LINE 6 BACKTRACK + MIC ($209.99, WWW.LINE6.COM)
I love products that probably resulted from lots of swearing. I can just see someone at Line 6 saying “@#$%^&*! That was a hit song hook, and after the phone rang, I forgot it!” Or maybe I’m just projecting. In any case, BackTrack sits between your guitar and amp or recorder, and stores everything you play in its flash memory. Really.
You connect your guitar to the 1/4" in (or leave unplugged to use the mic; a guitar-only version with half the storage lists for $139.99), send the 1/4" to your amp or interface, tell it to record, then forget about it . . . until you play something you like. Stop, hit a Mark button, and bingo—the section you just played (i.e., between silences) gets stuffed in a “Marked” folder. Unmarked audio goes into another folder, and can be overwritten if you run out of storage. Transfer material from either folder to your computer using USB 2.0 (which also charges the non-user replaceable battery) and the software that resides in BackTrack—yes, you can install the software on any connected Windows/Mac.
As to storage, BackTrack + Mic stores files in WAV format, with up to 24 hours at 11kHz (four hours at 48kHz/24-bit, six hours at 44.1/16). And you can stuff WAV files into the user memory (even up to 48kHz/24) and treat it like a stereo iPod but without the AAC compression. Nice.
Bottom line: Way cool, and 100% thumbs up.
SOURCE AUDIO MULTIWAVE DISTORTION ($149, WWW.SOURCEAUDIO.NET)
I’ve been into multiband distortion since the mid-’80s, so I know a good implementation when I hear one—and the Multiwave Distortion stomp box more than qualifies. It splits your guitar into 10 bands, then distorts each one individually for greater clarity than typical distortion.
However, there’s more: The MD includes 21 algorithms, which range from single-band to multiband distortion, and some incorporate novel “foldover” distortion curves. Normally, hitting a distortion box harder gives more distortion, but with some algorithms distortion increases at first but then decreases with increasing level, thus avoiding the “everything gets turned into a square wave” sound. Other settings give an “octave above” effect, and all settings are further controlled by Sustain, Drive, and Output controls.
The only caution: The combination of control settings is critical—just a tiny twist of one control can change the sound from “Wow” to “Ugh”—but they can’t be stored. When you find a sound you like, write down the knob settings.
The Multiwave Distortion works with batteries or an AC adapter, and is compatible with Source Audio’s Hot Hand technology. But really, the big deal here is a distortion box that breaks new ground; check Source Audio’s website for audio examples. Warning: It’s addictive, and your power chords will never sound the same again.
PRS GUITAR INTERFACE ($120, WWW.WAVES.COM)
A passive guitar pickup’s output is delicate, and likes to see a highimpedance, low-noise input stage with plenty of gain and an absence of hum. Although the “instrument” inputs on audio interfaces are a good start, there’s something to be said for dedicated, ultra-high-quality boxes designed specifically for guitar, like those from Radial Engineering . . . and the PRS GI from Waves.
Acknowledged as one of the finest guitar makers in the universe, Paul Reed Smith needs no introduction. But what some people don’t know is he has a head for tech with an amazing ear for sound, and the results are apparent in the GI: Its sound is, well, no sound at all—it’s your basic straight wire with gain.
The 1/4" input exceeds 1Megohm for minimal pickup loading; three LEDs (present, nominal, and over) aid in level setting, and there are separate jacks for XLR balanced (switchable between line and mic level) and 1/4" unbalanced –10dB out. You’ll also find a ground lift switch and the option to use either AC or battery power.
The PRS GI was introduced at the same time as Waves’ GTR software, and this humble little hardware box was somewhat overshadowed. But it’s available separately, not just as part of the GTR package—and that’s good news if you want to feed a mixing console or line-level processor with a guitar, but not lose one iota of its tone in the process.