Let's talk about drives (M13 content)

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by dognmoon, Feb 28, 2009.

  1. dognmoon

    dognmoon Member

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    I'd like to start with a couple of caveats:

    #1) to each his own. what I love is just that- what I love. What I think is just that- what I think.
    #2) Everybody's playing situations are different and my evaluations are based solely on my own experience and playing situations. Yours will differ.

    So I've been hearing a lot of guys talk about the M13 drives. I've heard that they sound digital or overly compressed or this or that. Personally, I'd like to talk about my experience with using the M13 in a band context. One thing that I'm continually reminded of is that tones are not really tones in a vacuum. Just like words are not words in a vacuum, everything must be taken in context. As they say, everything is relative. For instance, If I told you that you had 45 minutes to live, it would seem tragically and terrifyingly short. If on the other hand, I told you that you needed to hold bricks above your head for the same amount of time, it might seem like it might as well be forever. Everything is relative, right?

    So drives work the same way. We have to understand drives in the context that they're being used. Side story: I worked the NAMM booth for a large manufacturer that featured live acts all weekend. One band had two guitar players and while they were soundchecking, we all snickered at how one guitar player had the most glorious guitar tone and the other had the most awful tones during his line check. It sounded like an AM radio transmission of somebody dragging a cookie sheet through a parking lot. Holy crap it was bad. BUT, all of us ate our words when they were asked to play as a band to get the house mix dialed in. All of a sudden this guy that we thought was gonna victimize us with bad tone helped to create this perfect blend of tones, where there was no cancellation and everything was audible. It was beyond glorious. Totally inspiring. Afterwards, we all went and checked out his gear to see if we could possibly aspire to "suck with such great success"... haha. Again, in a vacuum, that tone was horrendous, but once mixed in to the context of the music, it was perfect. And I think if we look at the difference between dialing in tones to be the featured single guitar leader and being one musician in an ensemble of sonic contributors then we might start to broaden our scope of what is "good" tone and what isn't.

    Here are some examples:

    It Feels Like • Leann Rhimes
    This is standard pop fare from the young gal out of Nashille. She hired LA players to make her a pop record and this is one of the cooler songs on there. These tones are big. Plexi-style amps and 4x12 cabs big. But in the context of the band, it sure sounds like the low end is dialed out. I'm not sure if that happened in the mix or if the guitar player is really good at what he does (I'm sure it was the combination of both). These tones should probably sound good without the band...

    It Slipped Away • Toto
    This is great Lukather playing. So many of us love Luke's playing, but question his guitar tones. Here's what I love about them in the context of this song: they're smooth and rubbery and they leave plenty of space for the vocals and keys to fill that midrange area. HOWEVER, I think this tone would sound unacceptable in my living room while I was dialing it in alone.If I heard these tones from my amp, I'd be frustrated, but here on the record, I love them.

    Let Your Glory Shine • Lincoln Brewster
    LB's dirty little secret? Every guitar tone on this record was done with a POD product. haha. NO mic'd cabs on the whole record. And they freakin RAWK. In my ears, I can hear the resonance of the cab as he mutes the strings in the hook/riff. Or not. Maybe I hear a POD. And some people will say, "yeah, but LB was a studio engineer and that's why it sounds so good". This is just proof positive that in the right hands, this stuff sounds unbelievably good (warm, squishy, and resonant) which proves the opposite that if it sucks, it's probably you.

    Everything Must Go • The Dailies
    This is actually a record I got hired to do a couple of years ago, but it's one of my favorite session stories. The session was at Eldorado Studios in Burbank and the engineer has been around and worked on some great great records. He was the Pro Tools guy on John Mayer's Heavier Things over at Ocean Way, he engineered My Chemical Romance's last record, Avenged Sevenfold's last record, Ben Harper's currently unreleased record, BFD drum sample library, and so on. He's got really trustworthy ears in my book because he's worked with some of the names that we speak in hushed and reverent whispers around here. So when I dialed up this tele sound for the chorus of this tune, he called me in to the control room to see if I wanted to use it. You see, it was this old Blue Flower Tele in major disrepair. Stupid amount of backbow on the neck and the strings fretted out at just about fret, but the pups sounded awesome and the guitar just had a cool thing happening. So when I asked what he thought was off about the tones, he actually used the word "****" to better describe it for me. :) I said I wanted to just try a pass at it to see how it sat in the mix. This was probably one of my favorite tones on the whole record for how well it lifts out the chorus. I just heard Lenny Kravitz all over this thing. On it's own, this tone was ****, in the context of the tune, it's awesome. And my little compliment and victory is that the engineer totally agreed once he heard it in context.

