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Posts Tagged ‘Effects’

bren-thumbs-upYesterday, I wrote an article about how my beloved Hardwire RV-7 Reverb had finally gone on the fritz, and I was going to try out the TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb, which I’ve had now for a few years, but hadn’t put on my pedal board. This wasn’t because I didn’t think it was good; in fact, I gave it pretty high marks in my original review back in 2013. But that was a studio test.

Testing in a controlled environment is one thing, but for me, gear doesn’t really reveal its true nature until I’ve used it live. The conditions are completely different than in a studio, and oftentimes I’ve found that something might sound great in the studio, but in a live performance situation, just doesn’t perform all that well, no matter how it is adjusted.

But as you can tell by the meme, that is definitely not the case with the Hall of Fame. In fact, it performed so well that it’s not leaving my acoustic board. Ever. Yeah, yeah, I know that there are awesome boutique reverbs out there. But when you dial in a great sound, irrespective of the pedal, you don’t mess with it. It’s like the saying in baseball: You don’t f$%k with a streak. If it works, you go with it.

Truth be told, I found a “magic” setting for the pedal, and not only did it meet the capability I expected it to have – that is, at least equivalent to my old RV-7 – it far exceeded my expectations. That setting didn’t make a lot of sense to me at first because I normally like to run a reverb at about 50-50 wet/dry with a short decay, and that’s how I initially set it up. And as opposed to using a spring setting, I’ve turned to using a Hall reverb. I had gotten used the natural subtlety of the RV-7, but the Hall of Fame Hall reverb is much wetter at the 50-50 level setting than the RV-7. It’s also slightly brighter in tone.

So here’s how I set it for my acoustic rig, which goes directly into the board: Hall effect; Tone at 11 am; FX Level at 10 am; Decay at 2:30-3 pm, which is about 70-75% of the sweep; and Pre-Delay set to short. That setting is a little unintuitive to me because of the long decay. But with the level kicked back, what it does is provide a nice tail in between notes, but with the lower FX Level, I retain my note clarity. The result is a subtle, expansive, and deep and rich tone. And though set to Hall, which you would expect to be super ambient, again, the lower FX Level ensures that I can hear all my notes up front, while the tails due to the Decay provide the lingering of the notes. It’s beautiful.

What was an even more pleasant surprise was how well it played with my other modulation pedals. I expected it to play nice with my Corona Chorus as that is another TC Electronic product. But I didn’t quite know how well it would play with my Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay. It played nice. Very nice. For some reason, my old RV-7 sat better in my chain in front of my delay (I know), but the Hall of Fame definitely belonged at the back, as the last pedal before my looper.

That I’ve had this pedal for almost four years and haven’t gigged with it is an absolute shame. I was so blown away by how it performed last night, and I even got several comments from both staff and patrons commenting on how good my guitar sounded. The Hall of Fame has definitely found a home!

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…and a few others to consider

I know, I know… A lot of people wouldn’t ever think about doing this, but I’ve used them for years, and actually got the inspiration from one of the greatest acoustic guitarists – in my humble opinion – who ever walked planet Earth: Michael Hedges. While he mainly used a chorus pedal, it gave me the idea that I could take advantage of the interesting sonic layers I could add to my sound. Note that these aren’t hard and fast rules, but for me, I don’t go to a gig without them. And also note that this assumes you’re plugging your guitar into a board or an amp of sorts.

Reverb

A lot of acoustic amps have onboard reverb, but I’ve found that they’re not quite as good as a dedicated pedal that I can tweak. My favorite reverb pedals that I use are the DigiTech Hardwire RV-7 Reverb and the TC Electronics Hall of Fame Reverb. The RV-7 is no longer in production and I’ve had it for several years, but it’s awesome. Apparently, the DigiTech Polara builds on DigiTech’s use of Lexicon reverb models. Lexicon reverbs are the tops, and I’ve used them on pedals and sound boards for years. As far as the Hall of Fame reverb, it’s an absolutely solid reverb pedal, though admittedly, it sits on my electric board. This pedal is cool because it has TC Electronic’s TonePrint capability that allows you to download saved tweaks from their site. I’ve used it, but I tend to like where I set my reverb, so I don’t use it too much.

