Author Topic: Majik's Road Case  (Read 10602 times)

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Online Majik

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #100 on: October 17, 2020, 11:41:49 am »
Thanks David.
My Road Case posts weren't specifically meant as reviews, but more about stories and my relationship with the kit. But, in this case, you are correct in that my last post is really more of a review.

This is partly because there really isn't much story behind it (other than the length of the time it has taken Positive Grid to fulfill orders, which is public knowledge).

But the other reason is his product has been the subject of a very significant amount of hype over the last year, through (mostly sponsored) video reviews.

IMO it's not that "amazing" or revolutionary, and anyone who buys one thinking it is is likely to be disappointed.

One of the things that I wanted to get across is that the amp itself doesn't actually do that much: it's a decent portable practice amp with 4 presets, the ability to dial in sounds easily on the top panel, pretty good sound quality and it gets fairly loud (perhaps enough for a quiet rehearsal session), and can be used as a Bluetooth speaker (it also has an onboard tuner, although that is bordering on useless).

In that respect it should be compared to the Yamaha THR series, the Vox Adio, and the Boss Katana Air. And for the price, it stands up very well against those other devices. It could, perhaps, also be compared with the Line 6 Amplifi range. On that basis, for the cost, it is definitely a great option if you don't already have something similar.

As for all the hyped capabilities which are in the app, as you can tell I was not that impressed.

Maybe that's because of the hype, or maybe because I'm familiar apps which ship with other amps (like the Line 6 Amplifi) which, IMO, provide a much better cloud-based tone library and music player experience. Maybe it's because I'm familiar with other "smart jam" systems like the Trio and Band Creator on the iPad which can work with any amp and and which work really well compared with the Spark app which is a bit... meh.

The way I look at it is this: if Positive Grid launched these capabilities as an app on the App Store/Play Store which anyone could use on any Bluetooth amp/speaker (and there is no technical reason why they couldn't as, aside from the patch editing, the app only uses the Spark amp as a Bluetooth speaker) what sort of reception would it get? Personally, I think it would get a fair number of one and two star reviews.

Mind you, the Trio costs almost as much as the Spark itself, so if you treat the app-based tools as a nice-to-have freebie that comes with a decent practice amp, then you can't go far wrong.

If you already have an amp which you like the sounds on, and a iPad with some sort of Bluetooth speaker, I would save your money and get a much better experience by splashing out $7.99 for the Band Creator App, or look at a Trio+ pedal.

If you are looking for a low-cost, decent sounding portable practice amp, then the Spark is a contender.

LOL, so my response has turned into an extended review. Hopefully this is helpful for anyone considering one of these amps.

Cheers,

Keith
« Last Edit: October 17, 2020, 12:40:04 pm by Majik »

Online Majik

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #101 on: November 06, 2020, 04:11:32 pm »
Boss Katana 100 mkI

I've been a bit tied up with work and personal life stuff recently, and haven't spend that much time on the forum. I thought it was long overdue to update this thread with some of my other gear.



I bought this a few years ago to put in my home office so I could do some more practice more during the day.

I work from home most of the time and the music room where I normally keep my guitars isn't that far away, but I like to keep a guitar near at hand so I can pick it up and strum or noodle when I'm on a long conference call, or when I need a break. It's also good to have something I can turn up loud without disturbing the family too much, and the music room is right next to the living room, so I can't do that there.

I part exchanged a bunch of older kit at Andertons (about a 45 minute drive from me) to get the Katana. I chose the 100 model because it had an effects loop and I wanted to experiment with looping, partly as I had a Boss RC-3 looper already and I wanted to use that for my own loops, as well as for backing tracks and the onboard drum beats. I got the GC-FC footswitch with it.

I have used this a lot in the past but, more recently, I'm not used it as much, mainly because I've not been in the country much over the last year. Since I've been back in the UK, I've actually not been using my office much, and have been working from the sofa in the music room.

The reason for that is I got a new laptop before I wet to Singapore, and that is now very nicely set up for work stuff as well as for music. The PC in my office was getting old and slow and needed replacing. I have now replaced it, but it's not really set up as I would like it yet, and it's going to take a while to do so. I also have a plan to finish some rewiring and other work in the office which I started last year, but which then got put on hold when I got the project in Tokyo. So, at the moment, it's become habit for me to work from my laptop on the sofa.

