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Everything posted by cmloeffler_1

  1. Turn Your Computer Into a Guitar Amp - And Much More $249 list, $199 street www.native-instruments.com by Craig Anderton Although software has made huge inroads in recording and with keyboardists, one of the "Holy Grails" for software companies has been a product that cracks open the huge guitar player market. With millions of guitarists out there, who wouldn't want a piece of that action? \\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_ Check Out the Sounds of Guitar Rig (these sounds have no mastering or sweetening) Two tape decks: Using tape decks to add an overdub to an existing track. Twang reverb: The sound of the Twang Reverb amp sim. Basic 800: The sound of the 800 amp sim. Police reggae: An Andy Summers-type sound. Lead sound: A typical lead guitar patch. Cool lead: Lead sound with additional effects and delay. Chorused sound: A really sweet, full chorus effect. \\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_\\\_ Until fairly recently, many of the barriers that kept guitar players from getting into computer-based effects and amp simulation were technical, with the main one being latency - the time that elapses between playing a note and hearing it. After all, it takes a certain amount of time for the computer to process your signal. For musicians used to hitting a string and hearing something instantly, having a delay was just too disconcerting. And price was a factor: Not only did you need a high-performance computer to minimize latency, you also needed an interface (which was usually designed for recording, and overkill for guitarists) and software, which was typically designed for professionals and priced accordingly. But times have changed. Thanks to multicore technology, today's computers are fast enough that latency isn't much of an issue - and prices are actually lower than the slower computers of yesteryear. And now Native Instruments, a company with years of experience in guitar amp/effects modeling, has stepped into the low-cost arena with Guitar Rig SESSION. This bundle provides the other two pieces of the puzzle: An inexpensive, yet high-performance interface designed specifically for guitar players, along with amp/effects modeling software that - rather than trying to be all things to all people - intends to provide the essentials at a reasonable price. It also includes a sample player for making backing tracks and DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software. For under $200 street, just about any guitar player with a decent computer can now afford to get into the world of computer-based playing and recording. MODELING VERSUS THE "REAL THING" Want to start a brawl? Get a group of guitar players together, and just say the word "modeling." Some will contend that modeling can never sound like an amp - that it sounds thin, flat, and lifeless. Others will say that modeling lets them get a collection of sounds they'd never be able to get otherwise, and that it sounds great. Sounds thin! Sounds great! Sounds flat! Sounds fantastic! (Better duck before someone lands a punch on you.) But while I often hear people say an amp simulator can't sound like a physical amp, the reverse is also true: A physical amp can't sound like an amp sim. If you want to hear what a step-sequenced wa-wa with backwards echo sounds like going through an AC30 with a Twin Reverb cabinet while split into a JCM800 with an Orange cabinet, it's possible to set that up in hardware but it's expensive and time-consuming. For an amp sim, that kind of scenario is all in a day's work. However, there's a far more important issue at play here, so listen up: The amp sim's presets were not designed with you in mind. Odds are they were done by someone with a different guitar, with different pickups, who uses a different type of pick than you do, and plays a different style of music. If you just step through the presets, the odds are against those sounds being perfect for you. I've played with enough amp sims over the years that I'm pretty confident in making this statement: Unless you know how to tweak the software, you won't be able to exploit amp sims to their fullest. As one example, I was testing out Line 6's GearBox software for a review, and I thought the sounds were dreadful. What were they thinking?!? Well apparently, they were thinking with a guitar that had a lower output than mine - or maybe they didn't play as hard, or used a thinner pick with lighter gauge strings. In any event, as