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Guitar Pedals!

Tips on Tones – Issue 3

Signal processors, effects pedals, stomp boxes… What’s in a name? That which we call a pedal by any other name would sound just as sweet! What would not sound so sweet, on the other hand, would be a-million and-one of the things plugged into your rig not knowing why they’re there or what to do with them!

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Last time I talked about the benefits of compression, which led me to want to talk about some of the other heavy hitters in the world of signal processing. The first thing you need to ask yourself is: “what am I looking for?” Are you looking for a boost or more gain? The opposite? Are you looking for something to thicken up your tone, or maybe just some fancy sounding effects? In this article I’ll give some examples for each of these, and an idea as to where they can be used.

Let’s say you’re looking to enhance the clarity of your tone, and perhaps even clean things up beyond what the EQ enables you to do. This is where a compressor pedal would come in handy (like I talked about in my last article) or even a filtration/EQ pedal. There are some pedals that allow you to dial in and adjust specific frequencies, which could be useful if you’re playing a venue that doesn’t have a professional sound system / technician. You could also purposely crank or take out certain frequencies to create interesting effects, or to make it easier to get feedback from your amp if that’s your thing! Other pedals have a pre-set frequency range that they alter, such as the popular Ibanez Tube Screamer. This guy pushes your midrange, and is a very effective way to make your lead guitar work…well… scream.

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Perhaps rather than cleaning up, you’re looking to make things dirty or just give yourself a nice boost. With a tube amp, generally speaking you want your tubes to run hot to get your best tone. That said, the more gain you put in, the dirtier the signal will be when it comes out.

A good boost pedal (I’m partial to the MXR micro amp) will increase the signal level of your guitar before it reaches the amp, thus pushing the amp harder. Think of it as instantly raising the height of your pickups with the flick of a switch… Or stomp of a foot. You can use one of these in band situations during a solo section where you need to be heard, or just to enhance your tone if you like it dirty! Many boost pedals come with an output volume knob, so you could theoretically use it in the opposite way to quiet yourself down, or clean up your tone a bit.

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Modulation and time-based effects processors are next: these are the ones that fall under the “fancy effects” category.
Modulation effects are things like chorus, flangers, phasers and tremolo. You can use any of these to add flavour to particular riffs, or in some cases drive the feel of the guitar in the entire song! Here’s an example of a heavy phaser effect used by Eddie Van Halen:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-IUB62zDlA

And some chorus used by Kurt Cobain:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YyDg9tT0Vw
Time-based effects are things like delay and reverb. A lot of amps come with their own reverb installed, but you can always experiment with different pedals to try a variety of different sounding ones. Generally, reverb is used to thicken up your tone. Be careful not to use too much! While it may sound nice and creamy right next to your amp, in large rooms especially you can start to sound very muddy if you over do it.

A “slap-back” delay is another way of getting a thick sounding guitar tone. “Slap-back” is a term used to describe a delay of just one repeat that comes very quickly after the initial hit. Again, you can use a delay pedal not just as a tone enhancer, but also as an effects pedal by playing around with the settings!

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Once you have a few pedals, it’s important to decide which order you’re going to chain them in. While the generally accepted rule of thumb is to start with your dynamics, then do EQs and filters, then modulation, followed by boosts, and finally time based processors… you’re always free to experiment! Maybe you want your delay to go through a boost, or maybe you want to boost everything before you put on that tremolo. After all, these effects you’re using weren’t created without experimentation! There’s a world of soundscapes to explore.

Happy playing!

Written by: Vince Schaljo

Valco Effects Pedals Now Shipping!

Last week VALCO launched their new line of TRUE-BYPASS effects pedals. VALCO is raising the bar in quality while lowering the bar on price and we are please to be offering them here at Myrareguitars.com. We’ve put together some bundled price packages that are too good to pass up. First, when you buy any THREE pedals for only $250, we will throw in the BLACK HOLE (Phaser) or GOOD VIBRATIONS (Tremolo) for FREE. Second, bundle all 6 pedals for only $400, and also get a BODY GLOVE Pedal Gig-bag (value $29) for FREE. This offer is only available for existing stock, so don’t delay!

