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I love overdrive pedals. I have a bunch of them. But I realized that part of why I have so many has a lot to do with not really understanding how to set them up properly. I’d get an overdrive pedal because a demo I heard sounded great, or I loved how it was voiced. But when I’d get it home, it just wouldn’t sound quite right, so I’d put it in my “storage” area.

But as I got more experienced with setting up my amps, I also began to understand how to set up my overdrive pedals. And now that I have a bunch, I’ve got a variety of pedals to choose from to get the sound I want depending on my sets or my mood – okay, I admit it: It’s mostly due to my mood. πŸ™‚

Admittedly, I did a lot of forum lurking as well to gain insights on setting up an overdrive, so a lot of what I’ll be sharing here comes from the things I’ve learned from others in addition to the stuff I’ve learned on my own.

What actually motivated me to write this was a conversation that I had with a friend. I asked him what he thought of a particular overdrive pedal, and he said he didn’t like the way it sounded. I looked at him a little puzzled and said, “Maybe you didn’t set it up right.” And that led me to say that not all overdrives are created equal, and you have to set them up according to how they work best, or how they were intended to be used. Truth be told, I haven’t spoken to him since that conversation, so I have no idea if he tried what I suggested. But in light of that, I decided to share my thoughts.


Related Articles


Types of Overdrives – Not Necessarily What You Might Think

Before we get into the actual setup of an overdrive, I thought I’d go into a discussion about types of overdrives because how you set up an overdrive has a lot to do with the type of overdrive it is. No, this isn’t a discussion about circuit types or transparency. I suppose this could be related to the circuit type on which an overdrive is based, but I’m not that electrically savvy, so I’ll discuss this in more practical terms.

From my experience with having played several overdrives over the years, I’ve found that they fall into roughly two different categories (mind you, these are my own terms): Interactive and Standalone. Interactive overdrives are meant to interact with the preamp of your amp, and together they produce the overdrive sound.

Standalone overdrives are typically purpose-built to mimic an amplifier, and though they can certainly be set up to be interactive, they can function just fine on their own in front of a clean amp.

Notice that I haven’t named any specific overdrive models. The reason why is that overdrives sound different with different amps. For instance, the EHX Soul Food sounds great as a standalone overdrive in front of my Fender amp. But it doesn’t sound nearly as good as a standalone overdrive in front of my Plexi-style amps, so I set it up as an interactive overdrive for those amps.

So the idea behind interactive vs. standalone has little to do with a specific type or model of overdrive; rather, it has to do with how the overdrive sounds with your amp.

Setting Up an Overdrive

I have two processes that I go through to set up an overdrive. At this point, I know all my pedals and whether they’re standalone or interactive, but I still follow the same processes for my different pedals when I set them up on my board. Also, if I come across or get a new overdrive, I first assume that it can be a standalone overdrive, then if I find it doesn’t work well that way, I’ll then set it up to be interactive. Here are the step-by-step processes I follow:

Setting Up a Standalone Overdrive

  1. Set up the amp:
    1. Clean
    2. Set EQ to work with your guitar
  2. Set guitar volume to the middle
  3. Guitar EQ where you want it
  4. Set overdrive with all knobs to the middle.
  5. Engage the overdrive and get it to unity gain (so that when you engage it, your volume doesn’t change), or to just get a small volume bump when the pedal’s engaged.
  6. Set the EQ on the overdrive
  7. Adjust the overdrive/gain knob to get your desired amount of distortion from the pedal.
    1. You will probably have to make adjustments to the level knob to maintain unity gain.
  8. Evaluate the sound and feel by playing around with chord progressions and licks.
    1. All the while, raise and lower your guitar volume to see how the pedal responds.
  9. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you dial in the right volume/sound/feel.
    1. If the volume, sound, and feel are fine for you, then you’re all set and ready to gig and the overdrive pedal will work fine as a standalone device.
    2. If the sound doesn’t feel “right,” chances are you’ll have to do some interaction with the preamp of your amp, so continue to the next section.

Setting Up an Interactive Overdrive

  1. Set your guitar volume to the middle (It’s important you start here)
  2. Set up the amp
    1. Set Gain/Volume so the amp is at the edge of breakup.
      1. You’ll know it’s there when you turn up the guitar’s volume and the amp begins to distort, then cleans up when you turn it down. Also, if the guitar’s volume is set to the middle, if you strum hard, it will break up.
      2. This is the reason you set your guitar volume to the middle so you can affect the preamp easily.
    2. Set EQ on the amp
  3. Set guitar EQ where you like it
  4. Set overdrive with all knobs at their middle positions
  5. Engage the overdrive
    1. More likely than not, you’ll get a big volume boost when you engage at this level, so you’ll have to adjust both the overdrive’s level and amp’s volume/master knobs to get to the right volume.
      1. If you don’t have a master volume, turn down the overdrive’s volume/level knob to get to a manageable volume.
    2. Because you want to get both overdrive AND amp distortion, you’ll want to get a small volume bump when you engage the pedal as you want the amp to go over the edge of breakup.
  6. Now, play around.
    1. See how the combination responds to volume swells on your guitar.
    2. Make adjustments to the overdrive gain to get the right combination of pedal and amp distortion.

The Importance of EQ

Notice that I mention setting EQ on the amp, guitar, and overdrive pedal. Setting EQ is extremely important because it can be the difference-maker in your overall tone. There’s no “ideal” EQ setting. But for me as a rule of thumb, I want to get a rich, slightly bright tone that sits well in the mix and isn’t so warm compared to the other instruments so it won’t get washed out when we’re all playing together.

Also, for live gigs, I usually don’t touch my amp or pedal EQ once I get them set up. I use my guitar’s tone knob to adjust how warm or bright my sound to be.

Amp/Pedal Combinations

All that said, if you’ve followed the steps for setting up an interactive overdrive, and it still doesn’t sound right no matter what you do, then the pedal sucks. Just kidding. πŸ™‚ Truth be told, I’ve found some overdrives work better with different amps. If you have another amp, then try the pedal out in front of it.

For instance, Paul Cochrane of “Tim” and “Timmy” pedal fame recommends not using the pedal in front of a Fender Blackface amp. I don’t have a blackface amp, so I had to take him at his word, but the Timmy works great in front of all my amps. For me, I will not use my venerable Ibanez TS-808 TubeScreamer in front of my vintage Marshall-style amps. It just doesn’t sound good to me, no matter how I set it up.

I think it’s because the TS produces a big midrange bump when engaged, and my amps are voiced bright, so it ends up sounding piercing like little ice picks on my eardrums. Even EQ adjustments don’t work for me. But in front of my Fender Hot Rod, the TS truly screams! My Hot Rod has the classic Fender “scooped” tone, so the predominant midrange of the TS fills in the mids.

WHERE You Play Matters

Seems obvious right? Well, it’s not. In fact, what might sound great in your bedroom or living room may sound like crap on stage. That smooth, round bottom end that sounds so luscious in your headphones may just get you lost in the mix when you play with a band.

A few years ago, I went to see Joe Satriani play the Hendrix Experience concert. When Joe finally took to the stage, he sounded HORRIBLE! Way too much bottom end and way too much compression. He had to crank his guitar to be heard and the sound was just deafening. The FOH guys finally got his tone dialed in and Joe had to make some changes – I’m assuming, EQ changes – to his pedals. After that, they were able to bring volume down to comfortable levels.

In my own experience, I normally set my EQ a little brighter than when I’m at home. When I’m playing on stage and my amp is pushing some serious air, being a tad brighter helps cut through everything. But I’m careful about going too bright because that could get really harsh.

What About Stacking Overdrives?

That gets a bit more complicated, but I’d follow the basic procedures above, treating the trailing pedal as the amp. In this case, I’d tend to set up the amp as clean and have the trailing pedal always on. There lots of ways to approach this as well. I know one guitarist that uses three at once to get his “sound.” More power to him! πŸ™‚

But truth be told, I hate to dance on my board, so even though I will use a couple of overdrives, I only use one at a time depending on the kind of voicing I want. I also, don’t like complicate my sound finding the right balance of multiple overdrives. I just want to play. Granted, I could do a lot of pre-gig work to get that, but for me, employing the KISS theory works best.

Many people like to stack, and that’s great. Stevie Ray Vaughan used to use two TubeScreamers stacked together; one as an overdrive and one as a booster.

Wah-wah and Overdrive

If you don’t use a wah-wah pedal, then you can ignore this section. But I thought it would be important to add this to the mix, mainly because I’ve found that certain overdrives work better depending on where the wah-wah pedal is placed. Admittedly, my personal preference is to place the wah pedal after my overdrives. But there are a few boutique overdrive pedals that I have that work much better when the wah pedal is in front of them. Not sure why this is. Luckily, I only have a couple of pedals that act this way, so I know not to use a wah pedal with them if I have it set up after my overdrives.

Exploration

To close this out, I have to admit that I’m a bit of an overdrive junkie. I may not buy every single one that piques my interest, but I do check out new overdrives when I run across them. The great thing about overdrives is that they really are all different, even the knock-offs, so I’ll continue to explore overdrives. I never know what I might find. πŸ™‚

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I’ve been looking at envelope filters for a long time, and I just haven’t had a need to use one yet with any regularity. But this latest vowel-shaper from EH makes me think I might just give it a whirl to see where it takes me creatively. I was just thinking yesterday that I hadn’t really thought of any new songs in the last couple of weeks; not too much of a surprise as I’ve been really focusing on delivering a major project at my regular job. But now that I can come up for some air, I’m starting to get a bit of a creative spark again, and an envelope filter might just be the pill that the doctor ordered.

