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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Double Review: MarkBass Little Mark 250 Black Line and Tech 21 Bass Fly Rig (with video sample)



Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we say farewell to this 2017 with a double review: a bass amp and a bass preamp-multi effect, thanking our friend Zoltan for the precious collaboration.

Let's start with the amp: Markbass Little Mark 250 Black line.

Markbass is an italian company famous all around the world for its great bass amplifiers, and the Little Mark 250 is one of the smallest and most affordable, yet usable in a rehearsal's room.
Weighing only 2kgs, this super compact head has a 6 knobs eq (low, low mid, high mid, high, variable pre-shape filter and vintage loudspeaker emulator - this last one works for the line out signal) which can be put before of after the preamp, gain, inputs and outputs also in xrl and a speaker emulated out: basically a more than complete setup for a bass amp.

What surprised me is how loud this unit is: in a world in which bass amps can reach crazy power outputs (like 2000watts) we use this in a rehearsal's room playing heavy metal with drums, guitar etc and half of the volume is more than enough to stay on top of a very loud drummer, so 250w are definitely enough for a rehearsal room, considering also that in a live situation 99% of the times the direct signal will go straight from the head to the mixing board, so the wattage is not a problem anyway.
My final verdict is that this small head, for its price, it's the best bang for the buck on the market, and the quality, in this price range, is way higher than its direct competitors.

Nice job Markbass!


Specs taken from the website:


- GAIN: -60 dB to +23 dB range

- GROUND LIFT (switch on rear panel)


- 6 KNOBS EQ

- PRE/POST EQ (switch on rear panel)

- LINE OUT: balanced XLR, max. voltage 20 Vpp

- EFFECT SEND: unbalanced, max. voltage 20 Vpp (pre-EQ)

- TUNER OUT: unbalanced, max. voltage 2 Vpp

- SPEAKER OUT: speakon/1/4" combo, 1/4"


As you can also see from the video, together with the Markbass head we have played a bit with the Tech21 Bass Fly Rig.
This is an extremely compact and simple pedalboard made by Tech21, the american company that created Sansamp, one of the first and most famous amp modeling preamps (all analog), still used today (especially in its bass version) by basically all the world's biggest stars.
This bass fly rig incorporates a bass Sansamp, which can be used both with an amp or to go straight to the mixer, an Octave, a Fuzz, a Boost (that can be set pre or post the Sansamp section), a Chorus, a Compressor and a Tuner.
It really improves the sound, cleaning it up and making it sound less muddy, more aggressive and deep, without giving it that mosquito-like gain that sometimes digital processors give to the instrument: this is probably one of the perks of the analog processing.

This small unit is really a swiss army knife for the traveling musician, it lets you have a good tone anywhere you plug it and it is very credible also when used directly on the mixing board.

Thumbs up!


Specs taken from the website:

- Sansamp

- Fuzz

- Octave

- Chorus

- Compressor

- Boost

- Tuner

- Xlr out

- Speaker emulated out



Happy new year from Guitar Nerding Blog!


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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Review: Ignite Amps Anvil 3.0 free Vst with video sample


Hello and welcome to this week's article!
For this Christmas episode we are finding under the tree a new version of one of our favourite guitar amp sims: Ignite Amps Anvil 3.0!

As you can see from the video the entire chain is made of free Ignite plugins (no post production of any kind), some of the best Vst available today, you can download them here.

Here's the chain: Tsb-1- Anvil - TPA-1 - Nadir

The Anvil is a preamp modeled on a project of Andy Zeugs, and it consists in 3 channels: Clean, Rhythm and lead.
The clean one is modeled after a Fender clean, the rhythm one is modeled after a Marshall Plexi and the lead channel is modeled after an Engl amp.
This combination makes the Anvil an extremely versatile preamp: all three channels are very usable and realistic, and in combination with the power amp simulator TBA-1 the sound is surprisingly warm and rich in harmonics.

The version 3.0 features a completely rewritten tube emulation engine, which makes it even more realistic, and a very useful preset-bank management system that lets you not only create and save presets but also copy-paste them on the fly so that you can transpose the same setting from one channel to another: this is a very smart one-button function that I wish it was on every Vst.

The tone, except for these two features, is obviously the same of the previous versions, which is good basically for every genre; in the video you can hear a metal rhythm guitar, and the eq is as you can see from the picture almost flat: the sound is full but defined, with a very clear attack and a pleasant, full mid range.
The same realism can be heard also in the other two channels.

Thumbs up!

Merry Christmas from Guitar Nerding Blog!


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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Best Free Guitar Amp Sims 2017 3/3: Nick Crow (with video sample)



CLICK HERE FOR PART 1/3: Ignite Amps

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2/3: LePou


Hello and welcome to this week's article!
In this third and last part we are talking about Nick Crow Labs plugins!
The name Nick Crow refers to a guy called Nikolay Voronin, but unfortunately it is not easy to find informations about this producer, all we know is that he has created some exceptional tube guitar amp simulators, freeware, and both in 32 and 64 bit format.

In this comparison we are using the same criteria as in the Ignite one

in all the samples we have used all Ignite Plugins (except obviously for the amp sim): TSB1 - Tyrant Screamer, the Power Amp Simulator TPA-1 (yes usually all amp simulators have also a power amp section modeler but this one really adds a lot of weight to the sound, I suggest you all to add it to your chain), and the NadIr impulse loader as a speaker simulator.

Basically the Ignite chain is the same one used also for the comparisons of the other producers, the only thing that I have swapped is the amp simulator, all the rest is identical, and the general rules I have used in recording these samples have been:

- no post production of any kind: no eq, no comp, only a limiter in the master bus.
- all the amp simulators have been left as flat as possible (often I have left them totally untouched, and all in the overdrive channel), I have made just some small adjustment in the controls to even out the volume and let it sit a little better in the mix.

On a last note I would like to add that I did not compare the Tube Driver, which is another plugin from the same producer, because it's a tube preamp, but not specifically made for guitar, therefore it sounds too different and with not enough gain.

After listening to this comparison my key takeaways are the following:

7170
: A simulation of the lead channel of a Peavey 5150 III. It is incredibly chuggy (in a good way), it replicates well a 5150 crancked to the max and sits very well in the mix, I can't praise enough this plugin.

8505: A simulation of the Peavey 6505, a little less extreme and slighly darker sounding of the 7170 but still very similar (after all it's the same difference between the first model and the following 2 ones, also in the hardware version). Unlike its lower numbered sister, this one lets us also achieve (with some tweaking) a clean sound.

Wagner Sharp: This simulator is an emulation of the Sharp channel from a Bogner Triple Giant amplifier, but it actually sounds extremely close to the 7170 (only a little cleaner and with a more controlled gain). It is chuggy, and it's the last descendent of the first Wagner, the first guitar amp simulator that I have used, and that made me fall in love with this type of plugins.


In conclusion of this 3 parts article, what are my favourite plugins?
My criteria is how useful can one plugin be in a mix, so I'm evaluating these criteria:

- how well it sits in a mix
- how controllable is the gain (which means how clean/intellegible or dirty/confused) it sounds
- how much time do I have to spend tweaking to make it sound well in the mix (the less, the better)
- is it aggressive enough to be in a modern metal production?

And these are the three vst amp simulators I think everyone should have in their Daw at all times:

- Nick Crow 7170
- LePou Lecto
- Ignite Anvil

Let us know what do you think!


CLICK HERE FOR PART 1/3: Ignite Amps

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2/3: LePou


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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Best Free Guitar Amp Sims 2017 2/3: LePou / Poulin (with video sample)



CLICK HERE FOR PART 1/3: Ignite Amps



Hello everyone and welcome to the second part of our free amp sims shootout!
Today we are talking about one of the most prolific plugin producers in the scene: the canadian Alain Poulin!
He has produced several plugins, starting with the first, classic one Solo C (which I have not included in the comparison because there is no 64 bit version), developing his coding towards both replicas of existing heads and the creation of completely new ones.

Today his plugins are used by millions of home producers worldwide, because they are free, lightweight, sound good and have a very nice interface.

In this comparison we are using the same criteria as in the Ignite one

in all the samples we have used all Ignite Plugins (except obviously for the amp sim): TSB1 - Tyrant Screamer, the Power Amp Simulator TPA-1 (yes usually all amp simulators have also a power amp section modeler but this one really adds a lot of weight to the sound, I suggest you all to add it to your chain), and the NadIr impulse loader as a speaker simulator.

