Our personal musical journeys are always filled with twists and turns. So often we start down one road and end up going in a completely different direction. I was talking to Mrs Snarf the other day about that very thing.
I played for years and only played acoustics. Then I bought my first electric. It was a low end, import Parker. I don't remember the model number. I only remember a few things about it. I never really bonded with it. It was a weird Parker because it was an SSH. And I traded it at a guitar shop in a little town several hours away to a shop keeper that just saw Parker and gave me waaaaay to much for it because he thought he had something special (he didn't). I traded it straight up on my first Strat.
Honestly, I got that Strat to impress Mrs Snarf. We weren't even dating at the time, but I thought she needed to see me with a guitar for some reason. I immediately named it after her. It also made it into our engagement pictures. Kind of cheesy if you ask me. But sometimes life is ooey and gooey like that.
Neeways, I started playing that guitar, and I really liked it. It was, in my opinion, a much better guitar than the Parker. Honestly, though, it was probably more that I just didn't know what I was doing when I bought the Parker. But the Strat left an impression on me. When it came time to buy another electric, I bought a second Strat. Heck! At one point, I had 5 Strats. Currently, I only have 4. And, for the time being, that's probably where the count will stay.
Between that first and second Strat, I actually bought a really low end Les Paul. I don't really count it, because I never bonded with it. It was a low end instrument with a LOT of the problems that you would expect from something that was at that price point. The humbuckers in it were...I'll be nice and call them muddy. They didn't sound good. I ended up swapping them out for a pair of Burstbuckers, and it sounded a LOT better, but it still played terribly. So, by and large, it stayed in the closet.
About 10 years ago now, when Epiphone first started making the ES-339, I picked one of those up. I tried to get in on that first run of them, but didn't get one ordered in time. So I put my order in and waited like 6 months for the next shipment of them to come over. Got the guitar, and it almost never went in the case. I liked the way it sounded and the way it played. It made me think I might like humbuckers better than single coils. Then I got my 1962 50th Anniversary Sheraton. Loved the sound of that one! Initially I thought it was the fact that it had humbuckers too (even though it's mini-hums in it). Then, because I have always like the aesthetic of an ES-335, I got one of those. Oddly enough, I LOVED the sound of that one, but I never bonded with it. There was something just not right about it. But I got to wondering, at that point, my 3 favorite guitars were all semi-hollows, so was it the humbuckers or the semi-hollow that I liked.
Fast forward another couple years, and I was trading the 335 off. I picked up that Epiphone Les Paul when I did, and really liked the sound of it. I figured I was just turning into an humbucker kind of guy. But I realized that I still liked the sound of the 339 better than the LP. Then a year later, I picked up the Epi 335. I totally dug the sound of it. So I started doing the A/B thing with some of my guitars, and I realized that I think I have a thing for semi-hollows with humbuckers. That sound just really does it for me.
A few months after that, I had always told myself I wanted a real live Gibson ES-339, preferably made in the area of 2010 when the Custom Shop was making all of them. I had been trolling for a particular color. Found what I thought was a screamin' deal on one on the other side of the Metroplex. So I got it. And it has been my main guitar since. When Mrs Snarf and I were having the conversation the other day, I had realized that the second guitar hanging on the wall since I got the 339 has been either the LP or the 335. And mostly been the 335.
I've kind of done a 180. I started the electric guitar journey with single coils in a solid body. For several years, I thought they were the only pickups that were any good. If you played anything with humbuckers, then you were just letting your tone suffer. Now I pull a Strat out on occasion, but I primarily grab a semi-hollow with humbuckers in it, and I sometimes think that single coils sound kind of anemic. Unless they're P-90s, but those are a whole other animal.
Funny how that happens sometimes.
Back in 2019 I became aware of the NuX brand of pedals. Maybe it was actually the end of 2018. It was whenever they announced that they were making a Klone. At that time, I was on a kick to try just about every pedal of that variety that I could find, especially the cheap ones. I already had several, and had my favorites (which are still my favorites today), but NuX announced their Horseman. It caught my interest because, knowing there were two types of Klons (the gold and silver), but not really knowing what the difference in them was, NuX was apparently making a klone that could be changed from one type to the other just by holding the switch down long.
So, shortly after it was announced, I placed my order for it. It was supposed to ship in like 2 months. After nearly 3, I got a notice that shipping had been delayed, but it was still coming. After waiting a total of about 4 months, I finally got it in hand. I excitedly pulled it out and put it in my chain to test out.
I was underwhelmed on all counts.
