It seems that double bass pick-ups have been, as it were, coming out of the woodwork in recent years, with the likes of Shertler, Underwood, Fishman and Realist. And now Oxfordshire-based Headway has come up with yet another way of amplifying your db. Set within the bridge the two shielded, circular piezo ceramic cables fit into U shaped slots, one in each of the feet of the bridge. The cables then run down the body of the bass behind the tailpiece and into a nine volt battery in a neat little leather case that is attached by a velcro pad to the back of the tailpiece. This follows on to the jack socket which is equipped with self-adhesive pads and draw ties. Spare velcro pads are supplied, so that wires can be trapped, so as not to touch either the body or the tailpiece of the bass. The circular 360-degree pick-up profile means that this system picks up the most comprehensive collection of vibrations passing through the bridge, maximising the tonal and timbral authenticity and delivering a very punchy, solid and clean sound. There’s no body or background noise and no hum. This pickup system could be as close as it gets to amplifying a bass through acoustic mics. The best thing about the HE2, is it does not taint the natural sound of the bass played acoustically.

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String manufacturer Rotosound has come up with a new range of polymer coated strings they’ve dubbed the ‘Nexus’ collection. Available for electric, acoustic and bass guitars, the marketing blurb tells me that they offer protection from tonal degradation caused by sweat and dirt and by implication have a greater longevity. But perhaps most importantly, behind all this protection the strings retain the tone, clarity and sparkle synonymous with the Rotosound brand. We played through a sample set of electric 10s and while I can’t vouch for the longevity of the strings, it’s clear that the tonal characteristics, the brilliance and the clarity had not in any way been compromised by the black coating. They sang with a wonderfully warm, sweet full tone that jazz players love.

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Running off the mains supply or four AA’s/LR6’s, the four track (two track simultaneous recording) Pocket Studio is ideal for recording rehearsals, gigs or just plain simple ideas. A menu-based digital recorder, it has a surprisingly intuitive interface, which is set alongside a very ‘hands on’ front panel of dedicated level and pan controls. There are two built – in stereo condenser microphones to the front of the unit and two mic/line inputs to the rear, one of which can be switched for different levels of gain, so that an instrument can be recorded directly into the unit.

The Pocket Studio comes with a 1Gb SD card, which can be exchanged for an SDHC card should extra capacity be required for recording gigs, concerts etc. We found the partitioning facility very useful, as it allows cards to be split up into different sessions, each to their own particular length. Equally, the abilty to execute ‘punch ins’ made life considerably easier, as did the two short cut functions: return to zero and return to last recording position. Listening back to tracks is made simple by having a master volume on the speaker/headphone socket and feeding files via USB to computer is now standard fare. Some will frown at the fact that there is no EQ-ing facility onboard, but the simplicity of the Pocket Studio makes for an exceptionally user friendly machine. There is also the vexed question of recording in 16 Bit as opposed to the pro – studio standard of 24 Bit. But hey, I popped this tiny unit into my inside jacket pocket and went off to the beach, where WAV files took on a totally different meaning!

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This extraordinary rubbery, plastic strip wraps around the lower bout of the instrument and is held in place by simple velcro bindings. It’s clearly been well thought through by Headway’s R&D department, who have built the Band to withstand the rigours of the road with excellent ergonomics making it very easy to set up and use, with the pickup to the front and the jack socket to the back – so it’s not in the way when you’re playing. Simplicity is the key here. There are no onboard switches or knobs that inevitably get in the way, confuse and aggravate. Sound modelling is strictly for the amplifier and Headway’s own acoustic SH60 is a perfect match. Our sample band gave very few feedback problems, and performed admirably. OK, it’s not going to give you the clarity and clear results that you might expect from a good microphone, but we’d suggest it’s the next best thing. And then there’s the benefit of being able to move around and use the bow freely without any encumberance whatsoever. Thoroughly recommended.

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The notion of relaxing on a sun-kissed beach with some manuscript sheets and writing a rhapsody has always appealed to me . . . dream on! The only problem is the amount of work involved writing out the individual parts. Photoscore seeks to get around this labourious task, by reading hand written scores through a scanner and then transferring the information to your computer. Well, that’s the idea anyway. My ‘long hand’ has always had some legibility problems and clarity and clean lines have never been my strong point, which is where I hit a problem with Photoscore. You have to be precise. It won’t read oval notes that have slipped slightly off or over a bar line, marginalising a minim is not a good idea and recognition of triplets seems a particular problem. Not only that, but you have to space your notation very carefully and it’s certainly best to leave writing ‘f’’s and other dynamic directions around the staves to the editing process after the score has been scanned. Give Sibelius their due, the clarity issue is made crystal clear in the instructional leaflet. But it does leave you wondering what Photoscore might make of an original manuscript of Beethoven’s 5th! When it comes to copying standard scores with not too many added markings, Photoscore Ultimate does a good job. And there are obvious benefits on copyright issues, where you can lawfully copy original rather than copyrighted material.  

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