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Archive for March, 2010

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Wicked Woody “Original” Pedal Board

Summary: Handmade with carpentry-grade wood, this is one gorgeous pedal board. Nothing like making something so utilitarian a virtual work of art!

Pros: Completely handmade with high-grade wood that doesn’t only look great, it’s lightweight as well! Platform is reversible so you can configure the board to have your volume or wah pedal on either right or left sides. Lots of space under the platform to fit a power brick and stow your plug, and the routing on the top makes it easy to run your cables.

Cons: Could use some rubber or silicon feet to protect the bottom from scratching and elevate it above possible spills (think bar gig).

Features:

  • Elevated pedal platform. With an elevated platform, it is both easier to see, and easier to reach all of your pedals.
  • Handmade, of the highest quality certified hardwood plywood. Durable finish that will protect your woody for life.
  • Easy cable management, with the cable chanels routed into the platform it is a cinch to place your pedals in any configuration you desire, and wire them however you would like.
  • Alternative storage, under the platform for your power supply or other storage needs.
  • Measurement: 24″ X 15″

Price: $80 direct

Tone Bone Score: 4.75 ~ I’ve never seen a pedal board that looked so nice. Despite its looks though, I really would’ve liked to see some “feet” on the bottom for some extra protection. Something that looks this good should be really protected. That said, it’s easy to get some hardware that’ll do the job with minimal effort. But if it had that right off the bat, I’d give this puppy a 5.0!

For Goodness’ Sake! It’s Just a Pedal Board!

I would venture to guess that most players don’t really put to much thought into the “look” of their pedal board other than if the cables are nicely arranged and out of the way. But lots of players obsess over the look of everything in their rig; even down to their pedals’ paint jobs. So why not put them on a platform that really shows them off, as well as being useful? Aesthetics are a good thing. Myself, I tend to be far more practical to even consider something like this, but hey! Cool is cool in my book, and although I may not normally consider having a board like this, that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is one gorgeous piece of functional hardware!

From my point of view the Wicked Woody pedal board is like a nicely shined pair of shoes. Most people wouldn’t normally notice them, but they do notice that there’s something “nicer” when you wear them. Such is the case with the Wicked Woody. It’s not a showy and sparkly, but it just looks well, nice. Besides, there’s nothing sweeter-looking to me than nicely grained wood, and all Wicked Woody pedal boards are made of high-grade woods, with a nice, smooth finish. In other words, the provide a sweet presentation platform for your pedals!

Setting Up the Board

When I received my evaluation board today, I was amazed by how lightweight it was, but it was absolutely solid. The plywood used would not bend or give at all! But in addition, it looked fantastic! I know, it’s kind of hard to be excited by something so utilitarian, but this board looks so good – it kicks ass!

Luckily, my evaluation board also included some velcro strips, so it was a simple matter of attaching them to the board. I got a fairly long length, so I just cut it in two and laid the strips straight across the board. If I were to actually keep the board, I’d be a lot more meticulous and place strips so the they don’t show at all. But for my evaluation, I just wanted to be able to easily arrange my pedals.

I have to say that I’ve never seen my pedals look so good. 🙂 Here’s a picture:

A very cool thing that I liked immediately was that the platform fits my back line of pedal risers perfectly! Four pedal risers fit exactly flush to the edges of the platform. The folks at Wicked Woody say you might not need pedal risers, and based upon the space between the front and back lines and the nice angle of the platform, I’d tend to agree with that. But with my clumsy, double-E feet, I need every advantage I can get, so it’s very convenient that the platform fits the pedal risers so perfectly.

You can clearly see the route in the center. There are actually two routes, but the upper one is obscured by my pedal risers. But both are very conveniently placed. The platform has a round hole on each side to run cables through as well. That is very convenient as I was able to run the power and connector cables underneath the wah. Then to connect the wah to my next pedal, I ran the connector through one side hole, then out the other side hole to connect to my CE-2. When all was said and done, I was impressed by the arrangement. Plus, the big base board really creates a nice spacious effect.

