Saturday, August 19, 2017

Harley Benton SG Kit Building Diary 1/3

Hello and welcome to this week's article! 
Today and for the next 2 weeks I want to share with you a diary of the building of my Harley Benton Sg kit, a chinese guitar kit sold by Thomann, the biggest music dealer in Europe.

Why did I decide to buy a kit? 
Obviously not to have the best sounding instrument in the world, I just wanted to know more in depth the process of building and setting up a guitar, and to have fun with the finishes, the painting, and so on. This kit is a great antistress hobby and very useful for didactic purposes. Plus it turned out to be very playable too (although I have read mixed reviews on the web, some people have been less lucky than me with their kit)!

For the first phase I have made treasure of the tips of the luthier Luigi Valenti of Valenti guitars (check out his products, they're awesome): since the guitar body was already covered by a layer of wood sealer, I had to sandpaper it off, with a thick grain paper (200 to 320). 

I have eliminated most of the coat and risen the grain, so that the wood is now receptive to the dye.
Then I have applied to the wood (a very light basswood with a copper-ish colour a first coat of purple wood dye, using rubber gloves and a piece of cloth. 
In the following photos you will see me applying 6 layers of purple dye, leaving the paint to dry for 24 hours between one layer and the other.

Before each new layer of dye I have sandpaper the whole guitar with a thinner grain sandpaper (800 to 1200), to even out the wood and to make the veins of the wood pop out more.
After a while I have started focusing my sandpapering a bit more towards the center of the body, in order to create a lighter area that will be the core of my "raspberry burst" attempt.

Then I have started painting the central part of the body with a pink dye, instead of the purple one, in order to create some contrast (which is the core of the raspberry burst, even if the type of dye and the reddish wood below created something that is much closer to a cherry colour than my initial idea).

After about 5 layers of color and 5 sandpaperings, I have started applying a layer of tru-oil.
Tru Oil is a type of protective oil made for wood, and it is often used for the wooden part of guns, to make them smooth, shiny and protected. It is one of the best and easiest ways to preserve the natural look of the wood.

I have applied on the guitar six layers of tru oil, sandpapering with a 1200 grain between each layer and waiting 24 hours between each application (you can see in the following pictures one photo after each layer of tru oil). 

After the sixth and last layer of tru oil the body was ready to be assembled with the rest, and in the next weeks I will explain everything in detail.



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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Review: Jst Soar

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are reviewing a new delay plug in: JST Soar!

The producer and software developer Joey Sturgis is back with a new plug in that mantains the characteristics of his Jst lineup: scheumorphism (which means a graphic ui that resembles a classic piece of hardware), easiness of use (most of his plugins are really made to sound good almost out of the box) and good tone.
This Soar is a delay plugin that is made to recreate the classic hardware tape units of the past, but it features several modern tools to take full advantage of the digital age flexibility.

On the central and right panel the interface features the classic controls you would expect from a delay: a tempo control (with a tap button and another one that syncs it with the song tempo), a dry/wet mix knob, a mono/stereo switch and a control that lets us choose the delay offset.
On the left panel instead there are 5 controls that lets us fine tune the "tape" aspect of the delay: age of the tape, health of the machine and flutter (the older and more "ruined" it is, the less hi-fi it will sound), plus a repetition and a contour control, which makes us adjust the accumulation of the repetitions.

As for other Jst plugins, scratching the surface you will reveal a good amount of controls, to fine tune your sound in a very precise way, and to give it a twist not achievable with other processors (unless obviously you use several different plug ins combined), plus the plug in is surprisingly light on resources, compared to many other products of the same kind and that offer a similar amount of features.

Try it out, you will not regret it!

- True Analog Tape Modeled Processing

- Tape Control Including: Repeats, Age & Flutter

- Variable 15/30 ips Speed

- Groundbreaking Tape “Health” & “Contour” Adjustments

- Onboard Mono & Mix Controls

- Built-in Tutorial Mode and Control Definition

Saturday, August 5, 2017

How to use Delay and Reverb fx sends

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
This article is a more in depth view of our group and fx channel article: how to actually set up and use a Delay (or any other modulation effect) and a Reverb fx send (or more than one) to give a coherent tone to our whole project.

This is done to achieve two results:

1) not having to open a single effect instance for each track, which can be extremely cpu-demanding

2) to create a tone that will give a consistent tone print through our tracks, as it used to happen in the hardware days, in which obviously the number of hardware processors was limited and the mix engineers had to send it, in different amounts, to various tracks.

We are using the classic Presonus Studio One interface, but the same concept can be applied to any other professional daw.

What do we need to do?
We take our vocal or guitar solo track, for example, and just drag and drop from the effect pool window on the right side of the screen our effect into the "send" area of our track in the mixer (you can show or hide the mixer by pressing F3). Once the effect is there, it will automatically create an fx send track in the mixer with the name of the selected effect (you can also rename it). Then from the send of each track (e.g. Vocals, solo etc) you can decide the amount of effect to be sent to that particular track.

