Category Archives: Equipment & Instruments

Novation Update Their SL Series of Controller Keyboards

Today sees the release of the third iteration of the SL49 and SL61 controller keyboards from Novation. The MKIII is much more than your standard run-of-the-mill controller keyboard with an emphasis on being a standalone centerpiece for controlling all of your hardware!

The keybed is Novations finest, most playable and expressive synth-style keybed to date with sprung action and the highest scan rate they have ever produced. There are 8 assignable faders, 16 tactile RGB pads and comprehensive transport controls for all your bread and butter needs but it doesn’t stop there – 

The new SL series come packed with an extended feature-set including:

• 2x CV, Gate and Mod outputs

• 8 Track Sequencer

• Arpeggiator

• 56 preset templates for mapping popular hardware (new and vintage)

• Chord and Scale mode

• RGB LED feedback

• Routable Clock

As you can probably tell, this makes the new SL MKIII series quite an attractive option for producers whether you work completely in the box or have a studio crammed with expensive hardware. The 5 beautiful OLED screens give you visual feedback on parameter changes. The 8-track sequencer really helps this stand out as a standalone product and opens up lots of DAWless possibilities. The Chord and Scale modes are integrated with the RGB feedback allowing you to instantly see what keys are in the scale – there is also a snap mode which will automatically assign whatever key you press to the nearest in-scale note. The Arpeggiator will be a welcome addition for anybody running synths without a built-in arp, I have a couple of bits of hardware myself which would benefit massively from this alone!

Novations very own Calc gives us a nice little performance video exploring the connection and sequencing capabilities of this exciting new product line featuring alsorts of different audio sources.

For anybody still reading who is really interested in this new release I’ve saved the biggest and most informative video till last…a massive 45 minute deep-dive by Calc. This will no doubt answer any lingering questions you may have in a better way than I possibly could! Enjoy!

SL49 MKIII is available here: https://www.scan.co.uk/products/novation-sl49-mkiii-midi-and-cv-equipped-keyboard-controller-with-eight-track-sequencer

SL61 MKIII is available here: https://www.scan.co.uk/products/novation-sl61-mkiii-midi-and-cv-equipped-keyboard-controller-with-eight-track-sequencer

Native Instruments unleash their largest ever range refresh!

Native Instruments have really gone all out this year, with a huge range refresh taking place and a raft of new products fresh out of Berlin.

Komplete 12 

The Komplete 12 Edition

The flagship collection package reaches it’s 12th revision and adds even more instruments and sound libraries to the collection.

Amongst the headline updates here include a follow up to the now legendary “Massive” synth with Massive X making it into the pack. The original Massive had a huge impact upon the softsynth world as well as EDM and dance music in general, so whilst current details are still scarce the promise of a whole new engine and a modular workflow is certainly going to have people eagerly awaiting the full reveal in the coming months.

We also see the release of Kontakt 6 as another heavy hitter and various sound libraries like Session Strings 2 and a host of extra expansion packs such as the Middle East discovery series, Analog Dreams, Ethereal Earth and Hybrid keys packs also for Kontakt.

Kontakt 6 and its new WaveTable Module

The new TRK-01 “Kick and Bass” instrument is in there too, as well as creative effects like Phasis, Choral and Flair making up a sizable number of new and improved tools on this revision release.

For a more complete list of all that can be found in the new Komplete 12 bundle, click the image below to expand.

Komplete 12 Bundle Contents
Komplete 12 Full Bundle List – Click to expand

Komplete Kontrol – A Series

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A61

Taking the already popular Kontrol keyboard range and releasing a cut-down version makes so much sense to us, that we wonder how it hasn’t happened sooner. Promising the same great design experience we’ve come to expect from the “S” series models, whilst getting the option to pick one up without all the bells and whistles.

That’s not to say they are featureless, with plenty of pre-mapped controls for all of your most used N.I. libraries software they’ll certainly help to improve your workflow for anyone who makes good use of packages like Kontakt already.

The keyboards will be shipping with a solid collection of plug-ins too, offering versions of Komplete Instruments and effects as well as the Machine Essentials libraries. They will be available in three different sizes which are 25, 49 and 61 note editions.

Komplete Kontrol – S88 MKII

Komplete Kontrol - S88 MKII
Komplete Kontrol – S88 MKII

Not to be left out, the “S” series gets an update too, although just the largest S88 model at this time. The rest of the range has already had their MK2 editions out for some time, so really we’re just seeing the S88 being brought into line with the rest of the range, but none the less always good to see an update.

