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TABLE OF

CONTENTS

22

TABLE OF CONTENTS

VOLUME 28, ISSUE 2

cover story

COURTNEY BARNETT by Chris Davidson

DEPARTMENTS 4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 5. VINYL OF THE MONTH: Videogram 7” 6. Why the Spotify IPO Should Scare You 8. Facebook Advertising for Musicians 10. GEAR GUIDE: How to Record Drums in the Studio

CUT CHEMIST by Dana Forsythe

18

16. GEAR TEST: Mackie Home Studio Makeover 26. Guitar Upgrades for Every Player: Pickups and Tuners 32. GEAR REVIEWS: featuring Telefunken, Focusrite, IK Multimedia, Ultimate Ears, Universal Audio, Yamaha and more… Cover

Ian Laidlaw

PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 3


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

LETTER I

from the editor

recently bought a few watches. Now, before you get visions in your head, I assure you they’re nothing too fancy; there’s no Rolexes on an editor’s salary. But I love them, and I’ll wear them for years to come. I get no less enjoyment out of a watch because it’s powered by a Quartz movement than I would a watch driven by a mechanical movement. But in my research, I stumbled down the rabbit-hole of watch geek forums.

Come to find out, my enjoyment is actually wrong. At least, this is what I was led to believe by these so-called enthusiasts. No self-respecting person could possibly live with themselves if they were subjected to the utter humiliation that a Quartz watch would bring to their family’s good name. Now, in all seriousness, I couldn’t care less what anonymous people on the Internet think of my watch collection, nor do I take much stock in what the “right way” to build a watch is. What I care about are looks, price, reliability, and accuracy. All things handled with ease by modern Quartz movements. But it got me thinking. My modestly-priced watches all keep perfect time, require no maintenance, look great and will be reliable for years between battery changes. Mechanical watches are great and all (and expensive), and some are downright works of modern engineering magic, but to say that a watch that tells time is doing it the “wrong way” is asinine. What does this have to do with music? I recently had a discussion with a manufacturer of studio gear about the current state of music. In the course of the conversation, this person admitted a startling truth that I’ve heard echoed by many in the Pro Audio and MI industries, and that is the firmly held belief that “the kids these days are doing it wrong.” Meaning: they’re not recording things the way WE recorded it - you know, back when music was good! Like, in 1974! Now, I get the irony of manufacturers making gear for an audience they don’t think should be using such gear, but it strikes me almost as ridiculous as the watch snobs telling me my timepieces aren’t worthy of existing because they’re not built the same way as yesteryear. Well, I hate to break it to you, but yesteryear is fading in the rearview mirror. And if you don’t understand your customer, or worse, you belittle them because they don’t do things the way they were done in the 1960s, don’t be surprised if you have trouble pushing units when your current user base ages out of the market. Word to the wise: don’t insult potential customers (and future industry colleagues) because they have different means and methods to produce their music. If you really take the time to look, I think you’ll find much of the current Billboard chart was recorded “the wrong way.”

Benjamin Ricci

ABOUT US / Performer Magazine, a nationally distributed musician’s trade publication, focuses on independent musicians, those unsigned and on small labels, and their success in a DIY environment. We’re dedicated to promoting lesser-known talent and being the first to introduce you to artists you should know about. MUSIC SUBMISSIONS / We listen to everything that comes into the office. We prefer physical CDs, cassettes and vinyl over downloads. If you do not have a physical copy, send download links to editorial@performermag.com. No attachments, please. Send CDs to: Performer Magazine, Attn: Reviews, PO BOX 348, Somerville, MA 02143 CORRECTIONS / Did we make a heinous blunder, factual error or just spell your name wrong? Contact editorial@ performermag.com and let us know, cuz we’re big enough to say, “Baby, I was wrong.” EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS / In the words of our esteemed forefathers at CREEM: “NOBODY WHO WRITES FOR THIS RAG’S GOT ANYTHING YOU AIN’T GOT, at least in the way of credentials. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be sending us your stuff: reviews, features, photos, recording tips, DIY advice or whatever else you have in mind that might be interesting to our readers: independent and DIY musicians. Who else do ya know who’ll publish you? We really will...ask any of our dozens of satisfied customers. Just bop it along to us to editorial@performermag.com and see what comes back your way. If you have eyes to be in print, this just might be the place. Whaddya got to lose? Whaddya got?”

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Volume 28, Issue 2 PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143 CONTACT Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER William House Phone: 617-627-9919 bill@performermag.com EDITOR Benjamin Ricci ben@performermag.com DESIGN & ART DIRECTION Cristian Iancu EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Bob Dobalina editorial@performermag.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Chris Devine, Chris Davidson, Dana Forsythe, Maddy Raven, Michael St. James, Nick Ray, Rob Tavaglione CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Ian Laidlaw, Pooneh Ghana, Joseph Armario, Chris Devine, Nick Ray ADVERTISING SALES William House Phone: 617-627-9919 bill@performermag.com © 2018 by Performer Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher. The magazine accepts no responsibility for unsolicited recordings, manuscripts, artwork or photographs and will not return such materials unless requested and accompanied by a SASE. Annual Subscription Rate is $30 in the U.S.; $45 outside the U.S.


REVIEWS

Videogram

Test Subject 011 (7-inch) (SelectaVision Records)

Benjamin Ricci

T

he SelectaVision debut by Videogram (aka Sweden’s Magnus Sellergren) is an open love letter to not just Stranger Things, but everything in the 80’s VHS Horror world. Pulsating synths fire off oddly-danceable, hypnotic rhythms and incongruously ominous melodic phrases hover above it all simultaneously. A-Side “Test Subject 011” sounds as if a long-lost Italian disco version of a vintage John Carpenter soundtrack was unearthed and pressed to wax somewhere in Europe. While the artwork and track titles are obvious nods to a cetain Netflix hit series, the music itself is achingly evocative of retro synthbased horror scores of the early 1980s. This is

especially apparent in the B-Side, “Dr. Brenner,” which again utilizes a hypnotic, frenetic rhythm and almost-but-not-quite clichéd analog synth sounds, mixed with primitive vocal cut-samples and classic filter sweeps. Think of it this way – if Fabio Frizzi had scored The Neverending Story, you might have ended up with something strikingly similar. For fans of old school slashers and those who miss browsing the aisles of Blockbuster for the latest horror releases on VHS, this contemporary re-imagining of a lovable niche genre is just the ticket to bring you back to those glory days. For more info, visit www.facebook.com/ videogramSWE PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 5


MUSIC BUSINESS

WHY SPOTIFY’S IPO SHOULD SCARE THE SH*T OUT OF YOU

S

o, Spotify is finally pulling the trigger on their IPO -- well, sort of. It’s a direct listing but by the time you read this, the company should be listed on the NYSE as $SPOT. Now that they will be publicly traded, music journalists must be a bit more careful in what they say about the company, and that includes me. Let’s start here: I’m not a shareholder, nor do I plan to purchase any shares privately or publicly of common or preferred shares. I’m a premium subscriber, and have been since the first month they launched in the U.S.; and lastly, I am not a stock expert and nothing written here should be seen as financial advice. There, disclaimer satisfied. Now, let’s get into it. If you are just a casual fan who loves their streaming service and are amazed by having all of the world’s songs (mostly), in your pocket, for free or just $9.99/mo, don’t worry just yet. The worst that may happen to you is a) the free tier will most likely disappear and b) premium pricing will rise by at least 50%, but neither will happen immediately. However, if you’re considering investing, or are a participating rights holder on Spotify’s platform (artist, label, publisher, songwriter), you should be scared sh*tless. Let me tell you why. First, understand why companies do traditional initial public offerings (IPOs). It’s meant to be an exit for founders and first investors, a way for them finally to become actual millionaires and billionaires with the public’s money, not just rich on paper. Other reasons range from raising money at more attractive rates rather than floating more debt, creating an acquisition target mark for valuation, to overall company awareness. Here’s where it gets murky. One reason for a direct listing instead of a traditional IPO is that no bank will take your company public. Meaning, your valuation and future is too risky to set a market rate. Spotify has been rumored to go public since 2014 -- Google it. There is a reason why they haven’t, there’s a reason why they went trolling for money last December from Tencent. Here’s another reason: current shareholder equity doesn’t become diluted. Blah. Blah. Blah. This isn’t about stocks. I just want you to understand Spotify is not your average IPO; this isn’t Facebook going public. Spotify is not here to save the music industry. They are here to make billions, and billionaires. What they are doing is hoping that you, as a music lover (and musician),

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and your Mom and your Uncle who love Spotify, will buy stock in them, because major institutions sure as hell won’t. There is no lockup, meaning that current shareholders (except Tencent) can unload their shares. Here are just a few reasons why you need to be worried. THE BUSINESS MODEL If Spotify went bankrupt tomorrow, there is nothing to sell. A bunch of Macs, some T-shirts, and an algorithm. That’s it. The business is dependent on paying licensing fees yearly. The company reported revenue of $4.99 billion last year, but just like every year in its existence, Spotify did not make a profit in any quarter, and in fact, lost $1.5 billion in 2017. The only reason they didn’t lose more is because they negotiated lower royalty rates with major labels which also own a piece of the company. That means the regular rights holders get paid less, so that the labels get their nut. And this is the most dangerous part. The only way they can make money is by paying us all less than we are due. But, major labels’ profit has been rising from Spotify payouts overall as they participated in killing physical sales, so they don’t give AF about the ecosystem. PUBLIC COMPANIES MUST PERFORM HYPER-GROWTH EVERY QUARTER FOR SHAREHOLDERS What can Spotify do to drive growth unless they open a label themselves? Fire people? Raise prices?

VIDEO I asked a Q on Twitter, “What was the last video you saw on Spotify?” The number one answer was “Spotify has video?” Exactly. Do you get your podcasts through Spotify? Probably not. Will you buy merch? Probably not. How about this new rumored hardware solution? Chances are you already have Alexa or something like it. LAWSUITS The company faces a $1.6 billion lawsuit from Wixen Music Publishing. SUBS DROP If fake click-streams are ever addressed, subs will drop, so will the stock. SHADY PLAYLISTING Music from UMG, SME, WMG, and Merlin accounts for 87% of all streams. If you aren’t on those labels, you probably aren’t getting equal access streams. I will follow up on this article as things develop. And now, I will go hit my Daily Mix on Spotify! ABOUT THE AUTHOR -Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.


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MUSIC BUSINESS

MUSIC PROMOT FACEBOOK – IS I photo by Hamza Butt

F

or brands, Facebook is arguably one of the best advertising platforms available -with the ability to target specific interests, companies can ensure that with the right demographics they can advertise directly to their audiences and hopefully convert their message to a sale. But when you’re promoting your music on Facebook, does it necessarily gain you anything? We often hear bands ask us about promoting their music on Facebook, and how they’ve seen such great results with other bands, some reaching as many as 500,000 views! We don’t believe that one Facebook view = one YouTube view, as they are completely different things; in fact, if we had to nail down a ratio,

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we’d say that 1,000 Facebook views = one YouTube view. This is because of what actually counts as a view on each platform. With YouTube, if someone has clicked your video, you can be pretty sure that they are watching the video with very little else going on around their screen, you can be reasonably sure that the sound will be enabled and they may even listen to your music while they browse in other windows on their computer. But for Facebook, this level of engagement and attention isn’t what is involved with one singular view; one view can simply be someone scrolling past your video in their feed while it plays. For a company this is okay, maybe they

are raising brand awareness or are only just beginning to launch their product and a slight glance at their branding will be useful to them, but for a music video this is useless to you. For a start, the sound isn’t enabled by default on videos for Facebook feeds, which means you have the challenge of persuading your audience to unmute the video. Not only do you have the challenge of getting the user to enable sound on the video, you are battling against the frame of mind of the user -- they aren’t (typically) scrolling through their Facebook feed to listen to music, or to discover new music, and even if they are there is a high level of potential distractions, such as Facebook Messenger and the other content on the news feed (including boosted posts and sidebar ads in


MUSIC BUSINESS

OTION ON S IT WORTH IT? Maddy Raven, PR Manager for Burstimo the desktop version) that your video is sharing the screen with. So, advertising a music video on Facebook probably isn’t a great idea, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of the Facebook advertising platform. To promote your music on social media you need to create a content strategy, to engage your audience and get them to like your page. Social media is called ‘social’ for a reason, the more people you are interacting with the more loyal they will be. You need to create a strategy so that when you do launch that music video, your fan base will share it. This can be achieved by creating a content strategy and a theme for your page. You can do this by creating unique videos, or creating

content yourself about something that your audience may be interested in. Whether this is done in video format, audio or a blog, putting out content which engages followers and potential followers and creates a returning audience will build the loyalty and fan base which is needed to get the reward of shares and views on your music video. This is where you can use the Facebook advertising platform to push your content and convert the viewers in to likes on your page. You can create content focused around something you are an expert on and educate your audience, or you can entertain people with videos you have created yourself or simply document your journey of becoming a professional musician. It would be a mistake to

choose your theme because you think “there is a big audience” – instead we recommend that you be real, be yourself and the right audience will find you. BONUS TIP: Always be interacting with your audience in all of the content you publish. Be sure to be open to questions, and respond to every single comment whether it is good or bad; you will generate a loyalty and a sense of interactivity from your fans. You are building a community, not just a fan base.

Editor’s note: This is a guest article from the team at Burstimo. For more social media tips head to www.burstimo.com or contact Burstimo’s Head Of Digital Alex at alex@burstimo.com.

image courtesy of Joe The Goat Farmer PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 9


GUIDE

How to Record Drums: Snare and Kick

co-presented by

10 APRIL/MAY 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


GUIDE PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 11


GUIDE THE BEST MICROPHONES FOR RECORDING SNARE DRUMS As we mentioned in part one of our series on recording drums [ed note - see last month’s issue or head to performermag.com], the snare is all about attack, and capturing that attack is the key to a (traditional) snare sound. We recommend good quality dynamic instrument microphones, or condenser microphones with high SPL ratings to really get the “thwack” attack that will form the rhythmic punch of your track. The better the mic is at handling the initial loud hit of the snare, the less likely you’ll be pushing your preamps into the red and causing non-musical, unwanted distortion or clipping in your drum mix. If you’re recording to tape, though, you can always try experimenting with a slight push into tape saturation; you may find that rock drums benefit greatly being “pushed” a tad, using the analog tape medium as a musical “glue” to hold a slightly hotter drum mix together in an aurally pleasing way. POSITIONING MICROPHONES AND TECHNIQUES TO RECORD SNARE DRUMS Here are some tips from our friends at AudioTechnica on snare drum recording techniques: 1. Try using two mics on the snare, one above and one below. Above, we’d recommend a hypercardioid dynamic instrument mic, like the ATM650. This will capture the snare’s attack without clipping due to the high attack volume. On the bottom, as mentioned previously, you can choose to use another dynamic instrument mic or go with a nice condenser that’s spec’d at high SPL. PRO TIP: make sure the bottom mic is flipped out of phase at the preamp stage so that 12 APRIL/MAY 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

you’re not canceling out waves and ending up with an unnaturally “thin” snare attack in the mix. 2. As far as positioning goes, get as close as possible without clipping; the thing to avoid is a mic placed too far from the snare, as you’ll not only lose the attack you’re seeking, but more troublesome will be the bleed from your hi-hat, toms and cymbals that’ll be picked up by the mic and muddy your mix. Try to position the top microphone between your hi-hat and rack toms, and remember that the closer you get to the snare head, the boomier and more low-end frequency accentuation can occur. To combat this, you can angle the microphone closer to the middle of the snare head, which will help accentuate the attack and relieve some of this low-end pickup. 3. For the bottom mic (if you plan on going this route), you’ll again want to place the microphone as close to the bottom of the snare (and centered) as possible to minimize any potential bleed from the other parts of the kit, but not so close that it’s touching the actual drum. 4. Feel free to experiment. You could try topmiking with a single condenser and opt not to use any dynamic instrument mics at all. Sometimes this might suit a more dynamic or quiet playing style, such as jazz with brushes, as it’ll enable you to capture a slightly brighter top-end and open up your snare track in the mix. THE BEST MICROPHONES FOR RECORDING KICK DRUMS We called the snare the rhythmic punch of your drum track; conversely, the kick drum is the heart beat of your track. As stated in part one of this series, kick drums can be deceptively tricky

to record properly in the studio. If possible, we recommend using a large dynamic instrument mic inside the shell, for two specific reasons. First, it aids in capturing the organic “thump” and pound of the kick drum, plus it keeps the microphone from picking up other parts of the kit. Bleed is not something you want in a tight bass drum sound, so do everything you can to isolate the inside mic, and you’ll help avoid that issue when it comes time to mix. You’ll also likely want to place a close mic outside, in front of the head, to help round out the sound and get the fullest kick possible for mixing. POSITIONING MICROPHONES AND TECHNIQUES TO RECORD KICK DRUMS Here are some additional tips from our friends at Audio-Technica on kick drum recording techniques: 1. For the inside mic, dead-center placement is actually not optimal. An off-center approach to placement will assist in capturing a stronger lowend kick. 2. Feel free to experiment with how close and far you position this inside mic from the head; this will alter attack and low-end, so adjust to taste. 3. If you’re placing a secondary mic in front of the resonant head, try keeping it away from the direct center of the hole so it’s not picking up too much of the batter head. 4. You can opt for a dual-element cardioid instrument microphone, like the AE2500, which will capture the top end attack with its dynamic element, and the lower frequencies and thump with the condenser portion.


TIPS FOR MIKING OVERHEAD DRUMS One practical reason professionals will place a pair of overhead mics above a drum set, either during tracking sessions or live gigs, is to capture a stereo image of the full kit, that can then be panned to left and right speakers in the mix. This aids in capturing the “fullness” of the entire drum set, which can be further complemented by individual miking on snares, toms, cymbals, etc.

3. ORTF. Similar to the set up above, you’ll use a pair of cardioid condenser mics, this time spaced slightly apart and not at a 90-degree angle like the X-Y configuration, but rather at a 110-degree angle from one another.

Our friends at Audio-Technica have a few handy tips for overhead miking techniques.

1. Positioning. If you place the mic on the outside edge of the hi-hat, you kill two birds with one stone. For starters, you’ll be keeping the mic out of the way of the drummer, which is always a good thing. And second, you’ll help isolate the hi-hat from the rest of the kit, which can be helpful to either eliminate bleed and/or raise/ lower the hi-hats themselves in the overall mix, independently of the overall balance.

1. Dual, Spaced-Apart Cardioid Condensers. Combining a set of AT4050’s above your kit gives you some options for capturing the stereo image in an easily adjustable manner. Keeping both mics the same distance from the snare will be key, but you can experiment with overall height to play with the balance of the sound, and can position the mics closer or farther apart from one another to affect the overall stereo imaging. More distance usually equates to a wider image, all things being equal. 2. An X-Y Overhead Setup. Alternatively, you could try an X-Y configuration with your overhead mic setup. Use two cardioid condensers with the elements as tightly together as you can get them at a 90-degree angle. Keeping this arrangement centered above the snare will help keep it (the snare, that is) focused in your stereo image, and making sure the entire configuration is high enough will eliminate most phase issues that can arise from splashy cymbals passing through the field.

TIPS FOR MIKING HI-HATS Audio-Technica also has a number of helpful tips for miking hi-hats. Here are a few of our favorites:

2. This might seem like a no-brainer, but make sure the mike is positioned high enough above the hi-hats so as not to interfere with the opening and closing. You’d be surprised how many times we see mics placed too close to unopened hi-hats at live gigs, only to be knocked over the second the drummer starts using the pedal to open and close them. Oops! Something that can easily be avoided. 3. The closer your mic is to the bell, the more focused the sound will be. That goes for live and studio situations. 4. If you are placing the mic on the outside edge of your hi-hats, experiment with nonparallel positioning. When you close the hi-hats using the foot pedal, there’s a lot of air being

GUIDE

How to Record Drums: Miking Overhead Drums and Cymbals

pushed around, and a big attack like that can spike or possibly damage fragile diaphragms, especially in smaller condenser mics. TIPS FOR MIKING RIDE CYMBALS And lastly, we’ll close out this installment with a few more practical techniques for miking your ride cymbals, again courtesy of our friends at Audio-Technica. 1. Positioning/Placement. Like most parts of the kit, you’ll want to place the mic close to the source to eliminate bleed; just be careful with the ride because a mic positioned to close to the cymbal can add unwanted lowend boom that will muddy up a mix. Typically, you’ll want to accentuate the percussive nature of the cymbal, so placing the mic about halfway between the edge of the cymbal and the bell can aid in this goal. Keep in mind your overheads will pick up a lot of the slack when it comes to low-end fullness, so focus on capturing the attack for elements like the ride. 2. Stereo Imaging. Stereo placement is crucial to a great drum mix. Phil Spector might not agree, but hey, it’s not the ’60s anymore. Placing the elements of your kit properly in the left, right and (phantom) center channels will make the drums sit well amongst the rest of your mix, and will spread out and “de-congest” the overall balance of the track, as opposed to drums that are centered down the middle with no thought to proper spatial placement and panning. In short, once you find the right placement of the ride mic, use it to complement your overheads in the mix, and experiment with panning the ride individually to see where that attack sits best in your overall drum mix. PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 13


GUIDE

How to Record Drum Compression and Ro

14 APRIL/MAY 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


GATED REVERB FOR DRUMS The “gated” drum sound so closely identified with the 1980s was, as legend has it, discovered by accident as Phil Collins was tracking drum parts for the Peter Gabriel album often referred to as Melt (though it’s really self-titled). Now, the truth behind that is up for debate -- the gated reverb sound was actually used on an XTC record as early as 1979, a year before Gabriel’s album -- but what remains is an instantly identifiable sonic signature that you can recreate, even in a project or home studio environment.

your DAW to affect the attack, release and threshold parameters to taste. A little goes a long way, though we do recommend slowing down the attack considerably. Once you have the copied track where you want it, compression-wise, mix both versions together to taste. You’ll likely want to use this as a subtler effect in your mix, so the duplicated track with compression will typically end up a bit lower in the mix; but again, it’s all up to taste. USING THE ROOM AS AN EFFECT ON YOUR DRUM RECORDINGS We focus so much on close-miking techniques to really capture the punch of the snare, or attack of the cymbals, that we often overlook room miking as an effect on its own.

The gated reverb sound is used as an effect to really make the drums sound punchy and clean, though a combination of employing reverb and noise gates. In the early days, this would have been achieved in a large commercial studio, as you needed a big live room with lots of natural reverberation and reflections for the effect to truly work properly. Nowadays, though, we can get a similar sound without the need for a live room. To start, close mic the drums you’ll be applying the effect to. Again, no need to worry about room mics or ambient mics, since in a home or project studio, we’ll use hardware or software effects to create our reverb. Take the audio you’re close-miking and run that into your reverb unit (either hardware or digital), then route that to your noise gate’s signal input. Take the same close-miked audio from the step above, and feed that right into your noise gate’s key input. From there, it’s just a matter of mixing to taste. You can take both the unprocessed (dry) and processed (wet) signals and combine them how you see fit for the style of the track. Experiment with each, and you’ll find what works best. Typically, the effect is really used to accentuate the oomph of the snare drum (and secondarily, the kick). It’s a powerful impact when you hear it done well, and doesn’t necessarily have to be an “80s sound” if placed in a contemporary setting. BONUS TIP: you can use a similar routing

GUIDE

ums: Gated Reverb, Room Ambiance

set-up for gigs, too, if you want to recreate the desired sound from your recorded tracks in a live setting. COMPRESSION TIPS FOR DRUM RECORDINGS Compression is one of those oftenmisunderstood terms when it comes to the studio. In a nutshell, audio compression (depending on your settings) reduces the signal (volume) of the loudest passages of your recording, and amplifies the quiet passages, so that the overall balance of the sound is somewhat “squished,” albeit in a musical way. Compression is one of the key tools used in the mastering stage of your music, and can be applied tastefully to your recorded drum tracks to great effect, as well, even before mastering. One cool technique in the studio is to employ compression by mixing a dry signal with a compressed one to help subtly thicken the sound. Start with your basic drum track. In your DAW, copy that to a new track so that you have two identical versions of your drums. Next, you can either route that to a hardware compressor unit and then back into the DAW, or more simply use a compression plug-in within

Back before mega-huge consoles and unlimited virtual tracks, drums were often recorded with a few simple room mics, in (gasp!) mono. And while you’re likely not putting out music in mono, try soloing your room mics during your drum tracking sessions to get a feel for what you’re capturing. One thing you can do is employ that “room” sound you’re picking up from your overhead mics as an effect during quieter passages of your songs. Try this: let’s say a verse is really quiet and stripped back, compared to the rest of the song (dynamics ftw!); during those parts, experiment with mixing in the drum sound captured by your ambient or room mics, and utilize phase-shifter plug-ins or hardware effects to add a subtle “swirl” to the sound. What this can do is make the drum track feel more distant (in a good way) and textured in an interesting way, sonically. We recommend using very slow settings when it comes to phasers and flanger effects, as too much will make things sound like a jet engine taking off. Go for subtlety and you might be surprised at how interesting it can be when laid into a track’s quieter moments. CLOSING THOUGHTS We hope this guide has provided some helpful tips and we recommend you check out additional parts of the series and more drum recording resources at performermag.com. And be sure to check out the entire range of Audio-Technica instrument microphones at www.audio-technica.com. PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 15


GEAR TEST 16 APRIL/MAY 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


Nick Ray

[Editor’s Note: before the New year, we challenged our readers to enter the Mackie Home Studio Makeover promotion, whereby we’d hook up one lucky winner with home recording gear from Mackie (Onyx Artist 1•2 USB Interface, Big Knob Studio and MR824 Studio Monitors), to upgrade their current gear, and to enable them to record an exclusive track with the products for premiere on performermag.com. We chose New Orleans artist Nick Ray, who demo’d the new gear in a series of videos for us, and ultimately used the products to record a brand-new track called “The Voice,” which we debuted on our site last month. Below are Nick’s final thoughts on the Mackie home studio products. For more, check out performermag.com and Nick’s YouTube channel.]