Esample: more Reverb send for the vocal track, less send (but the same reverb, so it sounds like they are in the same room) to the snare drum.

Another interesting thing is that we can also create and save complex chains, like the following effect track that can be sent to many single vocal tracks, instead of loading the effects in the insert of each one:

1) Eq filtering up to 1000hz: this will affect only the effect track, meaning that the following effects will work in our track only from the frequences above 1khz, so the effect will sound less muddy.

2) Delay with short tail to thicken the vocal and give it some shimmer.

3) Reverb with short tail and low dry/wet ratio: we are using it only to create some tail.

the purpose of this chain is to create a subtle effect send to be used on all our vocal tracks (or guitar solos, for example), we can also click on the arrow on top of this fx track in the mixer and store it to recall it in other projects.

Hope this was helpful!

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Review: JST Conquer All vol.4 (with video sample inside)

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to review the latest Impulse response pack from Jst: Conquer All vol.4!
Joey Sturgis is a popular producer from United States, the man behind the iconic sound of The Devil Wears Prada, Born of Osiris, Asking Alexandria and many other bands, and this is yet another very usable ir pack for various genres, but particularly suited for rock and metal.
This pack features 3 folders: Eq IRs (the impulse responses already Equalized by Joey, to start playing immediately with a polished sound), RAW (the same impulses but not equalized, to leave us total tone shaping freedom) and Kemper, which are the impulses in the Kemper format.

The speakers included in this pack are 3 Marshall (a 4x12 and 2 2x12 each with different speakers) and one Orange 2x12 with V30 speakers.
Each of these cabinets has different combinations of microphones (both on and off axis) and preamps, and it is very interesting to try to combine two impulses or more, since they are all perfectly in phase.

I must say that these impulses live up to the Jst name: they are solid products, very usable also in a professional studio environment and at the right price.
I consider the equalized version a bonus, since it lets us use a bit of Joey Sturgis tone with any guitar amp, both virtual or real. 
The sample you can hear on the top of this article was created by combining 2 impulses: an sm57 straight and a Sennheiser md421 blended together, with no post eq added; I have chosen the ones passing through a Neve preamp because they have a bit more rolloff on the high end, making them more realistic and less scratchy. It is literally the guitar (a self built Harley Benton Sg Kit) and the virtual amplifier (Tse X50II).

Specs Taken from the website:

Conquer All Volume IV Includes EQ'd and RAW IRs and Kemper Compatible IRs

There are 4 unique setups with 24 IRs for each setup
- Marshall 2x12 oversized 212 cab with Celestion Vintage 30s
- Marshall Mode 4 412 cab with Celestion K100s
- Marshall Vintage Modern 212 combo with Celestion Greenbacks
- Orange 212 Open Back Cab with Celestion Vintage 30s

Preamps Used
- Don Classics Neve 1073 clone

Microphones Used
- Shure SM57
- Sennheiser MD421
- Beyerdynamic M201
- Sennheiser E906
- Shure SM7B
- Neumann TLM103

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Mixing 2 or more Guitar Impulses

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to talk about the subtle art of mixing two or more impulse responses, recreating in the digital age a technique, the multi-miking, that is a world professional studio standard.
As we know impulse responses are snapshots of an ambient response captured by a microphone/preamp chain, which mantains the eq curve of the captured moment and allows us to apply it to our sound, and this method has proven to be particularly effective with guitars and bass amp simulators, making it the best replacement for a real speaker.
Another interesting characteristic of impulses is that they can be also captured from a song, and applied to our chain to "steal" part of their sound (here is a tutorial on how to do it).

What we are talking about today is blending together the sound of two or more impulses recreating what producers are doing by decades: if one microphone only takes part of the total sound let's mix and match more than one in order to capture the full spectrum.

The first thing is to check out if there is any phasing issue: the best paid impulse packs are usually phase coherent, but if we are mixing impulses found in different sources or the free ones it's better to make sure that one impulse is not putting the other out of phase.

Once we are sure that our impulses are phase coherent we need to load an impulse loader that allows to use multiple impulses, for example the free Ignite Amps NadIR, which allows to load two impulses, or the paid Redwirez MixIR 2, which allows to load many more.

My suggestion is to start with one impulse that we really like; the first one is really important because it will be the fundament of our tone, then find out what is lacking (if anything), for example "in the mix the guitar sounds too dark", or "the mid frequences are not focused" and so on, and then try to apply some of the classic microphone techniques used by the famous studios (the three most common are listed here) or to experiment with some new one: the idea is to compensate and enhance the first tone with a second impulse that captures it from a different angle, then you blend this second impulse in, rising or lowering its volume, and then adjust the whole guitar track (or buss) volume in order to fit it perfectly in the mix.

The two microphones technique is very popular in studios everywhere because it widens enormously the scope of sounds we can achieve, and it's interesting to see how some producer likes to add more and more microphones (even 8 or 10!), but beware, because the more microphones (or impulses) you add, the more you need to be good, otherwise the sound will rapidly become cloudy and unmanageable.

Let us know your favourite multi-Ir techniques!

