Synares/Tama Octobans/Pearl 900s Stands
Ramblin' Pete Randall gives the rundown on Synare 3, Tama Octobans and Pearl stands.
Synare synthesiser drums are to date the only serious competitor to Syndrums (see SI July p79) and, although Syndrums have a bit more to offer in variety of sounds, the Synares are about half the price for a full four-unit set.
Synare 3s are made in Connecticut, US, by a company called Star Instruments Inc. The set reviewed was brought back from the Chicago Trade Fair by my colleague, Bob Henrit. All four units are exactly the same in looks and function and resemble flying saucers in appearance. To set up the Synares to a decent playing angle they were mounted on Premier double floor stands and, although the two holes drilled on the underside are measured for the Ludwig 1350 double floor stand, by drilling one other small hole the Premier does the job. Each stand supports two drums. The actual playing part of Synare is a hard, spongy rubber material which, although not tuneable, has a good drum-like feel with plenty of bounce rather like a practice pad. All the controls are set around the sides facing the player and are easily accessible when set up correctly.
To operate the Synare drums, two 9v transistor batteries must be fitted to each unit, a simple operation achieved by removing the locating screws around the circumference of the drum. Two clips hold the batteries in position and once the four terminal clips are connected and the base screwed back in position, everything is ready for connection. The output jack is located opposite the control panel on the back of the drum. Any standard mono jack-to-jack lead connected to any PA, guitar amp or bass amp will give you a satisfactory sound. The jack socket on the drum can also be used for private practice with headphones or setting up a sound without going through an amp. There is no on/off switch on the Synare drums thanks to a special circuit found in the unit which only switches on when they're being played, ie when you are not striking the drum, the unit is off, and this obviously extends battery life.
The controls from left to right are grouped in four sections — the first two sections being oscillators 1 and 2. Both these sections are identical and, with the exception of a three-way switch on the right hand side of the oscillator panel, all controls are conical shaped rotary knobs. Oscillator 1 and 2 controls consists of a tune and three-way function switch consisting of oscillator on/off and white noise, which is basically unpitched sound. A reasonable snare sound can be achieved on this setting.
Rotating the tune control will change the pitch of the oscillators and, on the second oscillator, the three-way switch has a low frequency oscillator in the middle position in place of number 1 oscillator's noise. This low frequency oscillator becomes very useful in controlling the sound and tuning of the filter. The next section is the filter controls, from left to right: tune, oscillator 2, sweep, resonance and decay. The last section is the amplifier section with two controls, decay and volume.
It did not take me long to get that Syndrum sound, as used on the Marshall Hain single and others. Like the Syndrums, that basic sound can be short or long, high or low, by adjusting the sweep, resonance and decay controls. The oscillators can be tuned into each other or tuned at any interval in between, giving an almost Minimoog-type sound. The sweep control determines the downward or upward sweep allowing the pitch to go either way after the drum has been struck.
The Synare drums are also touch-sensitive and the harder they are hit the louder the signal. The sounds that can be achieved on Synare drums are many and varied — tom tom, conga, bells, chimes and some very metallic-type sounds, as well as bass drum and a host of others.
When I carried out the Syndrum review, I only had a limited time with the instrument to understand and experiment with the various functions and sounds. Fortunately, I have been able to spend a lot more time with Synare, and although a simpler type of instrument they are a lot cheaper than Syndrums. When setting Synares up around the kit, if you cannot afford or find space for all four, then using just two gives the same effect and is a lot more accessible to the average gigging drummer who wants to broaden their range of percussion sounds.
Synare3 £157.41/$225 per drum.
Synares are distributed in the TJK by Rose-Morris, (Contact Details).
Octobans are the latest percussion creation from Tama; Billy Cobham is one of their main exponents. So far I have only heard them played on record once (on Billy Cobham's Magic album) and that only lasts a few seconds in a short solo.
There are eight drums of various lengths which determine the tone and four stands holding two drums each. All the heads are 6in in diameter, fitted with Remo CS heads. The shells are made of a type of fibre — exactly which type I have not yet been able to determine, but when I tripped over one of the stands a couple of the shells said hello to the floor with a large bang, which proves they are strong at least. The shells are 2in thick, finished in matt black, and rather resemble rocket launchers. The nut boxes look rather like Royal Star, the cheaper range of drum outfits by Tama. The top edge of the shell is fairly sharp and Tama describe this as a 'lathe-turned sound edge', which is an accurate description.
