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4.75 Tone Bones - Almost perfect but not quite

polarity_j3

Polarity J3

Summary: Made out of one of the hardest woods in nature, the Polarity J3 pick produces a warm, but also “spanky” tone that is perfect for leads.

Pros: I’m a big fan of natural materials for plectrums, and the J3 doesn’t disappoint with its feel in the hand. Natural materials also tend to not squeak when striking a vibrating string. As far as sound is concerned, I dig the sound that this pick produces – A LOT!

Cons: My only concern with this pick is its lifetime. I took the picture I supplied to the left after playing with the pick for about an hour on various guitars, strumming and playing solos. If you click on it, you can see where some of the Carnuba wax has already started wearing away, so I’m not sure just how long the pick will last. However, I’ll have a better idea after I gig with it this coming weekend and will post a follow-up article. NOTE: This is a fairly small nit because I only put a few hours of playing on it, and note that the only wear was the wax coating. The wood itself didn’t have any wear on it.

Price: $29.00 ea

Specs:

  • 1.3 millimeters thick
  • 7/8″ wide X 1″ long
  • Handmade
  • Magnetic

Tone Bone Rating: 4.75 – If I didn’t have the initial concern that this pick might have a short lifetime, I’d give the pick a 5 Tone Bones as it plays and feels and most importantly, sounds great.

As with most gear I write about, how good it feels, plays, and sounds is a matter of personal preference. That also affects what I’d be willing to pay for gear as well. So based upon my initial experience with the Polarity J3 pick, though the pick is on the pricey side, I’d make an investment in it just the same. It plays and feels and sounds fantastic. Is it something I’d use for general use? Probably not, simply because despite the wood being extremely hard, it’s still wood, and will most probably wear at a quicker rate than harder materials. I certainly wouldn’t use it for rhythm playing with a Strat that has vintage-style pickups with the poles that protrude. I nicked several Red Bear picks on my Strats, so I never play a Strat with a Red Bear pick.

But for leads? This is a great pick for that. Here’s a little ditty I put together last night to demonstrate how it sounds (I used my Slash L Katie May through a Fender Twin AmpliTube model):

I already have the perfect application for it. As of late, at my solo gigs, I’ve been making a lot of use of my looper to create live tracks that I can improv over. The “backing tracks” are usually recorded finger-style or using a variation on a clawhammer technique, and most of the time, I just hold my pick in my hand. This is a perfect pick to use for that application, and it’ll get a lot of use; especially this Friday and Saturday. So I’m looking forward to playing with it!

I love a number of things about this pick.

  • Being a rigid pick, it has a relatively fast attack, as compared to standard flexible picks. Even for strumming the quick response helps to stay in time.
  • The pointy tip produces a nice, bright tone, but the wood helps balance that out with some warmth in the mid-range.
  • Amazingly enough, I was expecting to have a bit of friction because of the wood. But it’s so hard that it slides over the strings quite easily, but the awesome thing is that it’s just soft enough so you don’t get that ugly squeak when you’re hitting a vibrating string, as you often get with hard plastic picks.
  • I was a little dubious about its size when I first got it, but after playing with it for just a few minutes, it’s extremely comfortable to hold plus, there’s a lot to be said about holding natural and natural-feeling material.

Will it last?

That’s really the big question, isn’t it? Despite being made of a hardwood, it’s still wood, and wood is somewhat delicate. Only time will tell if it holds up. As I mentioned above, I was a little concerned about the wax coating wearing so quickly after just a little bit of time playing the pick, but the wood was absolutely intact, so my feeling is that as long as I keep the scope of how I use it fairly narrow, this pick should hold up for a long time.

Overall Impression

I’m diggin’ this pick, and will use it this coming weekend at three gigs, so I will get a really good idea about its durability. But as it stands now, I’ve put in a few hours of playing with the pick on acoustic and electric guitars, and even used it with my bass. This is not a pick that I’d use for strumming; not that I’m concerned that it’ll break, but because of its size and shape, it just seems to be made for doing solos.

