Van Kleef All Titanium and B20 Bronze Snares
by Michael Dawson
Sleek, single-metal designs by one of the industry’s rising stars.
Sheffield, England–based VK Drums has quickly risen to the top of the high-end custom-shop heap with its elegant and highly musical range of snare drums. We tested a trio of titanium, stainless-steel, and aluminum models in the March 2016 issue, which came equipped with stainless-steel hardware and straight hoops. Now the company is offering a snare that is fabricated entirely from titanium (except the heads and wires, obviously) and a 4mm cast-bronze drum with matching bronze hoops. We were sent one of each to review.
6.5×14 All Titanium
One of the lightest drums we’ve ever tested, this gorgeous 6.5×14 snare features VK’s new titanium straight hoops, and every piece of hardware is made from titanium, including the lugs, throw-off and butt plate, VKey drum key (which stores on the inside of the throw-off lever), tension rods, bolts, washers, and internal dog tag ID. The drum came with a Remo Coated Ambassador batter head and a Clear Ambassador snare-side. The snare wires are Puresound’s Custom Pro model, which have specially designed end plates to reduce sympathetic buzz and come with Speed Release straps that allow the wires to be removed quickly and easily.
This 10-lug snare has a dry but colorful tone with a great balance of focused fundamental pitch, singing overtones, and short decay. Its sensitivity is superb and sympathetic buzz is minimal. Medium tension elicits a nice “thwack” with a controlled pitch dip. Tighter tunings have a drier sustain and snappier attack, plus continued depth and power. Medium and low tensions are this snare’s forte, however, whether going for an open Dave Grohl–style smack or a deep and focused disco-type punch. No muffling is required at any tuning, since the sustain is naturally short and contained, though a single Moon Gel may be desired to attenuate high-end overtones for a record-ready studio sound. List price is $1,499 and includes a VK-branded Hardcase case with a titanium badge.
5.5×14 Cast B20 Bronze
Quite the opposite of the ultra-light All Titanium snare, this super-heavy cast-bronze beast is made from B20 alloy (the same as what’s used for most high-end cymbals) and features 5mm cast-bronze straight hoops and stainless-steel hardware (claws, lugs, internal dog tag, throw-off and butt plate, and embedded VKey). The drumheads and wires are the same as on the titanium model. The shell is 4mm thick, which contributes to the drum’s hefty weight and massive sound.
Like the titanium drum, the B20 bronze snare has excellent sensitivity and a well-balanced sound containing strong attack, good articulation, and musical overtones. This drum has more bite and spread than the titanium, which gives it additional power at high volumes. Tight tunings produce a lot of bark and snap, while medium and lower tensions accentuate the punchier lower-mid frequencies. In our testing, this B20 cast-bronze snare was most at home at a medium-tight tension for maximum volume potential within a very balanced, musical voice. List price is $2,500.