l2pnet.com http://www.l2pnet.com l2pnet.com Fri, 20 May 2016 12:28:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Broadcast and Surround Suite Bundle http://www.l2pnet.com/broadcast-surround-suite-bundle/ http://www.l2pnet.com/broadcast-surround-suite-bundle/#respond Fri, 20 May 2016 12:28:03 +0000 http://www.l2pnet.com/?p=2497 The Waves Broadcast and Surround Suite bundle includes 18 state-of-the-art industry-standard broadcast audio plugins for TV, radio, film and webcasting: noise reduction, loudness metering, and surround mixing, upmixing and downmixing: All the plugins from the Waves 360° Surround Tools collection, including 5.1 tools for compression, limiting, reverb, spatial enhancement, sub harmonic generation, and more. The […]

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The Waves Broadcast and Surround Suite bundle includes 18 state-of-the-art industry-standard broadcast audio plugins for TV, radio, film and webcasting: noise reduction, loudness metering, and surround mixing, upmixing and downmixing:

All the plugins from the Waves 360° Surround Tools collection, including 5.1 tools for compression, limiting, reverb, spatial enhancement, sub harmonic generation, and more.
The DTS Neural Surround™ plugins for surround upmixing and downmixing.
Noise reduction plugins: the advanced Waves WNS Noise Suppressor, and the simple-to-use Waves NS1 Noise Suppressor, both designed for real-time broadcast as well as post-production.
Precision loudness measurement tools for stereo and surround: the cross-platform Waves WLM Plus Loudness Meter, and the Waves Dorrough Stereo and Surround plugins, modeled on the popular Dorrough meters.

The Broadcast and Surround Suite includes high-end tools to ensure a smooth, engaging and highly professional broadcast mix.
To learn more, click here

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Prince, the Revolutionist http://www.l2pnet.com/prince-the-revolutionist/ http://www.l2pnet.com/prince-the-revolutionist/#respond Tue, 10 May 2016 22:36:01 +0000 http://www.l2pnet.com/?p=2486 How Prince Changed the Music Industry Forever Like all Prince fans, I was thrown that Thursday into a giant basket of sorrow. The memories flooded me. I couldn’t find my iPod fast enough, and I spent the bulk of two days shirking all other responsibilities to watch the non-stop tributes to his life on TV. […]

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How Prince Changed the Music Industry Forever

Like all Prince fans, I was thrown that Thursday into a giant basket of sorrow. The memories flooded me. I couldn’t find my iPod fast enough, and I spent the bulk of two days shirking all other responsibilities to watch the non-stop tributes to his life on TV. I grew up in the golden era of Prince, came of age in it, and decided to become a professional musician because of it. Prince is a cornerstone in my musical life, as much as any teacher I ever had. And that wasn’t just because he was a genius of a musician. It’s because he was an innovator. A creator. A mastermind of thought, not just about music, but about humans and what the hell we are actually doing on this planet.

When I asked my Facebook friends to tell me how THEY thought Prince had changed music, they came up with a lot of answers. One person said he was the Mozart of our era. Several said he had opened up sexuality in music and changed how all of us felt we could express it. The more that I thought about it, the more examples there were.

So, here is the definitive list from a fan and fellow musician of what made Prince, not just extraordinary, but a demi-god. And more importantly, how he revolutionized music and the music industry forever.

1. He was damn sexy
Prince WAS sex. In stunning clothes. Holding a guitar. He was unashamed of it, unapologetic for offending people’s stark sense of sexual shame, and wholly disinterested in holding up society’s ridiculous gender norms. He wore women’s clothes and high heels. He ran around half naked. He made buttless pants look good. And we grew because of it, into a society that believed our sexual mores needed a lot of updating and our marginalized sexual misfits needed acceptance. Prince reminded us that sex was not only fun, but spiritual. And when mixed with the right kind of music at the right time, is one of the most important things about being human. He smashed the shame to bits. And replaced it with magic.

2. He hired female musicians
He literally ushered in an era of women in music that the world had never experienced before. When he hired Lisa Coleman, Prince was probably not aware of how much he would revolutionize music for women. But after hiring Wendy Melvoin, too. He had to have. He had to have known that having a female guitarist front and center as his career exploded would likely change music history. He had to have cared about it. And he had to have been willing to take the risk of being criticized. He sealed the deal when he hired Sheila E., started writing hit songs for other female pop artists (Sinead, Sheena Easton, Cindy Lauper, The Bangles), and throughout his career—time after time through the years—he filled his bands with extraordinary female musicians. In doing so, he inspired a whole generation of females to become better musicians (including me), and changed the gender divisions in music forever. Not that the war is over, but without Prince, we wouldn’t have had any battles. Some of his final appearances were with 3rdEyeGirl, the all-female rock band he created with totally unknown musicians, at least one of whom he found by searching Myspace pages. Who does that? Really? Who?

Link: 2006 Brit Awards performance with Wendy, Lisa and sheila E.

Link: 3rdEyeGirl SNL Performance:

 

3. He fought for artist rights in an industry that had long abused them
Prince was the first artist in history to suggest that a musician signed to a major label recording contract should own their master recordings. Though owning your work as an artist outright in a system controlled by giant corporations is a nice fantasy, at the time championing this cause was utter music industry blasphemy. Writing “slave” across his face wasn’t just a PR stunt. It was his final ultimatum to the suits. He was luckily, at the time, at a point in his career that he neither needed them, nor would suffer much in the backlash. Other artists had launched similar assaults (Fiona Apple had no clout or timing) and greatly suffered for it by being buried by the industry. It wasn’t just a squabble. It was a public brawl. And Prince definitely got his punches in. Check out his most obvious work about the conflict: Video of Face Down.

https://youtu.be/9qowqBXoFS4%20

 

4. He was a musical genius
He was indeed, as my friend Ginger put it, “The Mozart of our time.” Absolutely. In fact, he was more amazing than Mozart. He could play any instrument he touched with a natural ease that was otherworldly. He could play any genre: jazz, rock, pop, funk, hard core, afro pop, latin fusion, blues, and I’m certain anything else he wanted to. (If you have any doubts about this, try to get your hands on a recording called “One Night Alone – Live!” where you will be treated to wide range of Prince’s musical palette.) He was as good a singer as he was a musician, as great a performer as he was a songwriter. A ground-breaking producer. And he easily mastered the use of digital recording technology in the studio. And again, inspired a whole generation of musicians to become multi-instrumentalist, producer/writers, and in every way to try to take their skills to the next level. He blew the musical universe wide open for everyone who followed him. His ideas were from another planet. And so was he.

5. His musical instruments were finely crafted pieces of art
Over the years, Prince hired an endless string of master luthiers to  create guitars that broke all the boundaries on instrument design. Don’t think anything but a Les Paul sounds good on a soaring lead solo? Prince proved you wrong. His guitars were not only visually stunning, but they sounded amazing and were designed to suit his small body. The last one made, likely one of the most gorgeous, made by Simon Farmer of Gus guitars, was never played onstage, but will certainly go down in history as one of the most beautiful instruments ever designed. His purple Yamaha grand piano was to tour with him. What’s better than an guitarist who’s likely the best player on the planet? A guitarist who appreciated the artistic geniuses who make guitars, that’s what.

Link: Gus Guitars, Prince’s last guitar:

 

6. He was a superior athlete
The fact that Prince could dance and play at the same time was impressive. It’s hard to describe to people how hard it is to do, even when you are truly proficient at your instrument. The fact that he could do it in the way he did was OUTRAGEOUS. He wasn’t just “a dancer.” He was a world-class athlete. He was muscularly superior in the same way that Michael Jordan and Koby Bryant were. (He played high-school basketball and his coaches say he was good enough—even given his small stature—to have played pro.)

prince basketball

In the same way that Michael Phelps and Venus and Serena are. I’ve read that Michael Phelps’ body couldn’t be more perfectly designed for swimming from head to to toe than it is. Prince was like that. Physically perfectly designed to defy gravity when he danced. Leaping from the stage risers five feet above the deck and landing cat-like in 4 inch heeled boots. (If you think this might just be easier than it looks because you’ve never tried it, ask a woman what she thinks about it.) Prince was a PHENOMENAL athlete and it was that same athletic muscular ability that drove his proficiency at so many instruments. To simply say he danced and played, is laughable. He didn’t dance. He sprang. He plyometrically soared. He leapt, pivoted, scaled, and parkoured. And he didn’t just play, he was technically perfect and soulfully connected. Every show. For hours. For most of his life. I’m telling you: another planet.

