Carbon Fiber Vibraphone

it's here. check it out




Comments

A little short on information but it looks great.

If it's acoustic and electric and can output midi data;
I'm willing to sell my Musser M44, my MalletKat, and my custom Birdsong picolo bass to get it but I think I'll probably still be short a few thousand dollars.

6000 Euros is about 8,400 dollars plus shipping ,taxes, duties, and whatever fees arise.
I'm guessing at the price and the features. I have no clue.

-Todd

I agree with you. I've just visited VDP site and nothing on the connecting panel (jack ? XLR ?)
No description of the features... No way to get interested with just one or two pictures... If it is a product made for the pros, VDP has to do a professional advertising too ...
Yes, it looks great, but who is going to buy a look ?

Hey, Babu, the vibe is brand new, and like everything Nico does, he's put his time into making a great instrument, not marketing. He's created a vibe aimed at the market of gigging vibists who need a lighter instrument and who value the special features it offers (not to mention the 3.2 octaves). I'm sure they'll get more details on the site soon. You've got in Nico a manufacturer who is listening to what you say you want and working to bring it to you, on an instrument that frankly has a very limited market. Most capitalists would call that insane. Show him a little love.

The vibe looks great, we know how it's going to sound from the other VDP instruments, and I'm sure you will soon get more information via the website (and the several youtube videos)--or by simply picking up the phone and calling Nico. (Can you imagine calling someone at Musser or Yamaha? I didn't think so.)

Reading back my post, yes it sounds hard, but I was so surprised when I visited the site ...
And it is because I like and respect Nico's work I would see a good advertising stuff. In my youth time I worked one year in a music store and I know how hard business can be and how much advertising is a key word. My comment was an awkward way to show my deception to see a very good work with a poor advertising stuff...

Here at vdPB we were anxious to let all of you see how the new instrument has become, so we put it there faster than having all the ads and actual text ready. But if you rather, we can always take it offline again ;-)

Due to legal patenting aspects we weren't allowed to show anything untill april 6th, and the instrument was actually just finished at that date. The German Musik Messe was the premiere of the instrument, and the first occasion to check it out.
That fair has just closed a week ago, so we're now up to filling up the website.

So our appologies for showing the instrument's photo sooner than the text.

Nico

Nico,
I hope it's a great success Nico - I'm sure it's worthy of it but I'm not convinced of the market. I would like to say up front and not really knowing for sure but just guessing. The carbon fiber instrument is probably not any lighter than an M55. I hope people don't think it will be. I'm saying this because a lot of people are placing so much emphasis and hope on getting "a lighter vibraphone" and I'm guessing that this is really not the case. What the carbon fiber should allow is a much sturdier vibe like your other heavier instruments or the Musser/Piper M58 but at the weight of approximately the M55 or M48 and with options to break it down to fit into small enough cases to fly. Is that correct nico? Or is it substantially lighter than the M55?

Indeed John,
weight at this point is equal to the M55, but that is for a 3.2 octaves with lots more functionality and stability than the M55. We'll still be able to get a few kg off, but never will be able to make the so much wanted lightweight vibraphone, which, as I mentioned somewhere else, is an illusion.
Most of the weight is in the bars, resonators, crossbar (can't be done in carbon) and electronics/motor.

What the market will do is a guess, also to us. We think with the new music what nowadays is made, there is room for the carbonVibe, which wouldn't be there for the old vibe. We haven't made the carbonVibe for those few jazz vibists in this world who travel by plane to their gigs: for them there are other more affordable solutions in the market.

But for sure, if we don't modernize the instrument, the market will not change, and as such the use of the vibe will then only be limited. It is high time we switch to a more "sexy" instrument ISO the old boring vibe. I've seen some changes by other brands in the recent past, and was not really impressed with what was happening and was implied: everybody (none excluded, even lovable vibes) is just sticking to basically what is invented in the twenties of last century. This is not good for the instrument.

Nico

"But for sure, if we don't modernize the instrument, the market will not change, and as such the use of the vibe will then only be limited. It is high time we switch to a more "sexy" instrument ISO the old boring vibe."

I really like this line of thinking Nico.

