First thing today, I was going back looking for something I thought I had posted and was having trouble finding it. Mostly because of the titles I give these posts. In a past life, I had a blog where the titles were all just random and didn't really have to do with what I was talking about. That kind of carried over to this one. Starting with this post, the title will have something to do with what I'm writing. Now more to what I wanted to discuss today.
I've had a bit of a moral dilemma lately. I may've talked about this before, and really think that I probably did. But I couldn't find it easily when I looked a few minutes ago. That dilemma revolves around klones and clones and straight up copies.
In the past, I have obviously not had a problem buying klones and clones of different things. Specifically pedals. After all, I've talked about the how some of the various klones have compared to my Klon and how various clones have compared to my Tube Screamers. And, for ease of talking, for the rest of this here, I'm just calling them all clones.
Each of the clones that I've bought in the past, have skirted calling themselves that in some creative way, but they made no bones about what they were. Some of them might add something to the original and some were pretty much the same, but almost all of them would say "based on a mythical beast of a pedal" or "based on a screaming overdriven amp" or something like that. But their enclosures were always different. They might be primarily green if it was a TS-type, but they had different names, and, looking at it across the room, there was no question that it was not the original pedal upon which it was based.
Enter this company whose pedals I've bought a couple of times lately. The first pedal I bought the first of this year. I bought it specifically because I was perusing Amazon looking at pedals, and I saw what I thought was a pedal I had been trolling for an incredible price. Granted, for the price, I knew it was a copy because of the price, but that price. Then I realized that the name on it was different. Everything else about the pedal was the same as the original, including the font on the name. It was one of those instances where you could set it across the room next to the original, and you probably wouldn't be able to tell which was which.
In curiosity, I looked up the company's website, and it was even worse. I downloaded the instructions, and they were an exact copy of the original pedal's instructions. On the website itself, it even said that it was an exact copy of the pedal it was copying. For the price (about 20% what the original pedal was selling for), I bought one. I was really curious how they were getting away with such a blatant copy of the pedal. And I, honestly, expected for them to get shut down pretty quickly because it was so close.
I got the pedal, and it sounds really good. As I told a buddy, it may not actually sound as good as the original, but, even if it's close, I totally get why the original pedal costs $350. As penance, I haven't bought one of the originals yet, but it's on my Reverb watch list, and as soon as I see one used for $250 or less, I'm going to buy it. That's what I would've done anyways if I hadn't bought the copy.
Fast forward to a month ago. I was on their site again just looking. I saw a pedal that I had never seen before, and actually thought it was an original pedal. Granted, it's an overdrive with two sides, and neither side was an original, but they were both clones of already well-cloned pedals. So I figured they just had done the usual copy thing and then stuck the two pedals together, but as a pair, I had never seen the pedals together. Then I saw in the description that they had made a twist to one side that sounded really cool. So I bought one.
I should've known better. It came in, and I took a look at the instructions to see the if it mentioned the best way to get the twist to work. As I read through them, I got the distinct feeling that, like the other, they had copied them from somewhere else. So I started googling, and, within a few minutes, I found that the pedal that I had thought was an original was another $350 pedal that they were selling for 20% of that. Not only that, but looking at the original pedal, once again, it looked identical to the original, but they didn't even change the name this time.
And that is where my dilemma started. In the past, I've always said that everybody copies everybody else in the pedal industry, but that's ok so long as they're being honest about it and the copy isn't trying to pass itself off as the original. This new pedal company has crossed that line. And that's not really my dilemma.
Now I'm torn on the clones I've always bought. Where does that copying line start and where does it stop? Why do I think it's ok to buy an East River Drive from EHX but not one of these copies from the company that I will not name here today. Is it because I already have a couple of different Tube Screamers? Would it still be ok to get that EHX pedal if I didn't have the TS pedals already? Is it because the EHX pedal has, seemingly, the same circuit but it's in a different box? How is that really different than if they used the same circuit but in a green box that looked like the original? A copy is a copy is a copy, right? Or is it?