soon as I pulled back the preamp gain control, everything snapped right into place. Nasty, fizzy distortion turned into beefy, chunky sounds. Thin lead lines became lyrical and sweet...you get the idea. And my first experience with Native Instruments' Guitar Rig (and every other amp sim, for that matter) was similar. So, the bottom line with evaluating amp sim software isn't just about the raw sounds and components that are available for making various sounds, but how easy it is to tweak them to your bidding - if you have to go through pages of sub-menus just to pull back the treble, you're not going to be happy. Fortunately, one of the great things about Guitar Rig 3 XE is that a lot of attention has been paid to workflow. THE HARDWARE The cross-platform Session I/O interface requires USB 2.0, and is USB-powered - there aren't even provisions for a wall wart. This also means that you probably want to avoid using a USB hub, but if you do, make sure it's a powered one. Guitar Rig SESSION I/O's rear panel. Looking at the rear panel, from left to right there are line-level outputs from your computer (these are suitable for feeding powered monitors, mixers, PA systems, etc.), a Kensington lock, USB connector, and +48V phantom power switch (which produced +43.2V with my unit - a tiny bit under spec, but not a problem). Let's get the main limitation out of the way first: No MIDI interface, which is particularly important because the Session I/O interface doesn't have a control pedal input. Fortunately, there are plenty of available MIDI interfaces for Mac and Windows (I like Tapco's Link.MIDI; it's inexpensive and works well). The I/O's front panel The front panel is equally simple. There's a Neutrik XLR mic connector, two inputs with gain controls (switched as a pair to line or instrument level using the Line/Inst switch), and two output controls: One that controls the level to the output jacks, and another for front-panel headphones. Note that the box has a sturdy aluminum frame; protruding knobs notwithstanding, I doubt you'll have to "baby" this box. The top view shows the various indicators. As to displays, there are activity/overload LEDs for both inputs, and indicators that show the chosen instrument input. A final indicator shows whether the phantom power switch is on or not - and that's it for the hardware, except to say that the sound quality exceeds expectations: The Cirrus Logic AD/DA converters go up to 24-bit/192kHz, which should take care of you. Once you're set up with the interface, it's time to get going with Guitar Rig 3 XE. We'll start off using it in standalone mode, but then use it as a plug-in with Cubase LE 4. GETTING READY Using Guitar Rig 3 XE as a virtual amp setup is easy - once you've connected a USB cable, ins and outs are available on the Session I/O. Now all you have to do is get it to talk to the software. (Note: My Mac sometimes wouldn't recognize that Session I/O was connected; unplugging the USB cable, then re-plugging, solved that.) Preferences specifies several Session-related parameters. GR3 XE's Preferences is where you set the sample rate, output device, amount of latency (start out around 15ms, then reduce to the lowest value possible without the audio breaking up or distorting). On my quad-core Mac Pro, that ended up being well under 10ms - typically 8ms at 44.1kHz, and 6ms at 96kHz. To put things in perspective, 8ms is the amount of delay you'd experience by being about eight feet away from your amp. Enabling the HI Q option is the "special sauce" for getting the most realistic distortion modeling. As far as I'm concerned, the most important control in GR3 is the HI Q button, located to the immediate left of the NI logo in the upper right. Enabling this doubles the hit on your CPU, but makes for a night and day difference in sound quality, particularly with distorted sounds. Once you use HI Q, you won't disable it unless you absolutely have to, or are using mostly clean sounds. Next up: Setting levels, and GR3 has a very cool "Learn" button - click on it, hit the guitar as loud as you're going to hit it - done. Your input levels are now optimized. Setting levels is a snap - just tell GR3 XE to "learn" the levels, and adjust its input accordingly. GUITAR RIG 3 XE'S ARCHITECTURE Guitar Rig uses a "virtual rack" approach, and the following image shows all available components you can use to make a rig. Here you can see all the available modules - seven amps, five distortions, four modulators, four EQs, three dynamics, three delays, and two modulation sources (input level trigger and LFO). You drag these into the rack, in any order you want, to create a particular rig. As expected, the more modules you use, the more CPU power you'll need. Drag-and-drop components to create a rig. Here, the Transamp distortion processor is being dragged between the Wah and Gratifier amp. However, even running complex programs at high sample rates with low latency and the HI Q button enabled (pretty much the worst case scenario for saving CPU power!), GR still used well under 50\\\% CPU on my Mac. With some modules, there's additional power "under the hood" - check out the additional controls under the main controls. Some components even have hidden "advanced" controls. Hiding them keeps Guitar Rig from being too intimidating, but the power's there if you want it. For example, with amps you can change a "variac" parameter (i.e., the virtual line voltage), power supply regulation, response, and other characteristics. EXTRA "HELPERS" Guitar Rig 3 XE isn't just about amp and effect simulation: There's a metronome, tuner, and two "tape decks" which of course, have nothing to do with tape! Seriously, these are two "scratchpad" recorders that go at the end and beginning of the signal chain, and they're really handy. For one thing, this is how I recorded all the audio examples: I didn't need any other sequencer or anything, I just enabled the second tape deck at the output, clicked on record, then saved the resulting file for later editing. In addition to the Input and Output stages, note Tape Deck 1, the Tuner, the Metronome, and Tape Deck 2. However, you can also record a riff at Tape Deck 2 and transfer it to Tape Deck 1 at the input. And, you can set loop points on what you transferred. So you could, for example, record a chord progression in Tape Deck 2, transfer it to Tape Deck 1, loop the part you want to practice against, then play away (that's how I added the harmony line in the "Two Tape Decks" audio example). Furthermore, you can then record the original part and the overdub into Tape Deck 2, and add yet another overdub. Nor are you restricted to filling Tape Deck 1 with content from Tape Deck 2; you can load an audio file of, say, a song and play against that, or record your guitar coming into Guitar Rig 3 XE. (Incidentally, Guitar Rig 3 XE includes some content, such as backing track loops, suitable for loading into the Tape Decks.) But wait, there's more: You can also send the Tape Deck 1 out directly to the audio output, or run it through the various processors. The latter is tremendously helpful for tweaking a program for your guitar: Record a riff, then have the Tape Deck play it over and over again while you adjust the various parameters. Normally, you'd have to play, then tweak, then play, etc. The Tape Deck is a great way around this, and the combination of two Tape Decks makes for an excellent practice tool. AND MIDI, TOO... Although the Session I/O doesn't have MIDI built-in, Guitar Rig 3 XE includes comprehensive MIDI control options for its parameters. There are a few ways to take advantage of this; for example, Line 6's KB37 keyboard connects to your computer via USB (no MIDI interface required), and includes four knobs you can assign to various Guitar Rig 3 XE parameters, a control pedal input, and of course, a keyboard which is ideal for playing the sounds in the Kore player. M-Audio, CME, and several other companies make USB MIDI keyboards. GR3 XE parameters can also be automated within Cubase LE 4 if you're using GR3 XE as a plug-in. A virtual representation of the Rig Kontrol hardware shows up in the lower right. As shown in the controller assignment page on the left, you can make global or per-program assignments for the pedal and switches (e.g., the Pedal could always control wa, or control different parameters in different programs). What's more, GR3 XE supports Native Instruments' Rig Kontrol (version 1, 2, or 3), a footpedal/footswitch controller for stage or studio that's also available separately - although Rig Kontrol 3 will set you back more than the entire cost of Session. Still, if you crave control, this makes a great companion for GR3 XE. Note that you can also control GR3 XE from the virtual Kontrol Rig shown on screen in the same way as you would the physical controller. Actually, the control options are very sophisticated - we don't have the time or space to get into them all here. Suffice it to say that you have no excuse for static sounds, whether using GR3 XE as a plug-in or in standalone mode. THE BUNDLE In addition to Guitar