Saturday, February 24, 2018

Review: Tech21 Sansamp PSA-1 / PSA 1.1

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to talk about one of the most beloved solid state preamps of all times: the Sansamp Psa-1.

The Psa-1 (that today has evolved in the 1.1 model) is an american made, iconic guitar preamplifier that has been used (and it is still today often used) by many professional bands, such as Kiss (as a backup if the tube amp stops working), Joe SatrianiAnthrax, Dimmu Borgir and so on.
Over the time the preamp has become popular also among bass players, and it is still today used in studio also to distort bass tracks, or as a d.i. box, or also to use its cabinet emulation.

This preamp comes from an era that is prior to the digital revolution, it came out before Pod and before Vst plugins, and it is all analog except for its digital routing of the presets (49 presets for guitar and bass and 77 empty slots); it features a dual output both jack and xrl, a dual input, an effects loop and a very peculiar serie of controls: input and output volume, drive, low and high eq and 3 knobs that affects the gain structure in 3 separate eq bands, named Buzz, Punch and Crunch.
These knobs are a halfway between an eq and a frequency-selective drive control which lets us obtain infinite variables of tones, although it is all but intuitive in tweaking.

The unit offers also a simple cabinet emulation to go directly in the mixer or in the recording interface, although today it probably sounds a bit dated and it's better to use an impulse loader when tracking.

The sounds are sparkly, clean and defined and the construction build is very solid; the preamp gives its best in tight metal sounds, especially thrash and death metal (or Pantera, or any other genre that needs a bright and ultra defined attack) but it can provide also clean and overdriven tones, with slightly less success: cleans are a bit cold, although the Orange Ac-30 emulation is very pleasant and well reproduced.

All in all this preamp has made the history of solid state sounds and it is still extremely easy to spot in recording studios, since still today it is considered to be a studio Swiss army knife. Me personally I have used it for years in a rack paired with a Rocktron X-pression effect unit and a Marshall Valvestate 8008 power amp, before selling it all and passing to a tube head.
For sure it is worth a trying if you like the classic thrash metal sound, or if you want to add bite and distortion to your bass sound.

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

- Model Number: PSA-1.1

- Input Impedance-Input 1 1MegOhm

- Input Impedance-Input 2 4.7MegOhm

- Input Level-Input 1 -10dB

- Input Level-Input 2 Switchable to -10dB or 0dB range

- Output Impedance-1/4” 1K Ohm min

- Output Impedance-XLRs 600 Ohm min

- Output Level-1/4” Switchable to -10dB or 0dB range

- Output Level-XLR Switchable to -10dB or 0dB range

- Maximum Output Level +10dB or better

- XLR Pin Configuration Pin 1: Ground / Pin 2: In phase / Pin 3: Reverse phase

- Effects Loop Send 1K Ohm min, -10dB, Mono

- Effects Loop Return 100K Ohm min, -10dB, Stereo/Mono

- Low Frequency Response 10Hz or better*

- High Frequency Response Harmonic content, 20kHz or better*

- Maximum Power Consumption 5 Watts

- AC Input Power (factory set)

- 100V, 117V, 230V, 240V

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

How to use the Splitter tool when mixing

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to talk about an interesting tool: the Splitter!
The interface we are using as example is the one of Presonus Studio One, but the splitter is available on many other high level Daws.

What is a splitter? It is a tool that lets us split the signal into two tracks, allowing us for example to send a guitar sound to two virtual amplifiers, or to send a bass track to a clean chain on one side and to a distorted one on the other, so that we can blend them together.
The possibilities are infinite.

How to use it? First off we choose the track we need to split, open the mixer window, click on the track edit button (the one with the potentiometer icon) and on the top of the resulting menu click on the splitter icon.
This will take us to the splitter window, the one that we can see on the photo.
From there we just drag the splitter button down inside the main window to create one signal split.
The signal can be split into as many tracks as we want and each split can be "sub-splitted", so we have a lot of flexibility that could lead us to some very creative solution and complex signal routing, impossible in the analog world.
How did they do in the "analog age"? They would for example send the same bass sound to two different mixer tracks and use them one for the "clean part" and one for the "distorted one" of the signal, blending them to taste and then routing both of them back to the same bus track to have a common master volume.

