AF’s Weblog

November 28, 2011

Orange Dark Terror Review

At AudioFanzine, we are acutely aware of all the small terrors unleashed by Orange. We already reviewed the Tiny Terror (the first model), the Dual Terror (two channels) and the Bass Terror (four-string player version) — now comes the Dark Terror.

This time, the orange ripened in a cellar and didn’t see the light of day for a long time — the orange is very sour. Behind its black look, the design is based on the Tiny Terror with a metal housing and three controls. It also has the same features: a 15 watts power stage and only one single channel.

But, apart from the color, where is the difference with the Tiny Terror?

We will come back to this later, but let’s have a look at the product first…

Black is Black

Orange Dark Terror

No need for a detailed hardware description: everybody knows what it’s all about. It still looks very rough, the small gig bag with the Orange logo is also there and we were lucky enough to get an Orange speaker cabinet with the same dark finish. The latter uses a standard 12″ Celestion Vintage 30 speaker. The speaker cabinet weights about 44 lbs and has the following dimensions: 20.5″ x 17.7″ x 11.8″. The amplifier head weights 15.4 lbs, versus the 11 lbs of the Tiny Terror (is black paint 4 lbs. heavier than white pain?). The dimensions are compact enough (11.8″ x 6.7″ x 5.5″) to allow an easy transportation in the subway, on a hot-air balloon or on foot.

The front panel is not surprising and it features the exact same controls as the Tiny Terror: Guitar input, On/Off and 15 Watts/Standby/7 Watts switches, a nice red lamp indicating the unit is on, and the three controls for Volume, Shape and Gain. As you might have noticed, the EQ section still includes only one single control. And we will see below that this is not necessarily a disadvantage…

Orange Dark Terror

The rear panel allows you to connect three speakers: a pair of 8-ohm speakers and a single 16-ohm speaker. Orange had the brilliant idea of adding an FX loop (with a 12AT tube), which was dearly missed on the Tiny Terror.

Under the hood you’ll find not two, but three 12AX7 tubes in the preamp stage. This is the main difference with the Tiny Terror, which uses only two preamp tubes. On the other hand, the power amp stage with a couple of EL84 tubes is exactly the same in both amps. Orange doesn’t provide more information in this respect. So, let’s have confidence in our ears!

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

With the Dark Terror, Orange offers us a more nasty Tiny Terror for fans of dirty and dark music. The head has the same assets as its older brother: sturdiness, ease of use, gig bag, and a hard rock/metal ready sound. We really liked the Shape control and the fact that we had enough gain to get very a fat tone. Musicians who love clean sounds shouldn’t bother trying this amp out — we even ask ourselves why on earth have they read this review up to here! For all others, the price is somewhat high ($650 for the head plus $380 for the speaker cabinet) but true love doesn’t know any limits…

Advantages: 
  • More gain!
  • Easy to transport
  • Gig bag included
  • Ease of use
  • FX loop
  • Really convenient Shape control
Drawbacks:
  • Not really suited for clean sounds!
  • Rather expensive for 15 watts

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Orange Dark Terror

November 11, 2011

The Truth About Guitar Cords

Filed under: Guitar reviews — Tags: , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:55 am

If a guitar player hears something that an engineer says is impossible, lay your bets on the guitarist. For example, some guitarists can hear differences between different cords. Although some would ridicule that idea—wire is wire, right?—different cords can affect your sound, and in some cases, the difference can be drastic. What’s more, there’s a solid, repeatable, technically valid reason why this is so.

However, cords that sound very different with one amp may sound identical with a different amp, or when using different pickups. No wonder guitarists verge on the superstitious about using a particular pickup, cord, and amp. But you needn’t be subjected to this kind of uncertainty if you learn why these differences occur, and how to compensate for them.

The Cordal Trinity

Even before your axe hits its first effect or amp input, much of its sound is already locked in due to three factors:

  • Pickup output impedance (we assume you’re using standard pickups, not active types)
  • Cable capacitance
  • Amplifier input impedance

We’ll start with cable capacitance, as that’s a fairly easy concept to understand. In fact, cable capacitance is really nothing more than a second tone control applied across your pickup.

