Interview: Aussie YouTuber Shane Diiorio on the Glory of Cheap Gear

In Australia, professional gear reviewers who make their living from YouTube are both few and far between. Much like Brett Kingman, fellow Australian Shane Diiorio started his journey in the dark ages of the internet, recording demos of guitar pedals and other gear. Over the years, he's refined his approach to video creation in both visual and sound quality, and amassed a loyal fanbase along the way.

His opinions are presented in a diverse combination of both informative and entertaining video formats—podcasts, live streams, gear shootouts, and his globe-spanning series Guitar Search Saturdays.

But what helps separate Shane from the pack is his down-to-earth and unbiased opinions on the gear he reviews. If he knows something isn't up to scratch, don't expect him to mince his words.

We caught up with Shane and asked him a few questions on his style of reviewing, the conception of Guitar Search Saturdays and more.

Let's start from the very beginning—would you say you were an early pioneer of gear and pedal demos on YouTube?

Shane Diiorio

From what I've seen on YouTube, one of my earliest pedal demos pre-dates a lot of other gear channels out there—maybe not all of them, but a lot of them. This was back at a time when HD cameras didn't exist and 240p video resolution was king. While I wasn't the first to demo a guitar product, I was definitely first in doing reviews of pedals and guitars that didn't exist on YouTube at that particular time of uploading.

One of the pedal demos that comes to mind was the Behringer TO800 Overdrive. This was shot when I had really long hair and had zero idea how to light a room or talk to a camera. I reviewed gear I personally purchased and borrowed off friends, because I figured it might help other people to work out for themselves if it might be something they might want to buy.

I've always had a passion for music, audio engineering, and video editing. Ever since my early teens, I had a video camera in my hand and I was filming one thing or another and editing from a VCR to a VCR machine and trying to work out how to "make it work." It was around 2010 where I decided to put in more effort with the channel, upgrading to some tiny HD video cameras and adding some lighting for the first time.

Today, after many years of burning both ends of the candle between work and a YouTube goal, I am now for the most part doing what I love the most, and I couldn't be happier.

What kind of work did you do before YouTube?

I was and am still a qualified Microsoft specialist. I worked in IT support mostly but also worked as a Linux game server administrator back in the day. If times get tough, I can still go back and pick up some short-term contract work doing it.

How did the name intheblues come about, and is it a completely one-man operation?

It was the name of my first band actually. It was a three-piece band I had many years ago called the intheblues trio. In the early days I was uploading band footage in hopes of getting gigs. In regards to the YouTube channel, I do all the video production, editing, sound engineering myself. I do have other guests on the channel from time to time, but everything that is on the channel is produced by myself.

The name sort of just worked, so I kept it. The logo was actually designed about four years ago by a graphics design artist at my old job with some creative ideas I had on paper. If I am as busy as I was last year I might start looking for some help. There are quicker ways to get videos done via switching, but it's at the sacrifice of quality.

Shane Diiorio

One of the key things your viewers really appreciate (and have come to expect) is your completely honest and unbiased opinions on the gear you review. What can you tell us about that?

I think there's two types of videos I produce: gear demos and gear reviews.

I look at gear demos as something that usually remains impartial for a few reasons. The first reason is that everyone likes different things and what might suit me might not suit someone else and vice versa.

For example, I don't like fuzz pedals but I know a huge portion of guitarists love them, so I create demos of them instead of reviews. This means I leave it up to the viewer to decide if they like the sound—and if I personally like it in comparison to other fuzz pedals, I will comment on it. Most of the time though, I let the viewer decide unless I think the product could be improved in other ways, excluding tone.

A gear review is where I list the pros and cons in perspective of years of testing and owning many other products that fall into the same category. For example, if I test a new Fender amplifier and it's not as good as the prior one that I tested or owned, I'll comment on it. I think this can be invaluable for people in the market for the same product.

I see a lot of popular channels saying nothing but good things about everything and that couldn't be further from the truth. I am really surprised a lot of viewers don't pick up on this.

Even the products I purchase for my own use—I list what I don't like about it because it might be of value for someone. If the speaker sucks, I will let you know why I don't like it in comparison to my experience with many other speakers. If I see other channels dishonestly promoting a product I know is garbage, I will generally add it into my intheblues podcast video/audio segment.

Fender Blues Junior IV Guitar Amplifier (2018)

Although virtual tours have their own place on YouTube, Guitar Search Saturdays is a breath of fresh air that has had an overwhelmingly positive reception. Tell us about the inspiration behind the creation of these videos.

I get a lot of inspiration from other channels outside of the guitar niche. Most of the things I try on my channel are inspired from things I see from other channels or what I see requested in comments and emails. One of the big suggestions I had was the premise for what has become the Guitar Search Saturdays series.

People wanted to see what the local shops were like in my area, so the idea was born. I can't take full credit for the actual idea or format—it was highly inspired by Pat the NES Punk's series called Flea Market Madness. I'd be doing Pat a disservice if I didn't mention his videos. I've definitely added my own touch of personality to this series—I took the production and the idea to new levels, and now it's literally a very different video because of it.

