After the five-hour trip back
home, the fun begins. Ironwood logs only come
in diameters of up to 22", so the largest drum
Spirit can create is a 20" bass drum. (Their
equipment could make a 22" bass if they ever
found a log large enough). Very little timber
is wasted, since it is an extremely valuable
resource. The same log section used to create
a 20" bass drum shell can also yield a 16" tom
shell, a 12" shell, and sometimes an 8" shell
The shells are lathed directly
from the logs to a thickness of 12 mm (7/16").
The bearing edges are 40°, and the snare beds
are cut by hand. The insides of the shells are
carved with a scalloped effect. Matt and Jim
b elieve that this carving keeps the sound in
the drum longer, increasing the complexity of
the overtones. It also lends control to the
sound, eliminating ring and giving a crisp,
dry sound to the snares. It's interesting to
note that Matt and Jim do different patterns
from each other, and they are never the same.
After being turned, the shells
are left to season. Then eight different layers
of coatings are applied to reinforce their structural
stability. The layers are hand-sanded between
each coat. Finally, the shells are finished
with a clear satin finish. Aside from looking
great, the shells come with a lifetime warranty.
Spirit does not equip their
drums with any sort of mounts. Instead, they
utilise RIMS mounts, which can be fitted with
whatever brand of mounting system the buyer
desires. Rack toms come with the "traditional"
suspension-style RIMS; floor toms utilise RIMS
mounts with legs.
The bass drum comes with maple
hoops. Toms come standard with pressed hoops,
with die-cast hoops available as an option.
(Our review kit featured the die-cast hoops).
Spirit offers snare drums in depth of 4", 5½
", and 6½ ", and in diameters of 12", 13", and
14". (Spirit's Web site lets you hear the different
snares by downloading MP3 files with sample
sounds. There are also some recording of different-size
kits as well). The 13" and 14" snares come with
die-cast hoops; 12" snares are fitted with pressed-steel
hoops. They all come chromed unless you opt
for gold plating. In addition, Spirit offers
polished brass on the rims and lugs. The snares
also come with the Nickel Drumworks strainer,
probably the smoothest and most effective strainer
system available today.
The lug design is simple and
very clean. Brass tubes that run the length
of the shell are hand-threaded at each end.
Each tube sits on a pintel, or rod, that acts
as a pivot point. This allows the threaded section
to move, which eliminates the chance for striping
when a tension rod is threaded into it.
In his earlier review of Spirit
snare drums, Rick Van Horn expressed a concern
about the potential for stripping out a lug.
At the time, Spirit's lugs were machined from
a single piece of brass. That design did not
allow for a threaded insert that would pivot
and line-up with the tension rod. The new design
is an elegant fix. The machining of the connection
between each lug and pintel is so precise that
it allows the lug to pivot, but at the same
time will not let it rattle. The pivot is mounted
in the centre of the 4" - and 5½"-deep snare
shells (lower on the 6½" shell), 2" up from
the bottom of the tome shells, and 2" from the
back edge of the bass drum shell. The effect
on the toms and bass is that there is a large
area of the shell with no hardware on it whatsoever,
which really shows off the natural wood.
The rack toms feature a second
set of pintels near the top head to help stabilise
the RIMS mounts. The floor toms don't need them,
because their circular steel RIMS mounts sit
directly under the mounting points at the bottom
of the shells. (By the way, although Spirit's
lug design comes standard with their drums,
if you prefer a particular brand of hardware,
they can work with that as well. Don't forget
these are true custom drum makers).
The bass drum has shell-mounted
legs that fold out for play and back against
the shell for pack-up. The tension rods are
drumkey-operated (as opposed to having "T" handles)
for easy pack-up and precise tuning. The Spirit
Drums logo is actually burned into the shell,
which I found attractive. Along with the interior
carvings and the dramatic exterior grain of
the shells, it helps to give an almost "primitive"
visual quality to the kit.
These drums have the kind of
presence that you hear in a concert setting
on miked drums. The density of the wood gives
the snare some of the qualities of a metal-shell
drum, but with the warmth of wood. I found that
it could be cranked into piccolo range or deepened
to sound like a much larger drum. The small
toms sing with full voices, which the floor
toms possess richness and depth. The bass drum
can be warm and full or punchy and explosive.
Actually, good as it sounds from the playing
position, its real impact is best felt from
some distance away. A serious whoomp. I found
the drums to be very sensitive to tuning changes.
You'd need to have (or develop) a good ear to
hear how each head is tuned to get the maximum
from them. But I assure you, the effort would
be well worth it.