So you set your board up, and run through at sound check. Everything sounds great, and you know that when it comes to your solo in that certain track, your new killer pedal will let you soar like a bird above the band and melt the faces of all who listen, then , come the night, come the track, come the time for the solo, you kick the pedal in and wumph… it falls flat on its face….
While you’re in the band room drinking with boys, someone, some well meaning, interested spectator has been checking out your board, and decided to have a bit of a twiddle with your pedals, and your killer settings have gone…..
What’s the cure? Security guard, Doberman at the ready?
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
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.
I think that guitar players and guitar techs would all agree that there is nothing more frustrating than a guitar that will not stay in tune.
Your guitar going out of tune can be the thing of nightmares whether on stage, half way through a song or after a few string bends. You hit a chord that sounds something akin to the first chord you ever tried to play. Your fingers are in exactly the right place, you’ve spent years practising and honing your guitar skills but now you look and sound like a right (insert your own choice of insult here).
There are many reasons for a guitar not staying in tune: old strings, new strings that you haven’t stretched, strings on the wrong way (you’d be surprised!) badly cut nut, the list goes on. Assuming that your guitar is in half decent condition and set up ready to play, I would always go for friction being your issue and the lovely people at Big Bends have a solution for that.
Ladies and Gentlemen I Give You Big Bends NUT SAUCE!!!
(Ok stop sniggering……….I do not find the name of this product in the least bit funny and I have never made any childish comments at all.)
Back to business. As a guitar tech and a guitar player I have tried many different tricks and products to keep the string moving freely through the nut and this product is the best I have used. If you are tuning up and you hear a metallic “ping” or if you find any string slightly sharp after bending, the odds are on that the string is catching in the nut slot. Loosen the strings and clean the slots of the nut on your guitar and apply a small amount of nut sauce into the slots then tune your guitar back to pitch. It really is that simple! Use this every time you change your strings and your guitar nut will stay lubricated and clean. Application is easy thanks to the………erm….. applicator and it does not spill anywhere it is not wanted. It is also ideal to add to your string saddles as this is your next point of friction. Here it can help to reduce string breakage and will also reduce the wear on the saddles. Tremolo systems, from vintage to Floyd Rose styles, benefit from a little nut sauce on the pivot points, keeping everything moving freely with reduced friction, which increases tuning stability at all points on the guitar.
You are now free to bend that g-string as much as you like, in the knowledge that it will always end up back where it’s supposed to be. (You can’t have expected me not to have gone school boy humour at some point!)
All the guitars at Scan are inspected and set-up before they are sent out to you the customer and Big Bends Nut Sauce is always on our set up benches to be applied as part of our set up routine.
Sometimes the smallest purchases can make the biggest difference to you guitar; this is definitely one of them!
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?…………………………….
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.
“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.
Presonus this year seem focused on building upon their popular range of studio live desks, with a number of new I/O expansion options to help flesh out your setup.
Designed to work seamlessly with the Presonus StudioLive Series 3 mixers, these two stage boxes allow for easy routing of your audio over standard cat5 or cat6 cable, allowing for less signal degradation over long runs and eliminating large heavy snake runs around the venue.
When setup alongside a Series 3 console, the stage boxes also allow you to remote control them straight from the desk or even from the dedicated touch control app. Featuring locking combo mic/line inputs, XMAX preamps and a pair of AVB connections to allow you daisy chain more units as required, meaning these boxes offer you the flexibility to route and patch your stage to accommodate pretty much any show.
Taking it up a level, the 24R and 32R are more stage box offerings that also function as sub-mixers as well, making ideal for doing secondary monitoring mixes on stage too. Once again you have the full remote mixing capability when hooked up to a series 3 studio live desk allowing you to fully control and customize your scenes and making it just as suitable for long-term shows and installs, as it is for going on tour.
Lastly, we have the EarMix 16M which does away with the stage box functions, making it a hands-on and easy to control 16-way headphone submixer and amplifier.
Each EarMix 16M accepts 16 mono channels of input via AVB networking and can network multiple units with a StudioLive Series III mixer. This allows you to setup up your own custom onstage mix in the headphones, and the line out options also allows you to feed this through to your foldback setup, for a fully custom monitoring arrangement.
