Reviews of AD Drums

Rhythm Magazine Birch & Padauk Snare Drums

Dave Holmes (Rhythm) March 2, 2015

A dynamic snare duo from one of the UK’s most imaginative custom drum houses.

For around 8 years Carl Haffield has been making his mark on in the drum world with a range of custom drums. In this relatively short space of time, he has successfully build a reputation for his imaginative and sometimes outlandish colour and material combinations and his inventive use of materials, finishes and hardware produces drums as stunning as they are individual.

AD Drums Birch & Padauk Snare Drums

AD Drums Birch & Padauk Snare Drums

In Detail
Up for review are two snare examples from AD’s Malvern Workshop, both of which appear to be erring slightly on the conservative side for AD. Especially when you consider the many off the wall drum designs such as ‘Plybrid’ – an unearthly combination of wood and acrylic plys, or, if that’s not enough to convince you about his split shell snares – where the drum is literally separated into two sections with nothing but fresh air in between the two parts? Enough said?
First up is the stylish and elegant 14”x7” stave construction Padauk finished in a natural, beautiful deep red hue typical of this exotic African hardwood, the antique copper finish to the tube lugs and triple flanged hoops is the perfect compliment to the dark wood, given this drum an incredibly solid but still quite understated appearance.
While the paduak drum is made form solid stave segments, Carl says it is not constructed in the same way most stave shells – as the individual sections are cut on a CNC machine, form a tongue and groove system to lock each piece together into the familiar cylindrical shape of a drum. Once fashioned “like a barrel”, the shell is sanded smoothly and treated to a hardwood oil to pressure the lustre and protect the drum.
Next it’s the nostalgic looking birch ply which, at 14x6.5, is only slightly shallower than the chunky paduak. This is finished with a wrap of teal blue pearl with a 28mm insert of aged white marine pearl. This slightly off-centre band gives the appearance of a drum that has spent its working life in some smoke-filled jazz bar. The tube lugs assist with this retro ambiance, complementing the purposely-aged wrap.
Hoops for the birch are provided by a pair of S-Hoop counter hoops, these are designed to give focus with the aid of a rather large, oversized overhang which points inwards towards the head centre. This also gives additional strength to the hoop and has all the benefits of a rigid die-cast hoop while being incredibly stick (and hand, if you’re that way inclined) friendly.
For the throw off on this mode AD Has plumped for the trick GS007 –regular Rhythm readers will know of my penchant for this superbly engineered throw off.
Heads of choice and for the other mode here are Remo – The birch has a powerstroke 3 but there is an ambassador fitted to the paduak.. Carl Says the make of the head is really up to the customer, he admits that he just likes to experiment with different heads combinations – a bit like in his shells, then!

Hands On
The hoops f both snares make it easy to pinpoint and adjusy the slightest pitch difference. Initially, where there is a slight drop, there’s noticeably less resistance from the tuning bolt, fortunately confirming I’m at the right lug, Also, the opposing side of the drum can be effected – where necessary, this is also adjusted. Both drums have been tuned to roughly the same pitch – I am hoping this will help highlight the differences between each model.
After a few strikes on the birch, my ears and sticks are enjoying themselves – the top flange of the s hoops is perfectly angled so the stick shoulder has maximum contact with both head and the hoop, this produces a beefy, rich crack which is really quite pleasant and not so sharp or high pitched to make you want to wince. I am sure though, it would make anyone in close proximity blink like crazy.
For all its bulk, the paduak isn’t quite as ballsy as its stature may suggest, the combination of thick shell and single ply Ambassador creates more of cut but less guts. The head also maintains a wide open drums with plenty of overtone and bags of volume, ensuring this has far reaching projection to the back of the venue. While this isn’t the most subtle of drums, preferring to be played with a bit more conviction, the result is a carving through walls of sound ensuring every second and forth beat is clearly heard.

