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Archive for the ‘playing live’ Category

bambinoDid my weekly church gig this evening and took the Reason Bambino along. Didn’t bring a pedalboard; just a 1 X 12 cabinet and a couple of cables. I wanted to test out the amp in its pristine state, with no added accoutrements. I also wanted to test the balanced line out to see how it worked with the building’s PA.

I have to tell you, Obeid Kahn being a noted Strat guy, even though the Bambino sounds killer with a guitar with ‘buckers, this amp seems to just love a Strat. It really makes it come alive. Whether I played fingerstyle or funky, the Bambino really made my Strat sing. Well… nothing helps to inspire me to play better than great tone. Like I mentioned in my review, the tone of the 6AQ5 sits right between an EL-84 and a 6V6, and that tone seemed to bring out the best of my Strat. The cleans were classic Strat, and the drive, oh yeah, the overdrive was open and bright, and just floated in the air. I may have been in worship, but I was also in tone heaven!!!

As for the balanced line out, oh man! The tone coming through my church’s PA was great! We have a pretty nice PA system, and the tone, whether clean or dirty, didn’t sound any different than what was coming through my cab. That was a concern for me because I’ve played through amps with line outs that just didn’t sound like the amp. The Bambino’s line out is very transparent, and that’s especially important with this amp because it’ll give you plenty of volume to monitor your tone on stage, but the line out going into your PA will ensure that it’ll get out faithfully to the audience. Make no mistake. This amp may only have 8 Watts, but it has plenty of volume to be used as a stage amp. I suppose it’s another way to approach performance. Especially in a church setting where lower stage volume is critical, having the ability to keep your stage volume down but knowing that it’ll get out to your audience is just so awesome. The Bambino rocks in this department!

***Quick Update*** I just spoke with Anthony this morning and he nor Obeid didn’t anticipate the DI to be plugged directly into a PA, so he was pleasantly surprised to hear my application of it. Note that I went direct out and into my cab at the same time! This amp has versatility written all over it!

And if ever the 8 watts isn’t enough, the Bambino can be used as a reference amp to define your tone, and with the line out, you can re-amp into another amp or a power amp to boost your output power. I’ve tried this, and it works great. I can’t wait until I get to try this at a real gig!

So what’s the verdict? The Bambino rocks – plain and simple.

To get a Bambino…

I don’t think Anthony and Obeid anticipated the popularity of the Bambino, and the positive response has been enormous. If you’re interested in getting this $699 tone monster, contact the guys directly either through e-mail at info@reasonamps.com. They also hang out at the Gear Page (http://www.thegearpage.net/board). Search for “bambino” or find the users “Reason” or “OKahn” and send a private message. There will probably be a bit of a wait time to get the amp as it has create quite a buzz and they’re already getting orders. The amp is just out of prototype and review for goodness’ sake! It’s amazing!

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Applied Microphone Technology Wi5GI’ve been in the market for a wireless system for awhile, and there are lots of options out there. But one thing that has kept me from going completely wireless is that most wireless systems out there require the use of a beltpack. The AKG WMS40 is an exception to the rule, and from what I can tell, it’s a great solution for a great price (I have yet to try this unit out).

But the Wi5G shows a lot more promise in that not only can it be used with an electric guitar, you can attach it to an AMT micro-equipped unit on your acoustic guitar. So in terms of versatility, this unit sound pretty cool. Here’s the press release:

The AMT Wi5G — Guitar Wireless System is a removable 16 selectable channel wireless setup. The Wi5G is intended to work with all types of electric guitars. The system allows players to perform wireless without being tied down to a belt pack or wires of any type. The Wi5G features a plug in play style transmitter that is very light in weight. The sound clarity and wireless reception are very high. AMT’s philosophy is to develop the highest sonic quality in there products, and the guitar system stays right in line.

