I have been traveling a bit with the new DA Guitar Rig and am happy to find that it all actualy works. This is a bit surprising as there were many unknowns in putting this mess together. Here is a quick rundown of some of the pros, cons and future enhancements of the system.
The sound and signal from guitar to laptop is awesome. The Sonuus i2M USB device injects a clean signal with very low latency into the Ableton Live brain while the 1.6 GHz MacBook Air barely breaks a sweat, even with 8 to 10 channels of processing craziness happening at once.
More often than not, I have a lot of things running at once; Guitar Rig, AdrenaLinn Sync and an Ableton MIDI bass synth (all with lots of layered effects), two tracks of drum loops, another track of processed live guitar and a second USB device feeding in more analog audio for processing. All this uses less than 30% of the processor.
The cable management is also working well. One bag contains all cables bundled to proper length, power supplies plugged in and secured, a USB hub for data distribution and a side pocket of spare cables, bits and bobs. The grab-and-go aspect of it always being ready, reliable and quick to set up is a real pleasure.
There is a lot to like about this system, as well as a few things not to like.
The Roland CM-30 monitor is a very good piece of kit. While it may not compete with an overzealous drummer (and really, what other kind of drummer would you want to play with), it is plenty loud and clear for my needs. The portability is just right, and the mixing capabilities are awesome for the form factor. But the sound just doesn’t excite me. There is plenty of bass, but not much sparkle.
I just took delivery of a Yamaha THR10. I had not intended it to be a replacement for the Roland monitor but after a few hours with it I get the feeling it may be a replacement and an enhancement for the system overall.
Yamaha calls it your “third amp,” but this can be misleading. Far from a traditional guitar amp, it is more like a fusing of practice tool and amp simulator combined with high-fidelity bookshelf speakers in a boom-box form factor. Comparing it to the Roland monitor feature for feature is as futile as comparing apples to table saws.
For this system however they both cover the basic need (noise) and then bring a variety of other features to the mix. The results of this test could bring a major change in system (and to the bundled cables which is why I go with reusable loom and velcro straps rather than more permanent approaches like shrink wrap and solder.)
The high hopes I had for the Lemur iPad app have been temporarily squelched by the cat’s steep learning curve. I do love the flexibility and wirelessness of it, but for the time being I have opted for the ease of use and immediacy of the Novation Launchpad. It is lighter, cheaper and super-easy to use. And the flashing lights are almost as satisfying as those of the iPad.
As time goes by and the Launchpad’s integration with my Ableton set matures, I find myself crouched over the laptop less and less. It would be perfect to have the laptop running lid closed (possible with a MacBook Air?) in the bag, while I tweak, bend and mangle the various live sounds with the Launchpad. Too ambitious? Maybe. Only time, practice and planning will tell.
More to come on the DA Guitar Rig as the system grows and evolves. Tell me about your unique system in the comments below. And check out the previous articles on the system and it’s components.