Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bali Steel Handpan Review

This was actually a response to a fellow member of a handpan community forum. He was excited yet apprehensive about acquiring a handpan from Bali Steel. Other forum members responded with their feedback about this particular handpan variant. But I felt I needed to give a longer review for the guy to consider. Here is my forum post response.

I have two Bali Steel handpans (Minor Pentatonic and D Minor). And I love them both. I do have some gripes.

Size - It's one of the larger handpans out there. So playing it on your lap while sitting on a chair feels a little unstable, like it might fall off. But this could just be because I'm not a very big person to begin with. Hehehe. Each Bali Steel handpan isn't exact in their dimensions. The maker says they're all the same size. But I've noticed that my D Minor is flatter compared to my Minor Pentatonic. Not a big deal really. But there is a slight difference.

Central Ding is Fragile - Stuff like ding-bending isn't advisable to do on a Bali Steel handpan. The ding has been known to detune itself if you do any ding-bending on it. I've seen 1-2 videos on YouTube where Bali Steel owners showed how their ding has detuned. The ding is sturdy enough, in my opinion. But I certainly won't try ding-bending.

Tuning - Tuning seems correct on both my Bali Steels. I've checked them against several electronic and analog tuners. Although, there's always at least one note on each handpan that "warbles". The note is correct. But there's an oscillating sound that is more prominent when you strike those particular notes simultaneously with others.

Those three things are about the only thing I can say about my Bali Steel handpans. I am very happy with both. Some of the bigger selling posts of Bali Steel handpans are as follows:

Handpan Texture Finish - I love the "teflon"-like finish. The coating doesn't require you to maintain the handpans compared to other handpans where they encourage you to regularly oil and wipe down their handpans at least once a month. The downside of the finish is it will scratch off if you're not careful. So I suggest you have a custom bag made to avoid unnecessary bumps or scratches.

Geographical Location of Maker - I live in Manila, Philippines. I probably have even lesser access to Hangs and handpans than most of you. Aside from all the long wait lists and expensive purchase costs, the additional shipping and customs fees make it harder for me to obtain handpans. Bali Steel is probably the closest to me geographically. They are such a joy to deal with (Thank you Chris!). They are very responsive to inquiries and requests when you email them.

Intrinsic Asian Tone - Regardless of what scale you choose from Bali Steel, their handpans intrinsically have an Asian feel to the tone of the notes. I picked Minor Pentatonic and D Minor specifically because those are Western scales that I can integrate into my bands. But my Bali Steels still sound uniquely Asian to people. I think this is coming from the fact that Bali Steel was primarily a Gamelan/Ganza maker. And their experience in working with steel from that translated into the sound of their handpans.

Hope this helps make you feel better about your Bali Steel purchase. Do tells us all about your adventures with yours. I would love to hear them.


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