Review: Sennheiser HD 400 PRO Studio Reference Headphones

Review: Sennheiser HD 400 PRO Studio Reference Headphones

The market for open back headphones has really expanded in recent times, which makes a tonne of sense considering their small footprint, broad soundstage, and superior flatness for on the go mixing. 

The Sennheiser HD 400 PRO Studio Reference Headphones are the latest release in a line of highly regarded Sennheiser professional headphones such as the HD 600 and 650, however unlike their forebearers, the 400 Pros look to be aimed firmly at the itinerant mix engineer, rather than the budding audiophile.

Catch up on all the latest music gear reviews here.

On paper you get an incredibly well priced, high-quality, clean, and neutral output, but in the flesh, it’s the incredible comfort and lightweight nature of the design that really jumps out, especially to anyone looking to embark on some lengthy sessions. 

Shipping with a 3m single-sided coiled cable for freedom of movement, a 3.5mm jack plug to a 6.3mm adapter, as well as a 1.8m straight cable which is better suited for travelling situations, the HD 400 Pro is akin to the HD 600 and 650 in the looks department, save for its plastic frame. This isn’t a bad thing at all and one of the obvious fruits of this design is the 240g extremely lightweight design, which is perfect for all-day usage. Their velour earpads, adjustable headband, and articulating earcups are all durable and of high quality, echoing Sennheiser’s stellar reputation in the professional headphone space. 

sennheiser hd 400 pro headphones

While their isolation does require a somewhat snug fit with ample clamping force, the plastic chassis has just enough give and wear-in to ensure a perfect fit after a few wears. I personally found them very comfortable and didn’t get that usual pain in the cartilage of my ears. Relevant to my head, the narrow earpads gave me plenty of room and breathability.

The interior of the cup is spacious and its metal grill is ever so slightly smaller than the 600 but allows for good circulation whilst avoiding the dreaded pressure build-up in the low mids. This provides a more honest representation of sound and avoids any false reading of frequencies, which is imperative to the decision making process at mix. For added comfort there is also a little notch in the centre band’s padding for an even distribution of pressure, saving the centre topmost part of your noggin.

Optimised for studio setups, the HD 400 Pro’s have a listed impedance of 120 ohms, along with a frequency response of 6 Hz to 38 kHz (-10 dB), a sound pressure level (SPL) of 110dB and less than (<) 0.05% total harmonic distortion, which translates into some pretty impressive reproduction. One of the most distinguishable features of the HD 400 Pro especially when compared to its older siblings, like the 600 and 650 are the slight peaks in the higher frequencies which make them absolutely ideal for balancing out snares, edgy synths, and other mix tasks that tend to require a chiselled high end.

The HD 400 PRO features angled transducers, and combined with its open ear cups, can produce a wide and accurate soundstage. This choice of angled transducers (which is becoming more and more common) is said to provide greatly improved distortion characteristics, particularly at a high sound pressure level, which is very apparent on first listen.

Transients form and dissipate with a purity that really allows you to hone in on a sound in minute detail. This combined with its open-back design, provides a vast soundscape which stretches across the peripherals and envelopes the listener with an incredible clarity that is sure to impress. This is never more apparent than when assessing panning decisions and where everything sits across the the stereo field. 

Sennheiser’s highly touted proprietary self-developed 120-ohm transducers do provide an incredible accuracy and present a very clear image of your mix. The driver magnet ensures clarity while its damping system manages ventilation and this combination gives us a deeper bass, all while accommodating for, and counteracting distortion that would otherwise impact the quality of sound. Of course, at a lower price the omission of extras such as a bag or a carry case are unsurprising, but for what the HD 400 PRO lacks in bells and whistles, it makes up for in performance, practicality, and affordability. 

The importance of peripheral tools in a recording space shouldn’t be overlooked, especially with ITB mixing and small footprint work being such a staple of the production landscape. In this kind of environment, Reference-grade headphones are worth their weight in gold, in turn allowing for maximum translatability from one system to the next.

Where the HD 400 PRO gets it so right is understanding that in the pro space practical features like comfort, durability, and replaceability (ie redundancy) are in many ways, just as important as reproduction quality and this is undoubtedly where they excel. They provide awesome professional quality reproduction and are priced in a manner in which you won’t be too precious about chucking them in your overnight bag or hand luggage.

For more information on the HD 400 PRO headphones, head to Sennheiser Australia.

Solid State Logic complete Fusion family of plugins with the Fusion Transformer

Leading manufacturer in analogue and digital audio consoles Solid State Logic has unveiled its latest Fusion-based plugin release, the SSL Fusion Transformer, an emulator of the transformer circuit found in the SSL Fusion analogue colouration processor.

What you need to know:

  • Leading manufacturer in analogue and digital audio consoles Solid State Logic has unveiled its latest Fusion-based plugin release, the SSL Fusion Transformer.
  • The plugin completes the family of SSL Fusion plugins which offers enhanced features beyond the original 600-ohm, 1:1-wound under-damped transformer hardware it’s emulating.
  • The plugin is available now in multiple formats including VST2, VST3, AAX and AU and can be downloaded as part of the SSL Complete Bundle Subscription.

Read all the latest product news here.

The plugin completes the family of SSL Fusion plugins which offers enhanced features beyond the original 600-ohm, 1:1-wound under-damped transformer hardware it’s emulating.

The controls and parameters of the new SSL Fusion Transformer plugin includes new ‘Shine’ AND ‘Amount’ controls. 

Shine allows augmentation or removal of the high-end sheen and adds a delicate high-frequency phase shift introduced by the transformer, while Amount can be used to amplify the harmonic distortion beyond the effects of the original hardware.

The plugin boasts a ‘Mix’ control, an ‘LF Extend’ control, and an ECO mode to reduce latency and CPU-use for tracking and recording purposes, all with on board DSP respecting the original analogue circuit designs.

SSL said it offers a “unique combination of high-frequency phase-shift, harmonic distortion and natural low-frequency roll-off”. 

“With SSL’s latest plug-in completing the Fusion Plug-in family, users can now create a custom configuration of Fusion processors throughout their mix or master, using as many modules as needed — and in any order in the signal chain,” they said.

SSL Studio Plugin Product Manager Jonathan Sandman said “our new Fusion Transformer plug-in is a faithful emulation of Fusion’s switchable Transformer circuit and is the perfect way to round off our family of Fusion plug-ins”.

“In addition to being able to deliver low-end thickening and high-end sheen to any signal, it is able to deliver exactly the right amount of transformer mojo to vocals, electric guitars, or indeed the entire mix,” he said.

The plugin is available now in multiple formats including VST2, VST3, AAX and AU and can be downloaded as part of the SSL Complete Bundle Subscription, while for the first 30 days SSL are offering an introductory discount price.

 For more information or to download, head to SSL’s website.

The 10 best deep cuts from your favourite Australian artists

Sure, a hot single can make or break a career, but any music lover can extol the virtues of a good deep cut. More often than not, it’s the album tracks that tend to resonate with listeners the most, and even if they don’t cop a spin on the radio, they’ll always hold a fond spot in the hearts of fans.

Today we’re diving into some of the tracks that fell through the cracks from some of your favourite Aussie rock musicians. Often when their album has the band’s breakout hit or popular song, it outshines the rest of the tracks, some of which are hidden gems. Let’s take a closer look.

To get you back into the swing of things for 2022, we’re reposting some old favourites of yours and ours. This article was originally published October 12, 2020.

Read up on all the latest features and columns here.

‘Second Skin’ – John Farnham

The closing track to the rocker’s 16th studio album Romeo’s Heart, ‘Second Skin’ is an amazing tune rom the ‘You’re The Voice’ hit-maker that shows just how versatile he really is. A departure from his typical adult contemporary dabblings, ‘Second Skin’ shows us a funky side to Farnsy, with him, long-time writing partner Ross Fraser and iconic pianist Chong Lim linking up to lay down the funk. It’s a great deep cut that certainly deserves a listen – check it out below.

