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Anthem v iBeam, and dialling in an iMix

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  • Anthem v iBeam, and dialling in an iMix

    Hi all. Long-time Baggs owner but a forum newbie here, with a whole host of questions. They all fall roughly into the category of choosing between pickups, and maximising their potential, so I hope that putting into the same thread is acceptable. That said, I’ve split them into three groups in the hope that makes things easier to follow.

    Part 1 – choice of pickup

    The underlying situation is that I have a Goodall concert jumbo that came with a factory-installed iMix preamp blending the sound from an iBeam and an Element. I tested this at the time, thought it sounded great, and then went back to playing the guitar acoustically.

    But I’m about to start recording the Goodall, and have started to wonder if perhaps I should move to an Anthem or an Anthem SL. The decision I’ve tentatively come to is that I should, at least in part because that will allow me to move the iMix system to a very nice old Sigma DR28, which currently has an Ashworth under-saddle piezo that was installed in 1984, and is clearly nothing like as good as the iMix. (For what it’s worth, the Sigma is much more likely to be played live, but my primary concern is with getting the best possible recordings from the Goodall, though I realise that in the long run that’s probably going to mean investing in some new microphones. More on that in a moment.)

    Given that Goodall have switched to using K&K pickups I’ve also wondered about following suit, but at the moment my preference is still with Baggs, even though I can see some advantages in a purely passive K&K setup.

    Any thoughts and advice appreciated.

  • #2
    Part 2 – maximising the iMix/iBeam/Element combo

    Some rather more specific questions…

    I’m hoping for some advice and tips on how best to dial in the iMix system, since I need to finalise settings for the Goodall and then will most likely have to do it all again for the Sigma in the not-too-distant future. I’ve seen a handful of posts where Caleb mentions that dialling in an iMix isn’t the easiest process, so I’m wondering if there are any particular techniques that people have developed.

    So far, following the manual, my first step has been to balance the iBeam and the Element with the gain control, and then to start recording into Logic Pro, making small changes to the various other settings, working my way from iBeam to Element, and then comparing a batch of recordings to work out what I prefer. When I’ve had something satisfactory, a final step has been to increase the gain on the iBeam slightly, since my preference is certainly for that over the Element – having the iBeam slightly louder seems to offer a more useful range of sounds, overall, even if it’s not as broad as it might otherwise be.

    That said, doing all of this is a fairly time-consuming process, and I’m not quite sure that I’m all the way there yet. There are a few particular issues that I’m struggling with. The first is getting back to the sounds that I like, since the controls are so small and there aren’t really any markings to help out. But there’s also the question of the changes I make interacting with each other. Of particular concern here is the phase switch. It clearly has an effect, but which position I prefer seems to vary with the other settings, and that makes the whole process even more difficult.

    What’s worked best for you? Have you found a better approach than mine? Can you recommend any short cuts on the process I’m using?

    Has anyone experimented with using the stereo output from the iMix? Would it help with any of the above at all?

    Comment


    • #3
      Part 3 – mid/side recording

      Slightly further ahead, one of the things I’m considering is mid-side recording with one of the Baggs pickups as the mid, since my only current mic that’s of any use with acoustic guitars is a multi-pattern LDC. Future budgets and mic upgrades allowing, that might only be for scratch tracks, while I’m working on everything else in the arrangement, with a fully miked-up recording to follow if the mix demands it. In the meantime, it seems to me that a Baggs mid should generate reasonable results. Has anyone had any experience of following this approach? Can you share any tips?

      Obviously I’m aware that the mid-side approach normally demands that the mics be as close together as possible, but I’m assuming that I’ll be able to correct for the mis-alignments I’ll inevitably have by shuffling the audio backwards and forwards in Logic.

      If you’ve got this far, thanks for reading!

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by BlueThird View Post
        Hi all. Long-time Baggs owner but a forum newbie here, with a whole host of questions. They all fall roughly into the category of choosing between pickups, and maximising their potential, so I hope that putting into the same thread is acceptable. That said, I’ve split them into three groups in the hope that makes things easier to follow.