GEAR TEST

MACKIE HOME STUDIO MAKEOVER came time to mix “The Void.” It really helped me compare the mix with different monitors, including those I was sent, and those already installed in my home studio. I was able to use that as my central station tied into two sets of monitors and two headphones. When mixing a song, it is always good to have multiple sources to listen through. That’s where the Big Knob came in handy. It was easy to use and made my work flow faster. It also has a preamp in it. I didn’t realize this until later, but you can use it as an interface, as well! If you like all your audio sources connected to a central unit, this is the best one on the market hands-down!

ONYX ARTIST 1•2 USB INTERFACE The small-footprint Onyx interface is a great, quality product overall. The preamps were very quiet and clean. Good for recording vocals, guitars, bass and all other instruments. I would use this interface for any application, really. It’s also great for mobile purposes. I was extremely excited when I found out I won Performer Magazine’s “Mackie Home Studio Makeover”! Especially when I knew I was getting Mackie gear to record an exclusive track with! If you listen to my newest single “The Void” you will hear how the Onyx inference sounds on my vocals. Very warm...I’m impressed.

MR824 MONITORS If it wasn’t for these monitors “The Void” would not have come out the same. Flat response! Can’t stress that enough. These speakers provided me with a great, true representation of my mix. These monitors just made it easy when it came time to mix and master “The Void.” After mixing that track on these guys I noticed that any other source I played it on...the mix was accurate. Due to the quality of these speakers I didn’t have to reference as much because of how dead-on they were. They sounded equally great cranked or at low volumes. Overall all of these products were excellent and a great addition to my home studio! If you want to hear what they are capable of go check my newest single “The Void”!

BIG KNOB STUDIO The Big Knob came in handy when it

For more, visit nickrayband.com and Mackie.com PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 17


SPOTLIGHT 18 APRIL/MAY 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


Joseph Armario

SPOTLIGHT

ON DIE CUT, CUT CHEMIST LEARNS TO LOVE LIVE MUSIC Dana Forsythe

PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 19


SPOTLIGHT

A

fter almost three decades in the music business, Cut Chemist (aka Lucas MacFadden) is redefining himself, yet again. It’s been about 12 years since Cut Chemist released his highly praised debut The Audience’s Listening, a seamless mix of hiphop, Latin fusion, trip hop, funk, electronica and everything in between. In that time, the internet has upended the music business and being a DJ has become something completely different from what it once was. Before there was a glut of bedroom DJs using their laptops, MacFadden was carving out a place as one of the best sample-based DJ’s on the West Coast, carting around bins of records. In the ’90s, he helped start hip-hop favorites Jurassic 5, and was a founding member of Latin supergroup Ozomatli. After enjoying the success of his solo debut in 2006, he toured and recorded DJ Shadow, featured on countless DJ mixes and released the Madman EP.

It was Niño who first suggested MacFadden work with live instrumentation. At the time, Niño - an acclaimed producer, composer, musician and radio host who has worked with Ninja Tune and Warp Records - was working with a slate of musicians including drummer Deantoni Parks (Flying Lotus, John Cale, Photek) and bassist Lonnie “Meganut” Marshall (Joe Strummer, Weapon of Choice) and suggested MacFadden ask them to play. “I played Carlos a few tracks I had been working on and he suggested we expand a bit,” MacFadden says. “Deantoni flew in from Moscow where he was touring with John Cale and we got into the studio on Thanksgiving Day in 2010 and worked on six songs. It was incredible. I used all of it, both to scratch and as tracks.” Once the drum tracks were established, MacFadden said he could see it intertwining with the sample-based work that he had already put together.

“IT’S ABOUT GROWING AS AN ARTIST AND THE NEW RECORD DOES THAT.”

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Last month, Cut Chemist released his long-awaited sophomore release, Die Cut. According to MacFadden, work began on the album in 2010. Recently, he spoke with Performer about making the album, finding inspiration in a community of musicians, and how to make it in the music business in 2018.

“It wasn’t that hard to envision the rest,” he adds.

He says he started collecting samples for Die Cut about eight years ago, but after the loss of two family members that year, work stalled. He credits friend and collaborator Carlos Niño for getting him energized and refocused on the album.

“We had the Tune-Yards play on a couple of things, Nate Brenner played on upright piano and Merrill Garbus did a few vocal takes which I chopped up,” MacFadden says. “From my point of view, it was like assembling a full band for the project.”

“I was still touring with DJ Shadow and I started collecting samples and ideas for the new album,” he says. “But work really didn’t kick into high gear until I started working with Carlos Niño.”

Recording for the sessions took about two years to finish, MacFadden comments. The goal then was to blend those takes and arrange the new songs. He points to “Home Away From Home” and “Metalstorm,” two tracks on Die Cut

With Niño’s help, MacFadden assembled a team of collaborators including old Jurassic 5 friend Chali 2na, rap legend Biz Markie, TuneYards, Laura Darlington, DNTEL, Vox Populi and Myka 9 to work with on the album.


“These tracks don’t appear to have live musicians playing on them but they’re there,” he says. “I had a small learning curve with how much of the samples to blend, when and where you use them. I wanted to maintain my integrity as a sample-based producer, but I also wanted to blur the lines a bit.” On the song “Plain Jane,” which features Hymnal & The Precious Hectic, Cut Chemist does just that. The song is recorded live with MacFadden playing most of the instruments. “That was kind of my baby for this record,” he says. “I had been listening to rock and psychedelic records and that Eddie Kramer type of backwards guitar and it inspired a bit of this record in that it blended genres. It was a big test for me. I learned to listen and find where to push and where to pull back a little for that perfectly blended mix.” MacFadden recorded the acoustic track on the song on his father’s old Martin guitar. “It’s my favorite song for a couple of reasons, in that it was personal and a kind of a pivotal point” he says. Work on Die Cut took another backseat in 2013 when Jurassic 5 reunited and toured the world. MacFadden hit the road again soon after, touring with DJ Shadow supporting the Renegades of Rhythm project. This time, MacFadden was eager to return to the project. “I was drawn back into working with a band. It was a kind of Ozomatli environment. With that band, I could trade off solos with a tabla player and it felt like being a DJ was being a musician,” he says. “It was nice to not be so isolated and that’s what Carlos helped with, he brought in this community of people. It was really fun.” There is a plethora of collaborations on Die Cut but a few stand out to MacFadden as special, including his song with Biz Markie called “Moonlightin’”. “I’ve known Biz for about 20 years and it was just so amazing to work together,” MacFadden says. “Throwing him in the mix on a personal level was special. He’d call me up back in the day and we’d head out record shopping, maybe hang out and record. That day was no different.” MacFadden says he hadn’t seen Biz Markie for a while and he just wanted to hang out. “He comes by the house and we just started messing around with beats and he suggested we do a song,” he says. “He’s actually incredible because he had the sample and the song all

mapped out. I couldn’t really hear it at first but he has a great ear and it magically worked out.” He adds, “He went into the closet and just lit it up. That song is just a vibe. And that’s how it worked back in the day, you’d buy some records, hang out, listen and create.” While Carlos Niño may have provided personal inspiration for McFadden, ’80s dark ambient punks Vox Populi provided him musical inspiration. “They actually kicked off the whole record. I had used their music on a sample before when MySpace was still a thing. I asked them to send a few tracks and not only did they send original cassette recordings, they also sent new stuff, like little synth lines, etc.” he says. You can hear some of the work on “Rhythm Method,” which also features Myka 9. The result, “hip-hop for a dark alley” as MacFadden calls it, was the most aggressive collaboration on the album. “That tune probably took the most work,” he says. “It was a challenge figuring out how to balance all of the instruments on it. It was a pleasure to team up with Vox since I’ve been drawn to their proto-industrial [thing] for a while.”

Another factor MacFadden has had to consider is the long dead route of selling thousands of CDs first then touring to support them. “It’s all streaming and playlisting now,” he says. “I really don’t have an idea how it’s supposed to work. I’ve been scratching my head but it’s not just me, it’s the record companies, too. It’s a bit of a battle to make things work.”

SPOTLIGHT

that don’t sound like live tracks.

On the other hand, he said, vinyl copies of Die Cut are already sold out through the Cut Chemist Bandcamp page. “I even took it one step further with the records, doing custom covers,” he says. “I went to art school so I spent some time using spray paint and stencils to create one-of-kind covers for some of the albums, even doing custom covers for some of the cities I played.” In the end, MacFadden says he’s happy to be playing music and he’s achieved what he set out to do with the new record. “It’s about growing as an artist and the new record does that,” he says. “I’m trying to be more of a songwriter that loves hip-hop records. It’s going well and I’m happy digesting it all.”

As MacFadden points out, with changing technology musicians themselves have adapted to the times. “I think the invitation to DJ has changed with new tech,” he says. “It used to be that you’d have to collect and crate around records and that eliminates people right there. Now all you need is a laptop, so everyone can do it.”

Follow on Twitter: @cutchemist

That’s both good and bad, he adds. “There are certainly more people who really shouldn’t be DJs. They don’t have the turntable skills or the selections skills, but on the other hand it’s more open and that’s great. I recently saw a kid who was incredible on the turntables. He was this 10-year-old from Japan and should he be doing it? Absolutely.” For McFadden, it’s turned up the heat to produce more original music and push the envelope with his live show. “When I’m on stage I’m all about putting on a performance, not only with turntablism but with the myriad of media,” he says. “When I’m up there I’m also controlling a lot of visuals alongside the lighting guy. My performance is meant to be stimulating your ears and eyes.”

CUT CHEMIST DIE CUT STANDOUT TRACK: “WORK MY MIND”

PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 21


SPOTLIGHT Ian Laidlaw and Pooneh Ghana

Chris K. Davidson

COURTNEY� BARNETT Aussie Songstress Invites Us Into Her Creative Process

“He said ‘I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup And spit out better words than you’ But you didn’t Man you’re kidding yourself if you think The world revolves around you”

When did you first get a moment to really catch your breath and absorb all of the success of that first record? Honestly, it was just a constant thing that seemed to happen as I went along.

So sings Melbourne, Australia’s Courtney Barnett on “Nameless Faceless,” a song addressed to internet trolls and the first single released from her much-anticipated second LP, Tell Me How You Really Feel. This song is just the beginning as Barnett does not hold back in rest of the followup to 2016’s critically lauded Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Written and recorded amid a flurry of two years that included world tours, Australian Music Prizes, Grammy nominations and a collaboration with Kurt Vile (last year’s Lotta Sea Lice), the new album explores an unabashed direct communication style that is sometimes a struggle even with a million tools at our disposal.

What were some of your favorite memories from that time? Just so much travel and seeing places for the first time. That was really amazing. Also, meeting incredible people around the world and playing these big shows. People turning up and really connecting with the music. I think all of that was incredible and overwhelming.

Performer Magazine recently spoke with Barnett about the new record, establishing more human connections and finding inspiration in The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984.

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Which came first, the songs for this record or your collaboration with Kurt Vile? If these songs came first, why did you hold onto them? They were kind of happening at the same time. I can’t remember exactly, but I probably started my own album first, and then somewhere in between, Kurt and I started talking about our project and working on our songs. One of the songs I did with him was a really old idea of mine that I had just been hanging onto for a long time and didn’t quite know what to do with.

There’s no real reason why they went with the Kurt project first and not [my] new album. It’s obvious in some way, but I don’t know how (laughs). Upon first listen, a lot of these songs have lyrics like they could be conversations you have had since your career really took off. The chorus of “Help Your Self ” sounds like it could be someone who is concerned that you’re taking on too much as an artist or you’re venting your own thoughts. But the title of the new album suggests that you are the one speaking to the other person or listener. Is it either one or more of a combination this time around? I think it’s both and all. I don’t think there’s a real solid answer. I started writing about other people, but within that process, it becomes a reflection of yourself. It becomes a combined version where you just don’t quite know who you’re talking to, whether it’s yourself or someone else or people you know who are talking to you. I think it’s just a well-rounded version of being human with all of the communications and relationships that we encounter.


