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Johnson’s Millennium amplifiers have set a good standard for what a digital modeling amp should be. While the Marquis is something of a scaled-down version of the Millennium, it retains much of what makes the amp noteworthy, resulting in a user-friendly amplifier with excellent voices overall and flexible, wide-ranging functions.
The Marquis eschews the Millennium’s multiple LED and LCD screens for a single LED readout showing which preset is on call. Good old-fashioned knobs—master volume, gain, treble, mid, bass and level—remain, along with dedicated buttons with which to scroll through the amp voicings and effects, and platform editing chores. The amp voicings have been reorganized into three groups of six (American, British and Johnson), the built in tuner is gone and the effects-processing circuitry has been simplified too: one 12AX7 does the work of the Millennium’s two, and the power output has been scaled down to 60-watts in mono or 120-watts in stereo. Surprisingly, MIDI implementation is gone as well, leaving you with 27 editable factory presets recallable from the front panel rotary knob via optional foot controllers.
As mentioned before, the JM60 comes with a single Eminence 12-inch speaker and delivers 60 mono watts in this configuration. By plugging in the J112 satellite speaker cabinet, the output is double to 120 watts stereo. The headphone jack, like the Crate’s, doubles as a speaker compensated direct output. It won’t automatically shut of the speakers, which is smart, since using it as a direct output usually means that you’ll still want to hear what you’re playing. Instead, the speakers are disabled with a recessed switch. The effects send and return points are accessed with two stereo ¼-inch phone jacks and, at 680 ohms out and 15k ohms in, are intended for use with rackmount effects.
The Marquis’ 27 presets show off it excellent modeling circuitry and adds enough effects to demonstrate how wide ranging and detailed its possibilities are. The onboard effects consist of three groups (Mod/Pitch, Delay and Reverb) that, like the amp voices, are accessible by scroll buttons. The chorus was somewhat weak, but the tremolo and vibrato were quit usable. The phaser and flanger both dishes out plenty of thick psychedelic swirl, while the pitch/detune went a long way toward beefing up some of the more aggressive settings as well as providing that trademark Digitech parallel harmony. (Johnson and Digitech are both owned by Harmon International.) The delay flavors consist of a high-frequency-suppressed analog, a clear and amazingly regenerative delay and “Ping Pong,” which sends the delay bouncing back and forth in hard stereo separation. The reverbs (plate, hall and spring) are all excellent.
The Marquis’ amp modeling is largely excellent and earns high marks for nailing some of the more difficult tube tones. This could have something to do with the fact that they’ve chosen to keep one 12AX7 tube in the circuit. For example, the “Class A Clean” and Class A Dirty” both had the warm, fuzzy bottoms and grainy mids one would hope for, and the “Boutique” (based on a Matchless DC30) was nothing short of jaw-dropping in its huge range of dynamics via pick attack. The Fender clones were spot on, although a little more grain from the “Tweed” would be nice. The aggressive metal voicings, including the Soldano-inspired “High Gain,” the requisite Marshall models and Johnson’s own “Saturated Tube,” “Overdrive” and “Metal” settings, all had punch to spare. In fact, Johnson’s forte is in the bottom, where notes are felt in the groin rather than heard. The only setting which seemed to suffer form over-bodacity was “High Wattage” (based on a Hiwatt S50LC), which never quite mustered the high-end crackle of the original.
Special mention should be made of the Marquis’ noise gate circuit, which is subtle, kind and adjustable. The adjustment is “hidden” within the amp model selector switch and preset selector knob, but a quick read of the well-written manual will unleash as much or as little gating as you please, and provide a cool backward-attack sound, too. http://www.johnson-amp.com/jm60.htm
The Marquis delivers a heap of high quality and tones and effects in a very attractive package. If you don’t miss the MIDI implementation, the Marquis could be your pro-level workhorse.
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With its brushed copper front panel, big black knobs and jellylike, illuminated keypad, Crate’s digital DX-212 looks like a Sixties vision of the future. The knobs (Master, volume, gain, bass, mid, treble. Channel level, effects adjust, reverb level, and reverb depth) are arranged as on any amp. In addition, the amp has one rotary knob for the 16 different amp models and another for the digital effects. The Star Trek meets mood ring keypad on the right lets you choose from the 10 factory presets, set tap tempos for time based effects and bypass the presets altogether. Simply tweaking the appropriate knob lets you instantly alter that particular preset parameter, so creating custom settings is a breeze. Read more
The ascension of digital modeling technology in amplifier design continues. The latest entries in the tone-cloning competition come from Crate and Johnson, who bring out the contest remarkably similar packages. Both the Crate DX-212 and the Johnson Marquis JM60 arrive in combo format, with easy to tweak knobs in addition to digital keypads, begging to be played live in the studio or taken out to gigs. Both amps serve up a popular selection of models (the Crate offers 16, the Johnson 18), nine effects plus reverb, and comparable wattage, with Crate delivering 100watts stereo and Johnson 120 watts stereo. It should be noted that Crate’s DX-212 comes in a 2×12 format, while the Johnson Marquis JM60 ships with a single 12-inch speaker putting out 60 watts mono. To cash in on the stereo sound and the extra 60 watts, the review model was hooked up to the company’s J112 satellite cabinet as an option only. When will the amp makers learn that you can’t play guitar and switch panel settings at the same time?
