At a recent post-gig band rehearsal, we decided that I needed to start adding effects to my acoustic rig. The plan this month was to build out a full acoustic board – one that’ll run into the amp for shows, and also directly into a PA for open-mic spots.
Sadly, my timing’s off, and the pedals I’m targeting for the acoustic board have been out-of-stock every time I’ve gone shopping for them. In the meantime, there’s been a few unexpectedly good bargains crop up on eBay, so I grabbed those instead.
Here’s a list of all the new gear that arrived in May, along with my first impressions of each item. I’ll do a detailed writeup about each piece of gear when I’ve had a bit of time with it.
Fender Player Stratocaster, in Sage Green
I admit it – it was the unusual colour that grabbed my attention. There aren’t too many of these in sage green kicking around these parts. This particular one has one of the better-looking pau ferro fretboards – nicely-cut figuring, and very little red in it.
What kept my attention was the playing experience. The neck profile is really comfortable for me, and the satin finish means there’s nothing grabbing my hand and stopping it moving around. It reminds me a lot of the necks on the old American Special line, it’s that good.
The reason I brought it home? It sounds much better than I was expecting. It’s not a dead plank of wood like the Mexican Strat I bought back in the 90s. Dial the volume and tone down a bit to take the edge off the pickups, and it’s a very usable Strat sound.
To my ears, those pickups are a little bit bite-y, and there’s a little bit more mid-range compared to the classic American Strat sound. They’re very usable, and that extra mid-punch works well if you’re predominantly playing through a dirty amp or through drive pedals.
I am going to change the pickups at some point. I mostly use a Strat for clean tones, and I think this guitar more than good enough to justify the cost of dropping a set of after-market pickups into it. In fact, I’m enjoying this Strat so much it’s getting the set of Bare Knuckle pickups that were ear-marked for the American Performer …
Gigrig Cinco Cinco Patch Bay
I need to tidy up my cabling a bit. I’m planning on building a little practice pedal board (which is where incoming pedals will get tested), and a second little pedal board for my acoustic gigs.
With two amps to test pedals against – and two pedals to stick into the effects loop whenever I want to switch amps – it’s all a bit messy atm. I find that I’m not switching amps as much as I probably should, and when I do, I never move the cables for the f/x loops.
I’m hoping this is where adding a patch bay will make things easier. I’m just waiting for the pedal boards themselves to arrive in stock so that I can cable everything up and find out.
PedalPatch Solderless Cable Kit
I’ve been using the Planet Waves / D’Addario solderless cable kit for years, for making patch cables for my main pedal board. It’s cheaper than the stuff you’ll see featured on That Pedal Show, and for home use it’s perfectly reliable.
The one and only downside is that no-one could ever accuse it of being a compact or low-profile solution. The jacks are big (the original ones even bigger), and the cable is pretty thick. I’m looking to make a couple of small boards this month. I could use an alternative.
PedalPatch are a UK company that I first saw advertising on Facebook. Their kits are even cheaper than the D’Addario ones, and look small and compact. I thought I’d pick one up and see how I got on.
Mixed results, I’m sad to say.
The first couple of cables I made sucked tone away. Specifically, there was an audible loss of high-end frequencies. The symptom? Seems to be when you pop the shield cap onto the jack. If it takes force to get the shield cap in place, that cable won’t sound right. I found that I had to make sure that the cable was firmly in the jack and bent the full 90 degrees at the right spot so that the cap just dropped into place.
With solderless kits, I expect to make the odd cable badly, and doesn’t carry any signal at all when I plug it in. A cable that isn’t dead, that just loses some of the signal spectrum … I found that really put me off. Can’t put my finger on why it’s any different to making a dead cable, but somehow to me it is.
For my gigging board, I might just say sod it and order the proper stuff from Gigrig. I do not want to have any problems at all with that board.
Pedaltrain Nano+ Pedal Board w/ Soft Case
I’m looking to build two boards this month: one for home, for tidying up where I test incoming pedals, and another for my acoustic gigs. Both need to be very compact. The testing board needs to fit in a 19 inch space, and the acoustic board is another thing to carry to/from gigs, so the smaller the better there.
Pedaltrain’s Nano+ boards are nice and small. But are they maybe a little too small for what I’m doing? The two problems are placing the power, and placing the patch bays I bought earlier for this project.