From the first strike the birch shell responds with an impressive level of attack followed by some woody warmth. The powerstroke 3 does a great job of providing plenty of ‘oomph’ when needed. Though it does have a gutsy fundamental it isn’t anywhere near as severing as the paduak. That well-aimied shoulder crack across that S-hoop reminds me of its head turning capabilities. When it comes time for something more subtle there is so much control at hand with the combination of drum and puresound snares – from a wispy tickle to a full wallop (and everything in between), this highlights its musical articulation and versatility.

Rating - 4 / 5 stars

Build quality - 4 / 5 stars

Playability - 4 / 5 stars

Value for money - 5 / 5 stars

Verdict - AD has once again produced some impressive snare drums - Carl's design prowess and attention to detail never wavers or wanes

Drummer Magazine Cast Acrylic Kit Review

Nick Carter (Drummer Editor) January, 2014

Control and consistency from this fresh and funky kit.

From watching John Bonham in the 1970’s pounding away behind a set of Vistalites, through the glamour of hair-rock in the 80’s to the modern-day, funky looking beauties available from a range of custom builders and major manufacturers, here at Drummer we’ve been long time fans of Acrylic drums. When AD Custom Drums told us they were sending us a set, we couldn’t wait to pull out our best Bonham inspired licks to put them through the test.

AD Drums Cast Acrylic Kit

AD Drums Cast Acrylic KitAD Drums- UK Acrylic Drums

In Detail
The shell pack consists of a 12x8 rack tom, a 16x14 hanging floor tom and a 20x20 kick drum. The translucent red highly polished cast shells are completely seamless, offering greater strength and consistency than seamed acrylic shells, each shell is 6mm thick with 45 degree bearing edges top and bottom. The kit’s white powdercoated hardware stands out in stark contrast to the shells, adding a unique and funky aesthetic to the overall finish. The drums are equipped with mini bridge tube lugs six per side on the 12” tom and eight on both the 16” and 20” drums, and this reveals a neat little feature as each is offset from its counter part at the opposite end of the shell. The kick sports matching red acrylic hoops held in place by two point claws as well as a pair of chunky spurs to hold it firmly in place once set. The toms are stand mounted via free floating mounts although at request the floor tom can be supplied with legs if prefered. The kit is furnished with Remo heads throughout, with the toms sporting Coated Emperors on top coupled with Clear Ambassador on resonant duties while the kick has a Powerstroke ||| on the batter and a Fiberskyn front complete with s funky red kickport in keeping with the kit’s finish. Finally each of the tom heads are held in place by 2.3mm triple-flanged hoops, again finished in white powdercoating.

In Use
Starting at the low tuning, with each of the heads jut above the wrinkle point, you get a very low rumbling sound with masses of depth and plenty of body. At this tuning the bass drum is a little too loose when played at quitter volumes, giving a slightly thin sound with the slap from the head more audible then the body delivered from the drum. As you increase the volume of your strokes the drum quickly comes to life to offer a loud,well-projected note with masses of attack couple with short decay. It’s a similar story with the toms at this tuning: quiet notes sound a little loose ut as you increase in volume they deliver a full fat sound with masses of attack and a very controlled amount of sustain. Taking tension up half a turn on each tendon rod around the kit provides you with not only an increase in pitch, but also opens up each drum slightly. The kick gives a much fuller sound at lower volumes while retaining the attack and projection found at the lower tuning register, while the toms sound much fuller and more dynamic too. Taking the tuning up one further to a medium high pitch on each drum helps the kit find its optimum voice. The kick sounds full, fat and warm with oodles of depth,including noticeable amounts of sub bass frequencies, and masses of volume and projection. The Toms are equally loud, making for an overall rounded kit sound. One thing that is immediately noticeable about this kit,at whatever tuning , is the amount of control the acrylic shells bring to the sound. At no point do you feel it necessary to reach for any from of dampening, as the sound produced is tempered to such an extent, that when listening acoustically , you could easily convince yourself that each is mic’d up and being run throughout a selection of well set EQ and compression units. Whether its to be used live or for studio work, this fine kit will provide you with a very clear, focused and controlled sound.

