z Gear Stories episode 20

Gear Stories #20  Guitarists breakthrough & a break for the sound man!


Hey there, Campers!  It’s that time again!  Yet another gripping installment of Gear Stories!


As always, if this once-a-month newsletter chokes up your inbox, and you just can’t take it… let me know and I will stop sending it to you!  …but check it out first…  You might like it!


Let’s get right to it this month, shall we….



ELEVEN RACK, a game changing breakthrough for guitarists, (from Digidesign, of all people!)


If you’re a guitar player, you’ve probably already heard about the new HUGE deal, the Eleven Rack, and chances are, if you are a Pro Tools user, you have heard about it too, but there’s a lot more to the story… and if you’ve not heard about it, I’ll try to bring you up to speed.


First things first… Digidesign is a Hardware company that just happens to have written Pro Tools, which is the most popular recording format in the world, with no sign of it’s popularity waning any time soon!


For going on twenty years now, I have run a commercial studio, and our primary recording platform has always been Digital Performer, which I chose because of the kind of work I primarily do, however, I found it very frustrating, because Pro Tools is to the recording industry as “Band Aid” is to the adhesive bandage industry, or “Kleenex” is to the facial tissue industry.  After a while, I just stopped correcting people and just did my work.


But about a year ago, Digidesign released a WONDERFUL piece of software called “Eleven” which models most of the classic guitar amps that have ever been available.  Though there are several good guitar modeling software plug ins available, Eleven turned out to be a standout, for some of the best sounds ever created in such a product… but just a few days ago, Digidesign shook the guitar playing world with the release of a hardware version of this software that is so full featured, many top guitarists are replacing their entire rigs with it and not looking back!


I could rave about all the wonderful sounds that the Eleven Rack can make, but I really don’t have to!  There are plenty of Rock Stars out there that are already doing that, and you can read the reviews online and see the videos.  I’ll give you some links later.


I want to focus on a few things that may not be obvious, but make this piece AMAZING… groundbreaking… GAME CHANGING!


First of all, it is not only a great sounding two space rack mountable guitar processor… IT IS ALSO A PRO TOOLS INTERFACE!


To ensure the stability of the system, Digidesign has always made proprietary interfaces to work with their software, and restricted third parties from making interfaces for Pro Tools.   New pro tools interfaces are few an far between, and there’s not likely to be any new ones for quite some time… but this is totally unique.


Not only does it have regular analog outputs that you would expect for a guitar rig to have for plugging into a PA or an analog recording rig, as well as having effects loops and foot switch inputs and MIDI in and outs,  It has digital inputs so you can hook it to any computer recording interface that has either the SPDIF or AES inputs, but to top it all off, it has a USB connection for simple, direct to computer connectivity that will show up directly in Pro Tools (and virtually any other computer recording platform)…  This is HUGE…   I can’t think of ANY hardware guitar rig that offers this much functionality, or these input/output options, and sounds this good!


Of course, if you have ever shopped for guitar amps, you will will realize that most guitarists have one amp… maybe two… this is one piece of hardware that costs less than most good guitar amps that can make the sound of virtually ALL good guitar amps!  It’s hard to argue with the concept…


NOW here’s some things that you may not know.  If you want to get the Eleven Rack, you pretty much NEED to buy it from Sweetwater, and here’s why.


First of all, Sweetwater took the initiative to go out and solicit exclusive custom pre-sets by some of the greatest guitarists in the world!  And more are coming!  I’ve heard a lot of them, and they are absolutely worth having!  They come pre-loaded when you buy the Eleven Rack from Sweetwater.  And also, pretty darned cool, is the Sweetwater Employee presets that come pre-loaded as well.


As most of you know, there are not just Studio guys like me here at Sweetwater, but there are also some incredibly talented guitarists here.  (Any of you who have heard my own music, will have deduced that, while I can technically play the guitar, “Incredibly Talented” does not describe me!)  A few days before the Eleven Rack was launched on the world, we at Sweetwater were made to swear an oath of secrecy, and we were unleashed on the Eleven Rack… the result was another GREAT set of presets, designed by Sweetwater Employees…  You can’t get much more exclusive than that!


Also, on this one item only, if you have a Sweetwater Credit Card, you can get it for the no payments and no interest for a full year!  (This is not available at this time for any other product!)


We have a great relationship with Digidesign, and they recognize that our customers  like to be on the leading edge of technology.  You guys are those “early adopters” and “opinion leaders” that manufacturers are always talking about, so Digi wants to make sure we have these units available to get into your hands.  Combine that with the big orders we placed after we had checked out the prototype and realized it was going to be a huge hit, and we are more likely to actually be able to ship you one quickly than anyone else.


So what’s next for Digidesign?  Might I suggest, a BASS version!?!    I’m just sayin’…  but that comes from nowhere but my own brain, so I don’t want to hear about it on the forums!


