San Diego–based Doc Sweeney Drums was created by three lifelong friends—namesake Patrick J. Sweeney, graphic artist Jeff MacFarlane, and builder Steve Stecher—with a mission to handcraft one-of-a-kind instruments from the finest materials possible.
All Doc Sweeney drums are made from premium domestic or exotic timbers, with either stave or steam-bent shells. The shells are CNC-milled, and the lugs are a proprietary design utilizing aircraft-grade aluminum with stainless-steel tubes and fasteners. Custom inlays, wood or metal hoops, and nearly limitless hand-rubbed oil finishes are offered. The kit we have for review, the Blue Tiger, is made from steam-bent tiger ash and has a blue-dye finish with twelve coats of hand-rubbed oil.
This visually stunning drumset includes a 16×22 bass drum, 9×13 and 16×16 toms, and a 6.5×14 snare. The steam-bent shells are .3125″ thick with matching tiger ash reinforcement hoops. The bearing edges are cut to forty-five degrees with a rounded back cut. The darker blue bass drum hoops are made from curly maple.
For the hardware, Doc Sweeney included rigid S-Hoops on the toms and snare. These rims have a smooth, flat inward flange that thickens up the sound of rimshots and rimclicks and provides more tuning stability. Sweeney’s lugs are made from 6061 aircraft-grade aluminum and feature 303 stainless-steel tubes and fasteners. The snare comes with a Trick GS007 three-position throw-off.
The drumheads are Aquarian. The snare had a Texture Coated Power Dot batter and Classic Clear bottom. The toms had Response 2 Coated batters and Classic Clear bottoms, and the bass drum featured a Super-Kick II batter and a custom-painted white front.
These are big, beefy drums with a considerable amount of heft. The build quality is exceptional, and the finish has a rich, watery appearance that accentuates the gorgeous grain of the ash.
Whether tuned high, medium, or low, these drums produce huge, fat tones with a punchy attack, deep sustain, and smooth decay. The coated 2-ply batter heads and dense S-Hoops removed just enough high overtones from the toms to eliminate the need for muffling. The kick had plenty of punch, even with a solid front head. Again, no muffling was required, thanks to Sweeney’s choice of a 2-ply, pre-muffled batter head.
The snare had exceptional sensitivity at all dynamics, as well as a thick, meaty attack. The Power Dot focused the tone a bit while allowing some high overtones to ring through at tighter tunings. The only time I felt the need to muffle this drum was at very low tunings, but all that was required was a 1″ gel to achieve a deep, focused punch.
Tuning these drums was a breeze. I simply tensioned the rods by feel evenly, and the tones were instantly pure and balanced. Compared to similarly sized plywood drums, this Doc Sweeney kit had a more robust tone with much more volume potential. They didn’t choke under high impact, yet they spoke with a full voice at low dynamics. Live drummers who need the most projection possible will love how easily these drums fill a room, while studio drummers and engineers will appreciate their mix-ready tones with a near-perfect balance of clean attack, rich tone, and smooth decay.
This particular custom drumset lists for $5,250. But check out docsweeneydrums.com for details on all the options for building your own dream kit. The website also features the latest one-off concoctions, which are on display in the flesh at the company’s San Diego showroom, Doc’s Drum Shop.