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REVIEW: Beyerdynamic DT 770 vs. DT 990 headphones

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REVIEW: Beyerdynamic DT 770 vs. DT 990 headphones

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Are you looking for a good quality headphone for recording, mixing and mastering at a good price? Maybe you’ve heard about Beyerdynamic DT series and don’t understand the differences. So I’m going to compare the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250 Ohm (closed) and DT 990 Edition 250 Ohm (open) and tell you which one I use for which purpose.

[Before I start, I’d like to say why I am reviewing the DT 990 Edition and not the DT 990 Pro. The DT 990 Edition was released as a “home” listening headphone for high-end audio speakers, however, on their website, they say that both DT 990 headphones use exactly the same technology inside, so the only difference is aesthetically (1. the straight vs. coiled cable, 2. softer headband on Edition, and 3. colour). I preferred the straight cable so it was a no brainer.]

Now, back to the comparison of 770 and 990. First I’d like to point out the similarities:

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN DT 770 250 Ohm and DT 990 250 Ohm

  • Comfort. Both headphones are incredibly comfortable to wear over the ears. Spongy ear cups and the headband is not too tight.

  • Soundwise, both are very clear and crisp in sound. The bass is not exaggerated like in some other headphones, so for listening and mixing pleasure, it’s rather suitable for acoustic music, and not music where the bass is key e.g. electronic music/hip hop. Frequency-wise, they both sound pretty similar to me.

  • Price. For the quality of the headphones, the price is very good. Good quality headphones can go up to 1000s of Euros along with headphone amps and other high-end stuff, but these are both studio-grade headphones and the DT 770 Pro is a standard in good recording studios for tracking (we use them at Abbey Road Institute (Amsterdam) and Red Bull Studios Amsterdam).

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN DT 770 250 Ohm and DT 990 250 Ohm

  • The biggest difference is that DT 990 has an open back and DT 770 has a closed back. This means that DT 990 is better for mixing and mastering, while DT 770 is better for recording. This is because the close-back of the DT 770 reduces the spill of the headphone into the microphone. The DT 990 is less tiring while using for long periods. It has an open back and you can listen for hours, for listening or for mixing and mastering. However, because the DT 990 is open, it means that you can hear external noise very easily and they can hear you. So if someone next to you is watching something on their phone on speaker, it can be very hard for both parties (but mostly more annoying for you). The DT 770 protects you more from outside noise. It is not noise-cancelling, but it does a good job.

  • If open and close back is not your concern, the most obvious difference to me in the sound is the spatial difference. The stereo image in the DT 990 is incredibly accurate from left to right, front to back, and you can really hear where each instrument or sound is placed.

  • The straight vs. curly cable. The DT 990 Edition comes with a straight cable, so it doesn’t have the weight to bounce around if you are on the move, or not sitting at a table.

(I won't go into technical specs, as you can compare on the Beyerdynamic website).

OVERALL COMMENTS (and concerns)

  • My biggest concern is that frequency-wise, it is not at all flat, but it is good to know where the peaks and troughs are so you keep it in mind while mixing. The treble boost is really noticeable and oftentimes, the bass is nowhere to be heard. To combat this issue, I can recommend a plugin called Reference 4 by Sonarworks, that gives you a more flat response and removes the unwanted colouration from headphones. You insert it as the last plugin on your DAW and choose your headphones from the list. It is not a free plugin, but it’s definitely worth it, if you are mixing with only one reference (for example, if you don’t have different pairs of headphones and speakers to compare your mixes)

  • Both headphones are 250 Ohm, which are suitable for high-end audio gear. However, I’ve had quite a lot of trouble using these headphones while on the road, connected to my phone or laptop, as I could never quite get enough volume, especially on public transport. (For on the road headphones, check out my review on Bowers & Wilkins P5)

  • You cannot remove the cable, therefore you cannot exchange the curly one with the straight one and vice versa. (That’s why I went with the Edition, as the curly cable bounces around and pulls on the headphone which I don’t like).

At Bax-shop (a Dutch retailer), the DT 770 250 Ohm are selling for €116, DT 990 Edition for €159 (and DT 990 Pro 250 Ohm €122).

If price isn’t an issue and you’re currently comparing some other brands, for open-back, I can recommend Sennheiser HD650 (open) which are €354, more than twice the price of the DT 990 Edition, and are also very honest sounding and pleasurable to work with. For me, the DT 990 had a slightly more detailed sound and better spatial accuracy, which was more important to me than the frequency spectrum. (Sonarworks has a deal for €699 where you can buy the full software for headphones and speakers + the Sennheiser HD650. They also have a student/academic/educational discount so it is worth checking out). Some people might recommend headphones by AKG, but I’ve tried headphones from AKG and I don’t like the way they feel on my head. They feel less rugged and make a lot of noise when moving around on your ears.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips, or feedback on the above!