Some of the smart play features feel like they might be a little un-needed for someone willing to invest this much in a good playing keyboard,but it none the less continues to feature one of the best in class fully weighted Fatar keybeds and offering the same great software packages as the A-series mentioned above make it a serious contender for anyone considering a with keyboard upgrade in the future.

Maschine Mikro Mk3

Maschine Mikro Mk3

Another model refresh and the big news here is the new touch strip, designed to add even more hands-on control. Not such a major overhaul here, but for anyone who’s been thinking about picking up a Mikro anyway, then more features to play with are always great I’m sure we can all agree!

Traktor Pro and Traktor S2 & S4 Mk3’s.

Traktor 3 is due to ship with the two new controller revisions and offers up a number of improvements under the hood. The audio engine uses the Elastique 3 time stretching engine for noticeable audio improvements whilst playing. 

Traktor 3 Pro
Traktor Pro 3

The interface GUI has been redesigned to offer additional clarity in use and the few other new knobs and buttons have been added, most notably the one knob “Mixer FX” control that can be assigned to each channel independently.

Traktor S2
Traktor S2

The S2 has had some hands-on optimizations in the shape of up-sized jog wheels and increased touch sensitivity, giving users even more control when mixing and scratching.

The big change here, however, is in the S4 model, which sees the introduction of Haptic Drive which offers us high-torque, motorized jog wheels that provide performers with haptic feedback in three modes: Jog Mode, Turntable Mode, and Beatgrid Adjust Mode.

DJs can now feel cue points and loops when scrolling through tracks, and enable Turntable Mode for natural-feeling beatmatching while nudging and stalling the jog wheels. Interfacing software and hardware within Haptic Drive™ technology means that its functionality can be expanded, and will grow over the course of future updates, giving DJs even more ways to interact with their music.

Traktor S4

The S4 places vital performance information on the hardware itself, keeping everything DJs need to know front and follow up in the booth. High-resolution displays on each deck display a waveform strip, track title, loop length and activation, key, and BPM, as well as Stem and Remix Deck components when performing with Stems and samples. Further visual feedback is provided by RGB light rings surrounding each jog wheel, which visualize deck selection, tempo, and track-end warnings.

Online Platforms

It’s not all hardware and software today through as a number of online services have had updates too.

Sounds.com is due to exit beta and is a service offering an ever-growing collection of over 700,000 high-quality loops and samples from over 250 providers for a monthly subscription fee. 

We’re advised that this is the culmination of months of continuous expansion and improvement based on user feedback, with the aim to provide musicians of all levels an easy and affordable way to access an ever-growing library of high-quality loops and samples with plenty more to be added going forward.

Also receiving a redesign is Metapop, which is NI’s online hub for music makers to share, connect, and collaborate with like-minded creators. In the site relaunch, NI is launching a newly redesigned Metapop, with a new user experience focused on making it easier to connect, share, and collaborate with fellow music makers.

After listening to the feedback from its users, NI has added new features like groups and chats, helping creators to find their community, connect with others, and get feedback on their music. Additionally, a new mobile version of the site lets users upload, connect, and listen to newly released samples – whether at home or on-the-go.

Lastly “Loop Loft” who joined the N.I. stable back in January this year is also receiving a site redesign. The Loop Loft itself continues to provide an ever-growing source of inspirational content to help producers learn and grow, including exclusive tutorials, interviews, and tips from leading industry professionals.

Check out the full Native Instruments range @ Scan

Breaking News As Zoom Unveil The New LiveTrack L-20

Zoom have announced the release of their new LiveTrack L-20 mixer, promising many new extra features, building on their concept first introduced with the L-12.

Take a first look at the key new features of the LiveTrak L-20.

Create Six Custom Monitor Mixes

With six independent Monitor Outputs, each musician can have its own custom mix, now complete with effects and easily switchable from headphone output to balanced line output for stage monitors. In addition, L-20 provides a dedicated headphone output for FOH (front-of-house) to enable monitoring of each custom mix and master out from the console.

Two Effects Sends

L-20 offers two Effects section for total of 20 built-in EFX with adjustable parameters. For maximum flexibility, now you can easily assign one Effect section to the Monitor mixes while the other section is assigned to the Master output.

Wireless Mixing

To enhance its effective operation from a distance, L-20 offers wireless control* via its own app for iPad featuring Fader Levels and Modes, Scenes, EQ parameters and more. Now you can even manage your EFX and Scene Library right from your iPad. *Optional Zoom Bluetooth LE Adapter (BTA-1)is required.

