This month I thought I’d detract from my usual musings on English vintage drums and take a look at one of the more interesting brands to come out of Europe: Trixon.
Words and images: Nick Hopkin
Founded in 1947 by Karl-Heinz Weimer, Trixon drums were originally hand built by Weimer until he opened his factory in Hamburg/Bramfeld. Popular among jazz drummers across Europe, Trixon drums became real innovators at a time when most drums were very similar in their looks and sounds.
The Luxus set looked like many other European sets of the late 1950s and early 1960s – featuring birch/beech shells with reinforcement hoops, teardrop lugs and slot tension rods. Their thin, three-ply shells (metric sized) gave a really lovely, resonant sound and came in the standard glitters and pearls of that era. Some notable features made Trixon drums stand out a little in their innovation – the tom was mounted from the kick drum via a shell to shell tubular post (pre-dating Pearl by at least a decade) and the kick drum-mounted cymbal arm passed through a clamped ball (pre-dating Sonor by several decades). The mounting sockets were unlike anything else on the market, with lovely attention to detail in the design of the tension screws and kick drum rods (engraved with the Trixon logo). The matching snare drum featured an internal parallel mechanism, with an ornate lever for throwing the wires on and off.
The kick drum featured double internal dampers, the toms and snare had single dot dampers and triple flanged-hoops that bent inwards like on Slingerland models. In the early 60s, the lugs on the Luxus kits changed to the squarer variety with rubber plinths.
In complete contrast to the Luxus, Trixon launched the Speedfire set, featuring an elliptical kick drum. This boasted two different sounds out of the kick drum at the same time, as the flat base of the kick drum could accommodate two kick drum pedals. The shell itself was divided in two internally, the unique shape allowing for different tones. The set also featured the ‘Speedfire rack’ – a single bar mounted on the kick drum, supporting the toms but passing through them. This allowed the whole kit to be moved as one piece. This was the forerunner of the modern drum rack. Toms were available in 6”, 8”, 10”, 12” and 13”, with a 16” floor tom. It was also available with a double hi-hat stand that enabled the player to control two pairs of hi-hats via one pedal.
The Telstar set launched was in 1962 and defied belief. I think this is Trixon’s most talked about (above the Speedfire) and moust sought after set, with its conical shells. The kick drum measured 20” into 16” with a metal resonant side hoop; 16” into 14” floor tom and 14” into 13” tom. Despite their out-of-this-world appearance, the drums sounded amazing, with the thin Trixon shells giving a lovely resonance and great projection. A conical snare drum, 14” into 13”, was available, although I’ve never seen one – they are usually the standard 14”x5”. By now, the Trixon sets had transcended all other brands in their chosen wraps and colours, with both Telstar and Luxus sets featuring their unique ‘croco’ wrap in vibrant colours, blue being the most common. Other sizes and wraps were available, but the croco wrap immediately comes to mind when I hear the word Trixon.
Trixon drums were re-branded Vox in the USA where they became popular in the 1960s and an additional factory was opened in Shannon, Ireland. Trixon ceased production of their drums in the early 1970s.
Many famous drummers in the 50s and 60s played Trixon for a time. There’s a whole world of knowledge out there on these drums, particularly at www.trixondrums.de, which is run by Ingo Witenberg, the leading authority when it comes to Trixon.