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A Space-Age Approach To An Age-Old Need

by Rick Van Horn

 
KEY NOTES
  • Innovative design and functional features
  • Extremely durable construction
  • Cases are heavy
  • Hardware case had fit problems

 

A lot of thought has been given to the design of Stagg's new Advanced Concept molded hard-shell plastic drum cases. You need only glance at their unusual shape and distinctive molded contours to get the impression that somebody planned these cases as more than just "containers." They're meant to be functional pieces of equipment in their own right.

Staggcases.jpg The Shape

 

Most drum cases are essentially cylindrical, in order to conform to the cylindrical shape of the drums inside them. There's generally a flat section on the side that allows the case to be placed edgewise on the floor—"standing up," as it were.

 

Stagg cases are much more triangular, combining the cylindrical portion with two extended "corners." These corners provide the flatted edge for standing, and also reinforce the overall structural integrity of the case. That's the upside of the cases' design. The downside is that it makes the cases larger and bulkier than traditional models, which may become an issue in the trunk of a Corolla.

 

The Window Sticker

A list of the features offered by the Stagg cases reads like the options shown on the window sticker of a high-tech car. Let's take a look.

  1. "Eminently stackable and stable due to Stagg's X-centric design." All Stagg drum cases, no matter what their size, have molded circular protuberances that mate with recesses on all other cases, locking the cases together when they're stacked. Also, instead of stacking each case in the center of the one below it, the cases stack in such a way that their "bottoms" (the more or less flat area opposite the handles when the cases are carried) are all flush. This puts the weight of the stack over the strongest part of each case, and also allows you to back the entire stack of cases up against a wall for further support. Cool idea.
  2. "All drum cases are lined top and bottom. The Basic Snare case is fully lined." The lining is a sheet of fabric over a slight amount of padding. This is a nice feature, as far as it goes. My problem is that the cases are of the "telescoping" variety, meaning that each case of a given diameter can expand to accommodate drums of different depths. With any drum that's deeper than the completely compressed case, the lid of the case rests on the top of the drumshell. That shell is actually providing the structural support for the case. I'm not a fan of this design, even though it does help keep manufacturing costs—and purchase price—down, since the manufacturer only has to create one model for each drum diameter. But if a case is going to be a telescoping model, I'd like to see a lot more padding or other protection against top and bottom impact for the drum inside.
  3. "Convex-shaped top shell to protect against compressive force from above." Most hard-shell cases simply stretch some material across the top of the drum in a flat fashion to create the lid. Any impact immediately bows the lid down, risking damage to the head of the drum inside. The Stagg cases can't totally eliminate that risk, but the convex shape does "dome" the lids a little to absorb impact before the lid would come in contact with the head below.
  4. "Shock-absorbent support zones to disperse external shock to the case and drums." This is a more important structural feature—and a nice one. The shape and molded contours of the case help "spread" any impact around the drum, instead of allowing a localized blow. This should provide much more side-impact protection than that afforded by a traditional cylindrical case.
  5. "Case tops feature Water Transport Channels to avoid liquid pooling on the top." You may have seen the recent MD ad with a photo depicting rain beating down on—and pouring off of—a Stagg case. The way I see it, hard-shell plastic cases should be impervious to rain anyway. But at least there won't be a pool of water on the top of the case to dump on your shoes when you pick the case up.
  6. "Adjustable large format buckles at the end of each strap for flexibility of shell depth." These molded composite squeeze-type buckles are easy to operate, but it'll take you some time to get used to having to open two buckles on every strap in order to raise the lid on the case. This is another aspect of the "telescoping" design.
  7. "All drum cases feature sturdy "D" rings that allow the owner to pass a cable through for locking with a padlock, or to secure the cases to the inside of a truck for transport." This seems like a minor feature, but it could mean the difference between going home with or without your drums after a gig. The D-rings are riveted to each case on a nylon strap, and would not pose much of an obstacle to a determined and prepared thief. But they certainly would help prevent an impulsive "grab and go" heist.
  8. "Bass drum and large floor tom cases are fitted with recessed transport wheels." Wheels are great for pulling a case on level ground, going up a ramp, or moving from a dock-level truck into the backstage area of a major venue. But they don't help when it comes time to lift that puppy into the bed of a pickup or the trunk of a car after a gig at the local Elk's Club. With that in mind, this may be a good time to mention the fact that the durability of a thick molded plastic case comes with a downside: weight. For example, the 10" Stagg tom case weighed about 71/2 pounds—exactly the weight of the 8x10 maple tom we carried in it. The 22" bass drum case weighed 221/2 pounds—only a few pounds less than the drum we put in it. By contrast, most drum bags add very little weight to the drums they contain. But, of course, neither do they offer the protection factor of the hard case. I'm just saying that you should make an informed choice.
  9. "Hardware cases feature recessed wheels, and are designed with I-beam and triangle construction for maximum horizontal and vertical strength." In general, I liked the 40" hardware case that we tested. It was a very practical, open-topped rectangular container that easily accommodated a fair amount of stuff. The metal reinforcement inside gave it the structural integrity necessary to remain secure and rigid while being rolled or carried.
  10. "Height Extension and Stacking Tray Extensions are available for the 40" hardware case." The idea here is that if you need more vertical space for additional hardware, or you want a shelf section for cables, mic' stands, and so forth, you can add them to the basic case. The various sections lock together with rotating ATA-style clamps. And this was where I encountered some problems. To begin with, the clamps didn't seem to lock down very securely. In some cases, the upper and lower halves of the clamps didn't align properly for optimum grip. In others, the amount of "play" that remained after the clamps were closed allowed the various case sections to slide a bit. I never got the sense that the case was going to come apart, but neither did it feel like one solid unit. Also, while I was able to fit the vertical-space section onto the base unit easily, I was completely unable to do the same with the shelf unit. The molded countour of its plastic body did not conform to the contour of the base unit, so there was no way to mate the two. These two problems reflect a need for more attention to quality control and proper fit between the components of the hardware case system.
  11. "Address tag and STAGGCase model number designed into the fastening strap." This is another thoughtful touch—although the address tag is a little hard to get out of its holder. Also, the tag is completely removable. So in terms of true security, it doesn't replace the age-old practice of painting one's name on the side of the case.
  12. "The air is free." Stagg says that their cases are designed with just enough space between the top and bottom sections to provide the airflow necessary for opening or closing the cases quickly. I've used some drum cases in which a certain amount of "vacuum hold" between the sections was, indeed, a minor inconvenience, and it's thoughtful of Stagg to take this problem into consideration. However, the spacing between case sections in our test group became more pronounced as the sizes increased, to the point where the 16" floor tom and 22" bass drum case lids literally "rattled around" on top of the lower sections. A slight reduction of the space would provide a more solid-feeling case assembly in these instances.

