Saturday, January 26, 2019

Review: Sound Percussion Labs 2-2/3 Octave Xylophone

My new xylophone
One week ago I had an introductory lesson with a local mallet percussion instructor.  In his studio the teacher had a 4.3 octave marimba and a 3.5 octave xylophone.  My main purpose for this initial meeting was to get to see, hear and play a marimba in person.  But while there I also struck a few bars on the xylophone.  It then struck me that xylophone ain't so bad and that it might be an excellent practice instrument to tide me over until I can get a marimba.

So after the lesson I did some research on xylophones and came across this one under the Sound Percussion Labs brand:

It has 2.6 octaves, padauk wood bars and resonators, and comes with its own stand and a set of mallets.  It's priced at $499.99 - which is not too bad for this style of instrument - but I bet with some internet sleuthing of promo codes you could at least get the price down to $425 (15% off).  I also ran across this Korogi desktop xylophone at $315 but it doesn't come with resonators, mallets or a stand.

There's not much information out there about this Sound Percussion Labs 2-2/3 Octave Xylophone but I did find this video of someone playing one.  It sounds pretty good in this video so I took the plunge:

I ordered online but had it shipped to a local store to save on shipping costs.  Four business days after ordering the store called me to say that it was in, so yesterday I drove down and picked it up.  The box it was shipped in easily fit in the back seat of my car and it was light enough for me to pick up and carry into the house without assistance.

The instrument was packaged well.  After taking everything out of the box I noticed that there were no setup instructions.  This initially concerned me but five minutes later I had it fully setup and was already playing.  I am the absolute worst with setup/assembly, so if I could have it set up within five minutes of unboxing then it must be something that anyone could figure out.

The xylophone portion comes ready to play out of the box.  You could take it out of the box, put it on a table top and begin playing right away.  The padauk bars are already in position with no assembly required.

The stand required assembly but that was super easy and feels stable once assembled.  You just insert the middle bar, line it up where a screw could go through, and then quickly screw in the included part.  Once the stand is assembled you will see that there are little nobs on top of the stands that line up with little holes or indendations on bottom of the xylophone frame, allowing it to sit securely on the stand.  On the xylophone frame there's a place where the resonators are supposed to hang from and sitting the resonators on those notches is pretty intuitive once you notice them.

35 inches long or wide.
23 inches deep at the low end.
30.25 inches high when sitting on stand (first row of bars).
Bars are a static width of about 1.25 inches.

How Does It Sound?
You can already tell from the video that I shared above that it sounds pretty good.  I am even more impressed by its sound in person.  I feel like xylophone is one of those instruments that doesn't always come across well in YouTube videos or sound samples, but in-person the sound of this instrument is quite pleasant.  It's a BIG step up from a bells glockenspiel, for sure.

For a student or beginner-level instrument made in China I'm about as happy as can be with this instrument.  I haven't done much testing of the sound with our without the resonators to see what difference they make.  The mallets that it comes with do seem to be cheaply made when compared to the quality of the rest of the instrument.  They are fine to begin with but that is something you might want to upgrade eventually.

I made this little recording yesterday after getting the xylophone onto its stand.  Here's how I sound on my first day of playing this new instrument and here's how it sounds on its first day in my living room.  I used the mallets it came with.  This is a tune I had written the day before getting the xylophone.  I wrote it in Db in anticipation of getting the xylophone, knowing that the notes in that scale primarily reside on the back row.  Just to make it more fun.


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