Canopus Solid Brass and Harvey Mason Signature Snares
by Michael Dawson
Need extreme power or utmost clarity and control?
These have you covered…and then some.
Canopus has been hand-building high-end drums in Japan since 1977, with the primary focus being on replicating and updating the most coveted sounds of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The company also experiments with unconventional shell compositions to offer drummers an ever-expanding sound palette. For review this month are two of Canopus’s latest snare drums: a beefy 6.5×14 Solid Brass modeled after the famous Tama Bell Brass and a 5.5×14 8-ply walnut/birch hybrid shell designed in collaboration with legendary fusion/studio drummer Harvey Mason. Both are built with the utmost care and precision to maximize their sonic potential, whether that’s for power and presence (Solid Brass) or control and articulation (Harvey Mason signature). Let’s give both a closer examination.
Heavy, cast snares are very popular these days, especially with hard-hitting drummers who demand a drum that can cut through the loudest mix while also providing a hefty, fat tone. These drums are also quite popular with session drummers because of how well they interact with microphones in various styles and tunings. Canopus’s version of this “holy grail” snare comes with eight or ten lugs (we received one with ten), and has a 3mm brass shell, black nickel–plated die-cast hoops, black nickel–plated solid-brass tube lugs, Canopus thirty-strand Backbeat wires, a basic side-throw strainer, and Remo drumheads (Coated Ambassador over Hazy Ambassador).
The designers at Canopus tweaked the shell and bearing edges to ensure unlimited power as well as supreme response and a full, rich tone. I’ve played quite a few cast-brass, bronze, and steel snares, and while some have sounded ridiculous, others have been a bit dull and lifeless. Canopus did a great job with the Solid Brass to make sure that the density of the 3mm shell doesn’t make the drum sound unruly or boxy. It has a ton of crisp high-end, so quiet buzz rolls articulate as cleanly as on a symphonic drum. And there’s no perceivable dynamic ceiling, where the tone maxes out and starts to choke.
You can tune the Solid Brass super-high for a tight, biting Deftones vibe, or you can back it down into the lower register for a larger-than-life Nirvana-style smack. The overtones are clean and musical, so you don’t need to muffle them. But the drum responds well to muffling, especially when going for a fat, dark, pillowy tone. I wouldn’t lug this massive beast around for everyday gigging, but it would make an incredible first-call drum for all types of session work and for full-production live shows.
5.5×14 Harvey Mason Signature
In stark contrast to the Solid Brass, the Harvey Mason signature snare is designed to provide a dry, dark tone with short sustain without sacrificing response or projection. It features a 5.5×14 6.4mm, 8-ply walnut/birch shell (seven plies of white birch and an outer ply of walnut) finished in walnut oil. The triple-flange hoops are 2.3mm steel, and the wires are Canopus’s fourteen-strand non-plated Vintage model. Designed with Mason’s articulate, precise playing in mind, this drum excels in jazz and fusion styles, providing a crisp, pleasing tone with a short sustain and controlled overtones. The bearing edges are sculpted to maximize the response and increase musicality. This drum favors high tunings, but its range is vast. It records beautifully and is quite pleasing to the ear in all-acoustic situations. If you play a lot of ghost notes, or if you favor a tight, contained snare with a lot of body and richness, check this guy out. He’s a beauty.
Size: 6.5×14 (Solid Brass), 5.5×14 (Harvey Mason signature)
Shell: 3mm brass and 8-ply walnut/birch
Hoops: die-cast (Solid Brass), 2.3mm steel triple-flange (Mason)
Lugs: solid-brass tube
Price: Solid Brass: $1,500; Mason: $750