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Monday, 11 April 2016

Short guitar track: Tides of the Ether

This isn't the music I've previously mentioned I've started work on, but I made this for a contest which guitar effect makers Strymon are presenting, and for which they're giving some of their cool products as prizes.

The theme of the contest is to create ocean and beach inspired sounds or music, and to post it to Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc. I though I might re-record The Blue Tides and You for this, as a performance video, but I double-checked the contest rules today, and they say that the content (or maybe just the video, I wasn't sure) has to be created after March 11. And I already posted The Blue Tides and You a month earlier than that, so, this evening I put together another ocean-esque, tides-titled track: Tides of the Ether.

C~ Soundscapes

Thursday, 7 April 2016

And now, with shiny new knobs.... a presentation of pedals

Finished that MXR DII clone, and gave gifts of the conical kind to a couple other builds.


On the left, an El Distorto Segundo (MXR Distortion II clone, with enhancements)
In the middle, a Phase Royale (MXR Phase 90 clone, with enhancements)
And, on the right, an Overdrive 2 (a souped-up Tube Screamer-based boost & OD pedal)

C~ Soundscapes

As paint dries...

I know that music is the best type of post, but I haven't been able to continue recording the track which I've completed the rhythm guitar for. I will continue its recording soon, but I've had a couple of things getting in the way of that. I've also been tempted to just post what I have of the track, which is its rhythm guitar... but that would take away the greater impression of its completed form, and it should be a damn good impression.

This is another of those Build Your Own Clone effect pedals, and the 5th that I've put together. This one is a recreation of the MXR Distortion II, with some minor adjustments, including changing the clipping style from symmetrical to asymmetrical, giving the pedal true bypass, reducing its unwanted noise, and adding a switch to change clipping types between a crunchier sound, and the traditional sound.

For this pedal build, instead of soldering in the diodes which configure the pedal for symmetrical or asymmetrical clipping, I soldered in these sockets, which I can fit the diodes into, and then still take them out and arrange them in other ways after the pedal build is completed. This will let me listen to and choose whichever style of clipping I prefer, while still being able to change things again at any time later. If only these things worked for all parts of life.

I would be finishing up this build now, but it's been less than 12 hours since the last layer of paint I sprayed on, and it takes 24 for the paint to fully dry. I'm tempted to, and probably will finish it now anyway. I'm sure the paint will be OK with gentle handling, plus I'll have that nice chemical paint aroma while I work.

I also recently modded a BOSS CS-3 compressor pedal that I have, with a mod that replaces some lower quality parts with higher quality ones, to reduce the noise level, and to give the pedal a slight tonal adjustment.

I don't have a demonstration of before and after the mod to show, but there is this clip from the mod maker's website that demonstrates the modded sound. It still delivers the particular extreme signal squishing that is the BOSS CS-3's style of compression, but it does so with a much lower noise floor, and with a touch of high-end clarity added.

C~ Soundscapes

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Alesis 3630 vs 3632 compressor, in a guitar rack

Alesis 3630 compressor
 Alesis 3632 compressor

I use these as compressor, boost, and dirt effects in my guitar rack, and I really like them in these roles. I've read it said that the 3632 delivers the 3630 sound, but with better quality components, and less noise, but I find there to be tonal differences between these devices, despite them also having similarities in their characteristics.

Out of all the the many signal-boosting devices that I have (pedals and rack devices), I find that these two Alesis compressors (and without using any of their compression features) are stand-out in giving played sounds distinct crisply-defined edges, when their output boosting feature is used. And this is a quality that I especially like.

If I play a note using any of my other boost pedals, I would describe the resulting sound as still having a relatively soft-sounding shape and experience, whereas the quality from either the 3630 or 3632 imbues played sounds with a quality that I would describe as firm, strong, solid, which increases as the output gain is increased. And between the two compressor devices, I think that the 3630 does this more greatly than does the 3632.

One big downside to the 3630, though, is its limited gain level headroom, which, when exceeded, completely garbles whatever sound is passing through the device. And to avoid this, either output levels on pedals ahead of the 3630, or the output gain on the 3630 will have to be turned down sufficiently to keep the overall signal level beneath the headroom threshold of the 3630's gain capacity. As I mentioned, I like the crisp quality given from cranking the output on the 3630, so I have to adjust the volumes of other things in my signal chain in order to still be able to push the output on the 3630 at the end of it all, while preserving the sound.

I also perceive the 3630 as imparting a darker quality and colouration upon output tone than the 3632, which is pretty transparent-sounding, meaning that it doesn't really add colouration to sound that is put into it. And this makes its output tone seems a little brighter, and perhaps a bit thinner, to me, when contrast with the 3630's output tone. The Smashing Pumpkins' album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness featured a base amp setup of a Marshall JMP-1 preamp, going into an Alesis 3630, which then went into a Strategy 500 power amp (and this is where my similar base amp setup of an Alesis 3630, going into a Marshall JMP-1 preamp, going into a Strategy 500 power amp is inspired from). And being familiar with the 3630's sound colouration, I recognize it as a key (though smaller) piece of that album's darkish tone.

Both the 3630 and 3632 have interesting and very usable distortion characteristics, when their output gain is cranked enough on an already boosted signal, and both are again pretty distinct from the other signal boosting devices that I have, and both also convey their crispnessness. The 3630's distortion sounds to me like a bunch of very short but firm bristling hairs of light, whereas the 3632's is more granular and evenly-spread throughout the sound.

Both devices are great general compression, boost, and dirt effects for a guitar setup, though I find the 3630 to impart a darker and note-thickening tone quality, and to have a slightly-different dirt sound. For now, the 3630 is in my amp rack, though I'm sure I'll be swapping between them, now and again.

C~ Soundscapes