Archive for June, 2010

Answer: Just one more!

Awhile back, my wife walked into my garage/studio, and saw me playing my Reason Bambino. She asked, “How many amps do you need?” As usual, my answer was (with a facetious grin on my face), “Just one more, honey.” Her reply to that was, “You’ve got a wall of amps! I don’t see how you could possibly need all of them.” Actually, she was right, and it didn’t help that half of them weren’t mine, as I was doing reviews on some amps at the time.

Still, I felt I owed her an explanation. After all, I do have a lot of gear, and I actually use all of it, with the exception of a couple of my very old guitars that I’m too busy to service. So I followed her into the house and said, “You know, since I don’t have a band, and I’m doing all this recording on my own, when I’m after a certain sound or dynamic, and I don’t have that sound or dynamic well, I have to find it. Ultimately, that means I get more gear.”

Or maybe I’m just an obsessed, sick individual that needs to have shiny new things all the time. 🙂 Heaven knows I’ve fallen victim to impulsive urges. For instance, just the other day, I was looking at Telecasters on CraigsList. Found a really nice black one with a mirror pick guard for $400! The guy didn’t indicate where it was manufactured (I’m “kind” of looking for an American Telecaster or American G&L ASAT). Luckily I called him up and he said it wasn’t an American because I would’ve scooped it up post-haste! Then I thought to myself, “Dude, you gotta stop this!” Dodged that bullet… 🙂

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The venerable “Destroy All Guitars” shop has teamed up with Aracom Amplifiers to come up with a new version of the fantastic Aracom PRX150-Pro. Sporting a smaller cabinet (sorry, not reduced weight), and a couple of very cool new features, the $785 PRX150-DAG is the answer to anyone who wants to go to the extreme in transparent power attenuation.

Here are the features:

* Proprietary SRT Power Attenuation Technology
* Six levels of step attenuation, plus a continuously variable attenuation control (bedroom mode)
* 40dB of attenuation–attenuates 150 watts down to .015 watt
* 150 watt power rating
* Independent input and output impedance selector switches:
– from the amplifier and into the attenuator, select from: 2, 4, 8, 16 ohm
– from the attenuator and to the speaker cabinet(s), select from: 2, 4, 8, 16 ohm
– uniquely allows 16 possible Input and Output impedance combinations
* Hi Frequency Cut Filter with a True Bypass Switch
* Features a Load setting and is equipped with a Line Out Jack and Line Out Level Control
* Rack Mount Option
* Handwired in the USA

The two notable features are the Hi-Cut Filter, and the increased attenuation down to -40dB attenuation. With respect to the high-cut filter, some people had mentioned that they heard a high-frequency artifact coming through when they hooked up the original PRX150-Pro. I myself have never heard it, though I suppose anything’s possible. In Jeff Aragaki’s (of Aracom Amps) words:

The PRX150-DAG is equipped with a High Frequency Cut switch, that rolls off the highs above 6KHz, that some users might find useful with amplifiers that have a pronounced high end frequency response. Some guitarists go to great lengths to control the high end response of their amplifier, by carefully selecting speakers, tubes, and other components to roll off the highs. Now with the PRX150-DAG, a guitarist might not need to rely on changing these components; the high cut filter switch allows the flexibility of rolling off the high end or not. The true bypass switch allows the filter to be completely bypassed, providing the full frequency response of the attenuated amplifier to pass through to the speakers.

The other great feature is the Min/Max variable attenuation modes Jeff has introduced. Minimum attenuation mode is the traditional -16dB down to about -30dB variable attenuation, whereas the Maximum variable attenuation mode goes from -27dB to -40dB. With a 100 Watt amp, that’s taking down the output power to .015 Watt!!! Wanna have full dynamic response at bedroom levels with your 100 Watt amp? Look no further!

The Aracom-DAG PRX150-DAG is available exclusively through Destroy All Guitars. Check it out!

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Alternate title: You can’t judge a book by its cover…

Most people associate John 5 as the guitarist for Marilyn Manson, and being that that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, most folks probably don’t know just how gifted of a musician he is! I myself totally dismissed him until I saw a video of him demonstrating chicken pickin’ on YouTube (sorry, can’t seem to find the original video). I was so taken aback by the disparity between his appearance and his ability to play a style of a guitar that was the antithesis for what he was known for, that I spent the next several hours searching for as many John 5 videos I could find just to confirm that it was indeed him.

In the end, I was totally blown away by his versatility in the genres he could play, but more importantly, I gained an appreciation for his musicality. Make no bones about it: John 5 is the s$%t when it comes to making music, not just playing guitar!

John 5 is also an accomplished songwriter, having contributed tunes to KISS and the Scorpions. You don’t get those kinds of gigs without having your stuff together!

In any case, what got me thinking about John 5 was the fact that I’ve lately been into Tele’s; I mean, really into Tele’s, ever since I got my Squier Classic Vibe 50’s. And gear slut that I am, I’m always looking around for deals. So in my sojourns, I remembered that the Tele is John 5’s axe, so I thought I’d write about how much appreciate his musicianship!