‘Now Or Never’ – Thirsty Merc

These Sydney rockers have come far from their ‘In The Summertime’ days. Since they released the song that shot them to fame and landed them a permanent spot in beer commercials all over the world, Thirsty Merc have released a number of records chock full of some great rock tracks that really show off their chops. But one of the best came on 2007’s Slideshows in the form of ‘Now Or Never’, which is simply is the textbook example of the perfect rock song; a stomping groove, a gradual build-up to a singalong chorus and a crazy outro, with Rai Thistlethwayte flexing his muscles as a singer to end the track on a high. The replay button will get worn out fast with this one.

‘This Time’ – INXS

This 1985 track was featured on the group’s fifth album; Listen Like Thieves, and was one of the only songs on the album to be written soley by Andrew Farriss. At the time, many critics compared ‘This Time’ to U2’s sound at the time, with the chorus-drenched guitars and big singalong choruses baring all the hallmarks of a soft rock anthem. Despite reaching a respectable #19 on the ARIA charts and #81 on the US Billboard charts, this track remains is one of the groups’ greatest lesser known songs, and we feel it deserves far much more acclaim than it tends to get.

‘Talking To A Stranger’ – Hunters And Collectors

This only single from Hunters and Collectors self-titled 1982 debut album is a gem that’s been hidden away for far too long. Coupled with a music video directed by iconic filmmaker Richard Lowenstein, this post-punk banger only reached #59 on the ARIA charts, which honestly, is a crying shame. Luckily, fans of the band have recognised the timeless appeal of the track in retrospect, and it’s now a mainstay in the band’s live show, marking one of their earliest tunes to make the cut in their setlist.

‘No Lies’ – Noiseworks

Written in 1987 for the group’s debut self-titled album, this track didn’t even poll on the ARIA charts, but reached 31 on the short lived ‘Kent Music Report’. Penned by the group’s frontman Jon Stevens and musician Brent Thomas, this track could easily sit next to their greatest hits. It displays a different, new-wave leaning side of the group, which is something that they seem to do really well. Check it out below.

‘I’d Die To Be With You Tonight’ – Jimmy Barnes

We all love ‘Working Class Man’ and ‘Khe Sanh’, but ‘I’d Die To Be With You Tonight’ is a great deep cut from the Cold Chisel frontman. Written by Stevie Nicks’ collaborator Chas Sanford and featuring vocals from Bette Davis Eyes’ hitmaker Kim Carnes, this track had all the makings of a worldwide hit. It’s definitely another example of a song that flew too far under the radar; give it a listen below.

‘All I Do’ – Daryl Braithwaite

The ‘Horses’ hitmaker recorded this track for his second studio album; Edge. Written by Canadian music icon; Ian Thomas,  ‘All I Do’ showed a quieter, more emotional side to the rocker, which gives Darryl the opportunity to show off his big range, something that is missing from his harder rock songs. Coupled with a video filmed partly on St Kilda beach, this is one of the greatest Aussie rock songs that deserved way more attention than it got.

‘Dr. Heckyll & Mr Jive’ – Men At Work

Penned by the group’s legendary frontman; Colin Hay, this track, in classic Men At Work fashion, is lyrically sophisticated and full of jokes and double meanings. About a mad scientist that creates a potion, it’s based on the popular Jekyll and Hyde story. ‘Dr Heckyll & Mr Jive’ was featured on the band’s 1983 album Cargo. Often overshadowed by their hits ‘Down Under’ and ‘Overkill’, this track is yet another one that flew too far under the radar

‘Hey Little Boy’ – Divinyls

Originally by little known US band Syndicate Of Sound, and originally called ‘Little Girl’, Chrissy Amphlett and co. covered this track on their 1988 album Temperamental. The band do very well to make it their own, Amphlett really conveys the angst and punk-rock anger the song lyrically deals with. You could easily be mistaken if you thought it was one of their tracks.

‘Make It End’ – Baby Animals

Featured on the group’s self-titled album, ‘Make It End’  was overshadowed by hits ‘Early Warning’ and ‘Rush You’, but it still holds up as a shining moment in the Baby Animals back catalogue. This soft-rock intro keeps the listener intrigued through a track that builds up to an awesome, hard rock outro. Written by frontwoman Suze DeMarchi and musician Steve Elson, it’s an awesome, well written deep cut that is worthy of your time; check it out below.

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Cypress Hill are Back In Black with studio album number 10

Multi-platinum selling hip-hop titans Cypress Hill have dropped a new single for their 10th studio album Back In Black which will hit shelves on March 18.

What you need to know:

  • Multi-platinum selling hip-hop titans Cypress Hill have dropped a new single for their 10th studio album Back In Black which will hit shelves on March 18.
  • The album follows their critically acclaimed 2018 album Elephants On Acid  which Sen Dog said is a return to their roots.
  • Back In Black sees them enter an incredible fourth decade of releases, shining a spotlight on the reason they’re consistently hailed as one of the greatest hip-hop acts of all time.

Read all the latest music news here.

The album follows their critically acclaimed 2018 album Elephants On Acid which Sen Dog said is a return to their roots.

“We were proud hip-hoppers back in the day and we’ve gone through it all. We’re proud to be part of the hip-hop industry. Doing a straight hip-hop joint was the way to go,” he said.

The album announcement also marks the release of another brand-new track from the group, titled ‘Bye Bye’. 

Michigan-born rapper Dizzy Wright features on the track who delivers a standout verse about the cost of violence.

B-Real said “I think with this song, it’s a statement where – in a roundabout way – we speak to the politics of today. 

“That we’re being lulled into this dreamworld. To try to blind us from the separation that the politicians and government create. 

“Trying to put us to sleep and while we’re in this sleep state of unawareness they do whatever they want.”

Following the release of earlier tracks ‘Champion Sound’ and ‘Open Ya Mind’ in 2021, Bye Bye’ continues to elevate the Grammy nominated group’s distinctly powerful dual-vocal dynamic to new heights, with Dizzy Wright adding another element to the sound. 

Back In Black sees them enter an incredible fourth decade of releases, shining a spotlight on the reason they’re consistently hailed as one of the greatest hip-hop acts of all time.

Pre-order Black In Black here

Rock and Roll’s most memorable glasses

Rock and roll has seen many questionable and iconic outfits and costumes, but one accessory that can fly under the radar were sometimes necessary, but often not. Glasses.

Here are some of the best.

To get you back into the swing of things for 2022, we’re reposting some old favourites of yours and ours. This article was originally published December 8, 2015.

Read up on all the latest features and columns here.

Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly’s mark on contemporary music is undeniable. Though his full time career in music only spanned a short five years, he managed to rise to heights in popular music almost unparalleled at the time.

In 1959 Buddy Holly was killed in a tragic plane crash that also claimed the lives of other popular musicians Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, an incident that served as the main inspiration for the Don Henley hit ‘American Pie’. Holly’s thick framed glasses were so iconic that a monument errected near the site of the crash is quite literally an enormous pair of Buddy Holly’s glasses.

Slash

The Guns ‘n’ Roses guitarist has donned the cover of plenty of issues of Mixdown over the years, and in every one of them he’s wearing his shades and a big ol’ pout.

Few people in the history of rock and roll have an image as strikingly memorable as Slash, and even fewer have been able to maintain the same exact look for over three decades. In fact, Slash’s appearance is so memorable, costumeplaybook.com has drawn out a step by step guide to dressing exactly like Slash. Guess what, it involves glasses.

Roy Orbison

Like Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison is unquestionably one of the godfathers of rock and roll, with an influence over contemporary music that’s as present as the sun is hot. Oribison’s best known for his work in the late ’50s and right through the ’60s, where he spawned hits such as ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘Crying’.

Throughout the earlier part of his career Orbison shied away from wearing the prescription glasses that he required to see properly. However, in 1963 while on tour with The Beatles, Orbison was left with no choice. Having forgotten his preferred corrective glasses on a plane, he was forced to wear his thick-rimmed Ray Ban Wayfarers. It was an incident that he considered at the time embarrassing, but it was one that created one of the most defining looks in modern music, one that still transcends generations.

One can only wonder what might have happened if Orbison existed at a time where transitions lenses were freely available.

Janis Joplin

When people reiterate they ‘remember the ’60s through rose coloured glasses’, it’s likely that Joplin’s are the glasses they’re envisioning.

With one of the most distinctive and challenging voices of music in the ’60s, Janis Joplin stood tall as one of the strongest feminist figures in popular culture until her passing in 1970. As the first prominent female figure to join the infamous 27 club, she holds a significant place in music history.