As far as the Stereo Talking Machine goes, what I think is attractive is that it has a fairly straight-forward interface. There aren’t too many voices, and it seems you can get a lot out of it. This is definitely on my “things to check out” list!

Here’s a demo video:

For more information, check out the Stereo Talking Machine page!

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Though I’m pretty satisfied with my current rig – actually, I’m pretty settled now as far as pedals are concerned – that doesn’t mean that I don’t look to see what’s out there. While surfing this morning before going off to work, I came across the new Voodoo TC line of pedals from Roger Mayer. These pedals feature huge knobs for changing the main pedal parameters, and they’re meant to be changed with your foot!

What a cool concept! No more bending over to change the drive on a drive pedal or the intensity or pulse of a vibe. Not only that, the Voodoo TC line has this retro, art-deco look, and sporting colors that were apparently inspired by 1950’s Chevy’s!

There are nine pedals in the line thus far, and from what I can tell from the descriptions, they’re heavily inspired by Jimi Hendrix tones, with a few drive pedals, a vibe, and an octavia. But there is one specifically geared towards bass distortion.

For more information, check out the Roger Mayer TC Series page. There are a couple of videos on the page from the Japan Music Fair, with one of the videos being an interview with Roger Mayer, explaining the motivation behind the pedals.

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TC Electronic Corona Chorus

Summary: Part of TC Electronic’s new Compact line, this is just about the most tweakable chorus I’ve ever played. Standard chorus most offers a wide range of chorus tone from subtle, ringing tones to thick leslie-like warble. But with TonePrint and TriChorus, you’ve got even more chorus sounds at your fingertips.

Pros: For the chorus lover, the Corona is a tone tweaker’s wet dream! There’s so much you can dial in with this pedal, and guess what? It all sounds great! Great TC sound in a standard-size enclosure? No problem, mahn!

Cons: None. Granted, I haven’t played with it much, but I just can’t think of anything NOT to like at this point.

Features:

  • TonePrint – instant access to custom pedal-tweaks made by your idols!
  • 3 chorus types – expansive tonal options from glassy shimmer to mind-boggling swirls of sound
  • Speed, Depth, Color and Level controls – sculpt your chorus sounds from subtle to extreme
  • Stereo in & out – for added flexibility to your set-up
  • True Bypass – zero loss of tone
  • Analog-Dry-Through – maximum tonal integrity and clarity
  • ToneLock – protects your presets under all circumstances
  • Easy battery access – makes changing batteries fun! (well, almost)
  • Small footprint – save precious pedalboard space
  • High quality components – only the best will do when it comes to tone
  • Road-ready design – ready to follow you wherever your playing takes you

Price: $129 Street

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~TC Electronic is finally coming down from the stratosphere. In the past, price was a big barrier to entry, but with the Compact line of pedals, that’s no longer the case. You get great TC tone at an absolutely affordable price.

Selling Like Hotcakes

I called up my buddy Jordan over at Gelb Music in Redwood City today to see if he had any of the TC Electronic Compact Line in stock. He said he had one chorus and one delay left. He had three of each two days ago, and people are calling, so he has a bunch on order. I’ve been reading the buzz about these pedals for the past couple of days, and it seems that dealers sell them as soon as they get them; and for good reason: At least for the Corona, the pedals sound INCREDIBLE! As soon as Jordan told me he had a Corona (which is what I was originally interested in), I told him I’d be down in a few minutes and he said he’d pull the pedal. He knows me too well; if I like and bond with some gear, I’ll walk out the store with it.

Well, such was the case with the Corona. As soon as I got to the shop, Jordan handed the pedal to me. I took it and got set up to test it. I tested it through a 100 Watt Sebago Double Trouble with a Gretsch Electromatic at the shop and immediately fell in love. This is a keeper, and will be going on my board – today! Let’s get to the review, shall we?

Fit and Finish

Can you say, “built like a tank?” πŸ™‚ The enclosure is absolutely solid. The knobs feel totally sturdy, and the bypass switch (yes, it’s true bypass) feels solid. In other words, if the Corona is any indication of the rest of the line, these pedals will be gig-worthy.