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Review: Blackstar HT50 with video sample

Hello and welcome to this week's article! 
Today we are going to take a look to a review, done by our good friend Edoardo Del Principe, of the interesting Blackstar HT 50 Head: let's see what he 

Blackstar produces some of the best bang for the buck amp heads in the world, they are really flexible in order to put the final choice of what voice an amp must have to the players.

I have bought the head 5-6 weeks ago, so I had the time to understand the potential of this device.

First of all you have to know that the Blackstar HT50 is sold around 600$ new, so it’s not a first class head but it has several pros as cons. Why should you try it?

A head with multiple amps inside

The Blackstar HT serie works as a stamina cell which is not already specialized in something but that can works fine for everything thanks to the ISF knob and two channels.

The ISF Knob is the most misterious tool for most the guitarist who have tried these amps, what does it do really? You can choice between two type of regulation: one is “american” one is “british” and you can balance the presence of each one or have it full on. Turning the knob into “american” you boost low-mid frequences, while turning into “british” you boost mid-high frequences.

In order to hear the difference you must turn the mids in the EQ near 7-8 o’clock, then the two kinds of “boost” becomes more evident. This allow you to have a more Mesa-ish sound or a more Marshall-ish one, or, as the company says “tons of sounds in the middle”. It can be used without cab with the speaker emulated output putting the head in stand-by mode too, so it’s good even for home purposes. As said it’s quite inexpensive compared to other models, it so could be a nice start.

It’s not extreme

Sure this amp wouldn’t be my first choice for Death Metal. At least could be used for thrashy stuff but its level of saturation it’s not as high as the genre requires. You can play with crunchy stuff or boost it a little more, but at the end you’ll never have a full compact sound with granitic low-mids and sharp trebles as an ENGL does. It is more suggested to classic heavy metal players, hard rock or stoner rock. It can assure the brilliance of the modern Marshalls with a deep and warm sound, with obviously significant differences in tone qualities, if you compare it for example with a JCM800.

Is it Pedal Friendly?

In my opinion this kind of amps are created to have a solid base for your pedals. The footswitch can select lead/clean channel and reverb. The lead channel also features a gain boost button to give it an extra gain for heavy metal sounds. It works great if you want improve the lead channel with a booster or adding delays and modulations in the loop.
It works great also with the clean channel, it has only two knobs: tone and “volume” that control everything you need. The “volume” knob adds volume from 7 to 12 o’clock and a bit of gain from 12 to 6 o’clock, the tone modulates the depth and brightness of the sound. The clean channel is really pedal friendly. The master volume is the same for both channels, they work separate just in the gain section and clean mode, this helps to have an even output for both channels.

Is the ISF knob really useful?

The more you are going to use more tone-related pedals, more the IFS knob starts to lose importance on your equalization because from your pedalboard you are going to boost different frequences. The more you use OD, Fuzz, etc the more the ISF knob can result. If your tone comes only from the Blackstar HT50 it is a really usuful tool, but if you add stuff it loses its purpose quick. At the end you can manage a clean channel with various types of high gain pedals and fx and use a separate high gain channel based only on the amp. This can allow you to have several choices to find your perfect tone and the ISF could be crucial or insignificant, but it’s not its fault!


- Flexibile head, useful for several purposes

- Great for working with pedals

- Good Quality to Price ratio

- Speaker emulated output


- Lack of a separate EQ for each channel

- Lack of a boost stompbox in the switch to add extra gain, you have to choose it first, before you play.

- Not too heavy but very large.

- ISF knob could be useless for someone

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Delay Battle: Line6 Echo Park vs Boss DD7 vs Tc Electronic Flashback Part 2/2


The quality of sound cames first.

Boss DD7
: It has both digital and analog functions with a “modulation” mode that adds a little bit of chorus. They all sounds really good, the analog functions is, according to the manual, “really close to the DD2 sound”. You can ear a bit of degradation of the signal, which gives to the sound a particular color: it’s not that you lose much signal, it must be clear, but the analog mode gives a warmer and soft delay.

Line6 Echo Park
: It’s a solid hammer if you need just a delay pedal with tons of functions and a lot choices in order to create weird sounds, but definitely it doesn’t have the best sound in the world. You lose always a little bit of signal, and this is bad in any case. Another bad thing is that the “trails” can leave a fuzzy noise in the background, so it’s not true bypass either. “Trails” mode is used to have the functions of the pedal a little bit on even if it’s bypassed. So your delays works a little more after you switched to another pedal. Could be a good weapon, coud be useless, just set it on “off” and you will have no problems at all.

Tc Electronic Flashback: Oh, dear God, the Tape effect it’s ridiculously good. The overall sound of both digital and analog mode is awesome and there isn’t any signal loss. It has also the “Tone Print” function, which gives to you the possibility to link the pedal to your PC and download prestes chosen from a library of artists that uses this pedals. If you have a lazy ass this is your pedal.

I want to experiment new possibilities.

