Tag Archives: guitar

Gear Flipping

I have been told by a few people on the interwebs that I don’t blog enough, so here goes.

I am getting kind of embarrassed about my inability to commit to my musical equipment. I have been through so many guitars, amps, and pedals that it’s not even funny. Part of that is because I can’t afford to just buy stuff when I want it. If a new delay pedal (or whatever) catches my eye, I usually have to sell something else to make room.

I am currently in the middle of flipping a bunch of gear. I have come to the conclusion that I prefer my G&L ASAT (telecaster-style guitar) to my other guitars. I like it so much that it literally makes my other guitars weep. Okay, not really. [For the record, the misuse of the word literally is one of my pet peeves.]

Anyway, what I like so much about my tele is that it just sounds like rock and roll. Even when I’m playing softly, it’s just kinda rude. My PRS is not rude. It is polite. It doesn’t put it’s elbows on the table during suppertime. It uses a napkin. It knows the difference between a salad fork and a main course fork and a dessert fork. It doesn’t sound like rock and roll. Sure, I can plug it into a big, loud amp and play Smoke on the Water and it’ll sound pretty convincing, but it doesn’t feel right. Not to me, anyway. Maybe it’s just too pretty for me to take it seriously.

Anyway, I decided to sell it. I put it up on The Gear Page this afternoon, and it sold about 5 hours later. Right now, the plan is to buy a ’62 AVRI (American Vintage Reissue) Fender Jazzmaster. I’ll probably have to look for a while, since I don’t really want to pay a premium for a new one. Unfortunately, I haven’t really seen any used ones on ebay/craigslist/etc. Do me a favor and keep your eyes open for an AVRI Jazzmaster. I’d prefer one in Olympic White like this one, but black would also be fine. :)

I also decided to sell my delay. I pretty much decided to sell it as soon as it broke down, but I had to get it fixed first, since no one is going to want to buy a broken delay. It turns out that it was just a fried diode, which means that I (or the guy that I bought it from) plugged it into the wrong power supply. Anyway, I’m getting a couple of strymon pedals to take care of my delay needs: the Brigadier dBucket Delay and the blueSky Reverberator. Both of these pedals sound amazing and should enable me to make some truly spacey, echo-ey sounds. I really considered waiting for the soon-to-be-released El Capistan dTape Echo, but I think I’m more interested in analog delay sounds rather than tape echo sounds. Oh well, I could always flip something if I change my mind.

Oh yeah – I almost forgot. I won a little Twitter contest that Dan over at This1smyne Effects put on a few weeks ago. I’ll be getting his T1M Booster, which is a clone of the ZVex SHO boost with a tone control. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it, but I’m looking forward to checking it out.

Broken Delay

I showed up for soundcheck this morning, plugged in my guitar/pedalboard, strummed a chord and – nothing. I spent a few frantic minutes troubleshooting and determined that my new delay (Tech21 Boost DLA) was the culprit.

The LED turns on, but it won’t pass a signal. At first it kinda worked, but I could hear it sputter out and die completely. I’m afraid it’s probably an IC chip or something, but it’s impossible to get to any of the components without completely desoldering the input jacks as well as the DC jack since they’re all soldered directly to the board. It’s a really stupid design, IMO.

I guess I’ll contact Tech21 customer support  tomorrow to see what they can do for me as far as repairing it. My experience with them will affect whether or not I purchase any more of their products.

I made it through the service okay this morning. I still had another delay on the board (Ibanez DE-7), so I wasn’t completely delay-less. I had to do the dotted eighth thing on one song, so I manually dialed in the delay time to be pretty close and just turned up the delay mix for that one song. It wasn’t perfect, and I had to tweak it a little at the beginning of the song, but it worked out okay.

I think that once I get this delay fixed, I will probably just get an Eventide Timefactor or something like that since there are no more Timelines to be had. Why did I sell that freaking thing? Oh yeah, to buy that Line 6 M13 that I already got rid of. Facepalm.

New stuff

I got rid of my DD-20 delay after a couple of months of frustration. I got it because it has presets, external tap, LED display, etc. I had one before and I thought that it could be my swiss army knife, all-purpose delay. It has a lot of sounds in it, but they all seem too harsh and brittle to me. On top of that, it’s not very easy to tweak on the fly. Short of going back to a huge MIDI setup (like I used to have with the Damage Control Timeline) I think I’m just going to have to have a couple of different delays on the board if I want access to multiple delay sounds.

I replaced the DD-20 with the Tech21 Boost DLA. I just wanted to go with a relatively basic delay with tap tempo that doesn’t mess with your dry signal. It has a buffered bypass, but that’s not such a bad thing if it’s at the end of the effects chain.

I would like to be able to tell you how it sounds, but I haven’t even plugged it in yet. We’re closing on a new house in a week, so we’re in the middle of packing right now. All the demos that I watched/listened to sounded really nice, and it’ll probably work out pretty well. I like that it has knobs rather than buttons and menus. I’m not sure if I’ll use the boost feature very much at all, but it’ll be nice to have it just in case.