UA’s big announcement came a week before NAMM this year and is small, possibly one of their smallest yet perhaps, but all the better for it.
The Arrow is a Thunderbolt 3 ready audio interface with an included core for handling UA plugins onboard. Fitted out with a conversion section derived from UA’s flagship Apollo interface range, as well as a headphone amp with a clean punchy output, makes this diminutive audio interface an astounding portable recording solution to go alongside any laptop.
For the I/O we see an instrument input and headphone output on the front of the interface along with 2 more inputs and the main outputs around the rear.
The interface ships with the UA “Realtime Analog Classics” bundle, which offers a number of classic EQ’s, Compressors and guitar amp models and because the plugins are run on the UA, this allows for near-zero latency tracking through the interface with the effects applied and makes it just as ideal for live performances as it does for capturing your session.
This looks to be the cheapest entry point into the UA ecosystem so far and the perfect device for leveraging your plugs when out of !the studio and on the road. If you’re already a user of those plugins and want to take them on a mobile adventure or perhaps just want to dip your knee into the pool, this could be the interface for you.
With the surprise discontinuation of the ever popular Adam entry level “F-Series” late in 2017, we’ve heard the questions regarding what’s next a number of times now. Well, NAMM this year gives us the answer and simply put, it’s cheaper and better!
Pre-launch discussion has seen talk of these arriving at an even more accessible price point than their predecessors, whilst still offering the same legendary ribbon tweeter design in the form of the implemented U-ART solution. On top of that, its advised that also included is a newly designed polypropylene symmetrical-excursion woofer that extends bass to lower frequencies with less distortion than normally found in products around the price point.
Multiple technical innovations designed for ADAM’s flagship S Series and iconic AX Series have been included in this new lower-priced monitor range, including ADAM’s High-Frequency Propagation System (HPSTM) designed to offer a consistent horizontal and vertical dispersion across the frequency spectrum and promised DSP innovations for the crossover system.
Offering a 5″ woofer on the T5 model, along with a 7″ woofer on the T7 edition and offering a low-end extension of 45Hz and 39Hz, as well as the frequency response reaching up to 25kHz on both models, the specs on the page make them look like a solid upgrade when considered against the older F series specs.
Couple this with their almost stealth fighter black finish and angles to match on the front panel, they certainly also look the part with their classic Adam design features.
All that said, if they can hit the price points that they are seeking to meet, then we may see an unexpected shake-up at the low end of the speaker market this year, and these should certainly be the listening short list for anyone considering their first set of studio speakers.
No doubt, the hottest topic in I.T. at the start of 2018 continues to be the CPU security risks that have come to light as 2017 came to a close.
Otherwise known as “Spectre” and “Meltdown ” an exhaustive amount of information has been written already in regards to how these design choices can lead to data being accessed within the computer by processes or other code that shouldn’t have access to it, potentially leaving the system open to attacks by malicious code run on the computer.
For instance one of the more concerning attack vectors in this scenario are servers hosting multiple customers on one system, and in a world where it might be common to hear about many virtual machines being used in a hosting environment in order to keep them separate and secure, allowing this type of code to access the data with poor security in place opens up the possibility of transaction details, passwords and other customer records in a manner that has obviously raised a large amount of concern in both security professionals and end consumers alike.
Off the back of this have emerged the patches and updates required to solve the issue, and along with those are some rather alarming headline figures regarding performance levels potentially taking a hit, with claims of anywhere up to 30% overhead being eaten away by certain types of workload.
As there are many great resources already explaining this including this one here that can help outline what is going on, I’m not going to delve too much into the background of the issues, rather focus on the results of the updates being applied.
We’re going to look at both the Microsoft patch at a software level and test the BIOS update released to support it. There are two issues here with Meltdown and Spectre and there happens to be two variants of Spectre, one of which can be handled at the software level, with the other requiring the microcode update applied via a BIOS update.
Microsoft has, of course, released their own advisory notes which are certainly worth a review too and available here. At this time it is advised that Meltdown and all Spectre variants can both affect Intel CPU’s and some ARM compatible mobile chips, whereas AMD is only affected by the Spectre variants with AMD themselves having just issued an updated advisement at the time of writing which can be found here. This is also largely an OS platform agnostic issue with Microsoft, Apple, Linux and even mobile OS’s all having the potential to be affected and over the last few weeks rapidly deploying updates and patches to their users.
