Sonor questions

phdamage

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apologies if my searching skills have underserved me, but I didn't seem to find a clear answer - and I somehow can't even register at the sonormuseum forum?

anyway, i've seen folks on here speak to Phonic being their top of the line. is that just for certain time periods - if so, which one(s)?

I've noticed some price lists from the 80s showing both the Lite series and Signature series costing significantly more.

I just got some lite shells and am mildly horrified by hardware prices to build them out. is there a budget kit i should look for to strip parts that could/would be cost effective? i'm in no hurry, so happy to be patient for something to come around.
 

NobleCooleyNut

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Various series were Sonor’s top line at one time or another .

Phonic was their top lines then I order :
Signature
Sonorlite
Hilite
Designer
SQ2

Not sure the exact years they were offered .
 

dingaling

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What do you mean build them out?

what hardware are you talking about? Stands or Tom holder or lugs?
 

Nacci

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I don’t know that anyone is administering Sonormuseum anymore. The vast majority of activity and membership has moved to the Sonor and Vintage Sonor groups on Facebook.

The original Administrator of Sonormuseum; Scott Longsdon? Sic. Is a member at Vintage Sonor. Perhaps PM him.

I don’t think the Phonics were that eras top of the line, pretty sure it was the Signature series. Frank Godiva is here and he will know that lineage.
 

JDA

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Germandrummer

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I guess Phonics started in 1975 and were - regarding prices - Sonor`s top line until Signatures started.

Comparing my Centennial Phonics and my 1982 Champions, I could not state any difference in terms of build quality.
Signatures might have more distinctive woods and veneers but I doubt there was any difference concerning craftmanship.

It`s like comparing 190E and a 560SEL. A huge difference in prices but none concerning build quality.
 

Elvis

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Different series for different times.
Phonic was flagship in the 70's and part of the 80's.
When Signature came online, it became the ultimate kit for the whole time they existed.
Sonorlite was an attempt at a more contemporary design, and was Birch (as opposed to Beech).
However, it was not an "economy" drumkit by any means.
You could think of it as....
Sonorlite = newer lightweight shell
Phonic = older Heavyweight shell
Both top end kits.
Don't know of a cheap source for hardware, besides the used market sites.

Elvis
 
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Elvis

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apologies if my searching skills have underserved me, but I didn't seem to find a clear answer - and I somehow can't even register at the sonormuseum forum?

anyway, i've seen folks on here speak to Phonic being their top of the line. is that just for certain time periods - if so, which one(s)?

I've noticed some price lists from the 80s showing both the Lite series and Signature series costing significantly more.

I just got some lite shells and am mildly horrified by hardware prices to build them out. is there a budget kit i should look for to strip parts that could/would be cost effective? i'm in no hurry, so happy to be patient for something to come around.
Possible parts source - https://www.facebook.com/groups/530758634368471/
 

Frank Godiva

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Great question. All good info presented so far. The Museum forum for all practical purposes is dead.

Congratulations on the Lite shells, but as you have noted the parts can be expensive. All the 80s Snap Lock lugs are the same with a few cosmetic details between the lines, but they all fit each other. Center post mounts also have some differences, but are interchangeable. The rims were made in house and are the same across the lines as well. So Phonic, Signature, and Performer parts will work to get your SonorLites playable again.

So what is top of the line for Sonor? Today it is pretty easy; its the custom built to order known as SQ2 but started with the Designer Series in the mid 90s. The Designers were the first line to have parts unique to itself; most notably the rocket launcher mounting system which set it apart from all other offerings at the time. It is also a dramatic shift from all in house manufacturing to the modern multination manufacturing with many more parts having to be outsourced.

So what was the top of the line for classic Link Era? The definition of quality was more old world under Horst Link and was covered in a 1985 issue of Modern Drummer.

“It is Sonor's range of drumkits and the company's dedicated, but possibly slightly controversial, approach to drum design that will be of most interest to readers of Modern Drummer. Sonor makes five different ranges of drums. They are, starting at the top: Signature (Heavy and Light), Sonorlite, Phonic, Phonic Plus, and Performer. For the purposes of instant recognition (the other differences will be dealt with as we go along), the Signature series has the gold badge, the Sonorlite series has the black badge, the Phonic series and Phonic Plus series have the silver badge, and the Performer series has a silver badge with a yellow flash below the logo. There would be a tendency for any potential customer to line up, in his or her mind, this range of drumkits alongside the products of any other company that makes a range of four or more different-quality kits and start thinking in terms of equivalents.

Sorry, but this just can't be done! In Europe, Sonor's Phonic/Phonic Plus range (the third one down!), which the company describes as the "foundation" of their program, is slightly more expensive than most British, American, or Japanese kits aimed at the professional end of the market. This means that they have two ranges that go beyond this level. The Performer is cheaper, but it is hardly a budget kit, being priced somewhere between anybody else's professional and mid-range kits. In America, Sonor drums are even more expensive, so the ratio becomes even more extreme. You could almost say that Sonor starts at the point where other drum companies leave off. Why?

