Mixdown Magazine #303

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#303 – JULY 2019





INTERVIEWS — August Burns Red, Sarah McLeod, Tropical Fuck Storm + more

REVIEWED — EarthQuaker Plumes, Framus Panthera II, NUX MG-20, TC Electronic June 60 Pedal,

Ernie Ball Music Man Majesty, Meris Hedra, Voodoo Lab Dingbat, Anasounds Element Reverb + many more


Small Signal Shredder Available worldwide 3 August mixdownmag.com.au



NOTHING SOUNDS LIKE A PAISTE SIGNATURE. BECAUSE IT CAN’T. In 1989 we created our Signature Series using a patented bronze alloy with a wider and richer sound than any that came before it. This year, we mark the 30th anniversary of the Paiste Signature sound and celebrate the countless recordings and performances that have been part of the Signature story.



Hand Made Effects Pedals | Akron, Ohio


Small Signal Shredder Try it first at Melbourne Guitar Show. 3–4 August, booth #47.

Available worldwide 3 August. Pre-order yours today. Yamaha Music Australia proudly distributes EarthQuaker Devices



THINK BEYOND. Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre

27-29 AUG 2019 Lose yourself in the technology of tomorrow at Integrate 2019. Discover new waves of innovation in audio technology to transform customer experiences.









Long heralded by online reviewers and top audio professionals, and backed by a cult-like following of serious music fans, the M-Series offers an unmatched combination of audio and build quality for exceptional performance both in the studio and beyond.

For information on the full range of M-Series headphones go to audio-technica.com.au


xotic.us facebook.com/xoticusa



CONTENTS 12 14 15 16 22 24 25 26 28 30 32 33 34 35 36 60 62

Giveaways Industry News Music News Product News Cover Story: Thy Art Is Murder Sarah McLeod Tropical Fuck Storm August Burns Red Gravemind Generation Axe James Norbert Ivanyi Features Musicology Electronic Music Guitar Bass Percussion Product Reviews Directory Show & Tell

Thy Art Is Murder PG.22

Foreword After a few weeks off enjoying the beautiful European summer, it’s nice to come back to Melbourne and dive into one of our biggest issues of the year. Like every year, we’re running our big Guitar Special to tie in with the enormous Melbourne Guitar Show so naturally we’ve filled this issue to the brim with killer guitar related content. We also have Australian extreme metal exports Thy Art Is Murder on the cover to celebrate the release of their new face-melter Human Target, just to make it that little bit more massive. Thanks for reading!



Sarah McLeod

Generation Axe

PG. 24

PG. 26

For breaking news, new content and more giveaways visit our website.













#302 –



#301 –

JUNE 2019

APRIL 2019

MAY 2019



INTERVIE Beartooth WS — , James Amyl & The Sniff Blake, Frank Iero, ers + more






for your



REVIEWE IK Multi D — media iRig Kali LP-8 Micro Amp Studio , Monitors,






INTERVIE Anberlin, WS — West Theb Polish Club arton, Hake & More n, Blue Micro ROKIT G4 phones Yeticaster Warwick Monitors, TC Helic , KRK RockBass on Star Bass Blender, + more


REVIEWE Paul Reed D — Smith SE Rumble Custom LT25, TC 24, Fend Helicon er GO Inter faces,

INTERVIE Periphery, WS — Duff McKa The Cranberri gan & More es, Circles, Xotic XSC Interface, Guitar. Apogee Element UNO SynthVox AC30S1, IK 46 Multimedi + many a more

REVIEWE Marshall D — Studios Jackson Serie Adrian Smit s, Markbass CASA , h, Deno n SC50 00,

Sennheise EarthQuak r True Wireless Headphon Woodsmaner Dispatch Mast es, er, Ashd + many own more




for your



PUBLISHER Furst Media Mycelium Studios Factory 1/10-12 Moreland Road East Brunswick VIC 3057 (03) 9428 3600

ONLINE EDITOR Will Brewster will@furstmedia.com.au

MANAGING DIRECTOR Patrick Carr patrick@furstmedia.com.au


EDITOR Nicholas Simonsen nicholas@furstmedia.com.au


CONTRIBUTORS Rob Gee, Christie Elizer, Nick Brown, David James Young, Adrian Violi, Michael Cusack, Augustus Welby, Luke Shields, Alex Watts, Aaron Streatfeild, James Di Fabrizio, Adam Norris, Alex Winter,

Jessica Over, Eddy Lim, Lewis NokeEdwards, Josh Martin, Taylor Douglas, Ben Eizenberg, Natalie Rogers



Thy Art Is Murder Human Target Vinyl Human Target is the fifth full length album from leading extreme metal band Thy Art Is Murder. Jam packed full of fast paced brutality, it’s likely to be on any metalhead’s top records of 2019 list. We have a copy of the record on a killer beer with black splatter vinyl to giveaway thanks to our friends at Human Warfare.

Last Month’s Giveaway Winners Blue Microphones Ember Condenser Microphone Giveaway Engineered to meet the needs of modern day musician, the Blue Microphones Ember Condenser Microphone is an essential asset for all your recording, podcasting and streaming needs. Offering a strong, pure signal with a custom hand-tuned condenser capsule to deliver maximum detail, the Ember is perfect for all your pro-audio endeavours. Thanks to our mates at Innovative Music, we have one of these awesome mics to giveaway this month and the winner is: Bill from Melbourne, Victoria

IK Multimedia iRig Micro Amp Giveaway

Ernie Ball Slinky Strings Giveaway Since the 1960’s, Ernie Ball have been producing some of the finest guitar strings that have been used by almost every legendary player to hit the stage around the world. They recently announced the release of three new sets, the Mega, Primo and Mammoth Slinky sets. Thanks to our friends at CMC Music, we have a few bundles of the sets to giveaway.

The IK Multimedia iRig Micro Amp is a compact, battery-powered amplifier with a whole lot to offer. Doubling as a mobile interface, the 15 watt iRig Micro Amp features three custom-voiced analogue channels, and pumps out a surprisingly loud sound suitable for bedroom practice or late night jam sessions. Courtesy of our friends at Sound & Music, we’ve got one IK Multimedia iRig Micro Amp to giveaway this month and the winner is: Samantha from Albury, New South Wales

For your chance to win any of these prizes, head to our giveaways page at mixdownmag.com.au/giveaway and follow the instructions. *These giveaways are for Australian residents only and one entry per person. For full terms and conditions visit mixdownmag.com.au/terms-and-conditions



INDUSTRY NEWS Are Festival-Goers As Caring As They Like To Think They Are? Festivals are supposed to reflect the utopian society we aspire to, or whatever. But two studies suggest that festival attendees are not as enlightened as they would believe. A survey by Green Music Australia of punters at three Australian festivals found that 50% of festival waste is left behind at campsites, with 63% of recipients thinking it’s not their responsibility to clean up after their friends. The second Cleaner Campsites Industry Roundtable has come up with a number of initiatives to educate people about cleaning up, while this month’s Splendour In the Grass in Byron Bay will be the first to have a tent repair facility where people can reuse their tents. Meantime a State of Play report from Ticketmaster of UK festival goers found men (32%) are more concerned about women (28%) when it comes to gender representation on a festival bill. 41% of festival goers say they want more diversity in lineups, but only 29% will buy a ticket if they think the bill is an enlightened one. 62% say waste reduction at festivals is their top priority this northern summer but that’s more of a concern for older patrons than younger ones. 63% of those aged over 55 sees it as their priority, but only 40% of the 16—19 age demographic.

First Round Of Speakers, Topics Announced For Indie-Con The annual indie music meetup Indie-Con Australia, held in Adelaide on July 25 and 26, has announced the first round of speakers and topics. Topics so far include the huge potential of China as a music business market, making extra money from sync, streaming, smart marketing, the future of the label, artists as entrepreneurs, mental health, leadership, HR, tech, the fast growing worlds of Esports and gaming, protecting copyright and financial literacy. For the first time, attendees can request one-on-one meetings with speakers and delegates from around the world. Full details at air.org.au.

OneMusic Australia Simplifies Licensing Whew! Hear that? That’s the sound of 100,000+ Australian businesses letting out a huge sigh of relief after the July 1 launch of OneMusic Australia. These businesses include shops, pubs, gyms, festival, cafes, restaurants and bars which use music to cater for their customers. It’s been a fairly difficult process to pay for licensing. They’ll have to deal with APRA AMCOS which collects on behalf of member songwriters, music publishers and composers, as well as the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia which collects on behalf of recording artists and record labels. See www.onemusic.com.au for more information.

Spotify Reckons It’s Overpaid Songwriters, Wants Refunds! Are you one of these who scowls every time you get a royalty cheque from Spotify and mutter you have to take it to the bank because it’s too small to go by itself? You’ll get a kick out of this. The Swedish streaming giant reckons in 2018 it overpaid US songwriters and composers and, umm, would like a refund, thanks. The argument is that in early 2018, the Copyright Royalties


Board ruled royalty rates paid to songwriters in the US for streaming would rise by 44% over the next four years. Spotify reckons “according to the new CRB regulations, we overpaid most publishers in 2018”.

New Degree For Festival Management Festivals Adelaide represents 11 festivals including Womadelaide, Adelaide Guitar Festival, the Fringe and Adelaide Festival, which last year collectively injected $109 million into South Australian economy (up 27.7% from the previous year) and created 1045 full-time equivalent jobs. To cater for this growth, Festivals Adelaide has teamed with University of South Australia’s new School of Creative Industries to create a bachelor degree majoring in festivals management, with students set to be lectured about all things problem solving, budgeting and digital marketing.

Aussie Song Summit Makes NYC Debut After six years, APRA’s song summit SongHubs made its debut in New York City late last month. Over four days names like Tkay Maidza, Urthboy, Hermitude, San Cisco, Mojo Juju, George Sheppard of the band Sheppard, Kimbra, Kito, new electronic artist BRUX, LA-based producer Cleopold, up-and-coming NYC singer-songwriter The Dawn of May, producer and solo artist Kito (Jorja Smith, Mabel), and songwriter Jasper Leak, who collaborated with overseas producers like Clams Casino (FKA twigs, Vince Staples) and Damian Taylor (Björk, Arcade Fire, The Killers) in order to learn how to produce a commercially viable track in a single day. Big.

Entries Deadline For Melbourne Music Prize Deadline for entries for the Melbourne Music Prize is 5pm on Monday July 22 via their website. Launched in 2004 to recognise and reward talent as well as encourage creative development, the $60,000 prize is open to all Victorian musicians, performers

and composers. An additional $40,000 will be given out in four other categories: the Distinguished Musicians Fellowship; the Development Award; the Beleura Emerging Composers Award and the Civic Choice Award. This year’s judges include Kate MillerHeidke, SLAM’s Helen Marcou, Professor Paul Grabowsky AO, Professor Liza Lim and Melissa King. Finalists are announced on Wednesday September 4 and winners on Wednesday November 13.

Australia’s Jaxsta A Game Changer Yet another Australian tech startup is set to make a global impact. This time it’s Jaxsta, a database providing every bit of credit information on an album – including artists, musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers and other members of the music community. You know, the kind of stuff printed on album sleeves when they were large and fans would pore over them for hours. The idea was devised in Sydney by Jacqui Louez Schoorl and Louis Schoorl and has gone into open beta. Currently it contains more than 100 million credits across 25 million webpages, reflecting the music credits of 19 million recordings. This includes 5 million individual production credits; 4 million profiles (individuals, groups, companies and organisations); 2.5 million album/single/ soundtrack releases; 2.5 million individual credited recording engineers; and 1.9 million credited individual songwriters. As a constantly growing database, Jaxsta expects to increase the total number of credits within the platform by 30% before the conclusion of its open beta.

SXSW Details Australian Meet And Greets It’s been a tradition that when applications open in Australia for South By Southwest (SXSW), “meet and greets” are held in various cities where those who’ve attended a number of times pass on advice to first timers – everything from preparing deals to visas to pacing one’s partying. The 2019 edition was the biggest turn-out by

Australians – 750 delegates and 57 music showcase acts – so it’s expected that 2020 will have a large draw as well. Head onto our website to find all the details today.

GANGGajang Inducted Into SA Hall Of Fame Three of GANGGajang’s founding Adelaide members - Geoffrey Stapleton, Graham Bidstrup (Buzz) and Robbie James - will be inducted into the Adelaide Music Collective SA Music Hall of Fame later this year. The band will also be inducted, while Chris Bailey, who was previously inducted in 2015, will once again be honoured at this induction as a founding member.

Derringers Get Behind Keys To The City Derringers Music is sponsoring Keys To The City 2019, an event within Umbrella Winter City Sounds in Adelaide. Keys To The City is the brainchild of 19 year old local musician and event manager Jasmyn Birch. In its second year, it is a one day showcase of emerging and established artists with a focus on keyboards. This year Keys To The City moves from Ed Castle to Chateau Apollo on Sunday July 14 from 1pm to 10pm – head online to find out more.

Victorian Grants Strengthens State Acts The Victoria State Government has announced $690,000 in funding to support 60 music projects. These range from soundproofing venues to regional and overseas tours, to creating a new video game soundtrack to skill development programs like Girls Rock!, a Castlemainebased music program for female, trans and gender diverse youth. It also encompasses a pilot program by Barpirdhila Foundation to foster music career pathways for young First Peoples and a business evaluation program for Wrangler Studios.



Hans Zimmer to return to Australia Two years after his blockbuster Coachella appearance and subsequent international tour, German film score maestro Hans Zimmer has announced a series of arena shows across the East Coast later this year. Responsible for composing iconic scores for the likes of Pirates Of The Caribbean, Interstellar, The Lion King, Inception, The Dark Knight, Blade Runner 2049 and many, many more, Zimmer is set to treat fans in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to an absolute masterclass in composition when he lands this October. Head to MJR Presents to cop tickets today.

WAAX detail debut LP Big Grief It’s been a long time coming, but Brisbane punk rock outfit WAAX have finally announced the release date for their debut record Big Grief. Recorded over a number of sessions with Grammy award winning studio wiz Nick DiDia and Powderfinger legend Bernard Fanning, Big Grief aims to explore ‘the definition of the word grief in universal terms’, and comes out on Dew Process on Friday August 23. Catch WAAX playing material from the album around the country this August.

FOMO drops its lineup for 2020 Ignoring the fact that it’s currently the middle of winter, FOMO have gone and announced an absolute scorcher of a lineup to boot off the new decade in January next year. Headlined by Canadian future-funk connoisseur Kaytranada and US rap collective Brockhampton, FOMO 2020 also boasts the likes of singing/rapping/flute playing sensation Lizzo, grime star Octavian, French nu-disco don Madeon, Anger Management rapper Rico Nasty and more. Head online to suss out all the dates for Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne today.


Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard announces solo debut JAIME Brittany Howard, frontwoman of the celebrated US blues rock group Alabama Shakes, has announced her forthcoming debut solo record JAIME. Named in memoriam for her sister, who sadly passed away from cancer as a teenager, JAIME sees Howard abandoning Alabama Shakes’ bluesy songwriting template to experiment with woozy synths, breakbeat loops and introspective ruminations on sex, religion and everything else in between. Featuring the likes of Robert Glasper, Nate Smith and more, JAIME is set for release via Columbia on Friday September 20.

Thanks for Nothing, KORN... Nu-metal icons KORN have shared some spooky details about the release of their upcoming studio album. In addition to releasing new single ‘You’ll Never Find Me,’ the band have announced that The Nothing, which will be KORN’s 13th record, will be released by Roadrunner Records - on Friday September 13, no less. Produced by Grammy award-winner Nick Raskulinecz and featuring a stark 13 tracks, the band have also stated The Nothing will be quite a dark, guitar heavy affair – no corny ballads to be found here.

Previously unheard Miles Davis record to hit shelves this year

Tropical Fuck Storm gear up for Braindrops

After being recorded in 1985 and then stashed away by Warner for almost 35 years, legendary jazz artist Mile Davis’ ‘lost’ album Rubberband is finally seeing the light of day. Completed posthumously by Davis’ nephew/drummer Vince Wilburn Jr. and featuring the likes of Lalah Hathaway, Randy Hall and Ledisi, the album depicts ‘80s era Miles at his funky best. Rubberband also features album artwork painted by the trumpet slinger himself, and is expected to be released via Rhino on Friday September 6.

Local psych-punk foursome Tropical Fuck Storm have detailed their upcoming record Braindrops, their second album and first to be released under their new label Flightless Records. Following the sonic onslaught of last year’s debut A Laughing Death In Meatspace, Braindrops looks to embellish TFS’s raucous musical stylings and Garreth Liddiard’s twisted sociopolitical ramblings even further into the Australian musical zeitgeist. Braindrops arrives courtesy of Flightless Records on Friday August 23 – make sure to catch them live this month at Splendour In The Grass.

Angie McMahon locks in national tour

Whitney are back with Forever Turned Around

With her debut record Salt set to hit shelves later this month, Melbourne singer-songwriter Angie McMahon has locked in an ambitious ten date run around the country with US folk artist Haley Heynderickx. Propelled by the success of early single ‘Slow Mover’, which netted #33 in last year’s Hottest 100 and has recently been certified Gold by the ARIA Charts, McMahon is set to take her new record to theatres around the country this October, as well as stopping in for a primetime slot at Woolongong’s Yours & Owls Festival. Tickets are on sale now via the festival website.

Chicago country-soul darlings Whitney have announced their highly anticipated second record Forever Turned Around will be released on Friday August 30 through Secretly Canadian. The announcement was accompanied by the band’s latest single ‘Giving Up,’ a breezy Sunday morning strummer accented with prancing guitars and a trumpet fanfare that’ll leave you salivating for another slice. After the little nugget of ear-candy that was 2016’s debut Light Upon The Lake, we can’t wait to see what this band’s got in store for future releases.


PRODUCT NEWS Bogner Goldfinger Super Lead Available Now EGM DISTRIBUTION | EGM.NET.AU The Goldfinger Super Lead is a revision of Bogner’s original Goldfinger amplifier. The redesigned Omega gain channel has overall more gain and flexibility than the original. Gain, EQ and Loudness controls have been improved to add versatility, allowing the player to find a good tone at any volume. The beautiful Alpha clean channel is identical to the original design with the exception of the Post Bright switch which made place for a Deep switch.

Warwick RockCare Accessories Have Your Instrument Safe And Sound AMBER TECHNOLOGY | AMBERTECH.COM.AU Warwick’s new range of maintenance products have landed in Australia and are heading to a store near you. The RockCare range features a slew of accessories aimed at protecting your guitar including a neck rest, neck support, work bench pad and work bench set. These products ensure that your instrument is stable and secure when restringing or cleaning.

Kyser Instrument Care Products Now Shipping in Convenient Wipes Format

Sonicware Synthesizers Coming To Australia


Link Audio have become the exclusive Australian distributor for Japanese synthesizer brand Sonicware. Their ELZ_1 synth is a portable, battery and mains powered synth weighing only 1.3kg. It features 11 digital synth engines, including FM, granular, 8 bit noise generators and more. It also has four simultaneous effects, arpeggiator and step sequencer with external sync. Expect to see these in stores later this month.

Kyser’s wide range of instrument care products have been a secret weapon for luthiers worldwide for decades now. For the first time, Kyser string cleaner, instrument polish and lemon oil are now available to players in convenient and ultra-portable resealable ten packs of individual sachets. Use only what you need, and leave the rest safely sealed until your next set up. Find these in a store near you.


Legendary beyerdynamic Monitoring Headphones Available Now SYNTEC | SYNTEC.COM.AU

The New Generation Of Focusrite Interfaces Is Here INNOVATIVE MUSIC | INNOVATIVEMUSIC.COM.AU Focusrite have unveiled the new generation of their famed Scarlett interfaces. Featuring six configurations of ins and outs with the best performing Scarlett mic preamps the range has ever heard, now with Air, high headroom instrument inputs and high-performance converters, Scarlett is enabling millions of musicians, songwriters and producers to record, mix and play back audio in studio quality everywhere, all the time. In stores now!


The beyerdynamic DT770PRO Headphones have been an industry standard for years now. On top of the standard models in the range, beyerdynamic also do a special version called the DT770M. The DT 770M is a closed dynamic headphone designed especially for drummers. Due to its high SPL capability and excellent ambient noise attenuation, the DT 770M is also suitable for monitoring on stage and in studios. These are available in stores nationwide now.



Warwick RockBass Streamer LX Hits Australia AMBER TECHNOLOGY | AMBERTECH.COM.AU The newest bass from German legends Warwick has hit the ground in Australia. The RockBass Streamer LX is the perfect for the bassist needing a huge tone coupled with a sleek look. This incredible LX four string bass is finished solid black high polish and has a 34” long scale with archine caroline body and bolt-on construction. The bass also features three piece laminated Maple neck with Ekanga veneer stripes, Wenge fingerboard, 20” radius and 24 nickel silver jumbo frets.

