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Welcome to GuitarGear.org! Established in January of 2007, we’re still going strong and growing! I want to personally thank everyone for their support! You’ve made this site what it is today, and that’s a major destination for finding out about gear. I invite you to explore the site! There are over 900 articles and discussion on gear and the number grows each day. If you want to keep up to date, please use the subscription area to your right! Cheers!

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The Hottest Attenuator: Aracom PRX150-Pro

Looking for the “Doppler on the Dumble” series?

I recently wrote a song – not even sure I shared it here – called “Love Is More Than What It Seems.” It’s kind of a fast-moving, “happy” rocking tune. I originally recorded it with my Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 18. Gorgeous little amp that’s totally versatile. I love it. I used the silent recording option with it, and for the initial recording, it worked great. But as I got into mastering it, I was less and less satisfied with the electric guitar sounds. They just didn’t sound “right.”

So I switched to my beloved DV Mark Little 40, and that got me closer. But I was still not really digging the electric guitar tones. Then I realized that what I love the H&K and Little 40 amps for is their live performance versatility. But for recording, they just don’t quite cut it for me. For the biggest strength happens to be their weakness in a recording environment.

So… being a vintage Marshall fan, I pulled out my Aracom VRX18, based upon the classic Marshall Plexi 18. I’ve got NOS Pre- and Power-amp tubes in it, and this amp just oozes classic rock tone. Combined with my ’58 Historic Les Paul, and outputting through an Aracom Custom 1 X 12 equipped with a Jensen Jet Falcon, it was the exact tone I was looking for! Methinks I should’ve just used it to start out with, but hey! Live and learn right?

Here’s the song:

The interesting thing about that amp is that it doesn’t have the sustain, nor even touch-sensitivity of my other amps. But that works to its advantage because it makes me work a lot harder on the fretboard, and that makes my playing much more expressive as I have to work every note. But best of all though, the “bloom” I expect from any of my Les Pauls is right there; it just decays a little quicker than my other amps. But who cares? It works…

By the way, I also used the wonderful Aracom DRX attenuator to record the electric guitars at just a little louder than bedroom level. I was a long-time user of the PRX150, but with the dual-level attenuation, at least for live performances, I can get a nice volume boost at the press of a footswitch button.

Equipment:

Guitars: Yamaha APX900 (acoustic, direct-in); 1958 Les Paul Reissue

Amp: Aracom VRX18

Cabinet: Aracom Custom 1 X 12 Jensen Jet Falcon

Bass: Fender Jazz Bass (direct-in)

Note: Guitars were not EQ’d, though to bring them out in the mix a bit more, I used a stereo spreader.

Everything was recorded in Logic Express 9.

Jensen Jet Nighthawk

I’ve been a fan of the Jensen speakers for a long time. The first custom speaker cabinet I had made used a Jensen P12N Alnico. I still use it when I record clean tones. But then I discovered the Jet series and fell in love! All my rock rigs have either a Falcon for 12″ and for my 10″ rigs, I use the Electric Lightning. Some gear purists may turn their nose up to these ceramic magnet speakers, but I absolutely love them. After all, it’s not about the materials, but about the tone, and the Jet series speakers – at least the ones I have – have never disappointed!

The other day, I got a press release from AmplifiedParts, announcing that they’re now carrying the Jensen Jet Nighthawk. Being such a fan-boy of the Jet series, I immediately contacted them to get a demo unit to do a test on the speaker. Can’t wait until it gets here. But until I get it and install it, here are sound clips from the Jensen site:

Blues

Country

Jazz

Metal

Classic Rock

If you take the time to go to the Nighthawk site, pay particular attention to the frequency response chart. This speaker has a “scooped” response, with fairly aggressive upper-mids, and a rounded bottom-end. From that, I expect it to be a fairly warm-sounding speaker, but with plenty of punch in the upper-mids to cut through a mix. While Jensen did the metal and rock tests with a Schecter and a Strat respectively, I looked at the chart and immediately said: Les Paul. Okay, okay… I admit it, it’s one of the first things usually comes to my mind. :)

But on the serious side, I can’t wait to try this speaker out with my R8 that’s equipped with Deacci Green Faze pickups, modeled after Peter Green’s (of the original Fleetwood Mac lineup) Les Paul, whose pickups are wired out-of-phase. The middle switch position KICKS ASS! Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound as good as I know it can with the Jet Falcon – it’s a little muffled for my tastes – but it worked incredibly well with the Electric Lightning. Unfortunately, that only means that I can only use it in the studio or in a small venue. I’m hoping that the Nighthawk will provide the upper-mid punch that I need.

