Mapex Meridian Birch kit
Mapex Meridian Birch
This particular kit up for review had something of a chequered career before I reviewed it. It had been played in full-flight by many of the drummers at the jam night at Dolbear’s Ultimate Drum Experience. There were two Meridian sets on the stand that night one was in maple the other in birch. I got to check out the Birch set the next day after many excellent drummers had put it through its paces with the band. Not a bad acid test I thought.
The first thing I was interested in examining were the heads which I had witnessed being well and truly thumped the night before, but by people who knew what they were doing. To keep the price down Mapex fit Remo Asia’s see-through UT heads which are generally felt to be OK but not as resilient as the made-in-USA versions. For me if you look after these Unicorn heads by making sure you always have sufficient tension on them they will last. I have UT Pinstripes on one of my sets which have been on there for three or four years and they still sound good. Now I know Pinstripe are double-ply heads and there is a difference but examining the single ply heads on the birch set the next day I didn’t find anything to alarm me. No dents and they still sounded good. Mapex fit Ambassador weight heads on the batter side, Diplomats to the resonant, and Powerstroke 3 to the bass drum’s batter side.
The birch set I examined is known to its friends as MR5255TA in ‘Cherry Mist’ (which is one of a half-dozen finishes: three hand-rubbed lacquers and three sparkling wraps). Hidden in that code is a 22 x 18” bass drum, 12 x 9, 13 x 10, 16 x 16 toms and 14 x 5.5” snare. The shells are made from 6 plies of birch and 7.2mm thick and the mathematicians amongst you will recognise that the mounted toms on this ‘Rock’ set are just an inch deeper than ‘Classic’ (ie faster) depths. The website says the metal counterhoops are 2.3mm thick
The nutboxes are low mass, small footprinted jobs which for sonic reasons attach to the shell with a single screw. There’s evidently a bone-of-contention about these out there in the drum world. While the smaller toms have the more usual six tensioners per head, the floor tom has the same amount. Again you could say here’s another cost-cutting exercise but how much difference do a couple less nutboxes to each head make? I have lived through the time of six tensioners per head on uber-famous sixties snare drums, through eight, ten, eleven, twelve and even twenty nutboxes per head and (surprise, surprise) I have a view!
I still have a fifties wooden Gretsch I bought in the early sixties with eight tensioners which was always easier to tune than my Ludwig 400 with ten. (It didn’t have a better sound when it was in tune but I mention it to prove a point.) This is because turning a screw on a drum with eight tensioners has a more profound effect on the head itself than applying the pressure onto one with ten.
From time to time I play a set with round nutboxes which was a sample for a possible reissue of an old marque which I didn’t notice for weeks had only six tensioners on the 16 x 16 floor tom. I’d been playing it happily and didn’t realise it for ages because it didn’t affect the sound.
The 14 x 5.5” snare drum has the eight double-ended tensioners per head which are all plinth mounted as is the throw-off to which the 16 strand wire snares are attached with plastic strips. The drum doesn’t have a deeply notched bed for its snares, simply a slightly graduated slope where the wires touch the shell which ensures all of the head is under tension.
Mapex fit their ancient-Leedy-looking lugs to all Meridians and they appear to be mounted somewhere near the nodal point (ie the position where it would have the least adverse affect on the resonance). Naturally they have square-headed tension screws with nylon washers. Receiver blocks for the legs and tom arms are hinged and sprung with an almost triangular slot to locate and arrest the hexagonal ‘L-arms’ of the tom holder as well as the regular knurled rods of the large rubber footed, double-bent, tom legs. The tom receiver blocks are attached to an isolation plate which clamps to top and bottom of two nut boxes via thick rubber grommets. The hexagonal ‘L-arms’ are fitted with memory locks.
Mapex’ cast double tom holder is extremely well made and uses a slightly longer top ‘T’ section than we’ve seen before. The hexagonal sectioned, right-angled ‘L-arms’ are set into a nylon ball and held in a hinged cage formed into and underneath the top section, which has a spare rubber bunged receiver hole to add a cymbal arm (or better still to my mind, a cowbell holder) if you so require.
There’s a nylon-sheathed receiver block mounted towards the front of the bass drum to locate the holder itself and telescopic, swing-out double-ended spurs. All the tensioners are drum key operated and I’m told the claws have been redesigned and they not only fit properly around the hoops they too have rubbery plinths to protect the wood.
Everything mounted to the shell has one of these rubbery gaskets underneath to minimise its contact including the badge and the airhole grommet. Even the place on the bass drum wooden hoop where the pedal clamps is thoughtfully fitted with a rubber gasket.
For those of you to whom these things are important the bearing edges are cut at 45 degrees inside and out although as usual the outside countercut is much smaller
All Meridians come with Mapex 700 series hardware which all features wide bored tubing, strong double-braced legs and cast height arrest blocks with wear-resisting inserts. The hi hat has a two-piece cast footboard, an extra large chain pull, adjustable spring, centre spur, large bottom cymbal seat and heavy cast clutch.
Cymbal stands have the same cast bosses and substantial ‘T-screws’ with a drum tilting mechanism with a moveable (ABS?) ratchet arm to lock it and a great collection of shaped rubber washers and felts, all topped off with a ‘T nut’. Each set comes with one straight and disappearing boom cymbals stand.
The snare stand has an off-centre basket arm mechanism to hold the drum with a large ‘capstan’ nut to lock it into position with the usual height arrest bosses and double-braced legs.
The only other piece to comment on is the 700 bass pedal. It’s a no-nonsense solidly built unit with a regular length double footboard with toe stop, single adjustable expansion spring, twin spurs, single chain (inside a sheathed channel and a plate stretcher. Oh and a three surfaced beater. It’s a lot like several others, and like those others it gets the job done.
So the set I saw will set you back around eight hundred quids while the maple equivalent with pinstripe batters and four more nut boxes goes for a ‘grand’.
Of course there’s a difference between the birch and maple sets besides the price. It’s generally agreed that birch is brighter with a shorter, more focussed sustain, whereas maple is warmer with a longer sustain. But from where I was standing on the drum night you’d be very hard pushed to notice it.
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