Boss DD7: Short and long delays can be crafted easily and the reverse mode is nice, but the device lacks the fact that you can’t control how much of your original signal to blend. At the end it’s a significant limitation. It is really easy to understand how the pedal works and creates a delay that works for you. It’s not a spacemachine, but a really solid pedal with usefull functions.

Line6 Echo Park: This is a weird guy. Sometimes there are more knobs that what you need, sometimes you feel like the whole world is in your hands. You can choose first if you want a digital, analog or a tape kind of delay, then you choose the modes. It has unique functions as the “Swell” (adds an auto volume swell along with your echoes) and the “Sweep” (adds a nasty filter that squeeze your feedback). You can go really in depth with this toy but it’s not easy to understand, it requires a little bit of time to be understood in its wholeness.

Tc Electronic Flashback: Its point of strenght is the “Tone Print” function, it opens to new features and gives you the power to set the delay exactly as other famous players did.


Boss DD7

Avarage price as new in the market 140$ (90-100$ used)

Pros: Analog mode sounds great. True bypass with any loss of signal. Works great for both long and short delay

Cons: Lack of Dry/wet mix control. Without an external Boss footswitch the tap tempo could be a little bit complicated.

Line6 Echo Park

The production is discontinued, so you can find it used from 60 to 100$

Pros: It has unique modes. You can select tape, analog or digital sound. Mixing time and repetions knobs creates weird sounds and textures, so it can work fine even for synths. Super-easy tap tempo. You can go really in depth in every feature.

Cons: It can create some signal loss (some of Echo Parks has an internal boost switch to avoid that). The “Trails” function makes the pedal not completly bypassed. A little bit more complicated to understand than the others. To bypass the pedal you have press the stombox harder, it can be annoying.

Tc Electronic Flashback

Avarage price as new in the market is 160$ (100-120$ used)

Pros: Tape Echo sounds otherworldy. The unit has looping function. Tone Print mode gives to this guy a lot more possibilities, reverse mode is excellent. Really small pedal.

Cons: It’s a bit more expensive than the others. The tap tempo mode could be improved, this is why many users have switched to the “x4” version.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Delay Battle: Line6 Echo Park vs Boss DD7 vs Tc Electronic Flashback Part 1/2

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today our good friend Edoardo del Principe will share with us a comparison between the three most known delay pedals on the market: Line6 Echo Park, Boss DD7 and Tc Electronics Flashback.
The analysis will be made by comparing the three devices under several points of view.

Out there there are tons of delays with tons of modes, knobs, delay times etc and I was really confused (I still am a little bit now) of what works for me. I went to a local shop to try those that are in my opinion the three most complete single-stompbox delay pedals in the market. This is my guide to show you which one is the best.

I need an easy tap tempo mode:

Boss DD7: The two seconds press-release and following taps is the most unconfortable way to have tap tempo when you are live. Maybe with a lot of practice it becomes easier but if you are searching something more straightforward in my opinion it’s not the best choice

Line6 Echo Park: The Tap Tempo mode is tricky because it is always on. The only way to turn it off is by pressing the footswitch a little harder until you hear a “click” sound. I really suggest to use it with a switch/looper, having keeping it always on an then tapping it lightly for tempos, just one tap to have it on with the looper and the others to give it the tempo.

Tc Electronic Flashback: The Tap Tempo here could be awesome for someone and really negative for others. With this pedals you have to press the stompbox and play the guitar in the tempo you want, then you release it. The pedal catches the signal from the guitar and gives to you the delay with your tempo.

I want to create textures with the looping function:

Boss DD7
: The pedal does not have a real looping mode, but it has the “hold” mode which is a brief loop that holds literally what you are playing. This can be used to create textures and add layers, could works fine for short loops.

Line6 Echo Park: The Line 6 Echo Park doesn’t have a loop mode, but if you give it a lot of repetitions under the “Ducking” mode with the “trails” on you can work with that as a little cool loop to expand your riffs into new layers. The “Ducking” mode it’s a delay that starts only when you finish to play the riff.

Tc Electronic Flashback: It has a real loop mode which works great, having a loop machine in that really small space can save space in your pedalboard.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

How to create the Lo-Fi / phone line / old radio effect when mixing or mastering

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to see how to obtain that "lo-fi" effect, that often is present in many songs to create movement: it's a very effective way to lower the dynamics of the track before making it explode again, and it can be heard at the second 30 of the song above.

Let's start by saying that this effect can be used on any instrument, but it's very popular on a single rhythm guitar track, or on vocals, or even during mastering the whole song (obviously it's important to use this tool with parsimony, because it is easy to overuse it and to make it sound boring).

The idea is to do create a very narrow eq filter in order to make it sound as it is coming from an old radio, basically only the mid frequences must be heard (so that when this effect finishes the low and the high end comes back in producing a very impactful effect).

In this image I have used a low pass and a high pass filter to narrow down the frequences, and at the same time I have created a sligh boost in the mid area, to increase even more the effect, but it's not mandatory.

Once we have our lo-fi part perfectly carved down we can play even more if we want by adding some other effect, like a slight phaser (as in the song above), or by damaging the part even more with some saturation, as it can be heard in some Linkin Park song, or some bit crushing, as it can be heard in some classic Muse song.