Also, there was some talk of me continuing on some projects in Tokyo or Singapore although, at least for the moment, that's likely to be working remotely from the UK.

A while ago I lent the Katana to a friend who is a professional musician, and he has used it with his band when his normal Marshall valve amp stopped working and was in for repair. He really liked it and was seriously considering getting one for some gigs as it was so much lighter than his 100W Marshall.

I am actually considering whether I need this amp any more. I did love the onboard effects and playing with the patches, and it sounds great when set up properly, even at low volumes. But I do have too many amps and, frankly, although it's far simpler to use than most modelling amps I've seem, in practice I find myself only using a handful of tones and the effort to mess around with tone editing and level matching to build a patch set is something I find myself less and less interested in. It was also a bit far away from my PC to conveniently connect it for patch editing using the Boss Tone Studio.

So I'm considering "re-homing" this and moving one of my other "simpler" amps into the office.

I'll probably hold onto it for a while yet, and give it some more thought when I start using the office again regularly. I may swap some stuff around and see how I get on.

Also, I'm working with a Linux kernel developer on trying to squash a bug in one of the Linux sound drivers, and the Katana is a useful device for testing against.

Cheers,

Keith

Offline close2u

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #102 on: November 06, 2020, 05:10:31 pm »
... I'm working with a Linux kernel developer on trying to squash a bug in one of the Linux sound drivers

What a sentence to finish your post with.
That did make me smile.
:)

Offline DavidP

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #103 on: November 07, 2020, 07:32:35 am »
Thanks for another post, Keith.

All I can say now, is that I do appreciate the effort you go to in each of these write-ups. The result is an informative and easy-to-read chapter in your musical story time after time.

Like Richard, I took a step back when I read the closing comment, dropped so matter-of-fact.

Hope between the bug squashing, and the rest of life, you find a little time to keep playing your bass and/or guitars.

Online Majik

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #104 on: November 07, 2020, 09:38:23 pm »
@close2u @DavidP Thanks for your messages. Sorry if the final sentence was a bit of a non sequitur. I was waiting for a kernel compile with a new patch to finish whilst I was writing it, and as there had been a discussion previously on the thread about similar things, I thought it was OK to post.

I'm trying to find time to spend on guitar and would like to record something else soon, but I've been pretty busy and keep getting distracted bu things, but when the lead developer for ALSA wants to help you, that's too good an opportunity to miss.

Cheers,

Keith

Online glpguitar

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #105 on: November 07, 2020, 10:59:41 pm »
Again, an enjoyable insight into your pieces of musical gear you have. I was expecting to be part of this big parking lot exchange (in my head, I still see this as a big mafia movie scene) with your friend but I will take the Andertons exchange too 8).

I work from home most of the time and the music room where I normally keep my guitars isn't that far away, but I like to keep a guitar near at hand so I can pick it up and strum or noodle when I'm on a long conference call, or when I need a break.
Does noodling help you focus on the conference calls or can you just multitask so effectively? Sometimes I try to do the same but then I just forget about the call and fully move my attention to guitar. The others on the call weren't so happy about it :(.

but when the lead developer for ALSA wants to help you, that's too good an opportunity to miss.
That's just amazing!

Online Majik

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #106 on: November 07, 2020, 11:28:11 pm »
Again, an enjoyable insight into your pieces of musical gear you have. I was expecting to be part of this big parking lot exchange (in my head, I still see this as a big mafia movie scene) with your friend but I will take the Andertons exchange too 8).

That's a fun scene. In fact it was a pleasant day out with a nice chat, a light lunch, and loading the car up.

Quote
Does noodling help you focus on the conference calls or can you just multitask so effectively? Sometimes I try to do the same but then I just forget about the call and fully move my attention to guitar. The others on the call weren't so happy about it :(.

I can't do it if I have to talk, and if I really have to focus on something I will stop, but a lot of the time I'm in long calls where I only have to pay attention.

