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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There is a plethora of backpack based instrument cases around at the moment and the almost comically named Tom and Will is one of the forerunners in the field. The designers have clearly been taking apart the outdoor industry’s Daysacks and rejigging the layout with a few extra additions – some good, some not so. We took a look at the trumpet case from the Standard range and the alto saxophone case from the slightly higher spec’d Academy range. Both ranges are made up in strong abrasive resistant nylon denier and come with detachable padded backpack style harnesses. The Standard Trumpet case featues a protective heavy duty, ribbed nylon pad to the bell end of the case and has a half length customised nylon zip that is backed by a strong, fixed baffle to protect the instrument from water penetration through the zip.

The baffle is backed by heavy velour covered padding which also runs around the rest of the interior of the case with an added removeable circular pad to the bell end and a separate padded velour covered pouch for mouthpieces. To the exterior is a large zippered pocket running the full length of the case and a lightweight velcroed grab handle. There is also another lightweight nylon grab handle to the top rear of the case. What is not quite so clear is the reasoning behind the detachable, lightweight, zippered and padded brief bag that rides piggyback on the inside face behind the harness. It might be deemed “safe” in that position, but I found having four heavy press studs from the strap and buckle attachment against your back rather uncomfortable. Used as a separate entity the brief bag is fine, but I wouldn’t want to carry it in its attached position. The Academy case is much the same as the Standard, except that it is covered with a higher grade of nylon denier with green piping, is double zipped – but oddly missing the baffles and has leatherette covered grab handles.

The ballistic, ribbed, bass protection is there, however, there is no zippered side pocket. The zippered padded brief bag sits piggyback in the same position as on the Standard model, but is now clean faced with buckle attachments to the rear. Both cases come with reusable, leatherette address tags. For more go to

Using birch wood is not new to JVC, as birch cone speakers have appeared on a number of ‘high end’ midi systems and using the same source material on ‘in the canal’ headphones was in effect a logical progression. The quality of both the construction and the overall finish of the phones is exceptional, with a polished wooden housing, a wooden diaphragm and a high gravity brass ring on a stainless unit base to control the diaphragm movement – this is clearly not a cheap product! They are surprisingly lightweight and come with removable/interchangeable ear pieces/caps which are provided in both silicon and memory foam, with a choice of shape and size which neatly and easily pop over the head of the unit. The sound quality is remarkable and I am really impressed by the range of these phones, the separation and the tonality – each beat on the ride cymbal is easily heard and it’s crystal clear. They’re not overly warm and the balance across the full spectrum is extraordinary – perfect for the jazz listener.

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Protection Racket are very well known for their soft shell drum cases – theirs is the case of choice for many a gigging musician. However, they have now expanded and extended their range to include semirigid examples and guitar and electric bass cases.

We took a look at the two bass cases. Built around a polycarbonate frame, these cases offer the enhanced protection of three layers of different density Rocket foam and are covered in Racketex waterproof material and have a “big teeth” 3/4 covered zip with Protection Racket lockable tags. To the lower front face of the bags are two.

Protection Racket Bass Case zippered pockets - a medium sized piggy-backed on a large, while to the top rim of the case is a heavy duty grab handle with rubberised grip. Both cases come with rear nylon grab handles and a rubberised name/address pouch. This, however, is where the similarities of the 7051 and the 7151 ends. The latter is a Deluxe model and as might be expected has a number of benefits particularly in the comfort stakes, not only for the player, but also the instrument! This is most noticeable on the rucksack style harness, where the 7151 model sports an “airpac” foam back pad, fully adjustable quick release straps with heavily padded shoulder pads, an adjustable sternum strap and a zippered pocket for it all to be packed into when not in use. The 7051 model on the other hand, comes only with an adjustable harness with shoulder pads and carabiner style releaseable clasps which are linked to ‘D’ rings attached to the rim of the case. There is also a marked difference to the interior of each case.

Where the 7051 model comes with a soft nylon interior and an adjustable neck support with velcro strap, the 7151 supports a luxury non abrasive, hydrophilic Propile fleece lining together with the adjustable neck support and velcro retainer strap. As might be expected, the 7151 will set you back almost twice as much as the 7051. The real question is, how often are you going to use the back pack harness and does your instrument really need to travel in a fleece lining? For more visit

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