#PlayAlternative: The Search Begins

#PlayAuthentic … Or Else!

By now, you’ve probably heard of Gibson’s notorious #PlayAuthentic PR and legal stunt.

If you haven’t … basically, Gibson published (and then pulled) an official video saying that the only authentic Les Paul is one made by Gibson, and that they were coming after other people who make similar guitars. Very shortly afterwards, there was a lot of publicity about them suing the owners of Dean Guitars, and then their failure to trademark aspects of the flying V body shape in Europe.

It was the beginning of a PR nightmare that’s still continuing to this day, as the new Gibson management continue to lurch from one PR misstep to another.

There’s been some backlash, especially in the form of ridicule. As always, there’s been some folks loudly declaring that they’ll never buy another Gibson, but mostly it’s served to knock the shine off the mid-2019 relaunch of the Les Paul.

Is Only A Gibson Good Enough?

In the midst of all this, Gibson’s been using another PR slogan: “Only A Gibson Is Good Enough”. It started under Henry J, and is still in use today by the new management team. You’ll often see it on their Instagram photos.

When the #PlayAuthentic thing blew up, it got me thinking about this slogan. Do Gibson really make the best Les Paul-type guitars? Or are there perfectly good alternatives out there if (for whatever reason) you don’t want a Gibson. Are there better Les Paul-type guitars out there?

I know the answer is yes because I own a couple of them. But are there more?

Self-Confessed Les Paul Fan

Let’s not pretend otherwise: I absolutely love my Gibson Les Pauls. They’re not my desert island guitar, but I’m more likely to be playing a Les Paul of some kind than anything else on most days.

I’ve never agreed with all the Internet claims that Gibson has only (or mostly) been making poor quality guitars for years now. There have been increasing design mis-steps since 2015, coupled with pricing themselves out of the market and the self-destruction of their dealer pool … but that’s different to saying that they have been doing a bad job of constructing and finishing guitars.

I’ve lost count of the number of Les Pauls I’ve played since 2012. Many of them haven’t been for me, but every single one of them was well made and perfectly usable as an instrument.

And whenever I’m in a guitar shop that stocks Les Pauls, I’m always trying what’s hanging on their wall, to see if they’ve got anything I want to add to my collection.

So why am I publicly looking for alternatives?

So Why Look At Alternatives?

For now, Gibson seems to have wound its neck in a bit, and calmed down on the whole #PlayAuthentic front. If that changes, and they become lawsuit-happy, I’ll want to vote with my wallet and take my money elsewhere.

But even if things stay as they are now, there’s another good reason to start looking into what else is out there …

I love trying out gear that’s new to me. It’s my way of learning more about what’s possible … and more about the gear that I’ve already got and already love.

But today, if you asked me what I would recommend instead of Gibson Les Paul, I wouldn’t be confident enough to recommend anything right now.

So here’s what I’m going to do.

The #PlayAlternative Plan

When I’m out at guitar shops, I’m going to start looking at what Gibson / Epiphone alternatives are out there. If I find something that I think will be a good choice, I’m going to buy it so that I can spend enough time with it alongside my Les Pauls to form a solid opinion.

That way, I can put these guitars through the rig I know best, and really get to know them.

I’ll write blog posts on them as I go – just like I do with all the pedals I buy – looking at why I bought them, how I get on with them with various rigs, and ultimately if I feel they’re worth an entry on the #PlayAlternative list.

There’s going to be alternatives out there that I personally wouldn’t buy – just like I’ve passed on the vast majority of Les Pauls I’ve tried over the years. That’s down to personal preference. You can go to other blogs – and almost any forum – if you want to read trash-talk about brands or guitars. I’m going to try and find a way to discuss these guitars that’s also fair to the people making them, and to the people selling them.

And there’s going to be plenty of guitars out there that I wouldn’t buy because I don’t think they’re close enough to be considered a viable Les Paul alternative. I might maintain a list of these (if I’ve tried them in person), just for reference, mostly noting what they’re missing compared to a Gibson Les Paul.

