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Phil O'Keefe

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  1. "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" - Bachman Turner Overdrive Triple word score.
  2. I can change that for you - and for anyone else who would like me to. Just drop me a PM and let me know what you'd like your custom title to say, and as long as it's not too risque', I'll take care of it for you.
  3. Is this rotary speaker emulator so good it will make your head spin, or will it have you going 'round in circles trying to get it to sound good? For the answer to that, you'll have to check out my full review... And as always, if you have any questions or comments about either the pedal or the review, please feel free to post them here.
  4. Hey puretube! Good to see you! So... what does everyone think of the new software? If you have any problems of questions, drop me a PM and I'll try to help you get things worked out.
  5. Actually, yes - yes they have. For all the details, check out my review of the new TF-5 stereo pair of small diaphragm condensers. And as always, if you have any questions or comments about the review or the mics, please feel free to post them here.
  6. I’ve noticed that too... Saturdays are less busy than weekdays, and Sunday is the least busy spam day of all. Maybe the bots get the day off?
  7. Three spins for the price of one… When Fender released their latest line of effects pedals in January of 2018 they created quite a stir. The overall impression among reviewers (including this reviewer) and musicians has been very positive, and this is arguably the best line of pedals Fender has ever made. And it just keeps getting better, because while I lamented the lack of certain pedal types from the original lineup in one of my previous reviews, Fender keeps expanding it and adding new pedals. No matter what kind of effect you're after, Fender probably now offers it. Case in point - the Fender Pinwheel under review here, which adds a rotary speaker emulator to the line. Let’s take one for a spin and see what it has to offer. What You Need To Know The Fender Pinwheel is a rotary speaker simulator in guitar pedal format. It is also suitable for use with keyboards too; a small switch on the back of the pedal allows you to change the voicing for either instrument type. The Pinwheel is housed in a light green, anodized aluminum housing that measures 3.75” W x 2.5” H x 4.9” L and weighs 1.2 pounds. The input and output jacks are mounted on the sides of the pedal. On the input side you get both a mono (left) and right input, so you can feed The Pinwheel stereo signals or run it in mono, although like all rotary speaker simulations, it’s more impressive sounding when running in stereo. Also on the input side is a jack for connecting an expression pedal, or a remote switch. The function of this jack (EXP or FS) is controlled by a small switch on the back of the pedal. A TRS plug-equipped expression pedal can be used to control the rate of the pedal’s modulation, while using an external switch allows you to remotely trigger fast / slow speed switching. The output side of the pedal has two output jacks - use the left I/O jacks when running the pedal in mono. There are three Modes available which can be selected with a small toggle switch on the top of the Pinwheel - two Modes emulate the sound of Leslie® speakers - the classic Model 122 (Mode 1) and a Model 145 (Mode 2) with a bit less low end emphasis. You also get a emulation of Fender’s own single rotor (actually, a rotating styrofoam drum in front of a fixed speaker) Vibratone speaker cabinet. Like all of the pedals in Fender’s latest line, the Pinwheel has LED illuminated pointer indicators built into the top of each control knob. These can be turned off with a switch on the back of the pedal, but it’s such a cool and useful feature that I doubt many people will opt to do so. Speaking of knobs, with a total of seven, The Pinwheel is a fairly knob-heavy pedal, but not to worry - there’s a reason for each control, and everything is well laid out and makes sense from a user interface standpoint. The Drive knob is designed to give you some tube amp-like saturation, and it does a nice job of adding grit to the sound - which is an essential element of a real tube power amp-equipped rotating speaker cabinet. Turning it up higher gives you a more saturated sound. The Tone control also influences the tone of the virtual power amp, and works as you’d expect, offering darker timbres when turned down, and brighter sounds when turned up. The Level control adjusts the amount of Drive signal that is added to your instrument’s dry signal. The Pinwheel, like many rotary speaker cabinets, offers two user-selectable speeds. The Fast and Slow knobs set the rotary / modulation speeds for the simulation when running in fast and slow modes, respectively. A yellow-green Rate LED between the two knobs flashes at the current speed for whichever speed mode is currently selected. The Ramp knob