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Posts Tagged ‘gig report’

Before I get into the actual report, before getting the TubeMeister 18, I never thought I would review a Hughes & Kettner amplifier, let alone own one. To me, they always seemed to be more Prog and NuMetal machines. But once I got mine — and I have to admit I bought it off my friend based upon the DI feature, and about ten minutes of test time — I haven’t been able to stop playing it.

Then looking at the H&K artists page on their site, the fact that one of my all-time favorite guitarists, Davey Johnstone, plays a Hughes & Kettner completely reinforced my decision to hold onto my new amp; admittedly, in the back of my mind I was thinking that if I didn’t like it, I could always flip it.

Based upon the silent recordings I’ve done with the amp thus far, I knew I was going to hold on to it at least for a little while while I write new material that has suddenly made its way into my creative consciousness. But after playing with the amp at a gig yesterday, I’m going to be holding onto this amp for a long time.

Yesterday’s gig was just a simple trio as the “opener” for a memorial ceremony. A former bandmate asked the other members if we’d play the gig. A couple of us could do it, so we got together before the ceremony, picked a list of songs, then the gig was basically a jam session as we were to only play instrumentally. For the gig, I brought my Slash L “Katie May” which was plugged directly into the TubeMeister, which went out to a 1 X 12 with a Jensen Jet Falcon speaker.

Clean or dirty, the TubeMeister just sang. But what was impressive with the lead channel, was the smooth distortion that the amp produces. I’ve been so used to Marshall-style break-up that tends to be open, in-your-face, and super mid-rangy. But the voicing of this amp is such that the tones are a bit deeper, so that distortion is super smooth. Then add the amazing sag and sustain of the amp (and apparently what H&K amps are known for) on top of that, and that’s simply a recipe for inspiration.

It didn’t hurt that I was playing with close close friends with whom I’d played music for over twenty years. We’ve learned to play off each other and it’s very natural, and we all take on our roles automatically. When you have that level of comfort with playing partners, it just frees your mind to be creative.

Probably the most amusing song we did was an instrumental version of “Crazy.” I started playing the lead clean, but after the first go-’round, I switched to the lead channel. I had set up the amp so there’d be very little volume change between the clean and lead channels, and set up my guitar so I could vary the amount of distortion using my volume knob. Then getting out of the blues mode, I went into major-scale, legato runs, and turned the song into a bit of a metal, prog version that made all of us laugh while we were playing. After the song, we laughed out loud, and I said that I couldn’t believe how expressive the amp it.

My mates also remarked how incredible that amp sounded, and I told them, “I daresay that this amp sounds so good, it rivals my beloved Aracom amps.” Mind you, it’s a completely different sound than the vintage-Marshall, snarling dog sound that I love. But this smooth sound is absolutely incredible to me as well.

Needless to say, it’s a keeper!

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DualRoxI’ve been using an Aracom DRX attenuator in the studio for the past couple of weeks and I have been absolutely blown away by its ability to tame my volume just as well as my now-retired PRX150-Pro. But this past Friday, Jeff delivered my own DRX that I had him build based upon my tests, and I just had to gig with it to try it out in a live-audience situation.

I do have to admit that the DRX is a little less convenient than the PRX150-Pro in that I have to hook up a couple of more things: The foot switch and power supply (for the footswitch). But that inconvenience becomes negligible when the DRX is in action!

First of all, the boost feature is an absolute god-send! With all other attenuators – and this includes my venerable PRX150-Pro – once you hit the volume limit, that’s it. You can’t go louder. But with the DRX, that’s no longer an issue. It was great to use this feature to boost my volume when I was doing leads and not have to worry if I had hit the limit (or set up my volume so that I stayed under the limit). With the boost feature, which is essentially an attenuation reducer, I can add a few or maybe even several dB of volume with the flick of a switch. It’s absolutely amazing!

But it doesn’t stop there. The Variable Dynamic Control, which varies the reactance between the attenuator and speaker, helps dial in my tone so I have the right amount of highs. While not an EQ, the VDC adjusts the reactance and acts like a very subtle high-cut filter. Fully right is full reactance, and as you move through the next four positions, the reactance is slightly reduced, resulting in more highs being cut. For my particular setup of an R8 Les Paul through my Aracom VRX18, I felt that the sound was just a tad bright, so I went down one position on the VDC, and my world was absolutely right. My tone was still bright and had plenty of bite, but not so bright that it was like icepicks in my ears.

For purely clean work, I completely defeated the attenuation, which was possible from the front panel. On previous versions, the bypass was on the back, and in tight spaces, wasn’t practical to reach around. But with it on the front panel, defeating the attenuation is a simple matter of turning a dial.