Now I know there’s a lot of debate with the placement of a wah pedal. Should it be before or after the drive pedals? I happen to prefer mine to be placed after my drive pedals, so the default arrangement, with the wah pedal on the left was perfect for me. However, for those who prefer it to be on the other side, the platform is reversible. You just have to unscrew the platform from the bottom of the board, turn it around, and you can place your wah (or volume or expression pedal) on the right side.

I didn’t take a picture of the back of the platform, but there’s plenty of room underneath. I placed a fuzzy strip underneath the platform, and put my Dunlop DC Brick there then ran the power connectors to the pedals through the routes. Having those routes is a real nice feature because it keeps your power cable runs nice and neat – and hidden from view. There’s also plenty of room underneath to place a spare pedal or two (as long as they have a low profile), and of course, you can stow your plug underneath during transport.

The eval board didn’t come with a case, so I’m not sure if there is one available. Hopefully there is one available because I’d definitely want one to transport the board to and from gigs if I owned one of these beauties.

So… overall impression? I dig this board. It looks fantastic, but it has some very nice features that make setting up your pedals a breeze. It literally took me less than 10 minutes to get everything hooked up. Granted, if I owned one of these, I’d take a bit more time to make everything perfect, but one could do a lot worse.

Update: April 1, 2010

Just got a message from the folks at Wicked Woody. They don’t have a case for their boards yet, but should have one as an option within the next couple of weeks. This is great news!

For more information, go to the Wicked Woody site!

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So you’re thinking about taking the leap and buying your first electric guitar? Choosing a guitar, amp, and pedals doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it might seem. There are a few things you’ll want to consider and keep in mind though.

What are your goals?

In other words, what types of music do you want to play? The type of guitar and amp you get will largely depend on the type of music you want to play. If you can identify, the types of music you’ll be playing, this can help you narrow down what types of guitars you might buy.

For example, if country is your thing, you might want to get a more twangy type of sound, so you would look at something like a Telecaster. If you’re a rocker, to get a really fat and dark type of sound, you’ll want to look at a Les Paul or an SG with some humbucker pickups. If you’re into metal, you’re going to want to be focusing more on your amp and effects pedals to get a hi-gain distorted sound. And then, if jazz is more your thing, you might want to look at a semi-hollow body guitar like an Epiphone Dot to get that darker, warmer sound you’d except from jazz.

In all reality, one electric guitar is not just limited to play one style of music, but guitars generally have different tonal characteristics, so identifying the sound you’re going for can help narrow down your options too.

What’s your budget?

Before you even start looking at buying guitars, it’s really important you set some sort of budget. What can you afford? When it comes to buying guitar gear, the sky is the limit, so having a budget gives you a bit more focus in what you’re looking at and eliminates a bunch of options.

It’s been my experience with guitars that more often than not, like most things, you generally get what you pay for when you consider the quality (there are always exceptions). A $100 dollar guitar is most likely going to play, sound, and feel much different than a $500 guitar. Generally, the cheaper you go, the quality tends to be poorer (e.g. doesn’t stay in tune, poor action, fret buzz, poor electronics, etc.). You don’t need to shell out a ton for your first electric guitar, but you also want something that will be inspiring to play and won’t give a lot of trouble down the road either.

You’ll not only want to consider the guitar in your budget, but you’ll also want to consider your amp and effects pedals (e.g. distortion, delay, reverb, etc.) as well.

It’s important that you see your first electric guitar purchase as an investment. I think one of the fears is, “What if I shell out all this money and then end up not sticking to it?” Even if you do end up finding out that guitar is not really for you, if you’ve made a good investment, you can always make a good part of that money back in resale. You might want to consider buying used too. Check eBay, Craigslist, and your local newspaper’s classifieds.

All to say, what can you afford? Set your budget and stick with it.

Gear Recommendations

So you’ve thought about your goals and have set a budget. Now what? It’s time to start looking at some gear. You have to keep in mind there are literally hundreds of options for a beginner’s set up, so recommendations are going to vary person to person. For my recommendations, I hesitate to suggest you something so dirt cheap that it’s going to cause you grief later down the road, but I also realize you don’t need to break the bank either.

