Jim Dunlop is running another kickass giveaway over on their website, this time for a year’s spply of Heavy Core strings and Ultex Sharp picks. The contest is for US residents only.
(By the way, here’s my review of the Ultex Sharp picks).
Here’s some info from the Jim Dunlop website:
What do Dethklok and Machine Head have in common besides mind numbingly blazing riffs that will rip your face off? Heavy Core guitars strings and Ultex Sharp picks – the ultimate in heavy tones and precision performance. This month we’re giving away a year’s supply of both to one lucky winner. 15 runner-ups will receive a pack of Heavy Core strings and a Heavy Core shirt, as well as a player’s pack of Ultex Sharp picks. Enter to win – prepare to destroy!
CLICK HERE to enter
Click here for more info on Ultex Sharp Guitar Picks Click here for more info on Heavy Core Guitar Strings
Contest ends March 15th. US entries only.
Remember my recent post about the new stuff from Jim Dunlop/MXR? Well here’s a little more info direct from the company themselves, including some more info about the awesome new Way Huge Aqua-Puss MkII analog delay. John Mayer’s all about this pedal and it sounded great at NAMM. Before we get to the Dunlop info, check out this video from Premier Guitar at NAMM, which includes Uli Jon Roth giving the Aqua-Puss a run-through at the booth.
The Aqua-Puss MkII is making its triumphant return, ready to bathe a tone thirsty world in gorgeously smooth delay. One twist of the Delay knob takes you from a tight 20ms delay to a cavernous 300ms. The Feedback control regulates delay duration and intensity. But watch out. Extreme settings can send the Aqua-Puss MkII into self-oscillating psycho-freak-out mode! Meanwhile the Blend knob lets you set a balance between dry and delayed signal—from mild to wild. The Aqua-Puss MkII delivers all the spooky mystery of vintage analog delay and tape-based echo, with none of the hassle of creaky, ancient gear.
Control your volume levels with exacting precision with the new Dunlop Volume Pedal. The Dunlop Volume Pedal features a patent pending Steel Band Drive that creates a low-friction environment with no strings or ratchet gears attached – allowing you to achieve thick, luscious volume swells in one smooth motion without the fear of breaking. With fully adjustable tension and high-quality low-noise electronic components, the sound is as clean and transparent as the feel is smooth. Housed in a lightweight but durable aluminum chassis, the pedal features a rocker pedal that is slightly curved for ergonomics, with an aggressive non-slip tread that keeps your foot firmly in place. Great features, smooth, hassle-free performance and crystalline tone make the Dunlop Volume Pedal the smart choice for every musician.
Heavy Core® Strings are uniquely designed for the player that enjoys higher tension at standard tuning or normal tension at dropped tunings. Our proprietary core-to-wrap ratios are meticulously calculated so the player can really “dig in” while retaining sound fundamentals. Heavy Core® Strings, like all Dunlop Strings are manufactured with the highest quality of materials and engineered for great tone, balance, and feel.
Jim Dunlop is giving away a Crybaby Rack Wah at their site. Now, these units seem pretty hard to come by and they’ve been used by some of the biggest names in the biz. Personally I use a Jim Dunlop Buddy Guy Crybaby and I love it to bits, but I’ve heard such continually high praise for the Crybaby Rack Wah that it’s almost worth going the rack route just to have one for the bragging rights!
Here’s some info on the giveaway on the Dunlop blog.
The Crybaby Rack Wah – the ultimate in control and versatility. Found in the top studios and racks of the world’s best guitarists, the Crybaby Rack Wah is usually reserved for the guitar industry’s elite few. Many swear by it because they can dial in the exact tone they hear for each gig and situation. Well guess what? This month we’re giving one away.
For premium, rich and vocal tone, this King of Wahs is versatile enough to handle an astronomically wide spectral range of Wah sound. Dial in anywhere between a vintage sounding thin “quack” to a fully powerful throaty “growl” with a six position switch that lets you select your sweep frequency range. Then for fine-tuning use the on board EQ and the variable Q control, which allows you to determine where the shape lies in the frequency. Go +10db of boost on up to six controller inputs for coverage anywhere onstage. Used by the pros and serious Wah players.
