Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Darkglass Microtubes B3K and B7K Bass Pedals

I've been reading lots of great things about these pedals over the past year or so, especially from the likes of now highly prolific players such as Nolly (Periphery). I even got the chance to briefly meet the guys from Darkglass at the Winter NAMM show this year, so I took the opportunity to see if we could order some of their pedals for our shop. Fast forward 6 months or so and here we are, they're here!

I'll demo all of their pedals, but here's the first couple of videos focussing on the most popular models, the Microtubes B3K & B7K. Personally, as a songwriter and guitarist, I only really play bass when I'm trying to write parts for a song - usually on a cheap but effective Spector Performer series 5-string I have at home. So, for me - the B7K is the most appealing because it can function well in two ways, on a board in front of an amp AND as a direct recording tool for studio use.

There's nothing wrong with recording a bass direct via a DI box, usually you get a good acceptable result and not much can wrong there. The B7K gives you an affordable compact way to stick with the convenience of recording direct, but gives you the basic controls most players would rather have than not. The EQ is very useful, offering low, mid, high-mid and high controls. The overdrive is what Darkglass are really known for, an excellent range of saturation and no big negative impact on your clarity.

Australians, check out the range and please support me in being able to explore new brands, and make videos as much as possible by purchasing from Guitar Factory -

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Teletronix Mulholland Drive Mk3 Demo

I've been anxious to get my hands on this one just to experience it. This Australian-made overdrive has proven quite popular for years now as a boutique drive pedal. The controls are laid out like a Klon, not sure if that's the intention or a coincidence. It's got a great british style distortion, with a very useful treble control for adding a real searing "cut" to your tone, highlighting the harmonics.

TC Electronic Viscous Vibe Pedal Demo

This is a killer new pedal from TC, part of their Toneprint range of small format pedals. The Viscous Vibe is mostly a vibrato pedal, but it has a switch to make it more like a chorus too.

I thought this was honestly great, I'm a bit of a pedal snob when it comes to the big mass manufacturers like Boss, Digitech and TC and some of the other Toneprint series don't set my world on fire, but I can honestly say this was really easy to get a great sound out of and I would totally add it to my board for the asking price.

Kemper Profiler Videos - Round 1

I've put this off for a long time, because I still don't really know how to tackle the Kemper in a video, there's just too much going on. I've decided to do a few, trying not to overthink it or worry about making the "ultimate" Kemper video.

Here's the first few - focussing on 8-string 5150 style tones, acoustic profiles with a piezo equipped guitar and then a bass factory rigs video.

I'll try to think of more and make a couple at a time, feel free to send me requests!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Earthquaker Devices - Levitation Reverb Pedal Demo

I've really started following this brand properly this year since I got them coming into our shop. I'd always seen them around, they get a lot of buzz on the net and their visual designs are quite striking. Since being able to try quite a few of them, I'm now eager to get my hands on anything new they come out with and this one just arrived.

This one is simple, no crazy tricks to it - just a nice versatile classic sounding reverb.

Plugged in-front of my Boogie Mark IV and recorded with an SM57 on my Marshall 1960TV - into an Apogee Ensemble. The pedal cam comes in and out because I stuffed up the frame rates or something between the two cams and they weren't syncing properly - but don't worry, I've made it so you can see settings change.

Strymon DiG - Dual Digital Delay Pedal Demo

Caught my first few minutes of playing around with this new delay from Strymon on camera. Absolutely awesome, really effortless in creating a really deep, interesting sound even if you're really not that great with delay pedals like I am. I would honestly consider selling my Timeline to just get one of these, I guess if you don't need the preset functionality at all - the Dig is a very serious contender for your pedal board space.

Not sure how or why, but there was a bit of crackling on the SM57 and I did my best to remove it using iZotope RX. Hopefully doesn't distract you from the fantastic sound of this pedal! I used my 10-watt class A Dylan Amplification head for this one.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Sony A7s - First Impressions

So... after a little over a year with my beloved Canon 6D, and around three years since I first bought a Canon 650D to get into shooting videos... I have made the switch to mirrorless and gone with the massively popular Sony A7s. Why? Two main reasons and one minor reason:

  • I take my camera with me every day, to and from work. The Canon 6D is a very, very heavy camera. Paired with that lovely L-Series 24-105mm zoom lens, it is not a fun thing to have hanging on your neck or hold up for a while shooting shaky unstable video. It's naturally quite physically large too.
  • The low light performance still didn't wow me. While it was most certainly a large upgrade from my good old 650D, I began to understand as I devoted more of my time to reading about what's on offer and talking to professionals that it really wasn't the best choice for someone who cares very little about taking stills over shooting video.
  • 4K video intrigues me. I don't think it's a necessity for me as I'm already struggling with storage needs for all of this video I'm collecting, so the lack of internal 4K recording didn't deter me from the A7s. An external monitor is something I desperately need in order to improve my ability to nicely focus shots when I'm filming myself at home, so in a long term plan - getting a Atomos Shogun for recording 4K and monitoring is something I'm definitely considering. I probably couldn't justify that extra spend if I only needed a 4K recorder, but the monitoring ability would be very helpful.

So,  what's it like I hear you ask?

Absolutely brilliant. I've barely tested it properly at all yet, but I can immediately notice the video quality improve, and playing with the ISO in dark places is amazing - it really is the best low light DSLR on the market. Did it solve the issue of size/weight? Completely. On paper, the weight difference doesn't exactly resonate the way it does holding the two. The A7s body weighs in at 489g with battery, while the 6D body weighs 690g without battery. In terms of the lenses I'm comparing (less of a fair comparison - but I figure you should know), the Sony Zeiss 55mm prime lens weighs 281g, while the Canon 24-105mm zoom lens weighs a whopping 670g.

So, when you compare the two rigs in hand - the difference is huge. Plus, I could absolutely feel the difference in my bag walking to work, my back is truly thankful (now I just need to get rid of my old 15" MacBook Pro for one of those lovely new 13" ultra thin retina display models). 

The Zeiss lens is great, very sharp as all the reviews state. No doubt a very handy lens to have in your kit, although it was a very strange jump for me having been used to a zoom lens with a wide range always at your fingertips. I think I will almost definitely need to get a couple more lenses before I'm totally happy with what I can do using this camera. The two I'm considering are the Sigma Art Series 19mm wide-angle for videos at the shop + live music (given the lack of room to move around), and then a general purpose zoom lens. Not sure which yet, may depend on budget. 

I'm hoping to make a video showing off some potential, we'll see though. I'm definitely no camera expert, a lot of this is very new to me and there are already so many great videos on YouTube that really helped me - particular Phillip Bloom's video. I guess keep your eyes out and feel free to nag me to do it if you think it would be worth watching. 

As for my 6D? I think I will move it on shortly, mostly so I can fund more lenses for this camera. As much as I would love a really nice B Cam, it would be a bit of overkill for me. I can make do with my iPhone and Zoom Q8 for that.