John Lennon

John Lennon, on of the most noted and celebrated musicians of the modern era, was also very well known for wearing glasses barely wide enough to make it all the way around his eyes.

When The Beatles first rose to prominence he seemed more content to go without them, but as they progressed throughout their career they started to appear more frequently. It’s an alarming thought really, considering anecdotal evidence suggests that Lennon was so intensely near-sighted he was considered legally blind.

We can only assume that him going without his glasses in Beatles press shots was an aesthetic choice on behalf of their management, or that Lennon’s sight deteriorated at an astonishing rate later in life. Either way, his glasses became far more iconic than any other single physical trait of any of his bandmates.

The Guy From Wheatus

Like a warm butter knife, Wheatus’ 2000 hit ‘Teenage Dirtbag‘ seemed to effortlessly slide its way into the conciousness of every living organism in the known universe when it was released. It was one of those songs that was championed as the theme tune for a major motion picture (Loser, starring Jason Biggs), but wound up holding a much more memorable place in history than the film itself.

I was always kind of annoyed that the narrative of the film clip for this song was entirely at odds with the plot of the film it was promoting, even though it involved the same cast. While the film faded into obscurity pretty quickly, the song went off with a bang, and like most explosions of this magnitude, evidence of the horror it caused can still be found today. Namely, the instant popularisation of colourful lens sunglasses.

I’m certain I picked some of these up either in a showbag at the Melbourne show, or as a promotional product at Kentucky Fried Chicken within six months of the films release. In the year 2000, I guess everyone wanted to look like this.

Elvis Presley

Elvis, perhaps the single most iconic figure in musical history, certainly had a distinctive appearance well before he started wearing these infamous glasses. In fact, he only started wearing the glasses toward the tail end of his career where it looked as thought he embraced his title as ‘The King’ with a little more vigour.

In many people’s minds, Elvis is remembered as the young, attractive, boy-next-door looking man who captured the hearts of teenage girls the world over with his 1956 performance of Hound Dog on the Ed Sullivan Show. In the minds of middle-aged white men right across Las Vegas though, he’ll always be remembered for his ostentatious white suit and gold glasses.

Bono

There aren’t many people who are targeted with such overt vitriol as U2 frontman Bono. In an era where torrenting is plaguing popular music, and illegal downloading is eternally at the top of the public agenda, Bono and his band of merry Irishmen actually consciously gave their album away for free to everyone with an iPhone … and everyone got super pissed off about it.

It seems no amount of philanthropy will save Bono from the clutches of internet meme-dom. If you trace the career of U2, the tide seems to turn around 2004, when Bono decided to revamp his appearance with his new shades. Maybe he got some inspiration from this guy, or went to KFC or something.

 

Casio bring the fun releasing a new vocal synthesiser

Casio has been dying for something that makes a big splash in the synth and keyboard market for eons as they haven’t managed to up the bar with innovation, but the CT-S1000V might just do that.

What you need to know:

  • The CT-S1000V boasts an entertaining, innovative, and revolutionary vocal synthesis technology that enables the keyboard to sing any lyrics you enter back to you.
  • How it works is you can type lyrics into an iOS or Android app and then the keyboard will synthesise them into speech that you can play as phrases or split into syllables across notes.
  • The CT-S1000V will be available for US$449.

Read all the latest product news here.

The CT-S1000V boasts an entertaining, innovative, and revolutionary vocal synthesis technology that enables the keyboard to sing any lyrics you enter back to you.

However, it’s not going to be a wonderfully warm and beautiful vocal playback and more in the electronic, vocoder style, but the premise of literally playing a vocal line on the keyboard still remains.

How it works is you can type lyrics into an iOS or Android app and then the keyboard will synthesise them into speech that you can play as phrases or split into syllables across notes.

It has over 800 sounds including classics from the VL, VZ, and CZ synths, 243 full-accompaniment rhythms, a 6-track MIDI recorder, DSP effects, while also working as a sampler with 10 seconds of sample memory.

The CT-S1000V can run on batteries, has stereo speakers built-in, and it ships with Casio’s WU‑BT10 Bluetooth adapter, which as well as allowing for wireless sampling allows you to stream audio in, and MIDI both to and from the keyboard.

This keyboard is unlikely to produce the next biggest electronic hit, but it’ll be fun and rewarding to play like the Casio keyboards you likely branched out to as a young and curious muso. It even includes the wildly entertaining option to attach a guitar strap.

I can’t be the only one who remembers “DJ” being spammed in music class at school?

The CT-S1000V will be available for US$449.

For more information, head to Casio.

PRS announce four new colours and specs for SE Silver Sky

PRS have shared four new colourways and specs for the SE Silver Sky, a familiar iteration of the Silver Sky that John Mayer introduced in 2018.

What you need to know:

  • PRS have shared four new colourways and specs for the SE Silver Sky, a familiar iteration of the Silver Sky that John Mayer introduced in 2018.
  • The four new colours include Ever Green, Stone Blue, Moon White, and Dragon Fruit.
  • The PRS SE Silver Sky boasts a poplar body, bolt-on maple neck, and rosewood fretboard with PRS trademark bird inlays. 

Read all the latest product news here.

The SE version is more affordable and accessible than the Silver Sky as was Mayer’s and Paul Reed Smith’s plans with the four new colours including Ever Green, Stone Blue, Moon White, and Dragon Fruit.

 

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The PRS SE Silver Sky boasts a poplar body, bolt-on maple neck, and rosewood fretboard with PRS trademark bird inlays. 

The 22-fret, 25.5” scale length neck features the original 635JM carve and an 8.5” fretboard radius, so the PRS SE Silver Sky will feel right at home. 

PRS said the three single-coil 635JM “S” pickups will bark and sing when plugged in, while it is anchored by a two-point steel tremolo, synthetic bone nut, and vintage-style tuners. 

Other design features include the PRS Silver Sky inverted headstock shape and the PRS double-acting truss rod (accessible from the front of the headstock for ease of use). 

“This workhorse guitar provides ample tone and playability in four distinct colours, delivering looks, feel, and sound,” PRS said.

The guitar ships with PRS Classic 10-46 strings and a gig bag.

For more infromation, head to PRS. For local enquiries, reach out to Electric Factory.

How to clean your guitar

Whether you’re an experienced or a beginner guitarist, guitar cleaning and maintenance should always be something you’re well versed in. We provide some guitar cleaning tips here to keep your guitar in good nick!

To get you back into the swing of things for 2022, we’re reposting some old favourites of yours and ours. This article was originally published August 1, 2017.

Read up on all the latest features and columns here.

Strings

Every time you play your guitar natural oils – as well as all sorts of grub and grime – are being transferred from your fingertips onto the strings. Over time this can create a grimey, grubby build up of dirt that will eat away at your strings, dramatically decreasing their life expectancy, and can even work its way into the pores of your fingerboard.

To put an end to this accumulation of grime, wipe down your strings with a chamois (pronounced ‘shammy’) after every playing session. For the best results pinch a string in between your thumb and index finger, with the cloth in between, and run your hold up and down the length of the string.

cleaning guitar strings method

Correct technique for cleaning guitar strings

While ongoing maintenance of strings is an important part of cleaning your guitar, the first step to giving your guitar a total clean, from top-to-bottom, is the removal of all of your strings. By removing two or three strings at a time there’s no risk of damaging the neck.

Fretboard

Cleaning your fretboard once or twice a year is the perfect way to keeping it fresh and play-ready. However any more than that and you risk diminishing the natural moisture absorbed from the oils on your fingertips – a sure way to dry out your fingerboard.

A soft, damp cloth – wrung out to the point of no excess water – can be used to remove surface dust and dirt from the fretboard. For a more significant build up of grime, an exceptionally light dusting with some extra light #0000 steel wool will do the trick.

#0000 steel wool will rid your fretboard of significant grime

In order to prevent miniscule steel wool particles from attaching themselves to the magnets in your pickups, it’s important to cover them up when working with steel wool. The careful use of a vacuum is a great way to remove any remaining steel fibres left on the fretboard.

If using steel wool remember to vacuum up the leftover fibres (Image: Premier Guitar)

For a deeper clean – one that targets a dried out fretboard or the finest of cracks – use a fretboard conditioner or oil and a toothbrush. Together they allow you to scrub every spot and crevice without damaging the wood or the frets. Finish by removing any gunk and excess conditioner with a paper towel.