SPOTLIGHT PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 23


SPOTLIGHT

For someone who wrote a pretty biting takedown of internet trolls in “Nameless, Faceless,” you still keep a constant stream of interaction with your fans through social media and playlist sharing. How do you balance that optimism while still establishing healthy boundaries at this point in your career? I rely more on shows and performing and interactions, more human-facing interactions. I use a bit of social media, but not so much using it for interaction. Everyone is different though, and there is a fine line of how everyone works. The American filmmaker Joe Swanberg had a movie called LOL in 2006 that dealt with relationships via texting and early social networks and how disastrous they could be because of the lack of voice, tone and overt signals. Your record (and especially the song “Charity”) seems to echo this idea that 12 years later, we might be worse off with more options to communicate than ever. Totally. That’s a lot of what I’m trying to figure out, those kinds of communication issues and how it affects you and how it affects everything really. I know that bottled up feelings turn into hatred or resentment or fear. It’s a strange thing. Your first album featured an illustrated cover and this latest one features an upclose picture of yourself. What sparked that particular decision and why was red chosen as the filter color? Drawing has always been a partner-inprocess to writing and making music for me. For the last few albums I’ve incorporated illustrations into the album artwork because it was part of the story in a way. For this latest album, I wasn’t really drawing much at all, but I was taking a lot of photos. Mostly 35mm and Polaroid shots. I began a self-portrait series while sitting at my writing desk every day, documenting the writing process, wondering if I could capture the emotion. These were all shot on a special series of Impossible Polaroid red and black tinted film (I had a bunch on the shelf ). I didn’t do any Photoshop touch-ups, I just scanned it and left it as is. I liked this particular shot out of the whole series because it was an awkwardly close crop, with a few imperfections, but a strangely ambiguous look in my eyes. To help promote the album, you set up a link to your website so that people could tell you how they really felt in 250 characters. How did you come up with that concept and what were some of the more interesting responses that you received? I’ve actually been waiting until a bit closer to the release to look at them all, so I could go through them all at once. But then that will be part of another project that I will reveal later.

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SPOTLIGHT

“Everything I read, watch and listen to inspires me in little ways.”

The aforementioned “Nameless Faceless” has lyrics that were inspired by a Margaret Atwood quote from the novel and subsequent Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale. Were there any other books, films or art that informed the writing of this record? I watched The Handmaid’s Tale and read 1984 around the same time, so it was this really dystopian hole that I was in as well as watching the news and media coverage over time. Everything I read, watch and listen to inspires me in little ways, but nothing too grandiose. As an Australian who has been touring the world over the last several years, what do you think about what’s going on in America? I’ve been in America for a lot of the time and have been back and forth so much. It’s scary stuff. It’s kind of frightening. I feel for the people who are struggling. There are humanity issues that relate even to other people who aren’t there and aren’t directly involved. Lastly, what are three albums you can listen to from start to finish at any point? A Ghost is Born by Wilco Soul Journey by Gillian Welch Naturally by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings Tell Me How You Really Feel is out May 18th via Matador Records, with Courtney Barnett embarking on a U.S. tour on April 29th.

Follow on Twitter: @courtneymelba

COURTNEY BARNETT TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL STANDOUT TRACK: “NAMELESS, FACELESS”

PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 25


GUITAR UPGRADES Chris Devine

Short Scale Guitars Upgrades – A Squie

T

his past Christmas my wife was kind enough to get me a guitar. She knows I’m passionate about guitars, guitar playing and music in general. She also knows guitars aren’t cheap. One night I saw a Fender Squier Bullet Mustang, with two humbucking pickups. Finished off in a nice seafoam green, it was only $150. I dropped a few hints, and I was still shocked when she brought out the large rectangular box on Christmas day! I was beyond psyched. Now it’s Indonesian made, and out of the box it was OK. Sound-wise, I had no complaints. The pickups are amazingly decent. Clean tones were nice and rich in each position, and with overdrive they were big and focused. However, it did need some attention. The intonation wasn’t that great, the action was all over the place, and the frets and the nut were really rough. After a proper setup, fret polishing, neck adjustment, nut slotting, and a fresh set of .10 strings it was much nicer. Even with all that, it was still a little rough when it came to tuning stability, so my attention went to the tuners and the bridge. I’m a big fan of locking tuners, even on nontremolo guitars. It makes re-stringing a lot easier, and the strings don’t need as much break in time, compared to standard-style tuning pegs. Yes, tell me you don’t have a problem with non-locking tuners, good for you. May I continue?

me. I decided to head to see Adam Fields at AF Precision Setups in Boylston, MA to see what the best options were, and if need be, turn over any drilling tasks to him.

The problem with replacing tuners is, pretty much every attachment method on the back side of the headstock isn’t anywhere near uniform or universal. The mounting holes and pins on the back side vary from guitar to guitar. There are tools/jigs/templates out there that can ensure a near-factory style install, where all the tuning pegs are lined up perfectly, but unless you’re planning on installing multiple sets of tuners on multiple guitars, spending the money for just one install can be a little excessive. While I have no problem doing some tasks, drilling into even this inexpensive Squier’s headstock didn’t excite

Enter Hipshot. They’ve been making great guitar hardware for decades, and a lot of their tuners and bridges are now becoming standard parts on a lot of production guitars. They developed a universal mounting system that doesn’t require any drilling! Now it’s a modular type system, with two plates that take care of three sets of strings each. Removal of the existing tuners went quickly, and simply installing the plates on the headstock, and then inserting the new tuners was just as easy, with no alignment issues or any drilling. Now the tuners themselves do have a screw hole, if you wanted to opt out of

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using the mounting plates, and drill a hole for a mounting screw. I was hoping to get some photos of the install process, but it went so quickly that they were installed in less than 10 minutes, they went in THAT fast! The locking mechanism is super smooth, and the open gear adds a neat aesthetic to it. The overall result is fantastic! The tuning ratio is a lot more sensitive, so there’s no going back and forth to get a string to pitch. I’d highly suggest to anyone with a guitar that they like, but might have any tuning issues look into these Hipshot locking tuners. With the universal mounting plates, there’s no holes or mods really needed, and they go in very quickly. And at around $80, they’re not an expensive upgrade.


This falls into the no-brainer category. We then turned our attention to the bridge. We noticed the intonation screws were a bit long and in some cases actually pinched the string a bit. After removing all the intonation screws we realized that they were actually three different lengths! They were also an odd metric size, and might be tough to replace at a local hardware store, so Adam attempted to grind off about 1/16” off the longer screws. The threads were really not cut well, and running them through a die, even to use as a handle while grinding was rough, and on the second screw, it bent after just touching the grinding wheel. Not a good sign. So, we thought of options. Thankfully Adam has a plethora of old parts he’s acquired over the years he calls “the boneyard.” Bridges, odd screws and nuts, fittings, switches, you name it. He had a bridge with a set of Graph Tech saddles on it. Size-wise, they looked like they would do the trick, but again the intonation screws were a bit too long for this installation, but at least they were a more standard size. So, a quick trip to a local hardware store, and we grabbed 6 that were 1/16” shorter than the standard, as well as 6 that were 1/8” shorter, just to give us some options. 12 screws came in at $3.27. Not bad. We ended up using the shorter length ones, and the rest of the setup fell into place, with no intonation issues. Plugging it in, immediately the guitar changed. A lot of the jingly, ratty sharpness that it had with the stock bridge had vanished, and was replaced by a more focused output. Even unplugged it rang out more evenly across all of the strings with no rattling or odd string buzzing. Adam immediately said, “This guitar has completely changed”. Now it’s still a short scale Mustang, but the “cheapness” element of it was gone. A nice feature of the Graph Tech saddles compared to the stock metal ones, is the smooth surface that makes resting my picking hand on it a lot more comfortable. My big string break-in test usually means big

GUITAR UPGRADES

rs and Short Money uier Mustang Story bends around the 12th fret, and trying to knock everything out of tune. It’s a brutish manhandling kind of method, and in most cases after three rounds of doing this to each string, the guitar stays in tune, with minimal break-in time. I did one pass of this exercise, and hit a D chord that rang true! The Graph Tech saddles Adam had in his Boneyard were well worth the upgrade. I was planning on upgrading the bridge, or even just the saddles at some point, but I just lucked out on this aspect. Graph Tech was on the top of my list, and again, I’ve learned if you really want to change the tone of an instrument, the bridge should be the first area of focus, rather than the pickups or

HERE’S THE TOTAL COST BREAKDOWN Squier Mustang - $150 New Tuners - $80 Graph Tech Saddles - $55* Screws - $3.25 Misc. Strings - $10 + Setup Cost - $40 _____________________ TOTAL: $338.25

electronics. Saddles come in at around $55, so even new ones wouldn’t break the bank.

upgrade, at the least. Yes, I could spec out some really wild and crazy stuff through a company like Warmoth, like a maple top or exotic neck construction, but part of the allure of a Mustang is the cheapness, not top-of-the line feel. As far as future mods, it’s such a minimal instrument, and already has been modded enough that the only thing left would be some pickups that could accept coil taps, and could get some more single coil tones out of it, but at this point the only other item on my immediate checklist is changing the knobs to a more Tele/PBass style knurled dome.

So, the total cost of everything is a whopping $338.25. Now I must note that Adam gave me a deal on the saddles, so the actual cost was in my favor. Again, I’ve put more money into an instrument than what it was worth. I still think this is not a bad thing, though, especially for “keepers.”

So, to get an inexpensive instrument configured to suit my tastes, I’m still ahead of the game. The tuners alone make it a more functional instrument. It’s nice when a couple of simple bolt on upgrades and a decent setup really improve an instrument. These mods really took the “cheapness” out of a cheap guitar, and made it a hundred times better. Hopefully you can implement similar upgrades to your modestly priced instrument to make it play like a champ, as well.

Fender does have a Mustang/Duo-Sonic offering that comes in at $499, that again I would probably change the tuners and do an electronics

Email us your stories and we might feature YOU in an upcoming issue! PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 27


GUITAR UPGRADES

The Guitar Mod Chro a Strat and Sheptone

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Chris Devine

I

n April of 2017 a friend of mine passed away suddenly. He was great guitar player, and I was really saddened by his sudden absence in my life. In a lot of ways, it hasn’t been easy coming to grips with it. I’m not going into it detail, but you get the idea.

He had a YUGE guitar collection, and his family reached out to me to help them sort it all out. They decided that maintaining so many instruments wasn’t practical, and wanted to sell them all off. I suggested they keep a couple for sentimental reasons, and they picked out two instruments that really were not worth a lot, but were instruments he was well associated with. I spent a couple of days doing inventory on his gear and getting some prices together, and it’s a pretty good list. I went to town immediately, getting a copy of the list out to my friends, and to date several people really stepped up, purchasing a lot of his gear right from the start. I’ve been able get a lot of the items off to new owners and got his family a considerable cash infusion. His mom has constantly asked me if I wanted any money for my efforts, and I really didn’t want to take any cash out of their pockets. I was doing this to help a friend’s family, and in some strange way, going through his guitars kind of gave me some closure. We were both gear nuts, so going through it was a fun exercise in general, as well as a therapeutic one. I asked his mom one day if she would let me buy one of his guitars, albeit at a discount, and in her generosity, she gave it to me, knowing that I would play and enjoy this instrument. The last time I saw my buddy play this guitar was his last gig, so it’s got some cool mojo on that level. It’s a white Strat style guitar, with a Floyd Rose tremolo and an HSS pickup configuration, and a WD aftermarket neck. The switches and pots were scratchy and noisy, more than likely from not getting use, and oxidation building up on the contact points. One of the people that stepped up was Adam Fields of AF Precision Setups here in Massachusetts. He offered his services to help

me sort out my buddy’s guitars and get them in proper shape for sale (including this one). During disassembly, we figured out based off of some stickers inside the body cavity that it started its life as a Mexican Strat from 2007. The fact that a box of parts my buddy had lying around contained a 2007 Fender Mexican Strat neck kind of makes sense. He had a Floyd Rose installed at some point, and whomever he had do it didn’t do a great job. It appears the pickguard was left on during the process, as the bass side of the pickguard was zipped off, and even the pickguard screw was cut! So, after a proper setup, which included replacing the pots and switch, we put a Super Switch in that allows pretty much any pickup combination imaginable. One big mod here was making the center position engage the bridge pickup and the neck pickup, a feature lacking in stock Strat wiring. A treble bleed control was also installed. A really simple and easy tone improvement was going from a set of .09 gauge strings to .10’s. In the ’80s shred days, .09’s were industry standard. Combine that with the Floyd Rose, the tone was a bit thinner than say a standard Strat or Les Paul strung up with .10’s. However, going up a string gauge with the Floyd makes a big difference. Also, the heaver gauge helps in tuning stability, as well. After playing the guitar for a while the pickups were kind of MEH at best, so that would have to be addressed. But one thing that was kind of tough was even after this setup, there was a pretty noticeable buzz from the Low E string. Raising the action didn’t really help either. My buddy really liked low action on his guitars, and didn’t mind slight buzzing. Adam suggested a new nut. During removal, it was apparent that the slot for the nut was a straight cut, while the nut itself had a radius on the underside. To compensate for the space between, it was floating on a glob of superglue. Again, whoever my buddy had work on his guitars didn’t do a proper job. So, Adam got a bone nut blank and went to work re-cutting a new nut for the guitar. Since this guitar had single coils, hum is

