Sunday, February 12, 2017

NAMM 2017: Cling On Magnetic Series Tuner Review

Aloha!

There is no shortage of mountable guitar tuners on the market, and for the most part they are clip-on units. This is usually an ok arrangement, but a clip across the headstock does not look very nice, and those clips do break (especially if you leave it on the guitar and close a case on it). Also, the clips are usually pretty huge, making the tuner almost twice the size that it needs to be. Cling On Magnetic Series tuners are a great alternative to regular clip-on tuners. I was pretty stoked when I saw them demonstrated at the 2017 NAMM show.

The idea with the Magnetic Series tuner is that it is equipped with a very strong neodymium magnet so the user can stick it to a tuning peg or even a screw. Boom – out of the way, unobtrusive, and no big ugly clip. I have tried it out on my guitars and basses and in the real world this set-up actually world really well.

There might be cases where there is nothing magnetic to stick the tuner to, so there is also a small (0.7-inch) magnetic puck that can be stuck anywhere on the instrument that has a flat surface. The puck’s 3M adhesive sticker also holds very strongly (good thing, because the magnets are so strong). The manufacturer says that the sticker will not harm finishes, and comes off easily if you work a piece of string or dental floss underneath it. But the really hot ticket is to not have to use the puck at all.

This Cling On tuner is attractive, with rubberized trim and a sleek Lava Red finish (Titanium Gray is also available). There are only three buttons to deal with: Power, Hz, and Mode. It takes a single CR2032 battery (included), and this common size is available at most every drugstore or supermarket.

The tuner has a dual-swivel base, and an LCD screen that is big enough for me to read without glasses, and bright enough that I can see it in daylight. Concert A can be adjusted from 440Hz to anywhere between 430 and 450Hz, and there are five different preset tuning modes: Chromatic, Guitar, Ukulele, Violin and Bass. It is easy to use, and seems to be accurate enough for any stage musician.

The Cling On Magnetic Series tuners are right there with the rest of the market as far as pricing, with a list price of $19.99 (they also have a clip-on model for a dollar less). This includes the tuner, a magnetic puck, and a really nice box. Not to mention a 1-year limited manufacturers warranty and a 3-year replacement guarantee, including accidental damage. If you need extra magnetic bases, they have them available for $4.99 for a 3-pack. I think this is a pretty cool product, and the magnetic base is a real selling point. For more details, head over to the Cling On website.

Mahalo!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

NAMM 2017: Product Preview - Martin Titanium Core Acoustic Guitar Strings

Aloha!

I headed into the Martin booth at this Year’s Winter NAMM to try out their new Titanium Core strings that I saw on the media preview day, and it was utter chaos. They have a lot of new products this year, so they were very busy. But, I did manage to flag down someone to talk about these strings and enjoyed a few strums on a guitar that was loaded up a set of their latest and greatest.

I have been using Martin strings on my acoustics for years, so I am pretty familiar with their products. In fact, they are my preferred acoustic strings and I have never had any complaints about them. The company’s goal with the Titanium Core strings is increased corrosion resistance (extended life), better stability, and increased playability due to reduced player fatigue. Who could argue with this?

Sets of light gauge Titanium Core strings will be available this spring (March 31), with other gauges to follow later. From what I could tell, these strings felt to be about the same tension as the Martin light gauge phosphor bronze strings that I usually use.

Overall, the fingertip feel was very normal for nickel strings (the titanium core is wire wrapped with nickel, and the plain strings are cryogenically treated stainless steel). The volume seemed to be a bit more than what I am used to with their conventional strings, with the caveat than NAMM is the worst place on the planet to evaluate anything acoustic.

I am not sure how the Titanium Core strings will live up to the rest of Martins promises, such as long life and better stability. One thing I do know is that for the price, they better last a really long time. These strings run $39.99 a set, and if the president makes a tariff on Mexican goods come true, the price might go up even more. Stay tuned, and I will let you know what I think after I get a set to try in the real world!

For more details go to martinguitar.com for more details.

Mahalo!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Rex and the Bass – One Million Page Views

Aloha!

When I started blogging in 2010 I never imagined that this page would reach one million page views, but it has and I certainly appreciate the support of my friends and family, as well as the music-loving public for making this happen!

I am still having fun with the blog, and get a lot of great feedback from readers, but it is time to make a few changes. There will probably be a change in the name of the blog and its logo (but the url will be the same), and I am looking at options for including video features, which may appeal to some viewers.

