Review: PRS NF 53 Blue Matteo
PRS NF 53 review
From the outset it’s pretty clear that the PRS NF 53 is a guitar designed to appeal to Telecaster players or, paradoxically, people who might like the Telecaster if it wasn’t so … Telecastery. Inspired by one of Paul Reed Smith’s own ‘vintage guitars from 1953,’ it’s pretty clear where this instrument’s inspiration starts, but in true PRS style it’s absolutely its own instrument. So what makes it so unique?
For starters, this may be a bolt-on single-cutaway guitar with two pickups, a volume control, a tone control and a three-way pickup selector, but the outline is different enough that there’s no chance of mistaking it for anybody else’s design. Ditto the headstock, which is PRS’s iconic three-a-side shape but kitted out with vintage-style tuners with super wide buttons and unplated brass shafts. The pickguard may be a little more reminiscent of a Telecaster than that of PRS’s similarly-appointed and released-at-the-same-time Myles Kennedy model, but it’s still very much its own distinctive shape, following a very PRS bevel along the cutaway.
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Yeah, there are similarities. The body is made of Swamp Ash. The neck and fretboard are Maple. But even there, there are twists. The fretboard has 22 frets, not something you’d find on Paul’s 1953 vintage inspiration. And the pickups are definitely not traditional single coils, rather they’re PRS’s own new Narrowfield DD (Deep Dish) pickups, which are made with taller bobbins enabling them to fit on more winds, and with extra metal pieces between the magnets to more tightly focus the magnetic field. They’re hum-cancelling, but they don’t sound at all like humbuckers, and they look like nothing else out there.
The PRS NF 53 bridge is interesting and unique too. It’s a PRS plate-style bridge made of steel but with brass saddles for sustain and tone. The saddles are an updated version of the two-per string barrel saddles on a vintage Telecaster. In this case though there are three strings per barrel but two adjustment screws to better dial in the intonation. It’s still going to involve a compromise on intonation accuracy, but PRS has clearly made a difficult choice here between tone and intonation.
The neck shape is really interesting too. It’s PRS’s ‘Pattern 53’ shape, something of a soft V that reminds me of a Peavey Omniac; deep and chunky but also very playable and not at all feeling like a baseball bat.
So that’s the speccy stuff: let’s plug the PRS NF 53 in and see what it can do.
The very first thing you’ll notice is, this is a bright-sounding guitar. Almost harshly bright if you’re running a clean tone. The brightness makes it super-clear, super detailed and super rich, but there’s no getting around it: it’s bright. Interestingly, the bridge pickup is the least trebly of the three settings. Or at least, its particular treble profile is more bell-like and compressed, with pleasing upper mids. The middle setting is more scooped in the midrange which allows those highs to really come to the fore, and it can get a bit harsh. Meanwhile the neck pickup is very characterful and detailed, and much more trebly than you’d expect from a Tele-style guitar. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad spread of tones at all – it sounds great – but it’s brighter than you’ll expect.
Add some overdrive or distortion though and you’ll suddenly realise why that treble is there: it allows this guitar to absolutely sing with harmonics, detail and dynamics, especially that neck pickup. In fact it’s one of the juiciest, springiest-sounding neck pickups I’ve ever heard. It absolutely thrives on heavy pick attack but has the range and sensitivity to sound great when you pick softly.
It absolutely soars on expressively bent notes, and it cleans up beautifully from the volume control. The middle selector setting is like a more chord-oriented take on this sound, a little more scooped and spread out. And the bridge pickup on its own is punchy, clear and a little angry. Combine it with that neck, which naturally guides your fretting hand into a comfortable playing position, and you have a guitar that responds instantly and musically to your touch and practically cajoles you into playing faster. After you become used to it, it becomes quite exhilarating. You don’t even know you can play this quickly and cleanly with such detail and expression on such a raw-sounding guitar.
Some players will no doubt be put off by the intonation system, and it’s a matter of ‘do I wish to make this compromise in the name of tone?’ The tone is going to sway a lot of players. The look and feel will probably sway a few more, because it’s a great playing and looking guitar. PRS has done it on their own terms, in a very 2023, rather than 1953, way.
For local enquiries, visit Electric Factory.
Review: Ampeg Venture V3 and VB-210
When you think back to all the legends and all the music associated with Ampeg, and the amps from the Portaflex to the giant SVT fridges to the super-flexible SVT-3PRO, it’s almost a rite of passage to rumble the room with something that says ‘Ampeg’ on it. But as anyone who’s tried to gig with an Ampeg 8X10 cabinet and a tube-laden SVT head will tell you, it ain’t light on the back. So the company has made many attempts at lower-weight, more portable versions of its amplifiers. The Venture V3 is one such innovation, designed to give you those iconic tones without all the physical encumbrance that comes with an amplifier that’s too big to fit in most vehicles.
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The V3 is a tiny 300 watt head which employs a Class D power section to dramatically cut down on the size and weight of your typical amp head. It’s so small, in fact, that it’ll not only fit into a gig bag, laptop bag or the optional matching carry bag, but you could probably fit it into the pocket of your cargo shorts if you really tried. It weighs in at an almost comically light 1.8kg!
Yet for all that economy, there’s a huge amount of control packed into this little amp. You get two complete foot switchable voicings – SVT and B15 – as part of a ‘Super Grit Technology’ circuit which you can think of as a flexible overdrive pedal built right into the amp. It has controls for Grit and Level, before your signal travels through a Gain control, three-band EQ with sweepable mids, and your master volume. There’s also the very Ampeg ‘Ultra Lo’ and ‘Ultra Hi’ switches, a -15dB pad, and a peak LED.
Turn it around and you’ll find a 4 oHm speaker out, headphone jack, foot switch jack, auxiliary in, an effects loop and a DI balanced XLR out with pre/post switch, selectable -20dB pad and a ground lift switch.
Of course you’re going to want to plug this into something, so there are various Venture series cabinets available whose model names give you a clear idea of how many speakers are inside and of what size: VB-112, VB-115, VB-210, VB-212 and VB-410. We reviewed the V3 with the VC-210, an almost astonishingly light yet very solid-feeling cab with two custom-voiced Lavoce neodymium woofers and a variable high frequency driver. It weighs only 12.7kg which I think you’ll agree is a huge improvement on a great many speaker cabinets. And the cabs aren’t the only thing to come in various sizes: there are three Venture amps in the series, starting with our mate the V3 (300 watt) and increasing to the V7 (700 watt) and V12 (1200 watt). The V7 and V12 add a variable compressor.
I tested the Venture V3 and cab with my affordable yet very trustworthy Squier Affinity Jazz Bass V as well as a 30th Anniversary Ibanez Soundgear with active electronics (and a cool semi-hollow design – have you seen that thing? Great bass). As a long-time rock-dog I immediately went for the Super Grit Technology circuit and put my neighbor’s resolve to the test. I’m not sure why I immediately defaulted to some charging Ministry riffs (‘Just One Fix’ is a great bass-test song) but I’m comfortable in my decision. And while it’s great to have so much overdrive at your fingertips or the stomp of a foot switch, the sweepable midrange is really key to getting the most out of that overdriven sound, allowing you to dial in exactly where your bass’s voice lives and either boosting it for character, or attenuating it to sit back in the mix.
The SVT and B15 voicings take the place of a tone control in the circuit and give you the option of an angrier, edgier tone or a fuller, more vintage one, and both definitely have their uses. I eventually found the resolve to put aside my grittier aspirations and turn the overdrive off, and of course there it was: the classic Ampeg ‘It’s clean but it’s mean’ tone. A great trick is to hit the Ultra Lo switch but turn down the bass control quite a bit, reigning in some low-end woofiness in favour of more of a ‘you feel it more than hear it’ punch. The same is true of the Ultra Hi switch, which can be used in concert with a lower treble setting in order to smooth out the tone while retaining attack and definition. Both of these methods were especially effective on the Soundgear, a bass whose voice seems a bit forceful without some amp-end sculpting.
Cons? None, really. It would have been nice to have a compressor on the V3 too but I guess you can’t have everything. I plugged in my old Washburn compressor pedal which is especially bass-friendly and was in punchy, funky heaven. And the ability to switch between the SVT and B15 voicings wouldn’t have gone astray. Oh well.
The Venture V3 is the ideal option for getting those iconic Ampeg tones into a vehicle, up the stairs and onto a stage without hurting yourself, and the rig is musically flexible, reassuringly rugged, and also just looks cool with its ever-present blue light adding a touch of science fiction to the vibe. You have to try this little bruiser.
Interested? Keep reading here.
First Look: Ableton Live 12
Ableton Live 12 boasts a dizzying array of new features and improvements, so, without further ado, let’s have a quick look at what’s on offer.
