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 🙂

New Arrivals For June 2019

I’ve spent nearly all of June away in Scotland, enjoying a much-needed break from work out on Orkney. Just before I left, I picked up a few items to enjoy when I got back.

These are my initial impressions of the gear I’ve bought this month. I’ll delve into them in a lot more detail when I’ve had more time with them.

Vox Mini Superbeetle Amp

My friends Andrew and Adam are both massive fans of the Vox AC30 sound. Andrew loves getting all his tones by going straight in, and Adam loves driving his with his growing pedal collection. I tried one, and it wasn’t for me. Too big, too loud.

I’m hoping that Vox’s Mini Superbeetle is the compromise … something that’ll be the perfect AC30 substitute for someone who’ll only use it occasionally. It’s not a sound that I need a lot; I’m mostly going to be testing pedals with it to educate myself.

It’s a nice-enough amp, but I honestly don’t know what I’m doing with it yet. The whole Vox tone is completely new to me, and I’ve no idea how to get the best out of it as a pedal platform. I guess I’ll be watching That Pedal Show videos to learn a bit more 🙂

Boss Katana 100 Head

When my local guitar store announced it wasn’t going to be a Roland / Boss dealer any longer (it’s no longer profitable for small, independent outlets like them), I decided it was time to pickup a Katana before they ran out of stock. Good job too, as I snagged the very last one they had.

Why a Katana? Not everyone in the #HomeTone community can afford a real valve amp, and not everyone wants one. The Katana’s become a mainstay of amateur home musicians – and I’m not comfortable answering questions about them when I don’t have one of my own.

In the shop, I ran this into a Marshall SV112 1×12 fitted with a V-Type speaker. As a reference, I put Fender’s Santa Ana Overdrive in front of it. It’s one of my favourite drive pedals. I loved the results: big and fat and warm, three words I’d normally never associate with a V-Type speaker!

Expect to see a bit more of this later in the year when I finally get my #CoffeeAndKemper series off the ground.

JRAD Blue Note (Tour Edition) Overdrive Pedal

Rewind to 2012. YouTube is just starting to become the place to go to learn about the vast world of boutique pedals. And the JRAD Blue Note Overdrive pedal (in its original form factor) feels like a regular guest star in many of those videos.

Since then, this is a pedal that’s largely dropped off the radar. Good for me – I was able to snag one at a great second hand price. Maybe you can too?

In person, I was surprised at just how low-gain this pedal is. Even gunned with a big fat Les Paul running into it, there’s barely enough gain to use for rhythm work. This is a pedal that needs a helping hand – or needs to be used as a helping hand itself.

As a quick test, I threw the MP Audio Brit Blue in front of it (I need to compare thees two pedals, I suspect they’re quite similar), and got a lovely fat tone out of the pair. Roll on some free time, when I can explore this pedal a lot more!

SviSound Overzoid od1 Overdrive Pedal

This is my second Overzoid. My first one died a year or so ago, and thanks to the #CoffeeAndKlon series I write on the weekend, I’ve been missing this pedal more and more. It’s such an affordable pedal, I don’t know why I waited as long as I did to buy a replacement.

I feel like I’m approaching this pedal from a better perspective than I did the first time I bought one. I think the only pedal I’ve owned for longer than this is the Forest Green Compressor. Back then, I definitely didn’t have a clue about what I wanted or stacking pedals together. You can be the judge of whether that’s changed or not over the years … 🙂

I love how I can use it to add a bit more drive to my lower-gain pedals like the Sweet Honey Overdrive, all without drastically changing the tone or slamming the front-end of the pedal with a hotter signal. Although it is a very bright pedal, it doesn’t have the ear-fatiguing top-end sparkle of something like the TC Electronic Spark.

I’m looking forward to comparing this with the legendary Timmy pedal into a cranked amp in the near future …

Marshall Origin: Great With Boss Pedals

Marshall’s new Origin amp is an affordable, vintage-voiced valve amp. Boss have been making a range of affordable drive pedals since the 70s.

And together, they sound pretty damn fine.

Reference: The Marshall Origin With No Pedals

As a reference point, here’s what the Origin can do without any pedals.

Thing is, if you’re playing at home, you’ll probably never hear your Origin sound like that. This amp needs to be cranked to deliver the dirt. That clip was recorded with both Master and Gain on 8. My 20W Origin head is just too loud to do that at home.

So, if you like what you’ve just heard, and you want that for yourself at home, you’re going to have to budget for some pedals to go along with your nice new Origin amp.

And that’s where Boss comes in. Their pedals are cheap (the most expensive one in this demo is the BD-2 at £85) and widely available (support your local guitar shop!). And they work really well through the Origin.

Overdrives: BD-2 Blues Driver and the SD-1 Super Overdrive

First up is the venerable Boss BD-2 Blues Driver.

