North Hollywood, Calif. – When guitarist Lance Seymour started Gear Talk, he had no idea what it would grow to become. “My love of gear was the inspiration for starting it,” he says. “I was thinking of it as a side project, but the community really took off and now it has become a huge part of my life.” Lance shepherded Gear Talk through its explosive growth to include disparate groups keying in on specific instruments or disciplines, like recording. He also began producing video demos of the gear that he liked.
147,000 instagram followers later, Seymour made the sojourn to the 2017 NAMM show in search of new and exciting gear. He stopped by the BAE Audio booth and fell in love with their impressive array of hand-wired audio products. Not long after returning home, he picked up BAE’s VGDI direct box and unleashed the power of its rich analog tone.
Guitar and Beyond
While Gear Talk’s audience slants towards guitar players and many of his reviews have been focused on pedals and other products with that audience in mind, Seymour has been eager to incorporate more studio gear into his recent video reviews. “I feel like there’s a need for a new generation of people doing pro audio gear demos in a simple, comprehensible way with attainable gear and not just in the context of a massive high end recording environment,” Seymour says. The VGDI was a perfect candidate for him to delve into being a device useful to any recording enthusiast but with clear applications for guitar players.
Direct to the Source
“Direct recording is an important part of my workflow, and I knew I could improve upon my signal chain for when I’m laying down guitars and basses to my DAW,” he says. “BAE’s reputation piqued my interest in the VGDI because I love showing my audience high quality gear that will have an appreciable impact on the quality of their sound.” Designed in conjunction with award-winning producer and engineer Val Garay, the VGDI boasts 100% transformer isolation to prevent ground loops via its Jensen transformer and high common mode noise rejection, all hard-wired in California and packed within a rugged steel chassis. With plenty of direct recording experience, Seymour felt well qualified to assess what effect these features would have in the studio.
Major Percentage Points
Upon receiving the VGDI, Seymour immediately began tracking guitar and bass through the box without any additional processing to see how it would compare to the direct inputs on his interface. The results were conclusive. “It was clearly better,” he says. “People will go to great lengths to improve their sound just 1%, but I’ve recorded direct a lot over the years and this box goes way further than 1% better. It is a lot more musical than other DIs I’ve used.” That enabled playing through the box to deliver a more natural feel. “It really felt good to play through unlike some DIs, and also didn’t suffer from the dead frequencies that can plague direct recording.” The VGDI’s Jensen transformer did wonders for Seymour’s noise floor, previously a frustration for him when recording direct. “I had had some noise in my signal but the VGDI really reduced that,” he adds.
Analog for Digital
Seymour sees the VGDI as a worthwhile upgrade for recording operations of all sizes, from the bedroom studio up to Studio A at a major facility. He also expects direct recording to become an increasingly relevant part of the recording process. “I think a lot about the role of direct recording going forward with amp simulators getting so much better every year,” he says. “Even though there’s nothing that compares to something that’s analog and real, not everyone can own 14 amps and these simulators provide a lot of useful tools for recording. But you have to get the analog part of the chain right for it to work, and the VGDI ensures that.”
BAE in Front
Seymour still has a lot experimenting to do with the VGDI, but he already feels confident that it will become a studio staple. “I think it’s great DI,” he says. “I suspect that every time I need to go direct I’ll just put that in line first.” Seymour relishes the ability to use Gear Talk to get the word out about manufacturers like BAE Audio, whose gear would be of value to the community. “I like making quality gear look both useful and attainable to recordists of all levels,” he says. “ My video review of the VGDI will demonstrate the big improvements it has made for me in direct recording, and hopefully that will empower my audience to look toward BAE in their search for the perfect tone.”