Blackstar HT Dual and HT Metal are 2 of the beefiest distortion pedals around

The Blackstar HT Dual and HT Metal blow us away with a big sound worthy of Rock n Roll Kings.

As a musician starting out in today’s musical climate, we see a lot of our idols and even peers using some of the most high-end gear imaginable. When starting out we know this will be a long journey before we ourselves can afford this. Therefore, for the purpose of this review, we decided to use a simple Marshall MG30 amplifier to really test the versatility of these pedals.

Blackstar dual pedal distortion gain heavy valve effects fxWhen looking at the HT Dual, it offers both a crunch and overdriven mode, ranging from crisp bite-y distortions typically associated with artists such as John Mayer and Stevie Ray Vaughan, ranging all the way to rich overdriven tones that you could find in any rock/metal sub-genre.

As a guitarist, a good overdriven tone seems relatively easy to come by. With a wide range of guitar companies offering solid-state amplifiers with everything to offer. When starting out we typically only consider what amps and guitars to get that would best suit our needs, ignoring the wide range of pedals we have at our disposal, but these two pedals are nothing to ignore.

The HT-Dual transforms our simple practice amps into something much more monumental. With BlackStar’s signature ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) included, it separates BlackStar’s distortion from many other distortion companies giving consumers the chance to either model American amplifiers turned to 0 or model British amplifiers, when the dial is turned all the way to 10. This feature is also included in the HT-Metal.

Blackstar Metal pedal distortion gain heavy valve effects fxThe HT-Metal does what it says on the tin and ultimately provides one of the widest range of metal distortions imaginable. With the HT-METAL there are two channels available, Channel One offers a Clean/OD switch that enables you to use the pedal as a boost in Clean mode and add more gain as you turn the dial clockwise. Offering a more gritty and harsh clean/crunch tone.

There is an interesting notable difference between the HT-Metal’s distortion tone to the Dual in the way it responds to the style of playing. The Metal’s Bass response is very tight and sounds almost compressed in a good way. This allows for that big ‘woof’ in the low end that you would normally only achieve with a 4×12 cab but you can get the same effect with a smaller 1×12! The Bass response for the Dual is still very tight but with the added control of the ISF dial, you can really hone it in to get more of a Marshall tone on the right and American Hi-Gain on the left.

I compared the distortion tone to an orange rockerverb which is not so much a metal amp but it is full valve pre-amp and power. I only had the gain of the heavy distortion channel at about 3 o’clock to get as much gain as the rockerverb could produce but you could get a similar kind of gain with this pedal as well as pushing it right up to a MESA Boogie Rectifier kind of scooped tone.

Blackstar Metal pedal distortion gain heavy valve effects fx dual

Another attribute to note with this comparison is the way the Mid is controlled for the HT-Metal. It is a nice mid frequency that lends its self to the style much more than the Dual but what is good about both these pedals is the control over the amount you can boost and scoop the mids for the desired tone. The earlier LT-Metal, which is not valve driven does not have this kind of control over the mids but you can still get that kind of scoop with the HT-Metal pedal.

The beautiful thing about both of these pedals is if your guitar amplifier has an FX-return channel at the back, you can plug the Dual or the Metal straight into this and effectively use both channels as the new voicing for your amp. Two well constructed valve pre-amps for your desired metal or rock tone!

The emulated out on both pedals is great for bedroom recording and allows you to use the pedal in a more limited situation for space and volume. These pedals are both extremely versatile – I personally find that the HT-Dual offers a much wider range of crunch/overdriven tones and is a more usable pedal for the every day guitarist whereas the HT-Metal would be more suited to a smaller group of guitarist’s.

Blackstar Metal Dual pedals distortion gain crunch guitar bass instrument fx effects

The price could be considered quite high for both these pedals with the HT-Metal at around £180 and the HT-Dual coming in at around £150 but for the quality of these pedals, that’s a very reasonable price to pay.

In summary, I would very much suggest both these pedals to anyone looking to try out valve distortion and highly recommend them to any rock or metal guitarist.

Fender’s Meteora guitar is a Parallel Universe Jazzmaster

Fender’s Parallel Universe range takes Fenders iconic sounds and shapes and recreates them in bold and unique new designs that will grab your eyes then grabs your eyes.

Possibly the most striking of Fender’s new, aptly named, Parallel Universe range of guitars for 2018 is the Meteora. It’s offset design seems familiar at first but the harder you look the more you see how this bottom heavy guitar is nothing like what you’ve seen before.

You can see inspirations from all over Fender’s storied history of guitar designs in the Meteora and their notorious quality build means the ash body and maple neck perform as smoothly and beautifully as you’d except from a Fender. The appearance is striking and offers up retro influences in its 1960s C neck profile and gloss nitro lacquer finish.

Two Custom Shop Tele pickups give the Meteora a bite that’s almost as strong as it’s bark. There’s a Custom Shop vintage-style Tele pickup at the bridge and a Custom Shop Twisted Tele pickup at the neck for a diverse and powerful sound. Fender describe the Meteora as “elegantly functional” with it’s American Professional Tele bridge with compensated brass saddles, custom black singleply pickguard and chrome dome knobs.

Fender describe this new, out-there guitar as: “A brave new entry with one foot in our past and eyes to our future, The Meteora is the newest way to explore your creative limits.” The guitar comes with hardshell case and Certificate of Authenticity and will set you back £1,609/$1,999. Check out it’s full specs below:

Specifications:

  • Series: Limited Edition
  • Body Material: Ash
  • Body Finish: Gloss Nitrocellulose Lacquer
  • Neck: Maple, Mid ‘60s “C”
  • Neck Finish: Satin-Lacquer Back, Gloss-Lacquer Front
  • Fingerboard: Maple, 9.5” (241 mm)
  • Frets: 22, Narrow Tall
  • Position Inlays: Black Blocks (Maple)
  • Nut (Material/Width): Bone, 1.685” (42.8 mm)
  • Tuning Machines: Deluxe Staggered Cast/Sealed
  • Scale Length: 25.5” (648 mm)
  • Bridge: 3-Saddle, Strings-Through-Body Tele with Compensated Brass Saddles, 6 screw mounting with removable modern “Ashtray” Bridge Cover
  • Pickguard: 1-Ply Black
  • Pickups: Custom Shop Vintage-Style Tele Single Coil (Bridge), Custom Shop “Twisted” Single-Coil Tele (Neck)
  • Pickup Switching: 3-Position Blade: Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups, Position 3. Neck Pickup
  • Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone
  • Control Knobs: Knurled Dome
  • Hardware Finish: Nickel/Chrome
  • Strings: Fender USA, NPS, (.009-.042 Gauges)

Mooer’s amazing Black Truck offers quality multi-fx in a size you can handle

Mooer Black Truck Multi-FX pedal gives you a huge range of effects in a rather neat little console. I recently got the chance to test out this amazing multi effects pedal and it just blew me away with its capabilities – it has everything you need right there in front of you.

The Mooer Black truck holds a wide range of effects that come under 6 distinct foot switches. All effects can be used separately to each other or together to create whatever sound you feel best at the time.

The first feature I used was the ‘Space’ foot switch which has a range of effects including Reverb, Delay and a dual Reverb/Delay feature. I really loved the reverb capabilities on this pedal, the ability to change the amount of reverb in the mix and the decay is a lovely addition to the pedal.

The delay also comes with the ability to change the level, feedback and time which was really cool. I managed to get some lovely acoustic tones using both of them together creating a sound I loved.

The second switch I looked at was the Mod switch which has three great controls – Phaser, Tremolo and Flanger. I found if you combined the reverb with the very warm tremolo you can create a really earthy acoustic sound. The phaser and flanger were better suited to my electric guitar, creating sounds you might associate with an old rock band. This is something I really enjoyed playing with and changing around.