A standard tone control places a capacitor from your “hot” signal line to ground. A capacitor is a frequency-sensitive component that passes high frequencies more readily than low frequencies. Placing the capacitor across the signal line shunts high frequencies to ground, which reduces the treble. However the capacitor blocks lower frequencies , so they are not shunted to ground and instead shuffle along to the output. (For the technically-minded, a capacitor consists of two conductors separated by an insulator—a definition which just happens to describe shielded cable as well.)

Any cable exhibits some capacitance—not nearly as much as a tone control, but enough to be significant in some situations. However, whether this has a major effect or not depends on the two other factors (guitar output impedance and amp input impedance) mentioned earlier.

Now let’s take a closer look…

If a guitar player hears something that an engineer says is impossible, lay your bets on the guitarist. For example, some guitarists can hear differences between different cords. Although some would ridicule that idea—wire is wire, right?—different cords can affect your sound, and in some cases, the difference can be drastic. What’s more, there’s a solid, repeatable, technically valid reason why this is so.

However, cords that sound very different with one amp may sound identical with a different amp, or when using different pickups. No wonder guitarists verge on the superstitious about using a particular pickup, cord, and amp. But you needn’t be subjected to this kind of uncertainty if you learn why these differences occur, and how to compensate for them.

The Cordal Trinity

Even before your axe hits its first effect or amp input, much of its sound is already locked in due to three factors:

  • Pickup output impedance (we assume you’re using standard pickups, not active types)
  • Cable capacitance
  • Amplifier input impedance

We’ll start with cable capacitance, as that’s a fairly easy concept to understand. In fact, cable capacitance is really nothing more than a second tone control applied across your pickup.

A standard tone control places a capacitor from your “hot” signal line to ground. A capacitor is a frequency-sensitive component that passes high frequencies more readily than low frequencies. Placing the capacitor across the signal line shunts high frequencies to ground, which reduces the treble. However the capacitor blocks lower frequencies , so they are not shunted to ground and instead shuffle along to the output. (For the technically-minded, a capacitor consists of two conductors separated by an insulator—a definition which just happens to describe shielded cable as well.)

Any cable exhibits some capacitance—not nearly as much as a tone control, but enough to be significant in some situations. However, whether this has a major effect or not depends on the two other factors (guitar output impedance and amp input impedance) mentioned earlier.

To read the full detailed article see:  The truth about guitar cords

November 8, 2011

Fender Pawn Shop ’51, ’72 & Mustang Review

In the USA, pawn shops will exchange money for anything having more or less value, either a watch or a hi-fi system or the ukulele your grandpa brought home from his holidays in Hawaii back in ’53. These pawn shops are the modern version of Ali Baba’s cave. They are packed with all sorts of things — especially musical instruments, like guitars. You’ll find more or less famous brands, as well as all kinds of instruments repaired with spare parts by their former owners. Fender imagined a product range with this pawn shop spirit in mind. It includes instruments made up of parts from different products in Fender’s catalog from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and even later, e.g. for the Pawn Shop Fender ’51.

This new range was first presented at the Musikmesse in Frankfurt (Germany) back in April 2011. All three instruments in the range (Pawn Shop Fender ’51, Pawn Shop Fender ’72 and Pawn Shop Fender Mustang Special) are manufactured in Japan and sold in a deluxe gig bag.

Pawn Shop Fender ’51: Squier ’51 Revisited

Pawn Shop Fender ’51

In 2004, Fender’s small cousin Squier was already offering a guitar that was very similar to the Pawn Shop ’51: the Squier ’51. Both instruments have basically the same features, except for the hardware and electronics. Both guitars combine a Telecaster neck with a Stratocaster body. The latter is made out of lime and is rather thin on the Squier. On the contrary, on the Pawn Shop it is made out of alder and is rather thick.

Innovations on the Pawn Shop Version

Pawn Shop Fender ’51

The C-shape neck and fretboard are made out of one single piece of massive maple. The polyurethane-type finish feels comfortable right away. The cutaway of the Stratocaster body gives very easy access to very high notes. The neck has a 25.5″ scale length and a modern 9.5″ radius. It features 21 medium-jumbo frets, Kluson Vintage machine heads and the same strap pins as on 50’s and 60’s Telecasters. The string-through-body gives more sustain to the instrument. The hard-tail Stratocaster bridge clearly recalls the spirit of the 70’s. The single-ply pickguard has a very smooth and round shape and is made out of white plastic. It certainly contributes to the very sleek look of the instrument. However, the plastic quality of the pickguard is a bit cheap.