UI Tweaks, Content Tagging and Sample Swapping
The Live UI has received some much-needed tweaks with a more polished and refined look. Small, but significant improvements include a larger track volume control, that no longer jumps around on single click: a godsend for live performance. Vertical Waveform Zooming (finally!) increases or decreases waveform heights so low-level samples can be edited without changing gain. A number of new colour schemes are included, and it is possible to toggle Live’s mixer on and off in the Arrangement View. At the bottom of the UI, the Instruments and Devices/Plugins can be viewed concurrently. When paired with the Meter View, you no longer have to switch between Clip/Device or Arrangement/Session View. A huge streamlining workflow win, perfect for single screen/laptop setups. The metering ballistics are more responsive and now coloured to reflect levels, which will improve gain staging. DJs, stay out of the red!
Read up on all the latest interviews, features and columns here.
The Browser has been overhauled and it is possible to tag plugins and samples to make it easier to navigate substantial Libraries. A Neural Network can scan your Library allowing you to search for and replace similar sounds from within Drum Racks or the Browser.
Generative Tools and Scale Mode
At the top of the UI, a new set of buttons, pictured below, allow you to select a global scale and key for each Live set. This selection permeates throughout the project and automatically selects the corresponding parameters in MIDI clips, new Generative Tools and some Instrument Devices, notably the new Instrument, Meld. Doing so will ensure you stay in key regardless of your music theory chops. Hopefully more Instruments will be updated in the future to include this.
Scale Mode provides global selection of keys and scales.
Controversially for some, *AI is taking our jobs!*, Live 12 includes some generative functions. Not strictly AI, these generative tools are reminiscent of Scaler, Instachord or Wave DNA’s Liquid Rhythm. Accessed from the expanded Clip Panels, the Generate tool will quickly create new rhythms, melodies and chord progressions. Each selection from the drop down populates a new set of contextual parameters to control the generated notes, within the global Scale Mode selected. One of the most interesting, and usable, is the Shape option, pictured below. This allows control of the contour, or shape, of the generated melody, a common compositional technique used to write more listenable melodies. The shapes can be selected from a contextual melody or drawn with a mouse/trackpad.
Generate and Shape melodic ideas using new generative tools.
The Transform panel includes many options to transform existing MIDI clips. The list of Transformations are shown below and combine a range of existing Transformations with new options, such as Span, Strum, Arpeggiate and Ornament.
Transform Existing MIDI Clips
Live 12 brings a modest complement of new Instruments and Audio Devices. The offerings are, however, well considered and flesh out the ecosystem nicely. A new Audio Device, Roar, powerfully augments the saturation and distortion offerings. Roar features three stages of drive, flexible routing – parallel, series, mid/side, and a full multiband mode. Distortion devotees will be able to indulge in some disturbing sonic abuse by way of the feedback control and render inputs unrecognisably altered for all eternity.
New Audio Device Roar allows for wild sonic destruction, shown here in compact view.
Like many of the more recent Live Devices, Roar’s interface can be expanded from the regular device view to reveal more parameters, for detailed tweaks. Once revealed, the Device’s UI can be further extended to reveal three stages of distortion, an extensive modulation matrix, filters and LFO’s. All in all, it’s a major league tone shaper that Ableton touts as being suitable for everything from subtle track warming, mastering grade saturation to sonic destruction. Roar represents a major new feature and can be viewed alongside Arturia’s Coldfire or Minimal Audio’s Rift.
Roar in all its glory. The full expanded view reveals considerable modulation and wave shaping options.
New sounds arrive in the shape of a new Instrument Device/Synth, Max for Live devices, and a new content Pack, Lost and Found. The Pack draws on samples of weird and wonderful hits, strums and impacts of less used foley sounds and objects, moulded into sample based instruments and drum racks.
The new synth Instrument, Meld, looks to further take advantage of MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) controllers and offers deep sound design possibilities. With this bi-timbral synth, Ableton have again eschewed the mundane, offering 20 different unique oscillator types, including Noise Loops, Rain, Crackle, Bubble and Swarm, to name a few. When selected, each oscillator changes the Engine control parameters to provide further options. Filter types are many and varied, with a total of 17, that range from the standard SVF, LPF, HPF and BP, to the varied; Phaser, (Bit) Redux, Vowel, Plate Resonator and Membrane Resonator. The last two filter types are pitched and can take advantage of the global Scale Mode functionality. Expansive modulation is available, via the huge matrix, revealed via the Toggle Expanded View triangle. Meld looks to be a sound design powerhouse for evolving pads, drones and leads.
New synthesizer Instrument Meld has an expandable interface that offers extensive modulation functionality.
Robert Henke’s Max for Live Device, Granulator, has also received some love. The capture process has been streamlined and the second capture device is no longer required. Instead, within the UI, the audio input can be selected and, by clicking the capture button, a new sample is captured, from previously played audio, ready for manipulation. Two switches switch between Sample View (including capture) and Control View. The Device is intuitively laid out and easy to learn. In addition to the “Classic” granular mode, two new modes, Loop and Cloud, offer further sonorities. The monophonic mode lends itself nicely to old school leads and basses. These are but a few of the many new features that create a powerful granular sampler/synth, high in both sound quality and usability. Granulator has long been a popular Device and this incarnation makes it even more desirable.
This only scratches the surface of the functionality included in a major update to Ableton’s flagship DAW. The update will surprise, delight and no doubt, if social media is anything to go be, disappoint. Some have lamented the fact many additions, long requested, have not been included, but the list of additions far outweigh any missing functionality, and it’s hard to deny the extensive list of new features. We live in a golden age of audio technology and only time will tell if Live 12 will be considered a Midas touch.
Keep reading about Ableton Live 12 here.
On the road with ADAM Audio
ADAM Audio are amongst the most highly revered studio monitors in the industry. If you are a fervent reader of this fine publication, then you are most likely aware of our zealot-like appreciation (see: obsession) for studio monitoring.
ADAM Audio A Series
But alas, discussing the ins and outs of monitoring and the listening experience is often akin to trying to describe a colour or feeling—it’s something that needs to be experienced in person, in order to be fully appreciated and understood at the visceral level. ADAM Audio knows this better than most.
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The German company’s dedication to innovation (particularly in regards to their nearfield and 3-way active designs) have seen them emerge as one of the defacto monitor manufacturers of the current generation, finding their way into hundreds of top tier studios and having their fingerprints on a plethora of big name releases over the last handful of years.
Not content with merely presenting their products as inanimate specs on a page, the brand recently descended upon Melbourne’s historic Woodstock studios, working in cahoots with Borleyco (the Australian distributor for game changing intelligent room correction software, Sonarworks) to showcase their new ADAM Audio A-Series speaker range and the level of monitoring accuracy than can be achieved with this winning combination of A-Series and Sonarworks integration.
Suffice to say, the results were nothing short of breathtaking, with the new driver composition and cab design, coupled with the new A-Series ability to run Sonarworks SoundID natively from the hardware itself, providing some truly stellar listening and workflow opportunities for those who managed to get down to Balaclava for a listen.
ADAM Audio’s UK parent company Focusrite Group first brought the A series to Australia back in late 2022, with Regional Sales Manager Cris Stevens being one of the local representatives tasked with introducing the new range to the Australian market.
Having been associated with the brand for over ten years, Cris knew the A-Series’ biggest strength was in their ability to provide stellar listening experiences in the open air, something which is best served with hands-on time in front of the monitors. This is precisely the thinking behind the ADAM Roadshow, with stops in other top flight recording facilities in Brisbane and Sydney—inturn bringing the A-Series listening experience to the whole eastern seaboard.
“There’s no right or wrong in any of this. It’s finding something that inspires you or connects you. Music at that level needs to touch you on an emotional level. The speaker is the thing that brings that to you to it… or not as the case might be.” explains Stevens from the driver’s seat in front of the console in the Woodstock control room.
“It’s getting people together in front of the speakers and letting them speak for themselves.”
One thing that became instantly apparent after getting in front of the speakers ourselves was the clarity and breadth of the soundstage that can be found across all of the current range, something that ADAM Audio have clearly focused on with this release. Equipped with the onboard Sonarworks SoundID as well as some of the finest driver design and dispersion characteristics in the business, there was no doubt a recurrent theme trickling through from one model to the next. Make no mistake, the new ADAM speakers put a premium on broadness of soundstage and transient clarity. In practice, things like panned percussion and M/S (mide-side) processing of low frequency material could be easily identified and were highly directional in a way that would allow for easy placement in the stereo field.
“With this new range of mid-priced monitors, ADAM have built upon their previous sound profile with upgraded composite woofers and transducers that perform under maximum sound pressure with extremely low distortion,” explains Cris.
“Given the current nature of the content cycle and the emergence of immersive audio, soundstage has become an increasingly important factor in regards to speaker design.” he notes, before adding:
“The ribbon tweeter features a new high frequency waveguide which controls vertical dispersion to minimise ceiling, desk and floor reflections, whilst presenting a wide horizontal sound stage to ensure a smooth response, even when listening to the speakers off axis. This stability of the stereo image creates a larger ‘sweet spot’ to work within. That’s what you can hear there.”
Of particular note were the new A8H 3-way speakers, which offered some jaw dropping low frequency response in the time domain. The speed and clarity with which these low frequency bass fundamentals are reproduced and the tightness of the recoil is something to behold. The combination of 8-inch resonant Multi-Layer Mineral (MLM) fibre woofer, innovative midrange driver, and handmade precision X-ART tweeter really served as a perfect pairing for Electronic and Hip Hop program material, taking to 808’s and thumping bass with remarkable accuracy, whilst providing incredible clarity in the upper mids and crossover points.
This theme of impressive LF response was also present in the brand’s small scale offerings, the A44H and A4V providing some of the most robust and controlled low end you are ever likely to hear in a speaker of such diminutive size. The kind of clean SPL these were capable of producing was impressive.
All in all, the ADAM Roadshow was a perfect opportunity to showcase the new range and their capabilities. Building on an already successful foundation of previous A-Series incarnations, the new driver design and introduction of Sonarworks SoundID, and only served to strengthen an already strong product line.
“What I love about ADAM is that we have a complete range, from an entry level offering, mid-price offering and premium offering. The same amount of care and forethought is put into everything they put their hand to.”
For more info, visit ADAM Audio here.
Review: Kali Audio IN-UNF Ultra Nearfied Monitors
For years I have struggled with a close-range monitoring option for use on a small desk I like to use with my laptop. The larger desk, with the 32-channel mixing console was always housed in a space that allowed for a couple of pairs of good size nearfield monitors to be employed. But in my office, where I usually write and often edit, the desk does not allow for this. I’ve been through all manner of compact monitor speakers over the years, and really only endured tinny sound, booming false bass or rattling resonance. And stereo image is not a phrase I would associate with this space. Well, all that is about to change. Let me introduce you to the solution that we have all been after in a compact mixing space, the Kali Audio IN-UNF. This is the “Ultra Near Field” monitor system that you’ve probably been looking for yourself!
Kali Audio IN-UNF Ultra Nearfied Monitors
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So, what exactly is the IN-UNF, and how is it going to solve your monitoring issues in a small workspace? Well, essentially this is a subwoofer and satellite speaker system, but it has been very cleverly designed to maximize the environmental constraints of a narrow desktop surface. Normally, we’d expect not only a decent amount of space between our monitors and our listening position, but also, a good amount of space behind the desk too. This is rarely an option in a home recording or mixing environment. So, the IN-UNF system has been designed to work specifically in this space.
The two satellite speakers are a coaxial design, with the 1-inch tweeter sitting in the centre of a 4-inch midrange driver. These are housed in a compact, spherical casing that sits snuggly in a rubber cup mount, on the desktop. You can then angle the speakers to fire precisely towards your listening position, no matter where you have them set up on the desk. They have been designed for peak performance at about 80cm, or about arm’s distance. Which, if you’re sitting at your computer now, and stretch your arms out to either side of the screen, will give you an idea of just how close they are designed to operate.
The large unit at the rear acts as the amplifier housing, DSP engine, DAC and subwoofer. It has a lot going on, and we’ll talk about the connectivity in a moment, but first, let’s look at the speakers housed in there and how it is designed to be set up.
IN-UNF set up
With two 4.5-inch woofers, this unit delivers the bottom end that is needed for close range monitoring. These two speakers are horizontally opposed, so their vibrations essentially cancel each other out. The result is a subwoofer box that pushes air, but doesn’t vibrate itself. This is ideal, given that it’s intended to sit up on the desk between the two satellite speakers, and you don’t want to introduce unwanted vibrations into the desk surface. Given that it doesn’t offer unwanted resonance, there are several ways in which it can be placed on the desk.
It can be stood up behind a computer monitor, or right behind a laptop, or it can be laid flat and used as a riser for your monitor, if you so wish. The design of the housing and the speaker orientation allows for this unit to sit under a computer monitor and not cause vibrations at listening levels up to 85dB. Obviously, like any speaker, if you really give it some gas, it is going to move into the realms of harmonic distortion and the housing is going to want to vibrate too. That said, given that the Kali Audio IN-UNF system isn’t intended to be used as a PA system, you really shouldn’t find yourself needing it that loud. The close listening position allows for ample volume without excessive levels.
The whole unit has been tuned to work with the desktop as an environmental factor. It works with close walls to the rear, and even close walls to both sides of the desk, taking into account the desktop surface too. With the speakers right on the surface, the reflections from the desk are greatly reduced as compared to a traditional raised nearfield monitor setup, but it does still have an effect on the low frequency response. To counter this, there is a series of DIP switches that allows you to alter the settings for your room and listening position. Scanning the QR code next to the DIP switches will link your through to the webpage with all the options to match your IN-UNF system to your room.
In setting up your Kali Audio IN-UNF system, power is run to the subwoofer unit, as too are all the audio connections. Inputs are offered on balanced TRS connectors for use with a mixing desk (which you won’t have space for in such a small setup) or, more likely, an audio interface. A 3.5mm stereo jack input is offered for use with devices that only have a headphone output. An optical input is also available, which could be used if setting the system up with a small digital television as a monitor. Further to this, and rather excitingly, a USB-C connection is offered for direct digital connection to your PC or Mac laptop. The IN-UNF acts as a DAC (digital to analog converter) and takes audio directly from your laptop without the need for an external audio interface, when you just want high quality audio monitoring from your mixing and editing software. The speakers are connected with solid banana plug terminated speaker cables, so it would be easy enough to extend these if you had to place the speakers at a wider distance.
Overall, this is a very clever system that really takes into account all the problems of nearfield monitoring in compact workspaces. The stereo spread is excellent, and the detail in the sound is far better than what you’d expect from such a small system. This really is a standout product that is going to change how many of us monitor and mix at home. Put the headphones aside and allow the sound to open up and be free, no matter how small your workspace. Seriously, I am impressed. Well done Kali Audio!
For local enquiries, visit National Audio Systems.
d&b En-Bridge software expands Soundscape interoperability
d&b audiotechnik today announced the launch of En-Bridge, a new software tool for the Soundscape ecosystem. With this new software, d&b streamlines the interoperability between the DS100 signal engine and leading third-party systems.
d&b’s En-Bridge allows BlackTrax tracking systems to be used for automatic object positioning on a Soundscape system, including their latest BT-1 system, by translating the BlackTrax RTTrPM protocol into DS100 OSC commands and providing additional mapping functionality.
Read all the latest product & music industry news here.
For greater efficiency, En-Bridge also delivers a more consistent workflow for Soundscape console control with DiGiCo and SSL consoles, including support for bi-directional communication. This OSC bridging functionality can also be used for generic OSC controllers, allowing any connected controllers to communicate with two DS100s – allowing third-party integration and remote control to be used in redundant DS100 setups for Soundscape.
The En-Bridge software provides users with an intuitive, streamlined interface for establishing third-party interoperability for their Soundscape application, including communication monitoring, which allows users to monitor incoming data from third-party devices for troubleshooting purposes.
“Interoperability between systems is vital to the design and creation of an immersive experience,” says Al McKinna, Vice President Immersive, d&b. “With En-Bridge, d&b is adding another flexible and intuitive software tool to the Soundscape ecosystem, extending the functionality of the DS100 and making it very easy to integrate third-party systems and support multiple device setups for redundancy.”
“Soundscape users will appreciate is the ability to have multiple applications within one software tool – and within a consistent user interface, perfect for use in collaborative production workflows with distributed tasks and changing responsibilities,” adds Christian Ahrens, R&D Application Software Development, d&b audiotechnik. “With these advanced OSC communication and bridging options for third-party devices, we are taking the Soundscape interoperability concept to the next level and making life much easier for our users.”
En-Bridge is available as a free download here.
Jackson announce Japanese-made MJ Series Rhoads RR24MG
Today, Jackson launches the MJ Series Rhoads RR24MG, continuing upon the metal legacy pioneered by the immortal Randy Rhoads. Harkening back to the early ‘90s when import Jackson® guitars were manufactured exclusively in Japan, the Jackson MJ Series is an exciting and innovative collection of instruments attentively crafted in Japan. The MJ Series blends Jackson’s world-renowned legacy of designing high-performance instruments with an assortment of top-tier features at a competitive price point.
Read all the latest product & music industry news here.
- 25.5” scale length
- Alder Rhoads body
- Through-body three-piece maple neck with graphite reinforcement and gloss color matched back finish
- 12”-16” compound radius bound ebony fingerboard with pearloid sharkfin inlays and 22 jumbo frets
- Luminlay side dots
- EMG 81 bridge and EMG 85 neck humbucking pickups
- Three-position pickup toggle switch, single volume control and single tone control
- Gotoh GE1996T Series double-locking tremolo bridge system
- Gotoh die-cast tuners and Dunlop® dual-locking strap buttons
Equipped with EMG® 81 bridge and EMG 85 neck pickups , this guitar offers thick mids and big lows with soaring high ends. The 81 bridge pickup cuts through the densest leads, while the 85 neck pickup provides your heaviest playing with harmonic clarity. It features a versatile control setup with a three-way pickup toggle switch, a single pickup volume knob, and single tone knob allowing for flexible control. A Gotoh® GE1996T Series double-locking tremolo bridge system is also included for reliable tuning stability along with Gotoh sealed die-cast tuners and Dunlop® dual-locking strap buttons.
Read more at Jackson here.
