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Author Archives: elevea

About elevea

Guitar player, writer, photographer.

Review: Marshall Code 25 combo

I grew up on Marshalls and played them off and on for the first 20 years of my career. It was only when someone forcibly plugged me into a Blackstar that I realized that there even were other brands. Previously it had always been about Marshall, and the only other option would have been Mesa/Boogie. But after this epiphany, I actually started seeing Marshall in a new and not altogether flattering light. As soon as the wool fell from my eyes, they started to appear a bit fuddy-duddy, seemingly too preoccupied with their own excellence, too absorbed by their pedigree and traditions to attempt any sort of innovation. I did try a number of new Marshall products in 2011 and 2012: the Class 5 combo, the first three 50th anniversary 1-watt amps. All of these were fine amps that put a big smile on my face. But as a control measure, I made sure to plug into some form of Blackstar immediately afterwards, and it never failed to amaze me how much more clarity and flexibility I could get out of them for a fraction of the price of the Marshall. My image of Marshall did not improve when they started releasing headphones, hi-fi amplifiers and smartphones. But when they announced the Code range of digital modelling amplifiers, developed with my countrymen from Softube, my curiosity was piqued. It got even more intense when the first sample videos started appearing on Youtube, the buzz got going, and to me, the most important indicator was that the Code amps were impossible to get a hold of for months. I asked my regular music store if they could get one for me and they agreed. This was in April, and the amp arrived in August. During those four months, I went from “I can’t wait to try this amp” to “I gotta have it NOW” on the strength of one glowing review after another. I tried very hard to not want the Code 25. After all, I have been extremely satisfied with my Blackstar ID:30 for three years, and if it ain’t broke, etc. But then it hit me that I didn’t really need the ID:30 either, since between 2010 and 2013 I was perfectly happy with my Fender G-DEC 3 Fifteen. I suddenly recalled what some guy in the store said to me years ago about the second-hand value of digital amps: they’re like computers in that a new model comes out and then you can’t even sell the old one for coffee money. During the long wait for the Code 25, and the constant debate about whether or not to actually buy it, I realized that three years is a long time in this digital era. Last year I bought a fairly recent digital camera and was floored by the technological improvements made since my old model was released in 2005. The Blackstar was a significant improvement over the Fender. So the Marshall should run rings around the Blackstar. Right? Well, let’s have a look:

First of all, a few words in general about the Code range: three combos: 25, 50 and 100 watts, and a 100-watt head. The 25-watt combo has a 10-inch speaker, the 50-watt a 12-inch speaker and the 100-watt combo two 12-inch speakers. All amps have the same software and the same controls, the only difference between them is that the Code 25 has a smaller LCD. I like this setup because if there’s one thing that bothers me with the Blackstar ID:30, it’s the lack of a midrange control. One thing that definitely sold me on the Code range was the aggressive pricing. The Code 25 is almost half the price of the ID:30 when I expected the reverse to be true. Diving into the actual digital contents, you select between a full range of Marshall preamps, and what I can only imagine are simulations of Fender, Vox and Mesa. There are four different power-tube selections and a number of speaker simulations, everything from a 1 x 12 to a full 4 x 12. If you have a smartphone, you can download the Marshall Gateway app and have full control over the amp via Bluetooth, which is kind of nifty. Another great selling point, something I missed sorely from the Fender G-DEC 3, was the ability to insert effects before the preamp. For some reason, I prefer dialing back the gain a little for my lead tone and boosting it back up with a clean boost or overdrive pedal, and I like having a bit of compression on my clean tone before it hits virtual tape. This Marshall lets me do both without having to plug in my pedalboard! The effects block consists of the usual fare: chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo, delays, reverbs, a pretty cheesy pitch-shifter. About the only real surprise is the Uni-Vibe setting on the phaser, which is actually pretty good! I’m not going to go on and on about the effects, because 1) I haven’t spent that much time figuring them out, possibly related to the fact that 2) I didn’t buy this amp for the effects but for the British overdrive tones.

