Tycoon Percussion may be one of the lesser-known percussion companies, compared to the big four or five that seem to dominate the stages and the press, but it has actually been going since 1985.
Last year its products gained that all-important US distribution, along with offices in sunny California. Tycoon's latest offering is its hand-crafted Master Series range, which features a unique and stunning hand-carved finish.
The anti-gloss brigade
We were blown away by the look of these drums. Never before had we seen a finish that seemed so at home with itself; each drum has a unique wooden exterior that is carved by hand, meaning that no two drums are exactly the same. They look great in the pics but you really have to see them in the flesh to appreciate the full extent of their beauty.
Tycoon sent us its professional level master series 11" quinto and 11¾" conga set along with a matching traditional sized 7" and 8½" bongo set. Even on the bongos the finish was extremely effective. Tycoon offers four different sizes in their Master Series and, in addition to the conga and quinto under review, you can also choose a 12½" tumba, a 10" requinto and a matching djembe, all with this intriguing sculpted finish.
They are all stave constructed from aged Siam oak and happily didn't reek of adhesive when inspecting the craftsmanship on the inside of the drums.
The sound was surprisingly authentic and most gratifying with nothing missing in the sonic palette. Results were both powerful and melodic.
All the drums were topped with good quality water buffalo skin heads and these sit nice and high in relation to the hardware with a warm and highly responsive personality. It was a pleasure to play these drums and they would suit many musical settings with more than a tip of the hat to their construction and great materials.
The conga was responsive and powerful and the quinto took care of business beautifully without a hint of complaint when laying down the most righteous of grooves. Both the drums featured a slightly wider-than-average belly, which adds more low-end and a little more volume than you get with slimmer varieties.
The black chrome hardware is reassuringly solid and certainly looks as though it will last, although when combined with the dark scaly exterior, it might be a little too gothic for some purists out there. Not to worry, however - there are many more conservative finishes in the Tycoon catalogue from which to choose. The substantial 3/8" tuning lugs and three-bolt tension plates lend a reassuring strength to the tuning process and the matching rims are rounded, lying nice and low, avoiding any pain in performance.
This might sound a little secondary but the handle on these drums must be the most comfortable of any we've seen and their chunky, rounded design makes transporting the drums a breeze.
The bongos represent good value for a full-sized professional level set and also carry off the hand carved finish extremely well. They're capable of a large tuning range and the sturdy hardware affords high tensions without fear of anything failing you. They're comfortable to play between the knees and the rims are low and really comfortable to play on with the thin buffalo-skin heads responding beautifully well to even the slightest tuning adjustments.
Our only slight gripe was purely a cosmetic one, as the hand carved finish looked amazing on the two bongos but not so great on the block joining them - admittedly a minor point, and a matter of taste too.
As with any congas or bongos, you will want to hear these for yourself first but rest assured that if you order them before trying you certainly won't be disappointed with the results.