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REVIEW: ADAM Audio T7V vs. AX7 studio monitors

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REVIEW: ADAM Audio T7V vs. AX7 studio monitors

[update: one of my readers pointed out that it is actually A7X not AX7! So I’ve updated the body text but not the headline, so not to disrupt the Google indexing :-P]

I had been eyeing ADAM Audio speakers for a while now, but still holding off until I got more impressions from others, knowledge about the competition and generally waiting until I saved up enough money! Let's face it, ADAM speakers are not the cheapest out there. I had been considering the AX range, which are considered crossover of high end home studio recordings and pro audio. But to pay €1098 for a pair of A7X, €778 for a pair of the 5-inch A5X or a whopping €518 for a pair of the smallest of the range, A3X was enough to make (an aspiring music producer in the making like) me feel sick! 

The first time I went to Bax Shop in Amsterdam to check studio monitors, there was a DJ who gave me a tip to buy the ADAM Audio speakers. I don't know who he was, but I definitely kept it in mind. I listened to all speakers and the AX range were definitely the ones that stood out to me in terms of amount and smoothness of the detail, however there was something really off-putting about the bass of the A5X. It was boomy and I predicted that I would fatigue after some time of listening. 

So I left it and a couple months later I returned to Bax to listen again with a fresh ear and new impressions. Since the last time, I had spoken to several other musicians and producers and more often than not, ADAM speakers had a good reputation. This time they had the new T series on showcase, which is the entry-level affordable consumer speaker to compete with the likes of Yamaha HS series, JBL LSR305, KRK RP series to name a few. 

Anyway, with my heart set on one of the ADAM AX series, I decided anyway to do a blind test and listen to all the speakers in the room and rank them. To my surprise, I actually discarded the A5X! WHAT! Incredible. So when the shop assistant came by, I asked him to check the boost settings on the back because I remembered from last time that I felt something was off with the bass. He checked the right monitor and indeed, it was boosted in the bass, and in the treble! WOW, I was so proud of my own ears and glad that I could now make a more honest comparison. 

In the end, it all came down to the ADAM AX and T. They both had such an honest and detailed sound, rich and never harsh. Some of the competitors were harsh in the treble (Yamaha HS), or overall muffled (KRK), or just not as exciting (Focal Alpha, HEDD). 

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN T7V and A7X

  • The most obvious being the sound quality.. of course AX being cleaner, and more detailed in every way (stereo image and frequency response) than the T.

  • AX has stereo link.

  • AX has the bass port at the front (not back like on the T), along with the volume control.

  • AX has High/Low Shelf options (boost and attenuate) and T has High/Low Pass Filter, so no boost.

  • Price. A pair of 2 x T7Vs is already 150 Euros cheaper than 1 x A7X. No more needs to be said.

Besides that (and I won't go into technical specs, as you can compare on the ADAM Audio website), there are few differences. I think for the price/quality is absolutely unbeatable, and for that reason alone, I went for the T7V. 

After taking them home, I listened to some CDs and the sound was brilliant! The bass was really rich and I was glad to finally have some nice woofers in the house, rather than bass-less desktop computer speakers! (TIP: listen to CDs or vinyls when possible! Even Premium Spotify streaming will not give you the listening pleasure in good speakers)

I only have 3 concerns about the T7V and they are as follows:

1. On the back there is a dB level control but there is no groove on the pot at 0 dB so you don't know can't know if you're exactly on 0 and no stereo link so you can't be sure if both speakers are the same level. 

2. I heard some popping sounds from the speakers, which decreased when I bought new RCA cables, but I have a feeling it is the dirty electricity in my apartment. I need to verify it another time using new XLR cables and in another place! [update: the popping noise stopped when using a good audio interface and XLR cables in another location. HOWEVER, now with a good studio set up, I noticed some white noise from the speakers. So the speakers are not completely quiet! It is not noticeable when listening to audio, but if you’re sitting in silence with the monitors on, you can hear it. To try to reduce it, I set the gain on the back of the speakers to North-West (or at 10 O’clock) which is below 0dB and use the gain on my audio interface, which doesn’t increase the noise at all even on the highest setting.]

3. The woofer cone is not made with very very much attention as you can see the sloppy glueing. Not a deal breaker, I'm just being picky. (see photos below)

In summary, go for the A7X if you have the money! If money is no issue, T7V is absolutely the best entry-level near-field studio monitors on the market. 

