Dreamtime Snare Drums

by Michael Dawson

Creamy, smooth tones crafted from premium Australian timbers.

One of the standout products launched at this past Winter NAMM was a collaboration between notable Queensland builder Paul Warry of Metro Drums and Vancouver-based master craftsman Ronn Dunnett of Dunnett Classic/George Way Drums to build top-shelf snares from some of the finest tone woods in Australia. Warry is making the shells, which are ply-constructed to Dunnett’s specs, and Ronn is finishing the drums with his wide snare beds, precisely cut bearing edges, innovative hardware, and a specific choice of drumheads meant to optimize each drum’s sound and performance. This new line is called Dreamtime, and we were sent two models for review: a 5.5×14 Queensland walnut and a 7×14 blackwood.

Dunnett Queensland Walnut

5.5×14 Queensland Walnut
Everyone who played this drum at NAMM wanted to take it home; it sounded so good. Dunnett/Way endorser Carter McLean even referenced this snare when designing his own signature model. The shell is made from Queensland walnut, which is harder than North American black walnut. The Queensland variety has a Janka hardness rating of 1,670 lbf, while black walnut is 1,010 lbf.

The Queensland walnut drum came with a Remo Coated Ambassador batter and Dunnett’s Crystal bottom. It had forty-two-strand wires, eight tube lugs, an R4 throw-off, and Dunnett’s new 2.3 mm Double Edge/Double Flange steel hoops, which are a revived design that was originally introduced by George Way in the 1950s. These hoops have a rounded top edge to provide a stronger attack and to cause less stick damage. They are also stiffer than standard triple-flange hoops, so they won’t bend out of shape after heavy use. These hoops aren’t as blunt sounding and shocking to strike as die-cast hoops, but they produced a strong, focused rim-shot “pop.”

The tuning range of the 5.5×14 Queensland walnut snare is very wide, extending all the way from Steve Jordan–style tabletop tight down to the point where the tension rods were barely holding tension. Medium-tight produced the most well balanced sound that combined a snappy stick crack with some super-smooth, rich overtones. The lower we tuned it, the creamier the tone became and the doughier the drumhead felt. The overtones remained balanced and even at any tuning, and the fundamental pitch was pure and tuneful. You may need to dampen the batter head a touch to keep the sustain from lingering beyond the next backbeat, but it’s good to know there’s so much sound to work with in the first place. Snare sensitivity was extreme at all tunings and dynamics.

Dunnett Blackwood

7×14 Blackwood
This drum has eight tube lugs, forty-two-strand wires, an R4 throw-off, and a Crystal bottom head, but Dunnett opted for a slightly heavier Remo Coated Ambassador X batter head, and he chose to use his CR straight hoops with clips. The shell is made from 10-ply blackwood, which is a premium Australian tone wood that’s softer than Queensland walnut but a few steps harder than North American black walnut (Janka rating: 1,160 lbf).

This bigger drum, outfitted with straight hoops, is tailor-made for low and powerful rock ‘n‘ roll tones. Its 7″ depth provided plenty of headroom for high-volume playing, while the blackwood shell produced a huge, balanced, and musical voice. You can tune this drum way up for a bright metallic-type tone, you can set it in the middle of its range for a balanced, open sound with rich, clean overtones and cracking attack, or you can explore its lower register for several different variations of deep, mix-ready, gushy punch. Again, the overtones were very balanced and even, so no muffling was required. But a touch of tape or gel would go a long way to tighten up the sustain for optimal impact. Five stars all around!

Shells: 7×14 blackwood and 5.5×14 Queensland walnut
Hardware: eight tube lugs, single-flange CR (7×14) and 2.3 mm Double D (5.5×14) steel hoops, R4 swiveling throw-offs, and adjustable Hypervents
Heads: Remo Ambassador and Ambassador X batters and Dunnett Crystal bottoms
Wires: 42-strand