Tuesday, August 17, 2010

DW Mag Throwoff and 3P Butt: A Good Reason for Another Build

I recently stumbled across the DW MAG throwoff and 3P butt combination. Aside from the price, which is considerably lower than many boutique throwoffs, this model has features that I find appealing.

First, I have always preferred the Gladstone style strainers where the engagement and disengagement of snares are via a sideways lever. I also like the easy-to-reach fine adjustment knob that is horizontal, and the fact that it employs a magnet to hold the throwoff bail in the engaged position. That feature alone eliminates friction mechanisms that stick or bind. Here are photos of the throwoff on a snare drum, and with the bail in the disengaged position. There is no doubt that when disengaged the snares are completely off the snare side head:

What truly got my attention, though, is the 3P butt. You can preset snare tension in three steps with the flick of a lever. This feature is similar to the tension adjustment system built into the Trick GS007 throwoff. It allows you to quickly change from a higher tension setting that gives a fairly dry sound that works well in rock or louder music, to a medium tension that is better suited for press rolls and a more defined snare response, to a wet sound that works well with second line drumming. Here is a photo of the 3P butt, showing the adjustment lever:

As mentioned in the title, this throwoff is a good reason for another build. Let's start with the shell. I want to base the drum on a versatile size, and you can never go wrong with a 5"x14" form factor. Second, I want the shell to be a Keller VSS 6-ply with reinforcement rings. I selected the 6-ply because the thinner shell will more freely vibrate relative to the more common 10-ply shells, which will result in a fuller sound, higher resonance and far greater sensitivity. The tradeoff is loss of projection and volume compared to a 10-ply shell, but I prefer quieter drums. For more information on how shell thickness affects a drum, Mike Radcliffe's discussion in his excellent Tuning Drums article titled Drum Shells is essential reading.

Beauty enters into the equation too. I intend to procure the shell from Drum Foundry's pre-veneered shell selection. I have long lusted after a shell finished in Carpathian Elm, so I now have an excuse. Here is what that wood looks like:

A final, and important, technical decision is selecting the best bearing edge. I normally prefer 30 degree edges with a fat roundover. That reflects my preference for vintage sounding drums. However, since this drum will incorporate the 3P butt and the ability to quickly set tension, I am going to go with a double-45 degree edge that is slightly rounded over. This will give the drum maximum sensitivity that will leverage the features of the 3P butt. For more information about bearing edges see my post titled Properities of Drum Shells and Bearing Edges and the bearing edge video in my post titled My Approach to Tuning.

I have not decided upon the lugs I intend to use. In the spirit of a theme I should select the "turret" style of lug DW uses since I am using a DW throwoff, but I dislike that style immensely. Indeed, I have disliked it since the 1960s when it was called the Aristocrat lug by Camco

The easiest decision is contracting with a builder. My first choice is Kevin Smee of Bowie Custom Drum. Kevin has built a few snare drums for me in the past and his workmanship is first rate, his turnaround time is faster than any other custom builder I have used, and his prices are below market.

As this saga unfolds I will post updates.

No comments: