#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!

#SecondBite: Wampler Sovereign Distortion

This conversation was originally published to my Twitter feed.

Arrived this morning … will the Sovereign from Wampler prove to be the king of drive pedals? Spoiler alert: no. It’s a finicky pedal to dial in. Got some great sweet spots though. Let me walk you through them …

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What makes this pedal finicky? Henning covers it very well in his video review of the Sovereign.

There’s something going on in the low-end of this pedal that you can’t dial out, and that makes it challenging to use with humbuckers.

I had that problem with my first copy of this pedal, which is why I sold it a few years ago now. Just plugged this one in, and yeah, still not a great tone with humbuckers.

Brian makes great pedals. I’m not giving up on it just yet.

I’m a different player than I was when I first had this pedal. My rig is different. My guitar is different. That’s why I’m taking a #SecondBite at this, and other pedals that I’ve had and sold on.

This time, I’m starting with a different premise.

What Gear Did Brian Use?

This is one of Brian’s older circuits. Let’s assume he had limited gear back then. From his videos, looks like he mostly had Teles into Fender amps. Why don’t we start with that, and go from there?

I’m running the Sovereign straight into my Blackstar Studio 10 6L6. It has become my favourite Fender-voiced amp for #HomeTone use. I’ll try it through the Origin another time.

I’m going to use it with the Fender Vintera 60s Modified Tele that I recently got. It’s a monster for fat tones, and it’s a great Tele for a Les Paul player like me.

The Sovereign shines with the Tele’s bridge pickup. Suddenly, all that low-end from the pedal … just works. It fills in the overall sound really nicely. Definitely a sweet spot.

What about P90s? If I dig out my red Special (pun intended – sorry Andrew!) Les Paul w/ P90s, it’s an interesting story. This guitar lacks the mid-range thickness that I associate with P90s.

That’s a good thing in this case.

First thing to point out – have to play on the bridge pickup. Even in the middle position, the pedal’s low-end thickness doesn’t suit. These aren’t hot pickups, but I still had to roll down the volume and tone to tame the harshness.

And there it is – a Tele-ish tone that I suspect would work well in a mix with my Tele. That’s a big win for me. I love being able to pair things up for recording.

You can probably tell that I’m warming to this pedal as I go along. I’ve already got gear that suits my normal Les Paul. Having something that suits other guitars gives me options I may not have had before.

But I Love My Les Paul

So, with everything I’ve learned, let’s throw a Les Paul Standard at it. Again, bridge pickup only, and rolling back volume and tone to tame the pedal a bit. I found that harder to dial in. Too easy for the pedal to sound harsh.

Thing is, I’m not a bridge pickup player. One of the reasons I love Les Pauls is the tone from the middle position. Roll neck volume down to 4, switch to middle position. Bring bridge volume up to get the dirt back, then tone up to find the right bite.

That’s a much nicer sound than where I started from 2+ hours ago 🙂 Can’t see me picking this over other pedals for my Les Paul. When I want to use the Tele though, this might become a go-to for that.

What Else?

I’ve had no success stacking this pedal (so far). It’s dead quiet – stunningly so. That’s not the problem. Everything I’ve tried in front of it has made the pedal sound worse.

So yeah, that my #SecondBite at using the Wampler Sovereign. I hope you found the process interesting. Let me know what you think.