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Sonor AQ2 Drum Sets - Up Close

Sonor AQ2 Drum Sets take the place of their now-discontinued Force and SSE Special Edition Sets.  This intermediate line includes the extremely popular Martini and Safari kits. We unboxed each of these gig-friendly AQ2 drum sets and gave them a test drive.

The Evolution of Compact Drums

The compact drum market has gotten big over the past 10 years.  It started with Yamaha’s Manu Katche Hip-Gig Jr. Kit. Sonor changed the game when they decided to enter the market with their Safari set.  It was a portable, decently made drum set for about $350.

Other major manufacturers soon followed.  Ludwig released the Breakbeat kit. Pearl came out with the Midtown kit.  Tama has their Club Jam kit. The market was full of options at the sub-400 dollar price point.

Gigging drummers made many a spontaneous purchase when they discovered how inexpensive and portable these kits were.  Unfortunately, the sound of these kits left something to be desired. The softer wood shells just don’t have the feel and response you get from a higher quality wood.  Sonor’s AQ2 Drum Sets have struck a great balance between affordability, portability and build quality.

Better Shells Make Better Drums

Sonor AQ2 Martini and Safari kits sport 100% 7-ply Maple shells.  The three interior plies are softer Asian Maple, and the outer plies are harder North American Maple.  The resulting thickness is a relatively thin 5.8mm. This is a similar shell recipe as Yamaha’s new Tour Custom model.

Our first kit to set up was the Sonor AQ2 Martini Drum Set in a White Marine Pearl wrap.  The Martini kit is a compact 4-piece set up design for ultimate portability. The rack tom is 8x7, the floor tom is 13x12 and the kick is 14x13.  The steel snare drum is 12x5 with flanged hoops.

Our second setup was the Sonor AQ2 Safari kit in a similar Delmar WMP finish.  The Safari kit offers slightly larger sizes for the drummer who may need some more thump on their gig.  Our 4-piece Safari kit sizes were 10x7, 13x12, 16x15 with a matching 13x6 snare.

That Hardware, Though

Right away, we noticed the quality of the hardware.  The bass drum mount is seriously heavy-duty and very adjustable.  The new Smart mount on the rack tom is functional and low-profile, connecting to two upper lug brackets.  Head changes can be made quickly and easily, and thick rubber gaskets provide isolation. All of the newly designed lugs are cast using molds designed in Germany.

We decided to tune both kits low and high for each demo to get a sense of their range.  Right out of the gate we were greeted with bright tone from both kits. We were too lazy to change the UT Remo heads, and assumed that would translate to a fuzzy, unpleasant sound.  This is a testament to the QC of Sonor’s new all-maple shells. Bearing edges were perfect and shells were perfectly round. The resulting tone was clear and clean and all drums tuned up easily.  They also stayed in tune thanks to Sonor’s TuneSafe lug design.

The Martini’s 12x5 snare drum was cutting, but not in a harsh way. Typically an inexpensive metal snare will be sharp sounding, but this was not the case with the Sonor Martini AQ2.  The matching 13x6 Safari Maple snare also proved to be an overachiever. Great projection, smooth bright tone and a decent tuning range.

AQ2 bass drums feature heavy duty mounting hardware, along with durable hoops.  The 14” Martini kick provided just enough thump for those small 3 piece gigs. The 16” Safari kit bass drum has enough low end to give you a little more genre-diversity.  While the overall tone was good, these will sound much better with Remo USA PS3 heads.

The Verdict

Overall, these two Sonor AQ2 kits are an unbelievable value.  Drummers who appreciate the performance of their SSE Martini and Safari kits will LOVE the AQ2 updates.  The all-maple shells, solid hardware and eye-catching finishes are significant upgrades to their predecessors.  Ultimately, the blend of quality, convenience and cost make both of these kits an excellent intermediate option for the working drummer.