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.

#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.

First Impressions: Fender Vintera 60’s Modified Telecaster

This conversation was originally published to my Twitter feed.

I picked up one of the new Fender Vintera ‘60s Modified Teles today. I don’t care that it’s made in Mexico. It’s a good guitar.

I grew up with Strats, and fell hard for Les Pauls about 7 years ago. Teles – I’ve never understood. Will this one finally change that?

When we were kids, Teles were the choice of kids who played rock-n-roll … Status Quo, stuff like that. They had fat necks and you could drive a bus underneath the strings – at least, that’s how I remember them!

The neck on this doesn’t feel fat to me – but my tastes in guitar necks have definitely shifted in the last 12 months. The action is higher than I’m comfortable with, but quite low for a Fender.

The main thing to talk about with this guitar is tone.

It’s got an unusual amount of low-end output for a Tele – more than the two USA Teles I’ve owned. Makes for a warm sound, yet not muddy at all.

There’s plenty of clarity and cut too, with good dynamics and good string separation. The attack has definition without sounding too sharp. Might be soft for a Tele? Not experienced enough to say.

I’m finding the bridge pickup a little weak compared to the neck pickup. In position 2 with the S1 switch on, that makes for a surprisingly good dirt rhythm tone. Huh. S1 switching not a gimmick for a change!

Let’s quickly compare them to the Twisted Tele pickups I have in my American Deluxe. (The Elite is the equivalent model in the current Fender lineup.) Two very different guitars with very different pickup sets.

The Twisted Tele pickups are designed to make a Tele sound more like a Strat. As a result, there’s less mid-range, and more presence to the tone. If a Tele could wear a tux, this one would.

By comparison, there’s a lot more mid-range and rawness to the Vintera (to my ears at least). And thump. I can’t think of a better way to describe it. There’s a weight to the notes that works well. If this one wears a suit, it’s with a cudgel in one hand 🙂

Right now, I think the pickups are excellent, and I can’t see me wanting to change them. They sound great on their own, and should provide a great complementary tone to my American Deluxe.

I’ve no idea if other examples will sound like this, or whether I got lucky with this one. It’s the only one they had. I’ve not been able to compare it to others. If what I’ve said piques your interest, make sure you try one before you buy.

With this, and the Fender Player series too, Mexican-made Fenders are well worth a look. They’re not the badly made, lifeless planks of wood that they once were. And they stand up well against USA-made Fenders.

Blindfold Challenge: Tele or Not?

Chappers and The Captain have done another of their blindfold challenges: can Rob tell if a guitar is a Fender Telecaster, or a T-style from another brand?

Every time someone on the forums insists that guitars don’t sound that different, or that the differences aren’t that great, I want to make them sit down and watch videos like this. It’s not always easy to tell them apart after YouTube has processed the audio, but in person – and importantly, through a great amp – the differences are real, both in tone and in feel.

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

Squier Contempoary Series Telecaster 2018 Dual Humbucker Demo

Shane’s posted a demo of the new-for-2018 dual humbucker Squire Contempoary Series Telecaster. Check it out.

A Squier with a satin finish neck? That alone is likely to make it a popular choice. Squier necks are known for having thick glossy finishes that can be a little sticky for some players.

It’s hard to say how good this guitar sounds. The clean tones, and the dirt tones with the volume rolled down sound nice and clear. The full fat tones? Not so much. Shane does say that he thinks the guitar does sound clear, so maybe what we’re hearing is the effect of YouTube’s audio munging.

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

Comparing Two Fender Custom Shop Teles: 52 and 63

Dan and Mick have posted a video all about Dan’s new Fender Custom Shop Telecaster 52 Reissue, and how it compares to the Custom Shop 63 Reissue that he’s been using on That Pedal Show for the last couple of years.

This video is full of surprises: side by side, the 52 reissue doesn’t sound anything like they (or I) expected. It’s nowhere near as bright or sharp as a modern maple-boarded Tele would be, and of course it doesn’t rock like Dan’s red Tele famously does – yet it still has its own thing going on.

Even if you’re not into Fender Teles, it’s still worth watching just to watch them geeking out over gear, and trying to learn licks off each other. There’s an important lesson there: it’s no different to the last time you and your mates did exactly the same thing.

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

Squier Contemporary Series Telecaster Demo

Shane’s posted a first look at Squier’s Contemporary Series Telecaster. This demo is a bit different, as we get to hear it alongside live bass and a live second guitar.

We can’t all play Custom Shop guitars, and the days of “budget brand” guitars being utter trash are long gone. Whether it’s Squier, Epiphone, PRS SE, or other budget brands, these are perfectly usable instruments to learn on and use as a home hobbyist. And they’re getting better and better each and every year.

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

Heavy Reliced Telecasters

If you watch Andertons’ YouTube channel, you’ll have seen Danish Pete’s sparkly purple Telecaster over the last two years. It’s a fantastic sounding guitar, and its always a joy to listen to Pete jamming away on one. There’s a great story behind how Pete acquired his purple Tele too.

Well, now you have the opportunity to own one just like it.

Last summer, they ordered a small run of guitars based on the same specs as Pete’s purple Telecaster – and they’ve just posted a video of them up on the Andertons YouTube Channel.

If you don’t have time to watch the whole video, check out the jam that starts just after the 26 minute mark, and hear for yourself just how good these guitars sound.

Be sure to head over to YouTube and leave a comment to let the folks at Andertons know if you like these guitars.