I’ve divided these recommendations up into three categories depending on the type of music you want to play: country/pop/blues, rock/metal, and jazz. And then, within those categories I’ve given a couple different price categories depending on your budget. Also, keep in mind that a lot of these guitars aren’t restricted to play only the music in their category. For example, I know a lot of guys who will play an Epiphone Dot in a rock setting.

Country/Pop/Blues

  • Epiphone Special-II GT ($199.99)
  • Epiphone Les Paul 100 ($299.99)
  • Fender Standard Telecaster ($499.99)
  • Fender Standard Stratocaster ($499.99)
  • Gretsch Electromatic ($699.99)

Rock/Metal

  • Dean Vendetta XMT ($159.00)
  • Epiphone Explorer-GT ($199.99)
  • Epiphone G-310 SG ($249.99)
  • B.C. Rich Metal Master Warlock ($299.99)
  • Epiphone Les Paul Studio Deluxe ($399.99)

Jazz

  • Epiphone Dot ($399.99)
  • Ibanez Artcore AF75 ($399.99)
  • Gretsch Electromatic ($699.99)

Now, choosing an electric guitar is only half the battle. You’re going to need an amp or a multi-effects processor. Some amps are “combo amps” which means they have some effects built in to them (e.g. distortion, reverb, chorus, delay, etc.). These are definitely worth looking at for a beginner.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of country, blues, and rockers can often use a amps built in overdrive and gain channel to get a distorted sound, but if you are playing metal, you probably need to look at some sort of hi-gain distortion pedal in addition to your amp.

Amps

  • Fender 25R Frontman Series II Combo Amp ($99.99)
  • Vox Valvetronix VT15 Combo Amp ($169.99)
  • Line 6 Spider IV 75W Combo Amp ($299.99)
  • Vox Valvetronix VT50 Combo Amp ($379.99)
  • Peavey Classic 30 Tube Amp ($599.99)

Sometimes players will opt out of getting an amp and just getting a multi-effects processor unit that has amp models and effects built in to one box. This might be a great option for your first guitar.

Multi-effects Processor Units

  • DigiTech RP255 ($149.99)
  • Line 6 Floor POD Plus ($199.99)
  • DigiTech RP355 ($199.99)
  • Line 6 POD X3 ($399.99)

This is just a starting point. The best thing to do is to go into the store and play as many different guitars and play through as many different amps as you can, or if you can’t play very well, bring someone along who can or knows a lot about guitars so you can get their opinion and hear what it sounds like.

So let’s recap. It’s important to think through your goals and your budget. Thinking through these things really eliminates a lot of your options. You don’t have to spend a ton on your first guitar, but do think of it like an investment. Your guitar is only half of the equation so don’t forget about an amp or a multi-effects unit. And lastly, there’s nothing like going into a store with a friend and trying out as many different pieces of gear as you can.

All of you guitar veterans out there… what would you recommend to a beginner player getting their first electric guitar?

Brett McQueen is a full-time music student, guitar player, songwriter, and blogs in his spare time. Brett is passionate about teaching free guitar lessons for beginners so other guitar players can take their playing to the next level and reach their goals.

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Writing GuitarGear.org has always been a labor of love for me. When I first started the blog, I didn’t know how well it would do at all; in fact, I didn’t even envision it to be widely read. I put what I wrote out there and just shared it; first with just a small group of WordPress bloggers and a fairly narrow set of people outside of the WordPress community. In the past three years, GuitarGear.org’s readership has really expanded, and it’s great to meet some of the wonderful personalities that come to visit!

Now and then though, a visitor comes along who’d like to contribute to the blog. It hasn’t happened that often, but I’m always open to and excited at the prospect of having others contribute because heaven knows I can’t cover everything, and widening the scope of what GuitarGear.org has to offer is always a good thing! So without further ado, I’d like to introduce a new author to GuitarGear.org, Brett McQueen.

