Summary: Need a great mic to close-mic your amp? Look no further! The e609 delivers on all fronts, able to withstand high SPL’s, and still accurately reproduce your tone.
Pros: Flat-face design makes placing the mic a breeze, but more importantly, placed correctly (as you should with any mic), it’ll capture your tone beautifully!
Features (from the web site):
Hum compensating coil reduces electrical interference (I can attest to this – it’s super quiet)
Neodynum ferrous magnet with boron keeps mic stable regardless of climate
Metal construction—rugged and reliable
Super-cardioid pick-up pattern provides isolation from other on-stage signals
Price: ~$95 streetTone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ Going back to my “using the right tool for the job,” I don’t know why I didn’t pick up one of these earlier. I have some good mics, but now that I’ve got the e609 that was made explicitly for micking instruments, I kicking myself a bit. Lesson learned yet again!
I told myself that all I would get was a speaker cable for my cab when I walked into my local Guitar Center today. Unfortunately for me, the cables were located in the Pro Audio area where GC has a big case of very nice mics. And, gear slut that I am, I couldn’t resist a look. Granted, most of those mics were completely out of the ballpark for me, costing several hundreds of dollars. But it did get me thinking that I really should be using a dedicated instrument mic for my home studio when recording my clips and songs.
Fortunately, they didn’t have any instrument mics in the case, but silly me, I just had to ask the guy behind the counter if he had an e609 (I had researched this and other instrument mics several months ago). “Oh yeah,” said another sales clerk, “We got those. They rock, and they’re cheap.” Damn! Words that a gear slut should never hear in one sentence: ROCK and CHEAP! That will instantly elicit a fidgety, twitchy response as the pragmatic half of the psyche wrestles with the GAS half. And usually the GAS half wins, as it did today.
So now I am the very proud owner of a Sennheiser e609. And I do have to say that it does rock, and it costs far less than what one would normally expect to pay for a great mic. At less than $100, how can you argue with that?
How It Sounds
I recorded a little blues solo over a standard GarageBand backing track to demonstrate. Give it a listen:
For the solo, I used “Blondie” my Squier Classic Vibe Tele, the insane-sounding Aracom VRX18 amp (it’s customized with an EZ81 rectifier), and my custom Aracom 1 X 12 cab with a Jensen P12N speaker. The e609 was placed about halfway between the dome and the speaker edge about an inch away from the grille cloth.
I added a touch of reverb to the dry clip in GarageBand, but that’s it. No EQ (I don’t like to EQ my guitar parts anyway). What you hear on the clip is what I heard in my studio. Freakin’ amazing! Like I mentioned above, after recording this clip, I should’ve gotten one of these a long time ago. It’s a great mic!
I re-read some reviews today, and interestingly enough, they come back mixed. Harmony Central user reviews rate it at about 7.5 on average. People other love it or hate it. But in reply to the negative experiences, I have to call into question mic placement. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from years of home studio recording, placing your mic correctly is critical to getting a good tone. Maybe they weren’t experimenting enough with mic placement. Who knows?
With the e609, I first went with the recommended placement in the user manual (yes, I am one of those anal people who do indeed RTFM), then moved it maybe half an inch more towards the speaker edge to reduce the highs just a tad. That made all the difference in the world because my amp is pretty bright micked up close, and I didn’t want that to dominate the recording, especially since the mic was only an inch away from the grille cloth.
The Tone Bones score says it all. I’m hooked! Frankly, it didn’t take me long at all to dial this puppy in. It’s a truly great mic!
I wrote this song a few years back, and had the hardest time trying to record it. Unfortunately, the stock drum tracks in GarageBand just don’t cover the blues very well, so I finally found some decent audio drum loops that I could use. Ostensibly, this is a song about everlasting love, and how in marriage or even lifelong relationships, despite their occasional downs, if you truly love someone, you’ll return to them.
With this song, I wanted to capture a smoky lounge with a jazz quartet kind of groove. And BTW, the guitar in this was recorded using IK Multimedia Amplitube Fender. Damn! That ’57 Champ sounds great! Anyway, here’s the song:
I’m normally very methodical in my approach to writing music. But sometimes, I just get carried away with playing that I’ll just create a riff, and jam over it again and again until my fingertips are numb. Writing my latest instrumental was exactly that experience. I came up with a riff, added some bass and a basic drum kit loop to it, and spent the next several hours trying to cop my best SRV. Believe me, no one can play like that dude! He was special.
