Monday, March 27, 2017

Tube Screamer Style Recommendations

The Mighty Tube Screamer! One of the most copied circuits in the pedal business is the Ibanez TS9. Why? It works for a lot of different applications and it's easy to tweak it for different sounds. Everyone from Stevie Ray Vaughan to modern high gain shredders use TS pedals. They can be used for boosting an already hard driving amp, pushing a clean amp into breakup, adding drive to low volume amps, punching through for solos and tightening up the bottom end. There are some complaints, some people feel they boost the mids to much especially with modern mid focused pickups and amps. Others don't like the way that the bottom end rolls off while still others prefer a different type of clipping all together. But they are a great pedal and below is a short list of pedals I've played through and recommend depending on what your looking for.

Ibanez Originals

Ibanez TS808 The Ibanez reissue of the original, sort of. The circuit has changed some what over the years but it's still in the same seating section of the same ball park.

Ibanez TS-9 The Ibanez TS-9 is the most popular overdrive pedal in the world, especially if you take all of the clones and variants into consideration. And it stays that way for a reason.

Budget Recommendations

EHX East River Drive  This TS808 clone from Electro-Harmonix was designed with input from Analogman. It's cheap and sounds fantastic.

Ibanez Jet Driver  My personal favorite budget recommendation! Why? It's a tweaked TS9 with some of the most popular mods. It's true bypass, has more drive and volume, and a mids knob if your mix is getting muddy. It can easily cop SRV tones and does everything the TS9 does and more. Skip if you need more bottom end otherwise pick this up whenever its on sale.

Knob Tweakers

Way Huge Green Rhino  This fantastic TS style pedal adds knobs for the bottom end and mids and has plenty of extra volume on tap for pushing your amp.

Wampler Clarkesdale  Brian Wamplers take on the Tube Screamer adds an active 3 band eq. The drive is super smooth. Also check out his Paisley Drive a TS tweaked for Brad Paisley.

Earthquaker Devices Palisades  Is this the ultimate TS tweakers dream? This thing is great in the studio and will keep you tone hunting for months. Skip if you need simple plug and play.

High End

Ibanez TS808HW Cashing in on the boutique trend Ibanez released this amazing sounding all handwired TS808. It will cost you but it sounds amazing.

Mojo Hand Rook  A TS style pedal with amp like response and separate bass and treble controls this thing was a hit as soon as it was released. Check out the Rook Royale for an added EP booster.

Keeley Red Dirt  Mr Keeley got his start doing pedal mods for rock gods. He had several Tube Screamer mods and the Red Dirt is the culmination of his experience. It sounds fantastic.

Mini TS Pedals

Keeley Red Dirt Mini  Take Mr Keeley's ultimate TS pedal the Red Dirt make it mini pedal and add mini switches inside for four different levels of compression and gain. Skip if you hate mini pedals

Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini This thing sounds killer and just like the full size version. You can't go wrong here.

Muli-Drive Pedals

TrueTone Route 66 The TrueTone (formerly Visual Sound) Route 66 pedal adds a compressor that can also be used as a boost into a great 808 clone. Their Version 2 and 3 come with a lifetime guarantee. I know a few blues players that use this as their only pedal.

Wampler Dual Fusion  Mr Wamplers partnership with Tom Quayle is a tweaked version of his Paisley Drive and Euphoria pedals. If you like stacking low gain pedals you have to check this out.

Fulltone Fulldrive 3  The Fulldrive Mosfet 2 is one of the original boutique overdrives and one of the most successful. The Fulldrive 3 adds a separate boost that can be used independently of the drive side.

If you want more history on the Tube Screamer Analogman has a fantastic page HERE. Yes there are a gazillion more TS clones out there to choose from but one of these should get you what your looking for.

Monday, March 13, 2017

EVH 5150 LBX Review

Eddie Van Halen! The name is synonymous with great rock tone. Other than maybe David Gilmour and Jimi Hendrix, Eddies tone has been talked about and studied probably more than any other guitarist in history. It's a huge massive guitar sound that is larger than life and the EVH 5150 amps are currently some of the most popular amps in the world. Eighties shredders love these amps of course, but a lot of modern high gain users love them and I've been noticing them on a lot of country players stages as well.

A little history on the 5150 amps for those that don't know. We all have heard the story about Eddie's famous Marshall and using the variac. In the mid 80's Eddie started using a Soldano SLO100 live and in the studio. He really like the sound of both the Soldano and the Marshall. No one really knows what happened behind the scenes but Eddie struck a deal with Peavey to build his new signature amp the 5150. It was so close to the Soldano design that Mike Soldano started to sue Peavey and Eddie but Peavey is a huge corporation with loads of cash and lawyers and Mikes lawyers told him to drop it or be buried in debt. Eddie and Peavey then revised the amp for the 5150 ii. When Peavey's quality control left something to be desired Eddie left and struck a deal with Fender and the EVH brand was born. The EVH 5150 III has already gone through quite a few tweaks since it's introduction. There is a 100 watt USA built three channel version, the stealth version (which adds the resonance knob) the new el34 version, an extremely successful 50 watt "mini" head and combo (which adds power scaling) and now two LBX versions.

