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Posts Tagged ‘new gear’

BeatBuddyAs an active performing musician with 75% of my gigs being solo (I do roughly 200 gigs a year), I’m always looking for ways to expand my musical offerings either by introducing new material, or adding new gear. A few years ago, I started using a looper, and that changed the game for me; allowing me to solo over chord progressions I’d come up with live. But one thing that I missed, especially for certain songs, was percussion. Enter the BeatBuddy.

I’ve been waiting for this to arrive for many months, and mine arrived yesterday afternoon (it’s 1AM PST right now), and I’ve been playing with this pedal for the past few hours. It’s truly amazing!

I was impressed with the introductory video, and have been watching the growing number of video demos of various musicians playing with it while it has been in production. But nothing could prepare me for the real thing. I’m so totally blown away, it’s hard to describe what I’m feeling. This is another game-changer for me!

First off, it’s super easy to use. You start out with a tap to get an intro fill. The main beat then starts off. You tap another time to get a fill (most have 3 different fills). To change to the chorus, you hold down the pedal for a second or so. The BeatBuddy then does a lead-in fill, then changes the pattern. You then can tap to get fills in the chorus. To return back to the main pattern, you hold again.

The cool thing is that the fills aren’t restricted to playing just a whole measure. I was concerned about this, as some stuff I play has only 2-beat transitions. But with the BeatBuddy, that’s not a problem. If you tap on “2” you’ll get a three-beat fill. The damn thing is smart, and will just fill to the end of the measure then go back to the pattern! And like a it keeps perfect time. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s something I quickly put together once I got the hang of it. Excuse the little mistakes I made. I did both guitar tracks in single takes.

https://guitargear.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/beat_buddy.mp3

Admittedly, before I start using this in a live setting, I’m going to have to both practice, and find the right drum tracks for the stuff I play. It’s really not hard to find a track to fit a song, but I do know that I’ll probably want to tweak some tracks to fit some songs.

I’m starting to fall asleep, so I’m going to sign off… But please, check out the BeatBuddy web site. Even if you’re not a gigging musician, you could use this just for practice. I know I’m going to do it. It’s better than playing to a metronome because you can add a bit of drama to your playing!

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Australian Bulloak Pick

When I first heard about these, I was admittedly rather incredulous about the prospect of a wooden pick. But after going to the Polarity Sound page, and checking out their offerings, I’m extremely intrigued. I’ve played with all sorts of picks made with different materials from milk-protein polymer to acrylic to high-velocity plastic to ceramic, etc. Can’t say that I’ve played anything made from wood, so this pick really makes me wonder.

They currently make a single style of pick that is similar in size to a Dunlop Jazz 3 – they call it the J3. And at first blush, you might think, “Ho-hum, just another pick,” but there are two things that distinguish this pick from others:

  1. The picks are made of extremely hard wood; either Lignum Vitae or Australian Bulloak
  2. The picks are magnetic. Yup, magnetic. They even come with a magnet that you can put on the inside of your guitar body, so you can place the pick when you’re not using it.

From what I could tell from the video, the picks produce a nice, chime-y, bright tone. I thought it would be a bit warmer, but given the hardness of the wood, it’s not too surprising. In any case, I’ll hopefully get one of these in for review, and I’ll let you know what I think of it, plus a bit more technical stuff in detail.

A question in my mind is: Just how durable are these picks? I’ll have to flesh that out once I play one, but chances are with the hardness of these woods, they’ll probably hold up for a long time and so long as you care for them properly. I imagine they’d be similar in durability to Red Bear picks (made from milk protein polymer).

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It’s called the Firefly pick. It’s the first flashing pick. They’re still in development, but they just got enough startup funding to go to production, and sure, while it’s a bit of a novelty, I think it’s totally cool!

Interestingly enough, they funded the project using KickStarter, and they reached their goal of $30k just recently. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these. Check out their crowd funding page here.

Yeah, yeah, seems like a gimmick, but I have to admit that when I first saw this, it put a smile on my face, and it’s so unique that I just have to have one. No, it won’t make me a better player, nor will it make my performance any better. But it sure is neato and the neato factor is pretty big with this.

