Thailand's environmentally-friendly, family-owned business Tycoon offers some killer percussion. This month we have one of its cajons to put to the test. We hope to coax a range of kit and hand percussion sounds from this ever-popular and potentially versatile acoustic instrument.
With over 70 models to choose from, Tycoon's cajon range is as extensive as it is varied. Though many are constructed from wood, there is also a choice of fibreglass, acrylic or hybrids of wood/acrylic. Cajons from Tycoon's Vertex Series, for example, have a unique pyramid shape, while the Supremo and Legacy series are more conventionally formed.
Tycoon also offers percussion hybrids with a mix of cajon and a djembe, bongo or conga. These are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, closely mimicking the sound and, often, the actual shape of the original instrument.
For review here, we have a cajon from the Roundback Series in bubinga with a light Makah Burl front-plate or tapa.
Apart from two small sections of the upper/side edges, the tapa is fixed around the body perimeter by Phillips screws. Inside too, a section of the internal bracing has a gap between the uprights, allowing the tapa to flex at this points. When struck, it makes momentary contact at the edges of the cajon body, which should provide a percussive 'click'.
For the 'snare' effect, Tycoon utilises four lengths of wire. This is held against the inside of the tapa by strips of velcro-type material. The effect is adjustable by altering the position of the velcro and the tension of the snare wires via two Allen bolts, accessible from the underside.
The lush grain of the Roundback's Makah Burl tapa mimics the pattern created in a pool of oil and water - not quite mixing, but alluring and beautiful. Tycoon says the unique shaping is designed to "provide superior bass tones". The sound hole is located in one of the side panels. Generally the sound hole of a cajon is directly opposite the tapa - so it makes for an interesting comparison, to see if the bass notes are as deep or effectively projected on the Roundback.
The Bubinga Roundback has oodles of resonance with a warm, deep low-end tone. It also features some impressive upper 'edge' effects too and striking the sides of the bubinga body creates a further range of percussive type sounds. The warmth of the wood and shaping of the rear section does seem to help produce a surprisingly fat low-end timbre. When steadily moving up the tapa, the fat snares and percussion sounds demonstrate its incredible versatility.