New Arrivals For December

We’ve just had Black Friday, and Christmas is right around the corner.

I’m keeping my eye out for anything unusual, interesting or an outright bargain, but in all honesty, there isn’t going to be much left over to spend on gear after Christmas shopping for my family.

Rode M5 Matched Pair Microphones

One of the things I want to do with my revamped home studio is record a lot more acoustic guitar. And I’d like to try my hand at doing it the old-fashioned way, by micing up the guitar.

Reading around, it looks like the Rode M5 is a good compromise between price and performance. For less than a pedal(!!), I’m going to get a matched pair of microphones that’ll certainly be good enough for my level of recording.

They’re on back-order at the minute, but hopefully they’ll arrive in time for me to use them over the Christmas holidays.

Abasi Pathos Overdrive Pedal

Yes, I bought something because it was heavily discounted in the Black Friday sales.

But hey – it’s a pedal designed by Brian Wampler. It had been reduced to less than these things go on the second hand market. And I doubt that it sounds like anything else I’ve tried this year.

Why not take a punt?

Tone City Wild Fro Rabea Massaad Distortion Pedal

I’ve pre-ordered this entirely on the strength of the demo that Rabea posted onto YouTube.

Since getting my Sage Green Strat, I’ve been playing my Strat a lot more recently. I like the idea of a drive pedal that’s been tweaked to deliver low-gain tones for a Strat. Hopefully it’ll pair really nicely with the Keeley Oxblood, giving me a fantastic complementary tone palette to record with.

It should arrive just before Christmas, unless the first batch had already sold out before I got my order in.

Tone City Durple Overdrive Pedal

I’m sorry – Danish Pete is a fantastic musician – but I thought his YouTube demo of his signature Tone City pedal didn’t sound good at all. So why did I pre-order this one too?

I think when it comes to capturing tone, demos shot by Andertons can be very hit and miss, and I’m hoping that’s the case this time around. It’s just my personal opinion.

These signature pedals – the Wild Fro and Durple – are existing Tone City designs that have been tweaked to suit Rabea and Pete. In Rabea’s case, the Wild Fro was tweaked to suit his Strat, and it would make sense that Pete’s Durple was tweaked to suit his Telecaster.

That’s got to be worth the punt, right? I’ll find out when it arrives.

New Arrivals For November

My home studio revamp is in full swing. I’m hoping to complete it this month, so that I can spend the winter months getting to grips with it all and starting to record music for myself once again.

The second hand market on eBay has picked up a little since the horror show that was October. It feels like the number of items is up a little, but I haven’t really felt tempted by any of the items put up for sale.

Focusrite Clarett OctoPre

When I bought the Universal Audio Apollo x6 last month, I screwed up. For some unknown reason, I thought the Apollo x6 came with four mic preamps. It does not; it only comes with two.

That turned out to be a happy accident. It made me start looking around at the market for dedicated mic preamp units for the first time. And it turns out that it was cheaper to buy the Clarett OctoPre than it was to return the Apollo x6 and pay the extra for the Apollo x8. Cheaper, and now I’ve got 10 mic preamps.

I’m going to say a lot more about that over on the Studio Diary.

Roland SPD-SX Percussion Pad

I hate programming MIDI drums. I’ve always struggled with anything beyond very basic 4/4 rhythm patterns. I can play drums a bit (although I’m very rusty). I’d love to be able to play my MIDI drums in.

The Roland SPD-SX percussion pad is a compromise. I simply don’t have the space for a proper set of MIDI drums – otherwise I’d definitely have gone that way. The SPD-SX will hopefully give me something I can play for now.

Roland KT-10 Quiet Kick Trigger

There’s no way I’m going to play drums without having a kick drum of some kind. The very concept seems totally alien to me.

One of the reasons I went with the Roland SPD-SX is because it’s expandable. It’ll take up to 4 (I think) additional outboard triggers. In other words, I can gradually add more electronic drum bits to it to make it play more like an actual electronic drum kick.

There’s a couple of kick drum triggers available for it. I went with the KT-10 partly because it was the quieter of the two, and partly I found it a little easier to play. It uses a reverse action. That means that the beater has a shorter throw, and it felt like it took less physical effort too.

Roland PDS-10 Percussion Pad Stand

I’m going to be sat in front of the Roland SPD-SX percussion pad, as if it was an actual drum kit. It’s going to have to go on a stand.

There’s not much more to say about that, to be honest.

Two Notes Torpedo Captor 8 Ohms

I’ve already got two of these. So why have I bought a third one?

When I was wiring up my stereo Synergy amp, I decided that I wanted it permanently wired up into the two Captors that I already have. That way, if I make a mistake and switch on the power amp without a speaker cab attached, the Captor will take the load and I won’t damage the SYN 5050 at all.

Problem is, I’ve gotten used to running my Marshall Origin full-on for the better dynamics and power amp sound. The only way I’ve been able to do that at home is by running it through one of the Captors. Getting a third Captor allows me to keep on doing that with minimal fuss.

Fender MTG Distortion Pedal

This one is a treat for myself for the end of a busy and demanding last couple of months. I’m a huge fan of Fender’s new line of drive pedals, and I’m determined to collect them all.

The MTG has a real valve inside it, which gives it this thick and very impressive sound straight out of the box. Start fiddling with the controls – especially the Tight knob – and there’s a lot of rhythm and lead tones to be had out of this unit. It’s going to be a pedal that I record with, for sure.

It eats weak guitars for breakfast and spits them out in a very unforgiving manner. Feed it a great guitar, and it’ll make that guitar sing. That’s probably going to limit how well it sells, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the MTG:LA, when that finally reaches local shops.

CoffeeAndKlon #22: Who Needs Pedals When You’ve Got A Great Amp?

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

Good afternoon! I’m a bit late with this week’s #CoffeeAndKlon. There’s a couple of reasons why. And one of them does involve the Klon.

I’ve been a bit flat for most of this past week. Delivered a couple of workshops and a talk on the Saturday and Wednesday, and didn’t have much left in the tank after that.

So Thursday and Friday, I’ve mostly been finishing off the home studio revamp. A bit of upgraded gear, and mainly about getting the gear I already have back into use.

At the heart of that is the Synergy amp system I got way back in February last year. It’s at the opposite end of the scale from the home-tone amps I normally talk about here.

Since getting wired up again, I just can’t stop playing this thing: the Synergy 800 module. Designed by Dave Friedman, it’s the classic JCM 800 sound that I grew up with.

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And when you push it with a Klon that’s setup as a clean boost? Les Paul heaven right there. And I haven’t been able to put it down.

Then I had a thought: I’m a pedal guy at heart. How well does a pedal hold up against proper amp filth? That’s where the rest of today has gone 😀

Our contender this afternoon: the JRAD Animal. On its own, this pedal isn’t the most exciting sound in the world. Boost it, and man does it come to life. A bit like a real JCM 800 to be honest.

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After a bit of experimentation, I’ve ended up running it into Synergy’s TDLX: a blackface-style clean amp. I tried running it into the 800 module setup as a clean amp. Didn’t like it at all, and it made A/B testing a pain.

Oh, and I’m using the exact same 1×12 cab loaded with a Celestion G12-M Creamback for both amps. It’s a speaker that brings out the Marshall in everything I run into it. More on that in the long-overdue Marshall Origin One Year On review.

How does the Animal do? It sounds great. It feels great to play. And there’s plenty of satisfying crunch if I boost it with the Klon. There’s a couple of key differences though.

There’s something deeply satisfying about the mids of the real amp that I can’t dial in using the pedal. The pedal setup has crisper highs and crunch, and deeper lows which are addictive in the room. I wish I could borg them together.

The other difference is noise. The pedal setup is picking up so much more string noise than the real amp does. An indicator that the pedal setup is amplifying the treble frequencies much more than the real amp does.

I’ve just switched over to the Marshall Origin for the first time today. Man, this amp loves drive pedals. And I have serious ear fatigue after listening to the pedal setup for most of the afternoon.

I’ve just switched over to the Marshall DSL 20HR. Still learning how to use this amp. Had to really go wild with the dials, as you can see in the photo. Man, it sounds really good too.

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To finish off – and by now, I’m a long way away from trying to match the JCM 800 sound – what about the boosted Animal into a Vox? Here’s my settings on the Mini Superbeetle. Like the DSL 20HR, an amp I’m still learning.

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Through the G12-M Creamback, it’s not a sound I would go for. Stick it through a Celestion Blue though, and that sounds really really good. The mid-range might just be the best of the bunch. Makes me want to add an EQ unit to my studio to tame the top-end though.

(Suggestions for an affordable, rack-mount EQ unit most welcome!)

Now I’ve got real amp filth on tap again, am I going to give up pedals? No. The Klon into the Synergy module sounds fantastic, and feels great to play. And so does the pedal into the other amps, just in a different way.

And for me, that’s what it’s all about, at the end of the day: having a palette of sounds to choose from and experiment with. I’m not a one-sound kind of person.

I’ve worked for three companies that had a strong singular colour for their brand. Going into the office to see a single colour everywhere all day, every day for years … it’s not me. And I’m the same about sound.

I’ve spent the whole afternoon on this, and my ears need a rest. I’ll tell you what though: no matter the amp, it sounded better when boosted with the Klon.

Have a great rest of your weekend, and let me know what questions you have for me about today’s #CoffeeAndKlon 🙂

CoffeeAndKlon #21: Fender Elite Strat And A Klon

This conversation was originally posted on my Twitter feed.

Good morning! It’s a (rare!) sunny day here. I hope it’s nice wherever you are too. For this week’s #CoffeeAndKlon, I want to talk about how I’ve been using my Klon these past few days.

Coffee Has Already Gone

I’m afraid that my coffee this morning has long gone. Yesterday was an 11 hour day at work, and I don’t think my coffee touched the sides on the way down today!

We’re drinking coffee beans sold as “Mexican Lion Boy” from @CortileCoffee here in the beautiful Welsh Valleys. It’s a single-origin coffee, and it’s a very easy drink indeed. It’s one of our favourites, and a great contrast after the Sumatran coffee last week.

Classic Klon Usage

So … back to the Klon. It’s been quite a while since I’ve talked about the Klon itself. And I think that’s mostly because I only use it in one specific way: as a clean boost. I never said that I was imaginative or creative in how I use pedals 🙂

Normally, I use a Klon as a clean boost for guitar solos.

The Klon’s characteristic mid-hump has the effect of lifting a guitar out of the mix. It’s a really easy way to add a bit of mojo when you’re recording something.

The exact same settings on the Klon can be used to make a completely clean Strat sound even better. Which is what I’ve been doing this week.

The Elite Stratocaster Has Noiseless Pickups

On the back of Fender announcing their new Ultra range of guitars to replace the Elites, I dug out my Elite for a bit. It hasn’t had as much use since I got the Player Strat earlier this year. That’s a story for another day though.

One of the reasons I have the Elite are the N4 noiseless pickups. They’re an absolute godsend if you want to record clean guitars in a very sparse mix, and you’re powering everything off a dirty, noisy electricity supply.

They also work surprisingly well into a rig that’s mainly voiced for Les Pauls. Not as important to me today, but it definitely was back when I got my Elite.

Compared to the great-sounding single coils in the American Performer, the N4 pickups in the Elites have:

  • a bit more low-end
  • stronger low mids
  • rolled-off highs

… and my Elite is an early one with a rosewood board, which accentuates the differences more.

I like the extra low-end. It’s a characteristic that I went after when I chose the new pickups for my Fender Player Strat. I like my low-E to go *plonk* and not *plink*.

The stronger low mids – combined with the rolled-off highs – can make the N4s sound different – and can be muddy if you don’t adjust for it. I suspect Fender switched from rosewood to ebony boards part-way through the Elite’s lifetime to help offset this.

I’ve been using my Klon to bring the best out of the N4s in my Elite Strat. The mid-hump of the Klon deals with any mud from those low-mids really nicely. And the treble boost makes the N4s sound a little more alive.

The Klon Makes Everything Sound Better

I’m delighted with the results. Best way I can describe it is that it sounds more like a Strat tone after it’s been mixed. And, of course, it’s dead quiet too. I get more noise from my Les Paul on really bad days.

In the room, just practicing or noodling around for fun, I do prefer the single coils I’ve put in my Player Strat. Thanks to some advice from Andrew @astringsuk, that guitar sounds really good. I can see me choosing Elite + Klon for recording though.

The Elite isn’t the only guitar where I’ve got noiseless pickups. I’ll do a follow-up on the decade-old set of passive EMGs in my old Charvel, and how the Klon helps there too.

And I *might* go and find out what the new pickups in the Ultra are like through a Klon … (that Texas Tea finish is very alluring …)

Anyone else using the Klon in this way with noiseless / stacked single-coil pickups? I’d love to hear how you’re getting on too.

New Arrivals For October

Here in the UK, the online second hand gear market is in the worst shape I’ve seen for decades. Even frequent ‘sell for £1’ events by eBay haven’t helped.

So instead, I’ve decided to sit down, and sort out my home studio setup.

Marshall DSL 20HR

These were launched around the same time as my beloved Marshall Origin, as a replacement for the old Marshall DSL range. I played through the 5w combo at the Origin demo night, and loved it.

One finally turned up at a great price, and it now completes my collection of classic amp tones from affordable amps. I’m looking forward to learning how to get the best out of it over the coming months.

The Hermit’s Cave has spent most of this year as the rehearsal space for the band I’m in. I’m currently getting things sorted out and wired up for recording once again. When that’s done, and I’ve found my feet with this amp, I’ll record some clips and demos to show how this amp compares to the Origin 20H.

OMEC Teleport by Orange Amplifiers

Before there were Pods, there were Roland guitar synths.

When I worked in London in the mid-90s, Denmark Street was the place to search out great gear. Did I buy a vintage guitar, back before they cost the earth? No. I bought a piece of electronics that dated faster than fresh bread: a Roland guitar synth.

That old unit brought me years of pleasure. I wrote a whole album’s worth of music on it, veering off from writing guitar music to writing music for other instruments. I can’t remember what happened to it – whether it died or I sold it on – but I still miss it. And the two? versions that Roland brought out since were IMHO inferior. Roland seems to have completely given up on it in recent years.

The OMEC Teleport is a little pedal that acts as a USB audio interface. It’s just another way to get your guitar signal into a computer. Combine it with Jam Origin’s Midi Guitar 2, and I’m hoping it’ll give me renewed access to the guitar synth world.

And if it does, I’m planning on taking all that old music I wrote, revising it, and re-recording it. Fingers crossed 🙂

Synergy Friedman BE Module

I’m always on the lookout for extra modules for my insane stereo Synergy pedal platform. Many of the ones I don’t have yet don’t clean up enough to use with most pedals. Sometimes it’s great to simply go straight into a filthy amp, so if I can get those modules 2nd hand, I will.

ART XLR Patchbay

There’s a part of me that would love to have a Universal Audio Apollo rack unit, partly for the extra processing power, and partly because I hate recabling before I can sit down and record stuff. They’re serious money, and completely overkill for my situation. Processing power on my Apollo Twin is an issue, but I hardly ever need more than two preamp inputs at a time.

So what if I simply made the chore of cabling a lot less of a chore? That’s where the two patchbays I’ve bought this month come in.

The idea is to have (nearly) all of my gear wired up permanently, and then I just need to jumper a few ports to pick the gear I want to use.

Neutrik Patchbay

As well as the XLR patchbay (above), I bought a traditional 3.5mm jack patchbay at the same time.

When I want to switch amps, one of the things that’s a real pain is switching over the FX loops. They’re not always easy to reach without moving the amp, and sometimes I can’t find the right length cable to reach my pedal board.

For convenience, I’m hoping that I can run the FX loops of all my amps into this patchbay, and then it’s just a case of moving a couple of cables to plumb in my preferred delay and reverb pedal chain. It should also be possible to jumper the cables for when I don’t want anything in the FX loop either.

If that works, I’ll also try patching in the input to each of my amps. That’s just out of curiosity though 🙂

Kemper Remote Footswitch

Another thing the patchbays are for is for me to get my Kemper wired up once again, so that I can start using it a bit more.

One advantage of using the Kemper for practice is that it means I’m not using up the life of my tube amps. Another advantage is that it has a built-in looper – but it seems that you need to pair it with the proprietary footswitch unit to use the looper.

These footswitches have shot up in price recently, so when a 2nd hand unit came up, I decided to grab it while I could.

Universal Audio Apollo x6

I got fed up of juggling inputs on my trusty Apollo Twin, so I traded away my Taylor T5z to help fund this new unit.

I’d been waiting for a Apollo x4 of some kind for the best part of a year now. Historically, there’s been a huge gap in the Universal Audio hardware lineup: you had the Apollo Twin with two preamps, and then had to jump up to the Apollo 8 with four preamps. Four preamps would be a good sweet spot for a home studio setup.

They’ve just announced the Apollo x4, and while it does have four preamps (yay), it’s still a desktop unit (boo!) with potentially limited processing power … that’s launched at around the same price as the Apollo x6.

The other thing with the Apollo x6 is that it currently comes with a free UAD Apollo Satellite. That’s a unit that provides additional DSP processing power. Together, the bundle is far better value for money than the Apollo x4.

New Arrivals For September 2019

August was another really slow month on the second hand market, and things didn’t pick up for September. Instead, I’ve ended up concentrating on the first guitar of my #PlayAlternative series.

Vintage V100 Lemon Drop Guitar

Vintage are a UK brand, who specialise in making their take on big-brand guitars for the budget end of the market. The V100 Lemon Drop is based on Peter Green and Gary Moore’s famous 59 Les Paul – the one that Kirk Hammett owns and gigs atm.

It’s the exact guitar Adam played in this video:

It’s the first guitar I’ve bought for my #PlayAlternative challenge, and fingers crossed it will become the benchmark to measure all the other alternatives against.

Boss GE-7 Graphic Equaliser Pedal

In person, through my rig, the Vintage Lemon Drop doesn’t quite sound like a Les Paul. It has a bit more of a modern, mid-scooped tone, with deeper lows and brighter highs. Through modern-voiced amps, it’s probably a good voicing for its target audience.

I was curious. How can I make it sound close enough to a Les Paul that no-one will know or care? A pickup swap is the obvious thing to try (see below), but that’s expensive, and possibly beyond the budget of someone who would be looking at the Vintage Lemon Drop in the first place.

But a Boss pedal would be firmly in-budget. Can the venerable GE-7 alter the tone enough? I decided to buy one to find out 🙂

Sigil Pickups Bluesman Snakebite PAF Humbuckers

Once I decided that the Vintage Lemon Drop was a keeper, I really wanted to hear how it would sound with a great set of PAF-like pickups. What happens if you take a set of pickups intended to be an upgrade over Gibson’s Custom Shop pickups, and drop them into (possibly) the most shafordable Les Paul knock-off available in retail stores?

There’s plenty of great UK-based pickup makers out there, including Monty’s Guitars and OX4 Pickups to name two I’ve been delighted with in the past. If I was playing regular gigs with Les Pauls, they’d all have OX4 pickups in them.

For this project, I wanted to go back to Canada’s Sigil Pickups.

David made the Bluesman 57 Ltds that went into Ghost (my 2015 Gibson Les Paul Custom). He was a delight to deal with, and the pickups were simply fantastic. They completely transformed that guitar. I always told him that I’d buy the pickups for my next Les Paul from him … and haven’t bought a humbucker Les Paul since.

He’s greatly expanded the range since 2015, and these Snakebite pickups caught my eye. If you haven’t come across it before, Snakebite is Joe Bonamassa’s #1 vintage Les Paul. It’s a phenomenal-sounding instrument, even amongst original Bursts. A set of pickups that can chase that tone should be perfect for this project.

More details – and actual sound clips of these! – will follow. For now, all I’ll say is that these pickups sound so good, the guy who installed them for me kept the Sigil Pickups business card, because he wants a set for himself.

#CoffeeAndKlon 16: Boosting With A Graphic Equaliser Pedal

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

Good morning! I hope you’re having a great weekend. Got another #CoffeeAndKlon for you this week. I hope you enjoy it.

Today’s Coffee

Coffee this morning is an Ethiopian wild coffee from the Yayu Forest Reserve. It’s the kind of mild coffee that’s perfect if you’ve got guests who are occasional coffee drinkers.

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I was hoping to be drinking Sumatra coffee this morning – my absolute favourite – but the Yayu Forest didn’t run out yesterday as I’d hoped.

I could have just had a 2nd cup, I know. I’m finding that one cup of coffee a day is the best way for me to enjoy it. The Sumatran will still be there tomorrow 🙂

So pedals. What do I have for you this week?

#DesertIslandRig

The #DesertIslandRig is still on hold. I will return to it. It’s just that those two Wampler pedals have really got me rethinking it. So far, in the room, everything sounds better when one of those pedals is last in the chain.

It’s important to change your mind when you learn something new.

My final opinion is on hold until I’ve recorded with this signal chain. I’ve got some work to do to get my home recording setup wired up again. I unwired it all last September when I bought some new furniture for the room … and I haven’t wired it back up yet.

(That’s also what’s holding up the Marshall Origin 1 Year Review. At this rate, it’ll be the 2 Year Review!)

Anyway, I’ve got another boost pedal to talk about today.

I Picked Up A New Boost Pedal

When it comes to boosts, I’ve talked about Klon, klones, treble boosters, and clean boosts. There’s another type of boost that deserves a mention: the equaliser pedal. Like the venerable Boss GE-7:

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I picked one up last week, for my #PlayAlternative guitar challenge. I’m using it to help the Vintage Lemon Drop sound closer to my Les Paul.

By cutting the lows in the right place, and boosting the mids in the right place, I can crudely* make the Lemon Drop sound a little more vintage-voiced.

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*I say crudely because there’s only 7 bands to adjust. By necessity, they’re quite broad, and it makes for a bit of a blunt tool.

To my ears, “vintage-voiced” means prominent mids, with the energy firmly in the upper-mid range of the tone. Does the GE-7 achieve that for the Lemon Drop? I’ll let you know when I do my write up for the guitar 😉

Btw, That Pedal Show has done several shows on using EQ pedals to shape the tone. Find them on YouTube 🙂

The GE-7 is on the board for another reason.

The Eighth Slider

I’m also using it as an overall boost pedal too. Because there’s an eighth slider on the Boss GE-7. It controls the overall signal volume:

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In this case, I’m using that eighth slider to turn DOWN the guitar volume, just a little bit. An anti-boost, if you like. There are two good reasons why.

I’m using the GE-7 to boost the mids of the guitar signal. That gives the tone a little more of a vintage character. It also has the effect of making the guitar sound louder, and that needs to be balanced out.

My rig is voiced for vintage-output pickups. Turning the Lemon Drop down just a little bit makes it sound much sweeter through my rig. The effect is to present a cleaner signal to the first drive pedal.

Compared to other boosts, a graphic equaliser gives you more control – if you want to shape your guitar signal.

Other boosts are a better choice IMHO if you want to affect how your dirt pedals or amp react to your guitar tone. They’re more musical than a GE pedal in that role.

What Do You Use?

So that’s my thoughts on using a graphic equaliser pedal as a boost pedal. What are your experiences with one? Good? Bad? Do you use a different EQ pedal? Share your experiences, so we can all learn 🙂

Hope you have a great rest of your weekend! Catch you next weekend for another #CoffeeAndKlon, and checkout the hometoneblog.com for more home guitar playing talk 🙂

#CoffeeAndKlon 14: Sans Klon

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

Good morning! I hope you’re having a great weekend. And, if you’re here in the UK, enjoying the unseasonable bank holiday weather. Got another #CoffeeAndKlon for you this morning. Only there’s no Klon today …

Today’s Coffee

Before I get into pedals: coffee. We’re just drinking the last of this Vietnam coffee this morning. It’s pretty mild, easy to drink, with a nice burnt aftertaste. The kind of thing it’s nice to have as a break from more distinct coffees, I feel.

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We’ve got to go shopping for coffee again soon. Local supermarkets, for whatever reason, have almost stopped stocking whole-bean coffee these days. We’re lucky to have Cortile Coffee here in the market.

Anyways – pedals.

Why No Klon?

And this week, I have a confession to make: my Klon’s sat on the shelf gathering dust atm. Because I’m *still* exploring these two Wampler pedals I got at the start of the month. And because I stuck the Amber Drive in front of them.

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This is my second Amber Drive.

The Pedal That Inspired #SecondBite

Years ago, I was looking for a pedal that would help me get a great lead tone. The demo Mike Herman did of this is still one of the best tones I’ve ever heard in a pedal demo.

In person, I couldn’t get *close* to that tone. Probably could have done with Brian Wampler’s advice on pedal demos back then:

Disappointed, I moved it on … but that failure nagged at me.

When the chance came to get another one at a great price, I decided to try again. It became my very first #SecondBite pedal. But the results were no better second time around … until a week ago.

Using The Wamplers To Shape The Tone

In Mike Herman’s demo, the Amber Drive has this thick, raspy mid range thing going on. Into any of my amps, the mid range is thin and disappointing. And it has a nasty top-end that I don’t want to listen to – ever.

Messing about with the Tumnus in front of the two Wampler pedals, I noticed how the EQ was being shaped. More mids, and a loss of high end. Sounds like just what the tone doctor ordered for the Amber Drive 🙂

And there it is. If I run the Amber Drive into the Tweed 57, I get pretty close to the tone from Mike Herman’s demo. As close as a hack like me can hope for, anyways 🙂

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And it’s dead quiet too. Two pedals stacked into each other, and practically no noise to speak of. Even with single coils.

Given how noisy and crappy our domestic electricity is here in the valleys, that’s a big win for me.

Pairing With Guitars

It’s a bit clichéd perhaps, but right now I’m preferring Amber Drive into Tweed 57 for a Telecaster, and Amber Drive into Black 65 for a Stratocaster. And the Black 65 on its own for great clean tones.

But what about a Les Paul? The La Grange sound – the classic ZZ Top guitar sound – is Strat into a cranked plexi, right?

Les Paul > Amber Drive > Black 65 > Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 gets you right there.

With the caveat that I haven’t tried this yet, I think I’d use this rig w/ the Black 65 for recording rhythm, and swap to the Tweed 57 for lead tones. To my ears, that’s what would work best if you went with a Les Paul.

One of the things I love about both these tone stacks is how percussive it is. Palm-mute the low strings, and there’s none of that hard rock/metal attack. It’s pretty blunt, in a good way.

And that gives me a bit of a dilemma.

What Happened To The #DesertIslandRig?

I thought I had my desert island rig nailed down. And I still do, for guitar and amp. But the pedals in between? I’m going to have to spend some serious time comparing the Amber Drive stack w/ my original choice now. Never thought I’d be saying that a month ago!

So there you have it. That’s why there’s currently no Klon on my little practice board. Have you had an experience where a pedal you’d given up on suddenly came to life, all because you plugged it into something different? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Have a great rest of your weekend!

#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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!