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.

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The Reserve Classic reeds have been developed using revolutionary 3-D reed-modelling software using a special cane treatment process to help dramatically reduce reed warping. They differ from the original Reserve reeds in that they feature an increased warmth of sound and a lightened articulation by way of a newly designed tip radius. Players can therefore fine tune their exact strength, with specially measured hard to find strengths including 3.5 plus and 4.0 plus. Each reed is precisely cut on the company’s state-of-the-art reed manufacturing machines while special diamond cutters ensure unparalleled precision and consistency from reed to reed. The Reserve Classics are made exclusively from lower-internode cane, a technique pioneered by Rico.

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There seems to be a glut of instrument bags on the market at the moment and the Fusion brand certainly stands out from the rest of the pack, due very possibly to the fact that one of the company’s directors spent many years designing various products for the outdoor industry. With Fusion bags you can attach add-ons to the main unit as required and the add-ons themselves can also be used as separate smaller packing units. The trumpet case/rucksack looks as though it could have been built for a trek in the Himalayas, it’s that tough. Made from strong weatherproof nylon denier, it comes with three staggered, zippered face pockets, the front and rear pockets having hidden inner zippered pouch and pen pockets. The main zippered compartment is extremely well padded and lined in velvetine having a velcroed restraining strap holding the separate padded, velvetine lined zippered trumpet pouch. To the rear of the rucksack is a Flow-System mesh and lumbar pads together with an adjustable padded harness incorporating a zippered phone pocket. There is also an adjustable waist band with a quick release buckle and padded fins and two heavy duty rubberised handles to the top and side. The second smaller Fusion sack with its two zippered face pockets and padded main compartment rides pillion by means of nylon composite eyes and heavy, plasticised velcro straps. A very well designed product.

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These stands are aptly named, although they’re not at all heavy, awkward or cumbersome. Indeed, they’re simple, straightforward and remarkably sturdy. We took a look at the alto/tenor with soprano stand. The great thing about the Hercules product is its compact storage size and simple set-up. From its packeddown state (150mm x 330mm x 110mm) it opens up using sprung locking pins, which secure two legs and the support arm – the third leg amounting to a fixed unit. Each leg has tough rubberised feet with ribbed ends for grip. The support arm carries a substantial yoke, covered in SFF rubber to protect the instrument’s finish and is, like the legs, secured in position by a sprung locking pin. Lower down, the arm is a smaller SFF-covered support that can be height adjusted to suit the individual instrument. This particular stand comes with both legs drilled for individual instrument pegs – our particular sample having a peg for the soprano saxophone. The peg can be screwed into either leg, whichever is the most convenient and will hold the saxophone securely in place by means of a triple-fluted, velvetine covered adjustable support and a solid rubberised head. The unit packs down into a tough, nylon drawstrung bag that you can sling over your shoulder.

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Sibelius has always been a joy to use for scoring. There’s a wonderful logic to the system and it is hard to beat for features and musicality. The 6 has all the features of its predecessor, such as the pick-up bar option and keyboard shortcuts related to the numeric keyboard, which allows you to become fluent with the system very quickly. This latest version has made a considerable leap forward in a number of areas, not least of which is the improvement in instrument sampling – there is a discernible timbral change in horn crescendos. Automatic collision avoidance is now an integral part of the system, so there are no longer any overlaps and everything stacks up really nicely. We also found the “live” keyboard and fretboard useful (although various kinds of guitar fingerboard would seem unnecessary), as they read on to the score immediately and could be played back, edited and also made into a guitar tab. Being able to tap the tempo on to the keyboard having scored a piece of music and know that the machine will respond to live changes and embed them is also very useful. However, the most interesting advance in version 6 is the DAW compatibility through ReWire. You can now link and sync this Sibelius to ProTools, which expands the possibilities for the system well beyond what was previously available.

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