controls the amount of time it takes the pedal to “ramp” (or speed up / down) between slow and fast (or fast and slow) speed settings. The last knob is labeled “SENS” (sensitivity) and this feature is something you won’t find on most rotary speaker emulators. It allows you to control the speed of the pedal’s modulation depending on how hard you play, without having to manually hit the speed footswitch. The SENS knob sets the threshold and determines how hard you need to play to trigger the speed switching. Turning this control fully counter-clockwise disables the dynamically-controlled rate feature. You can also disable the dynamics by using the Dynamics switch on the rear of the pedal. A red LED illuminates to indicate when the threshold has been hit, and once it is, the pedal will switch (using whatever Ramp settings you’ve selected) from Slow to Fast speeds, and then back to Slow again once the signal level falls below the threshold level set by the SENS knob. In addition to the four switches already mentioned for controlling the guitar / keyboard voicing, turning the knob LEDs on and off, turning the Dynamics feature on and off and for the footswitch type selection, you’ll also find the power input on the back of the pedal. The Pinwheel requires a user-supplied 9V DC adapter with a center-negative wired 5.5 mm x 2.1 mm plug for operation. The power jack is mounted on the rear of the pedal. The Pinwheel has two footswitches. The one on the left is a Bypass footswitch and turns the effect on and off. A Fender amp-style green jewel lamp lights up when the effect is active. The right footswitch allows you to switch between slow and fast modulation speeds. It also can be used as a “brake”, which can be useful when you want to have the modulation slow down and completely stop for brief periods without having to completely bypass the effect - just step on and hold down the Slow/Fast (Break) footswitch and the modulation will slow to a stop and remain stopped for as long as you continue to hold down the footswitch. Limitations Battery powering for The Pinwheel is not an option. To be fair, the power requirements for this pedal would eat batteries in next to no time, so this isn’t really a criticism - just something you need to be aware of. With the Pinwheel requiring 310 mA of 9V DC power, you’ll also need to make sure you have a power supply with enough amperage to properly power the pedal - your typical Boss or Ibanez-style power adapter may not be sufficient. The green jewel lamp that serves as the effect on / off indicator is really bright. Conclusions It’s great to see Fender finally offering a world-class line of effects pedals, and I’m happy to see them expanding the lineup with some of the modulation pedal types that were missing from the initial two or three batches of pedals that were released. The Pinwheel is a really sweet pedal, and a worthy addition to the lineup. All three of the Modes are useful and sound good, and it will really come down to individual preference as to which one sounds “best” - but it’s certainly nice to have a few options. The Vibratone single-rotor emulation is particularly nice, and offers a distinctly different sound than the more commonly-encountered Leslie® emulations, both of which are also quite good - especially when running into a stereo amp setup. Similarly, the Drive, while not a substitute for your favorite dirt pedal, does give you a good approximation of some of the tube amp grit and drive you can get from a rotating speaker cabinet that’s being worked hard. While I found I generally preferred to leave the Dynamics function turned off and treat the pedal more like a traditional rotating speaker, there’s no doubt the feature will prove to be useful for some players, and it does a good job of providing dynamic responsiveness depending on how hard you play. While nothing sounds quite like sitting in the room with a real rotating speaker cabinet, The Pinwheel is an effective and convincing emulation, and a pedal like this is certainly a lot easier to take with you than a large and heavy rotating speaker cabinet. Overall, I was very impressed with The Pinwheel, and it’s nice to see Fender continuing to offer new options in this very cool line of pedals. Take a Pinwheel for a spin yourself at your local Fender dealer and see if it impresses you too! -HC- Want to discuss the Fender Pinwheel or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Effects forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion! Resources Fender The Pinwheel Rotary Speaker Emulator ($269.99 "street") Fender’s product web page. You can purchase the Fender Pinwheel Rotary Speaker Emulator from: Fender Sweetwater Guitar Center Musician's Friend _________________________________________________________________ Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.
  8. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts once it arrives...
  9. Actually, it should be much easier to find things here on the new site since the search function actually works here...