IMHO: Anything that makes the vibe more expressive and still feel like an acoustic instrument is progress.

-Todd

Nico, I also agree with Todd that these aspirations are wonderful and admirable. I hope the Carbonvibe will be a great success.

As far as the lightweight traveling instrument, let's keep that subject open for a moment, if I may. And also the thought of the marketplace for high-quality, premium priced instrument.

I can't speak for the market, only myself... but I would be most inclined to pay a premium price for something like an excellent traveling vibe. There are only 2 good options on the market right now, as far as I know (the Yamaha YV3710/3910 and the Musser M48). I think both designs have a lot of room for improvement. I tend to feel that one reason vibe use is often limited is because it is so hard to transport, not because it isn't sexy enough. Perhaps it is an illusion, but with trying to be as realistic as possible, my thoughts are:

1) the bars will always be heavy, therefore they must remove for traveling.
2) the resonators must be an exact size, and fairly strong...hmm, so how could they be light? (also, resonators that don't fold or break down help to eliminate problems with the fans, and speed set-up).
3) the electronics and mechanical parts should be very reliable, and enclosed if possible.
4) ideally, the frame without bars or resonators would feel light and rigid enough that, when assembled, you could lift the whole thing by yourself.

So maybe I am dreaming, but I know one thing - an instrument like this made with your detail and craftsmanship WOULD be a dream!

SS

so you don't want the resonators to fold up?

also, you mentioned portability and quick set up. i think they are different issues. i think the fastest set up of an instrument is the m55 right? well not totally. the premiere vibes are also VERY fast to set up.

then if you want portability, you need the instrument to come apart in many pieces right?

i wonder how light the carbon fiber is without the midi and pickups???

and finally, don't let this topic die. we need a lightweight portable instrument. for planes, trains and automobiles. all of them. IMHO my m55 will do the trick of running around in my car until nico deals with that. (he says no way, though)

man, i shipped the m48 via ups a couple weeks ago for a $150 bucks. think of what that means. you get a gig somewhere and they don't have vibes (in the states). you ship the vibes carry the bars on the plane. 300 bucks for the trip.

if you can fit the vibes in 2 suitcases. MAN, stick your underwear in between. that's only 50 bucks for the extra suitcase. gary says this can be done with the m48.

i just think we have some cool possibilities. i think we need two types of vibes, quick set up, local use and portable take anywhere!

I agree with Steve. All though I'm all for a more modern, "sexier vibraphone", the major obsticale in the popularity the instrument is getting it around. I have met a lot of multi- instrumentalist vibes players that rarely play out on vibes because its just so impractical to move the thing around. I'm certainly not knowledgeable enough about the market to speculate, but it would just seem to me that if one were to come up with a better version of an m55 or m48, that would sell much better than a very high end instrument. What Nico has come up with looks amazing, but how many players are going to pay that much for an instrument, and colleges, school bands, etc?

I have some reservations about the practical issues being a constraint to popularity. It never seemed to be a problem for the Hammond B3 and leslie and the Fender suitcase piano still has many fans. Maybe just as many as there are vibe fans?

I would suggest that the lack of popularity, or as some say the "market", is because of the lack of vibes in popular music. Make music in a popular idiom and the vibes will have a bigger market.

The next barrier is cost. You can buy a 500 guitar. But you can barely buy the aluminum to make the bars of a vibraphone for $500. And in a few years that price will more than double.

So I think Nico is right in saying the vibraphone has to change to survive. And I mean dramatically change. And I think the biggest change will be how the bars are made and what they can do.

-Todd

I agree with Tood that the practical issues have nothing to do with popularity. However, I believe that the mass appeal of the Hammond and the Rhodes has more to do with the variety of Hammond/Rhodes players than the instruments themselves. To put it another way, Shirley Scott, Jimmy Smith, Larry Young, all those great Santana organists, Keith Emerson, et al can sit behind the exact same instrument and sound radically different from each other.

