Showing posts with label tonechaser. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tonechaser. Show all posts

8/05/2014

Recording your amp at home - Part 1: Gear

Picture In this day and age, it is no longer necessary to go to your local studio in order to do some quality guitar tracking. Sure, they have lots of expensive gear and much more recording experience, but with some time, patience, and money (trust me, not a lot of money!), you will be well on your way towards learning how to capture those amazing tones you've been coaxing out of your setup. READ MORE!

7/14/2014

Bon Jovi - 99 in the Shade (Splawn Competition)

If there is one guitarist in the world that has inspired me to play the most, that man would have to be Richie Sambora. His playing is melodic, precise, and he has fantastic tone. So in honor of the summer weather, I decided to channel my inner Jersey boy and play this underrated Bon Jovi tune from New Jersey. The lyrics and the mood are perfect for those laid back summer days when you're thinking about the beach when you should be working....  
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5/06/2014

It's That Time of Year - DMB Summer Tour Warmup '14

 
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Being a total DMB fanatic, this is a very exciting time of year. Summer is just around the corner, and that means a whole new batch of tour dates from the world's favorite summer band have been announced. I've already bought tickets for his yearly two night stay at SPAC, and I may buy more if I get the chance. 

4/16/2014

tonechaser Gear Review: Marshall Class 5 Head - Review & Demo

PictureEver since the small amp phase really got into motion, major amp companies have been pumping out small, low-wattage versions of classic amplifiers. Marshall's answer to this craze was the Class 5, which they advertise as a mini plexi in both sound and feel. However, just because it looks like a mini plexi doesn't mean it lives up to that reputation. Wanna know more? Read on.

Features & Build
Built in a small yet solid headshell, the Class 5 looks just as good and feels just as durable as any Marshall head out there. I was surprised at how light it felt, even compared to some other mini amp heads. The smaller "Marshall" logo does well to complete that plexi look, and the simple layout harkens back to a time when there was very little in the path between our guitars and speakers. A TMB tone stack and a non-master volume is all that is needed to control this all-tube monster, fueled by 1 EL84 and 2 ECC83 tubes. The version I purchased is the one with the headphone output on the back, which is, to be blunt useless. You won't be able to get cranked tube tones without blowing your headphone speakers or ear drums (whichever comes first).

Sound
Although it's only 5 watts, this is no doubt the loudest "little" amp I've ever heard. To get any tube distortion with humbuckers, even with my hard pick attack, requires the volume to be at least "3" - more than enough to irritate the neighbors. This initial breakup sounds great, much like an AC/DC or Bad Company kinda growl that just makes you smile. Until you reach the point of breakup, the amp often sounds overly dark and muddy with any kind of pickup. Plugging in a strat, you easily get a very old-school Hendrix kind of sound. At about "6" on the volume is where the amp begins to shine with single coils. It's a perfect mixture of gritty sweetness that would sound awesomely vintage with a fuzz pedal in front. Honestly, I couldn't find a tone I didn't like with single coils.

However, humbuckers leads to all sorts of problems. Once the volume gets past noon, you are entering dangerous territory. The gain takes on a harsh, fuzzy characteristic rather than the sweetness you would expect from a plexi style amp. The bass gets very boomy, and the treble becomes piercingly sharp. Although leads sound alright, rhythm playing can be an unpleasant experience. Don't get me wrong, it is fun to mess around with, but you just won't sound very good.

The Verdict
Over the course of it's relatively short lifespan, the Class 5 seems to have received a very mixed reception, and understandably so. While it sounds great with a strat, it falls short with humbucker equipped guitars. While it has loads of touch-sensitivity, it lacks the signature sweetness that makes a Plexi/Les Paul combo so satisfying. To make things worse, the EQ section is essentially useless and the bass can seem overpowering at times. This is an amp I really wanted to like, but no amount of playing can get me to gel with it. It is a fun little amp that could fix a Hendrix or AC/DC craving on the cheap, but it can't do much more than that.

tonechaser score - 6/10


3/25/2014

Gear Reviews: Sound like The Edge for Under $1000


PictureIn light of the new The Edge section in Gear Guides, I think it is appropriate to write an article about sounding like Edge on a budget. We'll set the budget at $1000, and I'll show you that it is pretty easy to get his core sound with a relatively small budget. Granted, we won't be able to cover everything, because the amount of required pedals alone would surpass $1000, but the following rig is one that I have personally used and have had great success with.

3/09/2014

Gear Review: Vox AC4C1 - Review & Demo

03/09/2014

Picture The Vox AC4TV was an all around hit for budget musicians, bedroom players,  and those who want to record cranked tubes at lower volumes. Following in the trails of success comes the AC4C1, offered in two cool colors and a couple new updates, all for $50 extra.

Features & Build
The AC4C1 has a very limited control panel - Gain, Treble, Bass, and Volume. This is exciting, considering the AC4TV only has Tone, Volume, and OP Level. There is one input, and also a 16 ohm jack for connecting an external cabinet. However, these additional tone sculpting options come at a cost - unlike it's cheaper sibling, there is no attenuator built in. All of this tone is being pushed through a custom 10" Celestion speaker. Mine came in limited edition cream. The tolex looks very pretty, and the amp looks slick with the gold logo and silver grill cloth. It is very lightweight, making it super easy to transport.

