More Things Rig

Hi Everyone,

It’s been a while since I had a gear post, but I thought I’d put up a quick update that some of you might find interesting.

And besides – what guitar player doesn’t like gear (or reading about gear?)

That Muse Of Guitar

The Guitar-Muse posts are on a bit of a hiatus for the moment, but I did a short series for them about the evolution of my live rig and getting it down to something manageable for travel.  You can read those posts below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

I never got to do part 5 or 6, but for people that are interested here’s some of the things I make sound with now (and it may be something you can apply to your own live rigs):

Electric – The Exonerated

As part of the Buck Moon Arts Festival, I volunteered to do live accompaniment for a staged reading of the play, The Exonerated.  The play called for a Slingblade/Daniel Lanois sparse type of accompaniment.  As the drummer I wanted to work with wasn’t available, I brought my full rig and laptop.

Live Rig

Can improvise, arrange and mix multiple audio signals for a live show. Can not shoot a picture in focus.

What you’ll find here:

  • FnH Guitar (not pictured) being played with picks, slide and ebow running into
  • Nady TD-1 (with 12AU7) going into a
  • POD 500X HD
  • (there’s an additional expression pedal as well) running the effects send into a
  • Torpedo C.A.B. and running that out to a
  • QSC K-8 speaker.

The laptop is running Logic Audio/Absynth and a few other apps and I’m triggering sounds and loops with the Korg Nano Key.  The audio leaves my headphone jack and goes into the 1/8″ input of the POD.

Perhaps you noticed the white Zip Ties….I tried using just the Velcro on the PedalTrain and when I opened the bag, all the pedals were pulled off the board and on the bottom of the bag.  I went to the hardware store and got the longest ZIP ties I could to hold everything down and all was right with the world.  A dedicated power supply for everything would be nice, but as that would require having the power input completely re-wired on the TD-1, that’s on a back burner for now.

I really dig the Scuffham amps S-Gear, so if I could have gotten the Scuffham amps and SooperLooper plug in in AU Lab to play nice with the Line 6 USB shortboard I might have just brought the Apogee Duet, laptop and shortboard.

But my laptop isn’t getting any younger and a new laptop is out of the budget right now so rig B right now is my iPhone, Sonic Port, Positive Grid, Audio Bus and Loopy HD.  I dig the loop features a lot and if the AirTurn BT-105-PB4 works the way I think it will I might be able to make it one of my default live rigs.

Having said that, the POD rig does a LOT of things really well and while I like the Positive grid guitar tones, in its current incarnation it can’t touch the POD for non-guitaristic tones (i.e. the weird stuff – i.e. the good stuff).  Using a RADIAL splitter and a SONUUS i2M to allow the guitar to be a MIDI controller is also something I’ve experimented with before and will come back to.  Again – it depends on the consistency of the laptop.

I also have a ZT junior amp, which I really dig and I’ve done a couple of background music gigs that just required showing up with a small amp.  For a straight jazz, country or for just a warm clean tone in small settings it’s my go-to.

Acoustic Tone

The last set up on my Tam Hiep made it borderline unplayable due to a sympathetic vibration on the low E string.  File that under substantial repairs/bummer.

In the meantime, since I don’t want to gig with my Jeff Chappel guitar – I’ve gone back to Yamaha APX’s for live use.  I have an APX700 12 string that I’m using for more Dastgah/Maqam type things with a B-F#-B-F#-B-F# tuning.  Right now I have it set up for octave tuning but will likely use the same adaptations I used on the Rogue (i.e. making it a 10 string with unison strings on the D and G strings.

I’m keeping an eye out for another APX700ii, 700 or 500ii.  The Yamaha and the BT-105 are the last anticipated gear purchases for quite a while but we’ll see what happens.

In terms of amps and effects.  It depends on the situation but the Yamaha AG-Stomp does everything I could ask it to do in a live setting and a ZT Acoustic lunchbox is arriving via UPS today and I anticipate that that will solve any live need I could possibly have.

That’s it for now!

 

Rig-O-Tone-y or More Hybrid Tone Approaches

When Gear Acquisition Syndrome is fuel for the fire

After my last post on using the Torpedo Cab and the Nady TD-1 in conjunction with the POD HD500X, I thought I’d talk a little bit more about the configuration I’m currently using and then A/B the approaches for you.

The TD might stand for “Terrible Design”

I had done a substantial amount of research for a BIAS review for Guitar-Muse that may or may not be see the light of day and in researching all aspects of the tube pre-amp, rediscovered the 12AU7.

12AU7

This tube is a direct replacement for a 12AXA7 but has some different tonal characteristics and offers less gain.  On a recent trip to Drome Sound, I found a NOS Groove Tubes 12AU7 for $10 and decided to swap it out in my Nady TD-1.  The TD-1 is a cool pedal in terms of tone, and a terrible housing design as replacing the tube requires completely dismantling the casing.

As a first step, you’ll need 3 tools to do this.

ToolsOn my first dismantling attempt, I realized that I didn’t have a star shaped driver to undo the sides of the casing.  It seemed cruel for Nady to not simply use philips head screws but a quick trip to Radio Shack got me the driver I needed (with some other attachments) and soon I had this.

Nady Pedal DisassembleThere are 36 parts holding the casing together.  You need to remove all 36 to get the tube out (a Chinese made 12AX7B in this case).

Pedal Interior

You’ll also notice that you don’t have a lot of wiggle room to extract the tube.  The photo above shows the replaced GT in the socket.

The A/B Rig

First off.  I had a strange experience with my hybrid solution at the last gig I played.  Soundcheck went fine and then live when I switched to my lead patch the volume dropped by 70% or more.  I had to full crank my QSC K-8 (which I’ve never had to turn past 10 o’clock [the off position starts at 6 o’clock]) to be heard.  I assumed it was a cable or a bad connection but checking the cables after the gig, they were all fine.  Line 6 just released a new Firmware update to deal with volume drops with that occurred when switching patches with specific configurations and I guess mine was one of them as it seems to be working now.

I started the process this weekend of porting all of my patches from the HD-500 over to the 500-X (and trying to recreate some of my POD Farm patches there as well) and thought I’d give you an A/B example of the dual rig.

This was one of my old POD patches that I liked.
Dual 800It was a great dirty rhythm sound but the leads were hit and miss.  I put a FX loop in with a 6 DB increase and used it as a boost for solos.

In contrast, here’s my current configuration.  The tube screamer is gone and replaced by the TD-1.

J800 + J45_1The TD is also the first step of my signal chain so I use that for the lead boost.  Here are the amps:

800 + 45_2You may notice that the cab models are turned off.  The FX loop now goes out to the Torpedo for the cab simulation.

So this means that I have 2 extra things plugged in with my POD.  Which is way more of a pain than simply using the POD direct.  But does it make a difference?

Well the tones are completely different but here’s the A/B.  I’m just improvising some D major patterns over a D5 chord.

Recorded the TD/Torpedo is more saturated, but the biggest difference is live.  When played through my QSC, the second tone has substantially increased presence in the room.  I don’t know how to describe it but seems to jump out more from the speaker.  There’s also a little hiss from the pedal, but I can live with it in a live context.

Wait there’s a third option?

Having said all of that I took advantage of a recent cancelled rehearsal I showed up to to put my Positive Grid Jam Up App through the paces.  I can work with it at home but it’s a different context to put it through an amp on a stage in a large hall and see what happens and I have to say – I was pretty blown away.

I’m going to be doing live accompaniment for a production of The Exonerated at the BuckMoon Arts Festival in July and currently it looks like I’ll just be bringing my iphone, a laptop for some synths and looping and a powered speaker.  It doesn’t have the flexibility that the POD set up does, but for situations where I just need a decent clean/dirty tone – it gets the job done and then some.

More tone reports as the summer progresses – but hopefully this is useful to some of you.

As always, thanks for reading!

-SC

Rig-O-Lution Or More Notes From The Trenches Of Tone

The Siren’s Song Of Old School

More and more, I get players who stick with un-amplified acoustic guitar for performance.  Mind you, playing acoustic guitar and really articulating every note can a BEAR, but it’s such a dynamic instrument that gives you back exactly what you put into it.  There’s something really satisfying about strumming a chord on an acoustic and just having it decay naturally.

However, this isn’t about the easy solution. ; )

A Tale of Two Gigs

A while back – I talked about how I had taken my POD HD500 out for a show and was really surprised by how well the tones went across.  Basically I had 2 dirty and 2 clean tones (Really one dirty and one clean with a slight variation) – and running that out into the hall with a single QSC K-8 speaker.

After the latest Variax debacle, I decided to upgrade to the POD HD500X and, as I understood it, the only real difference was an upgrade in switches, and more memory so my tones would remain exactly the same.

But a funny thing happened.  I played another gig – with the same group and in the same hall, and this time a PA was set up.  So I ran a stereo pair to the house through the XLR outs and also ran a line out to my QSC K-8.

And I wasn’t digging my tone.

It was really shrill and strange and I was fighting it (along with the looper which was acting a little glitchy as well) for the duration of the evening.  I was able to limp through the gig but I wasn’t psyched.

So I went back to the drawing board.

Whatever happened to that Laptop Guitar Rig?

Several of you may remember a NUMBER of posts about my laptop rig (Just check the Blueprints page for the Laptop Guitar Rig section).  Funny thing about that.  My laptop got really out of date.

Enough so that running any kind of intensive audio software on it required disc repairs, defragging and obscure incantations.

Gradually, my system wouldn’t support the newer versions of AU LAB, and my software wouldn’t run on the updates I had.

I still use it for sound sculpture, but it’s been a little too glitchy to run live.  But one idea that I had there (running a signal out to a impulse response for a more 3-D tone) was one that still appealed to me as it seemed like I couldn’t get a tone out of the cabs without MAJOR EQ tweaking that worked for me.  Also, I liked a few of the distortions but I also felt limited with the models there.  So I started looking into solutions outside the POD.

DAMN!!!  The Torpedo!  Full Speed Ahead!

Here’s the first part of the solution.  A local music shop had a used version of a Two Notes Torpedo C.A.B. for sale for about 1/2 the street price.  After sitting on that for a while (and seeing it sit around on the shelf desperately looking for an owner) I offered them $20 less than the asking price and brought it home.

CAB_3D_721

Photo Taken From TWO NOTES Web Site.

The Torpedo Cab is basically a speaker cabinet simulator that acts as an Impulse Response (IR) loader in a stompbox format.  It doesn’t have any load box capabilities so you can’t use it directly with your JCM 800 speaker out (they do make gear you can run right out of a power amp into) – but it offers substantial tonal flexibility.  In addition to using their own format (which allows for virtual mic placement and different cab and mic options) you can also use a simulated power amp and EQ which is accessible through either the pedal screen or through the free Torpedo Remote software.

This is a GREAT pedal!!  It’s super solid and offers a lot of great tones on the fly.  Out of the box, there were some decent cabs and mics – but I wasn’t getting them to sound the way that I wanted them to.  Fortunately, Two Notes BlendIR came to the rescue.

BLENDIR

BlendIR is a free app that allows you to load multiple IRs and mix them down to a single file that can be read by the Torpedo CAB.

Blend IR

This is a big deal, because if you want to mix the sound of say a room mike, a close mic and a mid distance mike in the proprietary format, you’re out of luck as it only supports one mic at a time.  In my case I had a bunch of REALLY GREAT Marshall IRs that I was able to download for free from RED WIREZ (http://www.redwirez.com/).  In the example above, I mixed multiple IRs to create a stacked sound I was looking for.

That Distortion

Also, I was obsessing about distortion a little bit and thinking a lot about how much I dug some of Shawn Lane’s dirty tones.  Part of his sound started from front loading a solid-state Holmes Mississippi Bluesmaster Amp with a Westbury Tube Overdrive (later the Holmes was replaced with a Peavey Pro-Fex that Peavey had modded for him).  There’s a thread with some REALLY interesting insights on his tone here (about 1/2 way down the page).

Westbury was bought out by NADY, and NADY’s TD-1 is the updated version of it. 

Nady TD-1 fron Nady Website

Nady TD-1 fron Nady Website

Nady released several versions of the pedal.  The original just had an on/off switch with Gain and Level controls.  The current version features 3 different levels of drive, and an EQ section.  I do like some of the Line 6 distortion pedals, but they haven’t modeled enough of them for my taste, so I wanted to experiment with this.  

A sale on Amazon had one shipped to me for under $100.  

The Pluses:

  • It’s a REALLY sturdy pedal
  • it’s relatively quiet
  • it has tremendous tonal variance

The Minuses:

The power connector is funky.

(I only mention this as making it a part of a pedal board will require more than a pedal power supply.)

While you can get high gain tones from it, I think it works best as on the low-mid gain settings – and it works great there.

The Line 6 Story I Can’t Find Now.

Somewhere in my jumble of posts is a brief anecdote about the time I met with Rich Renken when he was working at Line 6.  Rich had a great story about the (much maligned) Marshall cabinet that was modeled.  There were a number of people online who hated the Marshall cabinet that Line 6 had in the POD saying it sounded nothing like a Marshall.

