Drum Set Reviews
The Mapex M Birch, as the name surgests, is a birch set offering all the benefits of quality birch wood. It replaces the M series that was previously made by Mapex.
You can get the set as just a shell pack on it's own or there is an option to buy it with Mapex's 550 series hardware included.
For this review I've managed to get hold of a set including a 22"x18" bass drum, 10"x9", 12"x10" and 14"x12" toms, and a 14"x5.5" snare drum. Ok, let's see if the M Birch delivers...
A suprising fact about the M Birch is that even though it's a birch set and is called the M birch - it actually has an outer ply of maple. The reason is simply because it's eaiser and quicker and to apply the finshes to maple than birch. This saves money, which means Mapex can sell this set at a cheaper price without sacrificing on quality. Well, as long as it still sounds like a birch set, that's fine with me.
The tom and snare shells are made with 7-plies of birch, plus the 1-ply of maple mentioned above. The bass drum has been made with 8-plies, and all the shells are are fairly thick at 7.2mm. Checking the insides, they all look smooth and have 45-degree bearing edges. No flaws that I can see, not that you'd expect any from an established manufacturer like Mapex.
The shell hardware consists of some sleek looking low-mass lugs fixed on with just one nut to minimize holes. The toms are mounted with Mapex's Isolated Tom System (I.T.S) that attaches to 2 of the lugs instead of drilling into the shell, meaning more shell resonance.
I found that positioning the toms using the mount was quite easy to do. The ball and socket holders work well and once secured don't slide out of place. Unfortunately the mount does penetrate the bass drum shell which decreases the bass drum resonance slightly. This doesn't happen on more expensive Mapex sets, but at this price level you can't expect to have all the top quality features.
There are 6 laquered finishes you can choose to have on the kit. And they all do a great job of showing off the lovely maple wood grain underneath too. The review set was finished in Midnight Black and looked beautiful. The finishes are an impressive 8 layers of laquer, which isn't something you'd usually get on a set in this price level. Excellent.
The 550 series hardware by Mapex includes a snare stand, hi-hat stand, 2 cymbal stands, bass drum pedal and a throne. As you'd expect, it's all double braced and is very sturdy.
Using the bass drum pedal and hi-hat stand was a pleasure. Both have a good action and can be adjusted to get the feel that you want. The bass drum beater also has 3 sides - wood, felt, and plastic to give you even more sound choices.
The two cymbal stands (one boom and one straight) are easy to set up and use too. I could put my cymbals in any position quite quickly and without any hassle. The stands also have Mapex's OS Cymbal Accentuators (rubber felts) which prelong the sustain of your cymbals. Nice.
These birch shells have a good low-end punch when played, but they also have that high-end attack that is common in all birch sets. They project this sound very well too, and can cut through a band to make sure thay are heard.
The rack toms in particular have a nice bright sound but still have enough body to stop them sounding thin. This is the same with the 14" tom but it also has a bit more low-end punch and a fatter sound.
Probably my favourite part of the set was the bass drum. Despite the shell being drilled to hold the tom mount, it has a deep and powerful sound and didn't need much dampening to get it focused. The projection was very good and it made it's presence felt as well as heard.
When it came to the snare drum, I wasn't as impressed. Don't get me wrong, it's still a decent snare drum but it doesn't have the same volume and attack as the rest of the set. I'd be ok about using it for a while, but i'd be looking to replace it at some point.
Tuning up the Mapex M Birch wasn't all that difficult and I had it sounding good after about 30 minutes. Tuned higher it accentuated the high attacking qualities of the set, and tuned lower gave a much fatter sound. I was happy with the range it offered, and it's also worth mentioning that you get some good Remo heads with the set too.
So, how does the kit do overall? I think it's a good set. It gives a decent birch sound that's attacking and bright, but there's also some low-end to balance it out. The build quality is very good too, and it's clearly been made with care.
Also, Mapex are known for giving good quality features and hardware with their sets, and this is no diifferent. The hardware and finshes are excellent and really add to the value of the set.
What about the competition? Well, there are many other birch sets available in this price range, and the Mapex kit stands up as well as any of the others. The sound matches any other birch set i've tried, but it doesn't truly put any of the other sets to shame.
Any downsides? The only problem I have with the M Birch is the snare drum. Like I said earlier - it's not a bad drum but it doesn't match the rest of the set in terms of volume and projection. It could be used for a while, but I'd want to replace it for something with a bit more bite. Other than that it's not a bad set at all.
What about the price? Considering the hardware and finishes you get, you'd probably expect to pay more than Mapex are asking for it. Where's the cheapest place to buy it? Here's the cheapest site i've found. They usually have the lowest price and sometimes free delivery too, so I recommend checking them out for the best deal!
The final word: if you want a birch set, the Mapex M Birch does as good a job as other birch sets in this price range. But, if you add in the high quality laquered finishes and excellent Mapex hardware too - it's a good buy.