I have discovered that as one ages, ones become more aware of their body. Most of the time it happens when something goes wrong. I remember the days when drinking a Coke didn’t mean 4-5 hours of feeling bloated or when the sight of a Ray Hyman neck strap didn’t cause my hands to go numb. No, with age come wisdom and with wisdom an awareness of how you need to take care of your body. So when I started to develop some neck and back issues, the topic of neck straps became an important one. In fact, it was this topic that led to one of our magazine's first mass reviews (see neck strap review HERE).
In this review, we tested two products from Marmaduke, the Feather III, and the Feather Dual. Where we found both to be well designed, our test group found them to be slightly above average. Recently I was sent Marmaduke's newest neck strap, the Feather IV. From the first trial, I am happy to report that Marmaduke has hit it out of the park with the Feather IV.
The Feather IV is a modified version of the feather III strap. Like the Feather III, the Feather IV strap is designed to reduce the stress placed on the neck. What is different about the Feather IV is the one-piece construction and shorter bars. This one-piece construction not only makes the Feather IV more compact,but also more adaptable to the body. One of the things I didn't like about the Feather III was how the weight of the instrument seemed to rest on the collarbones. This along with the free string connection behind the neck cause the Feather III to shift on my larger torso when playing.
The Feather IV was rock solid and immediately removed a significant amount of stress from my neck. The implementing of a leather bridge and one-piece construction eliminates the shifting, given the player a secure, comfortable experience. The metal bars are solid but allow the player to make adjustments, tailoring the Feather IV to their unique shape. Where the Marmaduke site says it fits neck's up to a size 16, it will accommodate far larger. It fit my 17 ¾ neck as if it were tailored to me. The design of the back yoke allows for further adjustment.
I appreciated the inclusion of a large metal snap hook as well as the easily adjustable nylon cord. If the cord should ever become damaged or wear, it can easily be replaced without having to trash the entire strap. The Feather IV is made from quality leather with precise stitching and steel eyelets the friction points. The Feather comes with a large "wing" shaped adjuster that keeps the cord from digging into the neck. At times I felt it might be too wide, but realized that Marmaduke offers both medium and large "wing," and "y" pull options, as well as a variety of hook options. Furthermore, you can order the Feather IV in brown or black and in regular and super wide leather options.
There are so many straps on the market, yet many leave me wanting more in their design. For me, the Feather IV has been a Godsend. Not only has it removed the stress from my neck, but it has also allowed me the security, adjustment, and freedom to breathe that has been missing from other straps. It fits well under a suit jacket without pulling, bulging or binding. The strap sells on the Marmaduke site for $88/US, which may be a little on the high side, but certainly within reason for what I consider a specialty product. If you have been dealing with back or neck issues or want a reliable strap that works as advertised, the Feather IV is something you need to try.