There are quite a few sweet sounds among the 100 factory presets. I am not wild about factory presets in general, since they tend to be a bit exaggerated, which is understandable, since the manufacturer obviously wants to show off the entire range of the product and they can’t predict the whims of every user. But there are a few zingers in the list. Six weeks after buying the amp, I have actually yet to get around to fine-tuning the thing, because some of these sounds are so damn good. I find myself scrolling between three sounds in particular: nos. 41, 51 and 67, or, a Bluesbreaker sim, a JCM800 sim and a Silver Jubilee sim. No 13 is positively shredtastic: a JCM800 with an overdrive in front and everything on 10! It is quite likely a bit too over the top for recording, but for practicing and general couch shredding it is not far from a dream tone. About the only Marshall tone that doesn’t work is the DSL sim. I have simply no idea what they were thinking when they dialed that one in. And the American sounds are not convincing at all; my Blackstar does one hell of a better job with the blackface Twin sound. Someone commented that the Code series is a good way to try out different Marshall amps and combinations with tubes and cabs to see what works for you. I don’t know about that. Of course I’d like that to be true, but I couldn’t tell, since I simply don’t have enough stick time with any of the models that the Code is supposed to simulate. All I know is that the JCM800 model comes pretty damn close to the proverbial good British metal tone. One thing with the Code 25 that manages to be heartwarmingly charming and amazingly annoying at the same time is the master volume knob, which works just like an old tube Marshall: either too soft or too loud. The one thing that I absolutely do not like with the Code 25 is the speaker. I don’t know if this particular speaker is bad, or if there’s just something about 10-inch speakers, but it farts out if you look at it funny. Single notes can work fine, but chords and dyads on the bass strings and the thing just makes weird noises. Thankfully, the direct signal from the headphone socket sounds fine, and that was the main point behind getting the amp anyway. This is not something I intend to mike up or put behind me on a stage.

The Marshall Code 25 is not going to supplant my Blackstar ID:30, but it complements it very well, and it has given Marshall a bit of a comeback from my perspective. I might very well write a second review when I’ve logged some more hours on it, especially in the studio.

 
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Posted by on 2 October, 2016 in gear, review

 

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Review: Gibson Les Paul 2016 60s Tribute T

