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Thank Goodness I didn’t Take My Credit Card – A Walk Down Denmark Street

I visited London this week with my lovely other half for her birthday. Whilst there we did many sight seeing things, visited the Natural History Museum (well worth a visit) and took in a show (The Lion King, again well worth it). But for the gear side of my brain Denmark Street was a must.

I dragged a reluctant other half to every shop on the street. There was so much on offer. A bit of everything for every budget. Up to, including and probably beyond an original early 60’s (I believe) Gibson Les Paul Goldtop for £30k or so. There were also more sensible offerings around the *I could buy a car for this amount* £6k- £8k mark, and I couldn’t lie to the missus because she was with me (damn now she knows how much all of this stuff costs!).

What really caught my eye was an off white vintage looking telecaster. It had a maple board and was around the £900 mark, so not completely unreasonable.

What will interest the readers of this blog most however is the number of effects pedals I saw. There were cases upon cases. A lot of fairly normal mass market things from companies such as Boss and EHX. But also unsurprisingly a lot of boutique UK made effects that I have reviewed on here from Fredrics, Hudson, Thorpy FX, plus quite a few brands that I can’t remember the name of.

There was an original Big Muff in one shop. And also if you have £1850 burning a hole in your pocket a genuine silver Klon Centaur.

There was also a healthy number of budget friendly effects from Mooer and the like if the usually more expensive hand made effects were out of reach.

I had a bit of good fortune in finding a small repair shop in the basement of one store who sold me a replacement knob for my Stratocaster and some buttons for the strap locks I have. So that I can swap the strap from one guitar to the other without having to purchase an entire set of the locks which I only need half of. The guitar tech also kindly turned some large wood screws down so that I can replace the smaller screws in the guitar and they would have more thread, hopefully meaning that the lock button won’t ever come loose.

I saw an unusually large amount of tone benders, most of which I presume are original.

One pedal that really caught my eye but annoyingly didn’t get a picture of was a killswitch that had a Morse code button on it. I’ve since found that it is a Telegraph Stutter, from the American company Coppersound effects pedals. Maybe now I should have bought one. Have a look at them here, this is from the shop on Denmark Street that had them.

To cut a long post short. If you are ever in London and have some time to kill. Denmark Street is to a guitar/effects nut what a toy shop is to a child. It is most definitely worth a visit. Although it may leave you looking at remortgaging your house. Please don’t blame me for any crazy spending that may occur as a result of your visit.

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Heaven Sent – Valhalla – Fuzz of the Gods – Sleeping Dog FX.

This fuzz makes some big big claims, does it live up to them?

Sound sample at the bottom of the post.

This fuzz was loaned to me by the very kind Steve Torrie.

The bold claims that the name of this fuzz make I would say are mostly true. It is the filthiest grimiest fuzz I’ve ever used. It is utterly fantastic.

I don’t know if there are any gods (a discussion for another day) and if there are do they play guitar? Let’s assume yes to both of these questions. If they did, and they wanted a filthy fuzz, then I believe they may find their fuzz in this little box.

It looks fantastic, I adore the graphics. They are screen printed and the quality here is excellent.

There are four clipping modes utilised by the knob on the left, and although I am not sure what they are actually doing, I do know that I prefer the middle two. There is a noticeable difference in the fuzzs saturation when switching between the different modes. I can only assume it clips the bass, as furthest left has less treble and furthest right has the most. Whatever it does, it is fantastic.

The other knobs on the Valhalla are labeled slightly differently to what you would expect in a fuzz, but this shouldn’t hinder you turning them until you find something you like. The included hi/lo pot gives you a fair bit of flexibility when you don’t quite want the screaming highs and it helps dial in a grungy grumbling bark.

You may be able to tell that I really like this fuzz. It is the first pedal I’ve used from Sleeping Dog FX, and it sure does impress. The internals are neat and it all looks like a lot of care and attention has gone into the layout. I will say that it has a larger footprint than some pedals and I’m sure the same components could be squeezed into a smaller enclosure. If they were this would make it even better.

The only other thing I noticed worth mentioning is that this isn’t something that you can really boost. I usually have my fuzz after a boost, to give a push if I want it. You can’t really do that with the Valhalla as it’s already loud and in your face. Hitting it with my usual boost did nothing, but I do suppose turning the Golden Eagle up would affect the Valhalla. This is more of an individual thing, not everyone will want to make a fuzz even louder than it is.

The Valhalla came very close to knocking the green russian off of my board. It is a very similar flavour of fuzz but with even more of a growl and more of a spluttery poppy top end. It really is a good fuzz. It’s got me wondering what else Sleeping Dog FX produces, hopefully their other stompboxes don’t disappoint.

The only thing stopping me at the moment is the lack of funds, I’ve spent the remaining money I’d put to one side for pedals in the reverb that will feature in the next few weeks (and trust me when I say that it is worth depleting the pedal fund for)

And I don’t need another fuzz. As I previously mentioned I have used Fredric Effects Golden Eagle to drive the Green Russian to great effect and am more than happy with this. If I ever wanted to downsize my board and have 1 fuzz and no boost, I would certainly be looking at Sleeping Dog FX. Fingers crossed you may hear more from them in the future.

I very nearly forgot to mention another unusual thing about the Valhalla. It sometimes has a swirling modulated side to the effect, I’m not sure I managed to capture it on the sound clip as I could figure out how to control it. It did sound amazing when it would do that, usually when letting an open note or chord ring out, when the effect is trailing off. I’m not sure if this is something that has been designed into the circuitry or if it is a happy little accident, either way it is excellent.

In Conclusion –

Pros:

  • High quality components and construction
  • Screen print looks amazing
  • The fuzz will blow your socks off!
  • Versatile
  • £100 new (for the screen printed version) so wont break the bank

Cons:

  • A fairly large footprint (think the same size as an original EHX Big Muff π)
  • Limited supply as it’s a boutique hand built effect, they aren’t chruned out in the hundreds (depends on your point of view, could be a pro or con)
  • Can’t be boosted (this could be a pro or con depending on your opinion)
  • A bit of a hum, especially with this and the broadcast on together, this is to be expected as it’s a dirty angry fuzz

Tremble, Womble No Worries – Boss TR-2

If you want to hear the sound clip, it’s at the bottom of the review.

Now that I’ve retired the Zoom MS70-CDR from my board i’ve had to replace the most used effects with other stompboxes. Last week I reviewed the reverb pedal that I got to replace the MS70-CDR and this week it’s the turn of the tremolo pedal. Reverb and tremolo were the two most used effects in the CDR for me.

So why did I choose the TR-2? Price mainly. It was quite inexpensive second-hand at around £40. It also has a few other good selling points. Firstly its a standard Boss pedal, small enough for most boards, standard 9V centre negative power requirements and all housed in a dependable metal body. I also quite like the green and gold together.

Its one standout feature however is that you can tweak the wave form of the tremolo from a washy triangular to a stuttery sharp square wave. This is my favourite thing about it. Not every tremolo has this. And there are plenty of in between settings that sound ace.

It doesn’t have loads of features other than this, but part of the charm of it is that it is just exactly what you would need in a tremolo. It doesn’t need bells and whistles to get the job done. Rate and depth are quite self-explanatory. Rate is how fast the tremolo affects the signal, or how fast the stutter part of the effect is. The depth is pretty much the amount of effect present, the more depth the more of the effect.

There isn’t all that much to say about the TR-2. When I first got it I wasn’t hugely impressed but the longer ive had it the more ive been impressed in its elegant simplicity and the ability to add a wash to a soundscape or an aggressive choppyness to a fuzzy riff. It has a nice amount of wobble and a vintage kind of look and sound to it. I’m more than happy with it now I’ve spent a little time with it. If a simple tremolo is what you want, then the TR-2 is worth a look.

In Conclusion:

Pros –

  • Cheap
  • Small, solid metal enclosure
  • Classic looks and sounds
  • Wave selector

Cons –

  • May not be as feature packed as other tremolos
  • No presets – But what do you expect, its a simple no frills pedal

I’m hoping in the future that I can get hold of some other Tremolos and have a bit of a shoot out, watch this space.

Floating in a Sea of Reverberation – Boss RV-6

Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the sound clips of the RV-6

This review is of a pedal that I actually own. This has become a rarity as my board is nearing completion (for now). I’ve wanted a stand alone reverb pedal for a while. I had on my board (I still own it) the Zoom MS70-CDR and whilst this is an outstanding pedal for the price, the reverbs left a little to be desired, and the shimmer is terrible. I’ve kept it to use with my synth as I’ve seen some interesting videos online of people using the Korg Volca Keys and the 70-CDR together to great effect.

