The Meridian (in maple and birch) was introduced in 2009, replacing the Pro-M and M Birch, with smaller, exclusive lugs and revamped small tom mount. Now Mapex offers us this Jazz configuration with a previously unavailable 18"x14" bass drum.
Alongside the bass drum we have 12"x8" and 14"x14" toms with a matching 14"x51⁄2" snare drum - all classic jazz sizes. Shells are maple, with 5.5mm toms and snare and 7.2mm bass drum. Despite the difference in thickness, all shells are 7-ply. Judging by the inner, lightly-sealed finish the maple is of good quality. This will be fast-growing Chinese maple, not the hard rock Canadian variety which makes top-line drums so expensive, but it does almost as good a job for a fraction of the outlay.
The shells are hand-sanded and finished with an impressive eight coats of gloss lacquer. Although the normal Meridian has a good choice of six stained lacquers, the Jazz is presently available in just the one - Chestnut Burst.
Bearing edges have a 45° slope up to the outer edge with a one-ply back-cut. Exclusive to the Meridian is the small-ish snub-bullet design lug, fixed with a single bolt and sat on a rubber gasket for isolation, as are the recessed bass-drum claws. There is no corner-cutting in the compliment of lugs either - the bass drum has the requisite 16, toms the standard 12 and 16 and the snare a full 20.
Floor tom legs have a spring enclosed in the rubber feet, which is adjustable via a Phillips screw in the bottom of each foot. This cushions the tom from any damping effect of the floor. There's a streamlined, centre-mounted tom post and updated isolation bracket on the small tom itself which is trim but strong, grabbing top and bottom of two adjacent lugs.
Even more impressively, the toms and snare have 2.3mm chrome-plated steel Power Hoops. This may be overkill on these small drums, but is another indication of Mapex's determination to impress.
With an 18" bass drum you don't necessarily need a pedal lift. However, Mapex has included a simple, effective one and if you use it then the suspended drum can resonate with minimum restriction. And it's easier to reach the bottom two tuning lugs - at least at the front.
At 7.2mm the bass drum shell is a little thicker than a top-notch bass drum and should therefore be a little brighter in timbre. Certainly with both heads intact and no damping our first impression of the sound was that it was edgy and firm. We played around, tightening and loosening the heads, but it always remained focused and solid, perfect for small group work.
At 5.8mm the toms and snare shells are medium thickness, and coupled with classic sizes and the supplied Remo Coated Ambassador-style batters they chimed with as much resonance as many an equal-sized, expensive maple tom. You should have no difficulty in getting a suitably authentic, clean jazz sound. Picking up the floor tom by its rim with one hand and lamming it with the other, the attack was eye-watering. And we could feel the sustain coursing through the whole body of the shell.
Turning to the snare, where the bass drum was hard the snare was warm. Out of the box we just put a half-twist on the lugs all round - top and bottom - and the drum sounded great. Some snares sound hollow, dry and hard, while others sound snarey, wet and sweet. This one is definitely of the latter type. It is crisp with ringing rim-shots and cross-sticks, but then has that thick, full snare response that gives a fat sound at lower tensions and a bright, snappy sound at higher tensions. That there are 20 lugs does not seem to impede it.
A word in praise of the strainer too. It's a side-lever design, mounted on a large nylon/ plastic gasket and has a small rubber stopper for quiet action, plus the tension knob is sculpted for comfortable grip. Just one of many details that make the Meridian a desirable bargain.