7. He was a humanitarian
The breadth of how much charitable action Prince has taken in his life only came out after his death. CNN political commentator Van Jones revealed shortly after the announcement that Prince’s recent concerts were designed to stem the violence brought about by racial tensions. His goal was bringing the communities together, speaking with community leaders, and influencing the dialogue about change and progress. His closest friends say people will never know how much he did because he never wanted the spotlight for it. What we do know is that he was vegan and an outspoken advocate against animal cruelty, championed women’s equality, and donated large amounts to many charities and causes ranging from community building and education to AIDS research and hunger. The charity tracking website, Look To the  Stars lists nine known charities and eleven causes that Prince supported. He created #YesWeCode, an organization that teaches underprivileged kids about technology. He paid for solar panels to be installed in California. He stopped by local schools in his home of Chanhassen. He talked the talk. And he walked the walk.

Link: Van Jones talking on CNN about Prince’s latest concerts:

We’ve lost a lot of musical heroes this year. We all certainly have our own favorites for our own personal reasons and experiences. The loss of Prince was a truly dark day for me, because it’s really rare when, as a musician, you can truly attribute your success to mostly one person. But I can, and that artist is Prince. I wanted to be like him. Or at least good enough to be in his band. He didn’t just highlight the dream for me, he created it.

I’m taking comfort after writing this, that he’s probably not really gone. He’s probably just returned to his home planet. Which looks like heaven. Where every sunset is purple.

Where people are awash in blindingly beautiful music, the laughter of the party, and love itself.

Andrea Bensmiller is a professional musician, singer, writer and teacher based in Las Vegas. She graduated from Berklee College of Music with a degree in vocal performance and music business, and has blogged for Live2Play Network since 2010.

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Line 6 Relay G70 Guitar Wireless System http://www.l2pnet.com/line-6-relay-g70-guitar-wireless-system/ http://www.l2pnet.com/line-6-relay-g70-guitar-wireless-system/#respond Tue, 10 May 2016 22:18:48 +0000 http://www.l2pnet.com/?p=2482 By Rev. Bill There has been a cornucopia of wireless lately at the palatial L2P/SPL West HQ. I feel like I have written about nothing but wireless systems for ages. But this one is special for me. You see, I took a lot of crap for my early and enthusiastic adoption and support for digital […]

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By Rev. Bill

There has been a cornucopia of wireless lately at the palatial L2P/SPL West HQ. I feel like I have written about nothing but wireless systems for ages. But this one is special for me.

You see, I took a lot of crap for my early and enthusiastic adoption and support for digital wireless. That started about 15 years ago when I met Guy Cocker and Jamie Scott at a fledgling company called X-Wire. Guy was the first person to figure out how to make digital transmissions work for music. It was, he told me back then, all about error correction. Analog wireless never had to worry about this because it transmits in an uninterrupted stream. Digital transmits in “packets” of bits and bytes and the packets are reassembled into a re-creation of the original data stream on the receiving end. If any of those packets become corrupted or arrive out of order due to things like interference, you are hosed without really good error-correction. I’ll leave it at that but if you want to geek out on it check HERE

X-Wire was sold to Sennheiser who pulled the same thing RCA engineers did when that company bought Fender and needlessly “improved” a product that worked and people loved so that it fell in line with their idea of “good engineering.” (Mesa Boogie founder Randall Smith once famously commented that RCA engineers understood good engineering but had no idea what kind of distortion sounded good to a guitar player stoned out of his mind on Thai weed…) The result was the System 1000 which was such a flop that you can’t even find them on eBay. Then, when his non-compete agreement expired, Guy launched his own actually improved version under the moniker X2 at Summer NAMM 2007. They showed their new guitar wireless and—crucially—met Line 6 founder Marcus Ryle. By Winter NAMM 2008, Guy had a prototype of the world’s first digital wireless vocal mic and it was the talk of the show. By March of that year X2 had been bought by Line 6. Jamie eventually went on to found the highly regarded amp company 3RD Power and Guy is still at Line 6 and still the driving force behind their family of digital wireless products.

The Line 6 thing is important beyond just the fact that Guy’s latest wireless creations carry their brand. The MI and pro audio worlds—and even the overall music industry—have been upended several times by Ryle and his cohorts at Oberheim and Alesis before he even started Line 6 and made amp and effect modeling more of a norm than a geeky exception in music creation. It took the rest of the universe of companies that make guitar and mic wireless almost a decade to get onboard with digital and 2.4 GHz. But knowing the history and that Marcus had seen the potential of this technology to the point of buying X2 confirmed what I thought when I first met Guy and Jamie and is really why I was such an early and vocal  proponent of the technology. I have a deep respect for Marcus and really consider him to be a visionary—which is not a term I use lightly. If Marcus says it is worthwhile, do yourself a favor and listen. It is not a coincidence that pretty much every company that dismissed the tech early on, now makes their own version. And some of them are very good.

I started using the Line 6 Relay G50 as soon as I could get my hands on one. I used it for years and was always really happy with it, although I will admit that another guitarist who I had give the unit a spin hated it. Because it was “too clean.” Which is one of the things I loved about it.

But the G50 was getting a little long in the tooth right about the time I went to the Winter NAMM show in 2015. I had suddenly and unexpectedly gone from someone who played the occasional gig to doing close to 100 dates in just a couple of years and I am hard on gear. I dropped by Line 6 at the show for the obligatory walk through their latest stuff and saw the G70. I started lusting after it pretty much right away.

The G70 is not an incremental upgrade. It is not going overboard to describe it as a re-imagination of guitar wireless. Other mfgs have been adding “extras” to stompbox-style guitar wireless systems for a while. The Audio-Technica System 10 has a built-in A/B box function and the Shure GLXD sports a tuner as two examples. But the “extras” on the G70 open possibilities that no other system can.

It has three outputs—two 1/4” and an XLR—and an Aux input. And it’s programmable. Here’s how that works.

You can define eight different setups or scenes. Each one allows the user to select which output (or outputs) that scene uses. So, not only do you have a virtual A/B box for those who use two different amp setups, but if you are using, say an acoustic guitar that really needs to get into the PA, you can choose the XLR output. You step through presets using a standard stompbox foot switch.

The ability to do this is a big deal. In the past, most of us using wireless had to go wired with the acoustic because it needed to get to a direct box and not the guitar amp setup. Unless you are using some kind of effects on your acoustic, the G70 allows you the same freedom you had with your electric guitar with an acoustic.

More than just the output is definable on a per-preset basis. For me, this is the big one: Adjustable output gain.

On most gigs, I play three different guitars: A 1968 Gibson ES335, an Epiphone Riviera with three P90s and a “clone” Gretsch Black Falcon. From time to time I will switch one of those out for a Reverend Avenger. Obviously very different tone signatures, but also wildly varying output levels. The 335 has been through a ton of changes in terms of pickups and wiring including at various points; coil-split switches, ultra-hot pickups and a Ghost bridge with embedded piezos in the saddles for a quasi-acoustic tone. But last year, we took it back to as close to stock as possible including all-new wiring. That wiring change (Recommended and done by Neil Smith at Vegas Custom Guitars has opened up the instrument massively and it is now the highest output of the four. (The Riviera had that title prior to the wiring change.), The Riviera is a little lower output, the Reverend a little lower than that and the Black Flacon a bit lower than all the rest.

The majority of my gigs are in casino lounges. Volume is a huge issue. In order to keep my vintage Mesa Boogie Mark III under control, I use a THD Hotplate  and that actually does double duty as a way to even out the output between guitars as well attenuating the overall volume of the amp. When the 335 is in use, the Hotplate is set at -8dB, with the Riviera, it’s at -4dB and the Black Falcon or the Reverend are at 0. It works but it’s a pain and increases the time it takes me to switch guitars. And when the dance floor is pumping, that extra few seconds can kill the vibe.

All of which explains why I was super interested in the idea of presets that include the ability to manipulate the gain of each guitar at the point where it hits the rest of the signal chain.