So here’s the links you need….




Scroll to the bottom of this link to hear the artist presets!  http://www.sweetwater.com/feature/eleven_rack/









AND FINALLY… the big mystery is solved…  WHY did Digidesign call it “Eleven?”  You  can see it here from one of the most famous guitarists of all time, Nigel Tuffnel!








BOSE L1 – Personal PA systems:   EXTRA, EXTRA!  Read all about it!  Sound man takes a break, Band sounds GREAT!



Club musicians, pay heed!  You  are about to have your world ROCKED!


Apart from nasty club owners that don’t pay, what is the biggest frustration throughout the history of club musicians?




You practice and practice, and get tight and in your rehearsal garage, you sound great, then you go to the gig and there’s a guy who has had his ears fried running a PA that is sub standard at best and probably has had it’s circuits fried while the sound man was busy frying HIS ears.  So despite all your hard work, you sound like MUSH, turned up to ELEVEN!  And even worse yet, is trying to hear yourself through those crappy monitor speakers!


What can you do to show your audience how truly amazing you really are?


The innovative people at BOSE have finally come up with something that can guarantee that your band is heard the way you were meant to be heard!  (So if you practiced, then you will love this!  If you stink, then you might want to stick with the mush and keep on blaming the sound man!)


When a band is playing through a traditional PA system, all the sound from all the amps and mics and instruments is sent to a single mixer and then combined together into one mono signal usually… (maybe stereo)… and then blasted out the speakers as one big wall of volume.  However, when you are all playing together in your living room with acoustic instruments, the sound combines in a way that is much clearer… everybody has their own unique place in the spacial spectrum, and everybody can hear everybody…


Why can’t a live band do that?


Instead of all the signal running together into one big spaghetti mess of cables and merged together un-naturally and all coming out of the same place…  What if everybody had their own personal PA system that amplified your voice and instrument to just the right volume, and came out of a place on the stage that let the audience hear you from where you are coming from?  And take that a step further, and what if every member of the band had one of these right behind them onstage?


Suddenly, the audience can hear you as you are, from the place your sound is coming from… No need for a sound man, and you can hear yourself perfectly too!


A couple weeks ago, the guys from Bose brought in a band, who played for us in our conference hall at 7:30 am…  (Heroic on the part of the musicians!)  We got a full run through, and listened to them playing from all points in the room, too, and it was truly amazing!


Here’s the concept…   Each person has their own PA system… a small line array of speakers… (That is a bunch of smaller speakers arranged in such a way that the sound couples together and they sound like one big speaker)  It actually doesn’t look like a PA system at all… it looks kind of like …  well… a stick.  Just a stick, sticking up out of the floor on the back of the stage.  If you want more bass signal, you can get a subwoofer that sits like a lunch box at the bottom of the stick… (and if you need even more bass, you can add several of these)


You also get a small mic-stand-mountable personal mixer that handles your voice input and your instrument input… and that’s it.  It’s right behind you, so you can hear yourself perfectly… so you don’t have to have volume battles in the monitors, and if the lead guitarist keeps wanting more him because HIS ears are fried, then you can have him stand closer to his stick, and he will be ecstatically happy!


Everybody even has their own effects like reverb!


One question I had was about mic feedback…  It seemed like with your own PA system directly behind you, blowing the sound towards the mic, it would be a recipe for disaster,  but they clearly demonstrated that it was not a problem!  Sure, if you were trying, you could MAKE it feed back, but it wasn’t easy!  Those guys know how to design speakers!


Another remarkable thing was that the volume at the back of the room was barely discernibly quieter from the sound right up by the stage… and it never sounded oppressively loud, because when you can hear clearly, it doesn’t hurt your ears!   (It’s often the muddiness of a pa system that gives the impression that it’s too loud and not the volume at all!)


The speakers, because of their unique design, have a very wide axis, so you can be very far off to the side and still hear clearly.


One other thing that club musicians will LOVE!  It is light and easy to carry, and an entire system can set up in less than a minute!  WHAT A RELIEF!  Set up goes from hours to minutes and sound check is even quicker!


AND THE BEST THING YET!  At the end of the night, if you can catch him, the nasty club owner will be more likely to pay you because you sounded so good, AND…


Drum Roll Please….


You don’t have to give a sound man a cut!


And you tear down in three minutes, carry it out to your fuel efficient car (not gas guzzling van!) in one trip and get home in time to watch the late, late, late rerun of Mystery Science Theatre 2000!  (Or is it Dr. Who?)


There are several levels of this system, and several ways to configure things… check out the link below and figure out what is best for you… give me a call, and I’ll help you put it together… and start actually being heard at your gigs!




That’s all for this month!  Catch you on the flip side!


And as always, I look forward to being of service.


Jon Gillespie, Sweetwater Sales Engineer


800 222 4700 x 1352

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

260 432 1758 FAX

[email protected]