What Is A Spacedrum® – The Verdict


When handpans first appeared they were a striking sight. Spaceship shaped it is no wonder that once it was discovered that they were a form of hand drum that Space Drum may be adopted as a potential name. Step forward Phillippe Maignaut who, with his craftsmen make these handpans from the bottom up, without using widely available shells, creates a unique instrument that is deserving of its own name. So what is a Space drum exactly?

A Spacedrum® is a steel drum inspired by the PANArt Hang, the original handpan in this form. First created in France in 2006,the Spacedrum® is unique from many other handpans. Preformed shells are not used to provide a unique sound and Metal Sounds, the company responsible for the construction, continues to push the boundaries of design.

This article will delve deeper into the Spacedrum®, its design, differences from other handpans and answer the many questions about Spacedrum® you may have. 

Spacedrum Range?

There are two types of handpan produced by Metal Sounds under the Spacedrum® brand.

  • Spacedrum Evolution®
  • Spacedrum Nitro®
TechnicalEvolutionNitro
MaterialStainless SteelRaw Steel
Diameter [cm]48-55-6055
Height [cm]12.512.5
Steel Thickness1.2mm1.2mm
Weight3.4-5.4kg4.5kg
Number of notes6-139 or 10
TreatmentThermalNitrided
ColorVariesVaries

Spacedrum Evolution®

The Evolution is made using 1.2mm stainless steel. This provides perfect protection against rusting, although, this should be marketed as added protection. nitrided steel undergoes the nitriding process for the same purpose. It is granted however that there is less chance of rusting with stainless steel.

The two halves of the handpan are welded together as opposed to the more commonly practiced process of gluing. This in itself plays a part in the creation of the unique sound of the Evolution Spacedrum.

Depending on which model you choose the handpan will have between 6 -13 notes. The greater number coming on the Chromatically tuned handpan.

If you are considering a handpan for the first time, I would suggest staying away from the lure of 13 notes in this case, and in particular the chromatic scale. it is not idea for a beginner.

The Evolution does have an attractive look with body and dimple color contrast. This adds nothing to the sound quality, it should be added.

The Evolution comes in three sizes based on the scale and space required to create them, so keep this a consideration, the 60cm chromatic scale Evolution is a Large instrument, and typically 15% larger than most standard handpan sizes.

Spacedrum Nitro®

Following on from the Evolution, Metal Sound has added a second brand in the Nitro. This time using a nitrided steel shell with oval notes in a single color scheme.

Here the nitro comes in a single size 55cm diameter form, a smaller range of scales [for now], in either 9 or 10 note versions depending on the scale choice.

What Scales are Available for the Spacedrum?

There is a range of scales, and you will find that that Metal Sounds are the only [So far as I can tell] manufacturer that produces a chromatic scale handpan. More handpan Scale information and how to choose one.

Model#NotesScale
Evolution8Deep Sky
Evolution8Low Hitzaz
Evolution8Celtic minor
Evolution8Sunpown
Evolution8Silverado
Evolution8Atlantico
Evolution9Anaziska
Evolution9Equinox
Evolution9Melog Selizir
Evolution9Hokkaido
Evolution13Chromatic
Nitro9Amara Dm
Nitro9Sonoro Dm
Nitro9Celtic Dm
Nitro9Equinox Fm

What is the difference between a Handpan and a Spacedrum®?

Essentially there is no difference between  Spacedrum® and a handpan. This is because the ‘handpan’ really is the term used to describe every instrument taking this form of hammered steel instrument. Spacedrum is a brand name for the instrument made in France by metal Sounds. 

The Spacedrum® is created using the same fundamental technique that any handpan is made from, but retains a unique identity through avoiding the use of mass-produced pre-formed steel shells, used by many other handpan makers.

So a Spacedrum is not different from a handpan, it is a handpan instrument.

It is like referring to your guitar as a Fender, which it may well be but it’s a Fender guitar, the same as the Specedrum is a Spacedrum handpan!

Hope that helps!

Is the Spacedrum® Any Good?

The Spacedrum is good, take a listen [with good quality headphones] to this video below of the Spacedrum Evolution® – Ths is one of the largest handpans you will find on the market, and I am sure you will agree in the hands of Théo Poizat it sounds quite beautiful

Spacedrum Evolution® 8 Note DEEP SKY – Scale : C3 Eb3 G3 Bb3 C4 D4 Eb4 F4

Who makes Spacedrums?

Spacedrums are made in France by Metal Sounds. They were the first to begin making handpans in France as far back as 2006 and have continued to do so, creating new models, new techniques and adding tongue drums to their portfolio of instruments under the Zenko brand name.

More information on Tongue drums and my favourite instrument right now, the Rav vast is available through the coolpercussion website.

