Saturday, November 28, 2015

Review: Mercuriall Tube Amp Ultra 530 (with video sample)

Hello and welcome to this week's article! Today we are reviewing the most recent Guitar Amp simulator on the market: Mercuriall Tube Amp Ultra 530!
This amp simulator is based on the Engl E530, one of the best sounding preamps in the market, and offers a full circuit simulation of the hardware unit, plus some extra feature that the original unit doesn't have: a 3 position contour switch (instead of 2), a Stereo Chorus and a boost switch for the Lo Clean channel.
The simulator offers you also to choose among 3 types of preamp tubes, and features a class A power amp section with presence and master control. 

The cabinet section is, oddly, not Impulse driven but features a 2d positioning system of a virtual Shure sm57 microphone into one of the 8 available cabs: you can choose and adjust the position of the microphone until you find the sweet spot between the distance from the speaker and, horizontally, from the dustcap. Anyway the cabinet section can be disabled and the segnal can obviously be fed into an external IR loader.

This plugin sounds really good, and it holds on well against the direct competitor: the X30 of TSE audio, which simulates the same preamp: the sound is smooth, the plugin is not a cpu-hog (which is very important since usually one has to run more than one instance of it in a project), the controls are many and accurate, and I had fun finding the sweet spot for the microphone.

The only critic maybe we could make to this product is the fact that it could definitely incorporate more features: an Ir cabinet loader could be very useful, same for a noise gate, an overdrive simulator, a tuner and a delay. 
Just adding those essential modules would make the guitar track signal chain much smaller and cleaner, but something tells me that the future editions of this plugin will surely be more complete, since Mercuriall features also a pretty wide freeware section, and some of the good software in this section could undoubtly be revamped and incorporated in this paid suite making it more complete, as it is happening in the Ipad suite of the same producer: Amp One

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Using more than one interface at the same time and adding inputs (a guide for dummies)

Hello and welcome to this week's article! 
Today we are going to see if it's possible to combine two audio interfaces in the same computer to sum up all their inputs.
This is particularly useful if we need to record more tracks at the same time, but it creates a big problem: drivers.
The Daw in facts, uses one single driver and assigns it to an audio interface, and if we have two of them, with the driver of both installed, the program lets us just choose one of them.

While the problem is much easier to solve in a Mac environment (you must simply create an aggregate audio device in Audio MIDI Setup and set your main interface as the master clock), in Windows it gets much more complicated.

Basically there are 3 ways:

1) Daisy Chaining the interfaces: sometimes interfaces has a firewire, a Sp-dif or a usb "loop", like an input and a "through" output to connect themselves with other interfaces. 
The best brands (like Motu or Presonus) have drivers that can recognize other audio interfaces, usually only the ones made by the same producer, and lets you stack them one upon the other, multiplying the number of input channels.
The clock used is the one of the first Audio Interface, and the others will adapt to that one.

2) Expanding your channels via Adat: This connection has a few names, like Optical, Adat, Lightpipe, but they all mean the same thing: a fiber optic technology that can stream up to 8 channels of stable 44.1 or 48 khz 24 bit digital audio between audio hardwares. 
There are many units that add preamp channels and that are made just to be connected to another audio interface (like the Behringer Ada-8000) via Adat, and in this case, once hooked on the Audio interface, the drivers internal mixer should display the extra channels not as a separate audio interface but like additional channels of our first interface.

3) Adding channels to our unit using external preamps and the line inputs of our audio interface: if we don't want or can't pass through the Adat input of our audio interface we can often use our additional preamps, like a mixer or a rack unit like the aforementioned Ada 8000 going from the output of each channel into the line input of our audio interface
This can be done obviously only with the interfaces that has, besides the preamp inputs, also other line inputs made to be connected with external preamps or other processors.
Also in this case, the additional channels will be considered by the software as part of our main audio interface.

Do you know other ways to expand the input channels of your interface? Share them with us!

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

How to sound like: Metallica (with sample and using only free Vst Plugins)

Hello everyone and welcome to the second episode of our "How to sound like" serie!
Today we will talk about a sound that is considered to be one of the most imitated of all times: Metallica's Black Album rhythm guitar tone!

This tone is considered to be one of the best guitar tones ever produced in heavy metal, and it was created with a guitar equipped with Emg active pickups through a Mesa Boogie Triaxis preamp, a Mesa Boogie Simul Class 2:90 power amp and a Mesa Cabinet.
The cabinet was microphoned with several microphones, but the producer, Bob Rock, always stated that a good part of the sound was achieved with a common Shure Sm57.

