In 2015, Mapex re-vamped its flagship series with the release of the all-new Saturn V.
Now fast forwarding to 2017, the addition of the Saturn V Tour Edition expands the range to include a host of new configurations that boast a selection of brand-new wrap finishes.
Like any Mapex Saturn kit, the shells are constructed from a hybrid of maple and walnut veneers which, according to Mapex: “produce a strong attack and a rich tone that projects well in live settings and tracks perfectly in the studio”.
Using the tag line “honouring the past while pushing forward”, the general approach for the Tour Edition is to combine traditional sizes and finishes with the up-to-date characteristics of the Saturn in an attempt to create something of a modern classic.
The Tour is available in just four classic wrap finishes: Black Strata, Black Pearl, Vintage Sparkle and White Marine (pictured). Interestingly, Mapex suggests that it has managed to utilise traditional wrap finishes without compromising the resonant properties of the drum in any way.
In terms of sizes and configurations, the main marketing emphasis is on the trio of three-piece ‘one up, one down’ shell packs available, although there are a number of four-piece kits also on the market, at least in the US. Our review kit is made up of a 22"x16" bass drum, 12"x8" rack and 16"x16" floor tom.
Completing the line up is a 20" bass drum pack (20"x14", 12"x8", 14"x14") and a larger 24" set-up (24"x14", 13"x9", 16"x16").
The shallow dimensions of the bass drums work well in echoing the vintage attitude of the Tour line-up. Individual 14"x6" snare drums with matching finishes are also available as part of the line. We were sent one to check out that matched our White Marine review kit.
The Saturn V (and now Tour Edition) shells are constructed from seven plies in total; 7.5mm for the bass drums and 6.15mm for the snare and toms, with the walnut constituting the inner plies. Another attribute that the Tour Edition shares with its older sibling is the SONIClear bearing edge and tom suspension system.
Originally introduced on the Mars and Armoury Series in 2014, the slightly rounded bearing edges allow more contact between the shell and the head. Predominantly designed to make the drums easier to tune, they also aim to provide a greater tuning range and provide more resonance.
With optimum resonance being the hot topic, the SONIClear tom mounting system (first seen on the Saturn IV) is in place to reduce the shell-to-hardware contact as much as possible. Rather than the drum being suspended from the tension bolts as we might see with a standard RIMS-type mount, the ‘T’-shaped bracket is attached to two thicker bolts that fit into the bottom of two specially designed lugs, thus relieving any pressure without the need to drill extra holes into the wood.
Due to the amount of free play that is allowed by this set-up, the bottom of the bracket uses a rubber bumper that sits against a small, circular logo-badge, protecting the finish. This is coupled with a heavy-duty ball-joint mount which, weighing an absolute ton even on its own, is undeniably sturdy. The clamp section itself features a measurement gauge which allows for quicker fitting to different hardware diameters. Perhaps a little unnecessary but a smart touch nonetheless.
The kits are also supplied with 2.3mm Power Hoops, Memory Mark bass drum spurs, Low-Contact bass-drum claws, SONIClear floor tom feet (of which the legs are enormous) and Black Panther-style lugs, all finished in chrome. The snare drum features the same throw-off and dual strainer system found on the Black Panther series snares, which is an added bonus. It feels remarkably heavy and looks like it will easily stand up in its own right.
Each drum is adorned with a plush black and chrome ‘M’ Mapex badge that can also be seen printed on each of the included Remo USA coated heads. The snare and toms come with coated Ambassador batters and clear Ambassador resos, while the bass drum has a coated Power Stroke P4 batter and pre-ported reso.
Removing the first drum from the box, we are instantly won over by the review kit’s finish. The creamy appearance of the White Marine wrap is certainly reminiscent of the classic Ludwig pearl finish of the same name - only with the Mapex, the pattern tends to sweep more horizontally.
The vertical seam where the wrap overlaps can be spotted a way off with this finish particularly - although, thankfully, it is sealed well and doesn’t look like it’ll be coming loose any time soon. The heavy-duty chrome hardware complements the vintage-style finish well and does indeed make for a pleasing combination.
Sonically, the kit is as beefy as it looks. Slightly dryer overall than expected, especially considering the efforts that have been taken for maximising resonance. This could be put down to the inner plies of walnut, which offer a darker tone than that of the maple. It almost feels more like the toms have double-ply heads on them rather than the supplied Ambassadors, partly due to the immense amount of low-end being produced - an inherent trait of the Saturn.
Despite this, these tubs are certainly not short of decay. Tuned to a medium-low pitch the toms are booming. The floor tom has a beautifully clear note that we can not only hear but feel, building on and on with each strike - perhaps helped along a little by its special springy SONIClear feet.
The bass drum has a Sonitus Kicker 2.0 foam dampener (left in by accident, not included with the kit), which gives it a wonderfully dry thump. Once again, there is a pleasing amount of low-end but it feels very controlled and focused. The 16" depth is ample for producing just the right amount of wallop under my right foot.
The kit is easy enough to tune but nothing necessarily to write home about. When taking the toms up a little on the batter side, they begin to feel somewhat choked. It then requires a little more tension in the bottom head to get a more versatile spread.
The snare drum is as pleasant as we’d hoped it would be - perfect in a medium tuning with loads of bottom-end snare response resulting in a full-bodied, earthy crack that provides a more-ish and amazingly versatile backbeat.