Author Archives: glbpro

D’Addario Silk & Steel strings review

A couple of years ago I transitioned my beloved Takamine CP7MO-TT from light to custom light strings, mostly to make it easier to play as it aged. One side effect of the lighter gauge strings on this guitar has been a slight brightening of the tone and a loss of some bass. Acoustically, this has not been an issue for me, as OMs are supposed to have a chime and shimmer. Plugged in on the other hand… you see, I have never loved the sound of this guitar plugged in – there is something about the wood/pickup/preamp combination on this guitar that gives it a really bright sound, verging on harsh. I find myself constantly cutting the treble on my preamp or amp, and have been tempted to extract the line driver preamp in order to do the same. This however, is easier said than done, as there is not enough slack in the internal cabling connecting the battery to the preamp to fully remove the preamp without undoing some of the metal cable clips inside the guitar. Perhaps one day, but for now enter D’Addario Silk & Steel strings:

According to D’Addario these are “uniquely designed to be (their) warmest, mellowest acoustic guitar string” and feature silver plated copper windings over a combination silk and steel core. Having started out on classical guitar, these struck me as basically a hybrid between steel and nylon strings, so I thought I would give them a go. A couple of days later I had some in hand:

My initial impression of these strings was that they feel very much like classical guitar strings, with the obvious exception of the plain steel 1st and 2nd strings. The wound strings both look and feel very much like nylon strings, of which I have changed hundreds of sets in the course of restringing my father’s guitars. They are very flexible and the windings have a completely different texture to that of typical steel guitar strings. They are available in only one gauge, light, in both six and twelve string sets. No coated version of these strings is available at time of writing.

Installation of the strings was straightforward and actually a little easier than I was accustomed to, due to the lower tension of the strings themselves. Tuning them up for the first time I had to be careful to check my pitch constantly to avoid over-tensioning the strings: reviews I had read online had indicated that these strings are prone to breakage if tuned higher than standard, especially that .011 high E string. I found that they did need more finesse as they approached target pitch, tending to go flat much in the same way as classical guitar strings do. I have found that in use these do not hold their tuning as well as normal steel strings, tending to go flat between sessions when the guitar is put away. They are however, quite stable when the guitar is actually being played.

And what about the sound? Here’s a before and after video that shows the change in tone, recorded both direct and with a microphone:

I was actually quite surprised: although these strings feel like classical guitar strings, they sound very much like steel strings! Especially when strumming with a pick, they have almost as much top end as the set they replaced. Granted, we are comparing brand new uncoated strings to three-month old coated strings, but still, the difference is much less, in my opinion, than D’Addario’s marketing copy would make it out to be. To summarise:


  • Lower tension makes guitar easier to play, especially when it comes to barre and complex chords. One problem solved!
  • Sound is, in my opinion, almost as bright as the phosphor bronze set the replaced.
  • Lower tension has actually made the action on the guitar come down slightly!
  • Strings work well with the guitar’s pickup/preamp system – output is balanced across the six strings, without any significant loss of level.
  • The silver color of the windings makes them immediately distinguishable from a normal phosphor bronze set.


  • The low A, and especially the low E string, have a somewhat ‘rubbery’ sound to them – I know that word describes a texture and not a tonality, but I don’t have a better adjective for this. It’s almost as though the hybrid nylon/steel construction has a disproportionately greater effect on the tone of these two strings than on the others. Other words that could be possibly be used are ‘thwacky’ or ‘boingy’…
  • The strings seem rather ‘dirty’ – wiping with a clean cloth produced many black streaks, even when the strings were brand new. Perhaps this is leftover from the manufacturing process?

At time of writing the strings have been on the guitar for ten days or so and are performing well. The guitar is much easier to play than with a normal (12-53) set of light gauge phosphor bronze strings, and the sound is eminently suited to fingerstyle playing. I have found that using a pick one gauge lighter than usual (in my case, 0.53mm instead of 0.67mm) to be helpful in preventing over-strumming of the strings.

In conclusion, I would say definitely give these a try if you have a guitar that seems hard to play, overly bright sounding, or just for a change of scene. They are reasonably priced for what they are, and seem to be made with D’Addario’s usual care and attention to detail.

Click here to buy these strings on Amazon (affiliate link, supports my work).