Brett contacted me last week to see if he could contribute to GuitarGear.org to help drive traffic his own site: Guitar Friendly, where he provides free guitar lessons and other insights on playing guitar, and of course, acquiring gear. So not only does GuitarGear.org now have a new author, we’ve got a new sister site! I’m really excited by this partnership between us, and I think it’ll help both of our sites grow!

The most amazing thing about Brett is that he’s a full-time music student, and even cooler still, his degree is in worship ministry. As you know, I’ve never made it a secret that I play at church service. It’s a great venue for playing, and also one of the most challenging places to play. Plus, for the gigging musician in me, it’s a regular gig, and I’m all about playing as much as I can. With Brett, we share a passion for music as well as a passion for playing music in a church setting. Talk about alignment!

In any case, get set for some great material! Brett’s first article will be about buying your first electric guitar, and for those new to electric, it provides great insight on the process of evaluating and ultimately choosing your first axe.

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Radial Engineering ProDI Direct Box

Summary: Need to plug your acoustic guitar or bass directly into your mixer or DAW? Don’t do it without one of these units.

Pros: Completely passive DI, requires no internal or external power sources. Super-transparent, the ProDI adds no artifacts to your tone. Used with an acoustic guitar, it makes your guitar come alive!

Cons: None

Features (from the Radial web site):

  • Full range passive direct boxes
  • Isolation transformer eliminates noise
  • Very low harmonic and phase distortion
  • Compact and rugged design
  • Ideal for live sound and studio
  • Mono (ProDI) or stereo (ProD2) models

Price: $99 street

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ Talk about having my acoustic guitar just come alive! If you’re not using a DI when plugging into a board, you need to get this!

For my solo acoustic gigs, I’ve been using my DigiTech Vocalist Live 4 for the last couple of years, and it has been terrific. But back when my Ovation got damaged (which I’ve since fixed with a little wood glue), I’ve been using my Fender Stratacoustic with the Vocalist. Unfortunately, the Vocalist doesn’t like input gain of the Stratacoustic, and driving hard on the strings would cause the Vocalist to overdrive, and cause a pop in the PA system. Not good. Luckily, the Vocalist Live has a Guitar Thru jack, so I could route the signal to another channel on the board.

But that meant that I was going to be plugging direct, and I knew that plugging an acoustic directly into a board doesn’t sound very good at all. Not only is the sound muddy with way too much midrange “goop,” there’s also a huge loss in dynamics, ultimately making the guitar tone flat and lifeless. While I don’t completely understand the electronics, the problem apparently lies in the impedance mismatch between guitar and board; and if I’ve learned anything impedance mismatches from working with attenuators, impedance mismatch is a big culprit for loss of tone and transparency. Enter the DI, or direct input box.

The main purpose of a DI box is to take one type of electronic signal, convert it to a magnetic signal, then convert it back to an electronic signal again. The  device used for this is a transformer. With a DI, the unbalanced, high-impedance signal coming from the guitar goes into the transformer, which “transforms” the signal into a balanced, low-impedance signal on the other end. The net result is that impedances are properly matched on both ends, theoretically retaining your tone. Now, enter the Radial ProDI.

I knew I had to get a DI, but wasn’t sure about which one to get, as there are many to choose from. But a quick call to Jordan at Gelb Music got me on track right away. I’ve been buying gear from him for years, and he knows my rig. So when I explained what I wanted to do, he had an immediate recommendation: The Radial Engineering ProDI.

Jordan told me, “I just recorded some acoustic tracks directly into a board, and used the ProDI. I was blown away by the tone. It totally made my guitar come to life – even plugged in! And at $99, it’s totally worth it.”

That was enough of an endorsement for me. Yeah, you could say it’s just another sales guy trying to make a sale, but I’ve been dealing with Jordan for awhile, and not only is he knowledgeable, everything he recommends, he plays. That’s Gelb’s shtick. They have an unsaid policy that their sales guys can’t make recommendations on anything they haven’t played, so you can be assured that their recommendations are reliable. I’ve been buying gear from them for years, so I’ve experienced that first-hand, AND benefited from that policy!