GUITAR UPGRADES

ronicles: Re-Floyding ne Pickup Review always going to be an issue. I’ve had experience with hum-cancelling pickups, and just to be different I decided that traditional single coils would be nice to have. To solve this hum, we decided to shield the entire pickup and electronic route with copper tape. Apparently, Stewart-MacDonald sells a shielding kit meant for Strats that costs $31. They also offer up a roll of 2” wide tape, at a length of 15 feet for $21. We went with the roll, and had plenty left over. The key is to get the tape to make contact with the shielding under the pickguard, and should reduce the hum. After applying the tape, the inside looked like a NASA spacecraft from the ’70s. During this time, we started thinking about pickups and after having a great experience with Sheptone pickups in the past, we contacted them, and told them about our situation. While Sheptone does offer individual pickups, as well as complete humbucker and single coil sets, one thing they didn’t offer up was a HSS set. So, they suggested their Upshot 53MM Humbucker and their AB single coils. Their Upshot pickup is low profile, which is great for shallow pickup routes, and the string spacing is meant to work with a Floyd Rose. Most people forget that Humbuckers usually come with Gibson string spacing, which is slightly narrower than a Floyd Rose bridge spacing. This makes a big difference in getting the pole pieces to be under the strings, so look for “F-spaced” or “Trembucker” bridge pickups if you’re swapping out in a Floyd-equipped guitar. After all of this, the guitar was re-assembled and wired up. But something was not happening. The output was a lot weaker than expected. After messing around with various pot and capacitor values, as well as removing the treble bleed cap, we had the same results. Finally, Adam figured out an exposed section of wire was grounding out. Applying a bit of tape to shield that area solved that solution, and it really came to life. Remember, everything must be grounded properly, so when shielding an instrument or doing any electronics work inside a guitar, it’s best

PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 29


GUITAR UPGRADES practice to make sure you’ve got the grounding right. When in doubt, consult a professional. First off, the shielding tape mod isn’t snake oil. If anyone out there loves their Strat, but hates 60 cycle hum, but just tolerates it as a fact of life, do this mod immediately! For the money it’s well worth it, and I’m perplexed that it’s not something done by every major manufacturer. I’m seriously considering doing this to all of my guitars, including ones with humbuckers. With high gain situations, there was a bit of hum, but it was certainly reduced, and in its defense, the crazy fuzz pedal gets hummy even with 30 APRIL/MAY 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

humbuckers. Black shielding paint can work well, too, but the bottom line is any shielding is better than no shielding. Sheptone really nails it with their pickups, yet again. The combo of the Upshot and the AB single coils was perfect for this guitar. The humbucker was nice and full, with no tone loss. Some players cite a Floyd Rose as a “tone suck,” as it removes so much wood from the guitar body. The Upshot gave it a really nice usable tone, and when on a clean amp, had plenty of clarity that wasn’t spiky, shrill or thin sounding. If these pickups were available in the early ’90s I doubt there would

have been the mass exodus from these bridges. It still has a usable warmth that just sounds full and rich. Guitar players who have a single humbucker in the bridge but feel like they’re only good when the gain channel is engaged, should seriously consider installing these. Since it’s wired up with the center position engaging the neck pickup and the bridge pickup, it offers up a tone that’s not common on HSS guitars. The balance between the two positions is amazing, in clean sounds it gives so much more punch and clarity that you just don’t get from a traditionally-wired Strat. Yes,


GUITAR UPGRADES we don’t have a position that uses the middle pickup on its own, but this configuration seems to bring a much more usable option. The paring of the middle coil with the neck pickup brought some softer glassiness and warmth in position #2. With the bridge pickup, it brought in a nice quack-like response, a great country-ish option in position #4. On its own, the neck pickup is amazingly sweet, it just hits the edge of throatiness with plenty of chime to stay glassy. One hiccup that did rear its ugly head during all this was due to the shoddy routing for the Floyd Rose, one of the bridge pins started

to force its way through the wood. Adam superglued the front side, and glued the insert in with some 5-minute epoxy, but alas I fear it will have to be addressed at a future date; in the meantime, it is holding. I’m confident it can be repaired, as it’s quite amazing as to what a good repair person can do with some simple elements such as glue and wood.

making it like a semi-decked Strat that can only drop the pitch. I’m still messing around with setting it, to give just enough warble. A great by-product is that if you break a string, the trem stays where it is, and during string changes it’s nice not to have to jam a battery, eraser or something else in the tremolo cavity to keep the bridge stable.

One final touch was a trem-stopping device, by Stewart-MacDonald. It’s essentially an angled piece of brass, that screws into the tremolo cavity, with a threaded grub screw to stop a Floyd’s block from up pulling, essentially

I don’t think I’m going to run out and install Floyd Rose bridges on all of my existing guitars, but something about this modded Strat captures the elements of where those factory superstrats came from. PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 31


GEAR REVIEWS

KORG TM-60 Tuner/Metronome

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wo items any player should have on-hand at all times are a tuner and a metronome. Yes, there are apps that can fill these spots, but having a physical device ensures you’re practicing, and not getting interrupted by your Instagram feed. The Korg TM-60 rocks it old-school style, with some modern updates. It’s smaller than a smartphone, but has a large backlit display screen that’s ultra-easy to read. On the tuner side of things, it has a microphone for tuning applications where the 1/4” input jack won’t work, like a violin, or an acoustic guitar that doesn’t have a pickup. The tuner covers from C1C8, meaning pretty much any instrument that makes a note humans can hear can be used with it, and can be set to calibrate against another instrument (nice bonus). The metronome covers you from 30-252 BPM, and has plenty of beat variations, including odd meters, meaning no more having to play on the “off beats” when practicing a 7/4 rhythm over a 4/4 beat! The LCD display also features a nice visual cue of a classic metronome’s pendulum. Regardless of whether you already have a tuner on a pedalboard, having one of these at the ready for spur-of-the-moment creative sparks is a nobrainer. Overall, it’s something that should be in everyone’s gig bag or tucked in your bedside drawer. Being in tune should be a given. Timing is everything to a musician, and ever wonder how those math-rock prodigy players got so good? Practice. With a metronome.  Chris Devine

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PROS

CONS

PRICE

Excellent tuner in small package, metronome covers plenty of rhythmic situations.

None.

$29


GEAR REVIEWS

ELEKTRON Analog Drive Pedal PROS

Great drive options, flexible, can recall settings. CONS

Slightly big, but in a good way. PRICE

$222

D

igital’s great for effects that really need to do math, like choruses, reverbs, delays and filters. Digital distortions, though, haven’t really caught on in pedals with a lot of players, because the benefit of the ability to recall sounds didn’t even out to the actual quality of drive sounds. Elektron brings that analog tone, with the benefits of digital sound recall. Problem solved. The unit itself is slightly large, but it kind of needs to be. Eight selections of drive are available, and each version utilizes the gain, 3-band EQ, mid frequency control and level. A two-number display tells the player which setting is being used, and sits next to the “save” control. For players who just want to tweak on the fly, a manual toggle switch brings in the functionality of a traditional stomp box, where each knob is active. The rear panel has the usual ins and outs for analog signal, but has MIDI in and out as well, with two expression pedal outputs (one for the gain control, and the other for the mid frequency control). Despite all the options and plethora of knobs, its super intuitive to navigate, create a good drive tone, save it, and make another one. The middle foot switch engages the pedal, while the side buttons act as scroll up/down functions, cycling through the presets. Sound-wise, it has a lot going for it. Some

classics are emulated here, but with the addition of the EQ controls, you can bring out some options that the originals don’t have. Their mid-drive sounds like a TS circuit, which is known to have a mid-range hump that players love (or hate). With the extra EQ options, the EQ curve can be altered, which is great especially with at TS style sound. The same approach can be said for the harmonic fuzz settings, finding that sweet spot where the fuzziness isn’t lost in a sonic fog. The focused distortion is based off of the classic man/horse pedal (starts with a K and ends with a LON) that now commands a ridiculous price on the used market. Speaking from experience with the originals, it really nails it. Plenty of picking response and dynamics, just like the original. The other versions outlined in that large center knob certainly deliver; the boost is a nice bump, with gobs of headroom and clarity, while their dirty drive feels like it’s in the RAT zone, but with a much more flexible EQ, and far less noise. For the British flavors, the big distortion mode is glorious and massive. The Thick Gain and High Gain modes feel like two sides of a similar coin, with the high gain getting that sustain without fuzziness, and the thick gain bringing plenty of punch without feeling like the guitar is fighting its way through it all.

Connect an expression pedal to the gain control, and it’s great to set the drive with the pedal to where a good rhythm tone is, and use the pedal to bring it up to full. No need to jump to another patch or preset. Using an expression pedal on the mid frequency also dials in that sweet spot, enabling the player to not have to mess with gain, but find that area to poke through a mix. It can also work like a wah pedal, but the range isn’t as wide or as harsh as a conventional wah. However, it’s much quieter than most wah pedals, and in situations like wide filtery sweeps, it’s on point. The only downside: the size. But considering how many drive pedals this could clear off your checklist, it kind of makes sense. This could easily stop some of the pedalboard madness that seems to dominate these days. One of these connected to an effects box like an Eventide HD, and/or one of Boss’s MS or ES switchers through MIDI, and with some really simple editing/programming it’s a small pedalboard with tons of options, and yet still retains an analog feel and tweakability (especially with an expression pedal or two). Considering that just one “boo-teek” pedal could cost the same as one of these, it falls into the “it’s a no brainer” category. Get one of these and delete the phone number for your fave pedal mod shop and unsubscribe from all of those Facebook pedal pages now! Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 33


GEAR REVIEWS

THE WISHBONE WORKSHOP Amp Hook

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lacing a microphone in front of a speaker should be a simple task. But sometimes the actual logistics, as well as the fact that singers and drummers seem to get the better working mic stands at gigs and sessions, leave guitarists with a mic draped over an amp -- with less than accurate placement. The Amp Hook gives the option for optimum mic placement, with a simple design. Quite simply, it’s a padded metal hook, meant to slide under the top handle of a combo amp, or between a head and cabinet. With an adjustable pivoting arm, mic placement is easy; just screw in the mic attachment clip or mount, insert a mic and point it at the speaker desired. Even with amps where the speaker isn’t centered in front of the amp, the articulated pivot arm can ensure proper mic placement. It’s great for those situations where another mic stand on the floor is just going to be a mess.

When amps are placed on amp stands or chairs to provide monitoring, this also means a quick and easy a way to get the mic where it needs to be without a lot of futzing around. It can also prevent a sound guy from shrugging and stating, “We’re out of mic stands, so I’m just gonna rope a mic over your amp.” In the studio two mics can be added, with the addition of a stereo bar mount, so mounting a nice condenser, along with a tried-and-true SM57 is still no big deal. The extra weight isn’t an issue with the hook and it stays in place nicely.

PROS

Great idea, simple, inexpensive. CONS

With the pivoting joint, it folds up well and can easily fit in the back of a combo amp or in a gig bag pocket. At just $39, it’s short money for any guitar player to cough up, and it’s better than buying a mic stand that will get appropriated by the drummer or singer!  Chris Devine

None. PRICE

$39

LOGJAM Prolog Drum Pedal

B

ringing drums and percussion into the electronic world has been problematic in the past for some players. However, Logjam has found a unique way of making it easy and natural sounding at the same time with the Prolog drum pedal. It looks like a very well-crafted foot pedal, made from sapele, and at the rounded end there is a simple 1/4” output jack. The bottom side has a nice non-slip rubber surface. Simply connect it into a PA/Amp/DAW interface, and the technical aspect is done. Now the fun part start: stomp on it. Naturally placing the ball or tip of the foot along the rounded edge, and tapping on it produces a percussive sound without a percussionist.

What’s inside that rounded end is a little piezo pickup, the same kind used in acoustic guitars. It picks up the vibrations of the impact of tapping and translates it into sound. Now it doesn’t sound like the real thump of an acoustic kick drum, but it gives a similar overall effect. Some EQ might be needed, depending on how much “thump” and “cut” is desired. The user’s shoes, believe it or not might, make a difference; harder soles of boots gave more pronounced hits than a pair of Converse Chucks in our tests. The larger heel plate also picks up vibrations, so using the heel to give the upbeat, and the toe for the down beat, is a great way to get more sounds out of it. So, who’s this for? Solo guitarist/singer/ songwriters might appreciate the Logjam Drum Pedal as it’s an easy way to add percussion to a stripped-down sound without a lot of extra gear of personnel. Drummers might like this as a way to add a more direct bass

34 APRIL/MAY 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

drum-ish sound, supplementing an existing kit. For the percussionist who’s using a Cajon or other hand drums, this would be an easy way to add more texture to their palette. Even using it plugged into a DAW can add an interesting, nonsynthetic level of percussion to an existing drum loop or rhythm track. It brings of the simplicity of acoustic drums/ percussion into some proper amplified situations without the hassles of MIDI triggers/brain units or programming. Logjam does make some other variations on this neat little device, and a creative percussionist could easily make one or more of these a great way to go electric, without feeling like a cyborg.  Chris Devine

PROS

CONS

PRICE

Simple, great sounding.

