Streetly Electronics has announced initial deliveries of its M4000 cycling tape replay keyboard instrument. The new instrument improves on the classic Mellotron M400 design of the 1970s to offer as standard a total of 24 individual tape sound sets, plus an additional 16 two-sound combinations, with programmable attack, a much lighter keyboard feel, improved playing height, and an air filtration system and positively-pressurized cabinet.
The new Streetly Electronics M4000 is the first cycling tape replay keyboard instrument to be manufactured anywhere for nearly 40 years. Unlike the nearly four-decades-old M400 and present day reproductions, which offer only three sets of sounds, the M4000 incorporates an improved tape cycling mechanism based on the original Mellotron Mk. I, Mk. II and M300 design. Eight “stations” that each includes three sets of prerecorded sounds (designated A, B, and C) may be individually selected. Each of those three sound sets, playable across the 35-note (G ??? F) keyboard, may be individually selected or blended with the immediately adjacent set (A+B or B+C).
The M4000 is delivered as standard with 24 sound sets selected from Streetly Electronics’ library of instrument and vocal recordings, which includes the backup masters of the original Mellotron tapes as well as more recent additions. Customers may optionally order tapes incorporating their own custom sounds for an additional fee.
Modern day electro-mechanical improvements to the tape replay and cycling mechanisms, which include a new custom motor and non-magnetic, stainless steel capstan, have also allowed the addition of a new “inching” feature to the M4000. This allows the performer to alter the start position — and therefore the attack — of any sound set by inching the tape across the playback heads to their desired location. The start position for any sound set may be selected on the fly or stored as a preset for future use. In addition to inching, sound set selection, and cycling controls, the top panel also offers volume, tone and pitch adjustment.
The height of the keyboard relative to the older M400 has been raised by five inches to provide a comfortable standing playing position. The single manual keyboard most closely replicates the action of the Mk. II, considered to be the best of all Mellotron models. The M4000 keyboard’s light and very playable feel is a revelation.
The signal-to-noise ratio of the M4000 is optimized by the use of the replay amplifier and other electronics from Streetly Electronics’ later model M400 and Novatron instruments. The instrument output automatically mutes when the tapes are cycling between stations.
Smoke and dust could very quickly foul the playback heads and damage the tapes of the old Mellotron and Novatron machines. The new M4000 eliminates these problems through the implementation of its unique Filtron air filtration system and a gently pressurized cabinet, which prevents the ingestion of any unwanted airborne agents such as stage smoke.
The standard M4000 is £4,900 (approximately $8,000) plus shipping from the U.K., customs duties and delivery charges to its final destination. A roadcase is available for £450 (approximately $735). Prices for custom tape sounds and non-standard cabinet finishes can be quoted on request.
Streetly Electronics, the U.K. company that originated and manufactured the Mellotron (and later the Novatron) beginning in 1962 for artists such as the Moody Blues, the Beatles, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Genesis, and many, many others, closed in 1986. John Bradley — son of one of the three brothers who co-founded Streetly Electronics — and Martin Smith revived the company in 1997 in order to maintain and refurbish existing instruments, and are now manufacturing the M4000, the first cycling tape replay keyboard instrument to be manufactured anywhere for nearly 40 years.
For more information, visit their web site at http://www.mellotronics.com/.