How It Sounds

I put together a couple of quick audio clips to demonstrate the difference between going direct into my DAW vs going through the ProDI.

Guitar straight into the DAW

Guitar into the ProID then into the DAW

One of the reasons I chose the Stratacoustic was because of the fantastic Fishman pre-amp and dual pickup system it uses. Plugged in, it sounds incredible. But even plugged in, there’s a detectable (at least to my ears) muffling of the tone, whereas with the ProDI, the guitar sounds richer.

I realize that with these recordings the differences are subtle at best. However, the difference was far greater plugged into the board at the restaurant I played at on Friday. I did an A/B test during sound check, and I couldn’t believe the difference in clarity between going direct into the board, and going through the ProDI first.

Overall Impressions

This is yet another piece of gear that I cannot live without for going direct. It’s a simple box for sure, but at $99, what it brings to the table is so much! For more information, check out the Radial Engineering ProDI page!

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The Aracom PRX150-Pro to be exact. I’ve actually known about this for awhile, but Jeff Aragaki, owner of Aracom Amps asked me not to say anything until someone else had mentioned it. Jeff told me the news right after Joe purchased it, but I respected Jeff’s wishes to wait to mention it. So I did. And none other than Doug Doppler, guitarist extraordinaire and author of “Get Killer Tone,” happened to mention it in a thread on the The Gear Page recently about how Joe had told him about the unit. So the cat’s out of the bag! Joe Satriani is a proud owner of a PRX150-Pro, and his words to Jeff were “Great unit. I like it a lot.”

That’s about all the information I know other than how he raved about it to Doug who, in turn, contacted Jeff to get a unit; and since he got it, Doug has been raving about it on The Gear Page, and will be featuring it in his DVD.

This is not so much a plug for the PRX150-Pro as it is meant to underscore that even guitar heroes like Satch see the virtues of using an attenuator. Speaker breakup aside, some amps just don’t hit their sweet spot until they’re cranked up and played wide open. Unfortunately, the volume level at that point is too high to be comfortable for most human ears. With an attenuator – and a great one in the PRX150-Pro – players can crank their amps to their sweet spot, and not worry that their ears are going to bleed.

I know, there are several people who eschew attenuators as being tone suckers. But the new breed of attenuators such as the Aracom PRX150-Pro are so much more transparent than the older attenuators on the market; and yes, they are particularly more expensive than their older counterparts, but how much is great tone worth? We gear sluts think nothing about spending a few hundred bucks on a pedal. For what a great attenuator gives you, it’s totally worth the investment.

For more information on the Aracom PRX150-Pro, go to the PRX150-Pro product page!

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I was perusing The Gear Page today, and while in a thread, happened upon a post where a guy mentioned he had recently purchased an amp made by a company called Marble Amps. He said they specialized in Fender-style reproductions with tweed covering, all hand-wired for a reasonable price. He wasn’t kidding. He got a used head for $800! Oh well… we all can’t be that lucky.

However, I did a little digging and found their web site. Talk about oozing classic Fender mojo! They apparently have a US distributor, the Alternative Guitar and Amp Company in Southern California, but they don’t have any information on them (although I left them a message).

Very cool stuff!

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In a word, lots. Admittedly, I’m a recent Marshall convert, having been primarily a Fender guy for years. I blame Jeff Aragaki, owner of Aracom Amps for this. His amps, that are steeped in Marshall mojo got me craving for that type of sound. BUT, it wasn’t until I got the PLX18 BB, a Plexi “Bluesbreaker” replica that I “got” that Plexi vibe.

At least to me, the response I get is visceral. When I hear a cranked up Plexi, there’s something that just sparks within me. I literally sink into the tone! A bit dramatic? Probably, but to me, there’s nothing that defines classic rock more than a cranked Plexi. Here’s a video I found of some classic Cream with Eric Clapton, playing “Sunshine of Your Love:”

Mm, mm, good….

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