The next thing I looked into was the EQ switch effects. Something I really enjoyed about this was the option of changing the EQ pre or post effects. This can really change up the sound you get from the dynamic EQ settings. This then works really well with the gain and overdrive switches. being able to apply a nice EQ before or after distortion and gain is a really great feature. The gain switch applied with the overdrive creates a bite-y distortion that any rock guitarist would be proud of and I think its an incredible addition to the pedal.

The range of effects available in a multi-fx pedal the size of Mooer’s Black Truck is just incredible. This pedal also suits every guitar and guitarist from electric rock guitarists to the singer /songwriter. Whilst versatile the black truck is best suited for an electric rock guitarist with stunning gain and overdrive features.

The compact build of this pedal makes it perfect for any guitarist to easily carry around to live performances and supply a good amount of effects to there sound. I think what separates it from other multi-fx pedals is the size but also the control with each effect. You can very easily change the tone and features of each effect to absolutely perfect the sound you want.

A difficulty I did have with this pedal was differentiating between the switches in a hurry, when trying to quickly trying to switch on/off an effect, because of the compact size its easy to also switch on/off another of the effects either side. This is only in issue when trying to change effects in a hurry if having to concentrate on other things also but in a live gig scenario I could see this being a problem.

Pros

– Versatility allows you to fine tune the sound you want

– A compact build makes it very portable

– Size doesn’t impinge on it’s quality

– Great for electric or acoustic guitars

Cons

– The size does mean the foot-switches are close together which could cause difficulty in a live setting

Tune in to the radio with these headphones

Who says FM radio is a thing of the past? Definitely not Blackloud who have just launched their new headphones which go beyond just playing music but tune into the music for you.

Blackloud’s new wired earphones for iPhone go against what many new headphones try to achieve. As everyone tries to get more and more digital and technological with Bluetooth connections, analysis of your surroundings, even touch screens – Blackloud have looked to the past and built an antenna into their cable so you can tune in to FM radio broadcasts.

It’s not exactly a sought after feature anymore, there’s a reason phone antennas aren’t tuned to pick up the radio. But Blackloud are betting that people are still after that authentic radio experience. The AF1 FM headset has an antenna built into it’s cable whilst it’s in-line control box features an FM tuner so you can tune your way to the radio station you want to listen.

The headphones use a Lightning jack connection meaning that they’re only compatible with iPhones for now. The company say they have a USB Type-C model planned for release next year making it available for Androids. They might wait to see how many iPhone owners are really after an FM Radio function on their iPhone before planning a full release.

Last year Ajit Pai, the controversial FCC chairman, revealed last year that most smartphones actually have a hidden FM receiver built into them. In the US most of the smartphones with these built in don’t actually activate them. Pai said at the time: “It seems odd that every day we hear about a new smartphone app that lets you do something innovative, yet these modern-day mobile miracles don’t enable a key function offered by a 1982 Sony Walkman.”

I can remember my old Sony Ericsson mobile phone from 2008 coming with earphones that had an antenna built in, allowing me to tune in to analogue radio at the time. So these earphones don’t really feel innovative, they just feel like they’re facilitating something that no-one really wants anymore.

However, if you’re a radio lover and don’t want to use your data tuning in to stations when you’re on the go then the Blackloud AF1 FM earphones could be just the cans for you. They are available for $79.89 directly from Blackloud’s website.

Akai’s Mini Play is more than just a MIDI controller

Akai’s new MIDI controller doesn’t just give you power over your software but stands alone as it’s own beast with built-in sounds and speakers.

Akai’s MPK Mini Play is a super portable version of “the world’s most popular MIDI controller’, Akai Professional’s MPK Mini. Whilst it’s been made small so you can take it with you for the beatmaker on the go, the Mini Play is packed with with new sounds and it’s own speaker, even a joystick, transforming it into it’s own instrument as well as a versatile and powerful little MIDI controller.

