ZOOM Q3 HD
Handy Video Recorder
We have long been acquainted with the standard defi nition Q3 as it has accompanied us to nearly every gig we have attended in the past two years or so. Due to the fairly low resolution this model was targeted squarely at You-Tube and with the relatively small file size and bundled software made for a relatively pain-free uploading experience. However audio performance and the ability to withstand massive sound pressure levels is where it really excels.
As part of the launch publicity, ZOOM gave the
unit to several suitably noisy high profi le bands
to demonstrate this capability.
The new HD version of the Q3 has a noticeably
slimmer case in a stylish silver fi nish as opposed to the previous blue. It comes with a 2GB SD card but will accept cards up to 32GB for seven hours of 1080p recording.
Audio can be captured in a variety of formats
at 24 or 96 bit depth which is frankly ridiculous
for something so small, and a true stereo image
is achieved through the newly introduced X/Y
confi gured microphones.
The audio quality really is superb and we have
always been amazed with the sound handling
capabilities of the Q3. We have set it up inches
away from the not insubstantial PA system at
Chinnerys several times, and apart from the
initial blast when it hits the brick wall limiter the
sound is always distortion free.
Of course you can always turn the auto level
control off if you would prefer to adjust the input
level yourself, and the high and low sensitivity
settings are on the same switch. Apart from this , the on/off switch and transport controls all other functions are accessed on-screen via the menu button. These include a low-cut fi lter and several other options for tweaking the sound and video.
The user interface has been given a make-overand on the whole it’s pretty easy to get to grips with. Initially the physical buttons required to navigate through the on-screen menu do seem a little trickier to press than those on it’s predecessor, but I’m sure it wouldn’t take to long to adjust.
An added feature on this model is the line-in
jack which would be very handy for making
high quality recordings straight off the sound
board, presuming you’ve bought the Engineer
a beer fi rst of course! As expected the Q3 HD
does get through batteries slightly quicker than
the standard def version but you can still get
an hour out of a pair of Duracells. Talking of
which - if you’re not fussed about HD capability,
at time of going to press the discontinued Q3 is
available from PMT at the knock down price of
£84.99. This is opposed to £170.00 for the Q3HD, but hurry as they say - while stocks last!
Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue
40 Watt Valve Guitar Amplifier Combo
Regular readers will remember our very first Gear Guide review back in February featured the Fender Mustang III modelling amplifier. This month we step a rung up the price ladder and a step back in time both visually and technologically. The Blues Deluxe Reissue is a 1x12" 40w all valve, or if you're American toooobe combo amplifier. While the name recalls the model so beloved of players like Scotty Moore and Neil Young, it shares very little in common beyond it's retro tweed covering and glowing glass bottles. Manufactured in Mexico and utilising a PCB as opposed to the more expensive point to point wiring employed on Fender's Vintage Reissue series. Despite the retro styling this amplifier belongs to the Hot Rod series which takes inspiration from yesteryear and introduces modern features like channel switching and effects loops while keeping the price reasonable for an all valve amplifier. While the Mustang III we reviewed previously contained a Celestion speaker, this employs a designed by Fender Eminence although interestingly the optional matching 1x12 extension cabinet also contains a Celestion.
With 3 x 12AX7 Groove Tube valves in the pre-amp stage and and 2 x 6L6's in the power stage, rectification is solid state. The basic design of this amplifier comes from a time before Rock'n'Roll, when it was common for the guitarist to sit behind his amplifier. From there the contols would be easily accessible and the open backed cabinet would ensure enough of the sound projected back towards him. This proves a slight problem for the modern player as when standing in front, the controls are at the rear of the amp facing away from you. However this is a small price to pay for retaining it's classic looks and while boasting several more controls than it's 50's namesake this doesn't prove much of a hindrance in practice. On the left of the chrome control panel is the on and standby switches and large red indicator lamp. Next along are jack sockets for the footswitch and pre-amp in and out, then the chicken head control knobs consisting of Presence, Reverb, Master Volume, Channel Select Switch, Middle, Bass, Treble, Drive, Drive and Volume. Finally there is a bright switch followed by 2 input jacks.