In the digital age, compared to the analog one the signal routing possibilities are endless, for example we can choose to split the signal into two identical tracks, or split it in a left and right stereo track (good for example for guitar tracks), or to split them according to the frequency, in order to treat the low end part of the signal differently than the high end one (this the ideal for bass tracks).

In each split track there is a vst insert, so we can create our plugin chain to process each track independently, but the amazing thing is that all this happens within a single mixer channel, so once we get used to this type of processing, we can literally reduce the number of mixer tracks of at least the half, on an average project, obtaining a much more streamlined, faster workflow and more control in the mixing phase.

I hope this was helpful!

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Review: Jst Clip (with video sample)

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to review a clipper: JST Clip, by Joey Sturgis Tones!

As we have already covered in our extensive article about how clippers work, a clipper is used in several situations: its function is similar to the one of a limiter, but it doesn't just increase the volume and limit the sound, it adds the gain in a way that adds saturation and increases the perceived transient (if not overused, otherwise it can also distort and ruin a signal).

In my video I have an acoustic drum sound (plus samples blended in 50% on the skins) and I add some Jst Clip to hear not only the volume increase, but also the other features: the result is a drum bus that is stronger, with just the right amount of saturation to cut through.

The idea behind this kind of plugins is to make a sound cut more through the mix without altering eq or raising the volume (that's why there is a Trim knob, to match the output volume with the input one and to use this plugin just for the transient shaping and harmonic enhancement).

All in all this is probably the blest clipper I have tried so far, the interface is sleek and intuitive, and I really suggest it to all of you.

Thumbs up!

The plugin features:

- A drive knob.

- A Mix knob to blend the processed sound with the unprocessed one.

- A 2x switch to double the gain.

- A trim knob to match the input gain with the output one, so we will have the processed signal but no volume increase.

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Saturday, February 3, 2018

5 reasons why Youtube video reviews can be misleading

Hello everyone!
Today we are publishing an article by our friend Edoardo Del Principe about his opinion of Youtube gear reviews. Enjoy!

Today Youtube is the largest archive of gear reviews, tons of monthly editions of Premier Guitar can't beat the enormous amount of reviews Youtube has. But We can trust about that kind of review? How muchcan we? Here are 5 reasons why most of the gear reviews we watch (and make) can be misleading (but non on purpose):

1) Feel the guitar
: Guitar reviews for me are not very reliable because the hand that plays the guitar is not mine. I can’t feel whether the neck is right for me, if the weight is too much for my back and how comfortable I am playing when standing of sitting.

2) Guitar sound?: Electric guitars, unlike the acoustic ones, doesn’t have any real sound. The core tone of electric guitars comes mostly from the Pickup, and although the overall sound depends from a lot of factors, the pickup is the main source. Since We talk about electric stuff it is essential to know the signal chain, because it’s what affects the sound in first place. What amp you are playing, what cables or pedals are involved? I never trust guitar reviews because changing the amp head or cab you change drastically the whole sound. So what are you hearing? A guitar or an amplifier? To understand how a guitar “sounds” you would have to put the guitar into YOUR signal chain. Only that way you can understand first of all if it’s comfortable, and second if it fits the sound your looking for.

3) Pedals don’t have any sound: As mentioned before the signal chain is essential to understand how electric stuff sounds like, from the mic in front of the cab to the strings, everything influence how guitars and pedals sounds. Pedals in particular are very sensitive. Power supplies, cables, amp, pickups and even strings gauge have an effect in how a pedal respond, so, if it’s not your chain what you ear can be very different.

4) “Not working as intended”: Only you know how you want to use a guitar, an amp or a pedal. If you play blues rock you are in a safe territory because most of the reviewers talk to that audience. If you are a metal guitarist this is going to be a little trickier, because every subgenre has its own “dogmas” about sounds and references, so unless you find the guy who is into the exact type of tone you're into, you’ll never be satisfied by a review. Volume is another issue very common in most reviews, because often amps are played in a low-medium range that doesn’t represent the real use of the gear because most of the time we want to play it live, or in a rehersal room. Amps, pickups and even pedals used in a live scenario can sound very different than in a studio performance.