The Firefly pick is a lot like those kids shoes with the LED’s in the sole. Why should the kids have little flashing things? While I wouldn’t where shoes with LED’s, I’d play a pick with an LED. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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I was perusing the Premier Guitar site for their NAMM coverage and came across a video of the new Four Force EM-1 amp from new builder Four Force. This is a solid state amp that Four Force claims comes about as close to tube sound as solid state can get. Don’t they all say that? ๐Ÿ™‚

But I do have to say that based upon several demo videos I’ve seen of the amp, it doesn’t sound half bad at all, and at $159 – no, that’s not a typo – it might just be worth checking out as a practice amp. Some people have actually run this through a full stack, and apparently it rocks.

The amp weighs just 13 lbs. That makes sense since solid state doesn’t require huge transformers, but the amp packs 4 gain stages into its design, so it apparently can get some hefty high-gain – at any volume.

My concern with any solid state amp isn’t sound – heck, my Roland Cube 60 sounds great – it’s response and dynamics with gain, and it’s a reason why I only used my Cube 60 for acoustic. The EM-1 could very well be a different story, but only a live test will determine that. So to be fair, I’ll reserve that judgement until I actually try out the amp.

For more information check out the Four Force site! It’s a single page, but it has a bunch of demo videos on it.

 

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Got an email this morning from Guitar Center inviting me to come down to GC and try out the new Golden Cello from Mad Professor, an overdrive and delay in one pedal. Intrigued, the Dawg did a little sniffing around. Here’s info I got from the Mad Professor site:

Mad Professor Amplification is proud to release a new pedal that will be sold exclusively at Guitar Center stores and Musicians Friend.

The Golden Cello pedal offers guitar players one of the most sought after lead tones on the planet. In this one small gold pedal is the much sought after million dollar tone. Sweet cello-like singing fat lead tone with the most luscious open ambient tape delay.

The tone that you used to need: a great overdrive, a vintage tape delay and a loud vintage full-stack at full volume is now one foot stomp away! Very easy to setup โ€“ just plug it into any (quality) clean amp and you get โ€œThe Tone!โ€ you have been seeking, at any volume level. This inspiring pedal will keep you playing and playing, you simply canโ€™t stop!

Just four knobs for total output: Volume, Delay level, Tone and Drive. You simply cannot get a bad tone out of this pedal. This is a pedal th at belongs on every pedalboard, in every gigbag and every studio. Singing lead tone, with the classic Mad Professor dynamics and touch sensitivity.

Sold only in Guitar Center stores, but from guitarcenter.com or musicansfriend.com websites, you can order and have it sent it to any corner of the world.

Here’s a video demo:

Hmm… This is definitely a cool pedal, but as they say you need: “A great overdrive, a vintage tape delay and a loud vintage full-stack at full volume,” I already have with my Timmy and Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay. Granted, having both in one box is very convenient. I’ll probably go down to GC in the next few days to try one out. But at $199, I don’t think it’ll be an expenditure I’ll be making any time soon, and it REALLY has to blow me away. The demos I’ve seen in addition to the one I linked to here have been pretty awesome, but for me, it’s not a tone that I’m currently after as I’m actually writing stuff that is a lot more clean right now plus, as I said above, I can get that tone with the pedals/amps I have.

But all that said, if this tone is for you, this pedal would definitely be worth checking out. Mad Professor pedals are the bomb!

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Maybe it’s the recording… but just watching/listening to this demo video has me GAS-ing for this pedal!!!

Yowza!!! I loved that first sequence with the Strat!

Some quick info: This is an all-analog drive pedal, folks, and I’m digging what it does! And at $139, it’s a bargain!!!

From the web site:

Pigtronix FAT Drive is an all analog tube sound overdrive. The FAT Driveโ€™s multiple cascaded gain stages enable you to nail sounds ranging from bluesy overdrive to rich saturation, all while retaining musical dynamics and the original character of your instrument.

FAT Drive takes a futuristic analog approach to create complex crunch tones using CMOS clipping and a variable low pass filter for tone shaping. Bringing the tone control all the way clockwise takes this filter completely out of the circuit for total transparency and robust low end. Rolling the tone control back smooths out the highs, leaving ample mid-range bloom and bottom end punch.

A Hi / Lo toggle switch brings additional versatility to the FAT Driveโ€™s wide-ranging palette of overdrive tones, altering the gain structure for enhanced crunch and soaring leads. The FAT Drive features true bypass switching and runs fine on standard 9-volt power but ships with an 18-volt adapter for superior headroom, clarity and overall output.

For more information, check out the product page!

