Building a passive attenuator

I purchased that quite large 150 Watt point to point hand wired Bugera 1960 guitar amplifier. I’ve posted a few short blogs about the amp. I certainly had to wait long enough to get it from Musicians Friend but that’s another story. After seeing (or should I say hearing) Matt Pike play a vintage single channel Marshall at the Sleep show on 4/20/2015 at the Ogden Theatre in Denver, I was hooked on that single channel Marshall tone. It was a sight to behold and witness!

You can still purchase the Marshal 100 Watt super lead reissue but they are $3500-ish. That’s rockstar money. I had looked for an alternative since that show, I found it about a year ago when a friend told me about the Bugera 1960 infinium. I’m not a stranger to the brand, I have a vintage 22 that’s my go to gig and jam amp. It’s loud all hell, a little too loud and it’s really good at taking pedals on the front end. I paid $250 out the door at GC years ago for this little amp and have hauled it all over in 2 different states. My buddy Chris nicknamed that amp “Mo money Mo problems.”

When I started looking at specs for the 1960 I was blown away. It is truly point to point wired, this is the inside of the chassis:

I’ve had my shiny new amp in a friends commercial studios live room and a large rehearsal space in the last 2 weeks, it’s loud! I’ve owned both Marshall and Carvin heads before, none were as loud as this amp. Unfortunately it’s far too loud for my house, but I would love to play the amp at home and do some recording with it. I need an attenuator, DI box and / or speaker emulator of some kind.

My Goals are as follows in order of importance:
• Bring the amps high volume sizzle to a reasonable live speaker volume.
• Create a DI environment so I can record the amp direct.
• Speaker emulation and sound manipulation.

Another blogger I follow named Chuck (who I don’t know but writes great articles for musicians) is looking into the bipolar other aspect of this. He’s looking at using amplifiers to record direct. That is not my main goal but a secondary goal that’s a priority. You can read his article on DI and impulsive amplification here at Chucks Guitar Geekery!

The products I’m searching for are not very abundant. Many attenuators I’ve looked out simply pull -20 DB with a switch. -20 DB will not be nearly enough for this head, not even close. The other issue I am seeing is a decent reactive attenuator is pricey. They range from the $250-ish to $1295 price point. Most I’ve seen online are not attenuators first but DI and speaker emulation. That’s making this project even more elusive.

What’s available:

Universal Audio Ox Amp Top Box street price is $1295 as is the new Boss WAZA . The last time I saw Nuno he was using a UA Ox amp, his tone was spot on. Once again $1200 is rockstar money far out of what I am willing to budget. Rivera, Two Notes and Radial make models in the $400 to $600 price range. That’s still really pricy without being able to test drive one but I do like the UA Ox amp, a lot!

Bugera actually makes a passive unit for $99 but passive is not what I’m really interested in, or is it? When I did some research into passive attenuators I found there wasn’t much to them. Most are just two 1/4” input jacks and a 100k pot.

I have all of those parts in the man cave with the exception of an enclosure. I ordered an enclosure from Parts Express that was supposed to be here yesterday. With the snow storms blowing through my state have been I doubt it will arrive anytime before Saturday.

The two things that I feel like I am accomplishing with this project are: One, not spending a ton of money on something I have zero experience with. Any musician can tell their G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) stories, some worse than others. Two, keeping it D.I.Y. is always fun, challenging and cost effective. I will share here when I’m done putting it together.

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Does MarinerSoftware.com actually have any employees?

I am saddened to report that Mariner Software has officially left me without any support on a new product PERIOD. My first purchase from Mariner Software I date at around 2002, I have been a customer for 16 plus years. As I had previously mentioned I was having issues with journaling software I have used daily for some time, the now infamous MacJournal. 

I purchased their iOS MacJournal app around a month ago. When I decided to sync it up with my MacBook’s MacJournal it quickly turned into a train wreck. Not only did the Journals not import from iOS it deleted many entries on the MacBook. I use this software for everything from Personal Journals, Blog entries, to do lists etc. It actually worked very well for that for many years and I was a very happy client.