I find (or have found, since my time in Singapore, stuck in my apartment doing endless Zoom calls with my laptop on top of the microwave oven) that I can actually almost mindlessly do certain exercises and practice certain songs, if I know them reasonably well. I think it helps to cement those exercises/songs.

Part of it is it helps me to do them without looking at the fretboard, as I'm generally having to watch the screen most of the time, or at least look like I am from the camera.

I think it was a lesson in the fingerstyle module where Justin suggested practicing the patterns whilst doing something else, like watching TV. The idea is to take your mind away from thinking about doing the patterns and watching your fingers, and that tends to make it more automatic. Initially I remembered that and started trying to do some of those patterns whilst on calls, but then moved onto doing other things.

Quote
That's just amazing!

Yes, I was pretty pleased. It has taken up a lot of time though. I've lost count of how many kernel module recompiles/reboots I've done today.

Cheers,

Keith

Offline batwoman

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #107 on: November 08, 2020, 12:04:53 am »
I can't do it if I have to talk, and if I really have to focus on something I will stop, but a lot of the time I'm in long calls where I only have to pay attention.

I find (or have found, since my time in Singapore, stuck in my apartment doing endless Zoom calls with my laptop on top of the microwave oven) that I can actually almost mindlessly do certain exercises and practice certain songs, if I know them reasonably well. I think it helps to cement those exercises/songs.

Part of it is it helps me to do them without looking at the fretboard, as I'm generally having to watch the screen most of the time, or at least look like I am from the camera.

I think it was a lesson in the fingerstyle module where Justin suggested practicing the patterns whilst doing something else, like watching TV. The idea is to take your mind away from thinking about doing the patterns and watching your fingers, and that tends to make it more automatic. Initially I remembered that and started trying to do some of those patterns whilst on calls, but then moved onto doing other things.
Keith

This info is a gem Keith. This makes me laugh "... as I'm generally having to watch the screen most of the time, or at least look like I am from the camera." I'm still rather mind boggled that you can manage a conference call and practice and keep your work face on all at the same time.

The strategy of watching TV while practicing is a good one, I'm going to use that in an effort to break a fretful  >:(  habit I've developed. The other thing I'm doing to break the habit is putting a mic in front of me so I get singing and mic technique practice. The rule is I'm not allowed to look at the fret at all, and regardless of how it sounds I have to keep singing and playing. Perhaps not useful for you when you're on a conference call  ;D

Sorry if the final sentence was a bit of a non sequitur. I was waiting for a kernel compile with a new patch to finish whilst I was writing it, and as there had been a discussion previously on the thread about similar things, I thought it was OK to post.

I'm trying to find time to spend on guitar and would like to record something else soon, but I've been pretty busy and keep getting distracted by things, but when the lead developer for ALSA wants to help you, that's too good an opportunity to miss.

Cheers,

Keith

I found your comment totally logical and love that you've had such a great offer of help.

This is such a juicy thread Keith, thankyou.
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Offline DavidP

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #108 on: November 08, 2020, 05:13:27 am »
Sorry if the final sentence was a bit of a non sequitur. I was waiting for a kernel compile with a new patch to finish whilst I was writing it, and as there had been a discussion previously on the thread about similar things, I thought it was OK to post.

Sorry from my side if my comment gave rise to thoughts to apologise, Keith.  Was quite OK to post. Was my clumsy way of expressing awe and admiration.  Maybe I should just have gone with "WOW Respect High Five" As you say what an opportunity.

Offline DavidP

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #109 on: November 08, 2020, 05:18:09 am »
I have tried that watching TV ... tennis worked well for me when I still had the satellite service with international sports coverage ... and practising picking. Works well.

But I reckon if I tried that in a virtual meeting I would soon drift from meeting matters to guitar ... too many meetings are just not that engaging.

Reminds me of the old days when I used to go to gym and use an exercise bike.  If started to enjoy the music or whatever sport was on the TV in front of the bikes then all of a sudden I'd realise my cadence had dropped off the pace significantly  ;D

Offline close2u

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #110 on: November 08, 2020, 09:02:06 am »
@close2u @DavidP Thanks for your messages. Sorry if the final sentence was a bit of a non sequitur....