All in all, everything about this attenuator is a huge improvement over earlier generations of attenuators; Aracom and others. It comes at a premium, but we spend thousands upon thousand of dollars on guitars, amps and pedals, so I see no problem justifying the cost of this unit. It makes it possible for me to play an overdriven amp in ANY venue. Yeah, yeah, you can argue all you want that you can do the same with a clean amp and overdrive pedals. But diode or a even tube overdrive pedal will never be the same as the overdrive from a cranked amp.

To say I’m happy with this latest acquisition is an understatement. For the last few years, I played the best attenuator on the market. But it pales in comparison to what the DRX brings to the table. The funny thing though is that unlike other gear that makes a sound, this doesn’t produce any sound, so it’s difficult to put into words what it actually can do beyond helping me control my volume. But it controls volume better than anything else on the market, and provides versatility that none other can. And as far as “transparency” goes, well, arguments abound, but with the Aracom attenuation technology, you can rest assured that the tone and the dynamics that you expect from your gear won’t be lost. I can’t say that about any other attenuator I’ve tested.

This is the real deal, folks, and this is the future of attenuation!

For more information, check out the DRX product page!

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Can you say Yowza?!!!

This is going to be a quick report, but all I have to say is that I’m totally sold on the VoiceLive Play GTX! I used it last night at my weekly restaurant gig where I play on the front patio of the restaurant in a rather expansive breezeway. The sound was incredible!

First of all, it was an absolute snap to set up, and a HUGE plus was the dual mono output setting that allowed me to have independent control over vocals and guitar. That was always an issue with my DigiTech Vocalist Live 4 when using it alone. Getting the right volume balance was always an issue, so I invariably had to run out of the guitar thru into the PA to control my guitar volume.

Even with light compression, my sound projected out and filled the space. It “felt” so much fuller and richer than with my old DigiTech Vocalist Live 4. I still have to tweak the presets’ reverb amounts a bit (they’re a little low for my liking), but I’m at a good starting point.

As far as the guitar processing was concerned, it’s good, and more importantly, good enough to use without having to run out to a pedal board. I’ll still probably run out to pedal board anyway, but there’s really nothing to complain about with the guitar sounds.

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Had a great time with the Little 40 this evening at my weekly church gig. I set the amp to full clean-headroom on the Continuous Power Control, cranked the master, then set the gain to a little before the edge of breakup so that a normal, light strum would still be fairly clean with the volume knobs on my R8 both set to halfway. Of course, at that setting, I had to use my attenuator because while it would work just fine in a club, it would be way too loud for church. But that’s okay because the amp retained all of its dynamics and tone.

Also, with the way I set up the amp, I could strum lightly or play fingerstyle and be clean, then get a nice overdrive by digging into the strings a bit. Then I could get into overdrive completely by rolling on either of the volume knobs on my guitar. Then for leads, I used a footswitch to activate the boost which saturates the power tubes by hitting the amp with 10dB of gain. Like my Aracom amps (and vintage Marshalls, for that matter), when the power tubes saturate, lots of sonic goodness occurs. The signal compresses – with the Little 40, it’s not too much, but the sound definitely “feels” a bit beefier – but more importantly, you get very nice sustain and these subtle harmonics and overtones get added into the signal that are total ear candy!

Once I set up the amp, I didn’t have to do any tweaking. My guitar was my control center, which is how I like it. But it does require that an amp be extremely responsive to dynamics, both from a playing perspective and from volume knob adjustments. It delivered all that in spades!

Here’s another extremely important tidbit that I hadn’t mentioned yet: The amp weighs just under 16 pounds! Dammit! That’s lighter than my attenuator! This is something that Marco De Virgiliis (DV Mark’s designer/owner) is known for in the bass world. For instance, my bassist uses a Mark Bass Little Mark II as his go-to bass amp head. That amp produces BIG sound, and it weighs less than 6 1/2 pounds! The Little 40 and its smaller and larger brethren follow the same pattern.

To top all that off, the amp looked so damn cool as DV Mark installed orange LEDs on the board that you can see through the amp grille-work. I tend to be fairly utilitarian about gear, not really putting too much stock on looks, but not only does this amp sound and play killer, it looks great on stage!

And speaking of stage, I actually did two gigs with the Little 40 today. The first gig was a mother-daughter church service at a local high school. Since there were lots of people attending, the service was held in the performing arts center, so I was up on stage. Before the gig, I had to run home really quick to pick up some sheet music that I left in my printer. When I returned, I looked at the amp on stage from the back of the theatre, and just smiled when I saw the extremely cool orange glow emanating from the amp. It was TOTALLY SICK!!! For that gig, I played all clean: Max headroom, Master full-on, then Gain set to pretty low. I controlled volume with my Gretsch’s master volume. The difference with that gig was that since we were doing a few different styles of songs, I adjusted the EQ to fit the songs. This is yet another area where the amp shines. You can dial up all sorts of different tones with the very-usable EQ! Nice!

