Sunday, June 28, 2015

Review: Marshall JCM 2000 DSL

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to review one of the most classic Marshall Heads: the JCM 2000 DSL.

This version came out in 1997 and it was meant to be as a dual-channel "expanded version" of a Jcm 800 and 900, but it turned out to be a completely different beast.
DSL means Dual Super Lead and indicates the fact that the signal passes through two gain stages, so the added gain is more than a single stage (there are heads with up to six stages, like the Peavey 5150, though), and there is also a version called TSL, Triple Super lead, which is supposed to provide even more gain (and a third channel).

This head has been used, through the years from some of the biggest bands around, ranging from rock (for example Muse), to thrash metal (Trivium).
The head has a nice sound, with the mids typical of a Marshall, but yet the Tone Shift and Deep control lets you have enough versatility to obtain enough different tones.
Around the web there is a rumor that for some reason a Jcm 800 has a thicker, more powerful sound than a Jcm 2000 Dsl, and even more a Tsl (which has been wildly criticized for this reason), and this could be true, but I actually find the Jcm 2000 to be a nice halfway between the classic Marshall tone, the versatility required by today's musicians, and a tone that is more manageable at lower volumes (while, notoriously, a Jcm 800 needs to be cranked to the max in order to unleash its full potential).

Today Marshall is selling an updated version of the Jcm 2000 called only Dsl 100, which is identical to the original version except for some interface improvement: 

- A Resonance control instead of the Deep Switch

- A versatile Digital Reverb instead of the old spring one

- A pentode/triode switch that lets you choose between 100 and 50w.

Specs taken from the website:

- Two channels - Classic Gain and Ultra Gain

- Lead 1 to Lead 2 switching on the Ultra Gain channel

- Tone Shift switch to reconfigure the way the tone section (particularly the Middle control) works
- Deep Switch for increased bottom end
- Effects Loop with level selection switch

- Output (RMS): 100 Watts
- Number of Channels: 2
- Modes Per Channel: 2
- Spring Reverb
- Preamp Tubes: 4 x ECC83
- Power Amp Tubes: 4 x EL34
- Dimensions (approximate): 29.5 x 11.7 x 8.43" (748 x 297 x 214mm)
- Weight (Kg): 49.5 lbs (22.5 kg)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Acoustic Guitar Vst Simulators (free Vst Plugins)

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to talk about acoustic guitar simulators, which are those plugins that takes the sound of our electric guitar recorded straight into the audio interface, and try to turn it into the sound of an acoustic guitar.

This article implies obviously that we don't have an actual acoustic guitar, nor ways to record it with microphones, which actually would be the best way to track it, so let's just focus on how to turn the sound of our electric guitar into the one that resembles an acoustic one!
Someone can also use this method to use his electric guitar to play some part which would be too unconfortable to be played with an acoustic one, and inserting them into an acoustic sounding context.

Usually plugins that tries to replicate the sound of an acoustic guitar works by modifying the eq, the transient, the resonance and other parameters of the original sound, or by applying an IR impulse, to recreate the resonance of a real acoustic guitar (Click Here for a vide made by Chandler Guitar, which also contains an acoustic guitar IR impulse to download).
Once we have turned the sound of our guitar into a sound that resembles an acoustic one, we can mix it as we would treat the sound of a real acoustic one, and the result sometimes can be strikingly resemblant.

Here are some interesting plugins, some free and some paid, to simulate an acoustic guitar sound:

Voxengo Boogex: a classic free IR impulse loader, that if we use with specific acoustic guitar impulses can really turn our electric guitar sound into an acoustic one.

Nusoft Deepboard: an interesting, small and free plugin that turns the sound of our electric guitar into an acoustic one

BodiLizer: a paid (30$) acoustic simulator which uses an internal IR impulse.

Positivegrid Jamup: a great paid plugin, probably the best in the market today, which has also a good acoustic simulation

Waves Maserati Acg: another paid plugin, designed by the producer Tony Maserati, which has a set of tools for shape the acoustic guitar sound

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Review: Seymour Duncan Pegasus and Sentient Set (with sample)

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
This time we will talk about two recent pickups produced by Seymour Duncan, originally designed only for seven strings guitars, but that today are offered in the 8-strings and 6-strings variants too.

This is a set of a Bridge and a Neck humbucking pickups, with the neck one (the Sentient) being described from the manufacturer as a half-way among a '59 and a Jazz model, so a pickup with a not so high output, but with a nice, round tone, very good with overdrives, and with great dynamics.
An ideal pickup for cleans, and moderately distorted solos.
The bridge pickup instead is a higher output humbucker, called Pegasus, with an Alnico V magnet (like the Sentient), but that distinguish itself from the other 7 strings metal pickup produced by Seymour Duncan, the Nazgul.

While the Nazgul is a very high output pickup, Invader style, with a lot of bass and a chunky tone which resembles the active ones, ideal for extreme metal, the Pegasus has a totally different flavour:
it has a mid-focused tone, due to the Alnico V magnet, and a bit lower output (and therefore bass frequences, which are the ones who becomes more prominent with the increase of the output), and it is created for progressive rock, progressive metal and djent guitarists.

Why did Seymour Duncan feel the need to produce a different pickup suited for the needs of these guitar players? Because Alnico magnets (those mounted usually on Gibson pickups too) have a less violent and more musical (and a little more vintage) feel to the tone than the ceramic ones (used on the Nazgul), and those pickups are created yes to manage heavily distorted sounds, but also to mantain clarity when playing distorted arpeggios or single strings;
clarity and tightness are basilar when playing complex, distorted riffs, so the output and the frequency range have been adjusted (lowering them) to make everything more intelligible.

The Sentient and Pegasus pickups comes in 3 versions: the passive mount with uncovered coils, the passive mount with covered coils and the active mount, which is meant to replace active pickups with a shape similar to theirs.

A sample of Sentient (on the clean) and Pegasus (on the distorted part) can be heard on our Emissary Vst page.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

HOW TO MIX A LIVE BAND (a guide for dummies) 4/4

Hello and welcome to this last part of our super basic tutorial about how to mix a live band in a small gig!

In the latest part we have seen basically every aspect of a mixer, every aspect but the Aux Sends one, which we are going to analyze today.
The Auxiliary Send (Aux Send) is an additional output of the mixer that lets us do another mix, different by the one that goes into the PA, and that we can use for other purposes, for example to send it to the stage monitors.

The band in the stage plan example on the first part of our article has 3 monitors: one for the drummers and 2 for the other band members, covering the left and the right side of the stage.
in the picture above we have 2 aux sends, but usually 12 channels mixers have 3 of them.
So how do we do our relative mix? If we have the aux pots on each channel at noon, the guys on stage will hear by the monitors basically the same mix that can be heard outside, but usually they will want a different mix, because there are things that they need to hear to play better, and others which are less useful and can be eliminated, plus keep in mind that usually with cheap mixers and monitors it's better to send a maximum of 3 or 4 channels per monitor, to make sure the monitor will reproduce them loud and clear without distorting.

An example of monitor mix, always referring to the band in the first part of this tutorial, could be the following:

Aux 1: Left monitor (as seen from the point of view of the drummer): Vocals, keyboards, snare, kick.

Aux 2: Drummer monitor: Vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass

Aux 3: Right monitor: Vocals, the other guitar (or the keyboard), snare, kick

in order to obtain this we will close all aux knobs on the mixer, then open just the Aux 1 pot on Vocal, Keyboard, Snare and Kick, choosing the level according to the volume they need,
then repeat the same procedure with the Aux 2 Pot and the Aux 3, sending only the requested channels to each monitor.
Usually during the soundcheck the sound engineer asks the band to play a part of a song and adjusts the aux sends accordingly, until everyone can hear everything decently.
Once the stage monitors are set in a stable way, the sound engineer can make the last touches to balance everything, keeping in mind that additional modifications will need to be made when the room will be full of people, because the venue responds differently according to the people inside.

Some last suggestion about how to mix a live band:

- If present, the High Pass Filter button is a good way to clean up the low end from unwanted resonating frequences. It can be used basically on each channel, with the exception of Bass and Kick Drum.

- Try to push each sound with the eq slighly towards its place in the mix, for example you can lower a bit the lows on a guitar track and add some grit on the highs, or carve some mids out of toms, remove some highs on a bass track or boost some mids on vocals, but don't exaggerate, and remember that a sligh cut sounds usually better than a sligh boost.

Additional ways to use an Aux Send:

- It can be used to go to external processors, such as a Compressor, or an Fx unit, and then the signal can be routed to the Aux in (sometimes called Aux Return) to be blended with the original one.

- It can be used also to go to a recording machine, like a computer, if there aren't other dedicated outs in the mixer.

Well, the tutorial is over, I hope it was helpful, leave comments below if you have some other tip to share!




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