Johnny C. Series Snare Drums
“Affordable” was never a word associated with the king of steam-bent shells…until now.
When it comes to high-end, ultra-sophisticated, custom- made drums, there’s no name quite as ubiquitous as Craviotto. Company founder Johnny Craviotto has been building the very best of the best single-ply, steam-bent snares and drumsets for decades, and collectors and drummers alike swoon at the thought of owning some. Studio legends Matt Chamberlain and Chris McHugh, rock greats Ronnie Vannucci and Jason McGerr, and jazz stars Marcus Gilmore, Billy Martin, and Matt Wilson are proud endorsers, and many more top players have at least one Craviotto snare in their arsenal for sessions and live work.
While such quality and notoriety often come with a hefty price tag, the company recently developed a line of more affordable snare drums, dubbed the Johnny C. series, designed to be dependable instruments for everyday working drummers. The snares are available in 4×13, 5.5×13, 6.5×13, 4×14, 5.5×14, and 6.5×14 sizes and come with a natural-satin-finish single-ply maple shell, 45-degree bearing edges, a black Trick GS007 three-point throw-off, Remo drumheads (Coated Ambassador batter and Clear Ambassador bottom), twenty-strand Craviotto-branded wires, and ten Diamond Cast lugs. The MAP (minimum advertised price) is $649, which is about half the cost of a Craviotto custom-shop snare. We were sent 5.5×14 and 6.5×14 models to review.
Both drums were beautifully and meticulously constructed and had a universal look that would blend with the aesthetic of any drumset, whether you prefer classic pearl, a flashy modern paint job, or anything in between. The Diamond Cast lugs aren’t as unobtrusive at the company’s flagship tube lugs, but they’re elegantly designed and not just a typical off-the-shelf variety. The interior of each shell is signed by Johnny Craviotto, which is a nice reminder that even though the price might be lower than that of pieces from the custom shop, these still get the stamp of approval by the man himself.
The 5.5×14 Johnny C. series snare had the trademark warmth and richness that solid maple shells provide, and the snare response was crystal clear. The overtones were nice and musical, and they didn’t linger for long, which I assume is thanks in part to the ten slightly chunkier cast lugs restricting the shell vibrations a little bit more than tube lugs would. The drum had a wide tuning potential, but it really excelled in the medium to tight range. I could get it to go super-low too, but when compared with the 6.5×14, which killed at low-mid and low tunings, it lost just a touch of personality.
The 6.5×14 Johnny C. series drum was my favorite of the pair; it was more versatile (it had a great tight pop as well) and had a broader, fatter voice that occupied a sweet space in the mix at any tuning, whether it was struck lightly at the center of the head or pummeled with full-on rimshots. So if I had to choose a workhorse among these workhorses to rely on for all my gigs, which include delicate singer-songwriter sessions as well as hard-hitting modern rock and country showcases, the 6.5×14 would be it.