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.
So I've got my ES-335, my Sheraton, and my ES-339.
My Gibson ES-335 is a 2016 Studio version. As I recall, it has a few differences from the regular ES-335 model, but, overall, it's still the same guitar. It has the 4-knob arrangement (unlike the Studio version from a couple of years earlier), and it has 57 Classic pups in it. I think the bridge used was a different bridge from the regular version. I also think that the neck is a torrefied neck. I think there were a couple of other minor differences, but those two are the most significant changes in the Studio and regular versions.
The Sheraton is a 1962 50th Anniversary model. It's biggest differences between it and an actual 335 are that it uses Gibson mini-buckers instead of full size ones and it has a Frequensator tailpiece (closer to a trapeze) instead of using a stop piece tailpiece. It has CTS pots and switches, and it has GIbson cloth wiring inside. Those are also differences between it and the regular Sheratons of the time that it was built. For the purpose of comparison, when I bought the Sheraton nearly 10 years ago, it cost approximately 50% more than a regular line Sheraton and half the price of an ES-335 (which is the model I would've gotten).
My Epiphone ES-339 is from the second run that they produced. The first run was during the summer or fall of 2011. I had been looking at and toying with the idea of buying a Gibson ES-339 for a while when they announced that Epi would be producing that model as well. I got my order in late enough that I missed that first run and had to wait on the second. The only difference in the two that I recall is that the first run had Epi's ProBucker pups in it (their equivalent to Gibby's BusrtBuckers) and the second run had the Alnico Pro pups in it (their equivalent to the 57 Classics).
Although, mine have some pretty significant differences in them, the 335 and Sheraton are very similar guitars in theory. However, I believe that the Sheraton was an Epiphone creation and not a Gibson copy originally, but it's a little more ornate than the basic 335; it's closer to an ES-355. I actually like my Sheraton better than my ES-335, and, moving forward, I'm going to talk about them as if they were the same unless specified otherwise. Also, I'm not covering the differences in Gibson vs Epiphone. This is 335 vs 339.
The 335 guitars are bigger bodied. I'm too lazy to look up the actual dimensions, but they're huge guitars. They're big enough that I know at least a couple of folks that won't play them because they're "just too big." They're also pretty heavy. I attribute the weight to the fact that they're so big. Although I've always said that the 339 is the same size as a Les Paul, I've read (and seen when they're side by side) that they're not quite the same size. But they're close. See the pics at the bottom for a comparison. It's not a huge difference, but that little bit makes a pretty big difference in weight and comfort when playing.
If it makes a difference to anyone, the 335 has the jack on the face of the guitar where the 339 has it on the hip like a Les Paul. I don't usually think about where the jack is, but every time I pull out the 335 and plug it in, I'm afraid I'm going to hit the plug and crack the face of the guitar or break the jack. I've never done that and probably never will, but it's always in the back of my mind.
From a parts standpoint, they're not really that different of guitars (and I'm not talking about the the Gibson vs Epi difference, this is the 335 vs 339 difference). They both have the same control setup. Both have 2 vol/2 tone setups with the pup selector down by the knobs. They both have a stop tail bridge. They both have humbuckers for pups. There's the jack location, but, other than that, they're similar.
Tones from both are very nice. They both have that nice semi-hollow sound. The longer I play, the more I really like that airy sound that you get from a semi-hollow like a 335 or 339. The difference is that the 339 can get into those Les Paul-ish kind of darker sounds that a 335 can't do. I imagine that's because the wings of the 339 are smaller so it's as close to a solid body as it is to a semi-hollow. The 335 is the standard for a semi-hollow, in my opinion, the semi by which all others are measured. The 339 does an adequate job in that semi-hollow arena, but it also can get into the LP territory. The 339 is a good balance between the two.
Once I understood that what I was hearing was a semi-hollow sound, I've liked the 335 and played one at least as often as I played my Strats. I've always wanted to like a good Les Paul, but have just never bonded with one. Since I started to migrate from primarily playing an acoustic to playing an electric, I have always been drawn to my Strats. However, about a year ago, I pulled my 339 out of the closet, set it up really well, and have been playing it almost exclusively since then. It's just a great guitar that covers a lot of area.
The 335 vs the 339. Both are great guitars that are very similar. If you like the humbucker sound, give them a shot.
And, yes, I've ripped those from the interwebs at some point. Don't remember where so I can't give credit like I should.
