Saturday, February 18, 2017

Review: Toneforge Ben Bruce (with video sample)

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are reviewing (with a bit of delay since its initial introduction) a new virtual guitar amp: Toneforge Ben Bruce!
This amp simulator tries to combine the key elements of the tone of Ben Bruce, guitarist of Asking Alexandria, a well known british metalcore band produced by Joey Sturgis, which is also the man behind the Toneforge brand.
The sound of Ben Bruce is based on the classic Peavey 5150 tone, which is an amp very popular in metalcore for its definition and its tightness, and it can be head in the Asking Alexandria's song "I Won't Give In".

As for the other Toneforge amps, the Ben Bruce includes two channels (clean and overdrive), four stompboxes (an overdrive, although the head sounds already so gainy on itself that probably you won't ever need it, a stereo delay, rotary and reverb), a Cabinet simulator with the emulation of four microphones (a condenser, an SM57 on axis, an SM57 off axis and a Sennheiser Md421) and Ir Loader, a chromatic tuner, a parametric eq and a peak limiter.

By testing it I have appreciated as always how Toneforge plugins are so lightweight on the cpu and straightforward to use: the UI features a pleasant scheumorphist interface (which means that it recreates the interface of hardware products) and sound good right away, without even needing to dial anything, which is honestly pretty rare in the world of virtual amps.
The amp has a very pleasant and usable mid range, very mix ready, and it is very tight, perfect for metalcore, making it probably the easiest Toneforge virtual amp to mix with so far, for the genre.

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

How to build a home studio for less than 500$ in 2017

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to see how to start recording quality music on the tightest budget possible, keeping in mind that a chain is as strong as its weakest link, so I have suggested products that respects a minimum standard of quality (as there are surely even cheaper ones, but they in my opinion don't guarantee a reasonable result) to obtain a good product.

Let's start by saying that obviously a pc is required, but if you are reading this, it's very likely for you to have one. This pc should have a decent amount of ram (I'd say that 6/8gb would be a good starting point), and a processor not too old. For the software side, both the audio interfaces that we suggest have a basic version of a Daw and some plugin, which are absolutely enough to start working right away, so for a budget studio there shouldn't be need of much else.

For the sound interface, in my opinion the best quality to price ratio in 2017 is the Presonus Audiobox Vsl 22: this is an amazing sound interface, very complete (it has usb 2.0 connection, Midi in and out, 2 combo Xmax preamps etc.). Some people says it is better a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, in my opinion the Focusrite sounds a little more thin and some models have gain problems when recording guitar, but in doubt I paste both links, since they cost the same and are pretty much equivalent. Another pro of the Presonus one is that it comes with a Free copy of the Daw Studio One,
but on the other hand, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 comes with a limited version of Pro Tools and a set of plugins made by Focusrite itself.

(Click on the images for the Amazon Link with the best price)

Now moving to the monitors, we can choose between a set of monitors and/or a pair of headphones. For monitors the choice is hard, because there are very few monitors capable of letting us mix properly at a very entry level price. The choice boils down pretty much only to Presonus Eris e4.5 and Tascam VL-S5, both of them for about 200$, or around 150€. On one hand the Presonus ones comes also with two stands and a smaller size and weight, on the other the Tascam, at the same price, offer you a 5 inches speaker instead of a 4.5 one, which means that it will have a better response in the low end area.

(Click on the images for the Amazon Link with the best price)

Speaking of headphones, instead, it is also hard to find a budget pair that can be considered mix-capable, but always moving in the same price area there are some that are considered to be quite usable, both for mixing and recording, in the 100/150$ area.
Let's start with Beyerdynamic Dt990, which are an industry standard in the 150$ area, and if the budget is tighter (around 50$), there are the Akg K240 Studio, which are probably the most widely used studio headphones in the world.

(Click on the images for the Amazon Link with the best price)

Finally we need some microphone. I'd suggest in this beginning stage a dynamic one and a condenser one that can serve more or less all purposes, and that can be used also together to capture a wide range of details also for acoustic instruments.
If I would have to buy just one microphone I would go for a Shure Beta 58: it is dynamic, great for vocals, guitars and and all around amazing microphones for about 150$.
For lower prices (around 100$) we can check out the smaller brother, the Shure Sm58, which is another great all purpose dynamic mike. Finally, among the condenser microphones, one that has a great quality-to-price ratio, good both for music and for radio-podcast streamings, is the Audio Technica At2035, the evolution of the legendary At2020, that comes in a bundle (for 150$) with also a shock mount, an anti-pop filter and an xlr cable.

