#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!

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.

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 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 🙂

#CoffeeAndKlon 3: Why I Stack Pedals

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

For this week’s #CoffeeAndKlon I want to talk about what got me into Klons and Klones in the first place. Because I don’t have a klone on my practice rig atm.

This week, I’ve gone back to the two pedals that give me *my* sound: the Blue Brit into the Sweet Honey Overdrive. For me, this is home.


What do I mean by ‘my sound’? There’s just something about it that, when my friends hear it, they say it’s the sound they imagine me using. I hope that makes sense?

It’s an almost-fuzz, into something that maybe sounds like a small vintage American amp, into something that’s pretending Marshall’s history started one amp earlier, into a speaker mostly used for AC30s.

And that’s the point of this week’s musings.

If you go straight into a plexi amp, you’re going to sound like everyone who’s ever gone straight into a plexi. It’s an awesome sound. It’s also one that everyone’s heard many, many times.

Same goes if you’re using a single drive pedal into a clean amp. There’s not much variety in any one pedal. Most of their controls are about dialling in the pedal for the guitar and amp.

When you start stacking pedals together, that’s where you can get different tones. How much of a difference depends a lot on which pedals you pair up.

Some pedals won’t stack at all, for various reasons. I’ll try and remember to cover those another time. Are they bad pedals? No. You’ve just got to embrace them for the tone they give.

Some pedals are engineered to ensure they stack well. That’s one reason why I’m a huge fan of Mad Professor pedals, the Bearfoot FX pedals – basically anything designed by BJFe.

So how does pedal stacking work? Are there any hard and fast rules? Honestly, I don’t know. What I can do is describe how these two pedals are interacting atm, to my ears at least.

But first, I need 2nd coffee 🙂 That’s better 🙂

What I’m hearing is ‘foundation’ and ‘shaping’. The dirt is coming from the Sweet Honey Overdrive. It’s providing the main characteristics of the tone. The foundation, if you like.

On its own, it sounds very good. It’s clear, articulate. Just a great – one of the greatest – low gain pedals ever designed. I’ll compare it the the Honey Bee another time 🙂

Now, on its own, in the room, you could say it sounds a little thin. When I’ve recorded this pedal, I’ve found I’ve had to double-track it to give it the weight it really needs. That’s where the other pedal comes in.

The Brit Blue, from MP Audio of Australia, is superb at adding weight to a guitar tone. In front of the SHOD, it really fattens things up. It shapes the tone through the frequencies that it boosts.

I’m not deliberately boosting the signal into the SHOD. I’m not after more dirt from the SHOD. The Blue Brit might be adding a touch of drive itself. Like a Klon, it comes alive when the drive control is above a certain threshold.

The end result? I’ve still got all the dynamics and articulation that I love about the SHOD, just fatter and decidedly chewy. And slightly softer.

The first pedal in a stack – the Brit Blue in this case – isn’t limited to shaping the EQ. It can also shape the attack of each note too. The BB is definitely taking the sharpness away when I strike a note – when stacked into the SHOD. How much of it is the BB alone, and how much of it is the pairing, I can’t say. I don’t know how to measure that either way.

What I can say is that I like the result. A lot 🙂

I hope I’ve encouraged you to explore stacking drive pedals like this for yourself. The Klon might be the most hyped pedal for this – because it can be amazing at this – but don’t limit yourself to just klones.

There are other pedals that do it amazingly well too, and will give you something different from everyone who has jumped on the Klon hype train. And if you’re a straight-into-the-amp player … you carry on doing you. It’s all good 🙂

#CoffeeAndKlon 2: Before We Had Klones

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

Good morning! I thought I’d do another #CoffeeAndKlon today This week, complete with authentic rat’s nest wiring!

But first – coffee 🙂 Nothing happens here on a morning until there’s coffee.

Quickly, what’s with the terrible wiring in that first photo?

Turns out the Pedaltrain Nano+ is just too long to fit on a standard-size 19” rack shelf. And I need the extra depth of a rack shelf to fit the power supply and patch bay I’m using.

So, right now, I’ve got nowhere to route the power cables – hence the rat’s nest of wiring. Wiring like this will probably make my rig noisy. That’s why it’s terrible.

Any ideas on what might fit into this space and give me elevation to route the power cables, let me know.

So, this week … there’s no Klon on my practice / gear test setup. It might seem incredible today, but it wasn’t all that long ago when there were no klones, and we had to use other pedals in that clean boost / colour role. I want to talk about that today.

We’ve had the Klon KTR (I love it, many do not) and klones for what – 6 years or so now? Before that, there were Klon Centaurs and some klones that utter amateurs like me didn’t know about. And boost pedals. We’ve had boost pedals for decades.

Remind me, and I’ll feature some popular boost pedals in the future.