Rig SESSION, you also get Steinberg's Cubase LE 4, Kore Player (for playing back NI's optional-at-extra-cost SoundPacks), and the Pop Drums SoundPack so you can start creating rhythm tracks out of the box, and record vocals and other instruments into Cubase LE 4. Cubase LE 4 deserves props, because it's not just a toy but a very useable sequencer that owes much to the Cubase legacy. Given that you don't have to pay anything for it, it's a great addition. This isn't so much a Cubase LE 4 review, but Korg (which bundles LE 4 with some of its products) has an excellent feature summary online. (Note that there's an upgrade path to the full version of Cubase 4 for $499.99; an upgrade to Cubase 4 Studio is $299.99, and Cubase 4 Essential, $99.99.) Here's a shot of the Kore Player and GR3 XE running under Cubase LE 4. A drum loop is selected in the Kore Player, but as you can see, a bunch of other sounds are available. The Kore Player is a free download, so in a way, it doesn't add value to the package. However, it's a very cool instrument; you can find out more information and specs from the Native Instruments web site. However, what does add value is the Pop Drums SoundPack, which normally lists for $79. It not only includes drum sounds you can play from a MIDI keyboard or MIDI drum pads, but has four loops with automatable variations that are way more fun to play with than a metronome. What's more, there's a library of MIDI files you can use with Cubase LE 4: Funk, Indie, Basics, and Ballad each have 64 MIDI files for verses, breaks, choruses, etc. Several SoundPacks are available now, with more being added from time to time. CONCLUSIONS First of all, you're not committed to getting Guitar Rig 3 XE only as part of the Session package, as it's available separately for around $99 street price. However, if you don't have a suitable interface, DAW software, or drum samples for making drum tracks, Session represents excellent value. Although there's comprehensive documentation for each part of the package, I think it would be helpful to have some document that explains how all the pieces fit together: For example, a tutorial on how to create a drum track in Cubase LE 4 using the Kore Player, then how to overdub a guitar track using Guitar Rig 3 XE and a vocal using its mic input. This would definitely help the "just getting started" audience for whom Session is eminently well-suited. Furthermore, while Guitar Rig 3 XE includes a bass amp/cabinet model for bassists, Native Instruments never really makes it clear that a lot of the XE effects (e.g., graphic EQ, compressor, reverb, delays, chorus) sound great on vocals...the XLR mic input is there for more than just decoration! Perhaps one of the most important factors is that, despite its low cost, Guitar Rig SESSION doesn't feel like a "teaser" product that exists mostly to convince you to upgrade to the full versions of Guitar Rig, Cubase, and Kore; you can make complete recordings with what's included. In fact, this is all many guitarists will really need, whether beginner or seasoned pro. In today's recessionary times, that's saying a lot. Craig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  2. KORG PANDORA PX5D Multi-effects for Guitar and Bass By Jon Chappell The Korg Pandora PX5D is the latest in the series of Korg’s well-established mini-multi-effects processors for guitars and basses. This device is similarly sized as its predecessors—slightly larger than a deck of cards and an easy fit into your shirt or pants pocket when unplugged. It sports the same sound-generating engine, Korg’s own REMS (Resonant structure and Electronic circuit Modeling System), but the PX5D’s interface is improved significantly, including the addition of several realtime controls (including dedicated gain/mid, bass, treble, and volume wheels). The Pandora line has always packed tons of features into a small but intuitively manageable and completely readable format, but the PX5D offers even more bells and whistles than previous Pandoras. In addition to the effects, I/O, rhythm composer, phrase trainer, and utilities (noise reduction, tuner, backlight options, footswitch configuration, MIDI, etc.), the PX5D has USB audio and data capabilities, allowing it to interface with any digital recording software (it ships with a version of Ableton Live Lite) and the included editor/librarian program for programming and data management (Windows XP only as of this writing). Korg has promoted the PX5D to serve equally well in three settings: live, practice, and recording, so