Have fun with this interesting tool and let us know what do you think about it!

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

How not to be a Stompbox Addict Part 3/3


At this point of the article you are almost out of the pedal addiction, you know in the bottom of your heart that all those pedalboards are quite useless and just a way to show how big the ego of that guitaris is. You know your hands make the real difference and that is better to put money into a solid instrument and a good amp and not into boutique pedals. But you still need a freakin pedal. Well, this is the guide.

  • Take the best from what you have and improve your imagination. As said before maybe you don’t need a Reverb if your amp head has one, maybe you don’t need a distortion pedal too if the amp head sounds nice to your ears or at least try to have decent tone working on the knobs regulation before saying it’s crap.

  • Go to one or more of your local shop instrument and try different kind of pedals / If you have a lazy ass try a multieffect of one of your friend to understand well how the various kind of pedals work alone and together.

  • Project your pedalboard from the beginning in order to know how many and what kind of pedals you need.

  • When you know what kind of pedal you need just start searching online all the features of the various brands. Maybe find some comparison video on youtube to understand better the differences and what they do.

  • Try the pedal between your amp and your instrument, pedals don’t have ANY sound, they just modify the signal between the instrument and the amplification, so don’t trust just Youtube videos.

  • Don’t buy the cheapest/don’t buy the most expensive. Saving money doesn’t mean you have to waste them into awful pedals.

  • Buy with your ears, not with your eyes! No one cares if you have digital or analog pedals, or if they are built in Japan or Indonesia, no ones give a fuck! They must sound good to you.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

How not to be a Stompbox Addict Part 2/3


You are almost out of the “pedal addiction” and you are maybe considering that you don’t need twenty pedals… but just ten. Well, if you are a hard one, here is a list about why all those pedals are going to be a big problem for you!


  • The problems – More pedals = more jacks = more things that can randomly stop working and takes time to find the problem if the sound disappears = more sound degradation between the guitar and the amp (yes, even if they are true bypass and if you are using 150€ jacks) = MORE NOISE.

  • Improve your imagination – You must have crystal clear in mind what type of sounds you are after and then you must try to achieve it using as fewer steps as possible. Example: I need a really good clean for arpeggios. I can use the reverb on the amp head, its clean channel and a echo/delay pedal. Just buying one pedal you can craft your clean tone modulating it with the pedal and forging the core with your amp, which is almost always the best solution both for clean and high gain sounds. Use your imagination to build the shortest pedal chain as possibile and then look at the faces of the people asking you how it’s possibile that you have this awesome tone with that few pedals!

  • Tip Tap - Using pedals must be easy and you can’t dance tapping sixteen stompboxes during your live shows, or you’ll go crazy. Of course you can use a Midi pedalboard to simplify the selection of pedals but do you really need all those pedals? Less tap = more fun!

  • Save space for touring - Less is more, everytime, think about touring with a huge case full of pedals and then think about to travel with just a little bag with the essential you need.

  • Save money for Amp head and instruments – I know boutique pedals look gorgeus and they can do stuff you can barely imagine but to spend 600$ in pedals when your guitar costs 300$ is really stupid. They will never give you the tone you are searching for if your amp sucks and your instrument sounds dead.

  • The touch - I’ll be really frank now: what makes the differences in order to have an awesome tone is, first of all, your hands. How you play and what you play makes the real big difference in tone and sound, your way to pick the strings, to pull them down, the speed of your vibratos, the pressure of your fingers and how clean you’re moving them from a chord to another is what makes you sound better. No pedal can give you this skills. Stop craving for that damn ultra warm delay with seven knobs if you are not able to play a good arpeggio without it.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

How not to be a Stompbox Addict Part 1/3

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article! 
Today we are publishing a new article done by our collaborator Edoardo del Principe, and it is a humoristic take on the issue of the "stompbox addiction".
I hope you like it!
Most of guitarists suffer a serious illness called “stompbox addiction” which causes tons of dollars wasted in boutique pedals with nice finishes and 40 knobs. Even the poorest guitarist with this addiction has at least 10 Behringer pedals just to have a big pedalboard. I have mercy for them and I don’t want new guitarists to fall into this sick world, therefore this is the guide to not fall into “pedals addiction”!
The first and more important step is “prevention”. To do that you need to understand who you are.
A young teenage guitarist which is studying guitar: your eyes are full of hope and you are already dreaming to play as Steve Vai but your tone sucks and your 15watt combo can’t help you. Your solution is a basic multi effect as the Boss ME25. It has a preamp section which is useful to play without any amp, just using the output “phones” and connecting your multieffect to your headphones you can practice for hours without being stricken by your mom’s slipper. The Boss ME25 has everything you need and connecting it to your pc and downloading specific softwares you can find literally hundres of patches to sounds like AC/DC, Metallica, Deep Purple etc with FEW CLICKS. Boss Tone Central is the software to control your presets and patches and it can give you a really good tone with no effort.
If you are not into all these stuff and you just want to practice maybe with your acustic guitar my best advice is the Boss RC 3. It’s a looper and is really useful to learn to play over a drum track, creating loops, learning solos etc. The Boss RC 3 is a really good machine for every beginner guitaist and you’ll improve just using it. I promise.
Someone called me to play in a band, I’ve got just the Boss Metal Zone: Stay calm and don’t panic. I know you don’t want to fight against feedbacks so before doing everything and going into pedal addiction you must know what you really need. Are you being called to play in Thrash Metal band or in a Folk Rock band? After this you maybe don’t know if you need a Flanger or a Fuzz, so, my advice is to buy a sort of “live pedalboard” as the Boss ME70, Line6 Pod Hd 500 or other similar stuff. You have full control about the pedal chain and full control about every pedal in the chain: you’ll be able to craft your own sound in detail. You can use it with an amp head just putting off the preamp section and you’re ready to play every music genre.
If you are in one of these two categories following my advices you can being immune to the “pedals addiction” because in you early years of activity you tried every freakin’ type of pedal in the world so you thirst of pedals is satifistied (for now).