The New Ernie Ball Axis Capo Is Here

PreSonus Eris E5 XT Monitors Available Now

Fender Bring Back The Vintage Era With Vintera




The Ernie Ball Axis Capo features a quick and easy clampand-release design that facilitates fast, single-handed changes when needed. It also has a dual-radius design that allows it to adapt to flat or curved fretboards, which makes for buzz-free operation on six or seven string electric and acoustic guitars. The Axis comes in four finishes: black, silver, bronze and gold. Keep an eye out for the Axis Capo at your local Ernie Ball dealer.

PreSonus have unveiled the newest addition to their Eris line of studio monitors in the form of the Eris E5 XT, a new take on their best-selling monitors. The Eris E5 XT is a substantial update to a lauded classic, providing deeper lows and a wider, more controlled sweet spot thanks to the new EBM wave guide design. These stellar monitors are available now at PreSonus dealers around the country.

Fender have unveiled Vintera, the brand new range full of guitars and basses featuring era-correct pickups, classic colours and other coveted features from the 50s, 60s and 70s. These instruments have all the sound and style of the decades that defined them. The range covers all of the classic Fender shapes and models, ensuring there is something for everyone. Head to your local Fender dealer and get your hands on them.

Bogner Helios Amplifiers Available Now EGM DISTRIBUTION | EGM.NET.AU Bogner are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their Helios amplifiers with release of some brand new models. Truly a sonic time machine, the Helios range features hand-wired construction with two foot switchable channels and foot switchable FX loop/boost. These amps are available in 50W or 100W in both a head and combo. Head to your nearest Bogner dealer to hear them now!


Beef Up Your Bass Tone With The Markbass Classic 152 SH Cabinet CMC MUSIC | CMCMUSIC.COM.AU Markbass have unveiled the latest addition to their bass cabinet range, the Classic 152 SH. Designed with Stu Hamm, this cabinet is aimed to give a tonne of clarity and punch in your low end without being too heavy. There aren’t many 2x15” cabs on the market, but with the Classic 152 SH, this configuration is now an available choice for a wider population of bass players


PRODUCT NEWS Fender Jimmy Page Dragon Telecaster Coming Soon FENDER MUSIC AUSTRALIA | FENDER.COM.AU Earlier this year, Fender announced that they would be releasing recreations of Jimmy Page’s iconic Dragon Telecaster. Originally received as an undecorated gift from Jeff Beck, he used this 1959 Telecaster on stages all over the world. By mid-1967 he decided to strip the instrument down to bare wood and drawing on his art school training, repaint it himself with what became the iconic “Dragon” design. You can expect to see these guitars in stores very soon.

Yamaha Unveil New STAGEPAS 1K

FL Studio 20.5 Available Now



The Yamaha STAGEPAS 1K is an all-in-one portable PA system that allows you to quickly and easily transform any location into your stage. Delivering professional level audio performance with a setup so simple it enables aspiring artists to focus on their music and get the most out of their performances. Head to your nearest Yamaha dealer and hear one of these amazing systems.

For over 20 years now, Fruity Loops has been a go to software for producers around the world. FL Studio 20.5 is the newest chapter in their legacy and the first to include their production focused plugin FLEX. You can access FLEX for free now with all FL Studio editions.

Peterson Release New Take On Metronome AMBER TECHNOLOGY | AMBERTECH.COM.AU Metronomes haven’t changed much over the years. Since the early ninth century, they’ve helped to improve a player’s musical performance by producing an audible click at a desired tempo. But, recently Peterson suggested a new method. Introducing the Peterson Body Beat Pulse Solo. This rechargeable active clip-on device gives every electronic metronome the capability to silently convey tempo. Connect the standard 3.5mm stereo plug and give your favourite metronome whole new level of functionality. In stores now.

beyerdynamic Revolutionise With Unite SYNTEC | SYNTEC.COM.AU

Elektron Digitakt Expands Further INNOVATIVE MUSIC | INNOVATIVEMUSIC.COM.AU Elektron’s game-changer sampling drum machine and MIDI sequencer Digitakt just keeps getting better. Continuing Elektron’s commitment to their user base, firmware 1.11 adds per-track-tempo-scaling - allowing individual tracks to divide their playback speed, and unlock much longer musical phrases. Much like the Octatrack from which this feature is sourced - this unlocks a huge range of creative possibilities. Digitakt 1.11 is available for free via the Elektron website.


beyerdynamic are changing the game with their Unite Digital Communications System. No longer do you need to several thousand dollars to get a high quality digital comms system. From person to person communication through to performing to thousands of people, the Unite system has all of your bases covered. These systems truly have to be seen to be believed.



THY ART IS MURDER EXPAND THEIR SCOPE Things just get bigger and bigger for Thy Art Is Murder. From humble beginnings in Western Sydney to playing arenas around the world with the likes of Parkway Drive and Architects, the band hasn’t really stopped for air at all over the last eight years. Since the release of their second full length album Hate in 2012, the extreme metal band has gone from strength to strength despite a number of member changes along the way. Guitarist and band mastermind Andy Marsh admits that he had a feeling the band would be where they are today all those years ago. “I felt I thought that it would be doing about what it’s doing, maybe even better, I don’t know,” Marsh muses. “I knew that it was the beginning of a journey that would ultimately lead to here. I was confident in our ability to write records. I was confident in my new friendship with Will [Putney] that it would be something that would really go forward together with and so far over the last seven or eight years, it has.” A lot of bands find an additional member in the form of their producer and that certainly rings true when referring to Thy Art’s relationship with New Jersey based guru Will Putney. Having worked on every record since Hate, the sound of Thy Art Is Murder has only gotten more immense, mature and world class with Putney at the helm. What started as a working relationship quickly turned into friendship and the rest is history, which has led to more and less friction at times, Marsh says. “I guess in the beginning he was the more dominant force because it’s was like ‘oh well, this guy makes records and we’ll put all of our trust in him.’ Then it got to a point where it was like ‘this guy’s my friend and I can tell him to go shove it when I feel like it.’ Now I think it’s kind of just in a very natural state of equilibrium where neither of us really cares to impose our will on the other one for whatever sake. You kind of just look at the music and go “I think that I’m right.” Not because I just want to be right, but I actually think that I’m right this time whereas in the past we might sidestep or dance around each other a little bit. We’ll just kind of have a fight now like an old married couple.” Human Target is Thy Art Is Murder’s fifth full length album and their fourth with Putney producing. The band recently welcomed drummer Jesse Beahler to the fold, but he is certainly not new to the Thy Art family. Throughout the years, Beahler has filled in behind the kit on tours here and there and even went into the studio with the band to


THERE’S SO MANY THINGS THAT I’M LEARNING EVERY DAY ABOUT THE WORLD THAT REALLY SUCK. record The Depression Sessions split (released in 2016) while original drummer Lee Stanton was getting married. Marsh says that Beahler already having a close relationship made the writing and recording process very easy. “He’s been touring with us pretty much nonstop for the last two years. He has been touring on and off with us for about five years and he recorded on The Depression Sessions so it was a supernatural progression for us. He’s a really good friend. He wasn’t afraid to kind of flex his ideas on us, and Sean and I actually really enjoyed it because normally we would just be in the studio by ourselves and write the record. Jesse lives two hours from the studio. So while I was writing, he would just come up for a few days at a time and kind of dig into what I’d been working on.” As a band, Thy Art Is Murder isn’t afraid to broach tough subjects when it comes to lyrical content. Looking back through their back catalogue, there are plenty of examples of the band talking about important social and political events and the new record Human Target is no exception to this. With so many controversial and upsetting things happening in the world these days, Marsh says that it’s never too hard to find inspiration for lyrical themes for the band

and it’s important to get these messages out to their listeners. “I said to a Dutch interviewer last night that whenever I stop making music then the world’s probably in a much better place because I’ll have nothing to write about. It’s super easy. And I don’t mean to say that all of our songs are just low hanging fruit, but I mean it just makes me feel really crappy. There’s just so many different things. There’s so many issues. There’s so many things that I’m learning every day about the world that really suck. There’s also a lot of things that I want to say more about because I feel like the issue hasn’t been driven home enough to a lot of people that maybe we could reach that other avenues don’t. Often people that listen to alternative or heavy music feel disenfranchised. They might not be academic, they might not be sporty. And music is their avenue to seeing a bigger picture of the world. You know, they might live in some small town and we come through once every three years, but the music stays with them and they probably listen to it a lot. And if we could kind of drive home to those people a lot more messages that we feel are important and I might have a better sense of accomplishment.” BY NICHOLAS SIMONSEN

Human Target is out Friday July 26 via Human Warfare.



Crisp cleans, raw crunch and scorching leads. The EVH® 5150III® EL34 Series combines modern versatility with classic EL34 tone.

© 2019 ELVH, Inc. EVH®, the EVH® logo and 5150III® are registered trademarks of ELVH, Inc. All rights reserved.



Sarah McLeod Shreds Again Sarah McLeod has been lying low for a bit. In her defence, she’s earned a bit of a break – the band with which she rose to fame, The Superjesus, had a remarkably busy 2018 and haven’t been slouching in 2019 either. Last year revolved mostly around a re-release and tour in support of their breakthrough album Sumo, which was celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Soon to be historically documented through a new live album, Double Live, McLeod speaks proudly about the national run commemorating their all-important debut.

By running the guitar through two different channels and respective pedalboards, she is able to emulate both a dirty electric sound and bass guitar simultaneously.

“That would probably be the best tour we’ve ever done in our entire career,” she says. “To be perfectly honest with you, when The Superjesus got back together in 2013, we phoned it in a bit. We learned 12 songs, and that was it. No one’s heart was 100% in it – we were kind of just popping our heads back in to see if anyone still remembered us. For the Sumo tour, things really changed. We rehearsed intensively for months and months, and it ended up being a two-anda-half hour show. The band was tighter than ever, and when we took it to the audiences they all really responded. Back in the day, people never used to sing along at our shows – now, everyone is singing as loudly as possible. It’s impossible to not want to milk that moment.”

“I sat down with the guy who fixes my guitars, and I explained to him what I wanted to do with it,” says McLeod. “It was a lot of trial and error, but we kept going until we’d gotten the sounds right. I’d go into the room with my amps and play it after every tweak, and if it wasn’t sounding right we got right back to work. Once we finalised it, I got him to duplicate it – I wanted to have two, because if I broke a string on one the whole show would be fucked.”

Before The Superjesus return to the road this September to support the release of Double Live, McLeod is briefly returning to performing under her own name. McLeod will be one of the many artists on the bill for the Melbourne Guitar Show, taking place across the first weekend of August at Caulfield Racecourse. Despite having played guitar for some 25-odd years now – nearly half her life – McLeod has never really perceived herself as an exceptional guitarist. “I don’t fancy myself as a guitar player – I fancy myself as a singer,” she explains. “For me, playing guitar was always about necessity – about accompanying myself. This whole time, I’ve kinda felt like I’ve just been getting by.”

Liddiard formed TFS in 2017 with his partner and fellow exDrones member, Fiona Kitschin. Determined to play more and pfaff less, the pair recruited drummer Lauren Hammel (High Tension) and guitarist/vocalist Erica Dunn (MOD CON) and hit the ground running. “One of the hassles with The Drones was all the boys were very busy all the time,” says Liddiard, who fronted The Drones for nearly two decades. “And it’s a big organisation, it’s just hard to get it going and get it moving at speed. With the girls it’s really fucking easy. They don’t have kids and all that shit, so we’re just taking advantage of that. And the whole point is to play and record, so if we’ve got time to do it, we’ll just do it. I’m a musician, they’re musicians – what else are we meant to do?”

Tropical Fuck Storm have been very busy. Braindrops, the band’s second album, is out in late August. The band’s overseas audience is still enamoured with their debut LP, A Laughing Death in Meatspace. However, frontperson Gareth Liddiard thinks something else explains their growing international profile.

BY DAVID JAMES YOUNG Catch Sarah McLeod at the Melbourne Guitar Show on Saturday August 3.

“I’ve now found myself in this position where people are talking about me as a guitar player, and I’ve found myself on this bill with all of these absolutely gun musicians. As soon as I knew I’d be part of the show, I knew that just getting up there with my old acoustic just wasn’t gonna cut it. I needed to do something interesting – and that I will.” McLeod’s plans for the show are based on a unique live show that she toured a few years back that involves playing a customised electric guitar that boasts two output jacks.

“It just seems like there’s some kind of zeitgeist with Australian bands,” he says. “It sort of happens once every 20 years or some shit. People get interested in bands from these parts. It’s just our turn. There’ll be a two year window and then we’ll see what happens.”

Deforming Tropical Fuck Storm

The experiment was particularly sentimental for McLeod, as one of the guitars that was customised was given to her by none other than the late, great Billy Thorpe. “I was making a lot of dance music at the time,” she explains – and yes, she pronounces “dance” like any self-respecting South Australian does. “He gave me this guitar, and he said ‘Hey kid, it’s time to get back into rock & roll.’ I think he’d appreciate the originality of it.” McLeod speaks fondly of the time she got to spend with Thorpe, who she met through playing a series of benefit gigs: “He was the most gentle, kind, beautiful man,” she says. “Great singer, great guitar player... he took a bit of a shining to my mum, too, which was cute.”

On a record of searing vitality, ‘The Future of History’ was one of A Laughing Death’s standout cuts. An examination of chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov’s ill-fated contest with the IBM supercomputer, Deep Blue, it’s at once hilarious and devastating. Liddiard’s signature predilection towards a mixture of ridiculous, ugly, disturbing and funny is reflected in the music he listens to, as well. “Whether it’s pop or classical or anything, a bit of dry humour or a cynical outlook, it’s just more fun,” he says. “Would you go and see a movie where everyone’s happy? No, fuck that. You’d rather go and see a movie where everything gets messy. Whether it’s Bob Dylan or Shostakovich, in all that kind of stuff it can be really heavy and fucked up but then there’s also wit, there’s something funny. “ A Laughing Death was an immensely compelling release, but Braindrops feels more dynamically varied and musically and intellectually comprehensive. The band has perceptibly grown into itself a bit more.

played a lot and we’ve been around the world a hundred times with each other now, so we knew what we were getting into and how to do it. “Then, as well, with Erica there’s someone who is a songwriter in the band. So I can lean on her and say, I’ve got the music for this song, you go and write the words.’ I’ve never felt like I always needed to be always front-and-centre. It just worked out like that because I was the only one qualified to do that. I’m quite happy to let someone else sing, I’m quite happy to play someone else’s song.” Braindrops embraces bountiful sonic and thematic ugliness, which will surprise absolutely no one familiar with Liddiard’s back catalogue. But the interplay between his vocals and those of Dunn and Kitschin injects light into proceedings. Dunn and Kitschin’s vocals are too central to be described as BVs – a stylistic ploy modeled on the work of Leonard Cohen and Fela Kuti. “With the Leonard Cohen thing, he’s obviously not super macho but there’s a masculinity there; he’s gruff and then the female vocal is really nice. But then the Fela Kuti thing I found more interesting because he’s obviously quite a macho sounding dude and then the female singers aren’t backing singers – they’re like guitars or something. “It’s not accompaniment, it’s up front. Like, say, Jimi Hendrix – his guitar is not an accompaniment to his voice. It’s out there as well. That was the idea. I’ve got a real gruff voice and they set it off really nice. I’m just a guitar player who sings because I have to. So I’m happy for Fi and Erica to fuckin’ sing whatever they want.” BY AUGUSTUS WELBY Braindrops arrives August 23 via Flightless. Catch Tropical Fuck Storm at Splendour in the Grass at Byron Bay, July 19-21.

“There’s dynamics in a band; who can do what, who’s good at this and who’s good at that. Then the second record, we’ve 24


MUSIC INTERVIEWS The band are gearing up to embark on a ten year celebration tour of their seminal album Constellations. They will be taking the twelve iconic tracks from the 2009 record around the globe, hitting our shores in October for six intimate shows. Mixdown got to speak to guitarist Brent Rambler about the process of performing albums older than their children and what they’re trying to get out of these reflective and retrospective shows themselves. “We were nervous doing it,” Rambler admits about the idea of doing a ten year album tour. The Constellations tour will not be the first one they’ve done, with the band performing their sophomore record Messengers in full on a tour two years ago. “But it’s a thing a lot of bands do so we knew it was something fans like. You really just hope that the record still holds its weight and that people wanna come and see it,” the guitarist says with a nervous chuckle. “You have your core fanbase who want you to do it so badly; but you also want more than just your core fanbase to come out. What we learnt on the Messengers tour though is that oh yeah, people really want to see these albums!”

August Burns Red Reflect On Constellations August Burns Red are a household name when it comes to modern metal. With eight albums under their belt, two Grammy nominations and a multitude of hugely successful tours, the Pennsylvania five piece are a force to be reckoned with.


For a lot of people, these records were the soundtrack to their youth; they were the songs they fell in love to, had their hearts broken to, made and lost friends to and all in all, grew up with. As such, there is a personal attachment to these songs; especially when the band is writing emotive, inspirational and often life-affirming songs that August Burns Red do. “You always wanna do songs the way they were meant to be for the audience,” Rambler confirms.

He then outlines their plan of attack of this next tour. “So we’re gonna rip [Constellations] through and then, and some people don’t realise this, but we’re gonna play a second set after the record and that’s where we’ll go off and maybe do some different and fun things with the songs.” August Burns Red have been absent from our shores for some time now due the vast ocean that separate our country from theirs, but the band are eager to come back and fans can rest easy knowing that they will get a decent helping of other material from the band. “We’ve gotta come back to Australia and play songs for you that we haven’t had the chance to perform for you yet!” Rambler assures. With all this talk of ten year tours, some fans might think that the band are living in the past and the hey day but as Rambler points out, that ignores the fact that their two latest albums have been their biggest sellers, both having Grammy nominations and spawning even bigger tours then the ten year retrospectives. “We’re just trying to give the fans what they want and the anniversary tours really hit the old fans and the rest of the tours gets the new fans in!” BY MATT SIEVERS Catch August Burns Red on tour this October – tickets via Destroy All Lines.

With so much personal emotion from the fans at stake, the band are careful not to experiment too much and risk fans being disillusioned by alternative versions of songs from their formative. “I saw a band recently do a similar thing where they performed a record in full and the singer was just singing the songs whichever way he wanted and not like it was on the record,” he recalls. “Everyone was really frustrated trying to sing along to songs, but they couldn’t ‘cause it was so different. You want to avoid that; you don’t wanna do that!” he says with a laugh.


MUSIC INTERVIEWS The phone is instead answered by Michael Petritsch, one of the band's two guitarists, who reveals that he is there with both Gillies-Parsons and the band's primary songwriter, lead guitarist Damon Bredin. When we say that Mixdown interviewed Gravemind, it's quite nearly literal. It's telling that the deathcore merchants are presenting a united front – they've gone all out on Conduit, making sure that their first impression as far as a full-length album is concerned is one that will stick. It's an all-out musical assault, bringing further emphasis to the band's machinegun drums and churning twin-guitar attack matched with the belligerent, full-speed-ahead vocals of Gillies-Parsons. When asked what they wanted to get out of making the album, however, there's whispers of uncertainty among the band members.

Gravemind Find Their Conduit “Can we put you on speaker? We've got a few of us here.” Mixdown was scheduled to speak with Gravemind's lead singer, Dylan Gillies-Parsons, in order to promote the Melbourne band's debut album Conduit.

“What do you reckon, Damon?” asks Petritsch. The quietlyspoken Bredin mulls it over for a second, before offering a succinct answer: “More metalcore.” The band cracks up. “It was really about proving to ourselves that we could do a full album,” Petritsch continues. “Everything that we've done before has been only five or six songs at a time. We wanted to double that and see if we could still create something as coherent as our EPs.” Gillies-Parsons agrees. “It's also about wanting to create something that you would want to listen to yourself,” he says. “I think you can listen to five tracks of straight deathcore without any real worries, but you've got to make it more interesting than that if you're making a full album. We had to look at what we needed to do in order to diversify our sounds, so that someone can listen to it from start to finish and not just feel like they've been hit over the head the whole runtime.” The band recorded Conduit over the course of a few months in the studio with local producer Scottie Simpson. Normally the guitarist for the band Alpha Wolf, Simpson knows a thing or two about creating something that strikes the balance between heavy-hitting and atmospheric. “The man is such a good producer,” enthuses Petritsch.

Generation Axe has hitherto been an exclusively live proposition, having twice toured North America and once visited Asia. However, the band’s first album – Generation Axe – The Guitars That Destroyed the World: Live In China – is out now, comprising 11 tracks edited together from the April 2017 Asian tour. Vai has been a frequent inclusion in Joe Satriani’s G3 tours, but he says Generation Axe offer something different. “The idea was to create one backing band and a seamless show where you get these five crazy guitar players that come on and off the stage in various groups and play together in an organised way.” Vai’s jumped all over the genre map in his four decade career, working with Frank Zappa, David Lee Roth and Whitesnake before shifting focus to a solo career in the early ‘90s. Despite gaining popularity as a solo artist, he’s continued to play with everyone from Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne to PiL, Meat Loaf, Joe Jackson, Spinal Tap and The Yardbirds. He still loves playing with other guitar players.

