Saturday, April 21, 2018

Review: Marshall 8008 power amp

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to review a solid state power amp, one of the cheapest and easiest to find in the used market: the Marshall 8008!

This unit, now discontinued but still very popular in the used market, is often referred as one of the safest "entry level" if you need a cheap (around 100$), light and very reliable rack power amp. 
The Valvestate 8008 has enough power (80w per channel) to be used both at home and on stage, and it can drive a stereo cab or two cabs at the same time, giving us a good flexibility. 

The technology used is Valvestate, the second, (after AVT) Marshall attempt in recreating with a solid state circuitry the response of a tube amp, and the switch in the back activates this feature or leaves the power amp linear; when the switch is on the power amp adds some extra harmonics in the mid range and tries to push the overall sound slightly to the "Marshall territory", but the difference is very subtle, so most of the people just leaves it on to have a final tone less hi-fi (unless you're using a digital modeling preamp, in which case it could create conflicts, since the modeling preamp will already have its internal tube emulation).
Considering how the technology evolved with Marshall amps (the Mg serie), it is safe to say that the Valvestate is the best version of tube emulation ever developed by the brand.

I have bought this unit used several years ago and it has been part of my rack for some year before switching to a tube head, and I must say the power amp did its job, it was worth the money and it was extremely solid and reliable, but the overall sound was very "transistor", and trying my preamp in a tube poweramp made me understand how important are tubes in a power amp: most of the tone characteristics I love in a tube amp comes from the tube power amp, rather then from the preamplifier (but this is just my personal opinion based on empyric tests, I will make a more scientific analysis in the future).

Would I suggest it today as a power amp for a main rig? Probably not, unless you need a very inexpensive 1 rack unit power amp, but if you have some specific need in terms of weight, hi-fi sound or space, this can still be an interesting choice to evaluate.


- 2 Channels Stereo, 80w each.

- 2 volume knobs

- on/off switch

- 2 input switch

- 2 output switch (4 Ohm)

- linear/valvestate switch

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

6 Tips to customize the look of Presonus Studio One

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
This time we're going to make an addition to our Project Preparation Article focusing on how to improve-customize the look of our daw, and in this case we will use the Presonus Studio One interface, but most of these changes can be performed in any commercial Daw.

1) From the file brower on the right go on Files->Colours and from there you can drag and drop the various skins in the tracklist view to change the appearence of the Daw. You can change drastically the colour code with these presets.

2) Options->General->Appearence: from here you can create your own colour style using controls similar to those in Photoshop: Hue, Saturation, Luminance, Contrast and so on, you can also save your own preset.

3) Options->Advanced->Editing tab: from here you can tick or untick "draw events translucent" to make the events transparent and see the grid behind (good for editing).

4) Options->Advanced->Editing tab: from here you can tick or untick "don't show event names", to remove the file name label from the events. By ticking this the look of our project will become suddenly much cleaner.

5) In the console area (in the lower part), if you go to the far left part there is a wrench icon, if you click there you can tick the box "Colorize channel Strips" in order to turn the colour of each channel into the one of the channel label; this is very useful when the project is very large, to find faster the track we need. This same function can be used for the tracks in the Tracklist View by clicking on the wrench icon on the top left corner and ticking "colorize track controls".

6) In the lower right corner of the tracklist view there is a slider. This slider increase and decreases the size of the waveform without touching the gain, so you can see better the transient.

I hope this was helpful!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Review: Rocktron Xpression

Welcome to this week's article!
Today we are talking about a rack multi effect which is now discontinued but very easy to find on the second hand market at a good price, and that has been for years the main contender, together with the Tc Electronics G-Major, for the role of best selling rack multi effect in the market.

Rack modules has become very popular among guitarists between the second half of the 80s and the first half of the 90s, due to the fact that they were easier to carry around, extremely customizable (it's an orgasm inducing feeling to assembly your favourite preamp, your favourite power amp and your favourite multi effect and create the perfect routing and the perfect presets) and offered an infinite flexibility, thanks especially to the MIDI presets storage, compared to the classic combination of guitar head and stompbox effects that was the standard since the 60s.

During the 90s racks had become so popular among guitar geeks that was very common to see huge flight cases, as big as refrigerators, behind the guitar heroes, before the rack fashion started to lose popularity and since the second half of the 2000s people started going back to the classic guitar amp heads (which in the meanwhile got enriched often by a lot of functions that made the rack preamps, which were much more complicated to setup, less and less appealing).  

What is left today of that golden age of guitar heroism? 
Several all in one systems that integrates in two rack units preamp and multieffect with the best of the digital amp technology around (Kemper, Fractal, Line6) going usually directly in the PA, some other guitarist playing live through the computer using Vst Amp Simulators, and of course an infinity of discontinued, good (and less good) quality rack products that still are available in the market for our delight. 