Now, the real idea here is that each preset will also have its own transmitter. Which is great if you are a touring band making enough dough to pay for a couple of additional transmitters. (They list for $279 each and you can find them in the usual online locations for about $199). But for the rest of us, the transmitter does not attach to the guitar strap, it attaches to a belt or gets put in a pocket and we unplug and plug in with each instrument change just like we would if we were wired.

When you add new scenes, the default workflow is that each new scene is on a different transmitter channel. But—and this is a case where you really want to RTFM or you’ll miss it—it is possible to set up more than one scene using the same transmitter channel. So it is possible to get the same functionality of varying output levels with a single transmitter

Switching between scenes is cake. Hit the footswitch and it will cycle through existing scenes, returning to the first one when the switch is depressed with the last scene showing. The LCD for reading what scene you’re on is large and bright and very easy to read and—addd bonus—you can choose a color to correspond with each scene. The transmitters come with a set of colored plastic collars that correspond to the colors for the scenes and that screw onto the input to the transmitter. When you get the G70, the transmitter has the black collar on by default but replacing it with a different one is quick and easy and does not require tools. The idea here is that if you are using multiple transmitters, the collar color on the transmitter and the scene color on the receiver match, which makes it fast and easy to make sure the right transmitter is hooked up to the right guitar.

 

RelayG70_5inOne-03-01

 

As long as we are talking about the transmitters, this is one of the things I like most and that will be appreciated by traveling players more than anything. Every other wireless for guitar I have ever used—including previous Line 6 models—used a mini-XLR input. Which means you needed a special mini XLR-to-1/4” cable. And if the cable dies or you lose it or the dog eats it in the middle of a four-night run, you are likely hosed. Because even if there is a music store in town, they probably do not stock that particular cable. You are gonna have to go online and order it. And they are not cheap. Plan on spending between $20 and $30 for a foot-long cable.

The G70 has a standard 1/4” input to the transmitter. It ships with a very nice 18” cable with a locking collar on one end so it can be screwed tightly into the transmitter. But, if cable tragedy arises, it can be replaced with any standard 1/4” guitar cable. I don’t know about you, but I probably have a half-dozen foot-long cables in my gigging toolbox. And if you don’t (first, shame on you because cables—even on pedal boards—fail all the time and having a backup is a basic part of what should be in any gig bag), you can pick up a backup for under $10.

Couple of other cool features. Like we already noted, there are two 1/4” outputs for feeding amps or FX units and an XLR output for feeding a PA direct. There is an additional 1/4” output called Tuner that is always active regardless of how a scene is setup. If you want to use a specific tuner, you can feed it from that output and pressing and holding the footswitch on the G70 for two seconds will mute the other outputs and just leave the tuner active. OR, if you do not plug anything into the tuner output, pressing and holding for two seconds mutes all the outputs and activates an internal tuner.

And there is an Aux In 1/4” that can be programmed on or off per scene. For the first gigs I did for this review, I set up all the scenes with it active and kept a 15-foot cable plugged into it as a backup in case I had a battery die mid-set. I never had to use it. But the way the Aux In is implemented is pretty clever and not obvious right away. There are two modes: Always On and Scene Only. Scene Only mode is the mode I used but, for the purpose I had in mind, I could have done it a better way. With the Aux In in Always On mode, the input is active BUT MUTED as long as the transmitter is active in any preset. So this means that you can keep a cable plugged in for emergencies and not worry a lick about hums or buzzes or added noise from an “open” cable sitting on the stage. It’s ready to go and if the transmitter dies or is switched off, you are instantly ready to plug in and rock out in a wired fashion. Very clever.

And, while we have been talking all about the G70, there is another version called the G75 with all of the same features but it is in a non-stompbox format suitable for placement on top of an amp rig or for those touring guys with guitar techs who are playing in situations where all amps, effects ,etc live with the tech and he or she does all of the switching (which is pretty common among bigger acts). If you like the format of the G75 and don’t have a guitar babysitter, there is an additional jack on the G75 version that accepts any momentary footswitch which allows for stepping through scenes/presets just like on the G70.

That leaves power and data—the only areas where I ran into problems.

All of the Line 6 wireless stuff—being digital—can be updated and upgraded via firmware. That used to be a fairly daunting process. I had done it with both a Vetta guitar amp and an XD-V 70 handheld wireless mic system and it was not what I would describe as fun. But, starting at least as far back as the POD HD stuff—and maybe earlier—Line 6 started to include some kind of USB connectivity which makes firmware updates MUCH easier. In the case of the G70, it is micro-USB and there is a port on both the transmitter and the receiver.

Now, USB can be a data conduit and it can also provide power. That is how those little portable hard drives and even USB thumb drives work. They get power from the USB connections as well as using it to send and receive data. So when it comes to powering the G70 you have two options. There is a standard 9VDC, 500MA input. But the unit does not ship with a power supply for that port. That is optional. Instead, it ships with a wall-wart power supply with a standard USB port on the top and a cable that is standard USB on one end and micro USB on the other. And the G70 is powered via the USB port.

I would love to see Line 6 change the standard package and include a power supply the plugs in to the 9-volt input. Here’s why. The connector is just beefier. Not just on the cable end, but the actual internal connector that attaches to the circuit board. A micro USB connector is designed for uses that do not include residing on a guitar player’s pedal board. They are pretty flimsy. And in my case, I was able to knock it off the circuit board by plugging it in a bit too roughly. The good news is that if you have an appropriate 9-volt adapter, you can plug that in and be good to go. If you are like me and have been playing with gear for a while, you probably have a shoe-box full of wall-wart power supplies and after a bit of searching I was able to find one that works. In my case it says TC Electronic on it and I really don’t remember what it came from. But if you have something that will power the G70 from the 9-volt jack, it would suggest using it. Or, Line 6 sells one as an accessory.

When I talked to Line 6 about this, they said they had only ever heard of it happening one other time, so this is hardly an indictment of quality control or design. I would just rather go with the connector I have more faith in.

 

THE GIGS

I have been using the G70 for a few months now.And it has been great. I have never suffered a glitch or wireless dropout and the battery life is stunningly good. A huge improvement over the previous generation. As I mentioned previously, I do mostly casino lounge and bar gigs. These are “grinders”—typically four or five hours of playing time in a total period of five or six hours. I can get almost TWO full nights out of one set of batteries.

I have seen a couple of reviews online that claim to have issues with getting interference and dropouts. I have used the G70 now in at least four different venues without a single hit. And one of those was a BAD environment for 2.4 GHz wireless. I have written about the Splash Lounge at the Aquarius in Laughlin, NV before, but not this part. My band, Rev. It Up, uses quite a bit of 2.4 GHz wireless. Three Audio-Technica System 10 PRO belt packs for the horns plus the Relay G70 for my guitar and our female singer uses a Line 6 XD-V 75 transmitter with a Heil PR30 head. Oh, and there is a router in the PA rack to set up a local network so I can control the PA from my iPad. The Relay G70 is newer tech and I think uses four antenna vs the two on the XD-V 75 and the System 10 Pro uses a frequency-hopping scheme akin to military-grade spread spectrum and they were fine. But, bottom line is we had to ditch the XD-V 75 and use the standard wireless that the house had available because it was dropping out—a lot.

The deal with 2.4 GHz is that it is the same spectrum used by a lot of wireless routers for computer networks. And, with the increasing number of devices—musical and non—in that bit of bandwidth, you have to be smart about managing devices. (The reason we had issues in Splash with the mic was that there is a powerful router in the room next to the lounge. In theory, it is there for vendors to use when they are on property and so it should be pretty quiet at night by the time the band is on. In practice—as should be expected in the real world—anyone who works at the casino who has ever been given the password to that router has it saved to their phone so they can be on wi-fi at work and not have to burn their cell plan minutes. Bottom line is that it is a very busy little router pretty much 24/7.) Almost all 2.4 GHz wireless devices include a Scan feature that will scout out a clean frequency. Use it whenever you can. But again, despite a crowded environment that took one of our devices out, I had not a single dropout with the G70. And this was not a single gig. This was 19 nights over a four-week period. A 90-minute set followed by a 30 minute break, another 90 minute set and 30 minute break and a one-hour set to close the night. That makes more than 75 hours of stage time without one dropout. As far as I’m concerned, it’s bullet-proof.