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5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!

Wegen "The Fatone"

Click to enlarge

Wegen’s Picks – The Fatone (Fat Tone)

Summary: This is now my new favorite pick! I had misplaced my Wegen GP 250 and wanted to get another GP 250. The store that I bought the last one at was out of GP 250’s so I dug in the Wegen pick box and found this beauty! The grip is awesome!

Pros: Beefy (5mm) pick that is amazingly accurate despite its thickness. Despite its thickness, this is tonally versatile pick!

Cons: Though it doesn’t take anything away from the rating, my only nit about my pick is that it’s black. Black gets lost easily on a dark stage. But Wegen makes them in white, so I’ll probably order a few of the white ones.

Price: $15.00 ea

Specs:

  • 5 millimeters thick
  • Hand-made
  • Perfect bevel that makes your strings really ring!
  • Don’t know the material, but it’s a VERY hard plastic that does not scratch. You will never need to buff or resharpen Wegen picks!

Tone Bone Rating: 5.0 ~ Though I still love my V-Picks Snake (pointed), this pick is now my primary. It’s the perfect pick!

I’ve been searching for the perfect fat pick for a long time; or perhaps I should say that I’ve been looking for a pick that I could use for both acoustic and electric, but I never could. So I used a V-Picks Snake for electric and a Wegen GP 250 and a Red Bear Gypsy Jazz for acoustic. But all that changed when I got the Wegen “The Fatone.”

Admittedly, I discovered this pick not because I was looking to add to my collection of picks, but because I lost my GP 250, which had served me well for the last couple of years. I simply wanted to replace it. Unfortunately – or fortunately – the shop that I bought my GP 250 at was all out of them. So I looked through the case to see if I could find an alternate. That alternate was the Fatone. I knew from the first moment I held it that I was onto something with that pick. Then when I strummed it on a guitar in the shop, I was completely sold! Playing it at my solo acoustic gig an hour after that sealed the deal for me. I’ll be hard-pressed to use another pick.

This is a FAT pick at 5mm. But the inset, thumb-side grip, combined with the beveled tip make this pick feel so much thinner. It’s truly a joy to play.

What is it about fat picks for me? Well, having used them for a few years now, the most significant effect they’ve had on my playing besides tone is how they make my right hand relax. The way that works is that in order to make the pick glide over the strings effectively you have to hold the pick a lot looser in your fingers. That looser grip affects the whole hand. Granted, it took a little while to get used to, but once I was comfortable with a fat pick, going back to my old nylon picks seemed absolutely foreign to me. But relaxation made my playing much more fluid, and I was actually able to play a lot faster because my hand was so relaxed. In any case, I’m hooked on fat picks, and I’ll never go back to conventional picks.

Now I know that I normally do a “How It Sounds” section, but I’m actually on the road right now, writing while my son is driving the car (I’m taking him to college). But also, I don’t know how useful that section would be in this case. All I can say is that the fat pick produces a big sound, but in the case of the Fatone, because of the nice pointy bevel, it produces a nice, bright ring in addition to the deeper tone. It’s a bit hard to describe. It “feels” so much more full than other picks. For instance, though I love the sound my V-Picks Snake makes, it’s definitely a lot more mid-rangy than the Fatone.

One thing that is significant about the Wegen pick material is that it has a texture that feels softer than tortoise, but it’s actually a VERY hard material. The cool thing is that it’s a lot more damp on the strings than either acrylic or tortoise (or natural material). But it doesn’t produce a damper sound. It’s a feel thing. πŸ™‚ In any case, I’m hooked on this pick. Also, tonally, this is a VERY versatile pick. By simply changing the angle and depth of attack, I can get thick, warm tones to nice bright tones. That’s extremely cool!

Overall Impression

As I mentioned above, I now have a new favorite pick. Not sure what else I can say about it. I won’t be getting rid of this one any time soon!

