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  • Aston Microphones Starlight Sound Samples

    Aston Microphones Starlight Sound Samples

    Aston Microphones has been around for a little over a year. In that short time, they have had wild success in becoming one of the most popular boutique microphone companies in the world. This past week, we got to try the new Starlight microphones first-hand in my home studio!

    Before we do any sound samples, watch our interview with James of Aston at the 2017 NAMM show to learn all about the Starlight microphone:

    Now that you know all about the Starlight, it's time to hear it. Before we go to the samples, I'll describe the session. We recorded two drum kits, acoustic guitar and snare drum with the Starlight. For preamps, we used my Focusrite Clarett 8PreX because the preamps are very clean and will not color the sound like my tube or vintage preamps. In this article, we will show off the first drum kit (and we'll definitely share the other sound samples with you next time).

    This is a Pearl kick and toms with a Mapex snare and a blend of cymbals. The real treat here is the 24" Zildjian ride cymbal. In the following sound samples, we used two pairs of overheads positioned in the exact same spot - Aston Starlights and Audio-Technica AT4041's. We used the AT4041 pair for the comparison because they are a very natural-sounding and well-loved overhead microphone used in home and professional studios around the world.

    On to the sound samples!

    The first one is the Starlights in "Vintage" mode with an Audix D6 on kick:

    The next sample is the same microphone setup and placement, but the Starlights are in "Modern" mode:

    In this last take, we had the 4041's and the Starlights both positioned in the exact same spot and matched within 0.5dB so as to not throw off your perception of the sound. First I'll show you the AT4041 pair:

    Next up, the Starlight pair matched within 0.5 dB on the same take:

    Overall, I think the Aston Starlights are extremely smooth. My favorite overheads I have ever used were Neumann KM86i's (used, about $2000 each) and these get really close. Over 50 of the world's top producers and recording engineers were part of the capsule selection process. It's no wonder it turned out just as smooth and versatile as it is.

    When our friend, Michael, from Aston was with us, he said we should try the Starlight as a top snare mic. If you haven't guess from my D6 already, I am an Audix kind of guy. An i5 will always be my top snare mic and I never would have thought to use a small diaphragm condenser. We set it to "Hybrid" mode and gave it a shot. I was shocked at the results.

    First, I'll show you the track on an Audix i5:

    Next is the Starlight:

    I love how dynamic the i5 is and how it captures the "reality" of a snare drum. However, this can lead to inconsistent snare hits depending on the drummer. The Starlight was much more consistent and fat. The waves in my DAW were so similar to each other. It was such a fat sound that really made it punch and stand out.

    I liked so much about both of them, that I thought I would blend the two. I did level match as well. The combination delivers the best of both worlds:

    These are the first of many sound samples you will get from the Aston Starlight. As always, enjoy FAST and FREE shipping on any order in the continental US. If you have any questions or comments feel free to give us a call at 855-269-0474 or stop in our store in Downtown Appleton!

    Be sure to check out our other articles here.

  • Certified Used D'Angelico Guitars!

    Certified Used D'Angelico Guitars!

    We just got our latest batch of used instruments in! Each batch we get is exciting and has a few gems that really stand out. This time, it was a few D'Angelico guitars! These guitars have so much style and more importantly, sound as good as they look. They are built in the old archtop hollow-body acoustic design with an Art-Deco flair. They have a very tight, crisp tone and great projection that sounds wonderful played either just acoustically or through the piezo bridge pickup. The slim C-shape neck allows comfortable playing for for both acoustic and electric players.

    We have two D'Angelico models: the Excel-1A and the Excel 63. The Excel-1A has a cutaway and a 25.5" scale while the Excel 63 has a full body with a 25" scale. Both models have classy looks, solid hardware appointments, wonderful tone, and would work fantastically for jazz and blues. Order from our website or hurry on in, we only have a few in stock and they will go quickly!

  • 3-Week Recording Class - Sign up for only $249!

    3-Week Recording Class - Sign up for only $249!

    Sign up for our Basics of Recording Class, a 3-week course for only $249!

     

    Many of our customers come into our store to buy their first recording interface, microphone, upgrade a preamp, etc,  and they have questions about recording, sound, or various aspects of recording studio life. In order to answer all of these questions, we built a studio control room! In this studio we will hold a 3-week course which will meet at our store in downtown Appleton, WI twice per week for hour and a half sessions to teach the basics of sound, recording, and mixing. The start date is June 6th and will be every Tuesday and Thursday night (6:00pm-7:30pm) for three weeks.

    In the first few lessons, we will discuss how sound moves and how microphones react to it. Students will learn the signal chain and how the analog sound we can hear becomes a digital track that we can edit, mix and hear again and again. These skills will be usable in any Digital Audio Workstation, like Pro Tools, Studio One etc...

    Deeper into the course, we will demonstrate and practice how to properly utilize EQ and compression for commercial results. You can also expect to learn about different microphones and where to place them for the best possible source tracks. To sign up for the next class, stop in our store in Downtown Appleton or send an email to david.p@pixelproaudio.com.

    If the group classes aren't enough, we will offer individualized lessons for all students who have completed the six-week course. Starting at $40 per half-hour session, you can bring in your mix and get help to sculpt it into a professional recording. We have very limited seats, so sign up soon!

     

  • Listening Comparison: Sennheiser e609 vs e906

    Listening Comparison: Sennheiser e609 vs e906

    We get this question a lot: "Whats the difference between the Sennheiser e609 and the e906?"

    Both of these microphones are on sale right now through July 4th, so we thought we would take this opportunity to show you what you can save money on! The e609 is $99 ($10 off) and the e906 is $149 ($40 off).

    This is a very common question among guitar players and engineers everywhere. Everywhere you look, there is a different answer. The e906 does have an EQ switch that allows for a flat response, a boost at 4.2kHz and and dip at 4.2kHz. Today, we're going to show you the sonic differences in the flat position. For these sound samples, we painstakingly measured the microphones to the exact same distance from the center of the speaker and their distances away from the grill to match each other down to the centimeter.

    In the first example, we have a clean guitar track recorded with pedal effects on a Blackstar HT Club 40:

    What I noticed is that the e609 had more proximity effect than the e906. In some cases that can be what you are going for. Personally, I like the clarity of the e906 and how it is more up-front. Let's take a listen to these two microphones on a crunch tone:

    In this one, the difference between the mid-range and low-end response is very audible. The microphones were matched within 0.2 dB of each other, but the e609 still sounds louder because of the way it captures the lower frequencies. We have one more example - Distorted guitar:

    In this one, I really like the way the e609 sounds gritty and very driving. The e906 is very smooth. I think they would make a great combination blended together. Overall, I think both microphones are fantastic. They could both be used for any guitar amp for any tone.

    As always, enjoy FAST and FREE shipping on any order in the continental US. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to call us at 855-269-0474, or stop in our store in Downtown Appleton!

  • Check Out Our Latest Recording Bundles and Save!

    Check Out Our Latest Recording Bundles and Save!

    We've been very busy that past few months finding ways in which we can save you money. One of the best ways we have found is bundling. That means we throw in lots of extra stuff that you may need in the future all in one package for little to no additional cost! Let's take a look at some of our favorites.

    Clarett 2Pre with JM27 and XLR Cable - $509.99

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    The Clarett Range by Focusrite are some of the fastest and best-sounding interfaces available. ISA modeled preamps and crystal-clear converters make this interface an easy choice. The 2Pre typically runs at $499.99, but for an additional $10, we are throwing in a JM27 small diaphragm condenser microphone and a free cable. This is a great package for anyone looking to upgrade their interface, or begin recording. If you don't need the microphone, check out our other Clarett 2Pre bundle with two 15-foot XLR cables included for FREE!

    Hotone Skyline Pedal with PSU and 8-Head - $109.97

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    In this bundle, we combined the Skyline pedal (among others in different bundles) with the Goldwire power supply and the 8-Head daisy chain absolutely free. This allows you to connect up to 8 pedals together and save $10 in the process!

    Heil PR40 with Boom Arm and Shockmount - $459.99

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    We get a lot of customers looking for podcasting gear. A common theme among them is the desire for a high-quality microphone with a boom arm that can clip to their desk. The PR40 is an industry standard microphone for broadcasting, so we decided it was the perfect choice. We have also included the PR40 shockmount and a boom arm with a cable already installed. This makes it the perfect solution for a clean setup that sounds great. Saving over $10 is a great bonus as well!

    PreSonus Studio 192 + DP88 + Faderport + Cables - $1499.95

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    Thanks to our good friends at PreSonus, we have put together the ultimate Pixel Pro Audio Exclusive Bundle. This includes a Studio 192 interface, Digimax DP88, two optical cables and a Faderport. This give you a whopping 16 channels of detailed preamps, low round-trip latency and the ability to control your DAW session by hardly moving a finger. Of course, the Studio 192 also includes a free copy of Studio One 3: Artist Version. The is a killer package and saves you over $250!

     

  • Golden Age Project - New Releases!

    Golden Age Project - New Releases!

    We just got our shipment of new releases from Golden Age Project. The revolutionary company has been around since 2005 with the release of their first ribbon microphone. A year later, GAP gained a lot of attention for their Pre-73, a discrete, 1073-style Class-A preamp that captures the color and essence of the original preamp in a very affordable box. Since then, they have been working on making amazing, yet affordable gear and microphones based off of classic designs.

    Recently, Golden Age Project announced the release of the Comp-2A and the Comp-554. The Comp-2A is a recreation of the original Teletronix LA-2A. GAP has decided to do something a little different than your average clone. Check out this great tutorial:

    As you can see, this compressor is only two rack units tall and only a half rack long. This makes it a mobile compressor as well as a rackable compressor if you use the Unite Big. The Unite Big is a rack that allows you to two half rack, 2U pieces together. Previously, this was made specifically for the Comp-3A, another truly incredible recreation. But now, you can also rack up a pair of Comp-2A's. This will deliver the sound of two LA-2A compressors in less rack spaces than just one original unit!

    The other long-awaited release, the Comp-554, is a 500-series version of the coveted Comp-54 MKII. This compressor pays homage to the famed 2254. It is a piece that makes any track shine and can transform a dull mix into an expensive-sounding master track. The Comp-554 has all the same controls and headroom as the half-rack unit, but with a few extra features. The most notable being the "Air" switch for an extra 3dB or 6dB (depending on position) at 30kHz for that extra sheen. This is especially useful on vocals and acoustic instruments. There is also a 600 Ohm and 2000 Ohm switch which will at resistance and color the high end for different tones.

    It's been an exciting year for Golden Age Project. We can't wait to see what's to come next!

    As Always, enjoy FAST and FREE shipping on any order in the continental US. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to call us at 855-269-0474 or stop in our store in Downtown Appleton!

  • 5 Secrets to a Better Acoustic Guitar Recording

    5 Secrets to a Better Acoustic Guitar Recording

    When I first started recording, one of the instruments I had a really hard time getting to sound good was my acoustic guitar. I always heard a strange resonance, I didn't know how to EQ it and it never fit in my mix well. Through years of experimenting and practice, I have found a set of tricks I use to get better recordings every time. Today, I'm going to share some of my secrets to getting better acoustic guitar recordings.

    1) A Good Instrument

    I don't mean to state the obvious, but the instrument makes all the difference in a recording. Other than practice, it is the first thing you should be thinking about when you start recording. It's a lot easier to make a Taylor guitar sound good than a much cheaper guitar. Not to say you can't make inexpensive gear sound good, it just takes much more work. A good guitar and a fresh set of strings go a long way.

    2) Good Microphones and Preamps

    The next part in the signal chain is the microphone and preamp choice. Microphones and preamps have a significant impact on your sound, almost as much as the instrument itself. The same rules that apply for instruments also apply for microphones; It is much easier to make good microphones sound good. Depending on the mix, you may decide to use two small diaphragm condenser microphones, one large diaphragm condenser, or one of each. The preamps built-in to many interfaces are very clean and will get you a great start. However, branching out to dedicated preamp units can take your recording to the next level. Check out how in this article.

    3) Microphone Technique

    Where you place the microphones is just as important as which ones you choose. Even the smallest movement in microphone placement can drastically alter the frequency response. Typically, I record acoustic guitars in stereo with a pair of AT4041's, very natural sounding microphones, using the 3:1 ratio. One is aimed toward the 12th fret and the other at the bridge. Another good technique with a large diaphragm cardioid condenser is positioning it in line with the sound hole, but rotating it toward the 12th fret. This way, it captures the fullness from the body and the clarity of the neck and string harmonics. I usually keep the mics at a distance of 10-18 inches away from the guitar because no one listens to a guitar from 3 inches away. The idea I keep in my head is to portray the instrument as people would naturally hear it if they were in the same room.

