Stompbox Blog: September 2009

Stompbox Blog

Welcome to the guitar effects virtual museum. I have been collecting stompboxes for the past few years and wanted to share some thoughts. I will continually add more pics and opinions. Any comments or suggestions are appreciated. Thanks for looking.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Top 10 Boutique Overdrives

1. Klon Centaur
2. Lovepedal Eternity
3. Analogman King of Tone
4. Cochrane Tim
5. Hermida Zendrive
6. Blackstone Appliances Mofset
7. Landgraff Dynamic Overdrive
8. Cusack Screamer
9. Gearmanndude Luther
10.Crowther Hotcake

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Great Effects Related Resources & Links

http://www.analogman.com/ One of the best boutique builders/modifier of effects on the market, his King of Tone is a "must have" for tone purists as well as other great effects
http://www.effectsdatabase.com/ A great resource for every pedal ever made with great descriptions and even links to purchasing these terrific effects
http://www.oldtonezone.com/ One of my favorite sites that pairs classic pedals against each other for a duel... you won't regret clicking on his overdrive comparinator(is that a word?)
http://www.guitarforworship.wordpress.com/ A praise community that features great articles on equipment, music, an interesting blog, and most of all....God.
http://www.americaspedal.net/ A terrific link for all things DOD. A period of history for a popular mass-produced pedal from the 90s.
http://www.gilmourish.com/ A tribute page to David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and his equipment
http://www.tonequestreport.com/ A subscriber page that has great articles relating to guitar tone
http://www.harmony-central.com/ A user-based forum and resource of pedals and music equipment
http://www.pedalgeek.com/ A supplier of guitar stompboxes and effects
http://www.smallbearelec.com/ Supplier of do-it-yourself build kits and components of pedals
http://www.buildyourownclone.com/ A supplier of components and electronics to build your own clones
http://www.modezero.com/ A collections of pictures(inside and out) of pedals with sound files
http://www.tonefrenzy.com/ A gear database of some popular effects with sound files and articles
http://www.musictoyz.com/ One of my favorite websites that has great equipment,videos, and articles
http://www.noiseguide.com/ A page devoted to everything harsh or noise related to music
http://www.big-muff.net/ A museum devoted to one of the most popular effects with all incarnations
http://www.thegearmall.com/ A site with a great selection of the finest boutique effects and equipment
http://www.musicplayers.com/ An online magazine relating to equipment and musicians
http://www.schematicheaven.com/ A site devoted to electronic schematics for effects & amps
http://www.diystompboxes.com/ Aron Nelson's site devoted to building effects
http://www.sonicflux.com/ A gear site for quality used effects pedals
http://www.guitargeek.com/ A site dedicated to the pedalboards of professional musicians
http://www.gearmanndude.blogspot.com/ One of the most informative and entertaining pedal freaks
http://www.robertkeeley.com/ One of the finest pedal builders/ pedal modifiers out there
http://www.vintageguitar.com/ A site dedicated to classic gear, guitars, and amps
http://www.klon-siberia.com/ Probably hands-down the best boutique overdrive available
http://www.americanguitarboutique.com/ A web-dealer selling the finest music gear available
http://www.blackstoneappliances.com/ Home of the great boutique Mofset overdrive pedal
http://www.fulltone.com/ Mike Fuller's custom built collection of effects
http://www.zvex.com/ One of the greatest hand-built and hand-painted effects that are very unique
http://www.cusackmusic.com/ Reality in Tone, home of the greatest Tubescreamers out there
http://www.ehx.com/ One of the most respected classic effects companies in the industry
http://www.fuzzbox.com/ Home of Prescription Electronics hand-built custom pedals
http://www.menatone.com/ Brian Mena's classic hand-built & wired pedal selections
http://www.stevesmusiccenter.com/ A mail order company specializing in a huge selection of effects
http://www.bostonguitar.com/ Home of Boston Guitar Works.. one of the coolest music shops in the US
http://www.visualsound.net/ Home of one of the most respected tone machines in the industry
http://www.bossarea.com/ A great database for one of the most popular effects in history
http://www.bossus.com/ The official web-page of the most popular effects pedals in history
http://www.jimdunlop.com/ Home of Dunlop and MXR pedals, a true classic in the industry
http://www.lovepedal.com/ Sean Michael's custom built boutique pedals- one of the best ever

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Carl Martin Heavy Drive

I remember talking to a fellow collector who claimed one of his favorite pedals was the Heavy Drive. I found one on E-bay at a bargain price and now I understand. The Danish made pedal manufacturer designed by Holm Malquist are quality designed and they sport the same Denmark design by sister company TC Electronics. Many of their pedals have received rave reviews but if you want to turn your Vox AC-30 into a Triple Rectifier look no further. The Heavy Drive sports two mid controls called Attack and Edge that will deliver Mesa Boogie in spades. There must be something in the Scandinavian water or Lutefisk.... see ... http://www.carlmartin.com/



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Mill Hill Landmine

Ok, sure it has war overtones... but is aggression such a bad thing when it comes to distortion? I don't think many of these were produced but I had to step on something that looked like a land-mine. It is one of the most unique housings(maybe the tallest) of any effects I own. It has a unique open-bottom enclosure that shows it's simplistic engineering too. With just 2 large knobs on the side it's a short-lived unique piece of pedal history. For more info see http://www.musictoyz.com/guitar/pedals/millhill.php

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Tech 21 XXL distortion


Certainly the cool metal spun graphics add to the mojo of this tasty device from Tech 21. In the mid 90's Tech 21 had already established itself with it's revolutionary DI device the Sansamp. Now they had created a distortion toy that could allow tweaking of the number of odd and even harmonics when you picked the strings via of a warp control. It was another leap-forward design that was just as short-lived. Even though it was featured in the best 50 stompboxes of all time it was soon phased out. It is still a fun distortion box to play through with enough sustain and grind to lead you to shredding nirvana. A lot of great things have come out of NY and this is one .. http://www.tech21nyc.com/products/effects/xxl.html

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Zinky True Grit

Who is Bruce Zinky? Just an amp engineer who has worked with Fender Amps before starting his own boutique amp line in the 90's. He also built a pedal based off the John Wayne mojo from a movie of the same same. What I like about this undiscovered gem is the fact that it is such a bargain for what you get. Much like the Fulltone Fulldrive it has an overdrive with a boost switch. The Gain control allows you to inject some distortion into the device with individual bass and treble controls. The Grit also adds some hair to your mid-range especially when the boost is forcing your amp into beautiful clipping territory. Why this peal has been under-the-radar is beyond me. It is still a stellar value for the money. For more info visit http://www.zinky.com/ or see this great review http://www.guitarplayer.com/story.aspx?content_id=2358

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Ibanez BC-9 Chorus

Ibanez went through several incarnations through it's history but the most beloved are the 9 series produced from 1982-1984. Sure the Tubescreamer has a great history but the Japanese also made other great effects under the Ibanez and Maxon name. What could be better than the Ibanez Cs-9 stereo chorus you might ask? How about 2 of the same circuit boards stuffed into the same purple-metallic housing for starters. Remember, chorus is taking the same analog signal and replicating it a slight step down(detuned) to add a thickened creamy sound for tonal goodness. Now multiply this by 2 and that's what makes this a classic effect. Personally it's one of my favorite chorus devices. For more info please visit http://members.chello.nl/~t.heertjes/Ibanez%20effectpedals.html

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Washburn AD-3 Stack In a Box


In 2003 Art Thompson of Guitar Player magazine released an article entitled Forgotten Distortion Delights. It featured pedals by Electra, Ibanez and Washburn. When Washburn released the AD-3, it was a quantum leap forward in distortion. In fact, they utilized 2 of the JRC-4558 op amps for more stacked tonal pleasure. Sure it was Pepto Bismol pink with it's knobs and graphics but it was also the 80's. It certainly lived up to it's name.. it sounded like a wall of sound through a full-Marshall with it's tube-like clarity and grind. Washburn went back to what it did best which was affordable acoustic guitars and the rest is history. If you can ever find one, they are a great value. For more info on the article see .. http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-22829496_ITM

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DOD FX13 Gonkulator Modulator