I would imagine that schools and orchestras are where the sales are to be made. I may have mentioned this on another thread, but you can't expect a manufacturer to service a market where most of the players are going to buy "used" instead of new. Plus I also think that sampling technology is going to be even more advanced in the next five years than what it is now, so why should an acoustic instrument manufacturer compete with that? I think that Mario is going to have that covered as well as that market can be serviced.

in the end, i think the manufacturers don't think it's worth the time to make instruments based on the pros requests. so, just to mention this again.

i'm out with my m55 all the time. students see me and ask me about it. do i like it better than yamaha, or vdp. should they get gold bars, does it matter. my point is, maybe there's not a lot of pros to worry about, however, pros i think sell a lot of instruments. if every pro played a vanderPlas, that would sell a TON of vdp's. don't you guy think? it's either watching a pro play, or playing on an instrument in college.

i think it's in the best interest of manufacturers to make a great practical instrument. musser and premiere do it. (we never talk about premiere, huh?). it's a good instrument i think. a little smaller but it's cool!

of course my favorite is the vanderPlas. i do think personally it's the most beautiful instrument out there. especially the new bars nico makes. oh man! not saying that to create a debate, just expressing my taste. i wish i could take the vdp out and gig on it. but it's only for special occasions! i'm hoping the carbon fiber is a real moveable instrument!! nico is a brilliant mallet maker! i think he's unrivalled in the mallet world for his skill and precision!

now since we make money of this hunk of metal, we have to think practically sometimes. so we need a practical instrument AND a bells and whistles instrument.

as for electronics: i love my mallet kat. and it's way different from my accoustic axes. they're apples and oranges. it will take a LOT of development to make the malletkat an alternative to an accoustic instrument as opposed to just a different instrument. i never play vibes on my malletkat always a rhodes or synth sound. but we'll see, maybe john is right. maybe we're closer than i think. well then portability is no problem any more!!!

I've seen it happen before in the keyboard world - by 1973, nearly keyboard player (including my own bad self) was playing a Rhodes piano. And nobody thought it was anything like an acoustic piano, but it was a really good acceptable sound and enough players were on board with it to encourage the Rhodes company to develop the instrument even more. Within a year, the idea of the "keyboard rig" was a standard; we've all seen Chick and Herbie on video from this era. Several guys made their reputations on the Rhodes to the exclusion of the acoustic (Max Middleton from the Jeff Beck Group being one of my personal favorites).

So I'm convinced that the technology is already out there and it's just a matter of mallet players becoming more exposed to the possibilities of MIDI technology, and I can't imagine anyone offering a more affordable instrument than Mario offers. So I would disagree with the initial statement that the manufacturers don't think it's worth the time to make instrument based on pros requests because the pros are established by what they've done in the past. The Future is what a manufacturer has to address and I think Nico is right on track with the direction of the market for the acoustic instrument. I like to think of VdP as the Steinway of the vibe world with a dedication to maintaining a certain standard of excellence.

I'd say maybe the Bosendorfer or Fazioli of the vibe world, John!

I've got my order in on the new Kat and we'll see how it works. My intent is to use it on the current house gig I have to get a different set of nonvibe sounds--and otherwise to use it for quick jams, etc, since it is easier to carry around. When it arrives, we'll see how that works.

One thing, if in any endeavor you don't keep experimenting and branching, you wither.

@vince, please report on the new malletKat!!!

@john - yeah technology is amazing, and sometimes unforseeable. (right word?) so maybe you're right, some incredible advancement will come along and just floor us all. i would love and i would love if that KAT is mario making an alternative to the vibraphone. he's the best and he's so on top of all this it's incredible. he's doing some amazing things. and i love my malletKat, and would gladly take it out on acoustic gigs if in my eyes it replaced the acoustic set. as well as take it all over the place!

now on the other hand, there's nico, and he's also a frickin mad scientist. and he's attaching all this onto the acoustic instrument. i think this instrument will also blow our minds when we see it in action. so here's to guys, making a synthetic and authentic instrument that goes into the future. in that perspective we're pretty lucky i think.

i also think that we inspire these guys by writing about the instrument. so let's keep up the good work.

