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Australian Guitar 19/2000

From the article: B-BAND New Frontier - acoustic pick-up system

By Craig White, Australian Guitar

Home of Nokia and... um... we're not sure what else, is Finland. Which is where this hot new acoustic guitar pickup system comes from. Craig White dons his funny little hat with the built-in ear muffs and boldly heads off into the New Frontier...

What can you say about Finland? No, that is not a rhetorical question before I launch into an expansive essay on the beauty of its unspoilt bits and the enterprise of its people, I really mean it - what can you say about Finland? What do any of us really know about Finland? Except for a brief moment a few years back when Sydney broadcaster Ron Casey mistakenly blamed them for the Battle of Midway, and accused Finnish telecommunications conglomerate Nokia of sponsoring the event, Finland is not big on the world stage. Sure, the Finnish will be there at the end (boom boom), but in the interim they are not exactly making a big stir.

Well, the Nokia connection might have tipped you off, for hi-tech is huge in that part of the world and a number of significant technologies are emanating from Finland. Pick-up manufacturer EMF Acoustics Oy Ltd are the latest Finnish company to launch their discovery globally, and their EMFi permanently charged electret film is an alternative to the piezo-electric material used in most saddle-mounted acoustic pick-up systems. As such, it is of particular interest to acoustic guitarists, as well as acoustic bass players, double bassists, violin and cello players, all of whom are catered for by EMF products.

Unbelievable

The difference between the B-Band's EMFi electret film and piezo-electric materials is quite significant. Rather than the rigid crystalline material utilised by piezo systems, EMFi film is permeated with "microscopic lens-like gas bubbles"TM that allow minuscule changes in the thickness of the material, effectively making the operation of the B-Band pick-up analogous to a condenser microphone rather than a piezo system, as capacitance change generates output voltage.

While other EMF B-Band systems also employ a genuine condenser mic in their operation, the New Frontier system that we have for review relies entirely on the saddle-mounted EMFi pick-up. However, the New Frontier system doesn't seem to suffer for the omission, the B-Band pick-up responds beautifully regardless of attack and possesses an appreciably naturalistic tone compared to the relatively harsh output of many piezo pick-ups.

The New Frontier system features onboard controls in response to consumer input regarding the original B-Band system's lack of such functionality. These are located on a low profile, under-sized panel mounted in the usual position, and in addition to a volume control and low battery LED, this system features tone parameters labelled "Edge" and "Bottom". Rather than traditional tone controls, these are high and low pass filters. They are located on an independent signal path, so that when the controls are set to zero, the unadulterated acoustic tone constitutes the entire output, which is augmented by the filtered signal as you dial in either tone control.

This tone configuration is excellent, and the parameters are quite extensive, so that whether you are addressing problems or simply trying to optimize your tone, you are able to call upon quite a degree of tonal versatility. Even at high volume, the low pass filter adds excellent depth and resonance without becoming boomy, while the definition that the Edge parameter lends to the tops can be quite impressive. However, the greatest advertisement for the B-Band system remains the pure acoustic tone courtesy of the EMFi pick-up.

The bottom line

Turns out that the Bomfunk MCs are from Finland - so naturally, I stand corrected about the Finnish never making a big splash on the world stage. But the B-Band New Frontier system is even better than phat beats and a kid in a beanie! This pick-up system introduces a whole new element to the amplified acoustic guitar game, and until somebody devises the perfect way to project acoustic tone, each advancement will be much anticipated and appreciated. The New Frontier is not the perfect system, although, in tandem with a good condenser mic, as the top of the range B-Band system features, it could be as close as any acoustic pick-up on the market. However it ups the ante considerably in terms of saddle-mounted systems, and squarely challenges the established piezo systems.

Ratings:

features: 8/10
construction: 9/10
playability: 10/10
value: 8/10
overall: 87 %

Pros:

* discernably warmer than piezo system
* discreet control panel

Cons:

* still not the perfect acoustic pickup system (we're still searching for that!)

Fact File

Made In: Finland
Style: under saddle pickup with on board pre-amp
Controls: Volume knob
'Edge' and 'Bottom' high and low pass filters

Contact: Dominant Music
Phone: 03 9873 4333

Craig White

© Copyright 2000 Craig White, Australian Guitar