15 watt "lunchbox" amps have become huge thing in our industry promising great tube tone at lower volumes for at home playing and gigs that are volume sensitive. The LBX packs a ton of features into a small package for someone who may want flexibility in an amp but not need 100 watts of power and three independent channels. The LBX features include an effects loop, switchable 4/8/16 ohms to match the cabinet, presence and resonance knobs (bright and bottom end), along with a 1/4 power switch. All at a fraction of the price.

A friend of mine has the 50w EVH 5150 and its a shockingly versatile amp. So when I saw a great deal on a new LBX popup I couldn't resit. This too has also proven to be a surprisingly versatile piece of gear. While there are two channels, you don't have separate volume control over them and so there can be a volume mismatch. Really while being very versatile you are looking at setting up a single sound to play through but it's a damn nice sound. The Blue channel will be more than enough gain for most people but Red channel is like liquid molten lava gain and can be addictive. It is a favorite of modern shredders everywhere. 

So lets answer some common questions

Is it loud enough to gig with? YES! Gig volume is the subject of some debate. But wattage is pretty simple. 10% is half the volume, so to get half of the volume of 100 watts you have jump down to 10 watts, for 50 watts you have to go down to 5 watts. There is also the question of speaker cabinets a 4x12 is louder than a 1x12 since your moving more air. At 15 watts into a 4x12 It won't be as loud as a 100 watt but it can get plenty loud enough on a 4x12 making it great for fly dates and small club gigs.

What about clean headroom? Headroom for those who don't know is how long the amp stays clean before it breaks up. I don't think you buy this amp for clean sounds, that being said if you want to play clean at low volumes this amp has a nice clean sound to use with pedals. But WHEN it breaks up is very dependent on the pickups. My Duncan APS2's break up before my EMG-SA's and a JB is obviously going to breakup before a vintage sounding PAF. If you need a dedicated clean tone check out the new LBXII which has a separate clean and dirty channels.

How well does it clean up with the guitar's volume knob? Well enough, again it depends on the pickup but at 12 o'clock on the blue channel (which in this amp is still a lot of gain) it cleans up just fine when you roll down the volume 

How does it sound at bedroom levels? Perfect, my place is not huge and is close to my neighbors. My wife can take a nap while I'm playing through a 2x12. It does sound better when turned up but you can practice quietly.

A post shared by @adhd_guitarist on

How close does this get to the "brown sound"? A lot of Eddie's sound is in his hands, his pick attack and swing in his note placement. If you've got the chops you can use a lot of different equipment. Some people think of the "brown sound" as the first Van Halen album while others point to 1984. But to answer that question look at Pete Thorn's Eruption series on youtube. Damn that's close. Also if you throw in some delay and chorus in the loop it can easily cop the the tone from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

Does it Djent? Seriously? Are you asking me that? haha Well Misha Mansoor seems to think so. I do have one 6 string strung down to low B and the Red channel on the  LBX handles modern down tuned riffage with ease.

If you need a clean pedal platform to gig with this really isn't your amp. If your main sound is 80's or beyond high gain and you'd like something for lower volume and the occasional pick up jam you can't go wrong with the EVH LBX. And for the price of these a lot of people will pick one up just to have laying around. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

ADHD ideas for a Minipedal Pedalboard.

So I'm totally stealing this from Effects Bay but I thought it was an interesting idea. I'm not a huge fan of the mini pedal craze because I have big feet and don't want my pedals packed together. Actually, as much as I love pedals, I'm kind of a minimalist. I prefer to get most of my tones from my guitar volume knob and the amp as much as I can. But pedals can certainly add color and so I thought about it. Assuming I was using a clean pedal platform, how would I set up a mini pedalboard?

TC Electronic Polytune Mini Tuner- I own the original. Tuners are kind of boring but being out of tune is amateur hour. Put a tuner on your board.

Xotic SP Compressor- This is one of the best compressors I've ever played through. Make your cleans fatter and give your drive more sustain.

MXR Phase 95. As a lover of all things Phaser and Vibe related this thing is fantastic. I like putting he phase in front of drive pedals to get a bit more of a vibe type sound out of them.

Mooer Green Mile- It's a TS9 but with true bypass and the right chip. Great for stacking with the SL Drive or doing the SRV thing with a clean amp.

EWS Little Fuzzy Drive. This thing is a bit fuzzy and a bit of a distortion. Very versatile, very tiny.

