From the February 2017 issue of DRUM! | By Brad Schlueter
INDe Drum Lab is a new drum company and the brainchild of Josh Allen, the design engineer and creative force behind Ludwig’s innovative Atlas hardware and Signet drum lines. Allen knows drummers want great drums, but also want the biggest bang for their bucks. He thinks he’s found a way to provide both by making thin, lightweight drums, designed with minimal bells and whistles and a maximum focus on tone, which he sells direct from the factory to keep prices low. It almost sounded too good to be true, so we decided to test-drive a kit. Here’s what we found.
We received a bass drum, four toms, and two snares. INDe’s typical configuration is a 3-piece kit, although buyers can add on any number of drums to the basic setup. Our review kit included a 22″ bass drum; 10″, 12″, and 13″ mounted toms; and a 16″ floor tom. We also got a chance to check out 14″ x 5″ maple and 14″ x 6.5″ brass snare drums. Other available sizes include bass drums ranging from 18″ to 26″ and toms from 10″ to 18″ in diameter.
One of the first things I noticed while unpacking the kit was how remarkably lightweight each drum is. That’s always a welcome feature if you’re a busy gigging drummer. But that asset doesn’t simply count as a back-saver — it actually contributes to the sound of the kit, as we soon learned.
These 100-percent maple shells have a unique Flex-Tuned design, where three horizontally oriented plies alternate with two vertical ones to create a strong but thin 4.7mm frame (thinner than most shells on the market). Instead of using the same thickness for all plies, INDe combines thicker sheets for horizontal plies with thinner vertical plies, which contribute to the drums’ wide tuning range and enhanced resonance. Bearing edges have a full roundover to increase the amount of energy transferred to the shell.
Our maple snare has the same shell design as the rest of our kit, while the deeper brass snare has a 1.0mm-thick beadless flanged shell. INDe also offers a brushed aluminum snare.
Our review kit was finished in INDe’s blue satin stain — a rich, deep blue color that doesn’t obscure the wood’s grain structure. It’s very attractive and flawlessly crafted. Other standard finishes include red, black, natural, and mahogany. I appreciate that INDe just calls it “blue” and didn’t name it something cutesy like “Azure Sky.” Custom finishes are available by request at an additional price.
I usually prefer glossy lacquer finishes because they seem to offer a bit more protection from scratches, and the gloss helps hide any that occur. But you have to remember that INDe is obsessed with resonance, and offers only water-based satin finishes because they’re lighter than heavy multi-coat glossy lacquers and plastic wrapped finishes. While the difference between satin and glossy finishes may be subtle, you might be shocked to discover how much resonance and sensitivity a wrapped shell loses compared to a satin one.
Our wood snare has a natural maple finish and the brass model has an attractive black nickel finish. Bass drum hoops are natural maple, which provide a striking contrast to the shell color.
One subtle difference between INDe drums and most others on the market is that INDe doesn’t use rubber gaskets to isolate metal parts from the wood shell. Allen realized that a typical kit uses a significant amount of rubber, and since rubber is a highly effective sound absorber, he decided to eliminate it completely from his drums. His philosophy is: minimal mass equals maximum resonance.
INDe’s lug is a lightweight design that excels in both form and function. Aesthetically, it’s elegant, with an attractive arch shape that’s also practical because it reduces weight and contacts the shell at only two points in order to maximize tone. The end of the arch closest to the bearing edge is slightly wider than the other side, since it shoulders most of the downward force when the head is tensioned. The end of the arch facing the center of the shell requires less mass since it’s pulled upward by the tension rod. Rather than use typical nylon inserts, the brass receiver is held in place with a minimalistic retaining clip.
Snare drum lugs are double-sided, which alters the arch shape so that each end flares out to accept a tension rod. Snare drums feature just eight double-sided lugs rather than the more customary ten. The eight-lug design is adequate for most high-tension tuning — unless you really need to crank it up for a reggae gig — but having fewer lugs also contributes to the snare drums’ overall resonance, which, again, is the name of INDe’s game. The bass drum has ten single lugs per side, floor toms have eight, and mounted toms have six.
The company designed its own suspension-mounting bracket for securing bass drum spurs and floor tom legs, which can also be adapted as a rack tom mounting system. It’s small, lightweight, utilitarian, and extremely clever. The system is U-shaped and has four drum key screws: One pair attaches the mount to the shell, while the other two let you slide the mount up or down to find the point of optimum resonance and “tune” the decay. The shape of the mount lets it flex a little when in use.
The two screws that attach the suspension mount to the shell fit in a slot that can accommodate different drill-hole patterns ranging from 1″ to 2″ inches. That means you can retrofit it to accommodate a vintage mounted tom or replace a set of floor-tom leg brackets without drilling the shell and turning a “collectible” drum into a much less valuable “player’s” drum. The mount is available as an aftermarket item for $39.99, and accommodates knurled rods ranging from 9.5mm to 12.7mm in diameter, which are secured with a large, unique T-handled wing screw.
Rather than using stock foldout bass drum spurs, INDe uses removable 10.5mm spurs that slide into its bracket. The bass drum claws are arch-shaped and, as you’d probably expect, the mounts lack isolation gaskets. An optional bass drum tom mount is also available.
OTHER SHELL HARDWARE
Snare drums, mounted toms, and floor toms come standard with heavy-duty 2.3mm triple-flanged steel hoops, although brass and die-cast hoops are also available at an additional cost. INDe badges are vented and install over the vent hole of each drum.
INDe’s strainer is a side-throw model, and its slotted design adapts to mounting holes spaced from 1 to 2.5 inches, so it can be retrofitted on other brands (available as an aftermarket part for $44.99). It has a quasi-Art-Deco style with a pointed lever, which operates smoothly. The fine-tuning knob features an embossed INDe logo and turns easily, and the butt plate is simple and functional. The snares sent with the review kit were fitted with 20-strand bronze wires; however, 20- and 42-strand steel wires are also available at no extra charge.
Our toms came with Aquarian Texture Coated single-ply heads on the top and bottom. The maple snare has the same batter head over a clear snare-side head, and our brass snare has a single-ply Texture Coated With Reverse Dot batter and clear snare side. Our bass drum has an Aquarian Super-Kick I bass drum batter and a Texture Coated solid logo head. Buyers aren’t limited to these models, though, and can choose any combination of Aquarian heads that suit their tastes.
I wasn’t sure if I’d like the shallower 14″-deep bass drum. It has a deep pitch, reasonable attack, and the head choice kept it from being too boomy. While jamming, I noticed the suspension mounts allow the drum to bounce a tiny bit, which I presume helps it resonate. If these were mine, I’d choose a ported head to let the air escape faster and add a touch more punch to the drum.
With some other brands of toms, you may notice that each head resonates separately, with different pitches or unique overtones. That wasn’t the case here. These toms have great sustain and smooth decays, and are easily tuned. I didn’t have to spend a lot of time dialing them in. In fact, a couple of the toms sound great right out of the box.
Sliding the tom up and down on the INDe suspension mount let me adjust sustain and resonance, just as advertised. Once I found the optimum position, tightening the screws locked it in place. When you buy an INDe kit, expect to play around with each drum a bit to find the position that sounds best. Some drummers like to mount their rack tom on a snare stand, so this suspension mount is an optional item, although it’s reasonably priced.
The deeper brass snare has everything a rock drummer wants: Power, volume, and enough cut to slice through a band like a hot knife through butter. The tone is meaty, with a nice top-end that isn’t harsh, and clear rim-clicks and rimshots. It has some overtones, but they only contributed to the drum’s rock vibe. If you usually hit hard, the extra depth will help your hands feel better at the end of a long gig.
Both snares are good, but my favorite is the maple model. This drum proved very useful for most of the gigs I play. I’d probably prefer a couple more lugs if I always tuned it in the stratosphere, but for most tunings, eight is enough. Rim-clicks and rimshots are also good here, but weren’t as loud as they were on the maple drum.
INDe achieved what it set out to do. While some of these clever design features may have an imperceptible impact on tone by themselves, when used in combination they result in a warm, resonant kit. Beyond the solid tone, these are innovative, beautiful American-made drums that won’t injure your wallet.