Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fishman Neo-Buster Review

Today, I'd like to my make my first attempt at a review. I recently found myself in need of a pickup for my acoustic. I have an inexpensive Epiphone acoustic guitar that lacks a built in pickup and a preamp. Because of this I had been using a Dean Markley Artist Series Transducer pickup. I started developing a short somewhere in the cable or pickup itself. In addition to this, I have been unhappy with the residue that was left from the adhesive used to adhere the pickup to my bridge. For those that are unfamiliar with the Dean Markley Artist Series, this is a small transducer pickup that adheres to your guitar using a gum-like adhesive substance. For the price, it's a decent sounding pickup. But, the adhesive is cumbersome and messy. Because of this, I have been looking at the Fishman Neo-Buster. This is an acoustic pickup that is available exclusively through Guitar Center and Musician's Friend. The unique thing about this particular pickup is that it integrates a single coil pickup with a feedback reducer. To my knowledge, this is the first product of its kind and I'm sort of surprised that nobody has thought of this before.

The installation of the Neo-Buster was extremely easy. I didn't even have to remove the strings. Despite the fact that it would have been easier, I decided to slide the device underneath the strings and push it into the soundhole of my Epiphone acoustic. It required a tiny bit of force. But, it was definitely not a herculean effort by any means. The whole process took me less than thirty seconds. It fit snugly. But it didn't require me to force it in. If I have to remove it, I can simply pull the pickup out just as quickly and easily. It didn't negatively affect the aesthetics of the guitar. Only time will tell if removal of the pickup mars the finish in any way. The best part is that I didn't have to modify the guitar in any way.

Unfortunately, I don't have a pa system, at home. So, I tested it two ways. I plugged it directly into my computer via a tube preamp and my audio interface and I also plugged it into my Fender Texas Special Hot Rod Deluxe. After a short while, I felt that I had to turn my ISP Decimator (noise reducer) on. The noise was bothering me that much. It was the level of an inexpensive single coil Which I probably should have expected. It is about as noisy as my Squier Affinity Telecaster. The sound to noise ratio is not that great. I have never been satisfied with magnetic acoustic pickups, in the past. To me, they always make the guitar sound too much like an electric. They tend to lose the subtle harmonics of an acoustic. Of course, this is a personal preference. This is one area of the Neo-Buster that I did like. It was a good compromise between acoustic and electric. It doesn't sound like a mic'ed acoustic or piezo pickup. But, it still retains enough of the acoustic timbre to be recognizable as an acoustic. I was able to play the guitar at higher volumes without any feedback. That was not the case with my previous pickup.

To summarize, I am pleased with the Fishman Neo-Buster. It isn't the best pickup out there. But, for the price it should be a welcome to addition for a frugal musician that needs a pickup for their acoustic guitar. I expect to see more of these in future open mics.
-inexpensive ($69.99 at Guitar Center or Musicians Friend)
-integrated feedback reducer. First time that I've ever seen that
-accurately reproduces an acoustic timbre (as close as a magnetic pickup can get)
-no modifications to guitar
-aesthetically pleasing. This is obviously a subjective thing.
-noisy. Sound to noise ratio isn't very good. Noisier than expected. Comparable to a cheap single coil
-Cord is too short
-cord feels slightly flimsy and fragile
-sometimes interferes with my strumming, since the pickup protrudes slightly. Not really a big issue, though. I had change my right hand technique slightly.
-sound is more bass and mid heavy than a piezo. This is only a problem if you prefer the sound of a piezo.
-only available at Guitar Center or Musician's Friend. I like to support the local mom and pop music shops as much as possible. I was disappointed when I found out that I couldn't order this through my local music shop.
-muffles acoustic sound. Because of the feedback reducer, you have to remove this to play acoustically. This isn't a big deal if you're only using the guitar to play in amplified situations. But, it does muffle the sound when playing acoustically. This is obviously to be expected and a characteristic of any type of feedback reducer.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bare Bones

 Just because I gave up on my creative pursuits a long time ago doesn't mean that I don't enjoy, encourage and promote others in their artistic adventures. In fact, I think that it's crucial that we support our local art scene. That's why I was thrilled when I learned some time ago that Bare Bones would be moving within walking distance of my home. Seeing as how the majority of my readers are located outside of Connecticut this might not seem as relevant to them. But, if you're ever in the area, I urge you to come on down and visit them. Now, you're probably asking, “What is Bare Bones?” Bare Bones is an art gallery located on 156 School St., Bristol CT. It is operated by three entrepreneurial young women. The name is derived from part of the philosophy of the organization. The location is operated on a very tight budget. But, please don't let that premise of frugality connote cheap or dingy. On the contrary, the modest storefront actually adds to the inviting, open and comfortable atmosphere. This is not your average stuffy and pretentious art gallery. I don't have to dress up or be intimidated by a snobbish atmosphere. It's a place to relax, enjoy the local art scene and to strengthen and grow the community.