What Rich said was funny about that was Line 6 tested a NUMBER of Marshall cabinets until they found the cabinet that everyone agreed had THE Marshall sound.  That cabinet was modeled and they then A/B’d the sound of the amplified cabinet with the sound of the model and everyone there said it sounded identical.  End users were brought in and they also couldn’t tell the difference.  The guys at Line 6 assumed they hit a home run.

But the thing is that it’s all about context.  That Marshall cab that Line 6 modeled may have sounded exactly like that cabinet miked up in a studio environment – but that same tone might not work at all in someone’s headphone mix.  The tone you hear on a mastered recording is sometimes radically different than what you’d hear coming out of the cone.

So, I don’t think that the Marshall sound is awful, but I don’t think it fully works in the context that I’m trying to use my sounds in.  And that’s what’s prompting the current signal chain.

Signal Chain

The signal chain is FnH guitar –>Nady TD1 –> POD HD500X.  The Nady is only used for a solo tone.

In the 500X – The FX send goes to the Torpedo CAB back into the unit.

From the 500x – I use the XLR outs for the house and run a line out to my QSC K-8 (either for monitoring OR for live sound if there’s no PA).

Here’s The Signal Path Of The Dirty Rhythm Sound I’m Currently Using

Rhythm 1

Basically what I’ve done here is try to combine the best of both worlds.  Amp A runs to the Torpedo for the cabinet sound and I’ve blended that with Amp B for the modeled cab.  Some people use the Pre-Amp versions of these amps to save on DSP, but I find that the deeper amp controls like SAG play a big role in the feel of the amps.  Amp B does have some additional EQ thrown on it to boos the cab sound a bit  and amp A had bit of slap back delay.  Both signals are then mixed (around 30% in the left channel for A and 30% in the right channel for B) and run through a common reverb for continuity.

Here’s the basic lead tone.

Lead 1

This is essentially the same as the rhythm tone, but I’ve removed the Tube Screamer and addd a volume and wah.   I think the modeled Tube Screamer works well with the modeled amps (it sounds great when you roll off the volume a bit rhythm) – but it just didn’t have the lead sound I was looking for.

Even at lower levels, the NADY does introduce noise, and the Line 6 gate I’m using needs a lot of tweaking.  There’s some digital dirt on the end of notes as they decay – so I find that the NADY is causing me to ride both Tone and Volume controls on the FnH more than before.  (In other words it’s forcing me to be more expressive and thus more musical).  Gain staging was a bit of an issue with the FX loop as well and it took a couple of passes to tame some sound issues there as well).

Live Versus Phone (or Phones Home)

One GREAT thing about using the QSC K-8 is that it gives me a pretty accurate picture of  what my tones sound like through a PA.  I like the Atomic amps I was using before a great deal, but they weren’t accurate at all for live sound, and having to mike one for the room, was completely counter to the point of running a modeler.

I’ve talked about this in other posts as well – but it’s still amusing to me just HOW different those tonal requirements are.  Even after getting it close to dialed in on my phones, I had to use a different IR for the K-8.

I’m not posting any tones now, because this is still very much a work in progress – but I’ll have something up relatively soon (hopefully a live clip!)  The word of the day here is EXPERIMENT.  That’s the truth of it.  Plugging a box into the front of a POD may get you something out of the unit you weren’t getting before.

For now, I think I’m going to see a lot more of hybrid rig configurations in my future until digital technology fully catches up – but rest assured it’s catching up and while the all in one solution is already here for many players, I anticipate that even players like me that need some old school feel and flavor will see an all in one digital solution within the next 5-10 years (if not sooner – I’m pretty knocked out by the Positive Grid software – look for some words on that soon!)  The future is not only coming, for the most part it’s already here.

Okay!  Enough rambling for one day.  As always thanks for reading!

-SC

Rare Picks And A Pentatonic Approach From Mr. Cusano For Guitar-Muse

Hey Everyone!

A quick update from DC, where rock and roll is alive and well!

I’ll have some new playing and gear content up here in August.  In the meantime, since there’s been a lot of music business / psychology of music posts on GuitArchitecture lately,  I thought I’d touch on both areas with some new posts on Guitar-Muse.

First up, is a post on my Pickboy Speed King pick.  It’s a weird and cool piece of gear and the flatpickers amongst you might find some DIY inspiration in pick design there.  You can read all about it here.  

Secondly, I’m doing a player profile series for Guitar-Muse and the first player up is the former Vincent Cusano (Vinnie Vincent).  Vinnie has gotten a lot of attention in the press for everything but his guitar playing, but in many ways he’s a fascinating player to me.  He managed to fully embrace the shred aesthetic and do it in a really unique way.  Vinnie’s pentatonic-based approach produces some cool sounds that you can find here.

The player profile series is going to feature some cool guitarists that mostly fly under the radar.  As I mentioned before, the series will also include Alex Masi,  Vlatko Stefanovski, Ridgely Snow, and José Peixoto.

There should be some gear/tech pieces on modeling, tone and amps with some other interviews getting posted into August/September.

That’s it for now!

More stuff next week and as always thanks for reading.

-SC

Mas Modeling!! POD Farm, POD HD, Scuffham Amps And A Whole Tone lick

Computers, and models and amp sims – OH MY!

.

There’s been a lot of interest in the posts on this site regarding modeling,  POD Farm and POD HD.  When I made my initial post about this, I didn’t have the 2 units to compare, but I do now and here are my thoughts.

.

POD FARM

I still like POD FARM.  For tonal flexibility – it’s really cool.

  • The first thing about POD FARM to recognize is that the amps are more like specific snapshots of amps than fully realized models.   By that I mean, if you have a Marshall sound with a killing setting that you dig, then that’s great.  But if you roll back on the volume, it’s not going to clean up the way a real Marshall would.  There are ways to circumnavigate this (and you can definitely adjust your playing around it), but when playing through it, you’re definitely playing a good sounding model rather than an amp.
  • The second thing is that there’s a BIG sonic difference in the distorted sounds between 44 and 96k.  This is to be expected, but there are certain models that are unusable at 44k.
  • On the plus side the laptop functionality of POD FARM is awesome.  I can get sounds out of this rig that I could never get out of a conventional amp.  I can run two rigs with more pedals than I could ever run live and, furthermore, when I run it through the Atomic tube amp – even the 44k sounds come alive and works well live.
  • Breaking out POD Farm into individual elements is really smart – and very cool.  It means that I can run (for example) pre-amps or compressors in my AU LAB shell anywhere in the signal chain.  A nice touch.
  • I love AUs.  Why?  Because when the power goes out at my place for 4 days and I have to type this from a coffee shop, being able to discretely pull out an electric and play in a corner with a set of headphones (and not take up multiple tables) is a GOOD THING!

.

Conclusion #1:  If you’re the type of person who like’s to get a great tone and park it – this may be a good option for you.

Conclusion #2:  If you’re the type of person who wants to reference guitar tones (clean, dirty etc.) but then go beyond that into the stratosphere tonally – this is the unit for you.

Conclusion #3:  If you want more amp, effect or cab options than you ever imagined – you know the drill.

Conclusion #4:  If you expect different tones from your guitar when you roll off the volume, or the thought of using a laptop guitar on stage makes you nervous, this may not be the unit for you.

.

POD HD 500

.

This review is specific to the 500 as it’s the only unit I have (and have played through).  Comparing this to POD FARM is kind of like comparing apples and onions.  They may have a similar shape, but they’re very different things.

.

  • The POD HD has substantially fewer models than POD FARM.  Having said this, the architecture of the modeling is completely different and the tonal detail is stunning.  There may be much fewer amps – but they all sound really good.  The amps themselves have controls like BIAS, BIAS-X, HUM and SAG that the POD FARM amps do not and when plugging in the guitar signal feels like it’s plugging into an amp.  You can roll off the volume and the signal acts in a musical way.  As of this writing, Line 6 updated the HD500 and HDPRO w. a new variable input impedance that affects the tone of certain distortion pedals when you back off the volume (so they behave more like the real thing).
  • While the unit supports 96k as an output, the distortions sound good at 44k.  Much better than the POD FARM distortions at that setting.
  • As a hardware unit – it has a number of ins and outs.  It’s extremely flexible in that way, has a built-in expression pedal and a looper.  I’ve never liked USB recording, but the USB recording in the HD works well.
  • The unit has some tricks up its sleeves that are unique.  Particularly the particle verb, which is a gorgeous sonic mangler.
  • On the down side – the unit doesn’t have the horsepower that a laptop has so you can’t use any combination of amps cabs and effects on the unit. If you’re using a DSP intensive amp and effect, you can get the DSP limit screen pretty easily.
  • I have some minor global EQ and loop quibbles that you can read about here.

.

The POD HD Verdict

.

For the price point this is a great sounding unit.

.

  • If you want an all-in-one unit that has the potential to create really musical guitar tones – this may be the unit for you.
  • If you like to get under the hod and mess with things like SAG and Bias to get a good tone – this may be the unit for you.
  • If you need more outrageous non-guitar tones, there are some excellent possibilities on this unit.
  • If you’re the type of person who needs specific distortions, eq, compression or delays to get your tone, and don’t have the patience to chase tone to do so, this may not be for you.

.

PODFARM HD

.

So in my mind, PODFARM HD would really be the best of everything.  All of the CPU/DSP resources of the laptop mixed with the sounds of the HD unit.  Unfortunately, there’s no word on when this is coming out (there’s a lot of new Line 6 gear coming out right now – but even so I’m guessing you may see a demo version at NAMM and then a release in 2013).

(A few tips for Line 6 between now and NAMM.

  1. Please add global EQ and allow looper wet volume to be pedal assignable.
  2. Please release all of the LINE 6 Model amps in POD FARM (Like Bayou) for POD HD.)

And why do I think that Line 6 may step up the time-table on PODFARM HD?

Because  despite what the forums say, in terms of hardware, I don’t believe that Line 6 is in the competing market with Fractal Audio.  They’re at completely different price-points.  AVID’s Eleven Rack however is a completely different matter.  Software wise, you have Amplitube and Guitar Rig as probably the two closest competitors.  Both sound good for different things.  Both have a lot of the modelling issues that Line 6 has.  Only Guitar Rig comes close to the number of effects that POD FARM has though.

.

So why do I have Scuffham Amps in the title of this post?

.

Because Scuffham Amps has something neither of these do.  They have the nearest thing to a PODFARM HD AU on the market.

.

Scuffham Amps

.

I understand that Mike Scuffham was one of the guys behind the JMP-1 (Which was a great sounding pre btw).  He’s done something several really cool (there’s that word again – but it’s applicable) things with the design of this plug-in.

.

  • Limited amps – and specialized limits at that.  His “Duke” amp is based on Robben Ford’s amp (a DUMBLE) and has three channels to choose from.  The “Stealer” is loosely based on a PARK and the “Jackal” is based on a Soldano.  This is cool only because – they’re all really good sounding amps.
  • PRO Convolver and RED-WIREZ IRs.  The 64 bit convolver hosts a slew of really good sounding RED WIREZ IR’s (or  you can load your own).  For someone like me who typically runs IRs in LA Convolver – having them bundled in the AU is a nice feature.
  • Dynamic Power Amp.  In addition to the amp drive switch, you all get tweak controls like SAG High Frequency cut and Presence Frequency.
  • FX are limited.  It’s got a nice sounding delay, and the gate also works well the amp drive switch acts as like a distortion pedal – but no other fx onboard.
  • This might seem like a small thing, but the presets sound good.  There’s a lot of gear a I use where the presets range from ok to trash, but the presets here have really had some attention given to them.

.

I’m not going to put a million mp3s up here as there are already a bunch of them on the site here.

I am going to put up what I can get away with in a coffee shop.  First here’s the AU Lab session I’m using.  The only external effect is a spring reverb.

.

.

The Stealer has great blues/classic rock tones.  But here’s the odd thing, The Jackal has the 80’s metal vibe – but I REALLY dig it’s punchy clean tone and I’ve never really been into any Soldano clean tone I’ve heard.  Maybe I’m just not hearing the right ones. For rhythm/lead distortion – I’ve been into the Duke.

.

Breaking up is (not so) hard to do

I think I’ve used that title before….

Anyway, here’s the Duke and a favorite voicing of mine – an open E min 9 chord in the 7th position.

.

With many distortions – anything beyond a root-5th craps out and looses all definition.  Here, I’m going to play an mp3 with full distortion and then keep strumming the chord bringing my volume know down a notch or so.  Notice how:

1.  Everything cleans up as I lower the input volume and

2. how even at full volume and distortion you can still make the notes out!

.

Note:

For those of you interested in the tech side – this was recorded with an FnH Ultrasonic guitar, neck pickup through an Apogee Duet into AU LAB and Scuffham Amps’ THE DUKE model.

.

..

.
Let’s see how cleaning these things up sound with an actual lick.

.

That Whole Tone Idea

.

In the previous lesson, I talked about my concept of the modal microscope and how looking at things at multiple levels can help open new perceptions.