This kit gives a very funky and fresh vibe, the the combination of highly polished red shells and brilliant white hardware complementing each other perfectly. Upon closer inspection all the drums are made to the highest quality, the the cast, seamless shell feeling smooth and visually flawless. Im not a great fn of hanging floor toms. but this one felt perfectly stable even under the heaviest of onslaughts, although having the option of ordering the drum complete with legs is a welcome one. The obvious overriding quality of the kit produces is the control that the acrylic shells provide, the the attack and short, tempered sustain making for a kit that sounds as good as it looks.

MusicRadar Rating - 4 / 5 stars

Pros - Striking looks. Characterful sounds. S-Hoop counter hoops.

Cons - Not everyone will dig the look.

Verdict - A unique combination of materials and tones that shows off AD Drums craftsmanship and design flair.

Rhythm Magazine Snare Review

Dave Holmes (Rhythm) December 17, 2012

The man behind AD Drums, and this hybrid snare, Carl Haffield, began "dabbling" in drums at the tender age of 14, having been asked to shorten the depths of a complete high-end kit for a mate!

"The AD Drums range makes a pick'n'mix counter appear dull in comparison" Fortunately, instead of an act of drum brutality, the 'conversion' was a complete success, retaining the friendship and sowing the seeds of the potential for a business in drum construction and customisation. However, it wasn't until 2007 that Carl (who has recently just turned 27), established AD Drums fully. Since then he has amassed a lavish back-catalogue of bespoke snares and complete kits in a huge range of colours, materials (hybrid, acrylic, wood, metal, etc), drum metal work components - a drum assortment that makes a pick'n'mix counter appear dull in comparison.

AD Drums Cherry/Birch Snare - A strikingly striped snare drum

AD Drums Cherry and Maple Snare Drum

With its maple ply counter hoops and recessed tuning bolts, this cherry/birch snare is quite striking - it is extremely difficult to stop touching the drum, it is a beautiful object! The shell is constructed from alternate vertical staves of solid cherry and birch, pieced together with precise tongue and groove jointing. The bearing edges are cut dead-centre of the 12mm-deep stave and spaced to coincide with every other section of the 10 chromed tube lugs.The final touch comes from the excellent GS007 trick throw-off - a well-engineered and commendable inclusion on such a snare.

Hands On
After a quick check and smooth adjustment of the head tensions, the cherry/birch combo is awarded with a few strikes. Cross-sticking over the maple rim gives a deep woody clonk and a pleasant warm snare 'thwock' when struck dead-centre.This is a drum which comes with built-in finesse and grace and demands respectful brush work or delicate ghost notes when played with a pair of light sticks.

MusicRadar Rating - 4 / 5 stars

Pros - Great build quality. Looks brilliant. Lots of warm, graceful tones.

Cons - Not much.

Verdict - Demonstrating an imaginative use of materials and colours, this is an ideal snare for those looking for a subtle partner to brushes and light sticks.

AD Drums Maple/Acrylic/Maple Hybrid Snare - Hard to resist picking up the drum and having a sneak peek inside

AD Drums Hybrid Snare Drum

This maple/acrylic hybrid is certainly an intriguing drum with several eye-catching and worthy features, not least, with the acrylic insert, S-Hoop counter hoops and RCI throw-off. The S-Hoop has a massive overhanging top flange which sits only a millimetre or so away from batter/snare heads. The hoop should assist with an even tuning and give the drum more focus and body and has the potential to produce some of the most wicked rim-shots known to man! Unfortunately, these particular models have some fiercely sharp edges which will need care when handling the drum. With a slightly off-the-wall blend of two 15-ply maple rings sited top and bottom, sandwiching a light-ish blue acrylic ringed section, this is a wholly fascinating material that makes it hard to resist picking up the drum and having a sneak peek inside. Like the other models, this also sports tube-style lugs but these are slightly extended to allow the bolt fixing into the maple sections of the shell.

Hands On
The combination of Pinstripe batter and the S-Hoop counter hoops on this maple/acrylic hybrid tightens and focuses the drum sound. The maple inserts and the S-Hoop certainly add a little more body and character than your average opaque snare.