  10. RØDE steps up to the big leagues… and hits a home run RØDE is no stranger to microphone manufacturing. This Australian company has been building them since they launched the NT1 back in 1990. Many of RØDE’s microphones in the past have been known for their impressive price to performance ratio. It’s not that they don’t make some very nice microphones, but some of them have been so budget-friendly that it may have impacted the public’s perception of the brand to a degree. That’s unfortunate, because they make many models that are used in pro studios around the world on a regular basis. But now RØDE, in partnership with legendary classical recording engineer / producer Tony Faulkner, is shooting at an even tougher target - the world of high-end, no excuses, world-class microphones, and the first release that has spawned from their collaboration is the new RØDE TF-5 small diaphragm condenser mic under review here. What You Need To Know The RØDE TF-5 is a small diaphragm, externally polarized condenser microphone with a transformerless output. Currently they are sold only in stereo pairs. The TF-5 packaging is interesting, and while it’s not a true hard case, it does offer a place to store the mics and their accessories when not in use. The outer box sleeve slides off to reveal an internal box that has a magnetically sealed flip top. Inside is a removable foam tray with the two microphones and two mic clips, and beneath that, you’ll find the rest of the included accessories. The pair of “matched” RØDE TF-5 microphones bear sequential serial numbers, and in my tests the two were sonically indistinguishable in terms of noise levels, sensitivity and frequency response. When used as individual spot microphones, they can be freely interchanged. RØDE builds the TF-5 in their state of the art facility in Sydney, and tout the build quality of the TF-5 prominently in their ads. A quick visual examination tends to bear out their claims - the high quality construction is readily apparent. Each microphone measures 98.7 mm long x 20 mm in diameter and weighs 114g. This is nearly the exact same dimensions as the budget-friendly RØDE M5 electret condensers, but there are several significant differences between the two designs that are not as readily apparent from their similar exterior appearances. The bodies and capsules of the TF-5 microphones are finished in a tough, matte black ceramic coating that resists fingerprints and is quite durable and scratch resistant. There is a small gold colored insert on the bodies (typical of all RØDE microphones) and the RØDE logo is also printed on the bodies near the XLR end in bronze lettering, but in a fairly small font - much smaller than the larger white logos on the similar looking RØDE M5. Unfortunately there are no alternative capsules currently offered, but the cardioid capsules are removable, so it’s possible that other capsules may be offered as an option in the future. The threading on the capsules and bodies is exceptionally smooth and precise, and inspires confidence that they’d hold up to regular swaps if necessary without worry about cross threading, stripping, or other issues. Considerable development work went into designing the TF-5. According to the very informative mini-booklet that comes with the mics, even the design of the grilles went through over 40 different revisions, with each one being carefully tested and compared in RØDE’s own acoustic test facility. The cardioid capsules are all-new, and use a patented process in their assembly, and computer-controlled manufacturing technology that provide sub-micron levels of precision. The TF-5 uses a bipolar output buffer and a JFET impedance converter. The output impedance is 63 ohms. Various sources, from the product website (which has now been corrected) to the booklet that comes with the mics state the SPL handling specification as 120 dB and this initially caused some concern because there are some recording situations (even in classical music recording) where source SPL levels might exceed 120 dB SPL, or even approach 130 dB SPL. However, RØDE assures me that this was in fact a misprinted figure, and that the actual SPL handling of the mic is rated at 135 dB SPL (1 kHz @ 1% THD, 600 ohm load). Since I wasn’t able to audibly overload the review pair (even when close miking loud guitar amps, percussion and a drum kit), I feel confident in the revised figure, and despite my initial concerns I doubt that their maximum SPL handling capabilities will present an issue in real world use. Equivalent noise is rated at 14 dB SPL (A-weighted, per IEC651), which is very respectable, and the signal to noise ratio is 80 dB. Sensitivity is rated at -29 dB re. 1 Volt/Pascal or better (35 mV @ 94 dB SPL @ 1 kHz). The dynamic range is also very good, and is rated at 112.6 dB (1 kHz @ max SPL). The frequency response is rated at 20 Hz - 20 kHz (+/-4dB), and is +/-3 dB from 30 Hz - 20 kHz. It’s generally quite flat, with only a touch of added “air” in the high frequencies above 10 kHz. There is also a very slight dip at around 80 Hz, and an even slighter one at 4 kHz. The overall sound is very neutral overall, with two notable areas being the air added to the highs giving it a