, which is understated yet classy (I prefer elegant-looking finishes), and it matches the natural finish of my 13" Tama Artwood Maple snare drum (they look good together). However, the BP has a matte finish, compared to my "magic drum" Artwood's glossy topcoat. Which is why me and our p.a. are careful of not touching the shell with dirty hands. Considering the neat freak in me, I'm handling this cat with extra care. I also like the mean-looking Black Panther badge and the "Premium Series" badge, which is neatly and elegantly positioned at the drum's vent hole.

It may be a thin-shelled drum, but its well-plated chrome hardware gives this drum some weight. The 2.3mm Powerhoops are what I would like to think of as the next best thing to die-cast hoops (I favor die-cast hoops), and it does its job pretty well, providing me with exceptional rimshot sounds. The snare throw-off is neatly designed, well-machined and tight enough for it not to turn off upon heavy impact. Its butt end also has a snare adjustment knob, for fine-tuning the snare wire setting. It says on the website that this drum has 20-strand snappy snare wires, but this drum is actually stocked with 16-strand standard snare wires, which isn't so bad at all.

The lugs used are Mapex's standard "oval tub" lugs, which are also neatly designed and well-machined (and kinda resembles Tama's Starclassic lugs). The drum is also fitted with Mapex's standard isolated mount, which is also used on Mapex rack toms. Thanks to this, I can mount this drum on an L-arm holder. Unlike my previous PDP popcorn drum, I feel more confident with mounting the BP on an L-arm. The Mapex isolated mount is a tried-and-tested design. It's well-machined, sturdier, and more stable. And because it's a suspension mount, I don't need to worry about ruining the drum shell after playing thousands of backbeats (because my old PDP's L-arm holder is mounted directly to the shell). The mount fits pretty much most of the L-arms available on the market, and included with the drum is a memory lock for the L-arm, which works well and fits nicely with the Mapex mount.

And now, regarding its sound... With its superior shell, excellent hardware, and professional-grade stock heads, this drum sounds great straight out of the box. When I first tried it, I quickly tuned it to my preferred snare drum tuning, which is a fairly moderate-to-tight tension on the batter head and moderate tension on the snare side head. Thanks to its quality elements, tuning was easy. And once I had it ready, I played... and played... and played... And I just don't want to stop! The sound is so crisp, and I can hear and feel the body, the warmth and the crack of maple. It's such a joy to play! And again, no disrespect, I forgot how my old 10" PDP popcorn sounded.

During its first few gigs with my band, it never failed to amaze my bandmates and some of my friends and fellow drummers who saw and heard it. Its sound is definitely high-end, and it just got better a few weeks later, when the batter head finally got stretched out. Playing this drum is almost effortless. It easily responds to the player's dynamics, from the softest touch to the biggest backbeat. Its tuning range is also very wide. Thanks to this and to the dual snare wire adjustment knobs, I can get various kinds of sounds from this drum. With the snares turned off, this drum can also simulate timbale sounds. I can get so much out of this small but terrible drum, it inspires me to become more creative.

I got this from Forerunner Tech, the local distributor of Mapex/Black Panther drums. It costs around Php12,500, which I think is a decent price for a high-end 10" snare drum. I think I got more than what I paid for. It has quality written all over it. I'm very satisfied with this drum, and I'm now more convinced with Mapex's Black Panther line of snare drums. You have to hear this cat to believe it.


*****

Special thanks to my buddy Mr. JP Buduan of Forerunner Tech for offering me this nice drum, plus the discount. Thank you also to Boggs Bautista (drummer of Nina) for witnessing this purchase and for hanging out with us.