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I dig what Electro-Harmonix has been doing the last couple of years. They’ve really thought outside of the box to either introduce completely new innovations or re-invented some established norms. With these two new pedals: The Superego Synth and the Crying Tone Wah, they’ve done both, respectively. But rather than talk about them, let’s first view a video from our friends at PremierGuitar:

The synth is cool, though I’m not sure I’d ever want one. The wah on the other hand is VERY cool, and I definitely will want to try one out once it gets released to the market in May. Imagine a wah with no moving parts! They’ve probably got some sort of accelerometer inside, but it’s pretty responsive, based upon the demo. My only concern with it is that I can’t attach it to my pedal board, as it was made to just sit on a surface. But once I test it out, I’ll see how I could make it work.

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Sorry, no pictures nor sound clips – yet – but I wanted to get out a first impressions post on this wonderful amp.

Personally, I’ve never heard or seen a real Dumble Steel String Singer other than Doug Doppler’s video of one of Henry Kaiser’s SSS, so I can’t really make a comparison between Sebago’s amp and the original. But if I were to sum up what I’ve heard from Bill’s newest amp in my short time playing with it, and if you don’t want to read any further, all I can say is that this amp sounds like nothing I’ve ever played before; presenting a complex and rich tonal palette that truly gives it the ability to be used in ANY type of genre. And make no mistake, it doesn’t lean towards a particular camp, as in Fender or Marshall. This amp has a sound all its own, and it has completely blown me away!

I don’t say that lightly, by any means. I’ve tended to be a bit jaded with Dumble-style amps probably due to all the hype that’s associated with them. And though it could be argued that Sebago is doing yet another knock-off of Dumble amps, I believe Bill Dunham’s approach is not to create pure clones, but rather to create great amps that he believes capture the spirit of a Dumble amp; and not be an exact reproduction. At least to me, being a copy-cat is absolutely boring, and Sebago amps are far from boring.

Before I get into discussing the amp further, let me go through its features:

  • 100-150 Watts (150 with 6550’s) from 4 power tubes
  • Reverb “loop” with send and receive knobs
  • Single input with switchable FET circuit
  • Gain control
  • Three-band EQ
  • Bright, Mid, Rock/Jazz mini toggles
  • Master control
  • Presence control
  • Individual High and Low notch filter knobs.
  • Power and Standby switches

When Bill first contacted me the other day about the new amp, I asked him if it would have the FET input. He replied no, but when he delivered the amp, he had constructed the FET circuit. I’m glad he did because it tweaks the tone in a very nice way. Unlike an original Dumble, the FET circuit on the Sebago amp is relegated to another input. Bill instead makes it an activated feature via switch (either push-pull or footswitch). According to Bill, the FET provides some extra gain at front-end that produces an asymmetrical clipping that’s not quite distortion though you know something’s happened. To me, it “feels” like a compressor as when it’s switched on, the tone feels much richer and fatter. If I were to own this amp, which I probably will in the future, I’d probably have the FET on all the time.

The distinctive thing about Dumble amps is all the EQ tweaking you can do. The Overdrive Special has the three mini toggles plus the three-band EQ knobs. But the Steel String Singer adds two incredibly useful High and Low notch filter knobs. I believe these two filter knobs are responsible for making the magic of this amp, and these are the knobs that I played with the most, once I set up the EQ. Having the filter knobs really helped me dial in all sorts of tones from spanky, sparkling cleans to big bottom-end crunch – with a Strat, no less! The Low notch acts like a cut, where the High acts like a midrange voicing knob that you find on various amps. The combination of these two allow you to adjust the amp’s basic tone to fit your guitar and cabinet. For instance, I’m playing the amp through my Avatar 2 X 12 with a Celestion Gold and a Jensen Jet Falcon. Even with the Falcon, which has a lot of bottom-end content, the cabinet tends to be bright. But a few clicks of the Low notch filter helped bring out the lows. Just incredible.

As far as the reverb goes, I dig that it’s in a loop, and that you can control how much signal goes into the tank, and control how much gets added back. It allows for really fine control of the reverb, and I spent quite a bit of the time playing with it to see what it could produce. In the end, I set the Send to about 10-11 am, and just twiddled with the Receive to control how much I reverb I wanted to add back into my signal. Very cool.

So how does it sound? With cleans on a Strat, it is other-worldly. There’s so much harmonic content in the signal that depending upon how you set the notch filters and reverb, you can get almost a chorus-like effect which is absolutely dreamy. But you can also get spanky country cleans again, by adjusting the notch filters. Those really give the amp its personality. As far as dirt tones go, as Bill put it, most of the harmonic content is in the preamp section, so you can crank the preamp and keep the master down. Me, I like cranking the power tubes to get them working. But either clean or dirty, there’s a real depth; almost a 3D quality to the tone that’s total ear candy!