The MPK Mini Play features 128 of it’s own sounds which can be played anywhere using it’s built-in speaker, or plug it into your PC and expand your sound library. All you need is 3 AA batteries to get the mini keyboard working, giving you hours of wireless fun with 25 synth-action mini keys to play with and 8 drum pads complete with red backlighting for tapping out beats or activating scenes in your DAW. As well there are 4 knobs for editing sounds with or sending MIDI. The interesting addition of a joystick also gives you superior control over your software.

Akai Professional’s product manager, Dan Gill said: “We are extremely excited to introduce the MPK Mini Play. The MPK Mini was a huge hit with musicians and now having all those sounds on-board with a built-in speaker, along with its go-anywhere portability, Play opens up new musical possibilities that people are going to love.”

MPK Mini Play Akai keyboard midi controller music instrument

The Mini Play has the same plug-and-play MIDI functionality of all Akai’s controllers making it simple to dive straight in and start playing with your gear. But when it comes to playing the miniature keyboard on itself you have the option to make it personal with a headphone jack, or use the exact same output to plug it into some speakers and wahey you’ve got a gig-ready keyboard.

Overall this mini-beast packs in:

  • Standalone mini keyboard with built-in speaker and USB MIDI controller
  • Built-in sound module with over 128 instrument sounds + 10 drum kits
  • 25 synth-action mini keys
  • OLED display for easy sound browsing
  • 8 red backlit drum pads (2 banks, 16 total)
  • 4 knobs edit sounds or send midi (2 banks, 8 total)
  • 4-way joystick for pitch and modulation control
  • Built-in arpeggiator
  • 1/8” headphone jack
  • Battery powered using (3) AA batteries

Mooer’s compact Baby Bomb will blow your mind

This tiny Mooer baby bomb amp proves that size isnt everything with the smallest amp we’ve ever seen.

When you are thinking about how much gear you have to carry around as a guitarist or singer/songwriter, its an incredibly heavy amount. For the standard guitarist, carrying around a big cab and amp is an every day occurrence but this little treat might just save your arms and a load of time. The baby bomb is a neat little power amp and a pocket size wonder, it has everything you need to create a simply big sound in a pedal size unit.

The baby bomb has two very simple controls – Master Volume and a Warm/Bright Control. When turning up the volume, the baby bomb also starts to unleash some gritty post stage overdrive with the volume increase which is an amazing feature as it means you get the additional choice of a clean and distorted sound within the amp.

Adjusting the Warm/Bright control will completely change the presence and tone of your cabinet with a very distinct two tone feature.

With a true 30 watts of power, this unit packs a punch and can be connected to any cabinet with an impedance of 80-160 Ohms. This amp doesnt hold back on power or volume as you may expect it to, we all stood back in wonder as it created a sound worthy of a professional rock set up.

Alongside this little amp, we were lucky enough to test out the Mooer GC112 Speaker Cab. This reasonable size cabinet comes with a powerful and dynamic celestion vintage 30 speaker which adds rich tones and diverse sounds to any pedal and amp set up.

Producing 60 watts of output I would say this speaker cab was ideal for anyone playing in any setting but definitely well suited for any solo guitarist/solo performer as it creates enough sound to fill a good variety of venues. The cab really does let you cut through with precision high notes at the same time as creating warm lows and an earthy middle tone.

These units work so well together creating a simple, easy, rich sound and beautiful textures to any guitar. Having tested both units out with a variety of electric and acoustic guitars, I would fully recommend this excellent duo to any guitarists looking for a simple set up to use at live gigs or at home. With the amp being so small and the speaker being light and easily manoeuvrable, this pair just goes so well together in so many settings.

 

New 33 feet step sequencer in Berlin is the largest in the world

Berlin is home to some of the biggest and best nightclubs in the world and in honour of Red Bull Music Academy’s 20th edition they’ve built the world’s biggest sequencer outside of one.

Outside Berlin’s iconic nightclub, Tresor, biggest step sequencer was built – open to anyone to walk up and play with. The 33 feet long and 7.2 feet high machine took five weeks to assemble by 30 top technicians and is completely playable, allowing the public to freely use and play the world’s largest drum machine.

The massive sequencer has been built to celebrate Red Bull’s 20th edition of their Music Academy in one of the nightclub capitals of the world. The sequencer, named the RBMA-20, was designed and built by Berlin-based creative studio Neulant van Exel. Unfortunately this week saw the Sequencers last day at Tresor, but surely such an achievement will be relocated to a permanent position – though Red Bull haven’t revealed their plans for the whopping machine yet.

The interface for the RBMA-20 featured 427 knobs and faders, four completely functional analogue drum machines, a modular synthesizer, and even a sampling unit to work with. When the club was open punters could come and play the sequencer with the help of ‘on-site experts’ whilst club-goers waiting in line could listen with headphones. It’s a monumental creation and isn’t Red Bull’s only electronic musical mark on Berlin to celebrate their 20th musical anniversary.

A number of Berlin’s trams and trains which circulate through the city have been transformed into drum machines, sequencers and synthesizers on the side complete with Red Bull branding – only visually however. Homages to electronic classics like Roland’s TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines and Native Instruments Maschine feature along Berlin’s public transport.

Red Bull Music Academy started in 1998, right in Berlin where it has returned for it’s 20th anniversary. Their academy lectures have featured some of the world’s leading musicians and music influencers sharing their knowledge and inspiration with new and older generations alike. Red Bull have returned to the city where it all began and in style to celebrate.

FL Studio’s first ever dedicated controller is here from Akai

FL Studio often gets forgotten behind production and recording staples like Ableton and Logic, but Akai have come to their side with their new Fire controller.

Akai’s new Professional Fire controller has been created in collaboration with Image-Line to offer the world’s very first dedicated controller for FL Studio. The high performance tool makes creating and producing on Fruity Loops’ versatile software the smoothest experience ever with an enhanced workflow and music-making experience.

The first thing you notice about the Fire is it’s rows of pads, making for the perfect sequencing accompaniment – especially considering that is the bread and butter of FL Studio. The controller is plug and play, so you can connect it up to your PC and immediately start using it with your music software to create and customise. Fire’s 4 x 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pad matrix has been designed to work straight away and seamlessly with the renowned sequencer built into Fruity Loops.

If you want to bust out the synths and get musical then the Fire’s Note mode becomes your best friend. By switching the controller to Note mode the controller’s RGB pads transform into a MIDI keyboard with three octaves of playability. With velocity sensitive pads you can play melody and harmony exactly how you want it to come out. There is also a Drum mode which uses an MPC-style 16-pad layout for seamless integration into FPC and SliceX for beat-making.

The pads give you loads of control over the software with the ability to mute and solo channels at the tap of a button, expand the grid matrix, switch between channels, navigate through all of your patterns and much more – right from the controller. You can use it to record, play, stop, and so much more making it an overall ultimate music-making controller for FL Studio – something that has been long overdue.

Here’s a summary of it’s main features:

  • Plug-and-play integration with FL Studio
  • Quickly input patterns along the timeline in the step sequencer
  • 4 x 16 Matrix of Velocity-Sensitive RGB Pads
  • Record notes in Performance mode
  • Graphical OLED display
  • 4 banks of assignable Touch-Capacitive Knobs
  • Instantly navigate the Channel Rack, Browser, Tool Bar and Playlist windows
  • Use dedicated controls to quickly browse audio and project files
  • Dedicated Transport controls
  • USB bus-powered

There is loads more to Akai’s Professional Fire controller than what we’ve mentioned above. Find out all about what the best controller now on the market for FL Studio really offers from their website

Red Panda Raster Delay Pedal Review

This stunning delay pedal from Red Panda combines delay and pitch shift in one incredible unit.

