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Archive for January, 2019

…albeit not cheap.

For those of you who are familiar with attenuators, you know they solve a real problem with cranking a tube amp to get the power tubes to fully saturate: The volume that even a low wattage amp produces when it’s cranked is LOUD, and an attenuator helps to alleviate that by taking the amp’s output and reducing the power that ultimately gets to your speakers. I can tell you from personal experience, being able to record my cranked amp at conversation levels has saved my ears and saved me from the wrath of my family getting pissed that my amp’s too loud.

But the drawback of reducing the output power to levels that low is that you take the speaker out of the equation. Most amps work best when their distorted signal works in concert with the speaker cone moving air as the speaker add its own character to the overall sound. For a recent recording I made, I had to wait until no one was home to record my overdriven guitar parts so I could take advantage of the speaker moving some serious air. My ears didn’t appreciate the abuse they got, but the result was so much better than close-miking an attenuated amp.

But the folks at BOSS have seemingly overcome that by providing a unit that not only attenuates a cranked amp but also provides models to mimic various cabinets via built-in IR and a whole rash of other features. I’ll list the highlights later. Watch this demo. It’s pretty cool:

Here are the features off the BOSS website:

  • First-of-its-kind tube amp command center, built with Waza expertise and the Tube Logic design approach
  • Advanced variable reactive load circuit with discrete analog components supports tube amps up to 150 watts
  • User-adjustable impedance tuning correctly matches the reactive load to your amp, retaining its natural tone, dynamic feel, and distortion characteristics
  • 10 recallable rig settings for storing favorite setups
  • Deep real-time performance control via GA-FC/FS-series footswitches and MIDI I/O
  • Built-in 100-watt Class AB power amplifier with discrete analog design and seamless volume control
  • Powerful DSP section with 32-bit AD/DA, 32-bit floating-point processing, and 96 kHz sampling rate
  • Customizable stereo effects with premium tone quality: compressor, delay, reverb, and four EQs
  • Twenty-two mic’d cabinet emulations with five selectable close-mic types and three room-mic options, plus four slots for loading user speaker IRs
  • External effects loop with selectable series/parallel operation and control jack for switching amp channels
  • Parallel speaker outputs for connecting up to two cabs for gigging
  • Balanced XLR line outputs (mono and L/R stereo) for connecting to FOH console, stage monitors, and recording devices
  • Headphones output for quiet practice with cranked-up amp tones
  • Dedicated editor software (Mac/Windows)
  • USB for direct audio recording and editor communication

At $1299, it is not at all an inexpensive solution. However, that said, neither are the top attenuators that cost $500+. Considering the features this packs though, I’m surprised by the price point.

For me, this is something that I would seriously consider, especially for playing any of my tube amps on stage. I could attenuate the volume locally and use my speaker for local monitoring, then simultaneously send the signal via XLR into the board, eliminating a mic altogether and letting the sound guy do the mix.

Also, with the different IR models available, I could silently record my amp.

Looks like I’ll need to start saving my pennies…

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Since I’ve fixed up the guitar, I have been having some serious fun with it, breaking in the strings and honestly, getting the guitar used to being played again. In the meantime, I was waiting for information from Godin on the provenance of the guitar. And nothing is better than waking up to great news – Godin replied!

They gave me basic make and model specs, and though the geek in me would like to know even more about it with respect to scale length, nut width, etc., in the end, all that matters is that I play the damn guitar! 🙂 So here goes:

Model: 1992 Artisan ST V – I thought it was produced in 1996, but that was the last year it was produced.

Body: Limewood – Commonly known as basswood in North America, but called limewood in the British Isles and linden on the European continent.

Top: Two-piece, figured maple in a blue burst finish.

Neck: Maple – The type wasn’t specified, but based on experience, it appears to be hard-rock maple.

Fretboard: Rosewood – Again, the type wasn’t specified. It doesn’t really matter anyway. It feels like rosewood.

Pickups: Godin pickups manufactured by Schaller.

