Last month, I made a very unplanned purchase – the Custom Shop Les Paul Special. I got it for less than a brand-new Gibson USA Standard costs (not the first time that’s happened), but still … The next few months are going to be about exceptional bargains or rare items only – or things I need for gigging.
Not that it really matters. The 2nd hand gear market seems to have dried up quite badly this month. Even eBay “sell for £1” weekends haven’t had their normal impact. Will things pick up in May?
Here’s a list of all the new gear that arrived in April, along with my first impressions of each item. I’ll post a separate, detailed post about each item when I’ve had a bit of time to get to know it better.
Ramble FX Marvel Drive v3
Several years ago, I had a Marvel Drive v2. I couldn’t find a sound that I could use with my rig at the time, so I sold it on. Since then, my rig’s almost completely changed … so will I be any happier with the latest iteration?
If you haven’t heard of these before, they’re a Marshall-in-a-Box pedal. It chases the ‘plexi’ sound, so I’m assuming it’s more 1959 SuperLead than JTM 45? I believe that the original Marvel Drive was one of the very first pedals to offer the Marshall-style dual-gain circuits, just like the original amps did. I’m really looking forward to hearing this through the Origin and the Studio 10 6L6.
JRAD Archer (Silver) Klone
I’m a big fan of what a Klon can do to guitar tone. I’ve got a Klon KTR on my main pedal board and (along with the Lovepedal Amp 11) it ain’t ever coming off there. So I’m looking for a klone that can go on my grab-n-go board, or simply to throw on top of the Marshall Origin 20H when I’m trying out new pedals.
I’ve tried a few over the years, and they’ve all been great pedals. They just haven’t been drop-in replacements for the real thing. All the klones I’ve tried suffer from the same basic problem: they all add too much low-end. That makes them (imho) unusable for the Klon thing, as a mostly-clean EQ shift at the front of a signal chain.
When the explosion of klones started, JRAD and the Archer was at the very centre of it. Last count, they’ve made five different klones so far – and the silver Archer is the original. Will it exhibit the same issues as the competition, or have I finally found my KTR substitute?
My initial verdict: the jury’s out.
It doesn’t seem to be adding too much low-end, and the EQ lift is very pleasing to my ears. Running it into my somewhat boomy Blackstar Studio 10 6L6, I like what it does – and I like it a lot. It definitely makes that amp a hell of a lot more usable. I can easily see me wanting one of these permanently in front of one of these amps.
And yet … this second-hand copy has issues. When I stack it into a drive pedal, sometimes there’s additional noise and artefacts coming through. Depends on what I’m stacking it with, and it isn’t 100% of the time. It could be the pedal, it could be the noisy electric supply I have here (wouldn’t be the first time).
JRAD Archer (Clean) Klon Klone
As the month went on, I realised that I was really warming to the silver Archer pedal, and that I wanted to try some of the others in the JRAD Archer range. In particular, I wanted to see how they worked with my Taylor T5z, and whether they’d improve my gigging sound.
You probably know that there’s both a silver Archer and gold Archer Ikon. Did you know that there’s also a white one, called the Archer (Clean)? It’s a klone without the drive circuit. That’s how I use a Klon – as a clean boost. Is this going to be the klone I’ve been looking for?
Nope. Nope nope nope nope nope.
You may have noticed that my #1 complaint about klones is how they normally add too much bass? Not this one. It dumps so much bass, it just sucks the life right out of the tone in the room. There’s something not right with the top-end either – it’s either dull or brittle as anything.
I know plenty of folks (including several klone makers) love to take the piss out of the “magic diodes” in the original Klons. This pedal might have just made me a believer that, just maybe, those diodes actually do make a critical difference after all.
One caveat: in a mix, the tone-shaping this pedal does might actually sound great. I’ll make sure I test that out before doing a full writeup of this pedal.
Lovepedal Blackface Deluxe Overdrive Pedal
If I could only have one amp for the rest of time, it would be a Fender Deluxe Reverb Re-issue (or DRRI for short). Nothing else gives me both the cleans that I love and takes drive pedals so well.
I bought one of Blackstar’s new Studio 10 6L6 amps earlier in the year to get me into that kind of territory for practice at home. And it comes close enough for me. Just don’t try and get a driven tone out of it, because that’s where the illusion of a Deluxe-on-a-budget falls apart imho. (I’m not a fan of Blackstar’s driven tones).