Phil Demmel/ Machine Head
Rob Flynn/Machine Head
Jim Root/Slipknot-Stone Sour
Mark Morton/Lamb of God
Damon Johnson/Alice Cooper Band
Dave Kushner/Velvet Revolver
Richard Fortus/NIN-Guns n Roses
Bumblefoot/Guns n Roses
DJ Ashba/Guns n Roses
Mick Mars/Motley Crue
Bjorn Gelotte/In Flames
Jerry Cantrell/Alice in Chains
John Garcia/Trisha Yearwood
Zoltan Balthory/ Five Finger Death Punch
Vivian Campbell/Def Leppard
Tom Dumont/No Doubt
Check out this video by the folks at Jim Dunlop. It features Slipknot/Stone Sour’s Jim Root going through his rig, including the MXR Carbon Copy, and showing off his new prototype signature Stratocaster, which will be available from Fender in 2010.
Oh, swearing alert on this one.
Launched in 1992 by Jorge Tripps, Way Huge Electronics kickstarted the boutique pedal craze, but weren’t around long enough to really enjoy the acclaim. After just a few short years the company folded, and now the original Way Huge Swollen Pickle fuzz goes for a pretty penny on eBay – if one even pops up for sale. Thankfully in 2008 Jim Dunlop revived the brand and promptly released a trio of pedals: reworked versions of the Swollen Pickle Jumbo Fuzz and Fat Sandwich Harmonic Saturator, and a new design in the Pork Loin Soft Clip Injection. More recently the line-up has been joined by the Angry Troll Linear Boost Amplifier.
So what exactly is reworked about the Swollen Pickle Jumbo Fuzz MkII? Well, before we get to that, all the original features are still there: The same enclosure with easy-access battery door, the same brushed metallic green colour, the same fat knobs and psychedelic fonts are once again present. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a straight-up reissue at first glance. The footswitch is smooth yet sturdy in operation, with ultra-quiet relay-based true bypass. Look a little closer though and you’ll see a pair of additional controls. We’ve still got the same Loudness, Filter and Sustain pots (think of ‘em as volume, tone and gain), but they’re joined by tiny little controls labelled Scoop and Crunch which dip out the midrange and vary the compression, respectively. But wait, there’s more! Unscrew the base of the pedal and inside you’ll find two more adjustable pots: Voice and Clip. Voice sets the intensity of the Scoop control (which really lets you fine-tune exactly how much midrange you zap out), and Clip varies between a smoother, rounder fuzz sound and a more open, buzzy one.
So how does it sound? Well like the originals the MkII kind of starts in the same territory as a certain other fuzz pedal with a guffaw-inducing name. But the level of control, the quality of the components and the level of detail really set it apart. Start with high settings on the Sustain and Filter knobs and you’ll get a chunky, grindy fuzz with huge bottom end. By sweeping the Crunch knob you can find either a sharp, trebly staccato feel or a smoother, fatter vibe. Reel back the Filter control and push the Crunch pot into super-compression territory for awesome ‘American Woman’ tones, or go easy on the Crunch for a great Strat lead sound which takes on a decidedly vintage feel when you lower the Sustain. Or how about this: Set the Filter control about halfway, compress the heck out of everything with the Crunch knob and use Scoop to banish the mids to hell for a great Smashing Pumpkins sound.
I spent a good deal of time messing around with the internal pots to find my ideal setting. I found that I was quite happy with the Voice control set right where it comes from the factory, while Clip suited my style best when I set it to a ratio of about 70% smooth and 30% open. This all depends on what you ultimately want to get out of your fuzz pedal though, and I highly recommend that if you get your hands on one of these pedals, you really should get tweakin’. It really does open up a whole new dimension to the sound.
The Way Huge Swollen Pickle is so many fuzz pedals in one that it’s almost a shame that because it’s all analog there’s no kind of digital control for storing presets. There are at least four sounds in there that I would be happy to use regularly (I call them Light Fuzz, Heavy Buzzy Chunk, Reedy Smooth Lead and Scooped Pumpkin Tone) and my only real beef with the pedal is that it does so many things so well that it’s a hassle leaning down to change the controls from one killer tone to another. I guess the only real thing to consider is whether fuzz – as opposed to overdrive or distortion – is really for you. Me, I really like using fuzz in a blues-rock context, and I love using it for shred and metal lead tones, where it’s really unexpected. So even if you’re not usually a Friend of the Fuzz, you should still give this pedal a spin because you never know what it can do for your tone until you try.