Really looking forward to testing it!

Late last year, I had a conversation with David Packouz, founder of Singular Sound. We were discussing various things that could expand the use of the BeatBuddy drum machine pedal. Having just used its MIDI sync to record a demo, one of the first things that came to mind was using the BeatBuddy with a looper, and do a video tutorial on it. David asked what looper I thought would be good to use the BeatBuddy with – I had already done some research on various loopers, and was prepared for this question – and I replied that the Pigtronix Infinity Looper seemed to be the only one that seemed to have reliable MIDI sync capabilities.

And lo and behold, after receiving an email update from Pigtronix on the Infinity Looper, I saw the video below on the Infinity tutorial video page!

This is super-exciting to me because I’ve been wanting to use the BeatBuddy in a live setting for a while, but I wanted to do it with a looper!

Now… I have to save my pennies for the Infinity…

I was on an instrumental bent for awhile, but recently have gotten the inspiration to do songs with lyrics. This song was inspired by my realization that love and marriage are so much more than romance and fireworks. I had had an argument with my wife and accused her of losing her romantic feelings (in other words I was whining). So I stormed off, intent on going on a serious piss, and in the process realized that she was right: Love is much more than what I believed it to be.

Acoustic Guitar: Yamaha APX-900 plugged directly in, using an acoustic amp model

Electric Guitar: ’59 Les Paul Replica

Amp: Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 18 (plugged directly into my board using the awesome RedBox DI)

Originally, I started out with my CV Tele because the song has a slightly country feel, but I wanted something with a little more “balls,” so I had to got with a Les Paul, and my ’59 replica delivered what I was expecting, hands-down.

I’ve taken a bit of turn with my approach to writing music as of late, especially with my lyrics. Admittedly, for a long time, I was influenced a lot by producers who were in the music industry, and I’d try to be “clever” with my lyrics. I realized that I’m just not that clever, so now, I just write down what comes to mind and what works – for me.

In any case, I came up with this song this evening. I was in a rather pensive mood, thinking about my marriage and how it has changed over the years, and then a melody came to mind, and then a chord progression. This is a simply song with me singing over a single guitar (my Squier CV Tele). I guess you could call it a love song, but it’s more of a song of understanding where my wife is coming from – at least I think it’s where she’s coming from. :)

If you follow pop, it’s certainly not about music but about persona. Not that pop stars don’t have talent, many actually do, but pop is so much more about the image than it is about the music. Besides, very few of them write any of their music, or if they get any songwriting credit, it’s because they happened to participate in the writing process.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those oldies who wants to return to the “good old days” where music seemed to mean much more. That was another time. There wasn’t the Internet. There wasn’t the technology available where anyone with a laptop and GarageBand or Audacity could lay down decent enough tracks to get their music out there. Back then, you had to rely on the studios. There was no choice.

But it was inevitable that eventually the music business would arrive to the point where everything sounds the same. The studios are businesses. Once they find a successful niche (sound, in this case), they want to ride that wave for as long as they can and profit from it; unfortunately, it means that introducing new material that falls outside the wave has a much harder time getting picked up.

And I’m not one of those bitter artists who you hear about constantly complaining about not getting paid. I’m surely not in it for the money… and I guess that’s the point to my meanderings here. From an artist’s standpoint – not the industry perspective – what really is making it?

For me, I’ve come to the conclusion that I probably will never write anything that has real wide appeal. I certainly couldn’t write stuff that 20-something’s could relate to because I’m 30 years out my 20’s. Believe me, I’ve tried to do it; to research things that appeal to younger people; tried listening to “younger” music like screamo, hardcore, modern pop. Very little of that appealed to me.

But I do like a lot of the Indie stuff from younger artists, particularly guys like Passenger, who’s sole big hit was “Let Her Go.” But if you listen to his other stuff, while it’s catchy, a lot of times, the lyrics are WAY too deep, and you have to listen to the songs and read the lyrics over and over again. A good example of this is “Circles,” probably my favorite Passenger song. It’s about aging, and it’s a truly great song. Don’t think you’d ever hear on the radio, but that’s not the point. That song is good. Here’s a clip from a concert, probably recorded with a phone. It starts out with “Circles,” then Mike moves into “Trouble” then segues into “Let Her Go.” When you watch, you realize just how much he loves what he’s doing.

