High-end, hybrid shells blending the punch and depth of bubinga with the powdery explosiveness of aluminum.
San Diego–based Doc Sweeney Drums specializes in building top-notch snares and kits out of exotic and domestic woods in solid, single-ply, stave, and now hybrid configurations. The new RX series blends top and bottom rings of stave timber with a center portion that’s rolled from premium-grade aluminum. The wood segments can be crafted from any species. We were sent a four-piece setup featuring bubinga with 8×12 and 14×14 toms, a 14×20 bass drum, and a 7×14 snare. Let’s check it out.
Doc Sweeney prides itself on using the best-quality components possible on its drums. The shells are CNC-milled to very precise dimensions, the proprietary tube lugs are milled from aircraft-grade aluminum, and all of the fasteners are stainless steel. The hoops on our review kit were sturdy “stick saver” types, with an inward-rolled top flange. The oil finish on the bubinga is hand-rubbed to a nice shine while also allowing the natural texture of timber to remain present.
Evans, Remo, or Aquarian drumheads are available. This kit came with Aquarian Response 2 Coated batters and single-ply Classic Clear resonants on the toms, a Studio-X Texture Coated with Power Dot snare batter, a Super Kick I Coated bass drum batter, and a Gloss White bass drum front head with an offset 4.75″ port.
The snare came with a three-position Trick GS007 throw-off and Canopus Vintage series wires. The throw-off is attached to a custom-made metal bridge so that screws pass through the bubinga shell segments rather than the center aluminum ring. The vintage-style gull-wing bass drum spurs are attached to removable DW-made metal clamps that affix to the front hoop, so no extra holes are drilled into the shell itself. This hoop- mounted spur system works great, and I appreciate the fact that it puts less stress on the shell. But I did find myself mistaking the clamp adjustment screws for tension rods on a couple of occasions when I was trying to make quick tuning changes. That’s definitely more of an issue of user error, but I thought it should be noted nonetheless.
The rack tom has no mounting hardware, so a snare basket is required. (Doc Sweeney offers RIMS mounts, if desired.) The floor tom came with a RIMS Dynamount system. This system allows the leg brackets to float off the shell by mounting to an aluminum ring that’s suspended between the bottom-side lugs and the hoop, thus promoting pure, unencumbered resonance.
In terms of craftsmanship, this RX series kit is as top-notch as anything we’ve ever seen. The shells are meticulously milled and shaped; even the contact points between the aluminum and bubinga portions are beautifully contoured. And the bearing edges are ultra-precise and smooth. The drums are hefty and durable, yet not overly designed. In short, they’re pro-quality, top to bottom.
My order of operations for testing drumsets is to begin by tuning the entire kit fairly high, to what most would consider the bebop range. Most times, a 14″ floor tom ends up at G, a 12″ rack tom sits at C, and the snare falls around E or Eb. The kick, depending on its size, usually lands at G or C. At this tight tuning, most drums are right at the edge of choking out. Not so with this Doc Sweeney RX kit. Even with that much tension on the drumheads, these drums exuded the big, round, and full sound that usually comes into bloom at medium and lower tunings. They responded beautifully with a pitch-pure note at all dynamics. Whisper-quiet strokes evoked much more shell tone than is typical, and as my stick heights began to reach ridiculous levels, the shells refused to sputter. This higher tuning also highlighted the focused, balanced tone and rubbery punch of the bubinga shell segments.
As I backed off the tuning, the RX drums began to take on a new character that emphasized the dry explosiveness of the aluminum center segments. The tone was still warm, deep, and focused, but there was a powdery punch in the attack that gave the drums an effervescent vibe. (Fans of the chesty smack of a medium-tuned aluminum snare can likely relate.) The lower I took the tuning, the more pronounced the effect the aluminum had on the timbre. The aluminum shell segment also helped tighten up the decay so that no muffling was needed at any point in our review. Whether cranked all the way up or loosened to the point of wrinkles, the overtones were perfectly balanced, and they died off quickly and musically. I’ve played a lot of drums in my day, and I’ve not encountered anything that piqued my ear quite like these RX bubinga/aluminum beauties from Doc Sweeney. Check out docsweeneydrums.com for more information.