As for the pickups, they include a push-pull pot on the tone knob. I thought it was a coil tapper, but it’s not. Turns out that that acts as a midrange filter that halves the dB level at 600 Hz. So no wonder there’s a minimal volume drop. But this is actually a VERY useful feature because the guitar is naturally bright in tone, and with a midrange cut filter, that will help when plugging into a naturally bright amp like my Fender Champ or either of my Aracom VRXs that are based on the 18-Watt Marshall Plexi.

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After work this evening, I went directly to my local Guitar Center and bought some strings (for me, they’re Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalts). After I wrote my previous article on the guitar yesterday, I couldn’t stop thinking about the guitar. I spent the entire day today dreaming of working on it when I got home! I just had to get it cleaned and set up.

So as soon as I finished dinner, I set a blanket down on my kitchen table, and with my computer in front of me, played a couple of tech videos on changing strings on a Floyd Rose. Contrary to the negative feedback these get, though it’s a little laborious, it’s EASY!

Once I got the strings removed, I did thorough wipe-down of the entire guitar, removing smudge marks and dust and grime from the body and the neck. It was clear that this guitar got a lot of use in its heyday.

After cleaning it up to my satisfaction, I took some light linseed oil and massaged it into the fretboard. Talk about a difference. That oil added so much life back into the fretboard! Here are some pictures I took after I was done:

The grain of the rosewood is absolutely spectacular! The linseed oil helped renew its natural luster, the feel – oh the feel of that fretboard is nothing short of amazing!

Even after the fifteen years the guitar sat in a storage shed and the year and a half it spent in its case in my house, after I got it cleaned, I was blown away at the mirror-like finish of the top.

I need to break in the strings over the next few days with some regular playing. EB Slinky Cobalts are notoriously bright right out of the package and need a bit of time to break in. But here’s what I can tell you about the sound of this guitar.

  • Right off the bat, it has a real Telecaster quality to it replete with that subtle quack you get with a Tele.
  • I mentioned that the middle switch position was probably where I’d mostly play, and thus far, I haven’t changed my tune on that – yet.
  • The bridge humbucker has absolute BALLS! I set up my Katana 50 to about 2pm on the Gain with the Volume at 3pm and played some lead lines. The guitar absolutely sings with a glorious tone! It is definitely a rock machine in this setting.
  • Coil tapping the bridge amazingly doesn’t result in a huge volume drop. I have other guitars with this and going to single coil results in a significant drop in volume. With this guitar, the result is a thinner tone as expected, but a very little drop in volume. I’ll be using this a lot!
  • For clean tones, the neck pickup is definitely like a Tele’s lipstick character, and the bridge clean is like a Les Paul bridge clean (even with an LP, it ain’t my cup of tea). But using both pickups clean is very nice.

Once I break in the strings, I’ll post some sound samples! I definitely will be gigging this guitar this weekend!

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For those of us who grew up in the ’70s and ’80’s, analog synthesizers were de rigueur to the music of the day. One of the most popular synths was the Prophet 5. I used to use a Yamaha DX-7, but there were some totally cool analog synths back then.

Back in college in the early ’80’s, a friend of mine had a Prophet 5 and I remember spending several hours twiddling knobs and getting some insanely cool sounds.

I always thought that it would be totally cool to be able to control a synth from a guitar, and lo and behold, by the ’90’s some guitars had built-in MIDI tracking (they weren’t very good), and others came equipped with a mini-DIN jack to hook up to an external synth. Godin makes a line of guitars that have that today (Daryl Stuermer of Genesis uses one). But that’s kind of a specialized kind of thing. My wish was to be able to plug into a synth with a 1/4″ plug. No fuss, no muss… Something like that could just sit on my pedal board.

My wish came true the other day when I got advance notice of the newly announced Pigtronix Resotron just officially released today, the first day of NAMM. Here’s the video I shared yesterday:

I’ve never been into things like bit crushers and other kinds of envelope filters, but I have always loved the sound of an analog synth. That Pigtronix has put one into a pedal using the same chip as the Prophet 5 and is the size of a standard pedal is… well… KICK-ASS!

