Z Gear Stories Episode 45

Gear Stories #45. Saving the World one guitar at a time! And the mic Holy Grail‏

Greetings, friends!

It’s time again for my (almost) monthly newsletter, Gear Stories. You are
getting this because you are a Sweetwater Sound customer of mine, so if for
some incomprehensible reason, you are NOT interested in getting my
newsletter, just let me know and I will take you off of the list. But
give it a try first… you might like it!

I will start, as usual, with some news…

I mentioned last month that we are now handling the subscription service to
Puremix.com, but I don’t think I fully articulated the reason why ANYONE
interested in recording should seriously look into this service… This is
not your typical “how-to” video site… This is a site full of GOLDEN
techniques… You will absolutely NOT find videos with a droning voice
telling you how to create a new track in Cubase, or how to apply a
destructive plug in… there are plenty of educational sites for that…
Puremix.com is something completely different! First of all, the videos
are FUN to watch, and engaging, and second… and most importantly, Fab
DuPont, the presenter (who is a world class engineer, mixing LOADS of the
songs you have heard on the radio and TV) talks about choices and TASTE,
and how to achieve certain sounds and effects… It’s not about the
mechanics… it’s about the SOUND, and how to achieve it…

Compared to other instructional videos that are sold through us (all of
which are perfectly valid and relevant) Puremix.com is to them like grad
school is to GRADE School! It truly is the secrets that the pros use…
and according to Fab (though he won’t name any names), VERY big time famous
engineers have purchased subscriptions! And of course, I have as well!
It’s great stuff and I have been learning new things from the git-go! (And
I’ve been a professional engineer for 21 years!) It is truly worth it…
and that is a ridiculous understatement!

Check it out here… http://www.sweetwater.com/store/search.php?s=puremix

Second bit of news… We recently sold a Martin D-100 guitar… These are
extremely limited editions that are hand crafted to the highest degree and
decorated with such intricate detail, it will truly blow your mind…
Just google the images for a Martin D-100, and you will see for yourself,
however, the photos just don’t do it justice. I got to peer lovingly upon
it’s countenance when it was here… I dared not touch it… It sold for
just under one hundred thousand dollars. Martin makes about four of these
every year in the entire world!

SO… the upshot is… if you are (or know) a HIGH END guitar collector,
who seems to have everything… you PROBABLY do not have one of these…
We can secure the next one that is being built by Martin right now! The
last time this guitar was released, it was a race to see who could get it
first, and it sold in literally a couple of hours! Call if you have any
interest in it, and I’ll hook you up!

And if that’s a little rich for your blood, but your blood is still rich…
there is always the hand picked, hand crafted by Paul Reed Smith himself,
PRS “collection”

Here are the features of this elite line of guitars…

1) designed and built by Paul Reed Smith himself!
2) Very Limited worldwide dealer network… not available at your local
guitar shop.
3) Exclusive woods utilized that are not available on Private Stock guitars
4) Inlays not available on any other guitars

See them here….

Also… many of you tried to buy the extremely limited edition of the
Marshall JCM1H 1 Watt head! I have been told that we just received a small
batch of these… even though they were originally thought to be completely
sold out and no longer available.

I know I had to turn away dozens of you who asked just a little late… so
don’t be late now! Give me a call or an e-mail and I will try to secure
for you one of the few more of these I have been told that we are
receiving! If you want one, do NOT delay! They will be gone in hours,
most likely!

Finally, this month’s deconstructed song is a little ditty that I dreamed
up myself for a lark, but I like it. The focus of this one is recording
unique things to capture the effect you are going for! Enjoy!

Now, on to the Gear Stories Proper!

Part one… the 55 point inspection! Saving the WORLD, one guitar at a

Usually I write about a single product that we sell, but for this issue,
this time, I am writing about a service we offer, which is unique in our
industry. No other online dealer does anything like this, (or if they do,
they are copying us… which is not a bad thing!)

A very common theme I hear among prospective customers when they call in is
that they could “never buy a guitar online… they need to hold it in their
hand to make sure it’s right!” I aim to contend that that is absolutely

One of the things that differentiates Sweetwater from other dealers is our
guitar preparation, inspection and set up service. First of all, when you
are shopping for a guitar on the Sweetwater web site, and looking in the
guitar gallery ( http://www.sweetwater.com/guitargallery/ ) you are
looking at photos taken here in our facility of the actual guitars that are
in stock… these are not generic photos of the product provided by the
manufacturer from their collection of stock photos… these are actual,
high resolution photos of the guitars we actually have in our warehouse.

When we receive a guitar from the manufacturer, they are allowed to sit for
12 to 24 hours (depending on the season) to acclimate… It is important
to note that every one of the guitars we get in, from the least expensive
beginner guitar to the high end like the Martin D100 are ALL kept in a
climate controlled storage area. Some of our competitors have small rooms
where they keep the cream of the crop in terms of most expensive guitars,
and the rest are left to languish in storage areas that are NOT climate

I’m not sure who I feel worse for… the guitars or the warehouse

After being allowed to acclimate, the guitars are taken to the first
inspection, where they are checked over for flaws, and then they are
photographed, and the portraits are placed in the guitar gallery for guys
like you! When a guitar is ordered, before it ships, it is subjected to a
number of tests, including a visual checks for blemishes… on a few
occasions, I have had a guitar tech call me about a very tiny scratch, and
asked me to bring it to the attention of the customer. I then call them
and usually e-mail the photographs of the blemish for the customer to
approve or reject… It is running about fifty-fifty at this time…

Imagine, however, if they had just let it go, and then you, the guy buying
his new baby, gets it delivered and there is a scratch or blemish on the
finish! It may be a hassle, but stopping a guitar because of a blemish is
a lot more painless than shipping it out and having to take a return for a
defective guitar! We do this for your protection.