What is a Gonkulator you might ask? In 1968(the year I was born) Hogan's Heros came out with an episode called Klink vs the Gonculator about a fictitious device used to fool the Germans. Years later computer geeks coined the phrase representing the most undesirable piece of equipment they owned. Had it not been for an up-coming band called Incubus the pedal would have been obscure but they used it all over their album S.C.I.E.N.C.E. especially on the tune Glass. Next, what is a ring modulator you might ask? How about this explanation then..
Ring modulators frequency mix or heterodyne two waveforms, and output the sum and difference of the frequencies present in each waveform. This process of ring modulation produces a signal rich in overtones, suitable for producing bell-like or otherwise metallic sounds.
Two oscillators, whose frequencies were harmonically related and ring modulated against each other, produce sounds that still adhered to the overtones of the notes, but contain a very different spectral make up.
If the same signal is sent to both inputs of a ring modulator, the resultant harmonic spectrum is the original frequency domain doubled (if f1 = f2 = f , then f2 − f1 = 0 and f2 + f1 = 2f). However, some distortion occurs due to the forward voltage drop of the diodes.
suffice it to say ... it's one of the most radical sounding effects out there... The unit was only around for 1 year from '96 to '97 and has since become popular just to it's rarity.

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Addrock Ol' Yeller

There are a few pedals that most collector's don't have that are in my collection. One of them is the Addrock Ol' Yeller. Maybe it's the mojo that I like... the home-built quality, supporting the local community(Chesapeake Va), cool school-bus yellow, or maybe it's the tubescreamer tone. I dunno... I just like it. With just 3 simple controls HL created one of the coolest tubescreamer clones that holds its own against builders like Analogman. He has since improved the leak, boosted base and even offered a two-fer model just like the Hotcakes and such. This is number 51 and I like it. For more info please visit.. http://www.myspace.com/addrockmusicalproducts

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Arion SCH-1 Stereo Chorus


In the 1980's there were plenty of cheesy chorus effects and albums on the market. When Arion introduced it's cheap plastic line-up of pedals everyone thought "you-get-what-you-pay-for". But it was a surprise when this device started showing up on the pedalboards of none other than Michael Landau and Jon Amor. I remember running into a guitar player who claimed to have sold his $300 Danish TC Electronics Chorus in exchange for this little cheapy. Yeah, sometimes you can throw poo on a wall and it sticks. This device actually has a nice musical round shimmering quality and is still a great value for those in-the-know. I remember seeing one in the pawn shop for $20 but it was missing the battery-cover(plastic ya know). The Stage Tuner is also a great value for the money too. The original SCH-1 also does a great Leslie simulation that other choruses just can't hack. For more info visit.. http://www.pedalspluseffectswarehouse.com/default.asp

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Demeter Temulator


In 1982, Ry Cooder went to his good friend James Demeter to find out if he could build him a tremolo pedal. Using Mr. Cooder's Fender Twin's tremolo as a benchmark for his preferred sound he set out to build a unit that featured the classic lopsided amplitude modulation with a rounded off triangular waveform. He created a unit with less noise and hum with greater speed and modulation. There are internal trim switches to tweak the settings but it comes standard with Ry's favorite setting so why bother? Tremolo always sounds best at the end of the effects chain and when turned completely off offers a great noise reduced signal boost for long cable runs. It can do the slow pulse, Jane Fonda, or the helicopter chop. It is considered the best tremolo in the industry with just 2 simple knobs depth and speed. For more info see Demeter's page at http://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.demeteramps.com/products/pedals/index.html&ei=Z3KdSpqQK96x8QaWu5y4Aw&sa=X&oi=smap&resnum=1&ct=result&cd=1&usg=AFQjCNE18PdSbYtRRLWYfLGRMX-3xC1s2g

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Nobels TR-X Tremolo


What do you get when you cross a German-engineered design with a Korean-built pedal? A heck of a lot for your money to begin with. In 1990 Nobels manufacturing out of Germany started a budget-line of effects that were hand-built in Korea. Although not well-received initially the original series are commanding much higher prices these days. One that keeps showing up on every professional musician's pedalboard is the TR-X. A couple of other tremolos garner a certain cult-status but only one offers so many features at a fraction of the cost. With 4 choices of Sine or Square wave pulse and a 4 knob choice of speed, intensity, tone, and effect level what more could you want? Ok, how about an output for remote switching and a cheap plastic battery compartment for easy access? It's a quiet transparent tremolo with a broad range of speed and depths that would sound good in any Quentin Tarentino Film. http://www.nobels.com/en/index.htm

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Tech 21 SansAmp


After repairing and modding guitar amplifiers for 10 years B. Andrew Barta decided to put his research and development skills to form his own company. 20 years ago, he created his first direct input device for recording called the SansAmp using all discrete analog circuitry. It wasn't so much a stomp-box but a recording modeler with 8 different character switches used to simulate amplifiers being used in a studio. It was a tweakers dream come true with 4 knobs to control presence drive, amplifier drive, output and high controls. It also had 3 different switches for lead, normal(mid) and bass. His goal was to fool the user into simulating any style of amplifier without all the headaches of close miking, types of tubes, noise and compression. Foreigner used it in recording their next album and the rest is history. When Kurt Cobain showed up with it on stage as a stompbox everyone had to have one. Tech 21 went on to create many more innovative products but the original is an enduring classic. Heck they even re-released it as a "Classic" model and then reintroduced it as the 20th anniversary edition complete with beaten up chassis and flecked-off paint. For more info on this see the website http://www.tech21nyc.com/

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ADA Flanger


There is only one king when it comes to flangers, The Analog Digital Associates model created in June of 1977. Designed by David Tarnowski, it was enclosed in a heavy cast metal housing heavier than a brick. It sported 5 knobs - Threshold, Manual, Range, Speed, and Enhance. It even had a control for even and odd harmonics with an output for a footpedal that could control the range of the sweep. The first unit utilized a Reticon SAD1024A Bucket Brigade chip but was revised later to the Panasonic MC3010 chip. It was the only flanger of it's day to house a built-in compressor and bandpass filter which gave it the unique sound. It's voltage controlled oscillation could sweep a signal faster than any of it's predecessors. When it came to extreme flanging no other company came close. It's a shame they discontinued making the unit to focus on the trendy rackmount digital processors of the day. For an interesting discussion on this unit see http://www.premierguitar.com/magazine/Issue/2008/Jun/Stompbox_Classics_A_DA_Flanger.aspx

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Electro Harmonix Memory Man


Easily in the top 5 best selling models by Electro Harmonix, the Deluxe Memory Man ushered in a whole new era of analog delay. At a time when many delay units were prone to breaking down and were unreliable the Deluxe Memory Man sported Delay, Feedback, Level and Blend controls to suit the user. It offered a direct and echo stereo output that was beyond description between two amps. It also had a control for squelch, an off/on footswitch, 550ms of delay and a power control. The second evolution also added chorus and vibrato from the earlier stereo models. Anyone who played around with this unit found themselves mesmerized by it's ethereal heavenly repeats. The Edge used it as a staple for his ambient textural sounds on U2's earlier albums. Suddenly delay was another dimension to rhythm playing and space jamming. By late 1978 sales of the Memory Man were going through the roof when Panasonic halted shipments of the delay chips for the device. Within months Electro Harmonix went out of business only to rise from the ashes in the mid 90s to become once again the success in the golden age of effects. More more info on they're products see http://www.ehx.com/

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ProCo Rat


ProCo Sound Inc was founded in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1970 with the moniker "striving for the utmost in clean audio gear". It's sad that they never fulfilled that promise however. Engineering director Scott Burnham was drawing up an over-the-top distortion unit when he noticed that he had an undervalued resistor in the drive stage because he had read the numbers upside down. In theory, it shouldn't have worked, but it caused the pair of 1N4148 silicon diodes to clip even harder and drive the LM308N op amp into a soaring high-gain sustain. What a beautiful accident for guitar players everywhere. They utilized a Tone control that was more of a backwards treble bleed potentiometer. What started out as a circuit similar to MXR's Distortion + turned into a revolutionary pedal classic. The large box versions were produced in 20 gauge sheet metal and featured the "Sound Inc" on the ProCo logo. It underwent many incarnations next with the heavier gage small box models(with and without led), Turbo Rat(different diodes), R2D2(rackmount), Juggernaut(for bass players), Brat(little brother), Vintage Rat(not), DeuceTone(2 for 1) and the Dirty Rat. Metallica had one on their pedal board in the early days. For more info on this device see the entire history at http://www.ratdistortion.com/history.htm

