BY GREGG JUKE
For those who live on the left-side of the Atlantic Ocean, Dion Dublin is a retired Premier English soccer star, a sports broadcaster, and a passionate amateur musician. After many years of thrilling soccer fans with his fancy footwork as a center forward and defender, it has become apparent that his talent doesn’t stop below his ankles, but includes very rhythmic hands as well. It was in the capacity of percussionist that Dublin was unsatisfied with the many varieties of cajons available on the market, so he took it upon himself to invent something better. He wondered what a cube-shaped drum with multiple tuned playable sides would sound like. To make a long story short, that idea is how The Dube was born, and after several design prototypes and adjustments, the current version was brought to market.
The Dube is a cube-shaped drum with four of the six sides available as playable surfaces. There are four different sizes – 9″, 12″, 15″, and 18″. The Dube is made from wood and high-impact plastic, has thick rubber corner protectors to prevent chipping (and I suppose the odd injury that could occur without them during a fast load-in or out), and tiny vents or sound-ports on each of the playable sides. Each also has a built-in handle, and perhaps the most innovative feature – an internal microphone fitted with an XLR output so that The Dube may be used with an external amplifier or P.A. system. Also separately available is a sturdy padded case with an included shoulder strap.
The Dube is a good-looking instrument, which comes in three standard finishes: Black, White, and Natural (wood-grain), but you can also order your own customized version with various colors, text, or logos emblazoned on the sides of your Dube, and there is a “design your own” section of The Dube’s Web site to create your own specifications.
While the promotional material mentioned using sticks, mallets, and brushes in addition to hands, our experiments eschewed sticks and mallets out of concern for the instruments’ finish.
THE CHALLENGE OF GEOMETRY
Despite the innovative concept, there are a few difficulties with the design. The smallest drums are hard to play in a comfortable way; they don’t really fit on one’s lap, but a table or other area to hold the instrument while standing might not always be available. Kneeling on the floor might work in an educational or therapeautic setting, but is not going to be a good solution for professional use. The Web site and YouTube videos do show Dublin and others playing Dubes on stands, which seem to be uniform and made for use with the Dube, but the Web site does not mention the stand as an available product for sale, nor did I receive one with the review instruments sent to me. When contacted about this, the company responded that the stand is in production and should be available early 2013. In the meantime, my solution for practice and use in the studio was to put the Dubes on the 18″ case as an improvised stand. Another possibility would be to use a restaurant-style tray stand.
A few other nit-picks would be the difficulty in plugging in and removing an XLR cable for use with an amplifier or P.A. (you’d need pretty small hands to be comfortable doing this), and the handle being in the way of both plugging in the cable and the cable itself when it hangs from the bottom – a right-angle XLR cable would probably be a good fix for both issues.
TESTING AND OBSERVATIONS
While The Dubes didn’t make as much sense to me as acoustic instruments, they really did shine when “electrified,” and sounded better in a P.A. than a single-tube guitar amp, and best when recorded directly into a digital recorder and treated with EQ and some reverb. When shelving EQ was applied to notch out a few egregious frequencies, The Dubes really came alive. The 18″ had extended bass resonance, and the 15″ and 9″ made good complements to complete a bass, tenor, and soprano trio.
The internal microphone seems to be very capable of bringing-out tonal variety, and the Dube can exhibit qualities of the cajon, conga, wood bongos, udu, and a metallic sound (that reminds me of a tuned paint can or spaghetti pot) all at once. Slaps, edge tones, fingers, and palm and scraping sounds are easy and fun to make, but again are much better represented electrically rather than acoustically.
While models are available with the choice of Shure PG52 microphones (Pro), or another microphone option (Standard), I could not discern what the Standard model microphone is, or if the Dubes sent to me included the Shure microphones or not. According to the company, the Standard Dube mike is more for educational purposes as children and beginners don’t really need to hear the specifics of the sound, just volume. Whereas in The Pro Dube the mike is for the more advanced ear, and for those who need to hear bass, treble, etc. What I do know is that they sounded good to my ear. It should also be noted that the company is planning some upgrades, and a reduction in the price, so look for those in the next few months.
A great, innovative idea that looks cool and will be very eye-catching, but make sure that you plug it in. Also, some type of stand will not be an optional luxury for professional use; hopefully an official product is available by the time you read this or soon after, but if not you’ll need to experiment to find what works for you. It’s an awesome instrument on its own terms. The Dube is not a cajon, conga, or bongo, but it does have elements of each in its unique sound, and therefore could be just the thing to fill multiple spots in your percussive arsenal.
Model & List Price
9″ (Standard/Pro) $255/$400
12″ (Standard/Pro) $355 / $510
15″ (Standard/Pro) $455/$605
18″ (Standard/Pro) $530/$665
(Price quotes approximate, and subject to pounds sterling—to—dollar conversion rates)
Features: Various sizes; various/customizable finishes (White, Black, Natural, and design-your-own); rubber corner protectors; internal microphone; built-in recessed handle; carrying case with shoulder strap available separately.