Delay is a big market in the pedal world at the moment with many artists seeking to find a delay pedal that suits their sound. This excellent compact Raster delay pedal from Red Panda has all you need in one pedal. I personally love this pedal and find that it has such a rich tone compared to many other delay pedals on the market.

What is it?

The Raster is a Delay/Pitch Shift Pedal which can be used in a number of different ways. Red Panda have built in the ability to use either feature individually with 2 foot switches, one for delay, one for shift. The pedal has main controls:

Shift – Changing the level of pitch shift, clockwise from central shifting higher than the note an anti clockwise shifting the note lower.

Feedback – The feedback possibility’s are amazing on the Raster with what feels like endless feedback you can keep the delay going for any amount of time you want.

Delay – This controls the frequency of the delay, turning clockwise for a longer delay.

Blend – This control is for blending the delay in with the original signal. This can be used to control the level of delay noticeable, turning clockwise for a bigger echoey sound.

This pedal also comes with three delay modes and three shift modes enabling up to 750ms of clean delay time available.

You can also use this pedal with an expression pedal for varying levels of delay.

Our Thoughts

I’ve been testing this pedal for a few weeks now and I just cant stop using it. The endless capability’s of this delay pedal are second to none. I will definitely be grabbing one of these for my pedal board. This delay pedal tops any other delay pedal I have used and I would strongly recommend it to anyone looking for that Ben Howard like feel to there sound.

Pros

  • Full Sounding Tone
  • Easy to Use and fits well into any pedal set up.
  • Delay and Shift features together create amazing echoey sound

Cons

  • Reasonably pricey amongst other delay pedals costing around £230
  • Not as many delay controls as other pedals around the same price

TC Helicon Voicelive 3 Review

The Voicelive 3 will change your live performances forever with brand new vocal harmony modes and rockin’ guitar effects.

What is it?

This amazing pedal is the latest in the leading series of products from TC Helicon and has so much to offer from state of the art vocal effects to brand new guitar sounds and an easy to use looper setting. The Voicelive has always been the pinnacle of vocal effects but in the latest model they have really worked all you need into one unit.

It contains over 200 Vocal FX with hundred’s more available to download, these include such a wide range of features from harmony modes to octave shifts to hair raising reverb’s.

The guitar effects that this pedal comes with are also definitely something to rave about with over 180 different styles available, you can transport your sound to any era. The pedal has built in reverb and delay controls separate to any preset function meaning you can switch on and off reverb and delay at the press of a button. You can also change the quality of the given effect to your personalised needs within the console.

 

Whats New?

As I mentioned earlier, a very exciting new development with the Voicelive 3 is the added looper setting. This is a single button looper switch meaning you can easily and quickly add loops to your live performance, you can do this by simply tapping the ‘looper’ foot switch once to record and tapping again to playback.

Another new feature is three new harmony modes:

Pedal : Sings the root note of any given chord you are playing at any time.

Fixed : Allows you to set a fixed note that it will keep to throughout.

Mixed: The capability to mix between Pedal, Scale, Fixed and combine them all creating endless possibility’s.

Other new features include a brand new Vocoder with voice controlled synth and robot modes, choice of amp emulations and new bass and wah effects. Find the full list of new features on the TC Helicon website here – Voicelive 3 Features

Our Thoughts

Testing this out for me was a great deal of fun, I added the Voicelive 3 into my live set-up and tested it out both in the privacy of our studio and at a live gig setting. I would suggest this pedal for any singer/songwriter looking to create a bigger sound with minimal equipment. Due to its compact size, its the perfect pedal to take to a gig and be able to use on its own without bringing a whole pedal board.

Pros

  • Every effect you want in one box which saves carrying around lots of gear
  • Ultimate flexibility on sounds and features
  • Huge banks of preset effects

Cons

  • Can be complicated to the average user
  • Real-time editing and changing between sounds will need some practice
  • The price is quite high coming in at around £450