Not On The List

A feature of Stagg cases not mentioned in their promotional material is their strap-type handles with rubber comfort-grips. Each case has a pair of these—one attached to the bottom section and one attached to the lid section. (There's a single additional handle between the wheels on the bass drum and large floor tom cases, for two-person carrying.)

 

The two straps come together closely when a case is fully compressed. But they'd be spread further apart if the case contained a deep-shelled drum, which might cause a carrying problem.

 

A different carrying problem was created (at least for me) by the rubber grips on the straps. They're fairly large, ostensibly for gripping comfort. However, I have a small hand, and I found it difficult to comfortably grasp both of the grips in such a way as to balance the weight of the case evenly between the straps. I have drum bags with strap handles that fit within a wrap-around cover, thus creating a single grip position. I'd suggest this sort of approach for the Stagg grips.

Case Closed

I'm impressed with Stagg's innovative approach to the design of what have, heretofore, been pretty unromantic pieces of drum gear. True, some of the positive design aspects create corresponding negative ones that must be considered. And there are some significant quality-control issues that need to be addressed (particularly on the hardware case). But based on the effort that obviously went into the initial design process, I'm confident that those issues will be dealt with in short order. All in all, I'd say that Stagg's foray into the professional drum-case market is a pretty auspicious debut.

 

THE NUMBERS

  • 8" tom case $71.99
  • 10" snare case $79.99
  • 10" tom case $99.99
  • 12" snare case $89.99
  • 12" tom case $99.99
  • 13" piccolo snare case $91.99
  • 13" snare case $99.99
  • 13" tom case $119.99
  • 14" regular and free-floating snare case $99.99
  • 14" piccolo snare case $92.49
  • 14" snare case $99.99
  • 14" tom case $129.99
  • 16" floor tom case $169.99
  • 18" floor tom case $219.99
  • 18" bass drum case with wheels $219.99
  • 20" bass drum case with wheels $269.99
  • 22" bass drum case with wheels $289.99
  • 40" hardware case with wheels $259.99
  • 40" height extension module $119.99
  • 40" level extension module (shelf) $129.99
  • 48" hardware case with wheels $269.99

(877) 231-6653, www.staggmusic.com

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Floydium  |  October 25, 2017 at 8:05 am
I have just purchased several of these fine cases. The review is accurate. I would add that the buckles have a tendency to crack if impacted and they do get banged around and the buckles are a bit vunerable. Once damaged they become unusable and need to be replaced. My request to Stagg is to beef up the quality of these buckles- both the male and female pieces. Otherwise these are bullet proof. CheersKPwww.floydium.com
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