september 2014

A scaled-down version of the popular audio interface and plug-in host.

Universal Audio’s rack-mountable Apollo audio interface was an hit upon its 2012 release. Its stellar preamps, lucid design, and innovative software were perfect fits for project studios requiring great-sounding components and flexible operation, but not a vast number of preamps. (The original Apollo has four, plus additional analog and digital line inputs.)

I was an early adopter—Apollo replaced two more cumbersome systems in my home studio. Two years later I have nothing but praise for the device. My only beef: I wanted a smaller version for mobile work.

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Can you get a decent electric guitar for the price of a tank or two of gas?

A lot of people say you can’t find good deals at guitar shows anymore. But strangely, I can usually find something in the Bottom Feeder range to go home with. A while back I was looking around at the Spartanburg Guitar Show in South Carolina when I spotted this AXL Tele-style guitar (Photo 1), which was looking quite lonely on the very last row.

The last row is always my favorite place at that show because that’s where the cheaper guitars usually reside. I picked up the guitar and looked at it. With a price tag of $99, it wasn’t bad. What drew me to the guitar, however, was its visual appeal—there’s nothing quite like an aged-looking blonde Tele with a matching maple neck and black pickguard. Man, that guitar had me at hello.

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This commemorative version of Ralph Novak’s original Fanned-Fret wonder is easy to play and sounds fantastic.

The history of guitar is defined by reinvention, and when it comes to getting the geometry of 6-string sonics right, Ralph Novak’s fanned-fret instruments are some of the most beneficially imaginative guitar evolutions of the last three decades.

But at first glance, fanned-fret guitars are not everyone’s cup of tea. To the uninitiated, they can seem unnecessarily odd or even hubristic in comparison to traditional designs. But it’s the science behind this fanning that makes believers out of many skeptics—there’s a method to what may outwardly look like madness. If you look closely, you’ll see that it’s not just the frets that are splayed out in a funky-looking array: Each string’s bridge saddle is also staggered across the face of the instrument in order to conform to careful measurements optimized for that string. In layman’s, terms the objective is to get uniform harmonic content across the fretboard, and the fullest possible frequency range that can be generated from each note. The benefits aren’t all sonic, however. Varying string lengths also contribute to more consistent-feeling tension across each string. Once players get past the initial adjustment in feel, they often remark that the Novax feels easy to play and more in tune across the fretboard.

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