So a bit of a rant today. Maybe not a rant, but this is something that has always bugged me.
Over the years I've subscribed to several guitar mags. As of the moment, I only get one. Probably going to subscribe to a second by the end of the year, but right now it's just one. I like getting them because it's how I keep up with the industry part of the hobby. It feeds my GAS a little bit. It's the place where I go to see the new, shiny stuff coming out and sometimes to get some ideas on how to do things better (or at least different).
One thing I've always taken with a big ol' grain of salt is the artist spotlight sections. Especially when they list out the gear they "use." And, yes, I put that word in quotes. I'm sure that the artist doesn't intend to fib when it comes to answering that gear-you-use question. And, in fact, I'm guessing that question is also answered differently depending on whether that artist is on tour or in the studio or <insert another variable here>.
But what kills me is when they have an interview or article about that artist that includes not only that list of gear, but, also, pages of pictures of that artist on and off stage playing their gear. Only nothing on that list of gear is in the pictures, and the gear in the pictures isn't on the list anywhere.
For instance, there are two artist spotlights in the mag I was looking at yesterday. The first one has 2 pics of the artist playing in the article, and there are 3 guitars listed as being played. 2 of the guitars listed are in the pics. So 2 out of 3 guitars on the list are shown. That makes sense to me.
The next spotlight has 5 pics of the artist playing next to the list with 5 guitars on it. Can you guess how many of those guitars on the list are in the pics? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
There might be 1. One pic shows the side of an acoustic that you can't see enough of to identify. So it may or may not be the one on the list. Out of the remaining 4 pics of the artist playing, there are 4 different guitars, but not one of them is in the gear list. The amps that you can see are also not the ones on the list. So, do they actually play the guitars in that list? Or do they just list guitars that they may think others would be interested to see? Or did they actually make it through the entire tour where they used that guitar and nobody got a pic of them playing? The amps I can kind of understand. They may just be standing in the spot on the stage that shows someone else's amp instead of their own.
I totally get having more than 3 or 4 guitars. Heck, I've got a closet full of them in there. I don't know why this bothers me so much, and I blame it on the magazine and not the artist. If you're going to put out an article on the artist, in my humble opinion, you should coordinate the pics a little bit to showcase the artist and their gear. That means that when they say they're playing a black strat, if you've got 10 pics in the article, make sure one of them shows a black strat instead of all of them showing a blue LP.
And, yes, I know this is me shaking my fist at the clouds and definitely a first world irritation.
One last post here about configuring this new laptop. And it's more about the specific applications and getting them all shifted from the old one with the busted/lid/screen to the new one.
First, for the Microsoft stuff, they have made it extremely easy. When I bought the last laptop, I went ahead and signed up for Office 365 and, since it was Windows, connected it all to a specific Microsoft account. So, when it came time to reinstall those apps and get all my docs shifted over, all I had to do was to sign into that account on the new computer, and, within just a few minutes, it was all shifted over.
Google did pretty much the same thing. Although I (like a LOT of people) have several google accounts, I've used one of them kind of like a master account. So, when I downloaded Chrome, I signed into that account, and everything in my google world was updated.
Then came all the other applications that I use. Most of what I use, since 2016, has shifted from a "buy once, cry once" type of program to subscription based models. I think that's another aspect of that last post I made about folks just wanting an app that works. Granted, Office 365 is subscription, that's the only one I'm interested in paying for. It's $100 a year. I'm ok with doing that once. I'm not doing that with every,single,application, I use. That would cost me well over $1k a year.
So I spent the first couple of days trying to go back and find the original install files that I used either in my backups or online somewhere. Then then it was back through my emails and records to be sure that I had the registration info and product keys. I got all of the applications reinstalled successfully except for 3. Those 3, oddly enough, are all from the same company.
That company has done a good job of creating applications that are pretty specific to musicians and their needs. The problem I came across with on the first 2 of their applications (I just skipped trying the 3rd) is that they are licensed to a single instance. No worries, I think. I figure I'll just deauthorize the instance on the first laptop and reinstall and authorize it on the second. Not quite as easy as it sounds.
The problem I run into is that the versions that I have from 2016 are now legacy and no longer supported. In order to deauthorize them, I have to contact the company, have them do something on the backend, give me a hard time about upgrading to the new versions (which I had been thinking about doing anyways), and having it explained that the versions I've been using are no longer supported. Also, for those applications, I have been having trouble finding the purchase information. The applications don't use a product key or anything, and the application is associated on the backend with your email. I apparently bought all 3 using different emails. The applications aren't connected in any way, and I still haven't been able to find the email that one of the applications was bought under.
So those 3 applications are probably going to just sit out there until I need them the next time and they have an upgrade special going. At that point, I figure I'll buy the one that I need at the time. Then, when it comes time to use the next, I'll grab the next one.
Oh the joys of trying to get everything moved over. And, just for the record, I HATE subscription models.
I don't believe I've ever owned an Apple product. I didn't start off being anti-Apple, although, that's kind of where I've ended up. I actually wanted an iPod way back in 2001 when they came out. It was a HUGE leap forward in tech, and it was a great idea. Never managed to get one. Finally ended up with a generic mp3 player because it was half the price of the iPod. I did have an iPhone for work one time, but that was long after I had gotten used to Android and turned against the great fruit.
The reason has always been pretty simple. And, yes, it goes back to an urban legend. Supposedly, about the time that the first iPhone was being designed, a conversation took place between some of the designers and Steve Jobs. In that conversation, it has been said that Steve Jobs said something along the lines of, "I don't care what the focus groups say. Customers are fickle and what they want changes every day. So we'll tell them what they want, and then give them what we told them they want. And they'll be happy with it."
What?!? I don't know what I want so you're going to tell me what I want, and then I'll be happy that you gave me something. Forget that noise!!
And that's kind of the way that it seems it has been. Granted it's very limited experience, but my experience with iPhones and Macs has been that I can get things that are more configurable and customizable from other customers for half the price of that the great fruit charges.
So I got this new laptop recently, and I've been frustrated with Microsoft and Windows 11 since I pulled it out of the box. Maybe it's because I did tech support for so long, but there have always been a LOT of things in Windows that I like to change from the default and use the way I want to use them. And all those things were still there in Win10. For whatever reason, they've chosen to remove those little personalizations that make it work the way I like.
I guess the trend started with Win7 way back then when they pulled the dinosaur working-cursor. You remember that one. Your cursor was the standard arrow until the system was busy. At that point, rather than the little spinning circle that everyone is now familiar with, it turned into a little walking dinosaur. Everybody that saw that on my machine laughed at it, and the vast majority of those that saw it didn't even know it was an option. So MS took it away, like I said, with the release of Win7 I think.
The one that really irritates me now, though, is that the task bar is the task bar. You want it somewhere other than the bottom? Tough. MS wants it on the bottom, and you're going to like it on the bottom. I haven't used it on the bottom since I first realized you could move it way back in Win98. For a year or so, I had it over on the left. Then I moved it up to the top, and that's where it's been ever since. That means I've had it there for 20+ years. Now, not only do you have to use it on the bottom, but, by default, they stick your Win button in the center and a Widgets button over on the left where the Win button used to go.
And there have been several other little things that I usually configure to the way that I like it that are no longer configurable. The last few days, I've gotten used to googling something only to find the answer from an official MS person saying "that was removed in Win11." It's maddening.
I'm not bagging on any generation here, but here's my take on it. Back when I was coming up, computers were new and folks excited about them, and companies were doing little things to kind of cater to that excitement. Not only that, but, because they were still new and a lot of folks trying them out for the first time, a lot of folks my age played around with them so we knew, not only how to use the, but how to get into the guts so they could fix basic stuff when it didn't work right.
Nowadays, everyone uses computers at work and have been for 25 years. Most folks have at least one laptop/desktop computer at home. As well, everyone, including kids, has a computer in their pockets. There's an app for everything now. Most folks these days don't care about configuring it or fixing it. If it doesn't work like they want out of the box, they'll just try another one. And, if it doesn't work, just uninstall/reinstall it.
