New Vocal and EQ PlugIns. WOW, will YOU sound great!

Let’s start with this piece of amazement, the Waves HEQ Hybrid Equalizer:

Waves HEQ Hybrid Equalizer At Work In A Nashville Trax mix

Waves HEQ Hybrid Equalizer At Work In A Nashville Trax mix

This is the $300 TDM version, and worth every cent.

Basically it will analyze the frequency response of a track and give the engineer a visual as he EQ’s it in real time. The yellow line is pre-EQ, the blue is post. The advantage over a regular analog or digital EQ? Instead of relying on your ears, you can see what is going on, see what needs to be cut or boosted, make the tweak, then get additional visual verification that you’ve achieved your goal.

Either that or it calculates how to get that insect DNA out of your body before you turn into The Fly III.

But I think it’s an EQ.

And here’s another piece of total greatness:

Aphex Aural Exciter

Aphex Aural Exciter

I must admit this isn’t my first Aphex relationship. (That sounds just plain weird doesn’t it?) We had the original Aphex Aural Exciter, the analog physical version, in our rack nine years ago. I loved that little guy but when we went to Pro Tools HD and started mixing in the box, the Aphex was no longer able to be utilized, so we sold it.

But appropriately, on Halloween Eve it’s back from the dead in software form, ready to add sparkle to any track it’s needed on. It may say “Vintage Aural Exciter” but at first listen there was no question it’s an emulation of the Aphex.

I don’t care who you are you have to love an aural exciter on drum overheads. But it will work on many track types anytime a mix is too bottom end heavy. Apply it judiciously and it balances out the lows with quality high end.

And here is our new Lexicon Reverb, part of a $600 bundle that includes everything from concert halls to tiny rooms:

Click here to see the rest of this post about our new Lexicon Reverb. Also learn more about our Tube Saturation Software for vocals and how it might help make your vocal track sound sensational!


Review: Les Paul 2016 Studio Series Guitars

Just in from a second go-round of trying out the Les Paul studio series guitars at the local Sam Ash store.

Reason for the trips:

We use a variety of session guitarists on projects, I’m normally the bass player but occasionally lower budget clients will hire me as a “one man band” of sorts, including my lead and rhythm  guitar skills.

I have plenty of acoustics of all types (6 string, 12 string, gut string, etc.) available for tracking at the studio and a great Telecaster and Stratocaster, but I needed a better rock tone.

So I headed to Sam Ash and tried the “worn black” Les Paul Studio series on day one. I plugged  up to a Marshall stack and ran it through all sorts of riffs, chord sequences and licks all over the neck. It sounded very good. The Burstbucker Pro PAF-style pickups provided plenty of bite. Their out the door price was quoted at $730, Sam Ash web site price: $799.

I decided to sleep on it and do more research.

Digging deeper, I liked the Alpine White Les Paul 2016 T Studio model with gold trim but it was priced at $1,499 ($1,399 out the door) and it came with  490R & 498T neck & bridge pickups that were getting mostly horrible reviews online.

Returning to the store a couple of days later I intended to buy the “worn cherry” version at the $799 price point but thought I’d give the higher priced version a whirl first, just to cover all bases. It was quickly apparent the more expensive guitar had a meatier tone, more harmonic richness, better sustain and, in general, sounded like a Les Paul should sound .It also has the ability to split the coils providing tons of tonal variation.

There’s more to a guitar’s tone than pickups but obviously the 490/498 combo are getting a bad rap. They sound great. Better than the much heralded Burstbuckers in my opinion.

So I tried the worn Cherry through the same amp and although the tone was very good, it lost in the comparison test. Much thinner, less sustain.

I ended up purchasing the more expensive Alpine White Les Paul 2016 T Studio version. Your mileage may vary, and it deoens on what type of material you’ll be playing, but if you’re in the market for a Les Paul Studio I’d advise at least trying out both models. Forget the reviews you’ve read with your eyes, instead, listen with your ears. I won’t be at all surprised if you come to the same conclusion- B.E. Watson 

 

 

 

 


Blue Encore 300 Microphone Review: Designed for live work, excels in the studio too!

JeneeBlueEncore300

Jenee playing fiddle into the Encore 300

If you check out customer comments on the Blue Encore 300 at the online music sites like Musician’s Friend, Sam ash and similar you’ll see over and over that “it’s a great live microphone!” A couple folks sheepishly admit they’ve “tried it on electric guitar in a recording situation with good results” or some similar lukewarm comment.

Political correctness can take a hike, this is one great sounding microphone! Not just for the stage, for studio too!

 

I own my own studio located in the Nashville area, have years of studio experience and use full time Nashville session players on my sessions. Just today I used the Blue Encore 200 on a fiddle session with Jenee Fleenor (Blake Shelton’s fiddle player). After the session she said, ” I like the sound of this Blue over other mics we’ve used in the past.”

The Blue Encore 300 excels on fiddle! Or should I say, “The Blue Encore 300 can excel on fiddle, depending on the song.” On some songs you may want a soft violin tone and go for a ribbon microphone, others you may want a very aggressive sawing sound and use a large diaphram mix with a hard peak in the upper frequencies. But in general, the Blue delivers a nice round tone that can work on a lot of tunes.

Yesterday I tried the Blue on a rap vocal. It worked great. Tons of presence, and great tone that cut right through the mix.

Other uses that worked out great, male bgv’s, male pop lead vocals and electric guitar.

One notable misfire:

Banjo: The mic’s transient response is not fast enough to track 5 string banjo well.

If you’re having trouble getting good, clean tracks packed with presence or simply need a good work horse studio microphone and can’t afford to pay over $200, I highly recommend the Blue Encore 300.

“But it’s not designed for recording!”

“I couldn’t care less what category some marketing guy in California decides to go with,” I reply, “I’m into results. Good sound is good sound!”


Yamaha MOXF6 vs. Motif Review, Our New In-Studio Keyboard

Yamaha MOXF6We do a lot of keyboard tracking work performed by session keyboard players who typically cart in a Yamaha Motif. But we like to have a keyboard available in the studio also. When it was time to upgrade from the old Roland we started researching the weapon of choice of the players we use and the Motif series in general. Here’s what we learned:

The gold standard is the full-featured flagship Motif XF8 which has a weighted 88 key board and runs about $3,400 to $4,000. The MOX XF6 is about $1,200 out the door and differs from it’s bigger brother, the MOX XF7 that costs about $1,700 only in the number of keys (61) and the fact those keys are semi-weighted

The MOX series has the exact same Motif sound engine but less features. Some reviewers on various music sales sites say although the sound engine is identical, processing later in the chain gives the MOX series lesser quality sound. But even those reviewers acknowledged said the sounds were still excellent. “You’d have to A-B compare the Motif and MOX side-by-side to hear the subtle difference,” said one reviewer.

.Our principle concern is quality B3 organ, piano and string sounds. When we tried the MOXF6 at a local Sam Ash store, the piano and string patches sounded very good but the B3 organ patches came up short of our standards. A little digging around though turned up a site that make organ and piano libraries for the MOX series:

What finally convinced us to make the purchase was this video. It’s in Japanese but has subtitles in English. This guy really does a great job demonstrating the capabilities of the Yamaha MOX F6:

Yamaha MO6f6 review

Update: 6 months after purchasing the MOX XF6 we are completely satisfied with it. It’s been used on all types of projects and has delivered exactly what was needed every time.

Note that if you;re researching the Motif series for recording work, a big part of achieving great keyboard tracks is the player rather than the keyboard. Unless you are a session quality keyboard player, another way to handle your keyboard work for far less money and  get better tracks than you can play yourself is to hire us to do them. It’s simple, fast and affordable. Check this out:

Nashville Piano Tracks Online

We can also add vocals, sax, harmonica, fiddle, violin, pedal steel guitar, guitar, bass guitar and more to your project. For pricing and specific musicians and singers, check out our Nashville Trax web site under the word “More” in the upper right corner.


Avontone CK-7 Microphone Review

Nashville session musician Mike Douchette lays a harmonica track

Nashville session musician Mike Douchette lays a harmonica track

This “review” is a little different than most you’ll read on the CK-7 because we here at Nashville Trax own and actually use one. Most reviews are either verbatim copies of the manufacturer’s sales materials or written by professional writers who tested the product specifically for the purpose of writing a review. As a studio owner and music producer in Nashville, TN this review is based on my experience over the last six years.

Here’s the link to the ZZounds page where you can buy one if you like, I’m making no money from ZZounds if you do so.

The bottom line  is the CK-7 is a great microphone, although the applications are somewhat limited; in those applications though, it excels.

