Black Out Birch Series Snares

Meticulously crafted stave-shell drums designed for maximum projection, clarity, and control.

Woodland Percussion originated as a summer project for company founder and mechanical engineer Allan Fausnaught. The goal was to build a snare entirely from scratch using the limited hand tools that were available in his family’s garden shed in rural Pennsylvania. Allan’s hobby soon turned into a small business that now offers a full range of handmade snares, drumsets, cajons, claves, and assorted hand percussion, as well as laser-etched kinetic art cymbals. For review, we were sent two Black Out Birch series stave-shell snares: a 5×13 ($679.99) and a 6×14 ($749.99).

The Details
With the Black Out Birch series, Fausnaught set out to design drums that yielded a high amount of attack for live applications while also producing great tone for studio recording. Birch was selected because it exhibits those qualities naturally, with an emphasis on high-end projection and low-end power. These drums have a matte-black finish to make them visually versatile as well. The hardware comprises black-chrome triple-flange steel hoops, tube lugs, and tension rods, as well as a black-chrome DW MAG magnetic throw-off and a 3P triple-position butt plate. Allan adds some subtle earthiness via brown leather badges, vent hole grommets, and lug gaskets. To enhance the drums’ power and punch, Evans HD Dry batter heads are used, while top-quality Puresound wires ensure clean, crisp response. All Woodland Percussion snare drums feature offset 45-degree bearing edges with a slight 45-degree counter cut to create a sharp apex for minimal head-to-shell contact, which results in maximum attack and sustain.

Although aesthetically identical, the two Black Out Birch snares have shells of varying thicknesses. The 6×14 has a beefy .75-thick shell, while the 5×13 is slightly thinner, at .5. Both drums possess explosive power, but Fausnaught likens the slightly more sensitive kick of the 13 to that of a firecracker while the 14packs the wallop of a quarter stick of dynamite.

 

The Playing Experience
I would argue that there are no loud or quiet drums, only loud or quiet players. But some drums are built with a proclivity to favor one extreme or the other. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that these Black Out Birch drums are designed exclusively for hard-hitters—they were amazingly sensitive and controlled at low volumes—but they definitely excelled when hit with a lot of force. Whereas a steel-shell drum might rely on brightness, ring, and high-end “ping” to cut through at high volumes, Woodland’s stave birch shells exhibit their power via a dense, chesty, controlled punch. Even when tuned super tight, these drums sound full and balanced, with minimal overtone or discernible pitch. The 5×13 was a bit more articulate, as it took up a more focused band of frequencies and the snares responded with more immediacy. The 6×14 had a fatter tone while remaining very focused and punchy.

After sharing a demo video of these Black Out Birch snares with some drummer friends, one stated that they had the most definitive snare sound he’d ever heard. And that was with zero EQ, compression, or obsessive fine-tuning. Simply, they’re just great snare drums that do exactly what they need to do to make every note heard clearly and strongly—nothing more, nothing less. www.woodlandpercussion.com