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Posts Tagged ‘BOSS’

…albeit not cheap.

For those of you who are familiar with attenuators, you know they solve a real problem with cranking a tube amp to get the power tubes to fully saturate: The volume that even a low wattage amp produces when it’s cranked is LOUD, and an attenuator helps to alleviate that by taking the amp’s output and reducing the power that ultimately gets to your speakers. I can tell you from personal experience, being able to record my cranked amp at conversation levels has saved my ears and saved me from the wrath of my family getting pissed that my amp’s too loud.

But the drawback of reducing the output power to levels that low is that you take the speaker out of the equation. Most amps work best when their distorted signal works in concert with the speaker cone moving air as the speaker add its own character to the overall sound. For a recent recording I made, I had to wait until no one was home to record my overdriven guitar parts so I could take advantage of the speaker moving some serious air. My ears didn’t appreciate the abuse they got, but the result was so much better than close-miking an attenuated amp.

But the folks at BOSS have seemingly overcome that by providing a unit that not only attenuates a cranked amp but also provides models to mimic various cabinets via built-in IR and a whole rash of other features. I’ll list the highlights later. Watch this demo. It’s pretty cool:

Here are the features off the BOSS website:

  • First-of-its-kind tube amp command center, built with Waza expertise and the Tube Logic design approach
  • Advanced variable reactive load circuit with discrete analog components supports tube amps up to 150 watts
  • User-adjustable impedance tuning correctly matches the reactive load to your amp, retaining its natural tone, dynamic feel, and distortion characteristics
  • 10 recallable rig settings for storing favorite setups
  • Deep real-time performance control via GA-FC/FS-series footswitches and MIDI I/O
  • Built-in 100-watt Class AB power amplifier with discrete analog design and seamless volume control
  • Powerful DSP section with 32-bit AD/DA, 32-bit floating-point processing, and 96 kHz sampling rate
  • Customizable stereo effects with premium tone quality: compressor, delay, reverb, and four EQs
  • Twenty-two mic’d cabinet emulations with five selectable close-mic types and three room-mic options, plus four slots for loading user speaker IRs
  • External effects loop with selectable series/parallel operation and control jack for switching amp channels
  • Parallel speaker outputs for connecting up to two cabs for gigging
  • Balanced XLR line outputs (mono and L/R stereo) for connecting to FOH console, stage monitors, and recording devices
  • Headphones output for quiet practice with cranked-up amp tones
  • Dedicated editor software (Mac/Windows)
  • USB for direct audio recording and editor communication

At $1299, it is not at all an inexpensive solution. However, that said, neither are the top attenuators that cost $500+. Considering the features this packs though, I’m surprised by the price point.

For me, this is something that I would seriously consider, especially for playing any of my tube amps on stage. I could attenuate the volume locally and use my speaker for local monitoring, then simultaneously send the signal via XLR into the board, eliminating a mic altogether and letting the sound guy do the mix.

Also, with the different IR models available, I could silently record my amp.

Looks like I’ll need to start saving my pennies…

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IMG_20181001_112403Or… this could be called Confessions of a Tube Amp Snob…

For the past decade or so, I’ve been a complete devotee of the tube amp. I’ve literally got 10 of them, and believe it or not, I still use most of them. In my mind, there has really been nothing like the feel and dynamics of a tube amp. And solid state amps? No way could that feel be duplicated.

Ten years ago, that might have been true – though admittedly, it was probably also drinking quite a bit of Koolaid – now though, that line between what separates tube amps and solid state amps is so narrow as to be almost imperceptible. WTF? Part of me is beside myself scratching my head and asking, “How could this be?”

Technology, of course, progresses. And luckily, amp manufacturers – specifically, solid state amp manufacturers – have listened to their customers over the years to create amps that have similar dynamics to valve amps.

I just bought a BOSS Katana 50 and I can describe it in two words: IT ROCKS! I can’t even begin to tell you how good it is. It not only sounds great with the deep, 3-dimensional sound I’ve come to love about tube amps, but the feel and dynamics of the amp are right on par with my tube amps. And I only paid $219.99 for the freakin’ thing!

Most solid state amps of old were fairly flat sounding and uninspiring hunks of junk (though I need to leave the Roland JC series out of that). But today? It’s a completely different story. Within the first few notes of playing with the Katana in the shop, I knew I was playing something special. I was expecting kind of a “toy” sound out of it. But what issued from the amp was simply magic. #blownaway

Even when I played the amp completely dry, the deep quality of the sound still remained. It didn’t become flat and lifeless. The sound still resonated and I was playing in a carpeted room with a low f-in’ ceiling! Look, I’ve been around gear for years and have literally reviewed thousands of guitars, amps, effects, and accessories in all sorts of different combinations. I’m not easily blown away because frankly, I’ve become quite jaded. But this amp completely changes my mind about solid state amps being inferior in both sound and dynamics compared to tube amps.

Am I going to scrap my tube amps? Absolutely not. Each amp has a particular voice that I may need when I record. So they will still be set up and still be used. I’ll even still gig with them.

But as far as voicing is concerned, what I like about the Katana is that at least to me, it seems that it isn’t an amp that was designed to emulate a tube amp platform like a Marshall or Fender. It has a sound all its own. What’s most important to me is that it possesses the tonal and dynamic characteristics I’ve come to expect out of a “good” amp. And I will just say it: This amp isn’t just “good enough;” it’s not a compromise. It’s just plain good.

Over the years, I’ve mellowed my perspective about gear. In my mind, if it sounds good and feels good, it is good, and the Katana fits that perfectly.

Here’s a Chappers demo of the amp:

I will be gigging with the amp in the coming week, and will follow this up with a full review!

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Adventures in Looping

boss-rc-2I’ve had my BOSS RC-2 Loop Station for almost three years now, and it has only been in the last month or so that I’ve actually put it to use on a regular basis. Frankly, I’m not too sure why I hadn’t used it. But since I’ve started using it, I’ve been having a blast!

I think what inspired me to start using it was the release of the TC Electronic Ditto Looper. I was very impressed by its simplicity, and then it occurred to me that the RC-2 was actually very simple to use if memory served. So I set up the RC-2 with my VHT Special 6, and started to play around with it for a few days.

To be honest, when I first started using it in those practice sessions, I was a little overwhelmed and intimidated, even with such a simple looper! But after awhile, I started to get the hang of it, and worked up the confidence to use it at my solo gig.

I now use it quite a bit. Most of the time, I use it for specific songs like Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” or Clapton’s “Wondeful Tonight.” But lately, I’ve had some riffs pop into my head during my gig, and I’ll tap out a rhythm, lay down the rhythm guitar, then just jam over it. It has added a lot of life into my gig; mind you, I’m into my 13th year playing this weekly gig, so any way I can add a new dimension to it breaks up the monotony.

Frankly, I don’t know if I’ll get another, more sophisticated looper. I’ve seen some amazing things people do with them, but for me, simple is good for right now.

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I was feeling a bit nostalgic yesterday and put my BOSS CE-2 on my board. Though I’ll never get rid of the pedal because of its value – both vintage and personal – I have to admit that I hadn’t played the pedal in at least year; maybe more, as I had moved on to other choruses such as the TC Electronic Corona Chorus and the Homebrew THC. But after playing it at my solo gig yesterday, I think it’ll definitely stay on my mini board.

When I mentioned feeling nostalgic earlier, the CE-2 was my first chorus pedal. Actually, it was the first pedal I purchased back in the early 80’s. I had an original black label model circa 1981 or so (been awhile). I had purchased it along with an in-hole pickup for my Yamaha FG-335 and a Roland 15 Watt solid state amp, and actually put a lot of mileage on that pedal but finally traded it for another cheapo. For years, I could never recapture that tone, so I just went without it. But I never forgot the tone.

Back in 2010, I purchased a green label, MIJ model from the mid-80’s, and played it for several months until I came across my other two chorus pedals that I mentioned above. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work well with my Plexi-style amps, so I just took it off my board. It sat collecting dust until I played it yesterday.

It hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday that what made me fall in love with the sound was how it sounded with an acoustic guitar. The chorus is voiced a bit bright, so the deep voice of an acoustic balances out the potentially harsh tones. I was very much in tonal heaven yesterday as that pedal just added so much to my acoustic tone. I could set it to thick and liquid, to very subtle and it just sounded fantastic.

Here are a few clips I recorded this morning. I’m playing my Gretch Electromatic and outputting through my VHT Special 6. The amp is miked with a Sennheiser e609 positioned off-axis, at the edge of the speaker cone to pick up the lows. The first two clips are short comparison clips, while the third is finger-picked chord progression.

Very Subtle (Rate @ Noon, Depth @ 9)

Adding a Bit More Chime (Rate @ Noon, Depth @ 10:30-11am)

Liquid, but not over the top (Rate @ Noon, Depth @ 2pm)

No EQ was used on the recording. What you heard was a straight recording of the amp’s output. I did level balance a bit to bring up the softer, finger-picked tracks, but did no EQ shaping.

The thing about the CE-2 tone is that it is not a thick chorus tone, and it is not smooth. There is a definite emphasis on the mids and high-mids with the CE-2, which is probably why it didn’t sound very good with my Plexi-style amps, plus the fact that I was using Alnico speakers which tended to be bright. So the added brightness was just not too pleasing at the time. Mind you, that was for my live sound. I could always get a good recorded sound by simply positioning my mic in the right place.

So there it is. I’m glad I’ve found a great use for my CE-2. Not sure what I’m going to do with the THC. It too is a great chorus… I’ll probably keep it for awhile or put it up on CraigsList…

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I’ve personally had a mostly tepid response to BOSS’s multi-effects units. A buddy of mine has an ME-50, and he rarely uses it – though he has other interests besides guitar. But from what I’ve heard from it, it just never inspired me. But the ME-70 seems a bit more promising; the operative word here being “promising.” This new version packs 40 effects of what BOSS claims to be it’s “hottest” pedals. It doesn’t make me all hot and bothered, but it does pique my interest enough to go down to my local Guitar Center and try it out. It’s not a bad price of at $299, and for the solo gigs I play, having a nice, compact effects rig with some built-in amp models is definitely something to consider. But that said, the only REALLY promising multi-effects unit I’ve come across is the TC Electronic Nova System. But it’s also twice the price. Only a test will prove it out. In the meantime, check out the video from BOSS:

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The problem with evalutating pedals online is that you can’t really audition them very easily – especially in combination with other pedals. But BOSS has gotten us one step closer with the new BOSS VPB-2 or Virtual Pedal Board. It’s very cool in concept. You go to the VPB site, select a style of music and a combination of pedals appears on the page. A loop in the style you’ve chosen begins playing, and you can then activate/and de-activate pedals to see how they change the recorded signal just by clicking on them. You can also swap some of the pedals out for the current style.

Check it out here: BOSS Virtual Pedal Board 2

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