Planet Waves Hydrate Fingerboard Conditioner

During this process it’s important to be wary that not all conditioners or oils are made for every guitar. For instance Planet Waves Hydrate is only for dark fretboards, and not to be used on maple fretboards.

Hardware

Cleaning your hardware is as much about functionality as it is about looking the part. The salt in sweat can cause corroding in metal and, in turn, attracts the dirt that jams these moving parts – the gravest consequence of which can be rust. That’s important to avoid, while it’s also nice to play a guitar with hardware that looks as good as new.

For metal parts a dry cloth, toothbrush and a mild jewellery or chrome polish, such as 3-in-One oil or WD-40, will suffice. With best results achieved by removing the hardware.

3-In-One Oil & WD-40

It’s important to remember that these agents are only safe on metal, so avoid contact with the fretboard and finish.

Last but not least: the finish

When cleaning the finish on your guitar it’s essential to watch out for furnishing polishes, and products that contain d-Limonene, alcohol, solvents, or silicone, all of which will degrade the finish over time.

Start off with a dry cloth and some elbow grease. If this doesn’t get the job done, a slightly wet cloth – wrung out to expel excess water – is an easy way to achieve that desired shine.

Use a rag to apply polish to your guitar’s finish (Image: PRS Guitars)

Once or twice a year it’s worth applying a specially formulated polish. Ensure that you squeeze the polish onto a rag and not directly onto the guitar’s surface. After which polishing the top, back and neck of your guitar will result in a consistently glistening finish.

For more sound advice, see how to set up your guitar for slide.

The 10 greatest Australian debut records of all time

Today, we’re turning our gaze to the finest debut efforts from those who reside closer to home here in Australia, checking out their overall impact and influence on both musicians at home and listeners abroad.

To get you back into the swing of things for 2022, we’re reposting some old favourites of yours and ours. This article was originally published August 20, 2020.

Read up on all the latest features and columns here.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following contains images and voices of deceased persons.

Men At Work – Business As Usual (1981)

Recorded at the iconic Richmond Recorders studio throughout mid-1981, Men At Work’s debut effort showed the world that Aussie rock was well and truly on a par with that of Britain and the US. With hits such as the anthemic ‘Down Under’, ‘Who Can It Be Now?’ and ‘Be Good Johnny’, the band showcase their ability to pen a tune packed with catchy melodies, as well as quintessentially Australian lyrics.

Business As Usual is as quirky a debut album as you’ll ever find – from the late, great Greg Ham’s soaring saxophone riff on ‘Who Can It Be Now?’ to the famous beer bottle intro to ‘Down Under’, it’s these left-field inclusions from Colin Hay and co. that ultimately signify Men At Work’s debut LP as one of the most memorable of all time.

Crowded House – Crowded House (1986)

Crowded House were formed in Melbourne in 1985 by New Zealand native Neil Finn, alongside Melburnians Paul Hester and Nick Seymour. Their self-titled debut LP, released the following year, is virtually a greatest hits record in and of itself; tunes such as the evergreen ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ and ‘Something So Strong’ dominated the airwaves – nationally and internationally – for months on end.

Deriving their name from the tiny Los Angeles apartment in which they recorded part of the album, the band’s songwriter Finn seamlessly melds the new wave inflections of the time with his own clever pop songwriting sensibilities. The Wurlitzer-infused ‘World Where You Live’ is a prime example of this: the warbling keyboard riff sets the tone for the song, before Finn’s dynamic chorus comes in where you least expect it. Seymour and the late Hester provide some tasteful bass and drum parts throughout the record, complimenting Finn’s masterful songwriting and ultimately cementing the record as a bona fide Aussie classic.

Skyhooks – Living in the 70’s (1974)

Skyhooks are about as Melburnian a band as you will ever encounter, and no album better epitomises this than Living in the 70’s. Led by bassist and chief songwriter Greg Macainsh and singer Graeme ‘Shirley’ Strachan, the band’s lyrics offer the rawest social commentary about the commotion of inner-city suburban life, not to mention the state of the world in general.

‘Horror Movie’ examines the Australian public’s morbid fascination with war and depravity, shown to them through the medium of the 6.30 news. “The public’s waitin’ for the killin’ and the hatin’ / switch on the station” alludes to the population’s receptiveness to news outlets’ graphic coverage of the Vietnam War. The subsequent line “They do a lot of sellin’ between the firin’ and the yellin’ / and you believe what they’re tellin’” is a scathing attack on the media’s tendency to profit from virtually anything that garners attention, and is a sentiment that rings as true today as it did nearly 50 years ago.

The Avalanches – Since I Left You (2000)

The Avalanches’ debut record consists of no less than 3500 samples, meticulously stitched into an entire hour of music. The group conformed to a genre known as plunderphonics – that is, the practice of sampling an eclectic variety of music and completely recontextualising the myriad samples within the confines of a song. Since I Left You is, quite simply, nothing short of a sampling masterclass.

The group’s approach to creating music for the album was, at that point, unheard of; they would purchase vinyl records from op shops, select an assortment of samples, then use a software called StudioVision (which was only compatible with a late ‘90s Apple Mac) in order to sew the samples together. The fastidious attention to detail that members Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi (among others) paid to the composition and production of their music is evident. ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ samples German big band composers Kaempfert and Rehbein, with an obscure comedy sketch by Canadian comedy duo Wayne and Shuster superimposed on the mix.

Dr. G Yunupingu – Gurrumul (2008)

It’s safe to say that no Australian singer possessed as soulful a voice as Dr. G Yunupingu. Born blind, Yunupingu never learned Braille nor owned a guide dog. He did, however, teach himself how to play guitar at the age of five – despite being left-handed, he flipped a right-handed guitar over and played it with a level of innovation that is frankly difficult to replicate. Formerly a member of Yothu Yindi, Yunupingu spoke little English, and sang predominantly in his native Yolŋu.

While technically not his studio debut, Yunupingu’ first solo effort Gurrumul (his middle name) contains some of the most heartfelt music ever put to record. His layered vocals on tracks like ‘Bapa’ compliment his melodic guitar work, while the strings sit beautifully underneath. On ‘Gurrumul History (I Was Born Blind)’, the singer-songwriter earnestly tells his own story, while describing his wish to bridge and build Yolŋu culture in Australia. Tragically, Yunupingu’s story came to an end in 2017, with his untimely passing at the age of 46. However, he leaves behind a rich canon of music that will remain as musically and culturally relevant in the coming centuries as it is now.

Silverchair – Frogstomp (1995)

Silverchair rose to national attention after winning a music competition run by SBS and Triple J in 1994. Vocalist and guitarist Daniel Johns, drummer Ben Gillies and bassist Chris Joannou – all aged only 15 – then set out to record their debut album over the space of a mere nine days. The record spawned five singles, with ‘Tomorrow’ sitting at #1 on the ARIA Singles Charts for six weeks straight. ‘Israel’s Son’, inspired by a graphic execution witnessed by Johns on TV, peaked at #11 on the Aussie charts, and is one of the bleaker moments on the record.

The singer recalls the recording process for Frogstomp: “We went in to record this album quick rather than this really expensive record where people would be saying we couldn’t perform the stuff live. We went in, cut the tracks live, threw an extra guitar track down and that was it. Just so people knew how we sounded and just so people could get the true idea of what we’re like. We didn’t want to look like shit compared to the record when we play live.”

Wolfmother – Wolfmother (2005)

Wolfmother were formed in Sydney by core members Andrew Stockdale, Chris Ross and Myles Heskett in 2004. After producing a demo for Universal US subsidiary Interscope Records, they began recording their full-length debut studio album in California with producer Dave Sardy in May 2005. The record – released in October that year – amassed tremendous commercial success, and rapidly became a staple of hard rock stations all over the world.

Wolfmother’s no-nonsense approach to stoner-rock songwriting, while definitely not ground-breaking, struck a chord with many an aspiring rocker. The unmistakeable, marauding guitar riff heard in ‘Joker & the Thief’ is timeless, and in part helps explain why the band dominated the subsequent year’s Triple J Top 100 with a whopping six entries. While the group’s subsequent output has not been as prolific, nothing can detract from the plethora of memorable riffs provided to us by the hard-rocking Sydney-siders throughout the mid-noughties.