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I installed my Tremol-no last night. I’m tired of all my strings going out of tune whenever I change one string. I haven’t messed with it a lot yet, but it seems to be a lot more stable now. I’ll post an update once I’ve had a chance to give it a go.

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I emailed Mike at ANALOG.MAN Effects and he said that I don’t have to order the King of Tone pedal right away. That’s a good thing, since I don’t really want to wait another 18 months. I’ll probably buy it once we’ve had a chance to buy some furniture and stuff for the house.

What I’ve been up to (Timmy Clone)

A few months ago, in a haze of Gear Acquisition Syndrome I sold my Timmy overdrive pedal. That was a mistake, and I have regretted it. I’m back on the waiting list, but it’ll probably be another 6 months before my name is up. In the meantime I decided to take matters into my own hands.

There are a handful of websites where people disassemble boutique stompboxes and reverse engineer them. It’s nerdy, but it’s kinda cool. Okay, it’s not really cool at all. Anyway, I managed to find a layout for the Timmy overdrive. This ended up being a more involved process than I am used to. I usually buy a premade circuit board and put solder the right components in the right place. This time, I started out with a piece of stripboard. It looks like this:

That piece is too big to fit inside the enclosures that I use, so I cut it down to a more manageable size. Then I used a layout that someone else designed based on the schematic. This involves cutting certain traces on the bottom and creating new traces on the top as well as soldering the components into place.

Here’s the finished product from the outside. It’s not much to look at, but I don’t really care about the visuals.

Unfortunately, the insides aren’t much better.

You might notice that one of the capacitors (the blue one) is way bigger than the others. This is a result of me screwing up my parts order. Instead of ordering 2 1uF box capacitors, I only ordered one. I found the big blue one at Radio Shack so that I could at least finish the project. I’ll clean things up a bit once I get that smaller cap. It was really hard to cram four potentiometers into this small box. It took me forever to keep it from shorting out whenever I put it together.

It works, but I just finished it about an hour ago so I haven’t had a lot of time to mess with it. Based on the limited time that I have spent with it, I think it sounds pretty close to the real deal. I’m sure that a couple of the components that I’m using are the wrong material or value, so it may require some tweaking. At the very least, it should tide me over until the real deal comes along.

4×12!

My new speaker cab showed up yesterday via FedEx, and they didn’t even wait until 9:30 pm to deliver it this time. Anyway, the box was huge and it took me about 30 minutes to unpack it. It was very carefully packed, and I didn’t want to get styrofoam peanuts everywhere. I really hate those little things.

I got a used VHT Deliverance 412 from a guy on The Gear Page. I initially wanted a 2×12, but they never show up on the used market and a new 2×12 costs more than a used 4×12. This one is loaded with the stock Fryette-designed Eminence P50E speakers, and they are intended to be played with VHT/Fryette amps.

Anyway, I got the cab set up and played through it for about 5 minutes. That’s not really enough time to make much of a first impression, but I can at least say that it doesn’t seem to be louder than my old 2×12, which is a good thing. It definitely has more oomph, though.

This cab is built like a tank, and it is completely sealed. A lot of closed-back cabs are rear loaded with a removable back panel. This amp is front-loaded, and there is no back panel, which means that no air can accidentally escape through the cracks. The result of this is a very tight low end response.

I will certainly have more to say about the cab over the next few weeks as I have more opportunities to use it. For now, I’ll just share this pic of the new happy family.

downsized

First of all, I have not lost my job. As far as I know, I am in no danger of losing my position. I didn’t want anyone to get wrong ideas about my occupational situation based upon the title of this post. No, I received my new, smaller, lighter pedalboard this week and it is now fully assembled and ready to go. It is pretty much a perfect fit for my M13 and 2 FV-500H pedals. I’m not using the MXR EQ anymore – I’m only using the EQs in the M13.

Before:

After:

simplifying (?)

Over the last few months, I have made some major changes to my guitar setup, and there are more changes coming. I think that it will be simpler to operate when I’m done, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be simple to look at.

For one, I have gone through quite a few amps. I started out with a Stulce – a relatively simple ~8 watt tube amp. It was designed to get maximum tube saturation without getting unbearably loud. It was nice, but it didn’t have enough clean headroom. I traded that for a Genz-Benz Black Pearl, which is a 30 watt amp similar in nature to a VOX AC30. It was really jangly and chimey, and it got pretty rude when you cranked the gains, but it never really got seriously crunchy. I also acquired a 1970 Fender Bassman. It had great cleans and it was really loud, but it needed some work (new filter caps, pots, etc) and I didn’t really want to drop any more cash into it. I decided to sell both of them and buy a VHT Sig:X. The Sig:X is a monstrous 100 watt 3-channel amp that can do pretty much everything. I have talked about this amp ad nauseum here, so I won’t continue to do so.

My pedalboard used to be 36″ wide with a wah, a volume pedal, a bunch of analog overdrive/distortion/boost pedals, and a giant green delay pedal with a huge midi controller. It is now 24″ wide with one of these and two of these. I’m still figuring out some of the intricacies of the M13, but I’m really liking it so far.