The days of being able to tweak settings and make something your own are going away. Apple started it with the whole "we'll tell them what they want" thing. Other companies realized it was cheaper to roll something out without options because options cost money. After getting Win11 on this new machine and using it for a bit now, I think MS has finally fully started down that road too.
What do y'all think? Do y'all like to customize and make things your own or are you ones that are happy with a COTS product right out of the box and, if that doesn't work, just try another?
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 became aware of this model guitar a few months ago...back in the spring sometime. The moment it entered my orbit of awareness, I knew I had to have it.
Those that know me know that I'm a child of the 80s. Yes, there are gaps in my knowledge of pop culture that get filled in occasionally (like it was the mid-90s before I saw Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller), but I was culturally aware enough to know generally what was going on. That included fashion. And one of my favorite fashions from like 85 through the end of the decade were the bright, neon colors. Bright yellow will always be my favorite color. Right behind it is hot pink. My wife knows that, these days, I tend to wear conservative, dark blues and greys and blacks and things that don't stand out. Back in those days, however, my favorite pair of jams were black with bright yellow and hot pink flowers all over them. Most of my other clothes had bright yellow and hot pink in them somewhere. My favorite car color ( and one of my favorite cars, although I never owned one) will that 1988 Honda Prelude that I believe they called canary yellow. That part of the 80s definitely influenced the colors I like best.
When I saw this specific guitar model for the first time, I thought there was no question, I had to get one. So I began trolling online and, especially, Reverb in hopes to find a good deal on one. Visited a couple of guitar shops, and they either had them regular price or didn't carry the specific model. Finally it happened. I saw 2 of them pop up on my Reverb feed for cheaper than I had seen any yet. In fact, they were both advertised as brand new, but their price was less than the vast majority of the used ones I was seeing. I messaged the seller to be sure that it was brand new. When they replied that the ad was correct, I pulled the trigger on a PRS SE Custom 24 in Bonnie Pink.
I've now had it for a month. And I can honestly say that I'm still as happy with it as I was on the day it came in. It's, also, the first PRS I've ever had. It's an SE, so it's part of their more affordable, import line. Thinking of it being in their import line, the most recent Squiers I've bought new have caused me to say I won't buy another Squier (they were that bad), but the most recent Epiphones and now this PRS have been excellent guitars and make me wonder why folks bad mouth import guitars.
As soon as this one came in, I did my usual "clean-up" routine on it that I do with every guitar when I first get it home. My little routine allows me to go over the whole guitar and be sure that there's nothing major wrong with it. And this guitar's fit and finish out of the box was top notch. For a "budget" guitar, I was super impressed with its out of the box playability.
I pulled the strings off of it, kind of buffed it out a bit just to get anybody else's funk that might be on it off, oiled the fretboard, bumped all the screws with a screwdriver just to be sure that none were falling out, and then restrung it. Carried it into my little music room, kicked on an amp, plugged it in, and played a few chords. Sonically, it didn't do much for me. It's kind of like my Parker; it sounded like a humbucker guitar, but doesn't really stand out to my ear. I grade all my 'bucker guitars against my LP with Burstbuckers in it, and this one, although it sounded ok, didn't quite have that whatever-it-is I like about those BBs coupled with the LP.
But, the more I played around with it, I was really impressed with the guitar. It'll be a keeper for sure. So, even though it sounds like just a generic humbucker guitar, here are some of my pros and cons on it after playing it for a month.
After having this guitar for a month, the more I play it, the more I like it. I'm pretty certain that it will never be my favorite guitar, but it's solid enough that it has become one of 3 that sit out on the stand that I leave out to play. And it will probably stay there. I've had Gibsons that weren't this nice of a guitar. I've had Gibsons that were nicer. The same can be said of Epiphone and Fender. I, also, believe that it's noteworthy that my cons are more preferences and things that are average and not really things that are wrong with the guitar.