Valco Under Pressure Guitar Pedal

Under Pressure [$69 USD]

Valco Black Hole Guitar Pedal

Black Hole [$69 USD]

Valco Come Again? Guitar Pedal

Come Again? [$79 USD]

Valco Good Vibrations Guitar Pedal

Good Vibrations [$69 USD]

Valco The Stooge Guitar Pedal

The Stooge [$89 USD]

Valco Vaughnabe Tubescreamer Guitar Pedal

Vaughnabe [$79 USD]

To order the THREE PACK bundle for $250:

Enter 3 choices + 4th FREE

To order the SIX PACK Bundle for $400:



Check out these video samples:

Rob’s Crazy eBay Finds: Electra EP 350 Flat Response Tape Echo

I’m a vintage gear nut, but I’d like to think I’m not a total analog snob. While most of my amps are tube amps (and rare or oddball tube amps, at that), and most of my pedals are pretty old school (mostly home made fuzz boxes and a Homebrew Electronics Power Screamer), I have some digital stuff I really dig.

For instance, the since-discontinued Behringer Vintager AC112, is a pretty great solid state amp/tube hybrid (a single 12AX7 in the preamp stage) with some killer digital effects. You can snag them for under $150 on eBay and they’re worth every penny, if for the eleven reverbs alone. Yup, that’s right. Eleven reverbs – various models from spring reverb emulation to studio, stage, chamber and plate reverb. And all pretty snazzy sounding. Is everything about it great? Nope – or else I wouldn’t own all these Valcos and Magnatones and Silvertones. What doesn’t it do? Well, for one, the distortion blows chunks. It doesn’t have the richness and depth and dimension when it saturates – which, for me, is the true greatness of tubes specifically and analog technology in general.

Take, for instance, the difference of recording drums on digital versus tape. Push the tape a little hard and you get a warm thick lush saturation. Push the digital too hard and you get that crappy “fcccttttt” sound. Digital does cleans really well, but when you want that sound of tape saturation, there’s nothing quite like the real thing.

This is especially true with tape delay units. Run in front of a good tube amp, a nice tape echo unit can act as a great thickening preamp, along with its more obvious (and intended) applications, such as the delay itself.

What tape delay unit should you get? Got a thousand bucks – then go for the Fulltone Tube Tape Echo. It’s an amazing piece of machinery and probably the best sounding delay I’ve ever heard. However, most of us (especially us Valco/Teisco/Silvertone loving dweebs) wouldn’t pay a grand for a tape delay, when there are several really cool options available for a lot less money. And add the fact that they sound as good in their own way, and, wow, let’s go shopping.

Along with the Fulltone, at the high dollar end of the market, is a vintage Maestro Echoplex. This is the Jimmy Page classic – sounds great. Well designed and pretty awesome. But also really expensive – so, not for us. Another classic, really expensive and not for us tube tape delay? The Watkins Copycat.

If we’re going to come down the price ladder, we’re going to have to get to the solid state vintage devices. And here, I’d argue, is where a lot of the great deals (and great sounding units) and hiding out, waiting to be snagged up. Solid state tape delay units are a great deal on the vintage market – and since so much of the vintage delay tone comes from the tape itself and not the tube, the solid state is a great, reliable, good sounding option here.

Arguably the most famous of the solid state delays is the Brian Setzer favorite – the Roland Space Echo. This is a killer sounding unit – capable of combining (in the RE-301 model, at least) the slap-back delay along with Roland’s awesome chorus effect – quite a combination. These seem to be going in the $450-700 range these days on eBay. Better than the price of the tube units, but still too much for the frugal (i.e. cheap bastards) among us.

