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Valter Percussion Blackbox Review

23 February 2010

While nowadays there are a lot of different cajon models by many manufacturers, Valter Kingbon from sweden always gives his models something to make them stand out from the crowd. His custom model was my main cajon for years. It has an adjustable soundhole in the back which allows you to effectively “tune” the cajon. You can adjust the tone and sound of the bass which is a great feature in general and is priceless in some live situations when a slight adjustment of the hole will get rid of feedback problems and make the drum sound much better through a particular sound system.

His series of white and blackboxes features the models 4, 6 and 8, where the number relates to the number of corners of the frontplate. I played the 6 and 8 models and recently had a chance to use the 8 during a concert and studio session.

The most obvious difference to other cajons is the shape of the frontplate. The corners are cut in an 45 degree angle on top of the blackbox 6 and on top and bottom of the blackbox 8. The blackbox 8 features legs similar to the ones you find on tomtoms, so you can adjust angle and height of the drum.

All black and whiteboxes have a seat on top to sit on, and the playing surface is slightly tilted towards the player.

This may sound weird if you don’t see it, but let me tell you I never have sat as comfortable on any cajon before. It feels like a really good drum stool, and even after a whole day in the studio I still felt very comfortable.

The second amazing thing is that I don’t have to balance the drum on the backside any more when I’m playing.

Usually when playing cajons, I tilt the instrument backwards slightly because this gives me a more comfortable angle to play. It can be tricky with amplification because it changes the position of the instrument and it is not a very stable and comfortable sitting position in general.

With the blackbox, I find it in the perfect playing position already, no need for balancing and tilting.

It took me a while to get used to the cut corners, and for my playing ideally I’d prefer to have a slightly different angle, but nontheless I woudn’t want to miss them any more, especially since they give you a lot of sound variety depending on where exactly you hit.

The next feature is the built-in mic. The mic is mounted inside the drum and there is a net over the hole in the back to minimize overtones and feedback. I played a concert with a small ensemble the other day and the soundsystem was pretty crappy. But all I had to do was plugging the xlr cable into the connector on the backside of the cajon and turn up the gain and it sounded great. No additional mics, no feedback issues.

In the studio we used the signal from the internal mic in addition to the studio mics, it gives a very direct and dry sound which is nice to work with and none of the other instruments’ sounds spilled onto the track.

I didn’t use the legs on the blackbox 8 to adjust angle or height of the instrument, because for me the drum naturally has a great position. If you are very tall, this might be a great feature for you.

Sound Character:

The overall soundcharacter of the drum is comparable to a tight funk-kit.

Personally I like this kind of sound in a cajon, I don’t like any noises, additional buzzes or big sustain, so for me it works very well. The bass sound is short and dry,  and a bit lower than on many other cajons, again something I like a lot.

The instrument is constructed for live performance and amplification, it doesn’t have the biggest sound acustically. If you play lots of acoustic gigs and need a powerful sound without amplification, this drum would probably not be your first choice. Check out Valter’s Big Box instead.

The pros:

-the adjustable seat makes it the most comfortable cajon I’ve ever sat on

-playing angle

-no-hassle amplification through the internal mic

-adjustable height and angle on blackbox 8

The cons:

-a bit heavier than your standard cajon

-I’d prefer if the angle of the upper corners slightly different

Bottom line:

asolutely love this drum.

Hello,
About David

my name is David Kuckhermann. Welcome to my website. You can find lots of free tutorials and videos, and information about frame drums, cajon, Udu, Hang and other hand percussion, my different projects, my label and series of instructional DVDs. Make sure to check out the frame drum video podcast which features amazing percussionists from all over the world who share their music. I hope you have a good time here.
Peace,
David

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