The next change is going to be my speaker cabinet. I had an Avatar Vintage 2×12, but it was kinda cheaply made, and it didn’t have a very tight sound. I sold it, and I will soon be the proud owner of  a Fryette Deliverance 4×12 that will match my Sig:X. A 4×12 is a really big speaker cab, and it’s going to be awesome. I have never had a half stack before, but I have a feeling that it’s gonna be pretty rock and roll. I was initially planning to buy the 2×12 version, but I happened to find a really good deal on the bigger one. The used 4×12 ended up being significantly less expensive than a new 2×12 so I decided to go for it.

The other little gadget that I’m planning to add to my setup in the near future is the RJM Mini Amp Gizmo. This thing looks pretty awesome. It allows you to control a modern multi-channel amp (including models by VHT/Fryette, Mesa, Bogner, Egnater, etc) with a MIDI device like the Line 6 M13. Basically, I can run a MIDI cable from the M13 to the Amp Gizmo to my amp. The M13 will send information to the Amp Gizmo, allowing me to use the M13 as my amp’s footswitch. I can assign a different amp setting (channel/boost/effects loop) to each scene on the M13. Rather than using distortion patches on the M13, I can use the clean/rhythm/lead channels on the amp. Here’s a little video that demonstrates how it works.

It’s going to be kind of a pain to get it all set up, but it will be super easy to operate once it’s done. I really don’t want to have to stomp all the time – I would much rather just focus on playing.

Dialing in the M13

I spent a while dialing in some tones on the M13 last night. In doing so, I discovered the importance of using EQ. There are several EQ models that are geared towards different purposes, but I spent most of my time using the graphic EQ model.

I had the most success using the EQ after overdrive/distortion. I was able to change a sloppy rhythm tone into crisp, Marshally tone just by slightly boosting the bass/treble frequencies and slightly cutting the mids. By “slightly,” I mean that my adjustments were less than 1 dB in any direction – any more made the tone really harsh and fake-sounding. I found that the key is to make small adjustments.

However, I found that the biggest challenge is in balancing the tones with each other. Tweaking the rhythm tone caused some of my other scenes to be really lackluster in comparison. As a result, I spent about an hour EQing my other favorite scenes so that they are all somewhat compatible with each other. In other words, I don’t want to go from a clean tone to an overdriven tone and sound like a completely different setup (unless it’s intentional). Anyway, my tones are much more sparkly now. It’s amazing what a little EQ can accomplish. Of course, I’ll have to make some adjustments when playing with a band, but I’ll cross that bridge later…

Unfortunately, I’m having a really hard time dialing in a good lead tone with the M13. Everything that I have come up with just ends up sounding fake. Maybe I have just grown accustomed to the amazing natural tube saturation that my Sig:X gives me. Whatever the reason, I may have to keep an analog distortion in the M13’s effects loop.

I would like to be able to run the M13 without any external pedals for simplicity’s sake, but I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet. Fortunately, running a pedal in the FX loop doesn’t necessarily add another stomp to the effects switching thing, since you can set up the effects loop to be on or off in individual scenes. I can leave the distortion pedal on all the time, but if my “clean” scene doesn’t use the FX loop, then it will just bypass it.

I need to record another video when I get the chance. Of course, that will have to wait until I get my new speaker cab. I sold the Avatar 2×12 that I have been using, and I’ll be ordering a new Fryette cab in the next couple of days. It should be awesome. I’m probably going to get another 2×12, but I’m toying with the idea of a 4×12. I can get a used 4×12 for cheaper than a new 2×12, and I can’t find a used 2×12 anywhere. However, the 4×12 is (obviously) significantly bigger and heavier that a 2×12. It’ll have casters, but still…

Pedalboard [rev.802447b]

Well, here’s the latest iteration of my pedalboard. [sarcasm] I know that my readers are always waiting with bated breath for the newest inconsequential pedal addition/substitution. [/sarcasm]

Anyway, Since my main amp has such amazing natural tube overdrive/distortion, I don’t have to use pedals with it. As such, I decided to experiment with taking all of my dirt pedals off the board. So, my signal is currently guitar – M13 (2 FV500H expression pedals) with the MXR EQ in the loop.

Pedalboard 12/29/09

When I use this live with my Sig:X, I’m going to set up the filters, comps, and drive effects to come before the preamp stage of the amplifier. Delays, modulations, reverbs, and EQ will be in the effects loop. At church, I just run this into a clean VOX AC15.

I have been experimenting the with the drives that are built into the M13 and some of them are surprisingly usable, especially the tube screamer, tube drive, and L6 drive. There’s a lot of tweaking that can be done with these sounds to make them very natural-sounding. Of course, a few of the models are just bad and should probably be tossed out. All in all, I’m still pleased with the M13 and I think that I’ll probably hang on to it for a while. Once I get some settings finalized, I’ll probably record some clips to give you an idea of what it’s capable of.