It’s listed on ZZounds as a vocal mic and for most studio vocal use it would be far better for vocals than, say, a dynamic like the SM 58. But there are many other large diaphragm condenser mics that I’d choose over it for vocals, even in that same basic price range. The sound of the CK-7 is a little gritty on male vocals which could be a good thing sometimes but I’ve had no use for it at all for female vocals, in A-B comparison tests it’s never once won out on a female singer.

Where this mic has excelled is on acoustic instruments. It’s sensational for acoustic guitar and just as good for fiddle, banjo and mandolin. In combination with a good pre-amp, it can’t be beat. More than one Nashville session quality acoustic musician has remarked that no studio achieved a better sound on their instrument, thank you CK-7!

A good acoustic guitar sound can be achieved with the CK-7 placed a few inches away from the guitar neck around fret 12. For most acoustic instruments you’ll want to use the mic’s roll off switch to eliminate some of the low frequencies. In most situations you’ll likely prefer the unidirectional setting.

Of course the preamp you use has a lot to do with how a condensor mic sounds. I use the Avalon VT 737 setup to the Avalon recommendatins for acoustic guitar. For drums, vocals, horns and other items you need to record I’d keep looking but the Avalon/CK-7 combo should give you a great sound for just about any stringed acoustic instrument. – b.e. watson


Izotope Ozone 5 Stereo Imager

Izotope Stereo Imager

Izotope Stereo Imager

This Izotope Ozone 5 is one of our new plug ins. I’ve been experimenting with it and the results have been both interesting and impressive.

Why use it? It magically gives the stereo field a far greater sense of depth.

If you have a guitar part or a vocal part and apply an Ozone preset, the part will seem to be floating in space back in the mix somewhere. Flip to a different setting and now it may move to the right and be in the forefront. Each setting will change it’s mix placement.

You can do these things with reverb, EQ and panning but there’s a pronounced, ethereal quality about the Ozone sound that tells me there’s more going on than basic mixing techniques.

Yes, I went against all known advice and tried it across the stereo mix bus. Nothing blew up, I didn’t get arrested and it sounded great so I’m good.

Even the presets that, if you believe posts by purist gear heads, are extremely dangerous to touch and should never be used in any situation because “Something very bad will happen,” sound pretty good as-is.

There are many engineers who frown on using Izotope Ozone across the stereo bus. If they use it at all its only on those individual instrument tracks. But my theory is this:

If it sounds better with it on than off, that’s called improvement, use it!

Note that a lot of earlier criticism of Ozone on the stereo bus was in regards to phase issues and Version 5 dropped the delay circuits that caused phase cancellation in earlier versions so some of that aversion to using it at least lightly may have abated.

Granted if I do use it on an overall mix it would be subtle and I’ve found I usually can’t just toss up a preset. For most situations tweaking is imperative and O5 has a lot of functions to mess with including EQ, reverb (nearly useless, just turn it off), a harmonic exciter, a multi-band compressor, stereo imager, and post EQ.

But make no mistake, Ozone 5, used properly, can impart a pinch of extra good mix juju on some projects and who in their right mind says no to that? –b.e.


A Neat Little Compressor: FMR Audio RNC 1173 Review

FMR Audio 1173

FMR Audio 1173

Before we start the review of the FMR Audio RNC 1173 I want to mention the new service available from Nashville Trax Recording Studio for people who produce their own recordings at home as well as for commercial studios who have clients that need session quality musicians and singers. Nashville Trax offers session quality custom tracks you can easily add to your project: drums, bass guitar, guitar, violin, cello, mandolin, piano, synthesizer, Hammond B3, lead vocals, background vocals, harmony vocals, harmonica, sax, flute, you name it!

Here are a few of the vocalists available. Or how about bass guitar? For the other options simply go to the main Nashville Trax site and click on “More” in the upper right corner which will open all the various instrument and vocal options as well as mixing and mastering services.

A Quick Review of the FMR Audio RNC 1173 Compressor

The 1173 is interesting because it’s designed by a husband and wife electronics operation whose philosophy is “put money into components, not packaging.” They also have incorporated a proprietary “cascading compression circuit” they call “Really Nice” mode, that can be switched into and gives controllable compression that builds incrementally as the signal passes through each stage.

When I say little, it’s little! It can just about fit in the palm of your hand.

It compresses signals. If you’re not into electronics the best way to explain that is when you record a sound source, guitar, fiddle or whatever, it can be uneven in volume. Compression raises the lowest amplitude sections and squashes the peaks resulting in a more even, more easily controlled sound.