I had a round-table discussion with Horst, Andreas, and Oliver Link, and also Steve Gardner, Director of Sonor UK, the British marketing operation, who gave the salesman's viewpoint. Horst Link explained their approach to quality in manufacturing. "We don't try to compete with the big manufacturers, like the Japanese, in terms of quantity; we compete with quality. We maintain a quality that is better and has a higher standard than anything else. Our drums are expensive there's no doubt about that-but we have no intention of making compromises. We will never sacrifice quality for a cheaper price. You might suggest that, if we brought the price down, we could sell more drums, but we can't bring the price down and maintain the quality. We would rather sell fewer drums than compromise in this way.

The idea of the Signature series was for us to come out with a drumkit that couldn't be made better. It should really be the best! Forget the price. Even if it was so expensive that nobody could afford it, we just wanted to build the best. We never intended it as a big seller, but as it turned out, it exceeded all our expectations. For the home market, we sell more Phonic, Phonic Plus, and Performer kits, but in other countries where we are 'in the lions' den' and the competition is greater, like America and Japan, the Signature is the best-selling kit in our whole range. There is also the fact that we sell more kits in America than anywhere else, so you can see how successful it has become."

Sonor buys a few small components such as screws, threaded bolts, small pressed items, and the rubber feet for stands. Three thousand different raw materials come into the factory, and they are used in the manufacture of 2,000 different parts. As certain parts are used for more than one item, they actually produce 2,800 different finished products.

It is part of Sonor's policy to manufacture "in series," in order to ensure that they always have enough manufactured items in stock to meet any orders that come in. This means that they will produce enough of the items that they have to tool up for at any one time, so that the relatively straightforward procedure of assembling them can be done quickly and efficiently on demand. This also means that a customer won't have to wait months, until the next time the production line is making a drumshell of a particular size. The shell can just be taken from stock, covered if necessary, and assembled.”
 
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Frank Godiva

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On to the wood: We visited the storeroom in which the stacks of wood are kept. Sonor drums are made from two, three, or four layers of three-ply wood, depending on the model. "It is most important," said Andreas, "that we keep control over the quality of the wood. So we buy the wood ourselves before it is made into three ply. We supply our subcontractor with the raw materials for making the plywood, and this way we guarantee the quality." The sheets of ply are stored in a cool room until four days before they are needed for the manufacture of drumshells, at which time they are taken into the much warmer room in which the shells are made. It is necessary for the wood to have time to become acclimatized to the temperature of the shell room, because when the shells are made, the pieces of ply are pressed together at a high temperature.

Wood is sensitive to temperature, and after the ply sections are cut to size, there is no room for error if the ply happens to expand or contract during the process. The inner pieces of ply are cut at an angle to give a diagonal join where the two ends meet. The outer layer is cut straight. The cut sheets are then placed between special rollers that coat them evenly with glue. The sheets that are to become the inside and outside of the drumshell are only coated on one side, while the ones that are to be sandwiched between them are coated on both sides. They are now ready to go into the shell machine.

There is a different machine for each diameter of shell size that Sonor makes. The machines are very sophisticated molds, for molding sheets of plywood together. There is a cylindrical outer casing, the inside of which is the same size as the outside of the required drumshell. The plywood sheets are bent by hand, so that they can be placed in the machine in the position in which they are to be pressed together. The outer layer goes in first, so that it rests against the inside of the "mold," then the next layer goes in with the join in a different place, and so on. When all the plywood is in place, an inside former is moved into position on the inside of the shell.

This former is not only heated, but is able to expand, thereby pressing the sheets of plywood together against the inside of the "mold." The drumshell is left under heat and pressure like this for about 12 minutes to allow it to "set." When it is taken out of the machine, the shell is as strong as any wooden shell of a given thickness could possibly be. It is also perfectly round. Each plywood sheet has been stuck, under pressure but free of tension (without being pulled), around the sheet next to it, so there is no overlap of any sheet against itself, and no possibility of the plies being out of true. In the case of wood finishes, the outer ply is the finish. It isn't a piece of veneer that is added on later. "It is all done at once," said RoIf proudly. "That's a specialty of Sonor."


In the Link Era every line shares the same parts, made by the same 190 people using the same equipment and techniques. So the high quality is the same across all lines, which makes it really difficult to cut costs and make a top of the line and a budget line side by side. Given that, Sonor certainly did have top of line kits, but they were not marketed that way back then.

The first top of the line was the rosewood Teardrops. This was the first veneered drums to use the all at once manufacturing process “thats a speciality of Sonor.” Its the veneers that set the top of the line stuff apart. The rosewood D471 Teardrop snare was the first drum to feature decorative veneer on the inside another Sonor top of the line feature; under 10 are known to exist.

