Jen Piano 73
As the name suggests, the Jen Piano 73 is a 73-note electronic piano with a 6-octave F-F keyboard. There must be an enormous number of Jen effects, string machines and pianos in use today, as their relative cheapness makes them ideal for the first-time buyer. The 73 is a no-nonsense unit which keeps up this tradition while at the same time offering a reasonable sound which could be expanded or adapted for semi-professional use.
Three important points make the 73 ideal as a rehearsal instrument; it's relatively light, with a carrying handle screwed to the underneath of the body; it has a removable aluminium cover over the keyboard itself, and it has a built-in amplifier with two double-cone speakers and a stated output of 20W RMS. It also comes supplied with a set of chrome legs, and so it's completely ready for use from the word go.
The construction of the body is fairly basic, with a plywood base and wood-finish contiboard elsewhere. The top panel is aluminium with a black brushed finish, and chrome fittings for the music stand supplied. If this isn't used there's just enough space to think about stacking another keyboard — about 4 inches of flat surface.
The keyboard itself is quite pleasant to use, firm enough to give a little response but light enough to play very fast; it's not touch sensitive, of course. The keys are very fractionally thinner and longer than standard size.
The controls are a little odd, although don't present any major difficulties. The voice selectors are marbled tablets rather more typical of organ controls, and all have legends above them, but have to be pushed downwards to operate. The central pair switch on Clavichord and/or Spinet; the right-hand pair activate the Vibrato and built-in Phaser; and the left-hand pair switch on the Piano sound, and select filtering for Bright or Mellow.
In addition there are three rotary controls labelled Vibrato, Phasing and Volume. The Vibrato control is for Depth, the Phasing control for Speed, and the Volume control for overall volume as the sounds can be combined but not individually adjusted in level. It wouldn't have cost any more to label these controls more informatively; the final feature of the top panel is a small mains neon On/Off switch.
A small recessed rear panel contains a fuse holder and three jack sockets, completely unlabelled on the model examined. This seems rather odd as they're not individually identified in the manual either and have quite different functions. One is for the foot sustain switch supplied; one is for 8 ohm headphones, and the third is a line level output, use of which (as for headphones) disconnects the internal amplifier. A tuning preset gives a range of plus or minus one semitone.
The sounds of the piano are more or less as you'd expect. Mellow piano is probably the best of the lot, not suffering too badly from wooliness at the bottom end but becoming a little weak in the upper octave and a half. Bright piano is less like an upright piano than a typical electric sound; Clavichord is a reedy pulse wave sound, and Spinet a thinner version of the same thing.
Combining sounds, using the sustain, pedal, and switching in the Vibrato or Phaser, make a big difference, of course. The range of Vibrato depths obtainable is sensible, stopping just at the point where a sort of corny pop sound is produced. Phasing is more effective on the thinner sounds, and resembles a combined light phase and filter sweep effect (typical of the inexpensive Jen phase pedal in fact) which turns into an acceptable tremolo at the highest speed.
Internal construction is reasonably neat, considering the necessary duplication of circuitry involved for all 73 envelope shapers. Voice generation is by dividing down from a master oscillator using TMS 3615's; filtering is by fairly standard organ-type circuits to obtain the different voicings.
Naturally enough the overall sound can be beefed up using an external amp and/or effects, although it's not lacking in bass in its untreated form. Whatever your opinion of the overall sound quality and construction, there's no denying that you're getting a lot of keyboard for your money; there aren't many six octave machines around for the sort of shop prices at which the Jen Piano 73 should appear.
The Jen Piano 73 is marketed by British Music Strings at £299 including VAT. Further details from BMS, (Contact Details).
Review by Mark Jenkins
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