Archive for November, 2015

I have had my current guitar recording setup for a number of years now and while it has worked great (It is how I recorded my first EP), it is starting to show its age and is missing some features I now realize I want.  What I want to do here is use a bit of my programming/analyst skills to create a requirements list to describe what I want in a replacement and see what current gear might fit the bill.  Hopefully, my research will help others too.  I am setting an arbitrary $300 budget because if I had the $1500 for a Mesa Boogie Mark 5:25, I would be buying that and running it into an interface! On to my requirements.

Keep in mind I am not looking to do a complete studio setup.  This does not factor in the cost for guitar(s), MIDI instruments, studio monitors, or DAW software (I am using Reaper).  I already have that and am not looking to replace for this exercise.  It boils down to these factors:

  • Can I quickly capture an idea?
  • Am I able to get the sound I hear in my head?
  • Can I get a dry track at the same time?
  • Can I get the dynamics I want?
  • Can I get back to previous settings quickly?
  • Does it limit noise from my home studio environment (computer, family, dogs)?
  • Can I record whenever I want (in other words do I need a mic to capture and wake people up at 2am)?
  • Can I use that tone away from my studio?
  • Does a device need to be attached to run the software?

I currently use a Line 6 Toneport UX1 ¬†with the “live” Gear Box software and then just record that wet sound directly, changing tones manually for each track I want. ¬†Unfortunately, the interface has to be plugged in for either of those to authorize making it difficult to use other plug-ins for guitar tone. ¬†The interface provides an instrument jack and a pre-amp for a dynamic mic (no phantom power). ¬†It also has two line inputs so I can use a stand alone pre-amp, which is what I do when I do want to use a condenser mic. ¬†Together this cost me about $200, $90 for the interface and another $99 to get the PODFarm plug-in which also got me a few more amp models. So how does my current setup fit with my requirements? ¬†One and two are great. ¬†The interface is my sound card so it is always plugged into the PC and my guitar is pretty much always plugged into the interface. ¬†The Gear Box/POD Farm software is great and gets me a ton of different tones that I can do a fair amount of tweaking with, including a number of pedals. ¬†It also ticks the boxes for five, six, and seven. But it does fall short on three, four, and eight. ¬†It does features a USB 1.0 connection so for me that is something I would like to upgrade.

The question then becomes what would be some possible replacements, ideally staying around that price point?  Unfortunately, it seems that there is not a lot of choice. Either the hardware is expensive, or it is necessary to get many software add-ons.  But here is what I found to meet my requirements.

Eleven Rack – $250 used

With this setup I would use the Eleven Rack as my audio interface as well as the amp. ¬†I’ve seen these used on Craigslist for between $200-$300 some coming with the expansion pack (a $100 value). ¬†Connected to my PC this gets me everything on my list, including the ability to not have the interface connected since I am using Reaper as my DAW. ¬†Though obviously I have to have it attached to record, it isn’t necessary during the mixing process. ¬†I already have a Tech21 Power Engine 60 (which is a small cheat for being mobile) that would connect straight in for playing live.

Positive Grid BIAS FX with Interface $200/$40

Positive Grid has been making waves with their plug-ins and and¬†BIAS FX looks promising. ¬†At $200 (on sale at time of writing for $180) this would give me access to a bunch of amps and pedals. ¬† ¬†I could then spring for a USB 2.0 interface like a Behringer ¬†U-Phoria UMC22 which ¬†would get me a mic pre-amp and instrument in¬†for $40. ¬†Roughly the same as the Eleven Rack. ¬†This setup gets me almost everything on my list, with the one glaring exception of being able to use the tone away from my studio. ¬†Based on my non-ability to find anyone to jam with, this may not be that big of a showstopper. ¬†They are teasing BIAS Head, which appears to be some type of amp, but whether or not I would be able to use my tones with that remain to be seen. ¬†If it wasn’t too expensive it could tick of that live mode.

I did find a several very cool items that did also meet the requirements, but bust the budget by a wide margin.  Again, at those prices I would just by a real amp!  But I will list them so I can keep an eye on them and you can check out the information.  At some point one would think the prices will be begin to come down.

Line6 Helix – $1,500

Fractal Audio Axe-FX -$ 2,250

Kemper Profiling Amp – $1,900

Let me know if I have missed anything that would be a good match.  I have a feeling many people would be interested in the information and the marketing materials do not help make this easy.