Devi Ever Bit Demo, and a post extolling the benefits of Loudmax free cross-platform master limiter!

November 16, 2010

First, this pedal (product page on Devi’s site here) is really, really cool. I could go on for a long time about how cool it is, but I’m going to save a comprehensive writeup for getting off my butt and writing up something for FrugalGuitarist about it, since it is a very affordable pedal compared to the boutique industry in general. Quick blurbs: it has a huge amount of range, I can barely believe it’s a two knob pedal. The Control knob has a MASSIVE impact on what’s going on. There’s a sweet spot for your guitar and setup where it gates at just the right moment and fuzzes up just the right stuff to make it sound really nice and synthy. Before that point, the gate clamps down big time and you barely get any signal through, losing both attack and sustain – a challenging sound to use, but probably useful nonetheless. After that point, it sounds more like a conventional, but very high-gain and full range fuzz, good for lead tones. It also has an incredible amount of volume output, because of an internal structure of cool cascaded boosting stages.

It sounds great DIRECT! How many pedals actually sound awesome direct into a DI or mixer? Not many that I’ve tried, even some which aim to do so. But this pulls it off with aplomb. Very neat pedal, my first Devi Ever pedal. I spoke with her on the phone to discuss getting it and I am really glad I did. Here’s a pic of it, lovely looking thing that recalls the classic Legend of Zelda cartridge from the NES days and gives you a bit of a push mentally toward using it to make old chip-synth sounds with your guitar 🙂

Second, LoudMax (home page for the plugin here) is a great cross-platform, free master limiter VST that enabled me to do something that I had trouble getting my go-to commercial tool to do! First, cross-platform freeware is such a delightful rarity that it deserves comment on that merit alone – but cross-platform suck would still be suck, right, so the fact that this is quite nice indeed makes it a stand-out, easy to use tool that I think more people should be aware of.

In particular, for my usage here, I found this to be really good at treating an exceptionally distorted and processed mix without losing detail in the individual tracks. So, here’s a track combining the really exceptional fuzz pedal run direct, and the really interesting and usable cross-platform free limiter. Hope you like it, it’s outside of my usual idiom but that’s just the way the pedal sounds, it wants you to play it like an instrument and so you kind of do.

This mix is SMASHED. On purpose. The stereo field exists because of the smashing, the panning of the drums, and some stereo effects that do a neat thing. Dynamic range is approximately ~0.1db or so.

Two things, EZdrummer twisted kit with Auraplugs freestortion GE Fuzz on it at a 40/60 mix, and my guitar into a Devi Ever Bit: Legend of Fuzz pedal direct into AT3 (amp and cab bypassed) with some carefully tuned effects and a multi-tap delay (two, in this case) to achieve a pretty precise sound. The limiting is really important to the track, because it has to very substantially control the interaction between the guitar track and its stereo effects and the drum track’s panning. Without it, it wouldn’t sound varied, it’d sound pretty samey – with the limiting smashing things right, the stereo field is much more complex, really turned out better than I could have hoped.

I’m posting the clip here because Loudmax kicked butt for me. I was having trouble getting my go-to limiter, T-Racks 3 Deluxe’s Brickwall Limiter, to do the trick. It was wanting to pump in a way that obscured the drums more than I wanted even in the advanced and saturation modes. I knew that none of my other limiters would really do what I wanted (TBT Pocket Limiter and Tube Limiter are two I use a lot on individual tracks to catch peaks, but I don’t like their behavior on a busy mix). So, I figured I’d try the new-to-me tool out to see how it would perform. I threw Loudmax on it and within about 30 seconds had it sounding exactly like I wanted it to just by adjusting the two sliders for a thorough crushing. Really had a kind of “magic button” effect, it just did exactly what I wanted right away. Very cool.

That said… It won’t replace the T-Racks 3 Brickwall Limiter for most of my stuff because I usually want to preserve dynamics and just prevent any stray peaks, which the T-Racks 3 Limiter does exceptionally well. Even for less dynamic material that I want loud but not too crushed, I like how the Clean and Saturation modes do different but equally impressive things. The TR3 Deluxe Brickwall Limiter just kind of “handles” the limiting all on its own. So this isn’t me saying “ditch commercial software, you’ll only ever need this freeware tool!”