Pre Orders Being Taken Now With Stock Arriving in September.

 

Scan and Blade Guitars Welcome New Endorsee Steve Gordon of Morcheeba

Steve Gordon is the latest artist to join the Blade family. His weapon of choice is the Blade Tetra Bass.

The Tetra has been Blades iconic bass since 1989 when it won Innovative Instrument of the Year in Italy. Whether your preference is for vintage growl, piano wire slap or thundering cutting mids, the Tetra Bass will deliver. The BVSC-3 on-board electronics gives you full tonal flexibility – no matter what your music style. The Tetra Bass took all the classic features of the past and added more of what you require: unrivaled play-ability, versatility, tone – and style.

Steve Gordon

Steve Gordon followed the traditional hard earned musician’s journey. He began his career as a bass player and song writer in his home town; forming and performing in several local bands. This eventually led him to London where he concentrated on playing for other artists such as: Desert Eagle Discs , Christine Levine, Julia Fordham  and Just Jack.

In 1999 Steve began playing with Morcheeba and continues to write and play bass on Skye Edwards solo albums.

Steve with Skye Edwards onstage together with the Blade Tetra Bass in May 2018.

Gary Levinson is delighted that Steve has come on board; joining the growing number of musicians choosing Blade Guitars for their live and studio performances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nine Volt Pedals Surfing Bear Overdrive – A great sounding “808” style pedal!

Nine Volt Pedals have already been on the scene for a while but having had their Surfing Bear Overdrive pedal on my board for the past few months, I thought it’d be worth a shout out as I can honestly say it sounds (and looks) fantastic!

Whilst it is based on that classic green pedal we all know very well, there are some subtle differences which in my opinion makes this pedal stand out! Stick it in front of a solid-state amp and it’ll sound great but where this pedal will truly excels is in front of a tube amp. When used to push your clean tone which is just on the brink of breakup, that’s when it really does shine!

As you’d expect the emphasis on the mid-range is apparent. Nothing out of the ordinary in terms of controls with the standard Volume, Tone and Drive knobs but what is noticeable is the tonal range you can get from these allowing you to go from a smooth boost to a satisfyingly warm crunch tone. The tonal variety makes this pedal extremely versatile and would certainly be a very nice addition to anyone’s pedal board.

Aside from it sounding great, it also boasts some pretty cool artwork too! Swedish artist, Jonas Claeson is responsible for the artwork across the entire range of Nine Volt Pedals and I must say I love what he’s done with them.

The Surfing Bear really is a sweet sounding overdrive pedal and comes in at a fraction of the price of the TS-808 reissue. If you’re in the market for a wonderful sounding “808” style overdrive pedal at a really affordable price, then this little gem could be just for you!

Surfing Bear Overdrive pedal @ Scan

Specs:

– Drive, Tone, and Volume controls
– True bypass
– 9V battery or standard 9VDC negative tip adaptor
– Current draw 15mA
– Input impedance 500K ohms
– Output impedance 10K ohms
– Designed in Japan by One Control

Superbooth: IK Multimedia Announce The UNO Analog Synth

After a teaser campaign lasting a couple of weeks, the first day of Superbooth ensured that a number of eyes were already peering in IK Multimedia’s direction. After all, why would a company with a mostly software heritage be heading to the mother of all hardware synth shows in Berlin?

As you would expect, this time around it got physical as they unveiled the UNO mono synth.

Uno Synth main top shot
IK Multimedia Uno Synth

Boasting an all-analogue signal path the UNO synth lays out plenty of options for generating and shaping your sounds including  2 VCOs, a noise generator and resonant multimode VCF and VCA.

The 2 independent VCOs feature Saw, Triangle, Pulse waveforms with continuously variable shape including PWM of the square wave plus a separate white noise generator. To help shape the sound it includes a 2-pole OTA-based analog resonant sweepable multimode filter with low pass, high pass and bandpass settings as well as a dual stage overdrive section and effects.

The synth holds 100 presets and includes an easy-to-play keyboard with selectable scales and an arpeggiator to make this an easy to handle performance synth, no matter what your skill level may be.

IK Multimedia UNO synth Rear
Round the back of the UNO synth.

The I/O round the back includes both a mono in and out as well as midi connectivity too. The unit can be USB or battery powered using 4 XAA batteries and the synth is a diminutive 25.6cm/10.1″ x 15cm/8.9″ x 4.9cm/1.93″ and only 400 grams.

The UNO should be arriving with us within the next couple of months and should be doing so for the bargain price point of around £200 when it does.