I email Mariner  support from their website and say Yo mates WTH? They actually respond “Yeah the developer tried to make that sync work with drop box a while ago here’s a KB.” I respond I’m more concerned with the Journals that I lost during the sync, can we work that problem please? Crickets, nothing. I respond several times via email asking for an update, no returned message. This goes on for weeks. 

I was so unhappy with being shut out of any help for weeks I finally did something i’ve never ever done before, I flamed them on social media. I really disliked doing that. I’ve never purchased software from a well known vendor that dropped off the face of the earth like Mariner Software has. I really didn’t know what to do, I’ve never had any trouble with support in 16 years. Mariner Software advises “we sent that on to the developer some time ago, we will send this again.” That was 6 days ago, no response at all. 

The moral of the story here kids is DO NOT BUY SOFTWARE FROM marinersoftware.com 

Ramping up the creative process

I had to very abruptly move this last summer. I moved back into my old neighborhood after being gone for 3 years which had changed for the worse. I could not stay there and feel safe any longer. I had a heroin addict OD on my front lawn and the neighborhood had turned into a den of drug dealers. All my friends except one family had moved away.

This really threw a curve ball into putting together my creative space. I am now at a point where I have a space in my home but it needs a lot of work especially sound reinforcement. That is going to be pricy and I’m thinking maybe I should just mix my projects elsewhere. The room I have available is like an reverb chamber, it’s so wet in here I feel like I need a hoodie on my head.

As I ramp up for the rest of winter and spring I am having to rethink my process from A to Z. Not because I want to, because some of the technologies I was using 3 years ago have changed and much so for the worse.

One of these technologies is MacJournal, my go to daily writer for over a decade. MacJournal has been a train wreck since i installed it on my new Macbook Pro. It looses journals entries during sync from the iOS app (Which I just shelled out more money for) and Dan Schimpf the author does not seem to support it any longer. It’s a shame because it was such a fantastic piece of software. Sadly his website has a copyright year of 2016 in the footer, the sign of slow software Vaporware and yet it has an SSL certificate. Very odd indeed.

The Distributor Mariner Software doesn’t even try to support the product. Back when people actually used MacJournal Mariner would hand off Tier II requests to the developer Dan Schimpf, not so now. It’s just no longer supported at all it seems.

I looking for a suitable replacement I have quickly come to the conclusion that there isn’t one. Day One seems to be the leader in Journaling software, I have been using the iOS version on my iPad pro for a few years but rarely. When reviewing the MAC OS app for purchase it quickly became a fucking joke. Everything is stored on their cloud with zero flexibility for backups in the new version, at least not that I can find.

Day One also has a subscription revenue model, that model is garbage. The subscription model is nothing but an avenue to increase top line revenue at the end users expense. At $35 US per year it’s a bloody joke, what’s next? It looks as though Journey may be my only alternative. I am downloading the trial today, if it doesn’t hit it out of the park in the first hour I am going back to word. At least I will know where my content is.

The next mode of technology I had to replace was MasterWriter which I have also used for more than a decade. For writing song lyrics and basic charts MasterWriter was the best tool out there for years. Then they also got greedy and went to a subscription model like Day One Journal did. I have been down this road in my daytime gig, it’s not something I am willing to spend personal finances on.

I did find a replacement, I don’t know how well it’s going to work out for me but it wasn’t expensive. After a few nights of chatting with other writers on some of the boards most of the MasterWriter community moved to a program called TuneSmith. I’m not sure if this is a viable replacement yet, I figure I will know more in a few weeks.


10 reasons to love being a guitarist

Original story caught my eye from musicradar.com

WORLD GUITAR DAY 2017: The world is full of awfulness. You know the sort of thing – war, economic hardship, The X Factor. Basically, a whole tsunami of bad stuff beamed directly into your face by whichever glowing rectangle you’ve decided to stare at today.

With all that going on, it can be hard to stay positive – and yet there’s hope. For no matter how bad things get, guitarists are blessed. For the guitar is the single greatest musical instrument ever conceived, and we get to play it.

No matter how bad the conflict, how crippling the depression, how overwhelmingly awful the new Bieber single, we shall persevere. Because it is awesome being a guitarist. Here’s why…

1. Stress-busting

Your commute was awful, you spilled coffee on your crotch, and your boss was a classically trained bastard for nine straight hours. When you’ve had a day like that, there is no better medicine than plugging in a guitar, turning it up, and making a huge amount of noise.

Playing guitar is, in our experience, the most effective method of staying sane in a world that can appear to be actively trolling you. Like extremely loud yoga, playing the guitar clears your mind and gives you an enormous sense of peace. So, hooray for that.

2. The feeling of achievement

How do you feel when you’ve finally conquered a particularly tricky solo, or written a great song, or had a great jam? Like a great big sexy genius, that’s how.

We can all remember the first time we nailed the intro of Sweet Child O’ Mine, or Layla, or whatever your classic rock song of choice was when you were but a wee slip of a beginner. Many among our parish have spent the rest of our lives chasing that same feeling. Why? Because it makes you feel good about yourself and it’s a whole lot of fun, that’s why.

3. It makes you smarter

It turns out that learning things makes you smarter. Who knew? All those hours spent playing along to records or correcting rubbish internet tabs has actually made your brain… better.

Learning the guitar can actively improve cognition, aid hand-eye coordination – hell, it can even add points to your IQ.

Being a guitarist means that you are always learning, constantly teaching your brain to do new, intricate things, consistently pushing yourself. It’s almost as if playing the guitar makes you somehow superior to other people…

4. You get to be in bands

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: getting in a room and making a racket with friends is one of the best things you can do as a member of the human race.

Getting a band together, writing some songs, playing a few gigs – whether you have success or not, these are things that every guitarist should experience, if only for the sheer joy of ripping out a solo at full volume in a space that isn’t your bedroom.

Practising in a garage is among the most fun things on Earth, and playing live? Well, it’s as addictive as any drug (probably), and one of the most exhilarating, terrifying and downright exciting things you’ll ever do in your life.

5. You learn the value of perseverance

What was the most difficult thing you ever learned? It took bloody ages, didn’t it? Poring over it second by second, painstakingly learning each note, slowly linking them up, working on your phrasing and timing and tone, then blending all that together to form a coherent whole – learning a piece of music is an enormously complex task.

But you’ve done it, time and time again, and you are an Advanced Human because of it. You’ve learned that you’re capable of achieving things that at first blush seem impossible. All it takes is time, patience and perseverance. If that’s not a solid-gold Mr Miyagi-style, hard-earned life lesson, then we don’t know what is.

6. The pose

Of course, once you’ve spent all those hours practising, you get to show off the fruits of your labours to actual, living people. Whether you’ve only got a few chords or can bang out the entire Zeppelin back catalogue with your guitar behind your head, people will be impressed.

And it’s a great feeling, a vindication of all that time spent alone playing with yourself (easy now). Whether it’s a party, a gig, or a formal recitation in the parlour like the precocious youngest child of a Victorian household, showing off your chops in public is a thrill. Plus, you get to throw all your favourite rock star shapes, which, as we know, is what this has all really been about.

7. Guitar shops

Glorious caverns of guitar-y goodness, guitar shops have been the location of some of the best moments of our lives (barring, you know, children, marriages, that sort of thing).

From endless hours spent staring at beautiful slabs of want hanging in windows, through to the most recent snap purchase (you only went in for strings, but…), it’s at the guitar shops that dreams become reality.

Tentative first strums on guitars you would cherish for decades, random pedal recommendations from fellow punters, in-jokes with friendly staff – these are the reasons we love our local guitar emporiums, and probably always will.

8. The gear

Most musicians don’t fetishise their instruments in quite the same way guitarists do. We’re a bunch of nitrocellulose lovin’, tube-huntin’, tone-wood tappin’ gear hounds and proud of it.

Guitars have a beauty all of their own, even when they’re not being played, and we cannot stop ourselves from obsessing over them. The same goes for amps, pedals, stands – you name it, and somebody will know the exact date of manufacture, materials used and what the guy that put it together had for lunch.

We’re like trainspotters, except much, much cooler. Plus, we get to drive the trains.

9. Being a human jukebox

Sure, sometimes it can be a burden being asked to play the same songs over and over, but let’s be honest with ourselves here: we all love it, really. Having a few folk sing along to your playing, even if all you’re doing is banging out a half-remembered bit of Johnny Cash, is a fine way to spend an evening.

Not only do you get to show off just how many chords you can play (loads) and how many songs you can only remember the intro to (also loads), but people will buy you drinks. What’s not to love about that?

10. We rock

Guitarists quite literally rock, which means we wander around the place with the self-esteem of Greek gods. Ultimately, we know that we play guitar for our own satisfaction. Yes, it’s nice to get compliments or the odd free beer, but only we, the players, get to experience the satisfaction of a lick well played or a song well strummed.

It’s an endlessly rewarding pleasure, and one that only grows sweeter as the years roll by. There’s always something new to learn, some other trick to try or tune to pick up. If we’re lucky, we get to surround ourselves with gear that we’ve spent years accumulating, playing music that we love, whenever the hell we want. And that, if you ask us, isn’t half bad.

Memories of Gregg Allman

Gosh, I have found so much music press lately that has been so inspiring. This is an article about Greg Allman who played a private concert for A Buffalo high school while in Rehab in 1976. It was a really lovely Read I wanted to share, read it here:

http://www.canisiushigh.org/news/news-item/~post/memories-of-gregg-allman-20170605

The student body has shared remembrances of this performance on the Canisius High School Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/CanisiusHS/

The Verdict on iOS music Creation

I’ve been working with the iPad Pro for the better part of 6 months. I’ve purchased 3 DAW’s, Garageband for iPad, Auria and Cubasis. They sound pretty Legit, Cubasis having the overall best sounding Virtual instruments (GarageBand a very close 2nd). If I were recording electronic Music only, I wouldn’t use anything other than an iPad. You can do just about everything you can carry out on a MacBook Pro in that realm.

For making organic analog music using Real Drums that have true groove, it fails blatantly. I’ve purchased the Real Time alternatives to Superior Drummer and BFD, Sonically they all fall VERY short but one. The best sounding acoustic Percussion with any decent workflow was Garageband’s x drummer. If you use it for Logic X and you like the sound you’re golden.

I like the sound of X Drummer, but it’s not very flexible in the choice of sounds and tones. For instance I could never get Full Kit sounds like some of the Steven Slate libraries I own for Mac and PC. You can get true non-quantised human groove like a Superior Drummer or BFD. That’s really important to me.

I also like how every thing plugs in seamlessly with AU. With the release of iOS 10 AU became more useful and feature rich. I rarely used AudioBus even back under iOS 9 with the Previous version of AU, the exception was Auria. Using X Drummer in GarageBand for iPad as a plugin to Auria or Cubase is a walk in the park with AudioShare. It’s actually easier and more seamless to use plugins, even whole DAW’s plugging into each other in iOS (more so than a PC).

I think you can make really great Acoustic instrument Demos giving the restrictions of iOS music creation. I don’t think you can create something professional and polished for Pandora Radio etc. The two pieces that are missing from all 3 DAW’s are:

Flexible good sounding Percussion creation somewhat resembling the Mac and PC world.
The feature that allows one to do several “takes” or “comps” of the same passage of music.

I believe as time moves forward these issues will be solved sooner more than later. There’s too much open market opportunity here for software companies.

EDIT: I forgot to tag this with categories and Keywords and originally posted this a few days ago, I was really tired! I reposed with the right SEO information.

Things I’ve learned about iPad DAW in the last 30 days

In the last month I’ve been in the wood shed daily working with the new iPad, the Presonus interface and new apps. I’m having so much fun! I really think the challenge of the learning curve is something I needed and truly enjoy. Challenges for me like most people are great in life especially, musical challenges. Doing what you love and workig diligently at it.

Most of what I’m going to share is about are the apps I’ve purchased:

  • Bias FX
  • Bias Amp
  • Bias JamUp Pro
  • Bias Final Touch
  • IK Multimedia SampleTank for iOS
  • DrumPerfict Pro

Positive Grid’s Guitar Plugins are IMHO the best you can purchase for the Macintosh platform. Although I usually mic up Guitar amplifiersin the PC realm, I use Bias Peak with Logic and Pro Tools to re-amp and layer. Bias Amp sounds just as good to my ears as it does on the Mac. I am blown away by this app on the iPad. Bias FX and the amps in JamUp Pro are just as great on the iPad.

Final Touch was something that was somewhat of an impulse buy because it was on sale. I’m quite happy with this mastering suite and grateful I picked it up. I’ve loosely mastered two demos with it so far, the tracks really came to life nicely. On labor day I paid a whopping $4.99 for the app on sale, Positive Grid has amazing holiday sales. The Memorial day sale prices are still current, GO BUY THEM!

 

  • Bias FX- Normal Price $29.99 Now  $9.99
  • Bias Amp Normal Price $19.99 Now $4.99
  • Bias JamUp Pro Normal Price $19.99 Now  $4.99
  • Bias Final Touch Normal Price $29.99 Now $4.99

 

I’ve always thought SampleTank had great sound samples, the Neil Peart Drums are awesome. I’ve had the free version of SampleTank for iOS on my iPhone for years, I knew the sounds were solid. Since it’s on sale for $15.99 for fathers day I pulled the trigger. It has great organ and electric piano samples, I’m happy I purchased it.

DrumPerfict Pro is touted as the Superior Drummer 2 / BFD for iPad. I can tell you it is no such thing. Firstly, the drums samples are horrible, I mean really bad. I can’t believe this has the positive reviews it has. Drummer inside of garage band sounds light years better that DrumPerfict Pro.

Second, the user interface is a train wreck. It’s a mishmash of screens that have no rhyme or reason other than the grid screen. How could you screw up a grid UI yes? After thinking it over I am going to ask Marinus J.G. van de Molengraft for a refund. While I applaud his efforts to bring a product like Superior Drummer to iOS, he falls miles short.

Lastly, I just ordered an iRig keys 37 that should arrive at the end of the week. I’m pretty excited about that. I have some really nice samples but no vehicle to bring the sounds to life.

 

 

 

 

And so it begins

And so it begins…

Ribs somewhat reasonably healed…. check!

Found an iPad DAW that would actually work with any interface…. Check!

What I’ve learned so far…

Cubasis LE for iOS has very strict hardware rules. Why would  you rule out Presonus as a valid vendor? THAT’S SO BAD! I have no idea why the list of  approved hardware vendors discludes Presonus, it’s quite illogical. They’re a major player in the industry!

https://www.steinberg.net/en/products/mobile_apps/cubasis_le/compatible_hardware.html

I really was set on Cubasis LE for iOS because the virtual instruments are really solid. The fact that the DAW doesn’t work with many industry standard hardware choices, even with the lightening wire to USB lit was a total deal breaker. So I found another DAW I knew nothing about.

Auria pro will work with almost all interfaces. I pulled the trigger on the $49.99 download this afternoon, it seems the learning curve is going to be somewhat difficult.

And so it begins…

Choosing a A2D / D2A converter For iPad Pro

Choosing a A2D / D2A converter has been an interesting process. At first I wasn’t thinking anything other than Apogee. The thing is I wanted to use in some small capacity my Yamaha HS80M monitors. The Apogee One and Duet are not good solutions to use monitors with. They both have 1 output for headphones, that’s it. The thought of using a 1/8″ stereo to TRS or XLR seemed like a really bad idea to me. I started to look around at other solutions with absolutely no expectations.