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Yeah, yeah, just about every guitar blog has one of these posts, which is why I haven’t done one of these in the almost four years that GuitarGear.org has been around. The main reason was that I didn’t just want to post a “hot babe” list. I wanted to post women guitarists who are – to me – beautiful and talented and successful, and they have to be able to really play the guitar; in other words, they’re also great musicians, and not just eye candy. In addition, to make my list, to me, they have to ooze their femininity without resorting to raunchiness. Finally, and very importantly, I have to like the music they play.

1. Nancy Wilson

Topping the list is Nancy Wilson. I’ve had the hots for her since the 70’s! The she’s played the role of “sidewoman,” for Heart, she’s never been one to just look pretty on stage. She’s a great rhythm and acoustic guitarist!

2. Ana Vidovic

Ana Vidovic comes in a close second to Nancy and only comes in second because I’ve been in love with Nancy longer. πŸ™‚ I first heard her play on a recording before I ever saw her, and loved her playing. Then to finally see what she looked like – OMG!!! By far, she is the most beautiful woman on my list, and her playing equals her beauty.

3. Sheryl Crow

Say what you want about Sheryl Crow, she is one of my favorite songwriters. I love her musical ideas and voice, and those just add to her attractiveness.

4. Gabriela Quintero

The female half of Rodrigo y Gabriela, this dynamic duo started out as metal players then converted to classical guitars and play a sizzling flamenco style, with Gabriela providing the complex flamenco rhythms to back Rodgrio’s solos. I first saw them a few years ago on a late-night show, and couldn’t believe the energy they had! It was marvelous! Then to see this gorgeous, sexy Latina ripping it up on her classical guitar. I was in love!

5. Tal Wilkenfeld

Okay, okay. I know, she’s a bass player, but she did start out as a guitarist, and she’s so damn talented and so naturally beautiful that I would be remiss in not including her in my list. As Jeff Beck’s bassist, she’s absolutely amazing. I could only hope to play solos on guitar as well as she does on bass. Her musical sense and phrasing is purely amazing.

I first heard of her through Ignacio “Ig” Gonzales when he had his popular blog, “igblog.” He was in love with Tal, and he spread his “Tal Fever” to all of us who followed his blog. If you’re not familiar with her, search for her on YouTube, and you’ll see what I mean.

Well, that’s my Top 5 List. Though my musical passion is rock and roll, I do listen to a lot of different music, and these chicks cover that territory for me.

One that I didn’t put on the list is Nora Jones, whom I’ve had a crush on for a long time, and though she actually does play guitar, and I love her music, guitar’s not her primary instrument, so she didn’t make the list, but she definitely would be in my top three were I to expand the instrumentation.

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I keep track of search terms people use to find my blog, and the search term “ana vidovic” is #2 on the list!

For a long time, I couldn’t figure out why this was because if I do a search on Google or Bing, the link to the article that wrote about her doesn’t show up for several pages. But then I clicked on the search engines’ “Images” link, and for some reason, the image I used in the article is near the top! Ha!

While weird, I don’t mind because it means that people are finding my blog, which is a good thing. It’s also rather amusing that it seems as if people (read: guys) are more interested in looking at her than listening to her. πŸ™‚ Granted, she’s stunningly beautiful…

And as to her beauty, to me, she’s the perfect woman: Gorgeous, she’s a great guitar player, and obviously intelligent to be able to play classical guitar as well as she does – which takes a lot of study. You go girl!

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VHT Special 6 Combo
Summary: This is a hand-wired, solidly built tone machine that packs great features for an unbelievable price. The value proposition alone is enough to turn heads, but add superb tone to the equation and you have a winner!

Cons: None.