On plugging in and selecting the clean channel, that unmistakeable glassy Fender tone is present in abundance and is enhanced further by dialing in just a smidge of reverb. There is no gain control as such on this channel, just a single volume control. Turn it up past about four and things start to dirty up a bit. This may not be the amp for you If you are looking for tons of clean headroom. By the same token, switching on the drive channel will not satisfy those looking for montrous levels of distortion. Fender have designed the gain stages of this amp to emulate the tones of a their classic Bassman amp, designed in an era when most amplifier manufacturers were still desperately trying to eradicate distortion from their circuit designs. With the gain cranked right up theres plenty of dirt for heavy blues and for that extra push over the cliff as Nigel Tufnel would say, you could always use an overdrive pedal. If the relative lack of crystal clean headroom is not a problem for you there should be more than enough volume for most gigs and the addition an extension cabinet will spread out the sound considerably. It's a shame the retro styling does not extend to the footswitch. While Fender do make smart chrome retro reproductions for some of their amps, what is supplied here is a rather nasty looking modern affair with a less than generous length of cable. Small criticisms aside, this is a fine sounding and beautiful looking valve amp built in Mexico using modern mass production methods to keep the price relatively affordable compared to their hand soldered in the U.S.A siblings.
Guitar Multi Effects Pedal
We seem to have come full circle in the world of guitar effects. From the very first Fuzz pedals and Wah Wah's in the 60's, through the rack systems of the 80's and the first Multi FX pedals in the 90's. Nowadays individual stomp boxes are all the rage again, the more esoteric or boutique, the better. While the R&D departments of established companies strive to come up with ever more elaborate ways to shape the sound of the electric guitar, a whole industry has sprung up that attempts to recreate their classic designs of yesteryear with frightening attention to detail.
This is all well and good but if you're looking experiment with a lot of different effects, things can soon get very, very expensive. BOSS have long been a major player in the world of the stomp box, their first unit being the chorus circuit from their hugely popular JC120 amplifier. They soon went on to produce rafts of innovative effects in their now iconic compact pedal format. Having produced so many different types of effects, BOSS were among the first to realize that bundling the best of them up in one programmable package at a vastly reduced price would be extremely attractive. So with the introduction of the BE5 in 1991 BOSS started a prevailing trend that would last for the next 20 years or so.
While the current flagship model of the BOSS range is the GT10, it does require a certain amount of programming to get the best out of it. However when it comes to no-nonsense tweak-ability, it's the cheaper ME-70 the comes up trumps in our books. Four effects modules correspond to four nicely spaced pedals representing four virtual stomp boxes that require nothing more than a set of inquisitive digits to make sonic magic.
Above these is a pre-amp section probably best suited for plugging directly in to a PA (or your Hi-Fi) as it models several types of amplifier, including Combo, Tweed, Stack and R-Fier These all sound excellent and would also serve well as a recording tool and would hold up well compared to some software amp sims.The disadvantage being that if you've just nailed that killer solo but have decided it needs a MESA rather than a Marshall tone, you're out of luck! The final position turns the entire section in to a powerful Equalizer.
Further along we have a single reverb control which moves from room to hall and is switchable via optional external pedal. Next along we have EZ Tone & editing buttons, a nice big red LED and a noise gate.
On the far right is a sturdy metal expression pedal which is a great improvement on the plastic one of it's predecessor the ME50. This can be assigned to volume, wah, voice (talk box simulator), octave plus and minus (whammy), modulation and delay rate. Activation is confirmed via a red LED. One thing to bear in mind with these types of pedals is they do require re-calibrating from time to time, you may also need to adjust it slightly if you are using it on mainly hard surfaces to prevent switching it on by accident.
Back to the main effects and the first module is labeled COMP/FX and contains Touch Wah, Slow Gear, Defretter, Pickup Simulation and Compression controls.
Next we have the Overdrive/Distortion section containing settings for Boost, Natural, OD1, Blues, Dist, Classic, Modern, Metal, Core & Fuzz. Some of these types of distortion would be better appreciated through a completely clean amp rather than when attempting to beef up a already over-driven amp sound.
On to the modulation section and we have settings for Chorus, Phaser, Flanger, Rotary, Univibe, Tremolo, Vibrato, a very useable Harmonizer (Harmonist), Octave and oddly Delay.
Which brings us on to the actual dedicated Delay section with up to six seconds of Delay as well as Reverse, Phrase Loop and Tap tempo functions. There is also a Chorus/Delay function which frees up the modulation section should you wish to double up on the the wobble factor.
An on-board tuner is accessed via depressing the middle two pedals, this does not mute the output however so you'll have to heel down on the expression pedal first if you want to tune in silence, providing of course it's assigned to the Volume setting!
Memory mode is also accessed via depressing two pedals, this time the left hand pair. 36 factory and user settings are available although bank selection requires bending down to press a switch or purchasing an external external foot-switch.
While user programming is a fairly intuitive process compared to some other units, the beauty of the ME-70 is it's ability to to be used as four independent stomp boxes. Considering the amount of digital processing available the ME-70 still gives the option of power via six AA batteries. While this would not be advisable for long term use it would pay to keep it filled up with some for that moment when you've rushed to get on-stage only to find there's nowhere to plug in a power adapter! Overall, the ME-70 represents excellent value for money with the quality of the effects comparing favorably to their real world BOSS stand-alone counterparts. Even the Wah Wah is a considerable tonal improvement over the ME-50 reducing the temptation to use a separate pedal, and the all metal construction gives a reassuring impression that the unit will be with you for many years to come.
4 Watt Valve Guitar Amplifier Head
As we discussed in previous issues, despite the undeniable advances that have been made in transistor amplification, it’s the century old valve technology that most guitar players still get excited about.
Great as valve amps are though, it’s only when cranked up that the differences between them and their modern sold-state counterparts become obvious. As PMT’s Adam Fry explained last month, it’s all about the expanding gas! Some would assume to get an awesome valve tone requires a Marshall stack cranked to eleven.
Although you won’t go far wrong with this approach, the history of recorded music shows that bigger is not necessarily better. Jimmy Page’s awesome tone on the first Led Zeppelin album was recorded with a little Supro amp which was no bigger than the Fender Champs used by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman on the Derek and The Dominos album.
While the cream vinyl styling and AC4 name borrow from VOX history, this is a new model from the Modern Classic range built in Vietnam. Utilising a single 12AX7 pre-amp valve, and an EL84 for the power amp in class A configuration with solid state rectification. There are three control knobs: volume, tone and a power attenuator, switchable to 4, 1 & 1/4 watts.
Striking as it is from the front, it was the back that piqued my interest first as I spotted the magic number 16 on it’s solitary speaker output. As 16 ohms is the loading on most 4x12 cabinets, it only took a split second for my aging grey cells to make the connection and before you know it I was wheeling a convenient Marshall 4x12 in to PMT’s sound proofed booth.
After waiting a few polite minutes for it to warm up properly, I did the decent thing and turned it right up; it would have been rude not to really! Plugging in a Les Paul, the volume that exploded out of the 4x12 was not what I was expecting from 4 watts.
The throaty roar that ensued had more than enough gain for classic rock or the heaviest blues. Backing off on the guitar volume cleans things up nicely allowing for some old school gain control that only seems to work properly when the output stage of an amplifier is wound right up. Plugging in a Strat next and starting with the amp volume at half way, we are instantly in Hank heaven. That unmistakable VOX tone is there in abundance with a beautiful glassy texture and nice hair around the note when you dig in with the pick. Crank up the amp volume and you’re in vintage Rory Gallagher territory.
Having been genuinely shocked at how loud this 4 watt amp is and how well it can drive a 4x12 so naturally my next thought was I wonder if you could gig with it? I took it along to my next rehearsal but sadly it was not quite enough to get over the drummer’s huge 26” bass drum. However, mike it up and you would have all the sound of an AC30 at full tilt but at a stage volume that will endear you to sound engineers everywhere! Be warned though if you buy this or indeed the combo version, hoping for the sound of a cranked up AC30 at bedroom levels, unless you use the attenuator only the most understanding neighbours would put up with the racket!