.

Let’s take a look at this with the Whole Tone Scale.

.

If I have C Whole Tone (C, D, E, F#, G#, A#(Bb) one chord that can be extracted from that is a C7+ (R, 3, #5, b7).  However, If we focus on the other chord tones of C7 (C, E, Bb), we can play it over a regular C7 chord with just a little bit o’ dissonance.

.

Since I’ve always done things in C – I’ll move it to G and play a G whole tone (with a few chromatics) over G7.

.

Here’s the lick (with some extra rubato, legato, vibrato and other atos):

.

.

And here’s an mp3 of the lick – with the same volume drop approach as the E min 9.

.

.

One thing that those of you who follow this blog might notice is that I’ve adapted my pentatonic 3-note-per string/1-note-per string – fingering to the whole tone scale (which I think is a cooler way to finger it and maybe you’ll agree!)

.

.

Conceptually, I’m thinking G whole tone from B for visualization purposes (but moving back to the A on the D string for a little melodic velocity).  The point is as long as I resolve to either the B (3rd) or G (root) I can sneak this in even if G7 is the I chord in a I-IV-V blues.

.

When I went to Berklee the best harmony lesson I learned was in Harmony IV, when the teacher told me that the whole point of Harmony I-IV was to teach students that any chord can precede or follow any other chord.  That means that you can superimpose anything over any chord – but the keys are 1.  having the knowledge to resolve it and/or make it work and 2.  having the experience and the confidence to go for it.

.

This has been kind a weird lesson/review post (indicative of a few weird days) so please bear with me as I get back to the review aspect of the Scuffham Amp for a moment.

.

  • On the minus side – I wish this AU had a tuner and a separate reverb built-in.  I understand why they’re not – but it’s nice to have a self-contained amp sound.
  • On that note – the amps sound really good and they’re unlike anything else really out there.
  • The list price is $90 – but they sell it online for $75.  Some people may balk at the lack of effects, but price-wise this is extremely reasonable for the quality of the amps and the red wirez bundle.
  • Don’t take my word for anything regarding YOUR tone.  You can download a fully working demo for 15 days and take it through the paces.  Some things will underwhelm you and there some things you will probably dig – particularly for blues/rock tones.

.

I’m still waiting for Line 6 POD FARM HD – which I hope is everything I expect it to be, but in the meantime, I’m using this.  If you’re even remotely interested in getting decent guitar tones out of your computer , give the demo a try.

.

As always thanks for reading!

-SC

.

PS – if you like this post you may also like:

.

POD HD FLASH MEMORY UPDATE, POD HD500 IN LIVE USE AND MORE THOUGHTS ABOUT GEAR

.

SOME THOUGHTS ON MODELING, GEAR ACQUISITION AND THE POD HD500

LINE 6 POD FARM 2.5 UPDATE AND POD FARM FREE ANNOUNCED

.

POD HD VS POD FARM: A COST COMPARISON

LINE 6 FBV EXPRESS MK II REVIEW

POD HD500 AND POD FARM CONJECTURES

RIG AROUND THE ROSIE OR MEDIATIONS AND MEDITATIONS ON GEAR

.

SOOPERLOOPER LIVE LOOPING AU UPDATE 1.6.18 ANNOUNCED

HARDWARE VS. SOFTWARE – OR PRAISES AND PERILS IN LIVE LAPTOP USE

.

X CODE 3.2.5 / AU LAB 2.2 NOW AVAILABLE – CAVEAT EMPTOR

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 6 – DUAL RIG DISTORTED TONES

LAPTOP GUITAR SETUP OR NOTES FROM A LIVE SHOW

.

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 5

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 4

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 3

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 2

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 1

SETTING UP “TESTING ENVIRONMENTS” OR MULTI LAYERED TONES IN AU LAB

.

BUILDING BLOCKS – OR MORE EXAMINATIONS OF A LAPTOP GUITAR SETUP

A QUICK LICK – AND A RIG DU JOUR UPDATE FROM HO CHI MINH CITY

TECH LIMBO (NEITHER HEAVEN NOR HELL R.I.P. RONNIE JAMES DIO)

.

POD HD Flash Memory Update, POD HD500 In Live Use And More Thoughts About Gear

I was going to wait a week and post this – but I want to break the lesson/gear/motivational posts up a little more evenly, and the Line 6 firmware update that was released yesterday provided a good reason to talk about gear.

Line 6 V 1.4 firmware update

.

Line 6 announced a new firmware update for POD HD PRO and HD 500.  (No word on updates for the 300/400).  Here’s what you get in the update (all text is from the Line 6 website):

.

What’s New?

  • Variable Input Impedance – This feature affects tone and feel because the guitar’s pickups are being “loaded” as they would be by an effect pedal or a tube amplifier. There are eight selectable options which can change the analog circuitry affecting the impedance of the Guitar Input. The options include seven discrete resistor values: 22k, 32k, 70k, 90k, 230k, 1M, 3.5M. There is also an Auto setting. When set to Auto the input impedance can automatically change depending on which amp or effect model is first in the signal chain of the current preset. Impedance settings are saved as part of each preset’s input selection.
  • Preset or Global Input Selection – When set to Preset, recalling a preset automatically selects which of the device’s audio inputs are used as the “source” – sort of like a built-in, programmable patchbay. The saved input impedance value will also be recalled with each preset. When set to Global, the input selection and impedance value saved with each preset will be ignored as presets are recalled; allowing presets with a variety of saved input settings to be heard from a single source without having to manually reprogram each preset’s input settings one at a time.
  • Hard Gate – An advanced gate capable of extremely quick response. With controls for hold time, decay rate, and separate open/close thresholds, Hard Gate is ideal for any genre including Metal. It can even be abused to create erratic “sputter” and “splat” effects.
  • Enhanced MIDI Control – Offers control of POD HD500 and POD HD Pro from external standard MIDI controllers. A variety of functions including Footswitch 1-8, Tap Tempo, Tuner, Looper Controls, and Expression Pedals can all be accessed via MIDI. For more details please refer to the latest version of the Advanced User Guide.
  • New Presets – This firmware includes lots of new presets. Many of the pre-existing Set Lists have gotten new presets and reordered based on customer feedback. The “BASS/ACO/VOC” Set List includes presets which provide a starting point for bass, acoustic guitar, and vocal processing. The Set List titled “L6LINK <-> DT” provides a starting point for users connecting a POD HD Pro to a DT Series amplifier. Note in this Set List presets 7A-D may not produce audio without a Variax connected and/or monitoring the FX Send output – these particular presets were created to illustrate just one of the approaches to getting amplified electric and direct (FOH) acoustic instruments from a single guitar and preset.

