I’ve got a few really cool software tools lately. Two commercial products from a really cool smaller company called Genuine Soundware and Instruments (GSi), with their whole product line currently on a substantial sale, though it ends this month. You might already be familiar with them if you like freeware (who doesn’t?) thanks to their great, free Watkins Copicat simulator, the Watkat. That’s how I knew them, and when I was thinking “man, I really need a good tape delay plugin” given that I really like the way tape delay behaves, I loaded it up and thought “wow, this really gets the behavior of tape right!” So when I browsed to the GSi page and saw they had a faithful emulation of the Roland RE-201 Space Echo I downloaded the demo and ended up buying it within half an hour of trying it out. It’s called the GS-201, and it does an absolutely fantastic job of capturing the nuances of the RE-201 space echo in a plugin format. It’s very affordable, too, which is a big plus for value-seekers like me 🙂 The plugin interface is pretty much 100% faithful to the original, feature complete and with three tape types, including the original Roland Tape Echo cartridge and two higher fidelity cartridges intended for mastering. They have very different sounds when used for delay due to the different bandwidth and behavior of the tape types, which just gets accentuated in a really nice way when you let it go into feedback. It is authentic to a fault, even; there’s no BPM sync or tap tempo functions (though when adjusting the time, it does helpfully display the millisecond values of each of the three tape heads), and it has exactly the same delay range as the original, so a quarter note at 120bpm is not quite possible because Head 3 maxes out at under 500ms. Here’s a picture of the plugin’s GUI. I paid $15.78, the exchange rate for 12 Euros at the time.
I’ve been using it extensively lately. Very cool sound. You can crank it up and still hear the original signal come through very clearly. The RE-201 was designed to be more reliable and less cantankerous than a lot of the earlier tape echo systems, so it’s not quite as unpredictable as a lot of tape delays can be (the “Wow” and “Flutter” factor and tape motor inconsistencies of the RE-201 are pretty low when the unit is well maintained), but it does have some very natural sounding, characteristic modulation of the delay signal in accordance with the functionality of the original. All in all, it is an extremely good and remarkably affordable recreation of one of the true classics.
The other plugin I picked up from GSi is the Spring Reverb Type 4, which is a quality spring reverb emulation with a lot of control over things. I’d say it compares pretty well to the Softube Spring Reverb simulation, which is a feat considering the price difference! I thought it was funny that when I bought the Spring Reverb Type 4, though it still cost 12 Euros, I paid $15.82 because the exchange rate had changed slightly in the intervening few hours. Haha. Here’s the GUI for Spring Reverb Type 4 if you can’t be bothered to click on the link up there 😉 The big thing that says “Don’t Hit Me!” just begs to be hit, doesn’t it? I like to hit it. It gives the same effect that kicking a physical spring reverb tank does. SPLASHCRASHKERRRANG. Woo!
All of GSi’s plugins feature intuitive MIDI control and are compatible with DAW automation, so you can do some pretty cool stuff with them in real time or on a track. Very cool stuff from a small developer whose products do not lack for quality or utility.
The last bit on software for today: Ken at AcmeBarGig had a lot of hitches along the way, but he’s powering down the home-stretch to release Shred 1.5x, a total overhaul and rewrite of Shred, his freeware amp modeling and effects suite. It’s in the late public beta stage now, and should be ready for full release soon. Windows only, but really remarkable sound quality with low CPU usage and a lot of functionality. Freeware has made humongous leaps and strides in the last few years, and this will be a new high water mark for sound quality and functionality at the price of zero dollars. You can follow the progress of Shred 1.5x over at the AcmeBarGig Forums. Registering a forums account gets you access to the beta itself, check it out. It’s very close to release, I think, and it’s sounding great.
Now, on to some more hardware!
I was going to get one of the last-ever production Barber Tone Pump EQs, he’s closing them out for a huge clearance savings. I was going to get it for the historical factor as much as anything. After an hour and a half on the phone with him, though, talking about what I was looking for in a dirt pedal that I don’t already have (among a lot of other stuff, obviously, can’t fill an hour and a half shooting the breeze about a pedal – David’s a great guy, willing to discuss pretty much anything you have any questions about, and he won’t BS you), we got into the topic of the recently made, limited-run Barber U-LTD (full name Barber unLimiTeD), a distortion made from the foundations of the Barber LTD-SR. The LTD and LTD-SR are known for their wide frequency response and resulting open and transparent sound, which in non-tonespeak-words means your playing dynamics and the sound qualities of the guitar itself (both its construction and its electronics) come through very well without a lot of tone shaping like in a many dirt pedals.
The U-LTD is a higher gain version, but with some careful usage of the gain knob, it still has the sounds of the lower gain LTD-SR available, making it a pedal with a lot of range. I was a little on the fence because I wanted the Tone Pump EQ – seriously, it’s a great pedal and one of the older boutique original design pedals around, I’m kind of sad to see it go since it’s indicative of a shift in the market toward valuing new designs over proven pedals – but then I heard a clip of the U-LTD which sealed the deal. Here’s the clip:
Not my sound, since he’s using a SSH strat with low to medium output pickups and I tend to favor more aggressive guitar electronic configurations (with at least one exception in my guitar stable), but the demo was enough to get me really interested in it, and talking to David about the ins and outs of the circuit and how it accomplishes some pretty cool goals sealed the deal. I hate to pass up the Tone Pump EQ, but it looks like the U-LTD is going to be one heck of a pedal.