    So the whole point of this is to speak generally about guitar tones, but specifically about my experience with the M13. If you aren't digging it, by all means, please sell it and find something that inspires you. But if you haven't yet tried it, I'd like to encourage you to really explore some of the more unique tones in this thing. I spent an entire gig on Wednesday using variations of the Colordrive because there was another guitar player and I wanted something that felt a little more like a HellBilly or Red Llama. If you have no desire to try or buy the M13, that's cool too. In that case, I'd like to encourage you to try some more unique sounds on your board. We're artists for goodness sakes. :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2009
  2. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

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    I've already told this here on this forum before, but it is apropos for your NAMM story.

    I started doing a lot of home recording some years back. Played all the parts (even though I am definitely NO keyboardist) and sang, and bass wasn't a problem, but also programmed drums, etc.

    So I record my song (can be heard on my site in my sig) called "Shot in the Dark" and record and have a good mix, and all that is left (I save the most fun for last) is to put in the guitar solo.

    So I have my (I think it was) V-amp2, and I loop the solo measures so I can just punch-in the solo. First round it isn't sitting right in the mix so as it is looping over and over, I adjust tone, gain, everything, on my guitar IN the mix...after a while it starts getting how I want it and I record it and am happy with the sound and tone and all.

    So I mixdown and "master" it, and make a CD, put it up on my web site.

    Several months later, I happen to open up the song on my recorder, and just by chance I muted all the other tracks except the solo guitar...
    Immidiately, I thought "oh...this must have been a throwaway take or something" because the guitar sounds like a misquito fart through a bullhorn...nasty, raspy, sounds like a lo-fi patch run through a meat grinder. AWFUL... In all that time i adjusted EQ and all on the V-amp and guitar, I realized I never heard the guitar just by itself, it was always in the context of the mix...

    I unmute the rest and WOW...sounds just like I wanted it.
    I literally spent 10-20 minutes just in awe as I lowered the faders of the rest of the instruments, and raised them slowly again...as I lower the guitar got nastier, nastier, nastier, nasty! Up again it got better, better, better, BEST...

    It was like a magic trick...for my ears.

    That day was a total revalation for me. I really ought to isolate the thing (if I can find the backup of the data again) and put it up on my web site just so folks can hear the difference...

    Aurally It seemed like there was kind of a "honeycombing" happening as I raised the mix...like the nasty parts smoothed out like if you take your hands and have the fingers meet one after the other, staggered or something.
     
  3. michael dukes

    michael dukes Member

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    dognmoon,

    You just authored my favorite internet gear forum post ever. Seriously. I'm a big fan of the M13, and it's precisely because I share your perspective on layering tones to work within a mix. The M13 does this well enough that a capable person could make hit records with it all day long, provided all the other elements were in place.

    The same philosophy applies whether you are building up a track in the studio or playing live (in something other than a one-guitar blues band). Once you experience the epiphany for yourself, you start hearing albums with a different set of ears, and can realize quickly how thin/scooped/buzzy/fizzy/dark/whatever any given guitar tone would sound solo'd up. It's why my primary acoustic guitar is generally set up so the action buzzes if you hit it at all hard. It's also one of the reasons I love the Skreddy ScrewDriver so much -- the tone control allows you to roll off low end in a way I think you'd deeply appreciate based on your above post, the presence pot also responds in a way that helps lots in these situations.

    I heard a similar story to yours from a friend who was on a Michael Landau session for the first time. He was so excited to hear Michael's studio tone up close, but ML hit a chord or two and my friend was totally underwhelmed. The tone had no low end body whatsoever. Of course (and you can see this coming) that same tone sat perfectly in the mix with no EQ at the board whatsoever. It was a completely pre-mixed tone!

    I'm not trying to convince anyone to buy an M13 (I simply don't care) but the fact is, if you're good enough to get tones that work, and you're running a great amp, the M13 will allow you to quickly and easily dial in just about anything you'd ever need. It won't replace the really left-of-center stuff like a Malekko B:Assmaster, but I'd never expect it to.

