Out Of The Box is a new feature in Drum where we unbox a new product and give it a test run. It’s a “first look” review based on initial setup and testing, without putting products through the longer, more rigorous testing procedure applied for our Soundlab reviews.
BY NICOLAS GRIZZLE | FROM THE SUMMER 2018 ISSUE OF DRUM!
Have you ever, just to mess with a loved one, put a gift in a box, then put that box in another box, before finally boxing that one up and wrapping it? (Yeah, uh, me neither.) Well, unboxing LP’s new Mona Tavakoli signature MT Box cajon felt like receiving such a gift. But inside of all that cardboard was a real wooden drum that sounded as big as the giant box it came in.
Once I got this cajon out of the boxes, I was immediately struck by the three sound holes on its side, which start small in the top left corner and increase in size toward the bottom right. The light natural wood finish is consistent throughout the body and soundboards, with the initials MT outlined inside a box design in white on the front.
That trio of sound holes stands out sonically as well. The bass notes sound larger than expected, based on the weight and size of this instrument. Overall, the birch soundboards and pine body provide a high timbre, even within those booming bass hits.
This is a two-voice cajon, offering both traditional and snare sides. The traditional side yields a crisp, bright, woody tone with a thumping bass, and the snare side gives you a high-pitched snap without too much buzz. Inside are two pairs of phosphor bronze strings spaced four inches apart. The wires of each pair are spaced about the same as the ends of a standard set of snare wires, though they’re thicker than those tapping the bottom head of a snare. This provides just enough snare pop while remaining silent when the other side is played.
Our review cajon produced a ringing note when I played single hits on the top third of the instrument, though it was not as noticeable in the bass sounds or when played in a groove. Our cajon also developed a small crack in the top corner of the snareside, resulting in the corner of the soundboard pulling away slightly from the body (though the black screws on the faceplate held it firmly in place even through heavy playing). This may have been caused during the shipping process, as it didn’t seem to be linked to any design or build issues. At any rate, pine is a softer wood, and it would be wise to treat this lightweight cajon gently and carry it in a padded case between gigs.
Four rubber feet on the bottom make sure that this drum won’t go anywhere when you play it, even if you really get into it and start rocking out to Jason Mraz like Tavakoli herself, who performs live with the singer-songwriter on tour. The drum measures 18″ x 11.75″ x 12″ and has no trouble supporting players large and small.
At 18 inches tall, the MT Box is a little shorter than other cajons I’ve played. But that gives plenty of leverage for percussionists of all heights to use Tavakoli’s “cricket” maneuver, which involves pressing your foot against the face of the drum and sliding it slowly up and down to change the pitch while playing. It’s easier to do on this drum because the lower center of gravity gives you greater balance.