There are few things indeed that can beat walking out of a music store with a new guitar. I recently had this pleasure when I bought a new Gibson, the 2016 60s Tribute Les Paul T. For about a year, I have been in the ridiculously privileged position of owning a stable of guitars of outstanding quality, fantastic sound and with basically no annoyances or weaknesses. As the old saying goes, there’s always room for one more. But which one? For years, it’s been back and forth between my two favorite guitars. During odd-numbered weeks, I’ve been convinced that the Stratocaster is my first love and that what I really want is a maple-neck American Standard. The next week I’ve realized that I’ve been an inveterate Les Paul player for 15 years, and I’ve dreamt of owning a sunburst Standard for about 30 years. But desirable as these guitars might be, neither will enable me to do something new. Neither will give me a new sound. If I am to spend thousands of crowns on a new guitar, it’s not enough to convince my heart, I also need to convince my brain. And the older I get, the more difficult it gets to justify the huge expense of a Les Paul Standard or Custom.
As stated in a previous review, it was quite the revelation to plug in a 2015 Les Paul Special with P90 pickups. It was quite frankly the nicest clean sound I have ever heard, way more massive than the Fender single-coil sound, but at the same time a lot crisper than a humbucker. The P90 has almost an acoustic quality to it, you can really hear the vibrating metal of the string! It even sounds awesome (if noisy!) with distortion: it drives the amp pretty hard and has that extra pick attack that tells you instinctively that this is not a humbucker. My problem with the 2015 Special was that it was a 2015 model. I don’t care for the wider neck, adjustable nut or ugly logo, and the first thing I’d do were I to buy one would be to disassemble and sell off the G-Force tuning system. To my immense satisfaction, it turned out that the 2016 range included a proper Les Paul with P90:s, and when I finally got to try one, I bought it inside of ten minutes!
I still like the Les Paul Studio, but ever since they started turning upmarket (they’re currently 16000 crowns, 60% more expensive than the 50s and 60s tribute models), I’ve been increasingly iffy about purchasing one. The tribute models might just be the bargains of the entire 2016 Gibson range. For just under 10000 crowns, you will get a US-made Gibson Les Paul, with either P90 or humbucking pickups, in a small but nice selection of finishes, and with few compromises, most of which are aesthetic in nature. (And, admittedly, most of which you would get on a Studio model as well!) These guitars don’t come with hard cases but a small padded gigbag, which is not a dealbreaker for me even though it might be for you. Otherwise it’s the usual Studio fare: unbound body and neck and a not especially flamey maple top. The sides and back of the body and neck are finished in opaque black, likely to hide the fact that the bodies are glued together from several smaller pieces of mahogany. If you get the 50s version with humbuckers, be aware that you get the old-school wiring, so there is no possibility to split the coils.
Both the 50s and 60s tribute models come in three finishes: black, tobacco sunburst and honeyburst, and with the former you also get a goldtop option. I already have two black Gibsons, and I wanted the 60s tribute, so it was basically a choice between the two sunbursts. A note to the wary: Gibson’s photos of these guitars simply do not do the finishes justice! The Honeyburst appears to be way more faded and brownish than it turns out to be in real life. I was amazed when I pulled it out of the gigbag, it was so beautiful! One of the nicer details with these guitars is the satin finish. It is wonderfully smooth, especially on the neck, where it allows a bit of the natural grain to come through, for a very nice feel.
The one thing I can’t wrap my head around is the way Gibson differentiates between 50s and 60s models in this range. If someone says “50s tribute” to me, then I immediately imagine the proverbial Les Paul, a humbucker-equipped flame-top sunburst. But if you mention two models, a “60s tribute” in addition to the 50s, then I think in different terms. Then the 60s tribute is the sunburst with humbuckers and the 50s tribute the goldtop with P90 single-coils. In the 2016 range, Gibson have managed to get this almost completely the wrong way around. The 60s tribute has the P90:s and the 50s tribute the humbuckers and goldtop. It’s a shame, since I really, really wanted a 1956-style P90-equipped goldtop. But I shouldn’t complain, since the honeyburst is so much nicer than I had imagined! And the more I think about it, the more I enjoy the thought of owning a 57-style goldtop with humbuckers.
This “review” makes one serious omission which I’m now going to address. The Gibson 2016 range actually consists of two distinct subranges: Traditional and High Performance. The former is basically the way you would expect things from Gibson: standard tuners, standard bone nut, standard neck width and the old-fashioned neck joint. The latter continues the modernization efforts started with the controversial 2015 range: robot tuners, a wider neck and an adjustable nut (this time in titanium!). New for 2016 is the improved-access neck joint. My music store only stocks the Traditional guitars, so I cannot make any statements about the HP range. However, I can imagine that I would enjoy the shaved-down neck heel.
 
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Posted by on 29 May, 2016 in gear, review, Uncategorized

 

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Review: Gibson 2015 Les Paul Special