Which is where this pedal comes in (I hope).
I had a lovely breakup tone within seconds, and one that puts the amp’s built-in drive to shame. Boost it with a klone, and I could happily spend the rest of the day noodling through it. Alas, my short break is over and I need to get back to it for the afternoon. But you can be damn sure where my evening is going to be going 🙂
Korg Pitchblack Advance Tuning Pedal
This is a pedal I needed for the gig I played at the start of the month.
I’ve been using TC Electronic’s Polytune headstock tuner, and by and large it does an okay job. It has a habit of switching itself over to the chromatic mode when it gets confused – which seems to be quite a lot of the time. With our set list requiring 3 different tunings (so, 4 retunings in total to return back to E Standard) in 30 minutes, that was time we felt we wanted to avoid losing.
I picked up this pedal because it was all that they had in stock at my local shop that afternoon.
I’m delighted with the Korg Pitchblack Advance. The all-black aesthetic meant it wasn’t at all eye-catching for the audience. The display is nice and big – much bigger than the Polytune pedal – making it easy for me to see during the gig. It’s true bypass, so it didn’t interfere with the signal at all. And I’ve no complaints over how accurate it is, or how quickly it worked out what note I was playing.
I will probably sell my Polytune pedals, and use the money to get a couple more of these to stick on my pedal boards.
Fulltone Plimsoul Overdrive Pedal
This is the Captain’s favourite drive pedal. He’s been using this on the Andertons videos for years, and it’s the one he always comes back to. As you can imagine, it’s hard to snag one of these at a great 2nd hand price. This month, I finally did.
It’s unlike any drive pedal that I can recall trying out. That’s a Good Thing(tm).
At its heart, there are two separate gain stages. Adjust the amount of each, and there’s quite a variety of tones to be discovered. It’s a bit like the bright-vs-normal channels of plexi amps and pedals, only the different gain stages seem to be in series rather than in parallel? They definitely offer different types of clipping.
I can see me using this pedal a lot.
JRAD Animal Tour Edition Pedal
It’s possible that there might just be even more Marshall-in-a-Box (MIAB) pedals than there are Tubescreamers out there, especially when you consider that most TS-style pedals are attempting to be clones rather than improved circuits.
The JRAD Animal Tour Edition pedal is JRAD’s 2nd attempt at nailing the sound of a late 60’s Marshall plexi amp. The original pedal (in JRAD’s larger, rather unique form factor) is much-beloved online. This 2nd attempt is simpler (no more voicing switch) and tweaked to get closer to the sound that JRAD is chasing.
Plugged it in, dialled in a crunch tone in seconds … and felt a bit underwhelmed by it at first. Then I looked up and realised that half an hour had just flown by. Wow factor be damned. I can see why other people choose this as their workhorse Marshall dirt box. It delivers that tone and then just neatly gets out of the way.
I’m willing to bet that this pedal records really well.
JRAD .45 Caliber Overdrive Pedal
JRAD’s .45 Caliber is the low-gain counterpart to their Animal pedal. This pedal covers the Marshall JTM45 territory, with the Animal covering the 1959 SuperLead plexi tones. Together, I’m hoping they’ll make up quite a versatile tone stack.
Running it into my Marshall Origin 20H, the first thing I had to do was check to see if the pedal was actually on. With the gain at 10 o’clock and the EQ controls at noon, I couldn’t hear any difference between the amp on its own, and the amp + pedal. I’m not sure whether that says more about the Origin, or the pedal.
Turn the gain up to 2 o’clock, tweak the EQ a little, and there’s a great overdriven not-quite-crunch tone to be had. Gun the gain, and the sound thickens more than anything else.
Seems that this is what I’d call a foundational pedal – and that’s no bad thing at all.
Seymour Duncan Dirty Deed Distortion Pedal
This will be my very first Seymour Duncan pedal. The name implies an AC/DC, Angus Young kind-of-vibe – so maybe another Marshall-in-a-Box (MIAB) to explore? It’s not a pedal that I’ve seen people really talk about, and – given the bargain price I managed to get it for – it’s not a pedal that’s sought after at the moment.