The fun started with the Korg D8, which is by far the smallest of the three recorders I sampled for this series of reviews. In fact, if you weren’t looking at it too closely, you might mistake it for a drum machine rather than a portable eight-track studio. Its appearance, however, is deceptive, for inside the D8 is a 1.4 GB hard drive, which allows a maximum of 34 minutes of eight-track recording.
All of these units record on internal hard drive, which aren’t designed to be removed and replaced like tape formats. Instead, when the disk is full or you’re switching projects, you transfer the data to another source. A SCSI port for connecting external disk drives, an S/P DIF digital interface for a DAT or MD recorder, and standard RCA analog outs are all provided for this purpose.
The D8 features a built-in 12-channel, four-bus mixer, which has two ¼-inch TRS balanced analog inputs, with a high/low impedance switch that works for both, as well as MIDI In and Out. While the recorder boasts eight tracks, a glance at the board will reveal only seven separate track faders; the seventh is labeled 7/8 and is designed to be used in stereo, which is helpful if you want to send both inputs to one track or bounce a bunch of tracks while keeping all their pre-fixed pan positions. Read more
For years; acoustic guitars have been trying to perfect a system of amplifying their “unplugged” styling without the use of a microphone. Though many guitars these days come with built-in piezo electric transducers (i.e. pickups), players still complain of the harsh, brittle tone associated with those systems—a sound that requires quite a bit of tweaking to make it vaguely resemble an acoustic guitar.
Though piezo transducers have improved quite a bit over the years, the other option for acoustic players is to use an electromagnetic transducer (not unlike an electric guitar pickup) that fits snugly into an acoustic guitar’s soundhole, such as Fishman’s Rare Earth Models.
The Rare Earths are so named because they use neodymium (a rare metal) pole-piece magnets which, according to Fishman, allow for better string-to-string response. Available in single-coil or stacked-humbucking versions, the pickups are completely active, using low-current, battery-powered Class-A preamps. Installation is unquestionably hassle-free—just pop the pickup into the soundhole and tighten the mounting screws. For permanent installation, you’ll need to cut the Rare Earth’s pickup wire down to a length suitable for it to run comfortably from the pickup to the endpin jack, and drill a hole in the guitar’s endblock to accommodate the Fishman jack (definitely best left to a pro).
We sampled the Rare Earth pickup in a Lowden 0-10 jumbo acoustic, played through a Marshall Soloist acoustic amp and directly into a Mackie mixer via a SansAmp. Each pickup had it’s own distinct sound, but both models captured the exceptional bottom end, bright highs and broad dynamic range of the guitar.
The single-coil pickup behaved like a single-coil. It was susceptible to RF and 60 Hz noise conditions, and it was significantly brighter and more shimmering than its humbucking counterpart, making it a good choice for dreadnoughts and other boomy-sounding guitars. It also proved to be exceptionally responsive to fingerpicking and situations with various dynamic peaks.
The Rare Earth humbucker is very quiet and not as bright as the single-coil. It excellently harnessed the percussiveness and nuances of the guitar, fully capturing the instrument’s natural, acoustic tone. The humbucker also features a brilliance switch that boosts 3 dB from 2 to 20 kHz. The effect is subtle, but definitely makes a difference when fingerpicking, yielding better single-note definition. Its coloration is also audible when strumming hard on the treble strings.
The End Line
Eric Clapton and his touring guitarists, Andy Fairweather-Low and Alan Darby, are using the Fishman Rare Earths on E.C.’s tour—and our tests explained why the man who made “unplugged” a household word relies on them. These pickups are an excellent choice for anyone who’s in love with the characteristics of his acoustic guitar and is looking for a way to amplify it. Official link for Fishman’s Transducers
EV Electro-Voice RE510
Because of their wide frequency response and great sensitivity, condenser mikes are often the first choice of recording engineers, particularly for vocals. But studio conditions are idyllic compared to the rigors of live performance and that same response and sensitivity makes most condensers a nightmare on stage. Nobody wants to deal with feedback and extra handling noise.
Those who crave condenser performance on stage should check out the RE510 ($199), a hand-held condenser designed specifically for performance applications. Thanks to what EV calls its “Warm Grip” handle, the mic is easy to hold. The capsule is shock-mounted, which effectively eliminates handling noise, and the tight cardioid polar pattern means that only the direct source—i.e., the singer’s lovely voice—comes through. The RE 510 worked very well when placed right against the lips; there was little proximity effect, and the built-in pop filtering “plosives” impressively.
The End Line
The Electro-Voice RE 510 sounds more articulate than all but the most sensitive dynamic mikes. If you want your voice to really cut through on stage, this just may be the mike for you.
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A few decades ago, Electro-Voice set the audio industry on its ear when they introduced the NeoDymium (N/DYM) line of durable and affordable dynamic microphones, which boast response and performance characteristics comparable to costly condenser mikes. Read more