Studio Diary #31: Attenuators Colour The Sound

This photo shows the front panel of my Fryette PS-100 Power Station attenuator. To one side, we can also see a glimpse of my Two Notes Captor too.
The Two Notes Captor and Fryette PS-100 Power Station

Attenuators are one of the reasons we can enjoy valve amps at home without upsetting the neighbours. I’ve never really thought about how they affect the overall tone … until now.

In this blog post, I’m going to look at the two attenuators that I have – the Two Notes Captor and the Fryette PS-100 Power Station – and work out what they sound like. And I’m including some sound samples, so that you can hear the differences for yourself.

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New Arrivals: December 2021

There were two pieces of second hand gear that I really wanted to try this month. Both are in stores some distance away. One is a (tweed!) amp that’s only available for collection, and the other is a guitar that I’ve no experience with (so I’d need to try a couple of other examples first to help me understand whether it’s a good example or not).

Unfortunately, the pandemic is back with a vengeance here on Plague Island, and we decided that it wasn’t worth the risk of infection just for a couple of pieces of guitar gear – no matter how nice they might be.

That left the private sales second hand market, where popular and interesting pieces are currently going for quite high prices. Too many buyers chasing too few items, I guess.

I did manage to pick up something though, and I had a blast with it.

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Joe Gilder’s Latest Tips On Recording Fingerstyle Acoustic Guitar

This year, I’m learning how to record acoustic guitar. I’ve got a lot to learn. To help me learn, I’m keeping an eye out for any helpful YouTube videos from professional engineers and producers.

Like this one 🙂

Joe Gilder has just posted his tips for recording finger style guitar, as a five-step process that anyone can follow.

#PlayAlternative: Heritage Guitars

Got a short-but-sweet one, for anyone who’s after an alternative to the mighty Gibson Les Paul.

Andertons have just posted a video introducing Heritage Guitars’ Standard Series to their audience. Have a listen!

In terms of tone, I reckon it’s all there. To my ears, the H150 model sounded like a good Les Paul.

Let me know if you agree or not, in the comments below.

The PRS S2 McCarty 594 Is Finally Here!

PRS announced the S2 McCarty 594 back at Winter NAMM 2020. I ordered one the same month … and then shortly after, the global pandemic began.

I ended up cancelling my order later in 2020, as there was no sign of it actually shipping to the UK. Fast forward to March 2021, and the S2 McCarty 594 that I ordered has finally reached these shores!

What is it like? Read on to find out 🙂

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Wampler Launches The Pantheon – Their King of Tone Alternative

It’s finally here – the Wampler Pantheon overdrive pedal. Based on the original Marshall Bluesbreaker pedal circuit, it aims to be an alternative to that legendary pedal: Analogman’s King of Tone.

As well as Brian’s own demo (above), there are plenty of demos from the YouTube pedal demo community and several retailers.

As is usual with Brian, he hasn’t made a straight-up clone on the King of Tone. There’s an extra – and active! – bass EQ knob, and external switches both for the amount of gain and the kind of clipping available.

The Analogman King of Tone is possibly second only to the Klon when it comes to restricted supply and hype-fuelled demand.

The KoT is still in production. To buy a new one, you have to send an email to Analogman to join the waiting list. Unfortunately, they don’t send acknowledgements, so you’ve no way of knowing if you’re actually on the list or not. Then you have to wait until you’re at the front of the queue. At the time of writing, the queue is around two years long.

As a result, there’s definitely demand for a KoT-type pedal that is easy to obtain, and easy to replace if it stolen or otherwise lost.

Please head over to YouTube and leave a like and a supportive comment on the videos.

Slate Digital VRS8 Interface Launched

Slate Digital has launched the VRS8, their 8×8 recording interface for Thunderbolt-equipped Macs.

For home studio enthusiasts who want pro-level gear, there’s really only three ways to do it: Universal Audio Apollo, Slate Digital VRS and the Everything Bundle … or buy a standalone interface and collect your own plugins from lots of different vendors.

The UAD system relies on DSP chips in the Apollo hardware to run emulations of analog outboard gear. You have to buy these plugins separately, and they cost hundreds of pounds each. The results are fantastic, and not only well worth the money, but also far cheaper than buying (and maintaining!) the real outboard gear.

There’s just one problem, and it’s the reason why I haven’t bought any UAD plugins this year. The Apollo hardware is simply underpowered. It doesn’t take many plugins to max out the available hardware. And if you’re a home studio enthusiast, it’s a lot of money to move from the Apollo Twin up to the Apollo 8.

Enough money to consider looking at switching to something else.

Now Slate Digital has its own serious problem to take into account. It’s secured by an iLok key. Look at a modern Mac. Where the hell do you find a free port to plug the iLok into these days?!? One port is taken up by power, one by the external storage that the session is on, one by your audio interface, and one by your external monitor.

Yes, I know there’s a virtual iLok now. I live in the UK, where our broadband is about as reliable as a Trump tweet or a Brexit promise. I don’t want a (rare!) creative day ruined because of a broadband outage.

That said, the Slate Digital VRS looks really interesting. For pretty much the same price as the Apollo 8 Quad, you get 8 preamps and a year’s access to the Everything Bundle. (The equivalent UAD Ultimate Bundle is currently over £2,300 and doesn’t include all of the plugins). And your Mac will be able to run far more plugins at once than the quad-DSPs of the Apollo 8.

Thing is, if I’m going to use all 8 preamps, I’d want the Apollo 8p, not the Apollo 8. The difference? The extra Unison preamps, which model the electrical behaviour of whatever outboard gear you’re simulating. I’m a big fan, and a big believer that part of the organicness of a recorded tone comes from the interaction of the electrical circuit.

Question is, though: is it a difference that is noticeable in a final mix? And is it a difference that’s worth the extra money?

Jimi Hendrix Fender Custom Shop Guitars

Chappers and The Captain have taken a look at the new Hendrix Voodoo Child Stratocasters from Fender’s Custom Shop.

At ÂŁ4000, they’re priced mainly for collectors of Hendrix memorabilia. They come with certificates, and some other official Hendrix-branded stuff … but at heart, they seem to be Journeyman Strats with reversed headstocks and a reversed bridge pickup.

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment.

JHS Bonzai Pedal Demo

Fluff has posted a demo of the JHS Bonzai pedal. 9 Tubescreamers in one pedal!

If you like to get your dirt from your amp, the Tubescreamer is an essential pedal circuit to explore. The TS features a mid-range hump that can give your amp a boost and lift your guitar out of a mix.

There’s been many TS designs over the years, and that’s without counting all the third-party circuits! The JHS Bonzai puts 9 of these designs into a single pedal. And, by all accounts, each circuit is a faithful reproduction of the original.

Why would anyone need a pedal like this? Especially as the differences can be very hard to hear in a YouTube demo? Basically, it gives you flexibility – the ability to pick the TS circuit that best suits the guitar, amp, and music genre. If your rig and genre is static, maybe it’s overkill.

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment.