december 2010

Eventide lives up to their reputation of stellar studio effects with the rackmount Eclipse V4

Download Example 1
ModFreqShift + Reverb
Download Example 2
MultiShift + Heavy Overdrive
Download Example 3
Hold Filter + Reverb & Reverse Tap Delay
The way the guitar-playing community shuns rack equipment can be surprising. Despite the fact that innumerable top-name guitarists of every kind use them in their live and studio rigs and that guitar rack effects even become go-to effects in studios, they often suffer a knee-jerk association with really bad, nasally ‘80s shred tone. Eventide is one rack gear manufacturer that typically rises above such prejudices and misperceptions. The H3000 Harmonizer, used famously and extensively by Steve Vai may be Eventide’s most famous rack unit and arguably the most famous harmonizer. Eventide gear typically commands high prices. But with the introduction of the Eclipse V4, Eventide has built a rack-mount multi-effects unit worthy of their reputation that, while not cheap, does a lot for the price.

Start Me Up
The Eclipse can be an intimidating beast at first glance—packed with enough features and controls to keep me wrapped up for days. But a little study reveals it to be a fairly guitarist-friendly unit. The construction quality was rock solid, with a classy, brushed aluminum faceplate that housed a super clear Vacuum Fluorescent Display (VFD) screen, a 15-button keypad with a satisfying feel, and the famous Eventide control wheel for scrolling between patches and altering program parameters. In addition, there was a highly useful dual level meter to let me know if my signal was clipping the inputs, and a memory card slot for saving presets to a compact flash memory card. The neon green, LED backlit Tap Tempo button was a nice touch too, making it a snap for me to punch in a tempo for modulation and time-based effects.

The rear panel of the Eclipse has more connections and routing options than I could shake a stick at. Eventide has always been really good about designing processors that anticipate any connection setup in live and studio rigs alike, and the Eclipse is no exception. In addition to the standard dual analog audio inputs—specially calibrated for either unbalanced ¼” or balanced XLR cables, the device has an XLR digital interface, along with separate digital interfaces for RCA and optical connections. Eventide’s engineers even included a serial port for transferring data between the Eclipse and a PC—evidence of the company’s well-known dedication to the pickiest studio rats.

There’s also a Remote Power In jack for powering an optional MIDI foot controller, effectively making the Eclipse an all-in-one MIDI effects solution without the need for an additional wall wart for foot control power. Granted, most guitarists would probably only rely on the analog ins and outs—and possibly the MIDI interface, but it was really nice to see Eventide go well beyond the average guitarist’s conventional needs and provide interface options for any stage or studio situation.

Setting up and using the Eclipse seemed daunting at first, but overall the interface is fairly intuitive and reduces the learning curve for what is a very feature-rich processor. You can effectively think of the Eclipse as not just one effects unit, but two working in tandem. The device contains two separate effects “blocks” that are essentially separate effects processors. I had the option of using either block separately, or both together. This was an immensely cool feature that opens up the unique tones that are possible from chaining multiple effect units, while eliminating noise, clutter, and messy cable patching problems.

Building Blocks of Tone
I set up the Eclipse via the effects loop of a Diezel Schmidt head and a matching 2x12 halfback cabinet with a Fender Stratocaster, and a set-neck 1978 Ibanez Iceman. The Eventide emitted a short boot screen as I powered it up, and in no time I was ready to go. There are five program categories to choose from in the program list—guitars, vocals, drums, keyboards, and special effects, which range from subtle delays and reverbs to radical pitch shifts. There are a number of presets that can provide a good starting point for the player, which is a great idea considering the Eclipse’s position as an entry-level effects processor in their product lineup.

From a sound quality standpoint, the Eclipse is a glorious piece of equipment. The overdrive patches may have been the most challenging effects to dial in (I usually had to work to eliminate some digital graininess) But apart from distortion flavors, it was hard for me to find an effect that I didn’t think sounded absolutely stellar. The clean, crisp delays and reverbs that helped put Eventide on the map were lush and touch sensitive and delayed signals rose and fell very naturally with my varied pick attack. The same touch sensitivity was also evident in effects like the phasers.

Obviously, Eventide is well known for its harmonizer effects, and the harmonizers on the Eclipse are distinguished by super-quick tracking and dual, fully adjustable pitch parameters. Parameters were extremely simple to access and alter. Just one tap of the Program button, a twirl of the control knob and pressing the Load command was all it took to bring up a patch. After it was loaded, the four rubber buttons lying across the bottom of the display were each assigned to the effect’s parameters, such as wet/dry mix, rate, depth, and feedback.

Still, for all of its bells and whistles, the Eclipse’s simple dual effect block design was its strongest aspect. Crafting the perfect delay tone with just the right bounce and rhythm, then joining it with one of Eventide’s famous, carefully tweaked reverbs was an experience that I will not soon forget. And the amount of depth that the unit added to my tone in these applications was staggering.

As great as the Eclipse is at producing mammoth-sized effects in crystal-clear detail, I never really forgot that it was there while I was playing. Quiet though it may be, the Eventide isn’t exactly transparent (if that’s a priority). The inherent clarity of some of these effects can often make them stand out and feel distinctly more processed, which might be a turn-off to players who prefer the fuzzier tones of analog distortions and delays. But if you’re willing to work with more clinical and precise tones, there’s no end to the textures you can create.

The Verdict
The Eventide Eclipse is designed to be an effects workhorse, and it’s a powerful tool for the guitarist that works across multiple styles and uses a broad array of textures to create moods and enhance songs and compositions. The time-based and modulation effects are flat out extraordinary, and the reverb capabilities are stellar. Such effects can possess a kind of sterility if you’re a stickler for analog sounds. But what you might lose in analog authenticity, you gain in detail, noiseless performance, and touch sensitivity. If you’re interested in a pro-level rack effects unit that covers a lot of territory and can spare the expense, look no further than the Eventide Eclipse V4.

Buy if...
classic Eventide quality and sonic range in a convenient multi-effects unit justify the price.
Skip if...
you only use a few effects or insist on analog sounds.

Street $1995 - Eventide -

The triple single-coil, alder-bodied, new model from PRS

Download Example 1
Middle Pickup
Download Example 2
Neck Pickup
Download Example 3
Bridge Pickup
Download Example 4
Bridge and Middle Pickups
Download Example 5
Neck and Middle Pickups
Download Example 6
Togging through each of the 5 pickup settings, starting with the Neck Pickup
Clips recorded with Paul Reed Smith 305, Paul Reed Smith 30 amp, Paul Reed Smith 1 X 12 cabinet, Shure SM57 Microphone, Avid Pro Tools
For many players, PRS has always represented an ideal convergence of the design concepts that made the Les Paul and Stratocaster great. And the new PRS 305—with its three single-coils, alder body, 5-way switch, 25.5" scale, and tremolo—flirts more overtly with the Stratocaster design than most of the 6-strings currently coming out of the company’s Stevensville, Maryland, factory. But it’s a guitar that remains unmistakably PRS in terms of aesthetics, quality, and execution. And combining so many distinctly Fender-esque design elements with a set neck gives it a resonance and tonal signature all its own.

Familiar Curves
You can spot a PRS at a hundred paces, and the 305 is no exception. The carved alder body makes a beautiful canvas for the elegant tri-color sunburst, which fades from a deep chocolate brown to orange-ish hues and then to amber. The rock-maple neck and fretboard (a rosewood fretboard is optional) runs a standard Fender 25.5" scale length and features 22 frets of DGT fret wire, and signature PRS bird inlays. The guitar’s top-quality hardware, which is available in nickel and gold, includes PRS 14:1 Phase II low-mass locking tuners and a tremolo bridge. The electronics, meanwhile, are configured in a manner that would be familiar to any Strat user: three 305 single-coils and a 5-way blade switch toggle between bridge, bridge-middle, middle, middle-neck, and neck selections. The only other controls are a Volume and a Tone knob.

Immediately Apparent Quality
When I initially picked up and played the 305, the guitar felt very solid and comfortable— no surprise there. Before I even plugged in the 305, its impressive, ringing resonance was plain to the ear, and single notes happily sustained without the assistance of an amp.

The neck’s slick satin finish felt great and played fast, and the large frets were perfectly shaped at the edges. Getting up to the highest frets unimpeded was no problem, thanks to the rounded heel and substantial cutaway. Intonation and action were also perfect right out of the case. Strings run through the back of the guitar and then through the bridge—which isn’t too chunky and is set up perfectly for deep tremolo bends or mellow vibrato textures. There’s also the usual thoughtful PRS touches, like the ridged no-slip nut and tuners that are designed for easy string installation and exceptional tuning stability.