I’m practicing with my band but I want a better tone: Pedals are not the solution to your problem. On Youtube you can find thousands of video about how to improve your sound without spending a dime Pedals are the last part of a long process of sound crafting which starts at the beginning with the choice of your instrument and your amplification. If you have saved money in your instruments and amplification to put them into peadals you are following the wrong path. In order to have the perfect tone in your mind you need first of all a good instrument and give it voice with an amplification, this is the core of your sound. Pedals are the icing on top of the a cake. You need the right pedals, but if your cake is made almost entirely of icing, your cake will sucks. 


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Review: Yamaha HS5

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are reviewing an interesting pair of studio monitors, part of a wide range that features several sizes and wattages: Yamaha HS5!

In a market that proposes self proclaimed mixing level monitors for all price tags, Yamaha HS5 are in my opinion the entry level studio monitors to begin mixing with a sufficient degree of realism (and for realism I mean that a mix made through these monitors translates well also in other systems, such as car stereo, mp3 player, pc speakers and so on).
Mixing with cheap monitors that doesn't guarantee a good degree of realism instead means only one thing: the mix will sound well only from there, and as soon as you try to play the song somewhere else, it will sound completely unbalanced, with some parts of the mix too loud and others too quiet.

Here are some good criteria to keep in mind when choosing a pair of mixing monitors:

- the size of the speaker: the bigger, the more the bass area is represented well in the spectrum, but beware because some speakers can over emphasize it. 5 inches is a good starting point, below this size, the frequencies that are cut away are too many (arriving also to the mid area).

- the wattage: 70w as per these speakers is a lot, and it grants an impressive headroom. Also lower wattages are good, since the ideal mixing volume is the conversation level to limit ear fatigue, but beware of excessively low wattage monitors (like 10w), because in order to hear decently you will have to crank them, ruining the quality of the reproduction. To mix and master we need perfect clarity and headroom.

- the adaptability to the room: this is a blog about home recording, which means that most of our readers are bedroom producers, or enthusiasts that doesn't have a perfectly treated mixing room.
Some monitors, included these Yamaha, features a low and high frequencies equalizer to adapt the response of the monitor to our room, allowing us to limit the lower resonances or work on the high end to make the details pop out more or less, according to our necessity.

In conclusion I can't but recommend these speakers: they have the best price for what they offer, and they sound extremely clean and detailed; since I am using them the quality of my mixes has increased, and compared to the devices I was using before is like twice as easy to find the right balance.
Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

- 2-way bass-reflex bi-amplified nearfield studio monitor with 5" cone woofer and 1" dome tweeter

- 54Hz - 30kHz frequency response
- 45W LF plus 25W HF bi-amp system for high-performance 70W power amplification
- ROOM CONTROL and HIGH TRIM response controls
- XLR and TRS phone jack inputs accept balanced or unbalanced signals

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Video day!

Hello everyone!

I have updated all the download links in the website and created two videos related to two previous articles, and I have updated them:

Review: Boss Katana Head (With 2 video samples!)


How to create guitar cab impulses from a song (free plugins and IR included!) PART 1/2

so now you can hear a direct usb recording sample for the Boss Katana and a sample made with the impulse created for the tutorial, free to download, which I find it's pretty realistic.

Let us know what you think!


