JoJo Mayer is known for having developed his hand and foot technique to an incredible level. He’s one of those few drummers who can play about as fast with one hand or foot as many intermediate drummers can with two.
Over the years, Mayer had tried most every modern pedal on the market and found they were often fast on the “throw” but slow on the “return” due to their having been designed to produce great volume and power. Since he prefers pedals that offer similar speed on each end of the stroke, he’d often chosen to use simpler vintage pedals. This led him on a quest to develop a thoroughly modern bass drum pedal with a decidedly vintage feel. After developing the basic idea, Sonor got involved to add a few more tricks to the pedal’s design but without compromising its vintage feel. The result is the Perfect Balance pedal, which we at DRUM! were both curious and eager to try out.
Perhaps to imply the pedal’s carefully engineered and understated simplicity, it arrived in a tastefully designed black shoebox. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice shoebox with a very smooth skin-like exterior surface – like an iPhone box – and even contained a small pouch of silica gel inside it.
Inside the box, I found some nice clear instructions (with photos), Sonor stickers, and other product literature along with the padded carrying bag (with a shoulder strap) containing the pedal. The bag is a nice touch and resembles a tiny saxophone bag. It feels more like a rubber toiletry bag rather than the more typical ballistic nylon pedal bag. The only issue I could see with this bag is that since it isn’t rigid like some boxier designs it won’t offer much protection should a heavy trap case fall on it in the back of a van. However, on the plus side, it’s very small and might fit inside your trap case unlike those bulkier cases.
After opening the bag I couldn’t help but notice this is one sexy pedal! It’s all gleaming silver with a completely smooth and mirror-like footboard. Underneath is a silver base plate; a slightly rougher silver frame assembly; and some occasional black rubber pieces used for the strap, button, and to cushion the bass drum hoop. The heel plate is laser-etched with “Perfect Balance – designed by Jojo Mayer.” Also in the bag were a Sonor drum key (square head and slotted screw driver for Sonor lugs), a self-adhesive hoop guard, and an Allen wrench.
One little thing I didn’t like was that neither the pedal nor the bag had a place to store the key and the Allen wrench. A little pocket on the exterior of the bag would have come in handy, or better still, a couple of small clips on the base plate of the pedal. I checked and there is room on the base plate should Sonor take this suggestion at some point.
An old-school felt beater completes the pedal.
If you use a sliding bass drum pedal technique to play multiple notes you’ll appreciate the completely smooth footboard. There are no bumps, engravings, logos, or other surface textures present to impede the sliding motion.
This pedal was designed with simplicity in mind but offers a few major design innovations. Cleverly and uniquely, this pedal folds flat to fit in the bag without having to remove the beater from the pedal. There’s a large black button on the side of the pedal that you depress to release the frame post that allows it to fold toward you. It’d be wise to remove the spring clip from the roller when packing up to avoid stretching out the spring, which is held in place when removed by a small magnet conveniently placed on the post.
Folding the pedal takes a little practice since you have to reach around and under the footboard to get to the button, press it while lightly pushing the pedal away from you to release the catch, then pull the pedal frame toward you lowering the frame onto the pedal’s footboard. It takes a bit of strength to depress the button and is awkward to reach under the pedal. If you have small hands it may be easier for you.
As you lower the frame like this the beater will point away from you. Again, it’s useful to release the spring from the roller first, otherwise it’ll oppose your efforts throughout the process. Note to jazz or other small bass drum owners, if you don’t extend the beater all the way you should be careful when lowering the frame since the bottom of the beater could scratch the mirror-finish footboard.