Saturday, July 27, 2019

Shure SM57 vs Sennheiser e609 (with video comparison)

Hello and welcome to this week's article!

Today we are going to compare two schools of thought, the two most common and beloved dynamic microphones for electric guitar: the Shure SM57 and the Sennheiser e609; two industry standards in the same price range, super solid and capable of whitstanding huge sound pressures.

Those two microphones features a similar sound curve, meaning they are particularly receptive towards the midrange, which is very common and useful when microphoning a guitar speaker, especially in a live environment, but they have their own characteristics.
For our comparison we have microphoned the same cab (an Orange 2x12) through the same poweramp (a Marshall Jvm) exactly in the same position (straight towards the edge of the dustcap), in order to tell better the differences.

What we can hear is that while they are both mid rangey, the Shure has much more low-mid content and less high end, which is why it gets paired often in studio with other microphones that add some sparkle, while the Sennheiser is more scooped, slightly less musical but much more aggressive, which makes it more suitable for certain kinds of music or tunings.

It's interesting to notice also the interaction between the two microphones in the sample, when they are played together: they sort of complete each other, and this is one of the reasons why many albums are quad tracked with both microphones on both sides: because they sound fuller.

Which one to choose? We suggest you to download our free impulse pack and try for yourself, with your guitar and your music stile the one that sounds better!

Something about the video:

First you can hear the sample recorded with the SM57 on both sides, then one with the Sennheiser on both sides, then one with the Shure on the left side and the Sennheiser on the right one, and finally the same samples without drums and bass.

The impulse used is the one done by us, the free Trident pack (click here to download), and we used the impulse on the orange cab, pointing towards the edge of the dustcap.

Signal chain: Ltd MH-417 - Focusrite Saffire Pro14 - Ignite TSB-1 - Nick Crow 7170 - Ignite NadIR - Trident Impulse pack (no post eq used)

Let us know what do you think!

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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Review: Engl Powerball 1 and 2

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are reviewing one of the most beloved modern hi-gain amps of all times, the "big brother" of the Engl Fireball (which incorporates the channels 1 and 4 of this head): the Engl Powerball!

Engl is a German amp manufacturer among the most popular (together with Hughes and Kettner) and its products are used by countless professional musicians, from vintage rock to the most extreme metal; the product range is very wide and spans among all sizes and volumes, and they are a standard in build quality, reliability and power of sound.

In a world in which amp manufacturers sometimes struggle a bit in finding their own voice among the great classics and often just try to replicate them, Engl has a distinctive timbre: it's a bit nasal, mid-rangey, but not in the trebly way of a Marshall; the Engl tone is full of body, it's slightly less "scratchy" but very musical, and extremely tight, also at the highest levels of gain.

The Powerball is one of the amps of Engl with most controls: it features four independent channels, each one with a different level of gain and independent Eq, plus various switches for boosting, adding brightness, low end or scooping mids, presence, resonance, noise gate and two master volumes.

The sound reflects the name: it's powerful, the 100w tube power amp roar like a lion, but the tone is smooth, with cleans really clean and warm (a feature not very common in hi-gain amps), credible rock crunches and a lead channel that lets you achieve death metal riffs with a fast, tight low end, without even the need for a booster.

If you like fast riffs, versatility, musical mids, tightness, aggressiveness and a tone that remains playable at all volumes (it's surprisingly good also at lower volumes), you must give this amp a try, it might become the regular guest in your rehearsal's room.

Today Engl offers a new version, called Powerball II, which is a general revision of the version I: the main differences are the fact that the eq section is set slightly different (the treble control of the lead channel has been modified from linear to logarithmic to cut more), there are even more controls, and the noise gate has been reviewed by adding a threshold control; the general sound, though, remains the same.

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

• 4 channels: Clean-Channel 1, Crunch-Channel 2, Lead-Channel 3 and Lead-Channel 4

• 4 Volume control knobs: Clean Vol.-1, Crunch Vol.-2, Lead Vol.-3 and Lead Vol.-4

• Bright and Bottom sound switches for Clean and Crunch

• EQ system Clean and Crunch: Bass, Middle, Treble-Clean, Treble-Crunch

• EQ system Lead-Channel 3 and Lead-Channel 4: Bass, Middle or Middle-boosted, Treble

• Channel switching via two front panel buttons or via footswitch

• Master A and B controls for different output volume settings

• Presence and Depth Punch controls in the poweramp stage

• Stand By switch

• 3 x 1/4″ Stereo jacks for connecting three Z-4 footpedals or a MIDI switching system
such as the ENGL Z-11

• Poweramp Output 2 x 4 ohms, 2 x 8 ohms and 1 x 16 ohms for many speaker options

• 100 Watts output power, 4 x 6L6GC power tubes

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Presence and resonance controls in a guitar amplifier

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today's article is a small analysis of what are those two additional controls that sometimes are featured on guitar amplifiers, and that sometimes have a different meaning from brand to brand.

