The latest in a long line of English drum builders, offering distinctive drums since 2015.
Several personalities from the English drumming community came together to launch the British Drum Company. Head drum builder Keith Keough, who helmed KD Drums between 2004 to 2011 before joining Premier, cofounded the company with noted comedian Al Murray. Ian Matthews of the band Kasabian is creative director. Pete Salisbury of the Verve, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and the Charlatans is engineering design director. And Alan Kitching, who brings over twenty-five years of product design experience, including the Natal/Bullet and Kitch bass drum pedals, is product designer. We were sent a four-piece kit from BDC’s Lounge series to check out.
The set comprised a 5.5×14 snare, 8×12 and 16×16 toms, and a 14×22 kick. Its Wiltshire White finish was essentially an outer ply of figured Scandinavian birch. The bass drum featured oil-finished mahogany and birch hoops. The cross-laminated shells, made from nine thin plies of alternating mahogany and Scandinavian birch, were cold- pressed to a 5.5 mm thickness and finished with thirty-degree round-over bearing edges. By just tapping the shells right out of the box, it was obvious these drums possessed some serious tone. Light but sturdy, they looked great—from the mahogany ply and serial number decal on the inside to the distinctive badge and vent grommet dotting the outer veneer.
Cold-Pressed Shells and Appointments
Aside from the unique ply layup, the cold-pressed construction is what BDC believes is the secret to its unique sound and stable shell. The timber is allowed to acclimate to the surrounding environment naturally prior to molding, and the shell is built from the outer plies first. Neither heat nor moisture is used in the process, and the shell remains in the mold for at least four hours. This is a very different approach from standard steam-bent plywood shell construction.
The Lounge series features BDC’s art deco–inspired Palladium hardware. The elegant lugs match the bass drum claws as well as the floor tom brackets, memory locks, and throw-off. Several musician friends commented how much they liked the logo and badges on this kit, as well as how the bass drum hoops had the same mahogany finish as the inside of the shell.
The small tom didn’t include a mounting bracket, but it did come with BDC’s Tomspring system, which comprises three plastic leaf springs that are held in place by tension rods on the bottom of the drum to allow it to resonate fully when mounted in a snare basket. A Palladium mounting bracket, which comes standard on BDC’s Legend series, can be installed at the factory as a special order. My favorite design choices on this kit were the hexagonal floor tom brackets and interlocking arrowhead-shaped memory locks.
The Lounge series bass drum came with a Remo Powerstroke P3 batter head and a coated white front with no hole. There was a plastic hoop protector affixed to the hoop where the pedal attaches, to reduce pedal rash. The only dampening I bothered doing with this drum was wedging a rolled towel between the pedal and the head, but frankly it sounded great with no muffling at all. It was punchy and warm, and was praised by every sound engineer that I worked with during our review period. One engineer likened it to the processed kick drum sounds heard on OutKast’s Stankonia album. I cranked it up quite high for a recording session so as not to clash with the range of an upright bass. While I wasn’t looking for this 22″ kick to sound like a bebop drum, it had a warm, round tone and didn’t sound choked at that higher tuning.
The toms came with Remo Ambassador Coated heads on top and Ambassador Clear bottoms. This combination made for nice dry tones at higher tunings, but I found them to be a bit wispy unless I used some dampening. The Lounge series toms sounded fuller in middle or lower tunings with thicker heads. I ended up preferring a Vintage Ambassador Coated batter on the rack tom and an Emperor Coated on the floor tom. At times these drums reminded me of a late-’70s 9-ply luan/mahogany Pearl set that I love, because they both sound best when tuned low and fat. But the birch used in the Lounge series shells added a level of focus and clarity that no luan kit is going to have. While luan toms tend to disappear in a live mix, the Lounge series toms had great projection and presence in indoor and outdoor venues.
The eight-lug, 5.5×14 snare came with BDC-branded brass snare wires, a Remo Ambassador Coated batter, and an Ambassador Hazy bottom. As with most mahogany drums, it had a dry, papery character that sounded great when played with brushes or cranked up for Roy Haynes–style jazz comping. With the snares off, it had a great woody tom sound. And when muffled a bit, it produced a funky, fat backbeat. I liked the Palladium strainer; it reminded me of a Gladstone-style throw and was easy to use for fine adjustments on the gig.
A four-piece Lounge series drumkit like the one we reviewed has a street price of $3,068 in the U.S. (The snare is $569, and the kick and toms are $2,499.) This might be lofty for a hobbyist, but it doesn’t seem outlandish considering the build quality of these drums and their top-shelf tones. The kick drum is a dream, and the toms and snare have the warm, punchy qualities of classic mahogany shells but with more modern projection. British Drum Company currently offers several snares and a few other kits, so find a qualified drum shop that carries them, and check this stuff out.