In 2012 I bought my fourth electric guitar, a Gibson SG Standard, and completed my collection of classic rock guitars. Since then, I’ve added a further three guitars to my line-up: a Taylor steel six-string, a 12-string and an Alhambra nylon-string. These seven axes along with my wife’s Jazz Bass give me basically any kind of tone I could conceivably need. This is the most logical stopping-point I have come across since I bought my Les Paul in 2001 and had two electrics for the first time in a decade. But it isn’t enough. It’s never enough. How many guitars does a guy need? Always one more. Therefore, after getting the nylon-string in January last year, I started thinking about the subject pretty seriously. What do I need? Irrelevant. What do I want? That’s the better question. The first thing that always seems to pop into my mind whenever I ask myself that question is a maple-neck Fender Stratocaster. The second thing seems to be a Les Paul Standard of some kind. That’s all and well. Except that it doesn’t really allow me to do something new. One train of thought led me to consider a seven-string guitar, or a six-string shred guitar with a Floyd Rose, or both. Another had me looking at more 60s-inspired designs, like a Rickenbacker 330 or an Epiphone Casino. Last weekend, I spent two hours at the music store, mostly trying out Stratocasters and Les Paul Standards. Towards the end, I was kind of in a bit of despair, since I just didn’t like any of the Gibsons I tried, and none of the Fenders were any good-looking. Then my eye fell upon a Les Paul Special in Heritage Cherry, and I thought, what the hell, and picked it up.

The Les Paul Special is basically a low-end Les Paul, with a flat-topped mahogany body (no arched maple top), simplified controls and usually single-coil P90 pickups. This particular model is part of the 2015 range, so it is a double-cutaway guitar with no pickguard. I have never played on P90 pickups in my entire life, the closest I ever came was a 1956 Les Paul reissue I picked up and played unplugged in another music store a few years ago. I’ve almost always been a humbucker guy, so I’ve never been very interested in P90:s. My loss, it turns out now. I played the guitar through the clean channel of a Blackstar HT Metal 5, and I have never heard a nicer clean tone. P90:s, it seems, have a bigger, fatter, brasher sound than the comparatively small Fender single-coils. It just sounds fuller, less toppy, less brittle. I almost didn’t want to put the guitar back, it was so fun to noodle around! The best bit is that Gibson have put a reverse polarity/reverse-wound neck pickup into the guitar, so whenever you select the middle position of the pickup switch, any buzz or noise just disappears.

I very much enjoyed the body shape, and the wraparound one-piece bridge and tailpiece actually felt more natural to my picking hand than the Tune-O-Matic bridge that I’m very much used to by now. The bridge compensates for intonation issues via staggered ridges, and even then, there are tiny set screws that allow you to fine-tune the thing even further. Honestly, I don’t worry about this issue at all, not since I tried Paul Reed Smiths with the same set-up. The absence of independent tone and volume controls for the two pickups (the Les Paul Special has master volume and master tone only) wasn’t much of an adjustment. I play both Fenders and Gibsons, so I am accustomed to the pros and cons with both systems. The master volume solution gives you control no matter what, and the dual-volume allows you to preset two different tones if you wish.

The only drawback that I could find (other than the G-Force robot tuners, that is!) was the very limited access to the upper frets. Anything above the 20th fret basically requires a new hand position to reach those high D:s, E:s and, conditionally, F:s. This is a bit of a conundrum, because I know I’ll be getting a guitar that has a well-known limitation like this. Then again, I am probably not going to use this guitar for the same sort of stuff for which I use my current Fenders and Gibsons. I’d probably reserve a Special for cleans or possibly regular crunch, anything but screaming leads. It is a blues, rock and possibly punk machine. Still, it’s something that I know is going to go on nagging in the back of my mind. Therefore, I didn’t put my credit card down on the counter. Instead, I’m going to wait and see what the 2016 Les Paul 60s Tribute sounds like. It’s a trade-off, I suppose: a familiar body shape with decent upper-fret access. But I liked the feel of the flat, single-cut body. A new body shape forces you to think and to play in new ways.

 
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Posted by on 20 September, 2015 in gear, review

 

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Review: Gibson 2015 models

I am obviously very, very late to the Gibson-2015 party, since from what I’ve gathered, Gibson has already been flying in their 2016 models under the radar, at least over in North America. I have to admit that I’m horrible at this whole blogging thing. I mean, what the hell, this is my first post this year!! So here it is, more than six months overdue.

