Eric Johnson Live

The Mistro came to Oregon this week with none other than Roscoe Beck on bass and Tom Brechtlein on drums. The last time I saw Tom Brechtlein play live was with Mike Miller at the world famous Baked Potato in Studio City. He really held back playing with Eric you could tell. I’m amazed at how loud these guys still play, my ears are still ringing. Here’s a taste from the show!

Drum Simulator Plugins and the Challenges they bring

I have been diligently working on putting back together my studio from the move. There’s been quite a bit of procrastination but Necessity is the mother of invention! I’m focussing less on the sound reenforcement and more on the hardware and software now which seems easier.

A few months back I went to go install Superior Drums 2 which I’ve used heavily since version 1. I came to find out that Superior 3 had come out but when I went to upgrade I had to pay full price. I have every product Toontrack has ever published so I’ve spent a great deal of money with them.

I was completely bewildered when I found out I could not upgrade superior 3 and that I would have to pay full price for the upgrade. They only offered an upgrade for a year and decided to make everyone pay full price after that. I gasped when I read this online. I’ve never seen a company do this before, everyone offers upgrade pricing. I just upgraded NI Komplete from version 8 to version 12 for $199 US.

So I ask myself why the short upgrade window? Further more it looks like you can upgrade the entry level product but not the flagship product line. This has left me scratching my head. As a person who’s day gig is working for a Software company that sells subscriptions just like ToonTrack I can only conclude the management of the company is clueless, struggling monetarily or just plain greedy.

My guess is the first since most companies like these are run by musicians. I know the users are pissed off, all over the internet people are complaining about ToonTrack, one person even called them ToonCrap lol! The first two threads are from toontracks own forums, take a look for yourself:

Tell me their clients are not furious.

Before I pay full price for a software upgrade I already own I wanted to look into alternatives. The first alternative would be Steven Slate Drums 5. I have other Slate libraries and they sound great. I downloaded the free version and the UI is fantastic. The thing that could make this a deal breaker is they use iLok / Pace for license management. Let me be clear, I have an iLok and have used Pace. The products they make are shady at best. I’ve had computers crash from the iLok license manager. That may be a deal breaker for Slate ad much as I like the company and admire its owner.

One top contender is going to be Addictive Drums 2. I’ve already researched they do not use Pace / iLok. I have several libraries of addictive drums 1 that are sampler based. They sound excellent and now that they have an actual UI of their own they are a top contender. Also they have a free trial which is just a no brainer. Companies that don’t have trial offerings are lacking IMHO. Addictive Drums 2 is what I’m spending the rest of my Sunday afternoon with.

Another contender is Native Instruments Studio Drummer. While I have the latest version with Komplete 12 I suspect Studio Drummer still runs on Native Instruments Kontakt sampler. This is a deal breaker. Once you’ve used the EXS 24 sampler, even though the UI is a bit dated there’s nothing else that compares for me. I will check out Native Instruments Studio Drummer and see if it’s a viable solution.

Next up is BFD 3 by British software company FXpansion. I used BFD 2 on an EP and for some work I did with ARS Technica. While BFD 2 sounded decent the software was very buggy and the attitude of the folks that worked at FXpansion was quite unprofessional. They were such knuckle heads the ARS Technica project was sidelined because of it. I doubt this will be an alternative but I will look into this. You can hear BFD 2 on SIXX AM’s first record The Heroin Diaries.

Those are the alternatives to Superior Drums 3 I will be looking at and testing. As of now it’s looking like Addictive Drums 2 is the front runner only because Slate Digital used iLok / Pace for DRM.

The struggle is real

I have no idea why I sit in my home studio and do nothing. There’s no ideas or concepts in the pipeline, this just seems like writers block. in 2010 I had a desire to just work by myself, I had never really done that before other than writing songs to bring in here and there.

After almost 10 years of that I think I simply am burned out of working alone in a studio. My best friend has played with a very well known band and is an amazing drummer. I decided to form up something with him since we hang out all the time and get along. We’re both from Los Angeles so he’s just the quintessential LA musician which is why I think we get along so well.

We both live in a small collage town in the north west. Finding a place to rehearse was a nightmare. In LA there’s a rehearsal facility in almost every part of the city, here there wasn’t one until 4 years ago. The one that was built is far too expensive and it took 8 months to get in but we’re finally in. The struggle is real no question about it.

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.

Bugera 1960 Infinium Part Duex


Since I last shared regarding the Bugera 1960 Infinium price increase new and nice developments have occurred. Guitar Center / Musicians Friend rolled back their pricing to last year retail. I have to admit, I pulled the trigger and expect the 1960 to arrive near my birthday.

Listen here as to why I’m so obsessed with this Marshal Plexi Clone: