News from the front
and now, back to the newsroom
Updated V-amp combos about to hit the planet — more power, more efficient speakers, more photographs to prove it. Top of the guitar range is the VA100 lead featuring reverb, treble and bass eq, plus a parametric (150Hz to 1.5kHz). One channel only, but it has a built-in sustain circuit switched on by tugging on the sustain control. It retails at £239 with 60 and 30 watt versions at £198 and £172. Bass types come without the sustain circuitry but with a larger 15in speaker on the top 100 watt model. The parametrics are sensibly shifted down to the more useful range of 70Hz to 1kHz and prices are £142, £167 and £233 for 30, 60 and 100 watt styles as before. Two keyboard combos complete the series, both with twin inputs and dual concentric speakers.
Deanvard, who produce the V-amps, say they recently changed over from the Celestion and McKenzie speakers of their original models to Fanes in this new series. They reckon that move has improved efficiency by at least 2dB from the early 98dB to 100dB or better. To you or me, that means louder.
Now everyone's concluded the tremolo arm is back in fashion, the next problem is choosing one. The current popular option appears to be the new Schecter which incorporates a top locking system above the nut plus fine tune tailpieces all for £162 which is cheap and there's no extra charge for chrome, gold or black chrome finishes.
Better still when you examine the secret advantage for Strat players. The Schecter is designed to have the same mass and string contact points as a normal Strat bridge. Some players who've fitted heavier trems to their Fenders say they've noticed a loss in treble and have blamed it on the additional metal.
The Schecter needs only another half inch taken out of the existing Strat rout (no serious chiselling required), and the fine tune screws are mounted flat on top of the bridge, not angled or tucked away at the rear.
Schecter have also worked on their nut locking system — a bar that screws into the headstock and isolates the strings over the fretboard from the stretchy extra bits running from nut to machine heads. The bar is stepped so the bass strings are pushed down closer to the surface of the headstock. They need that extra force across the nut to produce the correct string tension, ensure a good contact, and give you the right tone and sustain. So say Schecter who'd obviously argue that their rivals' single level alternatives should be poohed on from great heights. Chandler Guitars in Richmond, Surrey, are currently importing and fitting, and have serviced Messrs Darby, Whitehorn, Clempson and tempted Gilmour and Moore Esqs.
Ever needed a cassette machine with a varispeed knob? A normal, stereo cassette player with a knob to let you slow down or speed up the tape — maybe for old tapes done on a duff machine, or something taped at a rehearsal on the Walkman with tired batteries? Oh yes, Teac'll do one, we thought when the need arose. Not so. Something to do with keeping in with Philips, the inventors of the cassette, who like you to keep to their spec. We ended up tracking down a Nakamichi machine that seems to be one of the few with the varispeed function — the new BX300E which will set you back some £450. The varispeed works a treat, plus or minus about a semitone, but otherwise we found the machine a bit overpriced when compared to our favourite (admittedly unvari-speeded) Aiwa F770X which is some 200 quid less but has lots of useful bits like time elapsed read-out and automatic bias/eq setting for any tape. And it has top-enhancing Dolby HX — not a new noise reduction circuit but a variable bias-scheme that eases treble more accurately to your tapes. We spotted an Aiwa F-series in Marcus Studio's control room recently and congratulated the engineer on such a wise choice. "Oh yeah, we've got a whole rack of them downstairs for duplicating," he chortled. Praise indeed.
In a blaze of lights and fresh salmon served with a chilled white wine, Casio turned professional t'other day — after five years in the keyboard business they unveiled, at last, a programmable polyphonic synth with oscillators and all that stuff.
The CZ-101 was heralded at the recent press conference as the first of a new wave of pro-keyboards, and it did sound different from previous Casios... fatter, deep bass notes and for the first time, the ability to turn out good lead lines.
The CZ-101 (suggested retail £395) is still digitally based harking back to the original 101's waveform generation — no analogue VCFs on this boy. You have a choice of eight fundamental waveforms — sawtooth, square, pulse, double sine, saw pulse, resonance one, resonance two and resonance three. The last three look like tortured, sawtooth, triangular and square waves. Any two can be mixed to form more complex shapes, 33 in all.
There are three envelope generators which appear to owe programming allegiance to the DX7. From a squint at the front panel it looks as though you can set eight points from initial attack through sustain to final release. They can be directed to amplitude, waveshape and pitch.
The CZ-101 comes with 16 factory preset voices, memory space for 16 of your own, and an optional RAM cartridge to take a further 16. It's eight note polyphonic with one DCO per voice reducing to four notes if your want to double the oscillators up. You can put the synth into mono for soloing and there's a pitch bend wheel plus vibrato button for the purpose (no mod wheel).
Why, if this is Casio's professional dam buster, have they launched it as a mini keyboard we wondered, especially as there is a full sized version on the way. Perhaps it's so you can hang it around your neck. You can.
Info is displayed on a 16x2 dot matrix LCD screen and could these two DIN sockets round the back be MIDI. Yes they could.
The CZ-101 rather overshadowed the arrival of the CK-500, which might be just as well. Not entirely convinced that the world is ready for a mini keyboard with a radio and two stereo cassette recorders built into the top.
The CZ-101 is expected in the shops Jan/Feb, say the nice Casio men. More reports as news comes in.
The upper echelons of Dod's effects range is now being distributed by Atlantex. On the way are an eight second delay line (a long time for £500), and a six-spring reverb (for higher quality) that's yours for £440. Atlantex also handle the 360 Systems keyboard, reviewed a few months back. It's now available for hire, if anyone's interested, and two new sample cards are expected for Brass Section and Soprano Vocal.
Korg's MIDI sync box should be in the shops about now (November, they said). It's a handy governing body for all your sequencing intentions, syncing sequencers to tape, drum machines to sequencers, etc. It features MIDI in, sync in, tape in plus two MIDI outs, two sync outs and tape out. Drum machine clock rate is switchable from 48 to 24 covering most of the common boxes (Roland, Korg, Drumulator, Yamaha, Sequential but perhaps not certain Oberheims which go at 96). Price should be £130 to £140, or somewhere in that region.
Shown in August, available now, the £440 Jen DT Piano 73 is an electronic job with a touch responsive keyboard, three mixable preset sounds and a built-in Phaser and 20 watt amp with two integral speakers. The 73 stands for the number of notes, not when it was built.
Those whacky funsters at the Union of Sound Synthesists are still feeling the breeze from their April Fool joke when they tried to con us into swallowing a Russian version of the Fairlight. Remember we said the American magazine 'Keyboard' had printed the press release, in full, believing the lot. Now USS say they're receiving "a continuous stream of international letters, phone calls and telexes" from the States, all from interested gullibles. "We have, since learnt that at least two major American equipment manufacturers took the story seriously enough to the extent that one company sent a research and development manager to Moscow." Wouldn't be winding us up again would you? Maybe not since they have gone to the expense of producing a booklet containing the original press release, the 'Keyboard' version and a Music Week story. If you want to know how the caper was pulled, the booklet costs a quid, including post and packing, and is available from USS, (Contact Details). Always support a sense of humour!
Last month we said Akai were about to launch their 12 channel mixer/recorder and AX80 keyboard. They did. This month the synth is reviewed on pages 64/65, the desk isn't but we did hear a demo. Impressive sound qualify, as you'd expect from half inch tape (on a special Akai cassette), backed by a £6,000 price tag. Final judgement when we get a personal examination. Liked the computer tape locator, especially the computer aided drop in which lets you set start and finish points on each track. When you playback, the Akai will swap to record only between those moments, then return to play... musician keeps both hands on instrument. At 42kg it's hardly a Portastudio, but a few more well-to-do bands have already expressed an interest in taking the MG1212 on the road as a hotel bedroom based, multi-track studio.
Bass guitar versions now added to Superwound's range of Starfire strings. The nicklewounds are available in medium-light, medium and standard. Also informed that there are Starfires with reinforced ball end twists. Panicked for a moment but told it's to avoid plain string breakages caused by the extra stress of modern tremolo arms!
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