September 2001

Sonor Jungle Set

When it came time to retire my revered old Sonor Phonic kit to the practice studio some years ago, I started custom-building my own drum sets. You can thump a bare drum shell and hear the tone and pitch that the finished drum will have, and when I first performed this test on a 16-inch floor tom shell for a kit I was constructing, I immediately recognized that this was the bass drum sound I’d been searching for.

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Sonor Jungle Drumset

That said, for the past few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of evaluating Sonor’s Jungle Set. Consisting of a 16-inch by 16-inch floor tom (as a bass drum), 10-inch by 9-inch and 13-inch by 11-inch toms (the latter used here as a floor tom), and a strange 10-inch by 2-inch wood shell Jungle Snare, these are the same Taiwanese-made drums Sonor uses in its second-tier-from-the-bottom Force 3001 line budget series, utilizing regular tension rods instead of the slotted key design of their upper-end models. But as is always the case with Sonor’s traditional attention to detail and quality workmanship, these are first-class drums.

Right out of their respective shipping boxes, I used them first on an outdoors happy hour jazz-trio gig. With the factory-supplied clear heads, they seemed very bright, boomy and cutting, and during and after a particularly exuberant version of Lee Morgan’s “Speedball” as a tribute to Billy Higgins, the management duly informed me that the drums were too loud (imagine that)! After switching to coated heads on the batter sides of the toms and installing a felt strip on the beater side of the bass drum, however, the drums became perfect for me and for my weekend jazz quartet gig out of town. After these minor modifications, they projected authoritatively, still speaking with great definition although now tempered by a warm, wooden, mellow tone. Cosmetically, the piano black finish is beautiful—not a plastic covering, but a high-gloss lacquer. The set also comes in caribic (a greenish aquamarine) and purple.

Sonor’s solution to the drummer’s dilemma of using bass drum beaters on 16-inch floor toms is to attach the pedal to an adjustable flat metal plate fused to the end of an angled rod held in place by a floor tom leg bracket on the bottom of the drum. While slightly skeptical at first, this has proven to be so sturdy that I haven’t had to mess with it at all since initial assembly (and it still fits as is in a regular 16-inch fiber case)! The Force Ball Clamp tom mount features Sonor’s ingenious engineering take on the dependable ball and socket design, in that the L-shaped tom holder bar actually slips through, and is part of, the ball mechanism, and comes complete with memory collar locks and a rubber plug at the end of the tubing that extends into the bass drum, another small and often-overlooked detail I’ve always appreciated.

The supplied 400 Series hardware set (hi-hat stand, snare drum stand, regular cymbal stand, a mini-boom cymbal stand and bass drum pedal) is just as impressive, with double-braced tripod legs on all stands and, as with the bass drum spurs, oversized rubber feet. Hardly Sonor’s top-of-the-line, these stands are all nevertheless sturdy and solid, simple and elegant. The chain-drive, single-spring bass drum pedal has smooth action, and the hi-hat stand even sports a swiveling footboard.

I don’t know exactly what Sonor is going for with the Jungle Snare. It is literally a tambourine (I kid you not) with snares across a bottom head. The strainer is attached to the top hoop rim, extending quite far above it. Even for alternative music styles (hip-hop, drum ’n’ bass), I can only hear it as an auxiliary special effect, and certainly not a substitute for a conventional snare. And I wouldn’t mind longer legs on the floor tom. But these should be minor concerns to any drummer looking for a distinctively compact, great-looking and even better-sounding kit that’s incredibly fast and easy to set up and tear down.

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