MusicRadar Rating - 4 / 5 stars

Pros - Striking looks. Characterful sounds. S-Hoop counter hoops.

Cons - Not everyone will dig the look.

Verdict - A unique combination of materials and tones that shows off AD Drums craftsmanship and design flair.

AD Drums Steel Snare - An all steel-snare drum that proves its metal

AD Drums Steel Snare Drum

This robust steel snare is an all-metal drum - and a weighty one at that. This model sports a nickel-plated exterior over an embossed, criss-cross, diamond-shaped pattern upon the shell wall. Much like the DrumCraft snares reviewed recently, this snare also has an industrial vibe - an ambience echoed by the slender chromed tube lugs, individual mini-claws and single-flanged steel hoops. Inside too, this theme is sustained with the hex-bolt lug fixings, steely grey shell wall and precision scribes of the lathe work. The upper and lower portions of the shell form the bearing edges out of the highly-skilled machining, featuring a 45° cut with two flat portions where the snare strainer wires nestle. The throw-off is a simple side-lever mechanism with a single knurled adjuster and a non-adjustable butt-end.

Hands On
Pitched against a barrage of noisy amplification there is little sign this steel snare will show the white flag. It is fully in control of the backbeat with plenty of cut and projection at hand when struck with gusto. Giving it some with a well-aimed rim-shot confirms the drum is fully capable of sonic decapitation. The 3mm steel shell and Remo Powerstroke X batter is a formidable, powerful partnership. Roll up those sleeves and prepare to rock!

MusicRadar Rating - 4 / 5 stars

Pros - Great build quality. Lots of cut and projection. Good value for money.

Cons - Not much.

Verdict - This is a great snare drum, demonstrating Carl's flair for design, eye for detail and standard of craftsmanship.

Reviews of AD Drums sister company Forecast Drums

Rhythm Magazine Forecast Drums Acrylic Kit

Richard Chamberlain (Rhythm) January 2, 2015

Drum building duo's acrylic cracker

This month we welcome a brand new name into our reviews section - Forecast Drums. Well, almost brand new. Forecast is in fact an offshoot firm set up by Carl Haffield of AD Drums and Jamie Cross of JC Drums. The difference between Forecast and this UK drum building duo's respective brands is that Forecast produces nothing but acrylic drums. After causing more than a ripple of interest at the Manchester Drum Show earlier this year, Forecast carted a kit down to Rhythm HQ for the review treatment.

Forecast Drums Amber Acrylic Mini Bop Kit

Forecast Drums Amber Mini Bop KitForecast Drums Amber Mini Kit

The kit we have here is a four-piece in distinctive Amber Orange. We have an 18"x14" bass drum, 10"x7" tom, 13"x10" floor tom and 13"x6" snare. The toms are both stand-mounted. While the bass drum is forged from 8mm-thick acrylic, the toms and snare are 6mm thick. Evans heads and PureSound snare wires are supplied as standard.
We asked Carl about the making of the kit, and he said: "All of our shells are cast so there is no seam, this makes them solid as can be. All shells are trued/squared and then measured/marked out for lug placement, we pilot-hole each mark and then set to work on any finishing, whether it be external or internal. This could be adding wraps, decals, paint etc.
"Once finish is applied we edge all the drums with a 45° bearing edge unless another is specified. We then drill through all the pilots using a range of special drill bits which reduce tear-out. Attach all the lugs and hardware, add heads and away we go!"
One of several eye-catching aspects of the kit is the White Marine Pearl hoop on the bass drum. Carl tells us that this was produced in-house. He explains:
"I have spent a lot of time in the printing and graphics industry and created custom wraps for many years, the chance came around to invest and buy the machinery needed to print and create everything in-house. "I think what sets the wraps I create apart from other people creating them is the artwork. As it's all done in-house by a drummer who is in the custom building industry, I know what I want to see, making it easy to create a custom product that resembles wraps we all know and love."
Forecast offers snares from £199 and kits starting at £899. This review kit was sold at an introductory price of £999.

