z Gear Stories episode 23

Hello my friends!


As usual, I took January off of writing Gear Stories, but am back in full swing, and rearing for another year of gripping gear stories!


The rules are the same this decade… if you don’t like  it and don’t want to get it, don’t get mad, don’t get even… just tell me and you won’t get it anymore… but of course, read one first… you might actually enjoy it!


First, a little news!  Our Paul Reed Smith private stock event had been postponed from December, so that is coming up on March 5th and 6th.  This is where you can meet with Paul Reed Smith himself and look over his private stock of wood that he has collected over the years and then work with him designing your own custom made Paul Reed Smith guitar… one of a kind, made just for you!  It’s a free event, but the guitars will be priced well above ten thousand apiece… (Yes, DOLLARS!) so the event is only for the absolutely serious guitar collector… but it’s fun for guys like me to dream about, so I thought I’d remind you again.


Now, on to the stories… two, as usual.  However, the first one is anything but usual!



IMPULSIVE!  Now you can have the sound of the GREATEST and MOST EXPENSIVE classic reverb units of all time… ONLY BETTER!


As most of you know, I’ve been a professional recording engineer for going on twenty years now, which means, when I started, studios were a LOT different than they are now!  (In other words, I’m OLD!)


My first experiences in mutli-track recording studios were back in the early 80’s and we recorded to ANALOG tape!  In order to add reverb to a recording, we had to have a reverb unit in the studio, which depending on what kind of unit it was, could have been extremely expensive.


For those of you who are very new to recording, Reverb is the sound that is added to recordings that are made in nice, clinically dry environments where there is no echo… hence recording without reverb are referred to as “DRY” and if you walk into a gymnasium all alone with the lights turned off and clap your hands, you hear this wash of sound being reflected back to you that is made up of hundreds and even thousands of little echoes off the walls and bleachers and corrugated metal ceiling and such…THAT is REVERB!   (If the lights are on, it still sounds the same, but it’s more dramatic in the dark!)


There were various methods of achieving artificial reverb in studios way back… My favorite was the old “Plate” reverbs!  These were great big and inconvenient and really expensive.  They would put a HUGE metal plate suspended in a soundproof crate somewhere in the basement or attic of the studio, and blast the sound into that huge chunk of sheet metal, and then they would have pickups attached to the plate and when the metal would resonate with the sound and keep vibrating, the vibrations that the pickups picked up would be an approximation of real room ambience, and that could be bled back into the sound back in the mixing board…  Pretty ingenious, I thought!


Another one was Spring reverbs which worked on a similar principle, however rather than a large crate with a huge chunk of metal hanging in it, they used a pretty small chamber with springs in it… everything else was basically the same… which is why if you take an old guitar amp with reverb in it and bump it really hard while the reverb is turned on, you can get this REALLY LOUD reverberating clanging sound, because those springs bounce around and hit the side of the chamber…  WOW, what a noise!


Then came Digital reverb units, that was all done electronically, and some were done very well!  But I could get sidetracked forever on the history of audio technology, and while I’m sure you would all be fascinated by this dissertation, I should probably get to the point.


In the age of Computer based recording, we have plug ins.  They are pieces of software that have code written so when you run digital audio through it, they approximate the effect of hooking your old mixer up to an old reverb unit, but it’s all done inside your recording software, in the virtual world.


The problem with these is that at first, they didn’t sound very good… and a lot of the cheap or free ones still don’t.  They have what is referred to as the “zipper” effect in which when the reverb trails out, it starts to sound funny, kind of grainy, and like someone is closing a zipper.


Eventually, somebody came up with a GREAT idea that revolutionized the world of reverb plug-ins.  It was called the Convolution reverb, and the basic concept is that they  would make a loud noise (called and IMPULSE) inside a space that had a very nice natural reverb sound, like concert halls and cathedrals, for instance, and they would record that reverb sound and then compare it with the dry, un-reverberated sound of that impulse, and then create a mathematical algorithm that would recreate all the reverberations of that space and you could then use it as a plug in inside your recording software and make it sound like you were right there in that actual space.


It’s a BRILLIANT idea!  They sound GREAT!  And now that computer processors are getting powerful enough to actually USE these “Convolution reverbs,” many companies are including them as standard plug ins in their Digital Audio Workstation software.  So now, just about anybody with an interface has access to the greatest sounding rooms in the world!  Cool!