1975 was the companies 100 year anniversary and they released the Phonic line that featured a rosewood inside and out option. These kits feature a black and gold badge. These would have been the luxury premium kit till the Signatures came out in 1980.

Even among the Signature line, their was some that were a step above. A few rosewood and scandinavian birch Signature kits were made as custom special orders. This was the roots of what became the Designer and SQ2 business model; high end custom orders. As Link noted above, in other markets outside of the EU the Signatures sold the most. So the idea was to start with the best drum that they company can make and customize it.

The Signature Special Edition was the first maple shells and are few in number. The ultimate Sig was the Jet Set which is a heavy beech Signature kit in black with gold fittings. I think 4 were made and it included a plane ticket to the factory to pick up your kit in person. SonorLites could be had in rosewood inside out veneer and the HiLite Exclusives feature copper fittings and matching hardware.

So Top of Line in old Sonor has to do with the veneer and the look of each product and not a reference in any way to the build quality which was always excellent and exactly the same as the lowly wrapped models.
 

Rhyma Hop

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On to the wood: We visited the storeroom in which the stacks of wood are kept. Sonor drums are made from two, three, or four layers of three-ply wood, depending on the model. .
Just a note.. nothing to do with your post directly. .. but . All my earlier German drums.. INCLUDING the lower line German Force 2000, 3000 birch and Force Maple from Germany.. had SECTIONED PANELS for the inner and outer PLY of wood.. This was even on the inside that was REGULAR maple or birch or poplar.. No fancy veneer.. but the Stave like sections were definitely there.. And of course this was also on my HiLite, Lite and Designer. ......... Have'nt seen it on SQ2's..
 
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phdamage

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thanks for your feedback, folks - especially Frank! Good stuff! hell, i've barely got my brain wrapped around (non pun intended - ha!) Tama's product lines and i've owned a bunch of their kits over the years. still have a ways to go with Sonor, but this is a good start. thank you!

have some parts on the way from DFD to get my lite bass shell operationable. if i'm liking it, i might be searching for a full kit soon. though i still am jonesin for a metal kit of some kind.
 

Frank Godiva

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Just a note.. nothing to do with your post directly. .. but . All my earlier German drums.. INCLUDING the lower line German Force 2000, 3000 birch and Force Maple from Germany.. had SECTIONED PANELS for the inner and outer PLY of wood.. This was even on the inside that was REGULAR maple or birch or poplar.. No fancy veneer.. but the Stave like sections were definitely there.. And of course this was also on my HiLite, Lite and Designer. ......... Have'nt seen it on SQ2's..
Great point and you are correct. Those lines were made after 1989 when things started to changed from the techniques outlined above that are from 1985 going back 45 years. The 2000 was the first to appear and was a complete 180 from the mantra of the Links.

All those kits you note above mark the change in philosophy that was being forced upon the company in order to survive. The 2000 used poplar, which was a first for Aue yet well know in the drum industry as a lower cost alternative and as you point out, sometimes these were laid up differently then in the previous decades document above.

The design was based on the HiLite with cheaper lugs and other cost cutting measures to specifically make a lower costing budget kit. The F3k and Force Maple used different wood of lower grades then models from the 80s that always used highest grade wood. Have seen the construction your talking about, but not on HiLites or Lites. For me Sonor is all about pre-1988; after that they are much more like everybody else with the exception of the Designer and SQ2 which was right at the top of the industry.
 

Elvis

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Was the original non-numbered "Force" shell made in Asia or Germany?
I've been led to believe it is an Asian shell, but according to the Sonormuseum, it may have been made in Germany.

Elvis
 

Elvis

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Nope, GERMANY!....as documented in the very article you linked to...

"'The original Force 2000s weren't at the perfect price point,' Karl concedes. 'When we established that series in the mid-'80s, all of the drums were made in Germany.' For a while, the 3000, Custom, and Maple Custom lines kept it alive."

My drums are Force Custom.
Thanks for helping me out, though.
Much appreciated! :-D

Elvis
 

Frank Godiva

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Elvis,

Buz King designed and built the Force and Force Custom lines in Asia, pick it up at 35:00.

The Buz King interviews

Sonor hiring history
Wheres the Maple 19:20
RIMS vs Sonor’s inert shell parts isolation
HiLites better then Signatures leads to Designers 21:00

Slingerland, Sonor, Hohner (HHS), Sabian, Korg, Gretch 22:30
Radio King reissues, Artist, Artist Classic, Spirit, Lite 27:00
Slingerland factory setup by Hohner in Taiwan 32:00
Sonor leaves Korg and returns to HHS for US distribution 33:00
Gretch sells Slingerland to Gibson and folds 34:00

Sonor was asked to make a product line to fill the Slingerland void 35:00
Sonor is reluctant to enter this market
Buz designs the Force and Force Custom Series without Sonor Germany
These line are built at the Slingerland Taiwan facility


 
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