Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Blackbird Rider Nylon w/RMC Polydrive: Test Tracks 2&3

Now we're getting somewhere. In the previous post/test track, I was using my main recording rig, which has a Lexicon Signature 284 amplifier. I've never been happy with the bass response of that amp, and the highs have always been a bit on the harsh and grating side as well. So, I got a MESA 20/20 several months ago, but with the move and all the other stuff I've been doing, this is the first time I've been able to get a chance to record with it.

Here's my backup system that's in my bedroom:

Top to bottom is the 20/20, a Behringer BTR-2000 RackTuner, another of my four Lexicon MPX-G2's, a blank vent panel, and a Furman AR-1215 line voltage regulator. Though you can't see it behind the monitor, my backup computer is a Mac G4 Cube running OS X 10.4.11 and ProTools LE 7.4. You can just see the top of the original M-Box in the lower right of the photo.

Here's Prelude No. 4 in G Major from the 24 preludes in every key for the guitar:

Prelude No. 4 in G

I had the MESA wide open: Volume and presence on max.

For the second piece I reduced the presence to 75%, and this is B-Axis Study No. 5/Axial Study No. 11 in E Major from the 18 Axial Studies I wrote, which are open string etudes. In this one, the open B string is every other note in the melody.

B-Axis Study No. % in E

This is much, much better to my ears than the recordings I've done with the Signature 284 - everything else is the same between the two systems, down to and including the EQ profiles - so I've decided to sell the Sig and replace it in the main recording rig with a MESA Stereo Simul-Class 2:Ninety power amp. It will even be better than the 20/20 because of the class A-A/B voodoo that MESA does with it, plus it has a "Deep" setting that is just earth shattering.

One thing the 20/20 is not and that is, it's not as quiet as the Sig: The noise floor is just a tad higher, but still superb for a wide-open tube amp.

I've only ever had one GF who looked that good first thing in the morning. Yummy.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Blackbird Rider Nylon w/RMC Polydrive: First Test Track

I have to go to Indiana for several days, and I wanted to get a test track recorded before I left, so here it is.

Here's my main recording setup:

The preamp and effects unit I'm using is a Lexicon MPX-G2 Guitar Effects processor. 2009 marks ten years that I've been using these exclusively, and there is still nothing anywhere near as good, despite the fact that they have been discontinued for several years now. Because recording the MPX-G2 direct results in a too-clean and clinical sound, I run it into a Lexicon Signature 284 All Tube Class "A" Stereo Recording Amplifier. I bypass the Sig 284's preamp entirely by just running the MPX-G2 into the effects returns, which allows me to use the class A power section only for just the tube dimension and warmth.

The 284 has balanced recording outputs and a very low noise floor for a tube amp, so those outs go into my Digidesign Digi 002 Rack Firewire recording interface. I have a PowerMac G5 Dual 2.3GHz machine running Mac OS X 10.5.8 and I'm using the Digidesign ProTools LE version 7.4.2. it's not freakishly up to date, but more than good enough.

Unfortunately, one PITA aspect to using the Signature 284 is that the recording outputs are ungodly bright compared to the speaker outputs - and no, I don't have the bright switches depressed - so I never know exactly what I'm going to get until I play the track back. This has resulted in an initial test track that is far too bright, even for me, and so the next round I'll dial back the highs... a lot.

Nonetheless, this demo shows how incredibly finely balanced and even the Rider is, as the texture of this piece is five-part harmony (!) and every voice is perfectly clear. The Godin is clear too, but not as well balanced, and the Parker is fairly well balanced, but nowhere near as clear due to how dark the cedar sounds. The Rider really is in a class by itself.

The piece is, Prelude No. 23 in D Minor from my Twenty-Four Preludes for Solo Classic Guitar, and it's in drop-D tuning [D, A, D, G, B, E]. I wanted to record a contrapuntal piece to contrast with the prelude, but I simply ran out of time.

When I return from Indiana, I'm going to try out my new mobile recording rack, which has a MESA 20/20 class A/B tube power amp in place of the Signature 284. Though the slave outputs on the MESA are not balanced, I'm hoping they'll match the speaker outputs better. If that's the case, I'll probably sell the 284 and replace it with a MESA Stereo Simul-Class 2: Ninety power amp. If I do, it will be another fully circular evolution for me, as I sold a 2: 90 five years ago when I decided to perform with Bryston solid state amps. I always loved the 2: Ninety, but I was unwilling to risk tubes going out on me at the time - and the 2: 90 was always losing tubes at the worst possible moments - so I sold it. Oh well.