M&A Electronic Kit
An all-analogue electronic drum kit with built-in sequencer. Made in Britain by Magic Music: tested by Paul White.
From the wilds of darkest Essex comes Magic Music's new electronic drum kit, with analogue sound generation and built-in sequencer. Paul White puts it through its paces.
The M&A analogue electronic drum kit typifies the new generation of affordable electronic percussion, combining striking visual design with the ability to produce a wide range of contemporary sounds. Manufactured and marketed by Magic Music, the standard eight-drum outfit represents the culmination of over seven years of experience in electronic percussion for engineer Mick West, who developed the system single-handed. The standard kit comprises eight drum pads and stands, complete with leads, hi-hat pedal and eight voice control modules.
All the drum pads are identical in size and shape, with the exception of the bass drum which is somewhat larger than the rest. The playing surfaces are formed from polycarbonate sheet (which is virtually indestructible), and are mounted on a foam-sprung base to reduce if not eliminate possible wrist discomforts on the drummer's part.
The shell of the drum is formed from pressed steel as is the chrome plated rim, and both the shell and the playing surface are finished in black. As can be seen from the photograph, the drums are joined together permanently in groups of three in order to simplify setting up and to increase the rigidity of the assembled kit. The mounting system is designed around a heavy-duty Premier stand, and the brass drum pad is extremely stable, having two large angled spurs and two stub spurs on the pedal mounting plate. All the leads have locking connectors at both ends, so you won't be embarrassed by a plug falling out mid-session.
There seems to be an air of secrecy surrounding the actual mechanics of the transducers, and all Mick was prepared to admit was that they have been designed to be virtually indestructible and are the product of considerable research.
The rack-mountable control module houses eight channels of voice circuitry, each having independent level, pan and sensitivity controls. An external trigger input is also fitted, enabling each channel to be triggered individually from any external sequencer having a positive going output pulse. The module also features master level and EQ controls and - unusually - has a built-in sequencer which can play six different preset rhythms using the first three voice channels.
A Pulse button is fitted to each channel so that it may be driven from the sequencer clock to facilitate setting up of sounds. There is a factory preset sound available for each voice which may be altered by means of internal presets if required or, by operating a push button, the parameter controls may be used to create new sounds.
Internal construction is much akin to that of a non-modular mixer and the circuitry is simple but well thought out. Each voice has its own oscillator and a single noise source is distributed to all channels via a bus bar system.
The voicing of the modules is produced by mixing noise, the pitch oscillator, and the stick click together in varying proportions. Sweep of the oscillator pitch is possible in both upward and downward directions and a variable filter is used to modify the timbre of the noise component. Interestingly, the Decay control affects the preset mode as well as the user-programmed sound. The all-steel construction is rugged but attractive and internal composition should give no cause for concern.
For those players wishing to practice without upsetting the neighbours, a headphone output is fitted which provides enough power to make the average E&MM reader's eardrums meet in the middle of his head!
The complement of hardware is completed by the hi-hat pedal which enables channel 3 to be triggered by foot or by pad, and depressing the pedal chokes the decay of whatever sound is set up, enabling a reasonable simulation of the acoustic equivalent to be produced.
The drum surfaces have a realistic feel and should not be a great source of discomfort, even on long sessions. Adjusting the Sensitivity control enables reasonable dynamic control to be achieved, and the range should accommodate most playing styles, even very heavy-handed ones...
Setting up the bass drum sound resulted in a good meaty thump, and mixing in an appropriate amount of click added definition and bite. Checking out the factory preset revealed a very usable bass drum simulation with just the merest hint of pitch sweep.
The facilities on all the channels are identical and setting up new sounds is quite easy, the average user - I should imagine - requiring only a short time to become familiar with the available controls. Most of the drum sounds are modern and punchy, but as is so often the case with analogue kits, no totally satisfactory cymbal sound could be obtained, though since most drummers prefer to use real cymbals in any case this does not represent much of a problem. The hi-hat sound is passable but, again, I prefer the real thing, and would personally use real hi-hats and cymbals and set up all eight voices on the M&A as drum sounds.
The M&A kit is certainly visually attractive in spite of its rugged, almost indestructible construction, and the arrival of an eight-drum kit at this price has got to be good news. Of course, any kit of this type invites comparison with the new Simmons SDS8, especially as they are both in the same price bracket, but although the sounds and facilities are similar (with the exception of the M&A's built-in sequencer), both have their own distinctive character and sound.
In the final analysis, it's a matter of which sound appeals to you and what facilities you require, but either way, there's no denying the M&A kit represents good value for money.
The eight-drum kit reviewed here carries an RRP of £699 including VAT. In addition kits made up of individual pads are available at £645 (five drums) and £860.75 (eight drums).
Further details on all these are obtainable from Magic Music, (Contact Details).
Review by Paul White
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