Features (as tested):

  • 6 Watts
  • One 6V6 Output Tube
  • One 12AX7 Preamp Tube
  • Volume and Tone Controls
  • Footswitchable Boost Mode
  • High/Low Power Switch (Pentode/Triode)
  • 10” VHT High-Sensitivity Speaker
  • 4, 8, and 16 Ohm Speaker Jacks
  • Mod-Friendly Eyelet-Type Board
  • Hand-wired In China

Price: $199 Street / $179 Street for Head

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ Clean or dirty, this amp delivers the goods! The tone sweep is absolutely excellent giving you gorgeous, warm jazz cleans, to classic rock bite! Add the Hi/Lo power switch, and Push-Pull volume knob boost (also includes a footswitch), and you’ve got an amp that can live in a variety of musical genres.

About a week ago, I extolled virtues of the Marshall Class 5, and raved about how great it sounds. It’s a fantastic little amp, and I haven’t changed my opinion of it. But along came the VHT Special 6 and the game has completely changed. VHT raised the bar with Chinese-manufactured, low-cost, low-wattage amps by offering a hand-wired, super-well-built amp with fantastic features that can easily change the amp’s character for under $200 for a 1 X 10 combo.

I think the arrangements many gear manufacturers have made with overseas assemblers is great. Egnater is another example of a manufacturer doing it with great success. Design the gear here in the US, then partner with an overseas manufacturer to take advantage of their cheaper parts and labor, ensure that they meet a high standard of quality, then give the savings back to the customer. The top-of-the-line stuff can be saved for domestic production, but the stuff you want to get out to the masses can certainly be made elsewhere, and in much higher volumes and production rates. It’s a good model that many manufacturers have been following for years. I realize that I’m going to piss off some of the ultra-patriotic that will only buy stuff made in the USA; I myself prefer to buy US-made stuff, but it’s tough to argue with getting great tone for a great price, and that is EXACTLY what the VHT Special 6 and lots of other gear assembled overseas provide.

But enough toeing the political line. Let’s get into discussing the Special 6, shall we?

Fit and Finish and Features

The first thing I noticed when I first looked at the amp is how solid it looked. Picking it up revealed an amp that is no lightweight. I don’t know the exact weight, but the Special 6 is not lacking in heft. The cabinet is made of birch ply, and from what I could tell, fairly large transformers were used with the amp and those are heavy. Note that I’ve actually heard some conflicting information about the cabinet wood. Some say MDF, others say Baltic birch ply. Actually, it just doesn’t matter. The cabinet’s solid, and it works well as a resonance chamber for the speaker.

As far as cosmetics are concerned, the amp is covered in tolex with white piping around the front grille. The rear panel sports a partially open back that, like the Marshall Class 5, has a thin metal screen covering the opening. That’s a nice touch.

The control panel is super simple. You’ve got two chickenhead knobs for tone and volume, on/off switch, a three-way Hi/Lo Power / Standby switch (I dig that), and two input jacks for Lo and Hi input. The volume knob is a push-pull knob that when out, adds boost (sorry, not sure about the amount of boost). You can surmise just by these features that you can do a lot of tone shaping with this little beast. πŸ™‚ The back panel has jacks for 4, 8, and 16 ohm speaker outs, plus a jack for switching between normal and boost.

Sound and Dynamics

Even with a 10″ speaker, the amp is capable of producing a variety of tones, from lush, Fender cleans, to ringing, AC15-like overdrive to gorgeous, smooth Plexi overdrive. I’m not kidding about this! Depending upon the pickup you’re using and where you set the tone knob, and other amp settings such as hi/lo input, pentode/triode mode, you can cover a wide range of tones! This is what is so SICK about this amp! It’s so damn versatile!

I played around with it in my studio this afternoon, getting ready to record some clips (which I’ll have in an upcoming article), and just for kicks, I unplugged the stock speaker and ran the amp out to my 2 X 12. Granted, there is a HUGE difference between a 2 X 12 and a little 10″ speaker, but in my experience, many low wattage amps still sound a little on the thin side even when going into a bigger cab; not so with the Special 6. It sounded big and ballsy; much more “big-amp-ish” than it’s diminutive power. That really came as a surprise, much like my surprise when I plugged the Reason Bambino into a big cab. It’s clear that just like the Reason guys, VHT didn’t want to just build a low-wattage amp. They wanted to build a great amp, period.