The most impressive feature of the Wi5G Guitar Wireless System is its ability to convert / adapt to all AMT microphones as well. The Wi5G transmitter, by unplugging the included ¼ in adapter, can then plug directly into any AMT microphone with D.C.T. (AMT’s disconnect cable technology). This feature allows the player to use the Wi5G system with there electric guitar, unplug the transmitter from there electric guitar and plug it into an AMT S15G acoustic guitar microphone setup already in place on an acoustic rig. The Wi5G is the only system on the market with the ability to switch from an electric pickup to a high quality acoustic instrument microphone. Along with the ability to switch between 16 channels, this makes the Wi5G and a S15G a valuable set of tools for all guitar players.

The Wi5G wireless system has changed the way a guitarist can perform. By allowing total freedom from wires, a belt pack, and / or a preamp the performers are able to move freely around the performance area. This concept frees up the artist from standing in front of a guitar amp tied down with a cable. The Wi5G assures that every nuance of the performance is heard as the artist intended it to be heard without changing the sonic quality of there instrument rig. AMT has developed there name on this high quality hand made philosophy.

The Wi5G transmitter features an on / off and a mute switch along with a gain adjustment. An LED is featured to show on / off as well as a low battery indicator. One AAA battery is needed to power the transmitter. Designed to be used with either pedals or an acoustic guitar, the ZR series receiver comes with both a ¼ inch and XLR output. The receiver, with an optional rack mount kit, can be mounted in a rack, set freely next to your pedals, amp, or any where close by.

The Wi5G works with all types of electric guitars with the included ¼” jack, as well as AMT microphone models: LS, WS, TA2, Z1, P800, M40, S15G, VS, S25B, and the S18C. Microphones sold separately.

Sound interesting? I think so…

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Steve Ray Vaughn
Ahhh… the venerable SRV in a classic guitarists pose. I used to think that was just something rock stars did for publicity shots, and that the poses were contrived. But then as I’ve delved more and more deeply into improvisation, I’ve realized it’s not contrived at all. That kind of pose or expression is all part of what can be called “gettin’ in the zone.” The Zen masters call the “the zone” the state of satori, where thought and action are one; where your consciousness is at a height where whatever enters your mind you do. From the perspective of playing guitar, the awareness of what your body is actually doing is lost. Your focus is entirely on expressing the music you’re playing.

For instance, have you ever been playing one day and just get into the groove of a song, close your eyes, and just let your fingers do the talking? You’re completely aware of the song, but that’s pretty much all you’re aware of; and when you play, it’s pure expression. I had recently had this experience. I was playing on top of a simple chord progression in D, and the song came to a part where I had a rather long lead break. A few years ago, I would’ve been terrified to do play such a long solo, but I’ve really started to get comfortable with my playing to handle something like this. Luckily for me, it was not a fast song. 🙂 But in any case, after the first few bars, I got into this groove where I didn’t worry about technique nor worry about how I was playing a phrase. I just played. It was pure expression.

After the gig, a few people came up to me and said that when I was playing, I had this look of pure rapture on my face. I replied, “Really? I thought I was just playing. Gawd, I hope I didn’t look like a poser weenie…” One of the folks was a guitarist and told me that it was genuine. He said, “Dude, you were in your own world.” I just chuckled because I was totally unaware of my posture or body language. I was completely focused on playing. I was really in the zone.

I think a lot of my latest inspiration is that I now have gear that gives me the tone that I’ve been after for awhile, and while I realize that 90% of your tone comes from your hands, having gear that facilitates your playing just adds to your inspiration. For me, I’m playing what I believe to be the absolutely perfect amp in my Aracom VRX22. The cleans are absolutely spectacular on any guitar I play with it, and that clean channel is the most pedal-friendly channel I’ve ever played. The drive channel on that just sings and sustains beautifully. I know, I know… I rave about this amp a lot, but I’ve searched high and low for an amp like this, and now that I’ve found it, it’s like I’ve died and gone to heaven!

I’d be interested in hearing your “in the zone” experiences. Feel free to share ’em!

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I admit it: I’m an incurable GEAR SLUT! I jones for vintage and vintage style gear, as the music I play leans toward the blues and classic rock. And to satisfy that never-ending craving, I pore over the Internet and various magazines in search of all sorts of gear; hence, the existence of GuitarGear.org where I share with you, dear reader, the things that I come across.

