I’m back, baby! Hardware I’ve got recently, and plans for the immediate future!

September 1, 2010

Got a few things coming!

First, from the Harmony Central Effects Forum’s own resident psychedelic madman Robopimp, a MOSFET boost pedal with his “OPM” artwork on top:

The gourd was not included in the purchase. 😦

Second, a pair of Wamplers that I’ll be reviewing. I have very high expectations based on my experiences with the Plextortion, Super Plextortion, and Triple Recstortion (which was a limited run, now he has the Triple Wreck to do the same tones and also a neat high-gain fuzz thing)- I’m very interested to see if these pedals pull it off as well as those ones do.

1. The new Black ’65 Overdrive, aimed at getting classic Fender clean and overdriven tones. No COSM here

2. A Plexidrive, a pedal I get asked about pretty often because I reviewed the Plextortion and Super Plextortion and people seem to want to know how this one compares. Well, I couldn’t tell them before, but now I’ll be able to.

So what else is new? Well, I’ve got a Digitech Hot Head Distortion

Pretty cool pedal, similar but not identical to some dirts in the Ibanez Soundtank distortion family. Digitech has cool pedal designers working for them. I’ve used this pedal before, and I don’t have anything else in my collection that has a similar sound. It’s less fizzy than a DS-1, in no small part thanks to the separate High and Low EQ controls that let you dial in the tone better than a stock DS-1’s tone knob.

I parted with my old Bad Monkey on good terms, and this is another quality pedal in the series. In fact, I think the Bad Monkey, the Hot Head Distortion, and the Screamin’ Blues (all pedals in the same series, along with the less awesome Death Metal and one-trick pony Grunge) are all three good pedals. They’re not particularly high tech, they don’t have the most transparent buffers around, but their buffers aren’t bad and can handle a line level signal without clipping like crazy (unlike, for example, Danelectro’s pedals) and their sturdy construction helps to ensure that they’ll keep making noises you like for as long as you own ’em. I think all three of the above mentioned pedals have b-stock units on sale at Zzounds right now, though the Bad Monkey only has one b-stock available. It’s been my experience that Zzounds’ b-stock products are every bit as good as anything you’ll buy new. I’ve owned several b-stock pedals, processors, and even some speakers from Zzounds and I’ve never had any issues at all (and if you do, their customer service has been great in my experience).

If you’re looking for a dirt pedal, you could do a lot worse than this, and it’s on sale cheap. I’ll be doing a more thorough review of it for FrugalGuitarist very soon, possibly published as early as next Monday. I’ll also be reviewing the …

Digitech Screamin Blues!

That’s right, another cheap dirt pedal. Hey, even though I’ve got some good OD pedals that I love dearly, I don’t have any BD-2 overdrives! Interesting to me is that it is basically a clone of the Boss BD-2, except instead of a Tone knob it has a Low and High EQ knob. That changes a lot about the sound, but it still has the same fundamental character of the Boss BD-2 and that makes it a very nice sounding low-gain overdrive for a very good price. I got it for $44ish from Zzounds. A BD-2 with more powerful tone shaping for less money. You’re not guaranteed to prefer it to the BD-2, by any means, but it is an excellent option if you find yourself a fan of the sound but without the extra money for the BD-2… Or if you want to try something that’s a bit of a different take on the same flavor.

You know… I mentioned the Bad Monkey I had earlier. I sold it about a year ago, and now I miss it, because I kind of feel like it ought to be in the little family of Digitech’s inexpensive analog pedals I’m putting together here. I might have to pick one up, to fill in the gap. They make an excellent trio. They even have rudimentary, separate cabinet simulated outputs for going direct to the board. They’re not going to knock your socks off with their authenticity but it’s a pretty cool feature that even works when the pedal is bypassed. If disaster strikes at a gig, it could save the day.

I also picked up another pedal not long ago when my wife and I were visiting family in central AR from my hut down in extreme southern AR. Of course I stopped in at my favorite music stores. Mostly the idea was to pick up strings; none of my guitars have had a string change in over a year now, and while I’ve grown to quite like the sound and feel of “worn in” strings, there’s a difference between “worn in” and “worn out” that a few of them are reeeally starting to show. Since returning I’ve started the process of re-stringing them, and also reconditioning the rosewood fretboards, some of which very badly needed it. I’m lucky there aren’t cracks.