So the question I have to ask now is, knowing what I know after playing the guitar for a month, would I buy it again? Absolutely! This is a solid guitar. Bang for the buck, there's so much to like about this guitar. It plays really nicely and it doesn't sound bad. Truth is, if I didn't admittedly have a bias towards the BB-type pickup, as was evident when I introduced some drive in my little pickup test, I'd probably say it sounded really good. This is a nice enough guitar, even though it's out of the "budget" import line, as my first PRS it has impressed me enough that I wonder what their more expensive MIA line is like. If this one is any indication, those have to be killer guitars!
By my own admission, I spend too much time on Reddit. I keep up with some of our local city's news through it. I, also, follow some threads that have to do with guitars and gear.
There is a thread that I saw the other day that kind of made me chuckle. It's not really anything that hasn't been talked about before, but I saw a new thing in it that made me laugh. The thread was basically a guy saying that he has seen a lot of pro-players and bands using modelers and multi-effects and ditching big tube amps and traditional pedal boards.
You can imagine the discussion it sparked. It was the usual folks singing the praises of the new generation of equipment and then those that have sniffed a cork or two in their day who talked about how a modeler will never sound like a real tube amp and a multi-effect could never sound as good as a single pedal. I'm sure we all have opinions on that subject.
That said, I did laugh out loud at one of the folks crapping on the question. They were talking about how no modeler could ever sound like a good tube amp. Then they went on to talk about how they would never use anything that required a firmware update. Then they rounded out their comments talking about how there is no multi-effect that would ever have the tactile feel of a good pedal.
The argument that no modeler will sound as good as a tube amp is just old and tired. Anybody that has been around the last 6 or 8 years knows that there are plenty of modelers out there that can be close enough to an actual amp that only the most discerning ears can hear the difference. And even then they sometimes guess the modeler is the amp.
The firmware comment? I guess they don't use anything digital or screened. They all require updates. And, personally, OS updates to phones are, imho, far more intrusive than a firmware update. Mostly because the firmware update you can typically skip if you want. Just don't update it. But you seem to have to go to great pains these days to skip OS updates. And, anecdotally, I've had more problems with equipment working correctly first time after an OS update that I ever had with firmware updates.
It was the last part that made me laugh though. I'm not even sure what they meant by it. The tactile feel of a pedal? In my mind, tactile means you can touch it and feel it and run your finger around, along, and over it. So I would think that they meant that you could reach down and turn a knob to adjust it. In my head, that's probably what they're talking about. But I've never had a multi-effect that you didn't do that to.
In fact, the one that I'm using right now, there's a small screen where you see your signal flow. You use a button to go to the specific effect that you want to adjust. Once selected, that opens a new menu with all of the adjustable parameters to that effect. Each parameter is over a knob. Then you adjust that parameter just like you would an old school pedal. For example, you use the arrow button to walk through your chain to the TS-type model. Click on it. Once selected, you look at the 5 knobs below, and you see that 3 of the knobs are now active. One is Vol, one is Gain, and one is Tone. Turn the knobs to get the sound that you want. In my mind, that's just as tactile as a pedal. In fact, that's the 3 knobs that are on my actual TS pedal, so the only difference is that I have to hit a button first to select the effect. From there, it's adjusted the exact same way.
You can start to menu dive from there and hit other parameters for the effect. Heck, you can start to menu dive and do all sorts of things. You can rearrange your chain however you want. You can go deep into the settings for the amps and effects. You can pretty easily change things on the fly that you would never be able to do with old gear. Don't like that Alnico Blue speaker? No problem, just swap out the speaker IR for a Greenback. That speaker cab not sounding right to you? Pick a 4x12 instead of the 1x10 that's currently selected. But that's menu diving, and you don't have to get to that level with it. The basic effects work just like a pedal does.
As I was laughing at the tactile comment, it occurred to me that maybe they were talking about what us guitar players like to call touch-sensitive. We seem to like those pedals that respond differently to our different pick attacks. Do we dig in? You can tell because it responds one way. Back off to a light touch? You can tell because that drive pedal cleans up without touching the volume. Maybe that's what they mean. But the multi-effects, depending on which effect model you're using, are also touch-sensitive.