(Click on the images for the Amazon Link with the best price)

As for the accessories, there are very few things which are really essential, and they can all boil down in some jack cable, xlr jack cable, anti pop filter and a microphone stand. I will just post one link for each type, as there is no need to invest too much on these, in the beginning.

(Click on the images for the Amazon Link with the best price)

Hope it was helpful!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Review: Peavey 5150 / Peavey 6505 and all its variants

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to review a legendary guitar amplifier, the Peavey 5150, known since 2004 (as Eddie Van Halen has moved the rights for the 5150 name from Peavey to Fender and eventually to an EVH brand) as 6505.

For those of you (few I hope) that doesn't know who Eddie Van Halen is, a brief recap: he is the guitar player of Van Halen, a Hard Rock band from California, which has produced some of the most famous hard rock songs of the 70s and 80s, as "Jump", "Ain't talking 'bout Love", "Panama", "Hot for Teachers" and "Running with the Devil", just to name a few.

Eddie Van Halen is also known for being one of the first Guitar Heroes in history, having contributed in innovating the rock guitar sound in many ways: introducing an extensive use of tapping and legato in guitar solos, creating a trademark sound very creamy and mid focused that is known as "brown sound", and basically making guitar shredding mainstream and appreciated from a wide audience, not only from guitar geeks.

Eddie in his incredibly long career has experimented with many amps and guitars, by modding and customizing them until they were completely different from the original model, until arriving to 1992, year in which Peavey offered him a signature model based on his requests, and this model is today, 25 years later, the standard in in heavy metal guitar tone: the most used amp by metal bands and metal producers, even the most extreme ones, due to its extremely tight tone and massive gain.

The head is 120 tube watts, a monster in volume, and it gives its best when pushed over the half of the volume knob, meaning that in order to really enjoy this amplifier you need to play it extremely loud, it has a low gain and a high gain input, and two channels that shares the same passive eq section.
The preamp section has six stages of gain (just to give you the idea, the Marshall jcm2000 DSL is Dual Super Lead, meaning that it has two stages of gain), it is loaded with five 12AX7 tubes (one is in the effect loop), the power amp has four 6L6, and the two channels shares also the presence knob (which decides how narrow or wide is the control of the entire eq section) and the resonance one (that adds some oomph to the lower area).
The head, finally, has also two separate gain knobs, one inside and one after the preamp section, and two switches that affects only the clean channel: bright (that adds some sparkle if the tone is too dark) and crunch (that adds additional gain turning the clean channel into a rhythm one).

Although this head is created to produce huge amounts of gain mantaining an exceptional clarity and definition, the amp has been used also for its creamy crunch tones: the interaction of the tubes creates a very warm harmonic richness and sustain that makes it extremely pleasant to play also for lower gain situations, although the amp is not famous for producing particularly pleasant pure clean tones (they are, in facts, rather cold compared to other amps).

When presented in 1992, this amplifier was revolutionary due to the six stages of gain, which meant a big amount of gain from the preamp section that goes into a powerful power amp section with tubes (the 6L6) which are famous for the tight low end and for mantaining a lot of headroom compared with for example the El84 of many Marshall Amps: the result is that the tone is less saturated than a classic Marshall tone, it's more defined and the gain structure is much more compact, perfect for palm muting, that's why this amp is today a standard for thrash and death metal bands, even more than for hard rock.

From 1992 the Peavey 5150 (from 2004 called 6505) has grown very much, and today it offers several variants, all with the trademark original tone but with some interesting twist:

- 6505 Plus (formerly known as 5150 II), a version with the eq separated between the two channels and a slighly brighter tone

- 6505 combo, a 60w combo version of the amp

- 6505 mini and micro, two smaller versions of the big one, one 20w all tube and the other one 20w transistor.

Over the years Peavey has also produced other versions, such as one with EL84 tubes, but they have been discontinued.


- High and low gain inputs
- 120 watts (rms) into 16, 8, or 4 ohms (switchable)
- Rhythm channel: pre-/post-gain, bright and crunch switches
- Five 12AX7 preamp tubes and four 6L6GC power amp tubes
- Channels share 3-band EQ
- Presence and resonance controls
- Switchable post-EQ effects loop
- Preamp output
- Lead channel: pre-/post-gain