we’ll explore the unit with those activities always in mind. The PX5D can be powered one of three ways: 1) on two AA batteries (which offer about 7 hours of continuous use); 2) with an optional AC adaptor; 3) or through USB power. Whenever I was near a computer, I always opted for USB power, which saves on batteries. Using the display’s backlight option with batteries drains them faster, but with USB, you can run the backlight 24/7. If you have a powered USB hub, you don’t even need a computer, and you won’t have to purchase the optional AC adaptor to run the PX5D. Though the package doesn’t come with the AC adaptor, it does include a stereo breakout cable to support two footswitches, which you’ll definitely want to employ for live use. Footswitches allow you to step through programs as well as perform transport functions (start/stop/record) in the Phrase Trainer and Rhythm & Bass modes. The PX5D accepts external audio signals in both its USB and 1/8" stereo inputs, so you can record your guitar and another source for use in the phrase trainer or sent to your software recorder. There is a three-way switch for USB power, On (using the batteries), and Standby (meaning “Off”), plus a low/high input switch for optimizing the signal of your particular type of pickup. The 1/4" output jack doubles as a stereo headphone out and stereo/mono line out for connecting to an amp or mixer. For a detailed look at the features, we’ll start with the modeling and effects and move on to the rhythm and bass patterns, the phrase trainer, the I/O (which includes live control), and finish up with the interfacing and utility capabilities. Even if you don’t need to do heavy editing in some of these sections, you can appreciate the features just by sampling the pre-programmed versions the PX5D ships with. The PX5D offers 100 presets and 100 user locations with a four-point cursor switch that allows you to easily scroll up or down through both banks (preset and user), and will “wrap around the corner” (to go easily from U99 to P00 and P99 to U00 in any direction). You can assign four of your favorite sounds to four large, centrally located program memory switches (A, B, C, D) for one-touch access. You can also use a footswitch to go up and down through the presets or through the memory switches for hands-free operation. Each program allows up to 7 simultaneous effects, which includes the more “modeled” sounds of pickups, amps, and cabinets, as well as the more traditionally conceived effects, like dynamics (compressor, wah, exciter, etc.) modulation (chorus, flanger, phaser, pitch shifter, etc.), delay, and reverb. Stepping through the presets gives an instant demonstration of the variety of sounds—distorted, clean, acoustic, complex, straightforward, spacey, high-tech, and non-guitar (e.g., resonator and synth simulations). Effects The PX5D offers 100 presets and 100 user locations with a four-point cursor switch that allows you to easily scroll up or down through both banks (preset and user), and will “wrap around the corner” (to go easily from U99 to P00 and P99 to U00 in any direction). You can assign four of your favorite sounds to four large, centrally located program memory switches (A, B, C, D) for one-touch access. You can also use a footswitch to go up and down through the presets or through the memory switches for hands-free operation. Each program allows up to 7 simultaneous effects, which includes the more “modeled” sounds of pickups, amps, and cabinets, as well as the more traditionally conceived effects, like dynamics (compressor, wah, exciter, etc.) modulation (chorus, flanger, phaser, pitch shifter, etc.), delay, and reverb. Stepping through the presets gives an instant demonstration of the variety of sounds—distorted, clean, acoustic, complex, straightforward, spacey, high-tech, and non-guitar (e.g., resonator and synth simulations. The Pandora presents the fixed scheme of effects in this order. DYNA (for dynamics—compression, auto-wah, etc.