Monday, August 04, 2014

Sonor Phonics are something else

As I mentioned, I just picked up a Sonor Phonic bop set, which I had been coveting for a couple of years. My overwhelming impression is that this is really the Tiger tank of bop drum sets, not least because they're really, ridiculously heavy, and look it— the floor tom weighs about as much as the 12 and 14 together from the Slingerland Artist Custom set the Sonors replaced. And the Slingerlands are not light drums.

Tuned low, the drums “play” two inches bigger than they are— the bass drum, 4 inches. They feel and sound huge, like driving a very large car. Like Bonham. It's insane. God knows what playing a larger set would be like, but rock-sized Phonics in standard depths can still be gotten pretty cheaply, if anyone is curious— I've seen some pretty ridiculous bargains on those.

In a jazz tuning, they have a lot of presence and clarity, with a very round sound. Very tonal and Dejohnette-like. Like real Gretsch drums (~20+ year old ones, before they started screwing with their formula), the Phonics have a unique sound. I can't put my finger on it, but it's rather 70's, and a definite change from the more contemporary-sounding Slingerlands (still available on eBay for a few more hours!) which have been my main drums for the last five years.

The Eames snare drum sounds great, too. Very refined, different from any other snare drum I've owned. Highly recommend trying their shells if you're building a drum— used prices on complete drums sets are extremely reasonable, too.


Anonymous said...

Nice review on these great drums. I play a Phonic kit. They are loud and tough and very musical.

Mattias said...

I have the very same kit myself. Agree on the bass drum, the sound of that relative small drum is so powerful. Do you know what it could be worth nowadays? Hade my kit for 17-18 years, but it's dated 1983.

Todd Bishop said...

In the year that I've owned them, I'm still totally loving them, and looking to expand the set-- tuned high they have this beautiful pianistic sound, and tuned low they have that Joey Baron circa 1990 thud. The bop sets are pretty spendy these days-- I think I paid ~$1850 for these last year-- just the three drums, 12/14/18, with tom legs and mount. Probably into the low $2000s for rosewood or other natural finish. I've seen Phonics in normal sizes going much cheaper, from $500-1100 for four or five drums. It looks like it's very hard for people to move the Phonic Pluses-- the power tom sets-- at all.