Some bugs were fixed as well.  I haven’t tried out the new presets yet (I tend to just mod ones I like from the customtone page or build them from scratch).  But the input impedance variability is interesting.  I’ve never used the Digidesign 11R – but a lot of the input comments that I’ve read about that seem to parallel this option.  There’s a lot of tonal options that come out in variations on this setting – but I’ve set mine to Auto and it seems to work well.

.

So in short – no new amps or cabs – but some nice features.

.

One thing this has done is create a bigger divide between the 300/400 and 500/PRO.

.

Here’s my $.02:

.

  • If you’re the kind of person that has 3-4 tones you typically use, and don’t run a lot of additional fx (and are okay with the cab sims Line 6 uses) – save some money and go with the 300/400.
  • If you want more tonal flexibility or the ability to bypass cabs – go with the 500.

.

I’m happy I have the 500.  It’s a good unit that largely works well – but you can get some good tones out of the 300/400.  In fact, some of the better tones I have are 300 tones that I adapted to my unit.  This is the best unit that they’ve made and the fact that the tones now respond to my roll off is putting me closer and closer to going ampless live entirely.

Having said that, the unit does have three things that prevent it from being the box it could be.

.

#1:  The DSP issue

.

This is a minor quibble, because you can still get really good sounds out of the unit but it’s is the biggest issue because it’s the one that doesn’t have an easy fix.  If you run a lot of effects, or use amp/cab combinations that use a lot of CPU, you will get a message that the DSP limit is reached and you’ll need to use FX, amps or cabs that use less resources.   From an architectural standpoint, this should have been run with the most DSP intensive amps, cabs and FX on the unit and then had chips that could accommodate that.  It’s difficult to anticipate what will happen with anything, but there’s really no excuse for reaching a DSP limit as that should have been engineered out of the unit before it went into production.

.

#2: The looper

.

One thing that’s also a huge difference between the 500 and the 300/400 is the available loop time on the looper.  However, I haven’t listed this as a sell point because in its current incarnation the looper has a fatal flaw in that you can’t adjust the volume of the wet/dry signals of loops.

In other words, if I’m creative a live loop I won’t be able to fade it out while bringing in a new part I’m playing.  My options then are to either stop the loop abruptly (which is usually jarring) or bring the whole unit volume down, turn off the loop and bring it up again.

It’s a problem – and it essentially limits the onboard looper to being a riff device.  Which is a drag, because it could be a lot more (particularly with the reverse and 1/2 speed options).  You’ll never have the flexibility of something like Sooperlooper on it – but when they get this simple thing fixed, it will make a big difference in the functionality of the looper on the unit.

.

#3: Global EQ

.

Another small point, but an irritating one.  As I mentioned in my taming the EQ post, the Atomic amp I use tends to have an EQ bump in the 90-100HZ range.  It’s also the range that a lot of what Chris Lavender uses when he’s playing Stick – so carving out some sonic space is important. Having a global EQ would allow me to make one tweak to go between using an amp live and going direct to a PA.  Not the end of the world, but an inconvenience that can be fixed.

.

Know what gear to hold onto

.

Steve Morse once had a great observation about gear. He said that he knows that the good effects are, because they’re the ones that rarely sees in the used sections of guitar stores.

My Digitech Space Station is a pain in the ass.  The A/D/A isn’t that great, the power supply is iffy at best and the only parameter control is the volume pedal.  It’s also a great unit.  It’s reverse function is the most musical one I’ve heard and it has a couple other sounds on it I just can’t get from other FX combinations.  I’ve had a lot of offers for it, but it’s one of the few pedals that’s not going anywhere.

Likewise, I’ve had my Akai Headrush E1 for a while.  It was my main looper in Visible Inc. and I never got rid of it because frankly the resale value was so low that there was no point in selling it.

At the CalArts gig I had with Dumb and Drummer back in October, holding on to the headrush was really a lifesaver, because I was able to set up small loops on the POD HD, record them with the headrush and then build multiple textures between the two loopers and go back and forth between them.  It wasn’t the most elegant solution, but it worked well and allowed me to reference early material and loop more thematically (and accompany the film better ultimately).

To deal with the EQ issue, I broke down and spent $60 on an MXR 6 band eq.  Spending an extra $40 would have gotten me the 10 band EQ, but in reality the 6 band works fine.  I like the compactness and durability of it and it allowed me to really bring my guitar out more in the trio format.

Fixing the loop and EQ issues on the HD would allow me to just bring just the HD instead of and HD and a couple of extra pedals, but as I’ve mentioned before 3 pedals is a long way from the 88 key keyboard case that served as my previous pedalboard.   And (for now) I’m really glad I held onto that headrush!

.

As always, thanks for reading!

-SC

.

PS – if you like this post you may also like:

.

SOME THOUGHTS ON MODELING, GEAR ACQUISITION AND THE POD HD500

LINE 6 POD FARM 2.5 UPDATE AND POD FARM FREE ANNOUNCED

New SooperLooper Update 1.6.16

.

POD HD VS POD FARM: A COST COMPARISON

LINE 6 FBV EXPRESS MK II REVIEW

POD HD500 AND POD FARM CONJECTURES

RIG AROUND THE ROSIE OR MEDIATIONS AND MEDITATIONS ON GEAR

LINE 6 POD FARM 2.0 OVERVIEW

VARIAX AC700 REVIEW/WORKBENCH OVERVIEW

SooperLooper Live Looping AU Update 1.6.18 Announced

In the better late than never category, SooperLooper snuck out a new update last week (v1.6.18).  SooperLooper is an awesome FREE software version of the Gibson Echoplex EDP.

.

.You can download it here.

.

From the website:

SooperLooper is a live looping sampler capable of immediate loop recording, overdubbing, multiplying, reversing and more. It allows for multiple simultaneous multi-channel loops limited only by your computer’s available memory.

The application is a standalone JACK client with an engine controllable via OSC and MIDI. It also includes a GUI which communicates with the engine via OSC (even over a network) for user-friendly control on a desktop. However, this kind of live performance looping tool is most effectively used via hardware (midi footpedals, etc) and the engine can be run standalone on a computer without a monitor.

SooperLooper is currently supported on Linux and Mac OS X, and any other platforms that support JACK. The Mac OS X package is usable with at least the 0.6 release of JACK OS X. Note that for OS X Tiger, you’ll need to get at least version 0.7 of JACK-OSX.

A Mac OS X Audio Unit version is included which does not require JACK to run.”

.

This is a critical component of my live laptop rig.  It offers unparalleled opportunities for live sonic mangling.   If you have a mac (or run Linux) you should stop whatever you’re doing and download it now!

