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Before we start, I have a confession. Back when I first began pestering my Mum and Dad to buy me a guitar, I was bought a basic model travel guitar from a cheap local music shop. After about a week of play it, I hated it and refused to practice on it, instead borrowing my friends Squier Stratocaster. Now some 11 years on, I meet my old enemy. But this time things were different...much different.


The Hofner Shorty Electric Travel Guitar was nothing like my schoolboy nemesis. Sure it’s a low cost Chinese import but it doesn’t really show. It has a nice basswood neck, the body is finished well comes with decent gig bag and cable.


It does feel a little weird as the balance is off compared to a normal electric guitar and can be a bit awkward to play at first. It took me some time to get used to it.
Where it really gets interesting is when you start to play. It sounds much better than I expected. The humbucker is loud and bright, and has to be one of the most responsive guitars I’ve played especially at this price range. Throw on a few pedals and you’d be amazed at the tone that you can produce. After a bit of fiddling I even managed to run a few riffs and licks in a clean 60’s tone that I love.


The action on the strings is tremendous and the pickup is just as good, so feel free to put your shredding hat on and go for it. From sheer play-ability, and tonality aspect, the Hofner is miles ahead of its counterparts.


I didn’t think I would ever say this about a travel guitar but I genuinely love the Hofner Shorty. Not because it is easy to travel with but because out of all the guitars in this sort of price range I've ever played, I’ve never played anything that sounds as good and plays as well as the Hofner Shorty. Quite simply, the Hofner does the job it was designed to do and it does it well.  


If you are in the market for a low cost travel electric guitar, that sounds great, offers a nice bright tone and not just “another guitar”, you have to check out the Hofner Shorty Travel Guitar model, a great axe for the intrepid travellers amongst us.

In an ideal world where money were no object, professional and beginner keyboard players alike would sit proudly in front of this elegant, beautifully crafted piece of art, tapping melodically away at its 88 keys. It is a pleasure to be able to review an instrument that not only produces an incredible sound but also looks every inch the part. 


For serious musicians the Korg SV-1 Black is an absolute joy to play. In our experience it is not very often an instrument actually lives up to the hype; in this case all hype is surpassed. The RH3 Real Weighted Hammer Action is the finest keybed Korg offers, with a solid, responsive feel that leaves you in complete control. Unlike much of the competition, there is no need to stare at complex displays with numerous banks and programs. The SV-1’s entire front panel is permanently live, allowing you to fine tune your sound as you play. The entire system has been designed for user simplicity; saving your eight favourite settings for quick recall could not be easier.


The styling of the SV-1 Black is a major selling point with the retro curves reflecting the look and feel of the original instruments. If it’s an elegant, even sophisticated on stage presence you’re after, if you can’t create it with the SV-1 Black, you really have no chance at all. Even the controls are designed with a retro-style in mind! To see this vintage keyboard is to play it, and once you start you will not be able to stop. 


The sounds produced by the SV-1 Black originate from organs, strings, synths, electric pianos and acoustic pianos, offering some truly distinct sounds which defined eras. It is impossible to generate some of these sounds on any other keyboard. Each of the instruments has been accurately sampled at a wide range of velocities, including tine, key-off, damper and hammer noises. The attention to detail is so great that even piano cabinet resonances have been sampled, which further improves the accuracy of the instruments.


To surmise, the Korg SV-1 Black offers a cost-effective, reliable and economical method of collecting a wide variety of vintage instruments, without having to store them securely and ensure they all receive equal playing time. If you’re looking to recreate the sounds of German and Japanese grand pianos, mono pianos for smaller gigs or a 70s and 80s Japanese electro-acoustic, you will not regret opting for the Korg SV-1.   

 

The Yamaha PSR E333 is one of the top beginner keyboards on the market. Of course this is in some part due to this being one of the most affordable instruments to feature a velocity sensitive keyboard available in Yamaha ‘s PSR range.

 

Alongside the velocity sensitive keyboard, the PSR E333 is jam packed with features and sounds with 113 voices, 361 Xglite voices, 13 drum voices and a special effects kit to sink your teeth into. Partner this alongside over 100 different accompaniment styles and you have yourself a keyboard that can cope with just about any style of music you could imagine.

 

In addition to the huge range of voices, there are load of effects to experiment with too such as 9 reverb settings, 4 chorus types, sustain and a dual/layer function two voices to be overlapped, perfect for quick compositions and harmonies.

 

A two-track recorder is also built in helping beginners to create, record and playback your performances and brief compositions. The PSR-E333 can also be connected to a computer via the USB socket on its back panel for use with composition software.

 

The E333 is perfect for use in a wide number of environments, be it a quick practice session at home, a music lesson at school or recording at the studio due to its battery power option, offering portability to a traditionally static instrument.