Chorus

Frankly, I couldn’t live without this in my live gigs. I never use it really heavy – even for electric guitar – but it can add depth and shimmer to your plugged-in tone. Frankly, you have to play a lot of these to find the right kind of sound for you. But my go-to chorus pedals are as follows (in order of use): TC Electronic Corona Chorus, BOSS CE-2 Chorus (vintage MIJ black-label – and I only use it in my home studio now because it’s so rare), Homebrew Electronics THC (discontinued, but the warmest, most liquid chorus I’ve ever heard). The Corona is my workhorse chorus pedal that I use for both acoustic and electric. There’s really something about this particular pedal that I just dig. It’s actually a very subtle chorus, and that suits me just fine because I don’t ever want a pedal to dominate my sound. I usually just set it in the standard setting. I keep it at about 10 o’clock for level; I set “speed” at about the same, and depth about 2pm. Then depending on where I’m plugged in, I’ll adjust the tone to where I perceive it to be balanced with the rest of my signal chain.

I actually also have a BOSS  CE-5, but that sits in my spares drawer just in case one goes down. It’s decent, but it’s not a CE-2, which is a pretty special sound. You can still get CE-2’s used. But you’ll want to get one in excellent to mint condition.

Analog Delay

I’m making an important distinction here mainly because I’ve never been able to get a satisfactory sound with a digital delay with my acoustic. And to tell the truth, while I’ve had several digital delays in the past, I now only use my Vox Time Machine for digital delay. But even that doesn’t get used much. Instead, I have two mainstays that I use pretty regularly. First is my Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay (hand-wired). Whew! I paid a pretty penny for that (USD $325 new) but there’s a less-expensive PCB board version that sounds incredibly good as well. In any case, I use this pedal mainly for acoustic. To me, it has this other-worldly sound that I just can’t get enough of when I’m playing my acoustic through it. It works great with my electric rig as well, but I tend to prefer my MXR Carbon Copy for that. For some reason, the Carbon Copy has an awesome mojo in my electric signal chain. I just love it. It doesn’t have the depth of the Deep Blue, but that’s not really what I’m after when I’m playing electric guitar. I just like to add some ambiance to my solos. Got that from Tommy Shaw of Stix.

Other Pedals To Consider

I use the following pedals depending upon the venue I’m playing.

Compressor/Sustainer – My go-to is the Maxon CP101 Compressor. I usually use this if the venue I’m playing doesn’t have an onboard compressor and/or the venue has really high ceilings, and I need my band to be pretty narrow to cut through the ambient noise.

Acoustic Enhancer – I use the BBE Sonic Stomp, and again, I use it mainly for wide-open areas. This is particularly useful for when I’m playing with other acoustic guitars and am doing a lot of solos. I typically use it to add some high-end shimmer – but sparingly, otherwise I risk sounding “tinny.”

Vibe – I know what you might be saying, “Really?!!!” For me, this is a “mood” type of pedal. I don’t use it much, but when I want to get a pulsating, modulated tone, there’s nothing but vibe that’ll do. And for me, my vibe of choice is the Voodoo Labs MicroVibe.

Of course, you don’t really “need” any of these. And if I were to choose just one, I’d probably go with a good reverb pedal first. There’s nothing like adding a little “grease” to your sound than with some subtle reverb. The next would be delay, then chorus. But I should say that in my solo acoustic gigs, my chorus pedal is always on. I have a very subtle setting that I use that really pleases me, so I just keep it on all the time. But in its absence, I’d choose a delay over that.

And as I mentioned above, there are no hard and fast rules, but having literally played thousands of gigs over the last 35 years, I’m banking on my experience to at least get you started.

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I get lots of press releases, but there are some that compel me to share. This is one of them:

Pigtronix announces release of the Class A Boost – Elegance In Tone

Pigtronix Class A Boost is the final word in high performance guitar preamps. This pedal’s elegant exterior and single knob layout cloth an ingenious “Class A” J-FET design that will fatten up the sound of any instrument or sound source.

Featuring discreet transistor topology (no opamps) this device can boost passive or active pickups and even line level signals up to 20db without ever clipping. Perfectly flat frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz ensures that your instrument’s tone and expressive character remain intact as signal power is increased.

The Class A Boost’s noise free performance allows you to put the effect anywhere in your pedal chain. It adds punch and extra output when placed after a classic overdrive or will happily push your gain pedals into new levels of saturation. The Class A Boost is also ideal for hitting the front end of a tube amp to achieve an added layer of sweetness and fat tone without unwanted clipping or noise.

The Class A Boost runs fine on a standard 9-volt supply, but ships with a Pigtronix 18-volt adapter in order to achieve superior headroom and maximum punch. Make your sound 1 louder with this handsomely dressed, J-FET masterpiece from Pigtronix.

“Pigtronix Class A Boost is crucial to my sound because it makes my guitar tone clearer and louder, without adding distortion.”  – Eric Krasno (Soulive)

Pigtronix Class A Boost carries a list price of $149 and is available now at Pigtronix dealers everywhere.  Check out the Class A Boost and the whole line of 2011 Pigtronix effects at http://www.pigtronix.com.

I’m a big proponent of boost pedals, especially when used to slam the front end of a tube amp to push it into full-on overdrive. What’s attractive about this particular pedal is that it is Class A – at least from an audiophile’s perspective – which means that it will not clip throughout its operating range. Don’t confuse this with the definition of Class A for an amplifier. They’re two different things. Here’s a great explanation of Class A operation with respect to amps.

In any case, this could be a VERY cool pedal to have…

For more information, visit the Pigtronix Class A Boost page!

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I’ve never been much of a distortion box kind of guy; at least until recently when I got my EWS Little Brute Drive. I didn’t think I’d be using it all that much, but I have to admit, it is quickly becoming an indispensable addition to my pedal board. It’s as transparent as my Timmy, which is a HUGE plus in its favor, but the gain and distortion goes way beyond what the Timmy can do. But at the same time, it behaves insanely well with the Timmy. For instance, at my church gig yesterday, I was playing a song and had the Timmy engaged to give me some mild overdrive. There was a lead break in the middle of the song where I had to do a short 8-bar solo. But instead of switching the Timmy off, I just activated the LBD. OMG!!! I was immediately rewarded with tons of sustain, and singing, sweet distortion that was not at all over the top (I had the single gain knob set at about 11 am)

Amazing that all this comes from this little pedal that’s about 1 1/2 times longer than a 9 volt battery!

One thing though is that both the Timmy and the LBD are making me rethink how I approach my overdrive tone. Since getting them, I haven’t been cranking my amps near as much as I used to. I still love that saturated power tube sound, but tend to put my amps on just below the edge of breakup, then use my Timmy, the LBD, or a boost to push it over the edge. Mind you, I still have the Master volume up there. It’s just full out like it used to be.

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AH! HA-HA-HA HAHAHA! <manic laughter>

I guess my love affair with overdrive pedals hasn’t waned one bit – even with getting my Timmy. Don’t get me wrong, my Timmy will NEVER leave my board, but this totally cool, ultra-compact “Little Brute Drive” from EWS Japan is nothing short of amazing to me. Lots of overdrive/distortion on tap, right out of the box! And look at the bottom of the picture to the left: It ain’t much bigger than a freakin’ 9V battery! Amazing!

The way I envision using this particular pedal is for when I need heavier distortion than my Timmy, which is a light- to medium-gain device. The Little Brute has a much wider range of distortion; from fairly light to searing. And like the Timmy, the distortion is fairly open and uncompressed from what I could tell from clips. But even more important is that like the Timmy, it’s fairly transparent. I couldn’t detect much tone alteration from the clips I heard. So awesome!

You can fine-tune the output level and tone from inside the box – see the two blue adjustment screws in the picture? But from what I could tell, the factory settings are perfect.

Here are a couple of video clips:

Cost? $129, which is as much as a Timmy, but unlike the Timmy, you can get this online. Here’s a link where you can buy the pedal.

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How can anyone complain about a great-sounding boutique pedal at mainstream prices? Taking its design cues from industry-veteran Gary Hoey who wanted to ensure a great-sounding, built-for-the-road but affordable pedal, HBE has created just that. This is a simple, road-worthy standalone overdrive that costs just $99. Nice!

Not much media on this pedal yet since it’s so new, and I’ve only seen one video of this so far, which was okay, but the demonstrator only used a single guitar, and only made a few adjustments; frankly, to me not enough to give a good representation of the pedal’s capabilities. But based upon what I heard in that video, this pedal is more standalone distortion than overdrive, but really a better test will determine that.

In any case, you can find a bit more information at ProGuitarShop.com. Andy hasn’t done a demo video of it yet, but since he praises it, I’m sure he’ll produce something soon.

Myself, I think this pedal is going to be worth a serious look just based upon the principle of it being so affordable. Damn! I’m GAS-ing again! 🙂

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One of my biggest problems with Strats in the past is that while I loved their tone, the stock pickups never really satisfied me; being a bit too bright and not powerful enough. Plus, the Strat is not a guitar that sustains very well. With my new Strat, I’ve solved the brightness problem, and most of the power problem with the Kinman pickups that came with the guitar. But the sustain issue still exists. Mind you, this particular guitar has some very nice inherent sustain and resonance; still not as much as a Les Paul, but more than what I’ve experienced with other Strats in the past.

Among those in the know, a Strat really needs help in the sustain area, which is why overdrive pedals will never go away. They provide extra gain yes, but more importantly, they provide sustain. For me, as the title states, the Timmy overdrive has completely changed the game for me. Being a transparent overdrive, it retains my tone then gives me more of it, as well as giving me some extra sustain. Oy vay!!! I love this pedal! The note definition and separation is incredible with the Timmy. There’s nothing washed out at all.

There’s a song I recorded a couple of years back called “In the Vibe.” I liked the tune itself, but I was never happy with the guitar tone. I was using my old MIM Strat with a Tube Screamer, plus a cranked up Reason SM25. I just felt that the guitar didn’t have enough bite, and no amount of EQ was going to get me that. I even re-recorded the song using my Les Pauls, but the song was made for a Strat. So I just let it sit in limbo.

But last night, I thought I’d revisit the song and use the Timmy with my Strat, and I WAS BLOWN AWAY!!! The guitar parts have the bite I want, and the Timmy just adds tons of balls to my tone. Here’s what I recorded last night:

The first guitar part is played in the neck pickup. I love that pickup on this guitar as it has the real vowelly-like tone. The second part is in the bridge pickup that has a lovely drive and a Les Paul-like honk to it. Yummy! For that song, I set the pedal with volume at about 11 am, gain at 1pm, bass at noon, and roll off just some of the highs with the treble at 9am. My Aracom VRX22 was set with both Master and Volume at 1pm, which is on the edge of breakup for the guitar cranked up. I gotta tell you: The Timmy is absolutely marvelous!

What about the Dano TOD?

There has been lots of discussion about the Dano Transparent Overdrive being a ripoff of the Timmy circuit. From demos that I’ve heard, it’s close, but to me, the Dano doesn’t have near the amount of clarity that the Timmy does. Conceivably, you could get it close, and in a performance situation it may not matter. But in a studio situation, where  you want as much clarity as possible, I don’t think I’d ever use a Dano. Yeah, I paid three times as much for the Timmy and waited for 6 months. But at $129 it is so well-worth the wait, and at that price it’s near the cost of a BOSS pedal.

So in my mind, the Timmy wins hands down, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, it will never leave my board.

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