FEATURE: Gear names that make me blush

I’d like to think that I’m a mature adult with a sophisticated sense of humour. I’d like to think that. But sometimes I’m flicking through a guitar magazine and I stumble across a piece of gear that makes me snicker like a school kid.

Way Huge Swollen Pickle

It’s one of the most revered fuzz pedals of the modern age but there’s nothing about the name ‘Way Huge Swollen Pickle’ (except maybe the word ‘way’) that doesn’t make me feel a little dirty. I swear, if I had one of these pedals back when I was a teenager, I probably would have put duct tape over the words because I was easily embarrassed back them. Today I just think it’s hilarious and I would proudly wear a shirt with ‘Way Huge Swollen Pickle – Step On One Today’ emblazoned across it.
Oh wait. Way. As in ‘going all the way.’ Hehe. That’s rude!


Electro-Harmonix Big Muff PI

I can clearly remember the first time I read about the existence of this pedal. I was reading a guitar magazine in the lounge room when I was about 13 and I came across the words ‘Big Muff’ and I’m pretty sure I was so embarrassed that I covered the word with my coffee cup (yeah, I was jacked up on caffeine even when I was 13. No wonder I play guitar so freaking fast sometimes). Not only is this pedal a ‘muff,’ it’s a ‘big muff.’ And if that’s not risqué enough for ya, there’s also the Double Muff. I’ve heard of people being born with an extra finger or toe, but really? Really?


Gibson Dirty Fingers

The name of this otherwise respectable Gibson pickup gets a mention here because it reminds me of that cheesy old fake Confucius proverb about the man going to sleep with an itchy bum. Ahem.


BC Rich Bich
C’mon, that’s just uncalled for. Even though the BC Rich Bich was unquestionably cool in the hands of Dave Mustaine back in his Metallica days, and had the stamp of approval of metal diva Lita Ford, I’m still kinda surprised that this model name has survived. There’s even a model (pictured) called the Double Neck Bich. I guess it’s designed to be plugged into the Electro-Harmonix Double Muff (and maybe into a Fender Twin to keep the whole ‘double’ thing going, though that’s not particularly naughty unless you’re all like, “Ooh, Swedish twins” or something).


Metasonix $&#^ing $&#^er
Ok, this one isn’t work safe, so I’ve blurred it out for you, and there’s nothing subtle or sly about the name. It’s right there for everyone to see in black and white. Or black and yellow, as it were. Metasonix has a history of being as anarchic and offensive in their marketing as their gear is in its sound, but as Trent Reznor will attest (If you have a keen eye you might spot a Metasonix Butt Probe pedal on the floor in the video for Nine Inch Nails’ ‘The Hand That Feeds’), those sounds can be pretty bitchen in the right context. 

Flangers in general

No matter way you pronounce it (‘flang-er,’ ‘flange-er’), it has the same vague aura of naughtiness around it as words like ‘muckluck.’

REVIEW: Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff With Top Boost

The Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi is one of the most famous fuzz pedals in existence, and is used by both guitarists and bass players from many genres to add some welcome grit and harmonic fatness to their sound. There have been a few variations on the basic Big Muff sound and design over the years, including the Double Muff and Mini Muff. Now the Metal Muff takes the basic sound and twists it like a chunk of iron into a formidable metal beast.

CLICK HERE to see Electro-Harmonix pedals on eBay.

The Metal Muff is a respectably large pedal with six pots – Volume, Top Boost, Treble, Mid, Bass and Distortion – and two footswitches. The switch on the right either turns the effect on or bypasses the circuit completely. The left switch kicks in a variable top boost, though only in effect mode, not in bypass.

Power is supplied by a 9v DC adaptor, with battery access through the bottom of the pedal by removing the bottom plate. Like other pedals in the range, it’s not an ideal solution, but a bit more stable and robust than some designs on the market. That said, I’d probably choose to run the Metal Muff with an adaptor rather than batteries just for convenience.