It is not the cheapest guitar wireless out there but at about $399 typical online price (MSRP is $699), it’s within 50 bucks of the other options and with the additional features plus the fact that it is all-steel construction (Did I mention that? Yeah, it’s beefy and there is like zero plastic), it’s worth the bump in price. It sounds great and it’s so flexible that it is just silly and it’s reliable—especially for those of us who play multiple guitars on the kinds of gigs where we have to depend on the gear to work every time.

The Relay G70 is literally my favorite guitar wireless system ever. And I have used a bunch of ‘em.

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ROAD TEST GEAR REVIEW: Shure PSM 300 In-Ear Monitor System http://www.l2pnet.com/road-test-gear-review-shure-psm-300-ear-monitor-system/ http://www.l2pnet.com/road-test-gear-review-shure-psm-300-ear-monitor-system/#respond Mon, 25 Apr 2016 07:26:17 +0000 http://www.l2pnet.com/?p=2473 By Rev. Bill If you have been waiting to switch over to an in-ear-monitoring system because either A) the systems available were complicated and difficult to set up and run for the musician who knows how to set up a basic PA but not much else about audio or B) they were just too expensive, […]

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By Rev. Bill

If you have been waiting to switch over to an in-ear-monitoring system because either A) the systems available were complicated and difficult to set up and run for the musician who knows how to set up a basic PA but not much else about audio or B) they were just too expensive, then it is time to stop waiting.

There have been some fairly inexpensive in-ear systems out there but they have been OK at best. The Shure PSM 300 is designed from the get go with musicians in mind and it is priced at a level that… Well, let’s put it like this…both of the working players we had give the system a spin bought one for themselves. Without hesitation.

The PSM300 comes in a couple of different configurations but you need to ignore the low-end one and just go straight to the configuration called the P3TRA215CL. It’s a mouthful, but all you need to remember is that it includes a belt pack that is made of metal, not plastic, and it includes much better 215CL isolating earbuds.

OVERVIEW
The system consists of three pieces, the aforementioned 215CL earbuds, the P3RA belt pack and the P3T transmitter. If you decide to cheap out (it’s only 100 bucks difference, don’t cheap out) you get the P3R receiver and the 112GR earbuds. They are OK. But the higher-end package is so worth the extra Benjamin that… Like we said before, don’t cheap out.

The system operates in the 500 MHz band. Actually there are three options—the G20, H20 and J20—that cover the space between 488 and 590 MHz in 24 MHz chunks. This is important. You get one chunk that is 24 MHz wide and where in that wider range your chunk lies depends on which band you buy. Shure has made that decision really easy with a tool on their site that allows you to put in your city or ZIP code and see what frequencies are most open in your area. This doesn’t help those of us who travel for gigs that much but, especially for local players and singers, it is a valuable tool that will help make what can be the hardest (and to many musicians, undecipherable) decision in buying any wireless gear—matching a unit to frequencies that you can actually use—nice and easy.

Like any in-ear wireless system, you basically get a pair of inputs on the transmitter which can loop out to another unit but the PSM300 has some important differences that make it really well-suited to musicians who are not also audio engineers.

The inputs are 1/4”, not XLR. The audio geek side of me wasn’t happy with that when I opened the box. But after I used it for a gig and passed it along to one of the guys in my band to try, I was able to take a step back and realize that for guys like my bandmate, 1/4” makes more sense. Especially for singers who play an instrument and may not have a PA with a ton of Auxes for monitor mixes. Or a lower end, possibly analog mixer with only 1/4” outputs for those Auxes.

The P3RA belt pack has a single volume control as well as a variable control that can be used for either balance when using a stereo signal or to mix between two discreet signals that are sent to both earbuds in MixMode (more on that later). You also get additional control that the straight P3R lacks including some equalization and—crucially—a limiter. (The P3R actually includes a basic limiter as well but there are no user controls available.)
THE STORY
I have been a big believer in the use of in-ear monitors—for singers especially—for a long time. I have spent a lot of money to have several sets of transmitters and receivers in my live rack for myself and a few others in the band. The last few years have been super frustrating.

I have the gear and have been using the Presonus RM32AI as a mix system which gives me a whopping 16 Aux sends so I have enough to literally provide a stereo in-ear mix for every person in the band. And they are having none of it. Horn players appear to be morally opposed to in-ears. Singer and bass player who sings hate anything in their ears.

I have VERY slowly made some headway. Mostly by recording gigs and showing singers their pitch issues when they are on just wedges. We do a lot of three- and four-part vocal harmony and one person being a little flat can make the whole vocal sound like crap. I have had some help from the sound engineers at a couple of venues we play. They love us all on ears because it keeps stage volume down. And when you are in an 8-piece band with a horn section, stage volume is a constant issue. At this point I have the trumpet player on ears, myself, the drummer and—just recently—the keyboard player who sings backup and two or three leads a night. So we are halfway there.

Because the keyboard player is pretty stationary, he was using actual headphones and an Aphex HeadPod headphone amp driven by a mix that I sent. But the real danger of a setup like that became reality on a gig a couple of months ago.

When you have a mixed system of ears and wedges onstage, it is crucial that everyone on ears has a limiter in-line or built-in to their system. That HeadPod does not have one and we were trying to get monitors sorted on a gig and got hit with a blast of feedback from one of the wedges when the system came up to volume. It was physically painful for Bill, my keyboard player. After that, when I told him we had the PSM300 coming for review and that it had a limiter built-in, he jumped at it.

THE GIGS
I was the first subject. Gig was a five-night run at the Casablanca in Mesquite, NV—a venue we use often for reviews. I got the box from Shure just before I left for the gig and brought it along. For the first couple of nights, I used the system that I have mounted in my PA rack as normal and switched it out for the PSM300 for the last two nights of the gig.

I was thankful that I carry way too much stuff—I am of the philosophy that I would rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it—so I had XLR-to-1/4” adapters. Popped those onto the XLR lines that I removed from the rack and plugged in to the PSM300 and I was ready to go. Turned it on and hit the Scan button to let the transmitter find a clean frequency and then the Sync function to pair up the transmitter and receiver. I even used the 215CL earbuds instead of my customs.

To be honest, even though my customs sound better than the 215CLs, using the universal-fit buds that came with the PSM300 made for a better gig experience overall. When I am on my custom-fit buds, I can only use the one-ear-in method most of the time because I have—as I noted before—a singer who I need to communicate with and a horn section leader I need to communicate with and both refuse to go to in-ears. If we were on a closed system, I would have an open mic onstage that fed only the in-ears which would make life a LOT easier. But that system does not work well with wedges. Anyway, the looser, less sealed nature of the fit of the 215CLs allowed my to play the whole night with BOTH buds in and still hear enough ambient sound to communicate effectively. (This is a big deal as going with only one bud in is very much NOT recommended. In many ways it defeats the purpose of going to in-ears. Try to avoid doing it.)

I only had one issue with the system. It TEARS through batteries. There is a rechargeable option and I would seriously consider it. Either that or invest in some good Eneloop Pro rechargeables. I turned the receiver off between sets and it still died about 15 mins before the end of set five. If, like us, you do “grinder” gigs like casinos where you play five hours over a six hour period every night, have TWO sets of batteries and change them out after set four to make sure you get through the night. (Shure told us they expect approx. 6 hours on a set of AA batteries and to be fair, my hearing—after playing in live bands for more than 40 years—is compromised and I had the belt pack volume control pretty close to railed. If you are at a more reasonable volume level, you may find you get better battery life. But I would still have an extra set on hand. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it…)

Subject two was my keyboard player and we got to break out the MixMode with him. And I think that was a big part of why he decided to buy the system. I set up two mixes. One was what I would typically give him as a mono mix for a wedge or his headphones—he also wears one-off for the same reasons I have to—and a second one that was ONLY his vocal. Between the volume control and the Mix knob on the side of the receiver, he was able to dial in a mix that had enough of his vocal and could even boost that in his own mix on the tunes he sings lead on. (And, like me, with the 215CLs he was able to wear both buds which is vastly preferable.)

