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Vintage Series Drumset

Commemorating 140 years of business with a forward-thinking kit that sports a classic-leaning tone.

Gather enough drummers together, and inevitably the conversation will turn toward the eternal question of whether vintage drums sound better than new ones. The pro-vintage crowd argues that twenty-plus-year-old wood has had time to settle into a reliable, consistent tone. The pro-modern group will counter that their drums are the beneficiaries of a full century of better design and technology, from absolutely accurate bearing edges to modern hardware that can stand up to the punishment it endures gig after gig.

The arguments will shift back and forth until a voice finally says, “I wish someone would come up with drums that have that vintage sound along with the modern advances in design.” Well, that day may have arrived with Sonor’s Vintage series drumset.

The attention to detail on this kit is impressive. Sonor’s distinctive “teardrop” lugs of the ’50s and early ’60s are back. The Superprofil 2.3 mm triple-flange steel hoops are an exact copy of those Sonor made before the ’70s. Vintage series shells are made of handpicked 9-ply beech and are 6 mm thick with rounded bearing edges. The bass drums are 14″ deep and range from 18″ to 24″. Mounted toms are 8″ deep and are available in 10″, 12″, and 13″ sizes. Floor toms are 12×14, 14×16, and 16×18. There are two snares in the series, 5.75×14 and 6.5×14.

The drums are available in several shell packs. The Three20 pack has 12″ and 14″ toms and a 20″ bass drum. The Three22 has 13″ and 16″ toms and a 22″ bass. There’s also a five-piece configuration that includes 12″, 14″, and 16″ toms, a 22″ bass drum, and the 5.75″-deep snare. Three finishes are offered: onyx, natural, and pearl. The wrap is seamlessly adhered to the shell, so that it acts as an additional ply. Standard tuning rods come with the sets, but for vintage purists Sonor also offers its old-style slotted tension lugs (sold separately).

So how does all this merging of old design and new technology translate into sound? We asked legendary drummer and longtime Sonor endorser Steve Smith, who took delivery of a gorgeous Vintage series kit in pearl wrap at the Chicago Drum Show this past May, to offer his take. “They have the tone and depth and the big, warm sound that I hear when I play real vintage drums,” Smith says. “They are vintage drums.”

From our firsthand experience with Smith’s Vintage kit, which the drummer allowed us to borrow for a short time, we wholeheartedly agree. The response off the heads was smooth and bouncy, making the set very easy to play. The 14×22 bass drum sounded as if it had two or four inches of extra depth hidden in it somewhere. Its impact and presence were downright dramatic. And as great as the kit sounded and felt from behind, stand fifteen feet away while someone else plays it, and you can really hear the warmth of the beech.

At the same time, the kit exuded plenty of power. Smith chooses to use the 5.75×14 Vintage series snare as an auxiliary to his 5.5×14 cast-steel signature drum, and the two complement each other superbly. “The Vintage snare has a lot of depth to it,” Steve says.

Vintage series toms ship with Remo single-ply Coated Ambassador batters and Clear Ambassador bottoms. This is an excellent choice right out of the box. Pricing for Vintage drums is at the professional level, but within the range of what’s currently on the market. Depending on the number of drums chosen and whether or not you want the matching snare, you can get a kit for $2,800 to $3,700.

Chris Edwards