YMMV with EQ satisfaction, depending on tone desired.

$130-$150 (depending on retailer)


U

SB mics are really convenient, but somehow seem to a lot of serious enthusiasts to be a bit lacking, either looking or feeling cheap, or just featuring a MEH sound. M-Audio is offering up a game changer with a USB mic that sounds flat-out great, at a ridiculously low price point.

GEAR REVIEWS

M-AUDIO Uber Mic

This is a pretty beefy piece, with a three capsule condenser inside the rugged metal housing. There are four patterns to choose from: Cardioid, Figure 8, Omni and Stereo. The front panel has an LCD display with a level indication as well as which pattern is being used. Below that is the volume control, mute, and the mix control that balances out the playback vs. the mic signal. The bottom has a threaded mic adapter, as well as USB connections and 1/8” Stereo headphone out for monitoring. The backside has the gain control and the microphone pattern selection. It comes with a well-done table top stand for easy adjustability, and can also be fitted to a mic stand. With the multi-pattern selector, the Uber Mic can really be configured to fit the room it’s in. Doing podcasts with multiple people, without multiple mics is now a breeze. Set the Omni mode, and there’s no hollow-ness when placing it on a table with a few people in a room. Using it for vocals in an overdubbing setting was great; just set it for Cardioid and you’re done. There’s no noticeable latency either (an issue we’ve faced with slower USB mics in the past), and the Uber picks up the subtle nuances in performances that seem to be missing in other USB mics. Placing it in front of an acoustic guitar, the Uber works really nicely in both Figure 8 and Stereo modes. With just this in a room, connected to a laptop, you’ve got a basic mobile studio for capturing rehearsal sessions and song ideas a lot easier than transferring files from a separate portable recorder or an iPhone. It works with Mac as well as PC and Pro Tools First, and Touch Loops software is included, making this a great input device for a singer/songwriter who wants a no-nonsense, easy-to-use microphone without having to spend a ton of time dialing in sounds or hooking up XLR cables and interfaces to work with their DAW. The only downside is the bottom threaded adapter can’t use the included thumbwheel washer, as the teeth interfere with both the USB and headphone input. One would guess this would have been addressed in the design phase, pushing both of these critical connections further out. It is beefy and big, so make sure to make an investment in a good mic stand, if you’re planning on using it in that configuration. It’s a good all-around demo/podcast mic that has a no muss/no fuss feel, all the while taking things a step well above the usual consumer item found on store shelves.  Chris Devine

PROS

CONS

PRICE

Great sounding, excellent options, well built.

None.

$99

PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 35


GEAR REVIEWS

MACKIE MR624 Monitors

W

e’ve tested out a number of Mackie studio monitors in the past, and for our money, they make some of the best affordable speakers you can get for a budget-conscious home studio build. Shortly before NAMM, we got our hands on some of the new MR Series monitors, namely the 6.5 inch MR624’s. Running MR624 monitors through a standard battery of DAW stress-tests yielded pretty excellent results. We like to give studio monitors a workout with a variety of material, including pre-recorded Moog Sub Phatty stems to test bass response, lossless FLAC files from a variety of genres to see how the tweeter and woofer interact together, as well as newlyrecorded DAW multi-track demos specifically recorded with the monitors to see how they perform under normal (and sometimes extreme) circumstances. The MR624’s passed every test we could throw at them with flying colors. Our Sub Phatty challenge is, admittedly, a tough one for any woofer under 6-inches, so it was good to see (or rather, hear), that the new MR series’ 6.5-inch driver could handle extremely low synth bass lines with ease: no clipping or enclosure rumbling that we’ve experienced with other units in a similar price point. We suspect the internal bracing of the new MR Series is partially responsible for this. Hip-hop and electronic producers will be pleased. Stereo imaging was another pleasant surprise here. Sometimes you really have to spend a considerable amount of time, especially in less-than-ideal recording spaces, setting up the positioning of your studio monitors for that “sweet spot.” The MR series features Mackie’s logarithmic waveguide system, which takes care of a lot of the unwanted reflections and diffractions one might experience. This also contributes to the wider-than-normal sweet spot, meaning you can spend less time futzing with setup, and more time recording. Lastly, the MR624 studio monitors are pretty flexible when it comes to controls and inputs. The rear of the units feature XLR, RCA and 1/4” inputs, as well as useful “acoustic space” and high-frequency filter settings. What this means is that in seconds, you can optimize your speakers for your specific space, which means a more accurate response and clearer picture of what’s going on in your tracking and mixing sessions. You can also hook up

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line-level sources like stereos and laptops for additional applications. There’s not much more to say; the new MR Series is accurate, flexible, affordable and rugged enough for just about any home studio or mobile recording application we can imagine. Highly recommended.  Benjamin Ricci

PROS

Excellent sound, incredibly affordable, plenty of inputs. CONS

None. PRICE

$199/each


GEAR REVIEWS

MACKIE Thump15BST Powered Loudspeakers

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he newly redesigned Thump Series from Mackie is an excellent solution to just about any band or DJ’s PA needs. We got our hands on a pair of the Thump15BST speakers, which were pretty impressive – both in terms of clean volume and features. Let’s get sound quality out of the way first; yes, these sound fantastic. A battery of live instruments as well as pre-recorded DJ tracks proved to be no problem for the new Thumps. Even at high volume settings, audio was crisp and clear, and more importantly, defined across the frequency range. This means that there’s no “congestion” in certain parts of the spectrum; keyboards, drums, vocals and guitars were all articulate in the mix, with no competition for sonic territory. If you were just looking for a set of PA speakers that could handle permanent installations, live gigs, outdoor performances or intense DJ sets, you could stop here. But where the new Thump line really shines is in its Bluetooth integration. Most portable PA systems and Pro Audio solutions tend to toss in Bluetooth as an afterthought, just so they can add the logo to the box and make you think you’re getting added features. As most of us can attest to, the reality is quite different. Most of the time that big, shiny Bluetooth logo on the box just means you can stream tracks from your phone between sets and activate a blue LED on the front of the enclosure. Big friggin’ whoop. With the new ThumpBST speakers, you get an incredibly useful suite of Bluetooth features in the palm of your hand. For starters, you get a Bluetooth channel for streaming, in addition to your normal cabled inputs. With a pretty powerful built-in mixer and DSP, you can plug a few instruments and mics directly without the need for an external compact mixer or front-ofhouse setup. For coffeehouse owners or house concert warriors, these are all you need. What’s more, you can control the mix remotely from your smartphone via Bluetooth. And this isn’t some crummy “freeware” app, it’s a completely useful (and almost indispensable) program that makes mobile mixing both easy and intuitive. Big kudos to the Mackie team for adding in this functionality. You can also wireless link two speakers to act as a stereo pair, and even use the Thump

Connect app to change levels, adjust EQ and recall settings with your fingertips. You can even do zone mixing with the app if you’ve got two speakers linked that are perhaps set up in different rooms for an event, and it’s truly a snap to manage. We were impressed enough with the sheer volume and power these speakers gave us; what really stunned us was the Bluetooth integration and functionality that far surpassed our expectations. With that in place, we think these are the “killer apps” of the affordable loudspeaker world.  Benjamin Ricci

PROS

Amazing sound, deep low end, fantastic Bluetooth and app integration. CONS

Might be overkill for some bands and DJs. PRICE

$499/each

PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 37


GEAR REVIEWS

TELEFUNKEN TDP-1 DI

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hen you can’t use a mic, your best bet is a DI box, and when a respected microphone company makes a DI box, it’s worth checking out. Telefunken’s new TDP-1 DI has all the quality and engineering of their amazing microphones, condensed in a small, practical DI box. Like all DI boxes there’s not a lot to it, function-wise; the usual 1/4” input and thru connections, as well as the XLR output. The only adjustments come from ground lift and a 15dB pad. Simply plug in an unbalanced cable, and connect the XLR to a mixer or DAW input. The thru output can connect the signal back to an amp for personal monitoring if need be. DI boxes take a lot of physical abuse, and thankfully the enclosure features a hefty aluminum chassis, and the heavy-duty switches are low profile, and recessed to prevent any breakage, as are the input and output connections. Now this is a passive DI, meaning it doesn’t need any extra power to be used. Instruments with active preamps and EQ systems are a perfect pairing with this. Users of passive pickup systems are not going to miss out, though. We put it through its paces in a live recording session, with an electric bass guitar fed into the TDP-1, and running out to the DAW. DI-ing a bass in this kind of situation is usually a given, however it’s not uncommon for it to just be a

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throwaway or scratch track, to be re-done later. The TDP-1 made the tone in the bass track a keeper right from the start! The bass sound was full, rich and dynamic, sitting right where it needed to be in the mix. There’s no unusual, unmusical coloration or signal degradation. Even the bassist monitoring on headphones said they loved the tone. Getting into the groove and feel live is way easier during tracking with the band, rather than in an overdubbing situation. Using the DI in this application saves time later on, having to re-do tracks, rather than using the DI signal right from the start. Later on, we connected an acoustic guitar’s 1/4” output to the DI, and also mic’d it up with a Telefunken M60. Again, as in a lot of cases a DI is a safety net to any microphone, but in this case, it was a complete complement to the microphone. The added DI track had plenty of usable sparkle and punch, without any of the usual “crispy-ness” that can be found while DI-ing an acoustic’s piezo pickup.

PROS

Well designed, useful applications, doesn’t color audio signal. CONS

Only one channel. PRICE

Inside, it’s clearly evident why it sounds so good; with gold plated traces on the circuit board, and high-grade custom-wound OEP/ Carnhill transformers, Telefunken engineered this unit right, at a great price. If your DI tracks aren’t being used because of their sound quality, stepping up to one of these could make tracking and feeding a live PA a whole lot easier.  Chris Devine

$199


GEAR REVIEWS

TELEFUNKEN M60 FET Cardioid Microphone PROS

Well built, excellent sounding, well priced. CONS

None. PRICE

$599

T

elefunken’s been one of THE names in microphones for decades, with a price to match their quality. Now their M60 Cardioid Condenser won’t break the bank, but its build and sound quality lives up to their reputation. This is Telefunken’s FIRST (yes, hard to believe) FET solid-state microphone, but the build quality is superb, with a powder coated exterior, and its 15mm diameter, 6-micron gold-sputtered membrane. It’s also meant to handle a lot, sound-wise, with a 20hZ to 20kHz frequency response, and an SPL of 130dB. FETs are a great musical sounding alternative to tubes, with a natural, yet consistent overall response. Like any condenser mic, this is excellent for capturing both vocals and acoustic-based instruments, and their natural response within the recording environment. We put it through its paces with a very heavy acoustic guitar session. With a flat response, it becomes one of those sessions where mic placement really drives the color of the overall EQ. Placing it about a foot away from the 12th fret, pointing at the fingerboard, it got a nice tight airy

shimmer, while not giving up the midrange frequencies. During the session when a bit more bottom end was desired, angling the capsule to the soundhole brought some round low end that again didn’t overpower anything else. It’s tight and very responsive, with excellent articulation, and all the while not getting unmusically crispy or harsh. It’s one of those “just try to get a bad sound” with one of these items; it’s impossible. A pair of these would also make an excellent set of overhead mics for a drum kit, and might just eliminate a lot of individual mics on the cymbals during tracking. Any sound source that works with “air” would greatly benefit with this new Telefunken mic.