Tests: It’s not pretty, it’s not all that sturdy but it’s easily the best “under $600” compressor I’ve used and the cascading stage is liquid. It’s already aced a test on fiddle, snare and bass guitar. It does a decent job on vocals, but if that’s your principle application and you can afford to go above $600, keep looking.

Why mess with a cheap compressor with a $2,500 Avalon and other more expensive outboard, as well as software based, compressors available? Because it’s not about money, it’s about sound! I’m keeping it! It won’t be my go-to unit and if it’s your first and only compressor you’ll replace it someday but I think this is a good tool to add to your bag of tricks. Sometimes cheapest sounds best. You never know until you try it!- b.e.


More New Nashville Trax Plug ins

And here is our new Lexicon Reverb, part of a $600 bundle that includes everything from concert halls to tiny rooms:

Lexicon Reverb in action at Nashville Trax

Lexicon Reverb in action at Nashville Trax

Reverb is one of the more important mix effects and Lexicon verb is the best on planet earth. This is rich, clean, spacious. When I first heard it a wave of contentment washed over my body. (Or maybe I peed myself in all the excitement, lol, not absolutely sure, but I don’t think so).

One thing I am sure about, the Lexicon bundle will raise the mix bar around here even higher.

Vocal Tube Saturation In use on a Play It Again demo... well, demo!

Vocal Tube Saturation in use on a Play It Again Demo… well, demo!

The above is designed for lead vocal tracks with the intention of imparting tube warmth and saturation to digitally recorded tracks; and man, it does the trick, no doubt. You can dial in just the right amount of tube warmth and/or tube saturation to add a pleasant little buzz to the vocal track.

Tube pre-amps and/or old multi-track tape recorders can be purposefully pushed into distortion but with the digital recorders almost all studios use these days, the signal is either on or off, push them into the red and the sound becomes harsh.

I wouldn’t pull this out for every song or every vocalist, but there are plenty of times I wished for the warmth of tubes or some slight clipping to give vocals that warm fuzzy edge. Now instead of “I wish I could,” it’s “can do.”

To all this, add several just-acquired types of Antares pitch correction, Antares vocal effects, Tru-verb, Alti-verb, harmonizers and more…. basically, we’re stocked to the ceiling and stoked to the rooftop, ready to make your songs sound fantastic!- b.e.


Song Mastering Service

iZotope Ozone 5 Advanced Mastering Plug-In System

iZotope Ozone 5 Advanced Mastering Plug-In System At Work In Our Studio

We’re offering crazy low rates from now through Christmas (actually through December 24th, 2013) on mastering. For a limited time it’s only $75 per song with a no minimum number of songs. Look through your old CDs and files and see if there’s anything you’d like to have done! Have you ever seen a price on mastering under $100 per song? This is full blown mastering well under $100 per song provided the song is under 4.5 minutes long! Once sufficiently dialed in on this new software our mastering rate will later settle at between $100 to $200 per song.

You can give us anything on a CD, as well as a .wav or MP3 file. We’ll return a .wav stereo master file.

For those who aren’t sure what mastering is it involves taking the mixed track, reloading it into mixing software and adding EQ, effects, compression and more to the entire stereo mix. The end result is cleaner and punchier. The vocals have more clarity. There will be more depth to the mix. Basically, after mastering it meets radio airplay standards and it just sounds better!

This will be a fabulous opportunity for you to hear your old (or latest) songs mastered by a fresh set of ears and for us to further explore the new mastering software pictured above recently added to the Nashville Trax plugin library.

If you’re interested in this mastering deal of a lifetime, please send an e-mail to nashtrax@bellsouth.net with Mastering Deal in the heading. You can ask questions or attach your song file(s) then pay via Pay Pal.

Pictured is the iZotope Ozone 5 Advanced Mastering Plug-In System that retails for $799.00 (ouch!). This is just one piece of several mastering tools in the system. So far it’s been ridiculously superb, but deep; it will take a few rodeos to completely lasso this thing. – b.e.


Want Great Translation In Your Mix? Event ASP8 Studio Monitors Get It Done!

The main Nashville Trax speakers are a pair of Event ASP8 Studio Precision Bi-Amp Direct Field Monitors. Retailing at $750 each, they’re designed to accurately hear every nuance in the entire frequency spectrum:

Event ASP8 Studio Monitors

Event ASP8 Studio Monitors

Notice the reflections on the face? The fronts are polished like mirrors.