In Praise of Tuners

I declare myself of a certain age, whereby I can remember the days, pre-internet, when gigs were plentiful, and rock music abounded from most hostelries on a Friday and Saturday night.

Some of these bands were ‘covers’ bands, playing soft rock tunes that the punters would know and enjoy, others were ‘original’ bands playing music that appealed mainly to the gang of friends and family that constituted a fan base.

However, there was one common denominator back then, and that was Tuning.

Almost without exception, there would be a mandatory 2 minutes between each song, where the plaintive tones of the open E, B, G, and D strings were played, usually twice, accompanied by the frenzied twisting of machine heads, and cries of “Shush” , Shuddup” as guitarists tried to quieten the drummer whilst trying to hear the top G of the Bass player ( the one least likely to have gone out of tune due to rapid thrashing )

Sometimes they got it nearly right, but I swear I have sat through many hours of spirited cacophony, which taxed all but the loyalist of fans…

Nowadays of course, there is no such excuse.

The cost of a standard guitar tuner can be as little as £13.00

LN82773 

And it seems the only confusing part is the wealth of choice afforded to the prospective tunemeister. Some come with built in metronomes, some with strobes and some with the ability to tune anything from a ukulele to Jet engine. ( OK, probably not the latter, but the Peterson Stomp Classic looks like it could have come from a Pilots dashboard… LN83289 )

 

But seriously, from Banjo’s to 7 string guitars and 6 string Basses, we have a tuner for you, to suit your pocket and your needs.

Check them out here….

https://www.scan.co.uk/shop/music-and-pro-audio/guitar-pedals-and-effects/tuner-pedals

 

The Plexitone. The Three Channel Pedal That Provides All The Basic Crunch and lead Tones You Guitarists Need

Over the years I have met and provided advice to many guitar players. It is true to say that while many were accomplished players some of the tones that they were using were, to be totally honest……bloody awful!!

Each to their own I hear you cry? Who am I to be telling you that your guitar sound is cobblers?

“I can’t help it!” is the answer to that question. I love the guitar and all the tonal possibilities that it and the surrounding paraphernalia can achieve. Creating a great tone in this modern world shouldn’t be that difficult should it? Depending on your budget you have access to a plethora of amplifier companies, more pedals than I ever thought could possibly exist and just how many single and double cut pieces of mahogany and alder are there!?

You can spend a fortune on tone chasing, new guitar, new amp, new pedal, new tattoo………….well okay, not the new tattoo but you get the idea.

Getting your basic tone right is a key piece of the puzzle. This may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many fancy delay pedals and multi effects you see guitarists using, that when they are switched off their basic clean and crunch tones are bland and lifeless.

Here is where I bring in the Carl Martin Plexitone.

 If ever there was a pedal that gave you such a perfect range of crunch and lead tones this is it. I personally love this pedal and have used it and recommended it for many years.

The drive tones available are very much as the name would suggest, plexi through and through. Old school plexi tones are here on the crunch setting covering Hendrix to AC/DC . The crunch side of the pedal has extra gain on tap and takes you into hard rock territory with ease but maintains fantastic clarity thanks to the extra headroom of the circuit running at 12 Volts. Modded plexi tones just ooze from the high gain setting. Huge sounding chords and  modded lead tones to die for pour from this setting (think natural compression and “sag” ) and provided the perfect lead channel you could be missing.

And then there is the independent clean boost that sits under the switch on the left hand side. This is just the perfect addition and takes this already fantastic drive pedal into the perfect tool for creating that great basic tone.

The clean boost works independently within the pedal. With the crunch or high gain engaged, the boost gives you up to 20db of a kick, more than enough to let your solo be heard. (make sure you practice as you really will be heard!)

But here is another use for that clean boost. I always like to kick the clean channel of any of my amps just to push them a little and give them more presence and bite. With the boost being independent I leave it on all the time so that my clean has that extra sparkle and punch, then I just switch on the gain side of the pedal when required. If your clean channel is a little flat or lacking power then trust me that this clean boost will bring it to life.

Don’t forget also that if you are running a twin channel amp with a clean and dirty channel, the boost into your dirty channel will add that extra punch here as well, hey presto, four high quality tones to start building on all for well under £200.

So I love it and recommend it, Pete Thorn who knows more about tone than the rest of us put together loves it.

Remind me why your tone is lacking again?…………………………….

 

 

 

 

Boost That Mid Ladies and Gentlemen

Guitar players as a rule have lots of friends, that’s a fact. It comes with playing the coolest instrument on the planet. Another fact is that we guitar players all have one friend in common……….MID.

