The 7 Best Bass Guitars For Beginners In 2019 – Top Picks For A Big Bottom!!

Q: What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians?
A: A bass player

Q: What’s the difference between a vacuum cleaner and a bassist?
A: The vacuum cleaner has to be plugged in to suck.

A young kid told his mother “Mommie, when I grow up I want to play the bass guitar.” His mother smiled, then said,”Now, honey, you know you can’t do both.”

Aaaah, bass players. So easy to make fun of. But so absolutely crucial to a professional-sounding band.

If you’re here to find out the 7 best bass guitars for beginners in 2019, there’re two potential reasons why:

1) You’ve decided that bass is the instrument for you, so you’re ready to purchase, but want to save money.

2) You’re the parent of a child that wants to try bass guitar, and you want a quick, easy and inexpensive way to get them what they want.

Whichever of these two you are, I’ve got good news for you… you’ve come to the right place!!


I’ve been a recording & performing songwriter, and a bass player, for decades. I also worked, for years, selling music instruments and equipment.

These two things have honed in me very informed, practical judgment and skill when’s itself to recommending to you just what you need, at the right price, for the right skill level.

A quick click of any links below will take you straight to the instrument of your choice for checkout. It couldn’t be easier.

But first, let’s educate you on HOW to choose the perfect bass!

That Amp Thing

In a few cases below, you’ll notice that the bass guitars I listed also come with a bass amp.

I did this deliberately for one main reason: it’s extremely hard to hear an electric bass guitar without an amp.

The high notes are okay, but as you play lower and lower on a bass, it gets harder and harder to hear.

Most people don’t want to invest in an instrument that will just be stuck in a corner soon. The reality is, a beginner that plays on a bass without an amp, is much more likely to lose interest in playing.

Why? Because there’s no punch. No power! No electricity that’s needed to drive those big, low frequencies.

Here’s an example of what I mean: if you could see the waveform that is produced when you play the lowest note on a bass guitar (the low “E”), you’d probably be surprised to see that it’s over 27 feet long!!

It takes a lot of juice to get something that massive amplified, just as it takes a lot of might to pick up a boulder, as opposed to a stone.

The 4 frequencies of the bass open strings!

Human hearing is also not very good with low frequencies. We tend to hear best where human voices speak. That’s mostly above 100 Hertz.

All the open strings of the bass, however, are below 100 Hertz.

All that just means what I said earlier: the electric bass is hard to hear without an amp.

Keep this in mind as you look through the options. I’d much rather you get something that you will keep and play for years, than something that’s given up as “boring” after a short time.

Finally, perhaps the biggest reason to make sure you have an amp as well it’s so you can play with others. An electric bass is typically played alongside a drummer and at least one other rhythm instrument, like a guitar or keyboard.

Those instruments can be quite loud. So a bass played without an amp in that setting?? It just won’t be heard. Not at all.

And since much of the fun of music is playing with friends, you definitely don’t want you, or your child, to miss out on those good times!

So if you don’t already have a bass amp, I highly suggest you include that with a bass guitar.

You’ll be smiling at the excitement it will generate!

The 5-String Question

Teaj’s 5-string bass!

Another consideration that’s less important, but still comes up occasionally with my students, is whether or not to buy a 5-string bass.

A standard bass guitar has 4 strings. This is what you’ll almost always see someone playing in concert, Plus, practically every bass line you hear on the radio was played on a standard 4-string bass.

For that reason, as a music instructor, I always suggest that a student start with a normal 4-string model.

If a student can learn all those bass lines the way they were performed to begin with, on a 4-string, they’ll be well on their way to playing like a pro.

The “normal” 4-string

There is one situation where I DO recommend a 5-string, however: if you, or your child, listens to a favorite group or artist that DOES often, or always, use a 5-string bass, then chances are they’re going to want to play what their hero plays.

In that case, go for it.

If you’re not sure, just watch a video for free on YouTube of your (or their) favorite bass player and look for how many strings are on the bass.

Nine times out of ten… you’ll see four. 😉

I own THIS 5-STRING and love to play it, but, honestly, I’ve never had a gig where 5 strings were needed. Learn to get around the fretboard with 4 strings. Then you can get adventurous with more!

Alright… now that those caveats are out of the way… let’s explore your best options!

1) The Davison Bass “Beginner Pack”

First up on our list today is this bass guitar AND amp from “Davison Guitars“.

It gets great reviews (averaging 4 out of 5 stars), and comes with a starter amp, all for just over $100!

That’s rare at that price. In fact, it’s the only one I found that didn’t have poor reviews.

This as a true beginner bass package, for those who’ve never played before and who are probably under 13 years of age.

The amp that it comes with averages only 15 watts of power, so we’re not talking a very loud amp here, but it will at least be amplified enough to hear all the notes on the bass.

The bass comes in three different colors, so if black isn’t your, or your child’s, thing, no problemo. Blue or Sunburst will come to the rescue. 😉

This pack also comes with a strap and a carrying bag. These will be on the cheaper end, but since no grand stage is expecting a beginner student, that’s just fine at this point. So, this is truly a one-shot deal where you probably won’t have to buy anything else for quite a while.

If, one day, the student wants to play with other musicians, then you’ll have to get a stronger amp. But in light of how I’ve seen students progress, that probably won’t be for a year, or two, down the road.

In the meantime though, they’ll be having a blast sounding like the real deal, which will give them the impetus to study those classic bass lines and become… a real musician!

2) The SafePlus “Starters” Bass

Next up, we have this great little SafePlusbass that is designed to look and feel like a very famous instrument made by the company Fender… the legendary “Precision Bass“.

The “P-Bass“, as players call it, has been renowned for decades. This beginner’s model obviously is paying homage to it, because the shape, parts and features all resemble the mighty Precision Bass!

But Fender Precision basses start at $600 and go WAY up from there (into the thousands!).

This one? Clocks in at UNDER $100!!

I think it’s safe to say that price tag won’t be curling your hair anytime soon! Lol

This package will be coming with a strap, a cable, a pic, and some allen wrenches for adjusting the action of the guitar.

Notice, however, it does NOT come with any amp.

So if Dad, a brother or sister, or some other relative has an extra amp lying around not being used, perfect beginner bass to pair with it!

There’s no choice of colors for this particular bass, but the one style that is available (deep blue) looks really good. Again, it’s so resembles a professional P-Bass but even I myself would not be ashamed to pick this baby up and play it live.

It comes in really strong from the perspective of reviews also: 84% of the people who bought it said that they would recommend it and gave it five stars.

Now that’s a strong endorsement!

You also get a gig bag, strap, pick, cable and adjustment wrenches included, so any beginner will have everything they need to get groovin’.

And if they actually know a little about bass guitars, even if they haven’t played… with the thousands of P-basses in the world today, they’ll probably recognize these contours as a bass to die for and be as happy as a drop D tuning in a metal band!

The whole package gives you extra piece of mind by providing a 6-month warranty and a 30-day Return Policy.

3) Squier Jaguar Beginner “Short Scale” Bass

Squier Jaguar small scale bass

Got a future bass guitar master who’s a little on the smaller side??

No problem; Fender has you covered!

Whether it’s because of young age, or a DNA-induced smaller stature, this Squier Jaguar Short-Scale Bass was designed with smaller hands, and reach, in mind.

A “short scale bass” only measures 30″ from the bridge to the nut.

Compare that to the standard scale which is out there today, which measures 34″, and you can see why this would be easier to play for those… who aren’t Michael Phelps! 😉

The body style of this bass guitar is modeled after the Fender “Jaguar“, another very famous line of guitars that Fender has made for decades. Notice how the cut is a little more “curvy” than the others we’ve seen so far.

You have three choices of color for this bass also: silver, black or red.

This bass will be a lot more versatile than the two we talked about previously. This is mostly because of the two pickups it has: one from a P-bass, and the other from a “Jazz Bass”.

What’s a jazz bass?? Well, you probably can guess… it’s yet ANOTHER famous Fender bass style (they know how to make winners, don’t they?!).

The jazz bass is one of my favorite basses… Check out my article on them RIGHT HERE to learn more about why!

Because you’re paying a bit more for this Squier bass, you’re backed a lot more by the manufacturer – Fender covers this bass to be free from defects in materials and workmanship for two (2) years from the date of original purchase! That’s the longest warranty on this list, and possibly in the whole industry!!

So if you want a good price AND a bass neck that’s easily within reach, with a company like Fender, you can’t go wrong.

Click this link to learn more!:

4) Yamaha TRBX174 Bass

Another company that has long-standing reputation for dependability and excellence in the music field is Yamaha. They are especially well-known for making great beginner instruments.

You can tell from the design of this Yamaha TRBX174 Bass that they are trying to go head-to-head with the Fender products. They are extremely similar: the shape; the pickups; the control knobs… the price! We just saw much the same on the Fender Jaguar.

The plus side on the Yamaha is that you get more color variationsseven to choose from, instead of three the Jaguar has. They are:

  • “Root Beer”
  • “Red Metallic”
  • “Translucent Black”
  • “Dark Blue Metallic”
  • “Black”
  • “Old Violin Sunburst”
  • “Tobacco Brown Sunburst”

Also, this is the first guitar which you plug the cable into on the bottom SIDE of the guitar, not in a port on the front. I much prefer this design myself, since I don’t like the look of a cable popping out from the face of my guitar. It looks messy and gets in the way, I think, so this Yamaha is my favorite in our list thus far.

You’ll be pleased to know that Yamaha stands behind their products: they give their guitars a limited lifetime warranty on the Top, Back, Sides and Neck.

They also offer a 1-year warranty on the electronics/wiring & hardware (which include the tuners, bridge, nut, and saddle pins).

So there you go – another “can’t-go-wrong-for-the-price” option for your bouncing bass beginner!

5) Ibanez TMB100 Bass

I played for years in a band the guy who had one bass, and one bass only – an Ibanez!

They have made good products for decades also, and they offer dependable quality for all levels of players… including beginners.

The Ibanez TMB100 Bass is a good example of their beginners line of guitars. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but, like the ones we’ve covered so far, it gives you all the basics you need to sound good in a live band context.

I especially like the “Mint Green” color of this model. There are four other colors too, but if I were buying it… I’d be getting this minty freshness in a heartbeat! Lol

We’re back to plugging the cable into the front of the guitar for this bass. Not my favorite look, as I said, but for how cool this overall design is, and for how well it plays (based on all the reviews), I’d probably still buy it.