Pawn Shop Fender ’51

All the hardware is chromed. The control plate with two controls comes from a Precision Bass. You get a push-pull master volume knob and a three-way rotary pickup selector. Position 1 = bridge pickup; Position 2 = neck + bridge pickups; Position 3: neck pickup. There is no tone control, but hardly anybody uses this knob today, right? For my taste, the position of the volume setting is a bit “off axis” regarding the position of the right hand, especially if you use volumes swells.

May the Tone Be With You!

Pawn Shop Fender ’51

The Pawn Shop Fender ’51 is equipped with a Texas Special single-coil pickup on the bridge and a Fender Enforcer humbucker on the neck. You can split the coils of the humbucker using the push-pull function of the volume control. The combination of both pickups produces an original and very interesting tone. The humbucker sounds quite fat. It is useful for big Tom Delonge (from Blink 182) rhythm parts and the like . On the other hand, the Texas Special single-coil pickup in neck position brings more delicacy to your sound range. The split function of the humbucker pickup is very useful: the tone moves away from the “sound-wall” style and gets a clear and transparent character recalling the first position of a Stratocaster or a Telecaster.

Now let’s take a look at the other models…

A wide palette of sound colors

Fender Pawn Shop Mustang Special

The range of sounds provided by the Mustang Special is extremely rich and versatile. In clean mode, the sound of the Enforcer “Wide Range” pickups is amazing. The bridge pickup provides you with twangy and very colored sound options. With the reverb of a Fender Deluxe amp, you have everything you need for surf music. Add an overdrive pedal (without any other effects) and you’ll get very thick rhythm sounds. From jazz to rock to country and very fat sounds, everything is easily possible. The differences in sound color between positions is obvious. If you’re looking for a guitar capable of matching almost any music genre, I strongly recommend this Mustang Special. The street price (about $800) is perfectly justified by the high-quality finish. The beauty of the body’s lacquer is dangerous. If at all, we could reproach the intuitiveness of the guitar in comparison to the other Pawn Shop guitars, which are really “plug ‘n’ play”. You will indeed have to try all combinations provided by the toggle switch and the three-way selectors if you want to enjoy all sound possibilities offered by this Mustang Special.

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Fender Pawn Shop 51, 72 and Mustang Guitar Reviews

November 4, 2011

TC Electronic TonePrint Series Review

TC Electronic just started production of a series of seven “simple” stompboxes! It’s a sacrilege if you know a bit about this company, which specializes in rack and programmable stompboxes, but it’s also good news considering the success of the Nova series. This new range provides all the elements of a standard pedalboard: distortion, overdrive, chorus, flanger, reverb, delay, and even vibrato.

Four of them feature a strange function: the TC TonePrint, which allows you to expand the possibilities of each stompbox via the Internet. This feature will certainly make TC a fav among young wolfs with a pair of jeans looking for adventure instead of pureness. Today we will review five of these seven new TC stompboxes.

The Analogs: Dark Matter Distortion and Mojo Mojo Overdrive

TC Electronic TonePrint Series

The Mojo Mojo Overdrive and Dark Matter Distortion stompboxes are the only analog devices in the series. Unlike all others, they don’t provide too many connectivity options: mono in + out. Although TC is mainly known for space and modulation effects, both stompboxes are distortion pedals. Considering the huge offer available within this market segment, it’s not very likely that these stompboxes will leave their mark in the history of distortion… However, you can appreciate the effort put in the conception of the housing: it’s really easy to access the battery compartment using only one screw (you can turn with your pick) that holds the protection plate. The slightly recessed connectors allow you to save space on your pedalboard and seems to be conceived to avoid “tap dancers” having a strong and imprecise kick from damaging their gear…

 

Dark Matter Distortion

TC Electronic TonePrint Series

In spite of its gloomy name, black finish and Star Wars-like logo, the Dark Matter is a pretty versatile distortion for rock/hard blues players rather than for metal heads. The controls are Volume, Drive, Bass, Treble, and a mini-switch to toggle between two low-frequency responses. To be honest, I couldn’t notice any (obvious) difference… The Dark Matter can produce a rather high amount of gain and its crunch setting is also satisfying. You get a rich, well-defined, sharp, all-round sound reminding the Boss DS-1, but a little bit more hollow and with more precision thanks to both the Bass and Treble settings instead of a single tone control. I tried out the unit at home on a clean channel, and also live as a drive booster on a crunch channel. In both cases I liked the Dark Matter very much!

