Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

Chat about Equipment Info
 #90143  by playingdead
 Tue Nov 30, 2010 9:30 pm
... well, Jerry's acoustics, to which I have nothing of much substance to add.

But I've been working on recording demos of a bunch of original music, and am faced with the hassle of trying to get a decent acoustic sound without dealing with mic placement, expensive condenser mics and challenged room acoustics. So, I checked out a Fishman Aura Spectrum DI box.

I'm pretty impressed with it. The Aura uses, I would guess, some sort of impulse response technology, where they are taking an actual guitar, miking it in a studio setting, and then convolving that recorded sound against the output of the same guitar over its built in pickup -- typically an undersaddle pickup (i.e., piezo). The result is you plug your guitar into the Aura and it spits out how it sounded when it was miked (they use various mics, a Neumann, Schoeps, etc., and you get several to choose from per guitar).

You can actually send them your guitar and they will mic it and create custom Aura files for you. Or, with the Spectrum, you can use one of the 84 onboard presets or go and download from dozens and dozens of guitars that they've sampled, as well as other acoustic instruments. They tell you the body style and woods, and so forth. You just download and try them out till you find one that sounds good with your own guitar if yours is not included in their archives yet.

My guitar was not included ... I have a Bob Weir Alvarez Yairi WY-1K in koa with the stock electronics. It sounds ... well ... buzzy and piezo-y on its own, much like Garcia's guitar sounded on the old Radio City recordings. But I did find a few settings on the Aura that sounded much better -- notably, one set of files made from a different Alvarez guitar that (presumably) had similar electronics.

A quick sample of a little capo'd fingerpicking on one of my new tunes ... first is the Alvarez into the Aura with the blend all the way off, so it's all straight guitar tone. Then it's the same guitar into the Aura with the blend all the way up. No difference in EQ, channels, effects, no compression, etc. on either guitar ... just straight up with a little stereo spread to it.

Sounds a whole lot better, I think. Some guitars actually come with the Aura already installed onboard, and I would definitely look into that if you're in the market for a new guitar. I know Gibson is using it now. James Taylor sent his two Olson guitars to Fishman to have custom Auras files made and he's been using it live now.
 #90144  by JonnyBoy
 Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:35 pm
Interesting stuff Vic, sounds like a cool little thing. I dunno what may be similar or different than that to my Gdec, which has a few acoustic amps built in along with acoustic effects, timbres and EQ, etc... which are all very tweakable. With its built in DI stereo out, it makes recording with an acoustic workable for me again without having that tinny metallic sound to it by going direct. I also mention this because I would think your Axe would have some patches that could do the same maybe?

Either way, that box does seem to make a good difference toward better tone.
 #90151  by jdsmodulus
 Wed Dec 01, 2010 7:04 am
I had the Para for a minute it was nice sounding but the knobs were too small for me! LOL! I like lights and big knobs! anyways I had mentioned the Pendulum SPS-1, they also make a much more inexpensive but harder to find HPZ version. Just saying its out there if your after that tone, lots of the greats use this stuff. Thanks for the other info Playin!
 #90152  by waldo041
 Wed Dec 01, 2010 7:17 am
jdsmodulus wrote:I had the Para for a minute it was nice sounding but the knobs were too small for me! LOL!
yeah the knobs are small, but it is a set and forget type of deal. LR Baggs has a newer version with bigger knobs, better features now called the Venue! must have heard the complaints.


But the new mic they have is VERY interesting!

 #90159  by playingdead
 Wed Dec 01, 2010 8:23 am
The Aura's kind of a different animal ... it's not so much an EQ as an impulse response thing. The MamaBear preamp is a similar concept, and it removes a lot of that piezo quackiness, but the Aura is a lot more variable. But it's not as if you can make your dreadnought sound like a 000 or your jumbo sound like a nylon string guitar.

The Spectrum has an onboard tuner, anti-feedback circuit, compressor and low, mid and high tone controls, as well as the blend switch. People who use it live like to blend in some of the Aura image with their guitar's tone. It gives you an effects loop, phase and trim switches and an XLR out to the board. Nice little piece. Only quibble is they don't include a power supply, which shouldn't be extra in this ballpark, but the 9-volt is lasting so far.


Adjusting the onboard tone controls can shape the Aura's response a lot, too ... I left them flat on that little demo. The Alvarez Yairi can adjust the frequency of its midrange slider, which is pretty useful, and it can also invert the phase and notch at a given frequency. I'd say there are maybe a dozen useful tones in the Aura with this particular guitar, but they are subtle differences.

You can play a sine wave sweep through the Aura and convolve that into an impulse response file, then load that into the AxeFX and it will sound just like the Aura ... that's essentially what the Aura is doing to the guitar sound. Same concept as playing the sine sweep through the JBLs, then convolving the IR, which makes the guitar sound like it's coming right through the JBLs. Interesting technology.