How It Sounds

Sorry, no clips yet as I have yet to bring it home. πŸ™‚ But all I can say is that the chorus is simply silky-smooth. The “Analog-Dry-Through” (ADT) technique that they’re using really works. Basically, with ADT, the dry signal stays untouched in the pedal, and the effect is simply blended in. I really like this technique, as it ensures that your signal retains its integrity. So there’s no signal loss, and no gain boost like you get with other pedals that modify the dry signal directly. It also gives you a lot finer control over how much effectΒ  you want.

I tested all three modes: Chorus, TonePrint, and TriChorus. Here’s a synopsis of each:

Chorus Mode ~ If the Corona only had this mode, I still would’ve bought it. Based upon TC’s classic SCF circuit, this is a smooth, sexy chorus. There’s nothing bell-like with this mode, but it just adds some very beautiful character to your sound and it doesn’t sound at all processed. Based upon my initial test, this will most probably be the mode I use the most.

TonePrint Mode ~ This mode, of course, offers the ultimate in tweakability. Out of the box, the default TonePrint is an asymmetrical TriChorus that has some really cool swirls. But if you don’t like that, just hook the pedal up to your computer via the included USB cable and print a chorus sound you like. You can download TonePrints from the TC Electronic site, where they’ve had some major artists provide TonePrints. Want a Bumblefoot chorus sound? How ’bout one from Orianthi? Pretty cool stuff!

TriChorus ~ For me, used subtly in mono, this mode out of the box will give you very cool leslie-like tones. Apparently, it’s best used in stereo. While I liked it, it was the least of my favorites, but I can actually see where I can use it in one of my songs. It’ll work perfectly for that.

Overall Impression

As I entitled my previous article on the Corona chorus, I really thought I was done getting chorus pedals. But this is a must-have for me as I wanted to have another chorus pedal that could do sounds that me Boss CE-2 can’t do. The CE-2 is a really in-your-face type of chorus, while the Corona can be dialed back for a much more subtle chorus tone. I’ll be using this pedal – A LOT!!!

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I usually keep up on new stuff, but the Aria has been around for about a year now. Can’t believe I missed it! In any case, I just spoke with Dave Koltai of Pigtronix, and he said the Aria was the result of releasing a product with no marketing. I take it that Dave is one of those back-room geek dudes who come up with lots of amazing shit, then just put it out there. πŸ™‚ Actually, after speaking with him, he’s a really cool guy, and it’s great to meet someone who has a passion for what they do, and that was clear that he has a passion for creating great pedals.

I’ve known about Pigtronix for quite awhile, but it wasn’t until I got the press release on the Keymaster and shared it, that I started looking in on Pigtronix’s product line. They’ve got an impressive array of pedals. The one that I’m really keeping an eye on is the Philosopher King pedal, which is a compressor/sustainer, grit, and envelope filter. Have to save my pennies up for that one, but it’s definitely something I’d like to add to my board. But more to the immediate, I also came across the Aria Disnortion pedal, and that’s what this post is about…

I love dirt pedals! I’ve got a bunch of ’em, and for some reason, I just can’t get enough of ’em (I know… I say that a lot, but it’s true). Each one that I have has a different character, and they rotate on my board with seeming regularity as I get the in the mood for different tones now and then. As of late, I’ve really been into more transparent overdrives and boost, as I love the natural sound of my amps when overdriven, and the Aria definitely seems to fit the bill.

Now with respect to transparency, let’s face it, nothing is transparent. Everything you put on your board will change your tone. But what I tend to look for – especially in dirt pedals – is that they don’t take anything away, ESPECIALLY dynamics and and note separation. Some pedals I’ve tried in the past sound pretty decent and have lots of dynamics, but at high gain levels, lose clarity and note separation. While I’m not a speed demon on the fretboard by any stretch of the imagination, I do have more of a legato style of playing where I play several notes in one complete phrase which I’ll end with a bend or sustain, depending upon what I’m playing. So note separation is VERY important to me. There’s nothing worse than playing a well thought out phrase, only to lose it in a mush. From what I’ve heard from the demonstrations by Peter Thorn and Andy at Pro Guitar Shops, even at high gain settings, the pedal retains note separation. That’s a huge plus!

Another plus of this pedal that I can see is the 3-band active EQ that provide 12dB of cut or boost to really shape your tone. The gain knob will give you clean boost to fuzz, which makes this an incredibly versatile dirt pedal. This ain’t no one-trick-pony; that’s fo sho!

Then add to all that this pedal retails for a street price of $149, OMG! I have to get this pedal! πŸ™‚

For more information on the Pigtronix Aria Disnortion (no, it’s not a typo), visit the Pigtronix Aria product page!

In any case, for your viewing/listening enjoyment, check out these demo videos!

