Wow! I didn’t realize how fun doing videos would be! Expect to see more video reviews in the future! In any case, here are some key points:
Tone Bone Rating
I LOVE this stand! I’m going to get a couple more! Very well built and lightweight, it’s a perfect stand not just for the stage, but also in the studio where its small footprint won’t take up much space!
Very easy to fold up and lug around
May not work for bass – it works for mine, but fat basses may not fit (this is not really a negative, just a warning)
Fooled ya, didn’t I… You probably thought this was going to be about an actual guitar. From the picture, it’s obviously not about a guitar, but it is related. Let’s start out with a story…
Awhile back, my buddy Phil, of Phil ‘N The Blanks, a local classic rock cover band, shared a story with me. He was playing along, rockin’ out when suddenly his a strap loop came off its peg and his guitar ignominiously clattered to the floor, wreaking sonic mayhem in the clube ala Pete Townshend, and seriously banging up his axe. His lead guitarist laughed and said, “Now it’s a workin’ man’s guitar. I warned you a long time ago to get strap locks, and you wouldn’t listen. You learned the lesson the hard way.”
I didn’t have to have what happened to Phil happen before I learned that lesson mainly because I was able to catch my guitar before it hit the ground, so no harm no foul. But once that happened, the next day I was at the music store and bought strap locks for all my guitars. Now I won’t buy a guitar without having strap locks included in my order.
If you’re one who doesn’t mind playing a guitar with dings and scratches, maybe strap locks are low on your list of accessories to get. But you don’t want a workin’ man’s guitar, do yourself a favor: Get strap locks!
But then there’s the type of strap lock to choose as well. I’ve used two types: Schaller and Dunlop. I prefer Schallers because of their “cup” design. I feel it’s more secure, and the screw won’t get torqued. I absolutely hate Dunlops. Yeah, they install pretty easily, but the strap is actually held out away from the body, and I’ve found that with heavier guitars, the screw will get torqued and loosened. When that happens, even though the locking bolt will still go in the hole, the lock will not engage because the screw head keeps the bolt from sliding all the way in. I almost had a $4000+ custom guitar crash to the floor recently because of this very issue. Needless to say, I changed the locks to Schallers.
I dig cool, off-the-wall stuff. Remember the Harmonic Capo I wrote about? I actually never got one, but that never reduced its cool to me. But this new, cool thing is something I’m definitely going to have to check out. It’s called the Guitar Hanger, made by the guys at The Guitar Hanger company. As the name implies, this little contraption literally lets you hang your guitar, much like you would a shirt or a pair of pants. Check out the video:
Right now, I’ve got all my guitars in my studio in their cases or gig bags, lined up along a wall, taking up valuable floor space. But with guitar hangers, I can free up A BUNCH of floor space. With guitar hangers, you could do something like this:
Summary: Need a great mic to close-mic your amp? Look no further! The e609 delivers on all fronts, able to withstand high SPL’s, and still accurately reproduce your tone.
Pros: Flat-face design makes placing the mic a breeze, but more importantly, placed correctly (as you should with any mic), it’ll capture your tone beautifully!
Features (from the web site):
Hum compensating coil reduces electrical interference (I can attest to this – it’s super quiet)
Neodynum ferrous magnet with boron keeps mic stable regardless of climate
Metal construction—rugged and reliable
Super-cardioid pick-up pattern provides isolation from other on-stage signals
Price: ~$95 streetTone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ Going back to my “using the right tool for the job,” I don’t know why I didn’t pick up one of these earlier. I have some good mics, but now that I’ve got the e609 that was made explicitly for micking instruments, I kicking myself a bit. Lesson learned yet again!
I told myself that all I would get was a speaker cable for my cab when I walked into my local Guitar Center today. Unfortunately for me, the cables were located in the Pro Audio area where GC has a big case of very nice mics. And, gear slut that I am, I couldn’t resist a look. Granted, most of those mics were completely out of the ballpark for me, costing several hundreds of dollars. But it did get me thinking that I really should be using a dedicated instrument mic for my home studio when recording my clips and songs.
Fortunately, they didn’t have any instrument mics in the case, but silly me, I just had to ask the guy behind the counter if he had an e609 (I had researched this and other instrument mics several months ago). “Oh yeah,” said another sales clerk, “We got those. They rock, and they’re cheap.” Damn! Words that a gear slut should never hear in one sentence: ROCK and CHEAP! That will instantly elicit a fidgety, twitchy response as the pragmatic half of the psyche wrestles with the GAS half. And usually the GAS half wins, as it did today.
So now I am the very proud owner of a Sennheiser e609. And I do have to say that it does rock, and it costs far less than what one would normally expect to pay for a great mic. At less than $100, how can you argue with that?
How It Sounds
I recorded a little blues solo over a standard GarageBand backing track to demonstrate. Give it a listen:
For the solo, I used “Blondie” my Squier Classic Vibe Tele, the insane-sounding Aracom VRX18 amp (it’s customized with an EZ81 rectifier), and my custom Aracom 1 X 12 cab with a Jensen P12N speaker. The e609 was placed about halfway between the dome and the speaker edge about an inch away from the grille cloth.
I added a touch of reverb to the dry clip in GarageBand, but that’s it. No EQ (I don’t like to EQ my guitar parts anyway). What you hear on the clip is what I heard in my studio. Freakin’ amazing! Like I mentioned above, after recording this clip, I should’ve gotten one of these a long time ago. It’s a great mic!
I re-read some reviews today, and interestingly enough, they come back mixed. Harmony Central user reviews rate it at about 7.5 on average. People other love it or hate it. But in reply to the negative experiences, I have to call into question mic placement. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from years of home studio recording, placing your mic correctly is critical to getting a good tone. Maybe they weren’t experimenting enough with mic placement. Who knows?
With the e609, I first went with the recommended placement in the user manual (yes, I am one of those anal people who do indeed RTFM), then moved it maybe half an inch more towards the speaker edge to reduce the highs just a tad. That made all the difference in the world because my amp is pretty bright micked up close, and I didn’t want that to dominate the recording, especially since the mic was only an inch away from the grille cloth.
The Tone Bones score says it all. I’m hooked! Frankly, it didn’t take me long at all to dial this puppy in. It’s a truly great mic!
Summary: It’s sharp alright; nice and pointy, and it feels great in your hand!
Pros: Like any sharp pick, this pick is accurate. It’s super lightweight, and made of a material takes a lot of pressure to even slightly bend. The pointy end makes pick harmonics a breeze!
Cons: It’s a small nit, but I wish the butt-end were just a bit wider.
Features (from the web site):
Based off of a coveted vintage tortoiseshell pick in our collection, the Ultex Sharp delivers a pick with a rigid body tapering into a thinner and sculpted tip for intense control and speed. The seamless contoured edge surrounds the pick for more playing surfaces and tones. Engineered of Ultex—the Ultex Sharp is virtually indestructible and delivers a crisp tone and quick release attack. Available in .73, .90, 1.0, 1.14, 1.40, and 2.0mm gauges.Price: 50 cents street
Tone Bone Score: 4.75 – Real nice-sounding and nice-playing pick. If you want to step up to a thicker, more rigid pick, but don’t want to shell out for high-end picks, this is a winner!
Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a bit of pick snob. Ever since I started playing with V-Picks and Red Bear picks, I’ve mildly eschewed mainstream picks in favor of the insanely awesome picks those two companies produce. But I have to tell you that I was taken by complete surprise by the Dunlop Ultex Sharp pick! I wasn’t really looking to explore new picks, but a buddy of mine was looking for some Ultex picks at a local store, and offered to buy me a couple. Hell! They were only 50 cents apiece! I carried them around for a couple of days before I actually got to try them; not because I was dubious of them, I just couldn’t find time until this evening to sit down with an axe. Life happens, you know?
Anyway, I slung “Blondie” my trusty Squier Classic Vibe Tele, dug an Ultex out of my pocket, and started to play. Admittedly, I had a bit of trouble playing with the pick at first. Even though it’s slightly thicker than the thinnest pick I play – a Red Bear Tuff-Tone – it’s decidedly narrower in shape; something to which I’m no longer accustomed. But being the hard-headed type, and because I wanted to give the pick a fair shake, as it were, I kept at it, playing scales and riffs to get used to it.
I have to say that I’m really impressed by this pick! First of all, the material feels great in your hand, and like any real good pick, you forget about it. I love the rigidity of the material as well. Contrary to what you might think, a rigid pick actually makes you relax your hand. I know, it’s counterinuitive, but any player that plays a rigid pick will attest to this.
I spent quite a bit of time playing with this pick, and it’s a fast pick, though what I really missed was how my high-end picks really glide over the strings, like they’re lubricated. The Ultex material is pretty smooth, but there is a difference. Mind you, I’m not saying it’s bad in the slightest; it just has a different feel on the strings.
Most importantly though, the Ultex Sharp produces a nice, bright tone. That’s what I really dig about this pick! Part of it is due to it being rigid, but the other part is because of the pointy end. It really makes the strings snap in a very nice way!
Will the Ultex supplant my V-Picks and Red Bear picks? Probably not, but I will be using it for sure. It’s not even a small wonder why these picks are so popular among guitarists. They’re great playing and sounding picks at an insanely cheap price. I’m sold! Buy a few, and you’ll see for yourself!
What do you get when you have a group of product development consultants who are avid guitar players who want to find a way to stop “workin’ for the man,” but not create a bunch of “me too” products? You get StageTrix Products. These guys are brand-new, and from what I can gather, their approach to creating guitar gear centers around what you might call convenience products for guitar players.
Take, for instance, their pedal risers that I reviewed back in October. These gadgets that raise the back row of your pedal board may not make music, but they sure make the making of music a helluva lot easier. Here’s proof: The solo part of my latest song, Strutter, was recorded in a single take, with one punch-in at the very end of the song after I was done. In between sections, I was activating/deactivating effect pedals on the fly – something I’ve never done in a recording. I usually stop the recording, activate the pedals, then continue on. Granted, I had enough time between sections to do the switch on the fly, but I will submit that I couldn’t have done without the back row of my board being raised; in other words, how my board used to be. The point here is that that little convenience made a world of difference for me in my recording.
Enter the Pedal Fasteners. For $9.99, you get a pack of three, pre-cut hook-and-loop strips that are dimensioned to fit standard-size pedals. You might say, “So what? I can just get some Velcro from my local crafts store and be done with it.” You certainly can, but my experience with that stuff is that the glue used with these cannot withstand higher temperatures. They get all gooey, and once the glue has melted, the glue must change chemically, because its sticking power is lost. You ever get that stuff on your hands? I rest my case… Pedal Fasteners, on the other hand, have a glue that can withstand up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit; more than enough for even a hot car interior, and the mere fact that you don’t have to cut them to size is killer!
I recently replaced the velcro strips on all the pedals on the front-row on my board with Pedal Fasteners. No cutting, (except for the center section (which you could conceivably push out, but I wanted clean edges and didn’t want to risk tearing, so I used a sharp utility knife). They work great, and even stick to rubber! I’d recommend removing the rubber though… I’ve had mixed results with that, but I did it to test it out – it’s sticking just fine so far.
So if you’re tired of having to cut fasteners to size, and even more tired of that messy goo once the glue has melted, you owe it to yourself to get a couple of pack of these!
Ever since I started this blog, I’ve talked about attenuators, and how they’ve enabled me to get tones out of my amp at reasonable volume levels that I could only previously get at super-high volumes. But before I get into the discussion part of this article, take a listen to this clip (it’s the same clip I recorded with my previous article on the Mullard ECC83):
Here are some details about the recording:
I plugged directly into my Aracom VRX22, which then fed into my Aracom PRX150-Pro, then out to a custom 1 X 12 with a Jensen P12N
The amp was in the drive channel with master at 6, volume (gain) at 6, and tone at 6 (the tone on this amp adds a little gain as well as an edge)
The PRX150-Pro was set at maximum attenuation
Volume-wise, this was talking conversation level!!!
No EQ was applied to the guitar – what you’re hearing is the raw tone.
With respect to “maximum attenuation,” I was in variable mode with the variable sweep pot all the way to its left extent. I shared my amp and PRX settings with Jeff Aragaki this morning, and he estimated that the output power was approximately 0.04 Watt!
Many people are apt to talk about how the speaker needs to move air, and that an attenuator doesn’t allow that to happen. But that clip simply demonstrates that with the right combination of equipment – and in my case, also a great set of tubes – you don’t necessarily need that speaker cone breakup to get great tone for recording purposes. Yes, SPL’s do play a big role in your overall tone, but to be able to achieve the kind of tone I was able to get at that very low volume level is nothing short of amazing!
