Tycoon Percussion 900 Series Conga/Tumba Set
Tycoon produce a surprisingly wide range of individual congas and conga sets, and the 900 Series congas suitably represent one of their mid-price sets. The 11¾" conga and 12½" tumba are augmented by an 11" quinto and 10" re-quinto and are traditionally stave constructed from aged Siam oak wood, which has since proven to be very durable.
They are available in 12 attractive natural and coloured ﬁnishes. We were not too sure at ﬁrst about the black pearl ﬁnish on the hardware and, after much deliberation, thought that it slightly cheapened the look of the drums. We would have preferred a couple more of their hardware options, namely the chrome or brushed chrome.
However, this is always a personal area and Tycoon offer numerous hardware options in chrome, black powder and brushed chrome (as well as the black pearl plating), so there should be one there to suit most tastes.
Unfortunately there are no ingenious rubber protective strips on the Tycoon set to help prevent knocking seven shades out of the drum next to the one you are playing. We think that, by now, all companies should include these as standard on drums of this calibre. Tycoon use a multi-layer super high gloss coating on these drums which they say produces a mirror-like ﬁnish - in our experience though, it's not quite strong enough to take all the knocks, so treat these instruments with respect.
There are also no carrying handles on these drums. This may or may not effect your decision in choosing a set, but it is quite surprising just how useful they are when they are ﬁtted.
The design of the rims is probably the only main difference between this set and similar ones on the market. The rim is considerably deeper than a lot of other companies' but this gives it a distinctive appearance and, most importantly, it doesn't impede your strokes at all when playing into the head. Thanks to several coats of varnish these drums exhibited a lustre that highlighted the light natural wood grain ﬁnish well and each comes with a simple black tripod stand.
One of the jewels in the crown was a set of 7" and 8½" 800 Series bongos, constructed from aged Siam oak wood and topped with buffalo-skin heads. They are really affordable, available in a variety of colours and offered in such diverse hardware ﬁnishes as black powder, chrome, brushed chrome, black pearl and antique copper.
This set was impressive in more than a few areas. The review model came in an attractive, slightly browner Cherry Wood natural woodstain and the chrome rims set the look off a treat. When playing them you realise that you have quite a range of tones at your disposal, from gentle taps, all the way through to loud open tones and slaps.
The drums exhibited a balanced, almost EQed sound and the natural buffalo skins were both comfortable to play on (with no chance of pain thanks to the low slung rims) while their appearance complemented the drums' construction materials superbly! Tycoon offer a bongo stand as well as a padded travel case which are both available as an optional accessory.
The solid-feeling 12" djembe is made by traditional stave construction from Siam oak and although slightly ubiquitous in its ﬁnish, demonstrated some ﬁne tones and was easy to play on. The bass response was impressive for a drum of this size and mids and slaps all blended together well.
The rim was unobtrusive and was ﬁnished in powder-coated black. The look was offset by a further black metal reinforcement ring that sits about a third of the way down the bowl of the drum in a conveniently carved-out section. The bottom of the drum had a reassuringly protective rubber mould that would take the odd knock to the base of the drum and would prove to be a virtually silent way of moving the drum up and down during performance, thus varying the degree of sustain to your strokes.
This djembe would be a good choice for aspiring drum ensemble players as well as buskers of all ages.
On the box
Tycoon offer an interesting variety of cajons ranging from box cajons - such as the review model - through to ashiko, djembe or bongo cajons.
The review model featured raised rubber feet to increase the angle back toward the player but was fairly roughly ﬁnished around the edges of the soundboard and didn't seem as loud as some models on the market. Compared to some other instruments from other manufacturers, this really seemed as though it was the weakest link.
The cajon offered reasonable bass tones and featured adjustable internal 'snares', which lie against the inside of the soundboard. These can be tensioned with the help of an Allen key which is stored inside the cajon. With the addition of a set of jingles (which, in my view only had a fairly negligible effect) the cajons offer the player several different sound options.
The internal snares are easily mutable - simply ﬁx the supplied Velcro strips across them and onto the strips that are attached to the back of the soundboard. This allows you further control over the level of snap when you are playing toward the top edges of the cajon.
Tycoon Percussion might not be an immediately recognisable name but after 20 years they are currently employing more than 100 people and annually produce quite a staggering number of instruments.
Great value for money and more features than most of the competition in this price range.
The cajon was a little roughly finished and care would have to be taken not to damage the finish of the conga and tumba.
With the choice of ethnic percussion increasing, it is impressive just how much choice is available in nearly all the different price ranges that Tycoon offer. These prices are keen and the quality is mostly reassuring so considering just how much choice you have regarding finishes, hardware and so on, you know that with not only an impressive sound you can also customise your set with all these options.