I'm asking myself these questions now because there's one other pedal that I saw on that website. It's actually another dual pedal that I've bought from a couple of companies lately. Two overdrives of different flavors put together in a way that folks like. But, like that second pedal, with an added twist that the others I've recently picked up don't have. So I googled the pedal, and, sure enough, it's supposedly an exact copy of another $350 pedal (I'm noticing a trend here). The only difference is that it has this company's logo in the place of the original company's. Once again, they didn't even change the name.
I might get it to try it. I might not. I don't know. I'm still torn somewhere between, yes, it's a copied circuit that I have half a dozen versions of in there and they're copying it so closely that it seems they're trying to fool folks into thinking it's the original. But then, for 20% the price of the original, everyone seeing it has to know that it's not the real thing, right? Also, it's being manufactured in that country that copies everything, and customs isn't stopping them when they come over here. And they're coming over in large enough quantity that there's at least one store I know of that stocks them and sells them.
So what do y'all think? How much of a copy is too much of a copy?
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.
Put together a small board this evening. 5 pedals that I'm already thinking I'm going to swap at least a couple of them out tomorrow. If for no other reason, I wanted to use my Lovepedal Kalamazoo sorta-copy (my Tone City Durple), but it's got a side mounted power port, and I'm having trouble getting it plugged in. So I'm probably going to stick a Rat copy on it. Which isn't even close to the same pedal. But the power jack is on the top and the input/output jacks are on the side where they should be.
That got me to thinking. So here are some musings on pedals. And boards.
My pedal board. Honestly, I have a love/hate relationship with it. I said earlier today to some online friends that I prefer to go straight to the amp. I do. Sort of. I usually play at the casa, and to get that nice driven amp sound, I've got to make the neighbors mad. Or use an OD pedal of some sort. I, also, really like the sound of a univibe. I've leaned towards that sound ever since I figured out what it was. So, at the casa where I usually play, I guess I actually like a couple of pedals in front of the amp.
But that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy picking up pedals and playing with them. It does mean, however, that I have a whole lot of pedals in the closet that I played with a couple of days and then toss them on the shelf knowing that they're there if I ever decide to use them.
Anyways, I had put a a real board together a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday was looking down at it yesterday and realized that, I have a heck of a lot of pedals in the closet that I either never got dialed in real well or that I found a single sound that I liked and never played with beyond that. So I decided to do something. I pulled that board apart, put all those same ol' same ol' pedals back in the closet, and pull out some of the ones that I hardly use and see if I could come to like them better. So here's the chain in order. We'll see how long it stays out like this.
Boss Tuner: It's the tuner I always use, and I only have 1 tuner, so it's on whatever board I'm using.
Fulltone Dejavibe: Did I mention that I like univibes? I bought this one back in the spring, and it has been out ever since. It may've been the only pedal on the the floor, but I haven't put it up since I bought it. At the moment, it's my favorite univibe.
Amazon Basics Compressor: Bought this one a year ago. Used it for a few minutes and put it in the closet. I've never been a huge compression user, but have figured out that there seem to be 2 types of compressors. I'm not sure how to describe either sound, but I know them when I hear them. One I really like. One I really don't. This is the second type. I pulled it out just to try to see if I could find a sound I like in it. If I can't, it's probably going to go to my Reverb shop.
Boss Blues Driver: Not really going to say anything about this pedal. I know I like it. It's got some great sounds in it. I just don't use it that often because I have other OD pedals that I like better. I put this one on mostly because I hardly use it. But I know it's got some nice tones in it, so at least I'll have a pedal on the board that I know I like if I get frustrated with the others.