—and pickup modeling) AMP (amp modeling, including 15 guitar and 10 bass amps) CAB (for speaker cabinet modeling, including the speakers themselves) MOD (for modulation and filter effect modeling) DLY (for delay effects, including tap tempo) REV (for reverb and ambient effects) NR (noise reduction, for cutting off the audio in high-gain settings) Noise reduction is not shown in the display as the 6 other effects are, but is available and editable. So a typical program using all 7 effects might have this scheme: DYNA: HUM -> SGL AMP: UK BLUES CAB: 4X 12CLS MOD: PHASER 1 DLY: SLAP 1 REV: SPRING2 NR: 4.3 Translated, that means you’ve enlisted the pickup modeler to turn your humbucker into a single-coil; you chose a British vintage stack amp head and married it to a closed-back cabinet with four 25W 12-inch speakers; you’re strapping on a vintage-style four-stage phaser with a thick midrange; you’ve thickened it with some slapback delay; and you’re slathering the whole thing in a dense spring reverb. You’ve also dialed in some noise reduction, which helps quell the single-coil hum in a high-gain situation when you’re not actually playing. There are far too many selectable models to list here, and there’s no online pdf available yet, but you can download the manual from Korg's web site. Sometimes you’ll find an effect in the DYNA section that you thought might be somewhere else—like in the MOD section—so it pays to read carefully through the DYNA choices, as this contains the widest variety and most dissimilar types of effects. For example, in addition to the usual dynamics processors like compression and limiting, there are also “pedal models” such as wahs, octavers, fuzz, overdrives, a ring modulator, and lowcut (for reducing sub-audio frequencies when recording). Here’s where I found several neat effects for bass, including Preamp1 (for producing a clean clear bass tone), Balance (which models the sound of blending the output of two bass pickups), and my favorite, Fretless (which effectively simulates a fretless bass by adding slight envelope to the sound). Sounds! Korg already has recorded some impressive demos using just the presets, featuring David Spann and Paul Kramer; they're available at http://korg.com/PX5D, Effects Continued Okay, so you see that there are 7 effect blocks, and I’ve posted the page from the manual of the first effect, DYNA. There are 6 more effects to go, and within each block are numerous options, just as in the DYNA block. All told, there are 180 separate REMS-modeled effects to choose from, and each is editable in some way—including the ability to turn it off and keep it out of the chain entirely. Pretty flexible stuff here. Following are the other 6 REMS-modeled blocks, and brief descriptions of their operation. Amp There are 34 different amp models here, from clean boutiques to British and American classics (Tweeds, Blackfaces, Boogies, Marshalls, Vox AC15’s and AC30’s, etc.). In the manual, each amp model comes with a recommended speaker cabinet, and it’s a good idea to start off here, but you’re certainly welcome to experiment with different cab combinations. Within the amp modeling section is where you find the guitar and bass synth simulations. If you listen to the mp3 from the previous post 16\_Subsynth-Ds.mp3, you’ll hear one of them in action. There are three guitar synths and three bass synths, and the parameters include filter cutoff range, envelope decay, waveform selection, synth and guitar or bass level. Cabinet The PX5D provides 23 different cabinets: open- and closed-back, speaker size (10” bass vs. 12” guitar) and configuration (1x12, 2x10, 4x12, etc.). The cabinets are also labeled by quality, so you have selections such as “4x12 Vox closed back with neodymium speakers” vs. “4x12 closed back with 30W speakers” vs. “4x12 closed back with 25W speakers.” There are several bass amp cabs here, too. Modulation There are 56 total modulation effects here, but many are variations of each other (like 4 flangers and 4 talk boxes). But it’s an impressive array, and you get an intelligent pitch shifter as well as the usual time-based effects (phaser, chorus, flanger, rotarty, etc.). Some of the more interesting effects in this section include a feedback generator that artificially produces feedback at pitch or one octave higher. There are the aforementioned talkboxes, random step filters, a drone generator that sounds like a tambura, an envelope pitch shifter (which varies the pitch according to the strength of your pick attack), "infinite” flangers that raise or lower the pitch “forever” (listen to Ascend\_p35.mp3), and other sonic mischief you can get into. Delay You can choose from 6 different delays (Slap, Echo, Clear Delay, Ping-pong, Multi, Reverse), and each has 5 variations with different feedback amounts. This isn’t as versatile as having individual and continuous control over the feedback parameter itself, but you can get pretty close to any sound just by stepping through choices 1-5. To hear a reverse delay, listen to Reverse\_P49.mp3. Because it’s more critical to have control over delay time, the Delay block includes