Spectral Sound
In a fitting start to my evaluation of the 305, I plugged it into a PRS 30 amp set to a clean tone. Toggling through the five pickup configurations quickly revealed the 305’s potential stylistic versatility. The 305 neck pickup has smooth warmth that is good for jazz, and combining the neck pickup with the middle pickup results in a clear, bold sound perfect for funk, while switching on the middle pickup alone adds more midrange edginess. The 305 bridge pickup is rich, bright, and sparkly, and whether combined with the middle pickup or on its own, it has a kick, snap, and twang that’s perfect for playing your favorite country licks or snarling rock.

When I threw a little amp overdrive into the mix, the 305 became even more fiery and alive—and it sustained with superb clarity. Using the different pickup positions, I was able to get a fat, throaty blues tone, a biting Hendrix-like overdrive, or a bright, singing lead tone with the flick of a switch. The 305 pickups have a wider dynamic range than your average singlecoils, so you have the punch and detail of single-coils but with a fatter, warmer tone. Chugging power chords were muscular without being muddy, and even the notes in a more complex chord like an A13 rang out distinctly.

The super-effective Tone knob gives the 305 a wealth of tones to the mix, too. Whether I set the amp for clean or dirty settings, I felt any pickup setting had several distinct voices that I could access by moving the tone knob through its range. And it was easy to transform aggressive fuzz to more subdued distortion, or move from biting lead work to warm jazzy moves, with a quick adjustment.

I used the 305 for a number of recording sessions, including some music for television commercials and some music cues for reality television, which demanded fast moves between completely different musical styles. In every case, the 305 had a voice to fit the bill—whether it was blues, rock, spy/surf music, R&B, or country it performed flawlessly. Producers and engineers never have patience for a guitar that always goes out of tune, so thankfully tuning and intonation were never a problem. Nor did the 305 have any problem moving between various amplification or processor configurations—it sounded bold, clear, and cutting through tube amps and simulator plug-ins such as Digidesign Eleven Rack, Native Instruments Guitar Rig, and Line 6 Pod Farm. Indeed, the 305 was the very model of versatility, consistency, and reliability—enabling my work in the sessions to go smoothly, quickly, and without performance issues.

The Verdict

With the 305’s alder body, single-coil pickups, and 5-way pickup selector, comparisons to a Strat are inevitable. Nevertheless, there are some substantial differences. The 305 has a wider frequency response, and although the 305 single coils aren’t completely noiseless, they are quieter than your average single-coil. The 305 also resonates with more sustain that a Strat, thanks to the set neck design. And components like the Phase II locking tuners and solid, stable bridge ensure that the guitar stays in tune better than the average vintage instrument. The 305 is an exquisite instrument of superb workmanship and playability. It may or may not replace your vintage single-coil guitar, but it’s a nice option if you want a guitar that takes the single-coil concept to the next level.

Buy if...
you want a versatile, reliable single-coil guitar with modern enhancements.
Skip if...
you’re after classic single-coil tones.

Street $2300 - PRS Guitars -

A documentary on the Telecaster and its impact on modern music

Leo Fender’s Telecaster – The Original Twang
Headstock Productions, Ltd

Consider this the prequel to the recent Strat Masters documentary about the Strat’s creation and impact on modern music. Made by the same production company, Leo Fender’s Telecaster traces the legacy of the guitar that started it all and remains a go-to choice for many players today. Interviewees include Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, Steve Cropper, James Burton, G.E. Smith, John 5, Seymour Duncan, and several other players, historians and Fender employees. They talk about, play, and romanticize the almighty Telecaster for two hours and 39 minutes.

Highlights include Fender historian Richard Smith giving down-to-the-last-screw tours of the Esquire, Broadcaster, early Teles, and the instrument’s papa—the Champion lap steel. Other notable moments include Jerry Donahue breaking down the three-saddles-vs.-6-saddles debate and explaining what’s going on behind the Tele’s famous intonation/tuning issue known as “major 3rd syndrome.”

Some viewers may tire of the DVD’s meandering focus in the second half, the somewhat gritty production, and the inclusion of lesser-known players who end up getting more face time than Beck, Richards, and Cropper. Some purists will also question the decision to spend a bit of time with players who are known for using Tele-inspired instruments made by other manufacturers. Regardless, gearheads who simply cannot get enough Tele history will be in heaven watching this DVD. How exactly did Leo nail it right off the bat? No other documentary has ever gone so deep in an effort to answer that question.