BY CLARICE CAST
This year marks Tycoon Percussion’s 30th anniversary, and more than half of that time has been devoted to making percussion instruments (Tycoon started out as a guitar manufacturer). Since then, it has been expanding at a healthy clip. The once unknown and exotic Peruvian cajon, is now one of the most popular choices of hand drums available on the market among all kinds of percussionists, and it has been used for many different styles of music.
Tycoon’s new Crate Cajon is one of many cajon options from this company. You may already know that cajon in Spanish means “drawer” or “box,” and maybe you’re telling yourself: “Well, duh, it is a wooden box! What’s new and different about this one?” There are a lot of unique and creative features about the Crate, and they’re offered at a very fair price point.
The Tycoon Crate Cajon is handcrafted with 100 percent environmentally friendly certified Siam oak. We all know how important it is to take good care of our mother Earth, so that alone gets a lot of points in my book. The tapa, or playing surface, is made with exotic Asian hardwood and Siam oak, producing a very rich bass tone. The Crate’s body is solid and reliable, and sits on four strong rubber feet giving this cajon the support it needs.
The cajon features four snares separated by two sets of two snare wires each; one set is on the right side and the other set is on the left side of the playing surface. They are aligned in a V shape and fall perfectly in line with the natural striking spot on the cajon, producing a nice and clear snare tone, especially when playing slaps because they sound and feel effortless. The snares are easily adjustable with a very clever Velcro system. When the snares are on, the Velcro covers them against the playing surface. If you want a dryer sound and decide to turn the snares off, all you have to do is open the Velcro inside the cajon and place it between the strings and the playing surface. It is a very simple but extremely effective mechanism. There are also added jingles inside the Crate for a brighter touch.
Now, if you’re a typical hand drum player, you have at least five different tuning wrenches of all sizes and shapes, and if you also follow the stereotype, chances are you misplace your tuning wrenches quite often. Well, Tycoon had you (us) in mind when it decided to attach this cajon’s snare-adjusting Allen wrench to its inside support frame. There is a little aperture on the inside of the frame next to the sound hole specially made for the Crate’s adjusting wrench and its forgetful owners. Problem solved! The snare wires can now be easily adjusted whenever needed or desired, and the screws are conveniently located on the outside bottom front part of the cajon for a perfect reach.
Perhaps the coolest feature about the Crate is its looks. The Tycoon Crate Cajon literally looks like a vintage wooden crate (hence the name) that you might find on a 18th century Peruvian farm. African slaves in Peru were not allowed to play musical instruments, so they used their creativity and courage to go against their oppressors to find what was available to them to be able to express themselves musically. It would have been impossible for slave masters to forbid boxes and crates, so that’s what was used, eventually morphing into the more elaborately designed cajons we enjoy today. I believe Tycoon’s Crate cajon really brings us back to cajon’s roots. Fellow musicians may notice how unique-looking your instrument is and ask you if you stole a wooden box from the farmer’s market. But most likely they’re just saying that out of jealousy because their guitar doesn’t look as cool as this cajon (which, ahem, may or may not have happened in real life).
THE DIFFERENCE IS IN THE DETAILS
When I first saw the Crate Cajon, I was very impressed with how well finished this instrument is and how smooth its surface feels. The Crate is definitely one of the most unique cajons on the market. There are wooden slats across the sides and the back to add character and security. Both the frame and playing surface are covered with a very light and gloss-free satin, giving this cajon a rustic yet sophisticated look. I give kudos to the Tycoon design team for accomplishing that seemingly impossible task of elegantly blending two competing aesthetics. It could easily be mistaken by a very classy piece of vintage furniture. The measurements on the Crate are 19″ tall by 11.5″ wide (on the playing surface) and 12″ deep. This is a fairly light cajon, easy to cary around for gigs, and lighter than most cajons I’ve played, which is always a bonus when you have dozens of other toys to be loaded and unloaded at each gig.
The Crate has a very involving and warm sound. The Asian hardwood and Siam oak playing surface really complement each other to serve the quality of the sound. The bass tones are very rich, deep, and explode with nice projection. One condenser microphone was enough to amplify it and bring out all the captivating overtones of the Crate during live performances. The slap tones are bright and crisp, and because the snare wires are strategically placed on each side on the playing surface, the slaps feel and sound effortless. When the snares are off, the sound is just as great. The bass tones really pop out, and pitch bending becomes a breeze.
This cajon shows great response to all types of strokes with different parts of the hand. My fellow percussionists had only compliments about this instrument. Some of them could not resist and had to try it out for themselves. Audience members were also intrigued and interested in checking out the “cool-looking box.” That’s not a response I often get with a standard cajon.
The Crate Cajon is a great choice overall. It has a very clear, distinct, and organic sound, with great deep bass tones and bright slaps that are easy on the hands at the same time. The design is very well thought-out and carefully handcrafted, resulting in one of the coolest-looking cajons on the market today. It is a superb option for all types of musicians from a cajon enthusiast to a professional percussionist. Very light weight to carry around for gigs at a very affordable price for the quality you get. And on top of all of all that, you can help protect our planet, knowing that you are taking home an instrument made with 100 percent environmentally friendly certified wood. That sounds like an excellent deal to me.
Configuration Shell constructed from 100 percent eco-friendly certified Siam oak; playing surface is made with exotic Asian hardwood and Siam oak.
Features Internal snare wires adjustable and tunable with provided (attached) tuning Allen wrench; internal jingles provide extra brightness; unique faux crate look is a nice eye-catching detail; Tycoon Percussion 29 series cajon carrying bag can be purchased separately for $89.
List Price $269