This is one of the places where the PSM300 using 1/4” inputs works well. His keyboards feed into a rack-mount, older Alesis line mixer and the outputs are all 1/4”. So if he is really focused on hearing himself, he can use that same MixMode and make one of the inputs a feed off his keyboard mixer and the second one a vocal heavy feed coming from me. If you are a guitar player, you can do the same thing. If it’s an acoustic, plug right into the PSM300 and then loop out to the PA. If it’s an electric, use the FX loop on your amp to feed the PSM300 then loop it back out to your amp and take an Aux that’s vocal heavy if you sing or that has whatever you normally want to hear if you don’t sing. What this approach does is allows you to have a pretty instant “more me” mix.

The final subject was guitar god with the Vegas-based Voodoo Cowboys, Matt Woodward. His experience with the system is on video and will be posted in the next few days.

BOTTOM LINE
At a list price of $799, the PSM300 is the highest-quality and most affordable option for in-ears that is seriously aimed at musicians and not engineers that we have ever seen. Street price is closer to $700 bucks and at least one on-line retailer is offering 0% interest for several years making for about a $15 a month payment. Even if you are only doing a gig or two a month, at that kind of outlay, this is a no-brainer solution for players and singers who are finally ready to 1) be able to really hear onstage, 2) save their hearing and their voices (being able to really hear means most singers do not push as hard and end gigs with less vocal fatigue than singers who insist on staying with wedges and, 3) stop contributing to the onstage volume arms race.

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The Solo Gigger – The Paperwork http://www.l2pnet.com/solo-gigger-paperwork/ http://www.l2pnet.com/solo-gigger-paperwork/#respond Sun, 17 Apr 2016 17:53:52 +0000 http://www.l2pnet.com/?p=2468 I am in the process of finalizing my tax returns. I need a break so it feels right to write about it. The old joke “the job’s not done- until the paperwork is finished”- is sadly appropriate here. Without getting into the ramifications of a simpler tax code during an election year, paperwork is a […]

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I am in the process of finalizing my tax returns. I need a break so it feels right to write about it. The old joke “the job’s not done- until the paperwork is finished”- is sadly appropriate here. Without getting into the ramifications of a simpler tax code during an election year, paperwork is a necessary evil in 2016. Leaving a paper trail is critical when working as an independent contractor.

The first thing I suggest is recording your daily activities. I had two guitar students show up at the same time for a guitar lesson in the late-80’s which propelled me into using a Franklin Day Planner. I did that for two decades and then moved to a Palm and now, record my activities into my iMac using iCal. I have files on my desktop to record conversations with potential gig clients as well as potential guitar students. This is helpful if a client has to discuss a gig quote with someone else. Having notes on prior phone conversations is helpful when booking that choice gig. People love artists that pay attention to details and this often translates into more money.

Next, use a performance contract! This is so valuable that it shouldn’t be an option. It doesn’t have to be long or involved. I have attached a copy of a contract I have used for many years. Be sure to get a deposit for private party gigs as well as the client’s name, mailing address, phone and e mail address. For club dates, a simple handshake may be all that’s necessary. However, be sure the club owner or restaurant manager understands the price agreed upon and has the agreed upon money in petty cash at the end of the night. Make sure if they leave that someone else is prepared and authorized to pay you.

Record your expenses and keep scrupulous records! Keep track of your driving mileage, ask for and keep receipts for guitar strings, gig meals, gas to and from the gig and hundreds more items. Keep the receipts for 7 years and then shred them. No one likes the idea of an IRS audit, so stack the deck in your favor. I write on the receipts the following information: date, price, method of payment and item description. This is necessary since ink from a receipt fades over time.

Once the gig is over, scan and save your old gig contracts. I indicate what the balance paid is and whether or not I was paid in cash or by check. I often am paid tips and/or overtime, so this is helpful for example, if I book a gig for $400 and end up being paid $500 or more. I use Open Office and have standard forms for my contracts. This way, when a former client wants to hire me again, I can find the old contract and pull up the client’s address, phone, etc.

I have a file on my desktop for recurring events. I have standardized responses for online booking inquiries, follow up with performance details, method of payment, etc. and can respond quickly to potential clients. Speed really is of the essence. In fact, of the many awards my One Man band has received on Gigmasters, the one I am proudest of is the Rapid Responder award. I heard Brian Tracy say years ago “fast tempo is essential to success” and that’s been true in my experience.

Finally, make a point to say “Thank you” once the event is over. Mail a card or send a client an e mail, thanking them for hiring you. The old saying “people don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care” is apropos here. Being nice never goes out of style. It usually pays better, too.
Keep organized records and watch how it improves your bottom line.

Sample Contract_Wilson

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When You’re The Opener http://www.l2pnet.com/when-youre-the-opener/ http://www.l2pnet.com/when-youre-the-opener/#respond Sun, 17 Apr 2016 17:36:10 +0000 http://www.l2pnet.com/?p=2465 I thought it’d be fun to go through what it encompasses when I open for a national act. As in life, sometimes it goes way smoother than other times. Once the gig is locked in I make sure that we get the load in time, load in details and sound check time from the promoter. […]

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I thought it’d be fun to go through what it encompasses when I open for a national act. As in life, sometimes it goes way smoother than other times.

Once the gig is locked in I make sure that we get the load in time, load in details and sound check time from the promoter. It is very important that you and your crew are on time (I can’t stress this enough..).

Once you arrive at the venue on show day it’s important to check in to staff at the venue first to see if it’s cool to bring in your gear. Another important thing to is to be as unobtrusive as you can to not distract anyone during whatever is going on when you arrive. What I usually do once all our gear in in the venue is to check with the stage crew to see how much time we have before we load onto the stage to sound check and/ or line check. Some venues just don’t like to take time to soundcheck the openers. Just be ready for whichever they offer you. At the very least they will usually give you a line check just to check levels really quickly.

Another thing, you have to check with the stage manager and or the headliner’s tour manager is to see where you are allowed to set up on the stage. More often than not their drums and stage props and back line will remain on the stage so be prepared to set up in front of all that.

Next up is to see how much stage space you will actually have while you play. This varies dramatically depending on the venue and on how many bands are on the bill and when you’re playing on the bill. I’ve actually played when there is literally 2 feet of stage space between my amps and the front of the stage. You just deal with it and do your thing and make it work for you.

Another thing to consider is the stage monitor situation. We still use wedges at this point so, as with everything else, depending on the venue and the act your playing with sometimes you will have monitors in some regard and sometimes they will be off. Once again you can ask nicely about them and the sound man will take pity on you and sometimes they will tell you to go screw yourself. Either way you deal with it like a pro. Usually if it’s the venue’s sound crew you will have better luck. I don’t let it discourage me.

Once you have done your sound check and/or line check you need to secure your rig and check to see where you can put your gear so it’s out of the way if you’re not the first band on that night. Again this is a question for the stage manager. Once you’re done checking it’s important to get off the stage quickly so the stage crew can do what they have to do before showtime to make sure the stage is ready to go for the night’s performance.

After I get off the stage I usually go into our area—be it a dressing room and or a common area for all the performers—to get ready (as I’m sure you know if there are only a limited amount of dressing rooms or a dressing room it’s the headliners. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve changed into my stage clothes in the back of my car or in one of the venues bathrooms because there are no dressing rooms.

I find out where we get to hang before showtime backstage and I find a corner out of the way and tune my guitars and make sure everything is good to go. It’s very important for you and your crew to be as out of the way for everyone as and to be as cooperative as possible with the venue’s staff. If there’s time, I will try to grab something to eat if not I will nibble on something to hold me over until the end of the night.

When I get the 30 minute ’till show time call.

I have my road manager get my guitars to my onstage guitar boat and I get changed into my stage attire and stretch out and maybe warm up on one of my guitars if we have time. At 5 minutes before we hit the stage I go over our set with my guys. This is another important thing to do. I always gauge our set to the act we are opening for. If it’s a harder rock act I can pretty much do anything within reason but if it’s rock act I will need to temper my set to the crowd.

If I’m not sure what the house will like I will open with a couple up tempo rocker songs that aren’t to heavy to feel out the audience. Fortunately I have enough material from all my CD’s where we can pretty much temper our set to any audience. Another thing to remember is to not over shadow your headliner. It’s ok to be good and do your thing but do it within reason and be respectful.