Today we are talking about one of the most popular of them: Rocktron Xpression, the final evolution of a serie that spanned two decades, and that included the Intelliverb, Intellifex, Intellifex Online and Replifex.
The Xpression was the apex of Rocktron effects technology, and was one of the very few ones that allowed a flexible chain of 10 effects at the same time, 128 presets for guitar and bass fully editable, speaker simulator and 24 bit processing.

In terms of tone the unit sounds still today competitive: the effects are transparent and crystalline (if you don't choose vintage style effects), and provides anything a guitarist could need, from a switch in the input for active and passive pickups (to optimize the input gain) to one of the best noisegate algorythm in the market (Hush), from infinite delays (with tap tempo) to ultra clean reverbs.

The only "defect" I could think of, as of today, is the fact that it cannot be connected to a pc for quick editing, which leaves us fiddling with an ingenious but very complex system of menus and submenus accessible by combining the movement of two knobs, that takes some time and patience to master, and that maybe is ultimately the reason why many guitarists have switched back to the more straightforward head-stompbox system.

In conclusion this unit is a nice piece of guitar effects history, and you should definitely give it a try if you have the chance!
Thumbs up!


- 128 presets for guitar and bass

- Up to 10 effects together
- Vintage and classic stompbox-style effects models
- Multivoiced delay and chorus
- Delay and Rate tap tempo controls
- 4-band parametric EQ
- Active/passive input switch
- D.I. out with speaker simulator
- Analog bypass
- Hush noise reduction
- 24-bit DSP processing

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Review: Fabfilter Pro-R

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're checking out a new plugin by Fabfilter, the Reverb Pro-R!

The panorama of Vst Reverbs is probably the widest of all: the easiest reverb algorithms are teached in many IT college as part of the exams, and it has been probably one of the first effects to have ever been created, to the point that literally every Daw in the market offers some form bundled, plus with the advent of Impulse Responses the offer has become even more various:
with these premises the task of creating a reverb software that can really make the difference in today's crowded panorama seems extremely hard, and yet Fabfilter once again has proven us to be up to the challenge, with its Pro-R.

How did Fabfilter differentiate their reverb from the others?
The same way they do with all of their plugins: with a beautiful interface, very intuitive and far from any useless scheumorphism, and with features that almost no other reverb has, starting with an integrated eq with spectrum analyzer to correct real time the way the effect processes the signal (for example filtering out the amount of reverb that affects the low end) and that also lets us modify independently the decay curve, allowing us to shape in detail the reverb tail and also to create some creative effect, to the point that it can be almost used as a transient shaper.

The main knobs are seven: Brightness, that adjust the amount of sparkle in the effect, Character, that affects the effect "colour" by adding some modulation, Distance, that allows us to adjust the perceived distance of the source, Decay rate, that affects the tail of the effect, Stereo width that controls how wide is the sound, Mix, that obviously lets us choose the wet/dry ratio, and the most importan of all: Space, that lets us set the room size.

On top of all these features the plugin features a wide array of presets for every kind of instrument, and they are a great place to begin with, before proceeding with further tweakings.

All in all another very useful plugin that has everything you'd expect and much more from a reverb, in a beautiful interface.
How does it sounds? It sounds extremely well and realistic, and the tools lets you tweak a lot, so that you can have a very transparent reverb, or a very coloured one, with a hint of echo or chorus, and on top of that the plugin is surprisingly light on the cpu compared to other high end reverb units, which usually can be some of the heaviest processors that can be loaded in a Daw.

Thumbs up!

Key Features taken from the website:

- Beautifully designed room models, ranging from small ambiences and rooms to large concert halls and huge cathedrals.

- Carefully developed to easily fit in the mix, without causing undesirable coloration, density or phase problems.Gorgeou Retina interface with large interactive reverb display featuring Decay Rate EQ and Post EQ curves.

- Stepless Space control, which smartly and smoothly combines the room model and decay time of the reverb. You can choose from over a dozen
- carefully designed room models and seamlessly vary between them, without hearing clicks or unwanted artifacts.

- Decay Rate control, changing the overall decay time from 50% to 200% of the current Space setting.

- Intelligent Stereo Width control, ranging from pure mono to true stereo and beyond.

- Distance control to adjust the proximity to the sound source in the selected space.

- The Character control changes the sound from a clean, transparent decay, to a lively reverb with pronounced reflections and echoes, all the way to an over-modulated chorus-like effect.

- Perfectly tuned Brightness knob, affecting not only overall brightness, but also the decay of high frequencies.

- Mix knob with a Lock Mix option, which prevents preset loading from overriding the current mix setting.

- Predelay control via the bottom bar, ranging from 0 to 500 ms, with optional host tempo sync.

- Innovative six-band Decay Rate EQ, giving you full control over the decay rate at different frequencies.

- Six-band Post EQ to equalize the final reverb sound. Together with the Decay Rate EQ, this lets you design reverbs of any style or character.

