January 1, 2014

PDP Platinum solid maple snare drum

By Darin Soll

The PDP Platinum solid maple snare in silver-to-black
sparkle burst
Not many drummers are aware that PDP offered a solid maple 5x14" snare drum in its Platinum series back when Kings of Leon exploded onto the U.S. music scene.  A few music retailers still have unsold inventory, and I decided to pick one up.  The obvious question is, could this virtually unknown, mid-level priced, single-ply maple snare provide the same classic tone as the legendary Slingerland Radio King?

There is not a lot of information available online on the PDP Platinum solid maple snare.  In this blog post, I'll share what I've learned about this drum, and evaluate whether it recaptures the magic of a vintage solid maple snare.

Recently, a limited number of these drums were offered online for as low as $299 new.  Since I saw the same model going for $443 on other sites, it seemed like a good time to buy.  The drum was originally offered in a wide variety of lacquer finishes and finishply wraps, but remaining inventory seems to be in red sparkle, red-to-black sparkle fade, and silver-to-black sparkle burst.   I ordered the drum in a silver-to-black sparkle burst lacquer finish, the most neutral option of the three.

While PDP Platinum and PDP X7 snares are similar in
appearance and hardware, their shells differ significantly
The first thing I noticed is that the PDP Platinum solid maple snare looks quite similar to my PDP X7 maple-ply snare.  From a hardware perspective, they share the same 1.6mm hoops, 1-5/8" True-Pitch tension rods (without nylon washers), and both include gasketed lugs, although the Platinum is equipped with tube lugs.  The Platinum also features a revised version of the X7's drop throwoff.  Both snares include generic snare wires with clear plastic straps.

But that's where the similarities end.  The Platinum's 7.5mm thick, steam-bent, single-ply maple shell is meatier than the X7's 5.5mm thick 7-ply maple shell.  In addition, when placed side-by-side, the X7 shell seems slightly shallower.  Sure enough, my X7 shell measures 4-7/8" deep while the Platinum shell measures 5" deep.  PDP shipped the Platinum snare with single-ply DW Remo USA heads and the X7 snare with single-ply Remo China heads, coated batter heads in both cases.

The differences are not a surprise.  PDP Platinum drums were manufactured in PDP's production facility in Ensenada, Mexico, using the same raw materials as the DW factory in Oxnard, California.  Rumor has it that the same supplier delivered wood sheets to both locations, and the "North American maple" tag affixed to Platinum maple drums seems to confirm this.  In contrast, the X7, M5, and newer Concept lines are manufactured in China using locally-sourced raw materials.  While Platinums were manufactured from 2008 to 2011, the solid wood snare appeared only in the 2008 catalog.  In fact, my new Platinum solid maple snare drum is date-stamped "JUL 02 2008" inside the shell, so it sat in a warehouse for over five years before I purchased it.  Also, beginning in 2010, Platinum snare drums shipped with DW Remo Controlled Sound reverse dot batter heads, but it does not appear that the Platinum solid maple snare was ever fitted with this upgrade.

Platinum solid maple snare's single-ply, steam-bent shell
Beyond appearance and features, the first thing I noticed about the PDP Platinum solid maple snare when I pulled it out of the box is that the drop-style throwoff is massive and clunky.  That same description applies to its operation--it is decidedly unsmooth.

With any new drum (or drum that is new to me), I typically disassemble, inspect, and clean the parts.  During this process with the Platinum snare, I noticed that most of the lug screws inside the shell were loose, so I tightened them, being careful not to overtighten.  It's also worth noting that this drum does not include reinforcement rings ("re-rings"), contrary to conventional wisdom (not necessarily actual wisdom) that a solid drum needs re-rings to "strengthen" or "stabilize" the shell.

DW MAG throwoff and Remo Controlled Sound reverse
dot batter head upgrades
While the heads were off, I decided to go ahead and replace the clunky drop throwoff with a DW MAG unit.  The mount hole spacing is identical between the two throws, however, the mounting screws for the MAG throw require larger holes, so I very carefully drilled out the existing holes to 5/32".  In addition to ensuring that you drill straight through, you want to avoid splintering around the holes on the inside of the shell.

Once the holes were drilled out, the MAG throw installed in seconds.  In my opinion, the DW MAG throwoff is worth every penny of the $29.99 it costs.  The stock PDP butt plate is solid, so I decided to keep it.

After inspecting the bearing edges, which were as good as any I've ever seen, I took the opportunity to upgrade the batter head to a Remo Controlled Sound reverse dot, which as most of you know is a coated, Ambassador-weight, single-ply head with a 5 mil reverse dot.  I'm not crazy about 1.6mm hoops on snare drums, but I decided to go ahead and give them a try for a while to see how they work out.  I then added nylon washers to the tension rods and installed and seated the heads.

My initial observations after spending a few hours with the Platinum solid maple snare in the rehearsal studio today:
  • The Platinum snare tunes up very easily, perhaps because of the excellent bearing edges.  This drum seemed very happy at a 3g# tuning (380Hz at each reso lug, 328Hz at each batter lug).
  • The tone of the Platinum has a lot more "woodiness" and "body" than the X7 snare.  When played side-by-side, it was difficult to hear any "woodiness" at all in the X7 snare's tone.
  • The Platinum's tone blends well into a variety of music.  It is a versatile snare.
  • Rimshots are a bit weak, which I attribute to the 1.6mm hoops.

The PDP Platinum solid maple snare is a quality drum at an excellent price point.  More importantly, its tone is reminiscent of the legendary Slingerland Radio King.  The more I play it, the more I hear the Radio King in its voice.  It is definitely a keeper in my snare drum collection.

--Darin

1 comment:

  1. UPDATE: I recently upgraded the hoops on this snare drum to 3.0mm DW True-Hoops. The True-Hoops add as much crack to rimshots as die-cast hoops, while saving your sticks with a rolled top flange. They dry out the sound slightly--my guess is that the sound is somewhere between 2.3mm triple-flange and die-cast hoops.

    With this $60 upgrade, I believe the PDP Platinum solid maple snare is could go up against any DW maple snare!

    --DrumNut

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