Last week in my Cool Preamps They Don’t Make Any More post I mentioned the very first Guitar World I ever got – the March 1991 edition with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill on the cover. That magazine was hugely influential to me – I’d just begun high school and had got an electric guitar for Christmas 1990. I was not yet 13 and I felt like a whole new world had opened up within those pages. It was time to put aside Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dino Riders and Voltron, and to instead devote my excitement towards Valley Arts, Hamer and Seymour Duncan.
My guitar rig at the time consisted of a Status Stratocaster copy (no, I don’t think it’s the same Status that makes those awesome headless basses – but if anyone knows something about this brand, please share!) and a Marathon MX3 amp. The amp had two controls: Volume and Tone. The only time I got anything close to distortion was when I turned the amp up all the way – certainly not gig volume, but louder than could be permitted in a crowded house despite the amp’s paltry three watts.
I’d seen effects pedals here and there, but somehow I’d got it into my head that amps needed to have special circuitry in order to ‘take’ effect pedals. I saw a Dean Markley amp in a music store catalogue and it had a lot of jacks on the front that I couldn’t quite read since the picture was so tiny, but I’d convinced myself that they said ‘Chorus,’ ‘Digital Delay,’ ‘Reverb’ and ‘Distortion.’ (Now thanks to Google I know it was a Dean Markley K-50 and the jacks were actually ‘Phones,’ ‘Footswitch,’ ‘Line In’ and ‘Line Out’). However, I remember reading Denny Laine’s Guitar Book when I was about 10, and in it he mentioned something about fuzz and wah wah pedals that could be connected between a guitar and an amp. I filed that away for later use (not realising of course that this is how every effect pedal hooks up, not just wah and fuzz. Oops).
So anyway, somewhere near the end of that first Guitar World magazine there was a little black and white ad for the Jim Dunlop ‘Jimi Hendrix System’ Octave Fuzz. “Fuzz, you say?” was my immediate reaction. “You mean that effect you can hook up without needing a special jack for that effect? Hot damn!” I remember taking the magazine to my dad and being all like, “Hey dad, can you buy me this?” I thought if it was good enough for Jimi Hendrix, it was good enough for me. Little did I realise it was actually never used by Hendrix in his lifetime, but was inspired by Roger Mayer’s Octavia octave fuzz. Dad said no, but through a little more Guitar World reading I figured out that you could use any pedal with any amp, and for my birthday that July he took me to a few local guitar stores to find my very first distortion pedal (an Arion Metal Plus – damn I loved that thing! CLICK HERE to see Arion pedals on eBay.). The Jim Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Octave Fuzz slipped to the back of my mind as I spent subsequent birthdays cluttering my bedroom floor with a wah wah, flanger, phaser, digital delay, another distortion when my Arion finally packed it in… and it wasn’t until 2008 that it finally dawned upon me that I should track down that first pedal I ever got really, really excited about.
I was ensnared in a bit of an eBay bidding war for one and I missed out. It was in used condition but still went for somewhere around 70 bucks, if I recall correctly. A few weeks later another one popped up, complete with the box. It was used but appeared to be completely blemish-free. I placed a bid and ended up getting it for a mere $40 USD plus about ten bucks postage, at a time when the Australian dollar was up around 98c US. Score! CLICK HERE to see the Jimi Hendrix Octave Fuzz on eBay.
So what’s the pedal sound like? Gloriously ratty. It takes a bit of trial and error to get the octave overtone effect happening like in Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ solo. The trick is to pick lightly, kinda squeeze the note with your fretting hand as soon as you pick it, and to use the neck pickup. It also helps to wind back the guitar volume a little bit. Switch to the bridge pickup and this toothy, sharp fuzz sound all but obliterates any hint of the octave overtone. Pile it on top of an already distorted amp tone and you get this great dirty edge to the notes, and lots of great-sounding sustain. It’s not a pedal that I would use in every song, but it’s earned a permanent place on my ever-fickle pedalboard, and whenever I stomp on it I kind of feel like I’m engaging a covert secret weapon.
Today the Jim Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Octave Fuzz is no more, at least in that incarnation. Instead you can buy the Jimi Hendrix Octavio, an exact clone of the pedal Jimi actually used on ‘Purple Haze.’ Roger Mayer also still makes the Octavia as well as the Vision Octavia, both of which are further evolutions of the original design, rather than straight reproductions like the exactly-what-Jimi-used Dunlop.
I just did the prize draw for the I Heart Guitar 1st Birthday Giveaway Spectacular! I saved all the entry emails and used random.org to pick them out. Bizarrely, 3 of the winners are from the same US state. Freaky.