Talkin’ Bout My Generation Axe Founded by Steve Vai in 2016, Generation Axe is a powder keg of virtuosic guitarist talent from the last 40 years. The band consists of Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme; Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society and Ozzy Osbourne; neoclassical metal heavyweight Yngwie Malmsteen; and Tosin Abasi of Animals As Leaders.

“I love the sound of screaming electric rock guitar in harmony,” Vai says. “Brian May was perhaps one of my biggest influences and he did it – he’s the master. But I knew that if I could get five guitar players on the stage and play organised parts it would be something really special. Frankly I didn’t think it could turn out as good as it did.” Vai envisioned the Generation Axe shows as a celebration of the rock guitar. The live record is an amalgam of the seven-show Asian tour and the track listing is similarly paced to the average show. The set begins with all five members onstage together playing Boston’s ‘Foreplay’. “It’s a recognisable song, but we do that beautiful melody and five part harmony,” Vai says. “It’s just fantastic. When you hear that wall of sound, any guitar player I think would just stand to attention because it’s just so saturated and it resonates with you.” Each member then plays a couple of his own songs solo before another joins for a duet. “Tosin does some songs and then he’s joined by Nuno for [Animals as Leaders’] ‘Physical Education’.


“There are times where Damon is really hard on himself, and is ready to chuck a whole song in the bin. Scottie is the one who'll save it – 'Nah, nah, nah, let's work on this one a little bit longer,' he'll say. He knows how to turn a song around – he did that for a couple of the songs on the album, and they ended up being some of the best ones.” For Bredin, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the creative process of Conduit came with finding new ways to keep the guitar playing interesting. One of the ways he navigated this was by writing new songs in different tunings, in order to keep him on his toes from a songwriting perspective. “We had three different guitars – an ESP E-II, an Ibanez [RG] XL and a fanned-fret ET Guitar,” says Bredin. “What was interesting is that we took the XL and we tuned it up, which is not something bands in our genre usually do. They just tend to go lower and lower, so it was cool to change that up. That being said, there's still plenty of lowend on the record, and that's where the ET Guitar comes in. It really lets those low notes just breathe and ring out, and it sounds just so much clearer.” It's at this point a fourth voice chimes in: “...and there's live drums, too!” It turns out drummer Karl Steller had been there the whole time. Again, the band cracks up. “We added a couple of extra china cymbals on top of what my normal set-up would be, and we rearranged the toms so that they ran lower. Instead of two rack and one floor, we changed it to one rack and two floor. It gave the drums a bit more body, and I think it all worked out for the best.” The hive-mind of Gravemind agrees. BY DAVID JAMES YOUNG

Conduit is out Friday July 19 via Greyscale Records.

And then Nuno does his set and then Zakk and Nuno play that beautiful version of ‘Sideways’ [by Citizen Cope]. Then Yngwie and I play [Malmsteen’s] ‘Black Star’ which is just such a highlight for me. It’s rare to play with a guitar player that can listen so well.” Vai, Abasi, Bettencourt and Wylde then unite to take on Edgar Winter’s ‘Frankestein’. “The idea was to play a classic song that people could recognise, but in a way that they’d never heard before,” Vai says. “We got all the horn lines and the way they bounce back and forth off of each other. It’s really special.” The arrangements were meticulously crafted to make room for all of the essential ingredients and allow each player to shine. This is evidenced in the show’s concluding number, Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’. “That’s a tour de force, especially when we take that beautiful historic solo that Ritchie Blackmore does and we do it in five part screaming guitar harmonies. It sounds so wild to me. It was exactly what I was hoping for.” Playing in China is nothing new for Vai. He first went there for a solo tour in 2005 and returned for the Spring Festival Global Gala in 2013, which had a broadcast audience of over one billion people. “I’m told I was the first American rock artist to play in Communist China. From there I was able to go back and perform in some other unique capacities. The Spring Gala aired for two billion people and it was actually the first time they’ve ever had rock music on Chinese television, let alone an American rock artist.” BY AUGUSTUS WELBY

Generation Axe - The Guitars That Destroyed The World: Live In China drops June 28 via earMUSIC.



Five Albums That Shaped James Norbert Ivanyi Sydney based virtuoso James Norbert Ivanyi is well known for his fretboard acrobatics as well as his signature blend of progressive rock. With James’ upcoming appearance at the Melbourne Guitar Show right around the corner, we picked the guitarist’s brain on the five albums that shaped his style and sound. Miles Davis - Bitches Brew This is a record that my father played a lot when I was growing up. I became very fond of it, and as it was probably one of the very first records I became deeply familiar with, I believe it shaped my understanding for what was considered ‘normal’ to include in a record. The eclectic, unpredictable and experimental nature of it is deeply fascinating to me, and remains so to this day. Opeth - Ghost Reveries I had been listening to a lot of metal music before I discovered Opeth. This record in particular really raised the bar for what I would consider progressive metal. The ferocity and beauty in the writing and moods was a real eye opener for me in regards to what could be expressed under the umbrella of heavy music. Led Zeppelin - IV It’s nearly impossible for me to pick a favourite Zeppelin record, but for me IV

captures the best of each member. By this stage the Zeppelin machine is well and truly turning, and there’s an unstoppable depth and voodoo to each members performance and writing on IV that inspires me today, as much as it did the first time I heard it. The songwriting and texture is truly spellbinding. AC/DC - Back In Black AC/DC brought some of the heaviest rock songs known to planet earth on this album, and the execution in the simplicity is key to what makes this record important to me. The power of a simple idea is no better executed than on this album. Plus the production and attitude of the guitar playing is incredible. Dream Theater - Scenes From A Memory This album is (in my opinion) one of, if not, the greatest examples of progressive heavy music in existence. I first heard it nearly 20 years ago, and to this day it impresses me. I had not heard such mastery of each band member within a band until I discovered Scenes From A Memory. The true progressiveness and immense songwriting really shaped my own arrangements and provided me with a technical benchmark that I still refer to today. Catch James performing at the Melbourne Guitar Show kicking off on Saturday August 3 at the Caulfield Racecourse.


Floyd Rose Tremolos Explained One of the most widely used and often copied tremolo bridge systems, the Floyd Rose has evolved from a sole disgruntled guitarist’s attempt to keep his instrument in tune to become a pivotal moment in the history of the electric guitar. In 1977, a jeweler and musician by the name of Floyd Rose began to design a new tremolo system for his Fender Stratocaster, becoming disgruntled that he couldn’t replicate the whacky vibrato of Jimi Hendrix without putting his guitar wildly out of tune. With his jewelers’ tools, Rose set out to create a locking nut to keep the strings in place, initially experimenting with a three-piece brass nut before settling on a hardened steel design with a modified bridge and six fine micro-tuners mounted above pivoting saddles that clamped the guitar strings in place. After several successful prototypes of the tremolo system, Rose patented the Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo in 1979. By that time, Eddie Van Halen had already endorsed the locking tremolo and installed it on his infamous ‘Frankenstrat’, where it can be heard on the 1978 shredder’s odyssey of ‘Eruption’. Soon after, the Floyd Rose became a huge success, with Rose minting several supply and licensing deals with the likes of


Fender, Washburn, Ibanez and Yamaha to throw his invention into wider mainstream conscience. By essentially removing the tuning pegs as a contributing factor to the guitar going out of tune through tremolo use, Floyd Rose’s locking nut system allowed for players to use the tremolo arm and maintain tuning stability. This resulted in an extremely versatile unit that would both raise and lower pitch by a fifth or more, creating incredible pitch squeals and dive-bombing effects that would become a characteristic of heavy metal guitar in the 1980s. While Floyd Rose’s are highly regarded in the hard rock and metal sphere for their wild versatility, there’s definitely a few downsides to having a locking nut system installed on your guitar, particularly when it comes to restringing. To replace a string on a guitar with a Floyd Rose bridge, you need to use an Allen Key to loosen the locking nut and bridge saddle of the guitar, a process which many find annoying and time consuming especially when the tuning of all the strings is affected when one breaks or goes out of tune. Due to the construction of the bridge, it’s also difficult to change tunings on a Floyd

Rose equipped guitar without completely resetting the tremolo arm. This has also resulted in people complaining that Floyd Rose guitars also have less sustain and are prone to having a thin tone - however, this has led to the development of brass sustain blocks, which can be installed in any Floyd Rose-equipped instrument.

While the glorious era of ‘80s hair metal has sadly departed, contemporary musicians such as Steve Vai and Tom Morello continue to push the Floyd Rose to its absolute limits. Rock on! BY WILL BREWSTER




MAKING A TRACK COME TO LIFE WITH SIMON MORO For our fourth article on creating and releasing a song, Melbourne producer and engineer Simon Moro gives his expert view on mastering. Last month Moro detailed the mixing process and ended his tutorial with the claim that “Things get exciting when you’ve got the best team across each part. A killer mix, mastered by a pro mastering engineer is going to sound awesome.” So what is mastering? It’s the final section of the recording process before a track is pressed to vinyl, submitted to radio, released online and archived for posterity. There is a lot of faith placed in the mastering process for bringing spark and sophistication to a track. “Things you should expect from mastering include better translation across different playback devices, volume balance between songs, controlled dynamics for specific delivery mediums like CD, vinyl, Spotify, YouTube etc., and usually a little more space and separation between the recorded parts,” says Moro.

Despite being an indispensable part of the procedure, mastering remains a great mystery to many musicians. There is often an expectation that a mastering engineer can transform the song more dramatically than is possible. Moro outlines some of the common misconceptions around mastering. “The biggest misconception is that you can record something DIY, send it off to a mastering engineer and it will suddenly sound like a million dollars has been spent on it,” he says. “It’s kind of like building a rickety shack and hiring the most expensive painter to paint the exterior. Sure it will look a lot better than if they upload the shack for online painting, or do it themselves, but it’s still a rickety old shack. A song is definitely the sum of the parts.” The DIY approach is more popular than ever, with many artists sidestepping mastering entirely to directly upload tracks to streaming platforms and online retailers. Moro underlines the necessity of mastering, starting with translation.

The administrative side of mastering is also very important, which includes encoding metadata in files – things such as track names, international standard recording codes (ISRCs) and CD text – as well as converting to different file formats, documenting and delivering files.

“Translation is how a song sounds from one system to another,” he says. “Many artists will be familiar with loving the track in the studio then playing it at home or in the car and feeling underwhelmed, or worse, concerned and experiencing self doubt. That difference is a translation issue.”

The fundamentals of mastering are fairly consistent across the genre spectrum, especially the administrative facets. However, the intensity of the process can fluctuate considerably depending on the style of song and the production characteristics.

Every room and set of speakers has a sonic fingerprint that will cut and boost frequencies all across the spectrum, says Moro.

“For example, if I’m mastering a classicalcrossover record I’m still going to use EQ, compression and limiting, but I’ll be less aggressive with my processing than if I was mastering hip hop or indie, which might call for added saturation and more aggressive compression and limiting,” Moro says.


“If you’re mixing in a room that turns bass down, you’ll turn bass up in the digital audio workstation or on the mixer – not because it’s missing from the material, but because the room or speakers are removing it. So when you play that song somewhere else where the room and speakers aren’t turning the bass down, well, the bass will be too loud. And if you play it in a room with

speakers that turn the bass up, the bass will be really loud! “Think of it like wearing tinted glasses while painting and trying to match colours accurately. If your music is released without having these translation issues fixed, it could sound very poor on some playback systems, which could affect people listening to and buying your music.” Studios are equipped with high quality speakers and headphones and everything is sent through great amps. But once a track’s released, people listen through car stereos, laptop speakers, earbuds and portable Bluetooth speakers. Moro acknowledges it’s impossible for the mastering process to factor in the multiplicity of possible listening environments. “The number of times I’ve had an artist say, ‘Can you turn the bass up?’ when they are listening on an old laptop,” Moro says. “Also challenges like the distance between speakers can affect the perceived balance of a song. I might have an artist say the vocals are too soft, and when asking about their speakers it turns out they are spaced too far apart. “Speakers that are too far apart will make things panned to the centre sound softer than they are. And if the speakers are too close together, those things will sound louder than they are. That’s why vocals usually sound louder on small Bluetooth speakers, because the left and right speakers are very close together. Also, listening in headphones affects the perceived volume of vocals.” Moro checks his mixes through a pair of Grover Notting Code 101 mastering series monitors and their CR1 cross-reference monitors, which are small, single driver speakers. “I also test on some AKG headphones and a Bose Soundlink Mini,” he says. “I also have a spectrum analyser as a final check for reference.”

And what technology, programs and devices does Moro prefer to use for the bulk of The mastering process? “I generally use Pro Tools for the processing part of mastering. I use a combination of plugins and mastering outboard gear. Sometimes I do it all with plugins. It depends what the track needs. I then do file conversion, metadata encoding and generate disc description protocols for CD pressing in Wavelab.” The plugins he uses in most mastering sessions include FabFilter’s EQ, multiband compressor and limiter. “I also use Brainworks mastering EQ, Waves L16, and a few metering plugins from Waves, NuGen and Meterplugs. Hardware wise I have a few mastering boxes from Manley, IGS, Gem Audio, TK Audio, Kush Audio and Avalon.” “I know some very experienced mastering engineers that get great results just with software, although most use a hybrid approach,” Moro says. “I think even just one good analogue compressor and EQ can add a great flavour to a master.” To maximise results, you need the best team across each part. Compensating for deficiencies in the mix – such as the bass needing a boost or the vocals not sitting right – isn’t strictly speaking a mastering engineer’s job. As Moro explains, attempts to account for these issues will have an impact on other areas of the recording. “In mastering, I can increase the perceived volume of the bass, or decrease it, but it’s going to affect every other sound with that frequency. Even when using fancy mid/side techniques, dynamic EQ and automation, it’s still better to address at early stages.” Visit ninetynine100.com to book a session with Simon today. BY AUGUSTUS WELBY



The History of Hagstrom Guitars Hagstrom guitars may not be the first brand that comes to mind when thinking of an electric guitar – however, that may soon change. The inauguration of the Swedish-based brand began in 1925, when founder Albin Hagstrom first started importing accordions from Germany and Italy. Business flourished, and Hagstrom music shops began to dot the streets of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Seven years later, Albin Hagstrom decided to take production into his own hands, establishing his new line of original accordions. He didn’t stop there either – the company founded a number of accordion schools, and it’s estimated that over 70,000 people have attended classes there. The company began to diversify into acoustic steel string and classical guitars around the early 1940s, but it wasn’t until 1958 when the first ever Hagstrom electric guitars – the Hagstrom Deluxe and Standard models – were built. Aesthetically, they incorporated repurposed elements from their accordion forefathers, including pearloid celluloid finishes, stamped metal logos, and of course, the liberal use of sparkles. Other noticeable features included a “Speed-O-Matic” plexiglass fretboard, and a H-bar truss rod which lowered the guitar’s action considerably. Their excellent reception led the company to further expand their catalogue, adding semi-acoustic, jazz-focused models and refined solid-body electrics to their line-up.

In 1961, Hagstrom released their first line of electric bass guitars. This series included one of their most prominent models: the world’s first mass-produced eight-string bass guitar, the H8. Jimi Hendrix himself has been documented playing the H8 when jamming with Curtis Knight and the Squires and can be heard on the compilation album Summer of Love Sessions. 1965 saw the introduction of the Viking, Hagstrom’s first semi-hollow electric guitar. This particular model was most noticeably played by Elvis Presley during his ‘68 Comeback Special, as well as Frank and Dweezil Zappa. The Hagstrom Swede, famously used by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, was next to follow, cut from a similar cloth as the Les Paul but featuring new all-original humbuckers developed in-house. In their home country of Sweden, Hagstrom became famous not only for their quality instruments and musical equipment, but also for their foray into music education. The company published a series of self-teaching books and mail-order courses that spanned a wide variety of instruments. The courses deliberately focused on the rising popularity of rock and pop, pushing the recognition of the electric guitar as a legitimate instrument, rather than a merely amplified acoustic guitar. Over the course of 25 years, Hagstrom sold close to 130,000 electric guitars, which found their way all over the globe.

Unfortunately, the company was forced to end production in 1983, when they were outpriced by other guitar brands that had moved their production lines to Asia. It was a silent 22 years for the company, till their inevitable relaunch in 2005. True to tradition, Hagstrom guitars still have a knack for pushing the envelope with their idiosyncratic body shapes and wealth of distinctive characteristics. The spirit of innovation still burns bright within the company, and it can easily be noticed within their instruments. For instance; their (now renamed) H-Expander truss rod, which further strengthens the guitar’s neck while permitting a slinky low action. Hagstrom’s ‘Resinator’ wood fingerboards, another element seen across almost all Hagstrom guitars, is another addition to behold. ‘Resinator’ fretboards are constructed from a wood composite, which the company claims is more stable and uniform in density than any traditional wooden fingerboard. Further proof can be found in the Retroscape series, which truly accentuates Hagstrom’s eccentric approach to the modern electric guitar. The Condor and Impala models – originally introduced in 1963 – feature the company’s intriguing switching array, housed upon a clean sheet of chrome. This cluster of switches allow the player to choose from an unparalleled amount of tonal combinations from the three Alnico 5 Retro-S pickups onboard. Combined with its asymmetrical

Engineered to impress. Built to last. High performance, superior quality and lasting reliability. These are the Hallmarks of the QSC Brand. The CP Series follows in that same tradition while also offering an ultra-compact form factor and class-leading value.

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double cutaway body, either the Condor or Impala are an absolute dream for players looking for something out of the ordinary. In a market so heavily dominated by S and T-style shapes, Hagstrom guitars are a muchneeded breath of fresh air. The company is constantly redefining the norms of the guitar industry, putting forth original ideas and concepts that aim to take the electric guitar to the next level. In addition to their distinctive instruments, it’s the original vision of Albin Hagstrom that’s really being sold here – quality and innovation without exception. BY EDDY LIM



A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BEATLES ON FILM The Beatles might’ve broken up almost half a century ago, but somehow they continue to permeate every corner of pop culture. Case in point: Danny Boyle’s latest cinematic project, Yesterday. The film follows Jack Malik [Himesh Patel], a musician who awakes from a freak accident to discover he’s the only person alive who remembers the Beatles which is, of course, a tragedy of epic proportions, but a pretty great premise for a film. Fans and music buffs alike have been flocking to their local theatres to check out Boyle’s innovative take on the world’s greatest band, and they aren’t holding back in their reviews. Whether you love the film or would rather watch Magical Mystery Tour on repeat, it’s hard to deny that Yesterday is fuelling the Beatles conversation yet again. If you’ve found yourself transported back to 1964 and want to bask in the glory of Beatlemania for a little while longer, taking a trip down memory lane with the band’s own endeavours into cinema is the perfect place to start. A Hard Day’s Night (1964) A Hard Day’s Night marked the Beatles first foray into film, back when getting musicians to star in their own movies was all the rage. The group portrayed their individual selves on screen in an embellished day-in-the-life story, complete with the iconic and often parodied scene of the Beatles being chased through a train station. The soundtrack album is one of their best – John Lennon’s vocals are a particular standout – and the storyline is easy to follow, but the


real magic of this film lies in the simple entertainment of seeing four of the world’s most renowned musicians making fools of themselves on the big screen without a care in the world. Help! (1965) Do yourself a favour and watch this film with someone who has never seen it before; their reaction will be well worth it. Help! is one of the most eccentric creative outputs from the Beatles’ entire catalogue and is guaranteed to leave you slightly confused regardless of how many times you watch. There’s a cursed ring, a chase around the globe, and a lot of increasingly random settings in which a cult chases Ringo Starr. There is little sense to be made in the whole film, so naturally it’s impossible to look away. Again, it’s difficult to fault the soundtrack, which is definitely one of the strongest in terms of George Harrison’s contributions. Magical Mystery Tour (1967) Magical Mystery Tour is Paul McCartney’s attempt to find some direction amidst the uncertainty that followed the band after the death of their manager, Brian Epstein. Without Epstein, everything became somewhat lost – something that became abundantly clear when the Beatles broke up just three years later. But full credit to McCartney for trying something new, even if it resulted in the most bizarre film you’ll ever see. Magical Mystery Tour epitomises the drug-fuelled psychedelia of the late ‘60s and while it’s always wonderful to watch in retrospect, if only for the complete absurdity of the film, it fell flat upon its 1967 release.

