#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 🙂

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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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: Little Tweedy Drive and The Pride of Texas

This conversation was first posted to my Twitter feed.

Wasn’t expecting them to arrive together like this. Seeing as they have, I’m sorely tempted to compare them head-to-head 🙂

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Let’s set the scene. My go-to tone is something like a Honey Bee or Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD for short) into a blackface-sounding clean amp. It’s kind-of a small American amp sound, from the time of chrome and open-top cruising.

I’m hoping that both of these pedals will give me more shades of that same flavour … just like different ‘plexi’-voiced pedals give me choices for the classic British rock tone.

Esp the first pedal – the Little Tweedy Drive by Mad Professor. The name – and their YouTube demos! – say that this should nail that sound.

One important point: I’ve never owned an actual Fender Tweed amp, and I’ve never even played through one. I can’t compare these pedals to the real thing. All I can do is compare them to each other, and to the SHOD or the Honey Bee.

Both the Little Tweedy Drive and the Pride of Texas have the same control layout: volume, gain, bass and treble EQ. Single ‘tone’ EQ controls can be frustrating to work with. So this should be an improvement over the SHOD.

The Little Tweedy Drive

First up – the Little Tweedy Drive, by Mad Professor. First note: it sounds quite similar to the SHOD. I’ll have to A/B them to check that. But there’s an in-your-face difference: the Little Tweedy sounds like a distorting speaker!

Hrm …

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As the gain goes past 12 o’clock, this thing basically turns into a fuzz tone, it’s so overblown. Not what I was after, and something I don’t know how to make good use of.

I’m going to have to take that one away and look into it. I don’t know whether it’s meant to do that, or whether it doesn’t like my amp, or whether it’s just faulty. My guess is that it’s deliberate, that it’s trying to recreate how these small amps act when cranked.

Very quickly, I did A/B it against the SHOD. Even ignoring the distorted speaker sound of the Little Tweedy, they’re quite different. The SHOD is much more mid-focused than the Little Tweedy. The Little Tweedy is a much fuller sound. If only it didn’t distort like that …

The Pride of Texas

Next up, the Danelectro Pride of Texas. This thing looks and feels really good in person. Does the sound live up to the physical experience? No, not for me.

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Unity volume on the pedal is one hair’s width above dead silent. I find that really difficult to work with. Even with the gain cranked, this pedal’s almost clean. This isn’t a drive pedal, it’s a boost, surely?

Let me share the text off the side of the box here.

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This is an SRV-in-a-box thing. Somehow I completely missed that when the pedal first launched. He was a famous TubeScreamer user. So this should actually be a TS-style circuit, just optimised as a crazy boost? That’s novel.

And that’s definitely what I’m hearing. It’s got that ‘where did all the low-end go?’ that happens when you boost an amp with a TS pedal. Okay, let’s try and use it like that. Not a setup I use myself, so don’t hate me if I don’t do it right.

I’ve just grabbed the JRAD Animal, and moved the Pride Of Texas to be a boost into it. A bit like boosting a crunchy Marshall with a TS (I hope). Oh yes, that’s much better! That’s a lot of fun 🙂

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Just for my own ears, let’s A/B it against an actual TubeScreamer. Yeah, I think they’re very similar when used as boosts. Main difference to my cloth ears? The Pride of Texas has more bottom end, thanks to the EQ setup.

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Well, that is a very happy accident. This has a real chance of joining the Klon KTR, Brit Blue, Overzoid od1 and Forest Green in my pantheon of go-to boost pedals.

Concluding Thoughts

So to sum up …

The Little Tweedy Drive doesn’t sound like an SHOD, and does sound like a distorting speaker, and the Pride of Texas is a TS / crazy boost hybrid and not a primary drive pedal at all. Well, at least they both give me something I don’t already have!

They turned out to be utterly different from each other, not just in tone, but also in how to use them. I definitely learned something today. I hope I kept you entertained while I did 🙂

First Impressions: Mad Professor Big Tweedy Drive Pedal

This conversation was originally published on my Twitter feed.

This evening, I’m enjoying something a little bit different – a Mad Professor Big Tweedy Drive pedal. Boosting it with a Klon, and running it into a Blackstar Studio 10 6L6.

With the right guitar (a @raghguitar RPJ), this setup gives a good approximation of the guitar tone from A Star Is Born. Such a great film. And Lady Gaga should have won the Oscar for her acting performance. Anyway …

(I need to talk a lot more about the RPJ soon. It is such an utter tone monster, and a delight to play. I have – and have tried – other P90 guitars, inc a very Special (pun intended) Custom Shop model. The RPJ slays them all for tone.)

The pedal sounds pretty good with a Tele or a Les Paul, but a nice, fat P90 seems to bring the best out of it. Haven’t found a tone with a Strat that I like (yet).

I’m finding it a bit of a one-trick pony, and it’s a bit prickly. Dig in too sharply, and it’ll turn that action into an instant attack of the ice pick. To mitigate, I’m rolling the guitar tone off completely, then gradually back up to find min setting that isn’t dull.

On the one hand, I feel that it’s something that should be addressed in a rev2 of the circuit. It’s that annoying. On the other … it certainly gives the pedal a bit of character and dynamics that stops it being dull and lifeless.

It’s what they call a foundation pedal. Which mostly means it needs a bit of help to get the most from it 🙂 So far, Klon-style pedals seem to get the best from it. The Brit Blue also works really well, esp with that Tele I recently got.

I have tried it into the Marshall Origin, didn’t really enjoy the results. Seems to suit the Blackstar very very well though. (And the more I use it, the more I’m glad I have this amp!)

I’m not familiar with actual twin tweed amps; I couldn’t tell you how close this gets to the real thing. If you want this kind of vintage American tone, it’s one for you to check out. But only if.

[Later in the evening – Ed] I dug out the Special to try it through the Big Tweedy. It does sound good. It’s just a delicate kind of sound compared to the kaiju that’s the RPJ.

I forgot to mention. The pedal’s Drive control is also its bass control. Turn the drive down, and ALL the low-end frequencies disappear. Just be aware of that if you decide to try one for yourself.

#CoffeeAndKlon 8: As The Main Drive Pedal?

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

Good morning! For this week’s #CoffeeAndKlon, I’m going to talk about using a Klone as your main drive pedal. It’s something that comes up regularly on Wampler’s Facebook group.

Why does it come up there?

  • it’s a group that’s very friendly to new players
  • Wampler’s Tumnus is popular as a main drive pedal

I’m sure that there are folks out there using Klon Centaurs and KTRs as their main overdrive pedal. Maybe it is more popular than using it as a clean boost in front of pedals or a dirty amp? I wouldn’t know.

I think there’s a specific reason why the Tumnus has found an audience as a main overdrive pedal. It puts out a lot more low-end than my KTR.

To test this, I’m running it into the Boss Katana. Turns out the Katana’s clean channel is very useful for testing pedals. It doesn’t give the pedal any extra help, and any loss of bass or presence comes across very obviously.

And I’m playing the new Tele I bought yesterday. Partly because I’m still really enjoying it. Mostly because it puts out quite a bit of low-end too. Will the Tumnus turn that tone into mud?

No … not at all 🙂

For playing at home, the extra low-end actually sounds really nice. It makes the middle position on this Tele a lot of fun to play with.

That extra low-end doesn’t suit everything though.

If I switch over to a Strat (which has a lot less mid-range output than the Tele), it doesn’t work for me. The Strat sounds a little muffled, and borderline muddy. The mids aren’t strong enough to dominate the tone.

It also highlights a big difference between the kind of tone we love for #HomeTone, compared to what a professional musician would go for.

For #HomeTone, we like signals that have plenty of lows and highs – because it’s just us, and we’re right next to the speaker cab.

In a recording or a live band, those wider frequencies cause a guitar to get lost in the mix. I wonder how the Tumnus would fare in a full band?

If you’ve tried that, I’d love to know what happened, and how you got on. I’d love to learn from you 🙂

Can other klones be used as main drive pedals? If you’ve done that, let me know 🙂

Have a great day, and head on over to the http://hometoneblog.com  for more #HomeTone discussion!

#CoffeeAndKlon 7: Too Much Sparkle?

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

It’s #CoffeeAndKlon time again. And I want to talk about a pedal I think everyone should try – the TC Electronic Spark Booster. What, you didn’t think I’d forgotten I’d talk about this one, did you? 🙂

This boost pedal is arguably famous because it was a regular guest star in any Andertons YouTube vids. I know I got mine because of them 🙂

I guess they got tired of it? I can’t remember the last time they mentioned it in a video.

Anyway, every time I plug it back in, I think it sounds top-drawer. The ‘clean’ setting in the middle sounds flat, and I can dial in extra dirt or adjust the EQ – and keep the output volume down too.

But it’s what it does to the top-end of the frequency spectrum that I love the most.

I can’t stand guitar tones that sound like someone’s thrown a duvet over the speaker cab – or that sound like they’re coming through the wall from another room. I want a guitar tone that sounds like it’s right there in front of me.

It’s one reason (amongst many!) that I’ve gone from digital to tubes, when the trend is definitely going in the other direction.

There’s something about the presence from the Spark that sounds just right to me. I don’t know if it’s boosting the high frequencies or simply not filtering them, but I like whatever is going on.

Going back and forth between the Overzoid and the Spark, I’d say it’s the main difference between the two. The Spark has a … sparkle … that isn’t there with the Overzoid.

If I love the tone so much, why is the Spark rarely shown out on my practice board? Well, after about 10-15 minutes, that extra sparkle has caused ear fatigue for me. My ears just don’t like being blasted with sounds in the upper register 🙁

Maybe I could dial back that treble control and try and tame it? My ears need time to recover first!

I think it’s as bright as it is so that we can use it as a treble booster into an amp, where the saturated preamp should swallow up the extra frequencies? I’m guessing. I don’t know if that’s the case.

Anyway, when my ears recover, I’ll be putting the Overzoid back on the board for now.

As always, this is just personal preference. Try one for yourself. You might like what they do 🙂

So, what’s coming up next time? I haven’t talked about Tubescreamers, and I haven’t talked about the Klon’s legendary rival, the Timmy. They’re more for boosting amps than pedals though.

I’ve still got a few more alternative boost pedals to share with you before I break out a cranked amp or two. And I should talk about some more klones too 🙂

#CoffeeAndKlon 6: My Reference Boost Pedal

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

For this #CoffeeAndKlon, I want to follow on the last one, and talk about an older boost pedal – the MXR Micro Amp. How does it compare with the Klon, and with the Overzoid I featured last time?

(Yes, that’s a Kemper sat underneath. I promise I’ll talk about it for #HomeTone soon!)

This is an old design – as old as I am! They first came out in the 70s, and they’re basically a clean boost version of the MXR Distortion+ drive pedal.

I’ve talked about treble boosters and transparent overdrives previously. Let’s talk about clean boosts. They aim to produce a louder signal (a volume boost) without colouring the input signal (flat frequency response).

And they don’t come any cleaner than the MXR Micro Amp. It has a perfectly flat response across all the frequencies that matter for guitar.

If you gun this pedal, you’ll get added dirt simply because the pedal’ll run out of headroom. At more modest levels, the output from this pedal remains clean, and you get extra gain from whatever you’re boosting because you’re slamming it with a hotter signal.

I think the MXR Micro Amp is a *great* reference pedal to own. And they’re not that expensive either. If you want to hear what *any* other boost pedal is doing, A/B it with the Micro Amp.

I don’t often use the Micro Amp when noodling at home. There’s a reason ‘transparent overdrives’ colour the signal. It’s rare that simply turning the volume up makes a tone better.

The other thing for me, though, is that I don’t always want to slam the input on a pedal. I want to shape the tone, not crush it.

I really like how something like the Overzoid can get a bit more drive out of a pedal by adding a bit more drive itself. I think that works really well with just about any pedal – especially those with low input headroom. (I must test that!)


#CoffeeAndKlon 5: Transparent Overdrives

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

In this #CoffeeAndKlon, I thought I’d talk out the term ‘transparency’. And I shall do my best to do so with a straight face 🙂

Why this topic? Because I got another one of these this week: the SviSound Overzoid od1 🙂


Before the term ‘klone’ was popular, people used to refer to them as ‘transparent overdrives’. I have no idea if Bill Finnegan (creator of the Klon) ever used the term.

These days, if you google the term, you’ll see all sorts of pedals come up in the results. Whatever meaning it had, it’s been hijacked by the quest to be on the front page of search results. Thank you, Google, for turning meaning into a sodding game.

The Klon is famous for its 1 Khz (ish) mid boost. Klones also do this, and many of them also muck about with other parts of your tone. Doesn’t sound very transparent, does it?

  • A ‘transparent overdrive’ is basically a ‘sound better’ pedal, rather than a ‘sound different’ pedal. You kick them on, and smile.
  • ‘Transparent overdrive’ pedals are also ‘always-on’ pedals. You’re not kicking it on for a solo boost (as a general rule). You’re kicking it on to sound better all the time.
  • ‘Transparent overdrives’ aren’t the main source of dirt in a signal chain. They’re run into a dirty amp or pedal to influence what that source of dirt does.

Have I missed out any essential properties of a ‘transparent overdrive’ at all? I think those 3 cover the important bits.

It’s easy to see why the term has been hijacked to such a degree. Who doesn’t wish for a magical thing that instantly – and effortlessly – makes us sound better? There’s money to be made from catering to dreams like that.

With the Klon, the mid-hump makes a low gain tone sound better by emphasising frequencies we all hear well.

And the gain fattens the tone too. A little bit of dirt can make a ‘clean signal’ sound big and warm and fat by the way it messes with our hearing.

But, not every tone needs that, and not every pedal can cope with being on the receiving end of what the Klon does best. And, for me, that’s where the Overzoid fits so nicely.

Let’s take one of my favourite drive pedals – the Sweet Honey Overdrive. For me, the pedal’s sweet spot is with the gain at about 2 o’clock. That’s where I think it sounds best. But I wish it had more usable gain on tap.

With the Overzoid, I can add a little bit of gain on the signal into the SHOD – which gives me quite a bit more gain out the far end. All without changing the overall tone, at least to my ears. It’s far more transparent than a Klon.

I love having this option to hand, because of how I dial in my Les Paul. I predominantly use both pickups together, with both volumes rolled back a bit. Neck is normally between 4-6, and the bridge between 8-10.

Dialling back the volumes like this reduces the output of the guitar (amongst other things). So a low gain pedal like the SHOD becomes an even lower-gain pedal. The Overzoid helps me put that gain back into the end tone, and even add a bit more on top.

Critically, it doesn’t really change the tone much at all. Which means that I’m not getting that ‘out of the mix’ lift that a Klon gives me. And that’s great when I’m recording multiple rhythm guitar tracks, imho.

I’ve had an Overzoid for years, from way before I’d even heard of a Klon. Probably the first boost pedal I ever owned. I think I’ve only had the Forest Green Compressor (which I also use as a boost!) for longer.

So how does the Overzoid compare to an older design, like the MXR Micro Amp – or a newer design, like the TC Electronic Spark? I’ll have a play, and try and answer that next time 🙂