Monday, March 22, 2010

The Ultimate Guitar and Guitar Synth Mobile Recording Rack

After over a year of experimenting with various components for The Ultimate Guitar and Guitar Synth Mobile Recording Rack System, I have finally gotten it to where I want it... which is perfection. My criteria were simple, really: 1] All components had to be single rack space units, and 2] they had to be the last word in quality for that configuration.

Ta da!

Top to bottom:

1] Bryston 2B-LP 60 watt per channel stereo power amplifier. The ultimate 1U solid state stereo power amp. There is none better. The best recording studios in the world almost all use these to power their smallest near field monitors for a reason. That reason is, there is nothing better in terms of sound quality. I don't even know what's in second place... and I don't care. I have two of them, and the other has proved it's ruggedness by bouncing around in the bed of my pickup over thousands of miles and always performing flawlessly at hundreds of gigs. This was an easy choice to make.

2] Behringer BTR2000 Racktuner. You could argue that the Korg models are better except for one thing: They do not calibrate to the A= 432Hz philosophical pitch I tune to. In fact, this is the only 1U rack mount tuner in the world that you can calibrate to A= 432Hz, so it wins because all of the others default. It's inexpensive, and to its credit, totally transparent sonically: It adds no noise and takes away no dynamics. Impossible to beat if you tune to 432. I have four of them, one for each of my rack systems.

3] Lexicon MPX-G2 Guitar Effects Processor. Still, after over 10 years since they were introduced and over 5 since they were discontinued, the ultimate 1U guitar effects device in the world. This unit functions as my preamp and all of my effects. I haven't played through anything else in over a decade. I have four of these too, so this was also a no brainer.

4] Terratec Axon AX 100 Guitar to MIDI Converter. You wouldn't expect some small company to beat Roland at their own game - a game Roland pioneered over 25 years ago - but Terratec has. With the RMC Polydrive equipped guitars I play, it was basically a plug in and play Christmas experience. I did have to switch from the magnetic pickup setting to the piezo-electric pickup setting and adjust the sensitivity, but compared to the conniptions I went through back in the 80's getting Roland guitars to work with my Synclavier, this was magical. You can do the usual assignments of different sounds to different strings, but you can also set the fretboard into zones with different sounds and dynamic responses. To be honest, I haven't even scratched the surface yet because I've been more concerned with just getting everything to work perfectly. This works perfectly in terms of tracking - so long as I don't try to sustain notes too long (nylon is more problematic than steel in that regard) - but I'm now psyched about digging into it more. Yeah, it has a GM sound card in it, but I hate most samples, so I hardly ever use it.

5] Yamaha FS1R Formant Shaping/FM Synthesis Tone Generator. This was the last FM synthesizer that Yamaha made, and everything they learned from the DX-1, DX-7, TX-816, and TX-81Z (Plus all the rest of the DX/TX/TF series) went into it, and more. I have been through the manual once already, and this is a true musical instrument, with enough depth that I'll be exploring it and growing with it for years, just as I did with the Synclavier and TX-816. This is the ultimate 1U digital synthesizer in the world... perhaps the universe.

6] 1U Vent Panel. My convection cooling setup - hottest gear high - means this will allow the rack to stay reasonably cool, even in warm halls or at outdoor gigs (Though admittedly, I probably won't schlep this collection of uber-rare and valuable gear to any outdoor shows where it could get rained on).

7] Lexicon I-ONIX FW810S Firewire Recording Interface and Mixer. This was the last thing to come together for me. I tried two different mixers and also the Digidesign 002 Rack, but ProTools LE doesn't record onto laptop internal drives, and I hated the sound of the 002's preamps. Very harsh and grating to my ears, which is the same complaint I have about my original M-Box (I understand the 003 and M-Box 2 are better though). Plus, the 002 Rack was 2U, so that was a criteria failure. I've decided for simplicity's sake to go with GarageBand live - since I'll be my own engineer (!) - and then do any editing I need to do in ProTools LE. Since GarageBand exports .wav files and ProTools imports them, this will be no problem. With garageBand '09, I may not even need ProTools anymore. Plus, the Lecxicon has six inputs on the rear panel, which is exactly what I need: Stereo for the MPX-G2, stereo for the AX 100, and stereo for the FS1R. The real killer deal here is, however, the sound! The preamps in the Lexicon are simply amazing. I had an eargasm the moment I started playing through it. Just as a stand-alone mixer it's the best 1U device I've ever tried! The one rub here is that the included mixer software only works with Intel Macs, and I was planning to use my 17" 1.6GHz G4 PowerBook; nothing doing, so I'll just have to get a 17" HighRez MacBook Pro with a 7,200 RPM HDD. It should be here when I get back from Vegas next week.

8] Furman PS-Pro Series II Power Conditioner and Line Voltage Regulator. This 20 amp unit is total overkill for this little rack system... which means it's the ultimate, of course. I could have used a Furman AR-1215, but couldn't find one for a reasonable price when I needed this, and this was way discounted, so there you are.

Ahhhhhh. Now, after spending all winter rebuilding my set from scratch, I look forward to doing some serious recording this spring and summer... and manual reading.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That setup sounds SWEET. Itching to get an AXON/Graphtech midi setup myself.

2:27 AM  
Blogger Minicapt said...

No iPod position???


8:32 PM  
Blogger Minicapt said...



10:55 PM  
Blogger Hucbald said...

I'm sure the FS1R can do cowbell, JM. lol.

10:44 PM  

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