Visually, the Metal Muff looks like it belongs on the cover of an Iron Maiden or Judas Priest vinyl LP cover, being held by an armour-clad hand bursting from the chest of a zombie. The chunky chrome knobs call to mind a particular valve amp commonly used in metal, the black casing screams ‘apocalypse’ and the sharp, angular typeface used for the main logo is as aggressive as the tones inside.

And what tones they are. The Metal Muff is not a subtle pedal. There is so much bass on tap that it’s easy to swallow a drummer and bass player whole with this pedal. I found the best setting on the bass control was somewhere around mid way, to retain some punch and definition without eating up the rest of the band. The midrange control is best used to define the general body of the sound, focusing on a frequency which seems more suited to rhythm than lead styles, while the treble control is best used in combination and balance with the top boost. You may find that the top boost works for a biting rhythm sound, while turning it off will round off the tone nicely for leads. Or perhaps doing it the other way around will work for your sound. Either way it’s a handy extra level of flexibility.

The basic thrust of the sound is squarely in the Anthrax/Metallica zone at medium high gain levels. Crank it up a little further, suck out the mids and you’re in Pantera country. Raise the mids, turn off the top boost and back the treble back to about 9 o’clock and you have a dry but cutting “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” tone.

It would have been great to be able to select the treble section alone to add a bit more sparkle and edge to a dark sounding guitar without the distortion engaged, or to attain a bit of that late 60s distortion sound, where an overdriven amp was hit with a treble boost to send it further into natural distortion. You can approach this sound by keeping the tone controls neutral and turning the distortion all the way down, but if you wanted to do this it would be extra cool to be able to kick the distortion in and out separately for solos.

The Metal Muff is a very usable new spin on the classic Big Muff sound. Sure, it’s squarely aimed at the metal crowd, and you’d have a hard time finding a ‘polite’ lead tone for more subtle styles, but it does what it’s designed to do admirably and with style.

CLICK HERE to buy the Metal Muff with Top Boost from Music123.

NAMM 2009: Electro-Harmonix Voice Box

I first read about this on the Twitter feed of GuitarToyBox.com, so make sure you go check out that very cool site.

Here’s the new Electro-Harmonix Voice Box, a combined harmonizer and vocoder. Want!!!

Take it away, press release:

The Voice Box packs a multi-functional vocal synth processor into a tough and compact chassis. Sing, and you’ll have a troupe of backup singers following you in perfect harmony. Or use the built-in vocoder to unleash classic synth-robot sounds. Diana Ross had the Supremes, Brian Wilson had the Beach Boys, Kraftwerk had The Robots. You have the Voice Box.

The harmony processor creates 2- to 4-part harmonies directly from your vocals, in the same key as your accompanying instrument. Studio-quality reverb lets you independently add depth to your dry and harmony vocals.

The focused 256-band articulate vocoder, designed by the same EMS genius who made vocoding famous, features adjustable harmonic enhancement and controllable formant shift.

Plug in your mic and your instrument, and let your new voice — or voices — be heard!

Harmonically matches any electric instrument you plug into it

Professional quality pitch shifting algorithm produces realistic harmonies

The Low & High Harmony independently produces two harmony notes: 3rd and 5th

9 accessible programmable presets

Natural GlissandoGender Bender knob allows for male/female formant modification

Built-In Mic Pre with Phantom Power & Gain Switch

Balanced XLR Line Output: Interface directly with any mixing board or A/D converter

US96DC-200BI power supply included

Read more at the Electro-Harmonix website.

While you’re there, check out this very interesting article about their Golden Throat talkbox.

CLICK HERE to see talk boxes on eBay.

CLICK HERE to buy the Danelectro Free Speech Talk Box from Musician’s Friend

CLICK HERE to buy the Dunlop Heil Talk Box from Music123

CLICK HERE to buy the Rocktron Banshee Talk Box from Music123