At this point, I’m just going to quote a portion taken from the Microsoft link above verbatim, as it outlines the performance concerns we’re going to look at today. Keep in mind that in the text below “variant 1 & 2” are both referring to the Spectre issues, whereas Meltdown is referred to as simply “variant 3”.
One of the questions for all these fixes is the impact they could have on the performance of both PCs and servers. It is important to note that many of the benchmarks published so far do not include both OS and silicon updates. We’re performing our own sets of benchmarks and will publish them when complete, but I also want to note that we are simultaneously working on further refining our work to tune performance. In general, our experience is that Variant 1 and Variant 3 mitigations have minimal performance impact, while Variant 2 remediation, including OS and microcode, has a performance impact.
Here is the summary of what we have found so far:
With Windows 10 on newer silicon (2016-era PCs with Skylake, Kabylake or newer CPU), benchmarks show single-digit slowdowns, but we don’t expect most users to notice a change because these percentages are reflected in milliseconds.
With Windows 10 on older silicon (2015-era PCs with Haswell or older CPU), some benchmarks show more significant slowdowns, and we expect that some users will notice a decrease in system performance.
With Windows 8 and Windows 7 on older silicon (2015-era PCs with Haswell or older CPU), we expect most users to notice a decrease in system performance.
Windows Server on any silicon, especially in any IO-intensive application, shows a more significant performance impact when you enable the mitigations to isolate untrusted code within a Windows Server instance. This is why you want to be careful to evaluate the risk of untrusted code for each Windows Server instance, and balance the security versus performance tradeoff for your environment.
For context, on newer CPUs such as on Skylake and beyond, Intel has refined the instructions used to disable branch speculation to be more specific to indirect branches, reducing the overall performance penalty of the Spectre mitigation. Older versions of Windows have a larger performance impact because Windows 7 and Windows 8 have more user-kernel transitions because of legacy design decisions, such as all font rendering taking place in the kernel. We will publish data on benchmark performance in the weeks ahead.
The testing outlined here today is based on current hardware and Windows 10. Specifically, the board is an Asus Z370 Prime A, running on a Samsung PM961 M.2. drive, with a secondary small PNY SSD attached. The CPU is an i5 8600 and the is 16GB of memory in the system.
Software wise updates for windows were completed right up to the 01/01/18 point and the patch from Microsoft to address this was released on 03/01/18 and is named “KB4056892”. I start the testing with the 605 BIOS from late 2017 and move through to the 606 BIOS designed to address the microcode update specified by Intel.
Early reports have suggested a hit to the drive subsystem, so at each stage, I’m going to test this and of course, I’ll be monitoring the CPU performance as each step is applied. Also keep in mind that as outlined in the Microsoft advisory above, different generations of hardware and solutions from different suppliers will be affected differently, but as Intel is suggested as being the hardest hit by these problems, it makes sense to examine a current generation to start with.
Going into this, I was hopeful that we wouldn’t be expecting to see a whole load of processing power lost simply due to the already public explanations of how the flaw could potentially affect the system didn’t read as being one that should majorly impact the way an audio system handles itself.
Largely it’s played out as expected, as when you’re working away within your sequencer the ASIO driver is there doing its best to keep itself as a priority and generally, if the system is tuned to work well for music, the shouldn’t be a million programs in the background that should be affected by this and causing the update to steal processing time. So, given we’re not running the sort of a server related workloads that I would expect to cause too much of an upset here, I was fairly confident that the impact shouldn’t be as bad as some suggestions had made out and largely on the processing side it plays out like that.
However, prior to starting the testing, it was reported that storage subsystems were taking a hit due to these patches and that of course demanded that we take a look at it along the way too. Starting with the worst news first, those previous reports are very much on the ball. I had two drives connected and below we see the first set of results taken from a Samsung M.2. SM961 model drive.