I also gigged with the amp in my weekly church gig yesterday afternoon, and it worked absolutely stellar! I kept the amp in high power mode, plugged into the high power input, set the tone and volume at 3pm each, then pulled the boost knob to activate the normal/boost footswitch. I didn’t use any effects at all as I just wanted the raw amp tones. I even tuned with my Peterson StroboClip so my signal from my guitar to the amp was completely direct. Note that even with a 10″ speaker, I still had to use an attenuator, and my trusty Aracom PRX150-Pro worked stellar with the amp.

During the gig, I mostly used the volume knob on my guitar to vary gain, whether in normal or boost mode. The amp responded so well to volume knob and pick attack. Even if I didn’t reduce the volume, and picked very lightly, I could clean up the sound. So sweet!

The only time I made any adjustments to the amp was when we did a song that I needed absolutely clean tones. I simply reduced the volume to around 11 am, then bypassed the attenuator. And the cleans were simply fantastic!

Made to Mod

Despite the fact that VHT says this amp is highly modifiable, I doubt that most people will do no more than swap tubes. I’ve seen some forum posts where people have made a couple of changes, but I’d say the majority of folks just won’t see a need to do that. But curious, for shits and giggles, I swapped out the stock 6V6 with a couple of different 50’s-era 6V6’s (GE and RCA). They each sounded beautiful as I expected, but quite frankly, they were just too smooth. The Chinese tube seems to be “hotter” and produces lots of harmonics; something my NOS tubes didn’t do. In my opinion, the Special 6 is meant to be a mini-rock machine. It won’t do really heavy stuff, but for 70’s and 80’s classic rock, it sits right in the sweet spot.

Overall Impression

I am thoroughly impressed with the VHT Special 6. Hand-wired, immensely versatile, plus fantastic tone for under $200? That’s tough to beat! And unlike other small, low-wattage amps that have only a volume and tone knob, the combination of inputs, low/hi power modes and boost make this an amp that can be used in a variety of ways. Big thumbs up, and 5 Tone Bones!

I’ll have clips in an upcoming article. Stay tuned!

Update: January 2, 2013

It has been awhile since I wrote the original article, and amazingly enough, I’m still using the Special 6. I did finally swap out tubes to 50’s era NOS for both pre-amp and power tubes, and I also swapped out the stock speaker and put in a Jensen Jet Electric Lightning. I use this amp frequently at my church gig where I don’t need a lot of volume since mic the amp and use the PA, and it is perfectly suited for that venue.

Even after all this time, I do have to say that I’m still thoroughly impressed with the tone of this little amp. When it’s cranked, and especially with the Electric Lightning speaker, the amp sounds SO much bigger than what its diminutive 6 watts would suggest. A lot of that has to do with how the speaker projects, but when cranked, that amp absolutely sings with tones of sustain and really sweet overtones. I love playing this amp with a Les Paul. The clean tones are gorgeous as well, and when I don’t hook it up to an attenuator, I just use pedals to get my distortion. From that perspective, the amp takes to pedals real well.

Finally, even with a simple, single EQ knob, the EQ works fantastically well with the amp. It’s kind of bright out of the box, so I normally just set the tone control to about 10 am. On some amps I’ve played, that muddies the tone a bit; but not with the Special 6. It simply makes the lower range stand out a bit more.

I’ve even been using the amp in the studio, over my DV Mark Little 4o and Aracom VRX’s (except where I need a heavier sound). It’s perfect for the studio.

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Marshall Class 5 AmplifierSummary: Class A, Plexi goodness in a low wattage amp that packs a punch despite its smaller size.Pros: Great, ballsy tone that’ll just make you smile

Cons: None.