So, what’s a rockabilly boy or girl to do? Two relatively unsung (but worthy of praise) vintage tape delay models are a good option here. The Univox Echo Tech (reputedly used, for what it’s worth, on Van Halen’s Eruption – not my cup of tone tea, but one many people love big time). The Univox units go for around $200 (for one needing work) to $350, but they are more often than not broken, or in need of work (more than the other vintage units, these seem to lose a point or two for reliability).

Electra EP 350 Flat Response Tape Echo

Electra EP 350 Flat Response Tape Echo

And, last but definitely not least in this roundup is this month’s crazy eBay find: The Electra EP 350 Flat Response Tape Echo. Like the Roland, this is a combination unit (the Electra carries a reverb along with the tape delay, rather than a chorus). Unlike say, an Echoplex, the Electra doesn’t use a tape cartridge – but rather has a loop of tape running free on one side, then it gets fed over six heads as it travels around a see-though top (which is just too cool).

How does it sound? Pretty awesome – as good as the Roland Space Echo. Rich, with a fat density and a very versatile (for analog – no 15 second delays here – also no cool “Sound on Sound” feature like an Echoplex, sadly) range of echo tones. The reverbs are pretty cool. There’s a standard reverb that sounds very much like one from an Ampeg (the jazzy verb as opposed to Fender’s surf vibe), plus a “cathedral” reverb that’s very cavernous indeed.

Electra EP 350 Flat Response Tape Echo

Electra EP 350 Flat Response Tape Echo

On the echo side, there’s the echo alone, or the echo combined with any (or all!) of the reverbs. You can choose several modes – with different tape heads being engaged in a number of combinations. With controls for “Echo” (depth), “Echo Repeat” and “Delay Time” you can go anywhere from a subtle doubling/thickening, to full rockabilly slapback, to full feedback freakout (and NOTHING sounds quite like a tape echo with the “Repeat” and “Delay Time” both cranked and played with it’s a zany sonic assault).

For the investigators and hunters among us, who made the Electra? Hard to say. Electra was imported and branded by the St. Louis Music company (of Ampeg fame, among others), but made in Japan at one of the many great effects manufactures there. Probably manufactured at the Shin-ei factory, but that’s an educated (or semi-educated) guess. Be on the lookout. These are true Tape Echo units that have that singular vintage analog sound that you can only get from tape, and they can be had for half the price of most other vintage units (the finicky Univox excepted).

A Gaggle of My Favorite Guitar Pedals, Effects Boxes, Units, Whatever!!!

Greetings to all in guitarland. A quick reminder to mark your calendar for next week’s WEBCAST. We are going to blow the speakers on your computer, so don’t be the guy saying, “Oh yeah, I forgot to tune in. How was it!?”. Info at the bottom of this page. This month’s column will feature some of my favorite vintage pedals and effects. These choices will be from my point of view and experience, and as I cannot with expertise speak about effects that I cannot use in the type of music I play (which is blues, old school country, classic rock and 50’s and 60’s R&B). I again welcome all suggestions for your favorite effects.

MXR Micro Amp Guitar Effects Pedal

MXR Micro Amp Guitar Effects Pedal

#1: MXR Micro Amp

This is by far the most useful pedal I have ever used/seen. What this pedal does is so simple yet so valuable to any guitarist playing any kind of music. What it does is makes your sound either a bit louder or much louder. Don’t sound like much, but think about it, how many times were you playing and thought gee I would like to be a bit louder without changing my sound.

So before I get all excited, let me tell you what this pedal actually does. The Micro-Amp is an FET preamp with a 0 to 20+ db gain structure that does not color your sound at all (aside from the fact that you are pushing your preamp section of your amp harder which usually causes your sound to be a bit darker). In my effects chain it is my last in line (btw I only use 4 pedals). Over the twenty-five plus years I have owned one I have used it not only as a boost but have also used it to boost line levels when using long cable runs to isolation booths when recording. I have also used it in a pinch when amplifying an acoustic guitar with a piezo pickup and no onboard preamp. One other comment about this pedal, the battery life (especially the early versions with no LED) is extremely long. Yipee!!! Check one out you will not be sorry.