But the point of this is that after hours and hours of playing, I really got inspired to not just let it be a jam track, especially after I came up with a phrase that felt like it could define the theme of a song. So over the next few days I tweaked with the song, and this is the final result. Note that I had a version of this up as of a couple of days ago, but I remixed it, added an echo part for the last section, and removed a bunch of layered on effects from the first cut. I ended up with a much more raw sound, which was really what I was after. Here it is:
All the guitar parts were played with “Pearl” my 60th Diamond Anniversary Strat. After playing ‘buckers for awhile, I forgot how fun it was to play my Strat! My amp, of course, was my ever versatile tone machine, my Aracom Amps VRX22. For effects, I used a Hardwire RV-7 Reverb, a Creation Audio Labs Mk.4.23 booster, and a Voodoo Lab MicroVibe.
Summary: Super-accurate, super-sophisticated, yet super-easy-to-use. With point-one cent accuracy and built-in temperament and sweeteners, plus a huge display, accurate tuning is a breeze with this unit!
Pros: The big display makes tuning extremely easy, and the built-in sweeteners (I’ll get into that in a bit) ensure that once you’re tuned you sound great.
Cons: None, at least from the standpoint of features and capabilities. But as I’m not really a rackmount guy, lugging this around would mean having to get an enclosure. But in the studio, IT IS THE BOMB!!!
0.1 Cent Accuracy
Large, Backlit Virtual Strobe™ Display
Exclusive Sweetened™ Tunings For Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Dobro®, Baritone, Steel Guitar, Electric Violin- total of 34
Buzz Feiten Tuning System® Presets
8 User-Programmable Sweeteners
Mute Button & Remote Jack
Tone Out Jack
All Metal Construction
12V BNC Output For Gooseneck Light (not included)
Built-In Power Supply (No Wall Wart.)
Price: $359 (street)
Tone Bone Score: 5.0. I’ve used a lot of tuners, and this by far is the most accurate I’ve ever used. Despite it being a rackmount, my use of it in the studio has proven
I used to never be into rackmount gear, let alone sophisticated tuning equipment. But the Peterson StroboRack has me reconsidering both those things, especially in my workshop/studio where tuning accuracy is incredibly important.
I received the StroboRack a few days ago, and since I set it up (which required all of two minutes to plug in the cords), I can see why so many people love these tuners. It’s a completely different way to tune an instrument. Instead of lining up a needle or LED, or even using the “strobe” effect on a TU-2, you tune by making the “checkerboard” pattern on the LCD stop moving. If it moves the left, you’re flat. If it moves to the right, you’re sharp.
Tuning with one of these things does take a little getting used to. First off, I had to really lighten my touch with the tuning keys, and also had to make sure I didn’t put any pressure on the neck. At .1 cent accuracy, even a slight pressure throws off the tuning. But once I got used to it, tuning was a breeze!
Do you take sugar with that?
The StroboRack includes what are called “sweeteners” for specific types of instruments. I’m not sure I understand this idea completely, but it has to do with setting the right intervals between notes – compensating for the type of instrument – so that the tuned instrument doesn’t just sound great tuned up, but when you actually chords, the chords are much more tonally accurate. Apparently a lot of math goes into calculating these sweeteners.
All I can say is that my guitars tuned up with the StroboRack, actually sound better than when tuned up with my little TU-2. It probably has a lot to do with the high degree of accuracy, but I have a feeling it has a lot to do with the “GTR” sweetener. For instance, I did an A/B comparison of tuning with the StroboRack vs. my TU-2. I took my time to get the most accurate tuning I could with both tuners. When I struck an E chord after tuning up with my TU-2, I had to make a couple of minor adjustments to my G and B strings – it wasn’t that the chord sounded bad, it just seemed to sound a bit “off.”
On the other hand, the E chord struck after tuning with the StroboRack with the GTR sweetener engaged sounded absolutely right on!
Fit and Finish
The StroboRack is encased in a nice, heavy-duty aluminum casing. It is really built like a tank, so I have no doubts that it could survive the rigors of the road. But I do advise getting an enclosure for it. It’s still a precision instrument, and should be handled with some care.
To say The Dawg digs this unit is an absolute understatement! Last night, I used it to set the intonation on a new guitar I got, and I have to tell you, the big display and scrolling checkerboard really made it easy. I know, a lot of folks would say, “But it’s just a tuner.” Well yeah… but the accuracy it affords you – especially you tone freaks out there – just can’t be beat. This is a unit that I will definitely be adding to my rig!