(Then if you keep it – please throw Jesse (the developer) some money for the tip jar.  He’s put a lot of work into it!)

.

Thanks for reading!

-SC

.

P.S. If you like this post you may also like:

HARDWARE VS. SOFTWARE – OR PRAISES AND PERILS IN LIVE LAPTOP USE

RECABINET 3 ANNOUNCED – NEW IRS AND A NEW AU/RTAS/VST SHELL

X CODE 3.2.5 / AU LAB 2.2 NOW AVAILABLE – CAVEAT EMPTOR

POD HD VS POD FARM: A COST COMPARISON

APOGEE DUET BREAK OUT BOX OVERVIEW

.

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 6 – DUAL RIG DISTORTED TONES

LAPTOP GUITAR SETUP OR NOTES FROM A LIVE SHOW

.

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 5

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 4

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 3

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 2

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 1

SETTING UP “TESTING ENVIRONMENTS” OR MULTI LAYERED TONES IN AU LAB

.

BUILDING BLOCKS – OR MORE EXAMINATIONS OF A LAPTOP GUITAR SETUP

A QUICK LICK – AND A RIG DU JOUR UPDATE FROM HO CHI MINH CITY

TECH LIMBO (NEITHER HEAVEN NOR HELL R.I.P. RONNIE JAMES DIO)

.

A Game Changer? The Sonuus i2M musicport overview

I haven’t done a gear review in a while – so I thought I’d bring something exciting to the table this time.

.

Lately, I’ve been thinking more about Midi guitar.  Not in the traditional sense of, “wouldn’t it be great to get some flute sounds out of my guitar for this smooth jazz solo?” but using it in (potentially) some more subversive ways.

.

Midi conversion as an improvisation tool:

The first thought that occurred to me was midi guitar is a glitchy proposition to begin with. Even optimizing everything (picking technique, muting, pick choice, tracking parameters, etc) – there was still a lot that could go “wrong”.  This excited me from an improvisational standpoint because it meant that I could have other notes spit out at me that I didn’t play – and that I’d have to actually improvise with what was happening there.  To me, this is much more in the spirit of improvising that playing the same 40 licks I’ve worked out over Stella by Starlight.

.

Midi conversion as a texture:

Additionally, the glitch effect can work really well in sound scape ideas where I might be generating different sounds over (and within) a loop.  That’s appealing to me as well.

.

Midi conversion as a transcriber:

The real interest for this idea though came up with the dvd instructional material that I wanted to generate.  After seeing clips of John McLaughlin’s instructional dvd and realizing that he was simply using a midi guitar to capture audio and midi data in Logic.  By doing this – he would have a rough transcription of what he was playing and then be able to tweak it to make it more accurate from there.  A really good idea and one that stuck with me.

But midi always struck me as a lark.  The pickups and converters meant that I was looking at $500-$600 minimum for something that really wasn’t necessary.  Then I started seeing the ads for…

.

The Sonuus i2M musicport:

If you’ve picked up a guitar magazine or been anywhere guitar related on the internet – you have undoubtably seen an ad for one of the Sonuus Midi Converters.  Their newest converter the i2M musicport, is a small (read: tiny) monophonic midi converter and a 16bit 48k digital audio interface.  Listing for $199 (and selling for $149) this is one of the most intriguing products on the market to me right now.

The unit has a ¼ inch jack on one side and a USB connection on the other which makes it about the size of an adult thumb.  It’s bus powered by the USB – so there’s no additional power supply (the green lit SONUUS logo is a nice design touch as well as the key clip.

It’s impossible for me to image a smaller device but how does it sound?  Since the i2M acts as an audio interface and an audio midi converter – I’ll address this question in two parts.

.

Audio:

The ¼ inch jack is actually a high impedance (hi-Z) input preamp with a 16 bit/44.1 or 48k conversion rate.  Even though I typically like higher audio specs when using my guitar the sound is remarkably transparent and I had no issues with quality.  In fact, this is an ideal interface for practicing or jotting down ideas and would even consider trying it out on a gig if I needed to.  It should also be noted that while I’ve only tested it with a guitar it can be used with bass guitar or other line level sources (like a microphone).  There should be no real issue in using a 7 or 8 string guitar with it either.

.

Midi:

First: I should state that this unit is a midi converter.  It doesn’t have any midi sounds on its own so you’ll need appropriate software (any software with a midi sampler or synth  will probably do) to hear and record midi.

Secondly: The midi conversion is monophonic.  Anything involving chords or multiple held notes will produce unpredictable results.

Having said that, the i2M does monophonic conversion remarkably well.  Tracking was fast, smooth and had very low latency with stock settings (particularly on the higher strings).  If you go to the sonuus website, you can download the Desktop Editor software which will allow you to adjust midi settings to suit your style as well.

Rather than just list them, I’d recommend that you go to the Sonuus web site where you can get full specs.

In use:

I decided to see if I could use the i2M as both an audio interface and a midi converter to see if I could use the score function in Logic to transcribe what I was playing.

The i2M is class-compliant which means that it’s plug and play.  I opened up Logic and had no problem setting it up as a default audio and midi input.  To create a real world example of what it sounds like it when you plug-in and play – nothing was optimized.  The audio is generated from a FnH Ultrasonic guitar plugging into the i2M at 48k.  No amp sims were used in Logic.  The guitar track only has LA convolver, some speaker IRs and a reverb on the channel. The midi is generated from the EXS 24 (using the Garageband/Logic Yamaha Piano).

All Logic and i2M settings are stock.  I heard the piano sound and decided to improvise in a Cecil Taylor style where caution was just thrown to the wind and I approached ideas as melodic flourishes.  I wanted to throw the unit some curve balls so I tried sweep picking, alternate picking and tapping various ideas to see how it reacted.

This video below is just a screen shot of the score pages with an mp3 of both channels so you can compare the difference between the audio and the midi tracking. (You’ll probably want to see it at full screen size – FYI).

.

Here’s what impressed me:

The tracking was pretty clean.  There were a few random glitches on the midi score  but those could be easily fixed.  For the most part, I got a rough sketch of what I was playing while I was playing it.  Very cool.

There are certain open strings ringing and other string noses that were ignored.  This was surprising and cool.

The audio signal sounded pretty good out of the box – but to be 100% fair – this was with a clean sound.   I  ran this through POD Farm to see how the distorted tones were – but  for me, the resolution and bit depth weren’t there for a satisfying dirty tone.  In other words, as an audio converter – this isn’t going to replace my Apogee Duet – but this is really nit picking as the unit is, first and foremost, a midi converter so the fact that it processes any audio is just as bonus.  Additionally, comparing a $150 multifunction unit to a $500 specialized audio interface isn’t a fair comparison.   That being said, the i2M has a reasonable starting point for a clean tone.