The thing you mentioned that one has to be aware of is the phrase "alternative to the vibraphone." There is no alternative to the vibraphone anymore than the Rhodes or the Kurzweil was an alternative to the acoustic piano (remember back when the Union was afraid of the Mellotron - laughable by today's standards). However, I do understand what you mean, and I think that Mario has already made it.

I think that I mentioned this a few years ago: the REAL reason that the Hammond B3 went out of production in 1973 was because the market was too saturated with used ones. The exact same thing happened with the Yamaha DX-7; by 1987 it was too easy to buy 'used' and destroyed the market for new sales. As the older generation of vibes players retires and others hang it up, their instruments are also going to saturate the "used" market. Now I would agree that the frames are most likely going to be compromised by age, but the bars can be retuned and refurbished. Nico has successfully addressed that market with his fine-quality frames, although one can also opt to buy a lesser-quality frame from Musser to accommodate their bars. So I think it's just impractical to have any expectations for any manufacturer to address the potential jazz market. As far as the rock market, it's sample technology all the way with the Kat being part of an overall percussion rig.

so change has to happen with these instruments so that companies will make money on new sales instead of losing out to used sales. man, i never thought about that. that's heavy.

There is a musical side as well. This is just my opinion here, but I would think a manufacturer would look at classical vibraphone performance as being the great unexplored area. Piper opened a major door by eliminating the non-wanted sounds, and then Nico took it a step further with the 3.5 octave combined with the great looking wood cherry finish. Since classical gigs tend not to deal with amplification, the acoustic quality of the instrument is going to be the primary concern over anything else.

I can easily see the carbon-fiber vibe appealing to this market. It looks great, and that's really important when playing someone's wedding ceremony or similar tuxedo gig. The lighter frame makes transport a lesser issue than hauling a Musser Century, not to mention the height-adjustible frame is a major feature. Eventually this will become a 3.5 octave instrument if sales warrant, but I can understand the preference to have it enter the market as a 3.2 octave. Best of all, I'm confident that the construction will allow this to be a one-time purchase since musicians who own these kind of instruments tend to take really good care of them. Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.

Tony, will report on the Kat when it arrives--this is a special pre-order so that Mario can get enough orders ready to make the MalletKat w/Kurzweil engine cost-effectively. The keyboard player in the band I'm in has the same sound engine (Kurzweil PC3) but I think the kinds of attacks you get with the malletkat actually cause different apparent sounds from the same samples (I say this after comparing Mario's recordings with the keyboard players). So it will be very interesting. Mario's choice to finally pair with malletKat with great onboard synth engine is what sold me. I expect a steep learning curve, but I intend to bring it to the gig after one week of experimenting. I learn better on the job when I'm scared anyway. The successes and failures sink in quicker, and I don't really care about humiliating myself in public (if I did, I wouldn't be playing--as after 35 years I have yet to get through an evening without something falling to pieces... :)

I should note, I also play piano/keyboard in other settings. So an option for me would have been to simply do that. Though I've played piano longer (even studied with a concert pianist), my body simply works better for mallets. So it will be very interesting for me to see what the synthvibe thing opens up for me as a musician, given the different sounds--both musically, and in the gigging market. And here is where I think John is going with his comments.

Vince,
Where did you get the Kurzweil PC3?
I thought it was no longer available.
I only found a few used and lost the bid on Ebay.

Now my music instrument budget is depleted and have I no good vibe sound for the MalletKat.
So it sits there.

I found the David Samuel CD of his samples but I was not successful in completing the setup in the XS24. It's way to much work for a weekend warrior.

-Todd

Hi Todd,

I think the the pc2r is no longer available. The pc3 is being offered with the MalletKat KS 7 with sounds - no external sound module.
I'll be upgrading at some point... Here's link.

http://www.alternatemode.com/malletkat_ks.shtml

-Randy

I'm betting that Nico has asked himself ALL these questions (and more) when developing this model. Consider, as just one example of numerous problems in vibraphone design, the mechanical problems associated with dampening: that spring (or springs) must be able to lift 15 pounds (1/2 the bar weight). And then there must be a way to transfer to the frame or floor the energy of that lift when you release it with your foot while keeping the vibe stable. There are several solutions to this that fall into two categories: keep the energy in the frame (most vibes) OR transfer to the ground (eg. with the Wurlitzer/Rhodes "bicycle brake" type pedal, also used on the granite marimba). And on a good vibe, the dampening must be reliable, height adjustable for various user's needs, be sensitive, have a "limiting" capacity, be sturdy, be relatively lightweight, be made of easily accessible materials and parts, and be able to transfer excess forces noiselessly. Get under your vibraphone and study that thing and how it works and really think deeply about how wondrously complex it is, for such a seemingly simple thing. Now step back and realize that there are a number of other fascinating mechanical problems in a vibraphone, each with multiple solutions.

