BY AJ DONAHUE
Canopus drums have proven to be favorites among some of the most respected players in the modern jazz world, but the Japanese company doesn’t shy away from the hefty, powerful sounds made popular in rock music. In addition to the drums they built in service of ’60s bop icons, Canopus has a healthy selection of drums that pay tribute to some of the most celebrated rock snares in history. The subject of this review certainly fits that bill.
Recalling the great Bell Brass drums that rose to prominence in the late ’80s and ’90s, Canopus’ 14″ x 6.5″ Solid Metal 3mm Brass snare drum pays due homage to the drums heard on records by Metallica, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, and others. But, in keeping with the company’s commitment to modernizing those designs and improving upon them where possible, the Solid Metal unit has just a little bit more to offer than you might expect.
Let’s break it down.
Canopus is known for dutifully recreating some of the most beloved build styles from annals of drum history. They’re also known for exquisite craftsmanship. I’ve checked out a lot of Canopus drums over the past few years, and every single one has been exceptionally constructed and thoughtfully designed. As expected, the build quality on this drum is outstanding. The shell is fully in round, the edges are level, and all lugs are aligned straight. This is a beautifully crafted instrument.
This SO3B Solid Metal snare drum is built around a 3mm, seamless brass shell with mostly-rounded bearing edges, medium-deep but fairly wide snare beds, and a mellow-ish Hairline finish. Black nickel–plated die-cast hoops and solid brass, single-point lugs, along with Canopus’ own throw-off/butt combo, come standard, and add great visual contrast. Finally, the company equipped this model with a Remo Coated Ambassador batter over a Clear Snare Side head, as well as its own 30-strand Backbeat steel snare wire set.
I don’t recall ever seeing a bearing edge like this on a metal snare drum. It’s mostly a full roundover cut—which makes sense given the shell’s thickness—but there’s a very mild peak right in the middle of the edge. That gives the heads limited contact on the playing surface for a little bit more attack, but the rounded outside edge snuggles right up to the collar to build in some extra control.
This drum has that “bell brass” sound. The Solid Metal produces a ton of sound under each stroke. It’s got a straight-down response where the high, middle, and low registers all fill up evenly and quickly. I’ve always associated that full spectrum sound with seamless metal shells, possibly because that the unbroken (and re-sealed) chamber is more-free to resonate broadly. This drum moves a mountain of air and has a rare and satisfying breadth.
Center hits are remarkably fat with a lot of punching middle, while rimshots, supported by those die-cast hoops, just explode off the drum. It tunes beautifully and gives a really generous note under any tension. A loose batter head delivers a super fat and honky boof, while cranking it up high introduces a quick, cutting crack with a warm finish. The sustain is also surprisingly brief at any tension, which I imagine is one of the reasons that bell brass drums are so often used in studio settings.
Surprisingly, there’s a healthy dose of mid-range warmth under light strokes. I might not grab the SO3B for a jazz gig, but I’d be comfortable using it on a high-energy live hit that required some dynamic control. The wire response is quite pronounced under light strokes, however, so I might swap in a smaller snare set—maybe a 16-strand unit—for lighter settings.
The SO3B-1465EX we received for this review has 10 single-point solid lugs, while the original SO3B-1465 has only eight. I haven’t compared the two, but based on my experience with other 10-lug versus eight-lug snare drums, those two extra tuning points are probably adding even more control.
Speaking of control, the most impressive aspect of the SO3B’s sound is the incredibly clean overtone spread. I didn’t feel like the drum required muffling at any time, even when dropped down low, because there were so few conflicting tones. Despite that, the drum never felt lifeless or flat—truly a rare quality.
Canopus’ Solid Metal snare drum absolutely nails that iconic “bell brass” sound. It’s powerful and huge, but controlled enough around the edges to play well with microphones. It’s clearly a rocking snare drum that’s ideal for loud, intense music, but there’s a warmth and mellowness that allows it to do well at low volumes. I wouldn’t necessarily call it versatile, but I think that quality is less important with an instrument like this. The Solid Metal is a gut-punching powerhouse that could shake a building off its foundation, and that’s what it should be used for. Grab this drum when you want to make your guitarist really turn up.
STREET PRICE: $1,645
- 3mm seamless brass shell
- Black nickel–plated Die-cast hoops
- Black nickel–plated solid brass single-point lugs
- Remo Coated Ambassador batter, Ambassador Snare Side
- Backbeat 30-strand steel wires
- Bolt Tight washers
- Hairline finish