What does a boost actually do? There’s three key aspects, for me:

  1. a volume boost
  2. an EQ change
  3. without adding dirt

Any pedal that does all three can be used as a boost.

There’s no written rule that says you can only use pedals that are made and marketed as boost pedals. Look at the Tubescreamer. It’s a drive pedal. But someone figured out that you can put it in front of a JCM800 to boost that amp into 80s rock heaven.

Before the Klon KTR, my boost pedal of choice wasn’t a boost pedal at all. It was a compressor. Mad Professor’s Forest Green Overdrive. And that’s what’s on the shelf this morning, on the far right of this photo.


I honestly couldn’t tell you what colour it’s adding, just that (to my ears) it does add something. Some of that will be down to using it to boost the volume. As sounds get louder, we hear them differently.

A Klon can make pretty much any pedal sound better. Some pedals – like this Bluebird Overdrive – sound better when boosted with the Forest Green instead, imho.

As Klon inventor Bill Finnegan himself says, the hype around the Klon is ridiculous. Klons (and many klones) are great. Other pedals can be great boost pedals too. Inc ones that aren’t sold as boost pedals.

I hope I’m encouraging you to experiment.

What non-boost pedals do you use for boosting your main dirt pedal or your amp? I’d love to learn more about what you’re using 🙂


Troubleshooting The Mad Professor Silver Spring Reverb Volume and Tone Drop

Today, I’m going through my guitar pedals, making sure there’s no old batteries forgotten in them. Along the way, I ran into a bit of a surprise regarding my Mad Professor Silver Spring Reverb pedal. Let me explain …

Checking Out An Old Neunaber Slate

I have a grab-and-go pedal board. It hasn’t been used for a while, so I thought I’d take all the pedals off, check that they still work, check for old batteries, and pack them away for now.

One of the pedals on there is an old Neunaber Slate. It’s a programmable digital pedal. You can download different reverbs, delays, and modulations onto it. You can also plug an add-on ExP controller into it to give you 4 banks of effects.

The Slate used to be Neunaber’s flagship product. At some point in time, it got renamed to be the Expanse. Sadly, it looks like it’s been dropped from the lineup recently. UK resellers don’t list it any more. The desktop app hasn’t been updated in 18 months.

Anyway, dropped or not, it should still sound great. And it’s true stereo, which means it’ll be a great option in the f/x loop of my dual-Synergy rig. So I decided to chuck it into the f/x loop of my Marshall Origin 20H to make sure it works.

Swapping Out The Pedals

Normally, I have the Mosky Blue Delay and Mad Professor Silver Spring Reverb in the f/x loop. They’re both always-on, set-and-forget pedals. And I’ve been very very happy with the sound of both.

I swapped out the Mosky for the Neunaber. It worked, which is what I cared about. I noodled through it for a bit. I really enjoy its tape emulation delay mode. When I’m recording, the Universal Audio Echoplex is my go-to delay f/x. The Neunaber’s is every bit as enjoyable.

Then I took the MP Silver Spring out, so I could try some of the Slate’s reverbs out. Good job I did.

Oh my. All of sudden, the tone is much richer. A lot more bottom end, fatter mids, clearer highs. There’s a volume increase – the signal’s now at unity. I hadn’t even realised that there’d been a volume drop until now.

What’s going on? Is my Mad Professor Silver Spring Reverb dropping the volume and sucking the life out of my tone? How can I troubleshoot it to find out?

Troubleshooting Steps

Whenever I’m troubleshooting, I follow a guiding principle: isolate to eliminate. The idea is to remove possible causes one by one, and see what happens.

First step – let’s make sure that the Origin 20H’s f/x loop isn’t somehow responsible. I took out of the f/x loop, and ran it in front of the amp. No improvement.

Next step – let’s pop the back off. Any internal trim pots that might be responsible? No, but there was an old battery in there from when I bought it. I removed the battery, and ran it entirely from my external power supply. No improvement either.

Could my external pedal power unit be responsible? Odd as it may seem, incompatibilities do crop up from time to time, even when the power supply is rated for the voltage and current a pedal wants. I popped a fresh battery in … and still no improvement.

At this point, as far as I can figure, the only common remaining factor is the pedal itself.

Next Steps?

The Mad Professor Silver Spring Reverb is a respected pedal. People who know what they’re on about recommend it. Retailers who can’t afford to sell gear with a high return rate stock it.

If the volume drop and tone-loss was a fundamental design flaw, I’d expect to find complaints about it on YouTube, and/or on the usual forums. So far, I’ve drawn a blank.

I did get this pedal second-hand. There’s the possibility that it has been damaged at some point in its life. Maybe it’s from a bad manufacturing batch, or an old revision of the circuit. Maybe key components have simply failed with age.

