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5150 III Review

by admin on Aug.23, 2010, under Gear Reviews

After owning this for a while now I thought I would post a review and clip. This is from the Divinity album, re-amped by Mark at Audiohammer through a Mesa cab with V30s, 57 and 201 mics blended. No EQ or post processing here, just two tracks panned left and right.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2183128/5150III_Clip.mp3

One of the best amps I’ve ever owned for sure. The amp to me sounds like the perfect blend of the original 5150 saturated roar with a bit more smoothness and tightness along the lines of a Mark series Mesa. This is perfect for me and my style as somewhat of a meeting between Prog and Death Metal.

The amp is very versatile; the clean channel is really nice if you dial it right. You have to run the gain VERY low and use the volume to compensate. A little compression and reverb and it’s beautiful.

Channel 2 is hugely versatile on its own; it can go from Marshally crunch up to pretty serious high gain. More middy and vintage then channel 3.

Channel 3 is of course the br00tz channel and the marquee sound of the amp for me. Super easy to dial in a sick sick rhythm sound for Metal and great for leads with some tweaking or external EQ as well.

Loop works great and channel switching is very quick. Occasionally makes a small pop but nothing you could hear in a live situation and I’d rather have that then a drop-out.

I haven’t owned the amp long enough yet to comment on reliability, taking it on tour though so we’ll see. No problems yet anyway, other than a bad preamp tube in V1 which I swapped for a Chinese HG+.

I’ll tell you how I came to own since it was kinda unexpected, we used it for the album but at the time I was using an ENGL SE live. Then I planned to use an Axe-FX+VHT rig live, but we had a show and I hadn’t got it all together yet, so I rented the EVH. Plugged it in and BOOM it fucking slayed, and became my rig.

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Divinity Bass Recording

by admin on May.22, 2009, under Recording

Here is a little clip from the bass sessions for the new album:

Nick used his MTD bass, and we went into the MW-1 for DI and split to the Axe-FX for a supporting distortion track. Once in Cubase, the distorted track is hi passed and the DI track is low passed so each track fills out it’s respective space in the mix.

The distorted track chain in the Axe-FX is the Ampeg SVT bass amp model, 8×10 cab and 421 mic, with a Rat pedal in front for the grind as well as a compressor.

The DI track in Cubase goes into a couple of compressors in series first, a UAD LA-2A and an 1176. I found this worked well for evening out the very dynamic fingerstyle playing without too many artifacts and still maintaining some attack. I then run the DI into the Ampeg SVX plugin for some additional fattening, and run the Bass bus into a final EQ to tweak the frequency range a bit. In this case I’ve scooped out some midrange honk and filtered the sub lows a touch.

That’s it so far although I imagine the final bass track will change a bit, we will most likely be reamping through Nick’s massive Mesa rig down the road as well. Metal,

- Sacha

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Drum Mixing – Part 1

by Sacha on Apr.02, 2009, under Drums, Recording

So we looked at a few ways to track drums on a budget and in less then ideal situations, now that we have the tracks we need to mix them. This consists of applying the processing such as EQ, Compression, Reverb etc. to make the drums sound killer in the mix. There’s quite a lot to it and I certainly am far from being an expert but hopefully you can glean some tidbits from this primer. I’m using these techniques on sampled drums but they are raw recordings of a real acoustic kit so much of the process mirrors that of working with acoustic drums.

What you will need:

If you mix all ‘in the box’ like I do this means you will use software plugins to process your sounds as opposed to hardware units. The concepts however remain relatively the same between both methods just the workflow will be different. I would need at a minimum the following processors to work with drums on my mixes:

  • EQ – boost and cut the frequencies to tailor the sound. essentially you want to remove what you don’t need and possibly accentuate what you like
  • Compressor – enhance the transient to give the sounds more ‘attack’ and ‘punch’ and even out the volume between hits
  • Reverb – give the impression of space and ‘bigness’ to the sounds

Most recording software will come with basic but usable versions of these. You can of course buy additional plugins and even download free ones on the net. By free I don’t mean warez or cracked software, I believe in supporting the developers of this software so they can continue making good shit so if you plan on using something BUY IT.

