News Tips / FAQ

Reader / F.A.Q #4

#1 – I read you say that cheap “crappy” monitors don’t work great but not everyone can afford better ones. If amp simulator plugins are designed for people that can’t afford real amps why do they need great studio monitors?- Luca S

First, when it comes to monitors, I am not saying everyone can comfortably afford $500-1000 for studio monitors but when I see people using $2000-5000 custom guitars / basses, a Kemper or the newest in high end plugins and a fancy desk all being put through a $300 set of monitors, I have ask “WTF?”. That’s the equivalent to building the sexiest exotic custom car you can dream up with every luxury possible but having the builder put a tiny 4cyl engine with no power in it.

The message here is simple, without a good sounding set of monitors, you aren’t getting the full benefit of the top quality gear or plugins you are buying. Many things can be skimped on and costs can be cut in many places to fit a budget but if you want great sounding mixes, you really do need to spend at least a little money on monitors. Why does it seem that so many people with high budgets are placing monitors so low on their list of priorities?

A great middle end set of monitors is not the insane expenditure that one would think. The set of monitors I recommend above all to everyone and anyone in this situation are the Adam Audio T7V. They can be found more than affordably these days and my experience with these monitors was nothing but incredible. They provide much better quality than the other monitors in their price point and you will notice how much more quality you will pull out of all of your plugins as well as your mixes.

Hold off the G.A.S to get new plugins for a while, save up and you could have a nicer set of monitors before you know it. I promise, you’ll hear the difference immediately.

#2 – I love to perform and I want to make YT content but my gear is not great. I’m saving for a new guitar or maybe a custom one so should I wait til then or just go for it? – Angelina P

I just want to say that I am not overly qualified to be answering this question because I am barely capable of proper YouTube videos. I do know a lot about the industry though so I’ll take a swing.

When it comes to gear, we have all experienced G.A.S aka gear acquisition syndrome. I have gone through many, many, bouts with the GAS demon in both the hardware and software worlds and I have learned more than a few things in that time. I am not going to tell you how to spend your money but I can make a few suggestions on how to get the most out of your money.

First, I want to say that before anything, my advice is, live within your means. Everyone has a budget and we always have to remember to stay within it. Before pulling the trigger, take some time and sleep on the decision a while.

Moving more to the question about when to get started on Youtube stuff. I can definitely look around and see the pressure to have certain gear and do things a certain way. 10 years ago it was 7-strings, 5 years ago it was 8-strings, now we are at headless guitars and the cycle will continue on and on. Today’s trends however are much more expensive than years prior and they move very quickly so if you are going to jump into that mindset, you will need money but just remember where your money brings out the most quality. Start with the studio core (monitors, computer, interface) and go from there.

Another huge need is a guitar or bass with nice pickups that’s setup perfectly but a professional. A lot of how an instrument feels has to do with the set up and a lot of how an instrument sounds is the pickups. So many small things go into a set up and how your instruments are set up can really influence how much you love or hate playing them. Don’t be quick to dismiss any guitar or bass until you have played it after a setup. I have watched guys trade or sell guitars because they didn’t like the nut height, action etc when all of that stuff is so fixable. One thing that makes these custom guitars so nice is the extra time spent on the fretwork, set-up, proper nut height rather than simply because of the fancy burled top or who’s signature model it is.

But guitar techs charge lots of money and they don’t really set things up how I like it”. Yes, you are correct, experienced tech work can be pricey, especially for long tedious jobs like cutting a new nut, fretwork and setups on Floyds so my advice is learn how to do it yourself. Pickups and a complete “plays like butter” set up with fretwork on a guitar won’t run you thousands either. Youtube is FULL of do-it-yourself videos for every repair, mod and setup trick imaginable but be sure to find trusted sources made by experienced professionals. (Please get a beater guitar to practice on, don’t butcher your main guitars).

The pressure is out there to look the part but I am not entirely sure why that is when product demos should be about the sound. Focus on your mixes, your guitar tones, your knowledge of the gear you are using and all the other things that should be held above looking the part. Don’t rush anything, take your time and solidify your methods before taking things to the next level. Remember, the next level takes time to get to, you can try and skip steps or rush the process but the elevator gets there when it gets there.

A lengthy answer but I hope it helps, as far as YouTube specifically, my advice is to do lots of testers and watch them to fine tune your format and style while building confidence. I still have yet to figure mine out but I am always trying new things. I still don’t even feel comfortable in front of a camera which is sort of an essential isn’t it?

#3 – Are pickups as important for bass as they are for guitar? – Dan L

Short version: Yes absolutely. Long version: Performance and pickups are two things that can’t be faked or substituted. I’ve heard people say that you can use lower end bass pickups just fine if you compress, saturate, EQ and generally process the hell out of the signal. I’ve heard something similar when it comes to guitarists that just play clean not needing to upgrade their pickups. This is nonsense because a bad signal is a bad signal. Sure you can mish and mash it to make it salvageable if it’s not going to be a focus in the mix but for anything where the bass needs to be heard.

However, as someone that has used a bass with bad pickups on more than a few mixes over the years, I can say, mixing and all that processing I just mentioned is a pain in the ass. You aren’t left with a good tone because the signal going in is poor. If you are on a budget, there are thousands of used pickups on Reverb.com. You will want to make sure to measure your current pickups unless they are a standard sizes like P-Bass and Jazz Pickups. Bass pickups come in more sizes, shapes and layouts than guitar pickups, that’s for sure. Bad pickups = bad tone and there’s no getting around it.

#4 – Why do you not do reviews for Kemper, AxeFx, Line 6 and hardware amp sims? – James W

There’s a few reasons for this but let’s start with money. We are ad free and not for profit but hardware costs big bucks. None of us have the available budget to buy any of these units. To be unbiased we would have to own or have access to the majority of the most popular units which represents an investment of well over $10K USD. This is not feasible for us.

We operate mostly on NFR (not-for-resale) licenses and what we have to buy to stay current and complete, I take out of pocket. These don’t cost software developers nearly as much to give out for review as hardware does. Most of the hardware providers have test / review units they will use for a week before it goes off to another reviewer. Unfortunately, we just aren’t at a point where we would be considered for a unit.

If we get to that point, I will reassess and see what can be done. I have no issue with any of the seriously killer hardware out there so if the chance arises to try out enough to start weighing in on it, we will.

#5 – I use amp sims live with my band but I don’t see any info on your page about using plugins live. Will you add this later? – Seb Q

No one at HASR uses amp sims in a live setting. In fact, none of us play live much at all anymore. If I was to play live again, I wouldn’t use amp sims unless I was touring or playing 3-4 nights a week. For the odd gig and jamming, I would buy a tube amp and a 212.

I have seen it go really well and I have seen it go very poorly. I saw a guitarist using Neural DSP’s NTS Suite on a Macbook through a Matrix power amp and it sounded c-c-crushing. I didn’t see a rig onstage so I assumed Kemper/Axefx etc but when I went to stage left, I saw the plugin open on the laptop. On the other side of the equation, I saw a solo artist using Bias FX on a Windows-based laptop through a FRFR unit. This was a trainwreck to listen to and the laptop crashed mid-set.

We cover a lot of things and we aim to add even more features in time. It’s certainly not out of the question in time for me to put together a laptop rig to test the response of plugins through a neutral power amp and cab. I’ll explore the idea for 2020.

If you have any questions, please be sure to email us with our contact form! They may not all show up in one of these but, it will be answered.

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