So what about an attenuator being life-changing?
Maybe that’s a bit strong of a phrase, but ever since I’ve been using attenuators, and especially since I’ve gotten my Aracom PRX150-Pro, I’ve been able to explore tonal territory that I could previously only achieve using pedals – and only simulating at that! Take overdrive pedals for instance. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’m crazy about them. I probably will still be nuts about overdrive pedals, but there’s one thing an overdrive pedal can’t do that an attenuator allows me to do, and that’s to get the thick, natural overdrive tone of my amp. Don’t get me wrong, I still use them, but I use them now more for tonal accents to my drive tone rather than giving me my drive tone. That’s very profound; especially for an overdrive pedal freak like me!
Here’s a good example that I just recorded. This clip is part of a new song idea I’ve been playing around with. Setup is pretty much the same as above, but for the rhythm, I’m running Strat into my Kasha overdrive pedal to get a jangly, crisp tone. The lead is Goldie plugged straight into my VRX22. I did mix and do a simple master on the recording, but the guitars were all recorded raw, with no EQ. In my DAW, I added some reverb to both parts and a touch of delay to the lead, but that’s it.
Speaking of pedals, since I’ve started using a high-end attenuator (there are others such as Alex’s and the Faustine Phantom), I’ve actually started using pedals in general much less. I’ve really relying on the natural tone and sustain of my amp. For instance, I’ve found that I’ve only been using reverb in the studio. When I play out, I just don’t bother. In fact, for the last few weeks, I’ve only been taking two pedals to gigs with me: My BOSS TU-2 Tuner and my VRX22′s channel switcher. Same goes with my Reason Bambino.
Life-changing? Probably not, but definitely approach-changing. I may personally endorse the PRX150-Pro, but there are others out there. If you really want to hear what your amp has to offer when it’s fully cranked with the power tubes glowing, then you owe it to yourself to get a good attenuator!
Summary: Definitely one of those “why didn’t I think of that” kinds of products. Elevates pedals 1 inch and makes reaching your back row easy. Routing allows you to keep your wires out of the way!
Pros: Very well made, with convenient fuzz to attach your Velcro’d pedals.
Raises the second row of pedals to the perfect height.
Front, back and side openings enable effective cable routing.
Premium 18-gauge steel.
Attaches to board via heavy duty hook-and-loop fastener on base, which holds firm up to 200°F.
Designed to withstand temperatures of up to 200F without melting, so leaving your pedal board in your vehicle on a summer day won’t result in a gooey mess with all the Velcro peeling off.
Works with most pedalboards. To be sure, check that you have an extra 1″ of clearance when case is closed. The vast majority do.
Tone Bone Score: 5.0 – I dig these things. No, they don’t improve my tone nor technique, but they sure make it easier to tap dance on my pedal board!
This will most likely be a short review because this product doesn’t do much at all – that’s not a bad thing, either… It simply elevates your pedals. But as an accessory, since I’ve installed a set of four on my board, it has proven invaluable to me! In one fell swoop, the StageTrix Pedal Risers made the back row of my board instantly accessible AND cleaned up my cable runs! Where I used to have to run my cables along the sides if my pedals, I now run them underneath the risers because of their built-in routing. My board hasn’t looked this good – EVER!
Admittedly, I was a bit dubious about their ruggedness when I first discovered them. But once I got them, that opinion changed quickly. These risers are heavy and it’s obvious a lot of attention was paid to the details in their construction. They won’t bend, and that’s a testament to their construction. I even stood on one (I’m not a small man), and the pedal riser didn’t budge!
On top of that, the Pedal Risers are set up for immediate and easy use. The entire base is covered with velcro out of the box, and the top is covered with a thin fuzz for attaching your pedals. No assembly required! I hate to attach velcro tape to stuff. It’s a pain in the ass!
Once I got my board set up, I hooked it up to my amp and started tap-dancing. I immediately started smiling because for the first time, I didn’t have to put my foot in an awkward position to engage one of my pedals in my back row for fear of messing up the settings of a pedal on my front line – or heaven forbid, engaging a pedal that I didn’t want to engage. Nothing like doing a clean solo, clicking on my vibe and simultaneously engaging an overdrive. No doubt, it’s a little unsettling. But that won’t happen any longer. The StageTrix Pedal Risers completely eliminate that possibility!