Blog Pages

10/20/15

5-Way Strat Switch by Otax

If you are like me and always on the lookout for a high quality 5-way switch then you may want to check out the Otax VLX91 5-Way Mega Switch.


The Otax 5-Way Mega Switch is a 4-pole, 5-position lever switch utilizing printed circuit boards (PCB's). It's made in Japan, utilizes a ball bearing to keep the lever in place, and has a very smooth feel and positive position lock.

I've used almost every 5-Way switch out there. This one feels great. It has a very positive snap, similar to a CRL, but with more switching options like the Oak Grigsby Mega Switch.

Find out more about the Otax VLX91 at the Slovak based guitar company Sollerguitars.com.
It's not cheap. by the time it hits your U.S. door you will be paying about $40.00 U.S. dollars for it.

Thanks for reading,
Trenton

7/2/15

Purchasing and Installing Lexicon PCM Reverb Plugins

I don't recommend purchasing any plugin at full price unless you absolutely have to. Most plugins eventually go on sale. Below I have outlined the process I went through to purchase and install the Lexicon PCM reverb bundle during Lexicon's June 2015 50% off sale.



PCM Reverb Purchase Process

Purchasing Lexicon plugins is very similar to purchasing other plugins. Simply add-to-cart and pay. Just make sure you have an ILok2 device because it is required. Also, make sure you verify your order because just like purchasing other plugins "ALL SALES ARE FINAL".

You will need a Lexicon account. I don't think they let you check out as a "guest" like other online retailers do. Once you are confident you have what you need in your cart then proceed through the payment process.


Downloading Lexicon PCM Plugins

Your order confirmation email includes a "link" to the Lexicon product page for the plugins you ordered. Also, your ILok "Authorization Key" is located in your order confirmation email as well.

Once you have clicked the email link and are on the product page for the plugins your ordered, go to the "download" tab and locate the installer file that matches your systems requirements (mac/win, 32/64bit etc.). Then download the appropriate installer file.


ILok2 USB Key

An ILok2 USB key is required for Lexicon plugin operation. If you do not currently own one you will need to purchase a PACE iLok 2nd Generation USB software authorization key from online retailers such as BH Video. BH Video has them for $40.00 each. Other places want $50.00 each.

Please note: This is not a standard USB thumb drive. It's a special device specifically for license files. A single ILok2 USB key can store a whole bunch of your license files so you most likely only need to purchase one of them. Also, you will need an ILok account in order to activate your ILok licenses.


ILok License Manager

ILok has a license manager application that needs to be downloaded and installed. Again, make sure you choose the correct version for your system.  During my installation process the .exe was "compressed" and needed to "extract" extra files to install properly. 

 

Redeeming ILok Activation Code

To redeem your ILok activation code for the plugins you just purchased you will need to click the button pointed to by the red arrow below. Then insert your "Authorization Key" that's in your order confirmation email into the window box shown below. You only need to copy and paste the whole key into just one box. Then hit "Next".

 

Transferring ILok License to ILok2 USB Key

Once you have redeemed your activation code your license should be available under the "available (1)" menu button at the top of the screen located in between "all licenses" and "all activations". Then you need to insert your ILok2 device, select the license file you wish to transfer, and then select your ILok2 device.

I believe you can drag the license file over to your ILok2 device on the left side of the screen. If you are certain you have selected the correct license file and the correct ILok device then proceed with the transfer.

Installing Lexicon PCM Reverb Plugins

From your downloads tab in your browser make sure you save your installation file somewhere that is safe. With your newly downloaded installation file ready, just double-click the .exe and follow the prompts. It's really that easy. If you run into major issues you can try the Lexicon Support page.


Using Lexicon PCM Plugins

With your ILok2 USB device installed, fire up your DAW and your Lexicon plugins should now be available. 


Conclusion

The biggest hassle during the ordering process was making sure the 50% off coupon code was redeemed properly. I had to back out of the cart at least once to get it to show up in the final purchase price. Although there is a fair amount of work involved with the license files, installation of the Lexicon PCM plugins could not have been easier.

My Overall Impression
I now understand what everyone is talking about when it comes to Lexicon PCM reverbs. I'm very impressed with how smooth these plugins sound. But, even at 50% off, I wouldn't consider them cheap plugins. One nice thing is that Lexicon allows you to DEMO the plugins before purchasing them. And, if you really like the way they sound, I recommend you wait until they go on sale.

Thanks for reading,
Trenton

5/15/15

Hammond Stomp Box Enclosures

Transporting breadboarded circuits around a studio can be a real pain. So, I would like to share with you my approach to building mobile prototype circuits. These simple to build boxes have really saved me from a lot of headaches over the years. Shown is the box I am presently working on.

Hammond Vacuum Tube Prototype Box

trenton blizzard hammond box

 

How Can I Make One?

It's actually fairly easy to make one of these. You just need access to some basic tools like a drill and a soldering iron. The hardest part is deciding what features you want to install.

