Saturday, July 29, 2017

Review: JST Conquer All vol.4 (with video sample inside)

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to review the latest Impulse response pack from Jst: Conquer All vol.4!
Joey Sturgis is a popular producer from United States, the man behind the iconic sound of The Devil Wears Prada, Born of Osiris, Asking Alexandria and many other bands, and this is yet another very usable ir pack for various genres, but particularly suited for rock and metal.
This pack features 3 folders: Eq IRs (the impulse responses already Equalized by Joey, to start playing immediately with a polished sound), RAW (the same impulses but not equalized, to leave us total tone shaping freedom) and Kemper, which are the impulses in the Kemper format.

The speakers included in this pack are 3 Marshall (a 4x12 and 2 2x12 each with different speakers) and one Orange 2x12 with V30 speakers.
Each of these cabinets has different combinations of microphones (both on and off axis) and preamps, and it is very interesting to try to combine two impulses or more, since they are all perfectly in phase.

I must say that these impulses live up to the Jst name: they are solid products, very usable also in a professional studio environment and at the right price.
I consider the equalized version a bonus, since it lets us use a bit of Joey Sturgis tone with any guitar amp, both virtual or real. 
The sample you can hear on the top of this article was created by combining 2 impulses: an sm57 straight and a Sennheiser md421 blended together, with no post eq added; I have chosen the ones passing through a Neve preamp because they have a bit more rolloff on the high end, making them more realistic and less scratchy. It is literally the guitar (a self built Harley Benton Sg Kit) and the virtual amplifier (Tse X50II).

Specs Taken from the website:

Conquer All Volume IV Includes EQ'd and RAW IRs and Kemper Compatible IRs

There are 4 unique setups with 24 IRs for each setup
- Marshall 2x12 oversized 212 cab with Celestion Vintage 30s
- Marshall Mode 4 412 cab with Celestion K100s
- Marshall Vintage Modern 212 combo with Celestion Greenbacks
- Orange 212 Open Back Cab with Celestion Vintage 30s

Preamps Used
- Don Classics Neve 1073 clone

Microphones Used
- Shure SM57
- Sennheiser MD421
- Beyerdynamic M201
- Sennheiser E906
- Shure SM7B
- Neumann TLM103

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Mixing 2 or more Guitar Impulses

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to talk about the subtle art of mixing two or more impulse responses, recreating in the digital age a technique, the multi-miking, that is a world professional studio standard.
As we know impulse responses are snapshots of an ambient response captured by a microphone/preamp chain, which mantains the eq curve of the captured moment and allows us to apply it to our sound, and this method has proven to be particularly effective with guitars and bass amp simulators, making it the best replacement for a real speaker.
Another interesting characteristic of impulses is that they can be also captured from a song, and applied to our chain to "steal" part of their sound (here is a tutorial on how to do it).

What we are talking about today is blending together the sound of two or more impulses recreating what producers are doing by decades: if one microphone only takes part of the total sound let's mix and match more than one in order to capture the full spectrum.

The first thing is to check out if there is any phasing issue: the best paid impulse packs are usually phase coherent, but if we are mixing impulses found in different sources or the free ones it's better to make sure that one impulse is not putting the other out of phase.

Once we are sure that our impulses are phase coherent we need to load an impulse loader that allows to use multiple impulses, for example the free Ignite Amps NadIR, which allows to load two impulses, or the paid Redwirez MixIR 2, which allows to load many more.

My suggestion is to start with one impulse that we really like; the first one is really important because it will be the fundament of our tone, then find out what is lacking (if anything), for example "in the mix the guitar sounds too dark", or "the mid frequences are not focused" and so on, and then try to apply some of the classic microphone techniques used by the famous studios (the three most common are listed here) or to experiment with some new one: the idea is to compensate and enhance the first tone with a second impulse that captures it from a different angle, then you blend this second impulse in, rising or lowering its volume, and then adjust the whole guitar track (or buss) volume in order to fit it perfectly in the mix.

The two microphones technique is very popular in studios everywhere because it widens enormously the scope of sounds we can achieve, and it's interesting to see how some producer likes to add more and more microphones (even 8 or 10!), but beware, because the more microphones (or impulses) you add, the more you need to be good, otherwise the sound will rapidly become cloudy and unmanageable.

Let us know your favourite multi-Ir techniques!

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Review: Blackstar HT50

Hello and welcome to this week's article! 
Today we are going to take a look to a review, done by our good friend Edoardo Del Principe, of the interesting Blackstar HT 50 Head: let's see what are his thoughts!

