Whether it’s bundling things into the boot or backseat of your car or braving the perils and perspiration of public transport, having high-grade cases and bags for your beloved gear is an absolute must. Hence bag specialists MONO have just about every instrument covered – with the two examples reviewed here part of extended bass, guitar, keyboard, cymbal and snare case ranges – they even do some nifty laptop cases and rucksacks too.
The Vertigo bass bag (pictured top) lives up to its name with the bass sliding snuggly into the case sideways with the case held upright. The instrument’s neck is then held reassuringly in position via MONO’s patented ‘Headlock’ – a black, plush-finished moulded support positioned halfway down the soft-lined interior. The innovative tractor-tyre style reinforced base on the bag’s bottom end, aptly dubbed ‘The Boot’, will absorb any shocks en route to your gig.
The Producer bag (above) is a similar blend of cool urban styling and robust practicality, with four exterior pockets big enough to take two floor pedals apiece, along with enough room inside for a 17-inch MacBook Pro, MIDI controller, headphones and, hey, even sheet music!
All of which is protected in MONO’s military grade materials that include steel riveted handles, high-density padding and waterproof outer shell. A little bigger than some gear bags, the Producer’s foam-padded shoulder strap ensures balanced weight distribution even when it’s stuffed full and, just like the Vertigo bass bag, is extremely comfortable on the shoulders. This is stylish gear with a serious practical edge.
– Mike Flynn
For more info visit www.monocreators.com
You know when a product is generating serious word of mouth buzz – across a wide range of musicians – that it has to have a little extra something to make such hardened pros as Dave Swift, bassist with Jools Holland, Paul Turner of Jamiroquai and highly respected jazz fusionist Janek Gwizdala all profess their love for Dunlop’s Super Bright bass strings. So we decided to check them out too and put a couple of sets of their stainless steel and nickel plated strings through their paces on both five and four string electric basses.
As seems to be the case with other sets we’ve tried recently, players are demanding a more flexible feel under the fingers without compromising with lighter gauges, in search of a more defined tone to really cut through the mix. And with the Super Brights, Dunlop seem to have ticked both these boxes, not least as the Light set we tried – running 40, 60, 80, 100, 120 from G to low-B strings – really had a wonderfully consistent tonal response from top to bottom, feeling particularly malleable on the business end of the bass – i.e. down at the bottom end. My preference is for nickel-plated strings as, for me, steel always adds unwanted drag on my fingers – yet these steels also performed brilliantly, being highly responsive and just as bright as their nickel counterparts.
Dunlop market these as perfect for slap bass, which they most certainly are, but it’s also testimony to the richness of the Super Bright’s midrange response that makes them perfect for pretty much every style of playing – ensuring you’ll always be heard loud and clear.
– Mike Flynn
For more info go to www.jimdunlop.com
Fusion’s trumpet playing chief designer began her career designing backpacks and rucksacks for fell walkers and mountaineers, so this is a company that knows a thing or two about HiTec materials and keeping precious instruments out of harm’s way. Their Premium series bags are virtually bombproof. Made out of tough PVC-free water resistant rip-stop material, they come with lightweight solid moulded base panels to give even more extra protection. Within the easy access double zippered main compartment are not only the dividing protective sections for three trumpets - with an extra padded sleeve, but also a removable accessory panel that comes with pockets and pouches for mutes and mouthpieces that has been designed to be hung from a music stand.
Three tiered zippered pockets make up the right hand side of the bag, the lowest of which has two internal pockets, together with a carabineer key clasp. The middle pocket sports an internal triple mouthpiece pouch, while the top pocket houses the elasticated waterproof cover. The left hand side panel carries the well padded, heavy duty back harness, with two zippered phone pouches and separate pocketed hip wings that when not in use are stashed in a zippered compartment faced by an ‘airflow’ covered panel. Set above this is a tough nylon webbed grab handle.
