The News with Japan Special
New gear revealed. Plus on-the-spot report of how Yamaha in Japan treat the musicianly public.
The Making Music free enquiry service has proved so successful with readers that some companies are having a little difficulty coping with the over-whelming demand for information on their products and services. If you used one of our cards and are still awaiting literature, please be patient since all the companies concerned have assured us they are dealing with the backlog as fast as possible.
You'll notice this month we've changed the card to a new system that should speed your enquiries through faster.
At only £89.50, the Encore BEG50MRB seems to be the cheapest electric bass in the shop. Hot on the heels of the Encore 'really cheap' six-string, this bass seems set to clean up at the bottom end of the market. It's a basic, single pickup, double cutaway instrument, with a short scale 20 fret neck. What more could you ask?
Dean Markley, Yankee persons, are celebrating their new UK distribution deal (with Rhino) by bunging us a wagonload of new amps. Cheapest is the £100 K-20, a low cost high performance solid state practice/studio amp, offering "warm, clear rhythm" and switchable overdrive. An eyebrow-singeing nine watts is thrust manfully (via a three-band EQ) through an 8in speaker. Or headphones. Also coming up is a range of valve, transistor and hybrid amps including an 80W twin channel 1 x 12 combo, an 80W rack-mounting guitar amp, and a 130W 1 x 12 combo with switchable overdrive and chorus (retailing at just under £700). Top of the range is the 2x12 120W hybrid combo, selling for about £1100.
While the name has been recurring in interviews with our colonial cousins for some time, only now do Gallien-Krueger have UK distribution. Allbang & Strummit of Earlham Street in Central London have exclusive rights to this highly recommended range of amplifiers.
G-K are best known for their ghetto-blaster sized Monitor amps, which provide 50W per channel in stereo, with built-in compression, gain, chorus and delay, playing through two 6½n speakers.
These tiny packages cross the Atlantic with the highest possible recommendations from top American players like Steve Lukather and Joe Walsh, having been compared to the immensely popular Tom Scholz Rockman. Which is a big compliment. But don't expect them to be cheap.
The nice persons at the Ealing Guitar Workshop have written us a nice letter telling us about their selection of nice guitar extras in their nice Polaxe range: When they say nice, they mean shiny hunks of ash, majestic masses of maple and mahogany, accessible amounts of alder... all sculptured into 9 standard designs of body, from about £23. An alder body will set you back £55, and they don't charge extra if you're left-handed. They also provide necks and all associated hardware for 'specials'.
Handsomely full-bodied, reasonably priced, and curvaceous steel strung acoustic guitars from Hohner, just in time for the summer folk revival. The three models in the Leyanda range are the budget line LW400N at £55, the more decorative delux LW600N, with its bound rosewood fingerboard, truss rod and abalone soundhole inlays is £85, while the equally attractive 12-string LW1200N, with wider neck for those fiddly chords is £95. All guitars are bound, with cross-braced laminated spruce tops, mahogany backs and sides.
A wide range of new products have arrived at Hattori UK, British holiday home of Mr & Mrs Seiko the Japanese manufacturing giants.
The new Digital Music Gear range of MIDI equipment includes a Channel Convertor, Signal Filter, Signal Mixer, Switch Box, Foot Controller, and Patch Box.
A trifling £150 will secure you an MR1000 mono MIDI sequencer with 32k internal memory, cassette interface, and overdubbing facility. Naturally, the MR1000 will sync with other MIDI gear, such as drum machines.
Don't hold your breath, but here come Guild Guitars. We hereby give advance warning of the reappearance in this country of the Guild Guitar, a high quality range of instruments manufactured wholly (hardware included) in the United States. Even though they're popular in America with bands like REM and Aerosmith, Guild have been virtually unobtainable over here. Blue Suede Music will be importing at least 20 different models, which they will be launching at the British Music Fair in July.
New funny Chinese hats... oh all right, cymbals from Paiste, in two different sorts. The 400 Series are comparable to the 404s, with sizes from 12-22in, prices £50-£100.
The 3000s are aimed at the more professional market (compare the 2002 range) and their prices run from £50 for 8in bells and splash cymbals, up to £250 for 22in sizes.
These new models won't be available in the UK until August or September, though they're likely to be on display at the British Music Fair.
Out of Japan come more long cardboard boxes. They contain ESP Guitars, and they will be arriving here soon. The four sorts of ESP that are being subjected to the ordeals of travel are as follows: the 400 Series are the archetypal 'Vintage' selection, based on an American make whose name begins with 'F'. The 600 Series are updated, all-humbucking, all-tremoloed versions of vintage designs in pretty colours. The Metal instruments have a glossy pearly finish, black hardware and a selection of angular (but tasteful) shapes. The 'Handmade' ESPs are vintage styled, but built from glamorous woods, and clear finished. Prices range from around £400 for the 400s and Metals, up to £1200 for the shiniest Handmades. But then you already knew that.
JHS have upgraded their guitar headphone amplifier and introduced a bass version. The Bass Box retails at £189, and comes with stereo chorus, compression, a clipping circuit, four tone presets, and its own headphone; The Rock Box Mark II, still at £149, now has Pre Gain and Compression Threshold, as well as a footswitch socket added to the existing four tone settings, delay, chorus, and stereo outputs.
New drum skins from Premier, and you can recognise them by their initials: TS are coated heads, CL are single-ply see-through, and DS are double-ply with an overtone-reducing gasket between the films.
Also new from Premier is the boring-looking but very useful Multiclamp. This wonderful device fixes to tubes of between ⅝in and 1¼in, and will hold other tubes of between ¾ and 7/16 at almost any angle you desire. Place your cymbal arms or tom holders at previously unheard of angles, and in new places, and have them not fall down. Useful.
An early summer release for new guitars from Aria. The RS Cat six-string at £169 shares the same configuration as the Wildcat with two single coil pickups and a humbucker with volume, tone, and a five-way selector. New hardware has been added in the shape of the ACT2 tremolo, and a graphite top nut. The RSB Cat bass has both split and ordinary pickups, volume, tone, and three-way selector, and is a paltry £179.
The other new instruments are the Diamond series of guitars and basses: the JX Custom (£369) has two humbuckers, while the JX Plus (£399) offers two single coils and a humbucker.
Both guitars have the ACT3 trem system, and extremely flat 16in radius finger-boards. The JPJ-2 bass (£319) uses the same layout as the RSB Cat, but with individual pickup volumes and a master tone. The JPJ-3 (£339) has two split pickups mounted at an angle in the neck position, and a single coil by the bridge. Pickup selection is via balance control rather than selector switch.
This new box from UMI, available exclusively through the London Rock Shop, is a MIDI to CV, Gate and VCA/VCF converter, wittily named the UMI Converter. In English, this means that older synths only equipped with CV, Gate and VCA inputs can now be controlled via MIDI. Touch-sensitivity can also be transmitted via the VCA input. For £245, including VAT, you can now MIDI up your Minimoog, Pro One, SH-101, etc. The Converter can also be used for pitch changing with AMS and Korg DDLs, and will also happily submit to being used as a MIDI input channel converter.
Top Making Music cartoonist Martin Rowson has a book of political cartoons, "Lower Than Vermin: An Anatomy Of Thatcher's Britain", out this month. Vicious fun from the man who invented the Dumb Chums, and only £4. Does this mean we don't have to pay you this month, Martin?
The APRS show (clever clogs know it stands for the Association of Professional Recording Studios) takes place from the 25th to the 27th June (see calendar for details). It's an annual event designed to show new recording gear to studio people big and small. Things there include: the new TC Electronics 2290 programmable digital delay and the new Frazer Wyatt Profil studio speaker systems on the Musimex stand; Audio Music Marketing will bombard the visitor with new RAM and Dynamix desks - the RAM Pico desks in 12/2 and 16/2 set-ups sound particularly interesting; Roland will be sh-sh-sh-showing off their new S50 sampler; Yamaha will doubtless take loads more orders for the fab SPX90 Everythinger (see review issue one); AHB add to their CMC computer-aided mixers, with 24/16/2 and 32/16/2 set-ups, and also have the CMR MIDI progammer on hand and new models in the Keymix and System 8 mixer ranges; Tascam may have some surprises, but at the very least will run the new 122 and 122R cassette decks (stereo, and stereo autoreverse), and on the same stand the new JBL monitors (4406, 4408 4410 and 4412) will be flapping around; HHB will be drawing digital fans with Sony's new SLHF950 super-Beta VCR and stacks of Sony Video 8 products (which also have wild audio applications, dummy). That'll do.
What next from Japan? How about an entire shop? That's what Yamaha promise for the centre of London by the end of this year.
The biggest percentage of the best gear bought and paid for in Britain is dreamt up, tested, marketed and manufactured in the east. Companies such as Yamaha, Roland and Casio take great pains in nurturing a complete product, from chip to cardboard packaging. In Japan - where Making Music's news pages report from this month - they go one step further when they sell it.
In May, Yamaha took a dozen of Britain's top dealers and a few selected pressmen all the way to Japan to see the oriental end of the operation.
Comments on new products were guarded, but Tokyo already has several uprated models of the CX5 MIDI computer, a Lyricon-like breath controller, and a remarkably cheap stand-alone FM module, the multi-timbral FB01, that will run eight different sounds from the computer. A rare and luxurious anniversary version of the SG guitar heralds a big push on brand new electric guitars by Yamaha. What we've discovered, we'll tell you next month.
The first day of the tour concentrated on the selling end, including Tokyo's Yamaha shop (pictured above), a three-floor showcase store owned by Yamaha and given over almost entirely to their products. Most importantly, it's topped by its own R&D department - the closest yet that any company has brought its design team to the musician in the street. Every month the Shibuya researchers are given one project on which to question visiting musicians at the fully-equipped studio and coffee shop upstairs. The experiment has been running for only a year, but the first products formed by Shibuya are expected soon.
Britain is known to be one of Japan's favourite test areas, so it came as no surprise to learn that Yamaha will soon have a similar R&D depot and specialist shop in central London.
We'll have further pictures and gen next month, so until then (pausing only briefly to mention the important news that the British dealers' football team beat the Scandinavian dealers' team 2-1), this is Making Music, Tokyo, saying sayonara.
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