Blackstar produces some of the best bang for the buck amp heads in the world, they are really flexible in order to put the final choice of what voice an amp must have to the players.

I have bought the head 5-6 weeks ago, so I had the time to understand the potential of this device.

First of all you have to know that the Blackstar HT50 is sold around 600$ new, so it’s not a first class head but it has several pros as cons. Why should you try it?

A head with multiple amps inside

The Blackstar HT serie works as a stamina cell which is not already specialized in something but that can works fine for everything thanks to the ISF knob and two channels.

The ISF Knob is the most misterious tool for most the guitarist who have tried these amps, what does it do really? You can choice between two type of regulation: one is “american” one is “british” and you can balance the presence of each one or have it full on. Turning the knob into “american” you boost low-mid frequences, while turning into “british” you boost mid-high frequences.

In order to hear the difference you must turn the mids in the EQ near 7-8 o’clock, then the two kinds of “boost” becomes more evident. This allow you to have a more Mesa-ish sound or a more Marshall-ish one, or, as the company says “tons of sounds in the middle”. It can be used without cab with the speaker emulated output putting the head in stand-by mode too, so it’s good even for home purposes. As said it’s quite inexpensive compared to other models, it so could be a nice start.

It’s not extreme

Sure this amp wouldn’t be my first choice for Death Metal. At least could be used for thrashy stuff but its level of saturation it’s not as high as the genre requires. You can play with crunchy stuff or boost it a little more, but at the end you’ll never have a full compact sound with granitic low-mids and sharp trebles as an ENGL does. It is more suggested to classic heavy metal players, hard rock or stoner rock. It can assure the brilliance of the modern Marshalls with a deep and warm sound, with obviously significant differences in tone qualities, if you compare it for example with a JCM800.

Is it Pedal Friendly?

In my opinion this kind of amps are created to have a solid base for your pedals. The footswitch can select lead/clean channel and reverb. The lead channel also features a gain boost button to give it an extra gain for heavy metal sounds. It works great if you want improve the lead channel with a booster or adding delays and modulations in the loop.
It works great also with the clean channel, it has only two knobs: tone and “volume” that control everything you need. The “volume” knob adds volume from 7 to 12 o’clock and a bit of gain from 12 to 6 o’clock, the tone modulates the depth and brightness of the sound. The clean channel is really pedal friendly. The master volume is the same for both channels, they work separate just in the gain section and clean mode, this helps to have an even output for both channels.

Is the ISF knob really useful?

The more you are going to use more tone-related pedals, more the IFS knob starts to lose importance on your equalization because from your pedalboard you are going to boost different frequences. The more you use OD, Fuzz, etc the more the ISF knob can result. If your tone comes only from the Blackstar HT50 it is a really usuful tool, but if you add stuff it loses its purpose quick. At the end you can manage a clean channel with various types of high gain pedals and fx and use a separate high gain channel based only on the amp. This can allow you to have several choices to find your perfect tone and the ISF could be crucial or insignificant, but it’s not its fault!


- Flexibile head, useful for several purposes

- Great for working with pedals

- Good Quality to Price ratio

- Speaker emulated output


- Lack of a separate EQ for each channel

- Lack of a boost stompbox in the switch to add extra gain, you have to choose it first, before you play.

- Not too heavy but very large.

- ISF knob could be useless for someone

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Delay Battle: Line6 Echo Park vs Boss DD7 vs Tc Electronic Flashback Part 2/2


The quality of sound cames first.

Boss DD7
: It has both digital and analog functions with a “modulation” mode that adds a little bit of chorus. They all sounds really good, the analog functions is, according to the manual, “really close to the DD2 sound”. You can ear a bit of degradation of the signal, which gives to the sound a particular color: it’s not that you lose much signal, it must be clear, but the analog mode gives a warmer and soft delay.

Line6 Echo Park
: It’s a solid hammer if you need just a delay pedal with tons of functions and a lot choices in order to create weird sounds, but definitely it doesn’t have the best sound in the world. You lose always a little bit of signal, and this is bad in any case. Another bad thing is that the “trails” can leave a fuzzy noise in the background, so it’s not true bypass either. “Trails” mode is used to have the functions of the pedal a little bit on even if it’s bypassed. So your delays works a little more after you switched to another pedal. Could be a good weapon, coud be useless, just set it on “off” and you will have no problems at all.

