I've been pondering a thought since the first of the year. Opened up the guitar forum that I follow, and another member had posted what amounts to the same thought I've had. Without directly quoting him, he said that he had LOTS of pedals and several multi-effects and the thing he has learned with all of them is that you have to spend time with each one to learn what it can and can't do and to find the sounds that you want from them.
That's something I've been thinking about the last few months, and it's something that I've been trying to do. At the moment, I'm a bedroom player. Although I have in the past, I'm not playing out anywhere or even with anyone else on a regular basis. Yet I have nearly 100 pedals in between the floor and the closet. And that doesn't count the nearly 20 pedals that I traded at the local GC a few months ago. I traded those on a multi-effect. That means I have probably half a dozen of those. And I'm not counting double pedals in that count. Those are just the ones that I have that have several effects included along with maybe some amp sims. In addition to the pedals and multi-effects, I've got a wall full of amps.
And the thought has been going through my head, why do I have so many? Seriously, for a non-pro player, isn't 100 pedals a bit excessive? I won't lie and say it's not. I've got at least 3 reasons for having them.
First, it's just fun. Buying and trying something I haven't played with before. You can get into pedals fairly cheaply, especially if you go to Amazon and buy a handful of the cheapest pedals they sell just to see if they're any good. I built an afford-a-board that way. When I was playing around with it and constantly swapping pedals out on it, the ones that I was getting were $50-ish or less. Most of them were pedals that I'd search on Amazon and get the cheapest couple that came up. So a lot of them were more like $20 or $25.
A couple of those "affordable" pedals I still have. Most are gone. To me, it's just a good time to get in a new pedal, try it out, and either stick it on the shelf to possibly use later or throw it in the trade/sell box.
Second is the collector in me. I like Tube Screamers. I have real Ibanez Tube Screamers. Lots of companies make their version of a Tube Screamer. Some of them are just straight clones. Some of them add something to them. I'm curious what their versions sound like. I've got 2 actual TS pedals and maybe 5 or 6 clones back there, and I've bought and sold or traded away another 10 or 12. Out of all those, I've got my 2 or 3 favorites, and they're the ones I always grab when I need that sound.
Third is where I've been thinking lately and what the forum member also mentioned. I don't spend enough time with most of the pedals to really know what they can or can't do or what sounds I can get out of them. Those 2 or 3 TS-type pedals I mentioned are the ones I always go to because I've used them long enough that I know what they can do. I know the sounds I like from them. And I can quickly find those sounds when I need to.
Sort of related tangent: I had a Bad Monkey for a couple of years, and I traded it away with the pedals I was getting rid of the end of last year. When I got it in, I played with it and managed to get it to do the TS thing. That was what I expected from it, and that's what I got it sounding like. It wasn't my favorite TS-type, so it got tossed in the box. I didn't play with it long enough to see what other sounds it might have in it. I think that's the point that Mr JHS should (and may be) making. Not that you can get a $50 pedal and make it sound like a super expensive pedal. What he needs to do an episode on is why you need to take a pedal and spend some time with it. Actually give it a chance and see what it can do. Don't immediately relegate it to the also-ran pile. Keep it on your board for long enough that you actually use it and know it's capabilities. Now back to the original blog post.
So I have 2 pedal boards on the floor. One runs to my practice amp (a Spark 40), and the other runs to my "real" amps (my Blackhearts). I, also, picked up a Line 6 PodGo the end of last year. I decided about the first of the year to figure them out.
For the pedal boards, rather than constantly changing out pedals, I was going to start with what was there in January, and use what's on the board long enough to actually learn those pedals. If I didn't like a drive, rather than just swapping out the pedal, let me start tweaking the one that's on there. Maybe I like it after all if I play with it a little more and give it more than the cursory 2-minute try out.
Since the first of the year, no matter what amp I was using, I have been using the "practice" board. It's to the point that it's almost turned into my main board. In that time, I have swapped out a couple of pedals, but only because I couldn't figure out (after giving them a legitimate chance) how to make them sound like I wanted. For instance, I swapped the vibe pedal that has been on it this whole time because it brings a dark quality to the tone that I can't get it to not introduce. After 3 months of using it, I decided that, since it was one of those super cheap vibe pedals on Amazon, it's just a dark sounding pedal. So, not a week ago, that one went away and another vibe pedal took its place. It'll stay there until I'm convinced that it's not going to work.
As for the PodGo, I've been leaving it sitting next to the pedal board I've been using. In the past, I use my multi-effects so sporadically that I never really learn to use them. I get a few basics down, and then never go any further. With this one, I'm trying to make it a point to use at least a couple of times a week. not just finding a sound and never altering it, but actually exploring how to create presets, how to change things in those presets on the fly, and how to actually make it a beneficial tool in my arsenal. Both with and without pedals in conjunction with it.
So take a look at your gear. That stuff that you never use, pull it out and give it a shot. That stuff that you think you know how to use, take another look at it. You might be surprised at what sounds are in it if you take another look at it.
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.