Sound
Plugging in my Fender Stratocaster (Vintage Noiseless pickups), the amp has that compression and chime that Vox is famous for. Keeping the gain below noon, you can keep a single coil equipped guitar clean at pretty much any volume. Turning up the gain to about 1 o' clock gives you just enough grit to summon up "The Joshua Tree" tones. That is why I purchased this amp, and for that purpose, it greatly succeeds. For a humbucker equipped guitar like my ESP LTD EC-1000 (Seymour Duncan JB/'59), it is much more difficult to get a clean sound.  A light crunch sounds very good, but as you turn up the gain knob (past 1 o' clock), the sound gets very fuzzy despite where the volume is. This is a characteristic that many small tube amps have, so I'm not too surprised about that. Regardless, that fuzziness inspired me to embrace the tone and learn some classic 60's rock n' roll. It was a blast.

I have to admit, the built in speaker isn't that great. Unfortunately, the combo sounds small and boxy. You can't get the complete package for $300, but I believe the external speaker jack helps make up for this. Plugging into my Marshall 4x12 with Celestion G12C's, the amp really came to life. The tones sounded much fuller, less fizzy, and overall bigger. The AC4C1 also takes effects surprisingly well. Throwing a delay up front, the sound never gets muddied up or busy. I was able to plug in a myriad of effects without a problem, and they all sounded fine to my ears.

The Verdict
The AC4C1 is a lot of amp in a cheap package. Although it'll struggle to keep up with a drummer, it can still sound huge in a recording situation. And believe me, these 4 all-tube watts are still very loud.  The external speaker option is my favorite inclusion, just because it turns the amp from small and boxy, to full and rich. This is Vox "Top Boost" tone in a 4 watt amp. If you're looking for a tiny Vox to jam on, this should be on the top of your list.

tonechaser score - 8/10

 

3/07/2014

Gear Reviews: Splawn 4x12 Cabinet

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Just the other day, I came across an awesome trade offer - my Vox AC4C1, a Dunlop Crybaby 535Q, and $40 for a Splawn cabinet! I've been hunting one of these down forever, but the prices have been a bit too much for me, so I couldn't turn this offer down. There are a few scuffs here and there, the 'Marshall' logo is a bit sideways (it came with the Splawn logo too, I just haven't put it on yet), but it's got some serious mojo.

First of all, this cab is built like a tank. It weighs considerably more than my Marshall cabinet, and is about 2" wider on the sides. This makes it extremely difficult and awkward for one person to transport, especially if you're moving up and down stairs. Bring a friend! There is also a locking 1/4" jack on the 16 ohm input, which is a neat feature I have never seen before. The handles on the side are metal, which feels a lot sturdier than the typical plastic that most cabs come equipped with. It's a pretty looking cabinet, but Splawn obviously built this for the road.

My cab came installed with Celestion Vintage 30's and G12T-75's in an x-pattern. The combo sounds great together, giving off quite a modern vibe compared to my G12C loaded Marshall cab. There are less mids, more bass, and an overall darker sound. I'm a self-professed Greenback fanatic, but the V30/G12T-75 combo is not too shabby. To truly test the speakers, I went straight to Drop-D and played some of my favorite Dream Theater riffs. All I can say is, wow! There was some extra "oomph" in bass that surely upset the neighbors, and the cab projected wonderfully no matter how I was oriented toward the speakers.

Splawn has never ceased to impress me, and their cabinets are no exception. These are road warriors (that is, if you can get past the trouble it takes to transport), but would sit just as comfortably in a home studio. Pretty much any head will look great with them, because there are a ton of customization options on the website. And last but not least, they sound awesome. Big, beefy tone that will make your bandmates jealous. For the price, features, and sound, these Splawn cabinets deserve far more attention than they are getting.

tonechaser score - 9.5/10

3/01/2014

DiMarzio Super Distortion Demo (Dirty)

Gravity Picks - Yay or Nay?


PictureAbout a year ago, I contacted Chris from Gravity Picks for a chance to try out some of his handcrafted picks. I had heard countless praise for these little guys, and had to try them out for myself. Chris was very easy to talk to, and he happily sent me a sample.

I was able to sample both the Classic Mini and the Razer. The Classic Mini was similar to the size of a Dunlop Jazz III, but the bottom was rounded out a bit more, which considerably softened my pick attack. I've never been a fan of picks with such a rounded tip, but this just felt good in my hands. The Razer was up next, and I am happy to save I was very impressed. It is about the same size as the Classic Mini, and the tip is a bit sharper than your average tip. This sharp tip lends itself to some ultra-precise shredding. Playing a fast passage feels smooth as butter, and pinch harmonics come with ease.

I absolutely LOVE the material these picks are made from. You never lose your grip, even on those hot summer days when your hands are getting awkwardly sweaty. Not to mention, they are built to last and wear down considerably slower than an ultex, celluloid or pick. They may be on the expensive side, but if you're looking for a little luxury, Gravity Picks may be just right for you.
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