As Shakespeare said ( or should have): “Beauty maketh our heads to turn!” 😉

Ibanez has also adorned this bass guitar with a similar Jazz and P-bass pickup combination that we saw earlier on the Squire. You’ll see more of this combination. Fender has a huge following… even other manufacturers tip their hat to them!

One benefit Ibanez has over the others, though, is their custom control knobs. Each knob has a top and a bottom that work independently.

The top knob gives you a volume control for each of the two pickups.

The bottom knob allows for 2-band EQ control: the top of the knob boosts or cuts the treble frequencies, and the bottom of the knob boosts or cuts the bass frequency spectrum.

So, for all practical purposes, you actually have four knobs – two for volume, and two for EQ control.

Cool, huh?! That’s better than any bass we’ve seen this far, and it’s because of this richer tonal variety that we can dial in did I would choose this bass as my favorite in the under $200 category.

Here’s a video so you can hear it in action:

Whadja think?? Pretty impressive, right?

It’s amazing how good of an instrument we can get these days for such little money. Whether it’s because of capitalism, advancing factory robotics or some other unknown… who cares?! We just like getting great stuff for less, right?! LoL

Obviously, as we go up in price you start to see little tweaks upward in quality as well. This Ibanez is not the cheapest in our list, but may be the first one yet to offer a pretty professional feel and sound for a lot less than you’d normally pay for a “famous bass”.

If you like the look and sound as much as I do, follow these links to get one into your or your child’s hands in a jiffy. You’ll be glad you did!

6) Squier Affinity Series “PJ” Beginner Pack

Now we come to our second combination deal – a Fender- made bass guitar and bass amp specifically designed and constructed with beginners in mind.

For the third time on our list, we see the P-bass and Jazz bass pickup combination, which is why this bass is called the Squier “PJ” Bass.

Since Fender was the company that designed both of these pickups originally, and since both basses have been hugely popular for decades, well… they’re no dummies. You’ve got to give the people what they want!

The amp, just like we saw before, delivers 15 watts of power. This is just right for a beginner. Unless you or your child starts playing out on live gigs,
no worries.

If and when the time comes when an audience will need to hear this bass, you can simply upgrade to get something with a little more “oomph”.

To get both an instrument AND an amp bearing the legendary Fender name for under $300 is quite a feat. But the company knows that if they put good tools within reach of progressing student musicians, they’ll probably have returning customers for life.

They take the gamble – you reap the benefits!

The reviews for this ensemble were, as is expected for this list, all above 4 stars (4.6 average). Quite a few actually said they gigged with this setup right after it was shipped to them and that it worked great.

As before with the other Fender Squier bass above, you again get that same, awesome “two (2) years from date of original purchase” warranty. Ooooo, the tinglies ya get from just sayin’ that! TWO YEARS!!! Ooooo…. !! LoL

Another hard-to-beat setup for the starting student musician – with a bass, amp, bag, cable and strap all included, once again, you’ll have no reason to buy anything else for a long time.

Do it right the first time and you’ll be helping them be the best they can be right outta the gate.

Here’s your link to for all the pertinent info!

7) Rogue LX200B Bass & Fender Rumble 25 Bass Amp

Okay, so now we come to my last recommendation… and it’s a bit different.

This is the best bass guitar and amp combination on today’s list, so I see this option as more for the experienced musician who is nonetheless starting to learn bass.

This is a fantastic “package deal” for someone who is probably going to be playing out fairly soon, either because they already play other instruments, or perhaps because they have already committed to a group and to playing out live.

That would be brave indeed, but I’ve done it myself and I know I wasn’t the first. It’s always easier to learn other musical instruments once you already can play one.

So if you’re taking up bass, but plan on playing in front of people with it sometime soon, I would get this package.

The bass and the amp are from two different companies. What I did here was put together the best quality bass and amp, at the lowest price I could find. For what’s available on the market right now, I don’t see anything better at the same price, or lower.

The Rogue LX200B Series III Bass Guitar is the first half of this equation. It has really good review ratings (4.6 average stars!), but to make it even better… it’s on sale right now at Guitar Center at just over $100!! Steal of a deal.

This bass sports two pickups, just like the previous four on the list. That versatility, combined with the many ways you’ll be able to change your tone with the EQ on the Rumble amp, gives you wide tonal dexterity, so you’ll be able to play any small venue with other musicians and not get drowned out.

The Fender Rumble 25!

The value in this combination is pretty unbeatable. Another big reason is the Fender Rumble 25 amp – instead of 10 or 15, this amp kicks out 25 watts of power, which is a considerable step up from anything else on this list! It’s the most power I could find at the lowest price from any online merchant.

If you ever want to play for an audience of more than a 100 one day, then you may have to upgrade to a higher wattage amp.

Then again, most sound people prefer that you not get too loud; they like to mic an amp just like this so they have control over its volume, but you still have a monitor to hear yourself play. So this could be the first, and last, amp you’ll ever need!

So, I obviously saved the best deal for last. This bass is currently on sale though, and I don’t know how long Guitar Center will keep it at this price. So if you like to save cash and you need a gig ready bass setup, click both of these links below, put them in your shopping cart, and get ’em delivered before they change the price.

Here’s to you bringing the Boom to the Room at a great gig soon! Don’t forget to invite us!!

Be A First-String Player!

As an addendum to our best of list, let me fill you in on a little industry secret: cheaper guitars always be shipped with very cheap strings.

Because of this, if you want to make any cheap guitar sound better within minutes, just order some good quality strings and put them on. The harmonic content, loudness and sustain will be improved immediately.

Most beginners probably won’t even care about this, but as they progress, and especially if they start playing with others, this is one quick, easy cheap way to sound better without buying more expensive equipment!

Who says girls can’t play bass?!!

Hope this helps you make someone (yourself??) VERY happy by providing them with the bass guitar they’ve been wanting for a while now. Did you find one that’s just right?!

The links above were well-researched, and we believe they really are the Best Bass Guitars For Beginners at the moment (especially that last one!).

So save money; save time; stop shopping and start the playing! These are the best values out there for the big, bad bass!

Let us know how it goes with you, or your student/child, and make sure to check out our bass lessons here at Being a private music instructor myself, I’m all about making proficiency on an instrument as attainable and as easy as possible.

The best music is often made that way. 🙂

Now, go… make… sounds!!


Teaj in the storm fields!

How To Buy Music Gear – A Penny Saved Is A Preamp Earned!

a LOT of music money!!


I love the sound of money comin’ my way. Don’t you?!

Every once in a while we really hit the jackpot and a big check comes in from some gig we’ve done in the past that blows most of the others away.

That happened to me this week, so naturally… a new piece of studio equipment is live on my mind! LoL

As I prepared for the purchase this week, I thought I’d share with those of you who don’t do this too often, exactly how to buy music gear.

It’s a fine art to some of us, and its techniques? They hold some real advantages.

Don the Right Superpower!

Ever listen to one of your favorite albums or artists and think, “Man! That sounds so good… they must have music superpowers or something!!”

Well, most of the time, that’s kind of true! It’s only after spending a good amount of time recording music again and again, and trying out gear time after time with myriad settings, that you take on demigod status behind the mixing console.

But it’s also true that the right, specific piece of professional gear WILL improve your sound if all you’ve had up to this point is semi-professional equipment.

I’ll never forget the first time I plugged my AT4050 mic into an Avalon preamp. DUDE!!! It was like I’d never really heard the mic before! At least not that good!!

Best question to ask yourself before any gear purchase is this:

“What is the weakest link in my music chain??”

The answer to that is what you should be spending your money on.

Got a great guitar, but your amp is second-rate?? You know what to do.

Using a top-notch microphone, but running it through a cheap interface?? Time to cut the fluff.

Bought a killer new DW drum kit, but have cymbals that sound like trash can lids? ALL of them??!

Uh, yea… I think you can guess what I’m going to say. Lol

Do a little studio self-introspection before you blow your wad. Then go for the superpower unit that will make you the hero of the airwaves!

Or don’t. I mean… it’s only your reputation on the line, right? 😉

That Sock Under the Mattress…

Whether you keep your money in a bank, Credit Union, old sock, or even under your undies in a drawer somewhere, what really matters when it comes to buying gear is SAVING for what you really NEED.

At any given time of your musical life, you’re going to be in the market for some piece of gear. But learning how to prioritize what to buy next is important.

Take my current situation as an example: I’ve got a lot of great, expensive gear that I record with currently.

I can’t really say I have any “weak spots”, but there ARE some areas where I can certainly improve equipment to an even higher professional level.

So, when those major funds dropped in my lap this past week, I knew exactly where I wanted to funnel some of it…

… a new mic OR a new mic preamp!!

The ones I have now all cost just under a thousand bucks. That means, turn improve my sound, I’m going to have to spend MORE than a thousand bucks.

Now, that’s not always the case; more expensive does not always mean better.

But for the units I’m looking at, it definitely DOES mean that.

To prepare for that purchase, I’ve stashed away $1,500 in one of my accounts that is used only for music gear.

Setting your upper limit of how much you’ll spend is important. At least, it is if you want to live a balanced, responsible lifestyle!

Yea, I’ve known other musicians who lost there apartment from buying a new instrument. I’d just rather not be that guy!! Lol

Remember too, but you don’t always have to have the best equipment. The gear in my studio has gradually gotten better over time. That’s because I’ve spent more only as I’ve earned more.

When I buy new gear, I also sell off old gear much of the time, since I know I won’t be needing it anymore. This is also a good way to keep costs down in the long run.

So yeah, Benjamin Franklin all those wise guys… they know what they’re talking about.

$100 for music gear!
Ben was a secret Pro Audio Gear G.A.S.-er!!

Take the time to SAVE money for the big expenditures, instead of spending it all as soon as you get it on gear that’s not as good.

You’ll thank yourself in the long run… and so will your clients, and employers!!

“Plays Nice With Others… “

There’s another crucial bit of analysis you should do whenever you’re thinking of adding to your Pro Audio arsenal, and that is…

… check for compatibility issues! In other words, will what you buy play nice, like superhero children, with what you already have.

Anyone that has ever dealt with computer DAW software probably has had some experience with other hardware pieces NOT working with it.

Sometimes this is based on how old the computer is.

Sometimes it’s based on how old the software is.

Sometimes it’s based on… God knows what! They just don’t like each other!!!

Few things are more disappointing than spending big bucks I’m gear that ends up not being compatible with what you already own.

I’ve been there. It SUCKS.

Apollo box & Dr Who
Bigger on the inside indeed!!

In fact, when I first bought my Apollo Twin interface (see pick to the left) I got it home only to find out that it would not work.