At $359 street, it’s not a cheap proposition by any means, but hell! We gear sluts spend tons of money each year on gadgets to make us sound better. One would think that sounding better also means being in tune. Of course, Peterson has several other tuners, like the StroboStomp that doesn’t have all the features of the rack unit, but it uses the same “Virtual Strobe Technology” as the StroboRack, so you know you’ll get the accuracy you need.
Mind you, I didn’t try out all the other features like outputting to two outputs, which is pretty cool, or using the XLR jack to go into a board. Those are great features, but frankly, they’re secondary to what’s important with this unit: Accurate tuning.
Ever been in one of those situations where you have to face up to something you’d said or done, but avoid it all costs because it gives you this feeling of impending doom? I was recently in a situation like this, and it wasn’t at all comfortable going through the emotional and psychic turmoil leading up to the conversation the ultimately resulted in – nothing. No slap on the wrist, no punishment. Just a good conversation where everyone involved learned from the experience.
Anyway, last night I was noodling on my guitar; my eyes were closed, letting my emotions drive my playing. Then I remembered that situation, and came up with the rhythm track for the song. It’s all instrumental – it’s not something I would ever want to put to words, but I did want to convey the emotions. Give it a listen let me know what you think:
For the rhythm parts, the Strat/Hot Rod is panned to the left of the mix, and the Heritage/VRX22 (clean channel) is panned to the right. The lead part sits dead center.
I’m particularly pleased with the Hot Rod’s tone. The clean tone with that awesome spring reverb is to die for (though I had the reverb down pretty low on it to give the Strat more presence). I’m also diggin’ the Prestige Heritage Elite; especially after I set it up. In particular, I adjusted the pickup heights to smooth out the treble pickup, and to get less boom from the rhythm pickup. It’s now very balanced; and played through the VRX22, it sounds just awesome. I played the lead part through the drive channel of the amp, and set the volume so that it was just on the edge of breakup, so if I dug in a bit, I’d get just a touch of overdrive. I wanted to create an effect of subdued aggression, and the VRX22 is so dynamic, I can achieve that easily.
400 presets included with more that can be downloaded online
Powered by AmpliTube® with exclusive DSM™ (Dynamic Saturation Modeling) and VRM™ (Volumetric Response Modeling)
Tone Bone Rating: 4.75 overall, but for a recording plug-in, it gets a 5.0
Being a snobbish purist about “real” gear, I’m not easily impressed by emulation software. But when I heard clips of the Fender Edition of Amplitube, I knew I had to check this software out. A million thanks go to the folks at IK Multimedia to letting me evaluate this software because I am definitely impressed by Amplitube Fender! It’s not everyday that you have access to 12 awesome Fender amps, and to have them literally a mouse-click away is just insane! I don’t think amp software will ever replace a real amp, but this software comes so close to sounding like the real thing that especially for recording, I’d be hard-pressed to NOT use it for recording lots of guitar parts!
I used an earlier version of AmpliTube a few years ago, and was not at all impressed by how it sounded. But being in the software development world, with time, software gets better, and I have to say that this software is absolutely incredible!
Now and then, I go off for a weekend alone, and I lug a couple of guitars, a couple of mics, an amp or two, and my MacBook, along with my MBox 2 interface to just do some writing and recording. With Amplitube Fender, I don’t need to lug my amps! I can just load my laptop and MBox an a couple of cords and a mic, and I’m home free! Hey! Not having to lug any extra gear is HUGE! I’m sold on using this software! Not only do I have my four real amps, I now have 12 other amps to choose from when I record! It’s really exciting!
How It Sounds
Imagine that! No need to write a section on fit and finish!
In a word, it sounds AWESOME! Right after I installed the software, I plugged my Strat into the DI jack of my MBox 2, opened up GarageBand, started a new project, added a new track, and selected “Amplitube Fender” from a plug-in drop down. It was literally that easy! I randomly picked a ’57 Deluxe Dual Mic, then started to strum this little ditty in Am. Before I knew it, I was adding drum and bass tracks, to record the riff.
I’ve played through a ’57 Deluxe in the past, and I was amazed at how the software emulated that warm, bright and crisp sound that that amp is known for! I kept on thinking to myself, “This couldn’t be software – it sounds to friggin’ good!” After I recorded that rhythm track, I took out the Goldtop to play a lead. I ended up playing for over an hour this evening just tooling around with different amps. In the end, I wanted to get a sample out, so I chose a ’59 Bassman with a Fender Fuzz-Wah plug-in to get some fuzz, then recorded the following sound bite:
I don’t know about you, but I really can’t tell the difference between the real thing and software. Maybe because I’m starting to lose my hearing and my ability to discern audio fidelity is kind of going south. No matter, I think this software ROCKS!
