Sonor questions

Elvis

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Ah well, it was a nice feeling while it lasted. :rolleyes: (;))
Kinda cool that my drums also have a connection with Slingerland.
Either way, I'm pretty happy with this kit.
Thanks for the insight and clearing things up.

Elvis
 

Frank Godiva

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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.
Looks like Wald listed the parts you need.
 

tillerva

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Kind of a low level question, but since we have a true expert on the line, I’m curious if the birch in my Sonic Plus drums ca. 1996 was sourced in Europe or elsewhere. The badges say made in Germany and they’re great drums, aside from some tom mount issues.

I too lusted after those Signature drums in the MD ads. Then the Sonic Plus drums came out at what seemed a great price point for my first decent kit.
 

Frank Godiva

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EU, but a lower grade then Lites, Sig Lites, or even the Force 3000; but still good quality. Birch and beech are more plentiful in EU, like Maple in North America so to keep it cost effective the wood was from the continent somewhere. I have a Sonic Plus, I like em.
 

phdamage

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Get in touch if you need a bunch of lugs! :)
I did see these posted on Reverb. I had considered making an offer for a while until I noticed there weren't any mounting screws and a friend pointed out that standard tension rods wouldn't work with these. These shells I got are pretty beat, so I don't think adding some holes would be the end of the world. I just want the kick to be functional. stock would be lovely, but it would take a great deal more than hardware to get there.
 

Frank Godiva

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Answering a few more questions with help from the SM archives


Why did Sonor stop making seamless steel shells?

“Sonor at one time made their own seamless metal snare shells and hoops in-house and did their own chrome plating as well.

Sonor had been buying the ferromanganese steel blanks from a metal company that also suplied the same alloy to the auto industry. In the mid 1990's the auto maker who bought this alloy stopped using it.

Sonor could still get the alloy but had a minimum buy of something like 50 tons. Needless to say they hadn't used anywhere near that much ferro steel over the previous 25 YEARS so that pretty much ended that.

In the mid 1990's the German version of the EPA mandated that water discharged from the manufacturing facility had to exceed the purity standards for bottled water! Chrome plating is an inherently nasty and dirty business with all kinds of corrosive chemicals and heavy metals involved. Sonor had already spend a LOT of money on new filtration equipment to meet the previous standards. It simply became too expensive to do any plating in-house and also meet the federal guidelines.

That is what killed the seamless ferro manganese snares. The machine sat idle for the next few years and was eventually sent to China about the year 2000. They were using it to make trumpet and trombone bells with varying degrees of success.

It is rumoured that the machine may have ended up in the Netherlands as there is a supplier there who is making seamless metal goods to spec. Their cost per unit for drum shells is exceedingly high.

Why did Sonor stop making cast bronze shells like the HLD590?


“Sonor started out with one supplier in the late 1980s when the HLD 590 and 593 were first introduced. Apparently the failure rate was very high in the casting process. So many shells were sent back with cosmetic imperfections that the supplier simply gave up. Sonor was forced to find another supplier. That may account for the slight color variation seen by some between the early and later models.”
 

latzanimal

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Answering a few more questions with help from the SM archives


Why did Sonor stop making seamless steel shells?

“Sonor at one time made their own seamless metal snare shells and hoops in-house and did their own chrome plating as well.

Sonor had been buying the ferromanganese steel blanks from a metal company that also suplied the same alloy to the auto industry. In the mid 1990's the auto maker who bought this alloy stopped using it.

Sonor could still get the alloy but had a minimum buy of something like 50 tons. Needless to say they hadn't used anywhere near that much ferro steel over the previous 25 YEARS so that pretty much ended that.

In the mid 1990's the German version of the EPA mandated that water discharged from the manufacturing facility had to exceed the purity standards for bottled water! Chrome plating is an inherently nasty and dirty business with all kinds of corrosive chemicals and heavy metals involved. Sonor had already spend a LOT of money on new filtration equipment to meet the previous standards. It simply became too expensive to do any plating in-house and also meet the federal guidelines.

That is what killed the seamless ferro manganese snares. The machine sat idle for the next few years and was eventually sent to China about the year 2000. They were using it to make trumpet and trombone bells with varying degrees of success.

