It's becoming quite fashionable, in the US particularly, to utilise a radio link for connecting an instrument to an amp or PA system, and several systems have appeared offering this facility in recent months. The advantage in the US (and in some parts of Europe too) is that it's comparatively easy to set up a radio mic or instrument system because there are fewer hassles as regards licensing. But it is possible in the UK, and at least one manufacturer is producing systems that can be licensed here — Reslosound Ltd.
Reslo are of course past masters of the art of producing high-quality radio links for PA use; they've been making radio mics for some time. Now they have produced a remarkably compact transmitter and receiver for musicians to free themselves not only from the problems of long coily leads when leaping across the stage, but also from the ever-present danger of electrocution through faulty wiring. A radio mic or instrument transmitter is thus a valuable safety aid as well as being incredibly convenient.
The Reslo transmitter/receiver system consists of two units: a neat little receiver which incorporates telescopic antenna, AF level control, signal strength meter, on/off switch and battery charging facilities, and a compact transmitter unit, again with rechargeable cells, which is little bigger than a pack of cigarettes, and can be clipped on a belt or guitar strap. The receiver can be placed on top of the amp onstage, or even set up at the mixing desk for DI work, while the transmitter's only leads are an antenna wire which dangles down from the unit and a coax input cable which plugs into the instrument. Nothing could be simpler — or safer! Lee Abbott of Magna Carta (above) is a recent user of the system which offers many advantages at a remarkably low cost. Having been present at a demonstration we can say that the quality is very good, and the VHF/FM system has sufficient power for most normal stage — or even studio — applications. Transmitters can be supplied either with a single instrument input, or a mixed pair of inputs for the instrument and a microphone, which can be of the Lavalier (neck-string) or 'lapel'-clip type as well as the normal hand-held variety.
First thoughts suggest that it'll be a good system for guitar and bass, but there's no reason why a small keyboard synth of the portable variety (like the Wasp) shouldn't be used, enabling ivory twiddlers as well as vocalists and guitarists to get in on the radio act. At the demonstration we attended the system was neatly fitted up to a trumpet with a contact mic! So anyone who can attach a Barcus Berry or other pickup to an instrument will gain the benefits.
We're hoping to get hold of the gear for full evaluation in the near future; in the meantime we feel it's a system that any musician should look into, in view of the superb degree of freedom and safety it offers.
Reslosound Ltd, (Contact Details).
Richard Dunne of PA:CE (yes, that's the excuse for the 'orrible pun) rang us the other day to tell us that they've set up a new company, PA:CE Studio Equipment Ltd. They're specialising in the production of top-quality (as always) studio/PA gear at low cost (as always). Apart from the existing graphic eq unit we looked at recently they're producing a 2x 11-band graphic for the New Year and they're working on 100W- and 400W-per-channel power amps using Vertical EET technology (sounds really interesting) and, for the future, a new modular mixing system. Good on you, Richard: we wish the new company every success.
PA:CE Studio Equipment Ltd, (Contact Details).
Echo plates, chambers and the rest are about to be outdated, now that manufacturers have turned their minds towards digital techniques.
The new unit from Ursa Major appears to offer plenty of facilities for the concert-hall-effect-synthesist (gulp!). The SST-282 Space Station (sounds like their answer to Concorde!) offers full digital delay and stereo reverb synthesis, with a built-in 9/2 mixer, feedback (for special effects), and eq facilities. Multi-tap digital delay lines give the reverb, while another tap offers feedback effects. LF and HF eq tailors the sound far more flexibly than most. There are 16 preset delays available for a variety of effects.
Neat, and at $1995, cheap.
Ursa Major, (Contact Details)
Synton Electronics of Holland recently announced a new studio vocoder unit, the Syntovox. You've probably heard a fair amount about vocoders, and we're going to be examining them in a later issue. But briefly, this is what they're about.
A vocoder consists of essentially two Sections, an analyser and a synthesiser. The analyser takes an input signal (often a voice, but not always) and breaks it up, via a set of bandpass filters (20 in the case of the Syntovox). The levels at each of the filter frequencies are then converted into control voltages which impose the speech characteristics on to an input signal, either an internally-generated signal or an external input, for instance a musical instrument. Also involved is a voiced/unvoiced detector, which determines whether syllables in the voice input are unvoiced (where they can be reproduced with the input signal alone) or, as in the case of sibilants, like 's', they are 'voiced', where a burst of white noise is required to make the sound understandable. To work effectively, the 'excitation signal' — the sound that is modulated by the voice input — must have plenty of harmonics, so that the range of the excitation signal is greater than that of the input signal. This will give maximum intelligibility.
In the case of the Syntovox, the connections between the analyser and the synthesiser sections are made via a matrix panel, as in the EMS 'big' Vocoder. This enables many alterations of timbre to be made. An internal pulse generator is included for simple speech synthesis.
The most common application in music for the vocoder is that of applying a voice input to the sound of an instrument, as performed by ELO and others. But there are other applications besides the scientific and educational areas of speech research. For instance, ever wanted to get that string machine to sound like a 'real' string section? Generally the sound of the machine is OK, but the dynamics are lacking. So why not try this: take the output of the string machine into the excitation input of a vocoder, and mike up the voice input of the machine. Then get someone — anyone — to simply bow a real violin in time with the music while you play the string line on the string machine. It doesn't matter how the violin is tuned, what notes come out or anything: all you're using are the dynamics of the instrument. From the vocoder output will emerge an amazing string sound. Try it!
Synton Electronics BV, (Contact Details).
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