Peter Thorn

Andy @ ProGuitarShops.com

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No, not the sexual kind – though we do like that – but the spring reverb kind. πŸ™‚ Specifically, I’m talking about the Tone Candy Spring Fever. I reviewed the Spring Fever back in May, and gave it a 4.5 Tone Bones. But now that I’ve got it and after spending a few hours with it last night, I’m now giving it 5.0 Tone Bones! Here’s why:

  1. As I said in my original review, the Spring Fever is just about the best spring reverb pedal I’ve ever played. It sounds incredibly realistic, and unlike many of the digital varieties I’ve played, while it’s jangly with some top-end, it also doesn’t lose bottom end, so your tone stays nice and rich. That’s a little disconcerting to some folks because they’re used to a brighter tone, but for me, the retention of the bottom end is really what sold me on its tone, plus with the Spring Fever, you can go from subtle spring ‘verb, to rich, spacious, swirling surf tones, so there’s lots of variety on tap.
  2. What I didn’t get to test out in my original audition of the Spring Fever was its Volume knob which also acts as a clean boost if you turn the Reverb and Mix knobs all the way down. I’m not sure how much boost the pedal adds, but there’s enough boost on tap to slam the front end of your amp with loads of gain.

I particularly like the Volume knob because it solves a real problem for me when I play my acoustic gigs at venues where I have to plug directly into a PA board. My acoustics’ pickups don’t have much gain, and I usually have to crank up the volume faders on the board, which can be problematic as it makes it difficult to balance out the guitars’ volume with my vocals. I’ve solved this in the past by lugging my Presonus TUBEPre preamp with me, but that’s a bit of a pain to lug (read: extra gear, not because it’s heavy), and requires a separate 12V power supply. The Volume knob on the Spring Fever eliminates the need for me to bring a preamp with me. Nice.

If I have one complaint of the pedal, it has to be its finicky nature with power supplies, and will add some noise to the signal. Mike Marino explains this on the Spring Fever product page, and recommends some power supplies to use, such as the 1-Spot. I used the 1-Spot in my clips, and when the Spring Fever was activated, there was a slight, but noticeable hiss. This has to do with the power supply, and not the pedal. This also happens when I use my MXR Carbon Copy with the 1-Spot. When I hook it up to a regulated power supply like a Dunlop DC Brick, the pedal is as quiet as can be. So despite Mike’s recommendation about the 1-Spot, don’t use it. Get a regulated power supply like the DC Brick. Luckily, I have an extra DC Brick, so that will be powering my mini board.

How It Sounds

As I said, the Spring Fever is about the best spring reverb pedal I’ve ever played! Capable of producing a wide range of reverb, this pedal will be a permanent fixture on my board! I’ve still got to play around with it some more, but I recorded a few clips to give you an idea of what it can do. The clips below were all recorded using my 1958 Fender Champ output to a Jensen Jet Falcon 1 X 12. I start out each clip with a dry signal, then play it again with some “grease.” What that pedal adds with respect to spaciousness is amazing! All the clean clips were recorded at unity volume, while the dirty clips were played with the amp turned up to about 2pm, and the boost at 1pm with Mix and Reverb completely off. I wanted to demonstrate the clean boost and its effect on an overdriven amp.

Les Paul, Middle Pickup, Fingerstyle. Reverb: 11am, Mix:10 am

Left Channel: Les Paul Middle Pickup, Reverb and Mix same settings as above
Right Channel: Les Paul Neck Pickup, Reverb: Dimed, Mix: 8pm

I love the right channel track on this clip. Turned up all the way, you get this cavernous room sound, but with the Mix set real low, it becomes a much more subtle effect, providing almost a delay-like ambience without the echos.

Squier CV Tele Middle Pickup. Reverb: 10am, Mix 10am
MXR Carbon Copy with long delay time, Mix at about 10am

Les Paul Middle Pickup (biased toward bridge), Volume: 2pm, Mix/Reverb Off

Squier CV Tele Bridge Pickup (biased toward bridge), Volume: 2pm, Mix/Reverb Off

Overall Impression

Yeah, it’s pricey at $275, though you can find it at a lower price if you look. But I haven’t heard as a good a spring reverb pedal like this – ever. And the fact that it has a booster in it just rocks! For me, and especially for my acoustic gigs, this is a game changer!

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While I did a “mini review” of the Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay a couple of months ago, that was in a shop in a controlled environment, and though I played it for almost an hour, there’s no better test of gear than using it at a gig where nothing is predictable.

After I originally auditioned the pedal, I anguished for the last couple of months about getting it. Why? Simply because of its price: It is NOT a cheap pedal by any means (I got it for $335), and it was always easy for me to reason why not to get the pedal. However, I’ve been a bit disappointed with my VOX Time Machine when using it with my acoustic rig. I thought that since it performed so well with my electric rig, that it would translate well to my acoustic rig. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Truth be told, while the Time Machine simply kicks ass with my electric rig, my tone feels and sounds “processed” with my acoustic rig. The net result is that I stopped using it for my acoustic gigs.