Finally, if you happen to do some research on the Little 40 or other DV Mark amps, you’ll notice that it has just a single pre-amp tube (ECC83), which indicates that there are  solid state components in the amp. There are. You can see them; plus everything’s mounted on a PCB board. But who the f$%k cares when the amp sounds this good and performs so well? Besides, he does list the other ECC83 in the power section – which I totally missed at first. The important thing to note is that while there are solid state components being used, the important parts involved in the amplification are valves.

But solid state components? I know, we all suffer from cork-sniffing; especially with tube amps. But I’ve gotten over it. As JKeith Urban’s guitar tech said in an interview, “If it sounds cool, then it is right…” Especially with the DV Mark Little 40, I’m getting the level of performance and sound quality that I get out of my Aracom Amps, and like my Aracom gear, I paid less than half the price for the features I got with the amp compared to other boutique gear manufacturers’ wares. The Little 40 retails at $799.

So what about my Aracom Amps? Well, I will definitely still be using them. The DV Mark has a completely different tone than my Aracoms, which are based upon vintage Marshall amps; specifically the Plexi style, Blues Breaker amps. While I most probably will use the DV Mark the most on stage because of its flexibility, my other amps will still get lots of use in the studio, though the VRX22 will also get lots of stage time because it too is extremely flexible. As for the other amps, no other amp does creamy-smooth overdrive like my PLX18. When I need high-end bite, which I like to have for funky rhythm lines, I can’t think of any better amp to give me this than my VRX18. And thus far, none of these amps is collecting any dust as I’ve been using them all this past week to complete the demos for my new album.

Damn! It just occurred to me that I’m really trying to justify why I have all this freakin’ gear… 🙂 Or maybe I’m just rehearsing what I’ll be saying next to the wife when she queries me about my gear. Ha! ROCK ON!

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I took the Corona to my weekly solo acoustic gig last night to give it a gig test. From the moment I started playing it, I was in love with this pedal! I actually got to my gig a little early so I could play around with the settings and find a “standard” setting that I could use. My thought behind this was that the pedal would just stay on all the time, except for specific songs that I just want my raw guitar sound.

My standard setting was Speed at 11am, Depth between 12 and 1, FX Level at just past noon, and Tone right in the middle. This produced a super smooth, lush, liquid, and sensual tone that also added a three-dimensional quality. It was total ear candy!!! Not only that, I was using no other processing, doing straight into the restaurant’s board and relying on the high ceiling to get my reverb. The result was absolutely stupendous!

I used the “standard” setting for the songs I play fingerstyle, which is most of the time. For songs where I was strumming, I backed the depth to noon. It’s a very subtle change, but an important one, as any chorus can muddy up your tone when you’re doing fast strums. I do this with all my chorus pedals. But the interesting thing with the Corona is that when I wanted to do any kind of adjustment, I didn’t have to move the knobs nearly as much as I would with other pedals. With the Corona, all the controls are interlinked, so it only takes minute adjustments to affect the overall tone. This is totally cool!

I didn’t use the TonePrint or TriChorus modes at all last night. I just didn’t feel a need to use them. As I mentioned in my review of the pedal yesterday, if the Corona only had the standard chorus mode, I’d still buy it. It sounds that good! I could get super-subtle chorus tones to gorgeous, liquid tones ala Andy Summers with this mode. In fact, I played “Every Breath You Take” last night, and just loved the chorus sound that the Corona produced for that.

Finally, a question I asked myself last night was: With how much I love the Corona, will it possibly replace my beloved Boss CE-2? Probably not. Not because the CE-2 is a better chorus, but simply because it has a distinctive tone that no other chorus I’ve every played can cop. Besides, I also like the slight gain boost that the CE-2 gives me when engaged. For bluesy stuff, that gain boost actually comes in handy. But for general chorus duties, I’ve found my go-to chorus pedal. This thing absolutely RAWKS!!!

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What? No formal review? Well, being that the pedal is less than 24 hours old, and I gigged with it before doing a full review, I thought that I’d share how it performed first before giving it a rating.

First the back story…

I do a solo acoustic gig at  local restaurant every Friday. Rig-wise, my rig has been very simple: An acoustic/electric and a DigiTech Vocalist Live 4. I’ve brought amps in the past, but usually err on the side of convenience to keep things as simple as possible. The Vocalist Live has worked fine for several years, and it’s easy to hook up to the PA and go. Unfortunately, it’s showing its age and wear and tear from using it so much (I do at least two gigs a week where I use it). Lately, the guitar input has been crackling a little, so I’ve had to use the “Thru” jack to go out to the PA. That’s not a problem, but typically a raw signal into a PA can be a bit muddy and harshly so.