Anyway, thank you all for your continued support, and let’s enjoy this ride together!

Mahalo!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

NAMM 2017: Etymotic Music Pro 9-15 Earplugs Review

Aloha!

Smart people in the music business understand that their hearing is a blessing (and their livelihood), and that prolonged exposure to loud sounds will degrade or destroy this finite resource. But, many earplugs wreck the tonal qualities of music, leaving a dead mess that is pretty much unlistenable. So, some musicians and concertgoers eschew earplugs and kill their hearing, replacing it with tinnitus -- which is a really crummy trade-off. Trust me on this. There is a viable solution to this problem, and it is the Music Pro 9-15 Earplugs from Etymotic Research Inc.

Etymotic is located in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, which is near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. They have been around since 1983, making earphones, earplugs, in-ear monitors, and hearing protection for musicians, firearms enthusiasts, and tradesmen; there is even a line of products designed for children. I met up with Etymotic’s National Sales Manager, Andrew, at NAMM 2017 and he patiently went through the features of the Music Pro 9-15 earplugs. I came away very impressed!

The Music Pro plugs are a huge step beyond whatever silicone or foam rubber things you are cramming into your ears right now. These are adaptive noise-reduction units that automatically adjust to changing sound levels. They have an amazingly natural sound, and only provide protection when needed. And they adapt to sounds incredibly quickly, so that a cymbal crash or pyrotechnic discharge will be muffled right away.

There are two levels of protection that are available at the flip of a switch: 9-dB or 15-dB. At lower sound pressure levels it almost seems like the plugs are not doing much, but as sound approaches unsafe levels, the earplugs will gradually provide 9- or 15-dB sound reduction. As an added bonus, on the 9-dB setting, there is actually a 6-dB gain for soft sounds, which might make eavesdropping on whispered office conversations a little easier. This boost begins to taper off above 70dB, which is where sound levels begin to be attenuated in either mode.

The Music Pro earplugs are lightweight and after selecting eartips that fit my gigantic ear canals, they fit very comfortably. The NAMM environment is fairly terrible from a sound standpoint, which made it an awesome environment to try them out. Indeed, they let in enough sound so that I did not feel like I was missing out on anything, while cutting out painful sounds from the nearby drums and cymbals. And, I was able to converse with Andrew without any difficulty. Etymotic passed the test!

In the Music Pro earplugs box, you will receive a pair of MP•9-15 earplugs, a selection of ACCU•Fit eartips, a flexible neck cord, a filter tool and ACCU•filters, a cleaning tool, batteries (#10), a user’s manual, and a case. Always use the case, as these things are kind of expensive and you do not want to lose or damage them.

Now, these earplugs are electronic, so they run on #10 hearing aid batteries, which you can find at pretty much any drugstore or supermarket. If you are ready to complain about the price of batteries, try buying these same batteries for your really expensive hearing aids for the rest of your life. This can be your future if you do not take care of you hearing…

Etymotic Music Pro 9-15 earplugs cost $299, so they are not cheap, but they are worth every penny as they are an amazing product that could allow you to enjoy your favorite live music at levels are more enjoyable and less destructive. How much is your hearing worth? For more details or to order a set of your own, head on over to www.etymotic.com

Mahalo!

John Wetton: June 12, 1949 to January 31, 2017

Rest in peace, brother.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

NAMM 2017: Manufacturer Overview – Logjam Music Ltd.

Aloha!

I am sure that a lot of folks head to NAMM to see what the big guys are doing, and sure enough these companies are always coming up with new ideas and products. But I really relate to the cool stuff that individuals are coming up with, when they make their dreams into reality and then get a chance to wow the crowds. One of these fellows is Howard Bragen, who took the time to run me through his line of products from Logjam Music Limited.

Howard is first and foremost a musician and songwriter, and this UK denizen came up with a unique way to accompany himself on the guitar: with wood stompers that have on-board electronics that allow them to be played through an amp. They are small and are much more convenient than carrying around a kick drum or cajon, and the sound they make is quite amazing.