Mid is where we live, mid is where the components of our treasured and hard sought out tone come from and most importantly, mid is where we can always be heard.

There are many so called mid boost pedals on the market  but the Purple Humper from One Control really is like no other mid boost pedal I have tried.

Originally the pedal was developed as a request to match the mid-boost circuit fitted inside a stratocaster in a pedal form that could then be used with all guitars. It then developed from there into the pedal that is available today which I have to say is is one of the most versatile single knob pedals I have ever tried.

This pedal is neither an overdrive nor one of those half cocked wah wah sound creators (as a side note, if you want that sound use a wah wah!!)  One Control themselves state that the pedal sounds “British” and I have to agree wholeheartedly. I have tried this pedal into everything from a basic transistor amp to a rather expensive and tasty valve amp and found the pedal to work in all situations which as we know is not a common experience.

It took that hard edge off  the transistor amp and gave me a usable tone straight away. Through my cranked JCM 800 I could achieve a fantastic smooth lead tone that after I added a little delay to the tone was just fantastic. Through that same Marshall a twist of the knob gave me that 80’s metal lead tone.

So no matter what amp or guitar I tried the pedal gave me usable tones and was a consistently useful pedal that just didn’t sound bad at all.

Last test…………….did it play nicely with other pedals?

No it doesn’t just like it’s own company as the picture could suggest! This pedal worked incredibly well with every pedal I tried it with from a Friedman Dirty Shirley to a Bogner Blue and an old DOD Chorus. Any where in the signal chain gives you different but   ALWAYS usable results.

Single coils to humbuckers, solid state to valve, clean to crunch to all out mayhem, this pedal never fails to deliver to add that extra something to your tone. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAMM 2018 – Launch of the PRS Mark Tremonti MT 15 Lunchbox Amp and Cab

Lunchbox Hero

“We knew we wanted a low-wattage amp. The challenge was getting a lot of tone and features in a little box. We’re all blown away with how it turned out. It’s going to be great for someone to take it out of the box, set everything to noon, and have it sound great.”

– Mark Tremonti

The rumors it appears are true! NAMM 2018 see’s the launch of Mark Tremonti’s first ever signature amp.

With 6L6 power tubes under the bonnet (or hood if you are in the land of Namm), this is probably the biggest sounding 15 Watt amp you will ever hear.  All the gain you will ever need on the lead channel combined with a bright clean channel  that has a  beautiful chime. Top this off with a host of features including separate eq on both the clean and lead channels,  a master presence control, global effects loop, half power switch, external bias jacks, the list goes on and on………The aforementioned clean channel also has a boost to take you into classic crunch. This amp it would seem has you covered no matter what tone you are chasing.

It also changes colour (or color) when you change channels……..what more could you possibly ask for!?

Mark Tremonti is well known for creating some incredible and iconic lead and rhythm tones. Listen to the most recent Alter Bridge album “The Last Hero” and not only will you hear these iconic tones that I mentioned but you will also hear the prototype of this amplifier because a large portion of those tones on that album were recorded with the MT 15.

A matching 1×12 cab constructed from birch is available to go with the MT 15. Loaded with the revered Celestion Vintage 30, its open back design sounds huge and matches the head perfectly.

 

 

More from PRS below…….

The MT 15 is a commanding two channel amp with balanced aggression and articulation. Powered by 6L6 tubes, the MT 15 has a large, bold sound, so you can dig in heavy with rhythms but also get singing lead tones out of one amp. Whether recording, practicing, writing, or playing a small room, this amp has everything you need.

The MT 15’s design started with heavier players in mind, but in the end, it has a lot to o er players of all genres.
Like the PRS Archon amplifier, the MT 15 features five gain stages before the Master for full, lush distortion. The gain channel gets big, chunky tone with massive, tight low end, never losing its articulate note definition or great lead tone. The clean channel is bright and chimey, good with chords and finger style playing – whether with a pick or not. The clean channel also features a push/pull boost control that adds a little overdrive for old school crunch. No matter what tone you dial in, the MT 15 stays balanced across the spectrum with a sweet, smooth tone that won’t bite your head off

Additional features include an effects loop and bias adjusters that are accessible from the back panel for ease of servicing. Despite its 15 watts, the MT 15 sounds more like 50, so a half power switch that takes the MT to 7 watts is a welcome edition. Bottom line, the amount of features, the hugeness of the sound, and the raw horsepower of the circuit make the MT 15 an impressive lunchbox hero.

The MT 15 is Mark Tremonti’s first signature amplifier.