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Tech Notes
By Jim Miller

Tech Notes

Let's face it: Not everybody has the bucks to go out and buy all the equipment they really want for their studio. I know I don't. For some reason people still seem to think manufacturers throw gear at me just because I happen to write about their products. Hardly. Just like you, I have to pay for my equipment.

Of course, with finance plans in place like the Sweetwater Technology Card and the new Line of Credit Accounts, getting the right multitrack, mics and mixer for your personal studio is easier than ever before. But let's say that instead of buying a brand new digital multitrack, you'd rather be able to get a recorder AND a quality mixer for about the same price. Hey, wouldn't we all?

Well, I'm pleased to be the one to tell you about a brand new Sweetwater exclusive, one that will make a lot of sense to many of you out there. They call it Sweetwater Certified Pre-Owned Equipment. Let me explain exactly what this means.

First, everyone should know by now that Sweetwater takes in tons of used equipment. There are those musicians out there who have the desire and finances to always have the latest gear in their studios, so they trade their used equipment in on new equipment. In most cases, these "trade-ins" are only a few years old and in excellent condition. So what the Sweetwater Service Department does is take these recorders, mixers, keyboards, etc. apart, piece-by-piece, and meticulously service them thoroughly from the ground up to bring them up as close as humanly possible to the specs of a brand new unit. If a particular item can't be brought up to spec, it's usually put into a separate inventory to be stripped as needed for parts.

The net result of this process is that Sweetwater now has a sufficient inventory of many items to begin offering these to its customers at amazingly low prices. Begin to see the picture? Essentially, you can buy a piece of equipment that will perform exactly as if it were new, but at a substantial savings, leaving you free to use those extra bucks to invest in a mic, mixer, multi-effects unit, etc.

Sure, just about every retailer sells used gear, and when you buy it, you're pretty much on your own. If it stops working two weeks later, your salesman looks at you as if he never saw you before in his life, right?

Well the key here are those two magic words: "Sweetwater Certified."

What this means is that our Service Department has carefully checked the item over to be as certain as possible that it will not fail a few weeks, months or probably even years from the day you buy it. It also means that - are you ready for this? - Sweetwater treats these certified items just like new gear, meaning our industry first "no hype/no hassles" guarantee applies to whatever you might be buying. So if the unit stops working, doesn't produce the results you're after, or if you're just not completely happy with it, we'll exchange it, give you credit towards another item, or even refund your money. You can't beat that deal.

I don't know of any other retailer that offers anything close to that kind of warranty on pre-owned equipment. To be fair, the most reputable dealers will, in most cases, give you 24 hours to try an item out. After that, well, good luck folks...

If it weren't for the fact that Sweetwater's Service Department is the very best in the business, the company would probably never have started such an ambitious program. They have complete confidence that if the people in Service say a piece of equipment is back up to spec, they can offer it to you without any reservations, period.

Personally, I think this is a great program, and one you will be hearing a lot more about in the coming months (and one that other dealers are sure to begin copying soon). It allows you to get the gear you need without spending a small fortune, then gives you the same peace-of-mind you get when purchasing new equipment - and as we all know, even brand new units occasionally fail for many reasons, otherwise there would be no such thing as a warranty.

What kind of equipment will be Sweetwater Certified? Just about anything that's capable of being brought up to like-new condition: ADATs, DA-88s, K2000s and other synths, Mackie boards and more!

Now if you're interested (and if I've done my job you should be), I would suggest you call your Sweetwater sales engineer immediately and find out exactly what Sweetwater Certified items are currently in stock. You can even check our Web Site. But remember that these items will go fast (in fact, I've already purchased one myself).

And one last item before I move on: This new program also means that your trade-in is even more valuable when you're looking to move up to the hottest new gear. It's a great program where everybody wins, and how often in life can we say that?

I just read the NAMM report that's included in this issue. I don't think there's ever been a more exciting time to be involved with music than right now, (but of course you could say that about every NAMM Show). However, if you read this article carefully, you'll spot some rather interesting trends.

For one, outboard processors are big right now: compressors, limiters, expanders, tube preamps, etc. You'll also notice that powered monitors are catching on big time. And computer-based recording is definitely getting some serious attention, both from a hardware standpoint and in some advanced software, mostly in the form of various plug-ins that can be used just like outboard gear to produce outstanding results.

Recently, I personally began writing several articles for Electronic Musician on the subject of using plug-ins, and let me tell you from firsthand experience that it can be rather humbling at first. Just sorting out all the various platforms (TDM, SDII, native, VST and others) is enough to make your head spin.

I've now been working with plug-ins from Waves and AnTares Systems (formerly Jupiter Systems,Waves' Ultramaximizer Plug-in allows you to control the dynamics of your mixes. the company that brought you Infinity looping software), both in Digidesign's Sound Designer II with an Audiomedia II card, and Version 1.5 of Peak from Berkely Integrated Audio Software running on a PCI-based Audiomedia III system.

My first word of advice: If you are even considering using your computer to do digital multitracking or mastering (or whatever), you really need to call your Sweetwater sales engineer to get the most accurate information before you begin your foray into computer-based recording. Getting the wrong system for your needs will cause you to pull out your hair, gnash your teeth and generally be in a very bad mood for the next eight months or so. But once you have a well-designed system in place, you'll be surprised at how versatile it can be, and you'll be cruising along making fantastic-sounding recordings in short order. With the addition of plug-ins, you'll be amazed at the results.

For example, Waves' L1 Ultramaxi-mizer software will allow you to make CD-ready audio files thanks to its advanced peak limiter, level maximizer and the company's IDR (Increased Digital Resolution) noise-shaping and re-dithering process. Their Q10 ten-band equalizer, Renaissance Compressor (with authentic vintage sound) and S1 Stereo Imager are all tools I personally have used to remaster some old tapes that exist only in cassette format. The result is a finished product that almost sounds like it was recorded yesterday, rather than 12 years ago.

Both the Multiband Dynamics Tool (MDT) and Jupiter Voice Processor (JVP) from AnTares Systems are also great plug-ins that do a wide variety of processing, ranging from De-Essing and Compression to Parametric EQ and Delay. Listen to Sweetwater's new Session Drums CD-ROM; many of the drum samples were processed using these plug-ins.

Fact is, you'll be seeing a lot more plug-ins in the future in all sorts of applications from Adobe Photoshop and Premiere to Netscape Navigator and everything in between. This is very powerful technology that's bound to change the way we work on our personal computers well into the next century.

Well, I'm out of here for now. See you next issue.

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