'Gear' Category

Tones :: Tele / Quadraverb / SDE-3000

New Old Gear :: Mesa/Boogie Mark IIC+

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Finally, after years of Boogie ownership, experiments with Fender amps, boutique pedals, and a Dumble clone, the real deal has landed. The amp is a 1983 IIC, upgraded to a C+ in 2011 (along with fresh filter caps, new tubes, and a service by Mike B). I have paired it with what looks to be a 2000s compact Thiele cabinet, with the C90 swapped out for an EVM12L.

Before writing about or recording the amp I want to spend more time experimenting, trying different cabs, FX, and guitars. But after a week of ownership I’m still giddy – I have yet to find something it doesn’t excel at. Some notes – it’s got the killer lead of the IIB with just enough of the refinement of the IV (it’s actually borderline magic); the clean is (dare I say it) punchier and fuller than my Deluxe Reverb; it takes pedals (dare I say it) better than the Deluxe; it’s totally silent in operation and switching channels; it sounds incredible even at low volume…

I could go on, and I will, but for now it’s time to bask.

New Old Gear :: BOSS TW-1 T-Wah

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The BOSS TW-1 T-Wah (a.k.a. the Touch Wah on the earliest versions) is my latest guitar toy. I’ve wanted an auto-filter for ages, mainly for playing Inca Roads and other FZ mid-70s vibes, and remembered that Larry Carlton used the TW-1 for a while in the 80s. (Having since revisited the clip where he shows the TW-1 on his board, he actually says he uses it every two years, and not to buy one, which is exactly the kind of perverted recommendation/warning  that I like.)

I paid £55 for it on eBay, which I think is a pretty good deal for a MIJ BOSS pedal from Roland’s golden era (roughly 1978-85 in my estimation).

Powering vintage BOSS pedals

One slight annoyance about this and other old BOSS pedals is that they don’t use a standard PSA-type power supply. Apparently, the idea behind the power supply design was for you to daisy chain several pedals, so they are designed for an unregulated 12V input, and then step down the voltage internally so that there is plenty of juice for all the other pedals. So the pedal runs at 9V internally, has a connector for a 9V battery, but needs a 12V input.

If you plug in a 9V supply (as I have tried), you get a dim LED and the pedal doesn’t function quite fully as you’d like. After all, the 9V input is then running through the same stepdown circuit that was intended for the 12V input.

Elsewhere on the web it is stated that if you daisychain the pedal with other BOSS gear then you can use a normal 9V input as having a common ground will bypass the stepdown. I have tried this out and it is not true – I used the output from a TU-2 and the pedal behaved the same as if you plug a normal 9V input in. (Perhaps the output of the TU-2 is isolated from the input and the GND is not shared, therefore the stepdown is still engaged?)

Ultimately I connected the pedal to a 12V tap on my T-Rex Fuel Tank Chameleon and normal operation was restored (although there’s something wrong-feeling about plugging a BOSS pedal into a 12V supply).

Sounds

I’ve really enjoyed playing this pedal so far. I got it for playing leads à la Inca Roads, which it does very nicely, but have also found it to perform well for rhythm parts as well (and not just the furious-right-hand-funk people always demonstrate with this type of pedal).

Because the filter is triggered by attack, you can keep it closed by using the volume control on your guitar, which can act as a proxy for the peak control. This reduces the amount of gain you have, of course.

One cool effect I found is hitting a chord with the volume on your guitar set low (so as not to open the filter), and then rolling the volume slowly up to full. As the volume increases, the filter doesn’t open but the gain increases – because the filter is still closed it’s like rolling in a very deep, menacing texture. Something akin to the volume swells early on in Forty-Six and Two, but darker.

There is a big difference in the behaviour of the pedal with active pickups, and I imagine the same would be true of humbuckers.

The down/up switch on the pedal is a nice feature, but the ‘down’ setting sounds strange to my ears (and not in a good way). The settings I have fixed on are ‘up’, and both ‘peak’ and ‘sens’ set to 12:00.

Conclusion

Like Larry Carlton says, you’re not going to use this pedal all the time, but I have found myself reaching for it much more than I thought I would. Because it is an inherently dynamic effect, it forces you to play as such, controlling the filter with your picking. This is the best kind of practise: the kind you don’t realise you’re doing (i.e. the not completely life-suckingly dull version).

In the negative column, it’s very much not true-bypass, and having it in the signal chain sucks tone on par with older Electro-Harmonix gear, which is not something I normally expect from BOSS, even their non-true-bypass pedals. (To be clear, this is not a pedal geek allergy to anything that’s not true-bypass – it’s a real deal problem.)

In summary, the TW-1 is a vintage pedal that sounds good, unlocks some cool new playing techniques, and makes you think more carefully about pick dynamics. With that, and the fact that it’s not wildly more expensive than a new DS-1, I can forgive the power supply idiosyncrasies and tone suck. If you see one for cheap and fancy something a bit different, go nuts.

Sold :: Fender Deluxe Reverb

Fender Deluxe Reverb Amp – £685

I’ve owned this amp from new, bought 2 years ago. I’ve just purchased a vintage Mesa/Boogie and can only afford to keep one amplifier, which sadly forces the sale of this great piece of gear.

2 channel amp, channel one (‘normal’) is slightly darker sounding, channel 2 (‘vibrato’) is slightly brighter and has the beautiful tremolo and classic Fender spring reverb that this amp is so well known for.

This is the best clean amp ever made – in my opinion superior to the Twin Reverb. The 6V6 output tubes are much more touch sensitive, which makes this a perfect partner for a good quality drive pedal (I’ve been using a Keeley Tubescreamer and it sounds incredible).