a sub-block just for adjusting the delay time. You can go from 20 ms to 1,000 ms in 20 ms increments. You can also tap the tempo in via the front panel button or a footswitch, and the display will reflect the millisecond (but not the tempo) interval. Reverb 11 Reverbs round out the last of the true effects (there’s one more to go, Noise Reduction), and include plates and springs, as well as simulated rooms and halls. Three novel programs appear: Dryair, which produces a sensation of dry air, and Wetair, which does the same thing in a moisturized version. Then there’s a non-natural, but nevertheless pleasing “Bright” selection which makes the air sparkle. Check out12String\_p38.mp3to hear this program. Noise Reduction The final block has only one program, but it’s treated as an effect with respect to the signal chain architecture. It appears last in the chain, and as such will cut off any reverb tails. Some people would prefer to put their noise gate in front of the reverb, but none of the effects in the PX5D is movable. A noise gate is a welcome addition to any effect multi-effect, and better to have it than not. That concludes the tour of the effects section. The wide variety of sounds is truly impressive, and there are many surprises and unorthodox sounds (like the synth sounds and the reverse delay) to be found in and amongst the standard fare. Changing sounds within the blocks is quick and easy, and I used the manual often here, not because I needed help navigating the interface, but because I could see the listings and descriptions of the effects themselves. Rhythm & Bass Mode As with previous Pandoras, the PX5D comes with a programmable rhythm unit, called "Rhythm & Bass" mode. It works in the modular way, similar to drum machines, where you have existing patterns that can be chained into songs and arrangements. There are 128 total patterns and you can organize up to 16 of these patterns in a single chain. You can save up to 20 chains inside the machine itself. If that isn’t enough, you can offload them into SoundEditor, the included editor/librarian (assuming you’re running a Windows XP computer). So while the number of patterns is fixed, the ways to chain them together are infinite if you employ SoundEditor. Initially, I thought there was one more level, called “Song,” but it turns out this option just selects the demo songs pre-programmed (and uneditable) into the unit. It’s a bit of a drag to have the demo mode get equal billing in the interface, making you cycle through it (pattern/chain/song, pattern/chain/song, etc.) every time you want to work in the rhythm composer. I don’t mind a hard-wired demo song, but it’s better to have it accessed through some obscure combination of button presses so that it doesn’t get in the way of daily work. 128 patterns certainly already seems like a lot, but it’s really more when you consider that each of the patterns offer two variations, which you can access by hitting the Enter/Rec switch. The usual complement of grooves are presented here, including Rock, Pop, Metal, Disco, Drums ’n’ Bass, Ska, various Latin grooves, 6/8, 7/8, 9/8, 2/4, 3/4, 5/4, Blues, Reggae, etc. Also included are 8 basic metronome sounds, which is nice, as some instructional situations don’t require a “groove,” just a nice steady tick from the metronome. Even these have two variations each! To hear what the bass and drums sound like, here’s a recording of about one minute's worth of Demo Song 1. Pretty good quality, and not over-hyped with respect to EQ or ambient treatment. I especially like the bass guitar, snare, and hi-hats (closed, open, half-open). Interestingly, the audio from the drums and bass iwill capture some artifacts from the guitar and bass programs if you have an outrageous effect going. Aside from that, you can't isolate the drums from the guitar (say, for separate processing in your DAW). Both are mixed to the PX5D's stereo output with no panning options. PX5D Demo Song 1 One very cool feature is that you can record the rhythm and your guitar playing in the Phrase Trainer (discussed later), for repeated looping and tempo adjustments. SoundEditor -- the editor librarian for sounds and rhythms Since we’ve explored the preset sounds and the Rhythm & Bass mode, it’s a good time to take a look at SoundEditor, the editor/librarian that ships with the PX5D. It’s available only for Windows XP at this time, but Mac and Vista versions should be coming soon. Check korg.com/PX5D for details if you’re on one of those operating systems. If you’re not used to a USB