My Rig: Cosmic Psychos
Over the years, it’s no surprise that the Cosmic Psychos settled into some key pieces of gear to perform and record, their sound becoming instantly recognisable. We know our dear readers wanna know, so we asked ‘em!
Thanks for taking the time guys! Let’s start with Knighty: you’ve got a unique fuzzy bass tone. What are you using to achieve it?
A fuzz pedal I bought in high school. a Shin-ei Companion fuzz wah.
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How and where did you buy this pedal?
I bought it from an op shop in Kyneton (my hometown) in 1978.
Why this tone?
‘Cos it is the sound that came out if it, and I can’t play guitar. I like it. It sounds like a sick tractor.
Has it ever let you down?
No but I’ve let it down several times. There’s not many left around so any time we find one we buy a backup!
You’ve played P-Basses almost exclusively with the Cosmic Psychos for a while now. Have you got multiple or are you usually playing the same one?
Just got a new one. Played the same one for 33 years but have a new one now. ‘Cos it’s a bit lighter and I’m an old man.
What is the year of manufacture is/are the basses and is it a specific model? When and where did you buy the main one?
The original was a 1967 Fender P and the new one is a Dark Knight Fender P bass. It was the bass nobody wanted to buy, discontinued. Fender hooked me up with that one.
How was working with Kink Pedals on the Dozer Fuzz?
That was unreal. It’s my main backup if the other one ever lets me down. Love it. I was surprised how perfectly it replicated it. We named it the D13 – the biggest bulldozer Caterpillar ever made was a D11, so we went up a couple of sizes for the pedal.
Macka – have you got a favourite guitar to use with the Cosmic Psychos?
2022 Gretsch Malcolm Young copy with a single TV Jones pickup. The signature has been taken off the headstock.
What amps do you pair this with? Is it the same amp all the time or does it depend on the guitar?
Generally I use Marshall JCM 800 head x 2 with Marshall 1960A cabinets I have used several amps also including Fender Hotrods a Marshall Major JCM 200 watt (really fuckin’ loud!!!)
Yamaha 212 and 112 and also Sound City 50 and 100 watt heads. Cabinet of choice is generally a Marshall 1960 A or a 1960 B setup on milk crates so I can hear it properly!!
Is there one bit of gear that never leaves your side?
Fender Stratocaster 1979 in Brown guitar – similar to the one used by Larissa Strickland in Laughing Hyenas. The only time it leaves my side is when it is transported.
I checked it out on guitar nerd sites and it seems known as the worst Strat ever made. It was made in the CBS factory.
Are you using pedals as well? If so – what and why?
I use a Big Muff black box version: a Jim Dunlop CryBaby and an analog delay pedal the name of which escapes me.
What has led you to the guitars you’re playing today?
I have used guitars with humbuckers and with single coil pickups. I generally find that if I am playing in a band I use guitars with humbuckers and if on the odd occasion I play in solo mode I use guitars with single coil pickups. I have probably used up to a dozen guitars over the years and it has just sort of morphed this way.
In order these are the guitars I have played: Charvel Jackson Strat, Gibson SG, Fender Mustang, Gibson The Paul, Gibson Explorer, Ibanez Roadstar 11 Series, Fender Stratocaster 1979, Gibson SG, Gretsch Malcolm Young copy MIJ.
Have you experimented a lot and found a home with them or did you naturally gravitate towards them and never deviate?
There has been some experimentation with all of this but it has gravitated towards happening through trial and error generally on the stage from gig to gig. Cheers Macka.
Keep up with the Psychos here.
Phil Jones Bass release the DOUBLE FOUR (BG-75)
Phil Jones Bass are back with a new driver design, acoustic loading and the latest digital amplifier technology, this tiny bass combo may be designed as a practice amp but continues to amaze everyone with the great PJB signature bass tone. From a cabinet the size of a jewel box, this seems to defy the laws of physics.
Read all the latest product & music industry news here.
Each one of these 4” speaker is fed with its own Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) amplifier. PWM amplifiers are extremely efficient compared to the traditional analog solid state amplifiers, converting electrical energy for use on the speakers. Since the amp is running at lower working temperature, the Phil Jones Bass DOUBLE FOUR will give years of service long after other amps have faded away.
To maximise its tiny cabinet enclosure, we designed a custom Rectangular Auxiliary Low Frequency Radiator (RALFR®). RALFR® is a pneumatically coupled radiator loaded to the rear of the two 4 inch speakers that operates at the lowest bass frequencies only. It augments the output of the loudspeakers at frequencies from 30 to 150 Hz. It also reduces the cone excursion of the speakers, so power handling is greatly improved. The cabinet is also heavily braced internally and lined with acoustic damping materials. This damping prevents cabinet coloration that can interfere with the true sound of your instrument. The Phil Jones Bass DOUBLE FOUR is the most realistic amplification of your instrument.
For local enquiries, visit Eastgate Music.
The 12 most memorable Rolling Stones guitars
Here we look at 12 of the Rolling Stones’ guitarists most special guitars, and how they were part of the changing of rock music.
Keith Richards’ first guitar was a Rosetti acoustic his mother Doris bought him in 1959.
In his autobiography Life, the Human Riff said he was 15 at the time “and it was about ten quid” (£286.93 or AU$ 550.60 in today’s money).
He’d already had lessons on his grandfather Gus’ classical guitar, and the first song he learned was the Spanish folk song “Malagueña”.
Read up on all the latest interviews, features and columns here.
Early 1960s Harmony Meteor H70
It was a toss-up between this and a Hawk but on January 25, 1963 he went for the Harmony as it had two pick-ups (DeArmond “Golden Tone”).
The hollow arch-top body with short scale length of 24” featured spruce top with maple back and sides, bolt-on maple neck, and finished in 2-tone sunburst and came with a 2-tone case PS74.
He’d have played this on the first two Rolling Stones singles, the first album, and first TV appearance Thank Your Lucky Stars on July 7, 1963.
1962 Epiphone Casino
Built at Gibson’s factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the Epiphone’s great sound was highly desired by British bands, including all three Beatles.
Brian is seen with one on the cover of the reissue EP of Got Live If You Want It!.
Keith’s shredder featured a thin-line hollow laminated maple body, trapeze-type tailpiece, and two Gibson P-90 pickups.
It was his main axe on the first US tour in mid-1964 until he was electrocuted at Sacramento’s Memorial Auditorium on December 3, 1965.
This happened as they went into “The Last Time”, and he bumped his guitar into a mic stand, which was ungrounded.
In a shower of sparks, he fell back unconscious, very close to death (and not for the first time).
1959 “Keith Burst” Gibson Les Paul Standard
Fitted with a Bigsby vibrato, the Keith Burst made its debut in 1964 on a British tour and on the Rolling Stones album Out Of Our Heads.
It was on “Satisfaction” (with a Gibson Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone pedal in place of the horns he initially envisaged to drive the song), “Get Off My Cloud,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Little Red Rooster and “Time is on My Side.”
A pre-Zeppelin Jimmy Page borrowed it for some of his session work, and Eric Clapton used it when Cream made their official debut at the ’66 Windsor Jazz & Blues festival that July.
Keith lost interested in the Burst and switched to a 1960s Freshman Guild and a black Les Paul Custom 1957/58 (“Black Beauty”), the main gat on Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed.
It was bought by a young Mick Taylor, who’d had his Fender stolen just as he joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (replacing Peter Green who went off to form Fleetwood Mac) and let it known around music circles he was looking for a replacement.
The Stones road manager Ian Stewart told him to come down to Olympic Studios (London) where the Stones were recording Beggars Banquet in the summer of 1968 to look at it.
A year later when Brian Jones was sacked for being a drug zombie, Taylor replaced him and the Fender came back to the Stones.
1960s Gibson Hummingbird
When Gibson launched the flat top Hummingbird acoustic during the ‘60s folk boom, Keith and Mick each got a ceramic saddled cherry sunburst with a 24.75″ scale, slim neck profiles and parallelogram inlays. Jones got a J-200.
On Rolling Stones YouTube clips, you can see Jagger and Richards writing “Sympathy For The Devil”, which started out life as a ballad, on the ‘Birds.
“Wild Horses” was written on one. Before recording it at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama (same session as “Brown Sugar”) Keith completed it in the quiet studio toilet.
The ‘Bird is used in the riff to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Street Fighting Man”, in which he recorded the acoustic with an open D tuning and an E capo put through a cheap Phillips tape recorder to get a rough sound, and then mixed it in with takes conventionally made in the studio.
Fender Telecaster ‘53 (Micawber) / Fender Telecaster ‘54 (Malcolm)
Eric Clapton gave him the ’53 edition as a 27th birthday gift (December 18, 1970) just as the Stones were to work on Exile On Main Street.
It was nicknamed Micawber, after the kindly theatrical character in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield and set about recording “Rocks Off”.
It became Keith’s favourite Rolling Stones live axe, in 1972
replacing the single-coil pickup with a Gibson PAF humbucker for more grunt, installed backwards so that the magnet poles face away from the neck and to the tail end.