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Guide to buy a guitar for around 500€ / 500$ PART 3/3



Probably if you are looking in this price range you are searching for used guitars. Used guitars are extremly tricky by some point of view. We must consider two types of used guitar: the vintage and the more recent ones, because either way we are going to lose something.
Vintage guitars:
Vintage doesn’t necessarily mean good. Old Gibsons are famous for their warm sound and incredible manufacture but they cost three times what you want to spend.
If you are searching for a vintage guitar for 500$ or less you must look at some strange and rare brand that really few know. Especially in Japan from mid 70s to mid 80s a lot of brand were born. The economic boom of the Japanese industry hit also the instrument market, so you can easly find labels as Cimar, Tokay, Greco, Aria and Vantage on the online shops, selled by other people. What makes this guitars so special? Some of these brands were produced in the same factories used by Gibson and Fender to produce their models in that era in Japan so the same hands that have built a Les Paul Custom probably have built also an Aria Guitar or a Greco one. If you are lucky enough to find and know exactly that the guitar was produced in one of these factories you can be pretty sure that the manufacturing and production are great, and most of the times it equals to the most prestigous ones.
Wood can easly be extremely better than any wood you can find now on guitars of the same price, for the reasons I wrote above in the article. What you have to sacrifice? Sometimes details and PU, but there are models with good stuff even at this price range. There are just two big counterindications: the first one is the resale value and the second one the overall condition of the guitar.
For the first one you can’t do much, it’s really hard to sell a guitar with an anonymous brand for most of the guitarists, you can explain with the best words how good it is but that damn logo will be your curse. If you are going to sell one of these you’ll probably spend years to find a buyer interested and probably you will have to lower the price a couple of times.
For the second point you must pay attation to details as fret condition, scratches, repairs etc, because it’s easy to buy a fourth hand instrument with a lot of damages caused by the years, and sometimes it can be just an aesthetic problem, in others it can make your new instrument almost unplayable.
Last but not least! You must know where it was built, in what year, the overall condition and all the features. Sometimes catalogs are available, sometimes not, it’s a big risk to buy an instrument without knowing if it’s the exact model the seller is saying is it. You must know by what wood were made and how, what PU it holds etc. This makes finding a good vintage guitar for this amount of money a real journey through websites from all over the world to compare prices, search for catalogs and opinions of owners, but if you are not in a rush eventually you will find the right guitar.
More recent used guitar:
Here we have to distinguish 90s, first 00s and post 2006 guitars. For the first kind we can apply the same rules of the vintage ones, but you must be more careful about the unknown brands because after the 80s most of them started declining and producing cheaper guitars with all the counterindications we know.
On the other hand you can find really awesome pieces by the most known brands as Ibanez, Yamaha, Epiphone etc which still have a good manufacture and production. Maybe it’s better to buy a 90’s Epiphone than a newer one, also until 2006 they didn’t use tone chambers to make the guitar lighter.
Post 2006 used guitars” is the category I generally don’t advice to you, just only in few cases. If you have read all the article you know what you have to sacrifice here, since we’re talking about almost the same kind of problematics of the new ones. A 450$ used guitar maybe as new was sold for around 600 or 700$, and that assures you a decent quality of wood and features, probably with a pick up upgrade the guitar could become really solid. Even for 700$ you can’t be sure the manifacture is good and the production can be located in Indonesia, Vietnam or Korea and crafted in chain with all the problems you know. The drama is that the only two things you can’t change on a guitar is the way it was assembled and what types of wood they used. For the first thing you are literally jumping in the dark, for the wood you can be lucky to find a nice piece, anyway a recent used guitar can become a nightmare if you pay a nice amount of money and you receive a guitar with a knot in the wood, so it will sound “dead”.
Used guitars made in recent years probably are in a better condition than the old ones and it’s one of few “upsides” of this category.
In my opinion there are just two case where to buy a recent used guitar for 500$ or less it’s a real deal: when you find a fool or when you find a desperate one.
The Fool” is someone who doesn’t know what is selling and maybe it’s dropping the price drastically as someone who is selling a Gibson SG for 400$ just because he wants to buy a different model fast.
The other case is easy to recognize because sometimes you can read that the announcement is online for more than a year, which means that they are dropping the price to sell more easily.
In any case pay attetion to the fakes! Nowdays it’s easy to find a fake copy made in Indonesia of Gibson SG or LP and the only way to check the production is the serial number on the back of the head. If you find a Gibson LP custom for 500$ probably it’s made in Indonesia.

The guide is yours, now you have the tools to choose correctly your new axe!


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Guide to buy a guitar for around 500€ / 500$ PART 2/3

Now we know that we can’t have a guitar with the best features for 500$ or less, let’s focus on the fact that there are just two type of guitar you can searching for: New or Used.
What you have to sacrifice in this section can be: production, hardware (almost 100% of the times) and manufactures. The more you go below the 500$ mark, the higher is the risk to find bad wood and made in China guitars. Expecially for the new pieces is very common to find a guitar made in Asia but as said before it’s not always something bad if you are searching low-budget guitar.
Epiphone or Squier? You must be very lucky to find a well manifactured guitar for these two brand. You must sacrifice details, production and almost every time manufacture. These brand are linked to the bigger ones just because of an economic choice of the mother house to give to normal people a cheaper version of their most exspensive guitar. The really minefield of all this post is the range of price where you can find both “Epi” and Gibson, Squier and Fender. For what I’ve experienced the differences are in the details and PU. So, if you want to spend 100$ to have a “better” bridge, color of body or bridge PU you are free to choice the “big brand” guitar but you have to know that in both cases you don’t have a very good guitar. Online you can read opinions about the “melody maker”, “junior” and “faded” series of Gibson to know what they sacrificed to give us, for a modest price, a guitar labeled Gibson which has almost nothing of what makes Gibson a top brand in guitar production. So what's the main "pro" to buy a cheap guitar with these brands? You can sell it for half the price and so to have virtually paid it the half, when you will sell it.
My advice for Epi and Squier is to find a good series. Almost every two years Gibson and Fender produces a new series with new features that change mostly details, but the big differences are the production and manifacturing because in a rare case you can find an Epi produced in a decent factory in Korea and this means that its overall quality of manufacture is higher than the others. Online you can read a lot of debates about almost every series of Epiphone/Gibson, Squier/Fender to decide what’s the best year of production of that specific model. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Guide to buy a guitar for around 500€ / 500$ PART 1/3