With both the Gain and Master cranked, I have to admit that the amp doesn’t sound all that good. The overdrive sound becomes really muddy, and even more so with the reverb on, and no amount of EQ would clean it up. But backing off the Master to about 2:30 to 3pm, gave me a nice, ballsy growl. Can’t wait to try that out with my Les Paul.

Bill did say that at least to him, the amp is a great pedal platform, and that putting a Tube Screamer in front of the amp can get you that SRV tone. Based upon my eval thus far, with the FET and a Tube Screamer, that may just be true. There’s TONS of clean headroom with this amp, so using it with pedals will be ideal.

I found that the sweet spot of the amp is setting it at the edge of breakup with the FET on. In addition to the aforementioned compressor-like quality the FET introduces, the clipping gives the signal a bit of “hair.” I wouldn’t necessarily call it breakup, but you know there’s some distortion. It’s a great tone that I hope to be able to capture once I make some recordings of the amp.

Gawd! I know I’m loving a piece of gear when I write a lot about it. This amp has so much character, and I have yet to really do an exploration of it in both the studio and at a gig, which I will be doing this weekend. I am SO looking forward to playing with it more!

By the way, the name of the amp obviously will not be “Steel String Singer.” Bill has told me what he intends the name to be, but I won’t share it until the product’s actually out the door. It will have a Southwest-flavored name in celebration of that SRV tone. But make no bones about it, this amp can do way more than the blues.

And thank goodness I have my Aracom PRX150-Pro attenuator. I could not do the dirty tests without breaking windows. ๐Ÿ™‚

For more information, and to keep up to date with the release, go to Sebago Sound’s product page.

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I’ve been looking at envelope filters for a long time, and I just haven’t had a need to use one yet with any regularity. But this latest vowel-shaper from EH makes me think I might just give it a whirl to see where it takes me creatively. I was just thinking yesterday that I hadn’t really thought of any new songs in the last couple of weeks; not too much of a surprise as I’ve been really focusing on delivering a major project at my regular job. But now that I can come up for some air, I’m starting to get a bit of a creative spark again, and an envelope filter might just be the pill that the doctor ordered.

As far as the Stereo Talking Machine goes, what I think is attractive is that it has a fairly straight-forward interface. There aren’t too many voices, and it seems you can get a lot out of it. This is definitely on my “things to check out” list!

Here’s a demo video:

For more information, check out the Stereo Talking Machine page!

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Got a call over the weekend from Bill Dunham at Sebago Sound who wanted to tell me that he was releasing a Steel String Slinger based upon the topology of a SSS owned by a well-known, grammy-award-winning, blues/pop artist (I know who it is, and based upon the description, you should be able to figure it out).

Don’t have a lot of details on it right now, though I will be doing a demo/review of his pre-production prototype. I’m excited about playing around with the on-board reverb that is in its own loop to control the signal going in and out of the reverb unit. Very cool.

From what I know of the original SSS, the amp is a single-channel amp, but has two inputs: Normal and FET. The FET input is like having an on-board overdrive. Having played with a real Dumble, that FET circuit is pretty special. The prototype will not have this feature, though Bill does have plans to put that in.

For more information on the Sebago SSS, check out Sebago Sound!

In other news with Sebago, Bill has done a fantastic job of creating Dumble clones with his Double Trouble 50 and 100 Watt amps based upon the Dumble Overdrive Special. But more importantly, unlike other boutique Dumble cloners out there such as Two Rock and Bludotone, Bill’s mission is to create Dumble-style amps and not charge a premium. For instance, Sebago’s 50 Watt Double Trouble is only $1995. Believe me, it’s a well-made amp, and the retailers who carry that amp can’t keep it on their shelves for more than a couple of days. I’m not quite sure what the price-point for the SSS will be, but it will be far less than the competition; and you won’t have to wait more than a couple of weeks at most to get one, as opposed to having to wait up 18 months for other builders’ Dumble-style amps.

So lower price, short wait time (if any, if you get it from one of the local retailers)? Kind of a no-brainer, if you ask me… In any case, stay tuned for my review! I’m getting the amp tomorrow evening and will be playing with it for the rest of the week.

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