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Expert Review:

Mapex Mars Series

528 Crossover Shell Pack in Smokewood

 

by Dendy Jarrett

 

INTRODUCTION 

 

Mapex has been around since the early 1990s and has become a “drummer” household name by now.

As Mapex has evolved, the quality of their mid-line drums has really raised the bar, with ever-improving attention to detail — as evidenced by their recently launched SONIClear™ Edge technology that's standard on all Mars Shells. 

SONIClear™ Edge allows the drumhead to sit on a flatter (less sharp) bearing edge. If you take a drumhead and place it on most drums, you’ll notice that the head will still move around in a wobbly fashion. With the SONIClear™  it sits completely and solidly flat on the bearing edge with zero movement. The benefit is a head that tunes with much more ease than typical shells and also allows for a lower, deeper, and stronger fundamental tone. The net result is a drum the tunes easier and quicker, with a wider tuning range.

 

MAPEX BASICS

 

Mapex, like every other company, offers levels of drums. To understand where Mars ranks, I'll outline the series levels.

 

Mapex Product Lines:

 

Level

Series Name

Entry

Rebel

Entry +

Voyager

Low-Mid

Mars

Upper-Mid

Armory

Custom-Mid

MyDentity

High

Saturn IV

Premium

Black Panther

So you can see Mars falls right in the middle of the rank for Mapex, but ...

 

MARS SERIES 

 

Don’t be fooled! Sometimes ranks can be misleading.

I live close to the Mapex facility, so they were gracious enough to set up the drums along with a few other Series in their performance hall and invite me for a test-drive. They only completed the sets partially so that I could experience assembly on some items, as well as the SONIClear™ tuning. The set-up was straightforward. The tuning was really a noticeable differentiator — these new SONIClear™ bearing edges remind me of an older-school bearing edge from the late 1950s through the late 1960s where the bearing edge was round, versus the more common (today) sharp edge. The result is a warmer tone and “phatter” sound.

All Mars kits use a wrapped faux-wood, three-dimensional finish that's exceedingly rich. I had to be told it was a wrap because it feels like real wood. Furthermore, although not all drummers would agree,  I prefer the sound of a drum with a wrap on it. The wrap holds up better for a gigging drummer, but also a drum shell's wrap restricts shell vibration somewhat. This restricts the unwanted overtones and provides just the right amount of controlled tone.

               

FEATURES

General:

Borrowed from the higher Saturn Series, the rack toms feature the SONIClear™ Suspension System. This is Mapex’s version of an isolation tom mount. It's a clever design, and I like how it connects to the base of the lug casings and has a dimple rest on a small badge mounted on the shell.

The bass drum claws feature a rubber isolation gasket that protects the wooden hoop from damage, as well as prevents rattles or buzzing.

 

Configurations:

The available kit configurations offered:

All of the shell packs feature a matching 14X6.5” snare drum. (more on the snare later)

  • 529S Rock Shell Pack: Features a 22X18” bass drum, 10X7” and 12X8” mounted toms which are mounted to the bass drum, and a 16X14” floor tom
  • 528S Crossover Shell Pack: (being reviewed) Features a 22X18” bass drum, 12X8” mounted tom which is mounted off of a single mount attached to a cymbal stand, and a 14X12” and 16X14” floor toms
  • 504S Fusion Shell Pack: Features 20X16” bass drum, 10X7 and 12X8 mounted toms which are mounted to the bass drum, and a 14X12” floor tom
  • 446S Rock 24 Shell Pack: Features 24X16” bass drum, 12X8” mounted tom which is mounted off of a single mount attached to a cymbal stand, and a 16X16” floor tom

 

Finishes:

The kit I was reviewing had a finish called Smokewood. This is a basic yet handsome finish that would show well in a rock band where everyone is tatted, or in a gig where everyone is in tuxedos. The faux-wood is a grey finish with a deeper grey (almost black) wood grain. All the Mapex Kits were assigned hardware color based on the finish color.

The complete Mars Series color offering:

  • Smokewood (GW): grey hue wood grain wrap with Chrome Hardware
  • Bloodwood (RW): wine hue wood grain wrap with Chrome Hardware
  • Bonewood (AW): white hue wood grain wrap with Black Plated Hardware
  • Nightwood (ZW): ebony hue wood grain wrap with Black Plated Hardware

  

Wood Shells:

The Mars Series features a 100% Birch 6-ply shell. While I typically play a maple shell, I was super impressed with the punchy sound these Mars drums produced. Because I was in a room with several Mapex series, I was able to do some comparisons, and let me tell you … these Mars drums held their ground. I actually preferred the sound of these drums to the higher ranked series to which I compared them.

The sound from the bass drum and snare drum were simply unbelievable — warm and punchy, but really demanded your attention. And, of course, all feature the SONIClear™ bearing edge.

 


Snare Drum:

Oh, my gosh … this snare drum was one of the real unexpected surprises. While I was playing, I cranked the snare up a couple of turns from where it was tuned when I arrived. Some of the staff started poking their heads in to see what drum I was playing, as it was simply bombastic. It had a nice meaty tone with just the right amount of ring — but not too much. It was the sound I would have expected from a much more expensive snare drum. To have a matching snare drum with a kit in the mid-price range is a bonus.

 

CONCLUSION

 

This kit surprised the heck out of me. I would so totally play it out at any gig. While the price may not reflect it, this kit was outfitted to compete with any high-end kit. All the features were there — all the quality was there — and all the sound was there.

If you're looking for a kit that will meet high standards but not break the bank, the Mapex Mars series should be high on your list of contenders!

 

RESOURCES:

VIDEOS:

Mapex Mars Series- Harmony Central:

 

Mapex SoniClear Explained:

 

Mapex Mars Series Hardware:

 

To Purchase Mapex Mars Series from Musician's Friend

 

Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.    

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