 

The E333 is great for those wishing to educate themselves with the keyboard. The Yamaha Education Suite teaches users a range of skills such as rhythm and timing, chord identification, strike accuracy and even offers a method of progress monitoring to easily track your improvement as the week go by. Conveniently the PSR-E333 can be set to the Portable Grand function at the touch of a button, producing a rich, stereo sampled concert grand piano sound, ideal for some pre-exam practice.

 

The Yamaha PSR E333 combines a touch-sensitive keyboard with the E233’s impeccable technology offering beginners a lower cost alternative without sacrificing on sound quality. Priced up at around £165*, there really is no competition when it come to value for money. Search Instrumania now for the best price on the Yamaha PSR E333, a true candidate for the best beginner keyboard on the market today.

 

*At the time of writing

 

Gibson have a great story about Guns N’ Roses’ debut album, Appetite for Destruction, where a young Slash was getting frustrated when trying to achieve the right “tone” with a range of contemporary electric guitars. “Then someone handed him a reissue-style Les Paul Standard, and that was all she wrote.”

With the Les Paul in hand, Slash laid down a host of riffs powered the biggest-selling debut album of all time and propelling songs like “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City”, into the hearts and minds of musicians everywhere.

With the rock legend offering his valuable input, the Gibson Slash Appetite Les Paul model focuses on maintaining the impeccable styling of the original first sold in 1952 as well as tweaking the sound to fit Slash’s playing style.

Just like Slash’s original guitar he used for “Appetite for Destruction”, the Gibson Slash Appetite Les Paul mimics a lot of the most admired features of the original Les Paul Standards from the late 50’s and early 60’s, such as a slim neck profile and a body based on a 1959 Les Paul.

Gibson have done a brilliant job in the authentic finish that gives the Slash Appetite Les Paul the look of a gently aged vintage guitar and features like a traditional Les Paul carved maple top and mahogany back and a one-piece mahogany neck give this axe tremendous character.

The Gibson Slash Appetite Les Paul model features Slash inspired hardware in two Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro Slash signature humbucker pickups at both the neck and bridge positions, which offer players an incredible selection of sounds with a mini-toggle switch inserted between the iconic volume control knobs to help regulate acoustic and hybrid acoustic/electric tones.

From the second I plugged this thing into my Marshall Amp, the classic-rock sound I had been hoping for just exploded out of the speakers. The sound is exactly what you’d expect from a Les Paul/Marshall combo with chords giving a nice thick, chunky, deep tone, and lengthy, howling notes when soloing.

With features and characteristics that inspire Slash, Gibson Custom has created one of its most distinct and best sounding Les Paul models ever, and quite possible the perfect axe for any Slash fans.

 

Launched back in 2009, the Meridian series supercedes two previous Mapex ranges, the Pro M and M Birch. This has lead Mapex to offer the Meridian series as a selection of all-maple and all-birch drum kits.

 

To show that the new Meridian range of kits is more than just re-badging old drums, Mapex have added a load of new features.

 

Though neither kits are especially expensive, there is a sizeable difference between the cheaper to manufacture birch and the maple model, which recently won the MIPA award for Best Acoustic Drum Kit. 

The Mapex Meridian Birch Drum Kit has a slightly different feeling and response to the maple version, but is no less playable offering users plenty of attack and a remarkably bright tone.

 

The Birch Mapex Meridian drum kit gives players light-weight appointments compared to bulkier alternatives. From lugs to their tom mounting system, Mapex has looked at everything on this drum kit to ensure that the Meridian models are lighter, easier to set up, and better to gig with than other acoustic drum sets in the market.

 

The drum shells feature Mapex’s I.T.S. Mounting System in another weight saving process. By mounting to the lug casings, Mepex have kept the mount compact to enhance overall drum response allowing for minimal drum shell contact. The mounting also allows you to swap the drumheads while the tom is still attached to it's holder allowing a much easier setup while touring.

 

To keep the price down the heads on the Mapex Remo Asia’s see-through UT heads which are generally felt to be OK but not as resilient as the made-in-USA versions, but if you promise to look after the Unicorn heads they will last a pretty long time regardless of playing style.

Despite examples of cost cutting, the Mapex is remarkably well built. An example of this is the 700 bass pedal, which truely is a no-nonsense rugged unit with a normal sized duo footboard with a toe stop, twin spurs, and a three surfaced beater. Quite simply...it gets the job done. 

 

If you are in the market for a mid-ranged acoustic drum kit, that sounds great, offers a bright tone and is rugged enough to be able to travel with, you have to check out the Mapex Meridian Birch model, a great set for the intermediate player.

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