There are a lot of reverb pedals to choose from. I didn’t really have a budget as such and came very close to purchasing the Boss RV-500 thinking that this would be enough reverb to last me a lifetime. I did in the end rein it in a little as for the same price as the RV-500 I could finish my board, with a reverb, volume, tremolo and Digitech Drop. The aforementioned are what I have decided I would like to finish my board. I don’t think it will ever be fully finished, it constantly evolves.

For a lot less than the RV-500 I still had around 4 or 5 quality reverbs to choose from. The Digitech Polara, the Boss RV-6, the Neunaber Immerse and the TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2. There are many more for around the same price or less, but these are the four that I was deciding between as they all have a good shimmer setting as well as quality room, hall plate etc. I came very close to getting a Polara, very close indeed as the room and hall settings on the demos I’ve heard sound fantastic, I’ve also been very impressed with the Digitech Obscura, the delay pedal from the same line as the Polara, so I would imagine that the Polara is also good quality. I found an RV-6 on Facebook marketplace for a good price however and thought that as with a lot of these things, if I don’t like it all that much I should be able to sell it on at not much of a loss and try a different reverb. I may even in the future try to find a Polara, so that I can compare the two.

Now on to the pedal in question, the RV-6 does not disappoint. It is built like a house brick. I’m quite sure it will stand up to many years use. It is quite ordinary in most ways, there’s a 9v centre negative socket up top and a large square foot switch on the bottom and somewhere around the middle there are a few knobs for you to tweak. There are a lot of modes on the RV-6, most of which are fantastic. There are a couple such as the Delay+ that I don’t think I’ll ever use as I have a delay pedal that I’m very happy with. The shimmer is fantastic, perfect for ambient playing. But the real standout for me is the room setting, it is perfectly subtle enough. It is pretty much exactly what I had in mind when I looked for a reverb.

All of the settings are very good, but as previously stated some won’t get much use, modular, is interesting, I’m not sure what I would use it for, but it is quite a deep rich reverb with a swirling hint of something else. The hall setting is also fantastic, it has tons of space, as you would imagine from a hall. Plate and spring are not modes that I have ever found myself using all that much, and if ever I have turned them down considerably so that there is only a hint of reverb. That being said, if spring and plate are what you crave within the remits of reverb the RV-6 does not disappoint.

All in all I am very happy with the RV-6, it is an always on kind of pedal, and I do miss it when It gets turned off. It doesn’t have to tweakabilty or the presets of something like the RV-500 but it is a third of the price. It blows the MS70-CDR out of the water on the reverb front. Don’t get me wrong, the CDR is fantastic value for money, but the algorithms within it for the reverbs aren’t a patch on Boss’s. I’m a little annoyed I didn’t take the plunge when I first looked at reverb pedals and ended up with the Zoom, luckily I can justify keeping it for other uses. I am now happy with the reverb I have and can’t see me swapping the RV-6 in the forseeable future. Unless of course an RV-500 falls into my lap.

I’m still interested in comparing the Polara to this, so I may have a review in the future where I do just that, or either of the other two reverbs that I mentioned earlier on.

In conclusion:

Pros –

  • More than enough reverb for most people in a small enclosure
  • Standard power requirements, a 9v Battery or centre negative adaptor
  • Built like a tank, as are most if not all Boss pedals
  • Fantastic reverb algorithms with long decay times
  • A leave on kind of affair

Cons –

  • Not as many parameters to change as some of its rivals, or more expensive options (but these are more expensive, so generally the more you pay the more customisation you get)
  • Doesn’t look particularly amazing (if that kind of thing bothers you)
  • No tone print feature as with the H.O.F 2, so what you have in the box is what you get, you do at least get plenty of modes
  • No presets or scrolling through, it’s an on off kind of thing, if you needed to change reverbs throughout a set for different songs, you would either have to manually change the knobs in between songs, get enough RV-6 pedals to cover each reverb sound you want, or buy something like the RV-500. I don’t particularly find this a problem, I find a sound I like and keep it on. Reverb for me is more a subtle addition to the sound rather than a main event, if you play live, chances are that you may not need any as you will have the natural reverb from the room you’re in

 

Mashing Keys – Korg Volca Keys

You may be sitting reading the title of this review, looking at the URL of my blog thinking “This aint a pedal”. And you would be correct in thinking that. This was my birthday present to myself. I have a broad fascination with making music, and it doesn’t solely stop at guitar effects. This little box of wonder is a similar size to the larger double foot switch boss pedals albeit a little shallower.

