z Gear Stories episode 36

Gear Stories 36  Focusrite VRM Box and Wechter Solid body guitars



Hey friends!


It’s time for Gear Stories again… that little old newsletter that keeps you up to date on what’s new and cool in the audio gear industry, and hopefully entertains you a bit in the process.


Of course, if you have NO interest in audio gear whatsoever, let me know and I will unsubscribe you… but if you have even the LEAST bit of interest, check it out… you’ll be glad you did!


We start with a few quickie bits of news…


First, Sweetwater announces the return of 12 month no interest financing on the Sweetwater card… so now is the time!   Any purchase of more than $499 qualifies for interest free credit for 12 months.  If you only need something small, below $499 gets six months interest free, but if you are in need of something that costs $480… It’s completely worth it to throw in a couple of mic cables and ease the burden for six extra months!


The next bit of cool news is about a book!


Sweetwater has teamed up with Sound On Sound Magazine, (Arguably the BEST magazine about recording in the industry!) and created a really incredible book about the process of recording.  It takes on all the major topics from choosing your recording program, to what kind of gear you will need to put together your studio, as well as a detailed but easy to understand explanation of using MIDI!  There are topics like Mic placement and using compression and equalization, Mixing, and even  a detailed description of that most mysterious of all processes… Mastering!


I had a chance to peruse the content of this book and I think it’s phenomenal!  I have spent many of my (way too many) years engineering in the studio telling my clients about what I’m doing… (they often say they like it when I narrate)  If I had had this book to share with them, they would already know what I was doing!


One further bit of endorsement of the book… I am trying to help my brother become proficient at recording…  Many many hours on the cell phone.   Jeremy… the next thing I’m sending you in the mail is this book!


Oh yeah… and best of all.  It costs less than ten bucks…


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



Now, it’s that time when I introduce this month’s “Deconstructed Song”  (that’s where I go through the process of recording a song from the ground up)  This month, we’re rocking out with a GREAT modern rock band called PHEEN!  I have been recording these guys since the summer of 2000, (Some of them were not legally allowed to vote at the time!)   Pheen was impressive the day I met them, and across the last eleven years, these guys have progressed as musicians and writers and performers to a point that I find their music indistinguishable from the chart toppers on the radio these days, and here is one of their best tunes to date, “Highway Frequency”  This is the extended mix, with  an extra cool instrumental jam in the middle!


I concentrate in this issue primarily on the process of recording the acoustic drums…  Enjoy!  http://www.dreamrodeo.com/wordpress/w-deconstructed-song-highway-frequency



Now, on to the Gear Stories!


Part one, The Focusrite VRM box…  put a BUNCH of studios in your headphones for less than a hundred bucks!



Any of us who has a home studio knows that mixing is a huge challenge… especially since getting an acoustically flat environment and a high end set of monitor speakers is EXPENSIVE with a capitol X!   And of course, mixing with headphones keeps your significant other from screaming at you for listening to the same song over and over for nine hours, but the picture you get in those headphones often does not translate well to the outside world, leaving you wondering who stole your mix when you pop the disc in your buddy’s boom box…


Well Focusrite has a solution called the VRM Box!  This little honey has been the professional engineers best kept secret as of late, since almost all the people I have sold these to are high end pro post and mixing engineers.  That’s why I had to spread the word…  at this ridiculously low price, I can’t think of a single home studio owner who could not benefit from this little box.


The idea here is that Focusrite has taken scientific measurements of various speakers and environments, taking into account things like EQ curves, ambience, and phasing, and created modeled emulations of these speakers and environments, so when you plug in your headphones, that environment is recreated.  Brialliant.


It’s a simple box… two inputs (USB & SPDIF) both digital., and one 1/4 inch stereo analog output for your headphone jack, and one knob to control the volume.  The software included allows you to choose the acoustic environment between a large, pro studio, a bedroom studio and a living room…  It also allows you to choose between various high end monitors down to some ones that are considered pretty awful sounding, so you  can tell what it would sound like listened to on crappy computer speakers or a TV, as well as really awesome monitoring systems.  The most inspired choice was the inclusion of what they refer to as the Japanese White…  This emulates an iconic monitor, that is the stuff of legend…. The old Yamaha NS10’s were a staple in studios in the 70s and 80s and were reputed to be so unpleasant sounding that if you could make a mix sound good on them, it would sound good ANYWHERE else!


MY thought is that people who said that had never listened to anything on the speakers of a Mac mini…


This little baby works with Mac (OS 10.5 or above) and windows machines  (All the way back to XP service pack 3)  or if you have an older system, you could use it direct line routed out your SPDIF.   All off the major recording software works perfectly with it set as an output via usb, so almost any digital home studio can use it.