The sound is bassy, but with a surprisingly rich mid range and a medium amount of gain, that makes it very defined and sets hit somewhere between thrash metal and hard rock; the result is very euphonic.
To achieve a sound that tries to get close to the original one I have used (as you can see from the image) the amazing Tse audio Tube screamer simulator, the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier made by Lepou called LECTO and the best Free Impulse loader on the market: Ignite Amps NadIR

Then I have loaded in NadIR a free Impulse made by sampling the tone from the Enter Sandman song from the BGelais Metallica Golden Ir Pack, and I have just made the tweaks on the amp that you can see in the image.
If you feel that there is still too much midrange content compared to the original song, you can also lower the "tone" control from the Tube Screamer, even up to zero.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

How to prepare your band for a live gig (a guide for dummies)

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article! Today we're doing a small checklist for what to know and remember before playing live.
Obviously this small guide is aimed for the young musicians and emerging bands with little knowledge, just some small advice  to make things easier to the musicians and to the organizers!

1) Tune your instruments!: This may seem obvious but not all beginner musicians do it; they think the guitar is already in tune, or they can tune it by ear if they hear something wrong, or they can tune it between one song and the other using the tuning pedal.
If the string instruments are not in tune, everyone will notice it and the band will automatically sound cheesy.
Tune your guitar at the beginning, and please, please don't make everyone wait 3 minutes between the songs because your guitar can't hold the tuning so you have to retune it every song! :D

2) Share the backline: don't be a dick and agree with the other bands on who brings what, and don't be afraid to share your amplifier, or cabinet, or some part of your drumkit with the other bands.
This will ease the transport of the instrumentation to the location, will make you earn respect and will reduce stage changing times among the bands, which should be as short and smooth as possible, and instead sometimes it turns itself into a long ordeal with the audience that leaves the room.

3) Make a list of the instrumentation before going to the venue: this is linked with the previous point; everyone should have very clear what he's bringing to the venue (e.g. an amplifier, a guitar, 3 jacks, 2 stompboxes, etc...), especially the drummer, because things can "disappear" pretty easily, also because someone can put them into their bag mistaking them for his own stuff.
Having a checklist helps us in remembering everything better.

4) Use a Metronome: not all drummers are born with the perfect sense of tempo in their head, and especially while playing fast, complex songs like a death metal song, it's important for the whole band to rely on a perfectly consistent tempo.
Using a metronome on the ear of the drummer, and if the band is very organized, on the ears of all the other members, can REALLY improve a performance, giving it that tightness that makes the difference between an amateur and a pro.

5) alcohol does not help: don't believe the movie legends that getting on stage drunk will make you play smoother, it is not true! When playing is better to deal with shyness than to have your playing impaired by an alcohol intoxication!

Hope this helps!

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Sunday, November 1, 2015


Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to review one of the finest Esp guitars: the Horizon Nt7!
This guitar sets itself in the top tier of Esp Horizon models and it just went out of production, after having been produced for several years.

The body is neck through, which helps the sustain, and the neck part is made of maple, while the sides are alder.
The scale is the typical Esp/Ltd 25,5" scale, which is the ideal for 7 strings, and it's a good compromise between lenght and comfort, since above that it starts becoming a little too uncomfortable for the hands of many guitarists.
The neck is U-shaped, it's not as thin as an Ibanez neck, but it's very comfortable without resulting too thick.
24 X-Jumbo frets, Tonepros Tune o'Matic bridge and Gotoh locking tuners on the hardware side, and a couple of Emg pickups (707 and 81-7) on the electronics side.

One of the aspects in which you can really notice the fact that this guitar is really top-tier is the building quality: everything, from the painting to the binding to every connection is made with great care, in the japanese Esp Factory, and this is also represented by the price tag (around 1600/2000€).

We have tried this guitar thoroughly in the latest years, both on studio and live, and the most important thing we have noticed (besides its playability) it's how balanced its sound is: it's mid oriented, with powerful lows and the right amount of brightness; the typical sound that once recorded, needs less processing to sound perfect.
Overall is probably one of the best seven strings guitars we've ever heard, and definitely a suggested buy if you want uncompromised quality.


Neck-Thru-Body Construction 

25.5" Scale 

Alder Body, Maple Neck 

Ebony Fingerboard 

45mm Bone Nut 

Thin U Neck Contour 

24 XJ Frets 

Black Nickel Hardware 

Gotoh Magnum Lock Tuners 

Tonepros Locking TOM Bridge 

EMG 707 (neck) and EMG 81-7 (Bridge) 

Finish: Black