Boss DynaDrive: I bought this one a good while back because it seemed to be the pedal du jour for the youtube channels and everyone was talking about how good it was. So I was curious enough to pick one up. I was very underwhelmed! To my ear, it was just kind of an average OD. Nothing stood out about it. By my own admission, I really didn't give this one a fair shake. I only played around with it for maybe an afternoon; it was that underwhelming. When I did my big gear purge last fall, I'm not really sure why I kept it, but I did. It's just sat in the closet since then. If I can't find some nice tones in it this time around, it's another that will probably end up on my Reverb.
EHX Hot Wax. This one I liked when I got it. After I got it a few months ago, I dialed in a sound that I liked on both sides, but tossed it into the closet after about a week. Wasn't because it was a bad pedal. It was more just because it wasn't one of my usual pedals. It has some nice sounds in it, just not the ones I would typically use.
EHX B9 Organ: This is another one that I know I like. I just don't pull it out often because it is a very niche pedal. I think it's a LOT of fun though.
Boss Tremolo: I picked this one up a week ago. This one is out, not because I never use it, but more because I want to get it dialed in. Behind a univibe sound, a tremolo is probably my fave no OD pedal. If my amp had a tremolo, I'd probably have it on all the time.
Danelectro reverb: I bought this one several years ago. It has an actual spring in it (that's why it's so big). It's a one trick pony, spring reverb. It's fun to play around with, but not a reverb I would really use on the regular or if I was playing out. It even has that kick pad on it so you can kick it and make the internal spring rattle. This one does ok, but it's another that I don't think I ever really got dialed in, and, because it only has one sound in it, I've never really looked at it as a really useful pedal. Seriously, one sound. You know how even an OD pedal has different levels of gain that make it sound different depending on how it's set? This one is the exact same sound just in varying volume levels.
Boss looper: This one is always on the floor too. I don't count it because all it does is repeat what I put into it. It doesn't really change the tone at all. It's a great practice tool as well as one that that's just a lot of fun to riff into and then play over.
I'm guessing this iteration doesn't last more than a couple of weeks. If for no other reason, I've been on a Rat kick lately, and been buying those type pedals when I see them for a good price. I didn't put one on this board because I know I like that sound, I just need to dial those pedals in.
I haven't actually used a pedal board in a while...several months probably. I've gotten to where I just go straight to my amp. If I feel like I need a pedal in the mix, I'll stick a pedal in the mix, but it's just one pedal. No board. But I decided to put a bit of a board back together the last few weeks.
Being a gear-a-holic, even if I haven't been using a board or even many pedals, that hasn't stopped me from continuing to pick up pedals and other gear just because whatever it is catches my eye and looks interesting. On the board the I put together recently, I have two pedals that are two of my most recent acquisitions and two that I have had longer than probably any others. Here's what I have at the moment. The signal chain goes like this. Guitar goes into...
Boss TU-2 Tuner. This was the 5th pedal I bought (I think) and the first pedal tuner. Back when I bought it, I was playing in the worship band at the church that I attended. Playing there, I had a wall immediately to my back with the sopranos in the choir behind me. To my left was the horn section of the orchestra. To my right was the bass player who was using an 8x10. In front of me was an 8' Steinway grand. My music stand pretty much rattled against the piano all the time. I realized pretty quickly that, in all that noise, clip-on tuners were pretty useless. So I got the pedal tuner. Built like a tank, and has never given me a problem. The tuner goes into...
The Tone Bakery Creme Brulee. I forget where I first heard about this one, but it's another one of those pedals that goes into the Klone camp. I've got several of this type of pedal, but this I picked this one up back the end of summer, and have enjoyed playing around with it since then. I have the gain just barely cracked open, and the volume set to about 2 o'clock. I have it on most of the time and use it as that clean boost to just push the amp a little more. Same way I use any other Klone I've got. The Creme Brulee goes into...
