Zoom and enhance.

David Eden WT550

It was a few years ago now that I had stepped into the local Long & McQuade and discovered Eden Electronics, in particular the WT550 amplifier. It was the aesthetics that first drew me in with its bright golden chassis and the array of red and blue knobs. It wasn’t until I plugged it in, however, that I realized the looks weren’t the only thing that was interesting about it.

First of all, any amp that can pump out 500 watts and still maintain a manageable form factor and weight is nothing to shake a stick at. Secondly, any amp that offers this in addition to an intuitive array of powerful features is definitely deserving of some recognition. The WT550 features a hybrid amplification system – meaning that it combines a tube-driven preamp with a solid-state power amp section. The result is an incredibly warm tone courtesy of the 12ax7 preamp tube with the comparatively light weight, high output, and reliability typical of solid-state power sections. This system pumps out a massive 500 watts at 4ohms with support down to 2ohms at which point this thing is kicking you in the chest with a full 750 watts.

The front of the amp sports a variety of knobs to control the many features available on-board. The push-pull input gain knob offers a select-able input sensitivity for use with both active and passive basses. The toggle-able compressor, though lacking a tool-set beyond ‘on’ and ‘off,’  is quite transparent but makes a world of difference for dynamic control – especially for those slap-happy bassists out there, you know who you are. This feature is coupled with the Eden-exclusive ‘Enhance’ knob which is essentially a fancy sounding mid-scoop. Throwing some ‘enhancement’ on your signal is very useful for quickly establishing a great tone when used in moderation; it’s really easy for your bass to fall off the face of the earth in terms of the mix if you abuse this feature. After all, those mid-tones are the real heroes when it comes to cutting through a mix in a band setting. The next, and arguably the most prominent aspect of the tone controls is the semi-parametric equalizer. I’ll admit that when I first went to try out this amp, I was quick to make some substantial adjustments before even powering it on. This mistake was made apparent the second I started playing. The EQ controls are immensely sensitive; a couple of notches on the boost or cut is all that it takes to achieve some hefty tone shaping. After having some time with the amp, I’ve found myself just dialing in the Enhance to about 8-oclock and keeping the EQ flat – only in difficult rooms do I find that I need to tweak the EQ.

Knobs, and knobs, and knobs....

Eden WT550 front panel

As far as clean tone is concerned, this amp is the gold (pun intended) standard. The preamp does a fantastic job in delivering the warmth with deep harmonic overtones and mid-range clarity. It even manages to clean up some of that ‘Warwick Growl’ that I mentioned in one of my previous posts. this is where I start to find limitations with this amp. To me, it lacks the ability to get some real grit going on; driving hard on the preamp doesn’t seem to garner the same over-driven tone that I’ve found with many other amps. Mind you, this can easily be solved by throwing a pedal or two into the fx loop, but it would have been nice to have the option of a more aggressive tone right out of the box. Fortunately, for what I need, a kick-ass clean tone is enough to keep me coming back to this amp.

Some things I would have liked to see on this amp would be a more comprehensive compression section. ‘Off’ and ‘On’ just isn’t enough to make for a truly effective compressor. An FX blend knob would also be a very welcome feature to really take control of the tone when it comes to adding in effects. The EQ controls could also stand to be a bit less sensitive too; ss I mentioned before, any substantial adjustments lead to a fairly non-musical sounding tone. Not to mention these adjustments can lead to EQ and output clipping faster than you can say “parametric equalizer.” Despite these shortfalls, the Eden WT550 is definitely one of the most beautifully clean sounding amps I’ve ever experienced.

Unfortunately, 500 watts of power isn’t quite enough for me on some occasions; I’ve had outdoor events with no room for a bass DI in the mixer leaving me to provide the FOH volume from my amp alone. In these situations, this amp just doesn’t quite cut it unless I haul in some major speaker cabinets for that extra speaker area. I’ve been eyeing the 550s older brother, the WT800 quite pensively as an option to ramp up the output while still maintaining the amazing tone, but I’m not about to find one for free any time soon so that’s out of the cards for now.

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Fees for international musicians

Simply put, the new legislation (as of July 31st) on fees for foreign workers is a critical blow to our country’s music venues. If you haven’t yet heard the news, the Canadian federal government, under the banner of ‘Employment and Social Development Canada’ have introduced exorbitant new fees on foreign workers (eg: Musicians). Under this new legislation, clubs and small venues must now pay an additional $275 per member (including crew) on top of the previous work permit which is $150 for single acts and $450 for groups. This means that for a 4-piece band, a venue will have to dish out a little over $1500 just to get the artist on the bill. At this rate, even IF the venue manages to break even on that, there are still sound guys to pay, equipment to rent, and, you know,  the band to pay. What’s even worse is that this fee is non-refundable. That’s right, if for whatever reason the application is rejected, the venue would have to pay out once again just to resubmit. It’s not hard to see that a lot of these small venue owners just wont take the risk.