Sampa The Great – The Return (2019)

Born in Zambia and raised in Botswana, Sampa Tembo originally came to Australia to study audio engineering at Sydney’s SAE Institute. Having met likeminded musicians during weekly hip-hop and jazz sessions, Tembo decided to pursue a career melding the two genres in her own, distinctive manner. The Return, which clocks in at a staggering 78 minutes, showcases Tembo’s acerbic delivery, as well as some seriously smooth neo-soul vibes.

Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat influence is prominent throughout various moments on Tembo’s debut effort, none more so than on ‘Final Form’, where the horn lines provide the ideal counterpoint to her grandiose, percussive lyricism. ‘OMG’ sees Tembo incorporate her native Bemba tongue: “Subconsciously, growing up, speaking for my generation of African youth, it was uncool to rock where we were from. Everything had to be Westernised to be cool. It’s only recently that’s changed.”

Flume – Flume (2012)

Harley Streten – known professionally as Flume – is regarded as a pioneer of future bass, with his inventive, collaborative approach to creating electronic music being lauded by listeners and critics alike. Streten’s 2012 self-titled debut LP came as a breath of fresh air for many an electronic fan, with the Sydney-born muso’s propensity towards more downbeat tunes and lush arrangements garnering him an almost-immediate mass following.

Streten talks about the composition of ‘Holdin On’, perhaps the best-known track of the album: “One day I was in the studio with Mike from Van She, swapping and sharing samples. I took them home and discovered this particular Otis Redding / Anthony White acapella [track] hidden amongst thousands of sounds. It got me super inspired and I ended up writing the tune in a single day. That’s how all the best tracks happen!”

Tame Impala – InnerSpeaker (2010)

Tame Impala is the solo project of Fremantle multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker, whose unique approach to psychedelic rock has captivated audiences nationally and globally throughout the last decade. 2010’s InnerSpeaker was recorded at a remote beach shack in Indijup, Western Australia in the winter of 2009. The recording process was far from straightforward, with Parker having to contend with regular power outages – he once lost a day’s worth of drum tracks as a result of this.

Perhaps the most astounding feature of InnerSpeaker is Parker’s ability to repurpose the trippy guitar tones and chord progressions of the early ‘70s US psych scene in such a refreshingly relevant way. ‘Solitude Is Bliss’ is a great example of this, where Parker’s angular, wah-infused guitar riff leads into an ethereal vocal take that so many Aussies would come to know and love over the subsequent ten years.

Feeling thirsty? Check out our favourite albums from Australia’s pub rock era.

Ghost drop new single with fifth studio album not far away

Swedish rock titans Ghost have released the first single off their upcoming album Impera which is set for a March 11 release.

What you need to know:

  • Swedish rock titans Ghost have released the first single off their upcoming album Impera which is set for a March 11 release.
  • The record is the band’s most ambitious and lyrically incisive music to date.
  • Ghost enlisted the help of some of the best in producer Klas Åhlund (Eagle-Eye Cherry, Madonna, Kylie Minogue), and mixer Andy Wallace (Nirvana (Nevermind), Jeff Buckley (Grace), Blink-182, Foo Fighters).

Read all the latest music news here.

‘Call Me Little Sunshine’ is our first haunting glimpse of Impera which “finds Ghost transported hundreds of years forward from the 14th century Europe Black Plague era of its previous album”.

With the band’s most ambitious and lyrically incisive music to date, dark foreboding claims the record’s 12-song cycle sees “empires rise and fall, would-be messiahs ply their hype (financial and spiritual alike), prophecies foretold as the skies fill with celestial bodies divine”.

“All in all, the most current and topical Ghost subject matter to date is set against a hypnotic and darkly colorful melodic backdrop making Impera a listen like no other, yet unmistakably, quintessentially Ghost,” their press release read.

Ghost enlisted the help of some of the best in producer Klas Åhlund, who has co-written and produced for the likes of Eagle-Eye Cherry, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, and many more while Andy Wallace receives mixing credits.

Wallace’s list of credits is as extensive and credible as they come, mixing and engineering for Nirvana (Nevermind + more), Jeff Buckley (Grace), Blink-182, Foo Fighters, Slayer, Rage Against The Machine, Paul McCartney, and so many more.

Ghost will kick off a co-headlining 26-date U.S. arena tour with Volbeat on January 25, before arriving in the UK & Europe this April & May, compelled to take their dark extravaganza to arenas everywhere.

 Pre-order Impera here.

Audiomodern release A.I-driven Playbeat 3 update

Audiomodern have released Playbeat 3.1 featuring their brand new ‘SMART’ algorithm which takes “a unique step into a new field of A.I. for music production software”.

What you need to know:

  • Audiomodern have released Playbeat 3.1 which features their brand new ‘SMART’ algorithm which takes “a unique step into a new field of A.I. for music production software”.
  • Users train the app to learn their preferred patterns with their day-to-day activity, as it then adapts to their own style.
  • Playbeat 3.1 joins their suite of Creative Plugins and is available for download now along with three free packs.

Read all the latest product news here.

Audiomodern are employing the technology in their randomisation field to provide more personalised patterns tailored and suited to the user, rather than common shuffle algorithms to produce sequences, chords, and patterns.

How it works is explained in the video below, but essentially you train the app to learn your preferred patterns with your day-to-day activity, as it then adapts to your own style.

The result is personalised patterns and as you improve, the more advanced the algorithm becomes to suit your needs.

Audiomodern said they are proud to introduce their brand-new ‘SMART’ algorithm, “a revolutionary new technology developed over the past year by the brightest minds of Audiomodern”.

“We are at the dawn of a new age. And while it may not be as sci-fi as we’d like, true A.I. is finally here and much of it is included in Playbeat 3.1.”

Playbeat 3 features eight independent sequencers that generate new grooves and beats as real-time pitch shifting, flams, volume, panorama settings, and other functions (such as the density feature) make it even easier to come up with new patterns.

Playbeat 3.1 joins their suite of Creative Plugins and is available for download now along with three free packs.

Head to Audiomodern for more.

The story of the EBow in seven tracks

Introduced to the world at NAMM in 1976 by Heet Sound, the EBow was considered a revolutionary device at the time. In an effort to replicate the sound of guitarists like Jimmy Page taking to their instrument with a cello bow, Heet Sound envisioned a device with an inductive string driver to create feedback circuit, including a sensor coil, driver coil and amplifier, which would then create endless vibrations when pressed against a guitar string.

Summary:

  • Introduced to the world at NAMM in 1976 by Heet Sound, the EBow was considered a revolutionary device at the time.
  • Heet Sound envisioned a device with an inductive string driver to create feedback circuit, including a sensor coil, driver coil and amplifier, which would then create endless vibrations when pressed against a guitar string.
  • To trace the story of the EBow, we’re looking at seven key tracks where the device has been used, analysing the manner in which it’s used in each track to discover the enduring appeal of achieving infinite sustain.

To get you back into the swing of things for 2022, we’re reposting some old favourites of yours and ours. This article was originally published June 2, 2020.

Read up on all the latest features and columns here.

While the EBow was certainly groundbreaking, it did feature some slightly annoying limitations – for starters, it was a monophonic device, meaning only one string could be affected at any given time, and getting the unit to work consistently proved troublesome in the hands of amateur players. Nevertheless, the EBow has become known as one of the mightiest tools a guitarist can have in their arsenal – particularly if they’re playing with a lot of delay pedals and consider themselves a proponent of ‘ambient’ stylings.

To trace the story of the EBow, we’re looking at seven key tracks where the device has been used, analysing the manner in which it’s used in each track to discover the enduring appeal of achieving infinite sustain.

‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ – Blue Öyster Cult (1976)

It might be best known for its copious amounts of cowbell, but Blue Öyster Cult’s 1976 classic ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ is also one of the earliest examples of how the EBow could be used most effectively. The device can be heard utilised by lead guitarist Buck Dharma to transition from the guitar solo into the final verse, with Dharma hovering the EBow over his third string to create a whining one-note feedback loop that seemingly lasts forever.