editor for a multi-effects, and you like to tweak sounds, then this is for you. I’ve already mentioned the two benefits of plugging your PX5D into a computer using the USB cable: 1) it draws power from the computer and saves batteries (and you can keep the backlight on indefinitely; 2) it allows you to record your guitar and the rhythm sounds directly into an audio program (GarageBand, Audacity, Traktion, Live, Cubase, Cakewalk, etc.). But the third option is that you can use the computer screen to edit your sounds. This has several advantages. For one, you can see all the parameters at once, so if you’re editing an amp sound, you really want to see all the parameters at once—like you would on your amp panel. And you can’t do this if you’re just looking at the PX5D. Take a look at this image to see P22, “Supacln,” to see all the amp parameters (as well as the effects selection and settings) at once Remember, tweaking on the computer screen makes changes on the unit itself, though the magic of USB (and the converse is also true). Of course, because SoundEditor is not just an editor, but a librarian as well, you can save any sound you create into a user location. You can make several versions of the same sound with just one slight difference and load them all in, which is a good way to A/B (or A/B/C/D, etc., as necessary) a pair or group of sounds. Rhythm & Bass Programming with SoundEditor SoundEditor also works with the PX5D Rhythm & Bass Mode, and it’s just as valuable for creating chains—Korg’s parlance for drum-machine-style programming of songs. Here, you chain together patterns and their variations, transposing as necessary the bass part to match the chords of the song. For example, take a look at the image below, which is “Chain\_01,” a 12-bar blues. If you look at the patterns while listening along to the mp3, you can really see how the patterns work. You will also realize how much easier it would be to program songs, jams, and grooves using SoundEditor than trying to use the PX5D’s front panel. But you can do that too. It just takes longer and it requires a lot of concentration. The chain mode allows up to 16 different patterns, but that doesn’t mean your music is limited to 16 bars. Note that in the “Repeat” slot, you can specify how many times a pattern plays. This is not as good as being able to, say, write your own drum fills or the individual bass notes, but it’s pretty versatile. Check out Chain\_01: PX5D's 12-bar blues.mp3 \_ Remember: Listen along to the mp3 while "reading" the above image. It's one bar (four beats) for all the Repeat windows that say "x1" and two bars for all patterns with "x2." After you get familiar with the form (and can keep your place in the music), then you can see how the basic, variation, and transposed patterns interact to create a usable blues groove. I picked the 12-bar blues because most people will have a pretty good feel for this anyway. (Note that the following 4 slots of the available 16 are left blank.)
  3. This thing is THE modulation box. It sounds amazing and is easy to use live, and in the studio the pure array of options will keep you writing new material!!!
  4. This thing is SO much more than a boost... it's a full range boost, treble boost, fat boost, amp emulator, OD, Distortion, and Fuzz pedal and a noiseless amp splitter as well for those who want to play with two amps!!! Very much worth the money and a boost unlike any other. All of Mayers pedals seem so simple but have so many tweakable things if you want them... true sign of a musicians pedal.
  5. This thing sounds amazing and is extremely useful in both rhythym and solo settings. The only downsides are that it is a little large and that fuzz in general is sort of a one trick pony. There are a lot of different sounds, but they're all fuzz. Defiantely the best fuzz I've played when compared to: Tonebender, Fuzz Face, Big Muff Pi, Zvex Fuzz Factory.
  6. I've owned a lot of chorus units, including a Keeley modded Boss CE2 and Analogman Stereo Clone Clone (both excellent pedals) but sold them all once the Medusa arrived. It just covers so much sonic territory with such great sound quality that even those high-end, great sounding pedals couldn't keep up. I wouldn't recommend this pedal to someone who only uses chorus occasionally and is looking for one sound... this is a pedal for people who enjoy modulation and love to fine tune their sounds beyond the typical "speed" and "depth" parameters. It really is the end-all chorus pedal.
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