Having established Sonor is all about progressive engineering allied to great looks, let’s get one beef out of the way. Playing devil’s advocate again, where the engineering obsession reaches overkill for me is with the TuneSafe tension bolts. The aim is to banish the tendency of lugs to work loose under hard playing. But producing extra-long bolts that ‘stick’ leads to two qualms. Screwing and unscrewing takes probably three times (seriously) longer than with the average bolt. And it’s almost impossible to use the ‘up-to-finger-tight’ method of seating the head. For many, speed is essential when tensioning or replacing a head. Well, you can forget that. Personally, I’d prefer standard bolts and lug-locks if needed.
We’ve seen rubber isolation grommets gain widespread use throughout the industry, but Sound Sustainers take the idea to a new level and the question is, do they work? Well, yes, they do. The two toms have long and
sweet sustain. Striking the drums in the centre at medium volume, the sound is open and diminishes in a smooth, steady arc. Any unpleasant overtones are due to my inept tuning, everything else about the Sonor build and Remo Ambassadors being first quality. I don’t have Sonor’s lab gear and can’t say if sustain is longer or shorter than with TAR s, but the new mounts are relatively understated and the toms sing gloriously.
This is a particularly studio/mic-friendly kit. Given the small sizes on review - 20"x16", 12"x8" and 14"x13" - the SQ1 strikes me as a state-of-the-art kit with a typically punchy birch sound, the sort of kit Sonor’s Jojo Mayer, say, would enjoy for his exceptionally accurate and nimble post-machine beats.
Birch has good lows and highs with reduced middle frequencies that don’t muddy up the sound. So it’s a clean-cut sound that has guts, maybe not quite so much tonal complexity as maple or mahogany, but directed and business-like, controllable yet also brilliant. It may not be as fat as with some more exotic, ambiguous woods, but it sits easily in a band context. Which is why some describe birch as ‘pre-eq’d’ – it does not dominate or cloud the picture. Again, note we’re talking about the 20", 12", 14" kit, which is naturally tighter than the bigger sizes.
The bass drum shell is thickset at 10mm and 10 plies. That gives the already edgy birch an even greater boost and the bass drum has an archetypally modern, tough and present tone – in-yer-face and attacking. You could go for a higher tuned jazzy bonk, but the lower regions, with a wrinkles just about tuned out batter, bring more depth into the admittedly aggressive blend. The full Fiberskyn front head is an unusual choice perhaps, but warms the timbre.
The snare drum is a bit of a contrast as it is deep with a slightly more open and unruly voice. Rim shots prompt a fearsome ring from the shell and light damping only reduces this by a small margin. Many snare drums have a dead spot in the centre, but not this one; it resonates fully, like the toms in fact. So if you want to rock out with a clarion loud, freely ringing snare, the SQ1 will do it for you. Forget the usually quoted birch ‘focus’, this fellow is a belter. And this translates to the side stick clank, which is fully resonant too.
For a tighter, more compact sound a third of an ‘O’ ring taped down worked well for me, resulting in a fat thwack but still with plentiful depth.
This exciting new development in tom isolation mounting uses vulcanisation technology adopted from the German automotive industry