So I have no idea what they were talking about referring to the tactile feel of a pedal.
Here's my take. Play what makes you happy. If it's a 50 lb tube amp and a pedal board the size of a Buick that does it for you, then play that. If it's a laptop and a modeler the size of your palm that does it for you, then play that. Whatever it is that makes you happy and encourages you to play, that's what you should be playing. I've got both kinds of gear.
I've got my wall of Blackheart tube amps behind me with a pedalboard full of expensive pedals sitting in front of it. Then I have my little solid state practice amp next to me where I have a specific amp model dialed in and small pedalboard sitting in front of it. Then, next to that, I have my multi-effect and a couple of other pedals running in its fx loop that runs to my laptop. Each is a tool that has a purpose, and, to my ear, each sounds good. So ymmv for sure.
So. The whole Bad Monkey thing lately. This post is not about that. It's about Tube Screamers in general. Sort of.
The first drive-ish pedal I ever bought was a DS-1. I bought waaaaay back when. I had just bought my first electric after playing only acoustic for 15 years or so. Figured I needed a pedal to go with it. Ebay was all the rage and the newest way to get cool stuff cheap, so I hit Ebay and found the cheapest drive pedal I could find. Kept it for a long time. Not really sure what happened to it. I don't remember selling it or trading it off or anything, but I have not idea when or where I got rid of it, and it's not in any of my stuff anymore.
6 or 8 years later, I bought my first OD pedal that I figured I would use. It was a Visual Sound Route 66. The one with the compressor on one side and the drive on the other. I bought it because there was a guitar player I liked that swore by that compressor (the single pedal), so I figured it would have to be good if it had a drive attached. So I bought it.
Always liked the drive side. At the time, I didn't know that it had been modeled after the TS808. It was the only drive pedal I had for several years. Then, one year when we were on vacation, I happened into a music store and spent waaaaay too much time talking to the staff and playing with stuff in their shop. It was a mom and pop in nowheresville, so I felt like I owed it to them to buy something before I left. So I paid too much for a TS9. It had a little bit different character than the Route 66, but it did the same thing. It quickly became my favorite.
Sitting in the quiet of my little music room, I think I can hear the difference in a TS9 and a TS808, but, truthfully, they do the same thing, and I'm not sure I could hear the difference in a crowded room. So, at some point, I started into one of those collect-them-all phases.
At some point, in addition to the actual green Ibanez Tube Screamers, I have picked up (in no particular order):
After trying all those different TS-type pedals, I still believe that I like the sound of the TS9 better than the TS808. I'm not sure exactly what I'm hearing that makes me think that, but I do. All of the TS-type pedals made by everyone else are modeled off the TS808. I've, also, never tried a TS10 to see how it compares.
Here's how I would rank them at the moment from my favorite to least favorite. Also, the ones that I own are prefaced with an "o-" and the ones I no longer have are prefaced with a "g-". The ones actually on my current boards also have a "b" added to the preface.
So what's your favorite TS-type pedal?
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.
It's no secret that I like Epiphone guitars. I also like Gibsons. And Fenders. And a good Gretsch. Gosh, I just really like guitars. I also like modding and even fixing them sometimes.
That said, if I were to pick my top 5 guitars from my woodpile, they would probably be these, and in this order.
Four of those guitars have been modded in some way. The Strat is the only one that is bone stock. I kept saying I was going to swap out the pickups in it, but every time I decide it's time to do so, I pick it up and play it, and like the way it sounds. So it has managed to remain untouched. I guess I did add a couple of springs to it to deck the trem, but I'm not sure that completely counts.
The Gibson ES-339 is mostly un-modded. The only thing I've done to it is to swap out the bridge. I didn't like the bridge that came was on it when I bought it. I'm not completely sure it was the original bridge either. So I bought one and swapped it out. It came with 57 Classics in it, and that's how I'm leaving it.