I’m going to email the folks at Mad Professor to get their advice. Maybe it’s possible to send it in for a check and a repair? I’m going to find out.

Remember, it’s a 2nd hand unit, so if Mad Professor comes back and says there’s nothing they can do to help, that’s the risk you take when you buy 2nd hand gear. If you want guarantees, always buy new.

Final Thoughts

I’ve had the Mad Professor Silver Spring Reverb as an always-on pedal since I got the Marshall Origin 20H at launch in April 2018. I can’t say whether it’s been affecting tone and volume since day one, or whether this is a problem that’s happened at some point since I got it.

Either way, I need to go back and revisit everything I’ve tested through my Marshall Origin 20H. Starting with my Fender American Performer Strat and the new pickups I ordered for it yesterday …

New Arrivals For February

February has been a very strange month for gear.

The Winter NAMM announcements are over, and now we wait for actual stock to appear in the shops. Some items – like Marshall’s new Studio line of heads, combos and cabs – have arrived quickly (and largely sold out just as quickly). Other pieces – not so much.

eBay started slow, but in the middle of the month, there was a lot of great gear up for grabs at surprising prices. I was expecting most people to be waiting for the “free for private sellers” changes coming at the start of March. I was wrong.

Here’s a list of everything I’ve picked up in February, along with my initial impressions. I’ll write up a full article on each of them once I’ve had a bit of time with them.

Mad Professor Stone Grey Distortion Pedal

I love Mad Professor. By far, they’re my favourite obtainable pedal brand. Many of their earlier offerings were designed by the legendary Bjorn Juhl (of BJF / BJFE fame), and they’re all designed with ultra-low noise floors and ultra-high headroom inputs to support stacking pedals together to find your own tone.

Even so, when I plugged it in for the first time, I was surprised at just how dynamic and responsive this pedal was. It’s billed as a high-gain distortion pedal for modern metal, but in seconds I’d dialled in a lovely light drive tone that really suited single coils and P90s.

I can see this pedal getting a lot more use than I’d planned on.

Mad Professor Golden Cello Pedal

With this pedal, I’ve definitely reached the point where I’m now buying early Mad Professor pedals to complete my collection. It came up on eBay at a great price for a Mad Professor pedal – possibly because it came sans original box 🙁

One thing I didn’t realise when I bought this pedal: they don’t make these any more. Looks like they weren’t a great success first time around. But a niche sound can still be a great sound in the right context.

I’m really looking forward to comparing it with the Bluebird Overdrive pedal that has been on my pedal board for several years now. Both pedals feature a built-in delay, and are aimed at lead tones. Maybe – just maybe – they’ll work out as complementary lead tones for recording?

Mad Professor Mighty Red Distortion Pedal

I’ve had one of these before, and flipped it (in part) because I was just getting into the whole vintage-voiced thing – pickups and pedals alike. I’ve picked up another one because it completes my collection of early-era Mad Professor drive pedals.

It’s Mad Professor’s entry into the whole EVH / “brown sound” world, that slightly hot-rodded JCM800 tone from the days of hair metal (and my youth!) Like many of these kinds of pedals, it’s somewhat a one-trick pony. Doesn’t mean you can’t have a lot of fun with it though 🙂

Plugged it in, and I’ll be honest … not feeling the fun. It’s a pedal that needs dialling in, and today’s not the day to spend on that.

Barber Electronics LTD Overdrive Pedal

This caught my eye because it isn’t a pedal brand that I recognise.

A quick bit of research suggested that this discontinued pedal is a low-gain overdrive that folks either absolutely love or are totally ‘meh’ about. Sounded like it could be my thing, so I chucked in a minimum bid amount and left it at that.

I’m so glad that I did. It took a couple of attempts to dial it in (it didn’t like my V30 speaker, but it absolutely loved the Celestion Blue) and there it was. A wonderful, clear, articulate mild overdrive tone. Absolutely perfect for the kind of rhythm riffs I play of my Les Paul. And it sounds fantastic with a Strat too.

When I’ve got time to devote to this pedal, I’m very curious about how it compares with the King of Tone (is it the perfect complementary tone pedal?) and how it takes boosts in front of it. I’m also wondering what it sounds like in the boost role too.

Kemper DI Box

I have a love/hate with my Kemper. Back in 2017, I called it one of my 3 worst purchases of the year (along with the King of Tone!), and I promptly went out and bought a dual-amp Synergy rig as soon as they were available here in the UK.

So what am I doing buying Kemper’s own DI box for a unit I should have flipped 12 months ago?!? I ask myself that every day …

Kemper units are in professional recording studios world-wide. They’re a tool that many professional guitarists use. I feel that I can’t just ignore that, that all these folks who rely on the Kemper to pay their bills do so for a very good reason. If I want to understand guitar tone better – if I want to get better at producing great guitar tone – getting better results out of the Kemper is one way for me to learn.