Usually we’ll get 20-30 minutes of stage time. I actually enjoy talking to the audience in between songs so depending on how we’re being received I’ll talk accordingly. On that note, be sure you know where you stand time wise while you’re performing. You don’t want to be the one running long. Running long is the quickest way to get both the venue and the headliner pissed at you not to mention it could run into overtime for their crew. If I’m not sure where we are time wise halfway through our set I will ask a stage hand during the performance so we’re off on time.

It’s also important to put on a great performance no matter how much stage space you have, if the monitors are working and how their crowd digs you. It’s also helpful to know what’s on the stage so you don’t trip over anything. Some nights will definitely go better than others but if you do a good job and stay cool with everyone it’s a great thing to play in front of big audiences that the big guys bring in and you also get the chance to win over some new fans. After we finish our last song. I make sure we get our gear off the stage immediately and get it out of the way off stage and secured.If we are allowed to sell our merchandise (this also varies from venue to venue and act to act).

If we have a merch booth I go hang out there for a bit before the headliner goes on and meet everyone. After the headliner’s on I usually will get a drink and take a deep breathe. I’ll then settle up with the club booker and see if we can get our gear out of the venue for load out. Sometimes you can do it during the headliners performance sometimes you have to wait until the end of the night. Just one of those things you deal with.

As for meeting the headliners, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t it totally depends on the situation. I usually keep to myself and do my thing and they are doing theirs. If they want to chat I’m always open to it. I’m just there to help the bill and promote my music. If you do a great job and aren’t any trouble for any of the crew, people will remember and you more than likely will get invited back to play the venue and/or open for the headliner in the future.I’m always up to the challenge to win over new fans in front of someone else’s fan base.

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Fun With Pedals http://www.l2pnet.com/fun-with-pedals/ http://www.l2pnet.com/fun-with-pedals/#respond Sun, 17 Apr 2016 17:24:39 +0000 http://www.l2pnet.com/?p=2462 It all started when I was 14 and I got my first guitar rig. I had my Les Paul copy and a little combo amp. I thought I was ready to rock until a friend sold me his Big Muff fuzz box. Once I had that in my signal chain I could make my little […]

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It all started when I was 14 and I got my first guitar rig. I had my Les Paul copy and a little combo amp. I thought I was ready to rock until a friend sold me his Big Muff fuzz box. Once I had that in my signal chain I could make my little rig sound like Hendrix’s Marshalls. I thought it couldn’t get better. Then, I added a flanger and a chorus pedal and got a cool new half stack that sounded awesome plugging straight in. It was loud enough to blow out the windows with four 12″ speakers and 100 watts of tube power. When I added my flanger to that rig the combination of the two made it sound like the world was ending.

Pedals are definitely a cool in expensive way to change things up in your rig. Lets go through a few basic different kinds of pedal effects:

Chorus: A chorus effect simulates a doubled signal or a Leslie, it basically it makes your guitar sound like two guitars.This is most effective on clean sound where it really makes the guitar shimmer. Every time I have a clean sound when I record or play live I have my Chorus pedal kicked in. I have also more recently been using it on extreme settings to really warble up the sound on certain guitars on my music to give it more color. Chorus is considered a modulation effect.

Flanging: Flanging effects are a more extreme type of modulation effect. Depending how you have it adjusted it makes whatever signal you have running through it go up and down ( a good example would be Van Halen’s song Aint Taking about Love) . That crazy tone on Eddie’s guitar on the track is Flanging.

Phasing: A phasor simulates tape phasing. (Think Eddie Van Halens tone on his solo guitar track Eruption and most of Eddie’s solos as well) it makes the guitar sound more swishy… I usually hit my phasor when I solo to this day. It makes the guitar jump out since it also adds a little treble boost as well…

Delay: Delay pretty much adds echo and reverb type effects to your signal. There are various types of delays but these days the most common are either digital delay ( cleaner ) and analog delay ( a little dirtier like the vintage delays ) they’re both cool but totally subjective what works better for the individual player.

Last but not least Fuzz/ Distortion: This will make a clean amp sound like full blown marshall on 10. there are many different kinds of fuzz/ distortion pedals that fill the range of the many shades of driving an amp to the hilt. Again totally dependent on what the individual is looking for and how much gain he needs.

Over the years I have built a nice collection of old and new pedals. I have used them on countless recording sessions both for my projects and when I’m playing on other people’s projects. I’m also always on the hunt at swapmeets and yard sales for cheap older pedals. Cheap pedals are cool even though they are usually noisier than the pricier pedals and usually kill your tone when they are not activated but the fun is putting them on tracks where you want it to stand out in the mix. I’ve had great luck adding phaser to leads and extreme chorus to guitars on bridge sections of songs to make the backing guitars sound crazy .

I have had better luck with older pedals that sound more raw so you can make them do crazier stuff than the new much more polite versions just won’t do. Not that the cool up scale ones aren’t cool too for certain things but I’m always into stuff where I can make it sound like it’s going to blow up.When used in the right place it really can make a recorded track come alive. The beauty is your only limit is your imagination and you can use your old guitar pedals on pretty much any audio source both live and in your studio. I have even mixed in a fuzz pedal on a snare drum track to make the snare cut through the mix better. Now go out there and pull out your old pedals and do some experimenting……

Photo by mclii

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Rockn Stompn RS-4 PLUS Sequencing Power Strip http://www.l2pnet.com/rockn-stompn-rs-4-plus-sequencing-power-strip/ http://www.l2pnet.com/rockn-stompn-rs-4-plus-sequencing-power-strip/#respond Mon, 21 Mar 2016 21:34:50 +0000 http://www.l2pnet.com/?p=2458 The order in which audio gear gets turned on matters. Those of you with a bit of experience know this already but still, sometimes we forget. Or we get involved with something else that takes up mental bandwidth and the next thing we know, we have sent a speaker-shattering transient through the PA. It is […]

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The order in which audio gear gets turned on matters. Those of you with a bit of experience know this already but still, sometimes we forget. Or we get involved with something else that takes up mental bandwidth and the next thing we know, we have sent a speaker-shattering transient through the PA. It is a source of amusement and derision for pretty much everyone except the unfortunate soul who owns the PA in question.

For those who are still learning or who missed this part of class, a transient in the world of sound is just what it sounds like. Something that comes and then goes. Quickly. In a matter of milliseconds. Mostly when you hear talk of transients, it is in discussions about mics. How well do they handle transients. In this case that is gonna mean sounds with a very hard attack. Think of the initial crack of a snare drum or the impact of a cymbal. In both cases, the sound sustains and develops over a longer period, but 90% of the sonic energy comes in those first handful of milliseconds.

In this case we are not talking about any sound produced by any instrument. We are talking, pretty much, about electricity. It is a lot less of an issue with modern digital gear, but older analog stuff is different. If you have ever plugged a mic in to a system that is already on, you have heard one kind of transient. What you may not know is that some audio gear produces the same kind of “sound” when it is turned on. And that “bang” through the system can do bad things. Like shred speakers.

It is with this in mind that the Rockn Stompn Sequential Power Strip was created.

(Here’s a video. Shot by soundguy extraordinaire Keith Nachodsky at a venue where he does some work. This system is on a pro-level sequencer but something is turning on out of order. You can hear the thump as SOMETHING is turned on after the power amps are providing power to the speakers. As “thumps” go this one is minor. Imagine this at roughly 10 times the volume and you get an idea of the damage that can be done by turning a system on out of order.)

 

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The name sucks. Just way too goofy. So from here forward, we will use the MODEL name with is the RS-4 PLUS. It looks like your basic black heavy-duty power strip with eight outlets divided into four pairs. And on the end there is a stompbox-style footswitch. That footswitch is the on/off switch for the unit with a timely twist. When you stomp it, only the first pair of outlets initially gets power. Then a few seconds later, the second pair lights up and then the third and finally the last pair. (There is also a pair of very small rotary switches on the side that alter the timing of how everything turns on. More about this later along with an illustration of how I can be an idiot and how one should actually RTFM—Read the F%*$ing Manual—even for something as seemingly straightforward as power.)