When these first arrived it took me a good half-hour to tune them to the proper diatonic octave around middle C piano scale. But, of course, they can be tuned higher or lower, sharp or flat, whatever the player requires, and the actual tone of the drum stays roughly the same whatever the tuning.
Like most new things these drums will be compared to other percussion instruments and I always find it difficult to describe an out-of-the-ordinary sound without resorting to clichés. The only thing I have heard that would sound similar would be African Boo-Bams, long log-type drums which are struck on the ground. I personally like the sound, but I think it is something of an expensive novelty and I cannot see them becoming a big seller at all, especially with the 6in heads. It would be advisable to practise target shooting to play these drums at any speed! An 8in head would make all the difference, and five tensioners instead of four would have made the tuning a bit more variable. They are available in black and clear perspex, and are distributed in the UK by Summerfield Bros, (Contact Details).
The new 900 series of stands and pedals from Pearl seem at first glance to be a bunch of real winners, although the new bass drum pedal (model No 910) and throne (model No 950) were unavailable at the time of this review as they have not yet arrived in this country from Japan.
1. Model No 710 Bass Drum Pedal
This pedal is rather like a Ludwig Speed King in principle with two external springs as opposed to internal springs on a Speed King. A large cast block mounted on the cam assembly holds the beater in place via a wing bolt, and adjustment of the cam angle is possible by using an Allen key which is supplied with the pedal. The two springs are totally adjustable by means of locking screws at the base of the two posts and will lock in position, once set, keeping tension set when in operation. A standard screw clamp holds the pedal firm on the bass drum hoop and two strung screw-type spurs keep the whole thing in one place. The heel plate has an adjustable toe stop and sprung rods underneath which slot into the base and can be folded up when pushed together. The main thing that distinguishes this pedal from the Pearl forerunner is the steel link between foot pedal and cam assembly which works very well. Having a steel link eliminates any whipping that could develop with a fibre or leather strap. When put through its paces on the kit, this pedal performs as simply and effectively as it looks, with lots of power, a nice feel and cheap at £28.
Ten out of ten to Pearl for this little gem.
2. Model No 900 Hi-Hat Stand
This is very similar to the old one but with a few improvements - reversible spikes/rubber tips, two adjustable spring actions, nylon link and memri-lock clamps. The double strings are housed in two tube assemblies on either side of the pedal — each one adjustable by hand — and, although it did not appear to go light enough for subtle playing, overall it was a very nice piece of hardware. As with the other stands in this series, all the memri-lock clamps are finished in a duller finish than the chrome tubes and legs. This is just as well - being strung steel, it moves when tightened up; if chromed, it would crack and peel off and, apart from that, it looks nicer.
3. Model No 989H Twin Tom Tom Stand
The double floor stand has the new Pearl double tom tom holder which is the same as the holder reviewed in the September issue on the Pearl maple kit. Double braced tripod legs and the same strung steel memri-lock clamps appear on all the new stands which saves me mentioning it again! The post assembly connects to the two tom tom holders via a twin socket clamp and this enables the two holders to be moved up and down for height and angle.
4. Model No 906 Snare Drum Stand
Very similar to the old stand except for the 'you know what' clamps, and one thing I am glad to see improved is the clamp that releases the legs in order to be folded down. The old stand had the screw tensioning straight on to the tube which made small indentations on the tube. This eventually marks the tube so badly that it is very difficult to get the legs to fold down without taking a Charles Atlas course in dynamic tension. The new clamp applies pressure evenly on all sides thereby dispersing pressure over an even area.
5. Model No 903 BST Short Boom Stand
It has double braced legs again and those clamps, and a short boom arm with a counter weight to balance things off. This is a really handy little stand and you don't have to buy a bigger stands case to accommodate it. The main trouble with the long booms has been pure inconvenience in packing up, and on stage, particularly in a confined area.
The 903 B large boom stand, the 903 straight cymbal stand and 913 Eight Brothers stand have all the same features as the stands mentioned here except the 903 which has single tripod legs. All cymbal stands have the new vari-system tilter which has a 175 degree angle, and the new interchangeable die cast joint with the memri-lock system.
These Pearl stands, indeed all Pearl drums and percussion, are distributed by Norlin Music (UK) Ltd, (Contact Details).
Rrp of the stands is as follows:
900 £41.20/$ 100
Peter Randall is an ex-pro drummer now working as a salesman at Henrit's Drumstore in Central London.
Gear in this article:
Review by Peter Randall
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