Amp is in perfect condition, home use only and never gigged. Always used with a Furman power conditioner and very well looked after. Comes in the original Fender box, and is supplied with original tremolo / reverb footswitch.

If you’re interested, please leave a comment, or email forsale@zeblog.co for more info – the amp is located in London.

Sold :: Electro-Harmonix Memory Man with Hazarai

Electro-Harmonix Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai – £95

For sale is an Electro-Harmonix Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai. Perfect condition, boxed and with power supply, home use only and never gigged. I bought this about 6 months ago and have used it as a loop pedal for practising. It’s a very full featured pedal, and can do everything from super-clean slapback and looping to reverse delay and classic EHX weirdness if that’s what takes your fancy.

The pedal is located in London, but can be posted anywhere within the UK at the buyer’s expense.

Please email forsale@zeblog.co or leave a comment if you’re interested.

For Sale :: RJM Mini Effect Gizmo, MasterMind

I’m rebuilding my guitar rig (again) so moving on a few bits from the current setup. RJM no longer have a UK distributor, which makes their products impossible to find over here now. These units are both in perfect / as-new condition and function flawlessly. Items are located in London, shipping can be arranged at buyer’s expense. There may be some discount available if you want to take both units. Leave a comment, or email forsale@zeblog.co

 

RJM Mini Effect Gizmo – £200
Perfect condition, never gigged, home use only. 2x inputs (buffered / normal), 2x outputs (click stopper / normal), 5x FX loops, 5x programmable patches. No setup required for use with the MasterMind – just plug in and start creating patches.


RJM MasterMind Midi Controller – £180
Perfect condition, never gigged, home use only. Supplied with an RJM powered MIDI cable, which supplies power to the unit as well, so no need for running miles of extra cabling or extra power adapters. Comes in original box.

Guitar :: A Wild Telecaster Appears

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It’s super effective, and looking great in between its new siblings.

I’ve been after a project guitar for months and months, and I’ve finally got one. On Denmark street a couple of Saturdays ago, I looked at a bunch of Squiers and entry level Mex Teles on my fairly half-arsed search for a modder, and came away uninspired. It seemed a bit dumb to buy something too ‘nice’, a USA model of some sort, and then start upgrading, but equally so to get a cheap base guitar and stuff it with expensive bits. When I wandered in to the relatively new No.Tom — which has taken the place of Vintage & Rare, has a much better *real world* selection, and much nicer staff — I saw the answer.

The Baja Telecaster is a Mexican-made model which entered production a few years ago, and is widely (apparently universally) acclaimed as being ‘one-of-those’…a great guitar that defies expectations associated with instruments of its provenance (think Squier JV). The neck has a 50s-style profile, fatter than my other pair, with a good feel; the body is a heavy piece of ash (same as the others). It’s a quality feeling instrument for sure, and comes with a pair of custom shop pickups, overall making for a great base on which to build my custom creation. (It was a weird process, buying something for its potential rather than its existing features. All that was of concern was the feel of the neck and body, and it handily ticked both of those boxes.)

Any negatives are now items on the shopping list, and good as this guitar is, there are quite a few items for attention. I have a few improvements to start with (some of which are fixes for questionable Fender Mexico QA), and then it’s going to be a test bed for all manner of ideas.

As I type, it’s in the shop having the existing nut (plastic, slightly angled, machine cut) replaced for a higher quality bone nut, and being set up for 10s. The next changes will be removing the tone pot, face-mounting the jack socket (both standard mods I have carried out on my other guitars), replacing the volume pot for a 500kΩ (for more top) or just a better quality 250kΩ, removing the S1 switching and chucking the 4-way switch for a 3- or, if I can find it, 2-way switch.

But that’s just going to be for starters. It might be sporting a Bigsby next week, and maybe an active pickup or two…or three? I’m very much looking forward to seeing where this one takes me.

Live ::


Live streaming video by Ustream

Guitar :: An Essential Cry Baby Mod

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I’ve had my Jerry Cantrell signature Cry Baby for a couple of months now, and it’s easily the best wah I’ve played or heard (if you don’t believe me, just ask Guthrie). Whether you like Alice in Chains or not, this thing quacks, rocks, and takes care of just about every other type of wah-wah action you might conceive of, with style. I’ve tried posh wah pedals with boosts, sweeps, different inductors, fancy pots etc… before, and come away unimpressed, but for some reason the JC just gets it right: the depth control is wide enough to be super flexible, but narrow enough that you can notch it just right, and unlike quite a few Cry Baby pedals I’ve played, it’s dead silent at the footswitch and the pot.

But even this Baby has a flaw, shared with all of its kin – when it comes to clicking on and off, it takes a real stomp, which is difficult to accomplish when sitting down, and really goes against the nature of most gearheads (I’ll drop a Telecaster without a second thought, but for some reason I just don’t like stomping on stompboxes).

To rectify this problem, take a knife, and carefully chop away the rubber feet on the toe of the pedal. I say carefully, because you want to get a clean cut across; hacking away at the rubber isn’t the end of the world, but I’ve cut myself doing so more than once. You have been warned.

See below for a before + after shot of my wah. I learned this mod, weirdly enough, from a video of Zakk Wylde, and I’ve used it on every wah I’ve had. I’m sure there’s a good reason why some people might want the difficulty of the standard pedal, but really, who switches a wah on by accident? Hopefully this tip will rectify an irksome attribute of an otherwise wonderful pedal for you. Until next time…

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Live ::

My streaming plans have so far been a non-show – so in order to get things kick-started, I’ve actually set up a Ustream channel (here). To start with, I’ll be broadcasting my laptop, pointed at my amp. I will be recording these for my own amusement, and personal improvement (is my timing really that bad), and in the spirit of the Internet, all are welcome to join.