I think the pedal is available now directly from Pigtronix. It goes for $249. This is one I’m definitely going to check out!

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Back in late 2017 when my friend passed on her late uncle’s guitars to me after she and her mom found them in their storage shed, one of the guitars she gave to me is this gorgeous Godin Artisan ST shown to the left. I was so enchanted by the Simon & Patrick PRO acoustic – which has since been with me on well over 100 gigs and is the acoustic I used on all my latest recordings – that I kind of forgot that I had this little beauty.

But while forum-lurking yesterday evening, I got into a discussion thread about Godin guitars and to jog my memory, I pulled the guitar out of its case where it has sat so I could give it a thorough inspection.

As soon as I took it out, I said out loud: Why did I wait so long to give this an inspection?  Things happen in their own time, now ow’s the time for this beauty queen to literally come out of the closet! 🙂 Okay… bad joke…

As I write this, I’m hoping to get information directly from Godin on the exact provenance of the guitar. But what I’ve been able to gather on my own thus far is that this is an Artisan ST-V. There were six versions of this product line. This appears to have a mahogany body and a maple neck with a rosewood fretboard. I’m really not sure what the top is; hopefully, Godin can provide me with that information. But it is a two-piece top.

As for the body style, it is definitely quirky! But I absolutely DIG that huge upper horn! It’s actually a bit ergonomic in that it places the strap peg further left, making it feel much more balanced when I’ve got the guitar strapped over my shoulder.

I don’t know what they call this blue burst finish, but it’s absolutely killer! The photos I took don’t really illustrate the 3-d effect of the finish. Love it!

The pickups are custom pickups designed by Godin and manufactured by Schaller – at least that’s what I found out online (need to verify with Godin). I actually thought they were active pickups at first, but they’re not. Turns out that I had a bad cord, so I wasn’t getting any sound from my amp. Duh! The configuration is like an SH Telecaster with a single coil in the neck and a humbucker in the bridge. The tone knob will coil tap the humbucker to get a single coil sound.

The guitar is also equipped with a Floyd Rose tremolo system. It’s actually pretty cool. It’s missing the whammy bar, so I’m going to have to replace it. I know, you either love or hate a Floyd Rose, but I’m going keep this as-is and not block it off. I blocked off all my Strats’ tremolos, but with this guitar, I’m going to learn how to use the tremolo.

In a quick, initial sound test of the guitar, plugged clean into my Boss Katana 50, the sound is very much like a Telecaster, but a tad deeper. The neck pickup is very reminiscent of a Telecaster lipstick pickup – again a bit deeper and bridge pickup reminds me of a Les Paul humbucker sound with a little more midrange. So tonally, the guitar produces something in the middle between a Tele and an LP.

Coil tapping the bridge and playing in the middle switch position, the sound is truly a balanced mix of the two pickups. I was thinking that this would be my preferred setting, but only time will tell.

I’ve been writing this article in spurts – in between conference calls – plus testing out the guitar. I was originally intending to take it to my guitar tech and have him do a setup. But I checked the neck straightness and intonation, during a break, and even after all these years, the neck is ruler-straight. So I will do the initial cleanup and restringing myself. And if I mess it up because I’ve never worked with a Floyd Rose before, I can take it to my tech. But there are great videos that I’ve already watched on working with a Floyd Rose, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

Once I’ve done the setup, I’ll post some sound clips. I’m really impressed with this guitar! It makes me wonder why I haven’t paid more attention to Godin all these years.

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Though I’ve been actively writing in the guitar gear space for well over a decade now, I’ve actually never been to NAMM. I get offered passes and interview opportunities galore, but I’ve never taken up the reps on their offers. It’s not that NAMM isn’t interesting to me; it is because it is a time when many manufacturers reveal their latest and greatest stuff.

But I have to admit it: I’m really not into going to conventions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the anti-social type. Far from it. A large part of it is that I have very limited free time and the way I like to spend it is in much more quiet surroundings, like driving to my best friend’s place on near the Central Coast of California, hanging out on his six acres in a peaceful, bucolic setting, drinking fine wine (he’s a winemaker) and grilling steaks.