No apology Keith, please.
 :)

Online Majik

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #111 on: November 23, 2020, 11:31:42 am »
Hope between the bug squashing, and the rest of life, you find a little time to keep playing your bass and/or guitars.

Well, as it turns out, over the last 3 weeks I've been extremely busy with work stuff, but also working with Takashi-san (the developer) on triaging, debugging and testing the particular bug fixes and some related issues. So I've actually found very little time to pick up either the guitar or the bass.

The good news is we successfully tested the code over the weekend across a number of devices, including some small code tweaks I contributed based on the testing and, this morning, Takashi-san posted a whole bunch of patches onto alsa-devel (the mailing list for ALSA development). So, for now, I have finished with that.

I now hope to get some time for guitar and bass.

Cheers,

Keith

For those of you who are interested in such things, ALSA is "Advanced Linux Sound Architecture" and is the sound driver subsystem for Linux and Android. It's sort of the Linux equivalent of ASIO on Windows.

The bug I was working on were some long-standing issues with "implicit feedback" which, roughly speaking, is a mechanism used by some USB audio interfaces to synchronize the rate at which audio samples are transferred between the computer and the audio interface. The bug was preventing some specific audio interfaces from working reliably or, in some cases, from working at all.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2020, 12:24:27 pm by Majik »

Offline DavidP

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #112 on: November 23, 2020, 11:59:05 am »
Good job ... sounds well above my play-grade, Keith.

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #113 on: November 23, 2020, 12:22:09 pm »
Back to the music gear...

Yamaha THR10ii Wireless



I picked this up in a small music store "Sound Alchemy" in Singapore whilst I was over there. In Singapore, the main place to go for musical instruments is the basement floor of Peninsula Shopping Centre which is near to St. Andrews Cathedral.





As an aside: I was hoping to get to ring the bells at St. Andrews whilst I was there. St. Andrews is famous in bell-ringing circles for being one of the few working bell towers in this part of the world, and because it very recently had a brand-new set of bells installed which, by many accounts, sound and feel great. Unfortunately Coviid happened, and bell-ringing was one of the first casualties of the restrictions.

I had been considering getting one of these amps previously when I was in Tokyo and was visiting guitar stores in Ochanomizu and Shinjuku but, at the time, none of the stores had the new mkII model.

It's a fairly basic practice amp, but it also works fantastically as a Bluetooth speaker and, in both modes, it was a bit of a lifesaver (or, at least, sanity saver) whilst I was stuck in my small apartment in Singapore. It was perfect for that environment because it's possible to use at low volumes or with headphones and it can play backing tracks from a phone or PC.

It doesn't have the biggest selection of amp models in the world, but that suits me: personally I just want to dial in a quick and appropriate sound for the thing I'm playing. I don't really care that much if it's an accurate representation of a specific amp.

I've been through the stage of systems that model dozens of well-known amps and of trying to match them to the song I'm learning and I've realized that is a bit of a fools errand. Unless you are specifically trying to re-create a "sound-alike" recording, there really isn't much point in trying to match the tone on a given track. Even the artists themselves generally don't do that. IMO if (as a learner) you are always obsessing about the nuances of an amp model, then you are focusing your mental energy on the wrong thing. Such things are a distraction from learning and playing the guitar.

Of course you want to have appropriate tones and, as a general rule, the THR10II has them. It supports acoustic, electric, and bass guitars as well as a "clean" setting that can be used with keyboards or other instruments. For electric guitars it has clean, crunch, lead, high-gain and "special" (extra high-gain).

The previous THR models came in different physical versions with the "classic" models, but a separate "boutique" and "modern" models sold separately. The THR mkII has all of these combined into a single unit, so for each of the settings you have a choice of amp variants. On the THR30 you can select between these variants on the top panel. On the THR5 and THR10 you have to use the app. The app also lets you tune the tone by setting the amp parameters and the cabinet modelling used, as well as giving you finer control over the effects parameters.

The audio from the THR10II is pretty good for its size. You won't be gigging or even rehearsing with this thing any time soon, but it's perfect for bedroom practice. It lacks a little on the lower bass frequencies, especially when using it with a bass, but it's still good for practice purpose and the sound is always well balanced.