I’ll give you some basic pointers on how to apply the processing, some examples and then some links to further reading and resources.

Panning: For the n00bz out there panning is where you place the elements of the tracks in the stereo field, left to right. For drums you will most likely match a real drumset, so kick and snare in the middle, toms panned around and cymbals panned farthest. Some people mix from the audience perspective, I prefer the player perspective mostly.

Kick Drum chain:

Compressor – enhance the attack and punch
EQ – shape the ‘click’ of the attach, scoop out some mids that aren’t needed and shape the low end to punch and fit with the bass guitar

Snare chain:

Compressor – this will give the snare that SMACK that you want for aggressive music.
EQ – depends on the source but usually I will cut out some mids to remove mud and decrease the ringing, find the frequency where the crack (the snare) lives and boost that a bit and sometimes boost some upper lows / lower mids for beef and ‘thud’.
Reverb – once you’ve enhanced the attack and the transient the sustain can suffer. Reverb helps bring back the sustain and the ‘larger then life’ sound. I like using a nice thick Plate reverb like the UAD Plate 140 and I put it on an FX send.

Toms chain:

Compressor – similar settings for snare but usually a little less aggressive
EQ – scoop some mids to remove mud, boost some upper mids and treble to enhance the attack
Reverb – add back some sustain and huge roomsound

Cymbals / Overhead Mics chain:

EQ – high pass filter to remove uneeded frequencies and kick drum, then a high shelf around 1-2k to help give some more shimmer and cut

Hi-hat mic chain:

EQ – level wise I usually keep this one fairly low since the hats are coming through the other mics already and you don’t want them to become overpowering

Room mic / ambient mics chain:

Compressor - I like to crush the ambient mic pretty hard with compression and then keep it blended in relatively low in level
EQ

Another popular technique to beef up drums is to group the drums together or ‘buss’ them and then apply ‘parallel compression’ to them. Essentially you are mixing a heavily compressed and EQd drum signal with the original drum signal to further emphasize the attack and increase the apparent size of the drumsound. You can read more about how to apply that technique in Cubase here: http://www.faderwear.com/guides/parallel_compression.shtml - it should be a similar process in most DAW programs.

Sample Replacement

If you end up with shitty recorded live drums you can still save the mix with the use of sample replacement. Many Metal mixes these days are using at least partial sample replacement on augmentation to give that consistently huge and polished sound. Essentially you are using the original performance to trigger a different drumsound that plays instead of / in combination with the original sound. Some of the tools available that can help achieve this in your DAW are:

Drumagog
Drumtracker
ApTrigga

This is just a primer and there are a lot of other things you can try including layering samples / sounds, other effects such as distortion, things like transient designers which are like a cousin of compression and more. When recording acoustic drums there is obviously a whole lot more to it such as mic techniques, tuning, editing, sidechain gating etc. etc. I’ll post some links at the end for further reading if you are interested in that. Make some good Metal!

Faderwear Guides
Guide to Acoustic Drums
Drum Samples FAQ
EQ Guide
Compressor Basics

Free or Cheap Plugins:

Variety of Sound – http://varietyofsound.wordpress.com/downloads/
Audio Damage – http://www.audiodamage.com/
Smart Electronix – http://www.smartelectronix.com/
DDMF – http://www.ddmf.eu/
KVR Audio – http://www.kvraudio.com

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Divinity Guitar Recording

by Sacha on Feb.12, 2009, under Guitars, Recording

Since the audio on the vids is kinda fucky here is a clip of guitar toanz so far: http://soundclick.com/share?songid=7385371

Some snippets from guitar tracking: 

Now that drum tracking is done we move on to guitars. I prefer to track guitars before bass, some people prefer the opposite but this way works better for me. To get the most professional results without spending a shitload of money we are going to use the process of ‘Re-amping’. Basically this means that when we record the guitar tracks at my place we will split the signal and take a clean or DI version of the track straight from the guitar. Then later on we can take that dry track, run it back out through a re-amp box and run the performances through our mic’d up amps and record that. This is a good way to do things on the cheap because you can perfect the performances without worrying about being on the clock at a studio and then just run the good takes through the amps to get the killer recorded tone later.

Of course you want to monitor through a decent tone while you are recording as well, so this is where a good amp simulator comes in (you could use your real amp as well). There are a multitude of options available, the Line 6 POD being the most ubiquitous, but there are also software solutions such as Amplitube and Guitar Rig as well as other hardware units such as the one we are using, the Fractal Audio Axe-FX. This unit is the most expensive but it also sounds and feels amazing and includes incredible effects. Here are some options to check out for amp modellers:

Hardware:

Fractal Audio Axe-FX
Line 6 POD
Behringer V-amp

Software:

Amplitube
Guitar Rig
Revalver

Other then that you will need a DI box to split your guitar signal, one dry channel and one to monitor through your amp or amp modeller. For this I am using the Creative Audio Labs MW-1, another amazing unit that is also quite pricey but has a lot of options you may or may not need. There are a lot of cheaper options out there as well, here are some good ones:

Little Labs Redeye
Radial Reamp and X-amp
Reamp

So once you have your gear sorted out here is the process in a nutshell:

Recording:

Guitar > DI box / splitter > Signal 1 to amp or amp modeller for modelling – you can record this as well if you like, Signal 2 direct to soundcard / recorder input.

Reamping:

Souncard or recorder output > Reamp box > Amplifier(s) / speaker / microphone / mic pre > back into soundcard / recorder input.

Pretty damn simple but a great way to really nail down your perfect performances and then concentrate on recording the perfect tones when you need to. This can also save a shitty mix if you have the DI track you can always re-amp later and replace said shitty sounding tracks with killer sounding ones. It also works for Bass guitar of course. We will talk more about recording live guitar amps in another article.

Here are some online resources to check out on re-amping:

Andy Sneap forum articles – http://www.ultimatemetal.com/forum/production-tips-449/
Faderwear Guides to Reamping – http://www.faderwear.com/guides/re-amp.shtml
Electronic Musician Article – http://emusician.com/tutorials/better-tone-reamping/
Re-amper shootout on the Sneap Forum: Big Re-amper shootout!

Talking a bit about the gear we use:

Keep on shredding!

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Divinity Drum Recording

by Sacha on Feb.03, 2009, under Drums, Recording

Welcome to the first article on the blog. This time we are going to talk about recording professional sounding drums on a small budget.

Drums are one of the hardest instruments to record. Because of the large number of tracks and the high bandwidth of the frequencies involved, and the fact that they provide the foundation of the end production, drums can be a major bitch to get right. To do proper drums in a studio envirionment you need an excellent sounding room and a shitload of quality equipment, not to mention the drumset itself and the player.

However thanks to the technology available today there are some options for recording drums without going to a high end studio. Three methods we will discuss:

1. Recording MIDI on a V-Drum or similar electronics kit and triggering samples
2. Recording acoustic drums in a less then ideal environment and using sample replacement to reinforce the sound
3. Programming the drums entirely

Option 1 is what we have done on the new record and option 2 was the route we went on Allegory, and option 3 is what i’ve done for the ENDITOL album.

So for the new album we are capturing Brett’s performance on the V-Drum kit, all his playing dynamics and parts are captured via MIDI to the computer – in this case the Cubase sequencer, then this MIDI is used to trigger drum sounds from a sample library – in this case Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0 mixed with Steven Slate Drums.

It worked out quite well I think. Providing you use a quality sample library you are getting the sound of a real recording since the samples are recorded in a live room with full microphone bleed etc. The drum sounds are relatively unprocessed samples so you can mix them however you like, which we will go into more in other posts. Obviously you’ll have to spend some cash on the e-drum kit and the software, but nothing is fucking free is it! Here are some links to get you started:

Toontrack – makers of some killer drum samples, also has links to DYI e-drummer and other cool shit – www.toontrack.com
Slate Drums – another kick ass sample set for Metal sounds – www.stevenslatedrums.com
Andy Sneap Forum – check out the stickies and postings on here, a lot of great fucking people and articles – Sneap Forum
Cubase MIDI for n00bz – Steinberg Users
Drum mixing guide for Metal – Noise 101 Guides

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