Other modifications were a Fender Champion lap steel pickup put in the bridge position and held in by two screws, a brass bridge converted with individual saddles to a five-string tuning, the low E taken out to play in open G tuning (GDGBD) and switch to Sperzel locking tuners.
Malcolm was an identical Tele soundalike, the Gibson PAF installed in the standard orientation, poles facing towards the neck.
Brian Jones was leader of the early Rolling Stones in every way, ahead of the pack as a musician, a rebel and a fashionista. He also taught Keith how to progress past three chords.
Brian’s first instrument had in fact been the sax, after his early love for American jazzman Cannonball Adderly.
He got a cheap nylon string Spanish guitar on his 17th birthday from his parents.
In the early ‘60s London music scene, he was the first to play slide guitar (on a Hofner) and did country-blues finger picking.
Jones’ axes included a Harmony Stratotone bought for £30 in 1959 and went missing a few years later, a two-tone lime green Gretsch Double anniversary featured on their “I Wanna Be Your Man” single and the first album.
Others included a solid body Gibson Firebird from an endorsement deal, a Gretsch White Falcon, a Telecaster, a 1968 Les Paul Standard, and a Rickenbacker electric 12-string which was stolen and replaced with a 360/12.
Brian Jones is most associated with the Vox Prototype 6-string and 12 string guitar, and Vox Phantom MKIII – or the Teardrop after its shape.
Tom Jennings, the Brit behind the Vox amp and electronic keyboard Univox, started to build guitars in 1961 to compete with US brands.
He gave Jones handmade copies of the Teardrop to promote it. The first was used on the first American tour in 1964, and used to record “It’s All Over Now” at Chess Studio in Chicago.
The Teardrop, modelled on US makes, had two single coil pickups, a three position selector switch for one or both pickups, a headstock with six-on-a-side tuning pegs, a zero-fret to increase sustain, and a bridge culled from a 1950s Strat.
The Mark 3 12- and 9-string had two pickups and a white headstock.
But Brian soon tired of guitar and used his canny ability to pick up new instruments.
These included sitar (“Paint It, Black”, “Street Fighting Man”), sax (“Child Of The Moon”, “Citadel”), mellotron (“We Love You”), marimba (“Under My Thumb”, “Out Of Time”, recorder “Ruby Tuesday”), Appalachian dulcimer (“Lady Jane”) and oboe (“Dandelion”).
Mick Taylor, a teen prodigy in the ‘60s, was 20 years old when the Rolling Stones casually asked him to come down on May 24, 1969, to Olympia Studios where were hatching up Let It Bleed.
Taylor thought he was called to do a session. It was an audition to replace Brian. They’d already asked Eric Clapton and Rory Gallagher.
Mick and Keith were so impressed that they invited him back the next day, and he stayed on, recording “Honky Tonk Women”.
Also on those were the jams “Live With Me” and “Country Honk” included on Let It Bleed, and “Jiving Sister Fannie” and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Don’t Know Why (I Love You)” that would only emerge in 1975 on Metamorphosis.
Taylor stayed on with for Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! (1970), Sticky Fingers (1971), Exile On Main Street (1972), Goat’s Head Soup (1973) and It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (1974).
The Rolling Stones’ most accomplished player but not a showman, he provided magnificent guitar, notably on “Sway”, the end jam of “Can You Hear Me Knocking”, “Shine A Light”, “All Down The Line”, and slide on the ballads “Winter” and “Til The Next Goodbye.”
In Guitar World, Taylor ranked his solo on “Time Waits for No One” (from It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, if you want to check it out) as his best and most adventurous.
“Because of the structure of the song, it pushed my guitar playing in a slightly different direction.
“It’s more – I don’t like to use the term Carlos Santana-esque because it sounds too pretentious, but I kind of played in a different mode.
“I was playing over a Cmaj7 to an Fmaj7, which aren’t chords the Stones used that much.”
His collection included a Selmer Hawaiian, a white Fender Stratocaster with a rosewood fretboard and a Gibson ES-345.
Gibson SG Standard
Acquired in 1968, it was brought to Rolling Stones fans’ attention on his July 5, 1969, Hyde Park debut where he kicked off proceedings with “I’m Yours, I’m Hers” and the 1969 US tour which gave us Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!.
Taylor told Gibson in 2010: “I just remember loving that guitar – I must have loved it a lot, otherwise I wouldn’t have forsaken a Les Paul to play that.
“I played both, but I think I preferred that SG because it had a very wide neck, and a very flat neck, and the action was absolutely superb.
“The sound was good, too. And it had a Bigsby arm on it, which I didn’t use a great deal in those days, but I like that kind of effect as well.”
Les Paul Standard
The one bought from Keith Richards, Taylor lost it in September 1971 in the “burglary” during the Exile On Main Street sessions at the 16-room Villa Nellcôte in south of France, which Keith rented and where three day binges and debauched parties took place.
The Corsican mafia, based in nearby Marseilles, who provided an endless supply of drugs, took a bunch of guitars and other instruments in broad daylight when payment was slow.
Later owners included Cosmo Verrico of Heavy Metal Kids and Bernie Marsden of Whitesnake. In 2006 bought by a collector for $1 million.
When a 17-year old Ronnie Wood saw the Stones at London’s Richmond Jazz and Blues Festival in ’64, he was so dazzled that he vowed, “Someday, I’m gonna be in that band.”
He told Vintage Guitar that on the way out of the tent, “I banged my leg really hard on this huge tent peg. It really hurt, but I didn’t think about the pain. I was just thinking, “Yeah, that’s my band.”
He wouldn’t officially join until April 23, 1976 although he toured with them a year before. But there had been another missed chance.
In 1969 when Brian Jones got the flick, Jagger sent word to Wood through Faces bassist Ron Lane but was told, “No thanks, Ronnie is quite happy where he is with us.”
Wood wouldn’t find out about this call until five years later, but held no grudge against Lane.
Fender Old 55 Strat
He got this as a present from Warner Bros Records in 1974, and it remains his most beloved axe, the one he uses most on stage.
Put through a ’58 Fender Twin or AC30, it gives a stunning twang. Like other ’55 models, Wood’s was lighter and very comfortable to play, but has no tremolo unit leading the strings to go through the body.
Zemaitis Metal Top
In 1971, Ronnie Wood was the second guitarist that British luthier Tony Zemaitis made a black axe for.
The Faces were at their peak then (for an idea of its grit, listen to The Faces’ “Stay With Me”), and his exposure helped Zemaitis’ company take off.
Zemaitis got the idea in 1969 when Eric Clapton visited his South London workshop and started strumming an early ‘test’ electric guitar.
He recalled, “The uncanny thing was his playing was echoing his words and phrases as he spoke and the hairs on the back of my head stood up.
“It really was spooky just how the notes sounded like his voice. That stuck in my mind.”
Zemaitis made four solid mahogany body 24-fret ebony fingerboard metal-tops with three Gibson PAF humbucking pickups for Wood.
He used these until 1995. He also built Wood’s Desert Island metal disc top guitar.
Raya Blue Light Special
Finnish luthier named Kari Nieminen made uniquely-shaped guitars that ticked off boxes on sound and playability.
No surprise that when Wood heard one, he wanted two right away. He went on to buy four more.
The Blue Light is one of his favourite live axes, with a powerful blue LED light just behind the bridge that lights up when it is plugged in.
Being a visual artist himself, Wood was struck by the Blue Light’s gold leaf top and headstock, and a special lacquer finish that creates a unique three dimensional visual effect.
It has a solid alder body with maple top and black back, East Indian rosewood fingerboard with green abalone shell dots, Gotoh tuners, a 25.4″ scale length, chrome plated hardware, perforated steel sides, and one volume and one tone control with a three way switch.
Wood’s Raya collection includes two Electric Baritones 6 strings, Buxom 12 acoustic (a 60th birthday gift from Nieminen) and a Henry Gold Leaf Top Electric.
Woods’ Zemaitis caught your eye? Read more here.
Aussie musicians can now sell concert tickets directly to fans on TikTok
The new TikTok feature allows them to have their upcoming events discovered both in Australia and globally by embedding in-app ticket links to their videos.
The deal, announced on December 4, was struck by TikTok and Ticketmaster to cover 21 new countries.
It is part of Ticketmaster’s strategy to find ways to reach younger users and get them interested in events they may have not known about.
Read all the latest product & music industry news here.
The TikTok/Ticketmaster alliance was launched successfully in the United States on beta last year, and used by established and emerging artists, comedians and sports teams, including Niall Horan, The Kooks, Burna Boy, Demi Lovato, OneRepublic, Usher, Backstreet Boys, WWE and Shania Twain.
So far, the partnership has seen successful ticketing campaigns for 75,000 established and emerging acts, including Niall Horan, The Kooks, Burna Boy, DJ Snake and Shania Twain.
It is also used by comedians, sports teams and event promoters, generating over 2.5 billion views so far of videos utilizing the in-app features.
In Australia, TikTok has 8.5 million users and seventh most-used social media platform.
Local musicians with a strong presence on the app include Mia Rodriguez (over 2 million followers), Peach PRC (1.9 million) and Jaycee (1.3 million).
In 2015, Ticketmaster revealed it had 2.3 million visits a month to its website in Australia, and 15 million monthly page views.
“This is an exciting moment for the millions of passionate music fans in the TikTok community,” declared Michael Kümmerle, head of Global Music Partnership Development at TikTok.
“By enabling fans to buy tickets directly through TikTok, we’re giving artists the opportunity to reach ticket buyers in a whole new way and change the game for live events around the world.
“As we bring fans closer to the artists and events they love, we hope to deliver further value to all artists throughout all stages of their careers and provide more opportunities for a growing fanbase.”
Added Michael Chua, vice president of Global Business Development & Strategic Partnerships for Ticketmaster, added: “Today’s music lives on a global stage and the demand for ‘live’ has never been greater.
“Through our partnership, TikTok and Ticketmaster are empowering artists to easily connect their content to event discovery and ticket purchase in-app making it easier than ever for fans around the world to experience their favourite artists live.”
Aside from Australia, the new partnership is found for the first time in the UK, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, France, Canada, Mexico, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, Spain and Sweden.
TikTok isn’t the only major platform to partner with Ticketmaster in recent years.
A deal with Snapchat matches users to live events near them, based on their preferences. They can also see if their friends have matched the same event, and invite them.
Snapchat has 8 million Australian users (reaching 80% of 13-24 year olds and 75% of 13-34 year olds) and 406 million daily users around the world.
A partnership with YouTube lets users find Ticketmaster events directly on the watch page, and one with Spotify provides personalised event recommendations to users.
Read the full press release here.
Mike Campbell: “Unfortunately I was in a band with one of the greatest writers ever!”
“By the way, it’s not what you think,” says bona fide rock legend Mike Campbell as he packs a pipe and takes a slow draw at the start of our Zoom call. “It’s just tobacco.”
Well that’s no fun. The guitar voice of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, co-writer of ‘The Boys Of Summer’ with Don Henley, collaborator with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Joe Cocker, Matthew Sweet, Susanna Hoffs, Mary J. Blige, Randy Newman, Warren Zevon… hell, the guy even took on the massive job of playing guitar in Fleetwood Mac after Lindsey Buckingham left the group. So if anyone has earned the right to do rockstar stuff like have a little choof on a Zoom interview, it’s Mike Campbell.
Read up on all the latest interviews, features and columns here.
We’re taking a little break here at Mixdown and so should you. We’re reposting some old favourites of yours and ours!
The new Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs album, External Combustion, is exactly the kind of world-class slab of blues-influenced roots-rock you’d expect from a man of Campbell’s talent and reputation, but that doesn’t mean it’s a predictable record. After opening with a few fun foot-stompers, Campbell gets more lyrically introspective, and the arrangements seem to broaden. It’s a proper album, y’know? A fully realised statement from beginning to end, with the kind of push-pull tension and release you can only get from musicians playing together in a room.
“Well, there’s lots of ways to make records,” Campbell says. “You can make records by cookie cutter, putting ’em together on the click, which is fine for certain songs, but I prefer to have more fun with it. There’s more fun when there’s people in the room. You don’t end up all hitting on the downbeat at exactly the same time, but you’re getting a groove going, and that’s what The Dirty Knobs are all about.”
External Combustion was tracked at Campbell’s state-of-the-art home studio. “I’ve been recording at home for a long time,” he says. “Heartbreakers here and there too. Basically it’s a drum setup, some amps and side rooms, and all the sounds are already up so we can just walk in and start recording.”
If you follow Campbell on social media you’ve no doubt seen this space and his collection of beautiful and weird guitars lining the hall. While it’s always handy to have such a diverse guitarsenal within reach, the majority of External Combustion was recorded with Campbell’s prized 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard.
“I only use it at home and it’s very versatile,” he says. “I can get all kinds of different tones out of it, so I tried to work just from that one guitar, mostly. There are some songs where I played an acoustic and there’s one where I played a Telecaster but the rest of it all was Les Paul. It’s a wonderful guitar. I used it on two Heartbreakers records quite a bit, starting with the Mojo record (2010) which is when I got it. And it’s just like… it’s like butter, you know? It plays like butter. It’s so smooth. There’s lots of different tones and it’s definitely ballsy when you want it to be, like with a four-piece band and just two guitars. I need a guitar that fills out the tones without a keyboard, and this Les Paul does that really well.”
One guitar you won’t hear on the record is the bizarre slightly steampunk Strat-style instrument that Campbell brought with him to Australia in 2019 for the Fleetwood Mac tour.
“Ah, the Medusa,” he laughs. “I went into a little music store in Santa Monica one day to buy a blackface Fender Deluxe, and that thing was sitting in the corner. I just couldn’t tell what the hell it was. It looks like they took acid and just started gluing pieces on it. It has an antenna, and a little phone keypad on it. I think it started out as some kind of Fender, but completely morphed into a piece of weirdness. And I said ‘what is that?!?’ And he said here, you can just take it, just get it outta here. So I took it and it turned out pretty good, you know? So I used it on a song with Fleetwood Mac. I got a kick out that cause I figured guitar players would look at it and see me putting the antenna up and wonder what was going on.” (Campbell is a keen guitar-shop hound. Last time he was in Melbourne he stopped into Music Swop Shop in Carlton where he spied a vintage Gretsch White Falcon with a metal snake in place of the tremolo arm; he was unsuccessful in trying to persuade Neil Finn to buy it).
External Combustion bares the unmistakable sound of small amps turned up loud. “That’s exactly what it is,” Campbell says. “I have a Duesenberg amp that they gave me which is kind of patterned after a Fender Princeton, and that was just set up in a room with a close mic and then a room mic on it, and the other guitar player had a little Princeton set up in the bathroom in there. So yeah, little amps and using the room as part of the sound.”
“There’s all types of songs,” Campbell concludes. “The party songs and boogie songs are great, but sometimes it’s more interesting to try to say something a little deeper, you know? And unfortunately I was in a band with one of the greatest writers ever! So I learned quite a bit from Tom watching him work. I’m inspired by that a lot, you know? I’m still inspired by that.”
Keep up with Mike Campbell here.
Moog debuts new bass synthesizer for iOS, macOS & Windows
Born from the depths of Moog Music’s legacy in bass synthesis, Mariana breathes new life into electronic sound design techniques for the modern player or producer.
A powerful creative companion, Mariana is designed for intuitive audio layering and processing, merging the soul of Moog bass with user-friendly technology for all digital creators. Optimized for vibrant bass sounds, Mariana invites users to dial in tones that span genres, easily form modulation pathways to create complex timbres, and sculpt distinct sounds that sit perfectly in any mix with built-in effects and compression.
Read all the latest product & music industry news here.
Mariana: The Next Evolution of Moog Bass
Mariana is a dual-layer synthesizer, allowing you to mix together two completely different synthesizer sounds that can dynamically complement each other or be played duophonically. Each layer is built around two oscillators with precise and inventive controls to make your bass tone punch through a mix and stand out from the rest, with a sub-oscillator adding even more low-end weight. Two resonant Moog filters and a third filter specifically for the sub-oscillator let you shape your sound, adding warmth while rolling off high frequencies or pushing up the resonance for added bite. With stereo oscillators and crossover filter functionality, Mariana is optimized for quickly fine-tuning stereo content while simultaneously preserving a powerful mono bass foundation.
Warm tube, tape, and overdrive saturation and a tight compressor add heaviness and glue to your bass lines while an illuminating real-time metering section lets you monitor your sounds and dial them in to a professional standard. Flexible built-in delay and chorus effects operate on separate layers and can expand the stereo image of your sounds while preserving a solid mono signal with high-pass filters. Whether designing your own bass tones from scratch or using one of the 200 included presets as a starting point, Mariana is an accessible and versatile tool for any modern production environment. And although Mariana is optimized for bass, it is fully capable of producing strong leads, punchy percussion, and multidimensional effects, making it possible to craft an entire song using this single instrument.
Mariana’s intuitive user interface is designed for quick and efficient workflow while being fully equipped with three LFOs, three envelopes, and two random generators per layer. Combined with a creative and extremely deep modulation editor, Mariana excels at in-depth sound design and sounds that dynamically evolve over time. Nearly every parameter of Mariana can be modulated internally via MIDI, MPE, and virtual CV to build an interconnected ecosystem right in your DAW. With an optimized resizable user interface, expressive on-screen keyboard for iPad and standalone desktop versions, and seamless integration into any DAW (digital audio workstation), Mariana is the most accessible way to add the unmistakable Moog bass sound to your productions.
Keep reading about the Mariana here.
Pop Filter: making CONO in a makeshift studio
Pop Filter is its own unique beast, serving as a side project from members of The Ocean Party, Cool Sounds and Snowy Band. Their first material in three years, CONO, is out now, and was made in a makeshift studio, the band fuelled by their own creativity as well as hot chips.
Thanks for taking the time! It’s been a few years since Donkey Gully Road, when and where did writing for CONO begin?
We began writing and recording in Febuary of 2022 when Mark “Crowman” Rogers was in Melbourne visiting, over the next few months we would get together with whoever in the band was available and begin working on and developing songs, recording as we went.