5) An utopistic world: Gear reviews made by professionists are often played with instruments that most of the people can’t afford. If you play a pedal into a 2k Amp and 2k guitar I’m honestly sure that even if is a 20$ pedal, it will sounds amazing. Playing a 300 dollars guitar into a 3k amp is telling nothing to me and vice versa. If someone wants to demonstrate me how a 500 dollars amp sounds, he should take in consideration that the guy who spends 500 euros on an amp maybe will not use it with a 3000$ guitar.

Reviews are demonstrations of how something can sound, but of course they cannot be taken as a final word about an instrument. You are the final judge.

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

How to mix acoustic drums with samples

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to add another chapter in our drum production serie of articles:

- How to turn drums into midi

- How to mix rock/metal drums

- How to use Drumagog and other drum replacers

- How to use Superior Drummer or Slate Drums sounds in our acoustic drumset

And the topic of today is about how to mix an acoustic drumset using also drum samples to achieve better results.
Let's start by assuming you have read all the articles linked above, so I won't repeat anything, and let's assume that we have a good multitrack project, with decent takes, without too much mic bleed, and that the drum tracks have already been edited. Everything must be ready to mix.
Sometimes when we are in this phase we will realize that the sound is not optimal (maybe because we have used a 100€ all included mic set of 8 microphones, for a value of 12,5€ a microphone), and even if we eq and compress the hell out of each track, literally to the extreme, the result will be extremely poor.

In this case we can use drum replacers to take our acoustic track and add a drum sample on top (or to completely replace it).
In this example we are using Addictive Trigger, which can be downloaded in trial version Here, but we could use any other drum replacer, such as Drumagog, Slate Trigger, Aptrigga etc, the result is the same.

What we need to do is to load an instance of Addictive trigger in the insert of, for example, our kick track, and as a first step adjust the input gain and the sensitivity until we are sure that only the kick hits are catched by the drum replacer. This means that we need to cut out the snare bleed by narrowing down the "scope" of the trigger, until all snare hits are out. (On a side note, some drum replacer after this adjustment lets us also export a midi file with the hits detected, if we want to play them with a drum Vsti).

Now we can choose a kick snare from the list of the available ones (or use the samples of our drum Vsti as explained in one of the articles linked on top), and the idea is to choose the closest one to our ideal, final sound, in order to get there with as few moves as possible. In this phase is good to a/b constantly with our favourite reference track in order to not lose objectivity.
Once we have found the sound we need, we can decide how much to blend it with the original tone, for example 50% to retain some of the original sound, or 100% to completely replace it. Now some drum replacer offers tools to mix the sample directly in the box, otherwise you will need to process it externally, adding comp, eq etc in the vst chain (keeping in mind that doing this way, the processors will effect both the acoustic part and the triggered one, so if we are blending the sampled sound with the original one we might want first to process the acoustic part, and then to add the drum replacer at the end of the chain).

I have used the example of the kick because it is a quite difficult drum part to get properly without expensive gear, so it's the drum part that gets replaced more often, but usually the best results are achieved when adding some sample to basically all drum parts (except the cymbals), and blending everything tastefully.

The same process explained for the kick can therefore be repeated with snare and toms, if needed, and this technique is used by most of the modern studios, since it's a powerful, flexible tool.

Hope this was helpful!

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Review: Epiphone Prophecy Les Paul Custom GX

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to check out one of the top-tier Epiphone Les Paul models, if not the best on the market: the Epiphone Prophecy Les Paul Custom Gx.

This guitar can be seen and heard in several videos in our blog, like in the Orange Jim Root Terror review or the Harley Benton Sg Kit review.

This model is a Les Paul model with some unique features that sets it aside from most of the others, and that gives the instrument a modern twist, making it more suitable and comfortable also for shredding, especially with the neck thinner than the other models (Speedtaper D satin finish), 24 frets instead of 22 and radius 14" instead of 12".
All these features makes it very comfortable, without compromising the classic Les Paul feeling, also because the scale is the usual one (plus the body is full, no weight relief, for better sustain and resonance).