To the top of the bag is a double velcroed adjustable grab handle and a useful slip concealed address label, while to either end of the top panel are heavy duty nylon clasps that can be attached to an adjustable webbed shoulder strap with floating shoulder pad. The rigid base of the bag is finished with four solid nylon feet. This Premium is a bag for all seasons, and we would happily take it on the road. But it is sadly too large for cabin luggage and because of the lack of ‘lockability’, we wouldn’t want to risk putting it in the hold.
– David Gallant
For more info go to www.fusion-bags.com
You can’t help but admire Jody Espina of Jody Jazz: his total commitment to developing and refining the design of the metal mouthpiece to achieve the ultimate in sound quality and projection borders on the fanatical. And judging by the roster of stellar players that now blow through the JJ mouthpiece, there’s no question that all those hours of soul searching and R&D have been worth the midnight oil.
We took delivery of a DV mouthpiece for our Selmer Alto and were immediately struck by the unusual packaging – this mouthpiece is presented in a velour pouch in a lightweight wooden cylindrical box/canister, with its string/button tie!
The mouthpiece itself is akin to a piece of select sculpture – the unit has quality written all over it. We reckon the sculptor Henry Moore would have been pleased with this beauty – and in 24kt gold plate too. In fact, the whole development of the unit has been built around the concept of Golden Section Proportions (interestingly a visual art term). Espina was looking to create the perfect chamber/bore/facing combination, which would result in the best possible playing experience.
Free blowing it certainly is. In fact it’s totally effortless. There’s a consistency of sound all through the register and the tone is much darker and more sweet and smooth than a standard metal mouthpiece (ie: our Brancher). To our ear, the JJ didn’t seem to have as much punch in the middle as our Brancher, but it more than makes up for this in the ‘sotto voce’ with a beautifully controlled sound – and there’s not a hint of the shrillness usually associated with metal. OK, it doesn’t come cheap. But then, neither do silk sheets! The mouthpiece comes with a Rico ‘H’ ligature and shaped cap.
For more info go to www.jodyjazz.com
Clip on ‘bell’ mics coupled with wireless systems are hardly a new concept, but to date they have all, bar a few very expensive exceptions, been of the analogue variety. There are two distinct drawbacks with this type of system. The use of a ‘compander’ (short for compressor/ expander) to effectively squash the signal before transmission so that it will fit into the VHF or UHF band and then expand it back again at the receiver to try and replicate the original sound really doesn’t cut the mustard. As we all know, once you’ve removed information to reduce the file size, you won’t get it back.
The other problem with analogue systems is the bandwidth. Rolling off the top and bottom ends means that that big fat bottom is not coming through and the sonic subtleties in the high-end harmonics are all but lost.
Enter the Stage Clix digital wireless system. This Dutch produced product has no need for a compander – it’s digital – so all the information is retained. And with a bandwidth of 20Hz to 20kHz, you’ve got CD quality sound.
The system comes in a lightweight, moulded, ABS hand case, which offers plenty of protection for the delicate components. The mini condenser clip-on microphone and its supporting system is exceptionally well built with a well padded, firmly sprung ‘clamp clip’ attached to a gooseneck, to allow accurate positioning for maximum response. There is also a mini shock-mount holder for element protection and the handling of noise rejection. Some players have apparently found that vibrations from the bell of their instrument have still been picked up by the mic, due to the rigidity of the support fan around the mic capsule. Although we didn’t have any such problems, this can, we are told, be alleviated by reducing the contact points between the cage and the capsule.
Overall, the mic responded as we had expected. Its exceptional build qualities were reflected in its sonic response. Attached to a sax bell, it managed to seemingly capture every nuance of sound clearly, cleanly and evenly across the full range.
There was no audible tainting or colouring. With a patented transmitting technique dubbed ‘triple-diversity’, which uses three frequencies within the one channel at the same time, there’s little chance of either dropout or interference. There are almost certainly going to be problems with the current analogue systems given the government’s future ‘switchover’ plans. But as the Stage Clix system uses a frequency of 2.4 GHz, which is both legal to use and available worldwide, there’s no need for an upgrade and no more applying for licences as per Channel 38.
For more info go to www.mtraudio.com