Saturday, May 25, 2019

Review: Aria Pro II Black and Gold

Hello and welcome to this week's article!

Today we're publishing the review made by our friend Edoardo Del Principe of his guitar: a 1984 Aria Pro II Black and gold, let's see his opinion!

After months of searching, scratching online catalogs, reviewes and a few online videos I decided to buy for around 450 euros a Japanese guitar made in 1984.

I want to talk about its original version before I changed some stuff: The Aria Pro II PE BG looks like a Les Paul Custom, but has its own character: the first thing I’ve noticed was the thinner neck, thinner than a 60’s neck, a sort of smoothy D shape neck closer to Ibanez than the classical LP C shape. Another impressive feature is the heel-less neck joint, something LP and Gibson started a few years later than Aria Pro.

The neck is fabulous, better than any LP I’ve tried, and for my small hand is just heaven; the headstock is also nice because has info about where and when the guitar was made in the front and not in the back.

The headstock has less inclination form neck of a normal LP making it a lot more resistant, trust me.
About the hardware I must say that 40 years made their work ruining the metal parts with a bit of rust, but they still work fine; potentiometers are not the best in the market but they are ok.
Also I really enjoyed the coil splitting system using two switch near the volume knobs, that was an Aria Pro II trademark; some guitars had built-in fuzz or boost, weird combination of PU and counter-phase option.


This Aria can be used with two HB or two SC with their own character; the original PU were able to cover a vast range of tonal options. On the bridge you have a medium-high output pickup, a bit raw in its attack but has enough bite to crunch well amps, up to a metal distortion.

Those guitars were made for more classic rock music though, especially with the neck pick up it’s possible achieve a pretty smooth tone for solo or lead arpeggios.

Essentially this Aria Pro II was a sort of hybrid between a strat and Les Paul where with a single guitar you can achieve hard rock and jazzy tones.
Anyway in my opinion the biggest “pro” of this guitar is its build quality: those guitars were made in the Matsumoku factory in late 70’s to the mid 80’s, and Matsumoku was famous to build the most prestigious guitars for Japanese brands and Aria Pro II makes no exception.

The PE Serie was not on the top, because more prestigious and beautiful guitars were made for Greco, Tokai, Ibanez and few other brands which had legal issues to be too similar with Gibson models (the famous “lawsuit era”); on the other hand Aria Pro released its own line of original guitars with their own style, inspired by the American ones but with improvements in the hardware: like it or not, they are good instruments.
If you want a coil-splitting, dual humbucker Les Paul with a THICK maple top you have to spend a lot more than 450 nowdays, but you have to consider that Japanese manufacture of guitars in 70’ and 80’ had the most discontinuous productions ever existed, so make sure to check out what model it is, make some research on the serial number and trust no one.

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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Interview: Audio Assault

From left to right:
Alex: CEO & Senior Programer
Freddie: Technical Assistant & Staff
Enrique: COO & Senior Designer
Adrián: Junior Designer
Rodrigo: Junior Programer

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are interviewing Audio Assault, a company that is producing Guitar and Bass amp simulators, drum samplers and many other Vst plugins for music production from Mexico!
Here's our interview:

GuitarNerdingBlog: Hello and welcome to Guitar Nerding Blog! Can you give us some detail on how Audio Assault was born?

AudioAssault: AA was born in the late 2013 in the city of Oaxaca, México. 
Alex Damián, The master mind of the proyect, in that time was the owner of the local recording studio HT Studio which almost always recorded rock and metal bands. He started to study about the plugins creation and amp simulators modeling and coding, at the same time Alex asked Enrique Díaz to help him with the graphics and design work.
Enrique at the same time was studying Graphic design and was starting his work as Music Producer too.
In the Middle of 2014 these two friend launch the first plugin created by Audio Assault called Grind Machine, with which all was started. Now AA is a team of 5 people and it's located in the city of Puebla, México as a real company.

GNB: What do you think about the music production business nowadays? And how is it going to be in the future?

AA: I think that the technology it's a very important part of the music business, not only in the production area. With the possibilities that internet can give us now we can share our music with everyone around the world. At the same time we have access to a lot of information about production techniques, software, hardware, etc. 
In this time a lot of musicians has started to be their own music producers and engineers, as I do. We can find a lot of tutorials and tips in youtube of how to get a great sound recording without spending too much money. The music production business is transforming and expanding to new horizons, where a lot of people can access to it. I think in the future that industry will have a lot of competition, because new technology-based producers will rise, while the classic producers will struggle more to stay in the business.

GNB: What is the design process of your plugins like? What inspires you?

AA: We are big fans of rock and metal music, every band and song we listen always give us reasons to create some new weapons for "bedroom producers". 
We think that all musician must have the opportunity of creating music with the same quality of the biggest bands, that is the principal reason of why AA exist, the process starts with an idea of what we need to get a better sound in our own recordings. Maybe a guitar amplifier, an EQ or a drumkit, then we make samples of the analog component and Alex start to code those sounds while I create the GUI and all the graphic stuff.

GNB: What is the philosophy behind your software: analog modeling, black box approach or else?

AA: We work more in the analog modeling style, because almost all the time we know what result we want and how to get it, but sometimes, in few occasions, at the moment of programming and testing we found results that we didn't expect. 
So, it's a mix of both methods.

GNB: What have been your career highlights?

