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Hardware Reviews

Line 6 POD Studio GX – Review

by Kyle B.
Line 6 POD Studio GX
Retail Price: $99.99
Available for purchase:
Sweetwater.com, Amazon.com, MusiciansFriend.com, zZounds.com, GuitarCenter.com

It’s not beautiful. It’s not magical. But, at the end of the day, the Line 6 POD Studio GX does one thing and it does it well: it introduces your electric guitar to the world of digital signal processing.

The GX is a single-input audio interface that accepts a 1/4 inch guitar input and features an 1/8 inch headphone output. It connects to your Mac or PC computer via USB 2.0 and is USB bus powered. It has one LED light that indicates that it is receiving power and communicates no other information. The unit has one giant volume knob, and no other controls. That’s all you really need, right?

Included with the POD Studio GX is all the software you need to play and record within minutes. What makes this product so appealing is the inclusion of Line 6’s POD Farm 2.5, which would cost $99.00 if purchased separately. Keep in mind the GX retails for only $99.99, which makes this bundle a great deal. You will also receive a copy of Steinberg’s DAW, Cubase LE 8.

The POD Farm software is inspiring. You can use the POD Farm application standalone, or as a plug-in in the DAW of your choice. It offers a wide variety of amplifiers, preamps, and effects, and great malleability with the available parameters. As a guitar or bass player, you will be able to create almost any sort of tone imaginable. While some of the tones are more convincing than others, there are several solid options that give the original analog versions a run for their money.

Plus, playing with POD Farm is just plain fun. Unlike other amp modelers (and even some of Line 6’s earlier software), the user interface is genius. The skeuomorphic designs of the amps and pedals, plus the bird’s-eye view of the signal flow, puts any plug-and-play guitar player at ease. I don’t think the manual is needed with this one.

Purists like to feel the amp and turn its knobs with their hands. Nothing beats a hands-on experience…until you have a Deluxe Reverb and AC30 plus your complete pedalboard in an eight-pound laptop. I’ve already run through three songs while the purist is still setting up his gear! Plus, tactile knobs and foot switches can easily be configured with POD Farm via a MIDI controller if need be.

In terms of build quality the Line 6 POD Studio GX is about what you would expect for an entry-level USB interface. It’s made of plastic and is lightweight.

In summary, if you have never plugged your guitar into a computer before, the GX is a good option. You won’t feel overwhelmed by either the hardware or the software. If you are more seasoned, buy the GX to experience POD Farm 2, which will probably find its way into one of your projects sooner or later.

If you need more than one instrument input, consider the UX1 ($149.99 retail) which has one instrument input, one microphone input, and two line inputs, or the UX2 ($199.99 retail), which has two instrument inputs, two mic inputs, and two line inputs.

Pros:
-POD Farm 2.5 software included
-Intuitive
-Low latency
-Simple DAW integration
-Affordable
-Compact
-Windows & OS X compatible

Cons:
-One input
-One output
-Lightweight
-Some models are unconvincing

Beginners guide to recording equipment for $1400.

by Bryan Kreuter

People have been telling you, your recordings could sound like Maserati if you only would use proper equipment instead of your Phone. But when you looked up the prices…damn a Maserati is super expensive. You are right, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Read this beginners guide to recording equipment, you might be surprised that you can fully equip yourself with quality gear with around 1000€ (around 1400$)

No second thoughts! Go second hand!

Yes, to me and many other musicians often times 2nd hand is the way to go! And actually, you’re not compromising in any way. Just take a good look at the gear and the seller, trust your instinct, and chances are you get great gear for a great price.

Let’s talk GEAR!

Here comes the fun part. First of all you need to decide whether you go Apple or PC. PC might be cheaper, nonetheless I recommend a Mac. To me they’re easy to maintain and I happily open every spam email since they are unable to read .exe files. And if you still want windows, you still can install it.  300€ will get you nowadays a used Mac Pro 1.1 with 2.66 quad. I have one of these and can’t complain, and they are upgradeable (up to 3Ghz 8 core). Unless you are doing songs with 100 tracks, many plugins that use a lot processing power, this machine will perform great. I can say that 99% of the time I don’t have performance issues – and even then with a little tweaking of the sample size this can be solved.

Interface – you need an interface to record. Good for us that in the 200€ range there are plenty famous names like Apogee, TC, Focusrite etc. 160€ will get you the duet, a sleek 2 channel interface. Unfortunately it has no ADAT, so it’s not expandable. Another option would be the TC Konnekt 24d for 130€ or the Focusrite saffire pro 24dsp for 180€. Personally I’d go for the Focusrite since its build in monitoring function (vrm) comes in handy and it is a true 4 channel interface – the TC sacrifices channel 3/4 for stereo devices.

Mics: Next, you need a good mic. I’m a big fan of condenser mics, and actually, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get some quality. The SE 2200a will easily be found for 100€, many swear by the Rode NT1 or the AT 4033, which can be found starting around 110€ – 170€. But what about dynamic mics? Same thing here, actually one of the most used and heard mics can be found for 75€ – the Shure SM57. It’s like a Swiss knife, you can use it for a lot of stuff and it’s durable. Since it’s nice to have various mics, we go for the SE and the 57. So far we’ve spent 655€, to get us started we still need a screen, headphones and a software.

Software : Logic is a nice tool, easy to learn and feature rich. Logic Express 9 can be found online for 40€. Great Deal!

Now the monitoring. At this point I recommend headphones, since speakers need a treated room to work properly. And since the Focusrite has the VRM, which isn’t that bad at all, you can fine tune your ears by mixing with headphones until you can upgrade to Monitors. Beyerdynamic DT 770 can be bought new for 140€. Yes, new. You might have to get a new cable on used headphones anyway, besides that after a few years I had to  replace my earpads as my sweat literally made them fall apart. Seriously you don’t want to use used earpads..

Okay, finally you need a screen. Get a used 23″ inch screen or bigger. 60€ should do it. In total that makes 895€.

With the last 105€ buy some quality cables and mic stands. If you don’t need that, you could consider to upgrade your machine with ssd drives (60€ – 100€) or to get Line 6 Pod guitar preamp (60€). Or you could simply save the money and spend it on a nice evening with your Girlfriend/Wife.

You’re now the proud owner of this system:
Mac Pro 2.66 Quad, Focusrite Pro 24dsp, Se 2200a, Shure sm57,
Beyerdynamic DT770, Logic Express 9

Congratulations!

I hope this beginners guide to recording equipment has been helpful.

Novation Impulse Review

by Danny Poit

If you are in the market for a quality MIDI controller without breaking the bank, this may be the one for you.

Novation’s Impulse line of MIDI keyboard controllers is a great option for composers and music producers who work heavily with virtual instruments and samples. It comes in three sizes: Continue reading

Fishman Aura Spectrum DI – Review

by Gary Wolk

As we know, recording acoustic guitars can really be a challenge. Mic placement, having the right mics, room sound etc. can be very tricky. If you have a home project studio like myself, and have to deal with noise like the constant AC running (I live in Florida), or outside noise from planes, trains, and automobiles, that even makes it more of a challenge. Continue reading

PreSonus Studio One 2 – Review

by Gary Wolk

Looking for a new DAW? Well, I wasn’t, but when the time came to by a new interface a few months ago, I picked up the PreSonus AudioBox 44VSL, which came bundled with Studio One Artist version software. I have been using Logic Pro for the past 3 years, and Cubase before that, and have to say I was very impressed with Studio One, right out of the box. In fact I am using it exclusively now for all of the projects in my home studio. Continue reading