Guitar Search Saturdays [episodes] take longer to produce than anything else I've ever done. I've also shot two documentaries over the years and these take about the same time to get done. On average, each episode is about 10-18 hours of work. Some take longer and some are shorter. That includes all the time driving, filming, editing, voice over work, annotations, and more.

It's a fairly popular series with a very high retention rate, so it's definitely a huge bonus for my channel but the time it takes to produce an episode that meets my own standards can take a lot longer than people probably think.

Guitar Search Saturday - Episode 4

Give us a brief rundown of your recording setup.

Currently my main rig revolves around my Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue and my new Marshall DSL40CR amplifier (the 2018 model). My Fender Blues Deluxe is loaded with a speaker called an Eminence Swamp Thang, which is an amazing speaker and takes the amp into boutique territory, tone-wise.

When I demo pedals I also use a Two Notes Torpedo Live, which can basically replace the speaker with a digital representation of it thanks to its impulse response technology. There's three main reasons I use the Two Notes. The first being that I have an impulse response/digital reference of the Swamp Thang speaker, which makes recording a breeze.

The second reason is it helps keep the videos very consistent sound wise. This makes it a lot easier for me to showcase a new pedal on a familiar clean tone, which is very accurate to the actual speaker and microphone. This helps eliminate any mic placement issues as well.

The last reason is I am very conscious of protecting my ears. Some days I can shoot up to four to five demos (without any editing) and having a 40-watt amp blasting my ears all day isn't a smart move. I still produce albums for Australian bands as well as my own and I need to make sure I don't do any damage to my ears.

What kind of video and audio software do you use to create and edit your videos?

I used to use Vegas Pro for many, many years, but it became so slow and unreliable over time, even on a high-end PC. About two years ago I moved to an Apple Mac and never looked back. All my editing is done with Final Cut Pro X. My audio recordings are done on a PC running Nuendo.

I also like to use consumer-grade audio interfaces as well—instead of higher-end stuff—because it's pretty much what most people will be using. My interface of choice right now is the Steinberg UR22 mkII, which does a really great job.

Is there a pedal you've demoed that really caught you off guard?

Many—I don't even know where to start! I think a lot of the cheap pedals still surprise me, tone-wise. Whether its from Donner or Sonicake or someone else, they usually sound way better than I first expected.

I think the best pedals in the world are being made in Greece, of all places. Well, the majority of the best pedals of 2017 for me personally were coming out of Greece or in Europe. Some of the ones that come to mind are the VS Audio Vibler, the VS Audio Royal Flush Dual Overdrive, Crazy Tube Circuits Stardust, the LunaStone Three Stage Rocket, and many more.

VS Audio Royal Flush Dual Overdrive Pedal - Made in Greece

Do you have a "golden tone" when you play live?

Nope, not anymore. I've owned boutique amps, middle of the road amps, and cheaper stuff like the Peavey Bandit 112, and I honestly think none of them make any difference to my sound when I play live anymore. I feel like it's more up to the player to make it sound a certain way through decent playing and understanding how to get the most out of the amplifier.

Usually, I'm a pedal guy into a clean channel. This makes it a lot easier for me to dial in a sound I love thanks to the combination of the pedals I use. I highly doubt I'll ever spend the sort of money that boutique amps command in Australia for something that's not going to make me sound any better.

My ideal rig is a good clean channel (Blues Deluxe/Bandit) with a third-party speaker like a Swamp Thang or Texas Heat. A speaker change can make the world of difference in an amplifier that would otherwise not sound "up-to-par" in many cases.

Digital pedals and modelling amps are steadily increasing in popularity, do you foresee the classics on their way out?

Digital gear is getting better, but I can't foresee the end of the tube-amp era anytime soon. There's something about what a valve amp does and how it feels to play that is hard to beat. I also put some solid-state amps in that category too, like the Peavey Bandit.

The Kemper, for example, is an awesome studio tool for profiling your amp and recording in a volume-friendly way, but from my experience in a live situation it doesn't play friendly with external effects. Put a Klon through the amp you referenced with the Kemper and then try the Klon in the Kemper and you'll see what I mean.

The Kemper Profiling Amp - A Full Review (Pros & Cons)

That said though, you can just profile that signal chain but the usability of the floor/analog pedals are still in my mind more functional and easier to modify on the fly. In terms of pedals, the market is so flooded now that I highly doubt there's going to be any reduction in either analog or digital pedals popping up.

It's funny how biased consumers can be. They can ridicule a lot of multi-effects pedals for not being analog and then there's higher-end pedals that are almost totally digital like Strymon. I like to go by the train of thought of "if it sounds good, it is good," regardless of how it's made.

Apart from your YouTube channel, where can people find more of the Shane Diiorio Band and intheblues?

@intheblues_ on Instagram, on Facebook, and as of today, I have just joined the new social network platform called Vero as intheblues. You can also download and listen to the full audio of the intheblues podcast on iTunes or at www.inthebluespodcast.com. Any and all gig dates are usually posted on Facebook at "Shane Diiorio Band."


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