Archive for the ‘invention’ Category

Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to the bout of the century! A truly momentous occasion in the vein of David versus Goliath! In the red corner we have a Goliath, the reigning King of Attenuators, the Ultimate Attenuator; self-proclaimed King of Transparency – Guaranteed! In the blue corner is the Aracom Power Rox PRX150-Pro, a virtual David, armed with only a transparency sling ! And here’s the opening bell!

The Ultimate Attenuator strikes first, tongue lolling, with bombastic claims of pure transparency. The agile Power Rox ducks, and moves away, its sling of true transparency whirring rapidly. Wait! It launches! It strikes the Ultimate Attenuator square in the head. It’s going down! Oh the humanity! Oh the humanity! The match was over before it was even begun!

I had the great opportunity this evening of testing the Aracom Power Rox and the Ultimate Attenuator in a head-to-head shootout to determine which was the most transparent attenuator. As you can tell from the somewhat facetious and fictitious pseudo-boxing match, you know who won: The Aracom Power Rox PRX150-Pro. Folks, it wasn’t even a contest. Even at the lowest attenuation levels, the Power Rox swept the floor with the Ultimate Attenuator!

My Test Procedures

Equipment: My test was conducted using a Replica JTM45 equipped with original Mustard Caps and a pair of  KT-66’s, into a 4 X 12 cabinet equipped with (2) Original 55Hz Greenbacks and (2) Custom Weber (75Hz) Greenbacks, with a ‘Gibson 57 Les Paul Historic Goldtop as my test guitar.

Clean Test

First, I started with the amp totally clean. I strummed a simple chord progression to get my base tone. Setting the Ultimate Attenuator at about half “volume,” I activated it. I immediately noticed a distinct loss in both highs and lows, as even at minimal attenuation, the bandwidth of my tone was severely narrowed. The full bottom-end and sparkly top-end of my clean tone were significantly reduced. The tone wasn’t that bad, mind you, but it certainly lacked the richness of my base tone – it sounded flat.

One thing that really bugged me was activating the UA, which required a strumming the guitar, then switching on the UA, as if the UA needed a signal to pass through it to even start working. What a pain! It’s amazing that users would even tolerate this.

I repeated the same test with the Power Rox, setting it at half attenuation on the 6-way switch. The result was a reduced volume, but no loss of bottom- or top-end at all.

Clean Test – Bedroom Mode

Same test as above with both attenuators. With the Ultimate Attenuator, can you say “tone sucker?” The tone was not at all pleasing! Even more narrow bandwidth, and non-existent dynamics. There was nothing even remotely good to like at this level with the UA. How the UA website can claim to be “the most transparent and safest tube amplifier attenuator on the market in the world. Guaranteed” is beyond me. Even my old Dr. Z Airbrake sounded better than the UA. So again, at this level, the Power Rox just kicked ass. Lower volume, but full retention of bandwidth and dynamics.

Dirty Tests

In my dirty tests, I ran the amp in its drive channel cranked up fully. 40 Watts through a 4 X 12 is LOUD!!! Especially when you’re standing right in front of the cab! Actually there’s nothing like feeling the SPL’s with an amp full-out! I ran the same tests as I did with the clean channel with both attenuators, and as expected got the same results: The Ultimate Attenuator really sucked my tone, while the PRX150-Pro retained tone and dynamics at all levels. The Plexi switch just made the tone even worse, acting like a treble booster, which made an already horrid tone even worse by just upping the highs. The tone was akin to an old transistor radio played at the volume of a loud TV. Not pleasing at all, and actually, it was a bit annoying, like cats screeching! YUCK!

The Power Rox, on the other hand, again just reduced the volume. The tone remained rich and full, and all the overtones and harmonics came through. It’s amazing what those subtleties do for your tone. You really miss them when they’re not there, as they provide depth.

It’s evident that the Power Rox’s Speaker Reactance Thru technology is far superior at any application. For me, the Ultimate Attenuator company can make all the claims it wants about transparency, but that’s all they are: claims. And while it doesn’t sound all that bad at low attenuation levels, the marked difference in tone between the UA and Power Rox at any attenuation level relegates the UA – at least to me – to the junk heap. You couldn’t get me to put this in my rig if you paid me.

I realize that the UA was the best game in town for quite awhile, and I am sure that at the time it came out, it outperformed the THD HotPlate, which I have also tested, and didn’t like. I also realize that I’m being fairly harsh – much more harsh than I’ve ever been with a product – but all the claims of the UA being truly transparent are mere exaggerations, and not backed up by any discussion of its technology. In fact, all the hyperbole surrounding the UA is quite irritating!

If you knew what went into a UA, you’d have serious concerns, not the least of which is the 32 ohm fixed resistor, which essentially flattens out your impedance, and creates a mismatch so high that you could fry your amp! Adding insult to injury, the solid-state amplifier is what is really running your speaker. Transparent? Hell no! Not electronically, and definitely not audibly.

And mind you, I’m not the only person who feels this way. One new PRX150-Pro user, who is also a former UA user was so impressed with the Power Rox and disgusted by the UA’s tone compared to the Power Rox, that he bought two Power Rox’s! That says quite a bit.

For more information about the Aracom Power Rox PRX150-Pro, visit the Aracom Amps PRX150-Pro product page!

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In my quest for gear to review, I literally spend hours each week poring over the Internet and trade rags, looking for cool, new stuff, and I get especially excited when I come across familiar gear that’s expressed in completely new ways, such as the Quantum Drive from Acoustic Imaginearing that uses quantum tunneling to provide distortion. But a couple of weeks ago, I ran across a brand-new guitar company up in Washington called “Woody B Internal Combustion Guitars,” that is doing something so totally unique it has the potential of completely changing how we as guitarists approach tone. I don’t say this lightly. What Woody has invented is nothing short of amazing, and I am extremely excited to have run across this new guitar.

What makes these guitars so revolutionary is Woody’s invention: The Internal Combustion Drive System. This consists of a speaker transducer and special baffles and tone ports that direct added resonance to the strings and body. Essentially, the Drive System is a resonance chamber that builds up the guitar signal (with the help of a pre-conditioner that I’ll get into later) before it goes out to your main amp. According to Woody, whom I had the pleasure of speaking with for quite awhile yesterday, this is a guitar where you can feel your tone resonating throughout the guitar’s body.

So how does it work? Here’s a diagram. I’ll discuss it below:


That signal is returned via a special plug that Woody provides that I assume returns the “conditioned” signal as a line-level output (though with a Cube, you should be able to use the Recording Out). The signal then passes into the Drive System, where it’s run through the speaker transducer and allowed to resonated withing the chamber. The signal is buffered, then sent out to your main stage amp.The way it works in principle is actually quite simple. You first send your output to a pre-conditioning unit. This could be a low-wattage solid state amp, or even a valve amp. This is also where you add effects, so you could run this into your pedal board, then into the low wattage amp. The net result is that the guitar outputs more energy than was put in, providing for what Woody calls a much fatter, fuller tone than you would get from other guitars.

In addition, adding to the natural resonance are copper bars that run through the body to the neck, creating a direct coupling between the neck and the guitar. Very cool. Woody B also uses very high-grade woods with four to choose from: Swamp Ash, Alder, Mahogany, and African Black Limba (I dig the Black Limba, myself).

For those of you “in the know,” you might ask, “Moog already did something like this.” Yes and no. Yes, from the perspective that the Moog guitar uses a pre-conditioner. But no from the perspective that Woody has taken a completely different approach to the electronics in the Drive System. First of all, where the Moog has around 3000 parts to produce its sound, and I believe requires external power, the ICG Drive System has only twelve parts. Furthermore, the Drive System is completely passive, not requiring any external power source. Finally, the Moog guitar costs in the neighborhood of $6000, whereas you can get into an Internal Combustion Guitar for as low as $1700. Woody is really trying to keep the price below or as close to $2000 so his guitars are attainable by a wider audience.

Here are some videos that Woody has put together:

Folks, this stuff is so awesome! I can’t wait to try one out! For more information, go to Woody B Internal Combustion Guitars.

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Like most people, I’m intrigued by controversy – especially when it has to do with our beloved instrument, the guitar…

Les Paul is generally credited with creating the first solid-body electric guitar he called “The Log,” though it was Leo Fender who made the solid-body electric guitar available to the masses through mass production with the “Fender Broadcaster.”

Interestingly enough, there’s a lot of controversy that surrounds just who actually invented the solid-body electric guitar, some documented, and a lot of it not. I’m going to stir the pot a bit here, and share something that I just heard this morning from a friend of mine.

Every morning before heading off to the office, I go to a local coffee house to go through e-mails and review my day’s calendar. By the time I finish that, a couple of friends usually join me and we shoot the breeze before we all head into our respective places of work. This morning, I brought along the guitar I spec’d out for Saint Guitar Company (don’t worry, I’ll have pictures and a full review in the next couple of days…) to show my friend Phil from Phil ‘N The Blanks, a local cover band here in the Sillycon Valley.

Phil and I were discussing the guitar, when our friend Kim sat down with us. She noted the beauty of the guitar, and said, “Hey! You wanna know a cool story?” And she then recounted a tale of how her grandfather, Kenneth Clark, had known Les Paul back in the day, and had shared with him his ideas behind building a solid-body electric guitar. Soon after, Kenneth contracted a disease that left him in quarantine for five years! Yikes! But during that time, Les apparently ran with the idea, and successfully created what is generally recognized as the first solid-body electric guitar.

Who knows whether or not this is true? None of this is documented, but it sure stirs the pot, doesn’t it? Of course, let’s not take anything away from the venerable LP. Without him, we wouldn’t have multi-track recording or reverb. Even Leo Fender is accused of stealing ideas for creating the Broadcaster, but he created an industry where none had existed. Is this an apologia? Not really. But it does go to show that the people who are attributed with inventing something usually are the ones who’ve gotten their invention to the public first.

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