z Gear Stories episode 18

Gear Stories 18, The Nervous Guitar and the Smooth Pre



Hey guys!  It’s gear stories time again, and I’ve got a really amazing couple of things to tell you about, and also a couple of REALLY cool promos that are running right now as well!!


But first, the rules… If you don’t want to get this e-mail, don’t get mad… just let me know, and I’ll shut it off for you!


Rule two… enjoy it… I try to make these both fun AND informative, so check it out before you hit delete!  You might just like it!


There are a couple of things I need to tell you about before I get into the stories… first is that if yo are a fan of RODE mics… (Or just a fan of sounding good) and you want a GREAT deal on some mics, Rode is running a promo where if you buy one of the qualifying rode mics from me at the advertised price, you qualify to get a Rode live handheld condenser mic for $1.00  YES!!!!  ONE DOLLAR!  Usually I stay pretty much on topic in gear stories, (debatable, I know) but I had to tell you about that!


The RODE qualifying mics are: NT1-A, NT1-A MP, NT2-A, NT1000, NT2000, NTK, K2,Classic II, NT3, NT4, NT5 (Single or Matched Pair), NT55 (Single or Matched Pair), NT6,NTG-1, NTG-2, NTG-3, PODCASTER, PROCASTER, BROADCASTER


Call me for details about getting in on that deal.


ALSO, there’s a very cool price drop on the Focusrite Liquid Mix 16 package.  It has DSP accelerated plug ins, and a firewire hardware controller for those plug ins….  It usually goes for 399, but we are now letting it out the door on sale for $199.99!!!!  Pretty cool, huh?


Here’s the link!  http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/LiquidMix16/


Also, one more quick thing…  TOONTRACK expansion packs for EZ Drummer… If you’re looking at getting into any of them, August is the time!  I can’t tell you what they’re going for, but let’s just say, if you want a great deal on any of them, call me in the next few weeks.  Here’s that link…




O.K.  That’s it for the details… now on to the stories!




THE NERVOUS GUITAR!  Wechter Guitars, Nashville Special Elite and Nashville Special Elite Cutaway.


More and more, the name Wechter is emerging in the world of acoustic guitar, and for good reason.  Abraham Wechter used to be a custom guitar maker for Gibson, until he made his own shop, and established himself as a great custom guitar maker.  He could have lived out his life quietly making custom build guitars for the musical elite, but Abe is a man of the people!  He wanted to bring his brand of high quality yet affordable guitars to a wider audience… so Abe started up a factory and started replicating his most popular models at prices that even guys like you and me can afford!  Very cool!


More recently, the Wechter factory moved onto the Sweetwater campus!  It’s wonderful to have so close by, because if there ever is an question about a Wechter guitar, I can simply get up from my desk and walk down to his office and talk to him about it!  That has proved to be a wonderful asset for us, employees and customers alike!


Plus, he’s a heck of a nice guy!  (Which may not affect the SOUND of your guitar, but somehow, it’s nice to know that when you’re playing one!)


The BIG NEWS from Wechter now, however, is the brand new Nashville style, or “High Strung” guitar.   (When I hear that somebody is High Strung, I instantly think of them as rather nervous!)


In the Nashville studio scene, they have been using a recording technique for years now that has helped create that BIG NASHVILLE SOUND in acoustic guitar tracks.  First of all, they record the acoustic guitar part normally, tuned in the standard tuning, but then they double the guitar part with another guitar that is strung with the bottom three strings changed out as if they are the bottom three octave-higher strings on a twelve string guitar. (only without the nightmare of trying to tune the untunable guitar!)


This makes an acoustic guitar part sound incredibly bright and HUGE!


This is generally a studio technique, and not commonly used in live settings except in situations where there is more than one acoustic guitar player… (I first came across this technique years ago when I was playing and recording with a seven piece country band called “the Legendary Train hoppers”  http://www.trainhoppers.net (I didn’t name the band.)


The problem with using this technique is that if you take a guitar that was made for standard tuning and string it this way, it wreaks havoc on the intonation…  Another thing is that a big old Dreadnaught style body is generally too boomy and full of low end to utilize this technique.  you need a small bodied guitar to really do it right.


Abe Wechter was thinking when he decided to make a new model of guitars built specially for stringing in this manner, with alterations to account for the intonation problems, and hence the Wechter Nashville Special Elite, and Elite Cutaway.  And to top it all off, all Wechter guitars are set up with a Plec Pro machine so the fretboards are PERFECT, and play like a dream!


One model has electronics from Fishman (Who make the best sounding acoustic guitar preamps in my opinion!)  and the other model is entirely acoustic.


This may be a pretty specialized guitar, and your average player who just wants to sit around in the living room, or around the campfire with their acoustic will probably not have much use for this guitar, however every recording studio that does acoustic music should have one!  (Because the acoustic guitar player in the band is not likely to bring their own High Strung [nervous] guitar.)


It’s also great for the recording session man, and the guitar collector.  (You guys know who you are!)


They are actually not finished being built yet, though we did have a bit of a celebrity test run the other day when Ingrid Michealson stopped in while on tour along with her faithful accompanist, Allie, and recorded a few tracks in Sweetwater Studio A with the prototype.  It was a magical session!