I knew I had to get a good delay that would work well with my acoustic rig, and I also knew that after auditioning quite a few digital and analog delays at the shop, it was the Deep Blue Delay that spoke to me. But the price of the pedal made me shudder, so I put off the purchase for the last couple of months.

Then yesterday, in a moment of weakness, I purchased the pedal on my lunch break at work. Jordan, the sales guy I’ve been buying gear from at Gelb Music for years, swears by this pedal, and he just said, “Dude, I know the price is steep, but there’s none better than the the Deep Blue Delay. It’s always on my board, and it’s almost always on. The VOX Time Machine is a killer pedal (he sold me that one as well), but you know how the Deep Blue sounded with the APX900 (Yamaha – I bought that one from him too – though he didn’t make a recommendation that time πŸ™‚ ) when you tested it a couple of months ago. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.” Mind you, I trust Jordan’s advice implicitly. I’ve been buying gear from him for years, and have learned that when he raves about some gear, it’s not bullshit because he owns it or has gigged with it. And with the Deep Blue Delay, I’ve never witnessed him rave so much about a pedal!

So I am now the proud owner of the Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay, and like Jordan, I can’t rave enough about it! What about my Time Machine? It goes back on my electric rig board. I love that pedal because it has such a great sound with whatever electric guitar I use on it. But for acoustic, it’ll be the Deep Blue from now on.

Fit and Finish

With a gorgeous, shiny, blue powder coat finish, this is simply the most gorgeous pedal I have. I’m partial to blue, but the gloss is like a mirror, as the photos below show. If I have one nit, the blue LED is a bit difficult to see in bright lighting conditions, but that’s just small nit. Other than that, the pedal is solidly built. The knobs have good resistance without being tight, and the toggle switch is heavy duty. I’m not sure what kind of jacks were used but connectors snap into place nicely, so I’m assuming they’re fairly high-quality jacks.

Taking the back off the pedal, there are LOTS of wires connected to a foam-wrapped circuit board (that I didn’t want remove), so it’s clear that the Deep Blue Delay is completely hand-wired, save for the circuit board. The wires are all fairly heavy-gauge with thick shielding, which speaks to the quality of components used in the pedal. I didn’t want to lift the foam pad because the wires were so heavy and I didn’t want to have to deal with putting them back into place. πŸ™‚ Mad Professor could’ve easily used thin-gauge wires for this pedal, but I like the fact that they opted for the heavier gauge.

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How It Sounds

I know that I use the words “awesome” and “incredible” on this blog. After all, this is a “best of breed” type of site. So let’s just assume that the pedal can be described with those words, and I’ll take a different tack and describe what that sound does to me.

I know a piece of gear is incredible when it just makes me close my eyes and soak up the sound it produces. That’s the effect the Deep Blue Delay has on me. The delay effect, even at high levels is always smooth, and amazingly enough sounds so natural. There is nothing processed about this sound. And unlike other analog pedals I’ve played, the Deep Blue Delay doesn’t get dark, which is what has kept me from getting analog delays in the past.

At last night’s gig, I turned a disaster into a way to fully evaluate the Deep Blue Delay. With my acoustic rig, since I don’t have too many pedals, I use my BOSS TU-2 to power up the rest of my pedals. But last night, I had forgotten that I removed the TU-2 to use at a gig last week, so when I opened up my pedal bag, I was shocked to see my TU-2 missing. Luckily, I had left my 9V plug in the bag, so I figured that it was a great way to use the Deep Blue. So I plugged my guitar into the pedal, and it went straight into my Fishman SoloAmp.

I set up the pedal with the Delay and Repeat knobs at about 2pm, and the Level at 9am so I could get a nice, ambient sound that didn’t dominate. That created a hall-like effect that was simply delicious. I kept it at that setting for several songs. Then just as an experiment, I upped the level to 11, and then the skies parted and a voice rang from the heavens, “You have found s a sacred tone!” πŸ™‚ Seriously though, I was completely blown away by what the pedal produced. The repeats were on the speedy side and the decay was a nice tail without being overbearing, and at that level, the wet/dry mix was just perfect!

The wonderful thing about the Deep Blue is that it seems like there’s a pre-delay built into the pedal. The one thing that sets this apart from other delays I’ve used is that at anything greater than low level settings, you get delay going right away. But even at 11am, whatever I was playing, whether finger picked or strummed, didn’t start repeating until there was space – or at least that was what it seemed like. Of course, at higher levels, the delay kicks in right away, but despite that, what you’re playing is invariably clear and doesn’t get washed out by the repeats.