The idea is that the stuff that actually powers speakers—power amps or powered speakers or even a guitar or bass amp—gets plugged in to the LAST pair of outlets. That way, there is no power to the speaker when anything “upstream” gets power. So those upstream items still produce a voltage transient when they come on, but you are not amplifying that and sending it out to blow up your speakers.

This is a real thing. I own a couple of old Mesa Boogie guitar amps and the coolest one is sitting in the shop right now, really unusable until the speaker gets re-coned. Any of you who have ever played a Mark Series Boogie (this one is a Mark IIB) know that they are LOUD amps. And I play gigs where we are often deemed “too loud” before a single note is played. That is partially the burden borne by anyone leading a band with a horn section and partially the kinds of gigs we play. Mostly casinos and some where the clientele is a bit on the grayer side and they are not really there—most of them—to hear the band. They are there to drink and gamble and pick up chicks and the band lies somewhere between added bonus, audio wallpaper and an actual annoyance for some of them. Bottom line is I have never had that amp turned up past about 2.

So how did the speaker get toasted? Probably by me unplugging and plugging in guitars while the amp is on. That horrifying sound you get when you do that is a kind of transient. Not the kind that the RS-4 PLUS is gonna help with—only me getting smarter and using a silent cable or switching the amp to Standby before switching guitars is gonna help that, but you get the idea.

It can literally happen with just one mistake. Turn the system on out of order one time and it CAN be enough to ruin a speaker. The re-cone on mine is gonna run me a couple hundred bucks. Expensive mistake…

It is not just the act of turning things on. If you have everything in a rack-mounted system—mixer, outboard gear and power amps—all plugged into one strip and you turn the STRIP off to save a couple of seconds instead of turning off the amps and then everything else, you have a possible speaker shredding on your hands.

My only negative when gigging with the RS-4 PLUS was pilot error.

We go through a lot of batteries between wireless mics, guitar packs and in-ears. A minimum of four on an average gig and as many as 20. So after a ton of research, I finally found rechargeables that are worthwhile. (For the record, we use Eneloop Pros. ) When we are on a multi-night gig, one of the things I do at the end of the night is to gather all of the batteries together and put them in their charging bays. At the time we did the review, I had to have three different multi-unit chargers—we are now down to two. One of those was plugged into the RS and one into the Furman Voltage Regulator/Power Conditioner that in turn, fed the RS. The battery chargers we were using at the time had to be removed from power and have power re-applied AFTER the batteries were placed in them. Force of habit, I loaded up the chargers and then powered off the Furman and powered it back on. The charger directly attached started charging but the one attached to the RS did not. This is because when it loses power, it does not come back on when power returns. You have to hit the foot switch again. So, the next night I was in a serious scramble for batteries.

But this does point to something to be aware of. If you blow a fuse on your club gig, when the lights come back on, your gear will NOT when using the RS-4 PLUS unless you hit the switch again.

Except it actually will.

This is where I should have RTFM’d. I never looked at those rotary switches or read the instructions printed right on the bottom of the RS-4 PLUS. This updated model has several different modes. The rotary switches are labeled On and Off with positions from Zero to 15. In “Standard Mode” each click represents one second. You can determine the amount of time between each pair of outlets turning on and have a different timing for them turning off. But when one of those is set to Zero, things get interesting.

With the On switch at Zero, you access Instant On Mode. Which would have saved me from myself. In Instant On, the RS-4 PLUS comes on—one outlet at a time—as soon as power is applied. The number on the Off switch determines the amount of time between each power segment and the times for both the On and Off sequences are the same.

With the Off switch at Zero, the first pair of outlets (Receptacle One) is ALWAYS ON, regardless of the sequence. You can use this mode to make sure power is never interrupted to something crucial. Like a computer that may be playing backing tracks, for instance. In this mode, the number on the On switch determines the delay in the on-off sequence.

When both are set to the same number, you access a Timer Mode in which the entire strip powers off after a set period of time. In this case, the seconds become hours. This is a great feature for venues where those who usually turn things on and off may not be around at the end of the gig. Example: A church gig on a Wednesday night youth service where the sound guy goes home to actually spend some time with his family before the festivities end. (Sound familiar, James Elizondo and Bob Lindquist and all you other church sound guys?)

All in all. The RS-4 PLUS is gig worthy and well-built and looks good. (Note to all musicians, white power strips form Home Depot do NOT look good an stage and they make you look like an amateur.) The new modes in the updated model make it as powerful as a high-end rack-mount sequencing units from, say Middle Atlantic costing close to triple the price tag on the RS-4 PLUS. (And if you happen across one that is not updated, no fear. The new modes can be added to older units via a firmware update which the company is doing for free. And the power-strip format (versus a reach mount) actually make it useable in more situations than a straight rack-mount.

You need to carry at least one power strip almost regardless of the instrument you play. Get one that makes you look like a pro AND protects your expensive gear at the same time.

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Sequencing Options Part 2 http://www.l2pnet.com/sequencing-options-part-2/ http://www.l2pnet.com/sequencing-options-part-2/#respond Wed, 02 Mar 2016 19:40:18 +0000 http://www.l2pnet.com/?p=2434 Back in  the dark ages when one had to actually book time in a studio to make a real recording, there was a “joke” that said, “you aren’t a real engineer until you’ve erased at least one mastered recording.” In 1991, I was sequencing a completed drum part with an Alesis HR-16 drum machine. “Love, […]

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Back in  the dark ages when one had to actually book time in a studio to make a real recording, there was a “joke” that said, “you aren’t a real engineer until you’ve erased at least one mastered recording.”

In 1991, I was sequencing a completed drum part with an Alesis HR-16 drum machine. “Love, Look What You’ve Done To Me” by Boz Scaggs was almost complete, with all the Jeff Porcaro drum fills, when I accidentally hit the “erase” button. It still hurts as I write this.

I related the story to my friend Hubert Deans a few months later when he told me. “you’re working too hard. It’s much easier with a computer-based sequencing program.” He and his wife Phyllis had a duo where they used tracks they produced at his home studio. They played keys and sang the vocals live and sounded excellent.

About a year later, our local music store held a Passport MIDI seminar where their rep created a sequence using Master Tracks Pro, a GM-compatible (General MIDI, not General Motors) keyboard and a Mac computer. The sound was incredible! I was hooked and began my own efforts a short time later.

Digital Audio Workstations, or DAW’s as they are often called, allow anyone with a Mac or PC to record MIDI and/or digital audio, fine tune and then use on a gig sequences that can range from a simple drum part to dozens of MIDI and audio tracks. When played back through a quality sound system, they can often rival a band’s original recording, provided the parts are played, recorded and mixed properly. They allow a solo musician to play a wider variety of music and sound like a large group. They can also be used to create master recordings for CD release or download, and in fact, the majority of major and indie label releases are created using this type of equipment.

There are several different DAW’s on the market today. Garage Band, which comes with all Macs since 2003, is a fine, albeit basic, sequencing program. Logic Audio is Apple’s flagship DAW, and many other DAW’s, like Cubase, Pro Tools, Reason, and Performer, work for PC’s as well as Macs. Many other companies make excellent software for sequencing and all that’s required is some way to get digital audio into the program. A USB, Firewire or Thunderbolt audio interface allows you to play real guitar, bass, vocals or anything else you want into the program and save the performance for further manipulation.

A great demonstration of how to use a DAW is a scene in the movie “Music and Lyrics.” Hugh Grant’s character has to write and record a demo for a pop singer and uses Pro Tools on an iMac to do so. He played a piano part into the sequencer and recorded it and the drums as a simple General MIDI file. He then added acoustic guitar, bass and a couple vocal parts, all in less than 10 movie minutes! Most musicians may find it takes longer to get a tune recorded and mixed to their liking. The resulting song impressed his character’s female love interest, Drew Barrymore and may intetrest viewers wanting a quick example of how to create a fully built performance using multi tracking with a DAW.

Here is a screen shot of my current setup, Pro Tools. This song, the Brooks and Dunn hit “Red Dirt Road, “ has a lot of parts on it–13, to be precise. Drums, bass, two acoustic guitar parts, multiple electric guitsrs, pedal steel, B-3 organ, mandolin and a couple background vocal parts. The drums and organ parts are GM files using virtual software instruments built into Pro Tools, while the bass, guitars, mandolin, pedal steel and vocals are all digitally recorded audio, brought into the computer with an MBox 3 USB audio interface.