    Anyway, you hit a nerve (a good one) with this post. Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2009
  4. steinwand

    steinwand Member

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  5. Gasp100

    Gasp100 Supporting Member

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    This is why the AxeFX is so damn perfect. It can cross (and blend) the lines between your "in the room" needs, your live needs and you tracking direct to disk needs. I still think that getting the best tones you can on tape first, then tweaking them in the mix is best. But yeah, you have a good point - most people who have spent a decent amount of time in a studio mixing (or hearing their guitars mixed) understands where you are coming from for sure.
    I need to get more info on the M13; just sold my AxeFX :(
     
  6. stilwel

    stilwel Member

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    DnM,

    Great post! Very eloquently put at that.

    I'm using a Axe-Fx Ultra as my main tone generation unit, but I'm supplemented it with an M13 (also racked and controled via MIDI).

    I'm mainly using the M13 for Comp, and OD/Dist/Fuzz sounds.
    Specifically I'm using: Boost-Comp, Screamer, Classic Dist, Facial Fuzz, Fuzz Pi, Sub-Octave Fuzz and Octave Fuzz.
    It's incredibly inspiring having all of these flavors instantly available to color with.
     
  7. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

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    The most important part of your post is when you acknowledge that everything is relative.

    My band practices at low volumes. The M13's distortions don't cut it for me in that context. Emphasizing how they might at live stage volumes through cranked amps is dandy but it does nothing for me.

    My little Fulldrive 2, however, does cut it for me at the volumes we play at. So, henceforth, it'll be the FD2 into the M13 for me.

    I find the "if you aren't digging it, sell it" sentiment unnecessarily black and white. Thankfully for me, that is very much not the tact either Rich of Line 6 or the large majority of the TGP denizens in the mega-M13 thread have taken in response to my questions and concerns. To the contrary, they have encouraged me not to sell it but rather to continue to experiment. As a result, I've decided to keep the unit and am now finding more and more settings that I dig ... with my analog OD up-front.

    Only other thing I'll say is that the concept that gear that sounds meh at low volumes/playing alone can sound awesome through loud amplification, and visa versa, is a recurring theme on this forum. I agree. However, I need both.

    The most important part of your post is when you acknowledge that everything is relative.
     
  8. dognmoon

    dognmoon Member

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    Hi Jon,
    I didn't mean to sound harsh on the "...sell it" statement. I apologize for that. More than anything, it was a preemptive attempt to protect myself from the trollers who would get on here and complain that I've drunk the L6 Kool Aid and am now evangelizing a product to people who don't want it. As with any piece of gear, I'd suggest that people exercise every possible advantage of it, but to also know when to move along because not every amp/pedal/guitar is gonna make a love connection.

    In mine and your cases, we've found ways to work the M13 into our rigs to a degree that we're happy. My goal in posting this is to encourage others to find that same contentment... of course, the day that happens, TGP will fall silent. haha. :)
     
  9. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

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    In that case, dog, pass me the Kool Aid, I'm on the bus! ;)

    And thought I'd add, one of the things that impresses me most about Line 6 is how their people seem to do more than merely react to opinions, they actively seek out customers' input on improvements and actively address many of them. Because the M13 uses firmware, it really does feel OK to moan a bit more than we might with other gear about perceived shortcomings because with the M13 it's not unrealistic to hope they might one day be addressed!
     
  10. michael dukes

    michael dukes Member

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    Jon,

    I agree, it's not a black or white issue (nor did I read that into dognmoon's post). If the M13 can add to your musical life and is worth having around, it's worth having around. Will it necessarily replace all your beloved gear and be the only fx device you need? For some maybe, but not for me. And probably not for you. My own perspective is simply that for the price (especially used) it's a no-brainer. If it replaced a Boss VB-2 and TU-2, selling those two pieces would about yield the amount needed to buy a used/mint M13. In my case, the M13 allowed me to sell a few pedals which were worth more than the M13 cost me, and I get a bunch of sounds I probably would never have had in my arsenal. No question about it, I am keeping most of my other pedals and still use them regularly. Glad you're digging your M13, and that you seem to be embracing the idea that it won't do certain things. One of my favorite things about the M13 is that it does let you integrate real pedals in such a graceful manor.

    cheers

    michael
     
  11. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

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    I can sum up my coming to terms with the M13 by analogy to this 1990's best-seller:

    Stop Searching For Someone Perfect
    And Find Someone To Love
    :D
     
  12. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

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    I would even go a step further and say that some singers have that same issue...alone maybe not as impressive, but in a band WOW...

