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Article from Electronics & Music Maker, September 1981

An electric piano is an electric piano is an electric piano... Right? Well, maybe not. American manufacturers are always racking their brains trying to think of innovations or modifications that will make their products just a bit more successful in a competitive field. By the same token, there are a number of clever, independent entrepreneurs scattered over the North American continent who have an idea for improving the electric piano, and these people are busily putting devices together in their garages and cellars.

They all appear to be making some progress, though. Wurlitzer, for instance, a company that has been cranking out electric pianos since 1955 (as long as Chuck Berry has been playing rock and roll), recently modified its well-known electronic piano for professional use. The new model is called the Model 200B Professional, and it can now be operated from either battery power (DC) or conventional AC current. The instrument can be used with any external amplifier system; it has no internal speakers. According to Wurlitzer, the Model 200B puts out undistorted, clean signals with "the lowest possible signal to noise ratio for recordings and large halls." A carrying case is available for transporting the piano and everything that goes with it - music rack, sustaining pedal assembly, legs, bench... everything but the piano player.

One of those independent companies that feels the need to improve existing pianos goes by the name of Samson Music Products. They are offering the Samson WY Frequency Booster, which they call "an inexpensive and very effective device to improve the sound of a Rhodes Stage piano."

The booster is intended to enhance the natural, bell-like tones of the Rhodes while providing a nice bottom and eliminating the dreaded mushy mid-section. The device consists of a preamp with controls and battery. It can be installed by the player in about ten minutes; soldering or drilling is unnecessary. The controls include one for volume and a double-knob pot for bass and treble. The suggested list price is $89.95.

Samson Wireless guitar unit.

As if that weren't enough, the same company (Samson Music Products, in case you weren't paying attention) has come out with a low-cost wireless guitar system that consists of a small broadcast unit (which is plugged into the guitar and clipped to the player's belt or shoulder strap) and a small FM receiver that connects to the amplifier. It operates on a fixed band, has a range of about 200 feet, and features special noise squelch circuitry to reduce that hideous background noise. The model number is TR-2 and it carries a suggested retail price of $265.00.

Another entrepreneurial American enterprise is marketing a programmable compositional aid. I haven't actually seen this in person, but it seems to be a useful device for those who would like to have something like the Roland MicroComposer but don't need all the features and capabilities it offers.

The company is called the Micro-Tune Corporation and their new product is called, surprisingly enough, the MicroTune IV. The company defines the unit as 'a portable microprocessor-controlled electronic musical instrument capable of producing chord progressions and simple tunes of arbitrary tonality and temperament.' I couldn't have said it any better.

The user may select from three fixed scale temperaments, or he can program an original set of notes by specifying frequencies at will. Chords of up to four notes can be defined, and tunes of up to 16 chords of programmable duration can be defined and synthesised. Notes can be selected from a group of 80 per octave over a three octave range, and chord durations range from 50 milliseconds to one second. All user-defined notes, chords and tunes are stored in non-volatile memory, and are retained indefinitely until redefined. Sixteen tunes can be stored in the memory, which displays the tune definitions in bright, seven-segment characters.

The unit incorporates an integral loudspeaker and rechargeable batteries and charger. The suggested list price is $950, for the time being.

Dod Flanger/Doubler.

Rack mountable effects units seem to be here to stay, and DOD Electronics, an enterprising young firm on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, is meeting the demand with a new flanger/doubler, the Model 870. It's a full featured short to medium delay device that incorporates all the features necessary for studio use or live performance: flanging, doubling, ADT and stereo chorus. It has in/out, invert and delay time switches; input level control with clip indicator; stereo outputs with dual mix controls; LED status indicators on all switches. Suggested list price is $299.95.

Zeta Systems 'Little Feanc'

Speaking of effects, at least one company is trying to miniaturise them as much as possible. This company-with-a-mission is Zeta Systems (Analog/Digital Associates, Berkeley, CA), and their latest innovation is called the 'Little Feanc.'

Little Feanc? What's a Little Feanc? Well, the company obligingly explains, it's 'five guitar effects in one noise-free, on board, active package.' Oh, that Little Feanc!

The unit consists of a fuzz tone, equaliser, amplifier, noise gate and compressor in a small package, small enough to be easily installed in most guitars. FET technology gives it a wide range of compression, with minimum pop and noise. The switchable noise gate silences output when no signal is present, and the two-band equaliser will filter either the guitar signal or the fuzz tone. The signal passes through a master volume control and exits the guitar as a high level low impedance source capable of driving long cables without signal loss.

Another new rack mountable product from the States comes from Sunn, a well-respected sound equipment firm from the Pacific-Northwest. They have recently introduced a new dual 10-band equaliser suitable for many different applications. It has two identical channels with 15dB cut or boost at ten ISO centre frequencies, a level control with 40dB range, dual LED level sensing, balanced and unbalanced inputs, and a bypass switch that completely disconnects all electronics from the signal path, allowing level matching between equalised and unequalised signal.

And finally, Octave-Plateau Electronics, the people who market CAT Synthesisers, have updated models to tell us about: the revised CAT SRM II and CAT Kitten II. Both units have digital keyboard circuitry, greater back panel patching capabilities, redesigned internal circuitry, and keyboard tracking on the VCF, allowing the VCF to track the keyboard at greater than one volt per octave as well as less than one volt per octave. List prices are $799.00 for the SRM II and $499.00 for the Kitten II.

Companies and manufacturers mentioned:

Wurlitzer, (Contact Details).
Samson Music Products, (Contact Details).
MicroTune Corporation, (Contact Details).
DOD Electronics, (Contact Details).
Analog/Digital Associates, (Contact Details).
Sunn Musical Equipment Company (Contact Details).
Octave-Plateau Electronics, Inc., (Contact Details).

Previous Article in this issue

Electronic Music Techniques

Next article in this issue

New Products

Publisher: Electronics & Music Maker - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

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Electronics & Music Maker - Sep 1981

Previous article in this issue:

> Electronic Music Techniques

Next article in this issue:

> New Products

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