It took many hours of work to record, edit and mix the song, but the results are impressive and it’s been a staple of my live shows ever since working it up a few years ago. If you want to try your hand with sequencing, Garage Band is a great way to begin. It has great sounding software instruments already installed and you can use the onboard piano screen to input some notes using the mouse without the need of any audio interface. Rappers and other musicians have created records with Garage Band and it’s a fun way to delve into DAW-ville with little residual pain. PC users don’t have anything that just comes with the computer like GB, but there are many excellent programs for Windows and even Linux machines that, with an audio and/or MIDI interface, will allow you to record your own music or someone else’s. Studio One By PreSonus has a free and a paid version and, after many years of being a premium, paid, only pro product, Pro Tools now has a limited free version available as well. So no matter your platform of choice, you can in effect “try before you buy.”

PG Music’s Power Tracks Pro is an inexpensive way to sequence using PC’s and I gigged for several years with tunes recorded and performed using this program. It also works seamlessly with the company’s venerable Band In A Box software, available for Macs and PC’s. I began downloading and using GM files off the internet more than 15 years ago and you can find more than a million free songs with some digging on your part.

While the quality varies wildly, you can, with effort, edit, cut, copy and paste your way into some excellent sounding backing tracks. After doing this for a while, you can learn to write your own from scratch, if you perform original music or can’t find a sequence you like.

If you want to combine GM parts with digital audio recordings of other instruments, as I do, you may find the results give your solo or duo act just the support and punch you’ve been looking for. Be patient and take advantage of free classes offered at your local music store on using Garage Band, Pro Tools or other DAW programs. Take your time and you’ll improve the sound of your solo or duo act immeasurably.

Riley Wilson is a guitar and bass teacher, writer, voice talent and performer based in North Texas. He does solo, duo and trio gigs all over the Southwest. His websites are www.guitarmadesimpler.com and www.wrileywilson.com

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Gigging Right: Playing With Tracks http://www.l2pnet.com/2435-2/ http://www.l2pnet.com/2435-2/#respond Wed, 02 Mar 2016 19:28:40 +0000 http://www.l2pnet.com/?p=2435 By Jerry Cobb So your drummer quit, your bass player has taken up yoga and won’t learn the songs, and you can’t find a keyboard player willing to drive to your gigs? Never fear. No musician likes to admit defeat. I think in the long run, we would all prefer to have the most awesome live […]

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By Jerry Cobb

So your drummer quit, your bass player has taken up yoga and won’t learn the songs, and you can’t find a keyboard player willing to drive to your gigs? Never fear.

No musician likes to admit defeat. I think in the long run, we would all prefer to have the most awesome live band ever complete with personalities that don’t want to kill each other and people who show up and give 1000% every second.

But we live in an imperfect world. And if you’ve spent a lot of time struggling to find the right band members and can’t, or just can’t afford to pay a complete horn section or a 25 person string section, you still have options in filling out your sound.

The solution: tracks.

 

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Audio-Technica ATH-R70x Headphones Receive NAMM (TEC) Award http://www.l2pnet.com/2428-2/ http://www.l2pnet.com/2428-2/#respond Wed, 02 Mar 2016 11:51:12 +0000 http://www.l2pnet.com/?p=2428 The ATH-R70x is Audio-Technica’s first professional open-back reference headphone. Featuring Audio-Technica’s comfortable, self-adjusting 3D Wing Support Headband Design that adapts to automatically fit any wearer with no need for adjustment, the ATH-R70x also has breathable fabric ear-pads, providing prolonged comfort for continuous use in professional environments. The proprietary driver unit, specially designed for the R70x, […]

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The ATH-R70x is Audio-Technica’s first professional open-back reference headphone. Featuring Audio-Technica’s comfortable, self-adjusting 3D Wing Support Headband Design that adapts to automatically fit any wearer with no need for adjustment, the ATH-R70x also has breathable fabric ear-pads, providing prolonged comfort for continuous use in professional environments. The proprietary driver unit, specially designed for the R70x, is the culmination of over 40 years of headphone design and manufacturing experience. The ATH-R70x employs high-efficiency magnets and a pure alloy magnetic circuit design, reducing distortion and ensuring accurate and extended high frequency response. Use of its carbon composite resin improves structural rigidity to provide detailed transient response. The headphones’ acoustically transparent aluminum honeycomb mesh housing provides a natural and spacious open-back sound. The ATH-R70x’s feather-light weight (approx. 210 g w/o cable), combined with robust construction, is perfectly suited for professional use. It also features a unique dual-sided detachable locking cable that is L/R signal-independent, always ensuring proper stereo orientation.

Also see – https://www.tecawards.org/

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Adele, Grammys and Vocal Damage http://www.l2pnet.com/adele-grammys-and-vocal-damage/ http://www.l2pnet.com/adele-grammys-and-vocal-damage/#respond Fri, 19 Feb 2016 05:32:04 +0000 http://www.l2pnet.com/?p=2423 BY ANDREA BENSMILLER If you thought Adele’s Grammy performance, besides the obvious pitch problems (whether caused by bad sound or not), felt strained, pushed, tense, not quite so fluid…it was. People have probably forgotten by now that in 2012 Adele, after damaging her voice “suddenly” on a French radio show, was diagnosed with polyps on […]

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BY ANDREA BENSMILLER

If you thought Adele’s Grammy performance, besides the obvious pitch problems (whether caused by bad sound or not), felt strained, pushed, tense, not quite so fluid…it was.

People have probably forgotten by now that in 2012 Adele, after damaging her voice “suddenly” on a French radio show, was diagnosed with polyps on her vocal cords, had them removed, and then was ordered on vocal rest for a year. Supposedly, that’s supposed to cure damage of the significant kind, and allow the sufferer to just go back to being their normal vocal selves. In addition, she took time off to escape the throng of fame and had a baby.

But it leaves out a crucial part of the story about vocal cord damage, which more specifically goes like this:

There are two outer membranes of the vocal cords (or “folds”) that not only protect them but make vibration possible. The outermost is called the epithelium. It’s said to resemble the lining on the inside of the cheek. The next layer is called the superficial lamina propria, which is described as “gelatinous.” Vibrations in this layer are what produce sound. Damage to these layers result in scarring. When either of these layers has been damaged or worn thin, they do not repair themselves.

Polyps (also called nodes), and a bunch of other kinds of growths and abnormalities of the vocal cords aren’t the first sign of damage. They are actually the last sign of severe prolonged trauma.

Voice doctors have discovered recently that most polyps come after either a minor or major hemorrhage in the cord, which is a bursting of either a small or large blood vessel. Continued singing on the hemorrhage eventually results in polyps. By the time the polyp has formed, the vocal cord has been significantly changed, which is why complete healing or reversal to complete control is not common. You can’t simply repair a muscle, any muscle, in the human body without scarring and limitations.

Vocal damage is the result of careers that start too young with no training. Producers dictate the sound of young artists vocal character with limited knowledge or interest in how a raspy forced sound that sounds ever so cool in the recording will eventually damage their voice in long hours of live performances night after night.

This is why we study. How is it that some of us can sing for four or five hours in front of loud bands every night with limited monitoring for most of our lives and never end up with nodes? Technique.

It just can’t be replaced.

Which is why a growing list of new young artists are losing their voices by the second. From Adele to John Mayer to Sam Smith to tonight’s Best New Artist, Meghan Trainor. All node removal survivors. In their “prime.” Whose voices will probably never be the same.

It takes years to master technique. Certainly more time than our youth obsessed industry gives us to complete the work, and prepare for the demands of constantly using it.

And that’s truly unfortunate. Because I would bet that all of us will remember fondly the days when Adele opened her mouth and time almost stopped. I noticed when Hello came out that her technique seemed more clean and precise. But singing live isn’t the controlled utopia of the studio where multiple good days’ tracks can be comped into a seamless stellar performance.

The voice is a stunning gift. And can be easily robbed of us.

In subtle and unexpected ways.

There’s just no substitute for good education.

(Medical source: Dr. Reena Gupta, Osborne Head & Neck Institute. Voice Doctor LA)

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