My current pedal board setup is pictured above. The signal chain is as follows: Soul Food -> Big Bad Wah -> Corona Chorus -> Deep Blue Delay -> Hall of Fame Reverb -> Mk.4.23 Booster. Note that the knob settings are not what I gig with. They got turned during transport. 🙂
In any case, my board used to be jam-packed, with both rows filled. I used to have two overdrives and a distortion pedal on the bottom, and the booster would be the last pedal on the left. But I’ve been paring down what I use to the absolute minimum.
No, it’s not because I don’t want to lug more gear. It’s just that I realize that whatever I play now, I just sound like… well… me. So my pedal rig just contains pedals I want to use to enhance my basic tone. In the past, I’ve used pedals to help create my tone. But the better I got, the more I didn’t rely on pedals.
For me, the pedals I’ve installed above are simply must-haves. As far as the modulation pedals are concerned, while I probably don’t absolutely _need_ the chorus, I like to have it, especially when I play clean. It just adds a bit of tonal grease. Delay and reverb are two others I can’t live without. I love the slap-back effect of my Deep Blue Delay, and the reverb, which is always on, adds a little more tonal grease.
I wasn’t going to use a booster pedal at first, but my bandmates at our last gig said that I needed to get my solo volume over the band. I actually thought I was plenty loud. But hey! Twist my arm to crank it up! 🙂
I may add my Timmy overdrive just so I have a bit of variety and to create a transparent overdrive sound. But I have to tell you: That Soul Food is sonic candy. I love that pedal! It gives me such creamy smooth overdrive that intermingles so well with the natural overdrive of my amp that I feel I can take my time adding another pedal.
With respect to my wah pedal. It has been a mainstay on my board, but it wasn’t until recently that I REALLY started using it. With my old church gig, I just didn’t have the occasion to use it much. But with my new rock band, hell! I just use it whenever I feel like it. 🙂 We do covers, but they’re not strict covers, so I use my artistic license to its full extent.
I’m real fickle with respect to pedals. I swap them in and out all the time depending on my mood. But I think I’ve finally found a combination of pedals that works real well for me – at least until I change my mind – again. 🙂
Summary: Two-and-a-half years in the making and combining what Robert Keeley feels are the best in overdrive pedals, tube amps, and tone stacks. The Luna overdrive is the result. This pedal covers a wide range of overdrive possibilities, from light grit to fuzz-like, square-wave distortion.
Pros: The Baxandall tone stack is KILLER and totally sells me on the pedal. On top of that though, the pedal reacts to attack and guitar volume adjustments just like a tube amp, so you’ll be right at home.
Cons: It’s pricey for one, and the tight interplay between the EQ, Drive and Master controls makes it difficult to dial in just the right amount of overdrive. But these aren’t big enough cons to give it a lower score.
Hand-made in the USA
Op-amp clipping and JFET gain stages
Baxandall tone stack
Drive and Master controls
Classic and Modded overdrive modes
Price: ~$219 Street
Tone Bone Score: 4.75 ~ This is a great pedal. I’d give it a 5 on tone alone, but I knocked off just a bit for making it difficult to get a decent tone out of my amp. I suppose that’s part of the fun in playing around and discovering what a pedal can do, but I have to be fair. It got a little frustrating as the Drive knob is pretty sensitive.
After my beloved Timmy pedal, I thought I was done with overdrive pedals! 🙂 I should know better because I’ve been a slut for overdrive pedals, and I guess there’s really no cure for that. Playing around with the Keeley Luna Overdrive has been a joy, though I will admit I did briefly get frustrated while trying to dial in the pedal. It simply took a bit of time to get used to the active Baxandall EQ. Unlike other EQ’s, it’s not a cut type of EQ, where the EQ knobs turned all the way up give you flat response. With a Baxandall EQ, the 12 o’clock position is flat response. Turn up an EQ knob and you get a boost, turn it down, and you get a cut. But the midrange is left alone. That means that if you turn both knobs fully counter-clockwise, you get a midrange hump; fully clockwise, and you get a scooped tone.
This is a totally different animal from other EQ’s, and it takes awhile getting used to. However, despite the learning curve, this type of EQ provides a much better way of dialing in your tone to fit your guitar, amp, and cabinet. For instance, for my test, I played the pedal in front of my DV Mark Little 40, which goes out to a 1 X 12 cabinet that has a Jensen Jet Falcon speaker, which has a pretty big bottom end. Putting the pedal in flat response made my tone sound really muffled because of the lows (I had my amp’s EQ completely flat). But after playing around, I found that placing the bass at 11 o’clock and the treble at 1 o’clock brightened up the tone just the right amount, then it was all about getting the Master and Drive knobs set.