Amplitube Fender does a fantastic job of amp emulation – there’s no arguing that at all. But there’s a certain “mojo” about a real amp that just can’t be captured with software, no matter how close to the real thing that software sounds. That said, however, even one as snobbish as myself, and other gear freaks I know would be hard-pressed not to seriously consider adding this to their arsenal of recording plug-ins!
I just dig it when I find a great guitar and amp combo! Featured in this Jam Track are the Saint Guitar Company Messenger Baritone and the Aracom Amps Custom 45R, both of which I’ve reviewed previously. (Messenger Review | Custom 45R Review). The Custom 45 has a really beefy low-end and a slight scooped tone, and the Messenger, while a baritone, has this incredibly bright-sounding voice. The two complement each other particularly well! Here’s the Jam Track:
You have just over 6 minutes to play around with this one. For the rhythm part, I used a fairly basic rock beat, but I also added some Latin drums underneath to take the edge off the heavy downbeat. And by the way, there’s no bass in this track at all. All of that is provided by the Messenger!
There are different schools of thought around this subject, but I thought I’d throw in some of my own thoughts, since I’ve been at it awhile. Note that I won’t be talking about techniques necessarily, though I will include some tips and tricks… So without further ado…
First, let’s establish something here: You don’t need to buy super-expensive gear to sound good, and you don’t need a lot of equipment. I’ve found that in a lot of cases, while more expensive gear will afford you convenience features, and a better sound quality, for the home studio enthusiast, a lot of times this gear is overkill. I’ll go into some details below, but in my opinion, recording technique is far more important. So with that said, let’s start talking about what I think are essential pieces of equipment:
You probably already have a computer, but it should be configured to handle digital recording. While drive speed is important, it isn’t necessarily critical. My MacBook Pro’s hard drive spins at 5400 rpm, and I have no problems recording stuff. But what you do need is space. I’d recommend getting two hard drives: one for programs, and the other dedicated to saving data. It’s just a cleanliness thing. Also, get as much RAM as your machine can handle. I’ve got 4GB on my machine. That’s even more important than a hard drive. You don’t need a super-poweful machine either, but dual-core machines really work well.
Okay, Mac or PC? Go with what you’re comfortable with. There are lots of programs out there; among them is a neat little program that works great on both PC and Mac called Audacity – it’s free! Todd Rundgren recorded a lot of his latest album using Audacity, so it’s definitely doable.
What about ProTools?
I’ve got it. It’s great. But the learning curve is super steep. In fact, when I first started recording, I spent more time learning how to use the damn software than getting my ideas down and that just frustrated me to no end; so much so, that I lost my taste for recording for several months – I just didn’t want to mess around with the software! I just wanted to get my freakin’ ideas down! I’m not saying it’s bad, but it’s complicated, and you’ll have to spend a lot of time learning the ins and outs of the program. With the home studio, what you’re after is getting your ideas down with reasonable quality – and fast. That, at least, is my opinion. In light of that, I use GarageBand to get all my ideas down. It has built-in rhythm loops so I don’t have to use a click track, and there are lots of add-ons, both free and affordable, that you can use in GB. The sound quality is excellent, and it even has some mastering presets that work amazingly well!
There are lots out there. I happen to use the DigiDesign MBox 2, which has two analog inputs, MIDI, and a couple of others I don’t use. Very handy little box. But there are lots of solutions out there in the $300-$400 range. Most use USB, though FireWire is probably the optimum – it also costs more.
Now this is just my opinion, but you’ll need at least two mics: One ribbon mic, and one dynamic mic. I have a Nady RSM-200 ribbon that cost me less than $200, and it works superbly! I also swear by my trusty Sennheiser 835 stage mic, which is a workhorse similar to the Shure SM-58, but I think it’s warmer and has a much flatter EQ response than the SM-58 which can get kind of boomy.
Being also a piano player – not nearly as good on this as I am on guitar – having a keyboard to trigger MIDI and add MIDI-based instruments is another essential. You can go the small route (2 octave) or go the full-size keyboard route. I use an M-Audio full-size stage keyboard myself only because it doubles as my MIDI controller as well as my gigging keyboard. It was also cheap at $300 new. Nice.