    4) Room Mics

    Any live audience member in the same room would hear the guitar in combination with reflections from the walls. Depending on your space and the inputs you have available, room mics would be a great addition to your recording. They are a more natural sounding reverb. The space you are in really makes a huge difference. Microphones can be placed in the corners, as overheads or just as distance microphones in conjunction with the close mics and can be blended in the mixing stage. Even if you don't end up using it, it's better to record and not need it rather than need it and not record it.

    5) EQ and Compression

    Most acoustic recordings use very little processing in order to sound more authentic than a rock or metal mix. The mixing tricks I've found most useful are subtractive EQ and compression with a low ratio. When EQ'ing (if at all), I boost a band and search for the frequency range that doesn't sound good and then reduce the gain of that band by 2-4 dB. If I take out the frequencies I don't like, that only leaves the ones that I do like. Boosting frequencies often creates unnatural artifacts, so I try to boost as little as possible. Compression settings heavily depend on the song. My starting place is a ratio of 1.5:1 with a 10-15ms attack with 30-40ms release (of course, depending on the song and other instruments involved). In some cases, the auto attack and release is a great place to start. then I slowly bring down my threshold until I like how the compressor is working.

    These are just a few tips we have for making better acoustic guitar recordings. For more tips on recording and mixing, check out these articles. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to call us at 855-269-0474 or stop in our store in Downtown Appleton!

  • Audio Bussing Explained

    Audio Bussing Explained

    You will often hear many of the greatest mixing engineers discuss bussing instruments together, such as processing a drum buss, or even using parallel effects via buss sends. At first, I didn't really understand the need for buss sends because I figured processing individual tracks is more effective. In some cases, that may be true, but it can be easier to get a finished sound quicker by means of bussing.

    What is a buss?

    For our purposes we're going to be talking about digital bussing today. A buss track is a mono or stereo channel on your DAW's mixer which you set up to take input from other channels within the DAW to create a submix that then gets routed to your stereo mix. I typically use stereo channels for this, but for things like snares and bass, it is typically better to go with mono channels. The idea is to set the input as an auxiliary input, and the outputs of the tracks you want to go there to that auxiliary input. This process essentially sums the tracks you send to be processed together.

    For example, let's suppose I want to make a buss track with my snare, kick, toms, overheads and room mics. This will be called my drum buss. In most DAW's, I would need to create a new stereo channel, go to each individual track and set the output to the buss input. In some DAW's, you can copy and paste the output to more tracks instead of setting it up individually. I use Studio One Professional which allows me to highlight the tracks I want to send, then right click and create a buss channel for the selected tracks. It really is that simple.

    What can you do with a buss?

    There are two great advantages of using busses. The first of which is processing. When using bussing, engineers will typically compress and sometimes EQ on just the buss rather than the individual tracks as it can make the sound more cohesive.  sounding drum kit. It is also an easy method of achieving punchy sounds with minimal processing. Overall, it saves time and processing power on your computer. In the example below, I show what you can do with dry drums being processed only in the drum buss. Often engineers will compress the individual channels and then route them to a buss and compress them again there to create a cohesive sounding kit.

    The first track is the dry drums, no processing:

    The next track is processing only on the drum buss, no individual processing:

    I took out about 6dB with a 4:1 ratio. I set a slow attack time and a fast release to get a little punch and depth.

    If you don't use bussing for the processing benefits, you can still use them for organization purposes. After all levels are set for each instrument in the buss, you can either hide the individual tracks or relocate the busses to the end. When I mix, I send everything to a buss for this reason. Drums, vocals, guitars, bass, synths, everything. They each have their own buss fader which helps clean up my screen and allows me to focus just on the sound rather than 50 different meters.

    Bussing is one of the many techniques that can take your mix to the next level. If you have any questions about it, feel free to call us toll free at 855-269-0474, or stop in our store in Downtown Appleton!

  • Fresh Batch of Certified Used Guitars

    Fresh Batch of Certified Used Guitars

    We just got a shipment of our popular certified used guitars and they are ready to ship out! This week, we will be featuring some of our favorites from the fresh batch. Each of the featured guitars shipped with extraordinary hardware that is built tough, stays in tune and looks great all at the same time. All of our guitars in stock can be seen on our website here.

    Tanglewood TW170AS - $319.99

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    This particular acoustic stood out to me for a number of reasons. The first thing I noticed was that the finish is not lacquer. I prefer guitars without a lacquer finish because it gives the guitar a much more "open" tone. The action on this guitar is also great as it feels even and doesn't get out of tune while playing higher frets. This guitar is perfect for recording or on the road because it is so clear with a punchy and open tone, but at an unbeatable price. I expected this guitar to be priced twice as high!