The Epiphone 339 has had the pickups swapped out and two of the knobs have been swapped. The original shipment of those that Epiphone sold were advertised to come with their Probucker pickups. When I ordered mine, and even when it came in, they were still advertising those as the pickups. However, when I got mine in and checked it, it had the Alnico Classic pickups. I found out that, after that first batch that came over, they had swapped the pickups in all the 339s, but they hadn't updated their ads or specs on the website. I was disappointed, but the ones in it didn't sound bad. Still, I always wondered what the Probuckers would sound like in it. A year ago, I ended up with an extra set of Probuckers, so I finally got to hear what the 339 sounded like with them in it.
The Epi LP originally came with Probuckers in it. A Probucker 1 in the neck and 2 in the bridge. I really liked them. In truth, I saw no reason to change them out. Played it for a year and a half or so with those in it. Then one day I got a wild hair and decided to grab a pair of Burstbuckers (a 1 and a 2) and drip them in to see what they sounded like. Honestly, I liked the Probucker 1 better that the Burstbucker in the neck, but the Burstbucker 2 sounds better than the Probucker 2 in the bridge. Because I'm lazy and didn't want to mess with it again, the Burstbuckers have stayed in the LP.
Those Probuckers out of the LP were what went into the 339.
The Epiphone 335 came with the Alnico Classic pickups. I was quite happy with those. They sounded as good as the 57 Classics that were in the Gibson 335 that I had traded off a couple years previous. I had no plans to replace them. I played it for a year with it being bone stock. Then, back in December, I unplugged my cable from it, and the jack fell back into the guitar. Then, while I was trying to fish the jack out and back into the hole, I screwed up one of the pots. So, since I didn't feel like I had the time to I decided to carry it into the my local luthier. And, since I was carrying it in for electronics work, I started making a list of what I wanted him to do to it. Basically, put in another jack and replace the push/pull pots in it. Since I was doing that, I decided to pick up a couple of 57 Classics to put in it. When I dropped it off to the luthier, I have him do all of that at the same time. Got it back, and have been super happy with the sound of it.
You'll notice that, by and large, it's the pickups that have been swapped. I know that there are a LOT of different pickups out there, and a LOT of those pickups sound really good. You may notice that all of the pickups that I have talked about are Gibson branded in some way. That's mostly because I know what they sound like because I've played them at some point in time. So I've stuck with them. I know that Lollar Imperials are supposed to be super good. I've also been told that the Bare Knuckle brand is super good.
By my own admission, with the humbuckers I've always picked, I have always seemed to chase that PAF sound. In the Gibson stable, the 57 Classics and the Burstbuckers are both supposed to get that sound. Of the Burstbuckers, the Burstbucker 1 and 2 would be closer to that vintage 50s LP kind of sound. In the Epiphone world, it has been my understanding that the Alnico Classics are the Epi version of the 57 Classics and the Probuckers are the Epi version of Burstbuckers. I once read that, from a PAF perspective, the Burst/Probucker 1 & 2 combination would be that 50s sound. The Burst/Probucker 2 & 3 combination would be that 60s sound. And the 57/Alnico Classic combination would be that 70s sound.
So, except for the Epiphone ES-339, all of the pickups were just swapped from the Epiphone version to the Gibson version. In that 339, I just swapped from one Epiphone version to another Epiphone version. In the case of the ones being swapped from the Epi version to the Gibson version, the Gibson pickups do sound better. The Epiphone ones sound good. They're not bad. I could absolutely play them and be happy. But, since I swapped them out, I'll say that the Gibsons seem to have the edge when it comes to clarity and range. I think there's a reason that they cost twice as much, and isn't just the name on the box they came in.
Maybe some day I'll try some other pickups like the Lollars I mentioned. I hear the low-wind Imperials are just the best. In fact, I've got a buddy that said that's what he has in his 335, and his guitar sounds amazing. Course his overall tone is a step above mine too.
All that to say, if you don't like the sound of the guitar, try some new pickups. Heck. Even if you like the sound, try some new ones and see if you like them better. Or leave them the same. At least for me, half the fun is in the tinkering.
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.