The bright side? When you’re the Beatles, it’s never hard to bounce back. Yellow Submarine (1968) Yellow Submarine marked the band’s foray into animation and it is every bit as strange as you’d imagine. The film takes place in an under-the-sea world called Pepperland, which is protected by none other than Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band because nobody loves referencing their own work more than the Beatles. The soundtrack is a fascinating detour from what you’d usually expect from the Beatles, with a larger focus on instrumentation and some clever lyrical work forming the basis of its appeal. And of course, Ringo nabs the lead song, which is always nice to see. Let It Be (1970) While Let It Be is technically a documentary, it deserves a place on this list purely to illustrate the circumstances during the Beatles’ final year as a band. It’s not an easy watch as the film crew provides insight into a tumultuous period in the group’s life, with an underlying tension so present in each recording session that you feel uncomfortable just watching it. The documentary follows the recording process of Let It Be, which was plagued with difficulties from start to finish. Phil Spector’s role as producer was so dissatisfying that it led to the re-release of the album as the band has envisioned as Let It Be…Naked in 2003, Harrison abandoned the album at one point until he was finally convinced to return, and even viewers of the documentary can see that the atmosphere in the studio was far from ideal. This film marks the end

of the Beatles and shows exactly how they reached that point. It presents the band in a painfully authentic light and as such, it’s really not surprising that it was hard to get your hands on a copy for years after its release. Eight Days a Week (2016) The most recent addition to the library of Beatles films comes from Ron Howard and documents the band’s touring years, including their iconic Shea Stadium performance. If you’re like me and played the Shea version of ‘I’m Down’ in 420p quality on repeat for a month, then you’ll understand how exciting the prospect of seeing the vision restored on the big screen was for fans the world over. Howard well and truly delivered, presenting a film that offered scraps of new information for even the most dedicated of fans, plus one of music’s most memorable live performances in full. Eight Days a Week sought to document a band that had been documented to death but endeavoured to do so in a new light, and it absolutely nailed it. BY JESSICA OVER



Does Everybody Need a 303? Alright budding electronic music producers, it’s issue #303 this month, you know that means. Time to get squelchy and weird with TB-303 style basslines. This topic’s been done to death, but it is actually worth revisiting as some new synths have appeared in recent times that take the 303 concept and run with it. And while I don’t neccessarily agree with Fatboy Slim’s ‘Everybody Needs a 303’, that’s mainly because the original ‘80s Roland unit is fetching stupid money these days. Fortunately, modern 303-inspired units can be extremely fun, affordable and a great entry point to synthesis. Here’s a few products you can look at for filter tweakin’ fun. Roland AIRA TB3 & Roland Boutique TB-03 Adored as they may be, it’s anyone’s guess as to why Roland have two very different reinterpretations of their own ‘80s product on the market simultaneously. Both of Roland’s modern interpretations of the 303 are digitally driven, unlike the original’s oddball analogue heart, but they’re actually very fun and sound great. The AIRA unit has a touch pad and a range of acid house inspired presets to play with, while the Boutique has buttons and a more faithful sound and look. Neither are completely faithful recreations, but both are very capable of getting a 303-style squelch with much less painful sequence programming than the original.

Korg Volca Bass & Volca NuBass While Roland are happy to emulate their own product, Korg went and made the Volca Bass, which doesn’t particularly sound like a 303, but has its own appeal with a very Korg sound - comparable to their classic MS20 synth. The Volca Bass has three analogue oscillators, compared to the original 303’s one, and is capable of recording three 16 step sequences individually. Very fun, and very affordable unit. The new Volca NuBass has just arrived in the country too, bringing a harder, grittier sound via its vacuum tube powered architecture. A classic combo in acid house scene was a TB303 with a Pro-Co RAT overdrive pedal to really make it scream - I suspect the NuBass will be able to achieve that, sans rodent. Abstrakt Avalon Bassline If you’re happy to spend a bit more money on an incredibly faithful 303 recreation, with the benefit of a much more modern (and fun) sequencer, then this boutique unit might be what you’re after. Abstrakt have even gone as far as sourcing circuit components used in the original 303, noting on their website “carbon film resistors, united chemi-con electrolytic capacitors, poly foil film capacitors, original IC’s, and Sanyo/on semi and Mitsubishi transistors.” The downside of using vintage components is they’re constantly struggling to meet demand, so you’ll have to get lucky to score yourself an Avalon.

Novation Circuit Mono Station Like the Korg Volca units, Novation have gone and put their own spin on the fun and quick synth/sequencer acid box that doesn’t sound a whole lot like an original 303, but has its own appeal. It’s an analogue synth engine with two oscillators and a sub-oscillator plus some very fun additions like a ring modulator and Novation’s killer distortion circuit. Has a much larger price tag than the Korg Volca, but you get a more fully featured synthesiser, so there’s options if you want ‘em.

with experimental sounds. Attached to it is a powerful and intuitive sequencer, so it’s a nice compromise on modular-style functionality and the convenience of a fully contained product. That said, this unit will play very nicely with a Eurorack modular system if you’re that way inclined. Aciiiiiid. BY MICHAEL CUSACK

Arturia MiniBrute 2S Last but not least, Arturia have gone the raw analogue semi-modular route with their MiniBrute 2S. There’s no presets on this bad boy, it’s more designed for the synth-nerds who really want to dig in and tinker around

20 years in the making PREMIUM AUSTRALIAN ACOUSTIC & ELECTRIC GUITARS W W W. P R AT L E Y G U I TA R S .CO M . A U mixdownmag.com.au




Got the bends II……….


Hopefully last issue got you started on the wild world of bends. Used in a range of styles (rock, blues, country, metal…) the idea is to alter the pitch of the note by bending it up higher. Typically guitarists bend up a semitone or tone but of course there are no exact rules and you’ll also hear bigger intervals and combinations with fretted notes.

Our diatonic discussion from last month started with chords/arpeggios from the key of C Major. The idea was to try and incorporate more than just the root note into our bass lines and we can also superimpose these diatonic chords into our improvising. Let’s take the key of G Major for a quick recap.

We started by looking at these two common bending intervals (tones and semitones) and trying to play a major scale to get the sound in your head. Let’s take another similar example as a starting point this month too. Figure A takes a C Major Scale starting in the fifth fret on the third string. Most players use their third finger on the fretting hand to bend with but remember to support/reinforce that with your second finger in the fret behind. It’s also important to note (and think) what distance each of the bends need to be. C to D is a tone (the equivalent of two frets) for example and you want to get the pitch correct to sound in tune. This shape might not be as neat as some of the box type shapes you’ve played before so get used to the actual notes and intervals as opposed to just the fret/position.

Figure A starts with the G Major Scale on the first line (G-A-B-C-D-E-F#-G) and then makes triads starting from each of these scale degrees on the next two lines (G-B-D, A-C-E etc). The triads create the chords G-Am-Bm-C-D-Em-F#dim, these are said to be diatonic (within the scale!).

Of course you can then experiment with the speed of the bends. Try playing them quickly so that it almost sounds like playing the notes fretted normally. Got that down? Now try them slowly to hear the pitch sliding up to the correct destination. Slow bends are heard in many genres but typically blues and rock to really add expression and feel to the note choice.

To ramp up the difficulty a little Figure B takes the C Major scale and plays it in thirds. C-E-D-F-E-G etc. This example should take some time to get happening as you have to move frets/positions and then also think of the note you’re fretting as well as how far to bend the note up. Want to stretch this idea even further? Try fourths and fifths and change scales (Minor, Harmonic Minor, Dorian) as well playing them descending too. Figure C sounds a little more ‘licky’ and uses the old faithful A Minor Pentatonic scale. The phrase is basically in groups of three (played in 4/4) with the first note of each group of 3 played as a bend (except for the last three notes). It works well as it’s from a familiar shape and uses a familiar sound but the group of three idea creates some interest by placing the emphasis in a different spot each time around. Start slow and then increase when you’re confident with the bends, the pitch of the bends and the phrasing.

And if you’re completely struggling with this one, Figure D is what Figure C should sound like without the bends! More bends next month.



Figure B is a lick in G Major, think of it as a mid tempo soul/funk one chord groove. It plays some G Major sounding ideas in the first bar but then moves through Am and Bm arpeggios in bar 2 before finishing with the notes C-D-G (essentially a IV-V-I sound). This whole lick is in the key of G Major but creates some other sounds by using diatonic arpeggios.

You can then hopefully see that having a knowledge of key signatures/scales is a useful tool for constructing bass lines and improvising. If you’re given a chord progression you can follow the root notes and play with the rhythms but adding some further notes from the chords (chord tones) can add flavour by giving the listener further information about the chord. Likewise, you can add further flavour by using notes from the chords when improvising. If the chord progression is moving through a series of chords you can follow these and use notes from the chords, but also if it’s a static one or two chord jam you can superimpose other sounds to create movement as we discussed earlier.

So, let’s take another simple chord progression G-D-Em-C. Figure C uses just the root notes to follow the changes. It sounds like the progression but there’s not a lot of information there. Now try Figure D which adds an extra chord tone to each bar. We can hear that this idea adds more of the chord quality and therefore gives the listener more information. The next step would be to experiment with adding more chord tones and playing with the rhythms. The end result can then be a line that outlines some of the chord qualities and sounds rhythmically interesting. Remember however; we don’t always need to play more than the root note. There are times to play minimally and then times to ramp it up.

If our song followed the same progression for the whole piece (G-D-Em-C) you could for example play Figure C in the verse, Figure D in the pre chorus and then something like Figure E in the chorus to mix things up. Again, try it as a straight mid tempo soul/funk groove and listen to the development of the chord tones as you move through the three sections – each one adds a little more information and develops as the song progresses. More next issue.




Fills - Simple & Effective What’s the point of a fill in the first place? Perhaps a mini solo? Whilst the idea of this is cool, if we’re serving the music and playing what’s required for the song, a mini drum solo is probably the opposite of what would be considered ‘musical drumming’. I admit that as a student I would try to go straight for the flashiest and most impressive fills I could. They were fun and more in tune with my deep desires for greatness. I know better these days (hopefully) but I do still crave the flashy stuff. I suppose we all do. The thing is, flash isn’t always required. As a teacher, I have written or provided students with ideas for fills based on rudiments, over four beats, to aim to get as fast as possible and so on. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this and hey, the students need to have some flash fills too, but I feel as though the simple stuff gets neglected from time to time and when the time comes to just play good time and outline a form, this is where things fall apart. When students sight-read charts, concentrate solely on the reading and forget to do a fill for the whole piece, it’s very noticeable. I’ve always thought of a drum fill as being a signal to the band that a phrase has ended or that the music is about to move into a new section and this is true. To this end, the fill itself doesn’t have to be flashy whatsoever. The littlest change to a groove or addition of another part of the drums will result in a ‘fill’ and its purpose is clearly felt by the musicians in the band.


The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a simple but effective fill is a shorter length. The fill doesn’t have to be four beats long. As previously mentioned, a slight change creates the desired effect so wait till beat three or even beat four to do a little fill. Looking at the notation provided, this idea is clear. Every simple fill here is no longer than two beats long and uses simple subdivisions/rhythms. I also imagine these types of fills at a slower tempo with clear attention to space between the notes and playing with real purpose - mean every note. Simple shouldn’t mean lame. I remember asking a teacher of mine way back how to go about playing fills. The initial response was something to the effect of, “ya know, just make some rhythms up around the drums”. In some respects, this wasn’t far from the truth. If you’re not planning a calculated fill concept or lick then utilising your reading/rhythm practice is actually a great thing. As you can see with many of the figures in the notation - Fig 1, 2 or 3 for example, the fill itself, regardless of the orchestration is really just simple quaver or semiquaver rhythms. You could literally pick any phrase or rhythm and just apply this over the kit in some way and you can generate a simple fill. A final thought is to not forget the bass drum. Treat it as another “hand” so to speak and incorporate into simple rhythms and you’ll have some simple but more interesting sounding fills. The changes in frequencies

between the bass drum and snare drum really compliment each other when phrasing. The figures provided are merely some ideas or some improvised phrases that appealed to me. So, for a change of pace, I thought I would share. The flash fills have their place - think moving into a chorus, or feeding off

a musician doing a solo and you want to compliment or raise the vibe. This is totally cool but it’s also good to practice keeping it real. BY ADRIAN VIOLI




Jackson are a company we’ve reviewed and praised here at Mixdown many times before. They’re built to be played, to last and to work on the road. The Soloist Series of guitars are synonymous with Jackson. A slight variation from the Dinky design, the Soloist range is generally neck-through, range from six to eight strings and are no frills, workhorse guitars. New in 2019 are the Desert Sand Soloist SL2P, a new Soloist SL7 and a rock-ready Soloist SLX finished in a green crackle. The SL7 and SL2P have Seymour Duncan pickups as standard, and the SLX have remarkably-close-to-Duncan sounding Duncan Designed pickups. Any three of these guitars are ready for you; it’s up to you to be ready for them. The SLX has a finished neck and Laurel fingerboard, and is a continuation of the green crackle (or orange variant if that’s your thing) on the back of the neck, while the SL2P and SL7 both have oiled finishes behind ebony fingerboards. All three of these new models have 24 frets and 25.5” scale lengths. The SLX is a six string basswood beast. It’s light, but resonates against you as it handles both big chords and fiddly solos with ease. The Duncan Designed HB-103 humbucker set responds well to dynamic playing, while the Floyd Rose Special tremolo system holds it all down. This guitar, straight out of the box, had phenomenally stable tuning. Large strummed power chords didn’t waver and the sustain is almost immeasurable. The next step up in this new range is the SL2P MT MAH finished in a Desert Sand poplar burl top. The 24 frets make their home in


an ebony fingerboard with an oil-finished, graphite reinforced neck that assists sustain and reduces fatigue and movement on the neck in different temperatures. The SL2P feature a string-through-body hardtail bridge and your playing nuances are picked up and sent to your amplifier via a Seymour Duncan TB-6 Distortion in the bridge and Seymour Duncan SH-6 Distortion in the neck as standard. The mahogany body resonates, and sounds complete if nothing else. The sound is full, but articulate, while retaining character and dynamic. Finally, the sevenstringed monster, the SL7, is a mahoganybodied, ebony finger-boarded colossus of a guitar. At one end, a Floyd Rose 1000 Series Double-Locking Tremolo system, and at the other, a seven-in-line headstock. Between these two features are a set of Seymour Duncan SH6-7 Distortion pickups direct mounted into the body. This guitar plays with as much ease as both the SLX and SL2P, despite having an string. All three of these guitars, as Jacksons do, play beautifully. They’re easy to pick up at any time and noodle away at new song ideas or for quickly laying down layers of guitar on songs as I did this week. Whether a rhythm or lead track, or ambient, spacey textures beneath other instruments, these three guitars respond physically and create aurally appealing feel when played dynamically. The SLX, as its paint job suggests, has the power and attack synonymous with loud ‘80s rock bands. Chords are big, licks are somehow bigger, but it responds to it all with a controlled dynamic. The Duncan Designed pickups can cater to any sound you’re after,

and they can do it well. The SL2P, on the other hand, while retaining the power and resonance of the SLX, feels noticeably more dynamic and aggressive. Notes really jump off of the fretboard, partially due to the ebony fingerboard and, yes, another round of applause for the Seymour Duncan Distortions. The SL2P is inspiring and I found myself straying away from writing this review to go and play it. Great looks aside, the SL2P feels phenomenal to play. It’s tastefully built, the neck-through body allowing a nicely rounded neck heel which allows better access all the way up to the 24th fret. The guitar resonates for bigger sounds, but smooth legato style leads and licks are a breeze as well. This guitar is a live and studio dream; dynamic, full, controlled and interesting all at once. Finally, the SL7 is as easy to wrangle as the SLX and SL2P. While being a seven string, it’s not a huge move from the standard feel of a six string. You’ll feel at home playing even just six of the strings, and have a low B (or A, or G, or F#) for adding to chord voicings and for extra low harmony options. This would be a great first seven string for a player wanting to move from six strings, or at least dip a toe in the water. The DI of the guitar and Duncan Distortions themselves is even and clear, and very articulate. Even at higher gain settings, the guitar retains its character, chunk, and dynamic. The SL7, again thanks to the neck-through, inspires playing beyond the 12th fret, and solos come easy, whether it’s super-fast shredding or drawn out phrasing filled with emotion.

me, these few new Jacksons are phenomenal instruments. While some companies let their mid-tier instruments slide, Jackson does not. For mid-range instruments at very reasonable prices, these guitars really hold their own, even against instruments twice their price. The SLX in green crackle is a one-stop-rock-shop, and the SL2P is a more contemporary take on the requirements 2019’s guitar players have. The SL7 is a performer and creative beast, offering you resonant low notes without compromise on shimmering dynamic at higher frets. While each of the guitars is aimed at a specific kind of player, they can each also continue to seamlessly transition between styles and genres with ease, thanks to the Seymour Duncan and Duncan Designed pickups. Matching 25.5” scale lengths tie these guitars together, and make for a comfortable, resonant, sustained playing experience. Playing guitar is a breeze with a Jackson, so why make it difficult for yourself? BY LEWIS NOKE EDWARDS

HITS: ∙ Plays great at affordable prices ∙ Seymour Duncan pickups as standard in SL2P and SL7 MISSES: ∙ N/A

Overall, and no one is surprised less than



Hedra 3-Voice Pitch Shifter STUDIO CONNECTIONS |STUDIOCONNECTIONS.COM.AU | ENQUIRE FOR PRICING Some companies build stompboxes; and then there’s Meris. Despite debuting a mere two years ago, the Californian cohort have already made quite the splash in the pedal pond, with early products such as the Polymoon, Mercury 7 and last year’s Enzo multi-voice guitar synthesiser establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned within the industry. Meris are undeniably revolutionising the way players consider exactly what constitutes a guitar pedal. The Hedra, a powerful and dynamic triplevoiced rhythmic pitch shifter, aims to bend this perception of ‘pedal’ even further. Named after the fearsome many-headed serpent from the Herculean Greek myth, the Hedra essentially replicates esteemed studio rack units like the Eventide UltraHarmonizer, delivering three voices of mind-melting pitch-shifted tones as well as incredible MIDI functionality and external control via an expression pedal. It’s a serious pedal (with a serous pricetag to match) that should almost be considered more as a studio tool than a mainstay in your gig rig, but it’s portable and rugged enough to sit pretty on your pedalboard should you wish. On top of all this, the Hedra even has four built-in delay settings with a tap-tempo footswitch to control the rate of the effect. Honestly, it’s probably as overwhelming as a pedal can get; but with

Meris, that’s almost the point. With three independent pitch controls, a key knob, microtuning capabilities and a mix knob, utilising the Hedra on its surface level is relatively straightforward. The pitch controls allow you to select the intervals of each voice, allowing you to stack three pitch-shifted layers atop of your dry signal. For those looking to dial in an orchestral, wailing lead tone reminiscent of Queen’s Brian May or even Ratatat, this is where the money is, while dialing the microtune knob will add in a touch of detuned, warbling modulation. The Hedra also serves up droptuned -/+2 octave Whammy style tones with ease, offering a suitable platform to lay down beefy detuned riffs or wild Tom Morello inspired octave leaps for more experimental players. Exploring the alt-function of each knob and button also unlocks seven scale setting presets, letting you leap up and down the Lydian with ease if you so please. However, it’s worth noting that the Hedra is not a layman’s pedal - without an apt theoretic knowledge and understanding of harmony, the Hedra might simply have you scratching at your head wondering why you’ve just blown your pay cheque on this fancy piece of kit. After you wrap your head around the harmoniser element of Meris’s new pride and joy, you’ve then got to tackle the rhythmic

element of the Hedra. Engaging the delay mode and experimenting with the tap tempo and different modes makes these sounds all the more wacky, woolly and at times unpredictable – but never uninteresting. Alt-pressing and turning each pitch knob also gives you control over the independent delay time of each pitch voicing, stacking up the crazy factor even further. This function delivers astonishing sonic results when you deep dive into it, and after some knob tweaking, you’ll be creating cascading delay runs and jagged synth-like sequences in no time. Once you discover the glide function – yep, that’s a thing – you’ll begin to stop looking at the Hedra as a pitchshifter, and almost more akin to a powerful synth engine you control with a guitar. Pair it with your own reverb, modulation or volume pedal, and the Hedra absolutely sings; even the simplest of volume swells will blossom into cascading symphonies that will almost certainly leave a tear rolling down your cheek. As well as offering even more nuanced tweakability by plugging in an expression pedal, the Hedra can also be used to control MIDI keyboards in real time and, for those who care, the Hedra sounds absolutely fat when paired with a synthesiser for monosynth lines that really matter. I’ve honestly never been so flummoxed by an effects

pedal, and while I can’t picture it on many pedalboards in the gigging circuit anytime soon, it’s certainly worth spending some time with. BY WILL BREWSTER

HITS: ∙ Creates noises you didn’t even think could exist ∙ So many features MISSES: ∙ Not a pedal for dummies ∙ Not a pedal for poor people, either


Primo, Mega and Mammoth Slinky Strings CMC MUSIC | CMCMUSIC.COM.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: FROM $17.95 Since the 1960s, Ernie Ball have been producing some of the finest guitar strings that have been used by almost every legendary player to hit the stage around the world. Legends like Eric Clapton, Slash, Keith Richards, Kirk Hammett, Jimmy Page, John Mayer and John Petrucci amongst countless others all choose Ernie Ball Slinkys when it comes to stringing up their guitar of choice.

want slightly more tension without having to step up an entire gauge or go to a weird hybrid set. Both sets sit comfortably in standard tuning and provide incredibly balanced tension along all strings. While not too dissimilar from the Regular and Super Slinky sets, I’m sure some players will enjoy having another option to their regular set with a bit more beef in the strings.

