Seabro Gig Machine
Looks like a heap of Teflon saucepans, sounds like a million dollars
This month's test set is unique in several ways. It's meant to be bought by 'mail order' and is consequently the first electronic set to break the magic £500 barrier. As a test it was sent to me by British Rail's Red Star service which is possibly the way it would arrive to you. One simply turns up at one's station, identifies oneself, and walks off with a synthesized drum set. To enable this to happen painlessly, the Seabro people have deemed that the 'Gig Machine' should be ready-cased; so your five hundred quid includes a container to take all their pads, stands, leads and the all important 'brain'.
Seabro supply six small pads and one large one which are literally metal bowls formed on a lathe around a piece of plywood.
As per usual they have a Piezo transducer inside to transmit the vibrations to the 'brain' and a rubber playing surface. The small pads measure 10" in diameter and are a couple of inches deep. The bass drum pad, though, is a totally different 'kettle of fish.' It measures 20" in diameter and is three inches deep with a large solid base plate fabricated from 'L'shaped angled metal and has the largest ever screw spurs tapped into it which help to level it. The base is 'U' shaped and its free ends extend out backwards to either side of the pedal. The pad has your normal forward facing spurs too. They're made from steel tubing and fit into a very well engineered metal boss which is fixed solidly inside the pad. The boss has been 'turned' (on a lathe) and a corresponding boss is fixed to the spurs themselves. Thus, the two sections mate and a locking pin keeps them solidly locked. There's a screw in the part attached to the bass pad which locates into a channel turned into the block fixed (via an alien screw), to the spur itself. This system is also used to mount the smaller pads to their arms.
Gig Machine is unique in that it has a radial hub fitted to the top of its bass pad to hold all the other pads, directly opposite the pedal carriage. This hub measures about 4" in diameter by 1" thick and is rubberised. Six holes are drilled into it for the holder arms and a threaded hole is dead centre of the base. This middle hole takes a locking screw with a scalloped, circular, plastic handle below which is a plastic/nylon cone with a very slow taper. This screws down against the basses I mentioned before which are fitted to each tube-arm. So, their height is set by the boss resting on the hub and their horizontal position is determined by the same locating pin I mentioned before. (A small hole is drilled into the hub to accomplish this.)
These arms need a little explaining since there are three different angles of incidence. There is no knuckle joint in them, so they have been bent at different angles. The front ones (further away from the player) have the most obtuse angle, which is set at something like 135°; this puts the top pads in a reasonable playing position. The next two pads, to left and right, use a shallower angle, set at 120°. Finally the snare and, as it were, floor tom pads are set at right angles. It's all very simple and it works.
Even though the pads are a different size, there is no difference in their construction. (The bass pad has a pair of hank bushes set into it below the beating spot to accept the pedal retaining assembly, but these are the only differences I've spotted. The centre of the bass has a circle scooped out and filled with foam to give a more 'drummy' feel.)
The brain is inside a metal box and has obviously been produced with a deal of thought. It measures nominally 17" x 10" x 2½" and is designed to sit comfortably on its case next to the player. As I said, it has synthesizer sounds, but with a difference; they have been designed to sound good through a certain sort of equipment the sort of PA or what have you which would be available to a group working on a budget. (As I've written before, the story is just beginning when you buy a synthesizer set. You then must find something to amplify it efficiently. More of this later.) All the input and output jacks are mounted on the long edge and there are seven pairs of these. There's also a mix output socket and a fuse holder. The top of the unit has six North/South rows of controls for each voice. The modules are dedicated to a degree but the snare, bass and the last two can be persuaded to be other things. That notwithstanding we have bass, snare, toms one two and three and finally a pair of all purpose modules which can be a hand-clap or whatever. They all have identical control designations: decay, bend, noise pitch, tone pitch, mix tone against noise, punch and finally level. All have rotary pots and there's a trigger light which shows when a pad is being hit and is responding properly. Other than these controls we find an on/off rocker switch complete with pilot light and an all-important headphone socket complete with volume control. This, of course, is ideal for relatively silent practise (all the innocent bystander can hear is the impact of the stick on the rubber) and for silent sound setting up.
This brings me to what I feel is a very strong selling factor. A single orange blob is screened in a specific spot around the rotary 'pot'. This is, as it were, a preset. You simply match the dash on top of the control knob with that spot and a good sound is available to you. Should you want to change it you simply advance or not from that matched point. It really would appear to be a boon to the drummer who is not into synthesis but would rather like to be (even if he makes horrific mistakes with the control adjustments he can very easily get back to square one. I'm surprised nobody thought of it before).
Here is an electronic set aimed at a very specific portion of the market: the guys who are not loaded and already have a full traditional set. They're interested in modernising their sound and perhaps their image. These people may not have any grounding at all in the machinations of getting a decent synthesizer sound, so those simple little blobs of paint will be of enormous use to them. To be honest, the sounds aren't exactly revolutionary, but I don't believe for a moment that Seabro wanted them to be. They're the usual sort of sounds you'd expect to find on a medium priced set but with a difference I mentioned earlier; they're designed to sound good through the 'bog-standard' equipment you find on any weekend-gig-type stage. Of course Seabro, like any other synth kit, will sound better still through a massive full-range PA, but more importantly these will sound passable through 12" speakers mounted in sealed enclosures. (I played it through a Fender Twin, and the result were not too bad at all.) In the unreal drum world I'm used to playing five drum sets set up roughly in the traditional way ie two toms in front snare and tom three behind, so it took a bit of time for me to get used to Seabro's 'Sunflower-type' set-up. Of course I had an orientation problem at first but gradually I got used to it and it certainly looked very good. The one delivered to me was sprayed solid black but white and red are among others also available, as well as a series of air-brushed metallic finishes which look okay.
If you have a limited budget yet still yearn to be a synthesized drummer this could be your answer.
RRP: £499 (seven drums)
The Gig Machine is available directly from Seabro, (Contact Details). If you aren't satisfied with the kit and return it to the company within 10 days you'll get your money back.
Review by Bob Henrit
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