[As a side note, for a higher price bracket, the Focal Alpha 65 and HEDD Type 05 came a close second and third in the blind test after the A7X, for their detailed and flat frequency response, but I felt that compared to the ADAM speakers they were slightly 'dull'. Not a bad thing, but I think I would like to be inspired when making music and if I don't feel warm listening to even my favourite songs, then something is wrong.]

I paid €395 for a pair of T7Vs at Bax Shop: https://www.bax-shop.nl/studio-monitors/adam-t7v-actieve-studiomonitor-set-van-twee

Official ADAM Audio website: https://www.adam-audio.com/en/

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Best octave pedal for electric cello: Electro Harmonix Micro POG vs. tc electronic Sub 'n' Up

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Best octave pedal for electric cello: Electro Harmonix Micro POG vs. tc electronic Sub 'n' Up

I had so much fun comparing these two octave pedals with my 5-string electric cello by NS Design! After I give my review, I will reveal which pedal I ended up going with (sadly I couldn't keep both and the Sub 'n' up was borrowed from my classmate and bass player Fabian, thanks Fab!). 

Build: the Micro POG is definitely bigger and also slightly sturdier (better for gigs and no worries getting scuffed on the edges). I really liked the size of the Sub 'n' Up and it was not really cheaply built or anything but because it has the paint around the whole pedal, it looks prettier, but then there is more paint to scratch off. Micro POG wins. 

Foot switch: the Micro POG (and also other Electro Harmonix pedals) have a very stiff foot switch. It has a big click and needs quite some force to click it. Sub 'n' Up just feels more friendly and sensitive. Sub 'n' up wins. 

Tracking: both are fine, with a slight delay, but expected I suppose. So it's a tie. 

Sound: Sub 'n' Up in general is a smooth-sounding octave pedal has issues with gain. Micro POG octave up sounds a bit bright, but it tracks very well and you have a lot of gain to play with. The octave up also sounds a bit organ-like on both, so I think there is no winner for the upper octave. Sub 'n' Up has a more rounded sound but doesn't really help the sound to stand out. Overall sound-wise: Micro POG wins. 

Modes: Sub 'n' Up has a few modes, but I kept it in polyphonic, since the monophonic option tracks really slowly and doesn't suit the electric cello. The TonePrint function I didn't even try, so I can't say if it is really good or not. Sub 'n' up also has an option for a sub 2 octaves down, which is a very cool option, but wouldn't say it was a deal breaker if my octave pedal didn't have one. The cello plays very low already (and I have an extra lower bass string) so I don't really need it. I prefer having one octave up and one octave down for the cello. Sub 'n' up wins for extra functionality. 

The charger: I wouldn't usually need to mention such a trivial thing but one big 'con' about the Micro POG is that it uses a very big and heavy adapter with a very thin cord which is 220V and not recommended to be used with a 9V daisy chain. It's really something I hate about the Micro POG. 

Overall: in the end I chose the Micro POG because of the sound. It felt more raw, and analogue, and consistently loud on both sub and octave up. Sub 'n' up sounded more digital, smooth, safe, and the sub was loud but not defined, and the octave up was not loud at all even at the highest gain. 

https://www.ehx.com/

https://www.tcelectronic.com

The cello in the photo is the NS Design CR5 5 string electric cello by Ned Steinberger

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Best reverb pedal for electric cello: Eventide Space vs. Strymon Big Sky

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Best reverb pedal for electric cello: Eventide Space vs. Strymon Big Sky

A few weeks ago, I met an electric violinist who told me about the Eventide Space reverb pedal she was using for live performances. Immediately I was curious and bought one to try with my NS Design 5-string electric cello. The first impression was pretty good, but after some research online, I discovered that there were more people who were raving on about Strymon Big Sky and other websites doing head to head reviews on these two top-class reverbs. So I bought the Big Sky as well, just to see what the fuss is about and not to miss out on something potentially better! 

Here is my (humble) take on both: 

Build: Eventide Space is built with rugged edges and knobs, fit for on the go and on the stage. Big Sky doesn't have rubber feet, corners or knobs and feels more like a studio pedal than for the stage. The knobs on the Big Sky are more delicate and unnecessarily raised a few millimetres above the pedal, which adds to it feeling. Space wins. 

Look: The display on the Space is big and red, very 80s, while the display on Big Sky is much smaller and has less characters. Space wins. 

Ease of use: Navigation on the Space seems easy, using presets from 1-100. Each time you land on a preset, it flashes momentarily the reverb type that it is based on. On the Big Sky, you can see what reverb the preset is based on because of the green light. Each reverb is named on the pedal with a light. Both are equal. 