After decades of the staple Slinky gauges being sold worldwide, Ernie Ball has recently made a huge effort in expanding their string range to accommodate players with weirder taste when it comes to particular string gauges. After the introduction of the Ultra and Burly Slinkys earlier in the year, the brand has expanded the line even further with the Primo, Mega and Mammoth Slinkys, ensuring every corner of the string market is covered and then some. Let’s dive in!

I’ve been dying for Ernie Ball to do a set like the Mammoth Slinky for years and I was over the moon when they finally announced it. The Baritone Slinky set has always been way too heavy for a standard scale guitar and I am so damn tired of buying a seven-string set only to remove the high E (I have so many loose 10’ gauge strings in my house). The Mammoth Slinky is a 12-62 set with a wound G, making it perfect for those wanting to tune down to C Standard, B Standard or Drop A with optimal tension. I popped the set on my trusty Music Man StingRay and tuned it to Drop A for my favourite y-era Thrice impression and it was absolutely spot on. The 62-gauge low E is perfect for heavy handed players like me who often hear string warble when riffing away or recording. Those days are gone now and if you listen closely, you can actually hear the sound of low tuned riff lords celebrating around the world.

I know what you’re thinking. Do we really need more variety when it comes to string gauges? Of course, we do! In my 20+ years of playing, I have met so many players who have pieced together their own weird and wonderful sets together to suit their style of playing. With the introduction of these new gauges, those days will soon be forgotten. The Primo and Mega sets are the perfect middle ground for players who are used to playing a standard 9-42 or 10-46 set but


You might have noticed by now that I haven’t mentioned how they sound, and to be honest I don’t really need to because they’re Slinkys and you know exactly how they sound. The age-old nickel-plated steel wire wrapped around steel core wire hasn’t changed and that’s just fine. The classic bright, punchy and clear Slinky tone you know and love is there; it’s just now available in in a wider variety of gauges for players of all styles and tastes. BY NICHOLAS SIMONSEN

HITS: ∙ Balanced tension ∙ Same classic Slinky tone MISSES: ∙ Nada



Brainwaves Pitch Shifter AMBER TECHNOLOGY | AMBERTECHNOLOGY.COM.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: $229 Like all of its TC Electronic counterparts, the Brainwaves Pitch Shifter is solidly built. The controls onboard consist of an FX selector, a wet/dry mix control, and two knobs that separately govern each voicing. A pair of metal toggles switches allow the user to select which direction the steps are shifted: up or down. Pop the back cover off, and you even have dipswitch options for switching between true/buffered bypass and kill-dry activation. Furthermore, the Brainwaves allows both mono/stereo input and output, making it an incredibly versatile option in any player’s rig. This pedal’s core functionality allows dual voiced pitch shifting in a variety of steps, which can be operated independently if desired. These steps range from unison, two semitones, to an impressive two octaves. Apart from clear-cut pitch shifting, the Brainwaves dips its toes into a variety of other sound-splicing categories: detune, wham(my), a switchable voice one/voice two mode, and three modifiable custom TonePrints. Different parameters of each mode can then be further altered with the pedal’s innovative MASH pressure-sensitive footswitch, which lights up a dynamic LED depending on how much force is applied. Detune (or chorus) is the most familiar out of the selections. The effect simply alters the incoming pitch by a few cents,

adding a pseudo double tracked sound to your instrument. Lush, haunting notes and ghostly lines are easily attained simply by adding a splash of reverb and/or delay. The MASH footswitch couples superbly with the wham setting. Notes gradually bend to your pitch selection relative to the pressure you place on the footswitch. The ceiling for creativity is infinitely high here – especially when setting one voice to shift upwards, and the other down. Dextrous footwork is absolutely required when operating the MASH footswitch, but it’s difficult to protest when the learning process is so incredibly entertaining. The interchangeable voice one/voice two and pitch shifter modes are fairly selfexplanatory. After setting voice one and two, depressing the MASH footswitch allows players to instantly swap between the two selections – super handy if the voices are set to different octaves entirely. Last but not least is the pitch shifter mode. What impressed me the most about the Brainwaves was its note-tracking. TC Electronic are to be commended for their studio-quality algorithms, resulting in effortless pitch shifting with incredible tonal accuracy. A large number of pitch shifters tend to stumble or muddy up when playing chords or adding gain, but the

Brainwaves handled whatever situation I threw at it admirably. While some garble was understandably produced on the +/- 2 octave extremities, the note transpositions for the remaining step options were absolutely phenomenal. As with most of TC Electronic’s latest pedals, the included micro USB cable allows you to connect the Brainwaves to your computer to set up custom TonePrints. Using the free TonePrint app, users are able to push famous players’ custom parameters to their pedal, or even design their own from scratch. Can’t be bothered connecting to a computer? No worries; download the app on your smartphone, select a custom TonePrint, then – and I kid you not – you can beam it through your guitar’s pickups via phone speaker to one of the three available slots on the Brainwaves. Is it magic, science, or sheer innovation? I’m leaning towards magic. With the Brainwaves, you’re getting a gobsmacking amount of versatility in a cute little pink footprint. It’s ludicrously easy to lose yourself in the process of tweaking this pedal’s controls, let alone designing your own TonePrint. Add a looper into the mix and you’re in for endless hours of entertainment. BY EDDY LIM

HITS: ∙ Excellent algorithms and notetracking ∙ MASH footswitch ∙ Custom TonePrints MISSES: ∙ None


MG-20 Guitar Modeling Processor PRO MUSIC AUSTRALIA | PROMUSICAUSTRALIA.COM.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: $330 I never got on the multi-effects train as a teen guitarist. I was unjustifiably concerned about the “fidelity” of my tone, decrying the inauthentic tinny sounds of the all-purpose slab. Instead I dropped a heinous amount of money on what I considered the real deal; Russian Big Muffs, rare Wahs, etc. As time has gone on and technology has refined, that has become a rather silly position to take. NUX have arrived with a nifty guitar modeling processor they’re calling the MG-20; a sure competitor to Boss’ iconic ME-20, from the name at least. Out of the box, you’re presented with a hefty metal slab (3.15kg) that looks more like an old drum machine than guitar processor, and shockingly, you wouldn’t be that off – more on that later. It’s all silver, adorned with a spartan black font, and fit with a small LED screen that looks like a calculator. There isn’t a carry handle, which is a bit disappointing considering the weight of the product. Spongy little pads on each corner prevent you from scratching up the unit too hard when you bang it down onto your pedalboard. There isn’t anything particularly showy about the MG-20 and that’s a good thing; this is a brute package to fit almost all of your guitar needs. On the back, there are an obscene number of ports for you to customise the MG-20.


This includes your typical headphone jack, input, left and right outs, but also offers an auxiliary input, external pedal out, USB and SD card slots. To start using the processor out of the box is as simple as most floor pods, though there’s a lot of functionality to unpack. Control of the unit is made exceptionally easy through a smooth expression pedal (with some very nice grip rubber) and three footswitches. The two switches on the left cater to preset functionality, including the drum machine, looper and onboard tuner while the right can be set to activate a specific tone control or an external pedal. As well as the usual holy combination of effects (distortion, chorus, delay, reverb, phaser, tremolo), the MG-20 boasts a swathe of amp and cabinet emulators. The amp modeling is definitely the jewel in the MG-20’s uneven crown; the little LED screen is excellent for the simple amp controls, and there is a solid range of 16 amplifiers. This is where iOS compatibility would have embellished things, with the option to add even more cabinet emulators. A “drum machine” is also housed inside, though I have to say the drum sound is pretty similar to hitting “rhythm” on an old Casio keyboard. You can feed in other backing tracks via the SD card or USB as an mp3, which feels like a kind of arcane format too.

Models to come should again think about digital or iOS compatibility. What you’re really paying attention to is the quality of the sounds. NUX have put an emphasis on emulating analogue quality through their TS AC technology, and for the most part they do a pretty good job. All of the delays come across strong, with six different variants. I definitely found being able to tap tempo into the delay speed made it worthwhile. More interesting patterns can be produced by subdividing the time too. Reverb is similarly varied, and does a great job at offering enough editability to make it a powerful feature. The chorus, flanger and tremolo FX are a bit more disappointing, sounding almost wafer thin. The onboard compressor helps the range of distortions immensely; the screamer was a beefy tone, with a wiry digital screech. The noise gate is what ties all of the MG-20’s sides together into an attractive package; whatever the quality of each sound, you’ve got a whole lot of control over any unwanted noise. Fiddling with the decay parameter and threshold control gave me balance few would be able to tell was the work of a floor pod. NUX have a serious offering in the guitar modeling market with the MG-20.

It sits at almost the exact same price point as most, and has more functionality. It won’t make multi-effects skeptics jump until it incorporates more digital compatibility, but it is undoubtedly a powerful unit. BY JOSHUA MARTIN

HITS: ∙ Hyper functional, crazy range of sounds and amp emulators ∙ Easy to use through the expression pedal and footswitches MISSES: ∙ Drum machine is not really a drum machine ∙ Needs iOS or digital compatibility



Marcus Miller CMD 103 Bass Combo CMC MUSIC | CMCMUSIC.COM.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: $2795 Marco De Virgiliis must be one happy business owner. His namesake bass brand Markbass has really made an impression on the bass community, and not just in aficionado or gear circles. Touring players, studio guys, younger players, seasoned veterans, rock, pop, funk, backline rigs and more use the black and yellow coloured bass gear and it’s built its name on reliability, portability and solid tone. We’ve followed the moves of bass deity Marcus Miller closely and sampled some his signature Markbass wares (and been suitably impressed!). Adding to the range is the CMD 103 Bass Combo incorporating even more flexibility to the overall Mark lineup. Known for his mix of chops, pocket, melodic sensibility and phrasing Marcus Miller now has quite the range of Markbass gear bearing his name (combos, heads and cabs). Aimed at the mid point between a 2x10 and 4x10 rig with the ease of being an all in one unit the CMD 103 is rated at 400 watts RMS. For many players that should cover most of their gigs. Essentially the amp is a Little Marcus 500 in a combo format. Gain, master and line out controls are joined by EQ 1 – ultralow, low, mid, high mid and high and EQ 2 with ‘Old School’ and ‘Millerizer’ controls. For speakers the combo runs three 10” custom designed Markbass drivers and a 1” Voice Coil Tweeter. The amp has a front panel Mute Switch and additional I/O on


the rear for XLR Line Out, Tuner Out, Effects Loop and switches from Ground and Pre/ Post EQ. Of course the unit is available in the standard Markbass black and yellow with the staggered speaker design making the cab around 60x50x70 cms and weighing in under 25 kgs. The 4x10 bass cab has long been the standard for serious rigs and gigging. If not for volume, players like the punch and definition of a 4x10, not to mention the feeling of added headroom when needed. So where does the 3x10 fit in then? For my thinking its quite close to a 4x10 in tone with a little less overall low end. Like a 2x12 then? I think it has more punch and pronounced mids but again less bass compared to a 2x12. Perfect for getting your big favourite tone at slightly reduced volumes or where a more portable rig is the go. Rock, pop, blues, funk, jazz are all fair game for the CMD 103 with the standard EQ working from a warm and round sound to brighter attack. The ‘Old School’ and ‘Millerizer’ controls might not be everyone’s cup of tea but they do add some nice preEQ’d filters to your tone that are definitely usable. I really like the idea of bass combos. Yes, modular rigs are great, super handy and portable (especially these days) but the idea of all-in-one rigs that pump plenty

of air are also appealing. No reaching for speaker leads or balancing copious amounts of other gear and accessories on top of the head hoping they won’t move. Just grab the combo and be done with it! The CMD 103 is Little Mark with Marcus on the nameplate that can do more than just Marcus if needed. Great to see a 3x10 combo in the range. BY NICK BROWN

HITS ∙ Combo is a great compromise between needing a bigger rig ∙ Markbass construction, tone and portability MISSES ∙ Some 2x12/4x10 guys might be hesitant



CC50 Deluxe & 55 Hybrid Models DI MUSIC | MICHAELKELLYGUITARS.COM.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: CC50 - $1755, 55 HYBRID - $1900

Michael Kelly Guitars have been producing guitars out of Florida since the late 90s. While producing fairly standard body shapes and styles, Michael Kelly Guitars are now known for technical upgrades to their standard models, particularly in the pickups and electronics routing. Two great examples of this are the CC50 Deluxe, a T-style solid body electric with Seymour Duncan Hotrails as standard, and the Hybrid 55, a chambered electric guitar with Fishman electronics routed into Rockfield pickups in the bridge and neck. Both guitars are reasonably priced, really well made, and comfortable to play. At first glance the CC50 looks like a fairly standard, albeit eye-catching electric guitar. It’s solid, has a standard scale length at 25.5” with Seymour Duncans in the bridge and neck. Make sure you give yourself a moment to take in the striped ebony top that covers the alder body. It’s beautiful. It’s a very rich wood and the stain draws your eyes to it and puts the CC50 into a league of its own, even before strumming a chord. Amplified, the guitar rocks. Partly thanks to the Seymour Duncan Hotrails, whose midrange bite and attack make for an aggressive bark that demands attention, but also the alder body, a wood with tonal characteristics that push those mids just a little further. The solid alder body produces a controlled, balanced resonance that is only


amplified, emphasised and controlled by the Hotrails themselves. The CC50 features a single pickup in the neck, and a slanted pickup in the bridge to ensure the guitar still has some semblance of that classic Telecaster sound. Split the coil and you’re playing a Strat, but with that bite of the Hotrails. The pickup switching options, coupled with push/pull pots to split the coils make for a huge range of tonal options, colours and textures. The Hybrid 55, on the other hand, takes this a step further. It's a 25.5”, 22 fret chambered electric guitar. In addition to pickup selector and push/pull volume and tone pots, there’s a second toggle and extra pot located between the tone pot and strap button. Beneath the flame maple top covering the Korina wood body is a Fishman Powerbridge, a Piezo pickup conventionally installed in the bridge of a guitar. This makes the Hybrid 55 a very diverse and dynamic instrument. Admittedly, because of all the routing options in the Hybrid 55, it makes the instrument fairly good at a bunch of different sounds, but doesn’t have a specific colour or sound of its own. You can blend between the Fishman acoustic sound, or the Rockfield humbuckers that, again, come as standard. The Fishman really does a phenomenal job of turning your electric into a guitar with the timbre and tone of

an acoustic guitar. There’s a spank that you get only get from an acoustic and a little more string noise. Blended, the tone is thick, forward and resonant. Both guitars are really balanced, nicely weighted and very well built. They’re comfortable and sit nicely against the body, especially when sitting. The modern-C necks feel great, and neither are particularly fast but you don’t need super fast necks for these style of guitars. Head to toe, both the Hybrid 55 and CC50 Deluxe are great guitars. The CC50 features two humbucking pickups with a four-way switch and both volume and tone knobs wired for push/pull. This gives you twelve possible sounds even before the signal has hit your amp. It’s never been easier to get the sound right at the source, and all on the one guitar. The bolt-on maple neck features Michael Kelly’s ‘1950’ headstock and a dual action truss rod which can be accessed right above the bone nut but below the die cast tuning pegs. The Hybrid’s neck feels just as good, with 22 medium jumbo frets embedded in the pau ferro fingerboard and maple neck. The headstock is Michael Kelly’s 1950 style again, but with a Birdseye maple top. Another bone nut secures the strings and scale. Overall, these are two guitars in a huge range of well-made instruments by Michael Kelly. Builds aside, the guitar are packed with features and little additions to

electronics that really make these a force to be reckoned with. Gone are the days of swapping out guitars throughout a set for different tones and sounds, and they’re an all-in-one option for recording as well. Both guitars feature third-party pickups as standard, and have a multitude of routing options in push/pull pots and pickup selectors, even besides the Fishman Piezo system routed into the Hybrid 55. The guitars play well, hold tune and feel solid while playing. The necks inspire great rock riffs and licks, and the resonant tones pulled from the Hybrid 55 fill a mix like nothing else. Michael Kelly Guitars’ instruments are an ocean of innovation and these two stellar examples are just the tip of the iceberg. BY LEWIS NOKE EDWARDS

HITS: ∙ Great feel, very comfortable ∙ Third party pickups as standard MISSES: ∙ Lots of options in Hybrid 55 is a bit overwhelming



Team Tygr TYGR 300 R Gaming Headphones & FOX Professional USB Studio Microphone SYNCHRONISED TECHNOLOGY | SYNTEC.COM.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: $549 The podcasting and live streaming booms are rapidly introducing swathes of fresh faces to the possibility of their very own audio setup. The increasing ease and accessibility of broadcasting from home has not gone unnoticed by hobbyists and emerging enthusiasts, with many now seeking quality equipment that won’t break the bank for passion projects of their own. For those new to the scene who wish to jump straight into the fray, the prestigious beyerdynamic are offering an attractively uncomplicated option with their Team Tygr condenser mic and headphone package.

gain option in the moment, but it’s handy for testing purposes and experimentation. Connection to smartphones is also possible with an additional OTG adapter, but this is not included in the base pack.

A stylish and comfortable pack with no pretention about what it offers, beyerdynamic have catered toward a gamer’s demands effectively, affording a hassle-free ‘plug-and-play’ setup for PCs, consoles and mobile devices at a very reasonable price.

These well-picked features offer a tangible sense of physical control, without plunging you into an overwhelming setup. This medium ground between minimalist and technical could frustrate those who want an even greater complexity, but it does what it intends to so well that most won’t mind. The FOX comes complete with various goodies, including a pop shield, deskstand with a 3/8” threaded ring mount and a 5/8” to 3/8” thread adapter to accommodate for larger stands. From the box to the desk, the entire setup process takes five minutes to get together; plug it into your computer with the USB-C cable and it’s good to go.

The FOX microphone is strong, sturdy and cleanly designed, featuring a monitor mix dial, volume control, headphone input and a mute button. The gain switch on the back will also flip between a binary of low and high gain sensitivity. If you’re using the mic for its intended purpose - namely, streaming or recording in a room of your house - you’ll realistically only ever need to use the low

With a maximum 96 kHz / 24 bit resolution and frequency range of 20 - 20,000 Hz, the FOX delivers crystal clarity on vocals. The bass is prominent and warm, but never overblown, adding just the right amount of richness and character. The zero-latency monitoring works without a hitch, with no isntances of audio lag to report at all. You’d really have to actively mess with both

your setup and manner to get anything resembling an unpleasant sound at all - which, traditionally, is a good sign of quality workmanship. The Tygr 300 R headphones, similarly, strike a wonderful balance between durability and gentle comfort. The headband can be easily removed and replaced, if needed, but remains perfectly supportive and sound. Similarly, the plush padding on the earcups is soft but firm, adding a cushioned comfort to the overall structure. The Tygr 300 R comes complete with a 6.35mm jack adapter - if you’re looking to expand your audio options in the future - and a handy pouch for protection, which is nice, though it honestly feels solid enough to survive many years on a desk or shelf by itself. It may not offer a thousand bells and whistles like certain other brands, but it’s definitely built to last.

clean and intuitive. Team Tygr is an inspired exercise in balance that many could learn from. BY JACOB COLLIVER

HITS - Great choice for beginners - Quick and painless setup - Comfortable / durable design

It’s evident that beyerdynamic have built Team Tygr with a precise plan: to guide newcomers into recording and streaming in a way that will not interfere with the excitement of the project itself. The company have successfully maximised the quality of their equipment for the price given with an overall design that feels

MISSES - Nothing to report here

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www.jands.com.au mixdownmag.com.au







John Petrucci Majesty 2019 CMC MUSIC | CMCMUSIC.COM.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: $6950 If there was ever a guitar company equivalent to a sports cars, it’s Ernie Ball Music Man. And if there was a guitar equivalent to a Ferrari, it’s the John Petrucci Majesty. Not content with just a great guitar, the Majesty's design is incredible. While at first glance it’s a solid body electric with dual humbuckers and tremolo bridge, the design and composition of the Majesty is sleek and streamlined, with a few small additions that really push the envelope for the playing experience. Ernie Ball are continuously looking to the future, because that’s all they can do; they’ve conquered the past and present. The 2019 series of John Petrucci’s Majesty guitars boast not only dream specifications, but additions you couldn’t dream up. It’s a 25.5” scale length guitar, with 24 medium jumbo frets and a neck through design, keeping the John Petrucci signature Rainmaker and Dreamcatcher pickups in the bridge and neck respectively. The electronics are kept quiet because the body cavity is coated in graphite acrylic resin with an aluminium cover to ensure everything stays silent. There’s also a push/pull toggle for 20dB of gain when a song calls for it. A polyester gloss finish covers the entire African Mahogany body and matching neck, as well as the flame maple shield on the top of the guitar.