From my standpoint, this is all you need as far as essential equipment for recording. Now let’s get into some techniques and some nice-to-haves:
Always record acoustic guitar using mics – and use two of ‘em. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? I’ve tried going direct into my computer, and the sound is horrible. But using two mics works great. I usually place my ribbon mic about six inches from the sound hole, then place my dynamic mic pointed at a 45 degree angle at about the 3rd fret to capture sounds coming off the neck. Also, to take advantage of the ribbon mic’s rear pickup, I have a board, or hard, reflective surface placed about two to three feet in front of me to reflect sound back. It gives just a sligh reverb effect that really fills out the recorded tone.
If you can swing it, get a couple of low-wattage amps. In particular, I use a Fender Champ 600, which is a 5 Watt amp with an 8″ speaker. Another one I’ve used, but don’t own is the Epiphone Valve Jr.. What a nice little amp! Since you’re recording at bedroom levels, a small amp that puts out less volume works wonders. Now here’s the trick I’ve found to recording with these small amps. You can make that sucker sound HUGE by close-mic’ing the amp. I use a dynamic mic pointed at an angle along the cone of the speaker, and place it no more than 2″ away from the grille cloth. Then I use a variety of overdrive and distortion pedals to get grind or searing distortion, then in my software boost the low frequencies. The end result is that it sounds like I’ve just recorded a full-size stack! You have to play with your settings, but it’s definitely achievable. The other nice thing about using a small amp for recording is that the naturally bright voicing really works well in a digital recording environment.
For vocals, always use a pop filter. I’m an experienced singer, and even though I have great mic technique, nothing is worse on a recording than picking up those oral transients that your mouth makes when making consonant sounds. Pop filters cost less than $20 and believe me they’re a life saver.
While we’re on the subject of vocals… Avoid using a compressor on vocals as much as possible. When you’re singing a louder phrase, move away from the mic. It’s that simple. Compression is good to a point, but there’s a lot to be said about having volume dynamics in your vocals. You get a lot more emotion coming through when you have it. If volume is pretty much the same throughout a song, it’s well… boring in my opinion, no matter how good a singer you are.
Avoid EQ as much as you can. Dial in the EQ on your instruments before you record, then only do wholesale volume adjustments later to make mix corrections. What you’re trying to do is capture the natural sound the instrument makes as closely as possible. The only exception I make to this is when I’m recording a low-wattage amp and want to boost the lows. Otherwise, I just do volume adjustments for the mix.
These are just a few things I’ve learned over the last few years of doing this. I’m sure I’ve missed some stuff, so if anyone else wants to add to this, please feel free!
I love getting those intense spurts of creativity when I’m using awesome equipment. I just happened to have a couple of review pieces on hand: A Saint Guitars Benchmark and a Reason SM25 combo amp. This song started out as a simple riff this morning, and grew from there. It’s called Lookin’ for the Good Life. Let me know that you think.
The song showcases the incredible tones the Benchmark and SM25 make together. Just love it!
This is an instrumental that evolved out of an acoustic guitar groove I came up with years ago. Recently, a friend of mine shared what he was going through with me, and how he came to resolution with what he was facing. It inspired me to put this instrumental-only song together called, RESOLUTION. Give it a listen:
It’s interesting how this song finally came about. It was a really organic process. As I mentioned, I came up with the acoustic guitar groove years ago, and had it sitting in my head until a few weeks ago, when I decided to lay down some tracks. About a week ago, I was playing around with my ES-335, just jamming along with the groove, when out of the blue I started playing the arpeggios on top of the groove. So I layered those on top of the groove. Then when my friend told me what he was going through, I got the idea of doing the song as an instrumental-only song as he had expressed awhile ago that he’d like to hear me do an instrumental song featuring my guitar playing.
After he told me his story, I came home, sparked up my amp, strapped on my Strat, and started experimenting with different melody lines. In the end, I want to do harmonizing guitars with some free-form improv between. The result is RESOLUTION. It’s both sad and hopeful. Hope you like it!
Ovation Elite Acoustic – recorded live through a Nady RSM-200 and a Sennheiser e835 stage mic : Gibson ES-335 – provides the arpeggios Fender Strat – voicing for all leads.
Absolutely no pedals were used to record the electric guitars. I added some gentle reverb on the guitar tracks and that was it. They sounded so good just by themselves, I didn’t feel the need to add any compression or chorus – that might’ve ruined their tone.
Amp: Fender Champ 600 15W – close-mic’d using the Nady RSM-200 to provide some depth. I just love the natural tone from this amp. When close-mic’d it sounds so much bigger than its little 6″ speaker!