Synths have fascinated me for quite a while now, but i’ve always brushed it off as another instrument I won’t have time to learn how to play. This mainly stems from my obsession with Bladerunner and in particular Vangelis’s soundtrack which heavily features moody synth tones. It also surprised me to learn that some of my favourite songs and film sound tracks contain a lot of synthesizers.

The Korg Volca Keys is a very small polyphonic analogue synthesizer. I can’t particularly describe the technical aspects of it in any detail as I don’t understand most of what it does. I enjoy turning knobs and dials until I get a sound that I like, which is very easy with something like the Volca Keys. I found that this was a very cheap easy way to start down the route of synthesis. I can easily expand my collection and sound making hardware. I can also, use effects pedals with the Volca. The Zoom MS-70CDR has been replaced now by two pedals that I will be reviewing in the coming weeks, but I have decided not to sell it as it is the perfect thing to use with the Volca. The packaging that the Volca came is nice, almost utilitarian, as is the Volca unit itself. There are no brash graphics, everything on it has a function, and Korg have managed to fit a lot of functionality into a very small form factor. As I have previously said, this is plenty of Synthesis for someone new to this, and with the ease of expansion, it is an instrument that can grow with the player.

One of my original problems with synthesisers is that I imagined them all to be huge, keyboards that take up an entire desk. In the last decade or so there have been many smaller synthesisers hit the market, many including small keyboards. The Korgs only downside is that it doesn’t have a conventional keyboard it has small touch keys. What it does have on its side however is midi out meaning I can easily plug-in a midi keyboard and get to making music with a full size keyboard, and when I want to pack it away the Korg takes up next to no room, and the Midi keyboard can be as big or as small as I have room for, currently a 49 key Alesis midi keyboard which is plenty big enough.

If you are reading this already thinking about purchasing the Korg Volca keys, don’t put it off, you won’t regret it. If this is anything to go by, I would imagine that the rest of the Korg Volca range is fantastic, I may find out for myself in the future but for now one fun sized box of wonders is enough.

Pros –

  • Small
  • Tons of fun to be had
  • Cheap (relatively speaking)
  • Highly portable, can be battery powered

Cons –

  • Wont be as feature packed as some of its more expensive larger rivals
  • Doesn’t have an arpeggiator (but what do you expect for its size and price)

 

A New Venture – Interviews with pedal builders – Alex Millar – Zander Circuitry.

I’ve tried to branch out a little with the ol blog thing i’ve been doing and have interviewed a pedal builder. This interview is with Alex Millar from Zander Circuitry. I met him briefly at the North East Guitar show, and have tried a few of his pedals out, mostly thanks to Marc at Northern Stompboxes. I’ve been very impressed with the pedals from Zander that I’ve tried, but have not yet purchased one as I have plenty of drive pedals and my reverb and delay are sorted. I would say that my favourite pedals that Zander produces are the Tape Deck and the Exosphere and maybe one day I will get one. The latest revisions of the Zander line have made vast improvements to the usability and updated graphics. I would highly recommend having a go if you get the chance, or at least have a listen to his demos.

Below is the interview I conducted virtually:

Did you have a background in building electronics, or have you taught yourself as you’ve gone on?

Nope, short of knowing how to wire a wall plug I had zero electronics knowledge prior to building guitar pedals. Over time I just learnt bits and pieces through either trial & error or by looking stuff up as and when I needed to make a circuit do a certain thing.

What was the very first pedal that you made, and can you pinpoint the reason why you made this particular pedal?

I’d built a few DIY kits (I can’t recall what they were), but the first pedals a built and sold were simple true bypass loopers with a momentary feedback function, you’d basically just loop your entire pedalboard through the send/return and when you pressed the momentary footswitch it would feed the signal back in on itself, which, depending on what pedals were on, would create these mad oscillations/siren sounds, I just did it for a bit of fun.

Which of all the pedals you have made past/present is your favourite and why, and do you have one on your board?

Probably the tape deck, just because I love noisy, lo-fi delays. The tape deck goes to almost 3 seconds of delay time & I don’t usually use delays rhythmically, it can also get some really horrible broken modulation sounds. So just letting it sit & wobble around in the background of a clean sound is why I love it so much. Its definitely on the board.