Overall Impression

In other words, this truly is an incredible pedal. I’m still smarting just a little from the price, but as I haven’t played a delay for my acoustic as good as this – ever – it is well worth the price! I originally gave the Deep Blue pedal a 4.75 Tone Bones rating because of its cost. But my thinking now is that if that’s what it costs to get this kind of delay, then that’s what it costs, and I’m so much happier playing with this pedal in my signal chain. I’ve re-rated it as a 5 Tone Bones pedal. If you can afford it, this pedal will not disappoint; in fact, I’ll wager that it’ll make you practically squeal with joy!

About the Photos

Another hobby of mine – and no, I don’t sleep all that much – is photography. With this hobby, I don’t aspire to be a professional photographer, but I do like to take good photos. These photos were taken with a Nikon D40 with a f1.8 35mm fixed-length lens. All shots were taken in manual mode. I don’t remember the settings, but I shot about 60 photos and picked what I felt were the best shots. Then I used Adobe PhotoShop Elements to crop the photos and did a minimal amount of color correction on a couple of them. I believe that unless you’re going to make artistic enhancements to photos, you should set up your shots so you can “print” them immediately without color manipulation; that is, set up your camera so you don’t have to compensate later.

I know, this is a guitar gear blog, but going forward, I will be doing my own photos of gear. What I love about this particular set is that my camera caught the wonderful reflections off the shiny powder coating of the Deep Blue Delay. I find that marketing photos tend to be a bit too sterile. This is the best-looking pedal in my collection, and I wanted to do its look justice.

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Yup, you guessed it… yet another overdrive pedal. I came across this pedal while perusing the forums over at Mark Wein Guitar Lessons. Mark occasionally posts “Pedal of the Day” entries, and this was his latest. I know, lots of people complain about “yet another OD pedal.” But if you stop to think about it, there’s probably a great reason why there are so many OD’s on the market. What comes to mind for me is that no one overdrive can cover everything. Let’s face it, a Tube Screamer or TS-like OD can only take you so far tonally.

Don’t get me wrong: Not all OD’s are created equally. Admittedly, there’s lots of crap out there, which is a fallout of the boutique gear movement. I’ve suspected several boutique gear “manufacturers” of simply building gear based on kits, putting a nice paint job on them, then selling the pedal for hundreds of dollars; which is why I’ve always stressed to folks – try before you buy!

The LovePedal Kalamazoo is no exception to this rule. While it has some very cool features (I’ll list them below), you really never know how a pedal will work with your rig until you put it in your chain. But despite that, I’m really intrigued by LovePedal’s twist on the overdrive with the Kalamazoo.

So what’s to like? As you can see, there are two little knobs called Tone and Glass under the common Level and Drive knobs. I believe this is where the magic of the pedal lies. Tone is a treble content roll-off, while glass is a treble booster that doesn’t affect the lows. These are wired in series, so they interact with each other. From what I could gather from the demo from ProGuitarShops I’ve seen, these two knobs offer up a world of tonal possibilities.

Another thing that appeals to me is that I prefer a more “open” kind of overdrive to let my power tubes do the compression. To me, it sounds more natural that way. The Kalamazoo was designed to create an “open” type overdrive tone. With it, you can slam the front-end of your amp, and make that gain push the power tubes into compression.

And from what I could gather, the Kalamazoo is VERY responsive to input gain, which is demonstrated in the ProGuitarShops video.

Here are the pedal’s features (from the Love Pedal site):

9VDC Input
True Bypass LED Status
Compact Die cast Aluminum Case 4.37″ X 2.37″ X 1.07″

Controls:
DRIVE – Sets the amount of overdrive
LEVEL – Master volume control
TONE – Softens the treble content
GLASS – Increases treble without cutting bass response
STOMPSWITCH – Turns effect ON or OFF

Cost: $199

To top it off, the pedal has a mirror finish! I really dig that! My Creation Audio Labs Mk.4.23 booster has a mirror finish as well. Sweet! And at $199, this is a pedal that will not break the bank!

Here’s LovePedal’s Intro Video:

And here’s ProGuitarShop’s Demo:

For more information, visit the LovePedal site!

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Click on the picture to see an enlarged view.

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. πŸ™‚ 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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Click on the picture to see an enlarged view.

BOSS RV-5 Digital Reverb

Summary: No, it isn’t the be-all end-all in reverb pedals, but for what it offers as a nice, subtle reverb to add some spaciousness to your sound, then the RV-5 really excels.

Pros: Plate reverb is excellent on this pedal – especially with an acoustic guitar. Amazingly enough, the RV-5 is transparent to my ears and doesn’t suck tone. The RV-5 is also super-quiet, and makes no line noise at all; pleasantly surprising qualities.