The Visual Sound (now TruTone) Route 66. This pedal is the 4th one I ever got. It's probably the pedal that comes the closest to staying on my board all. the. time. On the occasion that I pull it off, it doesn't stay off long. To my ear, it can get a little dirtier than a regular TS pedal. It can pull off that throaty growl better than anything than any pedal I have. I run this one just the opposite of whatever Klone I have on the board at the time...volume not too high and the gain turned somewhere between noon and 3. When I first got this pedal, I used it much like I use a Klone nowadays. Funny thing was, when I used it like that, had never heard of a Klon or of folks using it like that. These days, it gets used more as that gainy OD pedal. When I don't have a Klone on my board, I typically use this one in conjunction with a TS. The Rt 66 pedal runs into...
The TC Electronics Flashback X4. I picked up this delay pedal on the cheap from a buddy like 2 or 3 years ago, and never used it. It's too complicated. However, when putting a board together, I always feel like I need to have a delay of some sort on it for some slapback. So, rather than my usual delay, I pulled this one out and stuck it on. I figured I'd play around with it for a while and see if I could figure it out a little better. It's probably not going to last long, but we'll see. I always fall back to that whole, keep-it-simple-stupid thing when it comes to pedals. As I was playing last night, I was already thinking that I needed to go ahead and switch it out. SO we'll see how long it lasts. The delay runs into...
The TC Electronics Hall of Fame 2. I picked it up the first of October. I had sold a bunch of stuff on Reverb, and was trying to spend the Reverb Bucks I had. Didn't have a reverb pedal (never been a big fan of them), but decided I'd spend some of the earnings on either this pedal or an ElectroHarmonix Oceans 11. I ended up with this one only because it was cheaper. Other than that, like I said, I've never been a big fan of reverb pedals, so I'm giving this one a shot just to see how it does. The reverb pedal goes into...
The Morley ABY. I used to have an ART ABY, and it always seemed to be giving me problems. As often as anything, it buzzed. Made me think something wasn't soldered quite right. So I opened it up, but couldn't find anything that would be causing it. It would buzz today, and be quiet tomorrow. Never could figure it out. So I finally ditched it and bought the Morley. Haven't had a problem since. It's been rock-solid. The B side of it goes to one of my Blackhearts. The A side of it goes to...
The Boss RC-20xl looper pedal. This is the third pedal I ever bought. I picked it up less than a week after the pedal hit the market. It's old school looper tech, but it was state of the art when I bought it. 16 minutes of recording, which was like triple what anything else had at the time. These days, depending on the looper, you can get hours of looping fun, save to an SD card, send it to your computer via usb or any number of things like that. This one has none of that. Heck! Memory cards weren't that advanced and nothing had usb back when this one hit the market. But it's been another mainstay in my arsenal (for practice anyways), and I don't see it going anywhere. I've never upgraded it because I like the simplicity of it. This pedal runs out to my Fender SuperChamp set on the clean channel.
Now keep in mind that I'm not currently playing out. This setup is mostly to keep all my pedals in one place, and to keep the music room floor from having pedals strung all across it. If I were playing out, I'd tailor the board to whatever the gig needed. This just works pretty well for what I've been practicing the last few weeks. It'll change I'm sure.
Since I've mentioned the 3rd, 4th, and 5th pedals that I ever bought, I feel like I should mention the first two. The 1st pedal I ever got was the obligatory Boss DS-1. I got it from eBay for like $15. Had no idea about pedals back then. Didn't realize there was a difference in distortion and OD. Bought it, used it for like a week (because I honestly had no idea what I was doing with it), and then quit using it. I have no idea what ever happened to this pedal. Did I sell it or trade it off? Is it stuck in a box out in the garage somewhere? I honestly couldn't tell you. The 2nd pedal I got was the Danelectro Cool Cat chorus. Kind of like the DS-1, I got it off eBay because it was cheap and I thought it looked cool. The surf green colored one that is built like a tank. It's still my go-to chorus pedal.
I had the Cool Cat and looper for like 5 years before I bought the next pedal (the Rt 66). After the Rt 66 and tuner, I have no idea what pedals I got in what order. At this point, I've got a closet full, and have given away, traded, or sold off quite a few others to either finance others or just to get rid of them because I never bonded with them.