It is rumoured that the machine may have ended up in the Netherlands as there is a supplier there who is making seamless metal goods to spec. Their cost per unit for drum shells is exceedingly high.

Why did Sonor stop making cast bronze shells like the HLD590?


“Sonor started out with one supplier in the late 1980s when the HLD 590 and 593 were first introduced. Apparently the failure rate was very high in the casting process. So many shells were sent back with cosmetic imperfections that the supplier simply gave up. Sonor was forced to find another supplier. That may account for the slight color variation seen by some between the early and later models.”
Isn't that also about the same time they quit chroming their hardware?
 

Frank Godiva

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Isn't that also about the same time they quit chroming their hardware?
Absolutely and that’s a major point. In the early 90s all the metal and chrome works were outsourced. This is when Sonor became less of the we do it all in house to more like other drum manufacturers and industries. A sign of the times.

“At the end of 1997, they formed a partnership with JMT Musical Instrument Company, a manufacturer of many brands of musical instruments and accessories sold worldwide. Then they moved all the Force molds and tooling to China. Going offshore allowed them to resume manufacturing the series the following year-but at a much lower cost.

Sonor's arrangement with JM (as he and the other Germans abbreviate the company's name) sign of modern economic realities. "If you look around to other industries-cars, financing, banks, pharmaceuticals—they're all merging to become bigger and more powerful worldwide," "That's what we have done. JM is part of the KHS Group, a big company — a strong company - with facilities around the world. We are prepared for the future now."

"Prepared" may be an understatement. Sonor's market share has already grown, and they exude a confidence the industry hasn't seen from them in years. "We budgeted for producing a very large number of drumsets in 2000-and we will reach it," "We're optimistic about growth because this is the first time Sonor is really working to establish itself in the competitive price range. But budgeting for strong sales isn't based upon enthusiasm. We have distribution partners all over the world. Each of them gives us a budget for the year, based upon their estimates of sales. For the 2001 and 3001 series, their budgets jumped up like crazy.

If Sonor's immediate prospects seem bright, the horizon could be positively blinding with China's billion-plus population. "Sooner or later the Chinese market will be open," "When that happens, Sonor will already be here. We chose JM based upon the quality of the company not the country they are in. But fortunately for us, they are in China."

JM's metalworks factory is at a separate four-acre site approximately thirty minutes away from the main manufacturing complex. (For environmental reasons, the government restricts electroplating operations to certain districts.) The processes performed there include die-casting, processing (drilling, threading, etc.), preparation (buffing, vibration polishing), and plating.
Both facilities are clean, efficient, and completely modern.

The state-of-the-art shell presses in Tianjin form the shells more efficiently than the ones in Germany. And most of the diecasting is done on new vacuum die-casting machinery, the industry's technical standard. The vacuum eliminates air pockets in the molds as the metal is injected, ensuring stronger, higher-quality parts. It also reduces the burrs and other distortions common to less advanced types of casting.

Many of the smaller metal parts are polished in high-tech vibration polishing machines, where water and thousands of different-sized ceramic "cones" find their way into the parts' holes and crevices.

Then JMT's electrolytic plating machines, also state-of-the-art, apply copper, nickel, and finally chrome plating to much of the Force series' hardware.
"Most of the manufacturing equipment is brand-new," "Some of it is made right here at JM. Some of it comes from other countries. There are even some American-made computer-controlled machines that cost millions of dollars." Even for their lower-cost products, Sonor clearly spared no expense on manufacturing equipment in China.”
 

Frank Godiva

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“Though built in China, Sonor's 2001 and 3001 lines' character remains essentially German. Literally and figuratively, this is by design; everything Sonor makes is first devised, planned, and developed in Germany.

But this kind of imprinting doesn't stop at the drawing board. Sonor ensures that its ideals (some would say obsession) regarding workmanship are maintained through vigilant oversight by one of four Sonor quality managers from Germany who oversee the Tianjin operation on a rotating basis.

Before Sonor ventured east, JMT had already been OEMing drumsets for several budget-level brands. That experience was a mixed blessing for Sonor, since JM's standards and procedures weren't initially compatible with Sonor's.

