In the past, European companies like the French Asba and Italian Meazzi came up with the most left-field hardware designs. Now it’s the turn of Slovenian company Manic Drum.
Manic’s shells are of stave construction, chosen from many woods - walnut, cherry, mahogany, rosewood, etc. This Mirage snare is 14"x6.5" of solid maple with a natural, oiled finish. It’s a quality shell, but the really eye-catching aspect is the metalwork, which Manic describes as ‘next-generation’ System One hardware.
Our snare sports a combination of three different lugs. There are single-ended and double-ended versions of standard Lug One 0.02, with hinged, flip-off tension bolts that allow you to change heads without having to completely unscrew the bolts. This concept has been seen before, from Premier in the 1930s to today’s Yamaha Nouveau. It’s sensible and workable but has never really taken off.
The Mirage though also has two opposing pairs of Lug One 0.01 lugs. These each offer three degrees of head tension by pulling down the hinged lever and clicking it into any of three positions. Now this really is something special.
The hoops are also dramatically different. They are double–tiered; the bottom, steel hoop applying even tension to the head collar as per normal. But the top hoop is divided into five sections. Two are solid aluminium and designated Rim Shot areas, while the other three are stainless steel, just 4mm thick.
Drum history is littered with doomed attempts to find alternatives to the standard, humdrum system of head tensioning. None have been that successful. Manic’s System One could change that. It’s brilliant.
As you flick the 0.01 lug’s lever down from the upright, tight position through medium to slack tension the drum’s pitch drops. But the head stays even because the lower, tension-applying steel hoop is a single, unbroken ring.
So although the tension would seem localised to each lug, the head is actually loosened all round. There are four 0.01 lugs, each with three possible positions, so 12 tension permutations already. Changes are made speedily, results immediate and clear. Add in the twin position Exciter One throw-off and butt tensioner and there are umpteen more tuning variations.
Order a custom drum with 20 of these 0.01 lugs, and you’d open up a stratospheric number of tension possibilities!
With its stave maple shell the drum sounds superb - warm and crisp at all tensions. And because the hoops have 1cm-wide flat tops, cross-sticks have a much greater contact area than usual, resulting in the fullest, sweetest tone. The flat- top hoops also feel especially comfortable, are kind to sticks and produce cracking rim-shots.