Through running this website, I’ve been able to check out a lot of really extravagant and incredible gear. I’ve also had more than a few opportunities to give some of that gear away. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky and consistently humbled by the generosity of those builders and purveyors who have been willing to not only ship something beautiful over for a review, but to let me pass these instruments along to you as well.
All that said, the subject of today’s review exceeds every expectation I had about the opportunities I’d be afforded by this website. The chance to spend time with an instrument like this that represents such remarkable devotion to craftsmanship and care is just more than I could ever ask for.
As if that weren’t enough, I get to give this unbelievable snare drum to one of you.
I want to say a special thank you to Michael Outlaw of Outlaw Drums and Jeremy Brieske of Gearpipe.com for setting this up. This is the kind of luxury I never could have imagined when I began this website only a few years ago. Thank you so much.
I’m going to keep this review fairly short, and try and let the sound of the drum speak for itself as much as possible. Watch the video, then scroll down to the bottom to enter for a chance to win the drum featured in this review.
Shell: 7/16” Aged Heart Pine
Finish: Deep Weathered
Edge: 45 Degree Inside Cut
Features: Dunnett R4 Throw Off and Butt, Diecast Hoops, 16 Strand Puresound Wires, Evans Heads, Tube Lugs. All hardware treated with a hand rubbed finish to create a satin or brushed look.
A Little History
Outlaw Drums is a truly American enterprise. Several years ago, owner Michael Outlaw, a drummer and furniture maker, stumbled upon a Civil War-era home awaiting demolition. He asked if he could take some of the scrap wood to use as building material, and quickly fell in love with the unique characteristics of the approximately 500 year old heart pine. An experienced woodworker, Outlaw made the easy jump into incorporating the old world boards into drum shells, and thus, Outlaw Drums was born.
To learn more about the history and environmental commitment of Outlaw Drums, watch this beautifully produced video.
The snare drum that we received for review is the first shell built with materials from the Jewel Crowe house. Check out the video below to for a documentary-style look at the home and Outlaw’s inspiration.
Now that you’ve got a good idea of what makes Outlaw such a unique and interesting builder, let’s talk about the actual drum itself. The snare features a stave shell construction with heart pine pieces that are nearly a half inch thick. Normally, that kind of thickness would produce a super heavy drum, but if I were to guess, I’d say the fact that the wood was harvested between 150 to 200 years ago gave it plenty of time to lose some density to moisture and erosion.
That creates two really, really interesting results. First, the exterior has a heavily textured feel with big grain grooves – running your fingers over the finish feels just like touching an old barn (without the splinters, thankfully).
Second, the thick shell narrows the sound chamber just a bit, but doesn’t seem to raise the drum’s pitch as much as other thick shells I’ve played. That leads me to the best part: the sound.
Right out of the box, the drum had a crazy sharp focus with ridiculous response. Seriously, the wires perked up even when I cleared my throat. I’m not sure if that’s a result of the fairly shallow snare beds, the wires or the shell itself, but the drum’s sensitivity was off the charts.
Initially it was a little dry – somewhere between mahogany and aluminum, interestingly. This lead to the wires occupying most of the sound, particularly at higher volumes. For the first few days I had it, the drum felt overwhelmed by snare response. However, with some time on the stand, the sound really seemed to mellow, and more of the shell began to poke through.
I found that really interesting. Maybe it was the recently applied finish that needed some extra time to settle down, or maybe the drum just needed to be played in a bit. Either way, the Outlaw snare underwent a very noticeable change in just a couple of days – and definitely a change for the better (the video was recorded after the drum settled down).
Once the drum found its voice, it became a really, really special instrument. The thick, but lightweight shell coupled with diecast hoops gave it a clear, fat focus with an earthy body to follow. At a medium tuning, this drum was begging for studio time. It had kind of a Nashville, Black Beauty thing with a warmer finish that just knocked me out.
Tuned up high (just below choking), the snare gave me a tight, funky ring, but didn’t give up any of that big body. Those diecast hoops kept the overtones under control, but still left enough liveliness in the note to give it some spark.
As much as it loved going up high, the Outlaw snare felt like it was born to live low. Slacking some of the tension off the top head gave me that big, burly boom that rock records absolutely love. The sharp, 45 degree bearing edges and thicker shell kept the attack in focus, but left plenty of room for fat, bumping bottom end. I just couldn’t get enough of this thing tuned low.
Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be happier to give this drum to one of you guys, but damn I’m going to miss it.
The history and construction of this drum are the real standouts, but Outlaw’s decision to equip it with some killer appointments really help seal the deal. First, the addition of tube lugs and diecast hoops made it easy to dial in the fat, microphone-ready sound this drum lives for. I’m not always a fan of diecast hoops, but their use here was a perfect choice.
Next, the single-ply, coated, Evans batter head and 16 strand Puresound wires gave the drum a professional sound with no need to tinker. It drives me insane when builders use cheap wires on drums of this quality, so I was very pleased to see the even, crisp Puresounds in place.
The drum also ships with a Dunnett R4 throw and butt combo. Simply put, this just rules. A bad or poorly functioning throw can really curb a drum’s appeal, so having access to such a smooth, efficiently designed unit is a huge plus. I won’t take up a bunch of extra space with a breakdown of all the R4’s features, but I’d thoroughly recommend a quick Google search to learn more about the excellent accessory.
Finally, the hardware finish and badge totally took the drum’s eye appeal to a new level. Outlaw hand-rubbed the chrome finish to give it a stunning brushed steel look that adds to the historic, rustic appearance. That, coupled with Outlaw’s antiqued, rough-edged badge just killed me. Absolutely beautiful.
Alright, so that wasn’t short at all, but I’ll keep the wrap up nice and tight. The drum I received from Outlaw is just about a perfect ten. Clean, focused, versatile and drop dead gorgeous, this snare is beyond special. One of you is going to win a truly extraordinary instrument. No question about it.
Michael, you really hit this one out of the park.
Contest open to United States and Canadian residents only. Entry closes June 19th at 11:59 PM EST. One winner will be selected at random the following week. One entry per person. Winner will be notified via email; please add [email protected] to your safe sender list to make sure you receive winning notification email. Note: Only one entry submission required. System will not issue a confirmation email or message. Simply input information and click submit.