Skip to main content

Hey I will never give up my amazing Musser One-Nighter but getting the components up and down stairs and into other tight spaces doing gigs in NYC galleries and performance spaces, I have been seeking some relief via a small, electronic instrument. In my 50s now and I am developing an assortment of shoulder problems. I have tried Malletkat and didn't like the pads and so after investigation bought the XyloSynth. My hopes for this thing were very high and while its hip to have these other sounds, no matter what sensitivity setting I use on the XyloSynth, it just doesn't feel like a real mallet instrument. On acoustic vibes my playing is often marked by a wide variety of dynamics and I really enjoy bringing it down to a whisper, especially with the shimmer on vibes moving in and out of sync while I softly roll around phrases. But on the XyloSynth I find that soft rolls will just evaporate when it comes down to PP and all I am left is the clink of the un-pitched wooden bars. It drives me crazy. I cannot find any way to fix this and I suspect its just another ax altogether, not intended to imitate this special feature on a vibraphone.

I am seriously thinking of selling it and buying one of the old Deagan ElectraVibes. The keyboard on those is aluminum and the bars are regular vibraphone bars, save for the pick-ups. So I guess my posting is two-fold: has anyone else seen this annoying problem on the XyloSynth and does anyone out there have an ElectraVibe for sale that is in great working condition??


John Keene Mon, 06/16/2014 - 06:17

Hello, John. I used to own an Electravibe back in the seventies, and I think you'll find it very unsatisfactory due to its weight for reasons you cite. You can't remove the keyboard, so when you pick it up you'll be lifting all 37 bars plus the electronics. Plus lifting it is very lop-sided due to the wide end being so heavy. If you were in your twenties like I was at the time I bought mine, then I think it would work for you. The bars are also very narrow and that may be a consideration as well.

Personally, I liked the XS the time I played one at PASIC, so allow me to make a recommendation for your consideration. If you can find a scissor stand that has a tilt feature, why not try playing sitting on a bar stool like Bill Ware does? That way you can use both feet with one foot on a volume pedal for dynamics, and the other foot for sustain. Also, I like the marimba sounds on both the XS and the Kat and that would be nice addition to any group you're playing with. You'd have to experiment with different height stools to find the one what works for you, but you'd save a lot of wear and tear on your shoulders if you can make it work for you. It will take a bit of practice, but you'll find that the investment will be considerably less than buying a new instrument.

ChristianW Thu, 07/23/2015 - 17:05

In reply to by John Keene

how did this story go on ? I have an old Deagan with original pickups, I think it´s a Commander 2. I am thinking about a mallet Kat or a xylosynth by transport reasons. - The shoulders: I have mounted under my Deagan an adapted stand of vanderPlas which You can make higher or lower.

omvibes Sun, 07/26/2015 - 06:29

In reply to by ChristianW

Hi Christian, I would be interested to see pictures of your Deagan, could you post them up here? If not, could you email pics to me, my email address is vibes2 at freemail dot hu. Thanks. Oli

pistonpistache Thu, 08/06/2015 - 08:46

In reply to by John Keene


You are right: I have just find an electravibe, not the one you see on google image but an older one (less knob).
It's heavy as lead.

And I don't have the 5 feet and the pedal !

gmstxfour Mon, 06/16/2014 - 16:29

Hello John- Your predicament is a familiar one for me. I play a superb Musser M55 that I’ve owned since the late 70s. I am 66 and have had significant shoulder problems, as well. I have owned a Deagan 512 and have also played a Deagan ElectraVibe. Both of these Deagan’s used essentially the same narrow bars. John Kean’s post is an excellent and informative one. The Deagan does not come apart and my Deagan was significantly more trouble to transport than the my M55. The narrow bars on the Deagan ElectraVibe will never sound as rich and full as those on your Musser. I also own a MalletKat which I enjoy, but it is not a replacement for my M55. I approach the MalletKat as a distinctly different instrument. The present generation MalletKats are quite sensitive and can be adjusted for a light touch, but there is always a threshold below which the pad will not trigger the sound. (Check out the MalletKat-Alternate Mode website for the instructional videos to see how the adjustment is done.) The MalletKat you tried out might have been adjusted for a heavier touch. Any electronic instrument you play puts you at the mercy of the sound system through which it is connected. You may be playing in venues that have good sound systems, but if you need to supply sound reinforcement yourself, you are still lugging a lot of expensive stuff. Playing a MalletKat or Xylosynth through a small amp will likely result in a poor sound. I would say that to achieve the subtle mallet/vibe sound you want, keep playing your Musser and just accept the fact that you need to lug the parts around. More trips of smaller loads equal fewer aches and pains. I carry each set of bars separately in canvas bags with handles. I don’t use cases that I carry into a venue. As far as your shoulder difficulties are concerned you should probably see an orthopedist. Unfortuately, after so many years of lugging stuff around (I was a drummer and sound guy forever, as well) my shoulders both became so bad that they required surgery. Hopefully, you can avoid that. Playing musical instruments can often lead to muscular/ skeletal/ neurological problems; however, physical therapy exercises may help. Stretching with a pulley mechanism and stretch band exercises have helped me. Ask your doc or a good PT for advice. Also consider wearing a back brace when you are lugging the stuff around. It can help. Good luck with all of this. Gary Miller

tonymiceli Tue, 06/17/2014 - 14:17

i think personally you should give the malletkat a shot. you should play it for a month. it solves a lot of the problems you mention.

i hear you say you don't like the pads, but hearing your problems, it's the best solution out there. otherwise lift and move. :-)

and i think you would get used to the pads in no time at all. just sayin'.

JohnPietaro Wed, 06/25/2014 - 23:39

I do appreciate these ideas. More and more I have come to see that there is no way an electronic instrument can replace an acoustic vibe, even when space and/or weight of the ax is an issue. I will keep playing my Musser One-Nighter, which is an exceptional vibraphone that has gotten much use in my free jazz/new music circle in NYC. I cannot imagine attempting to play an instrument which doesn't give me the real touch. I will fool with the XyloSynth a bit more but if it doesn't come together I may just sell it. And, hell, I may end up investing in a smaller vibraphone (like the small Yamaha---68 lbs) for the tighter spaces and keep my main ax for everything else.

Deagan515 Sun, 10/01/2023 - 17:35


I'm looking to buy a Deagan 515, have been searching all over the internet for a couple of months now, with no luck, any suggestions?

Vince H Tue, 10/17/2023 - 22:01

In reply to by Deagan515

I have a Deagan Electravibe for sale, if that is what you seek. It has non-standard legs, a Musser pedal, and lacks the original electronics, using a very simple preamp. But it works and sounds great.