What Makes A Les Paul, Other Than The Name?

So what am I looking for? What are the features on a Les Paul that make it a Les Paul?

Vintage-voiced dual humbucker or equivalent: A Les Paul typically has two humbuckers, two P90s, or a single P90 in the bridge. Gibson has used a range of humbucker flavours over the years, but the quintessential humbucker for a Les Paul is one that’s attempting to recreate the magic of the old PAF pickups.

Independent volume and tone controls: on a Les Paul, each pickup normally has its own volume control and tone control. This control layout is an essential part of the Les Paul experience. Most of the great Les Paul tones come from working these controls in tandem with the 3-way pickup selector.

24.75 Inch scale length: an important part of playing a Les Paul is the feel, and that comes (in part) from using a shorter scale length than Fender does on Strats and Teles. It doesn’t have to be exactly 24.75 inches, but it does need to be in the ball-park.

Tune-o-matic bridge: the shorter scale length moves the bridge closer to the centre of your body, making it easier to play closer to the bridge, and to use your right hand at the bridge to control string noise and string muting. The Tune-o-matic style bridge is a big part of making that easy and comfortable to do.

Low action: Les Pauls feel great to play because they come with a much lower action than your average Fender does. Combined with the shorter scale length, they just feel like they take less effort to play.

What Isn’t Quite As Important?

What about the other things that make up a Gibson Les Paul? Are any of those must-haves for my #PlayAlternative recommendations?

Tone woods: a Les Paul Standard is a mahogany neck, mahogany body, maple cap, and rosewood fingerboard. Are these all essential? After all, it’s a formula that Gibson itself keeps deviating from. Two of the best Les Pauls I’ve ever owned used different woods, as does my Desert Island guitar.

Nitro finish: most manufacturers today use a poly finish of some kind, rather than the nitro finish that Gibson Les Pauls are famous for. Is it an essential part of the Les Paul tone? After all, PRS don’t use nitro finishes, and they make some of the greatest tone machines around today.

What matters, at the end of the day, is the quality of the tone we can get out of any alternative to a Les Paul. Does it sound like a Les Paul when we play it?

Flame maple cap: playing a Les Paul isn’t just about the tone; it’s also about the iconic look. I’m guilty of that: I went out hunting for a Les Paul specifically on looks. For many people, the pretty maple tops are a big part of that look. But, while I’m an absolute sucker for great looking wood, I’m very happy playing Les Pauls that don’t have a very flamey maple cap.

The single-cut body shape: a second part of the iconic look is the body shape. It’s synonymous with rock-n-roll like no other. Many people are going to feel that a guitar isn’t a Les Paul alternative if it isn’t a single-cut shape. I get that.

The headstock: there’s something about the shape of the Les Paul headstock that completes the iconic look of a Les Paul. Many people won’t buy an Epiphone because Gibson won’t let them use the same headstock shape.

But that’s the thing: the only way to get a 100% Les Paul look is to buy a Gibson Les Paul. Any other guitar is going to look different in some way or another.

Made in America: one of the big appeals of a Gibson Les Paul is that it’s made in the USA. America doesn’t have a monopoly on making great instruments, and it’s unlikely we’ll find many viable alternatives that are American-made. If you want to #PlayAlternative, you have to be open to playing something made somewhere else.

My Final Criteria

Away from the guitar itself, what other criteria am I going to use to help me in my search for a #PlayAlternative list of guitars?

Try-before-you-buy: I wouldn’t buy a Gibson Les Paul without trying it first. For me, the magic of a Les Paul is about finding the ones with their own distinct voice. Practically, that means that any Les Paul alternative has got to be hanging on the wall in a music shop that’s within travelling distance for me … which is basically any music shop here in the UK.

That does rule out Thomann’s in-house brand Harley Benton, along with several other brands that are only available through Thomann. If you’re comfortable buying a guitar without hearing it first, there’s plenty of YouTube videos from Thomann themselves, the Guitar Geek and Henning Pauly on the alternatives you can get from Thomann.

