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 😄

Acoustic Guitar Preamp pedals section added to Amazon Links.

Over the past 10+ years I have been on a constant search for the ideal acoustic guitar preamp pedal when playing out without an amp. Unlike electric guitar or bass guitar effects pedals, there are not THAT many of these on the market, especially from reputable manufacturers. I think this may have something to do with the fact that they are actually quite difficult to design!

An acoustic instrument produces a very fullrange signal in comparison to an electric guitar or bass, and getting this to translate well through a pickup/preamp system has challenged engineers for decades, to the point where using a pickup is still seen as a concession to the exigencies of live performance. No self-respecting recording engineer would ever track an acoustic instrument purely using a pickup system – a microphone would always be employed in the first instance.

Fishman and LR Baggs have ruled this arena for decades, alongside Taylor and Takamine who produce their own proprietary pickup systems. This section contains my thoughts on some of the pedals I’ve used over the years, together with buying links if you would like to support my work.

Adventures in Bass Amplifier Buying.

So I haven’t bought a new bass amp in more than 10 years. I’ve been playing bass for a couple of decades now, and in that time I’ve owned a variety of “boom boxes”: a Peavey Microbass (which went back almost immediately due to a rattling front grill), Marshall Bass State combos (a B30 and B65), an Acoustic Image Clarus head paired with an Acme Low B1 cab, and an incredibly heavy Gallien-Krueger 2×10 combo. I’ve seen the transition from class A/B to class D, being a very early adopter of class D with the AI Clarus, and I’ve also tried many, many pedals and preamps along the way. With electric bass, as with electric guitar, the amplifier is an integral part of the voice of the instrument – even though bass is completely comfortable with being DI’ed, you still need something to hear yourself on stage, and most stage monitors just will not cut it. Even if they have the necessary frequency response, the voicing is often not suited for bass and gives a rather flat, lackluster sound. This can be remedied through using something like a Sansamp bass driver DI… or a bass amp!

As a sound engineer, I’m very conscious of the impact that loud backline has on the front of house (FOH) sound. In fact, many club setups rely on the backline to carry the majority of the instrumental sound, with the house PA being responsible mainly for vocals, acoustic guitar, and maybe keyboards. This of course, means that the sound engineer has less than complete control of the mix, and needs to work with the musicians to achieve a workable balance. This can be fine, especially if the musicians are professionals, but I have vivid memories of just how loud something like a full Marshall stack (100 watts, two 4×12 cabinets) can be – with something like that cranked in a small space, you can pretty much forget about hearing anything else. Duncan Fry, whom I regard as a mentor, wrote in one of his books that the hardest gigs are the loud shows in small clubs, not the arena or stadium shows! Loud guitar amps are a large contributor to this. Now I’m not saying that loud amps are bad… but the fact that I turn 45 this year and still have normal, undamaged hearing is a testament to me keeping a healthy distance from these devices.

My main playing out amp for the last 12 years has been a Hartke A25 – a 25-watt, solid state kickback combo built like a brick outhouse:

Hartke A25 (source)

I can’t quite remember how I ended up with this amp, but I recall that I needed something relatively light and small to act as a personal monitor, and this amp was the best-sounding one I could find at the time. I don’t play with loud drummers and put the amp as close to me as I possibly can. The A25 is noticeably heavy (11 kilos/24 pounds) for its size (8″ driver, no horn) and has never let me down, the only sonic problem with it being that the XLR output is rather noisy and as a result never gets used. It also has a number of features that I rarely use such as the bright control and adjustable limiter. I also do not like the carpet covering, which is a lint & dirt magnet and in my opinion an indication of cost-cutting – professional PA speakers, for example, are always either painted or made of moulded plastic. My single biggest gripe though, is the top strap handle: it’s so small that I can’t get my knuckles through it, which makes carrying the amp a rather painful affair. So I decided it was time for a upgrade.

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Adventures in one-mic recording

Sometimes new gear can inspire! I recently decided to refresh my microphone stable and realised that I have not purchased a large diaphragm condenser (LDC) mic for almost two decades. Well, that’s not strictly true, seeing that my Audio-Technica AE5100s and AE3000s are technically LDCs, but many purists do not regard these as such since, a) the 5100s are end-address and, b) neither model is externally-biased. So in that sense the last LDC that I purchased was my Rode NT1-A, which I think I got way back in 2003 or 2004, when the then-distributor of Rode in Singapore was closing shop. I also have one of the original Rode NT1s, in its ‘hospital grey’ paint. Side note – the AE3000 is actually quite a competent side-address condenser microphone – I used it for my Breedlove Atlas Retro OM/SMe review, shot in 2017, seems like a lifetime ago now.

So after perusing the Audio-Technica catalog and getting some prices I decided to purchase an AT4040, the single-diaphragm, cardioid-only cousin of the AT4050. It was either that or the AT4047/SV, which in Singapore at least is more than twice the price of the 4040! Just goes to show how much output transformers cost… and yes it does have a different diaphragm and different circuitry. Anyway, no money right now blah, blah, blah…

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“Books and Educational material” page added to Amazon links.

Recently one of my viewers asked me to recommend some books on live sound, so I thought what a great opportunity to update the Amazon links section of the website! I’ve been teaching and training live sound engineers since 2005, and in that time have relied on wide variety of books and video resources, which I am sure will benefit you my viewers as well.

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to a great sounding 2022! 😄😄😄

Shure Beta58a added to Amazon links section.

In June of 2018, I uploaded a video comparing the legendary Shure SM58 vocal microphone to its much more modern cousin, the Beta58a. When the Beta series launched in 1989, Shure knew better than to discontinue their iconic vocal microphone, and both remain in production today. With a supercardioid polar pattern, hardened steel grille and updated colour scheme, the Beta58a has several significant upgrades over the SM58, but is also some 60% more expensive, no doubt a significant factor that has prevented it from repeating the worldwide success of its stablemate.

For some reason the microphone was never included in the microphone section of my Amazon store, something has I have now rectified. You can also purchase the microphone directly on Amazon here. As always, thanks for your support!

Connectors page added to Amazon links section

The Amazon links section has been expanded to include a ‘connectors‘ page to list the various pro audio connectors that I recommend. To start off I have added the Neutrik SpeakON connector, covered in my video “How to wire Neutrik Speakon connectors”. These are, in my opinion, the only loudspeaker connectors that should be used for Pro Audio.

Communication breakdown?!

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38120205
Yeah that’s what it feels like…

You may have noticed that this website has been intermittent over the past few days, or that you are getting a ‘Connection Reset’ error when you try to access different pages. Please rest assured that I am aware of this problem and am working with my hosting company to sort it out.

Some good news in the meantime – I have finally got some time to work on the channel, so hopefully new content should be coming your way in the next few weeks, God willing.

Old videos, New chapter marks!

Older videos are now easier to navigate!

Over the past month or so I’ve upgraded some of my more popular videos by adding chapter marks to the description so that they show up when you mouse over the timeline. This makes the videos much easier to navigate and also saves time when you want to jump to a particular section.

Quickly scan through the contents of a video.

A couple of the more popular ones that have been given this treatment are my Shure SM58 vs Beta58A and Taka-Mini vs. GS Mini videos. Hopefully this enhances the channel experience for everyone.

The pandemic has been keeping me very busy with video production work – I hope to be able to resume making YouTube videos towards the end of this year or early in 2021. Until then, I continue to respond to all comments on all videos, no matter how old they are. Stay safe everyone!