I've lost count of the number of times I've been stuck at traffic lights when a large throaty Ford XR pulls up next to me with three 17-year-old, gelled-up lads leering out and a solid 120bpm vibrating through the chassis like a hammer drill. As they speed off ahead the last thing I see before being engulfed in a cloud of blue smoke is the word 'Goodmans' on the rear parcel-shelf speakers.
Far from being 'just' in-car speaker manufacturers, Goodmans have been involved in the manufacture of a range of audio products for nearly 70 years now, and though the company hasn't held onto much of its former reputation for producing rather conservative, high-fidelity separates, they do still manufacture hi-fi loudspeakers and those tiny speakers for connecting up to your Walkman.
Their new 'active' speaker range is a progression of the latter, aimed at the CD generation of personal stereo owners, but also perfectly suitable for connecting up to keyboards and synthesisers - and the latest generation of multimedia computer add-ons.
The Active 75 speakers reviewed here sit at the top of a range of three models, and feature built-in amplification and volume, bass, treble and power controls - situated on just one of the speakers. Connecting them is a simple matter of plugging one speaker into the mains and then connecting the speakers together. The output of your keyboard - or whatever - is taken via the headphone socket and connected to one speaker using the lead supplied. You'll need an additional adaptor for this if your headphone socket is the larger 1/4" type.
I tried the speakers with an assortment synthesisers and keyboards with built-in speakers and found that the 75s out-performed each of them by some margin. Being able to adjust the tonal characteristics of the sound - via the bass and treble controls - is obviously an advantage here, and I found the tonal range sufficiently wide to produce some pretty interesting results (not least of which was how much noise the average synth generates!).
The reproduction on most sounds was crystal clear and, though clearly tailored to avoid troublesome frequencies at the bottom end, surprisingly full and rich. That said, some of the denser sub-bass presets did cause the speakers to groan and grumble under the weight of the sound, but this is to be expected and can be corrected using the bass control.
If the speakers are used as replacements for the built-in keyboard speakers they will, of course, offer improved stereo separation - and perhaps bring a little extra definition to the sound - particularly where this includes percussive instruments. The rather vague quoted music power of 80 watts is in practice rather more than you'll get, but the speakers are certainly loud enough for home use and probably pack just about enough punch for a gig in your local (if it's a small one). But really, this isn't the purpose for which they are are designed. These are convenience speakers intended for practising and pre-production work (where a full mixing and monitoring system would be inappropriate) and with the new all-in-one computer music systems such as Yamaha's Hello! Music! (MT review, November '93). And what the hell... you can even plug them into your Walkman if you like!
Goodmans have taken an original idea, added a few quality ingredients and intentionally or not, produced an attractive and flexible monitoring system which most musicians should find of use.
Price: £64.99 inc VAT
More From: Goodmans Industries Limited, (Contact Details)
TIME + SPACE
To many people, the words 'industrial music' conjure up images of leather-clad, chainsaw-wielding, anvil-bashing serial killers strutting around mountains of samplers, screaming distorted lyrics to a bunch of wacked-out Euro kids in a disused warehouse in Belgium. Others, perhaps acquainted with East West's acclaimed Dance/Industrial sample CD released last year, may hold a rather different view.
True, there were a variety of sounds which could only have been produced using factory floor machinery, but for the most part, the CD boasted an impressive collection of thrusting, dynamic rhythmic loops which illustrated only too well how effective - and useful - these ambient, industrial sounds can be when programmed sympathetically.
The sequel, Dance/Industrial II just released by Time + Space, picks up where the first CD left off, but broadens its appeal to include an even greater variety of loops and effects. A double-CD package, there are 154 loops in all, spread across both disks and listed with their BPM figures in the accompanying booklet.