    I feel that Ozzie Osbourne has that. His voice just cuts right through his heavy sounding band, in a way that makes me think it isn't EQ trickery but happenstance that he has the vocal cords he does.
     
  13. alguit

    alguit Member

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    The differences among hearing a pedal in a place like GC, or at home and certainly then in a band/gig context can be stunning!

    I remember the first review I ever read years ago on the Klon Centaur, from Guitar Player. It noted a "spikieness" to the tone that players might not find appealing at home but which enabled one's guitar to cut through a live mix, and that review couldn't have been more on the mark. On other pedals, I've dialed in "warm" settings which in my living room put a big ol' smile on my face yet left me straining to hear myself with a band.

    Doing sessions, at heart I want to always play with lots of bottom end, but if there's a bass track, they're already got that frequency range covered, and my previously great-sounding low end now makes the track seem muddy (I sometimes wonder if this is why the bass typically is mixed low on Eric Johnson's albums-his low end tone predominates, and something has to go). Jimmy Page once said that he didn't like recording his electrics with an orchestra because once they come in the guitar vanishes (and one can hear this on "Walking Into Clarksdale"'s "Upon A Golden Horse."

    Ideally, we could test a pedal in ALL the situations in which we find ourselves-not always possible, for sure, but it would be nice!
     
  14. Spudman

    Spudman Member

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    One of the things I love about my M13 is that it's instantly tweakable. Sometimes it's easy to dial in a preset at home and go "wow that sounds awesome." Then you get in with the band and it sounds not nearly as good. So what do I do? Just reach down and adjust a few things quickly and shazam! There it is sounding perfect in the band context.

    I also like that if I get some hair brained idea for an odd sound I can just start tweaking without having to patch and unpatch pedals and power supplies.

    A side note: Todd Rundgren's latest album Arena has all guitars done with a POD XT into a notebook computer. We all know what a stickler Todd is as a producer and the guitar sounds are awesome on the record.
     
  15. nstokes

    nstokes Member

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    @dognmoon - brilliant post. this is a reminder to us all that tone is in the ear of the beholder, and as much as we love to tweak our tones, ultimately we are playing to either please our ears, or the ears of the ones paying us.

    In regards to the M13, (while I wasn't ranting about the drives - I actually still use my analog TS and Keeley BD2) I'm newly inspired to check out the drives that I've overlooked in relation to playing with other guitarists and working out tones that compliment each other, rather than seeking a tone that stands alone on it's own.
     
  16. donbarzini

    donbarzini Supporting Member

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    I didn't like the drives in the M13.
     
  17. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

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    Me neither, obviously, but that problem is now solved.

    [​IMG]
     
  18. rickenbackerkid

    rickenbackerkid Member

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    Good post! Personally I turn the bass off at the amp when playing with a band. It just seems to fit better. At home I have it on 10 o'clock.
     
  19. michael dukes

    michael dukes Member

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    I do generally like the M13 drives, but my solution du jour also includes an analog overdrive unit (Skreddy Screw Driver Deluxe) as well as a one-off high gain Ge FuzzFace clone. The FF is in front of the M13, the Screw Driver in the loop. I've also pulled the Fuzz Face and replaced it with a Divided By 13 DynaRanger which also works really well and opens up another whole palette of colors. The one thing I find the M13 cannot do at all is respond to guitar volume or tone knob changes the way a real pedal can when it's first in line coming from the guitar. I assume this will always be the case, because in these situations (treble boosters and certain fuzzes) the guitar's circuitry essentially becomes part of the pedal's circuit. With the M13's buffers, A/D conversion, etc. it seems like it'd be hard to mimic the response of the real deal under these conditions.

    Anyway, great to be able to stack various M13 drives/boosts/compressors into the Screw Driver, though often I find myself simply using the Screw Driver along with the M13 delays or maybe a touch of reverb. This is all sitting on an original PedalTrain FWIW, fits nicely.

    Jon, I'll try to give you a shout tomorrow.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2009
  20. J.T. Guitar

    J.T. Guitar Platinum Member

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    Hypocrisy alert...

    This...
    flies in the face of...

    This...
    Just because one person makes some piece of equipment sound good... Doesn't mean if you don't, "you suck." It just means you have different hands, technique, and style.
     

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