Cons: The Spring reverb is a little funky on this pedal. At higher Decay settings, there’s a bit of an intended artifact in the tail of the signal. Not too pleasing to my ears.

Features (from the BOSS web site):

  • Stereo input/output for compatibility with other stereo pedals
  • 6 high-quality reverb modes on par with rackmount processors
  • First-of-its-kind Modulate mode detunes the reverb sound for added spaciousness
  • New spring reverb emulation offers realistic spring reverb sounds
  • New gate reverb taken from high-end Roland studio gear

Price: $149 street

Tone Bone Score: 4.5 ~ As I mentioned above, for what this pedal offers, it’s great! To me, its strong suit is to use it as a subtle effect to add some spaciousness to your sound. As long as you don’t overdo it, this pedal will work great. The Plate reverb is particularly fantastic with acoustic.

With all the great boutique pedals out there, BOSS tends to be a bit too run-of-the-mill for many tone connoisseurs. Even I’ve thought of BOSS as somewhat of an afterthought considering some of the great boutique pedals I have, and from my participation in various online forums. Like, “Oh yeah… BOSS has “xxx” pedal. But it’s BOSS, and that means cheap, production line stuff.” But after I purchased the BOSS RV-5, one of my first thoughts was: “Have I become such a boutique gear snob that I can so easily dismiss production line pedals like BOSS because they’re not hand-made, boutique, and cost far less than boutique stuff that’s SUPPOSED to be better. ‘Cause here I am walking out the store with a BOSS pedal!”

Admittedly, it was a sobering thought. It wasn’t that I was experiencing buyer’s remorse. I truly like this pedal. But I founded this blog to share gear I’ve either purchased or come across, and most importantly, with the premise that it’s tone that matters and not the price or who made it; that is, if it sounds good, who the hell cares who made it or how much it costs? The BOSS RV-5 is a perfect example of this. Yeah, it’s made by a company that is generally equated with “cheap” pedals. But who the hell cares? I like how it sounds. If it wasn’t for the Spring Reverb, which I don’t particularly like on this pedal, it would’ve gotten a higher rating.

My intent with getting yet another reverb pedal was to get a journeyman pedal that would just do the job for my solo acoustic gigs. I wasn’t looking for a reverb where I’d layer on tons of the effect; just something subtle. After all, I was plugging into a PA board, and just wanted a touch of spaciousness, not have the reverb be the primary tone. In my experience, at low levels, even “cheap” stuff works pretty well, so I took the RV-5 for a spin, and was rewarded with a very nice-sounding reverb. As with any digital reverb that I’ve used, using them judiciously and in moderation is the key, and that was how I did my evaluation in the shop.

The net result is that I purchased the pedal. It does the job of providing a subtle, background reverb VERY well. Someone commented in my Gig Report that they’d take the RV-3 over this. I think this was motivated by the fact that the RV-3 is great for ambient stuff, as it is both reverb AND delay. But the RV-5 is really a different animal. Heavy, ambient reverb is not its strong suit. But for adding a slight spacious texture to your tone, it clearly excels in my opinion.

How It Sounds

For what it provides for me, I think this reverb sounds great. It’s not the be-all, end-all in reverbs, and it’s definitely not something I’d use for ambient stuff, but frankly, I never use a reverb pedal for that anyway, which is why I have a delay pedal. I put together samples of the same chord progression to give you an idea of what it sounds like in its various modes. The pedal is set with Level and Tone at noon, and Decay at 2pm. All clips were played with my Gibson Nighthawk, and running into the reverb pedal and into my Aracom VRX22.

Modulate

This mode adds an ever-so-slight slight chorus modulation to the tone. It’s nice.

Gate

Gate is interesting. Both pre-delay and decay are very short. This is actually kind of cool when you want a reverb tone that doesn’t tail.

Room

This setting really started growing on me when I was doing my tests. This is really a small-room type of reverb.

Hall

Nice, expansive tone with this mode.

Plate

Probably the most subtle of the modes, it really shines with acoustic guitar, but is very useful with electric.

Spring

BOSS claims to have added real spring reverb effects to this mode. Well, it didn’t succeed. The little motes of slightly buzzing spring are absolutely annoying to me, and I would never use this mode. You can hear it a little in the clip. I wasn’t expecting it at all, so it’s out as far as I’m concerned.

Overall Impressions

Sans the Spring mode, I like the reverb this produces. Plate and Room are definitely my favorite modes on this pedal, and Modulate comes in a close third. All in all, if you’re looking for journeyman reverb where you just want to lay on some spacious texture, this is a great pedal to consider!

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