Viewer question: why so loud?!

A recent highly pertinent question from a viewer in Sweden on my A Brief History of Live Sound Reinforcement video:

Q: One thing I use to react to when listening to small outdoor concerts, is that the aimd sunjective (sic) (me) heard sound is way way madness loud, sometimes we had to step back over 100 meters to stand the sound volume. I do not understand why – so loud – I really liked your video, really informative so don’t get me wrong. I would like to hear more “High Fi” concert, with moderate volume. Thanks for good video. SB. Sweden. (Edited for clarity)

A: Hello SB, I completely agree with you on the volume problem – I have stopped mixing these louder gigs just to look after my hearing 🙄 There are several possible reasons for this – one is the volume of modern acoustic drumkits (can easily be over 100dB SPL in the front row with the PA turned OFF) which means that the PA then needs to be run louder than that in order to balance the band. Another is that modern PA systems have huge amounts of power available, which makes it very tempting for sound engineers to turn things up way too loud! I would suggest a couple of things:

  1. If you have a choice, sit or stand near the mixer position – this is typically where the best sound is, and the most reasonable volume, assuming the sound engineer is responsible.
  2. Buy some musician’s earplugs – I use those from Etymotic (affiliate link) – these provide a moderate amount of protection (rated at 13dB SPL) without attenuating too much of the high frequencies and thus spoiling your appreciation of the music.

Finally, I have found that there are certain types of music that lend themselves to more finesse when it comes to sound reinforcement: musicals, jazz and funk/soul. These genres tend to attract seasoned and professional musicians who are much more concerned with the overall musical experience than blowing the audience out of the back of the venue with sound! All the best, and look after your ears 🙂

Last Friday Nite @ SMU

I recently covered a student music event at Singapore Management University entitled Last Friday Nite. There were eight student bands playing over the course of the evening, and all of them brought their A-game. Everyone had a great time, although it was incredibly hot. This is one of the definitive images from the night.

The Lead Singer of the band “Cauliflowers” giving it her all.

It has always struck me that images like this one exist for only a split second as captured by the camera, and that nobody actually sees them until after the event when they are lovingly extracted from amongst the hundreds of images shot on the night. I guess that is why video will never replace photography – they are both essential storytelling tools, one emphasizing the viewer’s passage through time, the other focusing on that one moment, forever frozen in immortality.

So well done Alyssa, you picked up the planet and slammed it into the crowd!

More images from #LastFridaynight2023 can be seen on my Instagram page.

TC Electronic BodyRez Pedal Review

Released in 2015, the TC Electronic (TC-E) BodyRez Acoustic Pickup Enhancer is, according to the manufacturer: “Designed to restore the natural acoustic resonance of your instrument when using under-saddle pickups.” The name is clearly an amalgamation of the words body and resonance and pretty much sums up the mission of this pedal: to restore these qualities to the sound of an undersaddle pickup on an acoustic instrument. Continuing in the marketing copy, it apparently does this through “…a vast amount of pre-configured filters combined with subtle quick compression in order to bring your amplified tone back to life.” More on that later. At time of writing the full user manual (as opposed to the quick start guide) is not available on the TC Electronic website; however, I managed to track down a copy on manualslib.

Let’s start with the basics: the pedal measures (as in, I actually measured it) 44mm/1.74″ in width, 94mm/3.70″ in length and 45mm/1.77″ in height, from the base of the pedal to the top of the single control knob. It is thus quite a small pedal and readily disappears into the string pocket of a gigbag or guitar case. Here it is alongside my MXR bass preamp and one of the newish Fishman pedals:

Size Comparison: MXR Bass Preamp, TC-E BodyRez, Fishman Acoustiverb

As expected, a pedal of this size cannot accommodate an internal battery: there is a power input on the right side for any standard pedal power supply, i.e. 9-volts, center-negative, 100 milliamps minimum. A simple power supply is included with the pedal. Above the DC input is located a mini (not micro) USB connector for firmware updates. As of September 2023, TC-E have not released any for this pedal. And no, you cannot power the pedal using a USB power supply connected to the USB port; I’ve tried. The input and output sockets are on the right and left sides of the pedal respectively and are not labelled at all – this could be confusing for pedal newbies. On the plus side, the sockets are offset to allow for closer pedal spacing with other TC-E mini pedals such as the polytune mini or hypergravity. Thoughtful!