We are expecting the first run of these guitars to be available at the end of this month, and already, the pre-orders are rolling in, SO… if the very idea of this guitar makes you dream of the sweet music you could make, give me a call or place your order online, and be part of the beginning of this guitar that is already creating such a buzz (but not a fret buzz) that it is likely to be the thing that puts the name Wechter on the same level as Taylor, Martin, Gibson and Fender!


Here they are so you can check them out for yourself!





And check out this Youtube video of Johnny Hiland checking with it – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9gs2umZK0A



The Smooth Pre is over TEN YEARS OLD!…  Avalon VT737SP


I want to say right off the bat that there are some naysayers out there in Internet forum land that like to dis this unit (For those of us over the age of thirty five, to “dis” means to disrespect… or so I was told by one of my rap clients)  The Avalon VT737SP is a favorite whipping boy in places like Gearslutz, and I understand why… it’s an unwieldy beast, and you have to work with it… it’s not “plug and play”   …but it you DO work with it, you can coax out sounds that will blow your mind!  Here’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it!


It is unusual for any particular model of product in the audio industry to remain on the market and in production for ten years…  It seems like there are only a handful of products that can make this claim, and here is MY FAVORITE!


The Avalon VT737SP tube microphone preamp is hands down my favorite mic pre to use in the studio.  the sad thing is that I don’t actually own one… but over the years, I have rented them countless times.  (Probably in the long run spending enough on rental that I could have bought one!  Argh!)


It’s basically a nomo channel strip complete with tube pre-amplification, optical compression, and a highly detailed equalization section.


What makes it so special is the sound!  (As the twitter generation like to say… OMG!)


It is so beautifully transparent and clear, it’s like the sound is coming at you through a bright blue sky on a cloudless day!  (Can I get any more dramatic!?!)


First, let’s start with the basic preamp section.  When I think of tube pres, I think of a really yummy, smooth sound, but the words “Clean” and “Transparent” are not usually the words that come to mind.  In general, tubes, while making a sound lovely and warm (by adding distortion in the harmonics… albeit pleasant distortion) they tend to increase the noise floor.  Hence, people tend to refer to tube gear as adding a “Vintage” sound … or calling it “Warm”   I subscribe to that… and yet this mic pre, while warm, does not sound vintage.  The best word I can use to describe it is “transparent”


Using words to describe the quality of a sound it so subjective it gives me a headache!


I have a few racks of mic pres in my studio that are designed to add as little color as possible to the sound, and I would not necessarily say THAT is true of the Avalon, however, even with the warm tube color it provides, it is a very clear color…


Sorry if I sound like I’m going off the deep end here.  Let’s just say it is completely full of awesomeness, and leave it at that!


Next comes the compression…  I LOVE this part.  This is actually one of the parts that people tend to criticize, because they say it’s too slow in it’s response, and truly, you do need to be careful how you set it, and there are certain things i would not use it on, like a kick drum, but check it out of vocals!  Especially with a Neumann U87 or even a TLM 103 and you will be amazed how the two combine.


It is an optical compressor, which means that it runs the signal through a light emitting diode that in turn triggers a light sensor, and the light sensor triggers the compression circuit.  That all sounds a bit convoluted when I describe it, but the upshot of it is that the compression works in a way that is so smooth, it’s unbelievable!


I had a modern rock singer that I worked with extensively and I rented it whenever I was working with him.


This video was done with it… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a83vBuzoRRA


His dynamic range was kind of off the charts, but I would slam him into that compressor like a clown into a Volkswagen, and it would come out the other side consistent!  There was once I watched him hit that compressor seventeen decibels at the beginning of a line and then down to nothing by the end of it, and on playback, it was as even as a calm sea!  And the beauty of that is that it fit in the mix so easily…


Honestly, especially in modern music that is designed and mixed for the web, you do not want REAL dynamics in the recording… you just want to create the illusion of dynamics, while keeping a very consistent volume level coming out the speakers.  THAT is the tricky bit about creating modern music recordings!  And I can’t think of a better tool for getting that effect than this Avalon Pre.


Finally, there’s the the EQ section.  I LOVE this part the most!


It is parametric, so basically, you have frequencies to select and knobs to turn… though you can select the frequencies with absolutely surgical detail, and then choose how wide or thin the swath that you are cutting is.


if you are dealing with problem frequencies in someone’s voice or instrument, you will be able to dial it in (or better yet, OUT) with microscopic precision… and again, without losing that transparent quality in the sound.


I just can’t rave enough about how I LOVE this unit!  There is no wonder that the Avalon VT737SP has lasted a full ten years and is going strong with no sign of slowing down!


It would be a great benefit to ANY studio!


So to celebrate the ten year anniversary, give me a call for a special price!


Here’s the link!




Oh yeah… it LOOKS cool, too!


Until next month, that’s it for GEAR STORIES!




Jon Gillespie, Sweetwater Sales Engineer


800 222 4700 x 1352

260 432 8176 x 1352 (outside the U.S.)

260 432 1758 FAX

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