In 1854, as the United States was on the brink of civil war, Silas Noble and James P. Cooley ventured into the drum-making business in a farmhouse kitchen in Granville, Massachusetts. By 1873, Noble & Cooley was producing 100,000 instruments per year. As the present-day boutique drum industry continues to expand, Noble & Cooley remains a prominent player, focusing—as it always has—on delivering small-batch offerings with exquisite tones.

From Snares to Kits

In 2016, Noble & Cooley introduced a run of walnut snares with an all-horizontal ply shell. Those drums, which were built using a technique N&C adapted after purchasing the designs and equipment of the Witt Percussion Company in 2015, were well received. “This marked the first time in the company’s history that Noble & Cooley made something designed by someone else,” explains N&C business advisor John Keane. The Walnut Classic drumkit we have for review is the drum maker’s first venture into building an entire set using all-horizontal 6-ply shells.

The Specs

We were sent a three-piece kit consisting of a 9×13 tom, a 16×16 floor tom, and a 16×22 bass drum. Sporting a stunning natural matte finish, the 6-ply American black walnut shells had 45-degree bearing edges with a slight round-over and were outfitted with black chrome hardware, including 2.3 mm triple-flanged hoops, Noble & Cooley’s symmetrical venting, and retro-style tube lugs that are designed to maintain alignment as shell pressure fluctuates with variations in humidity.

The toms had Remo Coated Ambassadors on top and Clear Ambassadors on bottom, while the bass drum had a Clear Powerstroke P3 batter and a non-ported Fiberskyn Ambassador front. The 9×13 tom included a rim-mounted suspension system equipped with Noble & Cooley’s patented CoolMount, which is a quick-release, screw-less aluminum mount that locks the drum securely into place on any standard L-arm without requiring wing nuts, memory locks, or other fasteners.

The Sounds

The “wow factor” of this Walnut Classic drumset is undeniable in regards to its aesthetic beauty. Beyond its outward appeal, the kit also delivers a vintage-style tone sought after by drummers of all ages and styles. Horizontally oriented ply shells hold more tension because the timber is being bent around the entire circumference. That tension makes for a strong, stable shell, but it also increases the fundamental pitch a bit. Walnut is known for having a balanced tone with enhanced lows plus a mellow dryness.

The combination of the horizontal-ply construction and the American black walnut timber makes for a refreshingly simple sonic mix. Instead of a vast spectrum of sounds, it has very obvious sweet spots in the low, medium, and high tuning ranges that are easily discernible, both in terms of feel and sound. The drums also have a smoky resonance that gives them a particularly harmonious voicing in the higher
register, producing focused tones with quick but even decay. At medium and lower tunings, the attack becomes enhanced and the lower frequencies are more prominent but contained.

Create Your Own Classic

Custom Walnut Classic drumsets can be ordered with a variety of shell configurations, including standard-depth 10″–18″ toms, 4.75″- or 6.5″-deep snares in 13″ and 14″ diameters, and 16″-deep bass drums with 18″, 20″, or 22″ diameters. The drums can be finished in an assortment of gloss, sparkle, or matte options. Noble & Cooley offers factory delivery, which allows you to order a kit from your favorite drum shop, or you can pick it up at the Noble & Cooley facility, where you’ll also get a tour of the shop.