Is there any cooler pedal than the MXR Custom Badass ’78 Distortion? Well, maybe, but it’s a pretty tough one to top. Just listen to that thing. But the team behind that possibly-underappreciated Dude You Totally Have To Try It pedal have just announced their newest offering, the Super Badass Distortion, which allows you to further personalise your distortion sound with separate Bass, Mid and Treble controls and nice broad range of distortion levels. Jim Dunlop has a great blog post where they discuss the pedal with the design team, and you can check that out here. But here’s the press release: Continue reading
Here’s something pretty neat from MXR: a new distortion pedal that’s exclusive to Guitar Center (both instore and online) and Musicians Friend. It’s a vintage-vibed stomper which seems quite flexible and amp-like. Check out the videos at the bottom of this post to get a feel for what this baby can do. By the way, don’t MXR do the coolest videos? I like their style. They seem to capture that whole exciting tunnel-vision vibe you get when you try a new pedal for the first time. And their videos from NAMM this year were killer too.
Here’s the press release for the Prime Distortion, followed by the videos.
Wow! Check this out. After decades of making killer amps and preamps (including the pedal-housed V-Twin and Bottle Rocket preamp pedals, if you wanna get technical about it), Mesa Boogie is getting into the pedal biz in a big way. They’re designed and hand-built in Petaluma, California and they’re going to be huge.
There’s the Tone Burst Boost/Overdrive…
There’s the Grid Slammer Overdrive…
There’s the Flux Drive Overdrive…
And the Throttle Box Distortion.
Click on the links to each pedal for more info and demos!
If you’ve ever tried to use a pedal (or ten) with a couple of long cables, you’ve undoubtedly discovered the horrible tone suck that can occur. It usually manifests itself as a loss of treble, a noticeable dynamic weakness and a general cloudiness of detail. But there’s a way around it: an audio buffer will prevent the signal from being robbed of its sparkle. RJM Music Technology has been including buffers as an essential element of their highly regarded audio switching systems for years, but now this circuit is available in a pedal-sized, 9v-powered magic black box in the form of the Tone Saver.
The Octavia is a classic yet mysterious effect, and one that’s particularly hard to describe with the written word. It produces an overtone an octave above whatever you play, but it doesn’t sound like a harmonizer or a 12-string guitar. Instead, imagine fuzz combined with the sound that you hear when you run your finger around the rim of a crystal wine glass, except the pitch of the glass follows that of the guitar. It can be hauntingly beautiful when combined with a clean tone or it can add a harmonic, fixed-wah-like quality to distorted ones.
The Voodoo TC Octavia is Roger Mayer’s latest iteration of his historic invention. The intention is very much the same as when Jimi Hendrix used Mayer’s Octavia on “Purple Haze” and “Fire,” but the Voodoo TC range offers many advantages. Continue reading
Red Witch pedals seemed to spring up out of nowhere a few years ago, commanding attention with their unique features and world class tone. The Empress Chorus, for instance, is very highly regarded. But years and years of work have gone into establishing Red Witch. Recently the company unveiled the Seven Sisters series of mini pedals, and there are more innovations on the horizon. Join us as we pick the brain of Red Witch founder Ben Fulton.
Tell us about the history of the company.
Red Witch Analog was formed about ten years ago. Initially it was just me in the garage building guitar pedals. We started out with the Moon Phaser, and the decision to start a company making guitar pedals was born out of me making a few pedals for myself. I’d worked as a solo acoustic musician for three or four years prior to starting the company and a friend had asked me to join a rock band. I’d sold all of my electric guitar stuff, so I needed an amplifier. My girlfriend bought me an amp to use and it needed some work, so I basically immersed myself in the study of electronics in order to be able to repair and improve the amplifier.
One of the most common questions I was asked in my days as a guitar repair guy, aside from “which should I buy, a tube amp or a valve amp?”, “My Strat buzzes under neon lights, is it busted?” and “Who the hell are you and what are you doing with that crowbar,” is “what order should my effects pedals be in?” The answers to each of those questions could take up an entire magazine, so let’s tackle the pedal one. To know how to configure your effects, first you must understand what they do and how they do it. Effects generally fall into two categories: Gain and Time-based.