The polyester gloss is a phenomenal finish and I implore you to watch the ‘Reveal’ video on the Ernie Ball site that really highlights it; as if the guitar weren’t close enough to a sports car already. The strings are held in place by a Music Man floating bridge with a Piezo bridge pickup for extra nuance when you need it. The pickup toggles are Music Man’s own design and do away with conventional toggles and instead feature a sleeker, more inconspicuous and classy design. This guitar specifically is finished in Blue Honu and features chrome toggles and hardware, including Schaller locking tuners, but the new series comes in a variety of colours and tastes. Specifications aside, the Majesty plays beautifully. It’s inspired, and even resonates acoustically, producing a balanced sound. Amplified, or even DI’d, the signature pickups come to life. There’s a balance between then, but they’re also very much their own beast. The neck is full and creamy but not overbearingly low-mid heavy, whereas the bridge is solid, controlled and strong. The guitar is weighted really nicely and would sit comfortably on a strap for an entire set (how long are Dream Theater’s sets in 2019 again?). The guitar is a perfect weight for riffs and rhythms, but responds well enough to your playing to be a go-to for solos. It’s no wonder many

professional touring musicians, Australian and international, have begun to swap to Ernie Ball. Their guitars just feel inspiring to hold. Overall, the Majesty is a phenomenal build. It’s difficult to articulate what it is about Ernie Ball, and particularly Majestys that draws people to them, but there’s something. Maybe it’s the list of specs that come as standard like their pickups or floating bridge, or maybe it’s the uniformly excellent build quality. Maybe it’s all the additions that you’d never think about, such as the coated electronics cavity. You may never notice, but they will help you along the way and it’ll be very obvious when you

swap back to a lesser guitar. All you can do is try one, love it, then buy it. BY LEWIS NOKE EDWARDS

HITS: ∙ Masterful build ∙ Extra additions few other guitars have MISSES: ∙ N/A


JUNE-60 Chorus Pedal AMBER TECHNOLOGY | AMBERTECH.COM.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: $139 Over two years ago, TC Electronic made a rather bold proclamation to the gear community: the company were working on an effects pedal which replicated the chorus sound of Roland’s famed Juno synth series. Even those who didn’t typically subscribe to pedal chat were hooked on the idea of the Juno’s lush chorus tone flowing through their signal chain, and while the hype ebbed and flowed in the months after its announcement, anticipation for the stompbox lingered in the dark corners of gear forums and nerdy Facebook groups. In January this year, TC Electronics officially revealed the JUNE-60 to the world, and now, finally, it’s available to purchase in stores worldwide. The wait is over! Whether you’re a nutter for vintage synths (guilty) or a staunch advocate for ‘80s film soundtracks (also guilty), you’ll already be unknowingly acquainted with the sound of the Juno chorus. Thick, woolly and warm, the inbuilt chorus is still favoured by producers and synth nerds today for its distinctive tones, and while the JUNE-60 doesn’t exactly nail the sound of the original Juno chorus, it certainly does a damn near good job of it. Just like its ‘80s forebearer, the JUNE-60 is an all-analogue chorus unit which utilises a Bucket Brigade Delay chip to create its lush tones – no digital foolery here. The JUNE-60 even looks like a mini Juno with its no frills retro aesthetic,


faux-wooden side panels and similar yellow buttons to flick between chorus settings. Even though it’s not officially endorsed by Roland – which is probably the reason it took so long to reach the masses – the JUNE-60 definitely serves as a fitting tribute to the company that revolutionised proaudio in the ‘80s. Although I was surprised by the JUNE-60’s chunky size and relatively hefty weight for such a simple effect, all of my concerns were brushed aside as soon as I engaged the unit. The first chorus mode of the pedal absolutely nails the slow sheen heard across so many classic records, while the second button of the JUNE-60 adds a thick dollop of warbling vibrato to your tone. Selecting both modes in unison provides you with a modulated, LFO-like flutter which sounds like an absolute treat when paired with fuzz or distortion for big, juicy riffs. Playing on a Strat in the out-of-phase position offered a lush’n’funky sound similar to those employed by The 1975 or INXS, with the JUNE-60 beefing up the pure signal to really cut through the mix without being too sickening. If you’re more of a low-end operator, the JUNE-60 is also incredibly bass friendly and sounds killer for replicating the New Order sound – it’s so hard to resist playing the bassline to ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ on this thing. The pedal also features a toggle to switch between mono

and stereo modes to really open up your sound, and while I wasn’t able to deep dive into this feature, it’s definitely a little touch that I’m sure will please many within the production sphere. Of course, a good review of the JUNE-60 shouldn’t overlook how it sounds on a synth, and I’m more than chuffed to report that it sounds FAT. I paired it with a Dave Smith Instruments Prophet ’08 and was blown away by the warmth it added to ambient pads and arpeggiated sounds and, perhaps most importantly, the JUNE-60 did all of this without the abhorrent hiss that plagued the original Juno chorus. It’s always nice when a company thinks of instruments that aren’t fretted for a change… Obviously, real synth nerds will be able to pick out that the JUNE-60 isn’t an exact clone of the Juno chorus, but does that matter? With the JUNE-60, TC Electronic have created a fitting tribute to one of the most defining chorus sounds of the ‘80s at a price point that’s accessible for everybody, and to top it all off, it sounds absolutely killer. Well worth the wait! BY WILL BREWSTER

HITS: ∙ The concept alone is a winner for me ∙ Awesome retro aesthetic ∙ BBD tones to write home about MISSES: ∙ Surprisingly bulky ∙ Faux-wooden sides are bound to get trashed quickly


RARITIES COLLECTION F L A M E M A P L E TO P T E L E C AST E R ® •Chambered Two-Piece Roasted Alder Body •Natural Flame Maple Top •Hot Vintage-Style Telecaster Bridge Pickup •Shawbucker™ 1T Neck Pickup

AVAILABLE EXCLUSIVELY FROM NSW Guitar Factory Parramatta•Musos Corner VIC A&B Music •Guitar Station•Music Junction SA Derringers Music ACT DW Music WA Sound Centre•Mega Music QLD Guitar Brothers



Lost Highway Phaser, Downtown Express, The Pinwheel Pedals FENDER MUSIC AUSTRALIA | FENDER.COM.AU | RRP: LOST HIGHWAY - $299, DOWNTOWN EXPRESS - $449, PINWHEEL - $449

In the last few years famed guitar manufacturer Fender has expanded further into the pedal market. Fender is very well known for guitars, and almost equally as famous for their amps - so why not pedals? Along with a range of overdrives, choruses, and boosters, three new pedals added to the range are the Pinwheel Rotary Speaker Emulator, the Lost Highway Phaser and the all-in-one Downtown Express, a bass multi-effect pedal. All three pedals do their specified job perfectly, but also pack a lot of features into well-built boxes that can extend the effects beyond their intended use. The Pinwheel features seven knobs and a toggle to assist in making it more than just a rotary speaker emulator, it features controls to make it feel like a rotary speaker in both sound and vibe. The Lost Highway Phaser can quickly switch from a subtle, ear-catching phase effect to psychedelic freakout, while the Downtown Express, despite its intention for bass guitar, can do so much more. All three pedals are reasonably priced for what they’re capable of, and will slot in nicely beside other Fender pedals with matching anodised aluminium enclosures. First off, the Fender Pinwheel is a pedal with everything you need and nothing you don’t. There’s stereo inputs beside the expression pedal input, and stereo outputs on the other side. The pedals works just as well in mono, but it’s good to know you have the option - more on that later. On top of the pedal is the guitar/keyboard voicing switches, and the dynamic on/off switch. The ‘ramp’ knob located just above the bypass switch allows the user to change the dynamic response of the rotary effect, and the dynamic on/ off disengages this circuit. The final switch


on top of the pedal switches between either an external on/off for fast/slow pedal or an expression pedal. Sitting side by side as part of the modulation family, the Lost Highway Phaser is as useful as the Pinwheel. While acting partly as a conventional phaser, this pedal can do so much more. Located on the front of the pedal are rate, depth and feedback controls. What sets this pedal apart, however, is a dual circuit that’s footswitchable, with independent rate and depth switches. There’s a universal 4 or 8-stage phaser switch, which affects the EQ notches in the wet signal, and a toggle between triangle or sine waveforms to quickly shape your flanger sound. The Downtown Express is a pedal about as big as the sound it can produce. Designed to be an all-in-one bass pedal, the Downtown Express is a must have. Not only does it feature a mute button, but you’ve got EQ, overdrive and a compressor, all with their own on/off switches. You can even toggle the compressor before or after the overdrive section for even more options. The EQ is three band, and even at maximum settings, the EQ is still entirely usable, but seems designed to shape the tone ever so slightly before your amp or other pedals. The overdrive can get really dirty really fast and, when this pedal is used for guitar, can get thick and fuzzy. The tone and level controls can even simply help to push your signal into another overdrive or into your amp harder. Finally, the compressor is another three knob situation, with simple threshold, gain/output and a blend knob. On bass, this pedal works great when pushed too far, then blended back for a dynamic, but controlled style of parallel compression. What’s more, there’s a handy gain reduction

LED that flicks on and off when you hit that threshold.

and switchable stages that push it to the front of the pack.

In use, all three pedals can be either an iconic sound or the last 10% of your tone. While the Downtown Express is the least flashy of the three, it can still provide a really nicely compressed tone and a great drive or fuzz. The Downtown Express is a player's pedal, and built to last gig after gig. The Pinwheel, however, is a pedal all about expression, even without an expression pedal. The push and pull of the fast and slow braking rotary are the icing on top of your shred cake, or the thick, modulating mess of arpeggios. Because of the stereo in/out, and voicing options, the Pinwheel is great for re-amping. And when we’re discussing re-amping, let’s not limit ourselves to guitar and bass. Run a stereo drum session through this pedal and blend it in for an iconic groove that no one will be able to put their finger on. Re-amp a vocal for a thick midrange blended beneath clear and crisp highs and lows, or create a radio effect before a drop. You’re really limited only by yourself, because the Pinwheel creates a sound like no other, especially when coupled with an expression pedal. Finally, the Lost Highway Phaser is such a guitar player’s pedal that it makes me wonder how they’ve reinvented an effect that has been in the limelight for 50+ years to still feel so fresh and inspiring. I felt like I was playing with modulation for the very first time. It’s instantly inspirational whether you’re tinkering with a lead or thickening up some chords, or both, or neither. Do whatever you want with it. Even at a blend of 100% wet, this Phaser sounds great. It’s two conventional phasers in one, but with new features such as the waveform shape

All in all, these three pedals join the ranks of a great collection of great pedals from Fender. They’re entirely usable in any genre, and can quickly move from heavily affected sounds to more subtle hints of movement and dynamic. The Downtown Express is the most practical of the three, and as its name suggests, turns your bass guitar into a non-stop steam train, while the Pinwheel and Lost Highway Phaser move your tone into uncharted territory, regardless of what instrument or signal you run through them. There’s a bunch of routing options, some more tonal shaping features and a bunch of internal organising and rearranging made easy for us with the flick of a switch. Each of these pedals is a complete package in its own right, but coupled together you’re ready to take over whatever it is you’re trying to take over. Fender are royalty in amps and instruments, and might just be here to capture pedals too. BY LEWIS NOKE EDWARDS

HITS: ∙ Great sounds, even when maxed out ∙ Great routing options ∙ Cool looks MISSES: ∙ N/A



StingRay Special CMC MUSIC | CMCMUSIC.COM.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: FROM $3795 An update to the much loved StingRay – is that playing with fire? The guys at Music Man know how to knock out a quality instrument and have the impeccable track record to go with it, so I’m guessing the answer is no. From funk to rock and pop to country, the StingRay is an iconic instrument that has held down the low end on many a classic (and not so classic) album. Firstly, the new Music Man finishes and colour combos are great. We reviewed one in Cruz Teal, which is in the Seafoam/Green/ Surf realm and really pops out nicely at first glance (and many further reaffirming glances thereafter). The Special features an ash body, a roasted maple neck, maple/ rosewood/ebony fingerboard depending on body colour (this one has ebony), and stainless steel frets. In the electronics department, you’ll find either a single humbuckers or dual humbuckers. As mentioned, the Cruz Teal looks great and sits nicely against the white scratch plate and darker ebony fretboard. I love the look and feel of roasted maple necks. The slightly darker tinge can bring out the grain and combined with Music Man’s satin oil and wax finish, it feels smooth and slick (but not sticky). Music Man have knocked off some weight with this redesign and it’s noticeable – in a good way. Lighter in weight, a tummy


cut on the back of the bass, slight forearm contour and new five-bolt neck joint all add up to some fresh feels without going over the top. For rock, punk and heavier styles, the StingRay can really punch through. The double humbuckers can go from round and warm to bright with lots of attack. Funk and groove players will no doubt already know the merits of this particular instrument (used by the likes of Flea, Louis Johnson, etc.) and it really fits the mould; lots of fingerstyle dynamics, you can dig in for some more honkiness and of course, slapping brings out the midrange punch. Five-way pickup selector, three-band EQ – these add up to lots of tonal variation. The changes are slight, but do add to the feel and general aesthetic. This means the iconic StingRay has just had a little update, not a full blown makeover, which will keep diehards happy and entice new Music Man users alike. The reduced weight (thanks to the hardware and body changes) increases the appeal, with the colour schemes adding some new flavours to the StingRay line. Many other specs (colours, pickup combo, woods) are available too if you really want to hone in on particulars. BY NICK BROWN

HITS ∙ Feel, range of tones ∙ Updated looks and specs MISSES ∙ None



Pro Series Panthera II AMBER TECHNOLOGY | AMBERTECHNOLOGY.COM.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: ENQUIRE FOR PRICING Originating in Germany in the late 1940s, Framus were a serious instrument maker until the mid 1970s. They offered guitars and basses (amongst other instruments) across the globe with players such as John Lennon, Bill Wyman and Charles Mingus cited as Framus users. After a long hiatus the brand was revived under the banner of the successful Warwick name in 1995. Now predominantly in the guitar realm the Framus brand offers a range of acoustic and electric guitars from entry level right through to Masterbuilt Custom Shop instruments. Taking that lead, we’ve got the Pro Series Teambuilt Panthera II on the block and if first glances are anything to go by, this guitar should be a ripper. Aside from the fantastic flame maple top and finish (more on that soon) this Panthera features a mahogany back, mahogany neck and ebony fingerboard. The neck also features nickel silver jumbo frets and Framus’ ‘Trapez’ inlays that add some glitz without being over the top. A Tone Pros Tune-omatic bridge compliments the rest of the chrome hardware while a Seymour Duncan APH-1 and SH-11 round out the electronics. Now, getting back to the finish! A gorgeous see-through black (‘Nirvana Black Transparent’ to be exact) really highlights the flame in the top with the white binding and gloss wood back and sides creating a

beautiful contrast. It’s seriously well done and hammers home the work of the Framus custom shop. The Panthera’s shape looks like a mix of a traditional single cut with slightly sharper/modern edges. I love the top carves and silver lines which add to the flow of the shape and make it a little more individual. Locking Tuners are becoming more and more commonplace these days and these Graph Tech ‘Ratio’ tuners are accurate and smooth to use. Lastly, the Panthera control knobs are a great touch. Sort of a top hat style with a rubber strip that’s easy to latch onto. Functional and hip. Coming in around 4 kgs, the Panthera II feels like the typical weight for this style guitar (there are plenty of heavier models from other brands). The guitar’s action and intonation were great. I know these can be tweaked by your tech but sometimes they do give an indication of the quality and level of instrument you’re dealing with – in this case, top notch! Framus describe this neck as a ‘Fat profile’; it is a bit chunky but not a baseball bat by any means so don’t be put off if you’re wary of bigger necks. The gloss finish felt great and there were no nasty, sharp fret edges. I like the 12” radius fretboard too – easy to get around and help with the tuning but also not so super flat that it will irk the full traditionalists. Tone wise, the Panthera sounds great. Full and

dynamic on the neck pickup, and slightly edgier when switched to the bridge. The ability to split the coils via the push/pull tone pot gives you those extra snappy single coil sounds if so desired. Seriously; jazz, blues, rock, pop, clean, dirty, in between... whatever. Just about any single cut double humbucker electric guitar is going to draw comparisons to you know what famous brand and model. Whilst the Panthera II covers classic rock and blues tones it also comes into its own with the amazing finish and appointments, a range of very usable tones and a great feel. BY NICK BROWN

HITS ∙ Finish, looks, shape ∙ Feel MISSES ∙ With a guitar of this prestige a hardcase included in the deal would be nice


Element Spring Reverb STUDIO CONNECTIONS | STUDIOCONNECTIONS.COM.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: ENQUIRE FOR PRICING The Element Spring Reverb from French pedal company Anasounds aims to recreate iconic reverb tones commonly found in vintage Fender amps. Their innovative detachable spring tank is available in three sizes: Le Bon, La Brute and Le Truand (the good, bad, and ugly). It’s a delightfully fresh take on one of the most underrated yet ubiquitous effects in guitar pedal history. Without a doubt, this is definitely the most eccentric pedal I’ve ever come across. Reverb pedals containing real springs have been done before, but none (to the extent of my knowledge) house the moving spring in an exterior see-through chamber. While ostensibly seeming like a gimmick, there’s actually a fairly practical reason for this – pedalboard real estate. Most, if not all, analogue spring reverb pedals are housed in a fairly large enclosure that span two regular-sized pedals or more. Thankfully, the Element Spring Reverb’s main control unit is appreciatively ordinary in size, assuming you’re going to mount the reverb tank underneath your pedalboard (Anasounds provides two mounting screws). Regardless on whether you plan on having the tank on top or under your board, it’s a considerable commitment. Mentally rearranging your board, patch cables and power supply is definitely a good idea before deciding whether to pull the trigger on this particular pedal.