Xotic SL Drive- Great overdrive sounds, great Marshall-y tones. The SL Drive in Superbass mode is something people don't use enough. It sounds freaking amazing, stack it with the Green Mile or the Little Fuzzy Drive.

Mooer Trelicopter- I've recently started playing around with Tremolo again after years of ignoring it., and this thing has great reviews. The other option might be a chorus pedal. I like these after the drive pedals for more subtle effects.

TC Electronic Flashback Mini- Having a programmable delay pedal in such a small pedal format is cool. Just store your settings in your phone and "beam" them between songs.

I'd probably put it all on a PedalTrain Nano+ which should be just about right for a Mini pedal board.

Then I'd power it with a 1Spot which comes in the familiar daisy chain or their new isolated power brick.

So that's about it. Why not a mini wah? I don't know, I'm not sold on the mini wah yet. I like the full size pedal for that.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Puerto Rican Cuatro an ADHD Find

Yesterday I found a new instrument I didn't even know existed and it's perfect for guitar players who are looking for a unique yet familiar sound to add to their music. The Puerto Rican Cuatro is a 10 stringed tenor instrument that falls somewhere between a 12 string and a mandolin.

With a little bit of googling I found there are quite a few variations on this theme including shapes and other countries being quite different but I'm going to focus on this one.

The Puerto Rican Cuatro Technically falls into the lute family. It is small bodied like a parlor guitar and thin so very easy and comfortable to hold. The violin shaped body is immediately familiar and while typically played with a pick I also used finger picking. There are electric versions but most of them are acoustic or electric/acoustic.

What makes it incredibly cool for guitar players is that the chords and scales you use are easily transferred over because the tuning is very similar. The strings are tuned like a 5 string bass so BEADG with the bottom B and E having an octave string and the A,D and G string being doubled. The B starts at the same B as your 2nd fret of your A string on the guitar. And the scale is about 20".

Immediately ideas are popping out of my head for uses. 1) Doubling an acoustic for 12 string type sounds. Strumming cords will sound perfect but also picking notes out sounds amazing.

2) Mandolin type sounds, if you need to play Maggie May, or Losing my Religion in a set this thing could easily fill in. It doesn't sound quite as twangy like a mandolin but it gives you the double string sound and it is not as full bodied as a 12 string.

3) If you enjoy running around in phrygian on a nylon string the cuatro immediately sounds familiar and yet different. This is the first thing I did and while you have to think about the difference a little it's not so far removed from the regular scale patterns.

4) If your a roots player or bluegrass player running scales in mixolydian will also feel immediately comfortable. It really is that easy.

The Cuatro is the national instrument of Puerto Rico. I found this youtube video that you can really hear the sound of the Cuatro on it.

There are quite a few cheap Chinese built versions on the market. Be ready to take these to a seasoned luthier for a good setup. This is what I played yesterday and it was very well built. I also found a few artisan built Cuatros that were in the thousand dollar range. Not bad considering artisan built guitars can easily be over five grand. If your looking for something that sounds unique but familiar check out the Puerto Rican Cuatro.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Top Pedal Releases of 2016

2016 has been a rough year for a lot of people but there have been some amazing pedals released. While it isn't quite over most new gear releases will hold off until the 2017 winter NAMM show. So I thought I'd run down my favorite pedals released this year.

Digitech Whammy Ricochet- Whammy's are just fun, I had one for a bit but it never found a permanant place on my board. That said the Ricochet is perfect if you don't need the real time control of a rocker pedal. It can bounce your sound up and down for you via preselected settings.

DOD Carcosa Fuzz- A versatile fuzz that isn't a fuzz face or muff clone the Carcosa fuzz carves out a unique niche but also covers a lot of territory. It's also reasonably priced at $99 and only from PGS.

Keeley Bubbletron- Robert Keeley and crew have been knocking it out of the park lately. The Bubbletron incorporates a load of features including a flanger, phaser, and step filter that can be controlled with an envelope filter to respond to your pick attack. You can choose your sensitivity to the pick attack and roll it off for more traditional sounds. A must have for tone explorers or for people who like a lot of options but don't have extra space on their pedalboards.

Keeley Monterey Fuzz Vibe- This is my pedal of the year. I did a review HERE and can't get over how fantastic this pedal is.  While it may be Mr Keeley's Hendrix in a box it's certainly not limited to it. It's so easy to dial in other sounds as show in THIS post and so incredibly versatile. Don't let the $300 price tag scare you. You could buy 9 pedals and not have this range of sounds.

MXR Echoplex Delay- Man this sounds nice. Combining the Echoplex preamp with a Carbon Copy delay and voicing the repeats a bit darker makes for an incredible sounding easy to use delay pedal. It might be a one trick pony but it does that trick amazingly well.