Gain effects include overdrive and distortion, but also EQ, Wah Wah, enhancer, compressor and limiter. These effects usually take a signal and boost or alter some aspect of it such as volume or tone. Time-based effects include delay, reverb, flanger, pitch shifter and phaser, and these usually work by splitting the signal in two and doing something interesting with the sound, like repeat it, slow it down and speed it up again by a few milliseconds, or change its pitch.
Let’s say you have a distortion, a wah, a chorus and a delay pedal, a classic combo if ever there was one. The ideal set-up for this selection would be wah first, followed by distortion, then chorus, then delay. There are several reasons for this, all to do with how each pedal interacts with the unit or units before it in the signal chain. Wah before distortion creates the classic bassy to trebly sweep we all know and love. Wah after distortion has a smooth, midrange-heavy kind of tone. Instead of complementing the straight distortion tone by emphasising frequencies, it changes the frequencies of the distortion. It may sound good that way for certain applications (and Tim Commerford from Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave is a big fan of post-gain wah) but it will completely change the character of the tone. If you need both textures, chuck an extra distortion pedal in front of your wah.
Similarly, delay probably shouldn’t go before a distortion pedal, because any good distortion pedal worth its salt will add more distortion when you hit it with a loud sound (for instance, picking a string hard), and will produce lower levels of distortion when hit with a quieter signal, like when you pick softly. It’s this dynamic swing and interactivity that’s made pedals such as the Ibanez Tube Screamer such favourites among guitarists. But if you hit a distortion or overdrive pedal with the signal from a delay, the successively quieter repeats will lessen in distortion – but usually not in a good way (unless you’re going for a particular lo-fi sound, in which case it can be cool, but it’s not gonna work if you’re going for Satriani-style repeats synched with the tempo of the tune). The sound of the quieter repeats will clash with the ‘first generation’ notes you’re playing, and the whole thing will sound like a mess.
Most players prefer chorus pedals to be placed after distortion, creating the effect of two guitars playing at once, or just generally spreading out the sound in the stereo spectrum. Personally, I think it makes everything sound like a beer commercial or an 80s guitar solo on some pop diva album. Experiment with placing a chorus pedal before an overdrive pedal. This will add a subtle, Hendrixy warble to the sound, and is especially good for copping fake organ sounds.
One of my favourite happy accidents occurred when I placed an envelope filter pedal in the signal chain after a phaser. Envelope filters are basically wah wah pedals which vary the sweep of the wah effect depending on how loud or soft the input signal is (or, if you please, how soft or hard you pick). You can use this to your advantage by presenting the envelope filter with a signal that varies in intensity. An envelope filter will take the sweeping movement of a phaser and completely exaggerate it to the point of controllable feedback and back again. Similarly, running a wah into an envelope filter set just right can yield a tone similar to those filter sweeps from techno, where it sounds like you’re walking out of a club, into the car park and back again.
The classic Dimebag Darrell distortion tone was partly arrived at by placing a graphic EQ after distortion – in Dime’s case it was in the amp’s effects loop, but if you’re generating distortion from a pedal instead of an amplifier, you can get pretty close by running from your distortion into an EQ with the midrange turned down and the high and low frequencies boosts. Dime also had huge amounts of distortion which he kept controlled by using a noise gate set very high, and this played a huge part in his stop-start rhythms.
Some other tips:
* Try running a phaser or flanger before distortion for those Eddie Van Halen “Eruption” or “Unchained” moments – most people place these effects after distortion but it just sounds too hi-fi for the EVH tone.
* If you have a tuner (and why wouldn’t you?) it should be the very first pedal you plug your guitar into. If you place it after your other pedals, it could ‘hear’ the hiss and swirl of the various pedals, and this can prevent it reading your notes clearly.
