Jon Cross made his first drumkit, a six-piece with segment-style purpleheart shells, in 2009, and he launched his company in 2011, focusing on building segment- and stave-shell drums from exotic woods. We were sent a gorgeous 6.5×14 segment-shell snare featuring two types of ebony: a middle section of black Asian Gaboon and outer sections of striped-brown African Macassar.

Specs

The wood used in this shell was constructed from three boards that were numbered, cut into blocks, and glued—in their original order—into five rings. The rings were then stacked, glued, and machined into a shell. Because Cross was careful to keep the segments organized, the grain pattern of the wood flows as naturally as possible around the entire shell. To strengthen the joints at the top and bottom of the shell, Jon cut grooves into the edges and inserted a narrow strip of maple. Forty-five-degree bearing edges were shaped into the shell so that the drumheads sit squarely on the maple inlays.

This drum is finished with high-gloss polyurethane, and the hardware included die-cast hoops, ten single-point Ghostnote lugs, a Trick GS007 three-position throw-off, and Puresound wires. The badge is installed within a machined portion of the wood so that it sits flush with the exterior wall of the shell.

Powerful, Pure Tone

Ebony is a very dense timber, which makes it great for building snares that marry the pure tone of a solid-wood shell with the cutting power of metal. I used this drum for two shows with a loud hard-rock band that demanded all the volume I could muster. I typically grab a thick, cast-steel snare for these types of gigs, but the ebony drum was more than capable of cracking through stacks of heavy guitars, distorted bass, and intense vocals. In fact, I ended up preferring the JC drum to the steel because it had smoother overtones (which meant less muffling), a stronger and chunkier attack, and a warm, open tone that added a nice natural reverb tail after each backbeat.

Whereas rimshots on the steel drum I often use for loud gigs can get a bit piercing at tight tunings and unruly at lower tunings, the Cross drum sounded musical, balanced, and focused across the entire tuning range. It never choked at high volumes, and soft ghost notes spoke clearly and crisply. This was one of only a handful of wood drums I’ve played that sounded fuller and richer the harder I hit it. If you’re tired of sacrificing tone for power when playing in louder situations, check out what Jon Cross has to offer. This is top-notch stuff.