Hyperion Clone Fuzz Pedal

This (and the other fuzz pedal I’ve snagged this month) also belongs in the “why are you spending more money on things you hate?” category.

It’s not that I hate fuzz, it’s just that I’ve never enjoyed playing through the kind of raspy, broken-speaker kind of fuzz tones that people buy fuzz pedals for. I’ve always gone for the fuzz-as-overdrive tones (Velvet Fuzz, The Pelt) up until now.

Meathead Clone Fuzz Pedal

One reason for picking these pedals is that I’ve had clones from this guy before, and I’ve loved each one of them. The drive and boost pedals I’ve already got are well put together, have zero noise issues, and sound every bit as good as American-made (and priced!) boutique pedals.

I might not get on with these two fuzz pedals, but I’ll know it’ll be me, and not the construction of the pedal. And that’s important. These two pedals are an affordable way for me to explore something I know little about and haven’t gotten on with previously.

OKG (One-Knob Gain) Boost Pedal

I got this from the same guy who made the two fuzz clones listed above. He also made the Little Pink Wonder (my name for it!) boost pedal that I absolutely raved about last year on Twitter. Whether or not I like the tones, all his pedals seem to be well made using quality parts. I’ve no hesitation in trying out anything he puts up on eBay.

I don’t know what pedal this is based on. I believe it’s meant to be different to the LPW boost I already have. If it’s actually the same circuit, honestly I win either way. The LPW boost is so good I would be very happy to have a spare in my collection.

This OKG boost (my name for it) is different from the LPW boost. It doesn’t sound like a full-frequency boost like the LPW does. Through the Blackstar Studio 10 6L6, the sweet spot gives this wonderful vintage vibe: crunchy on chords, clear (and a little thin) up the dusty end of the neck.

I dug out my MXR Echoplex Pre to compare it against, and whilst I can’t say for certain that the OKG is a clone of this style of circuit, there isn’t much in it to my ears. The MXR is a little warmer, a little sweeter on the top-end, but that’s not to say the OKG boost sounds bad. I think you could use both for complementary tones when recording.

It’s definitely not an EP Boost clone. This is the first time I’ve compared the EP Boost to the MXR Echoplex Pre, and I was surprised at how different they sound. That’s certainly food for thought.

Ibanez Mini Tubescreamer Pedal

This is another pedal that turned up at a really great price on eBay this month.

I picked this up because I don’t own a genuine tubescreamer atm. I’ve got a few pedals that are based on the tubescreamer circuit, but not an actual TS pedal. It’s going to be interesting to compare them, and see whether the genuine article can push the pretender off my pedal board.

The first thing I’m going to do with it? Strat + ZenDrive + TS. That combo normally sounds very special indeed.

Xotic SL Drive Pedal

I’ve had one of these before, and ended up flipping it. So why have I gone back to it? It certainly isn’t for nostalgia’s sake.

Whenever I can find them at great 2nd hand prices, I’m going to revisit pedals I’ve had before to see whether I can get on with them better now that I’ve improved my rig. (This all started with the Mad Professor Amber Drive …)

This time around, I found it much easier to dial in. It seems to react well with the Marshall Origin’s brightness and insane input headroom. It still seems to work best for driving rock rhythms, rather than more laid-back styles.

I’m looking forward to spending more time with it.

Keeley 1962x Pedal

It’s hard to get one of these for a great 2nd hand price. They’re quite sought-after, and rare enough that they might only be one going on eBay at a time – a perfect storm if you have one to sell in normal times!

Robert Keeley is a legend in the guitar pedal business. It’s past time that I finally got one of this pedals. And this gives me yet another Marshall-in-a-Box flavour to add to the palette of tones.

Online, everyone raves about the KT88 mode of this pedal. Tell you what, though, I’m loving the KT66 mode with a Strat and the gain dialled back. I don’t think my Strat has ever sounded better.

Keeley Oxblood Overdrive Pedal

Is it another in a long line of klones, or just a really great dirt pedal from the legendary Robert Keeley? It’s certainly pitched as a pedal that can kick both your Tubescreamer and your klone off your board. It can also act as your main dirt pedal too, something those other pedals aren’t so good at.

Klon klones (and their rivals) interest me a lot. I like pedals that shape the overall tone in interesting ways, as long as they stack well with whatever’s next in the signal chain. It can be as subtle or as over-arching as you want. And, increasingly, the klones are often even better as the main dirt pedal than they are doing the Klon thing.

Quickly testing it out on its own, it seemed to suit the bridge pickup of my Strat better than it did the neck pickup. Switching over to humbuckers, I was surprised at how similar they all sounded through the Oxblood. That might be a very useful thing if you’re gigging and changing guitars mid-set.