It”s so elegant, simple, affordable and useful, there’s really not much more to say about it other than if you are a high end recording engineer, or a beginner home studio enthusiast, this is a GREAT box!


Check out the video online, and then buy five of them and a mic cable and get no interest financing for  year!







Pat two, Wechter guitars makes a path to the solid body!   (Solid Body Pathmaker… you see… it’s a pun… albeit not a very good one)



I have written about Wechter guitars before… you may remember… Abraham Wechter used to work for Gibson Custom Shop, then started his own one man boutique shop creating high end custom made to order guitars for famous people people like John McLaughlin.  Then, after a vision-quest involving a Hopi sweat lodge and large quantities of a completely natural substance, he decided to make pro level guitars that the common man could afford.


OK, I was making the vision quest part up, and as far as I know, Abe has never been in a Hopi Sweat lodge or smoked peyote…  And I do know Abe personally pretty well… He probably would have told me if he had… so do not let any vicious rumors start here.


Wechter guitars now have their factory in Fort Wayne Indiana (not  very far from my office, actually!) and he is becoming a widely recognized, national brand of acoustic guitars that I am proud to be a representative of.  I have personally witnessed side by side comparisons of high end brand acoustics, priced at twice or more the cost of Wechters and in taste test, four out of five Sweetwater sales engineers said “OOOoooh!” when we played the Wechter!


But Abe is not one to rest on his laurels.  (They would probably flatten out and become uncomfortable if he did, anyway.)  It is now time for Wechter to take things to the next level.


Introducing the Wechter Solid Body Pathmaker!


They come in two flavors, and both are that unique, cool, and distinctive Pathmaker shape, which is very recognizable among acoustic guitars.


There is the Pathmaker SB Standard  (Fifty points if you can guess what SB stands for in the SOLID BODY guitar.) and the Pathmaker SB Maple.



The Standard comes in any color you like, as long as it is black, and has a carved alder body, a sturdy maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard.  It goes for $699,  $1069 or $1160 depending on which pickup configuration you want.


The Maple comes in a rich dark sunburst finish, and has a carved maple top, Mahogany body, mahogany neck and Rosewood fingerboard.  It is available for $899, $1269 or $1369, once again depending on the pickups you choose.


The thing that is really great about these is the palette of sounds you can get with the various pickups that are available on them.  The basic models in each line is equipped with two humbucking pickups.  There is a TOTALLY COOL feature of these, however, because you can switch the phase of the coils on both of them, and create sounds that are like stacked humbuckers, or single coil pickups in phase or out… It’s basically got all the classic guitar sounds available with the flip of two small switches.


If you go to the middle price point on both lines, the outputs also have an acoustophonic pickup included for great emulation of acoustic guitars with piezo pickups.  Finally, at the top end of both lines, they come with Roland ready 13 pin Hexpander pickups that allow you to control guitar synthesizers… without having to take a drill to your guitar!


Of course, people ask if Wechter guitars are made in China or America… (How come nobody ever asks if they are made in Tuvalu? Hmmmm.)  The answer is BOTH…  the basic manufacturing is done overseas (but NOT in Tuvalu) with Abe’s close eye on quality control… He goes to Asia a LOT!  Then the guitars in a partially finished condition are shipped to his factory here in Indiana, where the final finishing work is done, including the process of set up with a Plek Pro machine!


This is HUGE!  in many other guitar companies, only the very very high end get the Plek treatment to make sure all the frets are the perfect height and alignment, but Wechter Pleks ALL of their guitars from the highest end, down to the most budget model they make.  That kind of quality and value is unheard of in this industry coming from a brand as well known as Wechter.


Right now, they are not finished being assembled, but I got pretty excited about the announcement and had to share it with you!  They will be coming soon. And currently, the only ones that are represented on our web site are the SB Standard most basic model, and the SB Maple with the 13 pin pickup… but if you want to be the first on your block to have one of these, let me know which one you are thinking about getting and we can make a pre-order!


Check them out…   But beware, even though the photos of these guitars are beautiful,,, I have seen these in person and held them in my hand, and the photos do not do them justice!  They are beautiful and they feel exquisite!


Here’s the link…   http://www.sweetwater.com/store/search.php?s=solid+body+pathmaker&sb=popular&params=eyJkaW1lbnNpb24iOnsiQnJhbmQiOiI0Mjk0OTY3MjM5IiwiQ2F0ZWdvcnkiOiIxMTkxIn19




Thanks for reading!


Until next time, 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]


Manage the way Sweetwater communicates with you here:



My own personal web site can be found here…  http://www.dreamrodeo.com/


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