It has the lowest gain out of all three pedals in this roundup, but don’t let that put you off. As you can hear in the demo below, if you’re playing the kind of rock that sounds best through this amp, you don’t need all the filth for rhythm work.

Next up, another classic Boss pedal: the SD-1 Super Overdrive.

This pedal will get you right up there, delivering the same amount of filth that the Origin can do on its own – only without having to crank the amp to do so. To my ears, the SD-1 sounds a little thicker than the Origin does, and maybe slightly softer clipping too.

Have a listen:

Distortion: Boss DS-1

The DS-1 is a legendary pedal.

Compared to the SD-1, it offers harder clipping and reduced mids for a more aggressive tone. As a result, the guitar will sound quieter compared to the other two pedals. Thankfully, the Origin has an immense amount of input headroom, so just turn up the pedal and rock out!

Setting Up Your Boss Pedal For The Marshall Origin

The common advice with these Boss pedals is to turn down the gain, and use them as a boost into the amp’s input to get the amp to naturally overdrive.

That doesn’t work with the Marshall Origin.

The Marshall Origin has a huge amount of input headroom. You have to crank a pedal well past its sweet spot to have any chance of getting the Origin to naturally overdrive at home volumes.

The good news is that you don’t need to. Turn up the gain on your pedal to taste, and then adjust the pedal’s volume until you’ve got the same volume when you turn the pedal on and off again.

As the Origin is a bright amp, you’ll probably want to start with the pedal’s tone control at around 10 o’clock. From there, adjust the tone control with your ears.

Final Thoughts

The Origin is one of those amps that has a big say in what a pedal sounds like. It’s very suited to pedals – like these three from Boss – that are designed to work with an amp’s existing colour.

I’d happily record with the Origin and these pedals. I think the results are very usable – especially for the money! And they felt nice to play through too, which is also important.

What do you think? Comments below!

Does The Boss Katana Take Drive Pedals?

Adam and Tom for AStrings have responded to a YouTube comment: does the Boss Katana take drive pedals well?

The Boss Katana is an amp that’ll be on the list of possible amps for home tone fans. It’s very affordable, sounds very good, and is full of digital effects to give you lots of options.

And, when you’re ready to explore different tones, using drive pedals is one way to do so.

So how does the Boss Katana do? Watch the video to find out, and then please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment.

Blindfold Challenge – Affordable High Gain Amps

Chappers and the Captain have posted the 2nd part of their high-gain amp blindfold challenge. This time, they’re looking at 7 amps at £1,000 or below.

These kind of videos are a great opportunity to hear a bunch of amps side by side. Exact same guitar, exact same guitarist, and it looks like they’re running each amp into the exact same cab (so they’re all mic’d up the same). The only difference is the amp itself.

And these aren’t aspirational boutique sell-a-kidney amps. These are the kind of amps that you’d be looking at if you want a real valve amp for home and gigging.

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment if you enjoyed this video.q

JHS Modded Boss DS-1 Synth Drive

Yes, you read that right. JHS has taken the ubiquitous Boss DS-1 and made some crazy mods to it. And then they asked Mike Hermans – one of the top  demo guys – to show what this thing can do.

It starts out with an upgraded drive circuit, complete with a three-way toggle switch for different clipping types. That alone would be a great mod in its own right.

Then, they added 3 different synth circuits that you can switch in and out independently … just in case you’re bored with overdrive sounds. Or you just want something that’s batshit 🙂

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment if you enjoyed Mike’s video.

Boss Katana Artist Amp Demo

Over on In The Blues, Shane has posted his demo and review of the new Boss Katana Artist amp.

The Katana Artist is the new top-of-the-line amp in the Katana series from Boss. If I’ve got this right, it’s the same models as the original Katana amps, in a 100W combo platform with a reworked power section – including attenuation – and a better speaker.

I’ve heard the original Katana 50 at gig volumes, and thought it sounded great in person. Katana isn’t trying to be a digital model of other amps. It’s basically it’s own thing, backed with models from Boss’s 40+ years of pedal heritage.

There is a trick to getting the most out of the Katana. Boss modelled the power section to work the same as a tube amp. Run it with the master volume up full, and adjust the channel volume to suit. The Artist’s reworked power section, with the built-in attenuator, should make it even easier to setup even at home tone levels.

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a comment if you enjoyed Shane’s video.

In The Blues Podcast / Vlog: Amp Talk

Over on the In The Blues YouTube Channel, Shane has posted his latest podcast episode in its new format. This one is all about amps that Shane has recently played.

I thought that my own views on the Kemper echo Shane’s: a great studio tool that doesn’t take pedals at all well. I’ll be writing a lot more about the Kemper soon!

He also covers the PRS J-MOD 100, BOSS Katana Artist, and the Line 6 Helix. I’m always interested in what he has to say about amps. He’s played a lot of gear over the years, and he’s a gigging musician to boot.

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment if you enjoyed Shane’s podcast video.