Category Archives for "New Music Gear Monday"
Just about everything has a Bluetooth connection on it these days, but a guitar pick? If you’re curious what you might want with a connected pick, then it’s time to meet Pickatto, the brainchild of guitarist Michael Murawski.
Murawski found that while most guitar players have a pretty well-developed fret hand, their picking hand lagged behind. Pickatto and it’s accompanying software is a way to count the up and down strokes of the pick so you can improve your picking motion in a quantifiable way. The data is streamed to a custom smartphone app that allows you to set daily and weekly goals, and even measures the pressure of the your fingers on the pick. According to Pickatto, the secret to building speed and endurance in the picking hand comes from a relaxed hand. By measuring the pressure of the player on the pick, it’s possible to see when your hand is tensing up and squeezing too hard, which could ultimately lead to tendonitis or even the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome.
As far as its size, Pickatto is about the size of a heavy guitar pick at 34mm long and 25mm wide. It’s thicker than most at 2.8mm at the bottom picking end, while way thicker at the “wing” on top at 4.1mm. While this might not feel comfortable for performance, Pickatto is a device made for practice, so going from it’s larger size will probably make your normal pick feel a lot better, plus give you some added dexterity to boot.
Pickatto has launched an Indigogo crowd funding campaign to get the ball rolling, and the price for each unit there is only $50USD plus shipping, although there are plenty of other funding tiers available. Check out the company website and the video below that explains how Pickatto works. It’s time to get practicing again.
Let’s face it, when it comes to a new piece of gear or plugin we’re often enamored because it’s brand new, or because of the name on it, or what we’ve read about it. How often do we do real blind testing? The answer is probably “Not much” since blind testing is pretty hard to do. Until now, that is, since the Hofa 4U+ BlindTest plugin has made blind testing a piece of cake.
To use it is pretty simple – insert 4U+ BlindTest as last plugin on every track you’d like to compare. At that point, only the tracks that are soloed play and all the other tracks are muted.
The real key is the Shuffle function though, since that will put the tracks in random order without names. You can then switch between the different signals to judge them objectively, then assign a ranking and add your comments. You can later uncover the track names.
It’s pretty easy to shuffle and evaluate several times so you can get average ratings. The Hofa 4U+ BlindTest will allow comments to be summarized so that you can check if your aural impression was always the same. If there’s a track that you’ve eliminated from the competition, just drag it to the “Inactive” section to eliminate from the next round of listening.
The Hofa 4U+ also has a couple of other very important features. There’s a peak display and a gain control per track so you can avoid influences caused by loudness differences, because as we all know, louder = better. The user interface is also scalable so that you can use it to hide anything on your screen that may influence your decisions, like your DAW’s mixer panel.
Like all Hofa plugins, 4U+ BlindTest works with VST, AU, AAX and RTAS formats. Best of all, the Hofa 4U+ BlindTest plugin is free if you can live with just 3 comparison choices. Want unlimited choices? Then just upgrade at any time to the paid version, which is about $45US.
Hofa makes some great other plugins as well that are definitely worth checking out.
OK, this is pretty wild. What if you want to add some extra ambience to your acoustic guitar, but hate the idea of plugging into an amp or adding effects pedals. If that’s the case, then the Yamaha TransAcoustic guitar might be the thing for you.
The Yamaha TransAcoustic guitar lets you add reverb and chorus to the guitar sound, but incredibly uses no external amplification or processing to do so. The way it works is that an actuator installed on the inner surface of the guitar back vibrates in response to the vibrations of the strings. The vibrations of the actuator are then conveyed some DSP, then back to the body of the guitar and to the air in and around the guitar body, generating authentic reverb and chorus sounds from inside the body.
Three knobs let you adjust the degree of effect applied and as well as the volume level at the line out jack. There’s one control for Reverb (the reverb type automatically switches from Room to Hall at the 12 o’clock position), and another for Chorus, and finally an on/off – Line Out Volume Control called a TA Switch (for TransAcoustic, I guess). Pressing the TA Switch for more than 0.3 seconds activates the TA function. When a cable is connected to the line-out jack in the strap knob, the volume can be adjusted by rotating the TA knob.