Besides the neck particularity, this guitar comes featuring top notch components, which are not very common in other models of the brand:

- Locktone bridge
- Non rotating output jack (which means that you don't risk to break the wires with the rotation of the jack inside
- Grover machine heads (for tuning stability)
- All metal 3 way toggle (instead of plastic)
- Gibson Usa Pickups

Basically they did all the most common upgrades that people do to a low price Epiphone, so the guitar is basically ready to go (and obviously this reflects also on the final price, which is usually 200 or 300 dollars higher than most of the other Les Paul models of the roster, so its price is around 7/800 dollars but these money are well invested).

Aestethically speaking the guitar is very nice, both in its passive and active pickup version: the top is quilted maple and comes in several colours (heritage cherry burst, black cherry, midnight sapphire and midnight ebony), white binding in body and neck, and pearloid inlays.

The guitar feels good to play, the neck is slighly thinner than the other Les Pauls, although not as thin as an Ibanez obviously, and the weight is around 4kgs, which is not light (the average for electric guitars is around 3.5), but also not unbearable.

Tone wise the Gibson Usa 490r and 498t pickups are a guarantee, they are among the best hi gain pickups ever made and their screaming highs are well counterbalanced by the dark sounding, heavy mahogany of the body.

All around this is one of the best guitar Epiphone has ever made, both in its passive and active pickup configuration (there is also a version with Emgs), and the price bump compared to the others is well balanced by the specs, considering that in order to buy all the upgraded components and having someone to install them on a guitar would be even more expensive, and the modded guitar would lose value in the market. This is also one of the examples of why Epiphone (which was acquired by Gibson in the 70s, although as a brand it is older than Gibson itself) is growing while Gibson is dangerously declining: it offers good quality at the right price, and the public is noticing it.

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

TopQuilt Maple
Neck ShapeSpeedTaper™ D-Profile Satin Finish
Neck JointGlued-in set neck
Frets24, jumbo
Fingerboardpearloid and abalone block and triangle inlays
Fingerboard Radius14"
BindingMother of pearl stickpin on headstock face
Mother of pearl and abalone block and triangle on 1,3,5,7,9,12, & 15th fret
Mother of pearl blocks on 17, 19, 21, and 24th fret
Nut Width1.68
Nut MaterialGraphite
Machine HeadsGrover® 14:1
Neck PickupGibson USA 490R humbucker
Bridge PickupGibson USA 498T humbucker
Controls1-neck volume with push/pull coil splitting
1-neck tone
1-bridge volume with push/pull coil splitting
1-bridg tone
Pickup selectorEpiphone all-metal 3-way toggle
KnobsMetal barrel with mother of pearl inlaid tops
BridgeLockTone™ Tune-o-matic
TailpieceLockTone™ Stopbar
Output jackEpiphone Exclusive non-rotating heavy duty output jack
StraplocksEpiphone exclusive
ColorBlack Cherry (BC) and Heritage Cherry Sunburst (HS)

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Tuning tips from the producers (for various instruments)

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are talking about tuning tips (click here for a dedicated article about Tuners), that we have received from a famous producer (whose name will remain secret :D).
These tips are for the standard guitar tuning, an extremely low tuning alternative, and to tune a sitar (made of 7 strings + 11 sympathetic strings, which are strings that resonates once one of the "main strings" is plucked).

The basic suggestions are to "always tune up", which means always tune the string from loose to tense, to use fresh strings (and to retune them a bit until they are stable), to use a good tuner, to have your guitar intonated, and so on, but the most interesting tips are those about the tuning.

Let's start by saying that in order to use these tips we need to have a tuner that lets us tune in cents of tone, like the Korg Dtr 2000 shown on top. The idea is that tuning some string some cent of tone down will make the overall balance more musical, and this technique has been used in studios for years, it can be heard in several famous records.
What do you think?
Try those settings in your recordings and let us know!


1.E   in tune
2.B   in tune
3.G -5 cent
4.D in tune
5.A in tune
6.E -10 cent


1.B  in tune
2.G  in tune
3.D in tune
4.A in tune
5.E -5 cent     (string .49 to .52)
6.D -20 cent   (string .65)


7.D (low)


low   1.D 2.C# 3.B 4.A 5.G 6.F# 7.E 8.D 9.C# 10.B 11.A

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