As a Canadian drummer and wannabe collector, I have a particular soft spot for Ayotte drums. Often heralded as the first boutique drum company, it was founded by Ray Ayotte out in Vancouver in the early 1980s. The drums that came out of his shop are universally praised for their exceptional craftsmanship, with beautiful wood shells and exquisite finishes.
The classic Ayotte drum has a couple of defining features. The first is the wood hoops – not all Ayotte drums have them, but most of the high-end Custom models do, and they really set the drums apart, both visually and sonically. The second is the unique TuneLock lug design, which is completely different in look and use than any other lug that’s out there. Not everyone loves the aesthetics of these lugs, but I think they’re fantastic.
While I’m sure the drums coming out of the Ayotte factory in Bedford, Quebec these days are still great drums, many players speak reverentially about drums from the “Ray Era”, the period from 1982 to the late 1990s when Ray was still running the company (after losing majority control, he returned to the company for a brief period of time in 2013). So you can imagine how excited I was when this beautiful 7″ x 14″ natural maple snare popped up at the local drum shop last year.
The wood hoops make the drum seem even deeper than 7″, and it definitely has a fuller, deeper sound than I usually use. I don’t play a lot of power ballads, but this drum would be perfect for that style. The lacquer finish is like glass, and the rock maple outer ply has a gorgeous grain. The inner maple ply has a birdseye look, and the interior finish is just as nice as the outside.
I know there will come a time when, for whatever reason, I’ll have to start “thinning out the herd” – a phrase often seen on drum forums when someone has to start downsizing their collection. When that time comes, as it inevitably will, I think I’ll be hanging onto this one until the very end.