Why? Because, even though I had two USB 3 ports on my computer which UA said I needed ( I had checked), MY USB 3 ports…

… (are you ready for this?)…

… were the “old kind”. Now, there had been no mention of “types” of USB 3 ports on any website or forum, including UA. Everybody from my sales rep to the service techs thought this should work.

It was only when I sent the head service tech at UA a Belarc Advisor analysis of my computer that he was able to locate why I was having issues.

Guess what I had to do? I had to buy, and install, a brand new USB 3 port card into my computer.

After that, problem solved.

So, yeah, even if you do your due diligence and verify all compatibility issues, you STILL might get caught in the cross hairs of two gear thugs with mechanized vendettas!

But most of the time you won’t. Do yourself a favor: make sure anything you want to buy will play nice with what you have.

If not, hey… there’s lots of playgrounds in the world. 😉

Do Your Legwork

No, I’m not talking about squats and lifts (tho’ those are good for you). I mean put in the requisite research to know what the best piece of gear is for what you need.

Let’s face it: there’re enough variations of music equipment out there to make your drum head spin! So if you don’t do a little investigation up front, you may end up buying something you wish you hadn’t, either because it’s not the right fit, or because there was something better… for less!

Here are the references I consult before I buy every major piece of gear:

  • Online forums
  • Online reviews
  • Manufacturer websites
  • Pro Audio magazines
  • Online blogs
  • Personal sales reps

I use every single one of these just about every time I buy something substantial for the studio. No joke. I demand the very best bang for my buck, and so should you.

So already this week, next to each one of those references listed, concerning my new mic or preamp.

My conversation with Jeff Green, my consultant at Sweetwater sound, was the most enlightening. I keep up on the latest music gear pretty well for this website obviously, but Jeff gave me a couple ideas I had not heard of.

More options?? That’s always a good thing.

So thanks to his insightful recommendations, I now have even more machinery to research, that will all lead to me accomplishing even higher professional music goals.

Doing your homework has never brought better rewards!!

Stick to Your Price Guns… But Don’t Shoot!

This is something that’s not talked about often today in our evolving high-tech world: the role of the audio sales professional.

Waynes World guitar

I’ve worked in the market of pro audio retail (tho’ I never got filmed in “Wayne’s World”!), so I’ve been at the other end of what I’m about to say, and it’s this:

If you take up a ton of time with a sales professional, don’t go give your sale away to some other store or online site just to save a few bucks.

If you did all your research yourself, and didn’t hog anyone’s day to get the insights you needed, than fine – buy your gear anywhere.

But if you have long discussions with a sales professional at a music retailer, either over the phone or in person at their store, have a little respect for them and how hard they worked for you.

Remember, most of these people still work on a commission basis. They don’t get paid unless you buy from them. So if they’ve freely given their informed opinion to you, over a long period of time and/or several visits by you, and done most of the research FOR you…

… have a heart, will ya? Tell ’em the best price you found (that will take some diligence on your part), and give them the chance to match it or come near it.

For me personally, I usually say a difference of “less than fifty bucks” is acceptable if I’ve barraged the sales person with questions.

You’ll have to make your own determination of what’s acceptable to you. I’m just saying… play fair. If a representative has worked hard to earn your business, at least give them the chance.

I mean, they’re probably musicians too. Share the love, my brothers and sisters… SHARE the LOVE!!

Pull That Trigger… on GEAR!!

The free Apollo Plugins!
All the free Apollo Plugins!

After you’ve done all the things listed above, you’re in the perfect position to get a great deal on pro audio equipment that will really up your game, taking not only your music, but your CAREER up to another level.

I did this when I got my Apollo Twin… knowing it was going to come with a TON of truly usable, excellent FREE plugins. LOVED that!!

So, yea… prep for success when you buy for your music. It’s what I do every time. Even… right now, in fact! 😉

Any other things you can think of that could make buying music gear easier for G.A.S. sufferers and trembling players and engineers??

Let us know in the Comments, and if you’ve found any of these things helpful in a recent purchase you’ve made, tell us about that too.

We need more of these stories to tell around the campfire.

When we stop playing guitar, that is.

Then again… I don’t think we ever do, do we??!! LOL

Now, go… make… sounds!!


Teaj in the storm fields!

The FabFilter Pro-Q 3, Part 1 – My Favorite Frequency Fetcher!!

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been a dog guy.

Don’t get me wrong, I like cats too. But there’s just something about man’s best friend…

Like how they can fetch! Our pooch Pippin will chase and bring back any number of things. It’s adorable… and fun.

Now if I can only teach him to bring me the headphones! Lol

Whenever I’m tracking or mixing, I also get a lot of practice fetching – FREQUENCIES! More so than any other processing, I’m tweaking with EQs incessantly throughout the recording process.

Which is why it’s crucial to have a good one. A powerful one. One with lots of options, but breeze to use.

Pro-Q 3 to the rescue!!

Enter the FabFilter Pro-Q 3!!

This fabulous plug-in quickly became my favorite when I picked it up last year. It was like finding a restaurant that serves a dish you’ve never had, that’s vaguely familiar but clearly blows away any cuisine you’ve ever had!

Yeah. It’s that good.

Let’s investigate, shall we?!

Recording Wooden Shoes?

The FabFilter company hails from Amsterdam, Holland. Up ’til now there weren’t any Dutch companies that would never spring to mind when the words “pro audio” were uttered, but these bad boys have changed all that. Wooden shoes or not!

The company is fairly young – they first opened their doors in 2002. But their vision-casting, synergizing and trailblazing methods have assured them a top place in the pro audio halls of fame. Not to mention that their small team of around 20 now have an annual revenue of over $4 million!

The reason is clear: their products are amazing! They not only do the job with astounding prowess, but they also look and feel like a whole new world compared to their other old, dusty, “same ol’, same ol” competitor’s products.

I’m not alone in singing their praise either. Virtually every online post and magazine article I’ve read about the FabFilter company has lauded them for the quality, power, and the “WOW!” factor of their graphical user interfaces.

I totally concur with mastering engineer Jeff Sanders, who said this about their products:

“While (others) are busy trying to model hardware, FabFilter is leaving them in the dust by being visionaries.”

Couldn’t have said it better. But let’s not stop there… for an impressive look at just how many industry legends have embraced their innovation, check out this telling vid’ about their 10 year anniversary:

The Q3 Revolution!

FabFilter’s flagship EQ is now in its third iteration. The Q3 plug-in is every bit as revolutionary as it was when it first hit the market…only now with more cutting-edge additions than ever.

Time and again I’ve heard pro audio industry professionals say, “I thought they couldn’t make their stuff better – it was already awesome. But they did!!”

Again, I totally agree. There are so many features and benefits in their software that I don’t find anywhere else, in any of the other manufacturer’s products.

They obviously have some very cool patents up their sleeves!

Pro-Q 3 comparing two separate signals!

The first impression when you open up any of their software is extremely impressive. Their graphical user interface, or GUI, may just be the best in the field, and that goes for pretty much any other plug-ins. But the Q3? It’s especially cutting-edge. Here’s a quick pic to show you what I mean:

Sharp-looking, isn’t it? The shapes, the colors, the spread-out and well-placed menu options… It’s all put together SO well. An award-winning design for sure.

Vid’ me, Baby, One More Time!

As usual here on, we’ve produced a lengthy, detailed video for you about much of what the Q3 plug-in offers. It was a pleasure to make, since any time we can be playing with FabFilter plug-ins is a GOOD time!

It’s only “Part One” though. We’ll be doing a “Part Two” video later, to explore some less common options, and to kind of spread out the review a bit for the sake of time.

Britney Spears fan or not, let’s rock this thang!! 😉

Shape It Up!

In this first “Part One” article, we will be mostly covering the basics of the Q3, so to start with… you can’t get more basic than the various EQ curves and shapes that engineers use daily to carve out those perfect, balanced mixes.

Pro-Q 3 types of EQ curves

Here’s the options Q3 provides:

  • Bell
  • Low Shelf
  • Low Cut
  • High Shelf
  • High Cut
  • Notch
  • Band Pass
  • Tilt Shelf
  • Flat Tilt

Except for those last two, we see all that we would expect in a modern-day EQ processor. I can’t think of anything they missed there, can you?!

I find them all to work flawlessly and produce the expected results. The difference is that the Q3 does it style and panache that I’ve not seen on any other software platform.

All controls you’d expect on a completely parametric EQ are there. When you engage each cut or boost, however, they each are shaded a different color, such that when you finally interact completely EQ’d a track completely, it can end up quite resembling piece of modern art… and a piece that looks wicked sweet at that.

The main controls for each EQ point enabled.

In fact, that gives me an idea… I think I actually will print out a large color poster of my vocal track running through the Q3. I can hang it in my studio and sign it at the bottom. Cuz, ya know… It IS me! Lol

Tilting at Sound Mills

Let’s examine those bottom two EQ shapes that are NOT usually found on most EQs: the “Tilt” functions.

They’re interesting, new twists on cutting & boosting that I’m curious to use in the future and see if I can find some cases any of my mixes where this kind of processing would be appropriate.

Both the “Flat” and the “Shelf” functions share the same basic method – there’s a center frequency of your choice, and on either side of it, all the frequencies, up to the high and low boundaries of human hearing, are cut on one side and boosted on the other.

The FLAT Tilt option

So, because of how the tilt is shaped, the only time I see the appropriate for mixing would be when you’re middle frequencies are pretty dialed in, but you notice that the highs and lows need some adjustment, specifically, diametrically opposed directions. Because this function is broad, you’ll have to be careful though.

Still, I love it when a company innovates new options for us to have at our disposal. “Can’t hurt, might help”, right?!

There are two ways I plan on using it soon: first, I’ll use it whenever I record some percussion. This will necessarily need to occupy a small section of the EQ band, so the shelf tilt should be just the ticket.

The SHELF Tilt option

Second, when I have the right psychotropic song for it (LOL), I plan on automating it so it’ll sweep through frequencies like a wah pedal in real time. If my idea is correct, it should produce a pretty cool sound that I’ve never been able to try before with any EQ in this precise shape.

Creative effects – I love ’em!!

In a nutshell, if you need very BROAD tonal sculpting of the highs and lows, then the tilt function might provide just the uneven floor you’re looking for!

Collisions – Oh, How it Hertz!

The “Frequency Collisions” monitoring parameter that the Q3 provides. I find to be extremely useful and a real time saver.

Imagine you’ve recorded a clean electric guitar on one track, and a synth rhythm track on another (like I did video above). They’re both occupying the same general area of the midrange, so you know you’re going to have to tonally separate them a bit for the sake of clarity in your mix.

Areas of frequency collisions in RED.

Well, with the Q3, you won’t have to spend time finding where the two tracks overlap tonally – an obvious stripe of red in the waveforms will tell you exactly where you have coinciding fundamental frequencies.

I love this, ‘cuz within seconds I can cut and boost a bit on both tracks, in opposite frequency ranges, and voila… they’re instantly occupying their own little zone. No muss, no fuss. Quick and easy, it’s DONE.

Even while I’m tracking, I always leave this function on. Why? ‘Cause when I reach MIX time, all the instruments are pretty much already portioned off, ‘cuz I did it on the fly because it made the collisions so obvious.

This ends up saving a ton of time and helps get that next single that much quicker.

And isn’t that what we… always want?! 😉

Spotlight, Please!

Now here’s a feature that I didn’t find talked about much by anyone, but that I find a killer creativity boost – the “Solo” button that’s there every time you click a new EQ adjustment point!

The headphone icon points the way. Whenever you click on that, it will turn red, giving you a visual indication that you’re now in “solo mode”, but ONLY for that particular EQ band or frequency.

Way cool. It’s another way that the Q3 gives me something I’ve never had on another EQ plugin.

It’s quite a weird feature, but I really like it, and it’s in part why I’m using Q3 almost exclusively for EQ-ing now.

The reason comes from answering this question: on any instrument that we record that occupies the mid-range at all, don’t we, many times, want it to sound different from how it does naturally?

Of course! Sometimes, dramatically so, right?

Well, now, thanks to these “Solo buttons”, you can quickly and easily experiment with a bunch of options, and often… create a dramatic change that proudly occupies your final mix!

Here’s what you do:

  1. Bring forward your Q3 on any individual track.
  2. Click to create 3 or 4 different adjustment points, at different places.
  3. Start playing your full mix.
  4. Click the solo headphone button on each of the adjustment points to audition each one!

What you’ll end up hearing is that particular instrument reduced to 3 or 4 small slices, or “spotlights”, of the EQ Spectrum, with all the rest of its natural sound cut out.

El Gtr cuts on Q3

It’s like processing a vocal to make it sound like a telephone voice; you’re taking away a large portion of its natural sound to make it sound UNnatural, because sometimes… that’s just the thing to make your mix fresh!

As you “demo” that single instrument in those 3 or 4 (or more!) ways, you’ll know if any of those instant variations give the mix a standout surprise lift. If none of them do, no worries… just delete the adjustment points and you’re none the worse for taking less than a minute to try something off the beaten path.

‘Cause we all know… that’s sometimes where GOLD is buried!! 😉

It’s Freezin’ in Here!!

If you open the “Analyzer” menu, which is found just to the right of the middle bottom of the plugin, you’ll see a button all the way to the left that looks like a snowflake. Get on your AC/DC wool cap, baby, ‘cuz you just found…

… the “Analyzer Freeze” function!!

Engaging this button will cause the spectrum to stop falling as the signal plays. Instead, you will see it build up “frequency maximums” of measurements and freeze them into a floating “glacier of sound” over time.

“I’m Mr. FREEZE-Meister… !!”

If you happen to forget whether it’s on or not, just check the button: if it’s enabled, there’ll be a blue line on the left side of the button.

I find this is helpful if I want to find quickly where an annoying frequency is within a signal. The strongest, highest peaks will often reveal the culprit so, again, in just a few seconds of playback, another problem is solved.

Can this plugin get any better??!! I doubt it, but I’m sure they’ll prove us wrong again when Q4 comes out! Lol

Dan the Man!

I can’t describe my relationship with FabFilter products without including one of the major advantages the company has given to us, its happy consumers, and that is…

… the Dan Worrall videos!

A renowned sound engineer from Sheffield, England, Dan produces all the plug-in tutorials for FabFilter, and they are and the best I’ve ever seen. His calming, pleasant voice and informed yet easy demeanor makes every video produces a true pleasure to experience.

I’m not surprised though. When I saw on his “LinkedIn” profile HERE that he also produces content for “Sound On Sound” magazine… I was instantly hooked – that is my number one, top, favorite pro audio magazine in the industry!

Not only does he do a thorough job of explaining all the FabFilter plug-ins, he’s also quick to point out how he himself uses them in the studio, and on the latest music that he’s tracked or mixed.

Comparing a Wurlitzer with a PRS Electric!

He must also be one of the most private people I’ve ever come across in music, ‘cuz I can’t find a single picture of him online… anywhere.

These days? THAT’S a major feat!!

Even if you don’t have the FabFilter products yet, I bet you’ll still find his videos engaging, educational and subscribe-worthy. If you DO have any of their plug-ins though, you’re going to want to take his training. I mean, come on… It’s free for heaven’s sake! And better than most you’ll see!

So go lift some spaceships with the “Yoda” of pro audio (Just call him “Yodio”!),Dan the man! Find all his FabFilter tutorials HERE.

No Regrets!!

For those who still want to know more (“More… MORE, I tell you!”), feel free to take your quivering G.A.S. pangs over to THIS Q3 MANUAL to investigate further this exceptional bit of pro audio coding.

Or, to investigate their full line of amazing plug-ins (ALL of which I’ve purchased!), browse through the FabFilter Website Here.

Already own the FabFilter Pro-Q 3? Used it in your own music?? Share the processing love and drop us a line in the Comments. We especially like to hear creative ways fellow audio artisans have used different functions for outrageously sweet results!

If you don’t have Q3 yet, I’m just gonna say what hundreds already have…

… just buy it! In light of how so many of us love their products, if you wait you’ll just be kicking yourself later!

Now, go… make… sounds!!


Teaj in the storm fields!

Equipment For Nothin’ – When We Hit the Motherlode!

Anybody swapping, buying or trading gear long enough is familiar with “The Throw-in“.

You know: you go to pick up a piece of gear and the sales person, or the owner of the piece, says:

“Tell ya what… if you buy this today, I’ll THROW IN these pics… or this cover… or 5 sets of strings, or… “

Waynes World guitar

See… told ya you’d know what I’m talkin’ about!

Sometimes, even more expensive assets like “this case”, “these cables” or “these software programs” might surprisingly come into the transaction. That’s a real stroke of luck.

A moment of silence please for my dearly departed.

But every once in a while, you reeeeeally hit the motherload. bgthat are just unheard of… but true!

Like the lucky guy who got my Mesa Boogie Mark IV amp in pristine condition for only $350, because I was about to go on tour in Europe in TWO DAYS and needed to sell it FAST to cover my air fare.

Yea. He was that lucky.

But I can’t complain, ‘cuz I’ve hit the jackpot a couple times myself. Lemme tell ya ’bout this one time…

The Fateful Ad

One, fine, lucky summer day I happened upon an ad in CraigsList that had only been published 2 hours previous. It was a holiday weekend, when most people were off on vacation somewhere. I had chosen to stay home and work in the studio.

What can I say? Music is my life. lol

Anyway, this ad showed an unbelievable treasure trove of musical goods. A virtual cornucopia of spilling melodic tools and accouterments! A frugal musician’s DREAM!!!

I quickly emailed with my cell phone number immediately, saying I was going to be passing by their way in about an hour and we could do the deal if they were home.

Within the hour I got a phone call from the owner. She said the stuff belonged to her dad who has long lived in Florida and he had told her “You can go ahead and get rid of it”. She also said she was home and an hour would be fine.

Murmuring “Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy…!” and “I can’t believe this! I can’t believe this! I can’t…” out loud as I threw my stuff together for the trip, and getting my son to join me to help haul in the catch, we were soon making the 45-minute trip south to the end of the rainbow where our musical, magical treasure chest would be opened to us!

The Grand Unveiling!

When I got there, the kind woman led me to the garage in the back, hauled the door open and revealed a kind of wool shed/workshop that they had turned their garage into. No room for cars, that was for sure, but there was some music equipment!

Here’s what she showed me:

The Austin AU962 Tele-style guitar
The Austin AU962 Tele-style guitar
  1. A Telecaster-type ELECTRIC GUITAR, with extra coil-tapping knob, in perfect condition
  2. An acoustic-electric BASS guitar, in perfect condition
  3. A 50-watt Rocktron combo AMP for the electric, in perfect condition
  4. A50-watt Crate combo AMP for the bass, in perfect condition
  5. A hard-shell CASE for the bass, in perfect condition
  6. A soft-shell CASE for the electric guitar, in perfect condition
  7. Two Fender Vintage Voltage 10-foot guitar cables

We talked a little more about her father, what music he used to play when he was still up in Michigan, and how he enjoys it to this day.

Crate Bass amp Close up
The Crate Bass amp!

As we spoke I was checking the gear out. I plugged the guitar into the amp, Then the bass into its amp. Everything appeared to be working, though there was some noise and crackling.

The woman thought that perhaps the amps were broken because of all the crackling, but I knew it was probably due to just old cables, and that with a little “Deoxit” I could have ‘em sounding good in no time.

The Great Haggle!

Galveston bass front
The Galveston Bass!

Once I had played through everything, I stood up and got my wallet out.

The lady had asked in the ad for $200 for everything, if you can believe that. I managed to convince her, because of all the noise that had come out of the amps, to let me have the whole shebang for $180 though.

What can I say – I’m a shameless haggler! Lol

She acquiesced, and my son and I commenced loading all our newfound treasures into the back of our SUV.

Now, I probably don’t have to tell you that $180 is about what you’d have to pay to buy ONE NEW GUITAR CASE. Instead, here I was, winning the gear lottery for the same amount of money. Unbelievable!!

The Recycling of Dreams

Upon getting back home, I found that the amps were fine. The cables, as I had suspected, had some shorts in them. A quick swap for some of my good cables, and I was off to the races!

The Wolfie with the R50C
The Rocktron R50C that came with the “package deal”!

The amps I found to be actually very usable, but only for some pretty specific purposes. They had more of a metal or hard-core kind of sound that I’m not that into, though they were in great condition.

So I did what any G.A.S.-suffering musician would do: I traded them for cash at a local music shop!!

Music-Go-Round, here in Detroit, specializes in used music gear, so my buddy Chris there hooked me up with fair market value on each of the amps.

With that money, I was able to pick up a great new hollow-body jazz guitar that I’d also seen on Craigslist. I still have that fine guitar to this day and it still sounds great!

Both the AUSTIN TELECASTER GUITAR and the GALVESTON ACOUSTIC BASS I kept. They are very usable, quality additions to my axe arsenal and work well for recording too, as their intonation is spot on.

I’d say that’s a great example of a win-win situation, wouldn’t you?!

Staying Open

Here at, we’re all about making music gear dreams come true, so the moral of the story is this…

No matter how much money you have, or don’t have, if you know specifically what you’re looking for, and stay open to God, the universe or whatever you believe in to give it to you…

… it just might happen. 😉

Do you have outrageous gear finds?? Have you experienced unbelievable music gear deals??! Did you snag your latest favorite piece through some highly unexpected or hilarious scenario??!! Let us know in the Comments. We just LOVE a good gear story!!!

Now, go… make… sounds!!!


The Takamine EC-132C Classical Guitar – The Timeless Taste Of Classic Tone!!

The first time I knew I had to have a classical guitar, I was listening to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”.

I played it incessantly (through headphones, of course!), and with all the lights off except for the dim glow of the stereo dial. It was magic!

The Wall had classical guitar
Love that Gilmour classical guitar!!

The song “Goodbye Blue Sky” was mesmerizing to me. That gentle, centuries-honored sound of a classical, played expertly by David Gilmour, just drew me in!

So the fact that I ended up with a Takamine EC132C Classical Guitar is no accident. I needed a great classical guitar so I could do those songs myself!

Nylon strings are sometimes just the ticket, when a steel string guitar is just a little too brazen for the song at hand.

Later, I also heard and learned to play other transcendent classical songs:

  • The Beatles’ “And I Love Her
  • Rush: “The Trees
  • Van Halen: “Spanish Fly“!!

That last one, of course, was like the cherry on top of the sundae, Eddie blew all of our minds with that one. And it was also the hardest song I’d ever learned up to that point. We’re talkin’ major woodsheddin’ to get that one down!!

Heck, because of my French class in college, I even studied the classical songs of “The Singing Nun”, a French musician who actually had a hit here in the States called “Dominique” (to my knowledge the only French song ever to make U.S. radio).

Whatever peaks your interest about the Takamine classical, there’re worlds of musical options to discover that this guitar can bring to life, with panache, class and captivating depth.

Let’s see what makes her so special, shall we?!

Guitar of the Rising Sun

In the town of Sakashita, at the foot of towering Mount Takamine in central Japan, a small family-run instrument workshop opened in 1959 that would later take the world by storm.

The company was named after the mountain itself, and just like that landscape behemoth, Takamine has, over the last five decades, become a titan in the world of stringed instrument design and manufacture. Read their FULL HISTORY HERE

Bruce Springsteen playing Takamine
(Photo: Becker1999

Since that inauspicious beginning, there are many well respected and renowned guitarists of the modern era who have played, and continue to play, Takamine guitars. Here’s just a few:

Bruce Springsteen

Jon Bon Jovi

Bruno Mars

Don Henley

Toby Keith

Paul Jackson Jr

Garth Brooks

Whatever they’re doing, they must be doing it right – the number of their guitars selling is rising higher than ever. Check out their whole line of acoustic & classical guitars on THEIR WEBSITE HERE to see examples of why.

I, for one, can give you a personal reason why: my Takamine classical guitar has never let me down in any way, after 20 years of being under my fingers, on many stages, many times.

That kind of quality and longevity just doesn’t happen. It’s designed, and meticulously executed, by craft-savvy artisans who, day after day, apply their skills to make sound history.

Now let’s see how they set up a particular guitar’s history… mine!

Got a Show?? Play a Pro!

The Takamine EC-132C is part of their “Pro Series“, and it shows. My own pick of this model was created in Japan in January of 1998, the same year I bought it new at Guitar Center.

Pimenny, our cat, is a big fan of the EC132C!

It was the 905th guitar made that month, according to the serial number which is always found on a badge on the neck block inside the instrument. If you look just below the truss rod adjustment port you’ll see it.

Here’s a brief rundown of its main features:

  • Body Shape: Classical Cutaway
  • Rosette: Marquetry
  • Top: Spruce
  • Back: Rosewood
  • Sides: Rosewood
  • Finish: “Natural” Gloss
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Bracing: Fan
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Frets: 19
  • Strings: Nylon, tied at bridge
  • Electronics: Takamine Graph-Ex preamp
  • Tuners: Gold Classic
  • Nut Width: 2.008″ (51 mm)
  • Scale Length: 650 mm

If you’re not familiar with a classical guitar, the two big main differences are:

  1. The strings are made of nylon, not steel. They’re much softer so the guitar sounds gentler.
  2. All strings are tied, using knots, to the bridge. No strings have a ball end, like on a steel-stringed guitar.

Classicals tend to all look about the same: simple and elegant with all the attention on the sound of the instrument.

This model does sport a beautifully-detailed rosette around the sound hole though, so there’s at least some hint of ‘fashion’.

Oh, and the tuners all have gold trim, so, yea, that looks pretty sweet too.

But at the end of the session… we all know what’s important. It’s the sound, baby, the sound. So let’s address that next…

More Nylon, Please!

Since there’s nothing like actually hearing an instrument you’ve got serious G.A.S. for, we thought we’d make your sickness even worse by showing exactly how this girl struts her classy stuff in the studio today.

As usual, I recorded the Takamine with five mics, plus a D.I. You’ll hear all five mics, panned as seen below, in the video recording. The D.I., also as usual, didn’t make the cut. It just doesn’t sound at all as wonderful as this guitar’s natural, “in-the-air” sound.

The only processing I put on this recording is a little plate reverb to glue all the mic signals together. Otherwise, you’re hearing just the Takamine in all her glory. And that’s the point, isn’t it?

Here’s what the final Pro Tools layout looked like:

Alright, well, if you’re ready… just sit back, put on your headphones and enjoy this gentle ride.

But a word of caution – you may need a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from your brow. Once a classical nips at your heart…you’re never the same again.

“I’ve got a fever… and the only prescription… is MORE NYLON!!!” LoL

WOOD-n’t You Know it!

The c132c BACK SIDE

With all the restrictions that are placed on Rosewood these days, I feel extremely lucky to have a guitar that’s made with so much of it.

I confirmed with Tom from Takamine U.S.A. that the back and sides of this Takamine classical are both made of
East Indian Rosewood, which is beautiful and toneworthy.

Brazilian Rosewood is considered the top of the line, but it’s almost impossible to get that wood because of trade restrictions.

In 1992 the CITES treaty strictly banned the its exportation. Today you can only get it under TWO conditions:

  1. It was harvested & exported prior to the CITES ban, or
  2. It was harvested from trees that fell over naturally.

In both cases you’ll need a certificate of provenance to prove you didn’t snag it illegally, and those are not easy to come by! Get the whole story IN THIS ARTICLE.

The reason Rosewood is so desirable, for back and sides specifically, is because it’s a hard & dense wood that reflects sound very well – which is of course the most important duty of those pieces on a guitar. A solid rosewood back, especially, really projects and enhances the sonic brilliance of any guitar.

Rosewood characteristically helps produce a clear, crisp, ringing tone.

The Spruce top on this classical guitar is no slouch either though. It’s often what you find as the top soundboard for high-end (read “high price tag”) boutique guitars.

THIS “MIKE FRANKS” HANDMADE STEEL-STRING ACOUSTIC that I had made according to my specifications, for example, has an Adirondack Spruce top. It sounds perfect to me, in every way. A clear, strong, well-balanced voice, with plenty of dynamic range.

Spruce. It does a (guitar) body good. 😉

The neck on this beauty is mahogany, and features a dual action truss rod. This is handy for making sure the guitar plays perfectly in any environment, tho’ I’m quick to say… I’ve never needed to adjust it once for playability reasons. Not ever.

Twenty years later, it still sounds, and plays, like only dream wood can!

Your Biggest Fan!

Parallel bracing under the soundhole.

Every great guitar starts with a great, resonant design. Since acoustic guitars have been around for a few hundred years now, there’s a pretty clear consensus of what is necessary to make one that offers excellent frequency response and impressive dynamic content.

The EC132C pays homage to traditional classical instruments and follows closely to the drawings of Antonio Torres, a Spanish luthier of the 1800s that has been hailed as “the most important Spanish guitar maker of the 19th century.”

One of the most important ways they stayed true to his design is that they incorporate “parallel fan bracing” into the guitar (where the struts run in the same direction as the strings), rather than “ladder bracing” (which uses braces perpendicular to the strings).

Where the wooden struts are placed, and how, under the soundboard of a guitar, are crucial to an instrument producing a pleasing sound and being able to reproduce the frequency spectrum evenly, or at least pleasantly.

Going with the tried and true layout of a historically-respected master luthier is one obvious reason why this classical guitar has been a best-seller for decades.

Inner bracing of the Takamine classical guitar
My Takamine uses SIX vertical struts under the soundhole.

I dove my guitar mirror down inside my Takamine to see the exact strut layout. You can see in the picture to the right what I found: struts running parallel to the strings. This is a derivation of true fan bracing, where the struts sweep in an arc, like a peacock tail.

The picture above, showing “parallel bracing”, is exactly how the struts are placed in mine, the exception being there’s only SIX struts there instead of seven.

All that to say Takamine has obviously kept to the truism “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This guitar has consistently put out excellent sound, and thus wonderful music, and that is why it’s been a successful product for them for decades.

The EC132C was made, virtually unchanged, for over two decades now. That kind of longevity without any modification is a true testament to its craftsmanship and popularity.

Electric Dreams

Graph-EX electronics

Most classical guitars are made to be played with no amplification built in. The EC-132C, however, does have electronics on board, called the “Graph-EX preamp”, and it has worked flawlessly for me right up to today. Since I perform a lot live, I knew I’d need an electric-acoustic, not just a great “body sound” for mics.

That’s not to say that I like the sound of its electronics. I actually don’t. This guitar only sounds truly warm and alive to me when it’s mic’ed up and its ambient clarity is captured via a nice large-condenser mic capsule.

Now, I’ve used this guitar live many times, and most times I’ve just plugged into the electronics. That’s because it’s almost always what the sound person prefers. By plugging in, they don’t have to deal with feedback.

Plus, back at the soundboard, they can give it a good going over with their channel EQ to make it sound better than what’s coming straight out of my preamp.

Takamine Graph-EX info

These days, however, the preamp has changed. If you buy one of these today you’ll get the “CoolTube (CTP-3)” preamp. I’ve heard that it’s better than mine, and I’m not surprised – it’s twenty years younger!!

Takamine’s latest electronics – the CoolTube!!

Here’s what today’s preamp will give you:

  • a low-voltage tube to warm the sound
  • 3-band EQ
  • Semi-parametric midrange
  • Auxiliary input & volume
  • Onboard chromatic tuner
  • Notch knob for precision cutting of feedback frequencies
  • PItch knob for overall tuning adjustment

This “Cool Tube” preamp actually uses a real low-voltage vacuum tube in the gain stage that warms up the sound quite a lot, and it’s got its own knob so you can judiciously sculpt just the right sound with just a few twists of your fingers.

A nice feature of these “Cool Tube” electronics is that it includes a second pickup port, ready to go, in case you want to add another guitar pickup, like a soundhole pickup or a top-plate transducer. You can then blend this 2nd pickup in with the on-board electronics for a much more, complex and varied tonal spectrum.

I would definitely do this, as it would be similar to what my favorite songwriter, Bruce Cockburn, uses in his internal setup. Other acoustic masters like James Taylor & Paul Simon do similar things as well.

The other really cool thing (I wish I had this on mine!) is the Pitch button, which provides an overall pitch adjustment for the tuner. It allows you to offset the pitch center of the open strings buy a few cents up or down.

This is fantastic if you have to play with an actual piano! They can often be just a little bit out of tune… usually flat. Given this, the ability to program the on-board tuner to coincide with that dip in tuning is extremely helpful when playing live.

Your All-Access Pass!

One big reason I chose this specific model is because I wanted the cutaway profile high on the neck.

I often like to play above the 12th fret, so I need the access that a cutaway provides. It makes all the difference when you’re trying to get all your fingers moving fast in those tight, small frets up there!

Whether you’re constructing chords, or swimming fast and furious just above the soundhole diving board, having this cutaway for your hand comes in so… well, HANDY. In fact, at least half the guitars that I own all have this cutaway design.

I also appreciate this style of cutaway. It’s more like a flat cliff ledge, which means I’ve got nothing hitting the back of my hand when I’m up there. Some other guitars have a lot more of a “horn” there, even though it’s scooped out, and you end up hitting the back of your hand on it. I like Takamine’s take on this much better.

If you don’t make it up above the 12th fret much, then it’s a feature not so important for you. But don’t worry – there’s plenty of other things to love about this guitar that make it the perfect fit. 😉

No GPS for This Guit’-Trip!

One trippy little thing that you have to know about most classical guitars is that they do not provide (typically) any fret markers of any kind.

No neck markers on this Takamine

No circles, bars or birds line the fretboard, and no dots are there to help you know your location or position on the neck.

Because of this, if you’re a beginner you may find playing a guitar like this more difficult. There’ll be no “cheat dots” to help you know where you are.

Sean Barret playing the Takamine EC132C

Add to that the fact that a classical neck is much wider than a steel-string guitar (51mm instead of the slimmer 42mm!), And you got what could that mean some serious challenges to your guitar chops!

Once you’ve practiced enough though, and put enough years of playing guitar behind you that neck positions are easily familiar and you don’t even have to look at the neck when you play, then a guitar like this is a beautiful thing.

My good friend and sometimes contributing author here at, Sean Barrett, knows this all too well. He’s once placed second in an international classical guitar competition and is VERY well-acquainted with any & all guitar necks. No dots needed!!

Like anything, it’s all a matter of practice. Just know going into it though that these differences are present and, depending on your experience, they will affect your technique and overall approach to finger positioning.

A Bob Dylan of Guitars!

Finally, let me talk a little bit about why I like having a classical guitar, regardless of what brand it is.

A classical guitar can bring extraordinary emotion and depth to musical storytelling. This is how I like to use it most of the time.

It’s like having a Bob Dylan in a box – it lends itself so expertly to weaving an interweaving a storyline that captivates and draws in any ear that happens to listen!

The sound of a classical guitar is very human… very organic-sounding. It intensifies and brings to life narrative lyric writing like no other instrument except piano.

If you’ve got a great story to tell, with intriguing characters, engrossing action and unpredictable plot, consider performing it on a classical guitar. It just might make the song more attractive to the average listener.

I’ve written many songs on classical, and I consider them among my best – I perform them consistently in my solo gigs, where I sing forth word-films and lyric-pictures to the audience, accompanied by my favorite axes… of which the Takamine is always one.

To give you some idea of its power, take a listen to a couple of my favorite classical songs below. I find them magnetically captivating.

This first one is “Romance Anónimo”. You probably have heard this and just don’t know it. Check out this video of Christina Sandsengen playing it for an “Oh, yea!” revelation:

This is another favorite of mine that I hope to learn one day (when I’m not making my own material!) is “Afro-Cuban Lullaby”. This is a great version of it by Hilary Field, a very gifted guitar player:

New Lullabies Await!

That Afro-Cuban piece is the bomb, isn’t it?! Can’t wait to learn it!!

My Takamine has inspired me over the years though to write many of my own lullabies and story songs. I’m sure you’ll find the same to be true when you have a good instrument like this on your lap. I find it enlivens the imagination, with enveloping harmonic richness that can only positively inspire your songwriting!

If you’re a performing musician who needs a smooth, calming sound for Latin, jazz, classical or even folk/pop, a classical guitar can be just the temperate ticket.

And if that gentle sound needs to be amplified, say, above other louder instruments like electric guitar, drums, bass and the like, the Takamine EC-132C Classical Guitar has been an up-front winner in classic tone for decades!

Takamine has finally discontinued the EC132C, but not really… they’ve just upgraded with a few modifications! Their most affordable comparable option now is the Takamine GC5CE. It fills the gap quite well, with some very nice improvements:

Now, the true successor to the EC that I have, according to Tom from Takamine, is the TC132SC. It priced in the middle of the three I’ll list here.

It looks, and probably sounds, a lot like mine, but it does have a Cedar top, not the Spruce top like mine.

If you’re like me and prefer the Spruce top, for a more high-end, professional tone, the Takamine TC135SC is their best option right now – an exceptional guitar with a Spruce top and Rosewood back and sides, just like the classic that I play!:

If you join me and Pimenny our cat in taking on a Takamine classical, tell us all about it in the Comments. It helps others who are weighing this guitar and ones like it as potential additions to their sound arsenal.

The EC132C & Pimenny closeup CARTOONED

Or maybe you already own one?! Tell us about that as well. After all, it’s pretty clear all we do all day is talk about music gear here, so… you’re in good company!!

Now, go… make… (classical!) sounds!!


Teaj in the storm fields!

The Bugera Veyron BV1001T – Listen To That Volcano Rumble!!

Did you know Paul McCartney didn’t want to play bass?

When the Beatles lost their gig in Germany and were deported back to England, their bass player up to that point, Stu Sutcliffe, didn’t leave with them. He was smitten with a German girl!

But somebody needed to play bass.

John Lennon had a brand new Rickenbacker guitar, while Paul’s had just broke.

George Harrison could pull off their great guitar solos; Paul wasn’t as good.

That left only Ringo but DUH… he’s the drummer! So, voila – a bassist is born!

The Bugera Veyron BV1001T amp sits in my studio due to a similar set of circumstances, and therein lies a tale…

“I’m Fixing a Hole…”

So one day, out of the blue, the bass player in a band I was in said “Hey, for the next three months I’m unavailable. Sorry.”

Great. Don’t you just love it when sudden member departures create a huge hole in your band? It makes things so…so… calm and trouble-free.


Anyway, with gigs pretty much every weekend, we needed to fill the gaping vacuum at the bottom of our frequency spectrum. We were gonna have to hire a stranger, or somebody needed to jump in.

Since I had already played bass for years, and already had the gear to prove it, everybody just kinda looked at me. The McCartney moment had struck!

It was no biggie to me, so I said yes. Except for the challenge of learning how to sing my vocal parts while playing the bass lines (which is MUCH different than singing while playing guitar, I’ll have you know!!), I reveled in the opportunity, and ended up enjoying it so much I almost didn’t want to let the old bass player back in! LoL

One big, booming reason? The Veyron amp!

Getting In the (Lava) Flow

Whenever I play live, I take a lot of gear with me. This is mostly because I play multiple instruments and sing, so I’m taking a bunch of electronics that covers a lot of ground!

For this reason, I didn’t want a huge bass head to lug around. I was looking for strong, but ultra-portable and lightweight; with a big voice, but a small footprint.

low light bugera

The Bugera Veyron caught my eye immediately, not only because it fit those criteria of mine, but also because it’s red-orange lava-like glow shown out pretty dang awesome on the music store floor.

Playing it through a cabinet in the store, I found it lacked nothing: punch, clarity, strength, warmth, lots of controls to dial in your tone… it had all that fiery goodness!

At the same time, its Class-D amplification meant there was no heavy power supply or massive heat sink… so it’s the most light-weight bass head I’ve ever played through.

Add to that that it has a gig-ready carrying handle built right into its case and it fits into my Ampeg cabinet like a charm… I was sold!

Which is why I walked out with one. 😉

If you’re interested, this might be the best time for you too as well. Stick to the end of this article for a pretty rare deal I’ll spell out for ya…

“If It Sounds Good… “

Veyron is a lot less money!

“… it IS good!” You’ve heard the truism, and it’s no different with the Veyron T. I chose its sound over other amps made by more “renowned” companies with longer histories ‘cuz nothing else in its price range came even close to sounding as good as this hot licks geyser of tone.

Could you get better sound by spending more money?? Yes, but you’d have to spend a LOT more.

I’ve played this amp live, and in the studio, a lot, and I’ve never come away wanting for anything. Its basic sound is beefy and wide, and the controls allow you to sculpt your own particular groove color easily and quickly.

For under $500?? That’s incredible!!

To give you some idea, I made the video below for you. Nothing beats hearing the real thing, so take a moment and listen to the range of voices available in this beast!

Magma Math

Okay, so… didja like how this amp vented forth some very usable sounds, across a wide spectrum?! That’s the biggest thing I like about it – it’s so versatile.

For those of you all hot and bothered for the specs on the Veyron T though, here they are, by the numbers:

Volcano from above


Instrument input: ¼” TS jack,

unbalanced Impedance: 1 MΩ

FX loop return: ¼” TS jack,

unbalanced Impedance (when DI out is pre/post EQ): 20 kΩ / 9 kΩ

Aux input: ¼” TRS jack,

unbalanced Impedance: 10 kΩ


Phones out: ¼” TRS jack, unbalanced

Impedance: 180 Ω

Tuner out: ¼” TS jack, unbalanced

Impedance: 500 Ω


FX loop send: ¼” TS jack, unbalanced

Impedance: 1 kΩ

Direct output: XLR jack, balanced

Impedance: 1 kΩ

Max. level mic / line: Pre EQ (-9 dBu / +12 dBu), Post EQ (-12 dBu / +9 dBu)

Loudspeaker outputs: 2 x locking connector (Speakon)

Min. load impedance: 4 Ω

Footswitch I/O: 1 x 1/4″ (FS-112B footswitch sold separately)


Preamp tubes: 3 x 12AX7

Max output power: 2000 W peak


Europe/UK/Australia/China/Korea: 220-240 V ~ 50/60 Hz

USA/Canada/Japan: 100-120 V~ 50/60 Hz

Power consumption: @ 1⁄8 max power 110 W

Mains connection: Standard IEC receptacle


Dimensions: 293 x 279 x 80 mm (11.5 x 10.9 x 3″)

Weight: 3.2 kg (7.0 lbs)

Comps for the Concert

Bugera compression button

One of my favorite features on the Veyron T is its internal optical compressor. I can’t say enough how unobtrusive yet effective it is. Probably the best internal compressor I’ve ever heard on an amp.

Many times, with amps under 500 bucks, if there is a compressor on board it’s not a very good one. They pump; they breathe; they click. In a nutshell, they’re usually way too noisy and way too obvious.

But our friends at Bugera really came up with a winning processor here. No matter where I set the compressor dial, the tone always sounds extremely smooth and elegant. No artifacts present at all, and there’s nowhere on the dial I need to avoid, like on some lesser amps that I’ve used in my time.

The higher you turn the compressor knob, the more you’re going to have to turn the master volume up. It will definitely affect the total outgoing gain. In other words, there are some pretty high compression ratios available on this baby, but no matter where you set it you can always finesse your total volume with ease using that big red-ringed knob!

When Bugera says in their marketing for this amp that the compression is “studio-grade” I believe ‘em. It does the job in a musical, transparent fashion that compliments your playing style rather than eclipsing it. That’s probably because they modeled the compressor to match a legendary pro audio compressor from the 70s – the Teletronix LA-2A!!

Ring any bells?? If you’ve been involved in professional recording at all, you know that piece of gear. It’s processing and tone to die for.

In fact, I’ve been mixing drums for a song of mine all week, and used this exact emulation on the snare, to make it stand at attention in the mix and give it that extra pro “Oomph!” that separates the newbs from the pros.

The Dynamizer – It’s Gonna BLOW!!

Another way that Bugera has brought in recording studio prowess into this amp is by integrating its “Dynamizer” technology. Basically, it’s funnelling off a second, separate parallel signal off of your main bass signal, heavily compressing it, and then adding it back to your main signal right before output.

Sound familiar? This is the famed “New York compression”, or parallel compression, that has made so many albums sound so amazing over the past decades. To this day it’s used to beef up drums and bass signal… sometimes even vocals. Heck, I’m even using it right now on one of my songs that I’m mixing – that’s how ubiquitous it is!

How cool, then, that Bugera has already implemented this processing into the power management system of the amp itself, so that you get the explosive volcano richness of its technique automatically, without having to deal with any extra channels, knobs or processing.

The detail and powerful punch that you hear in this amp is due, in large part, to this integrated, automatic signal processing.

Way to go, Bugera. Keep those advancements coming!!

Those Hot Lava TUBES!

Okay, so… if you’ve read any of my other posts on guitar amps you know that I’m a tube guy. Yes, there’s a place for solid-state amps in the world. Every once in a while even I want to use one.

But most of the time – not. LoL

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to try this amp in the store was the fact that it came loaded, stock, with three 12AX7 preamp tubes. This is what really delivers the goods.

Veyron glowing tubes!

Bringing the highest voltage gain in their class, these twin-triode vacuum tubes are also known for being low noise. The best of both worlds, in other words.

On the Veyron T, the sweepable mid-EQ is also tube-driven. This keeps any Equalization change that you make from sounding too sterile or obvious.

It maintains the warmth and smooth sonic curve of the gain stage signal throughout your entire dynamic range, all while providing exceptional headroom that never trades power for nuance.

There’s a reason why these tubes, first produced in 1947, are still being used by the thousands today for amps and studio gear. You want warm, buttery tone, that can still glisten in the high-end for slap or funk playing?? Or to duck it all down to bottom-end tones that lay a darker foundation with legato lusciousness??!

12AX7 tubes deliver those goods time and again. Just ask any electric guitarist.

But be prepared for them to wax on about it for a while… and on… and on… LoL

A Crater Full of BOOM!!

Okay, let’s just get it right out there: TWO THOUSAND WATTS!!!!

Yes, this amp can pretty much handle anything you throw at it. Now, I know that there are major players rocking it out in huge arenas that will want more than 2000 Watts. I get that.

But I am not one of those. I’ve only played venues that seat a couple thousand, and I’m very happy entertaining those folks, thank you very much.

Maybe one day I’ll need to climb a taller volcano, but for right now… there’s way more power in here than I’ve ever needed.

Volcano and sun

It says a lot that not one time have I ever heard this amp stutter, gasp or get flabby with my tone. I’ve always played it in the context of a full rhythm section, and it’s always held its own with room to spare.

Two thousand watts.

‘Nuff said. 😉

No Rock-melting Looks from the Sound Mixer!

I’ve worked with a lot of sound people in my day, and they’re all very different. But one thing that is usually the case with all of them is that they want control – control of your sound.

That’s understandable, since it’s their job to make sure that the sound hitting the audience is well-balanced, and rich with clarity and color.

A big plus of the Veyron T is that every sound person I’ve worked with really likes it. The reason? I can send them a direct signal through the XLR port on the back that still allows me, and them, to sculpt the tone in many ways.

Veyron T back panel
Veyron Control explanations
Veyron front face

I once sat down for a few hours in the studio and messed with all the direct output switches above the XLR Jack. I couldn’t believe how many shades and nuances of tone I could construct using those switches.

With most amps, you get an output jack and that’s it! No modifiers, no switches. Nada. But with this Bugera amp, I was able to give the sound man exactly what he wanted by adjusting the EQ and changing the switch settings until he said “That’s it!”

And as we all know, if the sound person’s happy, your sound will be happy. 😉

Most of the time, I run the direct output POST-EQ, because I like how I’ve dialed in the sound and the sound person does too.

But there was once when a sound guy wanted the PRE-EQ signal. I acquiesced, ‘cuz onstage I still get to hear my personalized EQ through my cabinet (an Ampeg cab!). Now that’s what I call a win-win!

By the way, here is the “normal” connection method for this amp that I’ve used for all my gigs:

Typical Veyron setup

If you’re in the BIG LEAGUES though, you’ll probably want to hear your bass on both sides of massive stages, so for that, you’ll want this configuration:

This latter setup demands TWO Veyrons instead of one, but, hey… if you need this setup… something tells me you can afford it!! 😉

The Behringer Connection

In researching for this article, I came across so many differing opinions about who makes the Bugera amps, it was making my strings spin.

So let’s set the record straight, shall we? I did what normal human beings used to do a lot more before social media set in – I called and actually talked to someone. A real live human being. Imagine that!  Lol

Leah, who works for “Music Tribe”, a pro audio collective that owns Behringer, amongst several other companies, fielded my call.

She responded professionally and answered all my questions to the nth degree and I couldn’t have received better treatment by a pro audio manufacturer.

You rock, Leah!

Not only did she verify my understanding of the Dynamizer technology that I detailed earlier, she also answered this question:

 “Is there a separate company called ‘Bugera’ that makes these amps??”

Her answer? No; there is not. In fact, there never has been. “Bugera” was the name given to a new line of amps manufactured by Behringer when they designed a new radical line years ago.

I read a couple people online saying that Bugera was a separate company once, but they only made speakers for Behringer. Then one day they merged.

According to Leah, that is incorrect. The speakers in their line are made by “Turbo Sound”, which is yet another company owned, though not created, by Behringer since 2012.

To sum it all up, Leah said that basically everything is manufactured in the same huge, quite cutting-edge factory and warehouse in China and then shipped to us here in the States and other countries abroad.

Now, I’ve been in the music business for decades. I know the bad rap Behringer has had in the past. All I can say is that this Veyron T amp has worked flawlessly for me for three or more years now, both in live and studio settings. 

It’s this type of dependability that we look for in our audio gear. Maybe that’s why Behringer continues to grow as one of the largest manufacturers of music products in the world today.

 If my Bugera Veyron head is the kind of product Behringer creates, then I’ll just put it simply…

Consider me a fan.  🙂

Cause Your Own Eruption!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our look at the Bugera Veyron T today. Since it’s a huge part of my primary bass rig, I’m sure you could sense “the love”.

If you want a big 2000 Watt volcano of sound, with lots of headroom, and the warmth of tone that 12AX7 tubes always bring to the amp equation, all for under $500… you won’t find a better option than the Bugera Veyron T.

Amazon, Musician’s Friend, and Guitar Center all offer “no-questions-asked” return policies, so for more information about this exceptional amp head and to check availability, just CLICK THIS LINK or any of the others above.

But wait! I mentioned a “rare deal” earlier for you. Here it is: for some inexplicable reason, Amazon is (as of TODAY at least) selling this unit for a HUNDRED BUCKS LESS than Musician’s Friend OR Guitar Center! That’s huge!!

I have no idea why, or if it’s a mistake they haven’t caught, or how long it’ll last, but, man… if you want to play this amp like I do, I’d be jumpin’ on Amazon pronto. You don’t often find a hundred bucks off music gear!!

Alright, so… go tear up that bottom end. In the meantime, you know where I’ll be…

Playing through my Veyron!!

Now, go… make… sounds!!


Teaj in the storm fields!

The Rode M5 Review – Call Your Witnesses!!

Prosecutor Doug Jones at the Trial of Bobby Frank Cherry
Prosecutor Doug Jones at the Trial of Bobby Frank Cherry

If your life we’re on the line in an important court case, and you could only choose one kind of testimony for your defense… which of these three would you choose?:

  1. Material testimony
  2. Expert testimony
  3. Eyewitness testimony

If you chose number 3, I’ve got bad news for you – it’s the least reliable of any testimony in a court of law!

As we delve into this RØDE M5 review today, let’s set up the case by stating what we all want out of a mic:

“To be… either in the studio or live on stage… a reliable witness!!

A fellow drummer told me recently that he’d upgraded his drum overheads to the M5matched pair. It got me curious. It started my G.A.S. churning. It made me wonder…

… could they be better than what I already have??

I see you want to know the answer to that question as well, so… let’s rock this!!

The VIDEO Courtroom!

Some mics make better witnesses than others. I’ve found that the only way to prove the mettle of any piece of gear is to test it against other machinery in its field and measure the results. That’s exactly what we did this week with this well-known RØDE mic.

So, if you’re ready to let truth prevail, we’ll show you what we’re talkin’ about instead of just writing about it. Make sure you wear HEADPHONES to really be able to ascertain the differences. In at least a couple cases, they’re subtle.

Here’s the shootout!:

M5 Evidence!

Okay, now let’s look at all the pertinent facts concerning the M5 mic pair, straight from the horse’s mouth at THIS RØDE WEBSITE:

Active Electronics: JFET impedance converter with bipolar output buffer

Capsules: 0.50″, matched

Output: XLR

Polar Pattern: Cardioid

Frequency Range: 20Hz – 20kHz

Output Impedance: 200Ω

Maximum SPL: 140 dB SPL

Maximum Output Level: 13.5mV (@ 1kHz, 1% THD into 1KΩ load)

Dimensions: 100.00mmH x 20.00mmW x 20.00mmD

Weight: 80.00g

Warranty: 1 year with free extension to 10 years following registration here

Today’s Witnesses

Approaching the stand today, concerning the drum track that I laid down this week, are three different mic pairs:

  • The RØDE M5s
  • The Avantone CK-1s
  • The CAD CM217s

Each of these mics is well-known for being used as drum overheads, though they can certainly be used for other instruments as well.

We will be hearing testimony from each of these pairs to ascertain which of them proves to be the most reliable witness to my drum performances here in the studio.

Each mic pair was placed in exactly the same spot, with exactly the same settings dialed up on my interface and software.

The only differences heard are from the mic capsules themselves.

So, in order to prove which is the most trustworthy… this court is now in session!

The Prosecution

For any microphone to stand up to Pro Audio scrutiny, including the M5 and all the other mics tested in this shootout, they must answer to the following accusations:

Honore Daumier "L'argument"
Honore Daumier, “L’argument”

“This mic is not quiet!”

“This mic does not reproduce frequencies faithfully!”

“The dynamic range reflected by this mic is much too thin!”

“Versatility is sorely lacking in this mic!”

“The frequency response of this mic is not germane to the task at hand!!”

If these allegations prove true for any microphone, it could be put away for good.

But every trial calls for caution: marketing hype, online verbosity and fake reviews permeate the Web. You can’t believe everything you read.

The only place where the truth resides is in the testing studio, where fact is separated from fiction, and a microphone’s true colors can be heard.

Of course, their manufacturers love to speak on their behalf… !

The Defense

What formula are theyusing??

Every microphone company is going to send up a litany of specs in its mic’s defense, just as we saw the M5 specifications above, whenever reliability is questioned.

But after being in the music business for decades, and working for years at a pro audio retailer, I’m well aware of how companies can use different measurement protocols to skew their facts, and thus manipulate our interests.

In other words, you may think you’re comparing numbers that mean the same thing, when really they were tested with completely different calculations.

Every list of specs that you read must be taken with a grain of salt. It’s only in using a piece of gear, testing it, and listening to it against comparable pieces of machinery, that a fair judgment can be passed.

As always, if it sounds good, it is good! So let the waveforms speak for themselves.

Exhibit A

For this test, the M5 pair, as well as two other pairs, were set up in an XY configuration behind and above me as I played the drum kit.

M5 mics in XY pattern

Each capsule was 50″ from the center of the snare drum.

Both capsules were exactly 67″ high off the ground.

The capsules were positioned at an exact 90 degree angle from each other.

The XLR cables were run into my Tascam 16×08 audio interface.

Tascam 16x08

The signal was then run into my computer and recorded via Pro Tools Ultimate.

Pro Tools M5 mic shootout

As you can see on the ten drum channels, no compression or effects of any kind were used in the recording. . What you hear in the video above are bare microphone signals with no extra processing.

The stand, cables, interface, software settings and faders were kept completely the same for each pair of mics.

The one thing I DID have to adjust was the gain for the M5 AND the CM217 mics. Both of them were significantly lower in gain than the CK-1 mics.

Notice, in the picture below, how the black line, indicating gain, is raised on the M5 (the middle waveform) and the CM217 (the waveform to the right).
I did this so that all mics pairs would sound equal in volume when listening, eliminating any unfair advantage the Avantones would have because of its stronger signal reproduction.

What this reveals immediately is that the CK-1 has a much more robust gain structure internally than the other mics, providing us with more strength of signal right off the bat.

Closing Arguments

Let me state, before closing the book on this case, that I am not endorsed by any microphone company, nor do I have any axe to grind with any of the manufacturers involved in this shootout.

You read our blog here; you know us. We’re simply performing musicians, recording in the studio, who always want the best bang for our buck when we buy music gear. Just like you.

Musicians work hard – give us the BEST price!!

Every effort was made to present the mic signals fairly, with no preferential treatment for any.

I also don’t care what the price tag says. There are plenty of other articles on our site here that prove you can’t judge a piece of gear by how much it costs.

Take THIS GUITAR POST, for example!

For me at least, my inner “jury” didn’t have to deliberate for long after hearing the recordings. It was pretty clear.

But before the gavel comes down, really listen to those recordings with headphones and make your own determination. Which did you think was the most reliable witness?

If you’ve passed your judgment, I’ll pass mine… !

The Verdict!

All three mics in today’s shootout are good overhead drum mics. None of them sounded “bad”.

Each of them was excellent at handling the high SPLs that the drum kit put out.

There were subtle differences in frequency response for sure in these three mics. As usual for studio work, knowing where those peaks and dips are will allow you to choose the right mic for the right instrument.

It always comes down to the same thing, doesn’t it? Know your gear.

The RØDE M5 mics does approach the bench with some clear advantages for drum overheads: the biggest plus, over the CK-1 and the CM217, is that the M5 mics are a matched pair.

This is always preferential when recording a stereo image. I did find them to sound identical so it’s not just hype. If this is a crucial need for you, the M5s will do the job and do it well.

I mean, come on… a TEN-YEAR Warranty?!! Now that’s a company that stands behind their products!

No switches like these on the M5.

On the negative side though, the polar pattern of the M5 cannot be changed. It’s Cardioid and forever shall it stay. The CK-1 provides three patterns, by contrast.

The M5 also doesn’t have a pad switch to decrease the dB sensitivity at all. Both of the other mic pairs have this.

Finally, there’s also no high-pass filter on the M5. The CAD mic (shown at right) AND the Avantone both do have this as well. Right outta the gate then, those issues are not in the M5’s favor.

But they DO work well as overheads, and price-wise, they are not the most expensive, so you’ll save some money, especially compared to those mics of global esteem, the Neumann KM184 – the holy grail of overhead mics, some say. Those’ll put ya back $1,500, dude!!!

CM217 mics

The CAD CM217s, which I used when recording my first album, sounded familiar and capable as always. They did, however, have a bump up in the mid-range that was fairly pronounced by comparison.

That can be just the ticket for certain instruments, so I’m definitely going to remember that for future recordings. Acoustic guitar, for example, especially when it’s strummed.

Because these have the dB cut switch AND a high-pass filter switch, unlike the M5s, I would probably tend to use these mics over the RØDE option, honestly. They just give me more flexibility of processing during a session.

Oh, and probably the best part of all about these mics… they’re UNDER $100 for TWO!! Big shout out to the CAD company for helping all us musicians save a ton of CASH!!

But here’s where it gets real: I haven’t used them for drum overheads for quite a while now. Why?? Well… I simply found a pair that sound, oh… waaaaay better.

So it’s confession time; I can’t hold it in any longer…

CK-1 mics
THREE capsules!!

To me, the clear winner, by far, were the Avantone CK-1s!

When I first listened to the recordings, I was truly surprised at the big difference between the Avantones and the other mic pairs. It was not subtle!

The CK-s sounded so much more rich, full and just… alive!!! They made my kit sound amazing… and I hadn’t even put new heads on! Lol

One reason for that must be the larger capsule in the CK-1. There was so much more bottom-end and low-mids, that was obvious.

Add to that that the CK-1 comes with THREE capsules (Cardioid, Hyper-cardioid and Omni), and it’s really a no-brainer.

Exhibit B

Yea, yea, I know… I just read the verdict… what am I doing bringing in another exhibit??!

Well, I couldn’t help it… I thought of one more test to do that might give the M5 another chance to come out on top…

See, most of the time during mixing I set an pretty extreme high-pass filter on the overheads, which essentially cuts out all that low-end richness that I heard in the CK-1s, and instead let’s me EQ the cymbals just right.

So I thought, “Let’s do to all three mics what I would normally do during mixdown, and THEN see which one I think sounds best.”

The picture below shows how I used my favorite EQ plugin, FabFilter Q3, to apply a low-cut filter at 634 Hz. This is actually lower than I usually set it, but I didn’t want to go too extreme for sake of clarity.

After this, I put the overhead faders AND the close-mic faders all up, as I would in a mix, and then played them in the same order as the video above: first the CK-s, then the M5s, then the CM217s.

Here’s what I heard:

What did you think??? I thought, once again, it was no contest: the Avantones made it sound like I was more “there“, next to a real player on a real kit… even with all those lows cut. More depth; more width. More…. amazing!!

Taking back the M5s
Bagged & ready for return.

So, with that preponderance of audio evidence, I hereby pass my judgment…

… I’m taking the m5s back. Lol

To my ears, they just don’t reproduce sound as faithfully and as impressively as the CK-1s. And when it comes time to mix my drums in my songs… I want to sound AWESOME, baby. The CK-1s? They take me there!!

The Avantones are not made in a matched pair. But I don’t care. They chocolate-y loveliness coats my caramel grooves with lusciousness like no other overheads thus far and I don’t hear any discrepancies come mix time.

They’re just that good, people.

“All rise.” 😉

Court is Now Adjourned

To Kill A Mockingbird pic
Gregory Peck in “To Kill A Mockingbird”

What a case, eh?! The “To Kill A Mockingbird” court trial wasn’t such a nail-biter!! 😉

I hope you enjoyed and learned something from this review and shootout. I know I always do. These kind of tests are really the only way to cut through the bull#$%@ and find what truly lives up to the reputation of “pro audio”.

And because we often save money in the process… you better believe we’ll be doing a lot more of ’em!!

What did you think?? Did any of the three surprise you?? Any appeal you want to make on behalf of the losers?? Making any changes now to your own mic cabinet based on this case’s outcome?!

Leave us a Comment and let us know. We’re all just looking for the best sound possible, right? Your input helps. ,-)

Now all I have to do is finish my article on the six big DRUM OVERHEAD CONFIGURATIONS and we’ll really be in the know!!

But until that one hits (with a Vic Firth stick!!), go… make… sounds!!


Teaj in the storm fields!