Thursday, April 5, 2018

Earthquaker Devices Westwood Review

The Earthquaker Devices Westwood is an interesting overdrive pedal. Earthqaker Devices calls it a Translucent Drive Manipulator and it's not exactly like anything else I've played. The gain structure is similar to a TS pedal but it doesn't sound like one. That's because from the get go it has a flat EQ. So what do I mean by gain structure? If your playing a crunchy amp and add a TS pedal your going to add a layer of even order harmonics and get a more liquidy feel in your sound. While the Westwood is a low gain pedal as are most TS pedals, it sounds pretty fluid across the range.

As I stated above the Westwood has a flat EQ so no low end roll off and no mid hump. Then they add an Active EQ with a Treble and Bass knobs. There is a noticeable notch at 12 o'clock in these knobs and at that position gives you a flat EQ response from the pedal. You can add a bit of air by moving the treble knob up or roll back to round off the high end of your signal. On the Bass side you can add some low end resonance or thin it out some if the mix is starting to sound to muddy. This is also great if your using a small combo and need to tweak your strat a bit. 

The Level knob has ample amounts of boost if you'd like this to double as a clean boost it will do just that. If you have a cranked fenderish amp and run a TS pedal into this with with the Level kicked up just a tad you can be in SRV territory in no time at all.

Let's talk about build quality. As expected the Westwood is built like a tank. I love the top jacks and silent relay switch, I wish this was standard on all pedals. The light is a super bright white that could double as a flashlight on a dark stage. It's a bit much for me but it doesn't stop me from using it. Earthquaker recommends using an isolated power supply but currently I'm using a OneSpot daisy chain and it's quieter than my other OD pedals. It adds a bit of hum but if I'm jamming it's not noticeable.  


So who is this pedal for? 1) The guitarist who hates how a TS sounds because of the mid range bump or low end cut off but still wants to add a layer of gain to his amp. 2) The guitarist who wants to pair his TS pedal with a strong boost or sometimes need a clean boost. 3) Overdrive whores like myself who love different flavors of OD. 4) Anyone playing with a small tube combo at home. For my taste I think this pedal works best with more open pickups or stacked with other drives.

I'd like to add that I won this pedal from Distortion Ltd but was in no way paid for this review


Monday, January 29, 2018

NAMM 2018 most promising offerings

NAMM 2018! I dig this time of year. Despite the fact I haven't been to NAMM in several years I always look forward to see what's new. This year has been particularly exciting and I thought I'd go over a few things that have caught my eye.

AMPS

The Marshall Origin 50- Take Marshalls well thought out but expensive hand wired amp and build it with PCBs overseas and you get a killer looking, plexi based pedal platform with a few modern options. At this price point these should sell amazingly well.

Synergy Amps- Bruce Egnater has taken his modular preamp design and worked with the gurus behind Freidman, Fryette, Morgan and others to make an amazing tool for both the studio and the stage. Word is even Bogner is getting involved.

PRS Mark Tremonti Amp- Mark has been working on this for a couple of years. A 15 watt Archon lunch box head! With 2 6l6s it has better cleans than most lunch box heads and a massive high gain sound.

EVH 5150 III 50w- While not exactly a new amp they have added dual concentric knobs for channels 1 & 2. This was a deal breaker for some people and a welcome addition to the line.

GUITARS 

Ibanez AZ Prestige and Premium- Ibanez has spent the last few years searching out the opinions of up and coming shredders like Martin Miller and Tom Quayle. The outcome is a new guitar that is being compared to brands like Suhr and Tom Anderson. I really want to try out one of these.

Ibanez Nita Strauss signature guitar - Long time Ibanez endorser and current Alice Cooper hired gun Nita Strauss has become the first female to have a Ibanez signature guitar. Based on her custom shop S series model it has an EKG fretboard inlay and a gorgeous blond burst finish that looks sick!

EVH Wolfgang Standard- Not a new guitar but I love the new Blue Frost color I've never wanted a $500 Chinese made guitar so badly.

PRS S2 Studio- Adding to the S2 range PRS now have a HSS model that sounds stunningly beautiful. Still made in the USA but cheaper than their core models the S2's have been a big hit for them.

PEDALS

Andy Timmons pedals- Andy Timmons is such a great player and has amazing tone in his fingers. So it comes as no surprise that pedals with his name on them tend to sell. Xotic has re-released the BB preamp Andy Timmons edition and JHS has added another gain switch to the AT Drive. I'd love to see another JHS/Keeley combo with Andy's AT Drive and Keeley modded Blues Driver (SPM) in one box.

The Friedman Wah pedal- With LEDs, a three voicing switch for classic, modern and extended range and a high quality designed buffer (with option to turn it off) this might be the wah I've been dreaming of.

Keeley Pedals- Robert Keeley and his team are blowing it out of the water again. The new Aria is a dual pedal with his famous Keeley compressor and tweaked TS pedal, the Duet has his version of the Boss Blues Driver with a delay/reverb and the long awaited ECCO delay pedal which should be available later this year. My wallet can't handle following Mr. Keeley on social media.

