|Despite all the widespread hype and hysteria, the year 2000 feels just like 1999 to me, which is fine, since I don't need any other reminders that I'm indeed getting old. Of course, old is relative: Carlos Santana is 52 and the man can still tear up the fretboard and rock with the best of them. What's more, I'm glad to see his Arista album, "Supernatural", getting the accolades and awards it so justly deserves.
While great guitar players come and go, musicians like Santana remain popular because they understand that it's not about how many notes you can play; it's about having a distinctive tone, knowing how to phrase a passage and most of all, how to put feeling into even a single note and yes, it can be done! Likewise, many manufacturers come and go, but the really good ones will stick around because they continually build products that sound great and are versatile enough to appeal to a large audience. (I hope you liked that segue, because it took me forever to get it right.)
One example of a company that started with a single product (the AxSys 212) and now builds a number of useful and sonically compelling products is Line 6. Some of you may recall that I actually did the review of their AxSys amp in Electronic Musician a few years back. While I liked the amp well enough, what impressed me was the thinking that went into the design. And that thinking has led to other popular products like the best-selling POD and now the company's new Stomp Box Modelers.
I was fortunate enough to get an advance look at the first two pedals (there will eventually be three in the series): The DL4 Delay Modeler (shown below) and the MM4 Modulation Modeler (at right). Both carry a list price of $349 and they are worth every single penny (even better, your Sweetwater price will be lower!). The construction is absolutely superb with heavy duty metal all around, so these units will stand up to all manner of punishment, plus the colors are pretty stylin' as well: A cool metallic green (DL4) and rich metallic blue (MM4).
The DL4 Delay Modeler offers (naturally) all sorts of delay effects, from the latest, super-clean 24-bit stereo delay (up to 2.5 seconds) to many vintage effects like those available on such stompboxes as the Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memoryman, the classic Roland RE-101 Space Echo, and Maestro's EP-1 and EP-3 Tube Echo. You also get other cool delay effects like Rhythmic Delay, Ping Pong, Dynamic Delay and Sweep Echo. What's more, this box includes a 14-second Loop Sampler, so you can record about two bars of rhythm guitar (or whatever), loop it, then jam along. It doesn't take long to figure out all sorts of other interesting and unusual uses for this capability and there's even a 1/2 speed and Reverse switch.
But the effect that sold me on this awesome box is the Reverse Delay. Remember all those weird reverse leads that Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles used on their albums back in the '60s (which were accomplished by actually flipping the analog tapes over and recording the leads, then flipping them back into the correct position. Well, the Reverse Delay lets you create leads that come awfully darn close to duplicating those haunting sounds without doing anything more than tapping a footswitch. Imagine how that effect comes off in a live performance! Talk about stealing the show. This single effect
Aside from what the DL4 does, I must say that it also sounds fabulous. Comparing it to my existing rackmount delay (the one I thought sounded so wonderful) was a revelation. The DL4 sounds so much cleaner and the delays are so (for lack of a better word) articulated, that I'm ready to put my old delay out to pasture.
As for the blue MM4 Modulation Modeler, well here you're really getting into some awesome sonic potential. This baby does everything from an amazingly accurate Fender (as well as Vox) Tremolo to various vintage Phasers (MXR, Ibanez and Mutron), Flangers (A/DA and MXR), Chorus (Boss CE-1, Roland Dimension D and more), Vibrato, Ring Modulator, Panner, and even Rotary Speaker effects like the Fender Vibratone and Leslie 145 (complete with horn depth and drive control). To top it all off, there's even a pretty darn accurate representation of the (now astronomically-priced) Uni-Vibe pedal made famous by Hendix, Stevie Ray and others.
All of the effects are superb in their own right and most are dead-on repro-ductions of the original vintage pedals. The Uni-Vibe model is very useful , but I found I had to tweak and tweeze it to where it sounded best with my guitar, though it's almost too good when compared to the real thing (which had a certain, slightly cheezy swooshiness to it). And while the the Leslie preset doesn't actually nail the sound of the real thing (which is as much mechanical as electronic), it sure beats hauling around a 200 pound piece of walnut furniture. Again, adjusting the effect to taste works wonders and you'll find a lot of uses for it. I sure did.