Features (as tested):

  • Power: 5 watts
  • Preamp tubes: 2 x ECC83
  • Power tubes: 1 x EL84
  • Controls: Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass
  • Speaker: 1 x 10″ 16ohm Celestion G10F-15
  • Headphone output
  • Extension speaker output
  • Dimensions: 19.48″ x 16.34″ x 9.05″
  • Weight: 26.46 lbs

Price: < $400 Street

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ Even though I didn’t get to spend as much time as I’d like to play around with the amp, I was simply impressed by the tone that it delivers, and at a price point that makes it very difficult to ignore. While many low wattage amps can sound thin and tinny, the Class 5 with its generously-sized cabinet has a fantastic, rich tone.

On Low Wattage Amps

I love low wattage amps – those that are 10 Watts or less. I have a few. For years, people eschewed these super low wattage amps, and passed them off as mere practice tools. But I suspect they really didn’t understand what a super low wattage amp brings to the party. Low wattage amps such as the 5 Watt Fender Champ helped define the sound of rock and roll. Listen to classic rock tunes, and more likely than not, the venerable Fender Champ would be the amp providing the sound.

Today, more and more people are turning to low wattage amps – especially home recording enthusiasts, and even pros like Jeff Beck – to save their ears and to get crunch and grind at low volume levels. As a result of the increased demand, many manufacturers, boutique and mainstream alike, have responded and come up with a slew of low wattage amps. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand, you have tons of selections, on the other hand; well, you have tons of selections. There are a lot of them out there and it’s tough to decide which way to go.

The shear amount of low wattage amps on the market is perhaps a big reason why Marshall waited so long to come out with its super own low wattage amp. Perhaps they were studying what the market responded to and what they could do to address what people might have fed back as improvements that could be made.

Enter the Marshall Class 5 amp. This amp was released in the UK near the middle of last year, and arrived here on our fair shores around November of last year. Amazingly enough, news about this amp has been relatively quiet. There hasn’t been all that much advertising that I’ve seen about this amp. The Marshall Haze amps have gotten lots of “rag” time, and the response to those amps has been generally positive. But I haven’t heard much about this amp other than user reviews. That’s too bad because after playing it, I have to say that I really dig it!

Classic, Killer Tone!

Is Marshall embarrassed about advertising such a low wattage amp? I certainly hope not, because I got a chance to play this amp today, and I just have two words to describe it: KICK ASS! Built upon the “Bluesbreaker”/Plexi pedigree, the Class 5 has all of that Plexi goodness in a low wattage combo. Make no mistake: The Class 5 packs a serious punch; maybe not maximum volume-wise (for a gig, this amp would need to be miked, but will provide plenty of stage volume), but if you’re looking for those classic Plexi tones in a low wattage solution, look no further!

Because I was in a shop, I only tested it with a single guitar: An Epiphone Les Paul Ultra. But the Class 5 delivered that cranked Les Paul through a cranked Marshall Plexi true to form. It was everything I expected to hear from a cranked Plexi, just at a lower volume. That really blew me away!

There’s really something special about that tone. My Aracom PLX18BB is a super-close replica of the Plexi 18, plus my good buddy has several Marshalls including an original JTM45 and Plexi 50, so I’m very familiar with that classic tone. While the Class 5 is just a tad grittier in its overdrive than its more powerful siblings (perhaps due to the new speaker), the rich harmonics and smooth overdrive delivered with “balls” with a gorgeous sustain is all there.

While it might seem from my description that this amp isn’t very loud, it’s plenty loud. You can even gig with it easily, even with the stock 10″ speaker which, by the way, has tons of volume and provides rich tone. I was actually expecting the amp to sound a bit thin due to the smaller speaker, but there was nothing thin-sounding about the amp.

Another reviewer mentioned turning the bass all the way down, because he thought it was flabby. I really didn’t detect a flabbiness to the bass, but I like a bright amp anyway so I had the bass EQ dialed down to about 8pm which is almost off.

All this tonal goodness is delivered by a 10″ speaker specially developed for the Class 5 by Celestion, the G10F-15. As expected, the 10″ really has an emphasis on the mid- to high-frequencies, but Marshall compensated for the lows by providing a spacious cabinet to act as a nice resonance chamber for the speaker. The result is a very balanced and smooth tone, if a little on the bright side. But bright is what Plexi’s are all about, and the Class 5 delivers on that swimmingly!

As far as my customary test clips go, sorry, this was a shop eval, so I didn’t record any. But if and when I get the amp, I’ll post some for sure!

Yikes! It’s Too Loud!

Hello… 5 Watts is loud. In fact the speaker’s SPL is rated at 97dB at 1 meter with a power rating of 15 Watts. People have complained that they can’t crank it up in the bedroom past 3 or 4. Yeah… welcome to the Non-Master-Volume club. But that’s the beauty of the Plexi in the first place! You need to saturate the power tubes as well as the preamp tubes to get that Plexi vibe. If you need to run this amp at bedroom levels, the best solution is to get an attenuator such as the Aracom PRX150-Pro.

I sincerely hope that Marshall doesn’t cave in to those complaining it’s too loud and add a master volume to the amp. To me, it doesn’t need and would take away from its vibe.

Made in the UK

This amp is constructed in the UK, amazingly enough. And what’s even more amazing is that it sells for less than $400! The shop I tested it at had it a retail price of $389! One would expect those kinds of prices to come from gear manufactured in Asia. But not this beauty. So to have a UK-made amp at this price point is truly remarkable! Then to get tone this good? OMG! Truly amazing!!!

Fit and Finish

This amp is extremely well made. The cabinet feels real solid, and nothing was loose. Apparently, earlier versions suffered from a buzz, but the unit I tested didn’t have that at all. In any case, I inspected the amp thoroughly – front and back-Β  and didn’t detect any finish flaws. The tolex was nicely molded down to the surface of the underlying wood, and there were no loose pieces of material. From what I could tell, 1/2″ ply was used for the cabinet, and that is good because I’ve found, at least from a purely qualitative perspective, that cabs built with 1/2″ thickness tend to resonate quite well. This obviously helps bolster the bottom end, and it does it nicely.

The rear of the cab is interesting in that it is partially closed with about a 4″ opening, covered by a metal grill. I suppose that this is so you don’t throw in the cable and accidentally puncture the speaker cone, but it may be purely aesthetic in nature. The rear grill is rather cool.

Overall Impression

I totally DIG this amp! It was fun cranking it up in the store this afternoon! Admittedly, the amp doesn’t really hit its sweet spot until the volume knob is about midway. But completely cranked up, it produces the tone I expect out of a Plexi! And even cranked up, it responds well to volume knob levels, so you can clean up the amp quite easily.

Compared to other super low wattage amps I’ve played, even my venerable ’58 Champ, this amp has tons of balls in stock configuration. With my Champ, I had to have an amp tech add a 1/4″ jack so I could run it into an external cab because the 8″ speaker really can be quite thin-sounding. But the Class 5 has enough balls and volume stock to not need any of that (though it’ll be fun to run this into an external cab anyway, which I plan to do).

Note that unlike other reviews, I really didn’t make mention of the amp being “Class A.” That’s a big deal with lots of folks, but to me, even though I understand the classification, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter to me is how the amp sounds, and it simply sounds killer. In my book, I couldn’t care less about an amp’s classification so long as I can get great tones out of it; and the Class 5 will certainly deliver on that!

As you might surmise, I’ll probably end up getting this amp. As if I need another! But it’s a great amp at a great price. That’s just plain tough to ignore! And note that this amp sounds so good stock to me that I really don’t see a need to swap out tubes unless they burn out (which they probably will considering I’ll be running the amp all out all the time πŸ™‚ ).

Here are some cool video clips of the Class 5 in action:

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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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