Which is your favourite pedal (not made by yourself) if you had to choose one and why?

Ooh that’s a tough one, and my answer would probably change every other week, but for me it would have to be a toss up between two, and I’ll put in the caveat that I’ve never owned either of these, this is purely on the demos I’ve seen. The first would be the DOD rubberneck delay, its just an awesome sounding analog delay with a bunch of cool added features, most notably the effects loop for the wet signal, in the launch video they put a flanger in there and its just an awesome sound. The second would be the Hexe Melusine, which I guess you’d call a vinyl record simulator/vibrato, its basically a vibrato that you can add in a load of white noise/crackle to, not a million miles away from the ZVEX Instant Lo-fi Junky. I’ve been really into a lot of the guitar sounds in lo-fi hip hop lately and that pedal is basically that sound in a box.

What does the future hold for Zander Circuitry? Are there any future plans you can let us in on?

We’ve got loads of exciting stuff in the pipeline, I sometimes find it difficult to focus on one idea because I’m constantly getting new ones. I’ve been working with a lot more digital stuff lately, there’s just a lot of R&D that goes into that sort of stuff (compared to a fuzz for example) but I’m hoping to have something out late this year or early 2019.

What was the first pedal that you owned?

Haha, I was maybe 13-14 when I bought this, it was a Behringer Ultra Metal. I’m not even a huge metal fan but at the time I just saw it in the local music store and it seemed like the perfect answer to making my Stagg Strat copy & 15w Marshall practice amp ‘sound like Nirvana’. So I’d just dime everything and slam it into the front end whilst jumping around in my bedroom, it was a lot of fun.

What was the last pedal that you bought? If it’s been a while, is there anything on the cards?

With the exception of a tuner & a looper, I don’t actually own any other pedals (apart from my own), I find that I usually only get the time to play when I’m testing out builds or demonstrating at a show etc so I haven’ really had the need for anything else. At one point I did have a full board of Raygun FX pedals, they make some great stuff and are only down the road from us, their dual soda drive is still one of my favourite overdrive/distortion pedals.

What is your opinion on the Boss Metalzone? Love/Hate?

It’s honestly become a bit of a tiresome meme. Like anything, it has its uses in certain applications, you can hear it all over Biffy Clyro’s debut album, and it sounds absolutely awesome on those songs.

What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back to when you just started Zander Circuitry?

Stop trying to run before you can walk, everything took off really quickly when I started putting a name to my work & in hindsight I should have slowed down and worked things out a little better, but its easy to say that looking back, at the time I was just doing what I could with the tools I had.

What would you say has been your biggest improvement since you started building FX?

Offboard wiring, euuurrghh I hated it so much, the very very early builds were all built on vero board, including the tape deck, which has six potentiometers, so it all got a bit messy on the insides, moving everything over to PCB was a huge help in cleaning up the guts.

What would you like to improve on future builds?

I’m currently looking at the way all of the boards connect to the jacks/switches, to try and find ways to make things even more consistent across all of them. The aim is to reduce the offboard wiring even more, which will speed up the time it takes to make a pedal. Efficiency is a massively important thing for me.

What have been the high/low points since starting Zander Circuitry?

A low point was last year (mid 2017) when I had to basically stop/slow down everything for 6 weeks due to having surgery on my knee, I snapped my cruciate ligament and both meniscus cartilage which put me in a locked leg brace for a month and a half. It was just frustrating more than anything else, I could still function to a degree, but even simple tasks became a lot harder (using the drill press for example).

A real high point for us was being featured on That Pedal Show, it was something I had joked about months before on facebook with a couple of people, because the idea of it seemed so ridiculous to me, and I didn’t even know we were going to be featured on there until one Friday I was tagged in a post after they’d just put the video up.

 

Which other builders do you admire the most?

Steve at Raygun FX was definitely one of the main inspirations for me starting ZC, I’d been buying his pedals for a while and because they’re only down the road I’d usually just go and pick my orders up in person. Prior to knowing Steve, guitar pedals were, in my head anyway, products produced only by huge corporations with massive factories overseas. But seeing a guy in a workshop, doing everything by hand and making some of the best sounding fuzzes I’d ever heard got me into making some stuff for myself, which then kind of snowballed into making stuff and selling it on facebook groups, and so on…

I guess another would have to be Joel at Chase Bliss Audio, I’ve never owned any of their stuff, nor have I met him. But the boundaries they’ve broken as a company, and the work he did prior to CB at ZVEX is astounding.