Sound: Now, sound-wise, this is where it becomes most interesting. For experimental and ambient digital reverb sounds, the Space wins, but for the sound of a real-life reverb, Big Sky is clearly the winner. The sound is just so pure. I can imagine that the Space sounds amazing as an effect for synths, and for specific studio recordings, but I think Big Sky is just an amplified musician's dream to play live with. 

Conclusion: overall the Eventide Space is more user-friendly, better built and better all-rounder, but purely from a sound perspective, Big Sky is the ultimate top class reverb pedal and cannot be surpassed. 

Eventide Space is selling for € 531,- and Strymon Big Sky for € 520,- at https://www.bax-shop.nl

The cello in the photo is the NS Design CR5 5 string electric cello by Ned Steinberger

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Trying out Battiloro Handpans in Haarlem

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Trying out Battiloro Handpans in Haarlem

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After searching on Marktplaats (the Dutch eBay) to buy a handpan instrument, I came across a post for "Handpan orientation day", where you can go to try several instruments from the Battiloro brand. At once, I messaged them and made an appointment to visit Annemarie in Haarlem. 

By complete chance, I spoke to a good friend of mine who was coincidentally planning a trip to Haarlem to pick up a pair of inline blades that she bought on Marktplaats on the same day, at the same time! So, we agreed to go together, Rosan, Bianca and I altogether for a small road trip to Haarlem to pick up her blades and then off to the Handpan workshop. 

In the ground floor apartment of a very cute street in Haarlem, Annemarie greeted us with a smile and a cup of tea. She showed us the instruments, all tuned in different keys and different looks. One was tuned in C#, one in D, one was more shiny, the others were dark. 

Annemarie showed us the basics of playing and a couple of patterns and after trying out each instrument we had a small jam session together. She was impressed by my musicality and also about Bianca too. It was so much fun! It was the first time I really played on a handpan and I felt that I picked it up really quickly. Now, my goal is just to find an instrument that speaks to me and one that I can call my own. 

For the Introduction (in Dutch oriëntatiedag), we paid 25 Euros each for the hour. Thank you to Annemarie for the lovely morning and also suggestion for the yummy and cosy brunch café we went to - Native Haarlem - Koffie, (Breestraat 23). Another tip: Ananda, a new-age spiritual shop in a very cute shopping street (Gierstraat 8). 

Handpan workshops given by Annemarie Klein (Haarlem) & Bruno (Amsterdam): http://kleininconcept.nl/unieke-workshop-hang-handpan-hangdrum/
Battiloro Handpans: https://www.battilorohandpan.com/

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Handpan street musician in Naxos, Greece

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Handpan street musician in Naxos, Greece

While I was on vacation in Greece with my dearest friends for a 10-year reunion since meeting in Amsterdam together, one night Bianca and I went exploring up the Naxos town towards the castle. There under a quiet corridor sat a hippy-looking guy playing a large steel pan with dents in it. Bianca encouraged me to talk to him and ask about the instrument since there was no one else around, but I was too embarrassed. Then from nowhere, tourists started coming from every direction, so I missed my chance, so I sat down and started listening. In fact, he played very rhythmically and mathematically with the sensation of improvising. I really liked it and somehow it was the happy medium between dance chimes and sound bowls used for meditation. After recording a sound clip, I left some coins, thanked him and left. Bianca told me that I should buy such an instrument. 

From that moment on, for the next 24 hours I became obsessed about the instrument, called 'handpan'. It was invented in 2000 by two Swiss, and the instrument was originally called 'Hang'. A few years ago they stopped making it due to the demand and with the principle that they did not want to mass produce them, so they started to focus on new instruments. Now, the 'handpan' instruments are selling for around 1800 EUR and the demand is much greater than the number of instruments being made. Looks like I wouldn't be getting my hands on the pan anytime soon. 

The next evening, Bianca and I went on a hunt to find the guy again, so I could ask him questions. While we were making our way towards the castle, we saw him playing in the open, near the restaurant with beautiful terraces where we had eaten the day before. Coincidentally, after one song, he started wrapping up. Again, I thanked him and he recognised us from the previous night. Then I asked about the instrument and he, Jeremie, told us his story. He had 2 handpans, one in D minor and one in C# minor (both with 10 tones, one for the white keys and one for the black) and waited 2 years for them. 

At the end, I asked him if I could try his handpan out, and so there I was, playing a new instrument, and the very beginning of my handpan journey! 

