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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Review: Zoom Tri metal


Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're reviewing a stompbox that is not anymore in production but that I consider a nice memory, a piece of my musical history.

There has been a time in which Zoom has been producing also stompboxes, and they did it actually in style, even if probably they did not achieve the expected success (except for the Power Drive overdrive, endorsed by Kiko Loureiro), and they were also aesthetically nice: sturdy pieces of metal with a matte finish, in various colours and with a stylish layout.

The Tri Metal was obviously the one dedicated to metal players, and it went in direct competition with the Boss Metal Zone, which in the 90s was very successful, and it did by playing the same game: by offering besides a 3 bands eq, also a control to choose the range of the mid frequences knob, increasing the tone capabilities of the pedal.

The Tri Metal had more to offer than the Metal Zone though: it had 3 stages of gain (one more than the Metal Zone!), it was true bypass and had what Zoom called "Low Noise Design", which means they designed it in order to minimize the noise, which really worked; I have used this pedal live for around 3 years, playing metal, and even cranking my Marshall Valvestate 65 combo (I was going straight from the Tri Metal to the clean channel), when I was stopping the guitar there was literally zero hum and feedbacks, which was very, very unusual for a metal distortion pedal pushed to the limit.

The tone was razorblade sharp, with a lot of attack and ultra compressed, as it's expectable from any metal distortion, but it was super clean and defined, and it gave me a lot of good time, so I regret a bit of having sold it, but after some year I have changed my tastes, I was looking for the full roaring tone of a tube amp, and this little metal box had to go to help me buying my first Peavey 5150.

If you have the chance try it out!


Specs taken from the website:


- 3 stages of gain circuit

- 3 bands eq with separate mid-range knob

- True bypass

- Low noise design

- Metal chassis


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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Best 10 Free Vst plugins for mixing 2019



Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Around 5 years ago I have listed my favourite 10 plugins for mixing, and in 2018 I have made a new version of that article (Click here to check out the 2018 edition too!).
During these recent years a lot of things have changed, the world of music production has evolved and today to achieve a good sound it's easier and faster than ever, so this time we're focusing only on how to create great recordings only using free vst plugins; Enjoy!



1) Ignite Amps Emissary Bundle: this is an easy choice, since it's one of the best virtual guitar amp simulators around, plus it comes with a great cabinet simulator and a good collection of Impulse responses. With this amp you can easily obtain good tones for every genre, from clean to extremely hi gain.

2) Spitfire Audio LABS: actually this is not just one virtual instrument but a serie of instruments that ranges from piano to strings to drums, and they are all made of high quality samples.

3) Tse BOD: a software version of the classic Sansamp bass overdrive, which still today is a standard in aggressive bass tones. The sound is very credible, and this is just a magnificent piece of software that I have used in probably most of my productions.

4) Reacomp: there are many free compressors out there, but none of them has the reliability and the flexibility of the one included in the free Reaper plugins bundle: you can do basically everything with this compressor, it is also probably the only free one that has a side chain function included.

5) Steven Slate Drums 5 Free: Slate Drums is an industry standard among the drum samplers, and this time there is a great free version that allows you to use one of the kits with all the basic functions of the paid version.

6) Native Instruments Kontakt Player: Kontakt is another industry standard as host for virtual instruments, and this free version comes with 50 VSTi instruments.

7) Native Instruments Komplete Start: this is an impressive bundle of virtual instruments, 6gb of samples taken from real instruments or synths, which will give you a pretty wide landscape of sounds to use in your projects.

8) Ignite Amps PTEq-X: this is a very particular type of equalizer modeled after a classic Pultec Eq, and I'm not going to lie, it will take a bit before you will master it, but once you do it I guarantee it will provide some of the most euphonic equalization you've ever heard, natural and analog sounding.

9) Audio Assault Bassgrinder Free: this is a very simple yet versatile and good sounding bass amp simulator, which offers 2 amplifiers, 3 cabinets and it's totally self sufficient to shape a great tone.

10) Sonic Cat LFX-1310 Multi Effect:  this is a super cute multi effect that models a rack unit of those that were popular in the '80s and '90s. It has all the modulation effects, plus compressors, distortions, filters and reverbs, and it can be used as a low-cpu draining Swiss army knife in our projects.

I hope this was helpful!


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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Review: Ibanez universe UV777 bk


Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are talking about an Ibanez guitar that stayed in production for 14 years (in its original form, today it is still sold in a slightly different variant): the Universe UV777.

This is another guitar designed by the guitar hero Steve Vai, and it's a seven strings evolution of his original Jem design; it debuted in 1998, a time in which seven strings guitars were not very common, and it became popular not only thanks to Vai himself, but also because it was used by Korn, probably the most influential and original band of the Nu Metal genre: basically this guitar helped shaping that ultra bassy, aggressive sound that still today is synonyme of modern heavy guitar.