Granted, I'm not a huge Klon fan, I think in the right places, it is a standout pedal. Yes, I am one of those folks that Josh Scott hates because I like it at the front of all my drives on an amp that is just beginning to get some hair. Set the volume to push the amp and the drive at about 9 o'clock, and I think, on the right amp, that is one of those guitar tones that people chase. Sorry, not sorry, Mr JHS.
The NuX Horseman just didn't do much for me. It quickly got put in the closet and forgotten. A few months later, I pulled it out and tested it against some of the klones I had at the time. It didn't do very well. In fact, it went back in the closet, and was one of the first pedals I grabbed in the great gear purge of 2020.
On a sort of related note, in that same gear purge, I got rid of a Vertex Steel String Clean Drive. I had never really bonded with it, so it got sold. I'll come back to this in a sec.
So, earlier this year, I kept getting those targeted adds for the NuX Ace of Tone. I was completely unfamiliar with it. Turns out it is a double pedal with their Morning Star on one side and their Tubeman on the other. Two things caught my eye about it. First, it has a switch so that you can change the signal so it routes to the side that you want it to hit first. So it can go left to right or right to left. Second, the MS side is supposed to be their Blues Breaker circuit, and the TM side is a TS-type circuit. A good TS of some sort has been on my board since I first started buying pedals. The first OD pedal I bought was a TS-copy, but I didn't know it at the time.
Neeways, it was the BB side that I really wanted to try. I had heard a couple of guys talking about those along with the legendary King of Tone just before I started seeing the ads. I had never tried a BB-type that I knew of, and only knew that the KoT was talked about in the same hushed tones as the original Klons. Since, this had the circuit that I wanted to try as well as the circuit I always used and I could route it through either side first, I figured the worst that could happen would be for me to buy it, and then flip it because it sucked.
I had some Amazon gift credit, so I grabbed it there on the cheap. Got it the next day, plugged it in, and it has held a spot on my Affordaboard since. I prefer it routed right to left (BB -> TS). Honestly, I'm not super impressed with the TS side. It's just missing something that every other TS-type I've got (and kept) has. But I forgive that because the BB side sounds really good to me. It has a little thing on it called Shine-mode that pushes the treble, and, with that on, the pedal just sounds super good to me.
Then, back during the fall, I was talking to someone about trying to get that Robben Ford sound, and they told me that a lot of it was because he was using a Dumble amp. I don't ever see me getting a Dumble. Even if I am ever in a position to afford one, I don't think I could rationalize it. So I decided to try a D-type pedal. When I googled those, I saw the NuX Steel Singer. Since I had been liking the Ace of Tone so much, I decided to check them out. I found one on Reverb for $25 that looked in good shape, so I got it.
When it came in, I thought it looked an awful lot like that Vertex I had never liked. So, I immediately discounted it because I never really liked the Vertex. Although, in retrospect, I may not've given it a fair shake. I plugged the pedal in and started playing around with it. I immediately dug it! Kind of like this klones I have always had at the front of my ODs, I leave the gain really low and was using it to just push the amp. I like it better than any of my sub-$100 klones enough that it ended up taking that space on my Affordaboard.
Then, last week, I was thinking I wanted to try a cheap Marshall in a box. Saw one of the NuX Plexi Crunch pedals on Reverb for $20 and grabbed it. I don't have a Marshall to judge it against, but it sounds about like I expected it to sound. It'll probably get traded off at some point, but I'll hang on to it for a while.
Now they're advertising that Queen of Tone. It's a BB-circuit and their klone. Granted, I didn't like their stand-alone klone, I may give the dual pedal a shot. Just because. I haven't decided though. I got the Ace of Tone brand new for $110, but they're asking $200 for the Queen of Tone. I could get the two individual pedals for $120, so why would I want to spend an extra $80 just for them to be in the same box. If they drop the price to the price of the Ace of Tone, I may grab one.
That's been my NuX journey since I first heard about them. Some of their stuff has been extremely average, and some of their stuff I have really liked. You'll see the Steel Singer and Ace of Tone both on my Affordaboard below.
What budget-minded pedals have you tried that surprised you? Was it a good surprise or a bad one? Did any of them stay on your board? Let me know in the comments.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. He believes chocolate milk made from milk that is anything less than whole milk is basically water and deserves to be dumped down the sink so nobody has to suffer through it. He hates having to shop for clothes. But he has a thing for really cool bags, and, consequently, has more gig bags than guitars and a closet full of messenger bags and backpacks. He still misses his dog who was taken by cancer years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.