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Old 01-21-2022, 01:48 PM
aschroeder aschroeder is offline
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Default Advice on acoustic modeling DI- Aura, Tonedexter, Voiceprint, Tonedexter, NU-X Optima

I have an old D-Tar Mama Bear I've used for the past 15+ years to add warmth to the piezo pickup of my guitars. It finally died on me this week.

I'm looking at the latest advancements in acoustic modeling DIs and I see there is a ton of information on this forum.

In my initial search I've found:
- Fishman Aura Spectrum
- Audio Sprockets Tonedexter
- LR Baggs Soundscape
- NU-X Optima Air

I sing/play solo acoustic gigs through a Bose L1 Compact PA. I recently purchased a Taylor 816ce Builder's Edition with the ES2 pickup system that sounds good straight into my PA with some EQ adjustments. But I can't stand the dry sound of a piezo pickup without some warmth added back in. I used to do it with the Mama Bear.

Any advice on which of the above would work best for me? The Aura has been around the longest but doesn't allow you to record your own guitar voice. The Tonedexter, Soundscape, and Optima Air all allow you to record your guitar voice.

The problem is I have no way to demo these units and was curious about first hand experience with these. Cost isn't really an issue, I just want to get the unit that will get me the closest to a mic'd guitar sound.

My current setup (minus the Mama Bear) is fairly simple:
- Sonic Research Turbo Tuner
- Presonus EQ
- TC Helicon Play Acoustic (I use for voice effects, looping and vocal harmonies)
- Bose L1 Compact PA
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Old 01-21-2022, 02:08 PM
aschroeder aschroeder is offline
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I wanted to add that I do have a Studio Projects B1 (Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphone) that I could use for recording on the Tonedexter or Optima Air. I also have a Sure SM58 that I use for lice vocals.
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Old 01-21-2022, 02:37 PM
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It's a rabbit hole, but can be a fun one! I happen to have a Tonedexter.

First of all, you may get more reactions if this gets moved to the Acoustic Amplification section.

Second, AGF'er Aaron Short (AeroUSA) recently did a shootout with those, on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Df_7sMHASm4

Two random notes: I also have the Fishman Aura Spectrum DI, which as you may know has a set library of images for specific guitars (IIRC you can download additional pre-sets from Fishman, been awhile). Some people whose guitars don't exactly match any in the library have still found sounds they're happy with, but I wasn't one of them, hence my Tonedexter.

Secondly, your mics are most likely fine for the Tonedexter. I say most likely because life is full of surprises, but some users have reported excellent results even from modest dynamic mics, with the Tonedexter. I think one happy user used an SM-57, which is identical to the SM-58, absent the windscreen. I set up my Tonedexter (for my Fishman Sonitone-equipped Martin) with a Rode NT1-A, which is a bit more expensive than yours but I don't think it'll matter.
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Old 01-21-2022, 03:23 PM
aschroeder aschroeder is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscom View Post
AGF'er Aaron Short (AeroUSA) recently did a shootout with those, on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Df_7sMHASm4
Thank you for sharing a link to the shootout. That is exactly what I was looking for. To my ear the winner was the NU-X Optima Air. I was really surprised expecting to like the Tonedexter or Soundscape better. All of the IR's lacked high end, which is a common problem with these pedals. I had the same issue with the Mama Bear.

I'll be curious to hear what others have to say.
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Old 01-21-2022, 03:30 PM
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And I'll add *my* second post

The quality of the sound generated from the Tonedexter can vary siginificantly depending on positioning of the mic, so a little experimentation is called for. I don't mean it'll sound like crazy different guitars, but differences in boominess etc. The sound I'm currently using isn't really "my guitar but louder," but rather a very pleasant, non-quacky sound that's clearly an electrified version of an acoustic guitar, if that makes sense. I just haven't had the time to get more air in there.

I think I recall it was recently stated in an IR discussion, probably specifically for the Tonedexter, that the most dramatic improvements would come from the least satisfying pickups. For example, I have a Martin with a VT Aura Enhance, an excellent Fishman pickup that includes a custom image for the Martin GPC-28E it's attached to. I have no need to try the Tonedexter on that apart from curiosity, maybe I will someday. In constrast, my Martin gig guitars have the inferior Fishman Sonitone, and the Tonedexter makes a dramatic, positive improvement.
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Old 01-21-2022, 03:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aschroeder View Post
To my ear the winner was the NU-X Optima Air. I was really surprised expecting to like the Tonedexter or Soundscape better.
You're not the only one with that reaction!
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Old 01-21-2022, 06:42 PM
EZYPIKINS EZYPIKINS is offline
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I bought the Aura Spectrum. I like the Aura Pro in my Gibson J-185ec. I thought the Spectrum might make a beater sound better.

Turns out I didn't care for it as much as the pickup. So, now I have 3 guitars with Aura technology.

One with Aura Pro, one with Aura F1, and one with Aura VT Blend

Love em all.
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Old 01-22-2022, 07:41 AM
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Check my website http://acousticir.free.fr/ if you want to learn more about these pedals technology.
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Old 01-22-2022, 08:09 AM
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If I want to plug-n-play, I use the Aura. If I want to tinker and tweak, I use the Dexter. (Once stored, it also is plug-n-play)

One word of advice: since tone is so subjective, I ignore the body-shape settings and library descriptions of the Aura, and searched them all for one that works. After gaining practical knowledge of how images are made (mic type and placement in particular) from doing it hundreds of times with the Dexter, I find assigning labels almost futile. You just have to do it and let your ear make the choice.
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Old 01-22-2022, 09:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dnf777 View Post
One word of advice: since tone is so subjective, I ignore the body-shape settings and library descriptions of the Aura, and searched them all for one that works. After gaining practical knowledge of how images are made (mic type and placement in particular) from doing it hundreds of times with the Dexter, I find assigning labels almost futile. You just have to do it and let your ear make the choice.
That's an interesting observation. I might give my Aura DI another whirl when I have time. It's a lovely pedal.
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Old 01-23-2022, 03:12 PM
aschroeder aschroeder is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cuki79 View Post
Check my website http://acousticir.free.fr/ if you want to learn more about these pedals technology.
Thank you Cuki for your extensive contributions on this forum and the AcousticIR website.