You’ll probably notice how I’ve specifically outlined ‘small venues’ as larger ‘Concert Halls’ as well as outdoor events appear to be exempt from this new legislation. Clearly the government doesn’t see to mind stepping on these already struggling small-business owners. It certainly is an unnecessary burden on an already risky industry. Musicians and venue owners aren’t the only ones that will suffer from this either; the next time your favourite foreign indie act comes to town, you can expect to pay substantially more for that ticket. After all, the money will have to come from somewhere, won’t it? Now, I understand that the intention is that it will sway companies to hire Canadian workers over foreign ones, in other words Canadian venues will look to hire local artists before they consider foreign acts. However, there’s no way in my mind that this wont lead to rising fees for Canadian musicians travelling abroad.

It pains me to see such repression towards culture and small businesses, especially in an industry in which it’s already astoundingly difficult to become established.

For further reading:
http://www.cbc.ca/newsblogs/yourcommunity/2013/08/indie-musicians-cry-foul-over-foreign-worker-fees.html

http://exclaim.ca/News/new_foreign_labour_laws_put_canadian_music_venues_in_jeopardy

http://www.canada.com/Arts+culture+threatened+fees+foreign+performers+producers/8862184/story.html

Do you think this is a crippling blow to our nation’s small venues? Or do you believe it is an important stride to support local artists?

My Weapon of Choice:

Because 4 strings isn't enough.

5-String Warwick Thumb Bolt-On
Made in Germany, 2002

It’s coming up on a year now since I first brought this guitar into my life and it never ceases to impress me.  From rehearsal, to the studio, to the road, I’ve never found myself feeling held back by the capabilities of the instrument. The dense Bubinga body and 5-piece Ovangkol and Bubinga neck provide the platform for those deep lows to flourish while the active MEC pickups and preamp bring it to the next level with that traditional Warwick growl in the midrange. The preamp controls are incredibly powerful allowing for many tonal possibilities. The low boost/cut knob in particular has been incredibly useful for me when playing with Good For Grapes as it allows me unleash a massive low rumbling tone for songs like A Sequel where raw noise plays a rather large part in the dynamic. The high boost/cut knob is used much more sparingly for my purposes – often adding a touch of airiness or crisp punch for the more pop-ish tunes. The Wenge fingerboard and bell brass frets also contribute greatly to the tone and sustain. It truly is a master of the lower register; rich and warm, yet tight and punchy. And not only is the guitar a tonal powerhouse, the aesthetic is simply to die for with a sleek and ergonomic approach to body design. As much as I don’t really like to admit it, the body is a rather large factor for me when it comes to choosing a bass, but this one has it nailed.

Playing this bass had made me further appreciate flat-wound strings – they really accentuate “The Sound of the Wood” (as Warwick puts it), and allows it to sit very comfortably in the mix. Throughout my ongoing search for the ‘perfect’ strings, I have found myself coming back to the medium gauge D’Addario Chromes; I find them to be brighter than most other flats that I’ve tried which grants me a bit more tonal diversity when in conjunction with that high boost/cut knob. I am definitely gravitating towards the higher string tensions which is something I definitely miss from my old Rotosound Monel Jazz flats, but the chromes still manage to hold their own. If only I could find some truly heavy-gauge strings! Sure they might be the size of bridge cables, and I’d probably find myself needing a new neck after every show or two… but think of the tone!

My one caveat with this bass is in regards to the low B string. The scale length just isn’t long enough to give it the room it so desperately needs! Even with the bridge saddle set as far back as it can go, the intonation still suffers anywhere past the 7th fret. Though I’m not expecting to find a Dingwall level of scale (a whopping 37″… Fanned frets are a beautiful thing), I would still like to see a little more wiggle room for that B string to sing true. in addition, I have found myself having to modify the tailpiece slightly to accept the girth of the B-string. Even after removing the silk wrapping, the ball end just isn’t wound tightly enough to be set in without a fuss.

Overall, I am stupendous happy to have this piece of art at my side. It’s build quality and tone are exceptional and it’s never left me disappointed.

So I made a blog…

     After finally getting over my laziness (mostly due to motivation from the Peak Performance Project Boot-camp), I have decided to commit myself to a blog. At the moment I can’t think of anything in particular to focus it on, so until I do I’m just going to post whatever I think is interesting or worth talking about.

Enjoy,

Robert