Bare Bones is currently undergoing a membership campaign. This is why I decided to devote this blog to promoting them. If you are an artist looking to display your art, a musician searching for a venue, a photographer or just someone that enjoys fine art, I have posted links below to contact them. They offer a variety of different membership levels and different programs. To show their diversity, they have even been hosting a board game and Magic tournament, lately. I've attended their open mics and some of their music events and I've been very pleasantly surprised at the level of local talent. So, please support our local artists, writers and musicians. Every major creative talent started somewhere. Who knows. That inexpensive painting that you purchased might be very valuable financially as well as artistically, someday.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Things that irk about me about TNA wrestling

Warning: The following contains wrestling terminology! Most people will be lost. You have been warned. Enjoy!

Seeing as how it's Wrestlemania weekend, I thought that I'd write a blog on wrestling. I know. I know. Yes, I am a grown man that still watches wrestling. Wrestling is a weird subject because there are so many rabid wrestling fans that take a scripted faux sport so seriously. If I had to classify myself, I would probably say that I'm a smark. Which the term itself can be viewed with a negative connotation. The only reason I use that term is because I probably know more than the average fan. But, I probably don't know nearly as much as I think I do. I have never worked within the wrestling industry. I have never wrestled. So, the following commentary is based solely on my level of entertainment as a viewer. That's it.

I have been a TNA viewer for about 4 years. I was actually first attracted to TNA because I saw a commercial featuring Sting. I was a big Sting fan as a kid and I marked out when I saw him. I was shocked that he was still wrestling. I had to tune in. So I did and I kind of enjoyed the product. So, I kept watching. I had already been an avid fan of the WWE. I actually used to watch the WWF as a kid with my mom. Currently, I only view TNA. Now before you call me a TNA mark, I think both WWE and TNA need drastic improvement. The state of wrestling as a whole is really bad, right now. The reason that I stayed with TNA is simple. I only have to watch two hours a week. I don't have the time to follow WWE storylines a minimum of five hours a week. So, without any further ado, let me get to the entire point of this article. That is listing the things that really bother me about TNA.

1. Getting rid of the six-sided ring - This will fall into the same category as a few other listings and that is not accentuating the differences between WWE and TNA. One of the things that drew my attention to TNA was the six-sided ring. When you are flipping through he channels, it set it apart from other wrestling promotions(except for AAA). It took me a little bit. But, I grew to really like it. Not to mention that the one time that I got to set foot in it, the ring felt a lot cushier than what I've heard other rings are like. I imagine the wrestlers must have appreciated that. I've heard rumors that the reason that they did away with it was because of wrestlers preferring the typical "squared circle" if that's the case, I fully understand and support the move. If not, the only real change that they should have made would have been to make it slightly larger. It was a small ring. I assume that the move was prompted by Hulk Hogan or Eric Bischoff considering Hulk's very public negative comments concerning the six-sided ring.

2. Dismantling of the X division - Once again, this was something that really set TNA apart from WWE. I don't think the new regime really ever fully understood the X division. Yes, it showcased the smaller wrestlers. But, it also showcased the other wrestlers that didn't quite fit into the upper card booking or weren't quite ready to fit into the heavyweight title picture. One of the worst things that they did was putting the weight restriction on the X division. Then, they put the X division wrestlers into goofy sketches. Next, Abyss, who was a member of Immortal at the time, won the title by making the entire division look weak.

3. Dismantling of the knockouts division - At one point in time, the TNA knockout division was the pinnacle of woman's wrestling. They were the highest rated segment, on Impact. The heel stable of the Beautiful People was even cloned as LayCool by the WWE. At one point, I enjoyed it more than the men. These women put on some great matches.

4. The putting over of ex WWE stars (on the downside of their career) over veteran or younger homegrown TNA talent - One great example of this is the current heavyweight champion, Bully Ray. Bully is in his mid 40s. I have no problem with Bully Ray. The guy has worked his butt off and is one of the top heels in the sport, right now. He is currently the best I've ever seen him as a solo wrestler I just don't see how you legitimize your organization by having your homegrown talent put over older castoffs from WWE. It makes you promotion look weak and does nothing to elevate the younger talent. I was hoping that once they put the belt on him, A.J. Styles would come back, take it from him and help dismantle Aces and Eights. The TNA fans love A.J. and I think this would help elevate his status as a main eventer and make TNA look that much stronger. But, now it looks as if A.J. is going to to be a 'tweener/heel feuding with James Storm. Wha? Um... Ok? Take the closest thing to a star that you have. Turn him heelish and make him feud with a popular babyface. There had better be a really good payoff, at the end of this. They tried to turn A.J. heel, before. Anyone remember the Ric Flair clone A.J. and what a failure that was?