Uni-Vibe Guitar Effects Pedal

Uni-Vibe Guitar Effects Pedal

#2: Uni-Vibe

Yeah I know Jimi Hendrix used one, and after he died Robin Trower used one on his post Procal Harum albums. There is a reason these cats used one, I think the reason is that there is a magic to the Uni-Vibe that you can’t put a finger on. The best way I can describe it is that it’s thick yet lets the guitars dynamics come through. I have also always believed that it works best with single coil guitars, again I believe this is due to its fatness. IMHO if you want a similar vibe (pun) for your Les Paul or SG use a flanger.

I recommend the original of course, they are not cheap and not too road worthy but they sound unreal. The Dunlop reissues sound okay but I believe the Line 6 Modulation POD Uni-Vibe sound is better and cleaner. I also recommend the FulltoneDeja-Vibe.

Ibanez Maxon AD9 Analog Delay Guitar Effects Pedal

Ibanez Maxon AD9 Analog Delay Guitar Effects Pedal

#3: Ibanez (Maxon) AD9 analog delay

The AD9 is a great sounding analog delay, with three controls, feedback (repeats), delay time, and mix. These pedals were made in the late 80’s if my memory serves me correct. Before my brief analysis of this pedal let me proudly say that back in the late 80’s when we all got sucked into the idea that “digital delay was so much cleaner” mentality, I remember saying to my friend Jimmy Agnello “I dunno I like analog delays alot better”. Well now I think we all know that if it’s a toss up between sounding like Chet Atkins or Big Country…. well you get the picture.

When comparing the AD9 to its predecessor the AD909 I think the AD9 sounds more guitar friendly and less science-fictionary. I think that the AD9 sounds more Echoplexy than the Boss DC-2, and lets face it isn’t that what we want.

Musitronics Mutron V Envelope Follower Guitar Effects Pedal

Musitronics Mutron V Envelope Follower Guitar Effects Pedal

#4: Musictronics Mutron Micro V Envelope Follower

I bought one of these little buggers back in the early 80’s when I was playing bass and wanted to funk up my sound a bit. It worked pretty good on the bass, but when I shifted over to guitar and finally got the nerve to plug it in it really started speaking in funky tongues. Although all it had was one button, dude that’s all it needed. It also sported a switch that went from high to low, which accentuated the higher or lower frequencies. I can’t say for sure whether Frank Zappa used the MicroV or the full sized Mutron for his auto-wah effect but this pedal cops his signature auto-wah effect perfectly.

I also love the Ibanez offering from their early small button series, but this one sounds even better. Another aspect of this pedal that I like is that it is a bit more touch sensitive than any other Envelope follower I have tried.

Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer Overdrive Pro Guitar Effects Pedal

Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer Overdrive Pro Guitar Effects Pedal

#5: Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer

What can you say about a pedal that sells for ten times its initial price only 20 years later. The 808 in its original form had a small square on/off button on top, three knobs (distortion/tone and volume) and an LED light.. For most of us that have used this pedal the best way to describe it is its warm sounding even at its most trebly setting and it compliments the sound of any guitar and amp combination it is used with.

The pedal has its own sound no doubt, but part of that sound is its ability to not color your sound so much. To me it’s the perfect distortion pedal if you are prone to go back and forth from a cleaner sound to a slightly dirtier sound. The 808 is virtually indestructible and its battery life is pretty good.

Now onto the reissues and clones, first I will say that I like the reissue Ibanez TS808 that is currently available. I have A/b’ed it with a few of my original 808’s and they sound almost identical. I wish the lED was briter as on the originals you could gauge your battery life with it. The Maxon version which is in a smaller, flimsier case is not roadworthy at all. It sounds similar but not as close as the Ibanez reissue. The on/off switch is noisy and the pots are too close together for that foot adjustment we all have gotten used to with the original 808.