The first CD contains the majority of harder-edged loops, suited to the more uncompromising styles of industrial dance, with droning machines and throbbing atmospheres providing the menace, and enormous basses and sparkling snares maintaining the relentless beat. Chaotic choice cuts include the techy Number 9 (no names here, just numbers) with its Deutscher beat and walls of sound entering loop by nasty loop. Number 29 also stands out with its backdrop of screaming crowds and crashing rhythmic sequence.
Many of the, rhythmic structures are fairly recognisable, but have been strengthened and padded out with the addition of dynamic samples, such as booming basses, and a variety of other sounds - the precise origin of which one can only speculate on.
Also included on the first CD but more prevalent on the second, are loops with that distinctive American flavour one immediately associates with rap and hip hop. Whether or not you use them in this context is, of course, up to you; with the adoption of the popular loop and partial method where the rhythm loops are followed by the ingredient samples, it's possible to produce your own loops using the same sounds or the same loops minus any sounds you don't like. This brings a far greater level of flexibility to the whole process and allows you to customise breaks to preserve a degree of individuality. But that's not all; a set of MIDI file rhythm patterns are also included with the package, so it's even easier to 'tailor' a pattern to suit a particular track.
Of course, the bottom line with any sample CD is how inspirational it is. All I can say is after half an hour with this CD, I found my head brimming with ideas and I was even considering changing the drum tracks on a couple of songs I've been working on in favour of two included here. Ideal for metal bashers, technofiends, rappers and anyone in need of a bit of attitude. And at a touch under £60 for two CDs and the MIDI file disk, great value too.
More from: Time + Space, (Contact Details)
BRIDGE RECORDING COMPANY
Question: what have all this lot got in common? Kate Bush, Tina Turner, Elton John, George Michael, Beverly Craven... and no, I'm not referring to the fact that their all rampantly rich and filthily famous. The answer is that a certain sticksman by the name of Charlie Morgan has played drums for all of them.
In the rough, tough world of session drumming our Charlie is tougher than most - so tough, in fact, that Elton recently hauled him off around the world on tour. Before he boarded the plane for megastardom, however, Charlie popped into London's Townhouse Studios to record this Master Drums sample CD.
The result is over 100 samples of carefully chosen, tightly played and smartly recorded drum loops, along with individual hits and a click-track intro for each sample.
Though Charlie has played on a wide range of pop and rock records, the grooves on offer here are, perhaps surprisingly, hip. Many of them would lend themselves to the kind of rap, hip hop or house tracks which normally rely on loops sampled off vinyl. And that, indeed, was Charlie's intention.
Aside from the playing, which is uniformly tight without ever becoming 'metronomic', the most impressive thing about the disc is the care with which it's presented. Every pattern contains four bars of the groove, stop/start sections and a couple of neat fills, and each loop is repeated at different tempi so that no matter what kind of track you're working on, you should find something that more or less fits the bill, time-wise.
There are no cymbal crashes to decay, and then abruptly cut off at the loop point; if you want to add cymbals, there are individual samples of ride and hi-hat loops elsewhere on the disc. I did find myself becoming a little weary at the constant use of the two drum kits (Premier Soundwave and XPK) throughout the CD, though of course this occurs only when listening to the CD in its entirety - which wouldn't be the case for listeners to individual loops selected for your music.
The recording quality is fine - in terms of noise and usability. Though there is no obvious acoustic ambience - the samples were recorded completely dry - the character of the drums comes shining through and provides an object lesson in drum miking. Charlie's playing is an education, too - particularly for non-drummers. If you've been relying on machine-programmed drum tracks up to now, you really owe it to yourself to find out what a real drummer can do. If you only use this disc as a means of learning more about what kicks that favourite groove along and apply this to your own programming, it'll be worth it.
In addition to providing the foundation for tracks, these loops could be twisted and turned every which way by anyone with a passion for sample editing. Alternatively, gate out a particular sound and use it to trigger, say, a bassline or other percussion sample. Above all, get Charlie Morgan to inject a little of his impeccable feel into your tracks - without having to be rich, famous, or even particularly clever.
More From: Time + Space, (Contact Details)
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