Steps:

First, choose a Hammond stomp box enclosure or something similar. These are available from a variety of online stores that sell electronic components such as Mouser , Amazon, Ebay, etc.

Second, drill the holes you need for your jacks, switches and pots. Then figure out how you want to bring in power and drill holes for those connectors. I used banana connectors on the back side of this project box to easily connect to my high voltage power supplies.

Top View

 trenton blizzard hammond stomp box

Third, "Double stick" some electronics breadboards to the bottom of the box. Make sure to leave enough clearance to fit your jacks and switches. Things can get pretty tight.

Fourth, mount all of your hardware.

Fifth, solder wires to your hardware and bring those wires into your breadboard.

Done - Now you're ready to start building!

 Front View

Conclusion

These simple prototype boxes can save you a ton of trouble when moving your circuits around the studio. Have fun and build safely. I'll post more images when it's completed!

Update: 5-26-2015

Added a Jensen 115K mic input transformer and a Cinemag 2810 output transformer as well as two 1/4" TRS jacks. It's almost ready.....

trenton blizzard hammond enclosure

Thanks for reading,
Trenton

3/29/15

Laura Christine Guitar Lessons - San Diego

I've always avoided learning music theory because I feared it would interfere with my song writing. Traditionally I just played by ear without really knowing what I was playing. Fast forward twenty years and I'm now faced with a need to communicate my songs to session musicians.

laura christine

To remedy this situation I started taking guitar lessons from Laura Christine in San Diego. I'll admit, I was somewhat nervous at the first lesson because she's a total metal shredder and I'm a pop rock punk ass!

I told Laura that my primary goal was to learn enough music theory to communicate my songs to other session musicians. I also told her that my secondary goal was to actually "know where to play" when soloing. That skill will save me a lot of time!

laura christine

She told me "no problem" and began to map out a path for me to achieve my goals. We've been chipping away at it for a while now and I am totally convinced that it's working.

My notation skills are improving and my solos are becoming much easier to create. She really takes the time to ensure that I understand each step of the process.

So, if you are in the San Diego area and would like to take your guitar playing to the next level then consider contacting Laura Christine. She can definitely help you achieve your goals and improve your guitar playing.

Contact: Laura Christine

All images used by permission. Images © LauraChristineMusic.Com 2014. All rights reserved.

Thanks for reading,
Trenton

3/10/15

Tube Microphone Preamplifier

Update: Custom 19" Rack Enclosure

I have made some progress with one of my custom rack enclosures. I am building a vacuum tube mic-pre into an unfinished enclosure. Features will be simple with Stepped Gain Control, Phantom Power, Phase Select, Input Select and Input Pad.

 Tube Preamplifier Prototype


trenton blizzard mic preamp prototype


Concept Drawing


trenton blizzard mic pre concept drawing


This concept drawing I made using Corel Draw. I'm not sure if I am going to do "rack handles" at this time. The right side of the front panel is where the special "drive amplifier" controls will be.
This feature will create strong harmonics for stunning vocal effects.

There are also a few other controls on the front panel that I currently don't have any use for but I installed them anyways. On the far right hand side are the LED level meters and the power switch. The LED holes have not been punched at this time.


 Heathkit IP-32

At first I will power the prototype with a classic Heathkit IP-32 high voltage power supply. Then I will install the permanent power supply once I figure out what voltages I need. If you can find an IP-32 on Ebay I highly recommend you pick one up. They are very handy for vacuum tube circuit design work.

trenton blizzard heathkit ip-32

I will post more as the project progresses.

Thanks for reading,
Trenton

2/7/15

50s vs Modern Les Paul Wiring

50s Les Paul Wiring

I finally got around to installing those paper-in-oil capacitors I blogged about a while back. I decided to wire up my guitar using the 50's Gibson Les Paul wiring. Here's a link to Seymor Duncan that talks about it in greater detail.

trenton blizzard 50s les paul wiring

 

50s vs Modern Les Paul Wiring

The main difference between the 50's Les Paul wiring and modern wiring is how the tone circuit is connected.

Modern - Today, the tone circuit is connected to the top of the volume potentiometer (side tab).
50's - The vintage 50's wiring connects the tone circuit to the volume pot wiper terminal (middle tab).


Capacitors

The capacitors I installed are manufactured by Electocube. I used two of their AM series of (Kraft) paper in oil film types. I installed .022uF in both tone circuits.


Results

Is it worth the effort?
If you play with volume and tone controls at 'max' then there's no difference from modern wiring.

When will I hear the difference?
If you adjust volume and tone controls then it can make a difference. (more tonal options)

Would I mod other guitars?
Yes. I would mod other guitars to the vintage 50's Les Paul wiring.

Sound Clips?
I hope to have sound clips on here soon that demonstrate the 50's wiring sound.

Thanks for reading,
Trenton