Drummers delight suffers Rick Palmer assault course
Melanie "Fantom" drums were originally launched at the 1982 Frankfurt Music Fair, and have now established a firm niche for themselves alongside Roto-Tom in the shell-less concert tom market. Their latest offering, the Tri-Fantom, consists of 6", 8" and 10" toms mounted onto a single steel backing plate which itself sits on top of a tripod stand, giving a very simple and space-efficient set-up. With the complete assembly including stand costing around £100 it seems that Melanie have come up with a very promising package and two weeks of playing with this compact little unit certainly confirmed my initial impressions.
The toms are of an all steel construction, with the shell, such as it is, being a shallow conical shape which fits into holes in the main backing plate. This permits the shell to "float" and ensures accurate centring of the head. Four tensioning lugs are provided for the 6" and 8" toms and five for the 10". The rims are definitely worthy of a special mention as they are seamless. This is achieved by manufacturing them by a process known as spinning, which is in essence similar to the way a potter changes the shape of a pot whilst the clay is still workable. This is in direct contrast to the "normal" way of making rims, where the rims are pressed into a circle and then joined by a weld. Spun rims have two distinct advantages over the normal type — firstly, they have much stronger tonal characteristics which give more bite to the sound and greater power to rimshots, and secondly, it is possible to make a very smooth profile for the upper flange which really helps to make good rimshots and also doesn't chew up your sticks as much. To finish off these well made rims, Melanie have added a very good quality chrome plating which looks and feels excellent.
The backing plate which carries all three toms is made from 20 gauge steel, the selection of thickness being dependent on the need for a rigid item which is of easily portable weight. The plate obviously has a ring to it when the drums are hit and the choice of finishing was heavily influenced by the effect that the paint or whatever had on the overall sound. The final choice of a black crackle finish damps out the plate's ring slightly whilst also looking pretty good. Underneath the backing plate are the retaining nuts for the rim tensioners, welded to the plate, and a large boss which carries the rod that fits into the tripod stand. The method of attachment of this rod is my only criticism of the design of the Tri-Fantom, as it does not allow easy removal for transport, leaving the rod sticking out of an otherwise flat item. Melanie tell me that they are getting around this problem by having wing nuts manufactured to replace the existing hexagon fastening nut, and when these are available I will have no gripes at all!
The tripod stand is a good solid one without being very heavyweight and it incorporates a memory setting feature, which is handy. The tripod base can be set widely enough to give a stable arrangement, and the feet are covered with the usual large rubber protectors.
"THE TOMS ARE OF AN ALL STEEL CONSTRUCTION..."
The compactness of the Tri-Fantom is also another good feature. The assembly is so much neater than, say, three separate concert toms, thereby leaving more space around your kit for other bits and pieces. I found that just above and to the left of the hi-hat was quite a good position to set up, giving easy access to all three toms. The 6" doesn't leave much room for error, so you need it pretty close by!
Well, so much for the constructional details. The sound from these little drums I found very exciting. It can be altered a lot by varying head tensions and head types but sticking to the standard Remo Ambassadors supplied with the set I got a very bright and punchy sound that has really excellent projection, more than enough to hold its own with the rest of the kit and a band playing at sensible volumes. Rimshots give a very timbale sound, and it's also worth playing just the rims or even the backing plate for some interesting percussive effects.
"THE COMPACTNESS OF THE TRI-FANTOM IS ALSO ANOTHER GOOD FEATURE."
The Tri-Fantom could fit into almost any kind of band, as in a rock application the sound gives a tremendous boost to fills that are building up excitement and in Latin and Reggae applications this kind of sound is already well established. Some very interesting results have also been achieved using Duraline heads on these drums, so I'm told, so there's also plenty of room for experimentation with this versatile little set-up.
In conclusion — a nicely presented and very compact set-up which has excellent sound and all at a reasonable price. Definitely worth a place in most drummers' kits.
In addition to the well-made seamless rims for their own Fantoms, Melanie are also producing seamless 14" rims available with 8 or 10 tension screw lugs specifically for snare drums. The rims possess all the benefits of the Fantom rims as described in the Tri-Fantom review, and they sell at around £12 each inclusive of VAT. That may seem a lot, but with sticks at around £2.50 a pair, the stick-saving feature of these rims alone could pay its way pretty fast!
Review by Rick Palmer
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