- Real-time spectrum analyzer that also visualizes the decay time at different frequencies.

- Full Screen mode, offering a large analyzer display and Decay Rate EQ and Post EQ controller.

- Multiple interface sizes: Medium, Large and Extra Large.

- Stereo and mono plug-ins available.

- MIDI Learn.

- Undo/redo and A/B comparison.

- Smart Parameter Interpolation.

- Sample-accurate automation of all parameters.

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Best free Vst Plugins / Best Free software for making music 2018

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're checking out a list of free music software that is partially taken from the Audiosex Forum (with some modification and update), and partially is a compendium of the best software linked in our articles. 
It has literally everything you may need to have fun with home recording, and by clicking on the title of each category you will have a dedicated article for the topic.

I hope it will be useful, enjoy! 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Review: Ltd Truckster (with video sample and comparison)

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to talk about the Ltd Truckster, the signature singlecut guitar of James Hetfield of Metallica!
As you will probably know, Ltd is the low and mid-range price brand of Esp Guitars, a Japanese guitar manufacturer which produces high end instruments, and that has some of the biggest stars in heavy music as endorsers.

The Truckster is one of the various James Hetfield signature models produced by the company, and it is essentially a Les Paul style guitar with a serie of differences from a Gibson LP model, and that places itself in the highest tier of the Ltd roster, mainly due to its top end hardware.

The build quality is very good, the guitar is surprisingly lightweight (due to a body thinner than a Les Paul and a much thinner neck, more similar to an Ibanez one than to a Gibson one), and the painting tries to recreate the effect of several layers of different paint scratched off the area next to the knobs and where the arm stands, so it's a sort of fake relic style, which you may like or not, but for sure it has character.

The hardware is top-notch: there are Sperzel Locking tuners, Tonepros Tune o'Matic Bridge, Extra Jumbo frets, 2 pick up switch (one of which is inactive, but you can route the cables to go there if you prefer that position) and the pick ups are the Emg Het Set, the set made according to the Hetfield specifications.

Tone wise this guitar is extremely loud: as you can hear from the video comparison with an Epiphone Les Paul Prophecy the output is much higher, it's like playing through a booster, but the tone is brighter and more gnarly than a classic Emg 81, and in general, if well tweaked, this guitar provides a huge tone and it's lighter and more comfortable to use than a classic Les Paul.
The price is around 1100 $/€, which makes it one of the most expensive Ltd on the market, but on the other hand it makes sense, it is basically an Ltd Ec-1000 (the top level of Ltd singlecut, which sells for around 800 $) with 250 $ worth of pickups, locking tuners and a special painting, so you can actually see where the money goes, and all in all the price is quite right.

Give it definitely a try if you see one in a store, you might fall in love with it!


- Set-neck construction

- 24-3/4" scale

- Mahogany body

- 3-piece mahogany neck

- 42mm standard nut

- Thin U neck contour

- Rosewood fingerboard

- Flag inlays with LTD at 12th fret

- 22 XJ frets

- EMG Het Set active pickups

- 2 volume and 1 tone control with 2 - 3-way toggles (toggle in upper position is inactive)

- Satin chrome hardware

- Sperzel locking tuners

- TonePros locking Tune-o-matic bridge with stop tailpiece

- White neck binding

Saturday, March 3, 2018

How to send multiple channels from a Vst instrument to separate tracks

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to talk about a very practical topic, that in this case is shown in the Presonus Studio One interface, but that can be applied to any other daw: how to take the various channels of a multi channel Vst instrument and send them to separate tracks in order to process them individually.

Let's imagine we have a drum vst instrument (or an orchestral one, or whatever): we can process the various channels inside the instrument (like in the case of Addictive Drums, in the picture),  or we can send them to separate tracks in the daw, to be able to use our favourite vst plugins.
In order to do that we need to click in the right-pointing arrow in the top of the interface, and it will open us the list of the channels.

By default, all the channels will be routed on track one, which is the vst instrument track, but we can assign each channel to a separate track just by ticking them in the list.
This does not mean we need to always tick all of them and process all of them separately, for example for a drumset we could need a track for the snare, a track for the kick, a track for the hi hat, a track for all the three toms together, a track with all the room and ambience microphones and a track with the rest of the cymbals, this way with six busses we could have enough flexibility to process independently everything without having to rely only on the vst instrument internal mixer, which sometimes has rather poor plugins.

Note that in this case the tracks in the list are called with the same names of the drum parts, but it's not always like that, usually they are called just "out 1, 2, 3..." and so on, so you need to assign each channel to an out to create the corresponding track.
Finally, sometimes, the internal VstI mixer has the various channels all routed into out 1, so before creating the various tracks you will need to assign each mixer channel to an output, and then with the abovementioned method, route these out into separate busses.

I hope this was helpful!

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