So I don’t really keep up with NAMM. I know it happens roughly around late January. But I know it’s coming because my inbox fills up with new product announcements, offers for interviews, requests for review and of course, convention passes. I read all the product announcements because I love to see what’s coming out.

For instance, this morning I got an announcement of the new Pigtronix Resotron pedal. This is TOTALLY COOL! It’s an envelope filter that gives you the sounds of 70’s-era synthesizers! Check this video out:

I’ve always wanted to provide some synthesizer effects via guitar, but most were fairly big units requiring a mini-DIN jack – In other words, the guitar has to have one as it acts as the controller. This pedal uses 1/4″ jacks, and the pedal follows the pitch of the guitar. Just plug in your guitar and go! Nice! So this is exciting, yes. But I didn’t need to go to NAMM to see this. I just found the demo on YouTube. 🙂

I think the other part of me not going to NAMM is that I’d be like a kid in a candy store, and when it comes to gear, historically, I’ve been a bit compulsive, and I could just see myself coming back from the show and dropping thousands of dollars into new gear. Been there, done that. After the honeymoon is over, I end up selling off swathes of gear. So it’s a bit of a self-control thing for me.

But despite my own reservations – and admittedly, weaknesses – about going to the convention, I love this time of year. And though the past few years have been a bit dry for me with writing, now that I’m back in the game, I’ve got the gear bug back. Luckily, I’m older and hopefully a bit wiser, so I do temper my GAS urges now with my available finances. And at least I can write about the things that I find interesting.

Rock on!

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Personally, I dig the stock speaker in my BOSS Katana 50, BUT I also dig Jensen speakers, especially the Jet series speakers, which are installed in all my cabinets. So when I got a press release from Jensen today announcing the new addition to the Jet family specifically designed for digital amps, I had to spread the word. Here’s the press release:

Jensen Jet Full Range Digital “D” Speakers

Jensen Loudspeakers is excited to announce the upcoming release of the new Jensen Digital “D” Series with full range tone for the digital guitarists. The C12D (Ceramic magnet) and the N12D (featuring the Jensen exclusive Neodymium magnet design) are 12” speakers dedicated to amplifying the “quasi-full range” output signal of the digital, modeling, profiling and IR-based guitar systems, and acoustic instruments amplifiers.

Both models retain the core elements of the traditional guitar speakers with lightweight cellulose cone membranes and integrated paper surrounds. Additionally, they feature a specially developed horn-like loading in front of the voice coil that grants a frequency response extended well beyond 12kHz. This ensures a clear, transparent rendition of the reverbs, delays, and all other time-based effects, as well as of the rich harmonic
spread of a high-gain lead sound.

Headroom and dynamics are delivered by the 2” voice coils, for a power handling of 150W AES (300W Continuous Program Power).

The organic, full range tone of the Jensen D Series speakers does not rely on complex, expensive two-way systems and crossovers, but rather on a finely tuned acoustic design and directivity pattern. The Jensen Ds are easy to use and install and as convenient as a traditional guitar speaker. They ensure a familiar feel and response while providing excellent tone for the next generation of players.

The last paragraph of the press release is the salient point, and which is why I have had such a deep appreciation of Jensen as a company for so long. With respect to the new speakers, they relied on their design expertise as opposed to compensating with complex – and expensive – systems. As an engineer – albeit software, but an engineer just the same – applying good design and engineering principles to solve a problem is the way I think, so what Jensen has done with the new speakers totally speaks to me.

Thought I’d share the frequency response chart for each type of speaker:

C12D Frequency Response Chart

N12D Frequency Response Chart

Fairly similar response shapes with the C12D and N12D speakers, though the N12D have a little more mid- and high- range output and a lower high-end drop-off than the C12D. Based on the graphs, the C12D seems more my cup of tea, but you really never know until you try out the speakers.

Availability

The speakers will not be available until May 2019, so I will just have to wait to do some tests. But if my past experience with Jet series speakers is any indication, these should be great replacement speakers for any digital amp.

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