SJC was formed in 2000 by teenage brothers Mike and Scott J. Ciprari, who used their parents’ and grandmother’s basements to warehouse parts and assemble their first drums. By 2006, SJC had become a nationally recognized brand, thanks in part to one of its eye-catching wood-hoop kits being played by Spencer Smith with Panic at the Disco at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Over the past decade, SJC continued to build notoriety for its no-holds-barred approach to customization. But in recent years, the company refocused some of its efforts to serve the wants and needs of gigging pros and hobbyists with more limited budgets. The Taiwanese-made Paramount all-maple series is one such offering.

The Specs

The Paramount series is SJC’s answer to drummers desiring an affordable, durable, versatile, and classic-looking drumset. Two shell packs are available: a three-piece including 8×12 and 16×16 toms and an 18×22 bass drum, and an expanded five-piece adding a 7×10 tom and a matching 6.5×14 snare. The shells are made from 7-ply North American maple, and the finish is a rich high-gloss walnut lacquer. The bass drum has matching wood hoops, and the snare and toms have 2.3mm triple-flange rims. All of the hardware is chrome, and the rack toms include suspension systems and L-arm mounts. The tension rods have black-plastic washers to help facilitate smoother and more stable tuning, and each piece of hardware that’s mounted to the shells is insulated with a plastic gasket. The drumheads are made by Evans and include coated 2-ply tom batters, clear single-ply tom bottoms, and single-ply bass drum heads with built-in muffling rings. The bearing edges, which were smooth and precise, are shaped to forty-five degrees and have a slightly rounded back cut.

Details Matter

We tested the three-piece Paramount pack. The drums looked classy and performed as well as any professional-level kit we’ve reviewed. The dark walnut finish is gorgeous and will no doubt stand the test of time as various aesthetic trends come and go. SJC made a smart move by designing a distinct but unobtrusive shield-shaped lug, which is a subtle reminder that these aren’t run-of-the-mill mass-produced drums. Other minor hardware-design details, such as large and plastic-insulated thumbscrews on the tom mounts and spurs and wider-angled floor tom legs, should appeal to drummers who demand a stable, rugged kit that can withstand thousands of setups and teardowns.

The Sound

The 12″ and 16″ toms tuned up easily and had a great sonic range from low and punchy to high and snappy. The all-maple shells produce smooth and even tones that can be left wide open for maximum cut and projection or dampened down a bit for darker and more controlled timbres. The 2-ply coated batters not only increased durability, but they also facilitated fat, focused sounds without requiring muffling. Regardless of their tuning, the Paramount toms had a balanced mix of crisp articulation, full sustain, and smooth decay that would work in any live or studio situation. SJC offers add-on Paramount toms in 14×14 ($349.99) and 16×18 ($449.99) sizes, and the 6.5×14 maple snare can be purchased separately for $299.99.

The 18×22 Paramount bass drum has a big, thunderous voice with a ton of low-end fatness and high-end snap when played without muffling or a port. To get the most versatility out of this drum, however, you’ll likely want to cut a hole in the resonant head and throw in at least a small towel to help focus the attack and tighten up the sustain. The 18″ depth helped increase this drum’s power and low-end thump, but it also required me to play a little more aggressively in order get both heads activated. This may be too much drum for those of you playing quieter gigs, but if you’re working in louder venues, with or without full PA systems, the Paramount kick has plenty of volume headroom for when you need it. For a tight, focused tone, simply throw a blanket or pillow inside the shell to dampen the heads. This results in a deep chest-thumping punch that hits hard but gets out of the way quickly.

While leaning towards louder applications, the 18×22 Paramount kick delivers a versatile, contemporary sound appropriate for nearly any modern rock or funk-influenced playing style.

(A smaller 16×20 kick is available in SJC’s Pathfinder series.)

The three-piece Paramount shell pack sells for $1,399.99, and the five-piece is $1,899.99, which is a heck of a deal considering how well they’re made, how sophisticated they look, and how versatile they sound.