I've decided to purchase a NUX Optima Air because it sounds great in the videos I've watched and allows me load my own 3rd party IRs. I plan to test out several of the Taylor ES2 IR files found on the AcousticIR website. I will also experiment with recording my own IR directly into the Optima Air and with the Cuki IR generator software. I have a dynamic microphone and a large diaphragm condenser microphone I can try out for my recordings.

My Optima Air pedal won't arrive until later this week. I'll post my results after I've had time to experiment with the IR options and a full review of the Optima Air.
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Last edited by aschroeder; 01-23-2022 at 03:19 PM.
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  #12  
Old 01-24-2022, 09:48 AM
lkingston lkingston is online now
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Default Advice on acoustic modeling DI- Aura, Tonedexter, Voiceprint, Tonedexter, NU-X Optima

The following is just my own personal opinion:

After much experimentation with IRs, I find that I prefer the sound of a mic blend pickup system. It’s strange because, on initial listens, I often prefer a modeled mic to a real one, especially the type that are typically built into blend pickup systems (like the LR Baggs Lyric), but as I play for any period of time, there is something about the way a real mic responds and breathes, that I prefer.

Probably the simplest way to get a really great guitar sound live is just to use two channels on a mixer and blend in a mic in front of the guitar with whatever pickup is built into the guitar. A Shure SM 57 or Beta 57 is perfect for this, though almost any directional mic sounds great. The blend is usually something like 60/40 pickup to mic, but on a soft gig, you can tilt the blend towards the mic. For live playing, I actually prefer that sound to anything else I have heard, including a blend system or a mic by itself in front of the guitar.

A close second is a mic blend pickup system, which I now have on all my acoustic guitars. It doesn’t sound quite as good as a mic on a stand mixed in with the pickup, but it is close, and way more convenient.

Third is a modeled mic blended in a bit. I have heard this done a couple of ways nicely, but I think a nice IR loaded into a Helix is my favorite. I’d still rather have a real mic though.
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Old 01-24-2022, 10:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscom View Post
…AGF'er Aaron Short (AeroUSA) recently did a shootout with those, on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Df_7sMHASm4
Hi Chriscom & others…
I find the video interesting, but very incomplete.

Aaron mentions just plugging in and playing without adjustments. Who would do that? It would have at least been helpful if he had included a picture of the tone settings of each unit with each sample.

He also used only an under saddle piezo, as opposed to SBT, mag pickup etc to record samples. So what we have is a short, and limited experiment, not research. Experiments are cool, but they are just that…experiments.

Minor disagreement…only concerning ToneDexter
I also disagree that mics make little difference with ToneDexter. In the case of mine…which I've been using it for just over 2 years…the IRs (WaveMaps) I pulled with my Shure KSM44 ($1000 1" diaphragm…cardioid setting) and AGK 414 are significantly better and quite different from the SM-57, 58 & other non-condenser mics.

I hear people mention Molly Tuttle's using an SM-57 to record her ToneDexter voices. She mentions it's the mic she's used for over a decade live, and the sound she is used to. And when she plays it live, it sounds like an SM-57 being played through a PA (with more headroom before feedback). On one of her sponsored videos for ToneDexter she pulled the WaveMaps during the video on an SM-81 condenser mic.

My biggest concern with videos like Aaron's is people listening to a single experimental take like this without realizing the narrowness of it, and then making a purchase believing it will transform their live sound with little or no work (and these units are not inexpensive).

Trying not to be a negative-Nelly here.

Hope this adds to the discussion…





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Old 01-24-2022, 11:13 AM
Petty1818 Petty1818 is offline
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If you are used to the Mama Bear than the next best choice IMO would be the Aura Spectrum DI. It's still the only IR type pedal that I can truly say is "plug and play." All the others, NUX, TD, Voiceprint etc., will take time & experimentation. I just have not been able to make them work live and if I do use them, I find I have to turn the blend way down.

On paper, IR's are fantastic, but I think we see a lot of members on here giving up on them. Molly Tuttle was mentioned in the post above. It looks like she has even gone back to a K&K dual source system with the pure mini and their soundhole pickup.
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Old 01-24-2022, 11:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Petty1818 View Post
…Molly Tuttle was mentioned in the post above. It looks like she has even gone back to a K&K dual source system with the pure mini and their soundhole pickup.
Hi Petty
I've seen a lot of 'recent' videos of Molly and she has been seen playing multiple guitars, different pickups (including a mag in one video) through various systems.

I appreciate that to her, they seem invisible.

She just plays and sings, and it's the responsibility of the stage crew to make it heard.

I'm guessing when traveling like these folks do the sound crew is in charge of what they use (mics, pickups, combo, and processors).

Many of the professional musicians are not restrained by cost, and have several 'rigs' which they can adapt to the settings.

Look at Billy Strings - his pedals, pickups, mics etc are always evolving. He's really been experimenting the past couple years. He does 'shows', not just concerts. And he & his band can be pretty experimental during his shows.




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