Here’s a GREAT video of John 5 demonstrating some chicken pickin’ techniques:

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…I’d do it in a snap. After seeing a couple of Vegas shows this past couple of days, I got to thinking that it would be a great job – almost better than the road:

  • You play in front of a different audience every night.
  • You crawl into your own bed after you’re done.
  • Yeah, you don’t get to see too many cities, but you’re not stuck on a bus or flying on an airplane and eating restaurant food each day.
  • With the right show, even if you’re playing the same material night after night, if you’re given some freedom of expression, you could have room to let your solos breath. The two guys I saw (in Cirque du Soleil Mystere and Terry Fator) had lots of places where they could improvise. Totally cool!
  • Because you’re playing every day, your chops are always sharp.

So if I ever get a chance to do a show as a full-time musician – and if it pays well enough to support my family – I’m there!

Now mind you, that I don’t think being on the road is a bad thing. I’d love to do it now and then, but with a family at home, and having traveled quite a bit for business, being away from the family for long periods of time is just not practical – at least for me.

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Imagine, if you will, playing at least 10 shows a week for a major production. That’s what the guitarist for Cirque du Soleil gets to do. Yeah, you dress up in a costume for each show, but you get to rip it up! I just saw the show this evening (my wfie and I are in Vegas), and the guitarist playing in the band was a monster with great chops!

His chops were excellent, and it appeared he got to do lots of free-reign soloing! Of course, a lot of what he played was by the chart, but there were several parts in the show where it seemed he was able to just run freely. But irrespective of that, I’d love to have a gig like that where I can play every day in one city – it would be my job.

Maybe it might get old, but with a family, it would be tough being on the road all the time. For me at least, with a gig like this, you do two shows a day at 7pm and 9:30pm, you have Thursday and Friday off, and you play five days a week! If it’s a great-paying gig, well, I could hopefully support the family.

Unfortunately, once guys land these kinds of gigs, they rarely, if ever leave. I suppose you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time…

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…when you’re in Vegas and writing an article in your room – though I am sipping the remains of my wife’s Hurricane.

My wife and I are celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary for a few days in Vegas. This is strictly for relaxation. We’ll be going to shows and having nice meals. It’s a great break.

The cool thing for me is that while I did bring my laptop so I could write in my blog, I don’t have to worry about my duties at work or home, and that’s helped me just empty my mind. Of course, when I clear my mind, I think about playing guitar; or at least writing music. I’m working on the structure of a song right now. I’ve asked my eldest son to write the lyrics because I want a younger perspective on the song. Feedback that I’ve gotten on my latest songs is that lyrics are “mature.” Damn! That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly narrows my audience. So I’ve turned to my son who actually liked the basic song structure when I played it for him, and we’ll see where it goes.

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Click to enlarge

“Guitar Player” mag took a recent poll asking: If you could only have a single pedal in  your rig, what would it be? Overwhelmingly, and actually not too surprising to me, most pollsters chose an overdrive pedal. I personally didn’t take the poll, but I would definitely fall into the majority. You know me, I just can’t enough of overdrive pedals!

So much to my great pleasure, Maxon has released the new ST-9 Pro+ Super Tube Screamer Overdrive. Based upon Maxon’s classic “808” circuit, and building upon the original Ibanez ST-9 and its ability to control the amount of “midrange hump,” this “reissue” adds features that have the potential of making this a truly great Tube Screamer-class pedal.

  • First of all, the ST-9 Pro+ sports 9V or 18V operation. 18V mode adds more headroom and warmth. This is controlled by a slider switch in the battery compartment. Note that you’ll need an 18V DC power supply to use this mode (the Dunlop DC Brick and other power supplies have 18V connections).
  • In addition to the Drive, Level, and Tone Knobs, the ST-9 Pro+ also has a “Mid-Enhance” knob which controls where the mids are boosted. Clockwise moves the boost towards the high mids, while counter-clockwise moves the boost to the lower mids. To me, this is probably the most useful feature, as you can dial in the mid boost to adapt the pedal to different amps.
  • The ST-9 Pro+ also has a switch that selects either “Classic” or “Low Boost.” Low Boost gives a 12dB boost at 100Hz and a 4dB boost a 500Hz. This can be quite useful for fattening up single coil guitars!
  • Finally, the ST-9 Pro+ has true-bypass switching.

OMG!!! I love the features on this pedal! Were I to consider getting another pedal in the Tube Screamer lineage, this pedal would be at the top of my list! However, with a street price of around $206, it’s not a cheap proposition. But with it’s features, it certainly warrants a close look; and based upon my experience with Maxon pedals, their build and sound quality is undeniable. While I don’t use it much any longer, my CP-9 Pro+ compressor is a testament to that quality (I paid $250 used for that pedal), and it’s a pedal I’ll always have. As for the ST-9 Pro+, I’ll see if I can find a place where I can audition it.

Finally, here’s a great demo video that shows off the ST-9 Pro+ quite nicely:

For more information, check out the Maxon ST-9 Pro+ page!

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