Lash out in excitement at the percussion set-up that offers three drums and a stand for a ton.
So I said to Dali, "Salvador, let's face it, playing drums is a mug's game." Well he was going on about wanting to join a band and I was just trying to point out to the boy that these days drummers have to take out a second mortgage if they bust as much as a hi-hat spring.
Which is why you have to doff the cap to the men at Melanie, who are doing their best to produce interesting drums at reasonable prices. First came the individual Fantoms, similar to the Roto tom in the sense that they had no conventional shells, but also dispensed with the spin-tuning mechanism that few Roto tom owners ever bothered to use.
Now, a year later, comes their Tri-Fantom, which in turn has done away with the perforated black dish that was more of a visual adornment to the underside of the Fantom than it was a vital tone generating element.
It's a novel three-in-one combination comprising 6, 8 and 10in heads, in this case clear Remo Ambassadors, which fit over the same thin, concave metal hoops as the first generation Fantoms. These slip into position inside the raised lip of holes cut from the black alloy base sheet. They measure 7in (for the 10in head), 5 and 3in. Also retained from the original Fantoms are the hoops, with their very broad flange, which invite generous use of the rimshot.
The entire assembly then fits onto a stand by means of a screw-in 6in post located in the middle of the base plate. Position is held by a clever twist grip mechanism which is as robust as it is simple, its only disadvantage being that it offers no memory lock facility.
The stand itself is made by a French company, Jaques Capelle, an is of a strong tubular steel design with adjustable semi-curved tripod legs. It has a two foot stem and a 27in extension which is positioned by another innovative quick-release lock that offers variable tension and a memory lock.
So much for the construction, but what about the sound? Well, if it's volume you're after, forget it. The Tri Fantom is a product of an age in which miking has eliminated the concern with sheer noise level. It's tone that we're talking about here and a tone most readily comparable to that of the Tama Octoban, bright, clear and melodic, but without the drainpipe resonance which 18ins of tubing produce in the Tama.
The rim shot creates a bongo-like sound from the 6 and the 8 which has a lot to do with the dimensions of the heads, the larger original Fantoms had more of a timbale quality in the rim shot department.
Varied tuning does little to improve the sound, since slackness induces buzzing overtones and excessive tightness chokes the note to the point where all you get is the "plock" of the stick on the skin. However, chromatic tuning is no problem, so with two sets of Tri Fantoms it should be possible to play melodic phrases as well as intricate rhythmic patterns.
Playing with the hands makes the stand wobble, but is well worth it. There are plenty of interesting sounds to be had by this method. Reverting to the sticks I also discovered that tapping the metal frame of the drums produces a great percussive clatter, a combination of its metal composition and the droning heads which boing in sympathy with each stroke.
When it comes to gigging we arrive at the system's greatest weakness, transport. If you can find a case which fits the six sided 17 by 21 base, you will probably have to remove that 6in fixing post, which will involve the use of a spanner or two and thus seems to undo all the time saving ingenuity of the other fittings. Without a case I doubt that the Tri Fantom would last longer than any other delicate instrument slung in and out of a van for a couple of weeks.
So the Tri Fantom has a distinctive sound of its own that will be of interest to the percussionist as much as to the drummer and may well tempt the home recording musicians who want interesting sound quality cheaply, and perhaps even more invaluably, in a compact package that can be easily stored.
As for application, experiment and ye shall be answered. This set up will prove as exciting or frustrating as your imagination will allow, but at this price almost anyone can seriously consider a dabble. So reach for your wallet Dali.
R.R.P £100 inc VAT
Review by Andy Duncan
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