Have you ever had a pedal that you have looked back on and been embarrassed by?

For example, I once owned a Danelectro FAB Metal pedal. (It was awful, I don’t know why I wasted my money, I don’t play metal so don’t know why 14 year old me thought the metal version was the best one to get)

There seems to be a trend of everyone buying ridiculous metal distortions as teenagers! Excluding the previously mentioned Behringer Ultra Metal. The other one that springs to mind that I had around the same time was the Behringer Auto-wah, and I’ll make it clear now that I have nothing against Behringer products, but I have absolutely no idea why I bought that pedal. I’m not sure if it was meant to work dynamically with how you played (like an envelope filter) because it seemed to work similar to how a chorus/phaser would work, with a set rate and depth, but with a ‘wah’ sound. Safe to say I didn’t have it for very long.

What is one effect you can’t live without?

Reverb, I could forgo all the gain in the world for a good clean sound with a ton of reverb. I’ve been really enjoying cranking the controls on our Exosphere into a crystal clean amp and just getting lost for an hour or two. It’s the sound that makes me start to write my own stuff and not just emulate existing riffs.

Can you send us a picture of your board/rig?

I don’t really have a fully-fledged set up at the moment as I’m current waiting on a new cab to arrive, I usually just play through the demo board I take to shows which consists of all of our pedals + a tuner, looper and an ABY box. My current guitars are a Fender Kurt Cobain Jaguar & a Fidelity Guitars Double Standard, which is built to my specs with these amazing Mojo Pickups goldfoils & a Mastery vibrato.

My current amp is a YellowRock CA35, it’s a tube preamp with a solid state power amp and is honestly the best sounding amp I’ve ever owned, it takes pedals incredibly well, its got that fender-ish clean sound but without being sterile and fizzy when you throw a drive/fuzz in the front. I absolutely love it.

FIN

Little chunk of big metal – Donner Giant Metal

This isn’t a pedal that I would normally review, I certainly wouldn’t buy one myself. I don’t play metal, and don’t usually go for the higher gain sound.

My friend left a couple of pedals that he had bought and doesn’t use, telling me to review them and let him know what I think. So here we are. I’ll start by saying that it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. I really did expect this to be absolutely diabolical. The very first pedal I bought myself about 15 years ago was a Danelectro FAB Metal, one of the ones housed in a very robust (not) plastic housing. It was awful, and I firmly believe that this is the reason that I stayed away from pedals for so long. I still don’t know to this day why I opted for the metal version over the standard overdrive, having never played metal guitar.

This pedal whilst not absolutely lighting my world on fire is actually somewhat useable. It can do that ridiculous mid scooped high gain ear-splitting sound if you so desire, but it can also be used for quite a crunchy overdrive, especially when using the low boost mode. This is not a pedal that will make you sound like a classic rock guitarist, but it will do a pretty passable Sabbath sound. I completely understand that this will be fantastic for some guitarists, but it is not really for me. Obviously what guitar and amp you use with this will change your perception of it, it doesn’t work amazingly well with my setup.

I did find that the Giant Metal was very flat, and not at all lively when used on its own. I ran it through my EQ pedal and there was a night and day difference, if you have an EQ pedal or a decent EQ on your amp, a pedal like this can be made useful for more than just metal. With the distortion turned down to around the 9 o’clock mark and using either no boost or the low boost mode it can be an albeit heavy but usable distortion. Any other settings make it quite unusable for what I normally play.

It’s also worth noting that the additional noise from this pedal is shocking. I will take a guess that it is due to the cheaper components in a pedal at this price point (around £20 retail). I used an isolated power supply, and decent cables. I get a little noise from my fuzz, which is to be expected, but nothing compared to this.

Check out the sound clips below – I used my Made in Mexico strat with the stock pickups, bridge and middle, a Boss GE-7 EQ, a Zoom MS-70CDR for hall reverb, all going into a Laney Cub 12 (Reverb in the effects loop)

First off Donner Giant Metal, boost off, around 1 o’clock on distortion, same on tone with the hall reverb. Next section I turn the EQ on, and it stays on for the duration of the clip.
Then Clean signal, GE-7 and reverb. Turn Giant Metal on, distortion around 11. No boost. Followed by low boost, and then high boost. Then a play a little bit of Dio’s Holy Diver with the distortion back up to 1 o’clock. No boost, hight boost and then low boost. Then I turn the distortion up to 2/3 o clock with high boost for a lead tone.

In conclusion:

Pros –

  • Tiny footprint
  • So cheap if you left it on the bus you probably wouldn’t care
  • Can do that one sound pretty well, but does benefit from an EQ to make the sound more lively
  • It’s black so obviously that helps you sound bit more like Metallica, and it will match nicely with whichever patch covered jean jacket you decide to wear

Cons –

  • It is cheap for a reason, the toggle switch is flimsy, I don’t hold out much hope for it lasting all that long with even semi regular use
  • The name and graphics leave a lot to be desired, I would genuinely like it more if it was called “Metal Pedal”
  • Ridiculous amount of noise – presumably cheap un isolated components
  • Limited applications, can only do metal

 

 

 

North East Guitar Show

I went to the North East Guitar Show this past Sunday at the Rainton Meadows Arena in Houghton-le-Spring. I helped out at the Northern Stompboxes stand. It was a busy day out. Lots of people came and talked to us about effects pedals, quite a few people who more like me were newer to effects pedals, maybe only had a few and didn’t know neccesarily what every effect was and what it did. This was a good opportunity for me to try out some of the stock that Marc has that I haven’t seen before. I got tempted by a few things, and not all of them were from Northern Stomps.

Firstly I’m still in the market for a standalone reverb pedal. I have a few in mind. The main contender is the Boss RV-500 as I imagine this should be all of the reverb that I will ever need. It has all of the same reverbs as the RV-6 plus more and as many tweaking options as I can think of.

I could have bought one at the show but am not 100% certain about the purchase and it is quite a lot to spend on one pedal. I could carry on using the Zoom CDR70 for reverb but I have recently bought a Korg Volca Keys and am thinking about using the CDR70 with this. So a stand alone reverb and maybe a tremolo pedal are on the cards for the future.

As it was a guitar show there were understandably lots of different guitars for sale. I don’t really have my eye on anything guitar sized at the moment so I didn’t look around specifically for anything. I did notice a few interesting pedals for sale, just nothing that I wanted to spend my hard earned cash on. I could have been tempted if I had a few thousand to spend on some of the higher end guitars. I imagine for a lot of the stalls there it was more about getting their brand out there. I don’t know of many people who will spend £1500 on a custom hand made guitar on a whim, especially when you can specify exactly what you want. So for these vendors I would imagine that it is an opportunity to show their craftsmanship and get people excited about the possibilities. There was a large stand for Flattley Guitar Pedals. Some of them looked interesting, not all of the finishes were to my taste, but it did seem that you could customise some of their pedals. There was a person playing one of their overdrives whilst I was at their stand and it did sound very good. My problem with anything at a show is that the number of other people playing different things makes it difficult to really hear a true representation of whatever you’re having a go with. I would have bought a boss pedal safe in the knowledge that I’ve already heard a lot of demo’s of it. This poses more of a problem when you’re talking about £150+ handmade pedals such as Flattley Guitar Pedals. They looked very good, and they sounded very good, but when making a purchase of that amount I would like to do some research. That being said, I am now aware of that brand so I guess the show has done its job.

I look forward to the next one in a few months time, I might even find something worth buying. 4 pedals and my board will be complete, a reverb, a tremolo, a volume pedal and a Digitech drop. There are a few other things that if the price is right I will purchase, but these aren’t part of the 4 I mentioned above. If I find a Digitech Dirty Robot or their 12 string pedal I would certainly review them, they look interesting but they aren’t as important to me as finding a good reverb.

I have also decided to put a bit of money to one side and purchase some pedals that I can review and sell on, so hopefully this will bring new content that doesn’t rely on me buying pedals for my own use or borrowing them from friends for review.

Let me know if there is anything you’d like to see a review of and I’ll try and get it. Or is there something you could send to me for me to review?

It’s Electrifying – Mooer E-Lady

This is a first for me, I’ve never owned or used a Mooer pedal before. It’s also a bit of a change from the norm in that I’m reviewing a pedal that I own, and haven’t borrowed from Nothern Stompboxes.