Dharma’s use of the E-Bow in this track makes for a thrilling segue, and demonstrates the might of the unit when used as a textural tool. Imagine the chaos that’d ensue if you could play a cowbell with an EBow…. Infinite cattle calls forever.

‘The Unforgettable Fire’ – U2 (1984)

Ever a proponent for experimenting with spacey sounds and chaining together effects to create atmospheric noise, U2’s The Edge was another staunch proponent for the EBow, with the most obvious example being heard on the title track of the band’s 1984 release The Unforgettable Fire. 

Throughout the track, The Edge can he heard using the EBow to create violin-like sustained notes that glide in and out behind the mix, acting as a counterpoint to Bono’s impassioned lead vocal. As a side note, this might be one of U2’s most underrated tracks, and the way that The Edge utilises his guitar on the track almost certainly makes it what it is.

‘Heroes (Live at Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert)’ – David Bowie (1992)

Contrary to popular belief, Robert Fripp did in fact not use an EBow for his mangled lead playing in this iconic Bowie track – that soaring guitar you hear is all his wizardry with feedback manipulation in the studio. However, the device was essential for replicating Fripp’s wailing tones onstage, with several of Bowie’s guitarists using an EBow for when ‘Heroes’ popped into the setlist.

A prime example can be heard during Bowie’s performance of the track at the huge tribute concert for Freddie Mercury in 1992, with Mick Ronson handling the E-Bow section while Brian May and Paul Deacon flank his side. This one’s legendary for a number of reasons – not only is it one of Bowie’s best performed versions of the song, but it was also one of Ronson’s own final live appearances before passing away to liver cancer the following year.

‘E-Bow The Letter’ – R.E.M and Patti Smith (1996)

Probably one of the more famous instances of the EBow in action is on R.E.M’s mighty 1996 single ‘E-Bow The Letter’, which also features impressive backing vocals from proto-punk legend Patti Smith. There’s not really much that needs explaining here – as the name of the song implies, the EBow is all over this track, with guitarist Peter Buck using the device to swoop, dive and glide up and down the fretboard, with the dissonant tones of the EBow contrasting R.E.M’s typically jangly sound on the song.

Little known fact: the letter mentioned in the song title is actually a reference to a letter frontman Michael Stipe wrote to River Phoenix in an effort to get the troubled actor clean – a letter that Stipe never sent after Phoenix passed away from an overdose days later.

‘Stand Inside Your Love’ – The Smashing Pumpkins (2000)

By almost all accounts, Machina/The Machines of God is considered as the worst Smashing Pumpkins record. Released to middling reviews and disappointing sales in 2000, the band split up shortly after touring behind the album, with original drummer Jimmy Chamberlain summing up the failure in a Rolling Stone interview as being ‘like watching your kid flunking out of school after getting straight A’s for ten years’.

If there is one saving grace on Machina/The Machines of God, however, it’s got to be ‘Stand Inside Your Love’. One of Corgan’s most underrated songs, ‘Stand Inside Your Love’ also features a killer EBow solo courtesy of guitarist James Iha, who employs the bow almost as if it were a theremin for his gliding lead passage in the latter half of the track. Iha can also be heard using the EBow on a number of other key Smashing Pumpkins tracks, notably ‘Thru The Eyes Of Ruby’, ‘Soma’ and ‘Perfect’.

‘Untitled #6’ – Sigur Rós (2002)

While it’s most often seen used on guitar, the nifty EBow can be used to create endless vibrations on any stringed instrument – even an unplugged acoustic guitar can turn into its own orchestra with an EBow in the right hands.

One of the most prominent examples of the EBow being used on a different instrument can be heard on the symphonic ‘Untitled #6’  off the () album by Icelandic post-rock group Sigur Rós. Throughout the course of the track, the band’s Georg Hólm uses an EBow on his bass guitar to create swelling low frequencies that crash throughout the track like a wave. When contrasted against the wailing wall of sound in the track, achieved by endless delay pedal trails and intuitive use of feedback,’Untitled #6’ makes for an overwhelming experience unlike any other – sheer magic.

‘Nude’ – Radiohead (2007)

If the EBow had to be considered synonymous with any single guitarist, I’d put my money on Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien. The guitarist has long used the sustaining device to generate immense drones and ambient leads throughout his career with the band, with notable examples being heard on 1994’s ‘My Iron Lung’, ‘Street Spirit’ B-Side (and Romeo + Juliet soundtrack standout) ‘Talk Show Host’, ‘Jigsaw Falling Into Place’ and the ethereal Hail To The Thief cut ‘Where I End And You Begin’.

If you have to pick a standout EBow moment in the Radiohead canon, though, most fans would immediately point towards the track ‘Nude’ from their stellar 2007 LP In Rainbows. Over the course of the song, O’Brien uses the EBow in a call-and-response with Jonny Greenwood’s Ondes Martenot, with the two guitarists trading drone-for-drone to create a warbling pulse around Thom Yorke’s falsetto. It’s a classic cut, and goes to show just how effective the EBow can be when approached without the mindset of a stock standard lead guitarist. Go Ed.

Find out more about how to get your hands on an EBow here.

Steve Vai and Ibanez unveil the three-necked Hydra in new video

Steve Vai has done one of the most ‘Vai’ things imaginable and revealed his new three-necked and two headstocked Hydra guitar with Ibanez, and that’s just the start of it.

What you need to know:

  • Steve Vai and Ibanez unveil the three-necked Hydra in a new video.
  • The Hydra’s two headstocks and three necks host seven and 12-string guitars, and a four string ¾ scale length headless bass, along with 13 sympathetic harp strings.
  • Vai also announced that on January 28 his new album Inviolate is released, an individual NFT of the Hydra’s reveal video will be auctioned off via OpenSea. 

Read all the latest product news here.

The Hydra’s two headstocks and three necks host seven and 12-string guitars, and a four string ¾ scale length headless bass, along with 13 sympathetic harp strings.

There are half-fretless necks so the 12 string can go fretless, while the pickups include  single-coil, humbucking, piezo, MIDI and sustainer pickups, with both floating and hardtail tremolo bridges, and phase splitters.

If that wasn’t enough, this steampunk looking beast has a vintage three cathode-tube climax regulator and an ethernet port.

Vai said he feels like “this instrument has the potential to be historical”.

“It’s unique in various ways and its construction is inspired. And there’s a song that was written on it that honours the potential of the instrument.

“We absolutely respected this instrument by having the brilliant Garson Yu and his team at yU+co create this phenomenal Hydra reveal video. The guitar geek in me is stunned every time I see it. This video captures the splendor and mystique of the Hydra in intimate detail.

“The conception and construction of the instrument was a monumental feat of creativity by a whole group of inspired people, and I could not be more happy with the way this video came out. Imagine being a half an inch tall and exploring the Hydra as an adventurer. It would be like exploring an alien planet. Sign me up!” 

Ibanez Artist Relations Manager Mike Orrigo said “it started off as a concept that Steve approached Ibanez with several years ago. While it was understood then that the task to turn Steve’s vision into reality would be a tremendous undertaking, we were undeterred by the challenge”.

Vai also announced that on January 28 his new album Inviolate is released, an individual NFT of the Hydra’s reveal video will be auctioned off via OpenSea. The NFT will also feature exclusive bonus content that will be unlocked to the buyer.

Check out the reveal video below!

Keep your eyes peeled to Ibanez for more updates.

Gibson revives Maestro Electronics with five new stompboxes

Gibson’s launching of Maestro 60 years ago set the standard for effects pedals as we know them today, and now they’ve returned with five new stompboxes.

What you need to know:

  • Gibson’s launching of Maestro 60 years ago set the standard for effects pedals as we know them today, and now they’ve returned with five new stompboxes.
  • The new range includes the Fuzz-Tone FZ-M, Invader Distortion, Ranger Overdrive, Comet Chorus, and Discoverer Delay.
  • They are available now for between US$149 – US$159.

Read all the latest product news here.

The new range includes the Fuzz-Tone FZ-M, Invader Distortion, Ranger Overdrive, Comet Chorus, and Discoverer Delay.

Maestro said “the Maestro Original Collection pays tribute in sound and style to the brand’s pioneering and much beloved classic models, while staying true to Maestro’s trailblazing spirit with modern features, expanded versatility, and advanced tone-tweaking capabilities”.