--

UPDATE: 29 October 2017

I found the guy on YouTube! Crazy but he just uploaded a video 2 days ago I decided to try to find him. I searched 'handpan naxos' hoping to find him, and I did! His name is Jeremie and goes by the name of Chief of Nothing. I also found out there will be a Handpan gathering/festival in Naxos 25-29 May 2018. More about that here: http://hona.verbindliche-improvisation.de/

His instrument is an Omana (HP) D minor 9 (9 tones and 1 ding)

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REVIEW: Bowers and Wilkins P5 Series 2 on-ear headphones

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REVIEW: Bowers and Wilkins P5 Series 2 on-ear headphones

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Sadly, my last pair of on-ear headphones Marshall Major White were falling apart (the ear muff was breaking at the seam and falling off), which was (and is) the only reason why I decided to buy a new headphones. I've been through a bunch of Sennheisers, then a pair of WESC, then more recently the Marshall, which lasted me a good 3 years, and I even used these for recording and also mixing. 

I generally wanted to escape from the hype (because hype doesn't mean quality), so I wasn't leaning towards Dr. Dre's Beats or Bose (I actually returned the noise-cancelling over-ear headphones because I didn't like the sound). One day randomly while at MediaMarkt, I went over to the headphones section and grabbed a pair of Bowers and Wilkins because they looked so sleek. As I put them on, my ears melted from the comfort. This alone was enough for me to buy these and give them a try. The price point was a little high for simple 'on-ear headphones' for daily commuting use, but I gave myself permission to indulge a little this time (since I got the Marshalls for only 50 euros during a black Friday sale). I also saw my friend's boyfriend had the same headphones so having at least one person in my 'trusty' good-taste network with these headphones it was enough for me to go ahead. 

My first impressions on the sound was not as great as the first look and feel impression, but that changed when I discovered that on my phone that the default Music Quality Streaming settings on Spotify was not set to Extreme (320 kbits/s), therefore setting it to Automatic (Recommended) means that it could be low quality depending on what Spotify decides to choose for you. I had previously chosen this in the settings but after I reset my phone and downloaded the Spotify app again I forgot to check. 

After a bit of time I think I will get used to the sound, and I think it comes down to what you've been using before. When I compare the Marshall and Bowers and Wilkins I can hear the quality and richness of B&W is much higher, but somehow I was still used to the Marshall sound, because it masks all of the 'bad' frequencies so you hear a more muffled and comfortable sound where nothing sticks out. 

A handy addition to the headphones is the choice of using the headphones with the extra mobile phone buttons or without. For recording music with a mobile phone, I prefer to use the cord without so it doesn't record with the headphones, and not a lot of casual listening headphones have this option, which is annoying to me. It is easy to take the headphone off and switch the cable. 

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Overall, an amazingly sleek, good-looking, comfortable and high-end on-ear headphones. High-end also means high price-point too. 

149,- EUR at MediaMarkt

Check out the official Bowers Wilkins website for more information:
http://www.bowers-wilkins.eu/Headphones/Wired-Headphones/Wired-Headphones/P5-Series-2.html

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REIVEW: NS Design CR series 5-string electric cello

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REIVEW: NS Design CR series 5-string electric cello

One year ago, I saw Clean Bandit perform live for the first time. Grace Chatto, their cellist had the most amazing electric cello, which was on a stand and she could play and dance to the beat of the music. I loved that! Immediately I had to find out which brand it was, and found out it was the CR series Poplar Burl model by Ned Steinberger, or otherwise known as NS Design. 

It took me one whole year to save up to buy the cello, but finally, I did it! I decided to get the 5-string edition (F-C-G-D-A), so I could have an extra bass string handy. I also bought the Frame Strap System, which is a wooden belt/harness so you can play the cello attached to your body instead of on the stand. More on this later. 

Here is my humble take on it: 

PROS

  • The sound is amazing! For an electric cello, the sound is rich, natural and is the best sounding electric cello on the market in my opinion (better than Yamaha.. yes, I said it). 
  • The two tone controls (treble & bass) come in handy when you don't have an equaliser around and your speaker isn't the most flattering. 
  • The tuning pegs are like ones found on a guitar. They are smooth and work very nice. 
  • There are 3 modes for the pick-up: one for pizzicato, one neutral and one for arco. In pizzicato mode, the cello sounds very much like an electric bass and the notes pop out much more than any classical cello can with a piezo pick up or microphone. 
  • The build is very sturdy. It feels strong and well made.
  • It is not too heavy. 

CONS

  • The need for 2 x 9V batteries! I'm not a fan of batteries in general for sustainability reasons, but in this case I think it's not safe to do a performance when there's the risk that the batteries go dead. There is also no battery monitor so you don't know that the batteries are going dead until you hear it going fuzzy. 
  • The dot on the back of the neck to show you where the 5th note is, is so tiny you can barely feel it as a reference. It may have been better to have a line not a dot. You can also buy a specific 'thumb stop' in case you really need it, but I think there's a beauty in having such a long and free neck. 
  • The strings are NS Electric Cello brand and once I replaced the A and D string with my preferred Larson and Spirocore tungsten strings and immediately the sound was better. 
  • The Frame Strap System is terrible! It is not built for different sized people and it is not adjustable in the right way so that the cello is able to sit comfortably away from the body. 
  • The bag on the Thomann website is incorrect. That is the bag for the bass version, which has a separate bag for the stand. The cello version doesn't have a bag for the stand. 