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Bixonic Expandora

In the mid 90's there was once again a resurgence of stompbox fever when this tuna-can device hit the market. It was shiny and small with just one screw holding on the back. It was soon discovered this allowed the users easy access to the inside compartment so they could tweak the 3 internal dip-switches. There were several combinations that could alter the tone and some that were, quite frankly, completely insane or unusable. That didn't stop several musicians from using this on stage namely Bush, Megadeath, ZZ Top and others. It was rumoured that the Rev Billy Gibbons(a serious gear junkie) had 8 of these in a row on stage. It was true, even if the roadies knew that he wasn't playing through it. By then it was all over when the units started selling. In 2000 they changed the unit to a more user friendly compartment complete with flashing red light when played through. These were even more short-lived when they went back to the original design and allowed users to control the switches from the outside of the case. For more info on the current Expandora see http://www.synthtopia.com/news/NAMM/2006_Winter_NAMM_Show.html
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Electro-Harmonix LPB-1


It was such a simple thing... In the 1960's Mike Matthews consulted a friend working at Bell Labs to help him design a distortion-free sustainer. He created a tiny box to plug into the front of the amp. Because he hadn't counted on the guitar having a low signal he put a booster transistor in the box. Even though the amp had plenty of headroom it was suddenly much louder. With a lot more volume you could really overdrive the tubes of an amp. By placing a small ad in magazines they were able to sell thousands of these great little boxes to guitarists everywhere for a modest price of $14.95. It was the start of good things to come, within a few years they were working on a fuzz device called the Big Muff that would soon become even more popular. For more info on their current line up see http://www.ehx.com/

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Kendrick Buffalo Pfuz


Ever hear of Pfluggerville Texas? I didn't think so. Usually only two good things come out of Texas... good blues and barbecue. It's no wonder this fuzz box's namesake was changed as a homage to it's hometown. The Rev Billy Gibbons, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Albert Collins and T Bone Walker hail from this great state so it's only fitting that this pedal does too. The sheet metal enclosure is one of a kind and features either a clean boost or fuzz setting to boot. There are only two options gain and volume so you are the mercy of it's tonal setting but it's a good one. It's sound is hearty and robust, thick enough to lay down some searing Texas blues. It was a short lived unit as Kendrick went on to focus more on it's amplifier business but this unit is a true legend in it's day. For more info on Kendrick see.... http://www.kendrick-amplifiers.com/service/

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T.C. Electronics Stereo Chorus


Danish music equipment company TC Electronics has been making quality products since the mid 70's. The company has focussed more on studio rack-mounted processors but 25 years ago they introduced one of the most legendary analog choruses that is still highly regarded today. It wasn't just a chorus module but also featured pitch-shifting and flanging effects too. It also had an input gain control switch, an external buypass output and stereo outputs. No other chorus is as broad, sparkling and shimmering achieving this while remaining the quietest choruses in the studio. When used in stereo the effect signals and the clean signals appear simultaneously on both sides. The effect signals are alternatingly phase reversed in left and right sides, creating a unique spatial dimension. It's no wonder Eric Johnson has used this device in his setup for years. For more info on this unit visit http://www.tcelectronic.com/

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Z.Vex Fuzz Factory


Zachary Vex got his start in the music business by opening a small recording studio in Minneapolis during the 80's. He had tinkered with electronics a lot as a kid growing up and when business "went south" he started hand building small effects on his kitchen table. After taking a road trip with a friend to New York he tried introducing his pedals to dealers to no avail. But it was the few units he sold to the people who worked there that started a word-of-mouth business that soon had business owners ordering 40 at a time. The most popular device was a NOS(new old stock) germanium transistor fuzz prototype that was a tweaker's dream come true. It has 5 knobs Volume, Noise Gate, Compression, Drive, and Stability controls despite it's diminutive size. For fuzz connoisseur's it was a dream come true. Add hand painted graphics from Jason Myrold for a unique finish and soon Mr. Vex was adding more products to his line-up. His boutique business has since grown exponentially. The Fuzz Factory has very little current draw(less than 3mA) and requires less zinc-carbon battery charges than it's peers. No other fuzz on the market can create the extreme sounds than this little device and it's not for the faint of heart. The germanium is heat sensitive so sounds can be altered within a few degrees. If Jimi were still around, I'm sure he' have a Fuzz Factory on his pedal board. For more info on these products visit http://www.zvex.com/

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