    Jackson DK2MHT Dinky Pro - $724.99

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    Up next, we have a Jackson Dinky Pro. Being in a metal band, I like the name Jackson, but was very surprised after we opened the box. The body is made of Alder and sports a Maple neck with 24 jumbo frets. The Seymour Duncan pickups are extremely hot and handle any gain and EQ beautifully. I was playing metal riffs one minute and a clean verse the next. This guitar handles the best of both worlds.

     Cordoba Leona 9 - $399.99

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    As always, we're featuring a Cordoba. This one is a bit different. The Leona 9 is from the Acero Series, a line of steel-string guitars with many of Cordoba's famous nylon-string designs. I love that it feels like a classical because the strings have plenty of breathing room. It is very easy to switch between finger picking and strumming without missing a beat.

    Samick AV3 - $249.99

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    Samick has been known to make great quality budget guitars. This one caught my eye right away. It looks and plays like a PRS and a Les Paul. It has a set-in neck and dual humbucker pickups. At this price, this one won't last long!

    Each batch of used instruments we receive is completely unique. From acoustic, acoustic-electric, and electric guitars and basses to mandolins, ukuleles, and even banjos, each batch we get in is an exciting array of instruments of different makes and models. This list is just of the recent shipment, please check out our website or come on in for more great used instruments. Hurry as these will move quickly and cannot be guaranteed in stock for long!

    Fender CD320ASCE Acoustic-electric guitar
    Michael Kelly MKSGN Sojourn Travel guitar
    Cordoba Leona 9 Acoustic guitar
    Cordoba Cadete Classical guitar
    Tanglewood TW170ASCE Acoustic guitar
    Fender DG22CE Acoustic-electric guitar
    Silvertone SIK1 Electric guitar
    Silvertone SIK1 Electric guitar
    Samick AV3 Electric guitar
    Samick AV10 Electric guitar
    Samick GD100R SCE Acoustic-electric guitar
    Samick GA100SCE Acoustic-electrical guitar
    Peavey Rockmaster Electric guitar
    Alvarez MD60CE Acoustic-electric guitar
    Fender Kingman Bass Acoustic Bass guitar
    Epiphone DR100(PR100) Acoustic guitar
    Epiphone DR100(PR100) Acoustic guitar
    Epiphone DR100(PR100) Acoustic guitar
    Jackson DK2MHT Dinky Pro Electric guitar
    Cordoba 35T S Ukulele

    As always, enjoy FAST and FREE shipping on any order in the continental US. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to give us a call at 855-269-0474 or stop in our store in Downtown Appleton! Be sure to check out our other articles here.

  • Interface Preamps vs. Dedicated Preamps

    Interface Preamps vs. Dedicated Preamps

    It's very common to find audio interfaces with built-in preamps these days. If you read our 5 Secrets to a Better Vocal Recording article, you know that stock preamps on most interfaces are clean and getting better and better. Although this is true, you can't match the color and sheen that dedicated preamps can add to your tracks. The reason being mostly that they have more room for things like higher end capacitors and transformers to give more headroom and color. Interfaces tend to be more cost effective and save money where they can to get engineers to start recording right away.

    In this short article, we will showcase a recent shootout between Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 preamps and the PreSonus RC|500 channel strip. The track in question is a verse from the album Far Away From Here sung by the artist, Nathan Edwards. A link to the album will follow the shootout.

    The first take is the Scarlett 18i8:

    The second is the RC|500 with no effects.

    The third is the RC|500 with subtle compression and EQ.

    The 18i8 preamps are nice and clean and work great. But having a dedicated preamp or channel strip can really help shape your sounds in ways that software plugins can't match. You'll notice increased clarity and presence with the dedicated preamp. When you're tracking a whole bunch of instruments, that clarity delivered across many tracks becomes even more apparent. Instruments stand out better, sound more balanced, and make for a better mix. That's not to take away from the 18i8 preamps. What they deliver in that box is amazing for what you're paying, but once you have a nice interface like a Focusrite Scarlett interface, you should definitely look at a dedicated preamp as a potential investment in your sound.

    As promised, here is the link to Nathan Edwards' album, Far Away From Here.

    As always, enjoy FAST and FREE shipping on any order in the continental US. If you have questions or comments, feel free to give us a call at 855-269-0474 or stop in our store in Downtown Appleton!

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