Compared to the Spark 40 amp, I think overall the THR is better. The Spark has better lower bass reproduction (probably due to it's bigger physical size) but always sounds a bit unbalanced and, sometimes, the bass can sound a bit "processed".

The construction of the THR series is rock solid, and it also looks great too with it's looks suiting something which is as much a Bluetooth speaker as a guitar amp. It wouldn't look out of place on the side in most living rooms. When powered on the THR has a nice amber "tube" glow, thanks to a couple of internal LEDs. When I returned from Singapore, I carried this thing as hand luggage with no problems.

I got the wireless version as I see opportunities to use this in the garden in the future. In fact I briefly used it when we had a fire-pit evening a couple of months ago. The battery seems to last for 5 hours or so in use.

It can also support a Line 6 wireless transmitter (at additional cost). This plugs into the top and charges from the THR, so when you want to use it you just unplug it from the THR and plug it into your guitar. I didn't have this in SG, but I picked up one recently in the UK. It's a bit of a gimmick in some respects, but there's situations where I can see it being quite useful, like the garden situation where passing a guitar around people sitting around a fire-pit could be tricky when there's a cable involved. Also, because the amp is physically quite small, with the cable there's always the danger of accidentally pulling the unit over, which wouldn't be good if it's on a high shelf.

I'm not using this amp that much at the moment because I don't need to but I can see myself using it quite a bit on occasions in the future, whether that is in the garden, going to friends or family (when we are allowed) or future business travel.

Cheers,

Keith

Offline DavidP

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #114 on: November 23, 2020, 03:00:35 pm »
And another enjoyable read, Keith. You could write for a guitar magazine, given your knowledge and turn-of-phrase.

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #115 on: November 23, 2020, 03:18:22 pm »
Thanks David, that's very kind of you to say.

I actually think most guitar magazines wouldn't like some of my opinions. Guitar mags are, traditionally, funded by advertisers who get a bit annoyed if they get reviews they don't like, so most reviewers tend to tread very lightly when big advertisers products are involved.

I'm catching up with a lot of things at the moment. Hopefully I will get the time to listen to some of the latest performances on the forum, as there look to have been some interesting ones recently.

Cheers,

Keith

Offline batwoman

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #116 on: November 24, 2020, 01:09:06 am »
This is a fascinating thread. Thankyou Keith. Hope you can free up some time to play soon.
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Offline DavidP

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #117 on: November 24, 2020, 06:20:47 am »
Thanks David, that's very kind of you to say.

I actually think most guitar magazines wouldn't like some of my opinions. Guitar mags are, traditionally, funded by advertisers who get a bit annoyed if they get reviews they don't like, so most reviewers tend to tread very lightly when big advertisers products are involved.

I'm catching up with a lot of things at the moment. Hopefully I will get the time to listen to some of the latest performances on the forum, as there look to have been some interesting ones recently.

Cheers,

Keith

As the saying goes ... "follow the money"  ::)

Lots to listen to, Keith, and all special and worth a look and listen but tough to catch up when you've been away a while ... "eat the elephant one bite at a time"  ;D

Offline Twin Six

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #118 on: November 24, 2020, 04:15:37 pm »
I had been considering getting one of these amps previously when I was in Tokyo and was visiting guitar stores in Ochanomizu and Shinjuku but, at the time, none of the stores had the new mkII model.

I lived in Tokyo for many years working as a translator, though I haunted camera shops rather than music stores. Nice to know there's a fellow Asia hand on the forum.
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Online Majik

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #119 on: November 24, 2020, 04:27:00 pm »
I lived in Tokyo for many years working as a translator, though I haunted camera shops rather than music stores. Nice to know there's a fellow Asia hand on the forum.

I was only there for just over 5 months, and my Japanese barely got beyond greetings and some basic phrases. It's an amazing place though, and I wish I had more time to explore both Tokyo and the rest of Japan.

I did a fair bit of looking around camera stores, mainly in Shinjuku. Not that I'm particularly into cameras, but it's quite an experience. I actually bought my 360 camera from Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku.