The TransAcoustic guitar is pretty new so there’s not much info available on it yet, but you can find some here on the Yamaha Europe site. There’s also no U.S. price yet, but the European one is around $1,500.
Those tiny Eurorack synth modules have been growing in popularity, going from a simple 10×20 foot booth down in the no-mans-land basement at NAMM to a huge pavilion on the main floor. While everyone loves hardware, for many of us its just impractical in our musical creation so the new Softube Modular Eurorack emulation plugin addresses the issue nicely.
Softube Modular is a new cross-platform modular synthesizer plug-in that looks, works and sounds exactly like its analog Eurorack counterparts.
The company’s award-winning modeling experts have collaborated closely with both Doepfer and Intellijel to create circuit emulations of each company’s existing hardware modules, which is why Modular is about as close to the sound of the real thing as you can get.
The plugin includes six Doepfer modules and 20+ utility modules, such as sequencer, mixer, delay and more, as well as a large preset library. Additional modules from Doepfer and Intellijel will be available as add-ons, and other emulations from top hardware synthesizer brands are planned for the future.
The Softube Modular plugin should be available any time now and is priced at $99. Additional module emulations will cost between $29 and $49. All Softube plugins are available in VST, VST3, AU, AAX Native and AAX DSP formats. There’s not a lot of info available yet, but you can check out this page for a few more details.
Every songs wants a signature sound and as a result, we often spend days at a time in the studio searching for just the right one to put a stamp on a recording. The one cool thing is about some of the latest electronic plugins and pedals is that it’s getting easier and easier to dial up something that used to take long effects chains to get. A good example of simplicity, small package and great sound can be found in a new pedal, Digitech Whammy Ricochet.
The pedal can be used to provide whammy bar-like effects for those with guitars with stop tailpieces (or keyboards for that matter), or can be used to change the pitch as much as an octave up or down.
The Whammy Ricochet is based around the same technology as Digitech’s Whammy Pitch Shifter, only this comes in a mini-pedal package and uses a momentary switch instead of a full pedal.
Seven pitches are available – 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, Octave, Double Octave, and Octave+Dry – up or down, while shift and return knobs control the rate at which the pitch rises and falls. A series of trajectory LEDs provide a visual indication of pitch-shift direction and rate.
A true bypass latching footswitch mode is also available to maintain the selected pitch, and players have a choice of polyphonic Chords mode (from the Whammy DT) and glitchy Classic (from the original Whammy) tracking.
The Digitech Whammy Ricochet is available in May and June for a special introductory price of $187.44. Check out the details here and the example video below.
NAB was pretty cool this year but one of the products that jumped out was the new Solid State Logic System T console. While this isn’t of direct interest to most of you in terms of a purchase, it’s worth knowing about since it’s stunning in both its looks and capabilities.
The SSL System T was designed from the ground up specifically to handle large-scale productions in a fully networked broadcast environment. Up to 3 consoles or control surfaces can be placed on the network to access a fully redundant pair of processor engines so there’s never any downtime for the system. The routing and I/O is based on the new Dante HC connectivity, so any Dante-driven I/O stagebox with work with the console.
The Tempest processor engine is capable of real-time, 64-bit CPU-based, floating point mixing and processing. Each processor engine can handle up to 3072 inputs and outputs and provides 800 fully configurable processing paths, up to 192 mix buses, 800 EQs, 800 dynamics and 400 delays!
Paths, processing and routing can be dynamically allocated in real time without interrupting audio, which is a unique feature in a broadcast console.
System T’s also features a control surface that incorporates multi-gesture touch screen technology, which seems to take a page out of the Slate Raven playbook.
The SSL System T is so new that it hasn’t been priced yet, but you can be pretty sure that you won’t be seeing it in a recording studio near you anytime soon. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a more music-oriented spinoff of the System T in the near future. Click here to find out more.