Life as a Gibson fan has not been especially pleasant in the past few years. I liked the 2014 models a lot: the Les Paul Futura was especially impressive with its humbucker/P90 combination, the nicely implemented boost and the cool colors. The Studio Pro was really neat, that cherry sunburst is an awesome take on the classic Gibson finish. I just didn’t care for the 120th Anniversary marker behind the 12th fret, it was jarring to the eye. I don’t know about you, but when I spent that much money on a new guitar, it must be perfect, and then I mean in every possible sense of the word. If I had known then what I know now, I would not have been so upset over a 12th-fret inlay.

The 2015 range is, in my humble opinion, bloody awful. Of course they’re pretty, with the sunbursts and the triple-A flamed maple tops, but that’s par for the course for Gibson. We’ve come to expect nothing less over the years. The first thing that struck me was that the store hadn’t put a price tag on any of the 2015 Standards. I know exactly what this means: if you have to ask, it means that you cannot afford it. So I asked, and the guy told me straight up that the philosophy for this year was to jack up the prices 25% to put Gibson closer to boutique makers such as PRS in price, if not in quality and image. One of my constant daydreams during the past 30-odd years has been to own a Les Paul Standard and a Les Paul Custom, and when he told me this, I realized that the only way I could fulfill the dream would be to go for used guitars. There is just no way I’ll shell out close to 30 Swedish grand for a guitar and I don’t care how good it looks or how well it plays. It has to beat my 25-year-old Les Paul Studio at everything hands down, and it turns out that few guitars do.

Then we come to the issues with the actual guitar. Looks are important. I’ll come clean and say it. And the new guitars are ugly as hell. I don’t care for the new logo, not one tiny bit. I respect the hell out of Les Paul the man, but I don’t need his shaky autograph on the headstock of my ridiculously expensive new guitar. I want the “Les Paul Model” logo! The new adjustable brass nut is okay. I appreciate the utility of it, since it gives me a whole lot more flexibility in adjusting the action, for instance if I want to set the guitar up for slide guitar. And then, the tuners. Those tuners. They tie into the price discussion mentioned above, because I would not only have to budget for a Les Paul Standard, a DiMarzio Cliplock strap and a set of Elixir 10-46 Nanowebs. I would also have to plink down 1000+ crowns for a set of replacement tuners! I have tried the Min-ETune/G-Force robot tuners. They were fun – once! I was amused by the novelty of pressing a button, strumming the strings, and watching how the guitar tuned itself. And after that first time, I wanted to go back to what I always do: play a bit, strum a chord and then fine-tune the strings that have gone sour. Only then did I realize that I had to turn the tuning peg about five times to bring the string up a quarter-note. And the tuners for the wound strings are the wrong way around, like the guitar was restrung by an amateur! Not to mention the mechanical resistance you feel when trying to tune manually. I also got the feeling that these tuners were decidedly less reliable, since I was forced to retune every two minutes.

There are a few features of the new Gibsons that I do very much enjoy. One is the push/pull volume controls for coil-tapping the humbuckers. I have even considered installing coil-taps on the two Gibsons that I own, so getting it set up that way from the factory is very nice. I have nothing against a built-in boost per se, but this is one thing that is implementation-dependent. I have always shied away from active electronics since I always imagine that the battery will wear out when I least want it to. A clean boost or mid-boost has to be set up so that you can still use the vanilla guitar when you run out of juice. Then it has to be unobtrusive. Last year’s Futura model did it nicely: the boost was controlled via a push/pull pot, so you couldn’t tell even up close that the guitar was hot-rodded. This year’s “Classic” model replaced one of the tone controls with a toggle switch, which is at best extremely ugly. What’s “classic” about that model, I wonder.

I am not alone in all of this. But the grim satisfaction didn’t take hold until I heard that Gibson was forced to dump the prices just to get rid of the 2015 models. Guitar Center ordered whole batches of special-production guitars sans all the 2015 “innovations”. And from what I’ve understood, Gibson have rushed out the 2016 models, and notice if you will that none of them sport the nonsense that Gibson tried to force on us with the 2015 range. I am intensely pleased that the market has spoken and uttered a very firm NO, and that the manufacturer has listened! The only sad part in all of this is that we have a bunch of dealers worldwide that are sitting on hundreds of thousands’ worth of stock that is going to be fairly tough to get rid of. I feel their pain. But for Gibson, the only thing I can muster is schadenfreude. Then, having said that, 2016 might just be the year I buy a new Gibson!

