“Put down that plastic pick and take a look at these wooden ones”, said a friend of mine. He knew they had to be good, otherwise my response might have been unprintable. He was right too, these Timber Tones are something else. Made from various specialised woods, each of the picks we tested had its own individual character and allowed something of the sound of your fingers to come through. I started with the newly popularised Cocobolo, a highly figured hard wood from the mahogany family that is not on the endangered species list. The sound as might have been expected was bright and clear with a definite nasal edge which we thought would be fine for rock ’n’ roll – but probably not jazz. Next I picked up the Zebrawood, which immediately felt more at home between the fingers and altogether softer to the touch. After a quick lick, the warm, sweet tone was in complete contrast to the Cocobolo – I loved it. Moving on to the African Ebony, we were back to the harder sounds but this was really hard. It almost made me want to become aggressive with the instrument and to attack the strings. The Lignum Vitae was also very harsh, but if you’re looking to achieve absolute clarity, then this has got to be your choice. Our fifth and final pick was the Santos Rosewood. A very positive item that delivers a very predictable sound and doesn’t mess up voicing in chords – clarity again is key. There is slightly more attack than that offered by the Zebrawood and definitely more focus and as an all round jazz pick… yes, you’ve guessed it. I’m holding on to the Santos Rosewood.

For more go to www.wildchilddistribution.

The W24 is about as small and compact as it gets for a highly sophisticated “on the hoof” mini recording device with high fidelity X-Y stereo mikes, that will download your recorded files on to either Windows media player or iTunes. Yes, there are 32 pages of exhaustive illustrated text on how to get the most out of the unit with every button accounted for and every option clearly and comprehensively explained, but once you’ve found what works for you, the whole system is reasonably simple and straightforward to use.

Powered by a single AA/LR6 battery, the W24 comes with a sizeable 2GB internal memory, along with an option to ‘add on’ a micro SD card. It also has a very useful 1/4-inch screw thread on the back of the unit for mounting on either a tripod or mic stand and a remote control that has an operating distance of up to seven metres – although you have to make sure that you have the unit set at the right angle so that the remote can pick up the sensor. The W24 also includes a voice-activated system, so that if left in the recording pause mode the unit will start to record as soon as it detects audio.

The main screen is bright and clear with an orange ground against which the graphics are clearly displayed. Recording controls (record/stop/play) are also on the front face, with a menu button together with fast forward/return and plus/minus for the various function and file options. The unit comes with some useful extras such as a wind screen, a tuner and a metronome. Nothing else is required to edit and mix your recorded files as Cubase A1 DAW software is included in the package.

What isn’t however, is a small padded pouch/bag to store the system, as you won’t be wanting to hold on to the original packaging – it’s too awkward and too clever by half. (DG) For more go to www.yamahasynth.com

The EDB-1 has been getting some really hot press recently, so we thought it was time we checked it out to see what all the fuss is about. And yes, this is a seriously amazing piece of kit and it’s built like a tank. Power comes from a DC 18-volt in with a regulated supply, or two 9-volt batteries. The well insulated battery compartment has been really well thought out, with substantial connectors and overspec’d cables and the locking screw which has a very useful coin nut. The 18volt power supply gives a tremendous amount of power; in a small hall I didn’t need to push the Master beyond a quarter. Also reassuring was the strength of the EQ knobs, which noticeably clicked on to zero. The ‘Range’ switch was also very useful, in that it is already tuned and on the bass setting cut off at 47kh, while also cutting off the top end that you don’t need. Channel 1 has three settings with Channel 2 set for passive pickups and stereo or XLR mike with phanthom power. But perhaps most useful of all was the Notch Filter that allows you to find and cut out any noise that you hear on your instrument that you don’t like, in my case, plenty. A low battery light and recessed threaded stand mount to the back plate come as standard. But what is surprising is the amount of detail and user information that appears in the manual. Not only is the EDB-1 a remarkable all-in-one pre-amp and equaliser and direct injection box, but Headway could even deserve a plain English award. (DG) For more go to www.headwaymusicaudio.com

Compared with Thomastik rope core Belcantos run on an old 1860s German model, the Honeys are much stiffer at the top end of the string and I had to be careful not to kink or twist the string, which made it a little difficult when locating them in the box. The bottom end of the string has a brass bar rather than the usual ball/nut and it is essential that this should be in line when holding the tension and wind up as if it’s not, the string will pop out. Strung up, it is clear that the Honeys come to pitch at a slightly higher tension than the Belcantos, which is great for those players who pull hard, as it all but eliminates any rattle on the low E. Response on the A and E strings is certainly greater than on our Belcantos and the Honeys are certainly louder with good sustain. Tonally these are warm strings and there is a definite soft, nylon sound, particularly on the D and G. The D and G are also mellower than the bottom two strings and it almost sounds as though they have reverb at the top. If you’re looking for a rich, warm bottom end or if your bass is lacking down at the bottom, these Honeys will definitely help. If you’re into swing, try a set. You won’t be disappointed. (DG) For more go to www.innovationstrings.com

The Danish company DPA has been at the forefront of microphone technology for some time, refining its studio range for the optimum response levels to capture every nuance of the acoustic environment. This advanced technology has now been incorporated into their range of mini “clip-on” pre-polarised condenser microphones that feature supercardioid polar patterns for superior gain before feedback. The mounting system has been designed to give the best possible audio reinforcement and stability in live performance.

Jazzwise road tested both the STC and GC 4099s and they are both featherweight and remarkably easy to handle. The fully adjustable goose neck is sturdy enough to stand up to plenty of repositioning and the whole system fits securely to either the bell of the sax or the rim of the guitar. Microphone direction and distance is paramount and we found that a change of position could alter the sonic characteristics quite dramatically. But the quality of the microphone is nothing short of exceptional, capturing the instrument’s full range and all of the subtle inflections of sound.

For more go to www.dpamicrophones.com

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