5. Trying to look like a WCW or WWE lite - This ties into the previously mentioned items. WWE already exists. Why should people switch over an established product and watch this? In the 90s, The reason that ECW was so popular was because it found something that it was good at and exaggerated it. This differentiated it from the other promotions. When you turned on ECW, you instantly knew that you were watching ECW. Paul Heyman worked with what he had. They didn't have the money of the larger promotions. So, they took what they did well and accentuated it. Instead of emulating other organizations and coming off as a cheap knockoff. This also filled a niche that fans of the other promotions were yearning for.

6. Paying WWE castoffs too much - Dixie Carter seems to mark out for big names. But, this is hurting their bottom line. The money getting paid to veterans could be better spent going into production. For a long time, Impact had been shot on a sound studio in Paramount studios. When watching on TV, it looks like it's shot on a soundstage. I stopped watching Ring of Honor because the production value was so horrendous. This was recently rectified (getting out of the Impact Zone) Unfortunately, one of the things that has attracted talent to TNA has been one of its downfalls, also. Filming from one location has been incentive to older wrestlers and wrestlers with families to sign with TNA. It has meant considerably less travel than WWE's 300+ days tour schedule . Unfortunately, it has also meant limited exposure outside of that area, less than enthusiastic crowd (many of which aren't even wrestling fans). They are primarily tourists there to see Paramount Studios or fans that go weekly that are used to seeing the same thing over and over. I'm so glad to see them leave the Impact Zone. I have been to two TNA live events and they were a lot of fun. I'm hoping that find a way to put that excitement and fun into their regular tapings.

7. Signing Hogan and Bischoff – I have nothing against either of these two. But so far, the return on investment has been non-existant. Ratings have not gone up. Any new viewers that were gained by signing Hogan and Bischoff were negated due to the core audience being lost because of the changes that they made (see previous item numbers). Money that was spent on these individuals could have been put into marketing and production value of the show. People are attracted to flash. WWE is not that much better of a product. But, they put tons of money into production and it shows. The product looks phenomenal.

8. Aces and Eights - TNA can learn from the WWE's booking of the Shield. As much as I like Luke Gallows, the reveals for the members of Aces and Eights have been less than spectacular. If you are creating a monster heel stable, you have to make them look unstoppable. They have to win every match. They have to leave unconscious bodies, in the ring. So far, it's been give and take. Several times, the Aces and Eights have been punked and made to look like geeks. They've run out of the ring even when they had the numbers advantage. You have to keep building them then have the final payoff be a huge win for babyfaces at a major pay-per-view. Plus, with the “marriage” of Brooke Hogan to Bully Ray, there should have been some kind of payoff, such as prenup that gave Bully more power within the company.

9. Dismantling of the tag team division – This was yet another point of differentiation from WWE. The matches between the Motor City Machine Guns and Beer Money were some of the best tag team matches that I've ever seen. They were awesome. Not long after that, the teams were broken up and it left a huge vacancy that needed to be filled. At the time, WWE had all but given up on tag team wrestling. Yet another missed opportunity to attract more viewers.

Now let's focus on some positives that I see:

1. Less scripting and letting the wrestlers come up with more of their own dialogue. I like the spontaneity. Sometimes it hits. Sometimes it misses. But, I like to see the wrestlers personalities come out. It's just a personal preference.

2. Less politically correct programming - The over-relying on obscenities has become tedious. But, the less restrictive booking/writing does give them more freedom.

3. Talent - I like the wrestling style of TNA more than I do that of WWE. WWE has a very rigid style that's not to be deviated from. TNA encourages much more of an indy like feel to it's wrestling style that I enjoy. Less cookie cutter like. Wrestlers are allowed to express themselves more freely in the ring.

4. Doesn't have to answer to shareholders - Being a privately owned company means that more decisions can be made by the company itself and not shareholders that have never been in the business.

5. Tag team division - The tag team division has seen a resurgence, recently. They are definitely focusing more on it and I've enjoyed that.

In conclusion, I will continue watching the product, for now. The last year or so, I've been seriously considering not watching any wrestling at all. I've gone through stretches where I've done this before. The whole process has been started to become a task and not much fun at all. Maybe, I'm finally growing up. But, I wouldn't count on it. Happy Wrestlemania, everyone. :-)