First, the runner-up prize winners:
Scarlet, Steve and Joshua win:
From Australasian Music Supplies (Aussie Dunlop/DiMarzio distributors): 1 set of Dunlop strings, Crybaby shirt
From Steve Turner: 1 Not In Kansas Anymore CD
From Grover Allman: 5 I Heart Guitar picks
2nd prize winner is…
From DiMarzio: 1 Urban Decay leather strap in white, 1 hot pink instrument cable,
From Steve Turner: 1 Not In Kansas Anymore CD
From Shire Music: Autographed Joe Satriani concert flyer
From Australasian Music Supplies: Dunlop Kerry King signature strings, Crybaby shirt
From Grover Allman: 10 I Heart Guitar picks
And the 1st prize winner is….
From DiMarzio: 1 LiquiFire 7, 1 Crunch Lab 7, 1 2 inch black nylon cliplock strap, 1 Blk Instrument cable, 1 Blk Jumper cable, 1 DiMarzio t-shirt
From Steve Turner: 1 Not In Kansas Anymore CD
From Shire Music: Warwick mouse pad (shaped like a Warwick bass – it’s really cool).
From Australasian Music Supplies: Signed Dunlop Kerry King poster, Dunlop Kerry King shirt
From Grover Allman: 10 I Heart Guitar picks
Part of the charm of the Ultex Sharp range for me (and obviously the reason they’re called Sharp) is that even though they’re larger than the Jazz III, they have a similar sharp point. For me this shape adds accuracy and definition to fast-picked passages, and gives you more control and note separation in chord work, especially when using a clean sound. I also use the Big Stubby picks in a 3mm gauge every now and then, so I’m not averse to using a larger pick from time to time.
The Ultex Sharp is designed to mimic the feel of an actual vintage tortiseshell pick from the Dunlop collection. It has a matte feel that practically clings to the fingers in a way I’ve never really felt in any other pick, and it has a seamless contoured edge which I find keeps the sound more uniform from pick to pick while also making it more comfortable if you really clamp down on the pick with a firm grip, which I tend to do when playing thrash rhythm.
I play with a very light touch and I tend to prefer thick picks, so I first reached for the 2.0 and my Ibanez RG7620 7-string. The first thing I noticed was that pinch harmonics on the low B string were a lot easier. For some reason I’ve always felt a bit clumsy doing those Zakk Wylde pinch harmonics on the low string, whether it’s E or B – yet if I’m using my 7-string and I play one on the E string, it sounds fine. So I immediately appreciated the Ultex Sharp for helping me over that little hurdle. There also seems to be a very immediate attack which is crucial for faster techniques, especially sweep picking. The level of dynamic control is really quite outstanding, and I really enjoyed setting my amp up for an edge-of-overdrive sound so I could use different picking strengths to alter the character of the gain.
The 2.0 felt a little cumberson for me so I tried the other thicknesses. I quite liked the 1.40 and 1.14. After a bit of testing I settled on the 1.14 as the preferred pick for my playing style (and 1.40 for bass). At that thickness the pick is still rigid, which I prefer, whereas the thinner sizes have more give, which I like for strummed chordal work but not as an all-round pick. If you pick harder in general you might prefer the softer gauges. Incidentally, try flipping the pick around and using one of the rounded edges instead, SRV-style, for a nice smooth pick attack that is especially good for taking a little edge off bright single coils.
By the way, Steve Turner dropped by the house yesterday (awesome Ibanez J Custom 7-string in tow) and he was using Ultex Jazz III picks. After I told him I’d been using the Ultex Sharps he gave me one of his Ultex Jazz IIIs and I was able to directly compare it to my regular Jazz IIIs. It feels a little more rigid and much more comfortable due to the almost-impossible-to-drop texture. In fact, I’d probably go for the Ultex Jazz III over the Max Grip Jazz III just cos I’m digging the Ultex material so much.
In this blog post, Jim Dunlop has introduced the Way Huge Angry Troll pedal. Now, if there’s one thing I know well, it’s being an angry troll. If there’s anything else I know, it’s that Way Huge pedals kick ass. I’ve been really digging the Way Huge Swollen Pickle Mk II fuzz pedal recently (look for a review next week). In addition to that and the new Angry Troll, the Way Huge range is currently rounded out by the Fat Sandwich and the Pork Loin, the latter of which blew my mind out when I checked out the sound clips recently.