MULTI-EFFECTS 

Line 6 HX- Line 6 took the Amp modeling out of the Helix and left you with a world class effects processor that you can four cable with your amp for live gigs. This is a better version of the M9 that ended up on so many pro boards.

Fractal Audio AxeFX III- The bar has been raised on what many people consider to be the gold standard of Amp modeling the last few years. The AxeFX III has FOUR processors among other improvements.

PICKUPS

Fishman's Fluence pickups keep picking up endorsers left and right as people try them. I'm not sure if they are for me but I'm fascinated with the tech behind them.

One thing I'm starting to notice is that big brands like Ibanez, Marshall, and Boss are waking up to what the boutique builders have been doing for a few years. They aren't copying them but actually seem to be talking to their end user and asking what they want in a product. Let's hope this trend continues.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

An ADHD Find: The Charvel Pro Mod Guitars

We are living in an incredible age. Great guitars can be found at most price levels. And I'm always on the lookout for a good gear deal. I was surprised when a friend of mine called me (not text or email) freaking out over these guitars.

Here is the back story. He and I are both big Van Halen fans, he bought the black and white striped EVH guitar almost as soon as they were released. After we ran a setup on the EVH Striped Guitar we were both impressed with the fit and finish and play-ability of the guitar. It's a very comfortable guitar to play. I remember saying to him if Eddie wants to expand this line he should put out this same guitar with solid colors and dual humbuckers. I'm not sure who at Fender corp was listening in on our conversation but Charvel has done just that with the Pro Mod series. I had no idea how close these guitars were but a friend of his brought over his new Charvel Pro Mod Guitar and they both couldn't believe it. Everything is identical! The neck carve, the fretboard, of course the standard body shape ect. The only real difference are the dual humbuckers which are a Seymour Duncan JB/59 set and a tone knob that disconnects if you roll it all the way up. And of course the finish options. There are solid colors, see through quilt tops, and metallic flake, with and without a pickguard. There is even a hardtail version. Apparently these are made in the same factory in Mexico along side the EVH guitars.

These aren't for everyone but this is a killer guitar for the $500-1000 price range. Check the Charvel Pro Mod Guitar

Saturday, November 18, 2017

RIP Malcolm Young: ADHD Tribute and Thoughts

Malcolm Young of AC/DC has passed. I was never a huge fan of the band but I can't deny their legacy in the hard rock arena. And while a lot of people think of Angus first Malcolm was really the sound of the band. Years ago I met Paul Gilbert at an in store clinic. Someone asked him about getting a great rock sound. He said "Start with AC/DC that Malcolm Young sound, then push it a little more for solos. That's how you get a great rock tone."

My main rock sound is pretty much that. I start with a sound that is more overdriven and then roll off my volume. If it sounds like AC/DC then I know that I'm pretty close to what I want. Then I might push that with a TS pedal or add in wah or delay or something else but that's the best sound out there. 

My two favorite AC/DC songs are Thunderstruck and If You Want Blood. I felt like If You Want Blood was more Malcolm and Thunderstruck is more Angus. So that is my tribute to Malcolm. My old Gibson Sonex plugged into my EVH5150LBX with the gain turned almost all the way down. 


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday Morning Noodling

So I was noodling this morning and it sounded really good so I videoed a few minutes and this came out. This is my JD Strat with Seymour Duncan APS2's into the amazing Mojo Hand FX Zephyr, into my EVH LBX with the Visual Sound H2O in the loop for Delay. Hope you enjoy.


Friday, August 18, 2017

ADHDguitarist plays: Dancing in the Dark

I've been thinking a lot about what I want to do next musically. I've talked about before that I listen to a pretty wide range of guitar driven rock stuff as well as some electronic music and other things. One day I stumbled upon a lesson from Mike Hermans on youtube on his take of Bruce Springsteen's Dancing in the Dark. I really enjoyed it and set out to learn it. After a while I found myself changing certain things about it and slowing it down a bit. Then I decided to record it. I found a drum beat to fit what I was doing and came up with this. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cool Gear Alert: Mission 529 Power Converter

Mission Engineering has been putting out some cool gear the last few years tailored to a lot of the latest technology in the business. They are known for making specialized expression pedals as well as several other cool products. Recently they put up a teaser and long form explanation video for their upcoming 529 Power Converter that uses USB 5v plugs and converts it to 9v for use with pedals. Take a look here.

While this will have certain limitations for odd power pedals it should work great for most pedalboards out there. In my mind, if a pedal doesn't play well with others or can't be run off of standard power it's not staying on my board. There are just to many options to deal with picky pedals.

All of the outputs on the 529 are isolated and the idea of running it off of a usb battery is awesome. A standard backup battery should easily be able to work for about 4-6 hours depending on pedal draw. This will eliminate any ground issues coming from the board. Plus I'm not searching for multiple outlets at a gig or jamming at a friends house.

The 529 Power Converter should be out later this year. Check out Mission Engineering's website for more info.