Telefunken also offers up two alternative capsules: their T61 Omni Directional, and TK62 Hyper Cardioid capsule. We didn’t get those to review, but the included case has extra storage slots for them, so it’s not just a one-trick-pony type deal. There’s really no downside to one of these; this could easily be the first step for someone looking to go beyond the prosumer level, and it won’t break the bank. Skip buying that EQ plug-in bundle, get one (or two) of these, and you’ll spend less time fiddling with mic placement than you would hunting through presets and menus to get the sound you want.  Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 39


GEAR REVIEWS

STAGE NINJA Retractable Guitar Cable Reel

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ables get tangled, regardless of the way they’re coiled up after a gig, or how they’re stored, and unfurling them is a pain. Stage Ninja has a great solution to this problem. With 20’ of instrument cable in a springloaded ABS housing, it follows the same idea applied to extension cables and pneumatic air lines in workshops. Just grab one end and pull enough cable you need. A quick tug locks it into place. When it’s time to pack up, another quick tug, and it retracts into the unit, coiling itself neatly in the housing without any fuss or tangling. The extension end has a plastic ball to ensure the jack doesn’t get sucked into the housing. With 6’ feet at the other end there’s plenty of length to plug in to an amp, and not be draped inelegantly over your gear. The cable ends are well done, and by Neutrik, so there should be no issue there for the actual connections. The casing’s design is meant to be stackable, and although they don’t

STAGE NINJA iPhone Mount

snap in together like Legos, they do seem to stay put pretty well on stage and in the studio. Stage Ninja offers these in several different cable configurations for a number of needs, and it’s just a great idea, especially in the instrument or speaker cables. One other interesting application should be of interest to guitar players: some players like the slight signal drop when using long cables; it warms up the sound a bit, just ask Buddy Guy! It gives the chance to get that nice warm capacitance drop, without a spaghetti mess of tangled cables to clean up or trip over.

PROS

CONS

PRICE

Great idea, plenty of musical applications.

None.

appx $30

S

martphones, love them or hate them, are here to stay. With video and audio recording it can be a multimedia lab in the right hands. Stage Ninja has a great little mount that can make using one a lot easier. Design-wise, it’s pretty simple. A springloaded clamp to secure a smartphone, connected to a flexible gooseneck that in turn, ends at a metal, rubber coated clamp that’s also spring-loaded. Simple and very functional, as the gooseneck gives plenty of adjustability for positioning, and the clamp can also be used as a stand -- but for more stable functionality, clamping it to a fixed item is probably the best option. It has plenty of applications; for YouTubers who want a simple and easy mount, it’s a no brainer. Clamping it to a mic stand, while using the smart phone to display set lists or “cheat sheet” chord charts is a great idea as well. For interesting angles for video recording, clamping it to a guitar, looking up or down the neck is really cool. Street price is about $40, so it won’t break the bank, either. Heck, if a band could get each member to get one, and record a song (or set) from multiple angles using their own smart phones, compiling the video footage into multi-camera content is a great idea.  reviews by Chris Devine

40 APRIL/MAY 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

PROS

Great design, very flexible, priced well. CONS

Might not be able to fit larger smartphones or bulky cases. PRICE

appx $40


GEAR REVIEWS

TAYLOR GUITARS K14CE Builder’s Edition Acoustic with V-Class Bracing

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f you don’t want to read this entire review, know this: the Taylor Builder’s Edition K14ce with V-Class bracing is quite simply the best acoustic guitar we’ve ever played. Still interested? Keep reading… Taylor made their name by blending craftsmanship with modern production techniques. They’re pushing the envelope again, with their Builder’s Edition K14ce, featuring their new V-Bracing system, creating a beautiful instrument made with amazing woods, and modern construction methods. We had a chance to have a one-on-one session at NAMM with the V-Class mastermind, Andy Powers, and the results of Taylor’s R&D are nothing short of revolutionary. Every note rings true with clarity due to the new bracing system, volume is consistent up and down the fretboard, even at the highest register, and intonation is pitch-perfect across the entire fingerboard – making chords that were simply unplayable on other instruments now a thing of beauty. The new bracing system’s importance cannot be overstated in the world of acoustic instruments; we think it’s the biggest game changer of the decade. Now, on to the guitar. Overall fit and finish is superb, what you expect with any Taylor guitar. The wow factor on this oozes from every angle and facet. With a Sitka spruce top, and Hawaiian Koa on the back and sides, it goes beyond the usual boxy acoustic edges, with a beveled edge on the upper bout for comfort, and a similar beveled treatment on the cutaway area. Even classier is

the entire edging on the top as well as the back has gorgeous shell inlay work. The fingerboard also has the same shell treatment on their spring vine inlay. The rosette is accented with excellent detailing with paua and koa accenting things nicely. The comfortably-profiled neck features a 25.5” scale, with a tropical mahogany neck and an amazingly smoother-than-silk satin finish. The headstock is finished with a beautiful wood overlay, koa purfling, and again the shell finished spring vine inlay. The body’s finish is also super smooth satin, and brings out the subtle textures of the wood’s grain patterns. X-bracing has been the traditional way of making a soundboard structurally stable, and still resonant. At this year’s NAMM show, Taylor unveiled their V-Class bracing design for the first time in a public setting. It’s a tighter bracing spacing, that runs parallel with the guitar’s strings, which enhances sustain and volume. It’s a big jump in overall sound quality; hard to believe a Taylor could sound even better. Every note is richer, deeper and way more pronounced, across the entire fingerboard. Chords and open strings resonate so nicely and are evenly balanced, where it feels like it’s fitted with some sort of aural EQ. The electronics are Taylor’s Expression System 2, with the piezo pickup sitting behind the bridge saddles. It’s a 9v powered system with simple volume, treble and bass controls. All told, it’s a flexible system and if the volume control is

increased, while turning both the treble and bass down, it acts as a nice midrange boost. Overall, it’s quite full, with no odd quackiness that comes some piezo systems we’ve tested in the past. It’s perfect for both stage and studio use. In fact, it might be the only acoustic you’ll ever need again.  Chris Devine

PROS

Amazing design and excellent materials, beyond amazing sounds. CONS

Expensive, but worth it for the serious musician. PRICE

$4999

PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 41


GEAR REVIEWS

FOCUSRITE CLARETT 4Pre USB Audio Interface

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ocusrite’s Clarett series originally only came with a Thunderbolt connection, and it’s a powerhouse of an interface for the price. When it originally came out, we recommended it for any Mac-based home studio that wanted superior 24-bit/192kHz A-D and D-A conversion and super high-quality mic pre’s for recording. Now it’s available in USB format, which means more people (including Windows users) can get in on the action. We reviewed the Clarett 8Pre back in February of 2016, and having a smaller USB version that appeals to a wider audience is more than welcome. With four XLR/1/4” combo inputs on the front, it’s a nice and easy form-factor that would be at home on any desktop, regardless of space constraints. The first two can be used for instruments, line level or microphones, while the remaining two take mic or line level signals. But on each of these you can enable Focusrite’s “AIR” preamp effect, which we basically keep engaged at all times. Let’s talk about “AIR” for a second, because it’s one of our favorite features on any interface; it’s essentially a way for those on a budget to model the sound in Focusrite’s great sounding ISA preamps, which means you get an added level of clarity and ultra-low distortion coupled with a transparent, open response and sonic signature. For vocals, it’s almost night and day when you engage the function. Instruments benefit, as well. It’s one of those things that when you get it, you get it. And you never want to be without it again in the studio. There are two headphone outs with individual controls, as well as a master monitor

42 APRIL/MAY 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

control knob. The rear has (4) 1/4” line level inputs as well as 4 line outs, meaning 2 sets of monitors can be connected. SPDIF and MIDI ins and outs are here, as well as an Optical Input, which can make the system expandable, when connecting, say one of Focusrite’s Clarett OctoPres. The AIR preamps sound beyond great, and the only time one could envision not using them is if there was an external preamp being used. But the effect is nice and big, without affecting coloration or getting woofy or overpowering. It’s a great unit for overdubbing on its own, especially where multiple mic inputs would be needed for a small horn section, or that guitar player who insists using multiple mics on every speaker on his guitar cabinet. Besides it’s ultra-rugged (and handsome) chassis are some features “under the hood”; using Focusrite’s Control app, it allows the user to engage the AIR preamps, as well as select which monitors to route the signal to. Individual monitoring is also available, and customizable, as well. Nice touch. Speaking of individual monitoring, it can also be run via the user by downloading Focusrite’s Control app on an iOS device, meaning no having to ask the engineer to give more kick, or less snare or vocals, for examples. It really puts the power in the hands of the performer who’s tracking their parts. With USB connection, it’s great to have these features available for Mac or PC, and comes with a load of useful software, including XLN Audio’s Addictive Keys, Softube, Focusrite’s Red plug-in suite, Ableton Live Lite, and 2GB of Loopmaster sound samples and loops. Speaking of USB, it can

also run off of USB C, meaning it doesn’t need the external power supply, as it will draw enough power from the USB connection. Eliminating an AC adapter? Yes, please! With the ability to be scaled up with an additional Clarett, it’s a feature-packed (and modestly-priced) premium DAW interface that can work great on its own for smaller sessions like overdubbing, or as part of a larger studio solution that no longer needs to be hodgepodged together.  Chris Devine

PROS

Solid build, USB for a wide range of users, great preamps, intuitive control software. CONS

None. PRICE

$599


iRig Mic HD2 The iRig Mic HD2 is basically a small diaphragm condenser mic with a handheld design, that connects via a Lightning cable (included) to your iPhone or iPad (or via USB to your Mac or PC). The mic offers a sensitivity control on a small recessed knob, that can’t be bumped (you’ll have to move it deliberately) along with a blue LED indicating power that flashes green for moderate level, orange for nice hot level and red for too much level. Since the mic actually has a 1/8” stereo mini-plug headphone output, there’s also a volume control for that. The HD2 comes with a clip that can be stand-mounted, but most folks will likely use it handheld or with the supplied mini-tripod desktop stand (there’s a carrying pouch too). I wanted to try the mic on my iPhone so I downloaded the free iRig Recorder software, which proved to work better than a couple of the other free apps I’ve tried. Turns out iRig Recorder isn’t exactly free as you’ll be wanting to download its optional Processors, or Creative, or All-Functionalities bundle(s), although they do at least give you a full-featured Compressor (attack, release, ratio, threshold and output), a Normalizer, a Mono-to-Stereo Imager and a rudimentary three-band EQ (frequency and Q).  IK offers a Mic Modeler app too, but the cool thing is that the iRig Mic HD2 actually sounds good on its own. It has a nice mid-forward presence to it, that is sufficiently bright as well as

sufficiently deep, too. It’s neither harsh nor thin, with a useful fullness that is absent of excessive low-end rumble (evidence of some wise highpass filtering on the mic’s signal processing). Acoustic guitar, Cajon drum and vocals all translated nicely, as I adjusted mic sensitivity appropriately for each source. Even so, as I did some loud vocals that must’ve gotten in the red or close to it, the mic absorbed the peak loudly and cleanly. My main grumble is the difficulty I faced trying to adjust the mic’s headphone and sensitivity levels, as they require a little bit of fingernail. The mic’s headphone amp isn’t particularly loud, but sufficient. I did get some noticeable latency even with it minimized within the app, so a direct monitoring feature would be very nice.  Seems to me the iRig Mic HD2 is quite good for some quick 4-tracking of music ideas on your iDevice but where it really shines will be for the run-n-gun ENG (electronic news gathering) content producer on-the go. Armed only with an iPhone, a pair of headphones and iRig Mic HD2, you could create broadcast quality content from anywhere on earth, as long as your batteries can last. Not bad for $129. Old media, meet the future.  iRig Pre HD So, let’s say that content requires special handling…it would be nice to have a mic preamp

GEAR REVIEWS

IK MULTIMEDIA iRig Mic HD2 and iRig Pre HD

with 48 V phantom power for condensers, lots of clean gain for quiet sources and the convenience of iOS compatibility. That’s where the Pre HD steps in with that phantom power, 60 dB of gain, the same tri-color metering scheme as the iRig Mic HD2, the same 1/8” headphone output and Direct Monitoring so you can listen to the mic’s output prior to recording and without the distraction of latency. I hooked the Pre HD up to my Mac Pro for a little music production and got predictably good results across a wide variety of inputs (acoustic guitar, tambos, Cajon, vocals, floor tom, piano) with very little self-noise from the Pre HD, wide frequency response, good dynamics and sufficient headroom. The Direct Monitor feature is a “must have” as a little latency is tolerable for ENG but a pain-in-the-ass for music production. My few complaints are a product of the unit’s portability … it’s small, will fall off a table top and the tiny rotary controls aren’t easy to carefully adjust. Of course, being small and light is the whole point here. Again, the headphone amp is a little too quiet, but just enough. All in all, the Pre HD is an effective, low-cost tool for desktop and musical production, that is certainly worth all of its $99 price. I’d say that IK Multimedia has two products here that are a big part of the mobilizing and democratizing of music production and personal production in general.  Rob Tavaglione PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 43


GEAR REVIEWS

ULTIMATE EARS Sound Tap AC DI Box

I

ntegrating an in-ear setup to an existing PA/monitoring system has been problematic at best, especially on the road, with a venue’s already existing monitors. Ultimate Ears has a way to make using in-ear monitors feasible, even in small club settings, without the need for complicated wireless transmitters and bodypacks. It’s a fairly big box, with a volume control and gain setting, but ease-of-use is superb. Simply unplug the existing monitor and plug in the Sound Tap. You’ll need another cable to reconnect the existing monitor, if desired. There are combo jacks for XLR and line-level signals, so all the possible bases are covered. Plug in a set of in-ear monitors into the headphone jack, and now the headphones are getting a feed (or Tap, get it?) from the front-of-house system. 44 APRIL/MAY 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

Boom, you’ve got an instant, personal in-ear setup with about 30 seconds of setup time. With the volume and gain controls, dialing in a comfortable level is super easy. There’s a small threaded insert on the bottom, and with an adapter it can be mounted on a mic stand. Overall it functions really well, and for performers who don’t move around a lot on stage (drummers, keyboard players), or for rehearsal situations where space and volume are at a premium, this is a great, inexpensive tool for personal monitoring. All in all, it’s a small price to pay to get that direct connection, and using these can make monitoring onstage a lot easier, meaning a much lower stage volume overall.  Chris Devine

PROS

Well built, accepts linelevel and XLR signals. CONS

Only one output. PRICE

$250


GEAR REVIEWS

EARGASM Earplugs

E

arplugs are a necessity for musicians, as well as people around loud, live music. The reason that cheapo DayGlo disposable versions always get lost or thrown out is, well, they’re cheap, and therefore they are usually MIA when needed. Getting into high-priced versions is tough, especially finding a decent company whose claims equal the cost. Eargasm brings to the table a welcome, happy medium. Included in the package are two sets of differently sized transparent soft rubberish “shells,” to ensure proper fit in the ear canal. Insert the transparent blueish “filters” into the shells that are the most comfortable, and that’s it. They do cut a bit of high end, but nothing as drastic as the cheapo foam kind that make everything sound like a bomb going off in a WWII movie, where the hero can only hear muffled voices. It just slightly takes the edge off of things such as cymbals and other harsh sources. Comfort-wise, they’re great, and don’t feel like something unnatural has been jammed in your head. Included is a metal carrying case on a keychain, so they’re always there. Using a carabiner, clipping a set of these to an amp’s handle is a great way to have them where you need them if you’re a guitarist or bassist.