The acoustic board is the easier one. I can’t guarantee easy-to-access (or clean) mains power at a gig, so the whole board needs to run off of batteries. Pedaltrain do a rechargeable power supply called Volto, which fits underneath the Nano+ board. Earlier versions had mixed reviews, but the new Volto v3 appears to have finally cracked it. No space for the patch bay though atm.
Problem with the testing board is that I use Friedman’s 10-port power supply for testing pedals. It’s worth every penny to know I can run just about any pedal that takes 9v without trouble – even a power-hungry beast like Fender’s Tre-Verb. There’s no way that’ll fit on the Nano+, and neither will the patch bay.
This board doesn’t need to be able to travel; it just needs to sit there and help me keep that area tidy. I think I’m going to snag a 1U rack shelf, sit it under the board, and then put the power supply (and the patch bay?) at the back of the shelf.
Well, when the 1U shelf arrived, I discovered another problem: the Nano+ doesn’t fit on a 1U shelf. It’s just slightly too long to do so. How did no-one think of that when the Nano+ was designed? I’m going to have to come up with a more creative solution.
JRAD Archer Ikon Klon Klone Pedal
This one completes the family line-up: silver Archer, gold Archer, white Archer. It gives me another flavour of klone to try with different types of guitar. Am I going to enjoy this one as much as I did the silver Archer, or am I going to be as disappointed as I was with the white Archer?
I’m glad to say that I’m definitely not as disappointed as I was with the white Archer pedal.
I haven’t spent much time with Archer Ikon; really I’ve just plugged it in to make sure it wasn’t DOA. It’s not immediately obvious to me how it’s different from the silver Archer pedal. I’m going to have to sit down and A/B them both to work it out.
JHS Angry Charlie v2 Overdrive Pedal
I’ve had JHS’s Charlie Brown v2 pedal for years now, and I like how it sounds through my Marshall Origin. Where the Charlie Brown is aimed at the JTM-45-in-a-box kind of sound, the Angry Charlie is more the JCM-800-in-a-box thing. That sounds like two complementary tones that’ll go nicely together into a ToneStack. And I’m all about finding complementary tones 🙂
This pedal has gotten me thinking … is it the only drive pedal out there that targets the JCM 800 sound? Everything else I’ve ever tried either does the Plexi thing, or one of Marshall’s older / vintage / boutique amps.
I need to A/B this pedal against the JRAD Animal and my Synergy 800 amp.
Bearfoot FX Honey Bee Overdrive Pedal
Bearfoot FX is a company you might not of heard of. And, I’ll be honest, part of me wants to keep it that way, so that I’ve got more of a chance of finding their pedals at a good price on the second hand market.
They used to make hand-wired versions of Bjorn Juhl’s (of BJFe fame) legendary designs. That partnership came to an end recently, which can only mean that second hand prices of their pedals are going to continue to climb. I’ve already seen some examples going for King-of-Tone-on-eBay prices!
The Honey Bee Overdrive Pedal is considered to be one of Bjorn Juhl’s finest designs. I’ve already got the Uber Bee, which I love, and the Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive, which is related but reportedly does have its own sound.
Fender Tre-Verb Digital Tremolo / Reverb Pedal
This one is very much an impulse purchase. I’m really enjoying using the Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 for clean tones. It isn’t a Fender Deluxe-Reverb Re-issue (DRRI), but it’s close enough for me. Can I turn it into a poor-man’s DRRI by adding the Tre-Verb’s emulation of the DRRI’s tremolo and reverb to the amp’s blackface-like clean?
First time I plugged it in, it sounded so much like a wet-only signal that I spent a couple of minutes hunting for some kind of ‘wet-only’ toggle switch on the damn thing. Turned out the order of the mono and stereo input jacks is different to what I’m used to, and I’d plugged into the second jack by mistake.
I’ve found this a challenging reverb to dial in. In that respect, it’s definitely like the reverb I remember from a DRRI! It’s so easy to nudge the Blend control just a hair and lost the sweet spot that seems to be around 9 o’clock. I wonder if this pedal will shine better in a wet-dry stereo rig?
In the end, this pedal didn’t stay on my practice board very long. I’m just too used to modern designs which keep the original dry signal and blend in the wet signal behind it. That doesn’t make this a bad pedal. It’s just all personal preference.