BY BRAD SCHLUETER

Known for creating custom drum kits that push aesthetic boundaries, and very often push them hard, SJC builds kits that are bold, innovative, and clearly different from those made by most major brands. It makes a lot of sense. SJC is a collection of young guys who know their market, and have drawn high-profile punk, metal, and alternative drummers to the brand, like Jay Weinberg, Daniel Platzman, Tré Cool, and Josh Dun. ­ These guys don’t play drums off the shelf. However, the company recently introduced the Tour Series, a new line that breaks the company’s anything-goes mold with a high-quality and very affordable American-made kit that comes with just a few design options. While this might sound like a sidestep to some readers, it more importantly represents the next logical step in the company’s growth. But did the gambit work? We wanted to find out for ourselves.

Shells And Configurations

SJC didn’t skimp on shells. ­ The Tour Series features thin 100-percent maple shells with 45-degree hand-cut SJC bearing edges (snare beds are also cut and shaped by hand). Toms feature 6-ply shells, while the bass drum is 8-ply, and the optional snare is 10-ply. Such thin shells make Tour Series drums nice and lightweight — a backfriendly plus for gigging drummers.

The Tour Series offers one basic 3-piece configuration, as well as several add-on drums. ­ The core kit includes a 22″ x 18″ bass drum, 12″ x 8″ rack tom, and a 16″ x 16″ floor tom. You can also expand the kit with a 10″ x 7″ rack tom or an 18″ x 16″ floor. Our 6-piece review kit included all the available toms and a 14″ x 7″ matching snare.

I want To Stain It Black

­The Tour Series comes in three different color schemes. While the shells are available only in a Black Satin stain across the entire line, buyers who want to personalize their kits can choose among three hardware colors. Brass hardware is standard, with chrome and flat black hardware available as options at no additional cost. But seriously? Black Satin only? ­Think about it. By simplifying production, SJC is able to set the price low. Plus black is a classic finish, especially for rock drum kits, and the three hardware choices offer enough variety to keep things interesting. ­ The finish on our review kit had a light sheen and a subtle texture that was noticeable when viewed closely. It came with the standard brass-plated hardware, which is probably the flashiest option. All three combinations are appealing in their own ways.

The brass-plated hardware included lugs, tom brackets, rack tom suspension mount, bass drum spurs, floor tom legs, air-vent grommets, and claws. Even the badges share the brasson- black motif and are affixed to each drum with three black Allen hex-head screws. ­ e workmanship was expertly crafted and most certainly made the drums look more expensive than they are.

Fancy Fittings Many larger manufacturers choose bland lugs that don’t have much personality. But I like the shield shaped lugs that came on our kit, which echo the bass drum logo head, adding a retro touch to the look and vibe of the drums. ­The bass drum has ten per head, rack toms have six, and floor toms have eight.


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Our optional snare drum includes ten dual-sided tube-style lugs and Trick’s excellent GS007 throw-off. Beneath the snare-side head are 20-strand chrome wires held in place with matching black fabric straps.

Toms and snares feature 2.3mm-thick professional grade hoops, which are sure to endure heavy hitters with ease while producing loud rimshots and rimclicks from the snare. Rack toms include suspension band mounts that are designed to increase sustain.

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The bass drum has heavy-duty fold-out spurs with retractable spikes hidden inside rubber feet. ­ These spurs lock in to one position, which is set at an ideal angle for grip and tilt, making set up quicker than spurs with multiple positions. While the bass drum claws have an interesting shape reminiscent of a medieval knight’s breastplate armor, I wish they included a rubber or vinyl liner to protect the hoops from marring. Otherwise, gaskets isolate lugs, brackets, and spurs from the shells — even the die-cast air vent grommets have a thin one.

SJC’s logo is engraved on rack tom and floor tom leg brackets, which are hinged and hold the rod securely without the need to over-tighten. It would be nice if the company included leg memory locks to quicken set ups and act as a backup if a thumbscrew happens to loosen. Floor tom legs are tipped with hard rubber feet rather than the type of hollow feet that have become popular in recent years. All fittings are drilled using CNC machines for ease in tuning and consistency.

Our kit had a “virgin” bass drum, so you’ll need to mount rack toms from cymbal stands or place them in snare baskets. SJC uses Evans heads, and our bass drum included a solid Calftone EQ4 logo head in front of an EMAD2 batter head. Toms had coated G2 batter heads over Genera Reso resonant heads, and the snare was fitted with a coated G2 over a Snare Side 300.

Sound

These drums are advertised as being factory tuned, but that works about as well with drums as it does guitars. Fortunately, the kit tuned up easily.

The kick drum is an absolute beast! I loved everything about this drum. It’s deep, loud, and packs a punch. It has great attack and a nice deep undertone that’s ideal for any kind of rock. SJC’s head choices were right on the money here. The bass drum has a controlled sustain and works in concert with the inherent muffling qualities of both heads, so you won’t need to sacrifice a pillow from the couch.

I rarely play such a deep snare drum, but found our review snare to be more versatile than expected.  e size is designed for rock, but you could use this drum for just about any type of gig. Its dimensions provide volume and depth, but the drum still has lots of crispness when you tighten the Trick strainer. Its sharper bearing edges add sensitivity and sustain, so if you play a lot of rimshots you may wish to add a little dampening, since the duration of the ring hangs around like the last guest at a party. The 2.3mm hoops made my rim-clicks nice and loud. I’d still like to see a shallower model offered in the line, but am sure SJC will be glad to build any sized matching snare you’d like.

Tour Series toms sound nice and warm thanks to those thin maple shells and double-ply heads. I don’t use 18″ diameter floor toms, so I tuned that drum first and adjusted the smaller drums up from its pitch. All toms had a musical tone and good sustain. Personally, I’d find a 14″ floor tom more useful than the 18″, since it would even out the pitch gap between the rack and floor toms. If you ride your floor toms a lot you may feel otherwise, but a 14″ floor might be a wise future upgrade. The suspension mounts help the rack tom’s sustain, which increased when I placed the drums on a stand, and decreased as it was struck while hanging from my fingertips.

Verdict

The SJC Tour Series is a thoroughly professional kit that is versatile and sounds great. It has a classy appearance and is American made, yet is offered at a modest price. This proposition is even more significant when you consider it comes from a long lived custom drum company, where creativity often trumped value pricing. With this step, SJC has made a statement about its future by reaching beyond the custom drum market to compete with bigger brands. The Tour Series is a confident step toward a whole new SJC customer.

 

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