z Gear Stories episode 26

Gear Stories 26, Sparkly guitars, Analog Summing, and my FAVORITE software!


Hello friends,  it’s time for another installment of Gear Stories!  Of course, if you do not want to receive this once a month gem, just let me know and I will take you off the list (but you might just check it out first… you may find it addictive!).


Usually, I tell you about two products… one really high end, and one in the more affordable range… this time, I’m going to mention three, but the first one will be just a quickie.




Taking you back in time, it’s the Fender Special Run Standard Strat with a Sparkle paint job!


Recently Fender guitars made a limited run of their Stratocaster HSS model.  Sweetwater only got a few, and a handful of other dealers across the country got a few as well.  There are two incredibly cool things about these guitars…


First, and most notably, is the finish… we have them in two colors… the first is called “Sunfire Orange Flake” and looks just like it sounds.  The second is called “Rootbeer Flake” and I venture a guess that if you lick one, it will taste NOTHING like Root Beer, though I cannot confirm this.  They sparkle like the are flaked with diamonds!  Its not a look you would like if you were in a Death metal band, for instance, however, in a lot of musical Genres, it would look “Totally Awesome, Dude.”


Way back in the 60’s they did a run of these Sparkle Strats, and this style of pain job has not been available since then outside of the Custom Shop.  So it’s likely that these will not only retain their value, but in fact increase!


The second thing that is incredibly cool about them is the price!  Most limited edition guitars have the price jacked way up for one reason or another… sometimes simply because they are rare and the demand outstrips the supply by a mile.  Thats simple economics.  But for some reason, the fates and stars have aligned and these guitars go for about the same as any other Strat HSS, and even less than some models…  They are modestly prices at $549!


Now these are not some budget run, or a cheap guitar with a fancy paint Job… these are real strats, and they play like real strats.  It’s my theory that the guys at the paint booth got a whiff of too many fumes one day and found a container of glitter somewhere in a closet and just had a blast, and this is how Fender is dealing with it!  Once again, I absolutely cannot confirm this.


There are not many of these left.  In fact, at the time I am writing this  (8:58 am to be exact) there are only two of the Orange ones and  five of the ones that don’t taste like Root Beer.


Call now and these can ship out today, while the VERY LIMITED supply lasts!


Here’s the link….   http://www.sweetwater.com/store/search.php?s=sparkle+strat




DIGITAL PERFORMER (by MOTU), my favorite software EVER!


As many of you know, I have been a professional recording engineer for over twenty years now!  (And boy, are my ears tired!)  For the majority of that time, my primary Digital Audio Workstation software has been Digital Performer.  I started with Pro Tools, and have had brief flirtations with Logic Pro and Cubase… and I still flirt with those guys sometimes, but flirting is one thing, and LOVE is another!


I LOVE Digital Performer, and have remained faithful to her!  I picked her up on Version 2 (I know, she was a bit young, but you  can’t stop love!)  and now I’m happily using the latest update of Version 7!  And she just gets better with age!


Functionally, all the DAWs (It takes too long to keep writing “Digital Audio Workstation”) do the same thing, and the quality of the sound within a DAW is primarily determined by the quality of the Digital Converters and Clock source, and before that, the preamps, and the mics and the cables etc… it all adds up, for better or for worse, until internet distribution do us part!  The biggest differences between the DAWs is the work flow.


That is why I LOVE Digital Performer!  It has, by far, the most customizable workflow of all the DAWs  If you are used to working in Pro Tools, you can actually, with a touch of the mouse, pull up a window configuration that looks and functions exactly like Pro Tools.  If you are  Logic user, there is a Logic window set too… there are other window sets that come with D.P. (my pet name for Digital Performer… ) but way back, when I was in Version Two, I set up my windows the way that made sense to me, and I saved my window sets…  I named them like children  (there’s “Jon’s Audio Edit set”, and “Jon’s MIDI edit set”, and “Jon’s Mastering set”, and “Ralph”… he was adopted.)


Different DAWS are focused toward different types of users, and of course, there is some overlap in this competitive world of Audio products, however, for MIDI arranging and sound for picture, D.P. stands head and shoulders above the pack!  I could go on forever about this, but I’d rather just have a conversation about this with you if you are interested.  But I WOULD like to point out that many great films  were scored in Digital Performer… including Lord of the Rings and the Mission Impossible series!  Also a lot of popular television shows as well… for instance Alias and LOST!