The Ranger Overdrive is an all-analogue overdrive pedal featuring a Mode toggle switch that provides either a warm, expressive, amp-like overdrive and a second tonality that’s slightly cleaner and exceptionally touch-sensitive. With controls for Gain, Tone, and Level, the Ranger boasts the voicing of a vintage tube amp.

The Invader Distortion is a high-gain, all-analogue modern distortion pedal with a heavy, aggressive, dominant sonic character and loads of rich harmonics. Featuring the same Gain, Tone, and Level controls, users can also engage a built-in noise gate with the top panel toggle switch.

Based on the world’s first fuzz pedal the Maestro Fuzz-Tone FZ-1 which was introduced in 1962, the Fuzz-Tone FZ-M is an all-analogue pedal boasts a Mode toggle switch that provides two pedals in one functionality for increased sonic versatility with both an FZ-1 inspired fuzz sound and a thicker, more modern fuzz tone. The control knobs include Attack for the amount of fuzz, Tone, and Level.

The Discoverer Delay is a modern analogue delay pedal that proudly utilises legendary analog bucket brigade device technology to deliver classic, warm, and inviting delay sounds. The control knobs include Delay time (with a range from 20 ms to 600 ms), the amount of Sustain (delay repeats), and adjust the level of the delays in the Mix, all with a toggle switch that engages built-in modulation.

The Comet Chorus is an analogue bucket-brigade chorus pedal, again with two operating modes. Earth gives your guitar a clean chorus sound, while Orbit adds some amplitude modulation to the chorused sound, which can be adjusted with an internal trimpot. The controls for the pedal include a Wet/Dry Mix knob, plus modulation Depth and Speed.

“Maestro was the first commercially successful pedal, it changed everything, and set the entire world of pedals and effects into motion,” said Mat Koehler, Senior Director of Product Development, Gibson Brands. 

“We’re using the distinct Maestro aesthetic to develop unique takes on each of these effects in a way that’s fun and looks back at the past, but with an awareness of what modern guitarists require. 

“Maestro sounds are relevant to new, casual, and professional level players and everyone at Gibson felt a responsibility and obligation to revive Maestro because it’s vital to pedal history.”

All five pedals are true bypass, powered from either a 9V battery or regulated 9V DC power supply. 

They are available now for between US$149 – US$159.

Head to Maestro Electronics for more information or to buy.

10 internationally based artists you didn’t know were Australian

Australia has a rich history of claiming successful artists, bands, and celebrities as its own. I think of the Finn brothers, Dragon, and Russell Crowe and his wildly popular (not) band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts.

On the other hand, we do also tend to neglect our expats though, so here is a list of 10 internationally based artists you didn’t know were Australian.

To get you back into the swing of things for 2022, we’re reposting some old favourites of yours and ours. This article was originally published April 27, 2020.

Read up on all the latest features and columns here.

Parcels

The electro-funk group met at high school in Byron Bay in 2014, and soon after, they moved to Berlin, Germany. In an interview with a German magazine, band member Noah Hill stated Parcels’ reasons behind the move, saying “Australia has a great music scene but it’s just really isolated, we wanted to go to a place where it’s more, kind of happening”. When playing a show in France, the band caught the eye of the legendary Daft Punk, who signed them onto their label, and the rest is history.

Air Supply

Yeah, that’s right – the band your mum loves more than anything originally hail from Australia. The duo met in Sydney while performing in Jesus Christ Superstar. After the release of their hits ‘All Out of Love’ and ‘Making Love Out of Nothing at All’, they received worldwide acclaim, and moved to America, where they still currently reside.

The Temper Trap

The ‘Sweet Disposition’ hitmakers formed in Melbourne in 2005, where they wrote their first EP. Then in the hope of achieving international acclaim, they moved to the UK, where they were signed to the label Infectious Music, with labelmates like Alt-J. A few years later in the UK, they wrote their hit ‘Sweet Disposition’, which reached #14 on the ARIA charts and is considered by many as a golden moment in the indie boom of the 2000s.

FNZ

You mightn’t recognise the name FNZ on sight, but if you’ve listened to any keynote hip-hop release of the past decade, there’s every chance you’ve heard their beats. The duo, who originally hail from Perth, made the trek to Florida to kickstart their production careers back in 2009, and it’s obviously paid off – they’ve produced some of A$AP Rocky’s best known tracks, turned in the majority of beats for Denzel Curry’s acclaimed TABOO and ZUU projects, and even turned up on Kanye West’s last full-length Jesus Is King. 

Flea

While he might tout the Lakers at every possible opportunity and plays in a group notorious for its love of all things California, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea was in fact born in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne in 1962. He lived for a short period of time, and apparently attended primary school here for a number of years before moving to America and joining one of the biggest bands in the world. However, he’s said to still own a holiday house on the NSW South Coast, and returns often to visit family and enjoy the local flora and fauna.

Rick Springfield

Before ‘Jessie’s Girl’ found worldwide acclaim, and a Grammy win, you could find Rick Springfield playing in your local with his band Zoot. He then moved to America in 1972, where he began acting, and he released his album Working Class Dog featuring the hit ‘Jessie’s Girl’, which reached number #1 on both the American and Australian charts.

Empire of The Sun

Long before being called upon to deliver hooks for Beyoncé and Jay-Z, both members of Empire Of The Sun were already considered as Australian music royalty: Nick Littlemore is a core member of PNAU, and Luke Steele rose to prominence in the early ’00s with The Sleepy Jackson. The duo first met at a bar in Sydney in 2000, which led to them being writing partners for many years, but it was only in 2007 that they wrote their first song as Empire of The Sun, ‘Walking on A Dream’, which saw them relocate to LA and become the international sensations we know today.

Airbourne

While still beloved by local audiences, it’s arguable that these heavy rock titans achieved more fame abroad than at home. Airbourne joined forces in Warrnambool in 2003, and became regulars at a popular pub, The Criterion. Then after being signed to the mega US label Capitol Records, they were on many American summer music festival line-ups, as well as supporting bands such Mötley CrüeMotörheadIron Maiden and The Rolling Stones around America.

Iggy Azalea

Don’t let the Southern accent fool you – before she was getting Fancy with Charli XCX, Amethyst Amelia Kelly worked as a cleaner in Mullumbimby, New South Wales. She worked tirelessly to earn enough to make a move to the USA to begin her music career. She has had a successful music career in America since, working with acts like Lil Yachty and Juicy J and has toured with the likes of Nas and Beyoncé.

Mark Stoermer

Even though he wasn’t born in Australia, the legendary musician, who is most known for his position as bass player of The Killers, is an Australian citizen. His father was born here, which makes Mark a dual Australian and American Citizen. He still holds this dual citizenship. You can catch The Killers on tour this November.

All about that bass? Check out our picks for the 15 best Australian basslines of all time.

Legendary amp designer Alexander “Howard” Dumble passes away aged 77

Famed amplifier inventor, builder, and designer Alexander “Howard” Dumble has passed away aged 77 as confirmed on Dumble Amps’ Instagram account.

What you need to know:

  • Famed amplifier inventor, builder, and designer Howard Alexander Dumble has passed away aged 77 as confirmed on Dumble Amps’ Instagram account.
  • His list of clients includes the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jackson Browne, Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, Robben Ford, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and many, many more.
  • The engineer’s celebrated two-channel Overdrive Special and single-channel Steel String Singer designs remain some of the most lucrative and desired guitar gear on the planet.

Keep your eyes peeled on our Industry News page to stay updated on all the latest headlines.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Howard, his work brought joy and inspiration to countless musicians and engineers,” the post read.

 

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His amplifiers have been heard over decades as he gained notoriety for his custom building process and personalisation for the musician he was crafting amps for.

Some of these include the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jackson Browne, Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, Robben Ford, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and many, many more.

The latter told Music Radar in 2017 that the amps Dumble built for him inspires him in many ways.

“I’ll sit around and we’ll hang out and be playing guitar for hours and hours. The whole time he’s listening. He’s got great ears. I mean, obviously. He hears how a person plays. He knows what it is that I’m trying to get out of the amplifier. He hears how hard I play, the attack that I use, the touch. All of it. You can tell his mind is working the whole time. He’s just listening.