Logistics aside, the Element Reverb both looks and sounds fantastic. The main unit consists of a metallic stonewashed enclosure topped with a stunning laser-etched wooden panel. The spring tank features the same wooden panels on its top and bottom, with a matte silver casing. Two rubber feet are affixed to the corners of the tank, eliminating unwanted spring rattle from overzealous drummers and bassists. A twin red/white RCA to 3.5mm cable connects the stompbox to the reverb tank, which is conveniently colour coded. An output level, two-band EQ, wet/dry mix knob and a spring saturation toggle switch are the only controls atop the pedal. Sonically, the Element Spring Reverb is about as authentic as it gets. Lush waves of bouncy trails are easily dialled in with the output knob on 9 o’clock and the mix on 12. Further tone sculpting is readily achieved with the low and high EQ controls. Crank the highs, and you’ve got yourself a one-way ticket to the drippy realm of surf-rock. Bump up the lows, and you’ll acquire a variety of intensely moody atmospheric tails at your disposal. As you would expect from a high-quality analogue spring reverb, the Element Reverb is extremely touch-sensitive and responds noticeably well to a range of playing dynamics. Additionally, all manner of gain is handled extremely well with no

extraordinary artefacts, spring echoing or popping. When the middle switch is flicked down, the output level of the springs is doubled, producing a slightly overdriven reverb sound. While it was initially fun to play around with, the saturated setting is probably overkill for most conventional forms of music. Still, props should be given to Anasound for implementing some variety in this pedal. While still being slightly too ostentatious for me, I can definitely see (and hear) where the hype comes from. If you’re tired of the same old bland digital reverb in your amplifier, this pedal might just possibly change your life. The same goes for vintage spring reverb connoisseurs who’ve always wanted to transplant a Fender Twin’s reverb tank to another amp. BY EDDY LIM

HITS: ∙ Authentic, natural-sounding spring reverb ∙ Great-looking pedal ∙ Solid build quality MISSES: ∙ Bigger tanks require careful planning/drilling




It’s time to admit something to ourselves: amplifier modeling is the new reality. This new wave began in 1998 with Line 6’s kidney-shaped POD. While, realistically, the tones weren’t especially close to what they claimed to imitate, the convenience of being able to switch between ‘amps’ and patches, either effected or not, was groundbreaking. This was superseded by the Fractal Audio Axe-Fx in the mid-2000s, who then released the Axe-Fx II in 2011, which became the industry standard. In the same year, Kemper released their profiling amplifier, which allowed users to model their own amplifiers with startling accuracy. Fractal and Kemper have been neck and neck ever since, while Line 6 has slowly released updates of the POD, such as the POD HD and HD X series. Unfortunately, Line 6 has remained associated with the tones and sounds and effects on the original POD, despite consistently releasing top-quality products. This all changed in 2015 when they released the Helix and re-entered the big league. Enter stage left (or left and right; there’s a stereo output): the HX Stomp. The HX Stomp is a professional grade guitar effect and amp processor crammed into a glossy, sparkled housing about the size of a small HSP (depending where you go). Packed inside is the same DSP and HX modeling technology as found in the larger, pricier Helix itself. There are three pedal switching pots for toggling between effects, and five little pots for scrolling through presets and tweaking parameters. There are mono/ stereo inputs and outputs, an expression pedal input, MIDI in/out and a stereo send with a mono/stereo return. The HX features over 300 amplifier and cabinet emulations and effects from the Helix range, as well


as ‘legacy’ effects from their M-Series and stompboxes such as DL4, FM4 etc. The HX Stomp can double as a USB audio interface for recording, but only features a headphone out for this purpose. The HX includes an admittedly clunky power supply, but the website suggests the unit can be alternately powered via pedal power options. The unit also features a handy master output, to ensure wherever your output is heading, it’s receiving a healthy signal regardless of whatever monstrous crunch and distortion you’ve crammed into the presets. Opening the box reveals a pedal that feels solid, weighty and looks simple enough to use. I connected the unit using the mono output to my recording interface and powered it up. Alternatively, the HX can be connected via USB and used as the input device for your DAW. When powered on, the HX’s LCD screen is nicely backlit and quickly opens up to a very user-friendly interface for tweaking the existing patches or creating your own. Scrolling through the ‘FX’, I was hooked, but a little underwhelmed at the amp tones before I remembered that, as the name suggests, the HX Stomp is designed to be used as a stompbox before an amp, so the FX presets mostly don’t contain amp simulations. Regardless, the delays are spacious and inspiring, and the modulation presets are fun and aptly named. Because of the HX’s ability to send and return auxiliary effects, you can create patches with mix blends, sends to delays that retain tails of reverbs or delays before they’re modulated, or vice versa. This can be especially helpful when you’re recording, because you can get a polished, finished sound while you record. The mix is easier because the sounds are finished, and the performance is better

because the sounds are inspiring. Finally reaching the ‘DIR’ (direct) tones, I was floored. Every amp model preset is usable, true to their namesake and honest in the sense that they’re not inherently treated and ‘perfect’ tones. The amp’s hum, sizzle and squeaks are modeled too. It’s also important to remember that, like competitors Kemper and Fractal Audio, these units will never sound like a real amp in a room (though maybe the HX Stomp could take the cake through a powered cabinet or amp). Instead, they’re designed to produce tones identical to a mic’d up amp. In addition to tweaking on the unit itself, Line 6 has specially designed HX Edit software that, when linked via USB, can be used to tweak settings on your computer (editing is mirrored on the HX itself; you don’t need to tweak and then download your tones). Not only can you tweak your own tones and scroll through the library of effects and amps, but you can download other users’ tones on the Custom Tone exchange, all for free. I reviewed another Line 6 product in July’s issue and had the same problems navigating the Line 6 websites for drivers and software. Eventually I located the HX Edit download, but not without watching tutorials on external sites from people who have faced the same issues. After a few YouTube tutorials, Line 6 forums, Line 6 support etc., I located some instructional videos and managed to download my patches and upload them to the Customer Tone forum, so I can use them again when I inevitably buy a HX Stomp of my own. Because the pots on the Stomp are very sensitive, I found myself toggling tap tempo and switching presets

while scrolling through settings. The HX Edit solves this. The HX Edit software is a much friendlier interface than the LCD screen on the HX Stomp itself, and I could see myself using the software a lot to tweak tones while recording, jamming, or re-amping. The HX Stomp is a great all-round introduction to amplifier modeling at a great price. Don’t be fooled by its size and appearance – the Stomp is every bit as powerful as its larger counterparts, and Line 6 haven’t skipped out on the quality of the effects and amplifier modeling either. It’s a professional grade piece of gear that can hold its own, but is portable enough to fit in your backpack. The HX can be used to add effects to an already great-sounding amplifier sound, or it can replace your entire rig of pedals, amps, cabinets and effects, all the while doing it with more routing options than most pedals and amps. From seasoned software tweakers to bedroom guitarists and bass players, the HX Stomp would be a great addition to anyone’s collection of gear. BY LEWIS NOKE EDWARDS

HITS ∙ Professional grade effects and amps ∙ Great routing options MISSES ∙ Line 6 drivers and software difficult to locate



St. Vincent Signature CMC MUSIC AUSTRALIA | CMCMUSIC.COM.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: $4350 To be frank, signature guitars can often be more trouble than they’re worth. All too often guitar manufacturers are tempted into drafting up a slightly redesigned version of an already in-production model, slapping the artist’s name on the headstock, jacking up the price and calling it a day. Thankfully, Ernie Ball’s St. Vincent signature model strays far away from this notion. With handson production ideas contributed from Annie Clarke at every step of the way, the result is a guitar that is unlike any other on the market today - a unique beast reimagined from the ground up. First thing’s first, the finish is utterly striking. The model we’re dealing with here is coated in a Tobacco Sunburst finish that no photo can do justice, with a roasted maple neck that simply just begs for attention. While great aesthetics are just the tip of the iceberg here, it’s clear that a very specific mission statement has been embedded and implemented into this guitar at all stages of the design process. That being, why play by the rules of convention when you can re-write the rulebook altogether? Case in point; the body shape was designed by St. Vincent specifically with this in mind. The closest comparison would be something akin to a Gibson Explorer or Moderne – an angular offset, essentially. Regardless, it’s entirely refreshing to see a guitar that’s actively seeking to reinvent ideas in a way

that isn’t derivative of a classic design. Strapping it on, the first thing you’ll notice is how light this thing is. At 3.31kgs, it’s more than manageable for longer sessions of playing. Traditionally, you might think this would result in a lack of sustain. After moving through some legato phrases across the fretboard on the St Vincent – even through a clean amp – I found that myth to be well and truly busted. This guitar has got sustain for days. While it is light, and the body relatively small, it doesn’t result in playing like a small guitar. With a scale length of 25.5” and a 10” neck radius, there’s more than ample room across the fretboard to play without feeling clustered. In fact, the beautiful roasted neck of this guitar is one of its greatest assets. While it’s by no means chunky, the St. Vincent is a fast and dexterous shape that accommodates bends, complex chords that involve stretching your pinky that one extra fret, and fast playing with ease. All the hardware is up to scratch, with a sturdy bridge and tremolo system. The tuning pegs are firm and exact, and the intonation was pretty much bang-on out of the box. The only thing that belies the quality of this instrument are the plastic volume and tone knobs that feel a bit cheap in comparison to the rest of the guitar.

Of course, it’s what’s under the hood that really counts. One of the stand-out aspects of the St. Vincent are its three mini humbuckers. Personally, I’d not played a guitar with mini humbuckers before – and these are worth the price of admission alone. Far from sounding like a standard humbucker or a P90, these have their own sound going on entirely. At times, they conjure tones you’d associate with a single coil: snappy, responsive, and even quacky when in the right position. However, there’s a warmth and roundness here that you’re not going to get with a Strat or Tele. Ultimately, that makes this an extremely versatile all-rounder that could slot into many different styles of music. In the same way St. Vincent’s music defies genre and easy categorisation, so too does her signature guitar. So why would you buy this? Why stray towards an Ernie Ball Music Man guitar when there are perhaps ‘safer’ choices out there to make? As far as I’m concerned, you can distil it down to two things. Firstly, this is really

a first-class instrument. The quality is right up there – if not surpassing – more popular manufacturers at the same price point. It sounds great, it plays even better and looks fantastic. Secondly, why repeat what’s been done? Why stick to the norm? Just like St Vincent herself, this guitar pushes the boundaries of convention and expectation. Ultimately, that’s a hell of a lot more exciting than sticking to the status-quo. BY JAMES DI FABRIZIO

HITS: ∙ Inventive design ∙ Fast fretboard ∙ Awesome roasted neck MISSES ∙ Plastic tone and volume knobs could use an upgrade

The Art of Control





Plumes Small Signal Shredder YAMAHA MUSIC AUSTRALIA | AU.YAMAHA.COM | EXPECT TO PAY: $189 Ever since Link Wray’s ‘Rumble’ was banned from several US radio stations, we’ve known the power of distortion. Puritan radio censors in the 1950s thought the harsh sound “glorified juvenile delinquency”. Over 40 years later, rock is no longer popular music and guitarists are drowning in an endless tide of overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals. To move a guitarist out of their slump with an overdrive pedal is to force them to rediscover the visceral power of a filthy rock tone just like Link Wray once did. EarthQuaker Device’s Plumes Small Signal Shredder could be the pedal to do that. EQD hail from the small town of Akron, Ohio in the US and in case you’re wondering why it sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also the home of 2000s blues rock duo The Black Keys. The band and the company are inextricably linked, as their first fuzz pedal was developed in 2006 by the band’s then-tour manager and sometimes-tech, Jamie Stillman; the Hoof Fuzz. It fit guitarist Dan Auerbach’s raunchy grit tone perfectly, and rolled into the successful international company it is today. The Plumes Small Signal Shredder still derives most of its spirit from the Hoof, and manages to evoke the nasty tones Auerbach relished all those years ago. Inside the box, the pedal is kept in the kind of drawstring bag you might normally

expect to receive deer milk skincare in, but don’t be fooled; this is a brawny little unit. Aesthetically, it’s got a nice balance between the affectations of a family company and mass-produced workhorse units like the Big Muff. A lime green finish is broken up by yellow targets and “Plumes” in the brand’s goofy font. It’s as light (approx. 400 grams) and compact (120mm x 63.5mm x 57.15mm) as you’d want for a staple pedal that will presumably occupy a vital functional position on your pedalboard. It’s powered by a bog standard 9v power supply with, reasonably enough, no battery option. The Plumes has the three-pronged dial setup you, a pedal monster, know is par for the course; level, tone and gain. The Plumes Signal Shredder is designed to be paired with a valve amplifier; frankly, if you don’t have one, keep fiddling with digital FX. If you do though, you’re in luck because the Plumes ingenious circuitry produces a tone warm enough to wear this accursed winter. Broadly, it’s a highly transparent sound with plenty of chime and bite across its range. A lot of this clarity is attained through the internal split of the 9v power supply into +/- 9v. It’s a surprisingly diverse tonal range, spanning British Invasion style crunch to a doom metal fuzz. The three way switch is the conduit to the three different distortion parameters.

Mode 1 is going to give you a delightfully choppy Telecaster crunch, particularly if you’re belting it out of a sizable clean amp. Turning the tone anti-clockwise, I was able to dial it back for a muted, muddier sound that works for something like fusion. Turning it back and pumping up the gain gave me a post-punk spike. Behind the specs, this is the work of symmetrical clipping with a pair of light emitting diodes. Mode 2 is an undulating clean boost, which is great for any nasty, overdriven solos you have. In the circuitry, the two diodes are switched off so you’re just getting the core OpAmp drive and its searing clarity. Mode 3 is what most teenage noodlers will gravitate toward; it’s a screamer. This is definitely the Plumes’ pièce de résistance, with a beautiful saturated tone. Leave the tone on high to rip out the best rendition of ‘Maggot Brain’ you’ve ever done; pump up the gain and mute the tone and you’ve got a bonafide Melvins fuzz. I think the latter was the most surprising, with the Plumes able to produce a lot of body. This is enabled by, similar to EQD’s screamer, an asymmetrical silicon diode arrangement. What makes the Plumes an extra nifty tool is its price point. For younger players, it could be the bridge to a monsterous distortion that a cheaper valve amp won’t be able to achieve all on its own. The all-analogue

pedal tramples any digital alternative for sound. It’s the sound of Akron, Ohio packed into a pretty little unit that any guitarist should consider adding to their arsenal. Try and make distortion dangerous again. BY JOSHUA MARTIN

HITS: ∙ Great tonal range, from crunch to sludgy fuzz. ∙ Cheap, but well built and aesthetically pleasing unit. MISSES: ∙ Nothing worth mentioning at the price point.


SRP400 Monitors HILLS | HILLS.COM.AU | ENQUIRE FOR PRICING Sonodyne are a true underdog of professional studio monitoring. The company produces professional and consumer level products as well as servicing cinemas, permanent installations and music studios. They’re not an unknown company, but their products are by no means entry-level so they may be unknown to engineers and producers who haven’t spent hours trawling forums looking for the best-of-the-best speakers. The Sonodyne SRP400 are, more specifically, a two-way active near field monitor featuring a 4.5” Kevlar woofer and 1” Neodymium magnet high frequency transducer. They’re the second smallest of the SRP series of studio monitors. In use, the SP400s are balanced and honest. Over time their honesty can be a little fatiguing, but that’s the price you pay for a clear stereo image and honest sound. Stereo width and image can be clearly heard, referenced and mixed, while the high frequency response of the monitor is smooth and very present. The Sonodynes don’t let anything get past them without a solid look over to ensure your mixes translate on any and every speaker they could be played on. The Sonodynes would make a great main monitor, either in the baby SRP400 or up to the larger SRP800 with an 8” Kevlar woofer as opposed to a 4” one. The bottom end response of the 400s is present without


being overbearing, but the SRP400s are listed as responding only from 75Hz up to 22kHz, so be weary. The monitors are nice enough to be integrated into a full-time system with a subwoofer though, so don’t let the frequency response turn you away. Being so small in size, the monitors could easily also be slipped into a hard case and travelled with for mixing or songwriting on the road. The SRP400s are made from pressure die-cast aluminium and feature a custom waveguide around the high frequency transducer to ensure everything you need to hear in your sweet spot is available. On the back of the die-cast shell are a few little acoustic treatment controls such as bass tilt and treble tilt to ensure they sound as intended in any room. The inputs and power are recessed so that these speakers can be even less in the way than they already were (or weren’t), and feature XLR and 1/4” input jacks depending on what i/o you’ve got on your sound card. The crossover for the dual Class-H amplifiers is 3kHz, which assist the speaker in responding with such balance and power. The Sonodyne SRP400s feature an acoustic/bass port on the front of the speaker to assist in directing the sound to the right place: you. They also feature toroidal transformers to keep the biamplification running clean and quietly.

Overall, the Sonodyne SRP400s would be a great upgrade from a budget monitor, or for someone with an existing monitoring system who need some extra flavour. Main monitors are great, but more monitors are better. The Sonodyne SRP400s, as well as any of the other speakers of varying sizes in the SRP range, would serve a producer of any level really well. They’ll tell you what you need to know to get your recordings and mixes out as quickly as possible. The speakers run cleanly, quietly, sit inconspicuously and will continue to produce great, honest and balanced sound when you need them - whether that’s every day or as a point of reference when working through tough mixes. BY LEWIS NOKE EDWARDS

HITS: ∙ Small, portable ∙ Balanced sound regardless MISSES: ∙ N/A.



YOUR JOURNEY WITH YOUR PERSONALISED SOUND In the professional world beyerdynamic headphones and headsets are where perfect sound and technical intelligence meet. What makes the new LAGOON ANC unique is that whether Active Noise Cancelling is activated or not, it sounds excellent. With our innovative MOSAYC sound personalisation App MIY, on your smartphone, your Lagoon can be adjusted to suit your individual hearing profile. In addition, when listening to music via your smartphone the App monitors the intensity of headphone use; being both volume and time; keeping track of healthy listening sessions. Enjoy soothing silence or immerse yourself in music; after all you deserve the best! www.beyerdynamic.com.au





One of the most exquisite experiences known to humankind is the process of having an item of clothing tailored to fit your body. Often subconsciously we express so much of ourselves with the choices we make in our dress before venturing out into the wild each morning. Some people take more pride in their appearance than others that’s for sure, and if the old adage ‘clothes maketh the man’ is anything to go by, those of us who do take that care have a distinct head start over those who lackadaisically slap on any old garb. All ‘what side does sir dress on’ jokes aside, when you don a vestment that fits you and you alone and the fabric and colour suit your mood exactly, you feel it in your soul. You walk taller, address situations more confidently, and you take things in stride that would usually get under your skin. Interestingly enough, this peacock instinct rings just as true in the gear world. From the colour and wear of the finish of your favourite vintage Strat to the height of your stack, there are more variations on the theme of musical self expression than in most other facets of existence. The digital age has brought about a number of products that play gleefully into the hands of this concept. Modeling amps and floorboard units abound, each promising unmitigated combinations and permutations allowing you to dial in the entirety of sonic history at the click of a drop down box. Positive Grid was one of the first companies to bring this hive-mind mentality to the fingertips of smartphone and tablet users the world over in their BIAS Amp line of apps, and have expanded to include both Mac and PC users in their stable. They


subsequently entered the world of hardware a few years ago with the BIAS Head. I had the pleasure of reviewing one as one of my first forays into the modeling world and was struck dumb by the limitless possibilities the physical product afforded me even before plunging into the software. As such, I had a reasonable idea of what I was in for when faced with these two new miniaturised versions I see before me. Before I get to the amps themselves, I have to make mention of the electronic brain of the enterprise, the software. This is, after all, where the vast majority of the tone shaping comes to life. Positive Grid’s software allows you to choose from hundreds of different amp models just as they appear in the real world, anything from the giants of the industry like ‘70s Plexis, British Class A Tube circuits, searing solid-state shredders and a plethora of others. Starting with those blueprints, you can swiftly and easily change out power transformers, pre and power tubes and their age and era of manufacture, capacitors that warm over time, tonal filtering and just about every possible thing there is to tweak about an amp. The cabinet well is just as deep. Speaker cone types and combinations, cabinet thicknesses, mic placement and even the parameters of the simulated room said cab is in is all up for grabs and ready to take with you wherever you’re playing. Whether you’re a guitar or bass player there are literally millions of different combinations on the menu even before you download the impulse responses designed by world-renowned artists and tone chasers. My head is spinning just thinking about it.

While it all sounds a lot, when you pour all of that infinite possibility into something as compact and lightweight as either of these heads, the whole thing becomes strangely easy and familiar. Both the bass and guitar MINI heads come loaded with sixteen factory presets that start the smoke clearing as soon as you plug in. From glassy Princeton clean tones to bluesy break up to abject sonic destruction, there is enough in tow from the get-go to simply set up and start playing. At this point, possibility turns to functionality and renders either or both units a perfect choice for those of us looking to downsize a touring rig, especially when you realise just how much of the 300 watts of output power you’re ever going to need. Once you have designed your own Tonehenge in the app and assigned it a destination onboard, you can zero in on the specifics of the room with the staggeringly simple three-band EQ, input gain and Master volume. This is where I genuinely preferred the MINI heads to their predecessor as this achingly simple final touchstone streamlines proceedings for those instances when there is just too much else going on. In soundcheck, this amount of distillation would prove a handy way to hone in without getting lost in the milieu and without proving to be little more than limitation. In many cases, this is where a lot of modeling units fall down. Any and all of them are, or at least should be, designed with the heady, anxiety inducing arena of live performance at the fore. The last thing anybody wants to do is spend a whole sound check reading a user manual or scouring the FAQs for answers when the drummer is

pilfering the rider. Positive Grid has done well to balance unmitigated possibility with on-the-fly functionality. This, combined with the surprisingly lightweight yet next to bulletproof all-metal housing, makes the MINI heads a particularly road-ready variation on the theme. We all want to leave as distinct and individual a mark on the world as we can. For many of us, looking to music as a chief means of personal expression is a direct reaction to this innate desire. While the digital age has opened up can after can of worms and the burden of choice weighs heavy on those who dare to wander down that rabbit hole, it is incredibly encouraging to know that companies like Positive Grid keep a watchful eye on real world application in designing their units. Both the guitar and bass versions of the BIAS MINI heads are two of the most user-friendly modelers I’ve come across, guiding you through the process of fully tailoring your sound to suit your every waking need. BY LUKE SHIELDS

HITS ∙ Limitlessness, simplicity, power and portability MISSES ∙ None





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Authentic Acoustic Strings ELECTRIC FACTORY | ELFA.COM.AU EXPECT TO PAY: SP – FROM $14.95 MARQUIS – FROM $16.95 LIFESPAN – FROM $24.95

Martin already make some of the best acoustic guitars on Earth, but with their newly updated line of Authentic Acoustic strings, they’ve now crafted the perfect strings to pair with their instruments. Strings are often the most overlooked and underrated aspect of a guitar. Sure, you can spend a small fortune on having the best gear possible, but even a newly minted OM42 or a vintage Gibson can’t live up to its full potential with a cheap, corrosive set of strings. To really bring out the tonal nuances of both your instrument and your playing, you need a set of high quality strings that are made to go the distance. That’s where Martin comes in. The historic acoustic brand have already been making strings for quite some time now, but their newly updated range pairs the latest technology with Martin’s renowned craftsmanship and attention to detail. Undoubtedly, these are player-grade strings. They’re ready to handle every sweatdrenched gig you throw at them and still intonate perfectly for the next three weeks of rigorous use. They feel better, sound better, and tune better than any string Martin have used before.