 
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Posted by on 19 September, 2015 in gear, review

 

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Review: Taylor 150e

I don’t use 12-string guitar much, but when my old Yamaha seemed to finally give up the ghost, I found that I sorely missed having one. 98% of my acoustic needs are covered by a regular steel-string, with the remainder equally divided between nylon and 12-string. Actually, the old Yamaha spent much of its life converted into a six-string. I removed the octave strings in early 1989 if I recall correctly, and didn’t add any back on until the summer of 2003. When I did, it hit me what I had been missing. But unfortunately, I have only recently been made aware of how a dry climate can punish a wooden instrument, and when I finally started treating the guitar the way it deserved, it was too late. The neck and top had warped, the truss rod had got stuck, the intonation was way off above the second fret, and the tech in the music store basically declared it DOA.

Enter the Taylor 150e. I was already familiar with the Taylor 100 series through the selection process that led to the purchase of my 214 six-string. I found the 100 series inferior to the 200 in most respects, but I figured that with twice the amount of strings, it would be apples vs. oranges anyway. When I found out what it cost, I was immediately intrigued. And when I finally tried one in the store, I was so impressed that it took only 10 minutes to decide to buy it. I didn’t even put it down!

The 150e is a dreadnought 12-string guitar with a built-in pickup and preamp (the -e suffix). It is made in Mexico and is obviously intended as a budget instrument, which is also evinced by the 6000-crown price tag. I have yet to find anything budget about the guitar, however. This is mostly because of my approach to guitars in general and acoustic guitars in particular. I can appreciate the finer aesthetic details of guitar-making, I can respect the workmanship, but I am perfectly all right admiring it from afar. I do not need it on my own instruments, and therefore it is something I do not necessarily wish to pay for. I have absolutely nothing against unadorned, meat-and-potatoes instruments, so long as they sound good. That’s why I prefer the Les Paul Studio, and that’s why I don’t regard the Taylor 150e as having cut any corners. After all, I spend most of the time playing the thing, and therefore I don’t need elaborate binding or decorative fingerboard inlays or anything like that. I appreciate that they scaled back on the visuals to keep costs down, and at any rate, from my eyes, the guitar is just as beautiful to look at.

I’d say that the 150e is 12000 crowns’ worth of guitar in a 6000-crown package. It completely redefines my expectations from a 12-string guitar. I was able to sit around and play it for hours on end without experiencing the slightest bit of left-hand cramp. Barre chords work fine even high up on the neck, intonation is just about perfect, and the neck is wide enough that my meaty fingers have no problem whatsoever with finding the correct strings. It can handle everything that one could conceivably expect it to play, and does so at a bargain price. There was not the slightest hesitation before buying it, and I have not regretted the purchase in the least. Now I have a real 12-string! Incidentally, I showed it to my dad, and he almost didn’t want to give it back. In fact, he ran out the next day and bought his own! Yes, it is that good.

 
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Posted by on 14 December, 2014 in gear, review

 

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Review: Toontrack EZdrummer sample plugin

It is very difficult to review the EZdrummer drum sampler from Toontrack properly. This is because I just can’t get over how fascinating the technology is. I’m completely distracted by the fact that you can just draw MIDI commands in an editor, add a plugin and have them sound like a real drumkit played by a real drummer! I grew up in the 80s and am too well aware of how obvious (and boring) drum machines can be, and for many years, the difficulty of getting a good live drum sound on a home recording has been one of the dealbreakers for me. Not any longer!

