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When Man Meets Machine – Mapex Black Panther “The Machine” – Craig Blundell Signature Snare

WOAH! What a mouthful that is! Fortunately, there’s a mouthful of AMAZING things to say about the latest signature offering from the Design Lab at Mapex. Let’s do the deep dive into what makes Craig Blundell’s long-overdue signature snare drum a MUST HAVE for any drummer…

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Craig Blundell is a LEGEND. He falls under the same category as Steve White, Neil Wilkinson & Ash Soan as a pioneer of the British drumming scene and has built a solid reputation as a drummer, clinician, programmer and educator.

Craig contributes a lot to the drumming scene through his sensational Masterclasses as well as dedicating much of his time researching and developing ideas and features for huge companies such as Roland, Mapex & Paiste.

Developing sampling technology with one of the biggest electronics companies in the world is no easy task. It takes getting your hands dirty and firmly inside the belly of the beast, or “machine” in this case. Speaking of…

The Black Panther Machine Snare Drum is the result of extensive development between Craig and the team at Mapex. It’s a 14×5.5in 6ply Walnut/Maple hybrid shell. The Walnut gives a rich, almost mechanical sound to the drum while the Maple adds warmth and humanity to the otherwise dry wood. These two woods combined make a fitting choice for the signature snare of a hybrid player like Craig. The depth makes this drum incredibly versatile, sounding great tuned low and cranked up high. Perhaps “The Chameleon” would have been a more appropriate name as the versatility of this drum makes it suitable for any genre of music!

The Machine Snare Drum has the upper hand on the rest of the Black Panther line thanks to it’s specially commissioned components. Firstly, it comes fitted as standard with Craig’s choice of Aquarian drumheads – An Aquarian Hi-Energy on top and a Classic Clear Snare Side on the bottom. Although the Hi-Energy is a fairly thick head, it’s great for those who do their best “Thor Swinging Hammer” impression while playing the drums. The Hi-Energy will take a BEATING. The addition of the thicker batter head allows the drum to reach a lower fundamental pitch, making it a great all-rounder for a tight crack or a low slap!

Secondly, The Machine features the ever so sexy Trick throw-off.  The snare throw-off can often be where a lot of money is saved, but that’s not the case with The Machine. The dial on the Trick works similarly to the DW three-position butt plate where it has multiple settings: “Off”, “Half-On” & “Fully Engaged”.

The dial is engaged by turning it left to right instead of the traditional up and down like most throw-offs. This thing is SILENT, and smooth as silk to use making this drum even more incredible. The addition of the Trick throw-off to The Machine was a stroke of genius from both Mapex & Craig. I guess you could say they didn’t miss a TRICK…

Last up is the addition of PureSound Equalizer snare wires. No, the wires aren’t “missing a bit”, it’s absolutely intentional. The Equalizer wires by design work together with the natural acoustics of the shell to create an “equal” balance of snare sizzle and shell tone. The result is a snare drum that is affected less by sympathetic vibrations from other drums and leaves a crisper sounding snare. All these efforts combined create a Captain Planet level of power that only this snare can create!

We put it through its paces here at Drummers Only towers, and between us arrived at this conclusion. The Machine snare drum is BumbleBee from the first Transformers movie. I should explain…

The exterior makes this drum seem like “any other snare drum“, but what lurks beneath the “hood” is a souped-up engine ready to take on your musical journey and TRANSFORM your drum sound. Despite being a wood shell, it could easily be mistaken for metal due to its sharp mechanical tone, making it a great fit not only for live performance but studio recording too.

Machines constantly undergo upgrades and have their parts inter-changed all the time, and this drum feels like a well-oiled machine. It’s got all the latest hardware like the trick throw-off and bespoke heads and wires to make it shine above the rest, and it’s extensive tuning-range means this drum will sit beautifully in a mix tuned low/medium or cut right through when cranked up high. We honestly can’t fault it!

I imagine the inception of The Machine from Craig & Mapex similarly to how world-changing inventions such as the light bulb, combustion engine, and the Warburtons loaf of bread came to be; the inventors got in a room, rolled up their sleeves and made it happen. The result is a truly fantastic bit of gear that looks, sounds and feels like a high-end instrument. Do yourself a favour next time you’re looking to upgrade your snare sound, add the Black Panther Machine Snare to your bucket list!

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