English musician-turned-builder Alan Van Kleef has earned high praise from drummers, critics, and collectors over the past few years for his continuous output of unique, top-shelf snares and kits crafted with premium metal and wood shells and proprietary hardware. We’ve checked out VK’s aluminum, titanium, steel, cast-bronze, and magnesium snares in past issues, as well as a fantastic all-aluminum kit, but nothing prepared us for the company’s latest creation: a series of precious 4.5×14 snares with solid 1.5mm 925 sterling silver shells. Only forty-seven of these bad boys are being made, with each carrying a hefty price tag of £4,999 GBP. We were lucky to get our hands on one to review, so let’s check it out.
The 1.5mm shell on this remarkable drum is crafted from 925 sterling silver, which consists of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper and other metals. The other metals are essential in order to add hardness; pure silver is too soft and malleable to be used for a rigid 14″ drum shell.
VK outfits these drums with its own stainless-steel straight hoops, hand-polished stainless-steel single-point tube lugs, and a stainless-steel strainer and butt plate with laser-etched logos. The strainer also includes a built-in VKey, which is a silent ratchet-style tuner that’s held in place behind the throw-off lever. Puresound wires and Remo Ambassador heads complete the setup.
Each drum ships in a foam-lined silver-colored Hardcase case and comes with a pair of white gloves to wear during setup to minimize tarnishing from touching the shell with sweaty or dirty hands. Although only 4.5″ deep, this is a hefty drum that might require a heavy-duty stand to keep it secure and stable.
We put this luxurious drum through its paces in the studio, testing its versatility and sensitivity across the entire tuning spectrum. While it sounded unlike any other metal shell we’ve tested, there was a fair amount of high-end ring and bite, akin to what you’d get from a thin steel shell, but it also possessed the dryness and crispness often associated with aluminum.
This is a very articulate drum, regardless of how it’s tuned, and the wires respond quickly at all dynamics. The middle register had a controlled, throaty “honk” that gave it just enough character to stand out in a mix without being overly resonant. However, I found that this drum sounded best in the higher and lower ranges. Funk and jazz drummers will love its super-clean attack and focused, musical tone when cranked, while session players would get a lot of use out of the tight but quick and chesty thump it produces with the batter head slack and muffled with a small square of tape or gel. While obviously not designed for everyone’s budgets and needs, VK’s exclusive 925 sterling silver snare performs just as great as it looks.