It's been pointed out to me that this project has caused a little stir round various drum forums! It seems a few people thought I had lost the plot taking a cutter to an old acrolite. Well it's worth pointing out that NO DECENT parts were sacrificed in this experiment, I certainly wouldn't have tried this out on a good condition one. All the parts were beaten up, scratched and generally of no real value at all.

My original plan was to make a great sounding, inexpensive, and loud snare drum for rehearsals and possibly live work, something that would take a bashing on the road and I'd not be too worried about. Luckily an auction for six snare shells (5 Ludwig, 1 cheap steel) with various parts came up on Ebay. Most of it was junk in all honesty but luckily one of the shells was really good and by using the best parts from the other drums I built up a nice acrolite that recouped what the auction cost me so I can't complain! This left me with lots of freebie scrappy parts to do something with. The 70's acrolite shell I used for the experimental project had been crudely repainted with a silver aerosol and was dented but mechanically sound nonetheless. Curiously the previous owner had stuck on a keystone WFL badge to the painted shell using glue which as you can see went everywhere and no grommet in sight... this rare badge was removed and the glue and crud painstakingly cleaned off, the result of that is here if you are curious!


Above:Time to do the scrapheap challenge with all this JUNNNNNKK!!!!

Here's was the plan... make one good strainer from two bent up ones, use the better top hoop as is, modify the other horrid rusty top hoop with an angle grinder to act as a snare side one (since I didn't have a spare one), use whatever assortment of tension rods I could find, use the best set of old stretched snare wires I had collecting dust at the time and use that scrappy nasty shell. Total cost so far = $0!

Then I thought how about giving the acrolite more volume for a fat backbeat. Having seen all the fuss about vented snares being louder I got in touch with a drum builder regarding the vent holes themselves and asked for some theory on it. I wondered if there might be a calculation involving the total airspace in the drum, etc... the reply I got was not very technical... "errrr... bigger is louder!" I decided it was time to get brutal with that old painted shell and I added 4 x 1.5" vent holes for good measure... as you can see that's about as big as you can squeeze in on a 14" x 5"!

Vented Acrolite

Above: Vented acrolite doing an OCDP impersonation for the price of two drum heads... EvEnStEvEn wins the "what's it called?" competition with the "UKDP Acroslink!"

The drum was rebuilt with new heads (I had to concede spending some money on it at this point!!!!) and cranked up. There seemed to be a few side effects as you'd expect:

1. The sensitivity was down a bit since there wasn't so much air pressure operating the snare side head, this had the effect of making ghost notes sound a bit vague (cranking the bottom head up reduced this effect some).

2. A wierd side effect was an almost bassy rumble from the snare side head which you didn't hear if you covered the vents. You could hear the wires operating more too (I think people confuse that with extra sensitivity) because basically with holes that size in the shell at low volumes you hear the internal noises as well! I assume this must affect all vented snares to some degree although on the other hand they are built more for fat back beats than precision. This rumble can be reduced with moongel or similar applied to the snare side head.

3. The shell lost some ring in the sound due to lumps of material now missing from it! In addition, the sound had lost a bit of bottom end. I put that down to the fact you are now mainly hearing the top head and shell and the bottom head is rumbling rather than being punched by the column of air in the drum. Therefore the snare tone was different and the sound was thinner it seems.

I'd heard stories of how powerful and loud vented snares are so I decided to try a few different drums next to it to see if I had a night and day transformation that could take on some meatier opponents.

First up for comparison was my trusty 411 Super Sensitive. This was interesting in the sense they are both use Ludalloy shells and I wondered if the vented snare could catch up with the larger shelled 411 (1.5" deeper). For a start the vented snare was a bit vague on very gentle ghost notes, my Super Sensitive 14 x 6.5 being crystal clear. On the other hand Super Sensitives are primarily orchestral snares so that was probably an unfair comparison! However, moderate ghost notes did register quite reasonably and full strokes produced a sharp and short metallic pop. Volume wise it seemed on a par with the 6.5 deep drum except it didn't have the balls in the tone or sound anywhere as good to my ears. Strike one...

Next up was the 20's Heavyweight brass snare. Once again sensitivity was superior on the non-vented snare. This drum has so much bottom end and sounds so fat it did indeed make the vented acrolite sound like a weedy Coke can, however it does that (to a lesser degree) to the standard acrolite as well. It was already clear that there was no point in digging out the N&C Zildjian... Strike two...

Vented Acrolite Vs 20's Brass

Above: The acrolite poses before being kicked into next week by a distant relative from the 1920's!

Well the vented acrolite was certainly no match for the bigger drums "powerwise" so there was only one test left to do. I compared this to a normal acrolite and ratio wise it had more shell tone than wire sound than the standard one due to the lower air pressure inside the drum. The "bark" was shorter and sharper than standard, more metallic, possibly a little more aggressive and a little bit louder, not quite as much bottom end in the sound (although 14" x 5" acrolites aren't particularly record breaking in that respect)... a sound more akin to a piccolo snare (albeit a vague piccolo!) than the normal acrolites. Personally I have a certain snare "sound" in my head and preferred the standard snare response and sound. I tried this test on a few volunteers and they all preferred the standard acrolite for sound. Strike three...and out!

Conclusion: I've never heard an OCDP wood shelled drum and can only assume the difference between that and a non vented equivalent would follow the same pattern of events I discovered. At least my curiousity is now satisfied regarding vents! Are vents worthwhile? For me personally, no... the additional volume was not substantial enough to put up with the sacrifices in tone and precision. The vented snare was happiest doing back beats, and was fairly decent at it. However... all my other snares can happily cut through Marshall amps and do the ghost note stuff better. I've never had a problem with volume from my snares, which makes me wonder if vented snare drums are even worthwhile in the first place, especially since you can adjust the snare drum volume in the mix through a P.A. or recording desk if required. As for a rough and ready practice snare, the experimental drum didn't make the grade and I ended up with a beaten up brass shelled Premier 2000 14 x 6.5 for that task!