* If you have a Digitech Whammy Pedal and you mainly use it for high pitched squeals, place it before distortion – this makes the effect sound more natural, like you’re actually bending a note up two octaves. If you use it as a harmonizer, it will sound more like two guitars if it’s after distortion, but if it’s before, it can sound pretty cool too, just completely different. Try both. You can get some wild harmonic overtones by using it as a harmonizer into a distorted setting, and shifting between 4ths and 5ths with the pedal.
* A compressor pedal can help you get a little extra gain if you place it before a distortion pedal, then you can turn the distortion off for a sweet John Frusciante tone.
But you don’t just have to use pedals the ‘right’ way because some blog guy tells you to. Some of the coolest sounds in the world have come about because of someone doing something the wrong way. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Then post your findings here and tell me what you did so I can steal your ideas. Hehe.
Man, pedal power supply solutions are so much more elegant now than when I first started using pedals (I got my first distortion pedal – an Arion Metal Plus – for my 13th birthday). Check out this system from Godlyke.
Godlyke PA-9D Power-All® Deluxe Kit
The PA-9 Power-All® is the world’s first 2000 mA, single outlet power supply designed specifically for guitar effect users. Rather than waste money and natural resources on disposable batteries, users can now power their entire pedalboard from a single power supply that takes up only one outlet space!
The Power-All® Deluxe Kit provides 9 volts DC at 2000 milliamps — more than enough current to power dozens of effect pedals, including up to 4 Line 6 Modelers. The Power-All Deluxe Kit can power eleven pedals out of the box, and comes complete with a variety of jumper cables that allow connection of phone plug, reverse polarity, digital, and battery-only pedal types. New Ten-Foot, 18-gauge output cable allows for longer power runs without an extension cord.
The Power-All®’s special circuit design offers the lowest noise floor of any digital power supply on the market. The PA-9 now comes with a ferrite-core filter built onto its output cable to further reduce noise and hum. The PA-9 automatically converts any input voltage from 100-240 VAC to 9 VDC, allowing it to be used anywhere around the world.
Built to stand the rigors of the road, the Power-All® features professional-grade construction and comes with a lifetime warranty. The Power-All® is not sold through big-box retailers or jobbers and offers A+ margins to independent music retailers
The PA-9D Power-All® Deluxe Kit comes complete with:
Power-All® 9 VDC, 2000 milliamp digital power supply
Cable-11/R 11-lead right-angle Daisy Chain with spring-loaded jacks
(1) Cable-Blue/R right-angle 3.5 mm Phone Plug Jumper Cable for use with EH and other vintage pedals
(1) Cable-Green Line-6 Jumper Cable with spring loaded jack for use with Line 6 Modelers and other pedals requiring a 2.5 mm internal diameter jack
(1) Cable-Green/R right-angle Line-6 Jumper Cable
(1) Cable-Grey Battery Clip Jumper Cable for pedals with no AC input
(1) Cable-Red/R right-angle Reverse Polarity Jumper Cable with spring-loaded jack
(5) Cable Cap insulator sheaths to cover power leads when not in use
For more information, visit their web site at http://www.godlyke.com/
A Vai.com mailout today included the following tantalising tidbit:
Vai.com Winter Ebay Extravaganza
Steve has been clearing out the garage and it’s time for a winter sale.
Among the goodies up for grabs is a Jem777VDY – used both live and in the studio, this yellow Jem was given to an assistant of Steve’s a few years back. In recent times this guitar came back into Steve’s possession, and we now make it available for you. We are open to serious offers on this guitar ahead of it appearing on Ebay. Email us at talk2us[at]vai.com with offers or inquiries.
Also up for grabs are a set of DiMarzio prototype pickups, Jem necks, used pedals, straps, amps and more!
Check back in the coming days for a list of gear and photos.
Image used with permission.
I’ve picked up a bunch of new I Heart Guitar readers over the last few weeks, especially thanks to some links on kickass sites like Guitar Noize, Melodicrock.com, Truth In Shredding, Random Chatter Music Blog, Premier Guitar and Guitarsite.com, so I thought it might be a good time to point to some previous articles, reviews, interviews and lessons. So here ya go!