Anyway, while I was poking around, I noticed that one of the shops had an MXR Zakk Wylde signature OD. I had my buddy the shop-keeper throw it in with $60 worth of strings for a pretty steep discount, came to about $85 total. Here’s a shiny picture of a new one; mine shows stage wear but is in perfect electrical shape.

I’m not really a fan of Zakk Wylde or anything, but a well made signature pedal for less than $30 was kind of a no-brainer.

Electronically, it’s basically a modded Boss SD-1. That was Zakk Wylde’s pedal of choice and when he got an offer for a signature pedal, seems they decided to basically start there and tweak a bit then put his signature and a premium on the result. My ears (and a few glimpses of the schematic) tell me it differs primarily in the tone shaping itself, with more highs and a much lower cutoff point in its frequency curve compared to the classic TS-1 or the SD-1. I mean, there’s basically a diode’s difference between the SD-1 and the TS-1 to begin with… Anyway, it’s a really nice sounding pedal. Not complicated or difficult to work with, plays nice with any of my amps or amp sims and sounds better (to my ears) than a tubescreamer or an SD-1 through a clean channel, too. The extended frequency range does mean that upper harmonics make it through pretty well, good for the squealies that the dude has made his career with, but also perhaps more noise-prone as a result too.

Reviews generally suggest that people feel this pedal’s place is in front of an amp that’s already overdriving. Kick it in, and the amp hits eleven, or something. I don’t know, in my opinion there isn’t a dirt pedal made that won’t do that job as long as it has a gain knob and a tone knob or better. I guess if you really want to sound like Zakk Wylde you could copy his rig and with this get the exact sound he drunkenly plays live with. Well, that’s fine, not for me – I brought it back to where we’re staying and plugged my customized Japanese strat into it. With singles it is really, really responsive and lively, characteristics you can expect from any well-made TS variant (look, I’ve owned a lot of overdrives, right, there are differences that matter in some ways but at the end of the day a dirt pedal either works musically or it doesn’t, and this one is definitely based on a thoroughly proved “working” circuit). You can set it up at a little under half its gain and get a pretty good range of dirt by just playing lightly or digging in; you can crank it for a much more saturated sound. Since it lets more lows through by default, you’ll probably want to keep your tone control set no lower than the midpoint or else you run the risk of squaring out your lower notes, sounds really bad with chords. I spent a little time getting to know it and it wasn’t long before I had it figured out for use by itself or kicking the crap out of another dirt pedal or overdriving amp. It works well like that. It’s simple and reliable, much like the circuit that inspired it, but again with a cool thing of its own thanks to the wider frequency response.

I kind of don’t like comparing pedals to amps unless they were specifically made to emulate this or that from the get-go, but if I were asked to, I’d say that if the stock Boss SD-1 sounds kind of like an old Marshall running into a 4×12 cab, restricting the frequency response somewhat and giving it a tighter low end, then the Zakk Wylde signature OD sounds more like a Bassman in a big open-backed combo. More frequencies present, for better or worse, and a different take on what is otherwise the same sound.

Anyway – I dig it, cool pedal, looks alright too. I like the bullseye motif a lot more on a little box than I do on a big guitar. I wouldn’t recommend it at new prices since it really isn’t all that different from the more affordable SD-1, but if you can pick up a used one for a good price, as far as I can tell the construction is great – the stage wear evident on mine along with its perfect electrical condition attest to that – and it has some cool mojo with its sound thanks to the extended frequency range.

I also got an ISP Decimator G-String noise reduction pedal. Strictly a utility purchase, it does the job exceptionally well. I can run ludicrous amounts of gain without any noise – and then click it all off, and still have perfect sustain. Really remarkable trick, though at $230 it is pricey for a noise management tool.

Tomorrow, some words on SOFTWARE!

That’s right, I’m bringing this blog off life support and kicking it in to full gear. I’ve got some cool stuff to post about, so stay tuned, and thanks as always to my readers for keeping the traffic going even during the long, silent stretches where I lack the inspiration or means to write.