strumzilla

​A blog/journal about my life and the stuff I like. Popular subjects include music, guitars, gear, books, movies, video games, technology, humor.

Filtering by Tag: Mesa

Gear Planning

I'm making some more gear changes, the most recent and significant were the bequeathing of my Mesa Stiletto 4x12 and my Radial Tonebone Classic distortion pedal as well as my TC Electronic VPD1 Pre-drive pedal to my nephew Chris.  He's been making good progress and his band has played a few gigs and seen some early success. Since I think he'll get some use out of it, I feel it's a worthwhile investment in his musical future, regardless of where he goes with it.  While all three are good kit, they had been lying unused since I got my Fractal AxeFx in 2010. I felt it was more valuable, albeit altruistically, to give them to him versus selling them on Ebay.  

With that in mind, the removal of the 4x12 has made way for my eventual purchase of a Port City OS 2x12 cab that I've been considering for a few years.  While it's ostensibly smaller than the 4x12 it's replacing, the great advantage to these cabs is their innovative design that aims the speakers differently and includes a port that results in a much fuller and more three dimensional sound. Most people who play them say they sound bigger than 4x12s by virtue of this design.  This will still be bypassing all the available cab sims on the Axe, so in that consideration, I will most likely replace my current Atomic wedge with their new CLR technology.  I haven't decided on a wedge versus cab yet.  The only other near term plan is to replace the pickups in my Suhr. I just can't get the EMG-Xs to sound the way I want. All of my other guitars are so much more dynamic and responsive to touch, but the EMGs seem permanently stuck at 11.

Gear, Gear, Gear...

why do you vex me so? The very nature of gearheads is that we're never content. There are fortunately some items that fulfill their role well and so remain one of the pillars of our sound construction. For me, several of my guitars fit that role. The Les Paul, Strat, Suhr, and Jazz Bass are unlikely to ever get swapped out. They do their job as intended and they do it well. Okay, I might swap the EMGs out of the Suhr, but the guitar itself is brilliant. Most of the elements in my signal chain have also met my expectations (after much trial and error) and so the overall setup is fairly stable at this point. As my primary tone shaper, the Fractal Audio AxeFx is probably the best option for the foreseeable future.

I would never say permanent since technology continues to progress at exponential rates. The pinnacle of sound modeling five years ago now falls woefully short when compared to the AxeFx. Along those lines, my current vexation is related to speakers/cabinets. I originally was running the Axe through cheap M-Audio monitors. When I upgraded to the Atomic wedge, it was a revelation. Not long after I had purchased JBL EONs for my keyboard and other FR PA needs and before long I decided I liked the stereo FR option compared to the wedge.

My Mesa 4x12 had been gathering dust for the past few years but I kept the option open to run it as my cab with the Axe amp modeling running and the cabinet modeling bypassed. When I saw Pete Thorn's demo of the Matrix GT1000FX, I was sold on pursuing that route. I had been thinking I needed a more traditional amp/cab look/sound if I was going to play with a band. After experimenting with the Mesa 4x12, I've found that while it's possible to dial in great tones, I feel limited since I was so accustomed to running all the custom cab options with the AxeFx.

I think I've finally come full circle and I plan on selling the Mesa and embracing FRFR only. I plan on selling the Mesa, and perhaps even the JBL EONs and replacing the Mesa cab with an FRFR cab or equivalent. My vision is to have the Atomic as my smaller gig amp and the new Jet City FRFR half stack as my larger/louder venue amp. I can see myself selling the JBLs and M-Audios, and replacing them with a good set of studio monitors. The Jet City would be the more powerful large venue option, and the atomic would be for smaller venues and/or acoustic with the small Roland ac-33 for the smallest size venues.

Of course, we eventually want to build our permanent home in the next few years so I may find the JBLs will be needed if I'm going to ever host band practice or equivalent. Having a constantly shifting set of desires and needs is part of what keeps it interesting I suppose.

Gear update addendum

After running the Axe through the Mesa 4x12 for several days, I couldn't help but feel a bit constrained with the cab tone. I slid my seldom used Atomic powered wedge over alongside the Mesa and resumed running the full amp/cab emulation patches on the Axe. I don't know why, but I guess since I've been running the JBL EONs for so long, I had forgotten the relative loudness and amp/cab rigness of the Atomic. It holds its own alongside the Mesa, especially at bedroom volumes. I have only been turning the volume knob on the Atomic to about 25% and it's been plenty loud. I actually think it should be enough for most smaller gigs I'm likely to play. I have to put it up next to a regular drum kit to see if it will be enough. Now I'm rethinking the whole keep the Mesa decision. I think I'm going to try and sell it on Ebay and then look at some full cab size FRFR options coming out later this year, such as Jet City's 700DP.

New Gear Updates

Since the last gear update (L6 Variax, if I recall) I've added a few new pieces. I bought a new acoustic amp (Roland AC33) that I was planning to use during my first gig since we thought we would be playing outside and I needed something that could run on batteries. After attempting to play guitar during an August afternoon in Texas I prevailed on my mother to have the service indoors. Along with the amp I bought a preamp/IR modeler from Fishman called the Aura Spectrum. It's basic function is to recreate the sonic characteristics of various acoustic guitars and it also functions as a preamp, providing volume, tone, and compression controls. It has actually done wonders for the straight piezo sound by warming it up and adding a fullness to the tone that I couldn't previously create even with the AxeFx (it's probably possible, but would need a lot more tweakage).

The Roland is a good little amp, although in a small room it definitely as some mid/low feedback problems. Both the Roland and Fishman have feedback defeat circuits and even using these combined with a soundhole cover on my Maton weren't enough to eliminate the feedback entirely. I think this would be a non issue in bigger or more absorptive rooms, but I decided not to chance it and just played straight acoustic during the gig.

Not too long after that I saw Pete Thorn demoing the Matrix amps GT1000 and GT800 models. These are solid state flat response power amps designed to be used with the Axe Fx and other high quality modelers. Pete is the ultimate gear demo man since he's well spoken, concise, has chops for days, and always picks little song excerpts and licks that you would see yourself playing. Whenever he demos a product I always see the "What if" scenario played out to the fullest. So that means I usually end up buying the gear he demos if it's something I was considering. (I don't buy everything I see him demo, I would be broke if that were the case). The main motivation for getting this amp was that I still have a Mesa 4x12 cabinet that I custom ordered from Sweetwater at the same time I had purchased a Mesa Mark V. As luck would have it, I also got the AxeFx at the same time and quickly realized I had no need for a separate amp head. I was able to return the Amp head, but the cabinet was a custom order and couldn't be sent back.

I had been toying with the idea of selling the cab on Ebay for several months but I decided I really wanted to get the Axe setup like a regular rig. So far I've been pretty happy with it. I don't know yet if the Mesa Stiletto is the long term cab for me or not, but I like having the isolated guitar sound coming from one amp and believe me, this thing can get LOUD. I have only turned the volume on the Matrix to about 20% of it's range and it's already pushing the "pissing off the neighbors" range. It should be plenty for a band, even with a loud drummer.