Why did I purchase the E-Lady you may ask, as I have a flanger in the Zoom CDR-70. A couple of reasons. Firstly I’d seen the E-Lady on That Pedal Show. Dan had it on a budget board he made, and said how it was a good budget friendly replacement for the EHX Electric Mistress. Secondly I had decided recently that I would try to find some pedals out side of the normal things that I would review. If I only ever review pedals that Northern Stompboxes stock I will be limited to only handmade UK-based manufacturers. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t want to limit myself. I will still be reviewing pedals that I can from Nothern Stomboxes, but branching out to other offerings from more widespread manufacturers.

I have also until now not really had chance to review a budget pedal. The E-Lady cost me just £23 (Second hand) but I can’t imagine it is all that expensive brand new.

So on to the review. What is the E-Lady like as a pedal? It is tiny, I could probably fit about 30 of them on my board. There is a big advantage to the size of it. It feels pretty well-built, it doesn’t feel like it will break any time soon.

I do have a flanger on the CDR-70 and have had one on the Marshall Regenerator, but I have not been very impressed with those particular pedals. I have used both of those pedals for the other effects that they have, not the flanger. The E-Lady is much more impressive. It is not an effect I will use all that often, but for the size and the price I don’t have a single complaint. Also it has quite a refined look to it. It is clearly trying to emulate the Electric Mistress with the font and colour scheme whilst at the same time it is its own thing. Some of the other more budget friendly pedals on the market have quite garish colour schemes or awful graphics but the E-Lady doesn’t fall foul of this problem.

I suppose it does have a few faults. Firstly, It can’t be battery-powered, not that this bothers me personally but for people who might need that as an option, you can’t do it with this. It is somewhat expected in a pedal of this size that there won’t be a battery connection, a battery would probably mean doubling the footprint. The E-Lady only draws 10 mA so could easily be daisy chained with another pedal with similar power consumption requirements. Secondly as far as I can tell the filter mode is terrible. I don’t like it at all. It fixes the flanger, but I can’t see why I would use that, it is as if it is playing your guitar through a tin can. There may be some people out there who are looking for the filter mode, but I am not one of them. If I have a flanger I want it to sound like a jumbo jet taking off, which the E-Lady does on normal settings. The colour knob does make for some interesting sounds, and can make the E-Lady oscillate to some strange effects, sounding at times like a whale call. It is worth pointing out that as with all of my modulation I have put the E-Lady in the effects loop of my amp, before everything other than the EQ pedal. I haven’t tried it anywhere else as I was more than happy with how it sounded where it was. I did experiment with reverb and delay on top of the E-Lady to quite pleasing effect.

I am extremely happy with the E-Lady, as I have already mentioned it isn’t an effect I will use all that often, but it is an interesting sound to have in the arsenal. Due to how the CDR-70 works, I wouldn’t ever use the flanger on it, so it is much easier to have a separate pedal on the board. I’m happy that I didn’t pay all that much for it, and should if I wish to sell it see a small profit or at the very least not lose money on it. I’ve seen the budget pedals in a new light. I’ll be interested in the future to try some more out. I don’t think I’ve been a snob with my board, I just happened to try pedals that I like that weren’t the budget option. I will certainly try the budget option when I can in the future.

See below for a sound clip of the E-Lady. I play my clean signal (Hudson Broadcast into a clean Laney CUB 15) and then turn on the E-Lady for some Flangey goodness.

In Conclusion:

Pros –

  • Cheap as chips
  • Good range of sounds
  • Tiny foot print
  • Classic looks
  • Feels well made (although time will tell)

Cons –

  • Filter mode isn’t to my taste
  • Can’t be battery powered.
  • Mass produced, may not be as good quality as a boutique pedal, but at this price, if it does break, you could probably go out and buy another with the change in your pocket.

 

 

 

 

Zander Cafetiere (Not a full review)

Unfortunately during my time trying out some pedals with my friendly neighbourhood effects distributor I didn’t really do my job properly and failed to take down enough notes about the Cafetière to make a good job of a review. I will be writing a review hopefully in the not too distant future as we are planning to do a shoot out with the Fredric Effects Harmonic Percolator clones (the same pedal that the Cafetière is based on). Hopefully having a few different pedals based on the same famous effect will make for an interesting set of reviews. It isn’t something I’ve had the chance to do before now with any of the other pedals I’ve reviewed.

The Cafetière along with most Zander Circuitry pedals have had a makeover recently, so I may also get the chance to compare the version below with the newer version. I will say that while I don’t remember all that much of the Cafetiere It does look good in this version, and I think the newer version looks even better.

So watch this space.

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