If we manage to stop Brexit, maybe I should celebrate by going shopping at Thomann’s store? 🙂

Current production model: I’m not comfortable recommending a guitar if you can’t get it yourself. I think it’s easier to satisfy that if I only look at guitars that are brand new and still being made.

Does that disqualify boutique guitars, which are typically one-off instruments or made in small batches? I’m going to say ‘no’, because boutique guitar makers are often at the forefront of making the very best tone monsters today.

It does disqualify second hand instruments. As a general rule, a recent factory-made guitar is normally better made than one from (say) five years ago, especially if the factory is in Asia. Year on year, they’re getting more experienced in how to build instruments, and getting better at how to consistently build them.

By all means, if you like something I recommend but want it cheaper, do look at second hand examples.

Price points: this is an area where we can try and improve on Gibson’s current range. One of the things I love about Fender is how they make perfectly fine instruments at a range of prices – especially more affordable prices.

So let’s see if I can find anything to recommend at similar prices to Fender’s main lines here in mid-2019:

  • Fender Player – around £550
  • Fender american-made – starts at £1000-£1200
  • Top-of-the-line factory made, non-limited edition – between £1800-£2000
  • Custom-shop money: £3000+

That last one is there to basically cover anything that’s boutique or PRS 😉

Especially at the budget end, I’m expecting to have to mod the guitars (pickup changes, for example). These price targets have to cover all the costs of any mods too – parts and labour.

What’s On Your #PlayAlternative List?

I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to build up my list. It’s definitely going to be a work-in-progress kind of thing.

To help me get started, what do you think should be on the list of guitars for me to go and look at? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

#CoffeeAndKlon 12: The Tumnus As Drive For Early Wampler Pedals

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

Sorry that I didn’t do a #CoffeeAndKlon this morning. I had the coffee, and then had to go out to run an errand that couldn’t wait.

Image

Here’s one of the two pedals that I’ve been teasing you about this week: the Wampler Tweed 57. Currently being boosted by the Tumnus mini-klone. Thanks to @matthew_darcy for recommending the Tweed 57 to me.

Image

Too soon for me to say a lot about this pedal. I need to A/B it against the Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD for short), the Little Tweedy Drive, and the Honey Bee too. And I need to find out what I can stick in front of it as a boost.

Tell you what, it sounds great with the Tumnus in front of it. The Tumnus is a klone that’s become popular as an outright drive pedal – which is how I’m using it here.

I’ve gone for both pedals with just a small amount of breakup, and the Tumnus at unity volume to avoid slamming the front of the Tweed 57. Together, the result is a nice crunchy rhythm tone with a pleasing amount of dynamics.

I’m running this into the Blackstar Studio 10 6L6, which is currently basking in the evening sunlight.

Image

This is the amp that was playing up a couple of weeks ago.

“Bring it back to the shop,” said Andrew on Thursday, “and we’ll send it back to Blackstar if we can’t fix it ourselves.” The amp must have overheard, because it has worked PERFECTLY since he said it.

As long as it continues to behave, it’s staying put for now. As much as I love the Marshall Origin, I’m currently on a run of pedals that work best into a blackface-voiced amp. Speaking of which …

Here’s the other pedal: the Wampler Black 65. Once again, being boosted by the Tumnus with the exact same settings as before.

Image

It’s fascinating how differently this reacts to the Tumnus. Unlike with the Tweed 57, the Tumnus isn’t producing more drive out of the Black 65. All it’s really doing is shaping the EQ.

If I try to use the Tumnus to boost the Black 65, the Black 65 just farts out. It seems to have sod all input headroom. A common characteristic of all of Brian’s early designs that I’ve tried.

That doesn’t mean that these early Wampler pedals are to avoided.

All the ones I’ve tried sound great, esp with the bridge pickup of a Tele. Just need to accept how they seem to work, and go with it instead of fighting it.

With the Tweed 57 and Black 65, I’m hoping that I’ve got two great drive voices for the Blackstar. It’s a nice little rig, and I’m going to have a lot of fun exploring it further all this week 🙂

#CoffeeAndKlon 11: Tuners Are Interesting After All

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

Hello, and thank you for reading this. I’ve got another #CoffeeAndKlon for you today, as I continue to walk through my desert island guitar rig.

Coffee this morning is Monsoon Malabar, from our local shop Corrine Coffee. It’s very smooth, very mild. Kinda similar to Costa Coffee’s regular coffee, I’d say.

Image

Before I go any further, I just want to let you know that all my conversations about guitar gear are all archived up on hometoneblog.com. If you like this kind of stuff, there’s plenty more up on there for you 🙂

t’s going to be quite a short #CoffeeAndKlon today, because I’m going to be talking about tuners. Drive, fuzz and modulation pedals get all the love, all the attention. Without a good tuner, though, it’d all sound horrible.

The pinnacle of guitar tuners are those made by Peterson. Folks like Wampler have said they don’t see the point in making a tuner, because of just how good the Peterson tuners are. Until recently, though, they weren’t that easy to get here.

If you are interested in one, Andertons currently has one in stock. Here’s the link: https://andertons.co.uk/peterson-strobostomp-hd-compact-strobe-pedal-tuner-pt-stomphd… (It’s not an affiliate link.)

So what about headstock tuners? The kind you just clip onto a guitar’s headstock when you need to tune up? They’re really convenient.

Image

If I’m thinking of buying a guitar, I’ll normally have one of these in my pocket when I go into a store. Guitars go out of tune when they’re sat in a store. I’ve found you can’t rely on staff tuning the guitar for you, or even having a tuner available for you.

If I’m gigging, I’ll have my headstock tuner with me … as a backup.

We use a couple of alternate tunings in our set, and we found that it took longer to retune with a headstock tuner.

That’s why I use a tuner pedal these days.

I prefer this Korg tuner pedal. It’s called the Korg Pitchblack Advance. It’s fast, accurate enough, true bypass, with a really big display. I’ve used it on a dark stage for a gig, and was very happy with it.

Image

It also runs off a battery for *months* at a time – great for gigging with. I practice pretty much every day, got band rehearsals most weeks, I never unplug the lead when I’m not using the guitar, and the battery has just started its 5th month in the pedal.

The battery thing is important to me. Because we do small gigs with an acoustic guitar, I can’t guarantee that there’s convenient power available for a pedal board. I don’t have to worry about that with this pedal 🙂

Let’s quickly go back to the true bypass thing. It matters to me for two reasons.

First off, when I’m gigging, I’m playing an acoustic guitar. I’ve found that a surprising number of guitar pedals suck tone from an acoustic guitar, even though there’s no audible problem with an electric guitar. True bypass seems to avoid that.

Secondly, when I’m at home using an electric guitar, some of the pedals I use don’t like being behind any sort of buffer pedal. Electrically, they want to interact directly with the guitar’s pickups and pots. A true bypass pedal definitely sorts that out.

So yeah, I’m delighted with this pedal. Had it since the start of April, and it’s been great for me. The Korg Pitchblack Advance is the tuner that I’ll use in my desert island rig.

That ended up being much longer than I thought it would 🙂 What do you use for a tuner? And why? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences, so that I can learn from them. Thanks for reading, and have a great rest of the weekend!

New Arrivals For August 2019

The plan this month was to finally buy a nice rack for my home studio, so that I can get the Synergy amp wired up once again. That didn’t go so well. Silver linings and all that though …

I found a rack that I liked on DV247’s website, paid for it … and later that day received an email from them asking for almost 30% extra money before they’d ship it. Now, the regulations on selling online are clear: you’re not supposed to do that. So yeah, that purchase fell through.

Before I could find and order an alternative from somewhere else, some of the remaining pedals from my bucket list turned up for sale. Interesting (to me) pedals have been hard to find at prices I’m willing to pay all summer long. Having three come along at once was an opportunity I’m glad I didn’t have to pass up.

Wampler Plextortion Drive Pedal

Earlier in the year, I picked up a JHS Angry Charlie to go with my JHS Charlie Brown. It got me thinking: are there any other pedals out there that chase the JCM 800 sound? And this is the only other pedal I could think of.

Brian doesn’t make these any more, and second hand examples are currently pretty rare. (Not the rarest, as we’ll see shortly!) During a summer of slim pickings, it was great to see this turn up for sale.

The pedal arrived just after the second heatwave we’ve had this summer, and it’s been too hot to do anything that a quick dead-on-arrival check so far. It sounded good. I’ll update this when I’ve been able to give it a decent amount of time.

Wampler Black 65 Drive Pedal

The second of my three bucket list pedals is another Wampler, and one I’ve owned before: the Black 65. I had one of these as a Christmas present from my wife, in 2012 I think? I can’t remember why I sold it. Maybe I will once this one has arrived 🙂

Since Brian stopped making them, these have become quite sought after. On Reverb, second hand examples often go for more than they originally cost (!!) I’m glad to say that I didn’t pay anything like that for this one.

I don’t need it to give me Fender blackface cleans; I’ve got that covered with the Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 amp. I’m hoping that this’ll give me a nice dirt tone for that amp. I’ll update this once I’ve found out.

Wampler Tweed 57 Drive Pedal

Aaaaand the third of my bucket list pedals this month is another Wampler, and perhaps the rarest of the bunch. Weirdly, though, it doesn’t command the same high prices that the Black 65 does according to Reverb. Reading around, it looks like it’s quite the marmite pedal.

This is a very recent addition to my bucket list. It only got added because of my bitter disappointment with the Mad Professor Little Tweedy Drive. My mate Matt saw my tweets about the Little Tweedy Drive, and told me that the Tweed 57 is perhaps the most accurate pedal for that small Fender amp sound.

I’ll update this once I’ve had a play with it.

New Arrivals For July 2019

This month has been a month of two very different stories: guitars and pedals.

On the guitar front, I’ve been very fortunate to find a couple of guitars that blew my socks right off. Proper love-at-the-first-note through an amp fairytale stuff. Fairytales don’t always have a happy ending, mind, so do check back in the months ahead to learn whether these do (or don’t)!

Pedals have been much more of a mixed bag. Good deals have been hard to come by this month, with a lot of people chasing a smaller pool of 2nd hand gear. Maybe it’s the summer months, or maybe it’s the renewed uncertainty here in Britain atm? Either way, I hope things pick up.

I’m doing something a bit different this month. Rather than try and squeeze my first impressions into 3 or 4 paragraphs (to keep these ‘New Arrivals’ posts short), I’ve started breaking them out into separate posts that I’m linking to from here. It gives me a bit more space to talk about each piece of gear. Do you like it? Or do you prefer the ‘all-in-one’ format I’ve been using up to now? Let me know in the comments below.

Auden Artist Bowman 45 OM Acoustic Guitar

We did another small gig at the end of May – a 20 minute slot at a new open-mic night up in Malvern. I took the Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster, and ran it straight into the PA. I did not enjoy the sound at all, and on the drive home I made up my mind to see if I’d be happier with a traditional acoustic guitar.

To be honest, I’d already started looking around for an acoustic guitar back in April, just after the first two gigs we did. I think there’s a difference between a recorded guitar tone and live guitar, and I think it matters for the kind of gigs we’re doing. The problem is that I don’t get on with acoustic guitars. They commonly have low, flat frets (which I find difficult to intonate well on), and normally when you plug them in, the magic goes away.

I’ve got a lot more to tell you about the Auden … but I haven’t been able to gig it yet. Once I have, I’ll feel a lot more confident about my opinions.

Fender Vintera 60s Modified Telecaster

This is what happens when I pop round to AStrings to take a look at new arrivals!

Earlier in the year, when I got my Fender American Performer Strat in Lake Placid Blue to celebrate a personal anniversary, I also took a look at the American Original Tele (also in Lake Placid Blue) that they had in stock … and I kinda warmed to it. I thought they’d make a nice pair together, but I took too long to make up my mind about it, and the guitar sold in the meantime.

The new Vintera (‘VINTage ERA’) guitars are Mexican-made homages to what Fender guitars were like in the 50s, 60s and 70s. I don’t want to say they’re a poor-man’s Fender Original, because I think that does them a big disservice.

Are they period-correct in appointments and sound? I’ve no idea, sorry. Do they sound good, and are they enjoyable to play? Very much so. The one I’ve bought had more magic than some USA Teles I’ve played. That’ll do me nicely.

Here’s my first impression of this excellent new Telecaster.

Mad Professor Big Tweedy Drive Pedal

I’ve made no secret of just how much I love the drive pedals that BJFe designed for Mad Professor. They are consistently some of the best sounding – and best stackable – pedals that I’ve ever had the pleasure to use. And I think that I have all of them in my pedal collection here at The Hermit’s Cave.

That partnership came to an end some time ago, and since then, Mad Professor has been launching new pedals that (presumably) are entirely their own design. I’m curious to discover … did the magic leave the building with the BJFe deal, or will these post-BJFe pedals stand up well against their older siblings?

The real problem with answering that question is getting hold of them. Twimble-family pedals have been turning up on the second hand market for a few years now, but the other drive pedals are still extremely rare, making good value deals even harder to find.

Follow this link to read my first impressions of the Big Tweedy.

Mad Professor Little Tweedy Drive

Like the Big Tweedy Drive, Mad Professor’s Little Tweedy Drive doesn’t often turn up to buy second hand. And I’m kinda settling on the sound of small tweed-like amps as part of ‘my’ sound, the more I think about what would go into my desert island rig.

It turned up on the same day as Danelectro’s Pride of Texas, and by popular demand, I compared them both together.

Long and short of it, though, is that the Little Tweedy Drive has a characteristic that almost ruins it for me. Follow that link for the full details.

Wampler Sovereign Distortion Pedal v2

Before I discovered and fell in love with the pedals that BJFe designed for Mad Professor, I used to have a few Wampler pedals. My wife and I both loved the demo tones we found on YouTube. In person, though, I really struggled to get tones I liked out of them, and eventually I gave up on Wampler and moved all the pedals on.

A lot has changed (for me, and my rig) in the years since, and when the right deal comes along, I’m picking up the pedals from back then to try them again. I’ll turn the results into a series of posts called ‘Second Bite’.

IIRC, the Sovereign was the very last Wampler pedal I tried back then. I was looking for a pedal to help me craft a good lead tone. I failed. Will I fail a second time?

Here’s my thoughts on my #SecondBite at this pedal.

Lovepedal JTM Drive Pedal

A lot of the non-BJFe pedals that I love (like the Tchula, and the Speaker Cranker), are all descended from the Electra Distortion circuit. I’ve had such fun with them that I’m always on the lookout for other pedals from the same family tree. It’s a bit like collecting TubeScreamers 😀

If I’ve got this right, the Electra Distortion was a module that could be fitted into an Electra guitar in the late 70s. It seems to be a really simple circuit that pedal makers have found to be very flexible and versatile. Lovepedal in particular are said to have based many of their designs on this circuit over the years.

I’m expecting the JTM to be a bit like the Big Tweedy Drive: more of a foundation pedal than a traditional overdrive pedal. Something to act as a base layer to shape the tone, if you like. Sounds like the perfect pedal for me to feature in #CoffeeAndKlon once it’s here 🙂

Here’s my first impression of the Lovepedal JTM. There’s a lot to like, when it’s boosted by the right pedal.

Fender Pugilist: A Marshall-In-A-Box Pedal?

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

I’m just going to put this out there. Is the Fender Pugilist distortion pedal secretly a Marshall-in-a-Box pedal? I think there’s a case to be made.

Image

I bought mine when they first came out. It’s largely lived in its box since then, because its siblings the Santa Ana and The Pelt are just killer pedals.

I dug it out earlier this week to finally spend a decent amount of time with it.

When I first got it, I was running it into my trusty Marshall Origin. This time, I’ve been running it into my Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 – a great budget amp for blackface clean tones.

The Pugilist has two drive circuits inside. You can use both in ‘blend’ mode or run them into each other in series. I’ve been using blend mode, and then running the blend control either fully at ‘A’ or fully at ‘B’ like this:

Image

The key characteristics I’m focusing on are: – initial attack – mid-range push / aggressiveness – top-end sharpness These are things that work for me when I want the rock tones I grew up with 🙂

For me, classic Fender-style dirt growls more than it crunches, with a Les Paul. A soft attack and smoothness at the top-end (like the top-end is compressing?) are part of what I hear from those tones. The Santa Ana does that really really well.

To my ears at least, the Pugilist has a quicker attack and sharper top-end. It has bite, and it does crunchy rhythm tones for days.

The mid-range, though, isn’t as aggressive as outright Marshall-in-a-Box pedals. If I grab the Marvel Drive, for example, and compare them, there’s a noticeable difference.

Image

The Pugilist doesn’t push the mid range anything like the Marvel Drive does. As I turn the gain up on the Marvel Drive, the difference is less pronounced, but it is still there.

It’s really easy to make the Marvel Drive sound boxy through this amp.

The other thing about just about every plexi pedal I’ve tried is that when you switch them on, the bass by and large goes away. The Pugilist keeps the bass, and even has a bass boost too.

And I have a theory about why.

Marshall Tones For Telecaster Players

My theory is that the Pugilist isn’t an outright Marshall-in-a-Box pedal in the strictest sense. I think it’s voiced to turn a Tele into a classic rock machine, to sound quite like a Les Paul going into a Marshall.

The Tele naturally provides the upper-mid emphasis, so the pedal doesn’t need to do that itself. And the bass boost addresses the thinness of the Tele’s bridge pickup surprisingly well. Just roll back the Tele’s tone to stop the ice-pickiness 🙂

I’ve been having a *lot* of fun with the Tele through the Pugilist while writing this 🙂 Here’s the settings I’ve settled on. Guitar is the Fender Vintera 60s Modified Tele. Fattest-sounding Tele I’ve got.

Image

Tell you what though, as with the Santa Ana, I think it really works well with a Les Paul. Key thing for me: I love the Santa Ana into a clean Marshall. For me, the Pugilist is at its best into a Fender-style clean amp.

Have you played about the with the Pugilist? I’d love to hear your experiences with it 🙂

First Impression: Lovepedal JTM

Backstory :- we’ve been experiencing a bit of a heatwave, and it’s been a little too warm to play much guitar.

It’s much cooler today, and I’ve got half an hour to kill while I’m processing audio for a talk video. Let’s have a play with the Lovepedal JTM.

Image

I’m using my Tele this morning. Just got it back from a much-needed setup.

Image

The JTM is aiming for that pre-plexi Marshall sound. There’s a lot of other pedals in that space. As far as I know, the JTM is the only one that’s a one-knob wonder.

It seems to be what I call a foundation pedal. It changes the tone a lot. Very pushed mids, not a lot of low end. Didn’t like it at all into the blackface-style clean amp.

I like it a lot more into the Origin.

I suspect it would work best into a dirty amp as a combined tone shape & boost. I’ll have to get my Synergy rig setup to test that.

I’ve got the pedal almost gunned. Classic on the edge of breakup sound. Clean when lightly picked, a bit of crunch when I dig in. It’s quite a volume boost and, sadly, quite a noise boost too.

Image

It really suits the Telecaster’s bridge pickup. Definitely got that vintage 60s birth-of-rock tone and vibe about it.