Now in my search for gear, I occasionally buy things. They tend to be vintage-style modern gear because I just don’t have the money to buy real vintage gear; and that usually means I gravitate towards boutique gear; but not just any boutique gear. Remember, I don’t usually have all that much money to afford the real high-end stuff, so I spend a lot of my scouring my information resources to find boutique gear that I can afford. That’s what gravitated me towards Aracom Amps.

When I saw the price of a VRX series amp, my jaw dropped! Here was a hand-wired, vintage-style tube amp for $895!!! When I finally hooked up with Jeff Aragaki (founder of Aracom), and got a chance to play the VRX18, he shared that one of the ways he was able to keep the cost down was by using a solid-state sag simulating rectifier circuit. When I heard the words “solid-state,” the purist in me started reeling a bit. But then that amp sounded so freakin’ good that I didn’t give a flying you-know-what about the rectifier!

And that’s the point of this article. When you’re looking for and buying gear, don’t let yourself be swayed by an instrument’s or equipment’s pedigree or “all-tubeness” or lack thereof. LISTEN to the fuckin’ thing, and see if it turns you on! If it sounds good, and it works for YOU, then that’s all that matters, in my not so humble opinion on the subject. 🙂 If I had let the purist in me take over, I would’ve never ended up with my VRX22! And for the record, I’ve listened to many, many, many amps, with and without tube rectifiers, and the circuit that Jeff Aragaki employs in the VRX series simulates the sag of a rectifier tube so well, I can’t tell the difference. And if there is one, it’s probably so minute that it doesn’t matter anyway. I’ll put that amp up against any other boutique amp in the same wattage range, and it’ll sound just as good, if not better. And I paid less than half the price of a similarly configured amp!

Give the following clip a listen. I’m playing my Strat plugged straight into the clean channel of the VRX22. In some sections you could swear that the amp has a reverb, but that’s the solid-state rectifier simulating the sag of a tube rectifier. Also, this is the raw recording of the amp: No EQ, no filtering. The master volume was flat out, with the gain control around midway. My mic was about about 10″ away pointed directly at the center of the speaker cone.

I originally recorded that clip with my Prestige Heritage Elite. But that guitar has so much inherent sustain, it would’ve been cheating. 🙂 A Strat on the other hand doesn’t have that much sustain, so it brings out the sustaining quality of the amp much better. The result is just amazing.

And as to the tube vs. solid state rectifier issue, at least in the Aracom VRX series, it doesn’t make one whit of difference, especially when you’re playing live at gig levels. When I’m gigging, I almost never use reverb unless it’s a song where I can really isolate my guitar. Sag gives the effect of reverb, but at loud gig levels, you’ll never hear it.

Another great example of buying what sounds good to you is my friend Vinni Smith of V-Picks. That dude is one of the best guitarists I’ve ever known, and he gigs all the time! You know what he plays through? A freakin’ Roland Cube 30 cranked all the way up and miked into the PA. When he told me that, I almost flipped. Here was a true pro guitarist,  playing through a $200 amp!

So don’t be taken in by pedigree. Buy what sounds good to you, and what you can make sound good. After all, 90% of your tone is in your hands.

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Just got home from my weekly gig at the restaurant where I was really able to put the Tuff-Tone Tri-Tip through its paces. I’ve never played with a Tri-Tip shaped pick, let alone gigged with a Tuff-Tone, so it promised to be interesting – especially if I didn’t like the pick – because like a dummy, I forgot to bring a spare! Fortunately, I didn’t need a spare. The Tuff-Tone worked out great!

Admittedly, I was a little nervous, not because of the Tuff-Tone material itself but because it’s a lot thinner than what I’m used to playing. If you’ve been following my blog, you’d know I’ve been using a V-Picks Snake and also a super-thick prototype Red Bear Tortis as of late. The Snake is 4.1 mm thick and the Red Bear is 4 mm. I believe the Tuff-Tones are only 1.75 mm thick. I really didn’t know if I could make a clean adjustment. All my nervousness was washed away within a few bars of the first song I played. The pick felt so natural in my fingers, I just played without thinking. Whew! That was a relief!

So how did it perform? Practically flawlessly. The Tuff-Tones feel a lot more rigid and dense than their Tortis counterparts, but the material seems to weigh much lighter. That perception could be due to having played with thick, weighty picks. But to be perfectly honest, I really loved playing with this Tuff-Tone. As I mentioned above, it felt very natural in my fingers, and all the accuracy that I’ve come to expect from rigid picks was there from the get go.

Dave mentioned that in blind tests there was no difference between the tones of the Tuff-Tones and Tortis picks produce. But I noticed a definite difference. The Tuff-Tone produces a much brighter, jangly tone than the Tortis picks. Tortis picks, on the other hand, produce a smoother, more evenly balanced tone. Neither is better than the other; they’re just different. For me, when I want a brighter tone, I’ll use a Tuff-Tone. But when I want a fatter tone, I’ll use a Tortis.

I played all sorts of tunes tonight, ranging from full-on strum songs to songs that combined strummed chords and single note runs. I could be as expressive as I wanted with this pick, and that’s really the test. Lighten up your grip and let the pick glide, and the tone it produces is marvelously bright and ringy. Dig in and be greeted with a nice snappy tone. Want to do some quick alternate picking runs? No sweat!

This is a great pick, people, and a pick I highly recommend trying out and adding to your arsenal! I know that kind of goes against the common thought of using one pick for everything, but I’ve come to realize that using different picks will produce different kinds of tones, and different “moods.” It’s kind of hard to explain, but I’m now a multi-pick player.

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Yeah, yeah, I know… My last few posts have pretty much centered around this amp, but hey! I just can’t contain my excitement about how good it sounds! This afternoon, I brought it to my weekly church gig to try it out in a live situation. I already loved it in my little home studio, but you just don’t get to really know what am amp can do until you play it live.

Today was one of the first days that I didn’t use my pedal board all that much. In fact, I only used my chorus on one soft song, and then only used my booster at the very end of last song to throw the gain over the top to finish off the service. Other than that, I just played the amp straight. Most of the songs I played were through Channel 1, and with my Strat, the VRX22 delivered gorgeous, bell-like tones that seemed to hang in the air, with so much presence that you could almost touch them – it doesn’t even have presence knob to up the mids and highs! Switching over to Channel 2 for a couple of numbers, I was rewarded with layers of open and complex overdrive that were so very smooth; none of that phasing in and out that you often get with lesser amps at high gain. It stayed nice and even. And the sustain and touch sensitivity at high gain was just to die for – all on a Strat, no less!

When I slammed the front-end with my booster pedal, I was in compression heaven! But luckily the 6V6’s don’t compress so much that they make the amp lose volume. The compression is noticeable, but the gain tone stays fairly open. It tightens up, but not too tight.

I’ve tested several Aracom amps, and they’re all very sweet sounding. But the higher wattage amps need tons of volume before they really start sounding good. The VRX22 is so versatile. With a 1 X 12 cabinet, it can be used with ease in small to medium-sized venues, like clubs and small halls. For larger venues, a bigger cab will get you the volume you need. On top of that, both the amp and cabinet are pretty light in weight, making lugging to and from a gig real easy!

All in all, I’m just tickled to death with this amp! You gotta check this amp out at the Aracom site!

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Gear-aholic. Tone Freak. Gear Maniac. At least that is what I have been called. I like to think of myself as a “Tone Crusader.”

I comb the ethers in search of implements to try to catch the unicorn called “Tone.” And since tone has so many faces, I need different kinds tools to help me catch the unicorn.  Thus, I have an arsenal of axes, both custom and commonly available; a bank of sound amplification devices to announce my presence with special foot pedals to alter my sound to affect a different response.

I spend hours upon hours developing and honing my skills, and learning how to most effectively use my tools. I am a warrior who must constantly be at the ready to perform.

And like the Crusaders of old, my quest for the tone unicorn is a life-long pursuit that has been fraught with both times of extreme joy and with days of dark dispair. But despite its ups and downs, I cannot even begin to imagine abandoning this pursuit! I’ve seen the unicorn! I have even come close to touching it! And until I do touch it, I will never give up. Never!!!

I fully realize that I may go to my grave without ever catching the unicorn. But it is not the goal that matters to me in any case; it is the journey that matters.

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