This all took place in the small rehearsal space Lachlan built at the back of his workshop in Coburg North.
Read up on all the latest interviews here.
What does a (for lack of a better word) normal writing session look like for Pop Filter?
There wouldn’t be a specific normal writing session but maybe a few different approaches we fall into. As we have all played music with each other for a long time we have developed certain habits and ways of working with songs depending on who has contributed the bones of the song.
For example if Lachlan brings some guitar chords in, he would likely have a drum idea in mind already and we would build it up from there. A lot of the time Jordan brings a structured song with chords written out and we work form there. All of us have approaches to writing music and making demos and how we collaborate always changes accordingly. I (Curtis) use Reaper and we used my laptop for tracking CONO, Snowy mixes using Ableton. We’ve got a pretty basic and standard collection of microphones we have accumulated over the years, nothing too flashy and a bunch of SM58s. I think we mostly used a Roland Octa capture for an interface.
How complete are the songs when you start recording?
As mentioned before this really depends on who’s bringing the songs, from one end Jordan often contributes songs that are structured and fully developed sometimes we might just have a bassline or something basic to work with. I think its great having different approaches as the process gives different results, making for a more diverse album. That said, we definitely did write as we recorded/recorded as we wrote with some of the songs on the album.
How do you think the isolated and cramped nature of your makeshift studio influenced the album?
Unfortunately due to all manner of things we never really recorded this album with all of us present in the “studio” at one time, so it wasn’t really that cramped. I’m not so sure that the cramped studio itself influenced the album as much as the duration of time it took to make and us not all being together for every session did.
And what about the timeline, how did the additional time, albeit sometimes scattered with whoever was available, ultimately influence the album?
I think one really cool thing about having made the album over such a long period of time (long for us at least, usually we get it all done in 3 or 4 days), was that we didn’t really hear the finished product collectively until it was close to being finished. I think we all felt like the album was all over the place but it was cool to hear it all come together, sounding consistent but still interesting. Being that not everyone was always present when recording/writing, I think it may have given the album some sparseness it may not [have] had otherwise.
Where does Pop Filter fit into your own musical world?
I think Pop filter now sits in this really interesting place for all of us where we can experiment and have lots of fun collaborating and writing music together. None of us feels limited or worried by how the album will be received. We are also all really comfortable with each other and wouldn’t feel embarrassed to try anything when writing or recording, I think it’s a place where all our musical influences can come through.
Finally, after making CONO, where is the spot for hot chips?
Keep up with Pop Filter here.
Mudvayne: Into The Mire
Formed in Peoria Illinois during the mid-90s, US heavyweights Mudvayne quickly rose to prominence within the early 2000s nu metal tsunami. The release of their breakthrough album L.D. 50 was the catalyst for four more studio albums and 10 years of touring internationally with the likes of Slayer, Rob Zombie and Metallica amongst a plethora of others.
Read all the latest features, columns and more here.
Now after a long hiatus, Mudvayne are back and making their way to Australia for the first time in nearly 20 years with fellow nu metal stalwarts Coal Chamber in tow. I took some time to chat with vocalist Chad Gray about returning down under in 2024.
“I love Australia, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, it’s all so beautiful” Chad exclaims as soon as our morning interview kicks off. Expressing a vivacious enthusiasm for his band’s return to Australia for the first time since their Big Day Out appearance back in 2006, which saw Mudvayne headline nationally amongst the likes of Iggy And The Stooges, The White Stripes, and Franz Ferdinand.
As a matter of fact, Chad’s inherent enthusiasm extends to Mudvayne’s reunion as a whole, stating “We went away before people really wanted us to go away”. In 2023 alone the band has steamrolled through a total of 26 US dates on their Psychotherapy Sessions Tour receiving monumental reviews in the process. “There was this decade of people wanting us but they couldn’t have us, and now that we are back people are really excited” is a statement that summarises the reception of the Summer tour from the enraptured frontman.
Mudvayne Australia 2023
“But I gotta be straight with you, nothing against America, but we all got really excited hearing that Australia was even a possibility,” Chad tells me in a hushed tone. “I made a lot of friends touring down there with Mudvayne and even later on with Hellyeah”. A brief enquiry into Melbourne’s fabled Festival Hall venue only serves to further excite Gray as he exclaims that “these shows are going to be insane!”
In true Mixdown fashion, the topic quickly turns to gear as Chad spots a few of my guitars in the background of our Zoom session. In an instant, he is pointing out his prized Dean Cadillac guitar to me stating “That thing is a fucking great lap guitar,” whilst admiring its presence. His praise for the classic US guitar maker is accentuated as he states “I need to get one of the Dimebag ones,” further elaborating on the time he was lucky enough to handle Darrell’s original Dean From Hell while on a shoot for Hellyeah “his project with Darrell’s late brother Vinnie Paul”.
I take this trajectory in the conversation to ask whether Chad has any sort of home studio setup, “I have my interface and mic that I just load up our songs into Garageband to rehearse.” Along with his use of Apple’s classic entry-level DAW, he expresses an affinity for the ever-dependable Shure SM58. Specifically praising the mic’s ability to handle high sound pressure levels remarking “My voice naturally squishes the capsule, when I lay into it it’s gonna fucking distort!”
Gray takes this opportunity to elaborate on the enigma of creativity, “I’m always writing, I have voice memos, the other day I was driving and I just had this rad fucking melody pop up in my head and I just put it down like that.” He expresses the same approach with lyrics stating “I have a folder of new lyrics, sometimes I’ll take 4 or 5 minutes to work on a couple lines to complete a section of a verse.”
As Chad gives this insight into his creative process I sense an immediate essence of inspiration from the singer “I just need that initial idea, otherwise I’ll fucking forget. I’m going into that lyrics folder 20 times a day” he exclaims as his face lights up.
One thing that Chad makes apparent is that inspiration can come from anything at any time
“Idioms like there’s no business like show business, I don’t know how I’d write that into a song but these very familiar things that have been said since the dawn of time, I’ll think about whether these ideas have been used in a song and if they haven’t I’ll try to figure out a way to use them.”
He further elaborates on this approach by stating “People like familiar things, so it’s really easy to create choruses, with lyrics that are already familiar to your brain, if you can come up with something familiar then you are fucking winning.”
This insight into how Chad engages in his methods of wordsmithing was certainly enlightening and it immediately leads to another conversation relating to how Mudvayne’s approach to music was always differed from that of their peers. Whilst Korn was experimenting with Hip Hop influences and Slipknot was expanding the standard template for a metal ensemble with extra percussion and turntables, Mudvayne always straddled the frontier of progressive music utilising complex polyrhythms and other rhythmic motives.
Gray immediately acknowledges this sentiment “What we were doing was definitely progressive when compared to a lot of other nu metal, honestly, I really want people to reflect on it being a really, really good time for music. Thinking back to Ozzfest 2001 with Drowning Pool, Manson, Slipknot and Disturbed, not one of those bands sounded the same and you can hate me for saying this but a lot of today’s music sounds the same.” However, Chad isn’t dismissive of all modern metal as he sings praises for Slaughter To Prevail and the vocal stylings of Alex Terrible.
We round out our morning chat by tipping our hats to the old guard and talking about the importance of influences, with Gray highlighting James Hetfield and his all-mighty “Yellody” [yell/melody] as an important foundation for him on his own vocal journey as well as the glass shattering shrieks of Pantera’s Phil Anselmo. Perhaps most importantly, Chad expresses an affinity for pure attitude stating “We walked behind our middle fingers!” whilst discussing the ties between punk and metal. Expressing adoration for everyone from Floridian heavyweights Morbid Angel to Bay Area thrashers Testament, he especially makes sure to take a moment to express his condolences for the recently fallen Killing Joke guitarist Geordie Walker.
Mudvayne is set to carve through Australia this February with fellow nu metal luminaries Coal Chamber, a must-see tour for nu metal aficionados and nu fans alike.
For tickets and more info about the Mudvayne and Coal Chamber tour, visit The Phoenix here.
Kramer announce signature Voyagor for Lzzy Hale
Kramer is super-stoked to announce their first artist model for a female guitarist. Lzzy Hale is the rhythm guitarist and lead singer for the hard-rockin’ band Halestorm and is the first female Brand Ambassador for Gibson Brands, so a Kramer Lzzy Hale signature model is a natural fit. And what a fantastic guitar this is! Lzzy started with a pointy version of the classic Kramer Voyager body style. It’s finished in an attention-grabbing Black Diamond Holographic Sparkle finish that looks incredible on stage.
Read all the latest product & music industry news here.
The Voyagor follows her hugely successful Epiphone Explorer, Gibson Explorerbird. Lzzy Hale is making her mark on the world of rock and metal guitars!
The Lzzy Hale Voyager has a single bridge-position Kramer 85-T humbucker and a single Volume control, along with a Floyd Rose 1000 Series tremolo and R2 Locking Nut for rock-solid tuning stability. The 3-piece maple neck has an ebony fretboard with lightning bolt inlays, a satin finish for speed, and a Slim “C” profile for comfort. Add it all up, and you have an awesome guitar that, like the artist who helped design it, is made to rock hard! A Kramer Hard-shell case is also included.