D.P. is also great for singer/songwriters, especially now that they have added a function to easy add lyrics and chord charts in the Lead sheets that are generated from the MIDI tracks!  And D.P. 7 comes with a lot of GREAT stock plug ins, including a wonderful Leveling amp plug in that sounds an awfully lot like a famous leveling amp from a company that sounds a lot like the good old U.S.A. (without the “S”)  They have also added in D.P.7 some great models of classic guitar Stomp Boxes, and a complete plug in for guitar amp modeling akin to Guitar Rig and AVID’s “Eleven” but with it’s own unique MOTU twists!  It’s really something!  And even though I use a lot of high end third party plug ins, I use many of the great MOTU plug ins every day in my work… especially their convolution reverb plug called “ProVerb” and their Masterworks multi-band compressor!


Another GREAT thing about Digital Performer is the price!  The full version goes for only $499.97 and if you have pretty much any other DAW software that you paid for, you can get an additional discount with their competitive upgrade which is priced at $395.


A disadvantage to some is that it is only for the Apple macIntosh platform, but through the end of May, if you call me to order Digital Performer with an Apple MacIntosh Computer, including the VERY affordable Mac Mini computers, I will make a package deal bundle that gets them to you for a nice discount.


Here’s the links to Digital Performer as well as our Apple Mac computers.














The best of both worlds!  Analog Summing for Digital Recordings!


Warning, this can be Dangerous!  (Or it can also be Tube Tech!)


As I’ve mentioned before, generally DAWs derive the quality of the sound of the digital audio within them from the hardware attached to them.  The ONE area in which some people feel they can be improved upon is how the digital audio is “summed” or mixed together.


Digital audio can all be defined by mathematics, which is why I think digital, as a phenomenon, has been embraced by our Western Science based culture so heartily.  There are always the holdouts, however, that claim that the old analog stuff sounded better.  Many of these people commenced to record onto old cassette tapes through thirty year old decks and produce recordings that have more hiss than signal… which categorically does NOT sound better than a good digital recording!


But I am a firm believer that there is Analog technology that does sound vastly superior to digital…  However Cassette tape is NOT one of them!


One of the places where Digital has a few limitations is when the digital audio is mixed together from a multitrack session… Sure, it’s easy for a single signal to be recorded digitally on a single track and have it sound good, but it’s not as easy to combine digital audio as it is to combine Analog signals.  If done incorrectly, it can be about like trying to combine two panes of glass by smashing them together!


It is in this process that you tend to come up against serious headroom problems, so the way you have to handle it is by turning down the master bus volume until the summed audio does not exceed digital zero.  Your audio file then can tend to loose the impact that you were feeling when you did the mix.


On the other hand, taking line level signal through an analog circuit, if done well, can kind of be like that old commercial with the two people rounding the corner, holding respectively a can of peanut butter, and a chocolate bar.  I can hear it now…


“Hey, you got your thumping rhythm section on my vocal track!  …NO!  You got your vocal track on my thumping rhythm section!”  If you don’t get that reference, you never watched TV in the 80’s and you can officially call me “Old Guy”.


So what do you do then, if you have GREAT mics and GREAT pres and GREAT converters, all controlled by  GREAT clock, and yet, you are unsatisfied with the sound of your final product.  You try and try and you feel like you are pushing all of your gear to it’s maximum in terms of quality, and yet it doesn’t sound as sweet as you want it to?


Two words… Analog Summing.


When you take the digital signal track by track, or at least section by section, out of your DAW after all the settings for the mix have been made, and instead of having that final mix file made inside the computer processed by a bunch of math, you have the separate channels go out to an analog device that uses the best components available in the analog realm and then combine them like chocolate and peanut butter… the taste is so good!


It’s also a great way to use all that old analog gear that you have gathering dust in your rack and integrate it back into your digital recording!


We have several devices that can do this for you, and each have different features that make them attractive.  The most affordable is the Dangerous Music 2 bus LT.  http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/2BusLT/


It is plain and simple and does that ONE thing and that’s it!  It has the same summing circuitry as it’s big brother the Dangerous 2 bus.   http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/2BUS/


The 2 bus  has additional monitoring functions and routing choices that make it more convenient to operate, but other than that, the two units use the same, high end, hand built circuits.  Watch the videos at the links above for the 2bus and teh 2 bus lt.  They feature a guy named Fab Dupont with a really cool accent.  He’s a lot of fun!


Now, to the big time, grand daddy of them all, there is the Tube Tech SSA2B.  This takes all the woundrousness of the Dangerous units, including hand wired circuitry and top of the line components, and adds the silky smoothness of (Drum Roll Please!)  TUBES!


There are those of us that think that adding a tube into the mix is generally a VERY GOOD THING!  I am one of them…  Here is the link to that unit.  BE WARNED, IT’S TUBE TECH… SO IT’S BLUE AND UGLY!  but it’s not dangerous.




Be sure to watch their video too!  You will be convinced!


So until next time, thanks for reading Geeeeeear Stooooooories!




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]