For those who hate the idea of using earplugs on stage (or are using in-ear monitors), the typical applications of any earplug applies: drowning out the noise of a loud crying child on a flight, or masking out a bandmate’s snoring in the bus or motel. If you’re seeing a lot of live music at loud volumes, a set of these are unassuming enough that no one will see any neon nuggets sticking out of your ears. Overall, you only get one set of ears, and if you’re not gonna turn down, or stop playing with a loud drummer, a set of these goes a long way to help preserve your hearing.  Chris Devine

GIG GEAR Original Gig Gloves v2

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oday’s DIY musician takes on a lot of tasks, and has to be a professional at every aspect of their career. In the studio, they become their own producer and engineer. Live, they become their own sound reinforcement staff, and when on the road, their own tour manager. Being on the road can be a tough job, and loading gear in and out can be murder on hands. The same hands that then have to work an instrument, are also lugging cabinets, amps and cases. Gig Gear took a good idea like work gloves and made them a lot more musician friendly. The gloves have an excellent fit and feel, with a stretchy material that feels like a combination of neoprene and leather. There are multiple sizes from XS to XXL, and all feature a Velcro strap for a snug fit. The fingers and back sides feature a yellow TPR molding that can cushion impacts, while the palm area is reinforced at the base of the fingers and the lower palm. Ever have to move a heavy item into place with another person? Remember how the

other helper crammed it in so tight it pinned your hand against the wall before you could get it out of the way? Yeah, that TPR molding is there for just that reason. Work gloves are great, until you have to take them on and off, to either grip something gingerly or use a touchscreen. The Gig Gear Gig Gloves (say that three times fast) have thought this problem through. The ends of the thumb, forefinger and middle finger can flip back easily, exposing your fingertips. Need to grab that washer or nut off of the floor? No problem. For sound professionals who are mixing with tablets, this is great -- not having to take the gloves off, but still having the ability to use a touchscreen to mix is bliss!

PROS

CONS

PRICE

Great fit, excellent noise reduction, inexpensive.

None.

$29

PROS

CONS

PRICE

Nice fit, nice flip finger ability.

None.

$39

situations musicians would find themselves in. The Gig Gear gloves are a bit lighter and offer up a lot more dexterity, and the ability to not have to take off a set of gloves every time you need to use your phone or grab a small item is the big sell. If you’re still at the point where you’re loading your own gear in and out of a venue, a set of these can keep those hands in good shape for the show. For any roadie or crew member, this is a no brainer, as well.  Chris Devine

The price is $39, and a decent set of mechanics gloves or work gloves would be about the same price. But those are a lot bulkier, meant for hiimpact situations, and are a bit overkill for most PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 45


GEAR REVIEWS

ZOOM H1N Handy Recorder

D

oing any kind of decent mobile recording with good sound quality used to be a pain, either too much hardware was required or you needed an engineering degree. Now there are apps that can take on the heavy lifting, but something’s still missing, and memory capacity is an issue. Enter Zoom with their latest field recording unit, the H1n. The slim design is just big enough to house some simple controls that the user can work to easily navigate settings along the lit display. The two microphones are well shielded from any bumps with the molded-in guard, and a threaded mount to attach it to a microphone stand is thankfully built in. It’s powered by 2 AAA batteries, which should last about 10 hours during normal use. The Zoom accepts Micro SD cards, however, the maximum size SD card is 32 GB. It can record in WAV at 16 and 24 Bit, as well as MP3 from 48kbps to 320 kbps, and of course format and resolution will dictate how much audio you can capture. The USB port allows for easy transfers of recorded files without the need for a card reader, which is a plus. A line-in connection for external mics makes this a great recorder for interviews, and with the line out/headphone outs connected to a DSLR camera, makes a great tool for adding audio flexibility for on-the-go video productions. There’s also the ability to set markers in the files, so getting the audio and video to sync won’t be an issue in post. In a band rehearsal room, it’s an invaluable tool with excellent signal to noise ratio. Even a loud rock band comes through with excellent clarity, and features like the lo cut filter and limiter make for quality live recordings that can really be used as useful tools for working out ideas after jam sessions or rehearsals. There’s also a handy built in speaker, allowing on-the-spot playback – great if you want to instantly recall an improvised part you just performed. Now here’s where it goes beyond a field recorder -- with the overdubbing function it gives the option to layer another “track” on top of an existing one. So, for songwriters this a great mobile demo’ing tool; being able to add vocals to an existing file that might not have vocals, for example, can be incredibly useful when capturing song ideas while on the road or away from the studio. The only real downside is that there is a limit to using a 32 GB card at maximum, but considering the audio quality options, size, as well as on-board options like using the Zoom H1n as an external mic for a digital camera, it’s a truly practical tool at a great price point. Overall, it’s worth it to have a dedicated device to record rehearsal room recordings for your band, as well as pull double-duty to record high-quality audio for your YouTube videos.  Chris Devine

46 APRIL/MAY 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

PROS

CONS

PRICE

Excellent sound quality, great for capturing sound for videos.

Only up to 32 GB SD cards will work.

$119


GEAR REVIEWS

P

YAMAHA Revstar RS502T

90 equipped guitars made a big comeback in recent years, but in most cases it’s been a throwback style re-run. Yamaha’s Revstar R502T brings the familiar P90 tone with a modern style inspired by the company’s rich motorsports heritage.

Switch.” Pull up on the tone knob and it engages a low pass filter that screens out the pickup’s lower frequencies and gives them a slinkier and spankier single coil tone. We really enjoyed this sonic characteristic when played cleanly through a loud, slightly overdrive amp.

Appearance-wise, it recalls their familiar SG style with a symmetrical body shape. The top color of our test model was finished in a classy Bowden Green that reminded us of vintage ’60s motorcycles and British roadsters of the same era, and the cream binding is a great transition point to the gloss black finish that encompasses the back. All of the metal hardware has a brushed satin look and feel, from the tailpiece and bridge to the knobs and tuners. The only logo is a bespoke version of Yamaha’s tuning fork icon at the headstock, which gives it a sleek, boutique look.

Being single coil, P90s have some of that 60-cycle hum in there, but in this case, it didn’t really become noticeable unless the gain was piled on heavy. But these pickups really love the gain settings where the punch is from volume, and not oversaturation. The neck pickup is like butter, super smooth, but still had plenty of top end and definition. That classic top end sparkle was there in the bridge pickup, as well, along with the roundness of a single coil. The pickups are also well balanced together, getting a nice blend in the middle position, without one pickup overcoloring the other. Players looking for a sound that has the depth of a humbucker, but the clarity of a single coil, should consider a P90, for sure. Engage the dry switch, and it starts to respond more like a Tele or Strat, with a nice bubbly feel.

Underneath all of that beauty is a mahogany neck with a maple-topped mahogany body. The neck has a nice hefty feel and girth to it, but it’s actually not too large for smaller hands. It’s reminiscent of the typical medium carve most modern players favor, with fantastic fretwork and finishing. The overall fit and finish is just excellent. It’s hard to believe it’s a productionline guitar under $1000, and not something that came out of a small builder’s workshop. The electronics are alnico P90s with a 3-way blade switch, and a traditional volume and tone controls. But the tone knob is where it goes into untraditional P90 territory, with its “Dry

The overall feel was beyond fantastic; the neck shape and P90s really connected well, and the dry switch adds a lot more tonal colors to the player’s palette. This Revstar can be found for $649 (if you score a sale price), and for that price it’s a lot of guitar for the money. P90 guitars are workhorses, and this one can get the job done in any style imaginable. There’s no downside to this instrument, plain and simple. It’s where classic and contemporary meet.  Chris Devine

PROS

Excellent design, fantastic pickups, dry switch is a great functional feature. CONS

None. PRICE

$729

PERFORMER MAGAZINE APRIL/MAY 2018 47


GEAR REVIEWS

A

UNIVERSAL AUDIO Arrow Thunderbolt Interface

nother small-footprint interface? Now, before you roll your eyes, hear us out. This might be the best of the bunch – let me tell you why.

guitars, in case you want to go direct. Again, our tests yielding great (and most importantly, clean) results. For those classic Prince-style electric sounds, you’ve gotta got direct.

If your system can handle Thunderbolt 3, the new Arrow interface from Universal Audio might just be the only stop you need to make for a home studio or small commercial space. It’s portable, affordable, easy to setup, comes with a ton of amazing software, and features some of the best mic preamps we’ve found at this price point.

Controls are simple and well-laid out, with one honkin’ rotary knob for monitoring, and a bright light up display that enables you to keep an eye on your input channels (mic, line and Hi-Z) as well as your headphone output at all times.

Let’s start with ease of use. The days of confusing and hard-to-manage interfaces are over. With a clean design, Arrow is intuitive to use, features an uncluttered front panel and rear I/O layout, and is simple enough for even the most novice user to learn in just a few minutes. That said, Universal Audio didn’t skimp on power, as Arrow is packed with fantastic proprietary AD/ DA convertors and two Unison mic pre’s that are flat-out fantastic and musically transparent. We tracked vocals with a few different condensers (+48 button is right on the front, can’t miss it) and dynamic mics, and were quite impressed with the uncolored “airiness” we were laying down in our DAW by using Arrow, and just how easy it was to get a great sound with minimal fiddling. Acoustic instruments fared equally well, with Arrow capturing subtle nuances being fed by our assortment of mics. You even get a front-panel Hi-Z input for 48 APRIL/MAY 2018 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

Latency? Thing of the past, my friend. The latest Thunderbolt technology ensure that there’s basically no lag whatsoever, and we can attest to that. Further, Arrow sounds the most analog of any digital interface we’ve ever encountered, at least at this price. Further still, you get access to a dizzying array of UAD powered plug-ins for tracking and mixing, notably Marshall guitar amp emulators, UA 1176LN emulators, and additional mic preamp and amp emulations from API, Neve and others. If the interface’s hardware wasn’t enough to win us over, the software package that complements the unit is the icing on the cake, and works hand-in-hand with Arrow’s hardware side to ensure everything works seamlessly together out-of-the-box. Getting a simple, yet powerful interface to be the brains of your home studio is one thing, but unleashing its full potential with classic, analog-sounding mic preamp emulators, guitar cab/amp simulators, and legendary limiter/ compressor plug-ins is just what you need to have

a fully-functioning mobile powerhouse studio at a ludicrously low price point. The new Arrow interface earns our Editor’s Pick Award – we can’t recommend it highly enough.  Benjamin Ricci

PROS

Small footprint, affordable, mobilefriendly, great software, fantastic mic pre’s. CONS

Thunderbolt 3 may limit appeal to some legacy users. PRICE

$499


LIMITED EDITION BLUE/BLACK

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Performer Magazine: April/May 2018  

Featuring Courtney Barnett, Cut Chemist, the Spotify IPO, Facebook advertising for musicians, a complete drum recording guide and more...

Performer Magazine: April/May 2018  

Featuring Courtney Barnett, Cut Chemist, the Spotify IPO, Facebook advertising for musicians, a complete drum recording guide and more...