"It took a little time to understand each other, "We have different ways of thinking, different ways of working." One early challenge was China's traditional reliance on standardization, which enhances economy, but sometimes fosters resistance to modify old designs and manufacturing procedures.

Sonor's quality mantra takes on physical form in the Tianjin factory, where quality-control specialists closely examine every component. For example, in one corner of the plant I watched two workers check tom-holder castings. They used marker pens to circle flaws that I could barely see. Marked parts were placed in reject bins.

Other workers are just as fastidious with Sonor's drum finishes. Anyone entering the lacquer finishing area must first remove their shoes and enter a "clean-room" cubicle where any dust is blown from their clothes and hair.

Sonor's quality reflects the special training given to JM's Sonor workers, as well as the high standards Sonor sets for their wares. But while high quality has long been ingrained in Sonor's corporate culture, the pressure to keep it high was especially strong with their two Force series.

"When we made the decision to cooperate with a Chinese company, the whole world was watching, "We have a strong name to lose if we don't live up to our reputation. So we had to be very careful about what we do here. We had to establish a different quality standard, and we had to do it immediately. The first impression, if it's a bad one, can kill you. But our team here learned very quickly. And now they have a similar vision."

Sonor produced about six thousand drumsets in Tianjin during their first year. But after they had made another six thousand, management had to make a decision about the hardware molds, which degrade after time and use. Recognizing that they had to build new molds for the series anyway, they decided to redesign the Force line.

Along with many minor upgrades, the second generation of Force drums included smaller lugs, ball & socket tom holders, and prism clamps on tom brackets and bass drum spurs. "The original tom mount design functioned perfectly, and people really liked it. But these days, drummers prefer low-mass hardware that's easy to use."

Another reason for the Force redesign was Sonor products' identity and brand recognition by the public. "During the last four or five years, Sonor had too many different 'faces' "We used to have the Force face, the Sonor Class face, the S-Class face, and the Designer face. All of them were completely different, and people got confused. I think it's very important for Sonor to have the same face—or very similar faces on all the lines, from the bottom to the top.

"We may continue to upgrade the hardware, but we won't totally change the mechanics. All the current hardware fits together, even with the old Signature and Sonic series. This is a big advantage for the consumer who may be interchanging parts, and for the dealer who is stocking them."
 

Tarkus

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Frank,
I have to give you my compliments. People like you were the reason I registered to this board. As 'guest', I already followed your conversations. Great source of knowledge, and thanks for sharing that.
Greetings from Germany
Markus, 'Sonor-Fan' since childhood
 

Frank Godiva

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The myth: Mapex makes Sonor drums in China.

The truth: KHS makes Sonor drums in China under the direction of Sonor Germany. KHS owns Mapex. Mapex drums are made in the same factory as Sonor.



Here is an interview with KHM from Sonor in 2011 which sheds more light.

“JR - Sonor's manufacturing has globalized significantly in recent years. Do you feel that has been a positive thing for the high end consumer, or a detriment to the perception of the company?

KHM - In the mid 90's we have set the goal to raise our international presence and grow our business. This could only be achieved by addressing new consumer groups and look for new production locations. All products that we are manufacturing in China are developed, designed and engineered in the German headquarters. They are built on SONOR's Quality Standards. On top of that, all our made in Germany products are meeting the needs of the high end consumer more than ever. Today, I am glad to say that we have achieved our goals and we have worked our way into the top group of drum brands.

JR - How do you feel about the current product line? Even in the lower end there is a good coverage of options in shell materials and sizes. It also seems that Sonor has covered the entire spectrum of price points, and has really raised the bar on finish quality and the number of finish options. Do you feel that the current catalog represents Sonor's most diverse product line to date?

KHM - Yes, I would totally agree that the current catalog is by far the most diverse product line to date. We are reaching beginners to professionals. Every product line has its customer with specific needs and wishes and not only with the lower lines we are meeting exactly their perception. This is what makes the catalog so diverse in finishes, sizes, features etc. Furthermore, another very important fact is that SONOR is the only company in the industry to manufacture all types of percussion: Drums, Education, Latin and African Percussion as well as Marching instruments!