AA: It is a hard question, because at the beginning we never thought about the future success. 
So, for us right now it's our best moment, we have support of people around the world, we had made many friends too, and finally after almost 6 years we have a place where we can do this as our main job. We are very grateful for all the support and good vibes we received.

GNB: What do you think the future of analog and digital amps will look like?

AA: I'm a big fan of analog gear, I love almost all the tube amps, but we know that it is not too easy for a lot of people to get one. Specially here in Mexico where you can find more expensive that in US or Europe. So, digital amps makes easier to get almost the real tone of a commercial brand. 
Now, if you want to record with a tube amp you don't need just the amp, you have to buy a cab, mics, cables, pedals and fx. 
Amp simulators are great option to get good recordings at low costs.
We are working very hard to bring the people high quality digital amplifiers that can compete with the real ones.
I think in the near future the plugins will emulate at 99.9% the real gear.

GNB: Tell us something about your drum samplers!

AA: Well, that samples were recorded a couple years ago at Westwood studio in Hawaii.

GNB: What plugin do you have in store for the future?

AA: We are preparing some relaunchings, a new bass suit and a killer guitar amp based on a Krank classic tone. Want to creat a new line of digital amplifiers with 99.9% realistic sound. We have some surprise you will know very soon.

GNB: The interview is over, feel free to add anything you'd like!

AA: I'm talking in the name of all who work in AA want to thank you Atoragon and GNB for the interest you put in our products. We will still working to bring you all killer tools for production projects.
Thanks too all people who support this little company!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Review: Audio Assault Bulldozer (with video sample)

Hello and welcome to this week's article!

Today we are reviewing a new plugin from Audio Assault: Bulldozer.

Bulldozer is a new guitar amp simulator by the producer Audio Assault, and it's designed to recreate an "early 2000 metal rig", meaning the rig used live and in studio by most of the nu metal and modern rock american bands.
This means that the plugin is modeled after a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, and also the pedals, even if not expressely said, recreates the classic Ibanez Tube Screamer and other classic stompboxes.

Bulldozer is a pretty complete suite, made of three sections: the first one is the the pedalboard, which includes 5 slots in which you can choose between 10 stompboxes (to be used in front of the amp or in the FX Loop) with any kind of effect, from all the modulations to a compressor, there is even an auto wah.
The second one is the amplifier, and it's the classic layout of the Dual Rectifier, with 2 channels with independent eq section and two modes for the overdrive one;
finally the last section is the cabinet one, and it features 4 virtual microphones to choose from that can be moved around the speaker, and an IR loader.

By playing around with this plugin I have really felt that Audio Assault has studied the sound of the time (bands from Korn to Limp Bizkit, from Soil to the Airplay Oriented Rock of the early 2000) and captured that very american distortion, thick and bassy, with a hot tube roar and an attack that is slightly slower than the typical british distortion a la Marshall.
I think this model is more similar to the original one than most of the competitors, I just wish they included a tuner, to make it truly the only plugin to load in your guitar chain.

If you like this kind of sound make sure to check out the demo, I promise you will not be disappointed!

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

- 2 Channels with boost

- 5 pedal slots

- 10 stompboxes to choose from

- FX Loop

- Cab section with movable microphone

- 4 microphones to choose from

- IR Loader

- Built in noise gate

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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Review: DiMarzio Illuminator (with video comparison with Emg 707)

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!

Today we are reviewing a pickup that when I bought it was the latest one designed by John Petrucci of Dream Theater (the second after the CrunchLab), but recently we have seen the announcement that the guitarist came out with a new pickup (called Dream Catcher) for the 2019 model of his Majesty guitar.

I admit that even if I had numerous pickups both active and passive, I've always been kind of an active guy, because I have experienced often (especially back in the day) that passive pickups needed usually a booster to drive an amp (I'm not talking about extremely high gain amps, but those that we had in the rehearsal's room: Marshalls, Laneys..) enough to play metal, or if a passive pickup was really hi-gain, it wouldn't let me play the clean channel really clean, and it would be pretty noisy.

Active pickups changed all of this, they brought clarity, tightness and low noise to very high output pickups, changing completely the game.
On and off I have switched back to passive to see whether there have been improvements, but eventually I have always wound back to Emg or Blackouts (my favourite).
Recently, with djent and other forms of extreme metal, we are seeing a return to passive pickups, with brands as Bareknuckle Pickups, Seymour Duncan and DiMarzio creating tools for the new generation of guitarists that finally brings high output, clarity and low noise, without the hassle of changing the battery.

In the video sample I have used the same guitar (an Ltd Mh-417), same virtual amp, same input volume, same everything, only the pickup changes, and what is impressive is how they sound quite similar, but the Illuminator has both more output and more dynamic excursion, and less noise (you can hear it especially on the last riff, the noisegate is off for the whole sample).

I like the Illuminator because it doesn't change drastically the eq of the guitar: the frequency response is quite flat, not too bassy, not too nasal and it has a very bright, chuggy attack and an extremely tight low end (both features fundamental to play modern metal), plus the cleans sounds really clean and the noise is surprisingly low.

So far it's the best passive pickup I've ever tried, and I can only suggest you to check it out if you have the chance.

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

- Output: 410

- Recommended For:Bridge position

- Quick Connect: No

- Wiring: 4 Conductor

- Magnet: Ceramic

- Resistance: 11.17 Kohm

- Year of Introduction: 2013

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