Now let’s take a closer look at all the other pedals…

Don’t Know Which One?

To conclude… Because of the similarities between the Corona and the Shaker, the latter can be considered a bit useless. Both distortion pedals sound good but won’t replace any of my favorite distortion pedals. Maybe they ought to have a bit more personality… It’s clear that TC is no distortion specialist, and targeting a wide range of musicians with two “neutral” stompboxes was the best decision, instead of trying to compete with ZVEX launching a 9-pot fuzz effect pedal. But it’s up to you… and I bet you won’t have a problem. On the other hand, the Corona and the Flaskback are must haves: great working tools and well thought out. The Toneprint function is almost like a toy. If you’re looking for a chorus and a versatile delay, go for them! $169 for the Flashback, $129 for all others.

 

Technical notes:

The examples were recorded using a JCM900 combo and a Two Notes VB-101 cabinet simulator. I used a Marshall 4×12″ cabinet simulation for the right channel and a very present “self-made” speaker simulation for the left channel. I also used a Celmo Sardine Can compressor for some clean sounds. The distortion in the Corona, Shaker and Flashback examples are from TC’s distortion pedals.

Advantages:

  • Toneprints
  • Battery compartment access
  • The Corona and the Flashback

Drawbacks:

  • TC should develop a small software program to allow the user to create his own Toneprints
  • The switch on both distortion stompboxes has a questionable effect
  • The battery life is extremely short for all digital stompboxes

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see: TonePrint Series Review

September 6, 2011

SR LP Origin Burst Plaintop & Luxe Flamed Tobacco Burst SR Guitars Review

Filed under: Guitar reviews — Tags: , , , — audiofanzine @ 11:28 am

It can’t be easy to manufacture a guitar series based on the mythic Gibson Les Paul, considering that there are zillions of copies, some of them very good, and also because there will always be purists who state that no copy will ever come close to the real deal… SR presents its Les Paul interpretation and offers some rare customization options: finish, pickups and hardware.

Conceived and adjusted in France but made in Korea, SR guitars play in a price segment that is slightly higher than Epiphone (the Gibson sub-brand for those who don’t follow…). Are they a waste of time or a real alternative to what is already out there?

Specifications

SR Guitars SRLP

I got two SR guitars: the Origin, which recalls an LP Standard, and the Luxe version based on the LP Custom. SR offers you the possibility to choose the looks of your guitar: color of the plastic parts and hardware, pickup models (from the generic pickup manufactured for SR to the Seymour Duncan), tuners… The two models we reviewed are standard products without any extras. Both nice-looking guitars have 22 classic jumbo frets, a massive mahogany body, a typical three-piece mahogany neck with C-profile, effective Groover tuners and typical LP electronics: two humbuckers, three-way toggle switch, two volume and two tone controls. The added value is that the volume knobs are push/pull pots allowing you to split the pickups to get more tone variations — seven altogether.

SR Guitars SRLP

On the Luxe version (the classy one) you get an ebony fingerboard, a pair of 50’s vintage-type Alnico 2 pickups, a flamed maple top, a triple binding from the bottom to the top (the Origin has only one single binding), and gold hardware. For the Origin, SR chose two Alnico 5 pickups (for a more modern sound, late 70’s we could say) with more output level, a rosewood fingerboard, a simple maple top with Tobacco Burst finish, and chrome hardware. Up to now, everything is coherent and respectful with the tradition. The weight of the guitars is well thought-out, neither too heavy (as some real LPs can be) nor too light. Good job! The only feature I don’t like is the headstock’s design. It looks too Batmanish or like a cheap royal crown (only later did I see the fleur-de-lis, the symbol of the French monarchy, on the headstock of the Luxe version!). But this is a subjective matter and one can easily understand that SR is only trying to distinguish itself from the Kalamazoo boys to avoid any legal trouble.