Bragen began selling Logjam stompers about ten years ago, and today there are five different models to choose from. These hand-built boxes are made from in the UK from sustainable hardwoods (such as sapele), and require little to no maintenance. No batteries are used, and they use mic capsules (not piezo elements) so they produce a lovely organic tone. All of them come with a 3-year warranty, though I cannot see much opportunity for things to go wrong. Here is a rundown of the Logjam line-up:

The Logarhythm 4 (£74.95) measures 195 X 100 X 45 mm and weighs around 560 grams. This is a larger unit that allows for different tone if it is struck in different locations or if both feet are used. It has a fluted rubber base to keep it from sliding around while you are using it.

The Microlog 2 (£54.95) is designed to fit on a pedal board so it is smaller, measuring 70 X 100 X 45 mm, and weighing in at 215 grams. It is smaller, but it still produces a respectable bass drum sound. Of course, there is not quite the variety of available tones as with the Logarhythm 4.

The Prolog (£99.95) is a bit different as it is elongated so that the user can tap the front chamber for a drum sound, and click their heel on the extension to get more of a stick sound. It is a bit bigger than the previous two stompers, as it is 300 X 125 X 42 mm, but it still only weighs 600 grams. This is my favorite of the conventional Logjam stompers.

The Travelog 2 (£64.95) is the portable model that is designed to fit in your guitar case, with a small footprint of 125 X 100 X 45 mm, and a weight of 350 grams.

Lastly, there is the Rattlebox (£139.95), which is Logjam’s newest addition to their product line. It has more of a wedge shape than the other stompers, and it measures 292 X 130 X 50 mm, with a total weight of approximately 600 grams. This box provides a snare or stick sound, and it can be played with feet, sticks, brushes, mallets, or your hands. It has a really pretty and natural tone when it is unplugged, and when it is plugged in it loses none of this organic feel. This would be a cool addition to the Prolog if you wish to have more of a complete drum set sound to go along with your solo act.

All five of these Logjam stompers sounds good, are convenient to use, and they look nice too. They are not terribly expensive and you do not need to buy a lot of expensive gear to make them work with your set-up. I think they are really cool and I am glad that Howard Bragen made the trip to Anaheim to share them at NAMM 2017. For more information, head over to their website at logjam.net

Mahalo!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

NAMM 2017: Radial Engineering Key-Largo Keyboard Mixer Preview

Aloha!

I pretty much like everything I have purchased from Radial Engineering, and their Firefly, JDI and J48 are all amongst the best DIs I have ever used. Overall, Radial Engineering builds an impressive collection of professional audio, and one of their stuff is cheap, as they use quality components and their boxes are built with workers earning first-world wages in Canada.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Jay from Radial at NAMM 2017, and he walked me through all of their new products, including splitter boxes, stereo attenuators, a backing track switcher, and all kinds of other cool stuff, but my favorite piece was the new Key-Largo keyboard mixer and DI. This is a useful product that is unlike anything else on the market, which puts Radial Engineering in a good position to sell a metric ton of these things.

Keyboard players often use more than one keyboard, which can get tricky when tying their sound into the mixing board. Some will source a small mixer and cobble things together with the end results that are not always great. Radial took this into account and developed the Key-Largo for this crowd, integrating a dedicated mixer with a DAC, an effects loop, and remote controls, all of this in a relatively small pedal format. Let’s look at what you will have to work with on this unit:

There are plenty of inputs and outputs to work with on the Key Largo. You have four inputs: three stereo ¼-inch jacks and a USB input, as well as stereo effect inputs. Outputs include balanced ¼ TRS stereo monitor jacks and a pair of XLR stereo outs. Also included are a MIDI IN/OUT, and a jack for a volume pedal.

The controls are simple, so that the user will not get bogged down when trying to use this unit live. Each of the four channels has a level control and an effect send knob. There is also and effects receive knob, and level controls for the monitor and main outs (each with a ground lift switch). The two footswitches control sustain and effects send / receive.

The functionality of the Radial Engineering Key-Largo goes beyond what you would get if you bought a small mixer to use with your synths. The USB connection lets you tap into audio files on your laptop and add them into the live keyboard mix. The mixer allows the addition of a stereo rackmount effect to the mix, with the footswitch turning on the effects loop, and the MIDI connectors allow pass-through data to other devices. And of course, it is cool that the keyboardist can set up his own output to the mains and monitors.

I think that Radial Engineering’s Key-Largo is a product that keyboardists will really dig, and it should sell itself, especially with its surprisingly low price of around $379.00. It goes on sale in February, 2017; for more details head on over to radialeng.com

Mahalo!