 

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“Then he goes and he works on the amp. Then you come back, you play it again and we see how it’s responding. Then he further refines it if necessary. He’s built it around my style of playing. In theory, if anyone else was to be playing through my amp, it naturally would not necessarily respond the way that it was intended to because it’s a different person playing.”

He initially modified Fender amps at home and through word of mouth, he gained a reputation among the guitar community.

His work became so impressive that eventually the only way to get a custom built amp was if he approached you.

The engineer’s celebrated two-channel Overdrive Special and single-channel Steel String Singer designs remain some of the most lucrative and desired guitar gear on the planet, his legacy will always remain.

Check out the history of Dumble Amplifiers.

Mixdown’s guide to the master keyboard

A master keyboard means having a good quality MIDI keyboard in a comfortable location that, with minimum mucking about, can control any of your MIDI capable synths. It’s a bit of an investment of time and money for what is essentially convenience, but once you’ve set it up and arranged your studio space, it’ll allow for experimentation and use in a much easier manner.

Summary:

  • A master keyboard means having a good quality MIDI keyboard in a comfortable location that, with minimum mucking about, can control any of your MIDI capable synths.
  • How to optimise your MIDI flow and control your synths from afar.
  • What to consider when looking to buy a master keyboard.

To get you back into the swing of things for 2022, we’re reposting some old favourites of yours and ours. This article was originally published December 20, 2016.

Read up on all the latest features and columns here.

MIDI Flow

Lets say you’ve got three hardware synths you want to control with the one keyboard – how do you get midi from a single output on the master keyboard to all three synths without unplugging and re-plugging cables

There’s a couple of options; first check if your hardware has MIDI thru ports or if their MIDI out ports can work as thru. If so, then you’re in luck as you can just daisy chain the synths together with MIDI cables and you’re set. Just make sure you set each synth to a different MIDI channel so you don’t trigger them all at once, unless that’s what you want. But if you’re lacking thru ports you’ll need to invest in a MIDI merge device or MIDI hub.

The MIDI Solutions Quadra Thru is a simple little solution that simply takes one MIDI input and quadruples it to four outputs, which would suffice for this example.

Whether you route your MIDI signal in and out of your interface and DAW is really your call. If you’re a one stop shop bedroom producer, you’d be silly not to as you’ll be able to use your master board to control software synths and keys as well as hardware.

Controlling your synths from afar

Keys are great and all, but not having the sound sculpting capabilities of your synths on hand kind of defeats the purpose. Fortunately, just about all decent MIDI controller keyboards will have at least a handful of programmable knobs and/or sliders and the ability to flip between ‘scenes’.

This means your programmable controls are not stuck to one synth, you can change scenes to another template and control a different synth. On top of that, most DAW’s will have the functionality for you to set up an external instrument device with customised controls, which you’ll be able to save as a preset.

What to buy

There’s a ton of MIDI controllers on the market, but here’s some things to consider when looking to buy a master keyboard.

  • The number of keys – common wisdom is ‘bigger the better,’ but you’re probably not going to need an 88-key monster unless you’re classically trained, 49-61 is sufficient for most.
  • Programmable controls – are you a sound sculpting synthesiser master or are you happy just tweaking the frequency cut-off here and there? Sliders, knobs, foot controllers and drum pads are all options.
  • Velocity and aftertouch sensitivity – how expressive is your playing?
  • Connections – for a master keyboard going through an interface and your DAW, just USB will be fine but if you want to surpass the DAW and go straight to synths, you’ll likely need an old school MIDI DIN connection.
  • Bundled software – some keyboard controllers are designed specifically for, and bundled with software. Be aware you might pay a premium for that, but on the flip side, you might find it’s worth the cost.
  • Budget – obviously. Controllers go from $50 to thousands. For a master keyboard you will want something good quality with solid feeling keys and controls. If you can, get down to a dealership and have a play with some keyboards before you commit to buy. Ideally, this master keyboard will tide you over for years to come, so it needs to feel right to you.

For more keyboard brilliance, check out our chat with Alfa Mist.

Six surprising writers of popular songs

There comes a point in every music fan’s life when they like to peek behind the curtain of some of their favourite songs and check out who was really behind it.

Sure, we all know the classic stories like Prince and ‘Manic Monday’, The Bee Gees and ‘Islands in The Stream’, and Katy Perry and ‘I Do Not Hook Up’, but today we’re diving into some of the names behind songs that you probably didn’t know about.

Read up on all the latest features and columns here.

John Lennon – David Bowie’s ‘Fame’

The Beatles legend co-wrote one of Ziggy Stardust’s biggest songs alongside the man himself and his guitarist, Carlos Alomar.

The track deals with emotions shared by the mammoth frontmen during their quick rises to fame and negative thoughts surrounding managers and industry workers who often didn’t have the best interests of the artists at heart.

Lennon’s helping hand didn’t stop with the songwriting, the artists also sharing backing vocal and his acoustic guitar prowess on the song.

‘Fame’ quickly became one of Bowie’s biggest, receiving a favourable fan reaction during his live shows, and reaching a top spot on many charts around the world.

John Legend – Ye and Estelle’s ‘American Boy’

The R&B crooner known for tracks like ‘All of Me’ and ‘Love Me Now’ wrote one of the hardest moving tracks of 2008. The vocalist wrote it alongside Ye, Estelle, and will.i.am.

Like all good songs out there, it’s been said this song ruminated from the foursome joking around in the studio. Subsequently, Legend mentioned that Estelle should write a song about an “American Boy” she said in an interview at the time.

Legend also appears in the music video, long before his quick rise to fame and becoming a household name. The song became quite popular reaching number three on the ARIA charts, while grabbing a Grammy, a Brit award, and a MTV Australia award.

Dolly Parton – Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’

Dolly Parton has written some of the world’s most popular songs, like ‘9 to 5’, ‘Jolene’, and perhaps most surprisingly, ‘I Will Always Love You’.

There’s an interesting story behind the writing of this, Parton penning it in dedication of her writing partner Porter Wagoner, who she was splitting up after seven years of work together. The track then took on a different meaning and became universally popular in the 1992 film The Bodyguard, where it was sung by Whitney Houston.

Late last year, it was noted that Parton has made a whopping 10 million dollars from royalties behind the song, as it still appears in TV shows, movies, and is covered by a number of performers regularly.

Jay-Z – Dr. Dre’s ‘Still Dre’

The song that defined the rapper was actually written by someone else.

Dr. Dre is most commonly known for his work behind the scenes with the likes of Eminem, Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar. But he has had a solid career personally, most notably as a member of N.W.A, and releasing a number of popular solo albums which have been lauded for their amazing beats.

‘Still Dre’ came to be in quite an interesting way as the rapper wanted a follow up to his 1992 album The Chronic, which was released to worldwide critical acclaim. Dre had a great deal of trepidation about whether this new album would reach people’s expectations, so he hired the biggest rapper of the time, Jay-Z, to ghostwrite the song’s lyrics.

The song also features Snoop Dogg, who told The Breakfast Club at the time; “He wrote Dre’s shit and my shit and it was flawless, It was ‘Still D.R.E.’ and it was Jay-Z and he wrote the whole fucking song.”

Carole King – Kylie Minogue’s ‘Locomotion’

Carole King has been behind some of the most-covered tracks like ‘I Feel the Earth Move’, ‘You’ve Got A Friend’, and ‘So Far Away’, and one of our Kylie Minogue’s most popular tracks, ‘Locomotion’. King wrote it with her husband at the time, Gerry Goffin.

Besides Minogue, the track was also covered by Grand Funk Railroad, and disco group Ritz, who each brought something vastly different to the song. The track became one of Minogue’s biggest and her breakout single as it hitting the number one spot on our charts at the time.

Cosmo’s Midnight – BTS’s ‘Fly to My Room’

This is a cool one, arguably the world’s biggest boy band, BTS, have worked with one of Australia’s biggest stars of the indie scene, Cosmo’s Midnight.

The Cosmo’s boys sharing how it came about during an interview with Triple J at the time, with the BTS group reaching out to Cosmo’s manager asking for any demos that fit in with the BTS sound, the K-Pop blend that features a mix of R&B, Pop and Electronica, something that also fits the mould of Cosmo’s.

The track was featured on the group’s 2020 album Be.

For more BTS, check out this article on how they changed K-Pop.