Still grappling with the modern producer disease known as ‘shitty snare drum’ sound? Maybe it’s time to ditch the samples and try out one of these new modern heritage pieces from Gretsch.
With more than a few sticks in the game since 1883 you’d think Gretsch would have the expertise to make a snare drum that sounds ‘right’, and with the new USA Custom Ridgeland snares Gretsch shows that it continues to possess the dignity and class of a modern classic manufacturer.
Gretsch was started out in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn by Freidrich Gretsch, a recent German immigrant with a view to manufacture all the cool popular instruments of the day – banjos, tambourines, and drums. Since this period, minus a small sojourn in the late-60s with the Baldwin company, the Gretsch name has remained wholly in the hands of the Gretsch family, and with this heavy heritage comes quality and manufacturing expertise.
Direct from the modern (for at least the last 40 years) Ridgeland, South Carolina factory, I’ve got two brand new Gretsch USA Custom Ridgeland snares on stands ready for inspection and a serious workout.
Both these 5” x 14” and the 6.5” x 14” snares come complete with cherry-picked vintage stylings of the later era ‘round badge’ Gretsch (I’m talking 50s to early 70s pre-octagon badge here); from the classic satin wood-grain finish, the reliable re-engineered 70s-style ‘lightning’ throw off, the lug-styling of the 50s/60s era, and the venerable round badge itself.
We’ve seen ‘em, but how do they sound? How does any good snare drum sound? The search for a snare drum for the studio is a workout of versatility in pitch, tone, attack, and body. Or whatever fits the song, which probably subconsciously fulfils these criteria. And, I mean, not every track wants for a belting white-noise-with-attack tone; fortunately these drums have depth.
The Gretsch USA Custom Ridgelands have a fairly serious centimeter-ish (.04”) thick maple, gum, and poplar shell, allowing for heft in sound with a minimal shell resonance and, reports tell me they combine a 30 degree bearing edge with a Gretsch ‘Broadkaster-style’ roundover against the skin, meaning attack with a full bodied tone. Basically a more ‘up front’ attack than a vintage snare, with a tasteful, round tone and overtone that fits nicely into an array of musical settings. Class with projection, dignity with heft.
Speaking of heft, as expected the deeper 6.5” drum carries a little extra ‘fatness’ in tone, whereas the 5” moves possesses a little more articulation and crispness. Both hold a 20 strand snare which the connoisseurs here consider the tasteful standard strand amount, with a nicely ergonomic tensioner directly across from the throw.
The snares come factory-direct with Remo-branded Gretsch Permatone skins, which I’m pretty damn sure are straight-up coated Remo Ambassador heads; meaning a warm, balanced tone right out of the box (once you tune these things up).
Speaking of tuning, both size drums respond nicely in the four broad ranges of tension, with authority and girth in the extra low region, ranging up through increasing levels of articulation across the low, medium and tight ranges. In addition, the Ridgelands take dampening well, from moon gel to a wallet, up to tea towel and gaff tape, all giving a solid thump with an expected decrease in overtone without the loss of clarity.
The Gretsch USA Custom Ridgeland snare drums come in a variety of tasteful finishes and start from AU$1579.99 RRP.
For more info head over to Gretsch.