We all love great room sounds and one of the most famous rooms ever recorded was on David Bowie’s “Heroes” by Tony Visconti. Visconti set up three microphones in the hall of Berlin’s Hansa Studios; the first for Bowie to sing directly into, a second positioned about 15 feet away and the third further back in the hall. Visconti placed gates on the second and third microphones set to open as Bowie sang louder and louder. This same sound can now be duplicated with the new Eventide Tverb, which consists of three completely independent reverbs with compression, selectable polar patterns on microphone 1 and adjustable gates on microphones 2 and 3.
What’s more, the original effect was mono due to track limitations, but Tverb provides it in true stereo. The use of stereo microphones enhances the effect and DAW automation can be used to program the microphones to wander around the hall as the track plays.
Tverb consists of a variety of parameters, like 2 moveable microphones to adjust reverb size and tone, a custom Eventide reverb algorithm with EQ, diffusion, and decay control, 2 linkable post-reverb gate modules with control of when the gates close, the speed at which they close and the length of time they are forced to stay open. Signal inversion buttons are also available to remove (or create) phase cancellation, and a Mix Lock allows for scrolling through presets or settings while keeping the wet/dry mix constant.
The user interface is based on a “console” that was inspired by the one used in the session and is complete with Visconti’s “grease pencil” labelling, and provides post-reverb channel processing for each individual mic and the master. The room mixer module alters the sound of the room itself with control over decay, diffusion and frequency attenuation.
The Eventide Tverb is normally priced at $249 but currently has an introductory price of $149. A fully functioning 30 day demo version is also available. The plugin is available in AAX, VST and AU versions that work on most DAWs. Find out more on its dedicated page at Eventide.
Radial Engineering makes a grand variety of useful direct boxes, and just about the time you think they’ve thought of everything, they come up with something new. One of the company’s more unique DIs is the new BT-Pro, a unique Bluetooth direct box that converts a wireless audio signal into an analog stereo balanced line.
This allows you to connect your phone or iPad directly to a PA or recording device without having to resort to an assortment of patch cables.
The BT-Pro is built to be bullet-proof just like all other Radial DIs, as it’s made from 14 gauge steel with an l-beam frame that hangs over the controls to keep them out of harms way.
It uses the latest Bluetooth wireless A2DP interface over 2.0 EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) for higher speed transmission to deliver optimal audio quality, with reception out to 60 feet. This standard employs a 16-bit wireless compressed format with the actual bit rate determined by the transmission source material.
There are two balanced XLR outputs that feature isolation transformers to eliminate any buzz or hum, an output control, plus a built-in headphone amp for troubleshooting using a standard 3.5mm mini TRS output connector.
There’s also a stereo-to-mono switch that sums the input for dual-mono operation, as well as two side-mounted switches that insert the isolation transformers into the signal path. This is supplemented by a ground lift switch for the XLRs to help further eliminate any ground loops. The unit is powered via a USB connector.
The Radial Engineering BT-Pro sells for a reasonable $229.99, and like most Radial gear, will probably last a lifetime. Find out more on the dedicated BT-Pro web page.
It doesn’t matter what microphone you like to use on toms, because chances are that it’s going to pick up a lot of the cymbals as well. This is pretty typical because most of the mics that end up on toms have a cardioid pattern. The problem is that there aren’t too many true hypercardioid mics available to limit that cymbal bleed, especially in a package that fits conveniently out of the way of both drummer and cymbals. That was before the recent introduction of the Audio Technica’s ATM230 purpose-built tom mic though.
The new ATM230 is that elusive hypercardioid mic built into a small package, with a response that’s tailored to capture both the stick sound and body of all rack and floor toms. What’s even better is the fact that it comes with an integral isolated tom mount, so you don’t need an expensive 3rd party mount or mic stand.
It’s a dynamic mic so it’s inherently rugged, and is made of metal so it can stand up to stick hits (I hate it when my expensive condenser mics take a hit), and it’s reasonably priced to boot.