Get in and start messing with your vibe and see how the mechanical forces actually work, and you will begin to discover the fascinating and exasperating limits one must deal with. And you'll also see that there are many ways to solve problems. This includes the important intellectual/creative process of redefining (or reframing) the nature of the problem (even starting with, "do I really want to play this instrument? As evidence, keep in mind that some vibists go totally synth [Roy Ayers, Harry Sheppard, Mario DiCiutis] or get into other aspects of music in part as a solution to that question).

For an example of reframing, as you make things more portable, you have to consider and DEFINE what "portable" really means and what tradeoffs portability involves(small parts? speedy assembly? safe lifting? airport friendly? Smart car friendly?) as well as the fact that "portable" will mean different things to different performers. Then consider the many ways to solve these issues. A a personal example--after experimenting with many solutions (even a folding vibe solution) my ultimate portability solution was incredibly simple (since I don't need to fly my vibe). It involved very few vibe modifications. My ProVibe became immediately more "portable" when I made the following changes: a) got a 2nd duplicate vibe to keep in my lower level studio; b) sold the Subaru Wagon; c) bought a hideous Kia minivan--a bloated polyp on wheels; d) made a storage unit in my garage; e) kept the gig-ready ProVibe in the storage unit in the garage, ready to load in at a moment's notice, modifying the frame to withstand the considerable extra forces of travel. Tear down and set up went from 20 minutes at each end to 3. (I even beat the bass player out at the end of a one gig--a personal triumph for me, since most jazz bass players can get in and out of a gig in one trip, 2 hands.)

Now extract yourself from that rambling digressive example and put yourself in any vibe maker's shoes. Consider that each vibist wants something different: no motor; motor; narrow bars; wide bars; extra notes; midi; no midi; mics; pickups; resonators; no resonators; cheap price; money is no object; easy to use on the marching field AND in Carnegie Hall; gorgeous to look at; OK if it looks like a hospital gurney....GAK--just look at everything folks have requested in this thread! Somewhere, the maker has to make some decisions. When I look at the plethora of models Nico has generated in a decade, I'm totally blown away. Many of these models are explorations of nuanced mechanical options.

I think the ideas in this thread are GREAT, but I also think that it's unrealistic to expect any maker to execute them fully. MY suggestion: do the work yourself and try to implement them on YOUR VIBE. Get some tools, start monekying about, buy an old crappy Jenco to start with if you're unsure, always mock-up your solutions before implementing, and you will come up with options that work for your situation. But outside of doing that or commissioning Nico or another builder to actually solve your specific problems--expect that no vibe is going to fit all your needs.

If you look at the M55, that came along and became very popular because it was a much more portable design. And was well-priced, that is also important. So it shows that there is a market there...but now, we have much better materials and CAD, so it is overdue for someone to make a "better" traveling instrument. I think fast setup and good portablilty do not have to be different things. Look at keyboard stands - i have one that can hold three large synths, and is light, sets up quickly, and is fairly inexpensive. As far as the crossbar problem, i remember that the old Deagan Electravibe had a pedal without a crossbar which was more like a Wurly ep pedal. It wasn't awful, as I recall (can't say that about the rest of that instrument).

Yeah Tony, I find that when I break down my resonators, somewhere in the middle of the gig the fans stop working...the sections need to seat themselves so perfectly, and who has time for that when you are setting up trying to make the downbeat?!

I'm sure your instrument sounds as good as it looks. THAT's what a carbon fiber vibe should do.. make a sturdier vibe without being heavier. Keep it up Nico!