somewhat “open” and detailed sound, and the low mids are a bit fuller-sounding than a lot of small diaphragm condenser microphones, giving the TF-5 a bit of warmth that is uncommon in small diaphragm condensers. The phantom powered TF-5 requires 7 mA @ 48 V for power. There are a few nice accessories included with the TF-5 stereo pair. In addition to the box, the microphones and the mic clips, you also get a stereo bar. This is pre-measured and marked, making it easy to get the angles and distances between the two microphones just right for various stereo miking arrangements, such as XY and ORTF. A pair of foam windscreens is also included with the TF-5’s, along with a small hard cover handbook. Limitations There is no pad or high pass filter on the TF-5. In this reviewer’s opinion, the former is of more concern than the later - you can always roll off the low end in post if you feel it’s necessary, but once captured, distortion is forever. At this time, only the stock cardioid capsules are available. Optional omnidirectional and hypercardioid capsules would make an excellent addition to the TF mic line, and expand their capabilities and usefulness. While the stereo bar is very nice, unfortunately, no shock mounts are included. Conclusions I really wish I would have had some string sessions or ensemble recordings on my schedule so I could have tried the TF-5’s out on the types of material Tony Faulkner usually records, but I haven’t really done much classical recording since the 1990s, and I didn’t have any jazz or classical projects that I could use them on. But I did employ them on a wide variety of individual instruments, including drum overheads, piano, guitar amps, and percussion, with very satisfying results being achieved with everything I used them on. So are they superb, or simply overpriced? RØDE is facing a significant challenge in attempting to get the engineers of the world to accept them as being equal to or surpassing current and long-loved high-end standards, but the quality of the sound you get from the TF-5 is truly world-class. Yes, they can play on the same field as your favorite small diaphragm FET condensers, and will acquit themselves quite admirably in the process. This is a very natural and neutral sounding microphone. I’d even go so far as to call it “honest” in its representation of the sound in the room. If you do your part in terms of optimizing positioning and placement, you’ll be rewarded with a very life-like sonic picture of whatever you’re recording. While they’re not the absolute quietest small diaphragm condensers ever released, they do have very respectable low-noise performance. Sensitivity and dynamic range are also very good. The frequency response is very neutral and mostly flat, and the off-axis sound is impressively uncolored - which is absolutely crucial for realistic sounding stereo recordings. And while they are great as individual spot mics, they excel at stereo recording applications. My initial concerns about the maximum SPL rating turned out to be unfounded and a result of misprinted specifications; despite blasting away at them, I wasn’t able to drive them into audible distortion in my testing, which tends to confirm the revised figures. These microphones look and sound like high-end microphones, and are built for years of professional use. At about $750 per mic they’re more expensive than RØDE’s previous small diaphragm condenser offerings, but they’re not at all unreasonably priced given their level of performance. It will be interesting to see if any other microphones are released in the TF range. Personally, I hope this is only the first product of what will be a long line of new high-end products from RØDE. The TF line is bound to change more than a few minds about just how good a RØDE microphone can be. -HC- Want to discuss the RØDE TF-5 or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Studio Trenches forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion! Resources RØDE TF-5 Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone Stereo Pair ($1,499 "street") RØDE’s product web page. RØDE product data sheet (PDF file), complete with frequency response and polar pattern plots. You can purchase the RØDE TF-5 Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone Stereo Pair from: Guitar Center B&H Photo Video Musician's Friend _________________________________________________________________ Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.
  11. I like them both, but IMO there is no doubt that the M1 had a bigger impact on the music scene when it was first released, so I’ll have to give it the nod.
  12. There is no reason you can’t run a uke into your amp - as long as it is an acoustic-electric uke with pickups in it. As far as brands and models, I hardly know where to start - there are literally dozens of uke booths at NAMM each year. Is the $500 budget per instrument, or does it need to cover both the concert and the tenor?
  13. I’m not sure you need to, at least not in the traditional sense... they don’t have tone wheels - they’re electronic. I’d hunt online for a manual for it, then follow the maintenance directions therein.
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