.

Also while the unit is plug and play as an audio device for Logic and Garage band, AU lab didn’t recognize it.  Not a deal breaker and something I need to research further but it may be something to look into depending on what platform you plan on using.

This unit is just a lot of fun.  I probably spent 2 hours just playing the various logic EXS patches.  Additionally the piano/guitar sound gave me a lot of compositional ideas in a Maria João idea – which is always a good thing.  I tried it with Absynth as well and it worked seamlessly (it even kept tracking as I took liberal swipes at my tremolo arm).

.

In my opinion this unit is a game changer for guitarists (and hopefully for a lot of other instruments as well).  To have something that works this well at this price point while putting an audio interface and a midi converter well within most gear budgets.  For this demonstration, I’m essentially using it as a toy, but the potential applications for this are exciting.

Whether you’re looking to lightly tread the waters of midi guitar, get in deep for sonic mangling or just need a decent pocket audio interface, you’re hard pressed to do better than the i2M.

Thanks for reading!

-SC

New SooperLooper Update 1.6.16

For those of you who use SooperLooper – it looks like Jesse snuck a new release under the radar back in January that I’m just catching now.

The only release note is that the AU unit is now more stable under various hosts,  for those of you with AU validation issues – this might help out a lot.

For those of you who have a Mac and aren’t using SooperLooper – now’s the time to get on board.  SooperLooper is a shareware application that uses a lot of the functionality of the Oberheim/Gibson echoplex looping unit.  It’s leagues above the looper that you get with Mainstage and could be all you need to do a 1 person show.

(If  you do start using it – you should definitely send a couple of bucks Jesse’s way for all the hard work he’s done on it.)

-SC

Octave4Plus A4 – .007 String Review

When I started playing 8 string (all 6 weeks ago or so) – I knew from the get go – that I was looking to have a full range instrument that went from a low B (below the 6th string E) and a high A (above the 1st string E).  When I checked out the Marshall Harrison video, he mentioned that he was using a .005 for the A – which was a little too high for me – but I decided to investigate the Octave 4 Plus string brand he was using.

Octave4Plus – are handmade strings for extended range instruments (up to 40 inches!).   Since there’s really no way to try before you buy – I figured I’d take the plunge and put an order in.

.

Ordering

When ordering individual strings, the minimum purchase number is 5 strings.  Additionally, there is an online form you will need to complete which goes over some specifics of information needed to make your string (scale length of the instrument, whether the string is front or top loading in the bridge, etc.).  There is a several day time limit that you need to complete the form in – or your money gets refunded.  This might seem a little draconian, but given the small batches that the strings are made in – I imagine that hunting down people for information is a case of diminishing returns financially, so I understand it at least.

When I made my order, I got the strings with a “Type 2” thread wrap. While this is recommended for guitars with a string tree, I found that it’s also recommended if your guitar “… loads the string through the back, has a steep break angle, a sharp edge on the nut or tuner, or a string tree.”

The website does a good job of explaining a number of specific for string ordering – but as an FYI – if your scale length is 26.5” – you’ll need to order the 28” scale strings.

Payment is made on the website via PayPal and is a relatively painless process.

.

Pricing

Here is the pricing for the order I made:

“Guitar  .007 plain steel    ( 28” )    $4.75 each   A440

5 strings @ $23.75

Type 2 strings – $10

Shipping and Handling – $10

Sales Tax $3.17

$46.92 (or about $8.20 a string including the test string [see below])

.

Shipping And Delivery

My order was put in on Thanksgiving day and came on Christmas eve.  The time frame for delivery is somewhat vague on the website – but 4-8 weeks seem to be a reasonable time frame.

The package was shipped priority mail.  The contents were well packaged and included a copy of the order form, photocopied directions for installation, and 6 individually sealed strings (5 strings and a test string which was a nice touch).

.

The Ball End

I’ve never used a handmade string before.  I was particularly intrigued with the allen wrench nut that serves as a proprietary ball end.

Ball end close up

There are specific instructions for installation, but it’s a very clever design that works well.

.

String Installation

The installation instructions are clear and well written, but reading and doing are two very different things.  Right off the bat – you will probably notice that getting the string through the bridge can be tricky as it’s sooo thin.  (I can’t imagine trying this with a .005!)

While the Schecter Omen I installed this on didn’t have a string tree – I used the thread winding as an entry point for the string to go into the tuner, with the idea that it may help with any potential burrs.

In installing the string, the directions state that bringing the string up to pitch too quickly will result in the string breaking at the ball end.

Given the general instability inherent in attempting to get a string to stay at a pitch of high A over a 26.5” scale – this seems reasonable.

You should expect to spend 2-3 hours getting the string to pitch if you follow the directions verbatim.

Needless to say – this path isn’t for everyone.  If you break one of these on stage mid set – you’re not going to be replacing it between songs.  But this is a generality that applies to the circumstance – and is not specific to the Octave4plus string.

Since I started with a test string – I used the directions I outlined in my Omen review for bringing the string up to pitch – which worked fine – and took about 45 mins to an hour.

As a bonus tip: I also let it stay a ½ step below pitch overnight before playing it – and that seemed to help a lot with stability.

.

In Use

I didn’t have a lot of time to get into it as almost immediately I got a call from Mike Reagan to see if I could add some high adrenaline lead playing to an X-box track he was working on.  I decided to bring the Omen and my FNH and see what happened.

While I don’t know about the material of the string, it definitely seemed more stable than the D’Addario .007s I was using.  In bending I easily got ½ step bends with no issue.  From the 12th fret on – I got whole step bends – which made me pretty nervous – but he was so excited by the pitches on the high A string that he wanted me to play a lot of bent melodies on that string.  The string finally broke after about the hour mark and (having broken one of them in getting it to pitch) – I finished the session with the D’Addario.

.

Final thoughts

From an economic standpoint, it’s easy to balk as you could get 60 D’addario  .007 strings from just strings for $42 with shipping.  And if you don’t follow the instructions – those 6 strings are going to break pretty quickly.

If you’re playing something like an Agile – with an even longer scale length – this is pretty much the only game in town.  But even on the 26.5” scale, I liked this string a lot.  The construction quality is certainly there, and I really admire what they’re doing.

I’ve been pretty delicate with the D’Addario – so it hasn’t broken since the session – but when it does – I’ll give the Octave plus4 more of a chance than the few days it had before.

Thanks for reading!