EZdrummer has a built-in humanizer function, and if that isn’t enough in itself, you can probably access something similar in your recording software. (I have a humanizing feature in Reaper.) I have found that the plugin works well for regular drum patterns, but if you have long sections with even eighth-notes on the hi-hats or ride, you should probably randomize the dynamics quite a bit to make it sound less mechanical. Same thing to fatten up metal-style tom-and-kick fills. The coolest thing is that the plugin triggers different samples depending on the MIDI velocity, so if your virtual drummer holds back, it will not sound like a drumkit mixed lower, but like a real guy or gal playing softly on real drums. If you don’t want to bother with constructing your own drum patterns, there are hundreds available in the accompanying software, and you can just click-and-drag to your recording software for instant drumming.

The vanilla EZdrummer 2 comes with two kits: modern and vintage. If you want to experiment, there are additional drums and cymbals in the package along with ready-made profiles with gating, EQ and compression, for instance if you want to make the drums ring more for 70s style rock, or if you want something tighter and clickier for modern metal. This is a quite welcome change from the rather dull-sounding kit of EZdrummer 1. (Which, on the other hand, made for quite a nostalgia trip since it sounds just like the kind of drumkit you would find in the music room of an average Swedish high school.)

There is less incentive to get an expansion in EZdrummer 2 than it was in 1, but you will probably want to check out the expansions, and soon. These come in many flavors: everything from electronic drums via Latin percussion to big, heavy rock drums and tight metal kits. I obviously prefer the ones with “metal” and “rock” in the titles, but I also recommend the Latin Percussion expansion for a very varied sample palette.

If you’re already running version 1 of EZD and are debating whether or not to upgrade: do it. Go for it! I’d say the sample loading times alone are worth the upgrade cost. In EZD1, if you had two or three kits in a project, it could take upwards of five minutes to get each and every sample loaded. Now, I’d say everything is up and running in about 20 seconds for really heavy projects, and in 5 seconds for one-kit projects. But that’s not all. Another great selling-point of EZD2 is that you can mix and match parts from many kits. If you’re satisfied with e.g. Drumkit from Hell as a whole, but you would want a bigger bass drum, let’s say the one from Rock Solid, just load the Rock Solid kick into DFH! Is it too loud – turn down the volume! You can even re-pitch drums to make a five-tom kit out of three basic samples.

 
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Posted by on 16 November, 2014 in review, software

 

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Review: Reaper recording software

I was surprised to find that Cockos’ Reaper is actually an acronym. It stands for Rapid Environment for Audio Production, Engineering and Recording. People in the know refer to such a program as a DAW, for Digital Audio Workstation. Myself, I call it a recording program.

Can Reaper do everything that Cubase, Logic or Pro Tools can? Honestly, I don’t know. Without extensive fact-checking, I can only assume that you get what you pay for. But for my purposes, I don’t see what the big, established, big-name applications could offer that I don’t already get in Reaper. I repeat: for my purposes. The sounds I record are those coming from my guitar and bass, and the MIDI capability I use for drum programming. Sometimes, I add vocals to the former and keyboard sounds to the latter. Reaper is more than enough for this sort of thing. It does exactly what I need it to do. It doesn’t come stuffed to the brim with synthesizers, but you can find free VST plugins easily enough through a simple Google search. And the built-in effects were more than enough to enable me to produce an entire album of instrumental guitar rock.

The amazing part is that you get all of this in a sub-10-megabyte download, and with a post-installation footprint that doesn’t even top 50 megabytes. It is a fast, agile and mostly stable program, it has an uncluttered interface that even made it possible for someone like me to get going and produce a finished song in one evening. Reaper is updated frequently – it seems as if though there is an upgrade available just about every other time I use the software, and the upgrades always seem to address any issues I might have with stability and/or usability. The best part is that the non-professional license costs 60 dollars, allowing you to spend your recording budget on other things. But even the evaluation version is quite usable. All you get is a nag screen that counts down for five seconds, and there are no limitations to session time or save cycles.

 
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Posted by on 15 November, 2014 in review, software

 

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