Independent Drum Lab

5.5×15 RESoArmor Maple Snare

An oversized yet open-sounding drum with a nearly indestructible coated finish.

Independent Drum Lab (stylized as INDe) is the brainchild of designer/builder Josh Allen, who made his mark in the industry reinventing high-quality, low-impact, and cost-effective hardware for another brand before embarking on his own in 2015. Describing his approach to building, Allen states at the company’s website, “It starts with the drums designed from the ground up with sound in mind. Every component is designed to allow our proprietary shells to sing freely and openly.”

One of INDe’s latest creations is the RESoArmor finish, which is more durable than a conventional wrap without impacting shell resonance. These finishes are hand-applied, and no two are exactly alike. Options include metallics, sparkles, translucent colors, and nearly any combination imaginable. We were sent a 5.5×15 maple snare with a cool blue/black/gray swirl RESoArmor finish ($599).

Shell-Making Philosophy

Allen considers the sound of a drum shell to be ultimately determined by three factors: stiffness, elasticity, and mass. Those attributes are influenced by the thickness of the plies, the grain orientation of the wood, and the glue type. Allen believes that the stiff er the shell, the higher the pitch, while a more flexible shell will have a lower fundamental. Similarly, a more elastic shell will sustain longer. Sensitivity is influenced by the mass of the shell because a lighter shell reacts more easily to drumhead vibrations.

Rather than offer a vast array of shell types with different thicknesses and of different species, INDe only offers one option that’s designed for ultimate responsiveness and versatility. To that end, INDe’s shell is composed of three thick plies with a horizontal grain direction to provide ideal stiffness, and two thin vertical-grain plies to keep the shell strong and stable.

Innovative, Lightweight Components

Complementing Allen’s approach to building shells that are versatile, lightweight, and visually striking, each piece of hardware on INDe drums is designed from scratch to have minimal mass, no dampening, and a sleek appearance. The lugs are bridged between two strategically placed screws to allow the shell to resonate fully, and a small spring clip is used to keep the threaded insert in place, rather than a typical rubber retainer that can dampen resonance.

Similarly, INDe’s low-mass throw-off is bridged to minimize impact on shell resonance while still providing smooth on/off engagement and strong, stable wire tension. Drumheads are by Aquarian, and our review drum came with a Texture Coated Power Dot batter and a Classic Clear Snare Side. Twenty-strand snappy wires and a slick vent hole with an integrated INDe badge complete the build.

In Use

We tested the 5.5×15 RESoArmor snare at a variety of tunings, from as high as it could go to as low, and we found that it retained an open, airy, and relatively dry tone across the entire spectrum. Snare response was crisp and quick, while sympathetic buzz was minimal, thanks in part to the deeply cut snare beds in the bottom bearing edge.

If you like the singing sound of an unmuffled snare but often have to sacrifice some character in order to rein in the overtones for a more mic-friendly sound, check out an INDe drum. Even though the overtones were plentiful, they were evenly balanced and decayed swiftly so as not to overshadow the shell’s strong, punchy fundamental tone. This particular 15″ version could be tuned down into floor tom territory for maximum thump without flapping out, adding even more versatility to an already impressively adaptable snare.