SO… how is that saving the world one guitar at a time?

Well, recently, one of the big guitar manufacturers sent a delegation out
to visit us to try to put a stop to the fact that they were getting so many
guitar returns from us… What happened was NOT what they came for,

We showed them how we check the intonation, and check the truss rod
adjustment. We play every note to see if there are any dead spots…
Sometimes we can remedy the situation, and sometime we send it back to the
manufacturer. But what the BIG GUYS from the BIG GUITAR MANUFACTURING
COMPANY learned that this was not Sweetwater’s problem… it was theirs!
So after seeing what we did and WHY we sent back so many guitars as
defective… (more than any other retailer) they went back home and started
changing things… They redid their quality control department and started
similar inspection processes in their own facility. (Talk about JOB

A similar effect has been going on now with several of the major guitar
companies… One of them even set up a special line for Sweetwater guitars
only, since our standards are so much higher than all the other retailers!

Of course, we are not perfect, and every once in a while, something slips
through the cracks, but you can rest assured that if it does, we will take
care of it and make it right!.

One other question is if we inspect and set up ALL guitars we sell this
way… Actually no… There is a cut off on guitars that are around $300 or
less. That is not an exact criterion, but it is a general rule of thumb…
(If only my FINGERS had such rules, too!) But if you are buying a lower
budget, beginner guitar, you can request to have it done for about $20, if
the guitar does not qualify for this treatment for free.

So you see, you can absolutely be confident that when you buy a guitar from
Sweetwater online or over the phone, you can trust that it is going to be
in great shape when it leaves our door, and if there is anything wrong with
it, we will take care of it at our expense! Take a look through the Guitar
Gallery and pick your guitar from the individually taken high res photos of
that specific guitar, and then give me a call!

Gear Stories part TWO… The sE4400a… almost like finding the Holy Grail!

If you have been in the recording scene for long, you have heard of it, and
if you are serious about it, chances are you probably HAVE one… or a
close approximation of it…

I am talking about a mic that is legendary… It has appeared in many
forms, like the prophet Elijah, showing up all over the place after he was
supposed to be resting in peace!

I am talking about the AKG C414EB. The original 414 mic owed a lot of its
lineage to the legendary C12, and they have a sound that has been sought
after like the Holy Grail for decades – often going used for several
thousand dollars more than what they cost new! (There are other mics that
also maintain such legendary status, but there is a particular reason I am
picking on the 414 today)

Recently, a representative from sE Electronics brought in a few mics for us
to listen to… One was a vintage, highly Prized, old 414 from the early
1970’s… He played some sound files that were recorded through it… Then
he played some audio that was recorded through a brand new, modern C414,
and what I heard was shocking! The sound was not very similar at all…
Where the vintage 414 was warm and smooth and even sounding… very
musical, and pleasant to listen to, the newer one was less warm, and
actually a bit brittle and harsh sounding by comparison… Now please,
don’t get me wrong… It was WAY better than some $99 condenser mic… it
is still a valid, and very commonly used professional microphone… but I
am talking about the comparison… The new one, sounded nothing like the
old one!

That might be why the one I’d been using for years was relegated mostly to
recording snare drums and distorted guitar amps. So what is an upwardly
mobile recording engineer to do? It’s hard enough to afford a brand new
one of these mics at a grand per mic… now I’m telling you that the ones
that we REALLY want are several thousand dollars MORE!?! It’s depressing!

Enter sE electronics… the little company from China with the American
view of quality control! sE is a company that started originally as a
manufacturer of mics for other companies, making them very inexpensively in
China, but the owners wanted to be a company with a difference, so they
took a HUGE risk and branched off on their own… The began constructing
mics with incredible technical tolerances, and extremely high quality
components… Soon they were working with Rupert Neve, developing very high
end recording preamps, and they had a line of mics that, in their price
point, are absolutely unparalleled!

They make a lot of very affordable, very good microphones, and they make
microphones that sound like they want them to sound! They have a very
loyal and highly trained staff, who have to work as apprentices for years
before they are ever allowed to build a new mic capsule on their own!
They did identify a need in the marketplace, and though all their other
mics are made to sound unique, they made ONE mic that was an imitation!

That is the lovely sE4400a. http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SE4400a
Take a look at it.. it even LOOKS somewhat like the old 414’s… The sE
guys realized that so many people wanted that old Vintage 414 sound, and
were buying these very expensive new 414 microphones, and then not getting
what they were after. So to fill that need, they built this microphone as
an homage to the vintage 414. It is made, as usual, with extremely high
quality components and with all the skill that their best craftsmen could
muster. When you hold one of these mics in your hand, you can feel the
quality and weight of it. You can see that it gives you a lot of choices,
including a roll off button that actually gives you an eq curve that is
reminiscent of the current generation of 414.

Then comes the best part! They have an advertised price of only $649, as
opposed to the new 414 which goes for a thousand dollars! If it’s not the
status of owning a piece of metal with a name on it, but instead, the
function of being able to record with that sound, then the sE4400a will do
the trick for you and also save you A LOT of dollars! It’s kind of a

I must confess that I do not own one yet,,, but after that demo I heard, I
am absolutely planning on making this my next mic purchase! So I need you
all… every single person that reads this, to go online and order at least
two of them so I can afford one! OK… just kidding! But if you are
after that sound, and want your studio to sound professional… the sE4400a
is a very good step in the right direction!

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]

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