Mbiraski Custom - 1.Review
[Link to the next article about Note Rearrangement]
Mbiraski is an kalimba made by Japanese musician and instrument maker Yasushi Yoshida. It is one of the 3 brands that sells really expensive kalimbas (Sosaku/Mbiraski/ArrayMbira), and based on my knowledge, it is the only one that provides built-in preamp on kalimbas.
Before buying it I did searched for days online for some kind of "review" of mbiraski, but there is nothing like that. Even the only user (and the only user track) I can ever find is the Edmund Eagan from Twelfth Root Studio. Apart from that, there is no user reviews, user youtube videos at all. Nobody is saying something about this really nice instrument. So I decided to give it a go and write my review.
My Mbiraski custom is the standard model with deep body and buzzers option. It is a cheap mbiraski, but while saying that, it costed around 820$. Which is not really cheap for kalimbas.
I've experienced the pro and cons of this instrument, and rearranged the note layout for 4 times. And finally settled on one that I really like. Please read below for all the details.
The 1st thing I feel when I unpacked the mbiraski, is that it is a very nicely made industrial product, very different than most of the kalimbas - which are mostly handmade and primal.
The body is a hammond aluminum box. The bridge is finely made of aluminum, machined to support 31 notes, each with its own screw that holds the tine. Tines are made of colorful 3/2AlV titanium bicycle spokes. Buzzers are made of tiny nuts and the washers that holds the nuts in place. Due to the design limits they can only be equipped on the upper row of tines.
The bridge is beautiful. Having one screw that exclusively holds one tine is very good, it makes tuning easier and at the same time, make it harder to lose the tuning. The con is that it will limit you when you want to rearrange the tines, because the place of each tine is fixed. But that's not a big deal.
The bicycle spokes are much thicker and heavier than usual kalimba tines, thus the best sounding note range would lie in the low notes. The lowest note must be lower than the one I get which is a Bb2. But on my instrument it is the longest tine I have. When the note goes up to D#4, the sustain is already very short. As a 31 note instrument, its born for chromatic (unless you arrange a lot of redundant notes there, or there will almost always be quite a few notes that fall far out of the best sounding range).
Acoustical Sound :
Although mine is with deep body option, which is aimed for a better acoustic sound, but the acoustic sound of Mbiraski is just acceptable for practicing. The same as most box based kalimbas - there are resonating holes at the both sides of the instrument, but they are virtually no use. No wah-wah sound will be made when you cover/uncover them.
Electrical Sound :
It uses a long piezo film attached under the bridge to pickup the sound, with a preamp based on OPA2134 op-amp to boost the signal.
Best pickup sound I've heard from a kalimba so far. And of course the output can be much higher when compared to other pickup kalimbas due to the preamp built inside. Its pure electric pickup sound is also very nice to be used with various effects.
Next article is about how I rearrange the tines of my Mbiraski, what I think to be the best layout for such a note range, and the info about the arrangement.