MXR Phase 95 mini- If you love phasers or mini pedals then this pedal is for you! The Phase 95 has built in sounds from the Phase 90 and 45 as well as a Script and Modern switch. Still it's super easy to use with one knob. The 45 is a much more subtle sound so if you ever tried a Phase 90 and found it to be to much this might do the trick.

TC Electronic Corona SCF- This limited eddition pedal marks the end of the more expensive SCF pedal made famous by players like Eric Johnson and Paul Gilbert and is revered in studios around the world. But due to sourcing problems the SCF will soon be discontinued. Not to fear the Tone wizards at TC have made those sounds availble via toneprint and loaded them all on this pedal. It sounds heavenly.

I'm also looking forward to TC Electronics new bargain line. 13 pedals priced at $50 available at Guitar Center here in the states. Several of these sound really promising and while the cork sniffers won't like them I imagine I'll be adding these to my budget recommendations rather quickly.

What else did I miss? Let me know

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mojo Hand Fx Iron Bell Review

David Gilmour has become a name synonymous  with both Tone and Phrasing. But his tone has evolved over the years the tone on Wish you Were Here vs the tone from On An Island is quite different even if the playing is similar. There is nothing wrong with playing fast, it's fun and entertaining and can be somewhat impressive. But as I've matured as a player I find myself being drawn to people who slow down and make every note count. David is one of those players who always caters to the song, and he knows how to make a single note sound more impressive than a hundred.

Iron Bell in Rusty finish
If your looking for a dead on Muff clone to stack with compressors and overdrives the Iron Bell isn't what your looking for. Big Muffs, like many other fuzz pedals, can be tricky. Played into the wrong set up they can sound awful. Loads of bottom end, rough distortion and no definition are not the terms you think of when you think of David Gilmour. And while the Iron Bell is a muff based pedal it's smoother, articulate, and more responsive than most Muff based pedals that I have played as if there is already a compressor before the Muff and an Overdrive after it.

This is a pretty easy pedal to get a great sound out of no matter what your setup. Start with all the knobs at noon and start tweaking. Add a delay pedal and your favorite Gilmour licks and you'll find your way very quickly. 

The thing that makes this pedal so versatile is the contour knob which can give you a more pronounced mids like the Civil War Muff or scoop them out like an old Rams Head Muff. This has since become a very popular mod with a lot of muff builders, some adding a mids knob others adding 3 way switches. This combined with the smoothness and overall character of the tone make this an easy go to pedal for Gilmour tones.  

David also uses overdrives like the BK Butler Tube Driver and early on the Colorsound Powerboost. It's not really bright enough for the Powerboost but the Iron Bell can do a decent Tube Driver, even though I tend to use an OCD clone for these sounds. The APS2's in my Strat can get a bit lose on the bottom end and the Iron Bell is just tight enough to tame any kind of fartiness. It won't go from scream to clean when you turn down your volume but it does clean up quite a bit and the top end tends to open up when you do this.

Using EMG's with the Iron Bell and combined with my old Visual Sound H2O can nail most of the sounds from the 80's and 90's. Throw in a phaser for Wish You Were Here, a flanger for Animals or The Wall and a UniVibe for Dark Side of the Moon or Live at Gdansk and you can get 95% of the way there for just about anything.

While not my first thought I was surprised when I played Steve Vai's For the Love of God and Blue Powder with this pedal. Normally I'd grab a Suhr Riot or the Wampler Pinnacle for this but the massive smooth articulate sound of the Iron Bell works surprisingly well for shredding. 

I've been a fan of Mojo Hand Fx for years, their Zephyr is one of my favorite fuzz pedals ever and their Rook pedal is a favorite on pedalboards everywhere. One of the most impressive things about Mojo Hand as a company is their commitment to quality. I bought this pedal second hand and after I posted posted a picture on Instagram. They reached out to me because they noticed one of the letters had rubbed off and they asked me if I wanted to them to replace it. I declined because I really don't care about such things. The pedal works great. But they did tell me during the exchange that if I ever had any problems or questions to reach out to them and they would  help. Fantastic customer service for sure.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

RIP Leonard Cohen

I haven't been posting much because I've been busy with life stuff. Last night I heard that one of the great songwriters of our time had passed away. He was someone who gave hope to those who listened to him. A voice to those who felt they had none. He was a hero to one of my mentors, and to one of my closest friends. Hallelujah is such a great song, it sounds beautiful but it's really a song about pain and the love of music, at least that's how it always hit me. I think I heard the Buckley version first. There are a lot of people in this world that are scared, lonely, and hurting. And so more and more I find I want to add something beautiful to the world. Rest In Peace Leonard Cohen and thank you.

For those of you who are gear nerds I always post pics of the pedals and settings on instagram so follow me there. In this one I used my trusty Starr Guitar, the Mojo Hand Zephyr, an OCD clone, the Keeley Monterey for a touch of vibe, and my Visual Sound H2O for delay.