Similarly, I'm not into anime of the collectables/figurines thing, but I explored many of the streets and shops in Akihabara just for the sheer "WTF!" experience. The leaflet I picked up in one of the tamer stores there sums up that area quite well:



Cheers,

Keith

« Last Edit: November 24, 2020, 05:18:41 pm by Majik »

Offline Twin Six

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #120 on: November 29, 2020, 04:38:58 am »
Similarly, I'm not into anime of the collectables/figurines thing, but I explored many of the streets and shops in Akihabara just for the sheer "WTF!" experience. The leaflet I picked up in one of the tamer stores there sums up that area quite well:

Cheers,

Keith

My wife (who's English) had an apartment just a short walk from Akihabara, so we ended up spending a fair amount of time there, and had plenty of chances to observe the various bizarre subcultures that gravitate there.
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Online Majik

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #121 on: November 29, 2020, 02:58:34 pm »
My wife (who's English) had an apartment just a short walk from Akihabara, so we ended up spending a fair amount of time there, and had plenty of chances to observe the various bizarre subcultures that gravitate there.

I actually wasn't living far from Akihabara myself: I had a nice little apartment in Kudanshita, Chiyoda City, very close to Kitanomaru Park and the Yasakuni shrine. There wasn't much going on there, but that suited me, and it was well connected for travel to other places; Tokyo Dome, Iidabashi, and Tokyo Station were all easily walk-able, and I could get to Shinjuku, Shibuya or Futako Tamagawa (where I was working) quite easily. I particularly liked walking up to Iidabashi where there was some lovely bars and izakayas, including a friendly nihonshu bar:



When I first got there the Rugby World Cup was on, and accommodation was scarce. I ended up spending 5 weeks in a small hotel room in Akasaka until my apartment was available. The hotel room had no cupboards or floor space, and I ended up sleeping with my suitcase and piles of clothes on the bed next to me, which wasn't much fun. It was a fun area though, and I found some great little bars and eateries, including a pretty awesome sushi place right next to the hotel.



I have to say, spending time in Tokyo was an amazing experience, despite being away from my family for an extended period. I hope to be able to spend some time there again in the future.

Cheers,

Keith

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #122 on: November 29, 2020, 03:20:09 pm »
Blackstar Fly 3 Bass



Back to the equipment...

I picked this up a few years ago as we were going to a festival called "Tribe Of Doris" with some friends. This is a quirky affair held in the grounds of Stamford Hall in Leicestershire over several days in Summer.

It basically comprises a bunch of workshops in music, dance, arts and crafts as well as food and drink stands (including a rum shack), live music events, and stalls selling interesting and unusual items. The workshops include gong baths, drum circles, hand pan lessons, flamenco dance, folk and sea shanty singing, and many others. The attendees camp in the grounds and it is generally a very chilled out and reinvigorating experience.

I had recently started playing the bass, and I noticed there was a bass guitar workshop being run, so I picked up the Blackstar so I could take it, and my bass guitar, with me. It was small, battery powered, and could also be used as a stereo Bluetooth speaker so, whilst I wasn't using it for guitar, we could use it for background music. It comprises a main amp unit with an optional speaker extension to make it stereo if you want.

For such a small thing, it's really quite impressive how good it sounds. Obviously it's not going to get much above "bedroom practice" volumes, but that was all I needed. The workshop teacher, an interesting reggae musician called Reuben, was impressed with it and it worked very well for the lessons (mostly in a large tent) and for practicing back in our own tent.

Since I picked up the THR10II earlier this year, which also works with bass pretty well, I don't really need the Blackstar any more, so I will probably sell it soon. Of course, with Covid this year, ToD didn't happen as usual (although they have been doing online workshops). Hopefully it will be on next year.

Cheers,

Keith

Offline DavidP

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #123 on: November 30, 2020, 04:23:54 am »
Good Vibes Keith for another gear story.

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Offline LievenDV

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Re: Majik's Road Case
« Reply #124 on: December 01, 2020, 08:49:42 am »
Love this thread and coming back to it!
This combo international culture and guitar gear sure is a unique feature :)

Wish you the best Majik!
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