Where are all the old values? When we were compiling our Strat Conversation feature, we thought, who better to ring than Mark 'Local Hero' Knopfler. He's a man who's been known to favour the occasional out-of-phase pickup. Reaching Mr K proved marginally more difficult than drinking granite, but we did get through to his manager. Mark, we were reliably informed, doesn't play Strats anymore. Er, but we have seen rather a large number of photographs of him with the self same instrument. Why exactly had he given up? Because they're no longer hand made, came the ripost. Since Fender say their production for 1954/5 was in the order of 10,000, makes us think there haven't been too many individually crafted models for some time.
Yamaha have been busy. As revealed by our very own Japanese correspondent (Dec ish) their CX5 computer is ready to shake the world by its short and curlies. The MSX based device is already storming the oriental market.
The CX5 is a full blown, 32K colour computer which accepts a plug in voice card reproducing all the tone forming circuits of their DX9 synth. With extra plug in software you can write sequences, complete eight part musical scores, reprogram DX7's with a graphic readout not to mention play games, solve quadratic equations and probably construct diaries up to the year 2999. And, with the voice card in place, it's expected to sell between £500 and £600.
Continuing the digital discourse, they revealed an eight track sequencer capable of storing 80,000 events (the QX1), a rack mounted expansion unit containing the voice and memory cards for eight DX7s, and two digitally sampled drum machines — the RX15 and more sophisticated RX11 which boasts 16 instruments sounds and space for 50 rhythms.
Still, there is more to the world than silicon chips. Take, for example, the new VX guitar and bass amps. They run from a 10W practice amp (uncannily entitled the VX15) to a 60W twin speaker job known as the VX65. They're all tranny based, and in the past I've always considered Yamaha amps to be cold and emotionless. At a brief demo, the VX's seemed to have more going for them.
The market isn't exactly begging for new guitars so Yamaha have scaled down this side of their operation. Only a few new models this year, including a bolt on neck bass and the SG1300T with a top locking tremolo.
At the start of our Strat quest, we contacted CBS/Fender to discover exactly when in 1954 the first Strat was produced. They telexed America. Back came the reply "Well, sometime between February and March". Ah, that old human element, does your heart good. These days you're expected to know what time in the morning your computer was born.
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