What's on your board right now? Any of these pedals that you like or think should never have been made?
I don't use my pedal board as often as I could these days. Truth is that I often find myself just running straight into the amp I'm using. That means that sometimes I get a pretty clean tone, especially at the house, because you can't really turn up loud enough to get good overdrive on some amps. However, I do use it occasionally. Used it last weekend in fact. Ran my guitar through the board and then straight to my mixer to do some recording.
Now the board itself is pretty small. I saw some of those ads for the Holeyboards that Chemistry Design Werks makes, and really liked them. So, being the cheap dude that I can be sometimes, I headed down to the local Home Depot and picked up a couple of 2'x4'x3/4" boards. The first board I made was about 18"x36". Painted it surf green, and then loaded it down with pedals. That one lasted until the first time I moved it. That's when I realized that it was just too big and unwieldy. That's when I made the next one. Didn't paint it or anything, it's just a piece of raw wood. This second one is about 10"x15" and seems to be about the perfect size for what I need. Like the Holeyboards, I've got it drilled up so that the pedals attach with zip ties. Unlike the Holeyboards, I don't have room for a power supply on it so I use a TrueTone One Spot with it.
I actually had disassembled it for about 6 months, but recently put a board back together for what I wanted. Here's the path. Guitar > TU2 tuner > Wampler Tumnus > TS9 TubeScreamer > GarageTone Axle Grease Delay > Danelectro Big Spender Spinning Speaker > Mooer Acoustikar > whatever amp I happen to be using. Now here's why.
I've got the TU2 tuner for a couple of reasons. First, everyone seems to be using a Snark or some other clip on tuner. I do too. But, when you're playing out, sometimes the clip-on is a bit awkward, and, the tuner, when turned on, will immediately silence the guitar. Who hasn't been in a situation when you wanted to be able to do that for some reason. In my head, between the guitar volume and the pedal, that solves that problem. Plus, it tunes accurately and is bright enough that you can see it in most cases.
From there, signal goes to the the Tumnus. It's pretty much an always-on pedal. I use it as that magical boost. In my head, it just makes whatever amp I'm using sound a bit better as it hits it a little harder and adds a bit of sparkle (how's that for a one of those meaningless guitar player adjectives). Like I said, it's almost always on. At the moment, it's the Tumnus because I'm a huge Chronicles of Narnia fan, but it just as often is my Soul Food. To my ear, using them as just a boost, they do about the same thing.
From there, it's into the Tube Screamer. I use a TS9 just because it was the least expensive Tube Screamer that the store had when I bought. I kind of like the Tube Screamer sound...mid boost and all. I use it to get a little overdrive when I'm not quite getting as much as I want. It doesn't really add a lot of drive. It mostly just pushes the amp a bit more.
From that, it goes to the Axle Grease delay. These were made by Virtual Sound (now Truetone) several years ago. The GarageTone pedals were budget-priced and great pedals for the money. For a simple delay (I have it set for just a touch of slapback), this pedal is the best bang for the buck (imho). I wish they hadn't discontinued this line.
Then to the Danelectro Spinning Speaker. It's supposed to do the Leslie thing. Mrs Snarf got it for me for Christmas, and it's been a ton of fun. It replaced the tremolo pedal I had been using. This is another one of those pedals that, bang for the buck, you just have to try. It's a great little pedal.
From there, to the Mooer Acoustikar. This pedal does a good job of simulating an acoustic. I've got it set on the piezo setting rather than the unplugged acoustic sound just because, in a worship setting especially, you're always plugged in using the piezo. Got this one used off of Reverb, and, for what I paid, it does the job well.
Now there are a whole bunch of other pedals in the closet, but these are the ones that currently make me happy. The others will eventually get rotated out I'm sure. Just not at the moment. Maybe I'll do a more thorough review of the pedals later.
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.