Monday, July 27, 2009

Stealth Pedal (Delux package) by IK Multimedia

Today’s post is all about the cool new Stealth pedal, and the "deluxe package" by the folks at IK Multimedia.

For those of you out there that have yet to be introduced, the new IK Multimedia Stealth pedal is a USB powered audio interface/software controller. The "Deluxe package" deal is a Stealth Pedal along with a large amount of software. To be more percise, all the software a guitarist and/or bassist will ever need.

The Stealth pedal works flawlessly with an electric guitar, bass, and even keyboards! This is one well made, and well thought out pedal folks! Since this is an introduction for some of you, let me dive in and explain what it is that the Stealth Pedal does.

The Stealth pedal has the ability to work with all “powered by IK Multimedia” guitar and bass software, while operating in VST (virtual stand alone) mode; running with the supplied X-Gear software. Plus it can send any midi controllable messages to any midi controlled software. The Stealth pedal is an expression pedal, a computer interface, as well as a midi switch. However its’ features do not end there. Not by a long shot.

Let me explain just what can go in and out of the Stealth Pedal. This will help explain just what is possible by using it, or adding one to your rig. The Stealth pedal (itself) allows for, and has, ¼ inch jack inputs for your instruments (guitars, basses, and keyboards), “1/4 inch outs” for monitor speakers, an “ins” jack for an added expression pedal (i.e. the IK Multimedia stomp pedal), a jack for a dual footswitch, a volume knob, and a 1/8th inch female jack for headphones. Very impressive indeed.

The Stealth Pedal allows us to record our instruments (guitar bass or keys) with a Mac or PC at the highest possible quality, with 24-bit A/D and D/A conversion and 44.1/48 kHz operation. Because it is a USB interface, this one piece of gear may be all you need to completely “express yourself”! Playing and recording your own performances is now possible, with your favorite IK Multimedia software pushing the sounds to the masses.

The Stealth pedal can operate as a VST software controller with the supplied IK Multimedia’s X-Gear software up and running on your computer. The Stealth pedal can become the only other piece of gear that you need to make and alter tones while in VST mode. It truly acts as an audio interface guys! Adding this awesome pedal and the included software package (that is the "Deluxe package") to your live “gig rig” will make your live audio effecting possibilities endless.

Again, this post is all about the Stealth pedal Deluxe package. Togather the included software in this deluxe package and the Stealth Pedal work like a dream. But what is in the box? Well, for starters..... The Stealth pedal deluxe package ships with the Stealth pedal, a USB cable, software installation discs, licenses, user manual, and a limited warranty.

Let me reflect upon the Stealth Pedal again… What I noticed, right out of the box was that it feels very well built. The Stealth Pedal is extremely solid in my hands and rather heavy. Just by holding it I know that it will last as long as you do. The pedal also has a non-slip rubber bottom to ensure the pedal will not move around the stage as you use it to dazzle the crowd with your pedal-stomp crazed effects. We all know how much things can move across the stage at high volumes, right?

As I took notice of the included software discs, I became completely pushed over the edge.

The Stealth pedal ships with IK Multimedia’s “X-Gear” software, IK Multimedias Amplitube two, IK Multimedias Metal, and IK Multimedias Ampeg SVX! How is that for a DELUXE PACKAGE! Very good if you ask me.

IK Multimedias "X-Gear" is a stand alone (VST) application that allows you to use any “powered by IK Multimedia” software while enjoying the Stealth pedal. The Stealth Pedal is also compatible with all popular DAW software supporting ASIO and Core Audio drivers on either a PC or a Mac.

As soon as I got started playing with the software and the Stealth pedal, I ran into trouble. The X-Gear software became more than just fun, it became an obsession!

X-Gears' user interface is very well laid out which made for some fast going on the jamming action. I was up and running in no time at all. Plus, the Stealth pedals’ expression pedal and midi switch can be associated with any parameter of any “Powered by Amplitube” software, providing all sorts of controllable parameters. Heck, since it is from IK Multimedia, all of the included software works just as flawless as one would imagine, and it all sounds fantastic.

With the included IK Multimedia software (Amplitube 2, Ampeg SVX, and Metal) there are all sorts of controls and features to tweak while activly in X-Gear, and playing with the available settings is a must! You can completely tweak all of the available sounds and tones within each amp cabinet, stomp box, effect rack, microphone choice and location, and speaker cabinet selection, and all to your exact tastes.

IK Multimedia X-Gear

Also provided with the Stealth Pedal Deluxe package is the Riff Works T4 software by Sonoma.

This software got more and more of my attention as I found myself diving in deeper and deeper into its amazing features. Riff Works is basically a play and record interface DAW software package. This makes for some fast lying down and recording of your ideas into workable tracks just as fast as you can come up with them. Save them and then you can share them with your friends and/or writing partners, all with RiffWorks T4 software.

Sonoma RiffWorks T4

But what about adding other instruments to your guitar and bass tracks while in Riff Works T4?

No problem! Riff Works T4 also allows you to put some drums into the mix as well as much, much more by simply adding a unit to the groove! It is a great way to either play the day away, practice for that upcoming show, or record your ideas as you are inspired to do so. It is also very well laid out, and easy to maneuver around.

But the included software bundle does not end with Riff Works T4 or X-Gear. No, IK Multimedia is just getting started.

Also included in the Stealth pedal deluxe package are the highly acclaimed IK Multimedia Amplitube 2 guitar and bass amp simulation software, IK Multimedia Metal guitar amp sim and effect software, and the IK Multimedia Ampeg SVX bass guitar amp simulation software! When I realized the amount of software that actualy came in the Stealth pedal deluxe package, I went straight into a software overload induced stupor.

IK Multimedia Ampeg SVX

IK Multimedia Amplitube 2

I will follow up this post with some more detailed posts that cover these two incredible pieces of software in much more detail. For now, just know that they are perhaps the best sounding tube amp simulations available today. They are remarkably close to the exact tones of some of the greatest and most famous amps of all time. Plus these awesome pieces of software come packed with every sort of effect stomp pedal and rack effect that you could ever think of, all of which are done very, very well. You will not spend your time wanting for any effects, but instead you will soon find yourself using way too many every chance you get!

So, to sum up the Stealth pedal Deluxe package, as well as the Stealth pedal itself, I would say “Right on” to the folks at IK Multimedia! They have come up with the perfect bundle of amp/cab/effect software to go hand in hand with a very well made and very well desighned pedal. If you make loud music with a computer, then you need this, period!

Hey, does this sound like you or someone you know?..... Are looking for a way to incorporate some of the most sought after-all tube amps of all time, and some of the best sounding bass and guitar effects to go along with them, and have them all be controllable with one single, well made pedal? If so, then look no further. IK Multimedia has your wishes in mind and they have just what you are looking for. The Stealth Pedal deluxe package with the included Amplitube software and the Stealth pedal!

Weather you are a recording buff (like myself), or a live session player, and you are in need of some amazing-all tube rigs to take your bass and your guitar recordings over the top, than you can end your search with the Stealth Pedal deluxe package. Which ever way that you plan on using this amazing pedal with the supplied software bundle, you will be adding a solid piece of tone to your rig.

The software bundle alone is worth the asking price, let alone the ability to control so much of the effects and the tone with such a well laid out, well thought out, and such a well made pedal. Without any time to ponder the question, I give this amazing package a well deserved “Two guitar guitar pics way up”!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

IK Multimedia releases Fender software update.

IK Multimedia has released an update available on the IK MULTIMEDIA website for their Fender guitar and bass software. Included in this update are some more stomp effects pedals as well as a Fender ‘63 reverb unit for the rack effects module.

The update includes the following stomp effect pedals: a Fender tremolo stomp pedal, a Fender wah pedal, and a Fender compressor stomp pedal. Each of these pedals adds to the overwhelming variety of great sounding effects included in the IK Multimedia Amplitube Fender software package.
Let me say that these effects sound just as good as the other effect units in the Fender package, and they are just as true to their vintage counterparts. Adjustments can be made to each of these new effects, right down to the minutest detail.

To be honest it is hard for me to not employ an entire host of pedals and rack effects when dialing in a sound. The whole "less is more" is forgotten as I come across all of the new sounds that are easily created with this package, and the free update.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Explaining microphone types, part three.

O.K. So far we have discussed what the three most common microphone types are. They are the dynamic microphone, the condenser microphone, and the ribbon microphone. We also discussed just what applications these types of microphones are useful for in the recording world.

We quickly went over the most common types of microphone polar patterns that are available on microphones, and a few of the useful applications of these polar patterns. The patterns were cardioid, hyper cardioid, omni, and figure eight.

What is left to discuss about microphones is getting the best possible sound out of a particular microphone. I am currently writing about the handling of microphones as in order to reduce any unwanted artifacts. I am also getting to the points of the “EQ-ing” possibilities of certain microphones.

Lastly, I wish to end off by summing up this three part series on a general topic of interest. This topic of interest is that I want to hit upon is “Just what microphones should every budget minded home recording enthusiast have in their microphone collection”?

So, lets talk about some proper microphone handling techniques.