JR - With so much quality work going on in China, has it been difficult to make decisions on where to produce particular items? One may feel that items like the Giant Step pedals, and Artist series snare drums could be produced in China with a significant reduction in retail price with little discernible, if any change in quality. How does a decision to move production get made?

KHM - The products we are manufacturing in China are exactly adjusted to the production environment. As pointed out before we want to offer the right product for each of the consumer groups. However the SONOR brand stands for highest quality, innovation and German engineering. As in every industry there are high end consumers that exactly ask for these "features". In opposition to most of our competitors who build their high end products in Asia, we strongly believe that we can realize this demand here in Germany in the most optimal way.



JR - The Chinese made Phil Rudd Signature Snare Drum seemed to be well received on the dealer and consumer level. Do you feel that it helped change perspective of Chinese production in the minds of the consumer? Can we look forward to more snare drum projects with such an attractive price point?


KHM - Yes, there will be more projects, time will tell. This specific drum was well received because of the price performance ratio internationally. But I don't believe that only one product can change the basic perspective of Chinese Production of the consumer. Since the manufacturing standards and processes in China significantly changed in the last years I do believe that the basic perspective has changed as well on the consumer side, compared to about 20 years ago. When we made the production step in the 1990's with the Force series into China, it was important for us that the SONOR spirit carries on and consumers can rely on the product quality that they are accustomed to. People were much more critical these times.
 

toddbishop

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Thanks for all the info Frank! Two things I'm curious about:

-- Did they ever make a Signature series set in standard depths? Or HiLites, for that matter?
-- Are they currently doing a 9-ply beech line equivalent to the Phonics?
 

Frank Godiva

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Are they currently doing a 9-ply beech line equivalent to the Phonics?

As a matter of fact, no they are not. The original standard Phonics are 9 ply and 9 mm thick. The SQ2 heavy option is 4 ply 8mm. I guess 8mm would be equivalent; close enough but that’s only if you get a lacquered shell.

If you get a veneer on your SQ2 and who doesn’t; it counts toward the overall ply count. The veneer is 2mm. So if you got a beech heavy SQ2 with inner and outer veneer; you now have 2 ply 4mm of beech and 2ply 4mm of the veneer which for the most part is ALPI made from Poplar slurry and dye. In that configuration I would say they are not equivalent cause the shell is

Sonor marked its 100th anniversary with the release of the Phonic line in 1975. The top of the range was the gold badge rosewood inside out kits and snares. Hopefully in 2025, the company will release an homage to the Phonics 50 years ago, but I don’t think the market is crying out for really heavy drums which is why the SQ2 only goes to 8mm imho.

D5B2DE8B-43C0-48A5-BB2B-EAF1D0FEEDA7.jpeg
 

Frank Godiva

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OP - "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 don't think I answered this one directly. Rosewood Phonics were the top of the line until 1980 when the Signature Series was released. One of the first reviews of the new Sig series touted a "brand new and evidently quite revolutionary drum set" and compared it directly with the previous best, the rosewood Phonics.



"Sonor actually went to the extent of buying a complete tree in West Africa to make their veneers for the bubinga shells to ensure (a) continuity of grain matching from an exterior (and interior) pattern point of view, and (b) possibly more important, continuity of sound from a sound standpoint.

The Signature Series drums have 12-ply shells all finished off at their raw edges like the Sonor Phonics but with 10 layers of beech without glue rings withfinal layers of bubinga or ebony. The edge camber is inverse and 45 degrees, and all shells have an extremely slight radius at head contact point. The single layers arc first glued in threes then the four three-ply laminations are placed separately into their oil-heated former The three inner joins are, as per usual, staggered around the circumference of the drum and cut not at right angles but diagonally butted at approximarely 30 degrees.

The Sonor rosewood shells are exactly the same thickness and construction as these new Signatures but all of these more expensive shells are three plies thicker than a Sonor Phonic drum. As I've said before, all Sonor wood shells are made deliberately slightly undersize relative to head diameter This affords a timpani-type head seating when the counter hoop, with the head collar inside it, doesn't touch the shell, so I feel it gives a clearer sound."


 


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