Now… I told you all that in order to tell you this.


There are these guys who had a really smart idea…   Rather than sample a room, why not sample the response of the greatest, most sought after and expensive reverb units ever made!  Up till now, convolution reverbs have focused on recording the responses of actual rooms… I think it was one of those “Eureka!” moments!


The name of the company is “Timbral Research” and the name of the algorithm library is called “IMPULSIVE”  They have used some of the finest recording gear available and sampled some of the most sought after vintage reverb units ever made.  Of course, for legal reasons, I can’t mention the exact model names.


(Actually, I COULD tell you, but then I’d have to kill you, and since thousands of people read this column, I really just don’t have the time for all of that!)


In a recent training session here at Sweetwater… (Have I told you that we have at least three hours of additional product training every week here at Sweetwater?) the guys from Timbral Research presented impulsive to us, and gave us the treat of comparing with our headphones on, sounds sent through the Impulsive library to sounds sent through the actually vintage reverb units.  Surprisingly, Impulsive did not sound exactly the same!


It sounded BETTER!  The reason was that the original reverb units had trouble with the Stereo field of a sound, so when you put your signal though it, in the process of creating an artificial environment, it would actually distort the stereo image of a sound.  Impulsive did NOT have that problem, so while they got the sound of the reverb DEAD ON accurate, it did not mess with your stereo image!  So it’s exactly like the original units, except BETTER!


And finally, it works all OVER the place!  Most of the recording software out there have their own version of a convolution reverb plug in.  If you have Digital Performer, it works in ProVerb, if you have Logic, it works in SpaceDesigner, if you have Pro Tools, it works in TLSpace, if you have Cubase, it works in REVerence.  If you use McDSP plug ins, it works in Revolver!  you are pretty much covered!


Considering that you would have to pay thousands of dollars for just ONE of the several reverb units that are included in this collection, the fact that this library only costs $299.97 is an AMAZING value!  And I don’t think you will find this product anywhere other than Sweeetwater!


Call me and lets add tens of thousands of dollars worth of vintage gear to your computer recording system for less than three hundred dollars!






Now, on to part two of Gear stories!


the TLM 102….  Your first NEUMANN!


In the history of recording, the name NEUMANN has stood out since the beginning as the maker of some of the finest mics EVER!  In fact, it is a real right of passage for a studio owner to get his first Neumann.  I remember years ago, when I purchased my TLM 103.  I felt a swell of pride and like finally, I could call my place a real professional studio because I had a Neumann !  I’m sure all of you studio owners who have risen from the ranks of the hobbyist have had that same experience… and I bet you all have at least one Neumann mic in your locker.


It’s like a law!   I have heard people say that when they are considering studios, the first thing they ask is if they have a Neumann, and if they don’t they won’t record there.


One of the things that made it such a right of passage was not only the fact that Neumann makes some of the most amazing sounding mics in the industry, but also because they are so expensive.  The most commonly used vocal mic over the years has been the U-87 which goes for around three thousand dollars!  But if you’ve ever listened to music on the radio for more than ten minutes, it is most likely that you have heard a vocal recorded through a U-87.


So how do we, the average income Joe’s of the world put that notch of status in our belts?  The answer is much easier on the pocketbook now than it ever was with the introduction of the TLM-102!


I mentioned before that my first Neumann was the TLM 103, which was a thousand dollars, and indeed, because of it’s (relatively) low price, it has become widely accepted as a professional vocal mic in studios around the world, and is VERY popular among pop, hip-hop, and R&B producers.  But it still was a bit cost prohibitive.


The TLM-102 has made things easier, coming in at $699.97, it has the same crystalline clarity of it’s big brother the TLM 103, and the same rich mid range and accurate low end!  it just comes in a slightly smaller package!  And it should be noted that it actually has less of the “proximity effect” that the TLM 103 has.


(The proximity effect is what makes your voice sound really boomy when you get right up close to the mic… for those of you as old as me, think of Bill Cosby saying, “Noah!  It’s the LORD speaking!”)


So finally, that thousand dollar barrier has been utterly smashed for those of us who want to experience the credibility given by bringing home your first Nemann mic!  You will never forget that feeling!


And better yet, until the next edition of Gear stories, you can get a $40 discount if you contact me to order yours!  It is already taking the recording world by storm, and we have orders piling in for these, so don’t wait, or you might have to REALLY wait!




Until next time, Keep on making things that sound GREAT!