Anyway, here’s what they have to say about it on the Dunlop blog:
The mighty Angry Troll from Way Huge Electronics serves up gorgeous portions of volume and gain to pummel the input of your amp with up to +50dB of gain. It adds bite and punch while transforming your mild mannered tone into a beastly sonic onslaught!
The Angry Troll’s two controls interact like a vintage mic pre amp. The Anger knob—a rotary switch with six Fists of Fury positions—adjusts the amount of gain created by the Troll’s op-amp, while the Volume knob regulates the overall output level. High grade components are used for a precisely tuned circuit that works like an extension of your amp. Another tone monster from the mind of Mr. Huge!
· Delivers up to +50dB of boost
· Precisely tuned to work like an extension of your amp
· Adds a little dirt at higher settings
· Heavy duty foot switch with quiet relay based true bypass
· High grade components for low noise operation
Speaking of Dunlop stuff, I’ve been checking out the new Ultex Sharp picks. More on that on Monday!
I’ve been after a chorus pedal for a long, long time but I was never 100% happy with any chorus I tried. They were usually too hi-fi for my tastes – I hate that slick 80s studio sound with chorus on everything. My ideal chorus tone is something like what Steve Vai sometimes uses. Y’know, a warm analog warble beefing up the notes before they hit the amp, rather than a sterile hi-fi zing applied in the effects loop. I’ve tried a few pedals that got close, real close, but I’ve finally found my chorus of choice in the MXR M-134 Stereo Chorus.
Let’s look at the features first. You’ve got your typical rate, width and intensity controls, just as you would expect. But what’s that to the left? Treble and bass controls, so you can tailor the frequency response of the chorus effect while leaving the dry guitar sound unaltered? Awesome! Furthermore there’s a little switch which drops the bass frequencies out of the chorus effect altogether, so you maintain note definition and pitch clarity while still getting that ethereal shimmer. Great idea. And naturally, it’s stereo. I don’t have two amps that are similar enough to really get down to business with this feature, so I tried it through two amp sim programs on my computer and the results were suitably wide and lush. But it’s not really fair to test a pedal using amp sims, so bare with me and next time I’m around a pair of suitable amps I’ll amend the review. Aaah, the luxury of writing for a blog compared to a magazine!
The pedal runs on 18v so you’ll either need two 9v batteries or a Dunlop ECB-004 18-volt AC Adapter.
My preferred placement for chorus may be a little unusual compared to some players. I’ve placed it after my other modulation effects (phaser and flanger), and before distortion (Marshall DSL50’s Lead channel, sometimes beefed up with an MXR CAE Boost/Overdrive). My theory here is that the chorus works its magic on the phaser and flanger, and doesn’t sound so dang digital like if it was placed after distortion. There are two exceptions though: I have a Way Huge Swollen Pickle and a Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Octave Fuzz (one of my most cherished eBay finds) placed before the flanger and phaser. I don’t use fuzz as a main sound but rather a cool embellishment now and then, and I find it to be more stable if I’m not changing the input signal all the time with different effects. I also like the psychedelic effect of chorus, phaser or flanger applied after fuzz. It reminds me of stuff like ‘Itchykoo Park’ or something. Yet I simply will not abide the sound of phaser, flanger or chorus on a modern distortion or overdrive tone, dagnabbit! Yes, I’m a complex man.
I pretty quickly found my ideal setting with the MXR Stereo Chorus, and perhaps not surprisingly it’s with the width, rate and intensity controls all set somewhere around 5, give or take a little. This is where I find the best mix of sparkle, fatness and warmth. Check out Steve Vai’s tone on ‘Frank’ from The Ultra Zone for an idea of the kind of sound I’m going for with this setting. I use the filter button to zap out the chorus effect on the low end, which seems to maintain the thump of lower notes while increasing the zing of higher ones.
Sometimes though I leave the switch out and increase the width for a bit of a Joe Satriani Surfing With The Alien sound. This is an especially cool trick when I kick in the wah wah, then feed the whole shebang into a distorted amp setting.
You can also get some great vintage vibrato sounds by cranking the rate and width controls and mixing the intensity to taste. I like this for David Gilmour-esque wobbles, especially combined with a chorus effect.
So there ya have it: my long search for a chorus pedal is finally over. I wonder what pedal I’ll start lusting over next…
Check out JimDunlop.com for sound samples. I’ll record my own next week too and add them to the review.
LINK: Jim Dunlop online store