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Archive for October, 2008

A New Guitar Amp-Simulator

Overloud TH-1I recently attended a demo at a NYC recording studio for a new guitar-amp simulator plug-in (that also runs standalone) from Overloud called TH-1. Overloud, is an Italian company that also makes Breverb, an impressive software reverb. Some of TH-1’s features include the ability to morph between amp models, a simple signal chain, low CPU usage, lots of mic models including ribbon mics (now that is cool), the ability to use more than one mic on a cabinet and move both around, and the ability to assign MIDI control to various parameters. And most importantly, it sounded really good. According to Overloud, the product should start shipping within a week or two. TH-1 will be distributed by Ilio.

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Related Topics: Emusician, Mike Levine |

Free Operator Patches for Ableton Live 7

Trackteam Audio just posted a free Live Pack called Base Class 01. It contains 35 Instrument Racks of great-sounding leads using Live’s FM synth, Operator. To grab it, click the Downloads button at the top of the Trackteam home page,

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Moogfest 2008

Jake Cinnegar of Umphrey’s McGee plays the Moog Guitar

I attended Moogfest 2008 on Monday night at the Manhattan Center Ballroom in New York City. The evening was highlighted by two events. One was the presentation to Bernie Worrell, keyboardist of Parliament-Funkadelic fame, of the Moog Lifetime Achievement Award (aka “The Bob Award,” presented previously to Keith Emerson, Jan Hammer, Gershon Kingsley, and Herb Deutsch). The award was presented to Worrell by Paul Shaffer, who also sat in on a song with Worrell, who performed at the event with the Eric McFadden Quartet (McFadden and Worrell played a mixture of P-Funk songs—including “Flashlight”—and McFadden’s own material. McFadden is a very impressive guitarist and singer.)

The other big news at the event was the concert debut of the new Moog Guitar, which was more than ably handled by Jake Cinninger, the guitarist with Umphrey’s McGee, who were the headliners of the show. (Cinninger actually played the Moog Guitar prior to the Umphrey’s set when he performed with Prison Shank, a band put together for the evening that featured Umphrey’s McGee bassist Ryan Stasi, keyboardists Adam Magner of the Disco Biscuits and Jamie Sheilds of the New Deal, and drummer Joe Russo of The Benevento/ Russo Duo. Their set was completely improvised and very cool.

Cinninger, who told me that he’d only had the Moog Guitar for about a week and a half prior to the show, sounded as if he’d been playing it for years. He totally rocked on it, and got a wide range of tones. Backstage, prior to the show, he demonstrated some of its capabilities for me, and was able to get a range of tones including sounds to orchestral-like, string-like tones, cool filtered sounds, great sounding conventional-guitar sounds and more. One really cool way he used it, was to hit a note and sustain it (the guitar has infinite sustain) and then play other notes on top of that. It was great for tapping, as well.

Click here for video coverage of Moogfest from For more on the Moog Guitar, you can watch a video that EM Senior Editor Geary Yelton produced, which features Moog’s Jason Daniello showing off the instrument’s features and sounds.

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My AES Top Hits

I attended the AES show over this past weekend, and here are some of the products I saw that impressed me.

Digidesign previewed Pro Tools 8, which offers a wide range of new features. There’s a redesigned user-interface, which now offers the ability to customize. Also included is the long-awaited Score Editor, which integrates technology Digidesign acquired when it bought Sibelius. In addition, you get five new instruments (a piano, a drum machine, an organ, and a couple of new synths), a range of additional MIDI editing tools, the Elastic Pitch feature (complimenting Elastic Time, which was introduced in v. 7.4), increased track counts in the LE and M-Powered versions, and a lot more. All in all, a major update, indeed. If you’re buying it new, pricing depends on the system and hardware you have (or are purchasing). If you’re upgrading, the price for LE and M-Powered is $149.95, and for HD is $249.95.

Daking Mic Pre One
Daking is a high-end pro audio company that generally makes products aimed at commercial studio rather than the personal studio. So imagine my surprise to find that the company was releasing Mic Pre One, a Class-A mic preamp and DI with a street price of $675. Granted, it’s on the high end of the home-studio price range, but you’re getting what promises to be a super high quality pre, which, coupled with a good microphone, will give you a pro-quality signal chain for your DAW.

Mojave MA-201 fetAnd speaking of good microphones, there were a couple of standouts from a price/performance perspective at AES: first, Mojave Audio, makers of the highly praised MA-200 large diaphragm tube condenser and the MA-100 small diaphragm tube condenser, have introduced the MA-201 fet, a solid-state mic that carries a MAP price of $695. If it’s anything like Mojave’s other models (and there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t be), it should be a killer-sounding mic

AKG C 214
Also noteworthy on the microphone front is the AKG C 214, which is a single pattern condenser with the same capsule as the company’s legendary C 414 (although it uses a single diaphragm rather than a dual one in the 414). The 214 can withstand an impressive 156 dB SPL, and will sell for about $600. Line 6 BackTrack + Mic
Line 6 continues to innovate, with the introduction of the BackTrack and BackTrack + Mic, which are mini flash recorders designed to help guitarists capture moments of inspiration whenever they occur. The cigarette-box-sized units plug in-line with your guitar, record everything you play, and can last all day on a set of batteries. You basically just set and forget them, and then when you have a moment of inspiration, it’s already recorded. No need to turn on your computer, let it boot, plug-in a mic, and hope that you still remember the cool thing you played. You can even mark the spot of your inspirational moment by hitting the mark button on the recorder. When you’re all done, connect the Talkback to your computer via USB, and it shows up like a drive and has audio files on it that you can drag onto your hard drive. The BackTrack will sell for $99, and the BackTrack + Mic for $149.

The world of amp modeling software became even more competitive with Line 6’s introduction of its Pod Farm software. Pod Farm, which can run standalone or as a plug-in, features numerous amp, speaker, and effects models (AU/ VST/RTAS), and it can run with or without Line 6 hardware. Pod Farm comes in two flavors: The standard version (just called “Pod Farm?) sells for $99, and gives you the following lineup of models: 18 guitar amp, 24 guitar cabinet, 5 bass amps, 5 bass cabinet, 29 stompboxes and studio effects, and 6 mic preamps. Pod Farm Platinum ($299.99), features 78 guitar amps, 24 guitar cabinets, 28 bass amps, 22 bass cabinets, 97 stompbox and studio effects, and 6 mic preamps. The UI is very easy to use, and the sounds are stellar.
Allen and Heath ZED-R16
Allen and Heath displayed the ZED-R16 ($2,999), an analog mixer with digital and MIDI capabilities. The unit has 16 mono input channels equipped with mic and line inputs and channel inserts, as well as 2 stereo line input channels, 4-band fully parametric EQ, 4 auxes, and more. It’s digital I/O includes 18+18 FireWire interface and an 8+8 ADAT interface. In addition, it offers a slew of MIDI controller features including 12 faders, 12 rotary controllers, 12 switches, and transport controls. The unit is designed for both studio and live applications, and comes bundled with Cakewalk Sonar LE software.

Peterson Strobosoft
Peterson was showing Strobosoft 2.0 ($99), the new version of its virtual strobe tuner. Probably the biggest difference with version 1 is that it now runs as an AU/VST plug-in, not just as a standalone. New features include support for tap tuning, and a Pitch Graph window, which shows the pitch of the incoming note in graph form. Peterson suggests using the Pitch Graph as a practice aid for instrumentalists who need to polish their intonation.