So yesterday, knowing that I would have to go direct to the PA, I went down to my local music store and got a great passive DI box from Radial Engineering called the “ProDI.” I’ll have a review of that in a bit. But since the PA at the restaurant doesn’t have any effect inserts or a loop, I decided to get a reverb pedal specifically for this gig. Enter the RV-5

BOSS may be considered a bit too mainstream for most people’s tastes, but I have to hand it to them. They’ve created some wonderful pedals in the past that have served to define certain tonal genres; for instance, the CE-2 Chorus. Now, I’m not saying the RV-5 is a standard by any stretch of the imagination. But considering how long BOSS (Roland) has been around, they do know how to get some great sounds. And the fact that almost everything they make is pretty affordable, that’s not a bad thing at all!

Add to the fact that BOSS pedals seem to last forever, and that is a testament to their build quality. My thought is that BOSS has always been able to produce “giggable” tones at a great price that may not be absolutely perfect or the ideal I may be after with a particular tone, but they’re well-built, reliable, and I can get my tones “close enough” so that most folks would never notice. Hell! I had my all-digital CE-5 on my board for years, and no one was the wiser (though, of course, it’s no match to the liquid, smooth tones of the CE-2).

I wasn’t expecting much out of the RV-5. After all, despite BOSS’s longevity in the marketplace, most of their new stuff is simply okay. But when I auditioned the pedal at the shop, going through a PA system, I was really impressed with its tone – especially with the “Plate” setting, which provides a nice, warm and snappy reverb that’s ideal for acoustic guitar. I didn’t play too much with the other reverb settings at the time, but I was really pleased with the Plate just the same. On that voicing alone, I knew I had a winner for my gig yesterday.

The other thing that REALLY stuck out for me was that the RV-5 is dead quiet. No errant hiss or artifacts at all, and that is a real delight, not having to deal with line noise.

So last night, I ran my guitar into the Vocalist Live, went out the “Thru” jack, into the RV-5, into the Radial ProDI, then straight into the board. I was crossing my fingers that it would work, and it work it did! I was pleasantly surprised about how transparent the pedal was! My Stratacoustic Deluxe has this quirky, but pleasing jangle from the Tele lipstick pickup in the neck that I absolutely love, and I was actually concerned that I’d lose that with the RV-5. But my concerns were all waylaid as that jangle was retained.

What I discovered through tweaking the pedal last night was that I actually like the “Hall” setting quite a bit, and switched back and forth between “Plate” and “Hall” all night. I really didn’t get into the “Spring” setting that much, and frankly, I’ve never really liked digitally modeled spring reverbs – even the Lexicon spring that’s on my Hardwire RV-7. But that’s just a nit. It’s not bad, but it’s not really my cup of tea. I tend to like a more spacious-sounding reverb.

So all in all, I really dig the Boss RV-5. I’ll do a full review in the next couple of days!

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As many might know, one of the first places I test out new gear is at my weekly church gig. Church services are especially great for testing gear that you normally use clean or with just a little grit, and it proved to be a great venue for testing out the Time Machine.

All I can say about the Time Machine is, “Wow!” It really was made for being run in front of an amp! I know that some people don’t like it because it can’t be used in an effects loop, but in front of an amp, it works great! Don’t know how VOX did it, but it doesn’t seem vary the output gain – at least as far as I could tell – so it didn’t give me pulsing grind when I set my amp at just the edge of breakup. That really blew me away because I was concerned about that happening as I always set my amp on the edge of breakup, so increases in gain, whether due to volume knob or attack will give me some light dirt. Amazingly enough, the Time Machine didn’t push my amp over the edge at all.

That gave me tons of confidence to really experiment with the pedal. As with most church services with contemporary christian music, the flavors of songs change throughout the service. This provides ample opportunity to test gear. Whether used in smooth ballads or rockin’ with some slapback, the Time Machine delivered on all fronts. I was particularly impressed with using the Time Machine on slow songs where I could dial in a real long delay (it can get a delay time of up to 5800 seconds). Setting the feedback to about noon and the level to around 11am, I was able to get this great ambient, ethereal tone with an approximate metronome setting around 58-62 bpm by using the tap tempo toggle.

I dig the tap tempo on the Time Machine. It’s always on, so making midstream tempo adjustments is simply a breeze. In one of our songs this evening, the group sped up for some reason, and it really threw off my delay tone. But a quick tempo adjustment – while I was still playing, mind you – got my delay back in sync. That was so incredible!

As I mentioned in my review of the Time Machine, I’ve been waiting for a couple of years to get a new delay after I gave my old DD-5 away. I’m glad I took the time to wait. The Time Machine is the bomb!

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