Event ASP8 Studio Monitors. You could shave in this!

Event ASP8 Studio Monitor. You could shave with this!

More than one seasoned session player has remarked while listening down to several parts just tracked, “This is the only studio I record in where I can hear everything!”

We also have a set of JBL’s with a switch to toggle between the Events and the home stereo quality JBLs.

This assures that you mix will sound as great at home, as great on your computer speakers, as great in your car stereo, as it does at the studio.


Want Great Guitar Sounds On Your Song Recording? We Can GUARANTEE it!

If you want great guitar tone on a recording you start with a great player, add a great guitar, a great amplifier, a microphone suited to the purpose and a quality preamp. That pretty much sums it up.

BUT…there are times we get to a mix, have added some overdubbed instruments and maybe the guitar tone used in tracking isn’t working out as well as we thought it would.

I hate it when that happens.

But not to worry, we have a variety of fixes here at Nashville Trax but this Waves Guitar Tool Kit is software based amplifier modeling technology and the designer/overseer/grandpoobah, Paul Reed Smith, a famous guitar maker dude, pretty much got it right. It sounds better for most applications, than the stand alone unit J-Station, or Line 6 modeling, both of which we also have here.

You can use it on already recorded guitar or play a new guitar track straight into it.

These are best-we-could-do screenshots done in our studio, apologies, maybe that’s why we’re musicians, no photographers, lol.

I love the stompbox window! You simply click to add a wide variety of pedals to any of the 6 smaller windows:

Waves Guitar Tool Kit : The Stompbox Window

Waves Guitar Tool Kit : The Stompbox Window

In this window you can choose the simulated amp you wish to hear, say a Fender Twin or whatever, then tweak it to your song’s content:

Waves Guitar Tool Kit : The Amp Window

Waves Guitar Tool Kit : The Amp Window

Or you can move to the presets window to choose a stompbox chain and amp already set to sound like the guitar tone popularized by various bands and hit songs:

Waves Guitar Tool Kit : Presets Window Waves Guitar Tool Kit : Presets Window[/caption]

Waves Guitar Tool Kit : The Tuner Window

Waves Guitar Tool Kit : The Tuner Window

.

Cool or what? b.e.


Our New Plug Ins Will Take Your Recording To The Next Level!

Nashville Trax Mixing Board Shot

Nashville Trax Mixing Board Shot

To say I’m excited about this new batch of plugins we’ve acquired for the Nashville recording studio, Nashville Trax, over this past this month is an understatement. Over $100,000 worth of software recording and mixing madness!

This Solid State Logic plug is $300 retail but well worth every penny; it sounds just like a channel pulled from an SSL 4000 E Series console. There is no way anyone, including a seasoned Nashville studio engineer, could tell the difference in a blind A-B comparison. The richness is there, the clarity, the punch…love it! It’s an awesome addition to our studio that will bring quality up several notches:

SSL 4000 E Series Channel Strip plug-in

SSL 4000 E Series Channel Strip plug-in

And here’s a cropped pic of our new Waves Vocal Rider plugin:

Waves Vocal Rider

Waves Vocal Rider

Man, does this take a load off. Until now I didn’t make it a practice to ride the vocal fader manually on demos, it was too tedious and the budget isn’t there for that degree of manual labor on a demo mix. Only master mixes with inherently higher budgets received that level of attention to detail.

This SSL vocal fader plug will change that. Less than 60 seconds of setting levels and it rides a vocal automatically, pre-reading the vocal signal, comparing it to the mix level, then adjusting the vocal setting in real time to compensate for the music/vocal variations and keep the vocal in your face at all times. Awesome! Awesome, AWESOME! Why NOT start using it on demos too?

But guess what? We purchased the version for bass guitar too!

Here’s a studio screen shot of our Bass Rider in action on a mix:

Pro Tools HD2 Bass Rider Software

Pro Tools HD2 Bass Rider Software

And Max Bass? Got it! In the Max Bass window, the green area on the left is the original bass signal, the green line slanting left shows where the frequency of the original signal cuts off and the brown area to the right shows the frequencies generated by Max Bass, psycho-acoustically creating a huge bass sound that seems to eminate from everywhere, rather than from the fixed point of the stereo speakers.

Max Bass for Pro Tools HD

Studio Shot of Max Bass for Pro Tools HD

Combine the Max bass, Waves Bass Rider and Vocal Rider and you have the foundation of one fantastic mix!- b.e.