But there’s something really, really cool going on with LoudMax and I definitely intend for it to be part of my tool kit in the future, especially when I am working with heavily distorted and crushed material and trying to achieve a specific sound. I like its behavior at the edge of what’s advisable and beyond. I look forward to playing around with it more to see how it behaves when things are less slammed. I figure if it can handle abuse, it probably does well with “use.”


Wampler Paisley Pedal Initial Thoughts and a quick demo!

November 9, 2010

I wrote the following about it yesterday after playing around with it for awhile:

Got mine in today. I’ve run it alongside about ten other pedals today in my own examination and it’s definitely a high quality overdrive with a clear, responsive drive character. It plays nicely with others that deserve the accolade of “a great overdrive” – it and the Tim/Timmy, for example, are a great pair, and it sounds awesome with the Barber UnLimiTeD (or, to stay somewhat more topically relevant, any of the Wampler amp-in-a-box designs I own: Plexidrive, Plextortion, Super Plextortion, Black ’65, and to a lesser extent the Tripe Wreck… the latter doesn’t really need or benefit much from an overdrive, it has plenty of dirt on its own and can inherently sound “boosted” with a bit of tweaking).

It also puts some pedals to shame; plugging it in alongside the Bad Monkey is not flattering to that inexpensive pedal. Though I do respect the BM’s sound and features for the price it just can’t compare sound-wise anywhere on its gain knob. It walks on the MXR Zakk Wylde OD, which is a nice sounding, well-modded SD-1, so I’m going to presume it’d hold up great against any close Tubescreamer variant as well. I don’t know, I don’t like “shoot-outs,” they get people worked up to pick a definite winner or loser when sometimes that’s not the point, but it’s got a sound that does seem just better than several of the ODs I’ve thought were pretty okay.

As far as versatility goes, definitely a lot going on. It sounds great into pretty much any amp model I’ve got, and into my physical amps as well. I still need to do more testing but I don’t play anything like Paisley’s material and this pedal still fills a serious OD need for me. It does low gain to hefty crunch without having to adjust your guitar’s volume, very responsive to your picking/plucking dynamics; I can see why someone with Paisley’s playing style would dig it. It really retains the attack regardless of how hard you dig in, too, so chords don’t sound like a compressed “wall,” they sound like a bunch of notes together to make a whole.

I’d like to hear other recipients’ comments on whether they think it’s got any kind of a “Dr. Z in a box” sound. I am a little hesitant to apply amp-in-a-box if the builder isn’t specifically aiming at that kind of thing, especially since a heck of a lot of that depends on what kind of actual amp you’re running it into (that is, a tubescreamer can sound pretty amp-like when it’s run into a nice amp; it takes something special on the design end of things to make anything sound like a specific amp or convey the general tonal signature of this or that amp). Into my THD Univalve, it kills. Thick, but with great definition, plenty of sustain without ever sacrificing the attack. It’s a sophisticated and great sounding design, but I’m not sure if it was intended to be a “Dr. Z in a box,” so much as just a really nice, natural sounding overdrive. It definitely can be adjusted to emphasize different frequencies more or less, maybe even frequencies that a particular amp would have more to do with than others. I want more input, though, I don’t feel comfortable calling that one.

Lastly, I’ll echo the sentiment that the clips on the site aren’t telling any lies. If you like what you hear, you’ll like it in person. I hope to have some clips recorded and posted by tomorrow evening. I want to do at least two, one to convey a single setting I find really nice that responds well to my playing, and another to show how it sounds when you muck about with the controls. There’s a lot of range in it thanks to the two switches, the difference in sound with the presence off or on is pretty big but the mid contour switch has a huuuuge impact on the overall sound.

A simple three knob pedal it ain’t. But it sure pulls off some great tones. More to come in the days ahead.

Annnnd here’s a clip!

I plan to do at least one more. I had some issues with remembering to, uh, talk into the mic consistently, so at one point I’m kind of half canted and of course with the polar pattern it made it sound a little different from the rest. Oops. Hopefully what really matters, the sound of the pedal, comes through just fine.