Primacoustic brought out a couple of cool new acoustic products: Flexibooth ($399 retail) is a wall-mounted, fold-out voiceover booth that doubles as an absorber. It hangs on the wall, has two doors that open, and when you place your mic inside the doors, the sound is incredibly deadened. It was very impressive, as was Machine Room ($650 retail), a computer isolation cabinet. To demonstrate how well it works, the Primacoustic folks put a little tape recorder inside playing continuous white noise, and when you closed the front glass door of the Machine Room enclosure, it became totally silent. The unit also opens on the top, which is where a cooling fan is located.
DBX db12
At the DBX booth, they were showing off two new direct boxes. Both feature input and parallel thru jacks, a balanced Neutrik XLR output, a 3 position pad switch, and more. You can choose either the db10 Passive Direct Box ($99.95) or the db12 Active Direct Box ($129.95).

Furman debuted its Classic Series, a revamped line of rack-mounted power conditioners (you know, the ubiquitous ones you see in so many racks with the pull-out lights) that feature surge protection, filtering, and Extreme Voltage Shutdown. The series will consist of three 15-amp models, and two 20-amp models. Prices range from $209-$499 (MSRP), which means they’ll street for considerably less.
Sabra-Som SSM-Pop
Finally, I wanted to mention a small item from a Brazilian company called Sabra-Som, which makes cool studio-utility products including the new SSM-POP ($55), which is a combination universal shock mount and pop filter. Although it’s not the most exciting type of product, I thought it was worth mentioning. I doubt you could buy a shock mount and a pop filter separately without spending a lot more. I currently own a Sabra-Som universal shock mount, and it’s a very handy device.

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My Gig on Good Morning America

I got a call last week to play Dobro with country star Sara Evans on her October 7th appearance on Good Morning America. Dobro is a big part of her new single “Low”, but Evans doesn’t have a Dobro player in her touring band, and she wanted one for this TV appearance. I’ve played on national TV before, but not for a number of years, and I must admit to some butterflies in advance. The part I had to learn was very prominent in the song, so I had to seriously woodshed it. Evans’s bass player (who’s also her brother) sent me an MP3 of the song, as well as a stem of the Dobro track to practice with, and practice I did. While attending the AES show this past weekend, I used my downtime to work on my part in my hotel room (luckily, I got no complaints from neighbors).

On the day of the show, the band was scheduled to arrive at the Good Morning America studio at 5:40 AM for soundcheck and rehearsal, which I was afraid would be doubly tough considering that I’d just flown in from San Francisco the day before and was still on West Coast Time. However, due to adrenaline, I guess, I was full of energy when I awoke at 4:00 AM, and headed for NYC and the studio, which is in Manhattan’s Times Square district. I was very impressed with the operation at GMA, and with Sara Evans’ crew and her band. Everyone was friendly and efficient, and the guy from the equipment rental company (who brought a B3 for Sara’s keyboard player, and some of the other band gear), even told me that he’d brought in a couple of Dobros in case I needed one. I thanked him for his thoroughness, but assured him that I brought my own, and would be fine with that.

The ideal way to get a natural Dobro sound live is through a mic, supplemented by a pickup in the instrument. However, because there would be drums playing (which could easily leak through a mic turned up high to pickup the Dobro) Evan’s people asked me to just use the pickup (I have a McIntyre piezo that’s installed in the instrument). I plugged it though a DI, and it ended up sounding really nice. The sound facilities at the GMA studio were top notch. The soundcheck was recorded in multitrack format and then the sound people were able to get a good mix setup prior to the actual performance using the tracks they’d recorded.

The band used in-ear monitors, which made hearing myself really easy. Other than getting my Dobro’s strap tangled up a couple of times with the wire from the in-ear belt pack, I found the “ears” to be a huge improvement over wedges. The room acoustics didn’t come into play, and I got a custom mix, which allowed me to hear my Dobro very clearly, which is critical, because the strings are raised above the neck and it’s played with a bar, making it essentially a fretless instrument.

In any case, the performance went really well, and you can check it out here. There’s talking for about the first 1:48 of this video, until the song starts, so you can skip ahead if you just want to get right to the music.

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The Bus, EM's editorial blog, features posts from all the EM editors on topics related to gear, recording techniques and much more. It's also home to posts from a selected group of guest bloggers.


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