We all want to get the best possible recording; using whatever microphones we have available to us. Sometimes using them to their best ability means setting them up correctly and thus reducing any unwanted sounds (artifacts) in our recordings. We also may have some choices to make concerning the microphones settings that alter the incoming sound to better match our expectations.

When handling microphones, the rule of thumb is do not handle them! Eliminating any microphone movement insures a clean and constant recording of our sound source. Using microphone stands and shock absorbing suspension systems (shock mounts) is very helpful when it comes to clean and steady recordings. After we have listened to the microphones different placement locations with headphones and found the place that sounds the best, plant your microphone firmly with a stand and a shock mount, if possible.

So what about this “Proxy” or proximity effect thing that we have all heard about? What is it, and how can we prevent it from happening to our recordings? What are the “high and low pass roll off” functions, and what are they for?

The proxy effect happens in directional microphones, primarily the figure eight and the cardioid microphones. The proxy effect is what we call the build up of booming bass noise that you can sometimes hear in our music, typically on (but not restricted to) the vocals. This boom type of noise comes from a building low frequency as we move a microphone closer and closer to a sound source.

Basically, we can do a few different things to avoid this build up of low frequency noise. The most obvious is to move the directional microphone further away from the sound source. But if the microphone is in the sweet spot, then “that aint gonna happen”!

Microphone designers have built some clever features that help us with this evil proxy effect. They are EQ-ing switches, basically, called low frequency roll off switches, or pads. When activated, this feature reduces the intake of the “boominess” that we so wish to avoid. Lastly, we can adjust our EQ-ing at the mixing board or at our DAW in order to cut the low end down to an acceptable level.

Sometime vocalists can sound, well, just awful! Every “P” seems to pop, and each “S” rings out with a hissing, shimmering high end distortion. By simply adding a pop-stopping filter to our microphone most pops can be avoided. Aiming our vocals into the microphone at a slight angle can remove a lot of hissing. EQ-ing and the use of wind screens can also help to reduce these common microphone phenomena’s.

Phasing issues.

“Phasing” is what we call a microphones recording that seems very hollow and flat. When we use two microphones to record one source (guitar, vocals, ect) phasing may occur. Think about a complete sine wave. Now double it. Phasing happens when the waves cancel out each other. This results in missing high and low end, and a nasal sound. Correct microphone set up and placement can all but remove any phasing issues that you may encounter. Check with the microphones manufacturer to see how a stereo set up should be put into action.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Explaining microphone types, part two.

Knowing the different types of microphones can save you time when recording, and allow for a better quality of recordings.

In part one (of this three part post) we discussed the three most common types of microphone designs. In this post, part two, I want to dial in more closely on the polar patterns of microphones.

To begin I feel it is important to know what the microphones can actualy hear, or often times more importantly; what they can’t hear. This is what we sometimes call the polar pattern of a microphone. The term “polar pattern" speaks about the direction (outward from the microphone itself) that a microphone can hear.

The most common polar patterns are cardioid, hyper cardioid, omni, and figure eight.

But what do these microphone terms mean, and how can knowing these terms help in your recordings? What is this information good for? Well, knowing what you do not want to record is just as valuable as knowing what you do want to record.

“Bleed” is what we call any unwanted noise that enters a microphone from an unwanted direction. Perhaps it is as simple as a snare microphone picking up “bleed” from the guitar amp that is off in the distance. When the microphone is solo'd, the guitar amp can be heard along with the snare through the snares' microphone. This can muddy up a session.

We can control “bleed” by choosing a microphone that ignores, or rejects noise coming from certain directions. Enter into polar patterns of microphones.

Well, let’s start off this quick explanation with the cardioid polar pattern microphone. To be more specific, it details the width of an area that the microphone can hear. A cardioid microphones’ “hearing”, or polar pattern looks like the image below. Yea, it is crude, but it works.

Sound enters the cardioid microphone easiest from the front, less from the sides, and not at all from the rear. The ring arround the microphone in the image above shows this directional concept.

As you can see sound enters the cardioid microphone from quite a narrow range of direction. However, the distance that a cardioid microphone can “hear” is not as narrow as a “hyper cardioid” microphone, which is very limited. Bleed is more controled, or defeated much more with a hyper cardioid microphone.

But what if you need to pick up a sound source that is in a 360 degree space? An “omni” directional microphone hears in all directions, and can handle some amazing reverb like effects, and some very cool sounds! You can see the “omni” polar pattern in the image below…

You can see how a Hyper Cardioid microphone might come in handy for picking up just one piece of a drum kit and not allow any sound (bleed) from the other pieces of the drum kit to enter into the microphone. An omni polar pattern microphone might be great for picking up a 360 degree “room sound”, or a group of back up vocalists standing in a circle around the microphone.

A “Figure of eight” microphone polar pattern is named so due to its look on a diagram. See the diagram below to see what I mean. Sound enters these microphones from two directions, which are also at opposite directions. You can set one of these microphones up so that sound enters from the front and the rear, or at opposing sides. These microphones are great for picking up a rooms’ deflection of sound, creating a rooms' deflection, reverb, or delay effect.

Now that you are familiar with the polar patterns of certain microphones, you might still be asking “which polar pattern types of microphones should you purchase”?

Well, here is your chance to save some of your cash!
There are microphones out there that have polar pattern switching available on the microphones themselves! This allows for a wide range of recording applications from just one microphone. Microphones that are capeable of switching its polar pattern tend to be a little more expensive, and the cost increases as the number of switch-able patterns increases. However, purchasing a microphone with variable polar pattern switching might be cheaper than purchasing as many different types of microphones.

So what about this “Proxy effect” thing that we have all heard about? What are the “high and low pass roll off” functions, and what are they for? Do you need a popper stopper, wind screen, or isolation screen in order to get decent sounding recordings?

These are some great questions folks, and I will need to ask you to stand by and wait until the next post is posted. In that post I will try my best to answer all of these questions, and add some other great microphone facts and tips!

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Explaining microphone types, part one.

There is a great host of microphone types available today for the home recording enthusiast. Choosing the correct type of microphone for the right application that you need it for can be crucial! There is quite a lot that can go wrong in a typical recording session, not to mention the chances of not getting the best possible recording.

Some common mistakes are overpowering a microphones sound pressure capabilities, choosing a set up that makes for phase issues, and even using the wrong microphone to record an instrument or vocal.

But how do we know which microphone to use for what? Well, lets dive in and see just what some common microphones do, what they are capable of, and how to use them in your next session.

What you are recording may in fact dictate what type of microphone you might need to use, but it can be even more detailed than that. You must think about several things when it comes to choosing a microphone such as sound pressure levels (SPL), side bleeding of unwanted noise, and weather you want a mono or stereo recordings.

As far as types of microphones, there are not that many different types.

Some common types that you will use the most often are the condenser, ribbon, and the dynamic microphones. Here is a quick run down of what the three types are, and what they work best for.

Condenser microphones

Within the condenser microphone family tree the tree breaks down into two major types, the large diaphragm and the small diaphragm condenser microphones. The diaphragm is the piece that air moves in order to make an electrical current.

Then the family tree branches out even more, and includes polar patterns of the two types of condenser microphones. These may include cardioid, hypercardioid, wide cardioid, figure eight, and omni directional. All of these terms simply explain what the microphones can “pick up” in terms of the microphones surroundings. Omni means that the microphone can pick up sound from all around the microphone, where figure eight is only in front of and behind the microphone itself. The cardioid mic can hear only in one direction, and hypercardioid mics hone in to less of a wide angle, or a more direct incoming path.

A mic can also be either a mono or a stereo mic, which is actually two microphones in one. The detailed list goes on to include such internal workings of microphones such as a tube or a solid state microphone, phantom powered, and some mics may even have “EQ-ing” features such as a low frequency (LF) roll-off and/or a high frequency (HF) roll off pot.

The inner workings of most condenser microphones are a pair of conducting plates that make up the diaphragm. When moving air moves the plates of the diaphragm, an electrical current is made. When compared to dynamic microphones inner workings, condenser microphones are more sensitive due to the fact that they are more efficient in their movement. They simply require less sound pressure in order to make them work.

There are two sizes of condenser microphones available because of the type of sound that they can capture. A large diaphragm condenser microphone can work great for vocal work because of their warm sound. Small-diaphragm models tend to be chosen where a very high accuracy of representation of a sound is required.

Dynamic microphones

Dynamic microphones are perhaps the most common mics that you will see and use on the road. These are tough mics made to handle high SPL’s. Dynamic microphones work almost in the same way as condenser microphones, but not exactly. The electricity is made in a slightly different way. When you think of a speaker working in reverse, then that is a crude dynamic mic. These mics are road tough and can be dropped for any stage height and continue right on working. The most common dynamic microphone of all time has got to be the Shure SM-57. Basically, it takes a lot of air to get a dynamic microphone working. Guitar amps, bass rigs, and drums soak up a bands dynamic microphone supply.

Ribbon microphones

Ribbon microphones are a gentile creature. They do not like to handle the higher SPL’s, but the newer ones are getting better and better at this. Ribbons are known to give a very realistic or un-colored sound when recording. This is in part to the fact that it takes little moving air to set the ribbon in motion.

Next time we will dive in a little deeper and find out what other specifications some of these basic microphone types can come with, and what their capabilities are.