The UV777 has a basswood body, maple neck and rosewood fretboard, it was made in Japan and through the years it had different bridges and different neck materials, but the neck always remained 24 frets and 25.5 inches, and both body and fingerboard features a white binding.
Unlike the Jem, the Universe doesn't have the monkey grip, but it has the same taste for original finishes, and besides the binding it rocks pyramid shaped inlays and a pyramid-with-eye on the top, made of mother of pearl.

The mechanics are Gotoh made, and in the mirror pickguard are mounted 3 DiMarzio Blaze II pickups (in some model can be found mounted also the Blaze I), in HSH configuration that give this guitar a very bassy sound, but with the mids slightly scooped and the highs a bit boosted, and it's very resemblant to the tone in Steve Vai's "Passion and Warfare" album.

I had the chance of playing with this guitar few years ago through a dear friend of mine, and I must say the build quality is very good, you can really feel the fact that you're playing a premium guitar, plus the hardware is also good, even if the bridge can't be abused too much, or it might struggle a bit in keeping the tuning stable.

Besides the sound, which is very aggressive but versatile, the thing that strikes me of this guitar is its playability: it stays in perfect equilibrium and the neck is very thin and comfortable, you can really tell it was designed with shredding in mind.

Definitely a guitar to try if you have the chance, 

thumbs up!


Specifications:


- Year(s) produced: 1998–2012

- Made in: Japan

- Finish: Black (BK)

- Body material: Basswood w/ white binding

- Bridge:
1998–2002; 2010–2012: Lo Pro Edge 7 tremolo
2003–2009:Edge Pro 7 tremolo

- Pickguard: Mirror

- Hardware color: Chrome

- Neck material:
1998–2004: 1-piece maple
2005–2012: 5-piece maple/ wenge

- Scale length: 648mm/ 25½"

- Fingerboard material: Rosewood w/ binding

- Fingerboard inlays: Disappearing pyramid

- Frets: 24 / large

- Machine heads: Gotoh SG38

- Pickup configuration: HSH

- Bridge pickup: DiMarzio Blaze II bridge

- Middle pickup: DiMarzio Blaze II mid

- Neck pickup: DiMarzio Blaze II neck

- Controls: Master volume / master tone / 5-way lever


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Saturday, October 5, 2019

5 ways to improve an amp sim guitar tone



Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're starting a new serie called "How to improve", in which we will add some element to our basic mixing articles.
This time we're talking about 5 ways to improve our amp sim guitar tone, which even if we are using some high end plugin, still needs some polish before it can perfectly sit in the mix.
These tips are to be applied after recording, editing, finding the right guitar amp sim and tweaking it.

1) Impulse responses: impulse responses are the single most revolutionary thing happened to the world of guitar tones in decades, since they can change radically a sound and make it realistic in a way that few years ago was unthinkable without microphoning a real amp.
Get yourself a nice collection of impulses, at least a couple of hundreds, it doesn't matter whether free or paid, just make sure to have enough variety to cycle through them until you find the one (or the combination of more than one) that fits perfectly the song, and in order to do it, use a referencing track with a sound similar to what you have in mind.
A good starting point would be our free IR Pack Trident, which has 14 impulses ready to use.

2) Create a guitar bus: route all the guitar tracks that should have similar tones (e.g. the rhythm guitar tracks) into a stereo guitar bus, in order to control with one fader the general presence of guitars in the song.

3) Compress the minimum necessary: the general rule here is "the more the gain = the more the natural compression", so if we have clean guitars we will need to compress more, while if we have high gain ones, we're going just to use a multiband compressor in the low end area, shaving off a couple of db when needed in the area from 80 to 350hz (usually during palm muting).

4) Equalize with wisdom: here the general rule is "boost wide, cut narrow". We could spend hours talking about how to clean a guitar tone, but in this article let's just add the fact that we need to find balance: the sound must be natural, similar as if it's coming out of a real amp, so:
- high pass up to 50 to 80hz
- if the guitar still sounds weak and lacks of presence, add some body in the area between 1000 and 2000hz, finding where it suits, with a wide bell boost of 1 or 2 db.
- cut a couple of db with a narrow bell in the 4k area, sweeping the eq until you find the "nails on a fingerboard area"
- add some air, with a wide bell around 8-10khz

5) Don't be afraid of saturation: this is another tool to be used if our tone (especially if clean or overdriven) is too weak, thin, and we can't solve by using the eq; a touch of tape or tube saturation can add the weight and the midrange our tone needs without altering too much the sound.
This tool can be used on other instruments too!


I hope this was helpful!


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