I started playing when I turned 16. Since I was brought up in a pretty conservative home, that meant that I started off playing (or trying to play) hymns and Scripture songs from church and maybe the occasional Michael Card song. Now that's not bad, but that just meant that I played very little beyond big, open, cowboy chords. After a couple of years, I fell in with some friends from work that introduced me to bluegrass and country gospel. So I started playing that. Actually learned a few major scales on the neck, but still never played much beyond cowboy chords.
In one of the little bands I played in, another guitar player and I would swap off between playing some melody lines and chords. In retrospect, I can only imagine how bad we sounded, because, other than the occasional "leads" we were both playing big, open, ringing, cowboy chords. Maybe it wasn't as bad I I think it may've been. Back then though, we were having a ball.
I played in another little duo (me and a harmonica player) that played about twice a month at a weekly fellowship group. He and I also played once a month at a church that liked what we were playing. About that time, I managed to get in with a group of "real" players. And, by "real" I mean that I considered them actual musicians. They played out most every weekend somewhere, and they let me sit in with them every couple of months. Because of them, I was also introduced to a flute player who formed a trio out of herself, a violin player, and me. We put together some hymn arrangements and played at a couple of churches in our area three or four times. I was slowly learning to get away from cowboy chords, but it was a very slow process.
Then I moved. I became the worship-leaderish-person-by-default for my singles group at church because I played the guitar. So I was playing once a week at a minimum for that. Then I got a job that, for all intents and purposes, kept me from playing for probably 5 or 6 years.
Moved again, and started going to a local BBQ restaurant. it was at this restaurant that I first heard some music that just reached out and grabbed me. The buddies that I used to go with would sometimes laugh at me because I didn't really care about the BBQ (it was good - don't get me wrong), the whole time we were there I was keyed in on the music being played coming out the speakers above our heads. And then, when we left, we would head to the Borders not too far up the street, and I would search the cd section trying to find what I could remember hearing while we ate.
The blues had reached down and grabbed me. BB King, Stevie Ray, Robert Cray, Albert Collins, Howlin' Wolf... What was this music and why had I never heard it before?? So I decided I needed to learn this music.
Over the next few years, I half-heartedly tried to learn on my own. This wasn't pre-internet days, but it was back when video was just beginning to get a useful foothold and social media was limited to your personal blog and maybe a forum or two. No one had heard of Tom from MySpace yet, and Facebook was still several years away. You could order stuff online, but it was still a hardcopy that was sent to you in the mail...digital content wasn't nearly what it is today.
So I picked up the occasional lesson book from the local Guitar Center or Amazon and tried to learn from them. For the most part, unsuccessfully. I managed to learn the pentatonic scales, but couldn't figure out what to do with them. Sometimes I can take a concept and run with it. For some reason, this time, I'd be given the concept, but then couldn't translate it into something useful.
Fast forward a few years, and let youtube gain its foothold into all things instructional, and at the very end of 2009 while I was between having been laid off and the start date at my new job, I discovered Griff Hamlin and his 4 note solo video. It looked like a simple way to take some of what I had managed to teach myself and turn it from something scale-y into something musical. So I signed up for his emails. After receiving a few of them and actually being able to put what he was talking about into practice, I ordered his course, Blues Guitar Unleashed.
Back then, he only had 2 courses. A beginner course, and BGU. Since I had already been playing for a long time, I started with BGU, and it has set me on the blues path I've been traveling for several years now. At this point, I consider Griff to be my teacher even though he and I have only ever actually spoken on a couple of occasions. He now has a LOT more than just the 2 courses, and each one that I have picked up, I have learned a ton from. His teaching style is simple and understandable. If you purchase his courses, he invites you to join a forum that he works hard to be sure is a welcoming place full of friendly guys and gals where you can get answers to your questions (not like a LOT of internet guitar forums where, if you ask a question, everyone that knows the answer makes you feel stupid for asking since everyone else already knows the answer). He is also active on his forum and interacts with a lot of the discussions that are there.
Because of Griff and his courses, I have progressed beyond cowboy chords and being a pretty one-trick-pony-player to being a confident guitar player that knows I have a whole heck of a lot to learn but knows enough to have a good time in almost any situation. I'm now like a two-trick-pony-player. :-)
Griff has since updated his 4 Note Solo and his flagship Blues Guitar Unleashed course, and, like I said, he's gone from just 2 courses to having an entire catalog. But if you're looking for a good, solid course of instruction, I can't recommend him any more highly. If you're that struggling player that needs a shot in the arm to get your playing jump started, take a look at his material. He's probably got something you'd find useful.
I may do a more in-depth review of his BGU V2 course later on.
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 5 years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.