What’s more, they come in three distinct varieties to cover every base your creativity takes you to. First up comes the Authentic Acoustic SP Strings. Think of these as your workhorse string that you’ll want to buy in bulk and load your guitar cases with. The strings are braced with Martin’s highest ever tensile-strength core wire, so you don’t need to fret about breaking a string during heavier moments of playing. These are built to withstand the demands of today’s modern musician, capped off with tin-plating for added corrosion resistance. Once summer rolls around, I’m turning my strings to rust within 45 minutes of playing. Thankfully, the SP Strings manage to retain their brilliance without sacrificing any tone. Moving further through the range, you’ll find Martin’s Acoustic Marquis Silked. These are the Cadillac of guitar strings. If you’re looking for some extra protection for your fine guitar, these are the strings for you. Perfectly suited for vintage instruments, Martin have added a soft silk wrap to the ball ends of these strings to prevent wear and tear on the bridge and bridge plate as you play. What’s more, the tone is to die for. While this might not be apparent in a live mix, these are well worth stringing up

for a recording session where their tonal subtleties really come to life. A common criticism of ‘rust-proof’ strings is a clinical, dry tone. Often you’ll find that’s a sacrifice you’ll need to make for longer lasting, long-life strings. However, Martin has developed a solution to this problem: their Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 Strings. Using a brand new technology exclusively developed by Martin, these strings protect the core wire and the wrap wire to prevent corrosion and rust— all without compromising tone. At the end of the day, if you’re compromising tone, your strings are becoming more of a hindrance than they need to be. These make a wonderful addition to any gigging guitarist’s arsenal, able to withstand a series of long, sweaty stage situations without giving out. As an aside, the slightly duller tone garnered by playing them in for a few hours is just as stunning as a fresh set.

A new set of strings is probably the cheapest, most cost-effective way to upgrade your tone. And that’s something we can all get behind. BY JAMES DI FABRIZIO

HITS: ∙ Cost-effective ∙ Great feel ∙ Excellent intonation ∙ Corrosion resistant MISSES: ∙ None

If you’re compromising on your strings, then you’re compromising your guitar — simple as that. Martin have been making the world’s finest guitars for decades, so it comes as no surprise that their new range of strings fall into the same category. At the end of the day, what do you have to lose?



Pedal Power X4 Isolated Power Supply and X4 Expander EGM DISTRIBUTION | EGM.NET.AU EXPECT TO PAY: X4 - $219 X4 EXPANDER - $169 It’s an incredible time to be alive if you’re a guitarist. The realm of guitar pedals that currently exists is a never-ending rabbit hole of discovery, littered with thousands upon thousands of different effects to choose from. However, one crucial component is often overlooked when finalising your setup: the power supply unit. If you’re mainly a bedroom guitarist or only have one or two pedals, you may be able to get away with powering your stompboxes through a wall wart, disseminated through a daisy chain. But if you’re constantly gigging across several different venues with more than three pedals, you’re more than likely going to run into some noise-related issues. Depending on how ‘dirty’ the available power is, you might encounter unwanted artefacts including high-pitched whining, buzzing, or white noise. The same applies to naturally noisy pedals, or some devices that simply don’t play well with others – including your guitar, pickups, amplifiers, and other paraphernalia. Voodoo Lab’s Pedal Power X4 offers an extremely compact solution to these potential headaches. Both the Pedal Power X4 and its expander kit consist of the same core unit; the only difference being the inclusion of a power adapter with the main X4 package. Both bundles include four strips


of low-profile 3M dual lock tape, manuals, and four link cables. The expander kit assumes you already have an existing power source for the unit, but surprisingly doesn’t include a fifth link cable to power itself. Apart from the adapter, note that the X4 requires a 12V/400mA power source, which means you can’t piggyback it off another X4 unit. The power supply itself features four isolated 9V outputs capable of delivering a maximum of 500mA per output, if powered by the included AC adapter. It can easily power standard battery-operated pedals to delicate vintage circuits, ensuring no additional noise is generated in your signal chain. Its adorably small chassis is constructed solely from aluminum and weighs almost next to nothing. As per Voodoo Lab’s established aesthetic across their products, the X4’s looks are all business. Simple white font demarcates the four outputs and the single power input, with a red LED indicating operating status. Thanks to its incredibly miniature frame, this little guy can easily mount under pedalboards that don’t feature much clearance above ground – these include the ever popular PedalTrain Nano and Metro series. The X4’s manageable size also offers superior flexibility over larger, bulkier power

supplies. Detaching and reattaching the unit is a walk in the park, and really helps when you’re choosing between two differently sized boards for a gig. Want to power a simple four-pedal spread for a cozy bar gig? Done. Need something a little heftier for a larger crowd? Simply feed it from another power supply, and you’ve got an additional four isolated outputs ready to go. Furthermore, the X4 is designed to run at any input voltage, so you can say goodbye to pesky step-down transformers and adapters while you’re touring the globe. All in all, the Voodoo Lab X4 power supply is an excellent choice for almost anyone. You can rest assured knowing all your precious pedals are operating off the cleanest power available to them. BY EDDY LIM

HITS: ∙ Super lightweight ∙ Great build quality ∙ International input voltage MISSES: ∙ No included link cable in the expander kit



Stageman Floor Acoustic Preamp + DI PRO MUSIC AUSTRALIA | PROMUSICAUSTRALIA.COM.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: $239 The Stageman Floor is part of the Verdugo line of stompboxes from Chinese company NUX (pronounced new-ecks). Its central purpose is brusquely conveyed on its surface; the pedal functions as a compact acoustic preamp which doubles as a DI. With a myriad of controls, functions and effects, this pedal seeks to tick all the boxes on an acoustic guitarist’s wish list. The Stageman Floor is tonally based off the preamp section from the NUX Stageman AC-50 Acoustic Amplifier. At first glance, you’re greeted with a plethora of knobs and toggle switches, housed on top of a vintage cream-coloured enclosure. The bottom row of controls is simple enough, including a knob for gain and a simple three-band EQ. Peek at the top row, however, and things start to get interesting. Tucked away in the top left are controls for chorus and reverb, and scoop and notch toggle switches on the right. Hidden on the pedal’s head are toggles for piezo or magnetic pickup flavours and an extremely welcome ground lift switch. Other ports on this exhaustive list include a TRS effects loop insert, micro-USB port for firmware updates, an XLR DI out, an auxiliary input and a 3.5mm headphone output jack. Engaging the preamp with a Faith Guitars Venus Electro was soothingly pleasant.

While it certainly didn’t emulate a mic’d up acoustic guitar, the Floor Stageman was still able to capture the natural warmth and crisp highs of the Venus. The scoop toggle switch worked wonders for a great rhythm tone after removing some of the dominant middle frequencies. The notch switch was an interesting addition; after adjusting the frequency with the notch knob, you’re able to muffle the clacking attack produced by nails or a guitar pick striking the strings – perfect for a touchy PA system. The three-band EQ had a sweet range across the entire sonic spectrum. Low notes were instantly beefed up when the bass was increased, and my guitar chimed and sparkled when increasing the mid and treble controls. Even when turned up to full, the tones produced were surprisingly usable – the EQ never seemed to be overly harsh or overbearing. Onto the effects: the chorus is wonderfully light, and adds a beautiful double-tracked harmony at the lower settings. As you turn the knob up, multiple parameters are modified at once, including rate, speed and depth. Even when maxed out, the tone produced was still fairly usable – a similar sentiment shared with the EQ section. The reverb performed adequately, although it wasn’t anything to write home about.

But when used in conjunction with the chorus, a brand-new layer of tonal depth is immediately conjured. The footswitch that activates the chorus even doubles as a freeze control when held down, which – you guessed it – allows you to hold a ringing chord indefinitely. On the opposite footswitch is a rather rudimentary looper, which allows for 60 seconds of recording and an unlimited number of overdubs. Activating and deactivating the function requires both footswitches to be awkwardly stepped on at once. While it performs as advertised, I’d still recommend using a dedicated looper pedal for live use. At the end of the day, it’s pretty hard to complain about this pedal, considering the amount of value you’re getting here. The Floor Stageman is a solid pick for any acoustic guitarist looking for a greatsounding pedal/DI that covers all the necessary requirements for both recording or gigging. BY EDDY LIM

HITS: ∙ Great sound and EQ section ∙ Excellent number of features ∙ Good build quality MISSES: ∙ Awkward looper activation controls


Lagoon ANC Explorer Bluetooth Headphones SYNCHRONISED TECHNOLOGY | SYNTEC.COM.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: $599 beyerdynamic is the oldest audio company in the world that still remains active today. That’s not an exaggeration – the German audio equipment manufacturer has been family owned since 1924 and is still going strong, a handful of years shy of its century anniversary. Over the decades, beyerdynamic have remained a reliable choice for customers looking for excellent sound quality and craftsmanship. These qualities have successfully transferred over to the company’s latest offering – the Lagoon ANC Explorer, beyerdynamic’s first attempt at wireless noise-cancelling headphones which pack some nifty features hidden behind its lavish presentation. The beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC Explorer comes stowed in a matte black triangular hard case. It’s a great first impression; the hard case is rugged enough to withstand a careless toss into a backpack, yet remaining reasonably chic in its countenance. The colour scheme is absolutely gorgeous on the Explorer – the inclusion of dark brown stylishly complements its shades of grey and black. The headphones are mainly constructed from plastic and bolstered with aluminium for the headband and earcup extenders. The cushioning on the Lagoon ANC Explorer almost feels like memory foam; when depressed, it takes a moment for the pad


to fully recover. The bottom portion of the earcup cushions are slightly thicker than the top, allowing for an excellent natural seal when in use. When first switched on, an LED ring hidden inside the earcups’ interior glows to life, and an automated voice informs you about the remaining battery charge and the currently selected noise cancellation setting. The lights intelligently correspond to whatever action the headphones are currently performing. When pairing, they slowly pulse blue and white. I really can’t stress enough how slick this is – tiny external LEDs are now simply tacky in comparison. Initial impressions on sound quality were excellent; these cans instantly painted an incredibly wide soundstage, with a certain punchiness in the lower mids. beyerdynamic are well known for their stunning clarity in the bass end, and the Lagoon ANC Explorer firmly reinforces that notion. The midrange and top end both performed impeccably and never felt too compressed or shrill. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s Bandana presented booming kick drums and thumping basslines, while Thom Yorke’s ghostly, glassy vocals easily pierced through the synth-heavy haze on Anima. The controls are located on the right earcup and are simple enough to operate. One governs the power and pairing, while the

other selects between the ANC (automatic noise cancelling) stages. The noise cancelling feature works adequately; while it doesn’t provide complete isolation, it does a great job at eliminating almost all unwanted frequencies. Two levels of ANC filtering are available; I found level one to be perfect for daily commuting. Touch controls located on the surface of the right earcup were a breeze to use. The swipe gestures were incredibly responsive, and touch sensitivity could even be modified in the beyerdynamic’s MIY mobile app. The app itself offers an intriguing six-minute hearing test, examines the results, then produces a personalised EQ that claims to give you a “near perfect” sound experience. Furthermore, the MIY app tracks both the volume and amount of time you listen to music, warning you to take a break if your listening session has the potential to damage your hearing in the long run – how considerate. All in all, I was overly impressed by the Lagoon ANC Explorer. From its stylish looks to its excellent sound reproduction, it seems like beyerdynamic have knocked this one out of the park. It’s a brilliant choice if you’re looking for a durable, good-sounding and good-looking pair of wireless headphones. BY EDDY LIM

HITS: ∙ Excellent build quality and aesthetics ∙ Supremely comfortable ∙ Great sound reproduction MISSES: ∙ None



Dingbat Small Pedalboard EGM DISTRIBUTION | EGM.NET.AU | EXPECT TO PAY: $619 Voodoo Lab’s Dingbat pedalboards were first unveiled at Summer NAMM 2016. They come in a variety of sizes, ranging from a portable nano-sized board to a monstrous 2.6kg slab capable of hosting two power supplies on its underside. Voodoo Lab also offers a bundled package with each model; up for review here is the Dingbat small pedalboard, pre-installed with Voodoo Lab’s famous Pedal Power 2+. The Dingbat Small is the perfect blend of form and function. Measuring just 45.7cm wide and 19.7cm tall, this board is an excellent choice for the travelling musician. Everything you need to get going is included with this bundle, including barrel-type power cables, two reels of Velcro, and cable ties. The power supply is securely mounted on the board’s underside with tough steel brackets, affixed to the unit itself with a handful of screws and nuts. The build quality here is honestly second to none. Each Dingbat is meticulously crafted from American 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminium and is built in Sonoma County, California. The exemplary construction stems to all aspects of the board, including the perfectly aligned cut-outs for the power supply’s AC input jack and its courtesy AC outlet. While the larger Dingbat models allow for some flexibility in power supply

positioning, the small Dingbat board doesn’t allow for the power supply to be relocated and can only be used in its central location. In the same vein, heavy-duty rubber feet can be found at each bottom corner of the board, preventing any movement when the Dingbat is laid down. Gone is the traditional rail system from conventional boards, with Voodoo Lab instead opting for a perforated surface design for neat cable management. A centralized oblong dissection on the board’s surface allow for easy access to the Pedal Power 2+’s array of dipswitches. These switches correspond to each of the eight outputs on the power supply and grant different types of voltage switching options. When set to normal, each output operates at a standard 9 volts. However, when set away from normal outputs one to four operate at a higher voltage specifically for vintage BOSS pedals that require an ACA adapter. Output jacks five to six are able to power Line 6 modelling pedals, TC Electronic Nova pedals, and Eventide pedals with the appropriate link cables. Outputs seven and eight are interesting – when toggled away from normal, the voltage is halved down to around 4V. This simulates a worn, dying battery – perfect for transistor-based fuzz and distortion circuits.

To top it all off, the Dingbat comes in a classy red-and-black travel bag, complete with a shoulder strap. This was definitely another highlight; contrary to most other soft pedalboard bags available, the Dingbat’s case features a formidably thick wall of padding around all sides, and even includes a pair of Velcro straps inside to lock down your board. Amazing stuff. It’s not hard to see why the Pedal Power 2+ is a mainstay on so many players’ boards. Its isolated power eliminates ground loops and unwanted noise with ease, ensuring the best tone from your pedals is preserved. And when combined with the superlative

construction of the Dingbat, this could easily be the last pedalboard you ever need. BY EDDY LIM

HITS: ∙ Fantastic build quality ∙ Pre-installed PP2+ is a winner ∙ Best travel bag ever MISSES: ∙ Some special voltage cables not included


Eris E5 XT Monitors LINK AUDIO | LINKAUDIO.COM.AU | ENQUIRE FOR PRICING I’ve reviewed PreSonus gear before and I always say the same thing: they’re professional level products, that are built for artists of any level and always for a great price. From their interfaces to preamps and mixing consoles, or USB faders and monitors, they’re workhorse products designed to get the job done. The PreSonus Eris E5 XT are one such set of monitors that continue this legacy. The E5s feature a 5.25” low frequency transducer and 1” silk-dome high frequency transducer. They’re powered by Class A & B amps and feature balanced XLR/jack combo inputs as well as RCA if you need them. They’re honest, but in a flattering way. The E5 series are pleasing to listen to, as well as trustworthy - they could very easily be used as a main monitor. They’re one of the smaller speakers in the series,one that extends all the way up to the mammoth Eris E66 (dual 6.5” active monitors with a tweeter), or the smaller Eris E3.5 and E4.5 with speakers whose size I’m sure you can figure out. In use, the E5 XTs are great. They’re very balanced after plugging them in with ease via the 1/4” part of the combo input jacks. They have very forward high frequency response, and very controlled but honest low end for such a small speaker. If these can reproduce honest low end with intuitive design and a 5.25” speaker, I can’t imagine what the E44 and E66 must be capable of.


I could confidently mix a record on the E5s, and know I was hearing every potential pain point. There’s no need for a car test with these monitors, as quickly switching between reference tracks highlights just how focused the bass is. It’s not hyped, but the bottom end is very present, forcing you to make those low frequency instruments work together. The mids are balanced and true again, and can quickly highlight issues or mid-range instruments (i.e. almost all of y’all) that are too forward when not required to be. As a main mix monitor, the PreSonus E5s can absolutely be trusted mix after mix and session after session. The speakers feature bi-amplification and are rated at 70 watts. This means that different types of amplifiers are powering different parts of the frequency spectrum - depending what kind of sound you’re after. There’s a crossover at certain points, and part of the reason these small speakers respond so well to low frequency information, and even at low volumes, is because of this bi-amplification. In addition to this, the speakers feature a front-firing acoustic port, so the bass is present and not blasted behind the speakers and into a wall or empty space. Despite bottom end being difficult to pick in a stereo field, this addition really helps the bottom end remain present and balanced. A trick often used to reset your ears and

check mixes is to dim the mix for a moment, and these speakers continue to respond phenomenally well even when dimmed. Featuring a multitude of different connection options is, admittedly, fairly standard, but still a massive tick for the PreSonus E5s. Overall, anyone could benefit from a pair of these monitors, from the E5s up to the bigger E66s and anything in between. They can be your main squeeze or a trusty friend for triple-checking a mix, but whatever role you hire them for, they’ll do it. The Eris E5s specifically produced a startlingly balanced sound from such a small speaker. They work the same at different volumes, and aren’t grating or fatiguing on the ears for extended

periods of time (believe me, I dove into some work as soon as I unboxed them). They’re honest, they’re affordable and they look great. What was your excuse again? BY LEWIS NOKE EDWARDS

HITS: ∙ Balanced ∙ Affordable MISSES: ∙ N/A


50s Stratocaster The


in Seafoam Green.

Player: Christone “Kingfish” Ingram



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(Record Store & Café) A | 268 Victoria Road, Marrickville, NSW P | (02) 9572 6959 E | soundsespresso@hotmail.com W | soundsespresso.com.au /soundsespresso

(Music Instruments Retailer) A | 280 Victoria Rd, Gladesville NSW P | (02) 9817 2173 E | mail@guitarfactory.net W | guitarfactory.net / GladesvilleGuitarFactory

(Music Instruments Retailer) A | 1267 Pacific Hwy, Turramurra NSW P | (02) 9449 8487 E | general_sales@turramusic.com.au W | turramusic.com.au / TurramurraMusic

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W I L L @ F U R S T M E D I A . C O M . A U







Damon Bredin Guitarist for Gravemind What piece of equipment do you have to show us today? My ESP E-II NT-7B Tiger Eye Fade Guitar with Seymour Duncan Nazgul and Sentient pickups, mahogany body with a quilted maple top, maple neck and an ebony fretboard. How did you come across this particular item? It was an Australian exclusive run of E-II’s that came through Guitar Factory Parramatta last year, one being the Tiger Eye and the other being the Deep Blue E-II, both limited to five units so it was a quick and easy decision to make about buying one. ESP guitars have always been the most comfortable to play for me personally and the addition of a Hipshot bridge sold it for me. What is it that you like about it so much? The Luminlay side dots. There’s nothing worse than playing a show and having the lights go dark halfway through a song with no idea where you are. They’ve saved me so many times. That aside, the Hipshot bridge makes it a lot more comfortable to play, the push/push coil split is a lot of fun and I really love the look of having no inlays on the fretboard. How do you use it and how has it shaped the way you write music? I use it as my primary guitar for live shows and it’s my go to guitar when I’m writing and recording. Getting a new guitar is always exciting to start writing with and it can provide an initial burst of inspiration but I found more while recording our debut album that experimenting with different tunings helps the ideas flow a lot more and this guitar holds everything pretty well considering we play in such a low tuning. Tell us a little about what you have coming up? We have Dead of Winter Fest in Brisbane on Saturday July 13, our debut album Conduit coming out on Friday July 19 through Greyscale Records and the Greyscale Showcase on Saturday August 10 - with a lot more to be announced in the coming months!

Michael Petritsch Guitarist for Gravemind What piece of equipment do you have to show us today? My Matte White ET Guitars Avenger FM7 multiscale seven string with single BKP Impulse in the bridge How did you come across this particular item? It was a partially custom order on a run of overseas production models that ET were doing at the time. Spoke with Ernie (Taylor) at the Melbourne Guitar Show and the specs were absolutely perfect for our low tunings and sound, plus Ernie let me spice it up with some custom wood and hardware choices at little to no extra cost What is it that you like about it so much? It is super light and an absolute pleasure to play. Essentially a fully custom spec rig, but was nowhere near a custom shop price. It’s an absolute workhorse that I feel confident taking on the road, and have not had a single issue with it since it was delivered two years ago. Also looks much classier than I do with its gold Hipshot hardware on the white finish. How do you use it and how has it shaped the way you write music? Damon writes all the music in our band, so I just use it to jump around on stage like a madman, and its light weight has definitely minimised the amount of back pain when on tour. The very comfortable and gradual fan fret also certainly makes his cheekily difficult riffs much easier to play than they would be otherwise Tell us a little about what you have coming up? Our debut album Conduit is being released Friday July 19, and we are so stoked to share it with the world. We are also excited to be performing at Dead of Winter Festival in Brisbane on Saturday July 13 and most importantly the Greyscale Showcase at the Corner Hotel on the Saturday August 10. Conduit will be released on Friday July 19 via Greyscale Records.




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