Toca Freestyle mechanically tuned Djembes

We put Toca's second wave of their highly popular djembes to the test

Toca's original Freestyle Djembes have been available since the mid-noughties and were garnered at the 2007 NAMM convention with a Best In Show accolade. They still prove to be extremely popular today but Toca now also has an update on the rope-tuned originals with these Freestyle mechanically- tuneable versions.

Build

All the models are formed from a lightweight and durable synthetic material, moulded into shape, and have an over-sized upper 'bowl' that expands the drums' bass response when compared with other models of the same diameter.

Unlike their rope-tuned predecessors, these all have scaled-down, extended-collar steel counter hoops that connect with slim nodal point nut boxes and finish with hex-nuts which are tightened with the supplied mini spanner. The nuts have protective rubber tubes over the end of the tuning lugs for added playing comfort and there are non-slip rubber returns to prevent the bottom of the drums being damaged.

Synthetic all-weather heads are fitted on the Freestyle II models, and the Freestyle and Black Mamba drums all have thin goatskin heads. The Black Mamba goatskin head is also finished in a striking black dye to match the rest of the drum and its hardware.

Hands On

The low-profile hoops aren't quite as low as we'd like, especially as youngsters might 'connect' with the V-shaped brackets. All the heads are really responsive but, not surprisingly, we preferred the goatskin versions to the synthetic option.

Volume is in abundance in even the smaller sizes and you can crank their tension into doumbek territory with little effort. Mids and Slaps carried well with both head-types but the 'natural' was our favourite.

The two larger sizes are really impressive and all tones are satisfying, sonorous and sound like they're turned up to 11. The 14" drums are a whopping 26" tall and even adults might have to raise their seat or use a strap or stand.

MusicRadar Rating

4 / 5 stars
Pros

Great value for money. Sound good. Easy to tune, (once the rubber lugs are off).

Cons

Continually taking the rubber lugs off to tune is a bit of a chore.

Verdict

The drums tune up so easily, but having to take those rubber tubes off the lugs to tune them is frankly a chore, and we can imagine that many will simply leave them off to retain their sanity. The Goatskin versions keep their tuning really well, but if you're playing outside or in humid venues then the Freestyle II might be the one to beat. All the drums represent great value for money, sound good for the outlay and now with this 'mechanical' tune-ability, sturdy construction and head choice, should prove even more popular than Toca's first Freestyle wave.

Colour

Red Mask, Gold Mask (Freestyle II), Bali Red, Fiesta, Abstract Red, Gold, Silver (Freestyle), Black (Freestyle Black Mamba)

Drum Shell Material

Seamless synthetic shell; Toca Freestye Mechanical Djembe 9" goatskin, £60; Toca Freestyle Black Mamba Djembe: 12" goatskin, £98; Toca Freestyle II Mechanical Djembes: 9", £66; 10" (goatskin), £77; 10", £83; 12", £105; 14", £167; 14" (goatskin), £167; 14", £167

Review Policy
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.