Exact same settings through my Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 and the exaggerated mids from the Oxblood sound just right with a Les Paul. More experimentation needed!

Keeley Super Phat Mod Pedal

It’s rare to see Keeley drive pedals going 2nd hand (other than the D&M Drive). I couldn’t believe my luck when a third one came available at a great price.

When it comes to low-gain pedals, the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver pretty much defined that whole genre. It’s a pedal that’s been modded to death (including by Keeley), cloned to death, and rivalled almost as much as the Tubescreamer itself.

With the Super Phad Mod, Keeley have taken their original mod for the BD-2, and made it a full pedal in its own right. I’ve seen people talk about this as the ultimate BD-2-style pedal, so when one came up at a great price, I couldn’t resist my curiosity.

I plugged it in, and struggled with it a little. The drive control is clean, and then within a hair it really isn’t clean at all. With my Strat, I just couldn’t find the sweet spot on my first go. Switch over to my McCarty 594, and it was a completely different story.

Keeley El Rey Dorado Overdrive

That’s right … sneaking in at the very end of the month is a fourth Keeley drive pedal. And it’s YAPP (Yet Another Plexi Pedal) to add to my collection.

I remember when these first launched in the hand-wired format as an exclusive to Riff City Guitar. They’re now available in factory format, as it were. I haven’t seen many turn up on the 2nd hand market recently, but doing my research before buying this 2nd hand unit, it seems there’s no shortage of stock of brand new items at aggressive discounts. Make of that what you will.

What am I expecting? A one-trick pony that’ll rival the JHS Charlie Brown v2 as a JTM 45-in-a-box. One-trick because it’s widely reported to have very limited adjustment ranges.

Yeah … it’s incredibly limited. The gain starts at crush-your-soul and only needs a nudge to go into smoother-with-mud territory. The tone is either covered-in-blankets or brittle-as-can-be; if there’s a sweet spot in between, it’s so small that I can’t find it. And this is with vintage-voiced, low output pickups!

However … dial it in just the other side of covered-in-blankets, then roll back both volume and tone on the guitar, and there’s a really nice crunch tone waiting for you. I’ve had more fun with a Strat rather than a Les Paul so far. I think I need to stick something in front of it (an EQ pedal perhaps) to get the very best out of it.

JRAD Tim Pierce Overdrive

This is a pedal I’ve been after ever since it was launched.

Tim Pierce’s YouTube channel is one of the very best for learning how a professional musician approaches his craft. He’s played on more hit records than you can shake a stick at – and he’s been doing it for decades, one of the best indicators that he really knows why things work.

This pedal doesn’t disappoint. Right from the go, I was able to dial in a great fat clean sound for my Strat. It was warm, dynamic, articulate. I can easily see me using this and the Keeley 1962x together on tracks.

JHS Morning Glory v4 Drive Pedal

The Morning Glory isn’t just JHS’s biggest success, it’s also one of those pedals you’ll consistently see folks put on their “legendary pedal” list. A lot of folks lump it in with klone pedals, although it isn’t sold as a reproduction of the most infamous circuit in pedal land.

Hardly any of these pedals this month arrived in boxes. This is the first time I’ve received a pedal sent in a recycled takeaway meal container though!

I’ve only tried it as a main drive so far – I don’t have things wired up to try it as a Klon-style boost atm. It took a few minutes – and some swapping back and forth to compare it with other pedals – before I found a tone I liked.

With the tone knob above 10 o’clock, my rig sounds brittle and plagued with electrical noise from the mains. Turn it down to 9 o’clock, and all the life gets sucked out of the signal. Find the sweet spot, though, and suddenly it’s other pedals that sound brittle or harsh.

Very interesting.

Wampler Pantheon Overdrive

The Analogman King of Tone (KoT) is as famous for its unusual ordering procedure and lengthy waiting list as it is for how much Dan of TPS loves his. Just like the Klon before it, this kind of demand and hype has created a market for people to bring their own take on this sound to market.

After being down on my KoT for a long time (it was in my Top 3 Disappointing Purchases of 2017), I’m finally at a place where I really like the KoT. So when a friend borrowed mine to help him decide if he wants one for himself, it got me wondering what the KoT alternatives sound like. And the same night, a 2nd hand unit turned up at a price I was happy with. Fate? Coincidence? I’ll take it either way.

Holy smokes. From the very first chord, this thing impresses. There’s something about the tone – and I can’t put my finger on it atm – that just sounds quality. I can’t think of a better way to describe it. Some pedals sound raw. Some sound focused. This just sounds like a million dollars.