But hey, I'm getting picky here, because when all is said and done, there isn't a lusher chorus effect, a flanger with more whoosh nor any tremolo boxes that can actually stand toe-to-toe with the original Fender and Vox tremolo effects. I must add that all the effects sound much better when run in stereo (which is great for studio use since those chorus, flange and pan effects really spread out left-to-right) and many of the models on both units really benefit if you use the (optional) Line 6 Expression Pedal. And did I mention that either unit will run for about 20-30 hours on a set of four quality Alkaline C-size batteries or powered by the optional AC adapter? My advice is to go with the adapter. Batteries are convenient (no outlet needed) but ultimately wasteful. Hey, we like to think about the environment around here.
Bottom line is that I absolutely love these boxes and I doubt that the Line 6 folks will be able to build them fast enough to keep up with the demand. Think about it: If you were to purchase all the original pedals and effects represented in these two Modelers, you'd spend almost as much as you would on a new car (with a really good stereo system). I wish I had more room to talk about how wonderful the Stomp Box Modelers are, but I'd really rather just go and play them. Naturally, you can get your own at a great Sweetwater price by calling your Sales Engineer right now. I guarantee you will be as impressed as I was. Now I can't wait to test drive their third pedal: The Distortion Modeler. I'm betting it's another hands-down winner!
Speaking of winners (excellent segue number two I'm on a roll!), I have been meaning to mention Version 2.1 of BIAS Peak software for a while now, but you may have noticed my column got whittled down several times over the last few issues. I've depended on earlier versions of Peak for several years now (just about all my sample editing and processing is done using Peak), and it would be hard to find any software that was easier to use in point of fact, I never actually read the manual. Version 2.1 ($299 list or $499 list for the TDM Version) takes a giant leap forward and offers up a host of new features and a redesigned user interface, though with all these new capabilities, I was now forced to sit down and read the manual (which I should mention is excellent and very readable). Aw, poor me.
Peak 2.1 now supports 24-bit recording and playback, has several new DSP functions (including a useful Loop Tuner), will sync to SMPTE, adds several new file formats (including RealAudio, M-PEG3 and Shockwave), and features enhanced sampler support. As if that weren't enough, you can now burn CDs directly from Peak playlists (Peak ships with Adaptec Toast 3.5), and the program supports the new AudioSuite plug-ins, as well as all the original Premiere plug-ins (the TDM version also supports TDM plug-ins). To me, one of the coolest things is the ability to select left or right channels independantly for processing and editing, a feature that required a lot of "workarounds" in previous versions.
As an aside to owners of the new "floppyless" Macs, you can easily authorize your copy of Peak by launching the program and clicking on Authorization at the prompt. Since you cannot use the 3.5-inch PACE copy protection key disk, you just follow the prompts until you get the "challenge," which is a string of seemingly meaningless words. Hit the "Copy Challenge" button and then e-mail the challenge to BIAS Tech Support ("firstname.lastname@example.org") and they will supply you with the appropriate response which will then authorize your copy. In most cases, you'll get a fast response from them as they are swell people who can't sleep at night knowing your copy of Peak needs proper authorization.
Need to compress your audio for delivery? Peak supports 11 compression formats, including MACE 3:1 and 6:1, as well as Qualcomm PureVoice, QDesign Music and several others.
Not content to simply rest on their laurels with this fine release, the Berkeley Integrated Software people are continuing to improve and enhance Peak (watch Sweet Notes and inSync for future announcements). What's more, owners of Peak 2.0 can log onto the BIAS Web site and download version 2.10 for free can't beat that!
Well, seems I have exceeded my space limit for this issue. Be sure to check with your Sweetwater Sales Engineer for more details on Peak 2.1 and be sure to join me here again next issue it just wouldn't be the same without you.
Got a bone to pick? Issues to debate? Money to send? Jim Miller can be contacted at "email@example.com"(800) 222-4700