        Part 1 – choice of pickup

        The underlying situation is that I have a Goodall concert jumbo that came with a factory-installed iMix preamp blending the sound from an iBeam and an Element. I tested this at the time, thought it sounded great, and then went back to playing the guitar acoustically.

        But I’m about to start recording the Goodall, and have started to wonder if perhaps I should move to an Anthem or an Anthem SL. The decision I’ve tentatively come to is that I should, at least in part because that will allow me to move the iMix system to a very nice old Sigma DR28, which currently has an Ashworth under-saddle piezo that was installed in 1984, and is clearly nothing like as good as the iMix. (For what it’s worth, the Sigma is much more likely to be played live, but my primary concern is with getting the best possible recordings from the Goodall, though I realise that in the long run that’s probably going to mean investing in some new microphones. More on that in a moment.)

        Given that Goodall have switched to using K&K pickups I’ve also wondered about following suit, but at the moment my preference is still with Baggs, even though I can see some advantages in a purely passive K&K setup.

        Any thoughts and advice appreciated.
        Personally, I prefer the Anthem series of pickups over any other LR Baggs systems, both for recording and live performance. The mic in the Anthem is just so much more natural sounding than the iBeam in my opinion. It is a mic after all.

        The iMix has its benefits, especially for people who like to use stereo setups so they can fine-tune every aspect of their sound. The more minimal approach of the Anthem is just a better fit for me.

        The K&K pickups can also be made to sound really good, but the top-end treble response is still a little "pickupy" to me. I just haven't played a single source pickup that has had the realistic and natural texture that a mic gives you. I think that's why the Anthem is as popular as it is. It's the best of both worlds with the pickup and mic.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by BlueThird View Post
          Part 2 – maximising the iMix/iBeam/Element combo

          Some rather more specific questions…

          I’m hoping for some advice and tips on how best to dial in the iMix system, since I need to finalise settings for the Goodall and then will most likely have to do it all again for the Sigma in the not-too-distant future. I’ve seen a handful of posts where Caleb mentions that dialling in an iMix isn’t the easiest process, so I’m wondering if there are any particular techniques that people have developed.

          So far, following the manual, my first step has been to balance the iBeam and the Element with the gain control, and then to start recording into Logic Pro, making small changes to the various other settings, working my way from iBeam to Element, and then comparing a batch of recordings to work out what I prefer. When I’ve had something satisfactory, a final step has been to increase the gain on the iBeam slightly, since my preference is certainly for that over the Element – having the iBeam slightly louder seems to offer a more useful range of sounds, overall, even if it’s not as broad as it might otherwise be.

          That said, doing all of this is a fairly time-consuming process, and I’m not quite sure that I’m all the way there yet. There are a few particular issues that I’m struggling with. The first is getting back to the sounds that I like, since the controls are so small and there aren’t really any markings to help out. But there’s also the question of the changes I make interacting with each other. Of particular concern here is the phase switch. It clearly has an effect, but which position I prefer seems to vary with the other settings, and that makes the whole process even more difficult.

          What’s worked best for you? Have you found a better approach than mine? Can you recommend any short cuts on the process I’m using?

          Has anyone experimented with using the stereo output from the iMix? Would it help with any of the above at all?
          Dialing in the iMix is difficult for a few reasons. Accessing the small controls is a significant one.

          I've never liked complicated setups, so I've never run stereo from my guitars. Being able to EQ the Element and iBeam on their own is a big benefit though if you have the setup for it. When you're really dialing in the controls on the iMix, I find that I have to set it up for either a good blended sound or a good iBeam or Element sound. It's hard to get the pickups sounding good on their own and still getting a really nice blend sound in the middle.