OVERALL: an amazing investment, which has changed the possibilities to perform live in an amplified situation and to be free to move while playing instead of sitting down. I have a love-hate relationship with some of the peripherals, but because of the natural and beautiful sound of the electric cello, I stand firmly behind the NS Design CR series electric cello! 

https://thinkns.com 

I bought it from Thomann for €3190,-- https://www.thomann.de/gb/ns_design_cr5p_cello.htm

 

 

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My Ibanez S series electric guitar - white S570B

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My Ibanez S series electric guitar - white S570B

When I joined all-girl bandTHE FOX as the electric guitarist, I didn't even own one, nor played in a band with one, nor with an effects pedal. For a time I borrowed the guitar of Celine's (our lead singer) little brother. Until I realised it was his only electric guitar and it became tricky logistically. I fell in love with the Swedish Hagstroms and it was by a strike of luck (or fate) that we won one on Facebook. For a couple of years the Hagstrom Super Swede has been doing just fine, and my guitar baby. Only, I've realized that it's not suitable for me physically or for the type of music we play. It would be awesome for jazz, funk and blues. It's a really well made guitar, but it's just very heavy and the neck is not as thin as I desire, to manage the fast pop/rock licks in THE FOX. 

So I decided it was time to make an investment in a sexy* guitar that was light and has a thin neck so I can play fast (*sexy because THE FOX, apart from the music is all about having a stage presence that blows audiences away). I wanted the Hagstrom Metropole in white so my Super Swede could have a little brother but I couldn't find a store in Amsterdam to try it without buying it first. Then I also considered the Gibson Melody Maker (and the Gibson Junior) in white (like that of Joan Jett) but when I played it, it seemed suitable only for punk rock power chords. It's not well made, and it's quite cheap so you're paying for the name. I managed to try out an Ibanez S series in another colour and I absolutely fell in love with the playability. A fast neck with a matte finish neck and an incredibly thin body (15mm at the thickest point) which made it super light. The only thing was the colour. I had set my mind on white or creme, and just my luck, I found one at a Dutch online store Rockpalace (now Key Music)Ibanez S series electric guitar, white, model S570B. 

I must say that I'm definitely in love! I've started to have guitar lessons as well. It's everything I need right now in a guitar. I think it still needs playing in and needs to be cranked up through the amp really loud but for now I'm really happy with my new guitar baby - still unfortunately unnamed. 

I bought it online for €450 at Rockpalace.com (now Key Music)
The Ibanez guitar case I bought at conrad.nl

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REVIEW: Marshall Major White Headphones

3 years ago I decided for a pair of WESC headphones over URBANEARS because I've only ever had Sennheiser technology headphones. Times have changed. And now I just got a new pair of Marshall Headphones that are made from the makers of URBANEARS. Well, at least they're still Swedish. They are called Zound Industries and if you're looking for something even more stylish, where headphones meet fashion, check out Molami

I must admit, not only do the Marshalls look amazing (especially with the gold connectors), they also feel super comfy over the ears (while semi noise-cancelling). Most importantly, the sound quality is also so good that I've been using these while recording. I got the MAJOR WHITE on sale for €50 (usually €100) during their Black Friday sale. 

I think my (loan) cat Issy likes them too. 

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REVIEW: d:vote™ 4099 Condenser Microphone for Cello

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REVIEW: d:vote™ 4099 Condenser Microphone for Cello

I found the best clip on microphone for cello for a live performance. I've had my loop station(s) for a while now, but still haven't been able to create the desired sound with my various piezo pickups (read my review about Headway's The Band). 

So I decided to invest in a d:vote™ 4099 Condenser Microphone for Cello. First impressions? W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L!

PROS
- The biggest plus point is the sound. The sound is beautifully natural and doesn't need EQ. You can hear the instrument breathe which reduces the chance that you need to add reverb, which is an advantage over contact microphones/piezo transducer pickups (because they usually only capture the scratchy sound of the bridge). 
 

CONS
- The cable. I cannot afford a digital wireless system (yet, or don't deserve one) so I need to use the cable. There is one very thin cable which leads to a belt clip, for saxophone players or mobile players or to the DI but it is so thin and delicate. 
- You still need to find phantom power somewhere so you can't just plug it in a PA or bass amp. You'll need a pre-amp or DI. 
- It is a bit fiddly to attach it and bend the goose neck to the right spot. Again, it feels so delicate that it might break if you're not careful. 
- Takes time to find the right placement, and in the wrong spot can cause feedback. 