Speaking of “circles,” I guess I should circle back now to the original question. What really is making it? For me, it’s simple: I’ve always just wanted the ability to share music with as many people as I could, and gig – a lot. I do from 150 to 200 gigs a year, and if I wanted, and also if I didn’t have a family, I could probably support myself on doing music alone. I don’t have any ambitions that somehow I’m going to get discovered and get a contract. At this point in my life, I don’t have the time to do the self-promotion that entails. But I do get to gig, and as of late, I’ve been introducing more and more of my own music into my gigs. Some have caught on with my audience, others… well, I don’t do the ones that don’t really catch on much… :)

But to me, the fact I can gig as much as I do, is enough for me. To me, I’ve “made it” on my own terms, and that’s good enough. Maybe in the future when I have more discretionary income, I’ll put more time into promoting and playing bigger venues, but right now, I’m happy with where I am and how far I’ve come.

I played a private party last night; just a small birthday party for about 40 people; hired by a couple who saw me play at my restaurant gig. I went to the gig fully equipped with my Fishman SA220 SoloAmp packed up, my acoustic board, and Yamaha APX900 and of course, my cord and mic bag.

Much to my pleasant surprise, the couple had a friend who did pro sound, and he had already set up a PA, plus a mic stand where I’d be playing. What a relief! While I love my SA220, being able to plug into a board makes life so much easier.

Originally, he had put out a Shure SM58 stage mic. I hate those, so I was going to pull out my Sennheiser. But as Frank saw me inspecting the mic, he said, “I’ve got a Heil PR35 that you could use if you don’t like the 58.” I must’ve had an expression on my face to prompt him to offer that.

In any case, that got me smiling. I didn’t think that I had used that mic before, but then recalled a studio session where I used a PR35, and remembered how great it sounded with a nice, flat response, and wide dynamic range; perfect for the stuff I was recording at the time.

So I set up my gear, ran the mic into Harmony G XT harmonizer, and we did a sound check. O. M. G.!!! I couldn’t believe how responsive that mic was. It picked up everything. Whereas the SM58, and to a much lesser degree, my Sennheiser E85 have a bit of high cut, the PR35 caught some of the higher-frequency characteristics of my voice. Heck! I wasn’t even warmed up when I did the sound check, and it sounded magnificent.

Then it hit me that I could make my performances that much better by using a better mic. I played for 3 hours. Normally for that amount of time, my voice would be just a tad tired, but I found that I just didn’t have to work as hard with the PR35. It was super-sensitive, which I had to adjust to a bit and back off, but once I found the sweet spot, it was game over. Frankly, I actually thought that I was singing into a condenser mic, but without having to worry about feedback, which is so common with condenser mics.

On top of that, unlike my E85 which provides pretty good side and rear sound protection, though to really ensure that I don’t pick up sounds to the side I have to practically swallow the head, the PR35 has incredibly good side and rear noise protection. That came in handy as a party-goer took a liking to my songs and was singing, laughing and clapping a few feet to my right. I couldn’t hear any of his noise in my monitor!

Now while the PR35 is highly directional – the head should be right in front of your mouth – even a off-axis, you don’t get a loss of highs, which can be a real problem with cheaper stage mics. Of course, the mic doesn’t sound as good when you’re off-axis a bit, but the fact the frequency response remains pretty good even off-axis is pretty awesome.

In a nutshell, I’m going to save my pennies to get one of these. It’s not cheap at around $275 street, but it’s not super expensive like a Neumann or a DPA. And according to the PR35 product page on the Heil web site, I can even use this to record instruments and cabs! I can attest to its high SPL handling. There were some songs where I really got into the mic, and there was no overdrive whatsoever.

Specs:

Output Connection: 3 pin XLR
Element Type:Dynamic
Frequency Response: 40 Hz – 18 kHz (UP- no filter), 80 Hz – 18 kHz (DOWN- filter on)
Polar Pattern: cardioid
Rear Rejection @ 180 degrees off axis: -35 dB
Impedance: 370 ohms balanced
Output Level:-52.9 dB @ 1 kHz
Weight: 9 oz
Max SPL:140 dB

More expensive mics like a DPA d:facto have -160dB Max SPL, but it would be a stretch for me to ever play in a venue where I exceed 100 dB.

For more information, please see the Heil PR35 product page.

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