Hands On
Acrylic drums have a long history in the drum world. They will, of course, forever be linked with John Bonham thanks to the Ludwig Vistalites that the Led Zeppelin giant used to batter on stage. But, plenty of other big-name players have also been wooed by acrylic. Chad Smith, for example, can often be seen playing a Pearl acrylic kit live. But there's the rub, Chad may play his acrylic live, but in the studio he reverts back to wood. Can this kit from Forecast make us ditch maple, birch, bubinga et al?
First impressions are that the kit is certainly visually striking. The amber shells looks fantastic and the gold hardware adds a real touch of class. It looks even better once we have the kit set up at our rehearsal space. As a matter of personal preference we usually opt for a floor tom with legs rather than the stand-mounted tom we have here, but given that going the latter route removes the need for any further drilling into this seamless acrylic shell then we can see why this choice was made.
The snare is the first of the drums to get the playing treatment as we subject it to a few sturdy smacks to the heart followed quickly by a couple of buzz rolls. It handles both with aplomb. The depth of its tone is something of a surprise, and within a couple of minutes we've gone from a pingy shriek to a barbarically fat attack. If we're being picky it would have been nice to have included a sturdier snare strainer, but this is just about the only issue that we have with the snare build. So far, so good.
So, onto the rest of the kit. The 10"x7" rack tom has attack to burn but is also coupled with more body than we'd usually expect from such a small drum. A whack to the centre produces a pop full of character, again far more lively than we would have expected from an acrylic drum of such size. Rolling from the rack to the 13"x10" floor instantly shows that the latter has even more focused sound, with the kind of depth we've come to expect from a 14"x12" or even a 14"x14". It is this kind of performance that allows the kit to be deceptively versatile, a much-welcome attribute in these days of financial frugality. The real star of the show though, is the diddy kick drum. At just 18"x14" it looks mildly comical amidst our ample cymbal set-up, but one kick of our bass pedal and it becomes clear that this is no laughing matter. While one would expect the shallow nature of the drum would vastly reduce the volume, it absolutely explodes into life with punchy sound that has smirking guitarists quickly running for cover. And this is the sound right out of the box. Over the course of the next week we spend a fair old whack of time fiddling with the tuning, but we find that this original tuning is as good as it gets, and that is just fine with us. While the kick fights against its diminutive specifications to deliver a satisfyingly punchy sound, it does comply to some of our usual expectations. The shallow depth, as expected, produces a focused tone free of wild overtones. Special mention must go to the supplied Evans Emad head, which does superb job at taming the tones, and the same can be said for the rest of the kit. Evans Level 360 heads are supplied as standard - a nice touch, especially for a UK-custom acrylic kit that is being sold for less than £1,000.

Throughout our test we try to put the kit in as many musical situations as possible, and it comes through each and every one with flying colours. At our rehearsal studio it powers '80s rock, '90s indie and '00s pop with ease and makes just as impressive a fist of some funk and jazz staples. It's a ridiculously versatile kit, a rocky pocket rocket one minute and a refined performer the next. It's also a joy to look at, drawing second glances from fellow drummers time and again. It's not just in its versatility that this debut from Forecast surprises us. As a package it shows us the very best of acrylic kits, without any of the tonal concerns that have dogged such set-ups for decades. It has the focused punchy attack that such kits have always possessed, but there's also a definite warmth to its tone. Oh, and it of course looks absolutely sublime. This is a kit that Bonham would have surely been proud to beat all kinds of hell out of.

MusicRadar Rating - 5 / 5 stars

Pros - Sounds superb. Able to handle all sorts of musical situations. Great looks. Excellent price given the tones, build quality and UK origin.

Cons - Could do with a sturdier snare strainer.

Verdict - Acrylic kits may have been accused of having style over substance down the decades, but the Forecast kit (alongside other recent sonically superb set-ups), is turning the tide. And for the price there's no excuse not to give acrylic a try.

We endorse these brands for our Bespoke Custom Drums