Basically the Ignite chain is the same one used also for the comparisons of the other producers, the only thing that I have swapped is the amp simulator, all the rest is identical, and the general rules I have used in recording these samples have been:

- no post production of any kind: no eq, no comp, only a limiter in the master bus.
- all the amp simulators have been left as flat as possible (often I have left them totally untouched, and all in the overdrive channel), I have made just some small adjustment in the controls to even out the volume and let it sit a little better in the mix.

After listening to this comparison my key takeaways are the following:

Hybrit: this Marshall simulation is surprisingly versatile and gainy, I had to lower the master a bit to match the others, but if you it even to 3/4 makes it absolutely usable also in thrash metal, it has a lot of attack and tight response.

Le456: this is modeled after an Engl Powerball/Fireball, and you can hear that it has nailed the loud midrangey character of the head, I see it very usable in a classic/power metal record, where the real one is the queen of the most famous albums.

Lecto: this head is clearly based on a mesa Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, but it has something unique; while the texture of the sound and the gain structure are clearly modeled after the original one, this head adds an extremely musical midrange, that makes it one of the amp sims that sits better in a mix, ever. This is a must have.

LeGion: this is an original one, meaming that is not modeled after any other head in particular. It is created to have a lot of gain and to not need a booster, but somehow it sounds a bit thinner and with less body that it should. I can see it used in Djent or other genres with extremely low tunings, where the thicker strings can make up with the general thinness of the amp sim and find a very clear and tight sounding sweet spot.

LeXtac: modeled after a Bogner Extasy, is not very suited for metal, it is round, warm, but muddy in the low mids and I see it very good in classic rock or pop, where gain is lower and the thickness of each strum sound be wider.


CLICK HERE FOR PART 1/3: Ignite Amps

CLICK HERE FOR PART 3/3: Nick Crow


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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Best Free Guitar Amp Sims 2017 1/3: Ignite Amps (with video sample)



Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today is a special day, because we are presenting an article with a shootout of the best guitar amp sims with video samples, divided by author.
We know that there are many others out there but we chose the three top producers, because they had enough simulators to compare and because many others does not have a 64 bit version (which are the only ones I have used).

Let's start with the italian pride: Ignite Amps.

These guys make both hardware and software products: they let you use freely the vst version of their amps and pedals, and if you want they can also manufacture a real version of their softwares, like the beautiful Emissary head letting you customize it according to your taste.

In the video we actually use almost their entire plugin lineup:

in all the samples we have used their od TSB1 - Tyrant Screamer, the Power Amp Simulator TPA-1 (yes usually all amp simulators have also a power amp section modeler but this one really adds a lot of weight to the sound, I suggest you all to add it to your chain), and the NadIr impulse loader as a speaker simulator.

Basically the Ignite chain is the same one used also for the comparisons of the other producers, the only thing that I have swapped is the amp simulator, all the rest is identical, and the general rules I have used in recording these samples have been:

- no post production of any kind: no eq, no comp, only a limiter in the master bus.
- all the amp simulators have been left as flat as possible (often I have left them totally untouched, and all in the overdrive channel), I have made just some small adjustment in the controls to even out the volume and let it sit a little better in the mix.

By a quick listen to the samples you can really tell the different shades of the three simulators:

- The Anvil is aggressive and very versatile, it is based on the amp with the same name by Andy Zeugs and features three independent channels (a clean that is Fender style, a crunch that is modeled after a Plexi and a lead channel based on an Engl).

- The NRR-1 is but modeled on a Soldano X88R base (the base also for a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier), but with some modification requested by the (former) Fleshgod Apocalypse guitarist Cristiano Trionfera: it's slightly darker than the Anvil (and still today, even if it can't be heard in the video, I think it has one of the best clean channels around), and unlike the Anvil, the Rhythm channel has also a boost function.

- The Emissary is much more mid-oriented: there is a lot going on in the high mids area and the eq allows you to control and fine tune low and high mids; with some tweaking this could be one of the most screaming amp sims you can find (in facts it is also used extensively in the extreme metal scene, also live!). This is probably one of the most tube-sounding amp sims around, and also in this one the clean channel is beautiful and warm (click here for a more in depth review).

What do you think? Which one do you prefer?