          I usually shoot to remove some mids from the Element pickup and leave the mids a little stronger in the iBeam. This tends to make for a decent blended sound. The phase switch should be set so that you get an even volume when you're blending back and forth between the two pickups. If you get a volume drop in the middle of the blend, your pickups are probably out of phase.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by BlueThird View Post
            Part 3 – mid/side recording

            Slightly further ahead, one of the things I’m considering is mid-side recording with one of the Baggs pickups as the mid, since my only current mic that’s of any use with acoustic guitars is a multi-pattern LDC. Future budgets and mic upgrades allowing, that might only be for scratch tracks, while I’m working on everything else in the arrangement, with a fully miked-up recording to follow if the mix demands it. In the meantime, it seems to me that a Baggs mid should generate reasonable results. Has anyone had any experience of following this approach? Can you share any tips?

            Obviously I’m aware that the mid-side approach normally demands that the mics be as close together as possible, but I’m assuming that I’ll be able to correct for the mis-alignments I’ll inevitably have by shuffling the audio backwards and forwards in Logic.

            If you’ve got this far, thanks for reading!
            I've done a good deal of recording with my acoustics, both for LR Baggs and at home. If I use an external mic and pickup at the same time, it's usually for an A/B demo, so I'm not necessarily trying to get a complementary sound from each. There are just so many combinations of mic placements that you can do, it just really comes down to the sound you're looking for.

            I'm starting a new personal project soon and I'm looking forward to experimenting with my Anthem SL, external mics, and my Voiceprint DI. I started recording some scratch tracks with the Voiceprint DI and I've been really impressed with how the tracks are sounding already. I think I'll still use an external mic for the final tracks, just to get the added depth in my mix.

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks for all of that. There's a fair bit to think about still, and I might well come back with follow up questions, but I'm rather pleased that there's nothing there to make me think I need a completely different set of plans to the ones I'd already envisaged!

              The issue of the phase switch is one that I have an immediate question on, however, though it's probably theoretical rather than practical.

              It's always seemed to me that a phase button is great when the signals are close to 180 degrees out, but is perhaps only going to confuse things if they're 90 degrees out. I suspect that's the case with my setup, and explains why I prefer different phase switch positions according to the other settings. It possibly also explains why you've found that you need to set the iMix either for the blend, or for one of the pickups.

              With the stereo output from the iMix I can think of probably unfeasible and almost certainly expensive ways to improve things with live sound when the signal is closer to 90 degrees out, but can't think of any easy ones. Do you know of any?

              Comment


              • #8
                Thinking some more about the Anthem and the SL…

                One of the things that I've always really liked about the iMix system – especially given how beautiful the Goodall is – is the fact that the iMix controls are effectively invisible.

                Though the Anthem controls are clearly an enormous improvement on side-mounted preamps, which I'd never consider for any of my guitars, they're still visible. Is there any way to recess them slightly? I can't imagine that working for the Anthem, but it looks as it might just about be possible with the SL.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by BlueThird View Post

                  With the stereo output from the iMix I can think of probably unfeasible and almost certainly expensive ways to improve things with live sound when the signal is closer to 90 degrees out, but can't think of any easy ones. Do you know of any?
                  Changing the pickup placement is really the only other way to shift the phase relationship on the guitar. If you have the Element for the undersaddle pickup, turning that upside down will reverse its phase as well.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by BlueThird View Post
                    Thinking some more about the Anthem and the SL…

                    One of the things that I've always really liked about the iMix system – especially given how beautiful the Goodall is – is the fact that the iMix controls are effectively invisible.

                    Though the Anthem controls are clearly an enormous improvement on side-mounted preamps, which I'd never consider for any of my guitars, they're still visible. Is there any way to recess them slightly? I can't imagine that working for the Anthem, but it looks as it might just about be possible with the SL.
                    The controls can usually be recessed by adding shims or additional layers of adhesives to the preamp/controls. The downside of this is that you will not be able to see the battery check LEDs.

                    As you said, it's much easier to recess the SL controls.

                    Comment

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