To help give you a little more background on what’s being tested here, each test should be as follows:
Seq Q32T1 – sequential read/ write with multiple threads and queues
4K Q32T1 – random read/ write with multiple threads and queues
Seq – sequential read/ write with a single queue and thread
4K – random read/ write with a single queue and thread.
The is no doubt a performance hit here to the smaller 4k files which are amplified as more threads are taken up to handle the workload in the 4K Q32T1 test. On the flip side of this is that the sequential handling seems to either escape relatively unscathed and in some instances even improved to some degree, so there is some trade-off here depending on the workload it’s handling.
The gains did confuse me at first and whilst first sifting through the data I started to wonder if perhaps given we were running off the OS drive, and perhaps other services had skewed it slightly. Thankfully, I also had a project SDD hooked up to the system as well, so we can compare a second data point against the first.
The 4k results still show a decrease and the sequential once again hold fairly steady with a few read gains, so it looks like some rebalancing to the performance levels has taken place here too, whether intentional or not.
The DAWBench testing, on the other hand with the DSP test, ends up with a more positive result. This time around I’ve pulled out the newer SGA based DSP test, as well as the Kontakt based DAWBench VI test and both were run within Reaper.
The result of the DSP test which concentrates on loading the CPU up shows little difference that doesn’t fall within the margin of error & variance. It should also be noted that the CPU was running at 99% CPU load when it topped out, so we don’t appear to be losing any overhead here in that regard.
With the Kontakt based DAWBench VI test, we’re seeing anything between 5% and 8% overhead reduction depending on the ASIO buffer, with the tightest 64 buffer suffering after each update whereas the looser settings coped better with the software update before taking a small hit when we get up to the 256 buffer.
Ultimately the concern here is how will it impact you in real terms?
The minor loss of overhead on the second testing set was from a Kontakt heavy project and the outcome from the drive tests would suggest that anyone with sample library that has a heavy reliance on disk streaming may wish to be careful here with any projects that are already on the edge prior to the update being applied.
I also timed that project being loaded across all 3 states of the update process as I went with the baseline time frame to open the project being 20 seconds. After the software update, we didn’t see a change in this time span, with the project still taking 20 seconds to open. However, the BIOS update once applied along with the OS update added 2 seconds to this giving us roughly a 10% increase in the project load time.
So at this time, whilst any performance is certainly not welcome, we’re not seeing quite the huge skew in the performance stakes that has been touted thankfully, and certainly well short of the 30% figure that was being suggested initially for the CPU hit.
There have been suggestions by Microsoft that older generations might be more severely affected and from the description of how it affects servers I suspect that we may well see that 30% figure and even higher under certain workloads in server environments, but I suspect that it’ll be more centered around the database or virtual machine server workstation segments than the creative workstation user base.
Outside of our small corner of the world, TechSpot has been running a series of tests since the news broke and it’s interesting to see other software outside of the audio workstation environment seems to be largely behaving the same for a lot of end users, as are the storage setups that they have tested. If you’d like to read through those you can do so here.
The issue was discovered over the course of 2017 back but largely kept under wraps so it couldn’t be exploited at the time. However, the existence of the problem leaked before the NDA was lifted and feels like a few solutions that have been pushed out in the days since may have been a little rushed in order to stop anyone more unethical capitalizing upon it.
As such, I would expect performance to bounce around over the next few months as they test, tweak and release new drivers, firmware and BIOS solutions. The concern right now for firms is ensuring that systems around the world are secure and I would expect there to be a period of optimization to follow once they have removed the risk of malware or worse impacting the end user.
Thankfully, it’s possible to remove the patch after you apply it, so in a worst case scenario you can still revert back and block it should it have a more adverse effect upon your system, although it will then leave you open to possible attacks. Of course, leaving the machine offline will obviously protect you, but then that can be a hard thing to do in a modern studio where software maintenance and remote collaboration are both almost daily requirements for many users.
However you choose to proceed, will no doubt be system and situation specific and I suspect as updates appear the best practice for your system may change over the coming months. Certainly, the best advice I can offer here is to keep your eye on how this develops, make the choices that keep you secure without hampering your workflow and review the situation going forward to see if further optimizations can help restore the situation to pre-patch levels as a resolve for the problem is worked upon by both the hardware and software providers.