Now let’s take a closer look…

 

Conclusion

Just another LP? For whom? Considering its price (€449; and €559 for the Luxe), this guitar is much better than a standard Epiphone, for example.

For a professional musician, the Origin could be ideal as spare instrument. For a first “real” guitar, it might be perfect. It is versatile and easily playable, and the hardware seems to be reliable and well thought-out. I can already see kids breaking their piggybank and spending quite some time with the “setup wizard” on SR’s website to select the pickups, the pickguard color, etc. Especially since the list of available options should become more and more comprehensive as time goes by. At the time of writing, only SR, SP Custom and Seymour Duncan pickups are available. However, the manager of the company mentioned that, depending on feasibility, pickups of other brands could be added to the list. For several years now, Korea seems to have become an important country for guitar manufacturing with increasing quality (just take a look at Kraken, for example). So why not take advantage of the collaboration between a French designer and a serious Asian manufacturer to guarantee a high-quality, affordable product.

So, to wrap it up, SR has become a new candidate for the best LP for the poor with a guitar that has a sturdy design, a really good sound and a very appealing price. And it’s a good thing because the real LPs (for the rich) have become scarce. By the way, do you know how to recognize a rich guy? He’s the one surprised to see poor people spend so much money.

SR also offers other LP variations: the Study (€339; reminds an LP Junior with only one P-90) and the Roots (€389; a sort of LP Studio with massive mahogany body without top and maple fingerboard). The outcome might be interesting.

 Advantages:

  • The Origin for its price and astonishing responsiveness.
  • The concept
  • The selection of hardware options
  • Many different finishes available

Drawbacks:

  • The Luxe doesn’t even come close to the Origin even though it’s more expensive
  • Headstock design

To read the full detailed article with sound files see:  SR LP Origin Burst Plaintop Review

 

 

August 22, 2011

The Top 10 Effects Pedal Targets

Filed under: Effect Pedals — Tags: , , , — audiofanzine @ 9:27 am

A lot of guitar multieffects have a footpedal that can be assigned to various parameters. Volume and wa are no-brainer pedal assignments, but there are a whole lot of other parameters that are well-suited to pedal control. Doing so can add real-time expressiveness to your playing, and variety to your sound.

Some multieffects make this process easy: They have patches pre-programmed to work with their pedals. But sometimes the choices are fairly ordinary and besides, the manufacturer’s idea of what you want to do may not be the same as what youwant to do. So, it pays to spend a little time digging into the manual so you can figure out how to assign the pedal to any parameter you want.

 

DigiTech’s GNX4 is one of many multieffects that has a built-in footpedal so you can add real-time expressiveness to your playing.

 

Certain parameters are a natural for foot control; here are ten that can make a big difference to your sound.

 

  • Distortion drive. This one’s great with guitar. Most of the time, to go from a rhythm to lead setting you step on a switch, and there’s an instant change. Controlling distortion drive with a pedal lets you go from a dirty rhythm sound to an intense lead sound over a period of time. For example, suppose you’re playing eighth-note chords for two measures before going into a lead. Increasing distortion drive over those two measures builds up the intensity, and slamming the pedal full down gives a crunchy, overdriven lead.

 

  • Chorus speed. If you don’t like the periodic whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of chorus effects, assign the pedal so that it controls chorus speed. Moving the pedal slowly and over not too wide a range creates subtle speed variations that impart a more randomized chorus effect. This avoids having the chorus speed clash with the tempo.

Some other effects…

  • Increasing the output of anything (e.g., input gain, preamp, etc.) before the compressor. This allows you to control your instrument’s dynamic range; pulling back on the pedal gives a less compressed (wide dynamic range) signal, while pushing down compresses the signal. This restricts the dynamic range and gives a higher average signal level, which makes the sound “jump out.” Also note that when you push down on the pedal, the dynamics will change so that softer playing will come up in volume. This can make a guitar seem more sensitive, as well as increase sustain and make the distortion sound smoother.

And there you have the top ten tips. There are plenty of other options just waiting to be discovered – so put your pedal to the metal, and realize more of the potential in your favorite multieffects.

To read the full detailed article see:  The Top 10 Effects Pedal Targets

July 23, 2010

Vigier G.V. Wood 90 Review

Since the beginning of the 80’s, Vigier has been earning itself an exceptional reputation as a music instrument manufacturer. Instead of dull and tasteless mass production, the brand is committed to premium quality standards, thanks to a manufacturing process in which every step is carefully controlled — and is “Made in France”. Wood selection, after 3 to 7 years of aging, is a key step in the manufacturing process of each instrument.

The G.V Wood 90 is delivered in a wonderful flight case embellished with the brand’s logo. The guitar is available in five different finishes: amber, burgundy fade, ebony fade, purple fade, and stowash blue. Don’t trust the pictures on the manufacturer’s website: they don’t really do justice to the instrument’s wonderful varnish in daylight!

Vigier G.V. Wood 90

Innovation Bundle!

Vigier G.V. Wood 90

Once you open the flight case, tears of joy will start flowing from your eyes. The overall body shape is inspired on the famous Les Paul. The instrument has a massive alder body and weighs 7.3 lb. The maple top is not as beautiful as the wonderful Les Paul Standard top. Nevertheless, you’ll be able to admire the grained wood under the thick but translucent varnish. The back and the neck also have the same glossy finish.

The neck has a 630-mm scale, 22 frets and a headstock stamped with the famous pearly “V” logo. It has been reinforced on the back of the headstock to provide it with more sturdiness, in case it falls down. Notice the famous “zero” fret (typical Vigier) which gives open notes the same timbre as fretted ones. The Schaller locking machine heads are mounted in a 3+3 configuration on the headstock. The combination of the tuners, Teflon nut and tune-o-matic/tailpiece guarantees that the guitar will stay in tune. The neck boasts a D profile. Its thickness ranges from 19.5 mm to 23 mm at the 12th fret, and it is fixed to the body with four screws. One of the numerous Vigier innovations is the neck-reinforcement system with carbon (90% maple, 10% carbon) that ensures an optimal resistance to variations in humidity. The fingerboard is made out of phenowood.

Vigier G.V. Wood 90

In case you didn’t know, phenowood is compressed wood impregnated with a phenolic resin. The result is a high-density synthetic material conceived to withstand wear and tear over a long time. The glossy black color looks wonderful. The fingerboard’s feel is very special. It feels more like gliding your fingers over tiles rather than on the fingerboard of an instrument. Nevertheless, after the first contact you’ll feel right at home with the guitar. The only thing that makes us a bit uneasy is the uncertainty of how the fingerboard will age… and how expensive is it to mount new frets on such an instrument? The neck has medium frets and circle inlays only on the edge. It feels very pleasant and allows an easy access to the upper frets.

The chrome hardware has a modern design with rounded shapes. The electronics are quite simple. It has a master volume pot, a tone control and a five-way toggle switch. The tune-o-matic and the tailpiece with adjustable height have been both conceived by Vigier. Each of them is mounted on the body with a pair of screws. The tailpiece uses the top-load system, which means that the strings don’t pass through the body. The belt clips are secured by two plugs going deep inside the wood.

Now let’s get to the guts of the guitar…

Conclusion

Vigier G.V. Wood 90

Vigier offers a guitar with a modern look and a state-of-the-art design that distinguishes it from “mass-market” manufacturers. It’s a combination of innovation and well-proven technology, like the P-90 pickups. We regret the lack of a dedicated volume control for each pickup, which would allow us to adjust the out-of-phase wiring of the pickups. Even if it’s for a rather high — but justified — price ($3,600), you can get a top-notch guitar fully manufactured in France. Rock, jazz, blues, metal: you can play anything with this guitar! However, do try to play as best as you can because even the smallest imperfections are audible!

Advantages:

  • Sound versatility
  • Finish
  • Design

Drawback:

  • No left-handed version available

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see: Vigier G.V. Wood 90 Review

April 26, 2010

[Musik Messe 2010] Two Notes Torpedo VM 202

To see more gear video demos see:  Audiofanzine Video Vault

March 15, 2010

VOX AGA70 Acoustic Guitar Amplifier

To see more great guitar gear videos visit us here at our video vault!

March 9, 2010

Suhr Effects Pedals – Kokoboost – Shiba Drive -Riot

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