Snouse BlackBox Overdrive 2

This pedal is another take on the bluesbreaker circuit. It isn’t as famous as Analogman’s legendary King of Tone, and it isn’t as widely-stocked as Wampler’s new Pantheon pedal (I don’t believe there’s any retailer in the UK who stocks it), but it does have its fans.

The bluesbreaker (BB) circuit was originally a Marshall design, yet (to my ears) the King of Tone is at its best through a mid-scooped Fender-style amp. I’m half-expecting the Wampler Pantheon to fall into that category too. Where will this pedal fall?

Well, I lost a whole evening playing this through my Marshall Origin 20H and a Strat. Even started coming up with some new licks whilst I was doing so. That’s always a good sign!

Empty Cardboard Boxes

One of the downsides of getting a 2nd hand bargain is that the pedal often arrives without its original box. And boxes are really handy.

The box doesn’t just keep a pedal safe from dust, it also makes it much easier to stack a collection of pedals up on a shelf out of the way. Plus, when the time comes to move these pedals on to their next lucky owner, the box offers added protection against the modern postal experience.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find anywhere around here that sold suitable boxes for keeping pedals in. So I found somewhere that makes boxes to order, and that will do so in small quantities. I’ve got 25 plain white boxes (20 standard pedal size, 5 large pedal size) on their way from Italy, and if I got the dimensions right, I’ll soon have all my loose pedals packed away 🙂

On the dimensions side … mostly right. Turns out a couple of the pedals I’ve picked up recently have protruding jacks that I hadn’t taken into account. I have managed to get them all into these boxes, but I would probably add a few extra millimetres to length and width next time.

The boxes themselves … very white, very glossy, and quite thin card. They’re definitely not as sturdy as original pedals boxes are. But for keeping the dust of the pedals – and making them much easier to stack on the shelf – they’re perfect.

There’s something to be said for having all the pedals in boxes of a standard dimension. It’s a bit like switching to pedals with top-jacks. Maybe I should get some more, and get rid of all the original boxes I already have?

Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 Amp

If you’re part of the Les Paul player community , you’d be forgiven for thinking that the only amps launched at NAMM are Marshall’s new 20W studio amps. It’s all anyone wants to talk about – or wants to bash, depending on whether or not they believe that Marshall stopped making “proper” amps back in the 70s. That’s Internet forums for you!

Blackstar also released some amps, including a line of simple (1 preamp value, 1 poweramp valve) 10W combos aimed at home volume players like myself. There’s 3 amps in the lineup – the KT88 (which I haven’t seen in the wild yet), the EL34 (does the Marshall thing) and the 6L6 (which does the Fender cleans thing).

I’ve been looking for an amp that does exactly this for the last couple of years. I’m delighted that someone has finally made this kind of amp, aimed squarely at someone like me. My only question is: why isn’t it Fender doing so? Oh, and why does nobody make something like this as an amp head?!?

In person, the Studio 10 6L6 stands out for its extended range: there’s plenty of low-end (perhaps a little too much?) and good clear highs. Dial in your volume, switch to the neck position on your Strat, and there it is – that clean tone that no Marshall will give you.

Oh, and Les Pauls absolutely rock through this thing with a pedal.

And, it has to be said, some pedals just sound better through this amp. American pedal designers predominantly play Telecasters or Strats through Fender amps. It shouldn’t be a surprise if some of their pedals suit a Fender-style clean tone more than the mighty mid-range roar of a dimed Marshall.

That’s why I wanted both styles of amp to hand. Yes, I’ve already got this through the Synergy rig, but (for reasons I’ll go into another time) it’s not a rig I want to run all the time. I’m really enjoying being able to switch between this and the Marshall Origin when exploring different pedals.

My Strat is getting a lot more playing time too.

Synergy Plexi Module

Exactly 12 months ago, I went over to Peach Guitars and built out a dual-amp Synergy rig to be my pedal platform for the next 10-15 years. It’s soddingly expensive to buy into – especially for a dual-amp setup – but by the time you’re up to 3 or 4 different preamp modules, you’re way ahead of what it would cost to own all of the original amps they’re based on.

I’ve had the Metro Plex module right from the very beginning, and it’s one of my favourite amps for dirt. I used it in last year’s “Is It Plexi Enough?” challenge involving the Marshall Origin, and everyone loved the sound of it. Synergy do their own-branded Plexi module too, and I’ve always been curious about what the differences are between the two. Just not curious enough to buy one brand new.

One finally came up on the 2nd hand market over here. I don’t believe that there are many Synergy users in the UK atm – in part because the stuff was out of stock for most of 2018 – so not only are 2nd hand pieces rare, there’s only a small pool of people around to bid on them.

From the get-go, I was surprised. The Plexi module sounds much more like the Marshall sound in my head than the Metro Plex does. And I absolutely love my Metro Plex. Just like with Synergy’s 800 module, I bet you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between this and an actual equivalent Marshall in a blind test.