For local enquiries, visit Australis Music.
What is convolution reverb, how is it created and used?
In the past, digital audio was all about replicating analog processes. Emulating console recording workflow, hardware compressors, plate reverbs… the list goes on. Where these plugins emulate physical processes, convolution reverb emulates physical spaces, allowing users to throw any channel they like into a sampled hall, theatre or studio room.
A standard digital reverb uses a set of algorithms to generate a reverb tail from an audio input. An old school spring reverb sends your audio along a spring in a metal box causing sound reflections, and then adds those sounds to your dry audio. A plate reverb is a similar principle, but runs audio through a suspended sheet of metal. There are a few other variations, of course, but let’s talk about the type that causes the most confusion: convolution reverb.
- Convolution reverb is an effects plugin that uses a recording of a physical space to generate frequency specific reverberation.
- It is created through the use of a sine wave sweep or fast impact sound that measures how the room responds to audio which is then edited and fed into a plugin.
- Convolution reverb is used extensively in film and television mixing to allow audio to sound more natural but also can be used by producers on just about anything.
Read all the latest features, columns and more here.
Convolution reverb uses an actual recording done in a specific space as a basis for adding reverb to your input signal. This recording is called an ‘impulse response’ recording, often shortened to IR. The IR will usually be a short sharp bang or sine wave sweep, the idea being to have a recording that demonstrates how frequencies across a broad range behave in this space. The short, sharp bang, a flash of white noise or frequency sweep serve to measure the frequency response of the room, as well as the transients and reverb times.
The point is to accurately model a specific space’s reverb signature. For producers, this allows you to use a convolution reverb plug-in to place your instrument or sound in any specific space as long as you have an IR file for that space. This also applies to amplifier speaker cabinets, as the cabinet’s colour and sound can be measured and emulated using an impulse response.
With a recorded impulse response, the convolution reverb will read the audio input from your track and add a reverb tail that is frequency specific to the IR file. For instance, a large cave might have a long low-mid tail with shorter high frequency decays while a small room will have a short reverb decay across the frequency spectrum.
There are an astonishing amount of IR files to be found online. Want to put your piano in an abandoned Berlin power station? No problem. How about the Batcave from the original ‘60s Batman series? Yep. What about beneath a glacier? Easy. Of course, more conventional spaces are readily available as well if you just want to put a guitar player in something trivial like a room, but where’s the fun in that?I
You can even create your own impulse responses with the use of a starter gun or sine wave sweep played through speakers paired with either one or two microphones. Using these, setup wherever you like the sound the best, it’s as simple as recording the audio in the space, editing the file so that the impulse response is normalised and works with your plugin of choice. That’s it!
How is it used?
For the guitarist and bassist in the digital realm, as previously mentioned you can use impulse responses of amp and cab combos to alter the tone of your playing after the fact. This is cool for those who don’t want to commit to their guitar tone while they’re in the tracking stage and adds more flexibility to the recording process.
For producers, convolution reverb is great for adding depth to a track and creating a wide variety of tonal shaping. For instance, recording studios in the 60s and 70s utilised physical rooms which housed a speaker and microphone to create ‘artificial’ reverb effects on vocals and other channels. Hitsville U.S.A. used this technique on a lot of Motown records, which was setup inside an attic and generated that classic ‘Motown Sound’. They would commonly run their hand claps through this setup but can be heard on many other parts of their music.
Foley, dialogue and post production
Unsurprisingly, convolution reverb is used a lot in film production, with sound engineers often recording impulse responses of film sets and locations so that the sound FX wizards can accurately add sounds in post production–or, as is so common these days, adding realism to scenes created entirely with CGI and green screens. In this instance, post-production would involve running foley or dialogue through an impulse of the original film set or space.
One great example of this is in the movie A Star Is Born, where the band recorded live between sets at Coachella and other festivals but played un-amplified to the crowd. The production team took impulse responses of the full sound system in the crowd to emulate what the band would’ve sounded like if they were amplified, which gave the live performances a live and very authentic feel.
Now that we’ve covered the practical and intended use of convolution reverb, let’s talk about ways to abuse it. As you can imagine, convolution reverb was a fairly taxing task for a 1990s era computer to do on the fly when this technology first came about, but fortunately, we’re in processing power luxury now. In the past, convolution reverb software has had limitations on what can be used as an IR file–specific file type, bit rate, length, etc.—but now quite a few convolution plugins will accept any old audio file, with the length only limited by your computer’s processing power and RAM.
If you’re a bit of a sonic explorer, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Try putting all sorts of audio samples in the IR slot; instruments, vocals–hell, put an entire song in there if your computer can handle it. Things will get weird, and potentially very pleasing.
Keep reading about convolution reverbs plugins here.
Kirin J. Callinan on leaving tasks to people who speak the language
Kirin J. Callinan has a reputation that precedes him. Combining masterful songwriting with shock value and an unparalleled sense of style, Kirin’s workflow is that of a true artist: he writes, composes and arranges, before the team around him handles their disciplines, with Kirin orchestrating it all and keeping it on track.
Read up on all the latest interviews here.
Ahead of the release of “Crazier Idea”, we spoke to Kirin J. Callinan about writing and recording the song, and working right up to deadline in Paris.
Kirin, congrats on the release of “Crazier Idea”. When and where did writing for this song begin?
Greasy Studios, Epignay, Paris, France. Started in 2023, finished in 2023, we conceived, wrote, mixed & mastered all in the one studio [with] Max Baby, Marcus Linon & I, with a little help from Wendy Killman aka Cyprien Jacquet on the drums.
A small team and all in the one location, which is very rare for me given my transient existence. Whilst from top to tail it took many months to complete, the actual time spent on it, in the studio all together, would likely be little more than a week, which is relatively spontaneous & minimal labour as far as my perfectionism is concerned.
We understand the single was written, mixed and mastered up against a deadline in Paris. Why and where in Paris did this happen?
Greasy Studios, a beautiful set up on the northern ‘burbs o’ Paris proper, known as, among other things, being the studio of Magma, the iconic 70’s French prog rock band.
The reason for the rush was to make the literal pressing deadline of this album, an album that had already been set back by a number o’ delays. However, I’m glad I waited. “Crazier Idea” completes the album, and it is a vastly superior record for it. A beautiful song, “The Ghost I Love The Most” had to make way, but I’m sure it will see the light of existence, in a physical form, some day soon.
Do you think your environment ended up taking the song in a certain direction or did you have a strong vision for it from the start?
Naturally. It always does; irregardless of the initial vision or intention. And so it should! How boring if where you finally land is exactly what you had in mind. Where’s the mystery, the unraveling, the big reveal?
I’m a big believer that songs have a will of their own, and as a songwriter it’s your duty to follow that, to honour that, as best you can. Sometimes you need a blunt tool, some brute force, some clumsy, shody showmanship, but my favourite works I’ve been involved with have always seemed to be a force unto themselves. This one was one such one, inspired from the beginning, it took many forms. Never really felt like hard work to me (Max might disagree) it was spawned by a single, simple sample that Max had, and I responded.
Once we mapped out some shape & form together, the melody & lyric came thick & quick. It’s clothing however; the guitars, the Rhodes, the acoustic, the melodic flourishes etc. ~ they were later additions, often added en masse in a single day, months apart, then sat on & stewed upon. We loved the song, at its core, so much we felt compelled to constantly identify its weakest links, and to continually raise the bar, both in the performances & sounds, and within the arrangement/finer details.
And how do songs usually begin for you? While this is a musical release, but artistically you do so much more. How do you define yourself?
There’s no one way, ‘n’ certainly no right or wrong way, to write a song but again the best or “truest” ones usually come quick, and with some clarity, in regards to sentiment, lyric, melody.
However, the armour, the flourishes & frills, the context, even the intent, can twist and morph many times. I think this is just a part of story telling, whatever the medium. In that sense, I am only telling stories, or simply charting some sort of atmosphere, there within you can create your own.
How involved are you in the production process once a song is ‘written’? Do you like to relinquish some control to a producer or engineer, or do you like to oversee the process?
I’m not hands on. Will barely touch a computer, if at all. I leave this to people who speak this language. My language is performace, musicality & sentiment.
In that regard, I see the production through to the end, and am present every step o’ the way. I wouldn’t think of it as relinquishing control however; to not man the tools, because honestly there is little control to begin with. I work only with people I resonate, that share my ambition and openess, we find our process then let the rest take its course.
The last few years have seen you collaborating with some huge artists. Do you think this has altered how you work on your own music?
Honestly, I can’t say it has. Maybe this is arrogance? Could even be bullshit. But again, as I really am not trying to ever force something, when it comes to KJC output, and with originality & individuality high on my list of artistic priorities, I’m not really attempting to cut & paste anything I’ve learned from others.
Except for maybe a continued sense of self belief, even when all seems futile. This is something all ambitious and searching artists, big or small, must share.
Keep up with Kirin J. Callinan here.