It’s quite a cold sound, and with humbuckers it can be very waspish and brittle when gunned. This setting seems to be a good sweet spot if you’re using a Les Paul.

Image

Speaker choice seems important with this pedal, more important than most pedals that I’ve tried. If I run it through a G12M Creamback, that sorts out all the harshness I was hearing through the Celestion Blue.

That’s really nice now.

That coldness to the tone seems to suit the neck pickup in a Les Paul really well too. That’s a big bonus. I often struggle to get a nice clear sound with the neck pickup. With this pedal, it’s right there.

In summary: – it seems very locked-in on a single sound from the days of early rock – it seems voiced for classic rock speakers If you’re after that specific era, you’ll probably love this pedal.

Later That Same Day …

I’m messing about with the Lovepedal JTM again this evening. And I’m starting to think that the Xotic EP Boost might just be the perfect boost for the JTM.

Image

A Few Days Later …

I’ve been having a lot of fun running this pair of pedals – Xotic EP Booster into Lovepedal JTM – into the Marshall Origin. This might be my favourite crunch rock tone to date.

Image

New Arrival: Lovepedal JTM

Look what’s sheltering from the #heatwaveuk with me today: the Lovepedal JTM drive pedal.

Image

I’ve plugged it in to check it works. It’s 26C in here, which is too hot for me. Don’t want a valve amp making the room even warmer today.

It’ll have to wait for cooler weather before I spend quality time with it.

#CoffeeAndKlon 10: My Desert Island Guitar

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

Good morning! I hope you’re all having a great weekend so far. I’m still buzzing from playing all those PRS Guitars over @astringsuk on Friday night. Or is it just the coffee? #CoffeeAndKlon

Coffee this morning is the very last of the Sumatran that I was drinking last week. I forgot that the machine was almost out of beans. It’s got about half the coffee it should have. I might have second coffee in a bit.

Image

Last week, I started talking about my Desert Island rig. One thing I didn’t do was establish any rules or constraints on what could be in the rig.

I’ve been thinking that over, and I’m feeling torn about that.

An #AnythingGoesDreamRig, where the only limit is your imagination, has its own appeal for sure. I’d love to learn what kind of gear you’d choose if you could – and why you’d go for that gear in particular.

So that could be a thing.

The rig I’ve been thinking about though is more of a #MySoundMyRig kind of thing … the gear that gives me ‘my’ sound, whatever that is. I don’t know about you, but if I was stuck on a desert island, I’d be happier with that than any other kind of rig.

My rig starts at the guitar. And it’s not a Les Paul. It’s my PRS McCarty 594, in the only colour they should ever be made in.

Image

I’ve got two stories to share about this guitar, which is affectionately named Deadnote. I’ll save the story behind its name for another time 🙂

When I bought this guitar, I had two 594s to choose between: this, or a Private Stock model. The Private Stock model was an amazing instrument. It rang like a bell, with a clarity that I loved. It very nearly came home with me.

But it was actually this one that I bonded with, right there and then in the shop. This one’s got a bit more bark to it. Stick it in front of some dirt, and it does the growl thing that I love.

I had the same experience Friday night, playing some gorgeous Private Stock guitars. As instruments, they were perfect for highly technical players who could make use of that extra clarity. But the tier below had that bark, that attitude that works better for me.

The second story?

I’ve been collaborating musically with Tess on and off since 92. The moment she heard me playing this guitar, she told me that this gives me the sound I’ve been searching for all that time. When others hear it, you know you’ve found it.

The 594 gives me what I love about the Les Paul – the scale length, the control layout and location, the vintage voicing. It also has tuning stability, intonation, and usable coil split sounds that I haven’t found on any Les Paul.

I would gig a 594 over a Les Paul every time.

So yeah, the first piece of #MySoundMyRig for the desert island is the PRS McCarty 594. What guitar would you be shipwrecked with? I’d love to hear how you found the guitar that gives you ‘your’ sound.

Have a great weekend, and next week I’ll talk about the next piece of my signal chain for this rig: the tuner 🙂