I used a little Google Foo skills and found a few interfaces that were decent solutions for the iPad Pro, but they could not come close to that Apogee converter and pre-amp reputation.  As I looked around I found a Few I really liked:

The Line 6 Sonic Port VX looks amazing, but hooking up the monitors long term isn’t going to be feasible. I like this unit so much I may purchase it and use it only for recording. The reviews I’ve read on the Microphone are solid.

The focusrite iTrack solo looks pretty cool too, but I would rather not use RCA as the monitor outputs.

The iConnectiyity looked like the one, but the reviews indicated the app and Drivers needed work everywhere I checked.

That left the PreSounus Audio Box iTwo! I think this is the interface I want, it has everything I’m looking for.

  • Separate 1/4″ TRS outputs.
  • One big Volume Knob.
  • Two inputs that can be used at the same time. 2 mics on a guitar amp at the same time!
  • An additional headphone output that is 1/4″ stereo.

I’ve used PreSonus interfaces before, I owned an AudioBox previously that I thought sounded plausible.  I have recorded through a few FireStudio’s I thought were cool sounding. Since this is an iPad Pro, I don’t think I necessary need to go Apogee to get what I am looking for. I need functionality, but I don’t need 4 inputs at $1399 from the Apogee Quartet. I certainly don’t need that huge price tag either.

If anyone has any input I would love you to comment!

Until next time, stay thirsty my friends!

 

The first track in a new DAW – iPad Pro 12.9 Review

In the past when adopting a new DAW, that first track was always the real learning curve. I am amazed at how much functionality from Logic Pro (X) is in Garageband 2.2 for iPad. I have my first scratch track put together. Musically it’s really bad, but I learned a lot creating it. I really dove deep into the MIDI arranging aspect, I have to say I am quite impressed.

What Garageband for iPad has from big Brother Logic X:

  • Drummer – This is the full Drummer from Logic X. Darcy is just as funky as she is in Logic.

 

  • Sampler – No it’s not the EXS 24, but having a bona-fide sampler in a Garageband environment is pretty amazing.
  • Full MIDI editing just like in Logic X.
  • Automation – Yes really, the automation is the fully robust exact method Logic Pro Uses.

Check out this video of the automation on an iPhone:

If you’re a Logic Pro X user, you know that feature is the real deal that resides in Logic Pro.

In creating my first project, I found myself finding many portions that I’ve previously mentioned of the UI to Mirror Logic X. I could not find a screen shot of the new Garageband iPad MIDI editor online, so I took one directly from my iPad pro. You can see, it’s the same MIDI UI in Logic X:

Garageband for iPad MIDI UI interface

Garageband for iPad MIDI UI interface

 

The thing I’m enjoying obviously is the Logic Pro UI elements, but with the added touch capabilities. It makes the learning curve so much less difficult! It’s been 10 awesome days since I brought the iPad Pro home, I am very seriously impressed. Not just with the iPad itself, but with how powerful the new 2.x version of Garageband for iOS truly is. This DAW is no toy! I’ve had it on my iPhone’s for years, in the past it was a novelty IMHO only useful for electronic music. However I can clearly see that this is the future of DAW, not just as a controller but as serious hardware.

The sounds of the virtual instruments are solid. There’s a few that don’t meet Logic X’s standards, but the bulk are the same great sounding sampled technology Apple’s Logic Pro is known for. The 4 speakers are bloody amazing! Rather watching NetFlix or arranging MIDI, audio it is really something that really blows me away. The sound quality absolutely stomps the latest Mac Book Pro by a far margin.

When I was watching the Key Note on 9/09/2015 I thought “wow who would pay this much for an iPad and not just buy a MacBook Air?” One thing I can say now is Processing Power, this iPad has MAD PROCESSING POWER! According to Apple iPad Pro is faster than 80 percent of the portable PCs shipped in the last 16 months. I’m certainly a believer….

Until Next Time…… Stay Thirsty my Friends!