Presence and resonance controls are less intuitive than other knobs (Eq, Gain, Reverb...), but are quite important as tone shaping tools, because when they are available, they let us modify dramatically our tone, adding a lot of versatility to the amp.

Let's start by clarifying that the aforementioned controls Gain and Equalization are the tone shaping controls of the preamp, and usually the eq is subtractive, meaning that it filters out frequences in that range unless you put it to max (but not in all amps), while Presence and Resonance affects the power amp section, so their shaping takes place after the preamp stage.

- Presence is an UPPER MID BOOST, which means that it adds upper mids to the sound coming out from the preamp, and its use must be somehow counterbalanced with the treble knob of the preamp: if they are both too high their effect is summed, and the distorted channel ends up sounding like nails on a blackboard.
It adds attack to the sound, aggressivity, but it takes away some body on the mid range area, and progressively takes our hi gain tone towards a "Pantera"-like type of sound.
The ideal position is from twelve o'clock to 3 o'clock, according to how much aggressivity we are looking for, but if the amp sounds very dark we can push it more, maybe being a bit conservative with the treble control.

- Resonance, on the other hand, works for the low end in the same way Presence works in the high end: it boosts the bass frequences, and usually we're not talking about the lower mids, but really just the lower ones, the "oomph" you get from the palm muting.
Dial in too much and the sound will become uncontrollable, especially when recording, but live if our guitar tone is too weak we can move it a bit higher than unity to have that cool rebound that is needed when muting the strings. On a general level, though, it's not suggested to push it more than 12 o'clock.

Hope this was helpful!

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Saturday, July 6, 2019

Review: Marshall JVM 410H

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are talking about the latest flagship of the Marshall high-end tube amplifiers, the 100w 4 channels Marshall JVM (Vintage/Modern)!

Marshall amps have been through the whole rock history the most known, most legendary guitar amps of all times, they have literally shaped an unmistakable sound (the so called "british sound", together with Orange and Laney) which can be heard in most of the rock albums from the 60s (Jimi Hendrix) to the 70s (Led Zeppelin) to the 80s (basically everyone, from Slayer to Guns n'Roses), and still today are considered an industry standard.

The sound obviously has evolved through times, from the classic Jmp head, to the Jcm 800, to the Jcm 2000 DSL, and with every iteration new functions have been added: the JVM is the latest version of this noble legacy, and it takes the best of the past times tone adding the maximum of the versatility achieved so far (thus the name "Vintage/Modern", both for tone and build quality.

The look is in line with the tradition of the brand, and so is the wattage (100w all tube), but unlike the previous models, this one features 4 independent channels (each one with 3 levels of gain), 2 master volume (to switch for example when playing a solo), digital Reverb, presence and resonance controls, and it is controllable also via MIDI.
On top of that, there are 2 effects loop: one serial and one parallel, and power outputs for 4, 8 and 16 Ohm.

Throughout its history, Marshall has offered products for every price range, from the bedroom players/amateur live players to the high end ones, and this amp places itself as the latest top-tier level of the lineup: there is a lot of volume, a lot of presence (the classic mid range tone with a lot of highs and "zing", capable to cut through every mix like butter)

By playing with this amp you can achieve all the sounds that made legendary the previous ones all in one head, from the warm cleans on the verge of breakup to the Ac/Dc style crunch, up to a good amount of gain that, with the right eq, can take easily into thrash metal territories, even if for more extreme genres the use of an overdrive is suggested.

If you're a fan of Marshall and its classic sound but you want also to be able to play more modern styles (meaning with a less "nasal" mid range) this is the best the brand has to offer, and in the lineup there is also a 2 channel version 100w and 50w.

This is definitely an amp to try, especially when playing with a band, you will understand why these brand is so popular: the frequency range of a Marshall can cut still today through any mix, and cover the sound of most of the other guitar amps.

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

- Channels: 4 (Multi)

- Output wattage: 100w

- Outputs: Speaker outputs: 5 x 1/4" jack sockets (16Ω load / 8Ω load / 4Ω load), Emulated Line Out (XLR), MIDI Thru

- Inputs: 1 x 1/4" jack instrument input, MIDI In, Footswitch

- Controls: Channel and mode select (button), gain (per channel), treble (per channel), middle (per - channel), bass (per channel), volume (per channel), reverb (per channel), presence, resonance, master volume select, master volume (switchable for each channel)

- Effects: Digital reverb

- Effects loop: 2, 1 x series parallel, 1 x series

- Preamp valves: 4 x ECC83, 1 x ECC83 (phase splitter)