Tc Electronic Flashback: Oh, dear God, the Tape effect it’s ridiculously good. The overall sound of both digital and analog mode is awesome and there isn’t any signal loss. It has also the “Tone Print” function, which gives to you the possibility to link the pedal to your PC and download prestes chosen from a library of artists that uses this pedals. If you have a lazy ass this is your pedal.

I want to experiment new possibilities.

Boss DD7: Short and long delays can be crafted easily and the reverse mode is nice, but the device lacks the fact that you can’t control how much of your original signal to blend. At the end it’s a significant limitation. It is really easy to understand how the pedal works and creates a delay that works for you. It’s not a spacemachine, but a really solid pedal with usefull functions.

Line6 Echo Park: This is a weird guy. Sometimes there are more knobs that what you need, sometimes you feel like the whole world is in your hands. You can choose first if you want a digital, analog or a tape kind of delay, then you choose the modes. It has unique functions as the “Swell” (adds an auto volume swell along with your echoes) and the “Sweep” (adds a nasty filter that squeeze your feedback). You can go really in depth with this toy but it’s not easy to understand, it requires a little bit of time to be understood in its wholeness.

Tc Electronic Flashback: Its point of strenght is the “Tone Print” function, it opens to new features and gives you the power to set the delay exactly as other famous players did.


Boss DD7

Avarage price as new in the market 140$ (90-100$ used)

Pros: Analog mode sounds great. True bypass with any loss of signal. Works great for both long and short delay

Cons: Lack of Dry/wet mix control. Without an external Boss footswitch the tap tempo could be a little bit complicated.

Line6 Echo Park

The production is discontinued, so you can find it used from 60 to 100$

Pros: It has unique modes. You can select tape, analog or digital sound. Mixing time and repetions knobs creates weird sounds and textures, so it can work fine even for synths. Super-easy tap tempo. You can go really in depth in every feature.

Cons: It can create some signal loss (some of Echo Parks has an internal boost switch to avoid that). The “Trails” function makes the pedal not completly bypassed. A little bit more complicated to understand than the others. To bypass the pedal you have press the stombox harder, it can be annoying.

Tc Electronic Flashback

Avarage price as new in the market is 160$ (100-120$ used)

Pros: Tape Echo sounds otherworldy. The unit has looping function. Tone Print mode gives to this guy a lot more possibilities, reverse mode is excellent. Really small pedal.

Cons: It’s a bit more expensive than the others. The tap tempo mode could be improved, this is why many users have switched to the “x4” version.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Delay Battle: Line6 Echo Park vs Boss DD7 vs Tc Electronic Flashback Part 1/2

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today our good friend Edoardo del Principe will share with us a comparison between the three most known delay pedals on the market: Line6 Echo Park, Boss DD7 and Tc Electronics Flashback.
The analysis will be made by comparing the three devices under several points of view.

Out there there are tons of delays with tons of modes, knobs, delay times etc and I was really confused (I still am a little bit now) of what works for me. I went to a local shop to try those that are in my opinion the three most complete single-stompbox delay pedals in the market. This is my guide to show you which one is the best.

I need an easy tap tempo mode:

Boss DD7: The two seconds press-release and following taps is the most unconfortable way to have tap tempo when you are live. Maybe with a lot of practice it becomes easier but if you are searching something more straightforward in my opinion it’s not the best choice

Line6 Echo Park: The Tap Tempo mode is tricky because it is always on. The only way to turn it off is by pressing the footswitch a little harder until you hear a “click” sound. I really suggest to use it with a switch/looper, having keeping it always on an then tapping it lightly for tempos, just one tap to have it on with the looper and the others to give it the tempo.

Tc Electronic Flashback: The Tap Tempo here could be awesome for someone and really negative for others. With this pedals you have to press the stompbox and play the guitar in the tempo you want, then you release it. The pedal catches the signal from the guitar and gives to you the delay with your tempo.

I want to create textures with the looping function:

Boss DD7
: The pedal does not have a real looping mode, but it has the “hold” mode which is a brief loop that holds literally what you are playing. This can be used to create textures and add layers, could works fine for short loops.

Line6 Echo Park: The Line 6 Echo Park doesn’t have a loop mode, but if you give it a lot of repetitions under the “Ducking” mode with the “trails” on you can work with that as a little cool loop to expand your riffs into new layers. The “Ducking” mode it’s a delay that starts only when you finish to play the riff.

Tc Electronic Flashback: It has a real loop mode which works great, having a loop machine in that really small space can save space in your pedalboard.