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One hundred thousand

This weekend my YouTube channel hit one hundred thousand subscribers. It has taken me almost 12 years to achieve this, my first video having been uploaded on the 7th of Sept 2011. Back then, 100k was an aspirational number for YouTubers. Today, it seems almost routine, with some big channels adding a hundred thousand subscribers a month or even more. But for this one-man operation, I’m glad to finally be here. To me it is an acknowledgement of God’s love and faithfulness that despite only having posted ten videos in the last three years, people have continued to watch my content and engage with me in the comments.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the channel over the last 12 years. It’s been a great ride. I’m not going anywhere – here’s to the next twelve years 😄

Figure, receding.

Photo © 2023 Bruno Goh Luse.

I love liminal spaces. Those in-between, transitional spaces that exist and yet do not exist. The places in between places, that people move through to get to where they are going. The places where people do not tarry, because they believe that the temporary should not become the permanent, that the destination is more important than the journey. Nothing to see here, move along. This isn’t the space you’ve been looking for.

But these spaces very often hold magic for my mind. They are otherness in our world of being and ordering. Negative in positive, things that exist yet are unreal, unrecognizable to most people. I love to linger in these spaces, let them speak to me, absorb their thoughts and energy.

Artistically this particular space abounds with juxtaposition: light and dark, horizontals and verticals, completion and incompletion, vanishing points laid one upon another upon another. All there for the seeing, for the taking in. How fortunate we are to have eyes to see these things and minds that can comprehend them.

MXR M81 Bass Preamp part deux, or Further adventures in going direct!

In October of last year I wrote a post about my experiences with the MXR M81 bass preamp pedal, in which I said that it had given me the confidence to leave my bass amp at home for the first time since I started playing bass in 2000. Since then, I’ve had a few more experiences with this amp-less setup and have more specific things to share, both as a bass player and as a sound engineer. Let’s start with a picture:

My amp-less setup with the MXR M81 Bass Preamp, Fender American Standard Precision bass, Android tablet with the SQ MixPad app and Community MX10 floor monitor.

Specific things that I like about this setup after five months of use:

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Blackstar Sonnet 60 review

As a live sound engineer I’ve encountered and used all sorts of amplification systems for acoustic instruments, from powered PA speakers to Roland keyboard amps to various dedicated ‘acoustic’ amplifiers. When I first started out in the early 2000s these usually resembled electric guitar amplifiers, but with fullrange drivers, perhaps a tweeter or two and a control panel that included a microphone input. Typical of these was the Marshall AS50D, which was good and loud but definitely on the heavy side at 16 kilos/35 pounds. As time has gone by, live sound equipment and instrument amplifiers have both become more compact and lighter in weight, and in May 2022 I decided to purchase a Blackstar Sonnet 60 to see what the state of the art was.

Blackstar Sonnet 60 (

Coming from old-school acoustic amps, a couple of things that impressed me from the outset were the size (345mm wide x 310mm high x 250mm deep, or roughly a 1-foot cube) and the weight of 7.7 kilos/16.9 lbs. This was significantly less than the 10.5 kilos/23.1 lbs of the Boss Acoustic Singer pro, another amp I was considering. When you are carrying guitar, microphone stand, cables, power extension etc every kilo makes a difference, especially in Singapore, where load-ins often involve stairs and narrow doorways.

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New video! DI Boxes Part 7: Amplifier Emulation DIs

In March of 2015 I published a video entitled “Stompbox/Pedal DIs” featuring the Sansamp Bass Driver DI, a relatively early solid state emulation of a classic tube bass amplifier. Since then, amp emulation technology has come a long way! In this video I discuss how to deal with this type of DI as a live sound engineer, and cover specific features of the Origin Effects Bassrig ’64 Black Panel, one of the best current examples of the type.

As mentioned in my previous post about the MXR M81, the idea of having a DI box with EQ convinced me to leave me bass amp at home for the first time in 20 years. This unit takes things to the next level, and gives you an entire vintage Fender Bassman amplifier in a DI. The only variable remaining is having a sufficiently power and well-adjusted stage monitor system to take the signal back to the bass player.