Ever since synthesists started synthesising (say that five times fast!) they've sought new and original ways of controlling the sound. For aficionados of various instruments, conjuring up elaborate electronic sounds with their favourite axe has been a long-standing dream. And like all dreams, some come true and some don't.
In the last decade, a lot of attention has been paid to giving wind instrument players a chance to plug in. The Lyricon is one of the best-known electro-wind instruments; it can be heard on records by Tom Scott, Michal Urbaniak and many others.
For a lot of listeners, the film Apocalypse Now and its swelling electronic soundtrack provided a first exposure to the sound of the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) invented by Nyle Steiner. Over the last few years, Steiner tried to market the instrument himself through his own company. Since that method proved unsuccessful, he recently turned to a large company, Music Technology, Inc., to market his invention. As a result, we can soon expect wider use and recognition of the EVI's capabilities.
What is it? Well, basically it's a wind-controlled synthesiser that gives the player a great degree of — how can I say it? — wind sensitivity. In other words, a skilled wind player, who has learned to shape every nuance of his music with his breath control, etc., can use the EVI as a "real instrument"; it responds in much the same way an acoustic instrument would.
The synthesiser electronics of the EVI are housed in a small control box. The instrument itself is shaped along pitch changes and includes a thumb valve and rotary octave control.
I've heard the instrument played several times by its inventor, not to mention on the Apocalypse Now soundtrack (on which it was also played by Steiner himself; he seems to be one of the only true virtuosos of the EVI). It provides a warm, stately sound that should translate well into rock, jazz and experimental contexts. Now that it's getting better distribution, we'll probably be hearing more of it. At least I hope so.
For those of us who are fond of American guitars, Guild has introduced a new solid body electric that reflects that company's high standards of quality. It's the Guild M-80, and it features a solid maple top, with a mahogany back, contoured for balance and playability. The neck is constructed of three pieces of maple, and it offers 24 reachable frets and a 24 3/4-inch scale ebony fingerboard.
The M-80 is a dual pick-up model, boasting Guild's newly designed XR-7 pickups, which, according to the company, have "an advanced magnetic/electronic design" that provides "a versatility of sound that ranges from a raw, wall-shaking power to soft, gentle whispers". Rather like my plumbing.
The guitar's hardware includes Guild's SP-6 quick change tailpiece that allows strings to be changed in about a minute. Also featured are fast control speed knobs, an innovative Guild bridge, and deluxe machine heads.
For organ enthusiasts, here's a new breakthrough: the Organ-Matic from Diversified Keyboard. It's nothing less than an electronic organ player that operates with standard piano rolls. I don't know much about it, except that it can operate both keys and pedals and is available in various wood finishes to match nearly any new or old organ. Contact the company for more details.
In the field of sound reinforcement, the hot new item for the month is an impressive line of mixing consoles from Biamp Systems, Inc. It's called the 83 Series and is available in 6, 8, 12 and 16 channel versions. They replace Biamp's 82 Series mixers, which are now being discontinued after three strong years on the market.
The input channels feature trim control, three bands of EQ, effects/reverb send, monitor send and pan control, with the addition of an LED peak indicator for monitoring channel overload. The LED is an integrating-type peak detector which becomes visible with a +8dBV signal, indicating there is 10dB of headroom remaining. Each channel has a channel patch jack which is post-EQ and pre-fader.
The transformerless, balanced, variable gain input stage utilises a differential pair of ultra-low noise transistors to perform the high gain (52dB) function. The trim attenuator is variable from 0 to -42dB and the common mode rejection is better than 50dB out to 80kHz, independent of trim control setting. Equivalent input noise is a respectable -127dBV with a 150 ohm input.
On the effects box front this month, we have the Carrotron C821B1 Pre-Amp, available from Analog/Digital Associates in wild, woolly Berkeley, California. The pre-amp, of course, is designed to compensate for power loss when used with high impedance instruments and microphones. The box features a footswitched low-noise active volume control which allows the signal to be boosted up to +20dB, while adding much less noise than would occur if the volume on the power amplifier were turned up. The footswitch is not in the signal path; ail that is switched is volume, with no pops or tonal changes. The unit works on a nine-volt battery.
If you're in the market for new performance monitors, you might look into the Bag End TA-12 from Modular Sound Systems. These speaker systems are available in floor wedge or square PA enclosures, and they feature high efficiency and a high power handling capability. Each system includes an E-12 Bag End 12-inch loudspeaker and an ST-350-B Electro-Voice tweeter in a specially designed crossover network. The system also employs the Time Alignment Technique licensed through E.M. Long Associates, making it the first Time Aligned performance system on the market. Suggested retail prices range from $395 to $495, depending on the cabinet.
And finally, if you're restringing your guitar or bass, you might want to try the new "Performer" strings from Kaman Musical String Corp. They're made from what the company describes as a newly developed material called "chrome steel". It's a material in the stainless steel family and has 8 per cent more magnetic output than conventional stainless 430, according to Kaman. The strings are coated with "Kamflon", a shiny black Teflon-based coating that gives the strings a permanent baked-on finish for more comfortable playing and reduced finger noise.
Companies and manufacturers mentioned:
Music Technology, Inc., (Contact Details).
Guild Guitars, (Contact Details).
Diversified Keyboard, Inc., (Contact Details).
Biamp Systems, Inc., (Contact Details).
Analog/Digital Associates, (Contact Details).
Modular Sound Systems, Inc., (Contact Details).
Kaman Musical String Corp., (Contact Details).
News by Tim Schneckloth
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