About the Drive knob… it’s super-sensitive, and you’ll start getting breakup as soon as you start turning the knob clockwise from its minimum position, which is about 7-8 o’clock. I found that the sweet spot for me was the Drive just past 9 o’clock and the Master set between 2 and 3 o’clock. With my amp set at just the edge of breakup, the boost from the Master got the tubes overdriving, and the combination of distortion from both the pedal and the amp was quite pleasing to my ears.
How It Sounds
In my First Impressions article that I wrote earlier today, I said that the pedal adds some color. I’m going to retract that now because depending upon where you set the EQ’s, you can have a transparent tone, or add as much color as you want. I like to err on the side of transparency with most overdrives, and when it came down to it, this pedal was no different. I originally had a nice treble boost, but when I did some test recordings, found that I didn’t like how I had set the EQ’s because of the color. Here are a couple of test clips. Note that both of these were done in the Classic mode, and I was using my Gibson Les Paul ’58 Historic Reissue.
In the first clip, I do a quick clean rhythm riff with an almost imperceptible grit, then do the same riff with the pedal to add some dirt.
With the next clip, I decided to do a dark rhythm track then play a lead alongside it. In both rhythm and lead, the pedal was set the same way, and I vary the amount of overdrive simply by adding more guitar volume or hitting my strings harder. This clip was made purely to demonstrate the pedal’s dynamic response. I also added just a touch of reverb to grease the sound a bit,.
I absolutely love the tone of the lead track. I started out with my LP in the middle position, with the neck pickup at 5 and the bridge pickup at 6. Then when I started driving it harder, I switched to the bridge pickup entirely and dimed it. From there I just closed my eyes. The sonic content that the pedal produces is amazing. There are lots of little harmonics and overtones in the signal, and the note separation is awesome. The note separation takes a little getting used to as well. But this is a good thing because this pedal does not produce mush – even at high gain settings.
In this third clip, I just do a few seconds of a Journey riff. here the tone is scooped with both the EQ knobs at about 2 pm, the Master cranked wide open and the Drive at about 10 o’oclock. Unfortunately, my mic didn’t pick up all the little harmonics and overtones, but the point to this one was that even pushing my amp hard, and with much more gain, the note separation is still maintained.
I know, I only have a couple of clips, but admittedly, I’m still playing around with the pedal. I want to try it front of one my Plexi-style amps to see how it performs.
I did take it through its paces with the Modded mode, and that mode with my amp just past the edge of breakup created some real aggressive overdrive; not over the top, but I have to play around more with this mode and cranking up the gain to experience the upper limits of the pedal.
As I said above, this is a great pedal. It’s a little steep in price at $219; Keeley pedals have never come cheap. But that said, I’d totally add this to my board to stack with my Timmy (hmm… going to have to try that out). It has been a long time since I’ve been jazzed about an overdrive, and I’m really jazzed about this one.
Interestingly enough, besides a few video reviews out there (that do nothing but blues licks), and one that I saw done by Musicians Friend staff member, there’s not much in the way of reviews, which is surprising. Some of the feedback I saw on a couple of forums said it didn’t work well with people’s amps. I think that has more to do with not playing around with the pedal enough. That Baxandall EQ takes some getting used to, but once you “get it,” this pedal rocks!
Sebago Sound PrototypeSummary: I don’t know what an original Steel String Singer sounds like, but if Sebago’s take on that amp is any indication, we have a winner here! This is an incredibly versatile amp that can fit any genre of music. This is my next amp.Pros: Versatility is the key with this amp. The notch High and Low notch filters let you dial in your tone to fit the genre or help fine tune the amp to your guitar.
Cons: None. But not a 5.0? I’ll explain below…
100-150 Watts (150 with 6550’s) from 4 power tubes
Reverb “loop” with send and receive knobs (send is signal gain into tank, receive is similar to mix)
Single input with switchable FET circuit
Bright, Mid, Rock/Jazz mini toggles
Individual High and Low notch filter knobs.
Power and Standby switches
Price: TBD, but will probably be somewhere between $2500 and $3000
Tone Bone Score: 4.75 ~ The only reason I took off a quarter point is because the reverb receive circuit was a bit noisy. I was able to dial back the hum by upping the send gain and dialing down the receive signal, but this is a prototype, so it’s understandable that there would be some tiny issues, and believe me, this is tiny.
My First Impressions article pretty much said everything that I had to say about this amp. My opinion hasn’t changed. This is an absolutely SUPERB amp that has me GAS-ing VERY BADLY. And after playing with this amp for the last few days, I’m in a dream state from the hypnotic tone that this amp produces – with all my guitars.
One thing I will add is that Bill Dunham emphasized that the amp is a great pedal platform. I still agree with that assessment, but frankly, this amp produces almost all the tones that I need, so I haven’t hooked my pedal board once this past week. The reverb is fantastic, and when I’ve taken the amp into overdrive, I just haven’t seen the need to use a pedal. The only exception to that is with the last clip I recorded where I ran my Strat through my Timmy overdrive before going into the amp, which was not quite at the breakup level; just slightly below.
Granted, at 100 Watts, I couldn’t take the amp into breakup without an attenuator. But luckily, my trusty Aracom PRX150-Pro comes to the rescue yet again in that department. A quick note on the distortion. I wasn’t really liking the fully cranked up tone of the amp with my Strat. It’s an entirely different matter with my Les Paul. The lead tone – which you’ll hear shortly – is just incredible. With the FET activated, and both Gain and Master cranked up (Gain at 9, Master at 10), the sustain, harmonics and overtones create this absolutely gorgeous lead tone. Now by itself, this amp won’t do metal. It’s not made for that, and I don’t think it was ever intended to do that. But crank it up and throw a distortion pedal in front of it, and I believe you could easily do metal.
Fit and Finish
I really won’t comment on this much because the final face plate is being produced so Bill modified a Double Trouble face plate. That’s also why I didn’t take pictures. It’s not finished, and I don’t want people to get the wrong idea that the amp will be in the condition in which it was tested. It looks great, but I’d rather get pictures of the finished product.
How It Sounds
Bill kept on saying when he dropped off the amp that it’s real strong point was clean. After playing with it, I heartily disagree. 🙂 Clean, dirty, it don’t matter. I dug the sound. In any case, I’ve recorded three clips to give you a general idea of the amp’s tonal possibilities. Mind you, I don’t have a mild breakup clip with a Strat. Once I get the real thing, I’ll share lots more clips. For now, you check out the ones I’ve recorded thus far. Note that these tracks are raw tracks. I used no EQ nor compression because I wanted to ensure that I’d capture all the dynamics of the amp.
Clean, Gretsch Electromatic (thin body)
Clean, Les Paul
Rock, Crunchy Rhythm (left), Solo (right)
Clip from an SRV tribute song I wrote called “In The Vibe”
All the clips were recorded using an Avatar 1 X 12 closed back cabinet with the fantastic Fane Medusa 150 speaker. I used a single mic – a Sennheiser e609 – positioned about 18″ from the cabinet pointed directly at the center of the cone. Part of why you might hear a little static is the ambient room noise from my garage. Barely detectable, but it’s there.
With the rock clip, one thing I had to get used to was the note separation in touch sensitivity of the amp when I’ve got it cranked; actually, even in heavy overdrive. I didn’t really have to change the way I play, I just had to make sure that if I was chording, then I needed to be smooth with my strums, otherwise you’d hear every dang string being plucked. 🙂 It was a pretty easy adjustment.
With the SRV tribute song, as with the other clips, I didn’t EQ the guitars at all, though with the lead, I did add some reverb and a touch of delay to give the tone some air. I also ran the guitar through my Timmy overdrive in front of the amp. Other than that, what you hear is what the amp and the Strat are producing naturally though the final recording has a touch of compression. With the first part of the clip, I’m playing through the neck pickup, then switch to the bridge pickup and turn the volume of the guitar up a couple of notches.
In any case, to me, the clips I’ve provided tell a good story of what this amp is capable of. As I mentioned, in a clips, what I’ve laid down is the raw amp sound, completely unprocessed except for the SRV tribute. The tones are absolutely gorgeous!
I suppose you can pretty much guess what my impression is of this amp. Once Bill gets this into production, it’ll be my next amp. Better start saving my pennies. 🙂
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.
Summary: After a year-long wait, the Rock Lock has finally hit the market! What started out as an ingenious idea to provide some gig security for your guitar is not finally a reality.
Pros: Rubberized (or what appears to be rubberized) material around an obviously sturdy, metal locking “C” and attached to a 1/4″ steel braid rope, provide ample security for when you’re gigging, or even in a studio where you want to provide a level of deterrence as well as security.
Features (from the web site):
-Core Constructed from Cutting Edge Metal Replacement Technology
-Heavy-Duty Braided Steel Cable
-1 Year Full Warranty with Registration
-2 Keys Included, with optional Key Registration
-Fits almost all standard 6 string Guitars.
This excludes: 12 String Instuments, Flamenco/Spanish Guitars, and Bass Guitars.
Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ I’ve been waiting for this to come out since Chris Goulet originally contacted me a year ago. For the gigging musician, this is a must-have.
To me, having a Rock Lock is like putting strap-locks on your guitar. The funny thing about strap locks is that you never think you need them until your guitar comes off your strap button and crashes unceremoniously to the floor. Once that happens, you heed the warnings. But it shouldn’t take having your guitar stolen at a gig to make you buy a Rock Lock. At least for me, even the prospect of having my guitar stolen is enough to make sure I always have good security for my axes at gigs. But I almost had to learn the hard way.
From late spring to early fall, I play on the patio area outside of the restaurant where I do my Friday gigs. Where I play is a major thoroughfare into the shopping center, so it gets lots of traffic – it’s a great way for me to entertain lots of folks. But the high traffic also presents a much greater danger of my gear being tampered with or stolen. While there are plenty of staff and customers at hand to watch my gear when I take breaks, the position of the “stage” is such that if someone wanted to make a running grab at my guitar, they could do it and get away pretty easily.
Last summer, there was a kid who was watching me play. He was what you might call an “emo,” with long hair swept across his face and a brooding expression underneath. He paid me a couple of compliments on my playing which was pretty cool, then after awhile, he asked if he could play my guitar while I was on break. I nicely told him no as I didn’t have a backup guitar with me, and he walked away, though I saw him a few times walk by eying my guitar. About an hour later, I took a break, and left my guitar out. Lo and behold, there was the kid. He was just about to grab my guitar!
I rushed over and said, “What part of ‘No you can’t play my guitar while I’m on break did you not understand?'”
“I thought it would be cool with you, dude,” he responded.
I said, “No. It’s not cool. Please leave.”
He did, and didn’t return. But in hindsight, if he took my guitar, it would’ve been my fault for not making it secure. And while I assumed that my gear would be safe because so much staff and people were around, the mere fact that that kid could just walk up to my guitar and pick it up made me think that I needed some sort of security.
For awhile after that, I resorted to packing my guitar during breaks and putting it my car or in the restaurant. But either of those options was a bit of a pain. However, with the Rock Lock, I no longer have to do that. I just lock up my guitar and it’s safe!
So how does it work? Well, it works very much like a computer laptop tether in that it has a loop at the end of the metal rope that you use to secure to a fixed object. The other end of the rope has a metal stud that gets inserted into the locking mechanism that is essentially a “C” clamp that goes around the neck of your guitar. The locking mechanism has one of those unpickable cylindrical keys. So talk about security! Look at the picture sequence below:
1. First, attach the cable to a fixed object like a pole:
2. Next, attach the cable to the locking mechanism (the stud end slides into an opening at the joint of the lock:
3. Finally, lock your guitar:
How much easier can it be? As I said, this is a must-have like strap locks for security-conscious guitar player. I’ll probably be getting a couple of more of these pretty soon!
Summary: A single 10″ speaker is NOT supposed to sound this big! Sure, Jensen may be marketing as a real “rocker” but this speaker will absolutely KILL with any style.
Pros: Big, ferrite magnet produces a fat, bottom end that is absolutely to die for! No loss of definition, no muddiness. This speaker absolutely KILLS!
Features – It would be best to check out the link above to see the specs.
Price: ~ $69.00 street
Tone Bone Score: 5.0 I’ve been using this speaker for a couple of weeks now in a little, 6-watt amp, and I’m simply loving the sound that this speaker produces.
I hate cliches. But sometimes a cliche is the only way to describe something. The cliche I’m thinking about regarding the JC10-50EL is “Big things come in small packages.” In this case, it’s a big sound that comes in a small, 10″ speaker. Every time I play through this speaker, no matter what guitar I use, I’m floored by the big sound (I know, I used that term before) that this speaker produces; not to mention the clarity. I’m so impressed with it that I’m going to put together a 2 X 10 or a 3 X 10 cabinet with these speakers in it.
How It Sounds
This afternoon, I quickly recorded a couple of demo clips this afternoon. All clips were recorded using my American Deluxe Strat, straight into my VHT Special 6 combo where the speaker resides. Note that I close-miked the amp and had it cranked! No attenuation, no sound dampening. What you hear in these clips is pretty much the raw sound with just a touch of reverb with the dirty clips (<10% wet). But I did no mastering or EQ. You’re getting the full range of sound in all the clips.
Clean (Neck pickup)
Dirty (Bridge pickup)
Dirty (Neck pickup)
Like I said above, a single 10″ speaker is NOT supposed to sound this big. You normally need at last a couple of 10″ speakers to get a decently rich sound. But just one of these can move some serious air! I can’t wait to get my new cab put together!
The VHT Special 6 and JC10-50 combination is a match made in heaven, as far as I’m concerned. I mentioned in my previous gig report that I used this with my church band. That combo held its own throughout the service! Admittedly, I had to set the amp on a chair, but it worked out great!
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…