CLICK HERE FOR PART 2/3: LePou

CLICK HERE FOR PART 3/3: Nick Crow


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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The best DAW (digital audio workstations) 2017 2/2

CLICK HERE FOR PART 1/2



Reaper - 60$ for the discounted license, 229$ for the commercial one (both gives you right to two major updates): this low price-no frills daw has actually a huge and very active fanbase, because it's powerful, it has amazing plugins bundled and it incorporates all the features of the flagship competitors costing only a fraction of them. It supports a huge amount of themes and language packs, and basically the only thing that prevents it from being much more expensive is the fact that it doesn't comes with vst instruments bundled.



Avid Pro Tools - The undisputed market leader by decades, Pro Tools has switched from a one off payment to a subscription service (from 24.95$ a month), and it offers, besides its powerful digital audio workstation that is the most common standard all over the world, also a cloud based service for the artists to collaborate and an enormous amount of top quality plugins. There is also a free version, with several limitations.



Magix Samplitude Music Studio - Ranging from 99 to 599$, this workstation is very rich in content (also the basic version), it has many plugins and virtual instruments, supports vst3 and it is the latest installment of a long Magix tradition in music software (that has started with Magix Music maker, which is today free to download). Magix also produces Sequoia, which is a software that costs 2975€ and that is strictly aimed to professional mixing and mastering engineers and broadcasters, since it incorporates a very complete set of metering tools studied to be used also in radio/tv environments.




Acoustica Mixcraft - Ranging from 89 to 179$, Mixcraft is a low price Digital Audio Workstation very complete and full of virtual instruments, Midi Scoring, Video Editing and it supports an app that can be downloaded for free on Apple or Android devices to control the workstation via touch screen.



Ardour - One of the most beloved and feature rich pieces of software ever created for Linux has now taken the leap and became cross platform, so now it can run on Windows and Mac too. The software is paid by subscription plans that starts from as little as 1$ a month, making it the cheapest paid daw on the market, but don't let the price fool you: it is very rich in features and it has a very strong community that follows and improves the code continuously.



Motu Digital Performer - Arrived to the ninth installment, DP is an extremely reliable software that for long time has been a market standard, before sliding a bit in the background due to the new, strong competitors in the market. For 399$ you get a very complete daw, capable of doing virtually everything once you get acquainted with the particular interface.

Happy birthday Guitar Nerding Blog!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 1/2


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Friday, December 1, 2017

The best DAW (digital audio workstations) 2017 1/2

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Now that Christmas is approaching (and to celebrate also the sixth anniversary of Guitar Nerding Blog), we decided one to created an updated version of an article we have made two years ago about the best Digital Audio Workstations in the market, adding new entries (also freeware), and removing some product that in the meantime went missing in action (e.g. Cakewalk Sonar).
In no particular order, enjoy our list!



Audacity - The most famous freeware Daw is slowly evolving, arriving to the version 2.2.0, which supports a dark theme, midi playback, vst plugins (but not yet vst instruments), and a wide range of audio editing instruments. If you want to edit simple projects or just play live vst guitar simulators this could be enough for you.



Presonus Studio One - ranging from 98 to 396 euro, this Daw is my actual weapon of choice, for its stability, intuitive drag and drop interface, speed and good selection of native plugins. Today it has arrived to the version 3.5, but though each installment it has introduced exclusive features that have been implemented in the other workstations (e.g. Cubase) only several years later. It has also a free version, with some limitation.



Bitwig Studio - sold at a price of 299 euro, this daw is quite new but it has achieved a good reputation, especially through EDM musicians, due to its modular design and its array of synths. Among the perks of this workstation there is a strong community that collaborates on projects and a seamless hardware - software integration.



Steinberg Cubase - one of the most common professional standards of today, it has renewed radically its interface incorporating all the best features introduced by the competitors.
Ranging from 99€ to 549€, Cubase 9.5 is the latest version of a decades long legacy of powerful and reliable software.




N-Track Studio - ranging from 69 to 119$, this daw includes in the price 2 major releases, a totally redesigned GUI, a cloud based system to collaborate with other artists and a subscription based version for Apple and Android devices that lets you have most of the DAW features on your mobile (1.99$ a month). This cross platform integration is, as of today, an exclusive of this workstation.



Mutools Mulab - at the price of 69€, this Daw offers a modular design similar to Bitwig Studio, and it is another newcomer in the field. It features all the basic recording and editing features, but under the surface lies also quite a complete modular structure that lets us adapt the interface with only the tools we need. Seems that this is the trend of today and I wouldn't be surprised if this kind of UI will be adopted by more and more software houses.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2/2


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