I found one B-stock which is around 40 EU cheaper than a new one which is great, and don't see any differences. Price: 399.00 EUR from http://www.thomann.de/

See the official DPA website here: https://www.dpamicrophones.com

 

--- UPDATE 15 APRIL 2018 ---
I performed live with the DPA microphone with Paul Freeman for NH Radio. See the video below to hear how beautiful it sounds! 

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Winning a Super Swede Hagstrom guitar…on Facebook!

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Winning a Super Swede Hagstrom guitar…on Facebook!

Would you even believe it if I told you I won a guitar on Facebook?

Hagstrom-Toontrack-winner.jpg

A couple of months ago I joined THE FOX as a cellist and rhythm guitarist. At the time I only played 3 chords and didn’t own a guitar… but that soon changed when I fell in love with a Swedish Hagstrom guitar…

The Story

So I volunteered to play guitar to support the funk-jazz licks of THE FOX’s lead guitarist Sharon Steinfort, but I felt so bad borrowing the (only) electric guitar belonging to the younger brother of lead singer Celine. I looked around on the internet and had my eye on Swedish brand Hagstrom even though I couldn’t really afford one. But when I went onto their website I saw they were holding a competition to win a Super Swede guitar on Facebook. Couldn’t be true, right?

I love competitions. And this one had the perfect prize for me! It was run by Toontrack – premium drum software company – and there were 6 drum samples in which you had to name the correct artist and song. Tough? Try out your drumming ear below:

Well. I didn’t win. I don’t even think I got the answers right. But a week after the competition was over, I got an email from Sharon, saying SHE WON! The beautiful guitar was hers! And guess who gets to play it? It’s unbelievable actually that I’m still pinching myself thinking that the guitar of my dreams, came all the way from Sweden and now is property of THE FOX. Thanks Sharon, you rock girl! (She does, and she is very good at drums too.)

Watch for me rockin’ out on the Super Swede at our next gig (late August, watch this space)…

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Where to buy a good cello in Amsterdam

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Where to buy a good cello in Amsterdam

Finding a good cello in Amsterdam is not easy. Finding a good cello anywhere is not easy. And Amsterdam is not really known for its long classical music history. But I found the needle in the haystack! 

I needed a cello temporarily to hire last year so I searched high and low for a real cello specialist, and not a chain manufacturer selling straight-from-the-factory-in-China-cellos. Then I found it. Muziekatelier Amsterdam located in North East Amsterdam run by a lovely Dutch cellist named Ascon van der Westen.

The atelier has cellos ranging from student models from €600 to mid-range to beautiful antique 1900′s French, Italian, and German cellos even up to €24,000 (ouch!). Bows, cases, accessories and smaller members of the string family are also available.

The photos below are of the gorgeous beauty I called mine for some time. It has performed with me with Imogen Heap and also has a few cameo appearances on YouTube here and here.

Oh, and they also sell double basses!

Muziekatelier Amsterdam

Ascon van der Westen
Stromarkt 37
1012 SW Amsterdam
tel. 06-15126536

 

---UPDATE 19 APRIL 2018: Ascon as moved his Atelier to a new location outside Amsterdam---

Muziekatelier N'Holland

Ascon van der Westen
Rechtestraat 45
1483 BB De Rijp
tel. 06-15126536

strijkinstrumenten@hotmail.com

www.strijkinstrumenten.com

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REVIEW: BOSS ME-50 (used for cello)

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REVIEW: BOSS ME-50 (used for cello)

It has taken me a few years to get going, first an appropriate amplifying system, next a BOSS RC-20 Loop Station and finally, I’m happy to announce I now have an effects pedal, BOSS ME-50 given to me by my favourite Dingo Bird! It’s not easy being a cellist in modern times.

I don’t have so much to ‘review’ yet, since I’m still learning (and I don’t have an amp yet… hahaha so I just listen through headphones, not exactly the desired sound for a crunch distortion. But here are my impressions so far:

- This works great for cello, even though it’s a guitar pedal
- It has an in-built tuner, now I’ll feel so cool to tune my cello between songs on stage (what ever happened to tuning by ear?)
- Reverb options are Room, Hall, Spring or Mod – necessary for a cellist to have reverb!
- Favourite modulation setting so far is harmonist - automatically tunes a specified interval e.g. major 3rd above every note played
- Delay function is neat with tap function or 2 sec memory – still need time to work out its best uses
- Overdrive/Distortion are probably the least effects I will use, have no idea what a Ibanez TS-808 TUBESCREAMER or FUZZFACE are supposed to sound like.
- Sturdy design
- There are knobs for each effect section – and no menus to scroll through
- Easy to turn on and off effects with the 3 foot-switches
- The big black pedal on the side can be used for volume or one of 6 expression options such as +1 octave/ -1 octave (very fun, now I can finally be that jazz double bassist I’ve always dreamed of being)

So far I can say for a cellist it's only good for reverb, delay and live as a pre-amp or volume. More on this soon. Perhaps a video demo if you’re lucky… or yet another version of Bird’s Lament? hahaha…

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REVIEW: 32 key Belcanto Melodica

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REVIEW: 32 key Belcanto Melodica

So now we know hipsters wear Kånken backpacks and listen to music with WeSC headphones, ever wondered what instrument hipsters play in their hipster band? The Melodica. A piano-like, accordian-sounding keyboard with a mouth piece or long tube that you blow into. This instrument is so versatile. It can play as background fuzz, solos or beautiful harmonies. Watch out cello, I think you have a rival.

Ok ok. It’s not a Hohner Melodica but now I have one. And it’s red. 

Where to buy a Melodica:

I bought my 32 key Belcanto Melodica at Azzato in Brussels for €24.
But for the best quality and reliable buy, shop online at Thomann – €35 for a Hohner Student 32

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REVIEW: Headway “The Band” for cello

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REVIEW: Headway “The Band” for cello

Playing cello live is not easy. Especially when the 100 year old cello doesn’t like being plugged in, and when the vibrating from the drums and electric guitars on full blast in the amp I wonder why I have not invested in an electric cello yet…

My first pickup was the Fishman C-100 Classic Series cello pickup, a piezo-ceramic pick up which attaches to the bridge and was very trebly/bright and you could hear a lot of bow noise. 

My second was the Dtar Twin SoundSpot XL pickup a piezo-crystal pickup which was like the Fishman, except slightly less trebly. 

Finally I have found the perfect solution for acoustic amplification. Headway Acoustics “The Band” for cello uses a rubber tube that straps around the cello with the pick up pressing against the wood, unlike other contact pickups I have used which use vibrations from the bridge which often leaves a very scratchy, bridgy sound.

PROS:

- Very natural acoustic cello sound
- Little feedback compared to microphones
- Easy to attach and take off after use
- No damage to the cello when attaching (e.g. no sharp edges, no need for sticky tape
- No batteries or phantom power needed
- Works with simple jack cable
- Sturdy for live situations and too delicate to break while transporting

CONS:

- If it is not strapped on tight enough, it can cause vibrations that cause the pick up to make buzzing sounds when playing certain notes. Unfortunately these buzzes are then amplified. In my experience they are not audible in foldback monitor speakers and usually the sound engineer in a live show will let you know. 
- In my experience while using with a loop machine, if you are using a monitor/amplifier facing in the direction of the pickup, the pickup still picks up the vibrations and then records this in the loop as well, causing a never-ending cycle of dirty loops. 
- Since the pickup picks up vibrations and not an audio signal, you still need to add reverb in most situations, which is less needed if using a microphone. 
- From any distance the hideous black tube can be seen with the text on, but, I guess that is good marketing! 

Johnson String Instrument sells them for USD$190 and ships worldwide. Now go get one for your next live show…

See more information on their official website: http://www.headwaymusicaudio.com/product/the-band-cello/

--- UPDATE 9 DEC 2012 ---

I performed with Michael Kiwanuka with The Band for cello. Watch the video below to hear how it sounds. 

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REVIEW: BOSS RC-20 Loop Station™

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REVIEW: BOSS RC-20 Loop Station™

Boss-RC-20XL.jpg

In August 2009 my partner in crime, Andreas from The Dingo Birds gave me a BOSS RC-20XL Loop Station. Woohoo!!

Let the one-man-band jamming days begin!

PROS:

- I liked the auto-start function: when you start playing it records automatically.

- Quantize function means you don't have to be exact with timing when recording the initial loop, which is cool.

- Quite easy to get the hang of. Only two pedals, one for record, play, and overdub, the other for stop, delete.

CONS

- Didn't like that you can only record one overdub (with many layers) and you cannot delete loops and add them back in once you record them.

- Drum samples sound quite artificial.

Score: 4/5 for a beginner looper.

First of all, I need a good pickup for my cello. For a great way to amplify a classical cello, see my post about "The Band" for cello, made by Headway.

Below are the ones who inspired me in the early days:

Zoë Keating - cellist and looping extraordinaire (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJiybW81mXA)

Dubfx - looping idol and friend from Melbourne (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPh_Fk2quPQ)

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