Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Yamaha SPX50D - reverse reverb, My Bloody Valentine and general audio messing.

The SPX50D is a guitar orientated version of the SPX90. 

It has most of the things people love about the SPX90 (reverse, early reflections, the symphonic chorus) and the things they don't like (it's not particularly quiet, the bypass is rubbish, there is a bit of a volume drop, and most folk hate the distortion although I say that some of the distortion is actually quite usable). SPX50D's tend to go for not much money at all and are a good starting point if you're new to rack effects as it is really simple to use. Go and find the manual online and come back here. 

 The first step is get the SPX50D set up. It's been written on a few forums how the SPX was set up and this seems to be the accepted start point: 

PROGRAM = Reverse Gate (it's #15 on the SPX50D) 
DELAY=75.0 ms 
LPF=through BALANCE=100% 

I'm not convinced this is right. With the tests I made with a Midverb II last year alongside the Magicstomp, Cathedral and SMMH reverse reverb demos I've already posted up and my own experiments with plugins, the most-MBV sounds have come from a straight 50-50 balance (ie. a 50% wet mix). 100% wet is fine if you're getting busy with the Bloom reverbs on a Midiverb but it doesn't sound right to go 100% wet with the Reverse Gate. 

The second issue is the 75ms delay time. It's a pre-delay time so it's the time between the initial sound of the instrument and the reverb coming through. The problem is that the above settings are using a 100% wet mix. That means there is no dry signal coming through, making pre-delay a complete waste of time. 

Liveness means the rate at which the reflections fade. Lower values mean they fade more quickly, higher values keep them there longer. With the Liveness at 0 on a 100% wet mix, you get no sound. 

I'll playing a simple D-G-B minor-A sequence for each demo. 

1. Liveness at 7, delay at 75.0 ms, balance at 100%. 
2. Liveness at 7, delay at 75.0 ms, balance at 50%. 
3. Liveness at 10, delay at 0.0 ms, balance at 70%. 

I'll explain my changes for number 3 here. I want a bit more liveness, a bit more treble in the reverb. I want the reverb coming through as soon as possible, hence the lack of pre-delay. I upped the balance a bit because there is a volume drop in the unit when you go from bypass mode to engaged mode so I want the reverb bumped up a little bit. At 50% mix I think it's a bit low compared to the dry sound.

"Enough of this clean stuff!". I hear you say. "We're shoegazers, we want distortion!". Very well. 

In each case I shall play an MJM London Fuzz Mk 1 (silicon fuzz pedal), then a RAT2 with LM308 chip and then both together. 

4. Liveness at 7, delay at 75.0 ms, balance at 100%. 
5. Liveness at 7, delay at 75.0 ms, balance at 50%. 
6. Liveness at 10, delay at 0.0 ms, balance at 70%.

That fifth audio clip shows what I was getting at with the balance at 50%. The reverb just doesn't come through well enough, too much of a volume drop, so the sixth demo demonstrates why I put the balance to 70% and turned the liveness up to 10. 

For the final demos, I am adding some pitch modulation in my DAW using MVibrato by Melda Productions. As I don't have a Jaguar or Jazzmaster and play a hardtail modded Epi Dot with no Bigsby, I have no bars to poke and prod so MVibrato is there at the end of the recording chain to get some of that MBV swooping and diving sensation. All distortion supplied by the RAT2 only (distortion at max, filter at midday).  

7. Liveness at 7, delay at 75.0 ms, balance at 100%. 
8. Liveness at 7, delay at 75.0 ms, balance at 50%. 
9. Liveness at 10, delay at 0.0 ms, balance at 70%.

The MBV sound isn't one piece of gear. It's the whole thing: the guitars, the effects, the production, the people playing them. There's no magical setting on the SPX50D that taps you straight into To Here Knows When. None of the audio I've recorded for this demo has had any additional processing such as compression or equalization (compression and EQ is a big part of the MBV recorded album sound in my opinion). 

Now that I've played the SPX90 and 50D and had experience of Quadraverbs and Midiverb II's, I think the Midiverb II is the best of the MBV rack units. The combination of decent early reflections programs and the immortal Bloom program gives it the win. It is noisy as the older units tend to be but it's got that elusive 'something' quality to it in the same way a big box Deluxe Memory Man does. 

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