One thing’s for sure. Because I’ve got this and the 800 module, I can’t see me buying either of Marshall’s new 20W Studio amps. With my Synergy rig, I’ve already got those tones covered. In that respect, Synergy lives up to its promise.

New Arrivals For January

The turning of the year can be a great time to hunt for new (to you) guitar gear. The second hand market is normally flooded with folks who are moving on gear they no longer want – or sadly can no longer afford to keep. And there’s Winter NAMM, where brands large and small drop announce new products.

I’ve been lucky enough to pick up some stuff that I’m interested in, and I thought I’d share it with you. Some of it is new to me, and some of it is me taking a second look at things I’ve had before but didn’t gel with. And there’s a few very special items too.

I’m going to do full articles on each of them, once I’ve had a bit of time with them. For now, here’s the very first impressions for you.

The Acoustasonic Telecaster

Fender’s big announcement at Winter NAMM 2019 was this unusual-looking thing. It’s a Telecaster that sounds like an acoustic guitar.

I know, right?

I was away on a business trip when the announcements came out, and my reaction was the same as pretty much everyone else’s – meh. It seems like such a gimmick. And it isn’t helped by being priced around the same as an Elite Telecaster or Stratocaster.

But when I got back home, and was able to listen to the demos – especially the Andertons and Reverb demos – my opinion changed. It sounded so, so good. Hear for yourself:

Normally, this wouldn’t be my thing. But I’ve just started weekly rehearsals for a gig (hopefully in April), and we’re doing an acoustic set. This new Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster seems perfect for that – even better than the Taylor T5z.

I’ll be using it at rehearsal for the first time on Wednesday. I’m already looking forward to it.

Lovepedal Tchula Black Mamba

Lovepedal’s legendary Tchula pedal, in its Black Mamba variant

Lovepedal’s Tchula pedal is right up there with the Klon Centaur and Analogman’s King of Tone as a fully-fledged member of the Legendary Pedals Club. Don’t @ me.

At its heart, the Tchula is two COT50 boost pedals stacked together. One side is a fixed boost, and the other side has (I believe) a bias pot so that you can dial in to taste. There are several different variants, and (with the exception of the Mississippi Tchula) each variant sports a different take on the COT50 to give a slightly different tone.

I managed to snag the Black Mamba Tchula. This variant is said to be a little warmer than the original gold Tchula designed for Josh Smith. Sounds ideal for a bright amp like my Origin 20 🙂

AEA Nuvo N22 Ribbon Microphone

AEA’s Nuvo N22 Ribbon Microphone

I was watching a video on Chicago Music Exchange’s YouTube channel over Christmas (I think it was this one on the new Fender American Performer Telecaster), and I was stunned by the sound quality.

Here was a mic capturing all the mid-range we’d expect, and with all the body that we love for home tone. There’s plenty of top-end too; it doesn’t sound like someone threw a blanket over it.

The mic they were using was a ribbon mic, the AEA Nuvo N22. And it was just my luck that a 2nd hand one turned up earlier this month.

Literally all I’ve done with it so far is plugged it in to make sure it wasn’t DOA. When I’ve got some free time (haha I wish) it’s going to get used for making Kemper profiles and on some female vocals.

Mad Professor 1 Brown Sound Pedal

Mad Professor’s 1 Pedal. The Eddie Van Halen sound in a box.

Speaking of Kemper profiles, I’ve started thinking about collecting as many Marshall-in-a-box (MIAB for short) pedals as possible. I think it’d be handy to have a wide palette of Marshall-like tones to hand.

Plus, I’m a huge fan of Mad Professor pedals. So when a couple of these 1 pedals came up on the 2nd hand market this month for a really good price, I thought it was a good idea finally pick one of these up.

How can I describe it? It’s basically got two settings – high gain, and melt-your-face-off gain. As you’d expect, it’s a one-trick pony (most MIAB pedals are), but what a trick. It gives you that perfect 80s hair-metal tone that we all wished we actually had back in the day.

Carl Martin PlexiTone Drive Pedal

The PlexiTone overdrive pedal from Carl Martin.

This is another Marshall-in-a-box (MIAB) pedal that I’ve seen plenty of but never heard before. I can’t remember seeing any demos of this up on YouTube. So I was curious to try it – if one came available at a good price on the second hand market.

I’m glad I did.

With all these MIAB pedals, there’s a risk that most of them will sound pretty much the same. After all, they’re all chasing the same iconic tone. But here’s the funny thing about tone – we all hear something different. And that can be seen in how different all these MIABs often are.

