My journey from DW Performance to Sonor SQ1

Rumpleproofskin

Junior Member
I’m a UK based recording and live drummer and this is the story of my journey to buy a new kit. After a long deliberation (since last October 2019), I’ve finally received my dream kit – a Sonor SQ1 in GT Black with 20” bass drum. So far I am extremely happy with it. But it’s been a long, complicated road… Grab a drink, this is a long one.

I guess it all started when our live sound engineer said my black nickel DW Design Series snare was too bright and could I dampen it both top and bottom. Following our tour, I went on a virtual journey looking for a new snare drum. I figured wood would be the answer. So after comparisons between the British Drum Company Big Softy (which I will likely get at some point) and the Sonor SQ1 snare, I went for the Sonor. So pleased I made the right choice. This snare is phat, deep, tuneful and full of tone, and it has the slickest snare strainer I’ve ever seen or used.

My kit at the time was a maple DW Performance kit with a 22-inch bass drum. As I’m short and I sit low on the stool, there wasn’t much clearance between the snare the bass drum’s hoop and I was always mindful of not letting them touch which meant angling the snare towards me – no big deal it must be said. Then I started thinking about porterage and the hassle I’ve had getting a 22x18 bass drum down the narrow stairs of some venues. The weight and size was too cumbersome for me, someone who absolutely hates humping gear. Being maple, the DWs also occasionally sounded a bit ’tubby’ in some rooms and I read that birch is a great wood for different rooms and a cracker for recording and live work.

DECISIONS
I started looking at a replacement kit with a 20-inch bass drum, like my previous Odery kit. I just like the size of a 20 and I know they record superbly well and are great live too. This is where it got tricky. Using online as a search method, I ignored Ludwig, Gretsch, Pearl, Tama, Mapex etc and, after days of watching YouTube videos, narrowed my choice down to the Sonor SQ1 and British Drum Company Legend – both birch kits.

And this is where is became really confusing. The vast majority of YouTube review and sound sample videos involve microphones and frankly you could make a set of cardboard boxes sound great with today’s recording tech. What I wanted was some ambient recordings with a single mic – but most of them sounded horrendous. I even made my own direct comparison video (still on YouTube) which jumped from Sonor to BDC every few bars so I could carefully listen on headphones. However, most of these clips were still recorded using studio mics.

The main problem is finding a shop to actually try the kits out since so many drum shops have closed over the years. I managed to find a BDC Legend kit at Footes in London. It’s a great shop but they don’t have drum booths so I had to tentatively try the Legend kit in the store with customers around. I hate this. Aside for the utterly crap sound of the room – bright, harsh and totally devoid of any acoustics – the main problem was my self consciousness. You simply can’t lay into a beat or play loud solos in a shop with other people around. For some reason the floor tom sounded bloody awful and I just couldn’t tune it properly – and yet I know this kit sounds amazing having watched the videos. I was still drawn to the incredible build quality and the Britishness of it.

Since no-one within 200 miles of London had a Sonor SQ1 kit in store, I went back to the Sonor videos and read every review and every forum on the internet. I never read a bad word about the Sonor SQ1 – every owner had nothing but high praise for it. And, of course, I knew that Sonor is a Rolls Royce company and that Germans don’t know how to build shit.


TRACKING DOWN AN SQ1
So, after managing to sell my DW kit and some other stuff around the home, I finally plucked up the courage to purchase the Sonor SQ1 having never even played one or seen one in the flesh (all I had as a reference was my SQ1 snare). This is something I do not like doing but at the back of my mind was the fact that had I found an SQ1 in a London store, chances are it would sound crap because of the shop’s acoustics. Buying drums is not like buying any other instrument. In fact, no other instrument is so reliant on the quality of a room’s acoustics. We’ve all arrived at venues where the drums sound absolutely horrendous which in turn makes you wince every time you hit the drums. This is not conducive to enjoying the gig or playing well. Yet when occasionally you arrive at a venue with great sound, set your kit up and hit the snare – it just sounds wonderful and you enjoy every beat of every song. It makes you play better, too.

It was now early June 2020 and my next task was finding an online dealer with a good price since the price of the SQ1 varied wildly from one dealer to the next. Even the online stores didn’t have every SQ1 configuration in stock – most of them had 22-inch bass drums and I wanted a 20. Eventually I alighted on The Drum Shop (www.drumshop.co.uk), a north of England store with online presence. Its SQ1 320 GT Black was £2,068 – great price. Trouble is I’d never heard of them and I wasn’t impressed with my SQ1 snare sale from DV24 (it said in stock when it actually wasn’t). I then looked for some reviews of the Drum Shop and they were really glowing. So I contacted them by email and a chap called Darren replied. I then spoke to him on the phone and the ball started rolling. Given the Covid19 malarky he had to order it from Sonor and it would take a month. Hooray – I paid a deposit and waited for the call which came at the end of June. The kit is ready for dispatch. The balance paid, it arrived within two days from my favourite courier DPD. Result! I highly recommend this store – really efficient, friendly staff and very knowledgable.

So I started the unboxing and proceeded to put the heads on. When I got to one of the bass drum tension screws, it absolutely refused to grab the thread of the lug – it just spun around, even after some gentle pressure coaxing. Oh no! I also noticed one of the Sound Sustainers on the floor tom was wobbly – the leg moved side to side by about 3mm. It didn’t have any effect when the tom was on its legs but years of reviewing gear for major websites has made me extremely OCD. Everything I own has to be 100% perfect. The tension screw issue is something that can easily happen but I was surprised Sonor let a wobbly sound sustainer past quality control.

Apparently, Sonor has a very complicated returns system involving forms galore so I emailed Frank the product manager (years of journalism has made me good at tracking down marketing departments). Frank immediately emailed me back and asked for my address to send a new sound sustainer and bass drum screw. They arrived a few days ago (in fact they sent three screws) and all is well. Thank you Sonor – I forgive the little hiccup which I’m sure is down to a reduced workforce due to the Corona virus situation. Great service!

CONCLUSION
The SQ1 one is superbly built (I can’t stop looking at the bass drum which reminds me of a vintage marching drum). The finish is exquisite. The drums have acres of resonance – in fact a little too much for me so I’ve changed the heads to Evans UV2s on top and Evans Reso 7 on the bottom. The bass drum has a UV Emad fitted but the reso head is as is. The bass drum sounds like a cannon!

I have NEVER had a kit that tunes so easily. It’s the first kit I’ve had where the ‘ring’ at each lug is actually tuneful and not dead sounding. You can tune these babies in a thrice – partly to do with the undersized shells. They are so tuneful and despite the 14-inch floor being smaller than my previous 16-inch DW, I find it easier to tune and with better resonance.

Playing this kit, I can now see how it covers so many musical styles. If you want jazz, tune them higher and remove all damping – they sound like timpani drums. If playing pop or rock then dampen them a bit or adjust the tension on the reso heads.

And that, dear friends, is the tale of my drum quest. I really didn’t like purchasing them without testing them in the flesh but these days I had no option. I’m just so glad I appear to have made the right choice. If I win the lottery then a British Drum Company would definitely be on the list. But for the time being I’m more than happy enough with the Sonor SQ1.

Over and out.

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AzHeat

Platinum Member
Congrats on the new kit. Love the color too. ultimately, it's all about the tone and usability and appears you nailed it there. (y)
 

yammyfan

Senior Member
Great looking drums! Worth the wait I'm sure (y)

Just curious: why did you ignore those other companies you named?
 
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