How much Does a Spacedrum® cost?

Spacedrums cost between €1790 – €2190. The Nitro models are at the bottom end of the price range whilst the Evolution model which has more notes is at the top end.

Generally, the more notes on your handpan the greater the cost will be. This is relative to the production time pertaining to the time required to create each note on the instrument.

Where Can I buy a Spacedrum®?

The Metal Sounds website, home of the Spacedrum® obviously sells the full range of instruments. Thomann also stocks a good range.

I found this A-Minor Spacedrum at a lower price than i was expecting, with free shipping [depending on location]

Obviously this is not ideal if you are located in the United States but I was interested to find the Zenko Tongue drum made by Metal Sounds on Amazon

How Many Notes on  Spacedrum®?

Spacedrum Evolution has between 6 and 13 notes dending on the scale while the Nitro version in nitrided steel has just 9 or 10 notes.

The chromatic scale Evolution is the model with 13 notes and the largest on the range.

Handpan with a chromatic scale, is that even possible?

There is much debate about whether the chromatic scale is possible or really works on the handpan.

Metal Sounds have this to say

The chromatic Spacedrum® is, until now, the only instrument from the handpan (Pantam) family recently created to propose a complete chromatic scale! Bigger than the diatonic and pentatonic models, it has 13 notes which really open new horizons to the musicians.

Metal Sounds

The spacedrum does have a very different sound to many other handpans. The reason for this may not be obvious to the untrained ear but has been rounded up in the friendliest of fashions by comments on a handpan Facebook group.

In very simplistic terms, in the design of any handpan there must be at least one bad note, and often that bad note’s harmonics (octave and octave & 5th). The best designers choose scales to avoid that bad note, different for each design choice. In the case of a space drum, you are guaranteed at least one bad note or two.

In order for that bad note to not be obvious, the designer can also make all of the notes sound slightly wrong. I personally find this true of the space drum — all notes sound a bit like a Caribbean steel drum. Can be cool if that is what you want, but most people want better of a hand pan.

Handpan Facebook group quote

It has to be said that you can hear the Caribbean steel feel in this, one of the most viewed handpan videos on YouTube. Without a doubt when compared to other handpans it is, as claimed, a distinct and unique sound.

Chromatic Scale – Early Metal Sounds Spacedrum

There is some counter-argument just to balance this out

They use stainless, not nitrided steel. In terms of sound, it’s like “reverse steel pan”. And because there is many notes different, many interferences as well. That’s why no other makers try to make a chromatic scale too. They evolve and make spacedrum nitro now which is a handpan with nitrided steel and not a ” reverse steel pan” anymore

Handpan facebook group quote

Although still some concerns are voiced about the Stainless build which I can not find a counter for.

The stainless space drums I’ve seen have really bad temperature stability (they get warm and the notes get wobbly). My friend owns one of their deep sky models and it has this problem.

Handpan facebook group

How big is a Spacedrum®?

The Evolution Spacedrum® is one of the largest handpans, if not the largest, with the biggest version at around 60cm in diameter. You will more frequently find handpans at around 52cm, meaning the Spacedrum is around 15% larger than most handpans at this size. They are also available in 48cm and 55cm too.

The Spacedrum Nitro has only one size which is 55cm

How much Do Spacedrums Weigh?

  • Spacedrum Evolution Weighs between 3.4-5.4kg
  • Spacedrum Nitro weighs 4.5k

What is an Alternative to a Spacedrum®?

There are many more handpan makers around the world today than there were in 2006 when metal Sounds began creating the Spacedrum.

Some counts have put the number of handpan manufacturers up towards 100. It is still a small number all things considered but it does provide an alternative to Spacedrum if you are looking for where buy a handpan

Metal Sounds are located in France, and their products are available also on Thomann.de in Germany which can make buying from the US a bit of a problem

Spacedrum® Summary

The spacedrum is perhaps not deserving of some of the claims of the way it sounds. What may please one ear may not please the next, and handpan players will have a preference of the sound and music they want to create.

The Spacedrum® is visually pleasing and we have to accept there is a little Caribbean steel sound in some of the models which we either choose to accept or not.

For the purist perhaps in terms of value there could be competitively better-sounding handpans available for the same price, or even cheaper.

I would suggest as always when buying a handpan, to try to get to your manufacturer and get a hands-on experience before deciding which model to buy. Whatever you buy, and be very careful with budget handpans, and when buying second-hand handpans, it has to be the right instrument for you and something that pleases you. And that ultimately may not be the same thing for another person.

Happy playing

SteveM

I enjoyed the unpitched appeal of percussion prior to discovering handpans in a 'moment' I was experiencing. I've been writing ever since.

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