Four fantastic freeware tools: SonEQ, NastyDLA, LeCto and TSE 808

November 5, 2010

First, Sonimus SonEQ 1.1
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SonEQ v1.1 is a superb, Windows AND Mac compatible preamp and equalization plugin that draws on some “vintage” flavor but with very effective controls and a crisp, modern look. Check it out at Sonimus.com’s Download page! (That page is bilingual, but much of the site is in the developer’s native Spanish, great opportunity to put that 2-year language requirement to use!), There aren’t many cross-platform freebies around, but this continues the tendency for cross-platform freeware to be rather exceptional. Definitely a commercial-quality plugin, I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually the developer does release some commercial software. Try it and believe. You might notice that 1.1 looks pretty different from version 1.0; there were a number of improvements made (in a really short period of time, too, kudos to the developer) and a new GUI was added to highlight some of them. The “Drive” component is great, you should definitely give it a whirl and see what it can add to your track. “Woow” is a sort of psychoacoustic enhancement, gives a little bit extra perceived punch and clarity to the track. In my opinion the Drive section’s “WooW” function offers the same level of enhancement that, say, the BBE Sonic Maximizer is intended to offer, with the bonus that it’s free AND it’s just one small part of one single component in a really nice, robust, cross-platform EQ. Very cool.

Second, VarietyOfSound NastyDLA

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NastyDLA is Windows only as usual for the developer, but it really, really shines. Sorry, Mac guys. Bootsie, with no regard for “saving it” for any upcoming developer challenges – he won last year’s KVR Dev Challenge with FerricTDS – has released what I am finding to be easily the best freeware tape delay simulators, competitive with commercial tape delay simulators for sound quality: NastyDLA! Read the manual before use. I can’t believe it – you’ll probably think I’m dumber for hearing it – but this is actually the first time I’ve consulted one of Bootsie’s manuals, because I had a bit of confusion over how the knobs functioned. I found out that I’ve really been missing out. Bootsie’s straightforward explanations manage to take very abstract signal processing concepts and make them easily accessible to any user, without going on forever or meandering. A manual that could teach some of the big software companies a thing or two. But, hey, now I’m going on – the basic idea behind NastyDLA is to use what he created in FerricTDS (Tape Dynamics Simulator) to make a realistic, great sounding, versatile tape delay plugin. I am personally a huge fan of the way that tape delays sound, and I can comfortably say that he’s managed to capture something here that would fit right in with great tape delay plugins from commercial makers. Not to mention I’m sure he’s got more in store for the plugin, he’s not the kind of developer to rest on his laurels and there have already been a number of additional feature requests (including one from me, crossing my fingers he puts mine in). Another really high quality plugin from one of freeware’s true golden devs.

Third, LePou Plugins LeCto
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From the excellent freeware developer LePou, the LeCto high-gain amp sim is inspired by an American high-gain amp with a similar name. LePou’s credentials in amp modeling are very well established already, so you should know that you can expect extraordinary quality rivaling commercial plugins. It’ll need a cabinet IR after it for best results; LePou previously came up with an excellent freeware cabinet IR loader, LeCab, so nab it if you don’t have a preferred cabinet sim. Right now, all of his plugins are Windows only, BUT! He got a Mac last month, and he has expressed interest in porting many of his plugins to Mac VST or AU. I know there’s a real lack of cross-platform freeware due to the powerful development tools that Windows users have in SynthMaker and SynthEdit (granted, a lot of garbage comes out thanks to them, too – that’s just the nature of widely available toolsets – but the real stars of SM and SE, people like Bootsie and Ken at AcmeBarGig, write everything important in assembly and use SynthMaker for simplifying GUI elements and other such tasks). It would be fantastic if LePou were able to port his body of work over to the Mac side of things. One thing the developer notes, as is common with the amp that is being modeled in LeCto, you can get a really focused, aggressive tone by throwing a Tubescreamer up front to boost and tighten the signal. Enter…

Fourth, Onqel’s TSE 808
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TSE 808 is a plugin that isn’t super new, having been released in late September,  but which I haven’t commented on yet. Apologies, readers, especially because I believe to be decisively the best Tubescreamer emulation made so far. Download it here: Onqel’s TSE 808. It took awhile, but BTE Audio’s TubeScreamerSecret no longer holds the throne for most authentic TubeScreamer. This thing ROCKS. If you need a boost to go in front of an amp model, you need this plugin. Who knows what the future holds, but for now, this is the business! Again, Windows only, sorry Mac guys. At least you’ve got Core audio while we’re fooling around with troublesome ASIO, that’s some consolation, right?