I must also mention a fellow Vermonter and electronics whiz Mr. Denny Coleman make a great version of this pedal under the name Musicians Junkyard Screamer this pedal is very close to the original, although I will say that it has a texture that my 808 does not, a kind of barely audible octave overtone that I like very much. Check it out.

Vox Clyde McCoy WahWah Guitar Effects Pedal

Vox Clyde McCoy WahWah Guitar Effects Pedal

#6: The Vox Clyde McCoy wahwah pedal (model V848)

Yes my friends I know that there are many wahwahs that are classics and similar (Cry Baby’s etc.). I owned and used an original “Clyde” for years without knowing what a classic and valuable pedal it was. During this time I was using a Cry Baby also and was easily able to hear the difference between the two pedals.

Now I will also say that over the years I have had many guitar players complain about their wahs, and most of their complaints were based on the pedals not being setup right. The “throw” or the aperture (opening) needs to be set to your own taste, and that usually rights whatever problems you might have. (That adjustment is easily made by loosening the retainer screw which holds a plastic piece that comes down from the pedal and once this screw is loose you can adjust the throw on the potentiometer that controls the wah effect.

As far as the sound is concerned, I think that what separates the Clyde from the CryBaby is that it sounds a bit fatter in the low end and a bit less harsh in the open position. I also think that is has a nicer notch in the middle which helps for that wahwah sustain that Jimi used so well. I have never been a fan of the Morley pedals as their throw is too big and I can’t use them comfortably while standing.

Vox has reissued the Clyde with a true bypass and I own four of them and they are great, maybe even a bit cleaner than the originals which is a 50/50 aspect, some might like it, some won’t. I like these so much that I did sell my original Clyde for an insane amount of money.

Dan Armstrong Purple Peaker Plug-in Guitar Effects Pedal

Dan Armstrong Purple Peaker Plug-in Guitar Effects Pedal

#7: Dan Armstrong Purple Peaker Plug-in effects

These very cool little pedals were designed by Dan himself. They plugged right in the guitars output, which makes them IMHO a more studio friendly effect, but with a very simple reverse wiring you can plug them into the amp, and you’re good to go. The real winners of the line were the Orange Squeezer and Purple Peaker. Both of these add-ons were used by RyCooder, and David Lindley, and Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo used the Blue Clipper Fuzz duct taped to his guitar.

Here’s some really good news, after some really poor quality Korean copies of these high quality units were made back in the 90’s, these great little units are being handmade again in the USA using the original designs, and they sound great!!! Rumor has it that there will be some stomp box versions out soon too!

Now here’s some quickies….

  • Vox Tonebender: classic 60’s fuzz box
  • Boss pitch shifting delay pedal: very cool pedal for that quick harmony
  • Ibanez Phase Tone: early script lettering one button, one pot, not the most versatile phaser but a great one
  • MXR Dyna Comp: great compressor, can be very subtle as well as a real scwelcher. Also a great combo with any Chorus/phaser/flanger
  • Boss Distortion (Orange Box): great direct into the board distortion effect, used it many times in the studio always with a shocked look from the engineer.
  • Boss CE-3 Chorus: “the” chorus pedal as far as I can tell, it has the sound. It’s versatile, not very noisy and sturdy as a Tonka Toy.
  • DeArmond Volume Pedal: until the Morley volume pedal strolled onto the scene this was the only show in town. The DeArmond was the industry standard throughout my formative years in this business. Keyboard players used it as well as horn players as well, but as a guitar player it affords you the luxury of leaving your guitar full out taking advantage of its full tonal voice.
  • MXR Phase 90: another industry standard, sturdy, sounds great how can you look yourself in the mirror knowing you don’t have one kicking around your effects bag.
  • Sam Ash fuzz box: red box probably made by Unicord, anyway old school fuzz box and ugly as a monkey’s rear end.

Some many effects so little time….

Please send me your favorite effects and I will add them in future columns.