Hello and welcome to this weeks' article!
This time we're publishing an article written by a dear friend and singer/songwriter for The Observants, Edoardo Del Principe, about his criteria / checklist to buy a good guitar for around 500$ / 500€.
Keep in mind that this is his personal opinion, and that if possible is ALWAYS better to try the instrument in your own hands before buying, because since the wood is living material, a guitar is never exactly identical to another one, even if they are built from the same person with the same materials.

What’s the dream of every guitarist? To find an awesome cheap guitar. This article wants to answer to the question: is it possibile? The answer is “yes” but with several caveat.
I want to show you the general rules to “how to buy a decent guitar for less than 500$”, which is in my opinion the average budget of an high school student who is studying guitar and wants to buy a new one for his/her birthday.
First all of must be clear what makes a guitar expensive and then what makes a guitar cheap.
Wood: this a very controversial point because there’s not an objective argumentation of which wood is the best, but it’s also true that there are bad and good woods. Where can we find these?
Easly over 700$ guitars can have a mahogany body and an ebony fretboards, as many Gibson have. Mahogany seems the best for guitar but its “expensiveness” can come also from its rarety now. Before 80’s it was more common than now, so you can find this wood especially in guitars from before the 80’s.
Ebony and Rosewood are the two most desired wood for fretboards. Nowdays it’s practically impossibile to find ebony on a fretboards of guitars under 700-800$ because of its rarety and its features. Even this time its all about tastes because there is no rules saying that Ebony it’s better than Rosewood, today it’s even harder than before to find a good piece of this because the high quality wood are now much harder to find than 30 years ago. Deforestation caused a “manipulated market” of guitar wood, and the wood used by the most prestigious brands are now on the “apex” of the “wood chain”, which this means that the wood used by a Gibson Les Paul Standard sets the “standard”, but this doesn’t means it is necessarily the best.
Manufacture: This point it’s damn critical because if you talk with a guitar maker probably he will tell you that nowdays it’s practically impossibile to find a good guitar for 500$. There’s no way out. This is because for that price none of them is handmade, not even partially. Industrialization and globalization have transformed the way to produce guitars, so now for that price they are all assembled in a chain production. Less care about the manifacturing, less care about how the neck is built, less care about how it is attached to the body, less care about almost everything, and you must know how much this influences the final sound of the instrument.
Expensive guitars have very few parts or none done in the chain production, so every piece is controlled and maybe crafted by the hands of a guitar maker to make it sure that is the best instrument you can have on your hands. Investing big amounts of money into a new 500$ guitar to make it sounds like a 1500$ it’s stupid because if you have spent 1000$ in PU, mechanics, a new bridge etc the guitar will never sound as a guitar handmade and crafted in US or Japan by the best guitar makers. Anyway it will sounds a lot better, of course.
In order to have “that” quality of sound it requires a specific process in order to build the parts of a guitar in the best way possible with effort put into every detail; this makes the difference between a 1200$ guitar and one of 500$ or less that will never be good as that, even if you put hundreds of dollars in that.
Production: Here we can talk with more certainties. Under 500$ guitars are made in Indonesia, South Korea or China where factories produce tons of guitars so they cannot control well every piece, where the people are paid less so they care less about the final product.
During the last decades, however, the avarage quality of a low-budget guitar has become higher because of the know-how and experience of certain factories that produces for several brands at the same time. This assure you a sufficient quality and playability for almost every entry level guitar in the market now.
Highly expensive guitars are built generally (not everyone) in the homeland of the brands and the name of the top factories are well known by their fans. During the decades it has become harder to find a guitar produced in the homeland brand because of globalization, so now only the finest pieces are handmade in America or Mexico by Fender, for example.
Hardware and Pick Ups: Because of chain productions these are the parts where the brand spend less. Guitar for less than 500$ can easly sacrifice details as mechanics, colouring and PU. On the other hand when we see a guitar with really high prices (1200$+), what makes the price higher are details as the handmade production of frets, a particular colour used and limited series production (Practically you pay maybe 100 or 200$ just for a number on the back of the head of the instrument). Hopefully these parts are the most easy to change so you can buy a cheap guitar and change PU (and maybe tuners and/or bridge) to have a decent guitar for less than 500$, anyway, as said before investing zillions in cheap guitars doesn’t make them sound “great”.


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