The PlexiTone has a 70s rock feel about it. It’s brighter (cutting, even), and thinner than the pedals that chase the 80’s hair metal sound. It makes me want to sit here and play old Thin Lizzy riffs – if only I knew some!

Lovepedal Eternity E6

The Lovepedal Eternity E6. As made famous by Capt Anderton.

Although it’s not marketed as such, the Lovepedal Eternity pedals have always been lumped into the Marshall-in-a-box category. There’s been a lot of variants over the years, but perhaps the best known one is the E6. Capt Anderton used to use one on all the Andertons videos, and his signature Lovepedal Stax Master dual-drive pedal featured the E6 on one side.

I used to have one a few years ago, and I moved it on because I thought it was too noisy. Since then, I’ve made a lot of improvements to the quality of my rig, and I thought it was a good idea to try this again.

I’ll be honest – it didn’t stay out of its box for very long. It arrived around the same time as the Tchula, and that Tchula is a magical wonder to behold. The pedal isn’t noisy (yay!), but I was finding it hard to dial in the ‘glass’ control to suit. I think I need a bit more time with it, and to be dialling in the amp more than the pedal.

Xotic Effects EP Booster

The EP Booster from Xotic. Based on the Echoplex preamp.

Now here’s another pedal that I had noise concerns about, before it arrived.

I’ve never owned one before. I’ve had two other Xotic pedals, and one reason I flipped both of them is that I wasn’t at all happy with how noisy the pedals were. I chain pedals together for my recorded tone, and if a pedal has a high noise floor, all that noise gets magnified to distraction in a pedal chain.

Again, since them I’ve made important improvements to my rig, and I need to revisit old experiences to see if they’re no longer valid. That, and the Echoplex Preamp is one of my favourite boost pedals. I was curious to see how the EP Booster compared.

Both pedals are based on the preamp circuit of the legendary Echoplex tape delay unit. The preamp circuit adds colour to the tone in a way that’s really pleasing.

My main pedal board needs completely stripping down and rewiring from scratch. So I haven’t been able to compare the EP Booster to the Echoplex Preamp pedal yet. I have run it into my Marshall Origin, and I didn’t hear any noise problems there. But the jury’s still out until I’ve built the new board and tested it there.

Suhr Shiba Drive

The Shiba Drive, from Suhr.

I’ll be honest – I don’t know much about this at all. One of my eBay searches is for Suhr guitars, and every now and then a genuine Suhr pedal turns up in the search results too. (The Suhr Riot is one of those pedals that all the usual suspects have cloned over the years).

It isn’t marketed as such, but I’m tempted to say that this falls squarely into the TubeScreamer segment of the pedal market. Only, you can definitely use it into a clean amp – something the TS isn’t strong at. It’s definitely a pedal to sit in the mix. I’m looking forward to using it to drive my Synergy Amps rig at some point.

Wampler Tumnus Deluxe

I’m sorry, I forgot to take a photo of this one before sitting down to write this blog post.

Just before NAMM, Wampler put up a post on Facebook that strongly suggested that the Tumnus Deluxe was about to disappear from the range. I had a look round, saw that it was out of stock almost everywhere, and managed to buy one of the last few I could find in the UK.

Yeah, I paid full price for this one.

Turns out, the Estate of CS Lewis have objected to the name of the pedal, and forced Wampler to rename it. At the time of writing, all the Wampler folks are at Winter NAMM, so there’s no-one around to update their website and it isn’t 100% clear what the pedal’s new name will be (the GOAT perhaps?) That’s going to be the only change. The circuit will remain the same.

I bought this thinking it was going to be discontinued. I’ve mixed feelings on the news that it’s just getting a name change. I feel a bit mislead by Wampler, but at the same time I’m glad that you’ll still be able to get this pedal.

Because it’s great.

All the Klon klones I’ve tried so far – including Wampler’s own Tumnus mini-pedal – have a flaw in the bass tone when used as a boost pedal. Every single one of them gets very bassy. And that’s something my Klon KTR just doesn’t do.

The Tumnus Deluxe has an active bass control on it – something that’s rare (if not unique) amongst Klones. Perfect. It also has a ‘hot’ switch, so that it can be used as an overdrive pedal all by itself. I haven’t spent very long with it so far, but I was able to dial in a lovely open dirt tone straight into my Marshall Origin 20.

As the main pedal board is out of action atm (see earlier in this post), I haven’t been able to compare the Tumnus Deluxe to the KTR. I probably won’t either, as I’ve got the KTR dialled in exactly how I like it, and I’d hate to adjust it at all.

Your New Arrivals?

So those are my new arrivals for January. And most likely for February too (at least)!

What gear have you managed to pick up for Christmas? Which ones got away? What have you got your eye on for later in the year? (That new green finish for the Silver Sky has certainly turned a few heads …)

Leave a comment below!