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2106, a year in review

Now that 2016 is coming to an end, we’d like to take the time to thank all of the tone chasers out there for all of the support this year. It’s been an interesting time to say the least, with one of the longest dry spells between releases that we’ve ever had (it was excruciating for us!). During that time we took the opportunity to buckle down and reformat our brand to make it a bit more cohesive across the line-up, with many of our pedals receiving a makeover, either cosmetically with graphics, or the conversion to soft relay switching and top jacks. The goal with this switchover is to increase the longevity of the life of the pedal by reducing the amount of pressure needed to activate the pedal, along with the highly requested top jack feature for squeezing more onto the board.

Along with the aforementioned upgrades, we also released the Mini Ego compressor, Pinnacle Deluxe v2, and the Faux Tape Echo v2. The Mini Ego is something that we announced back in January due to high demand and consistent requests for it, but finally got out to everyone after overcoming a few hurdles in production. It squeezes (pun intended) the great tones from the Ego Compressor standard into a mini enclosure, and has been met with great response so far. The tone and attack knobs have been converted into 2-way switches which are common tones that we've honed in on for maximum versatility in conjunction with the other controls, especially with the Blend knob.

The Pinnacle Deluxe v2 was something Brian had been working on for awhile, and he wanted to step outside of the “Brown sound” box and provide something insanely versatile and tweakable to achieve a plethora of great tones, potentially becoming the only distortion you could possibly need! He added a 3-band EQ, along with multiple gain stages that range from light gritty overdrive with the volume on your guitar rolled back, to a full on soaring wall of sound with both the gain boost and the footswitchable boost engaged. He also addressed a common issue where there was too much sag on high output guitars, so a SAG switch was included to accommodate those as well.

The Faux Tape Echo v2 expanded on the predecessor by adding one of the most requested features we’ve ever had, which is for subdivisions to go along with the tap tempo. The modulation section was updated with streamlined controls for depth and speed, deciding to forgo the switch for activation. We’re VERY proud of these new pedals and glad that they’re making it into the hands of the tone chasers that can put them to good use!

Finally, we released the Bravado 40w pedal platform amp. It’s an all tube, handwired on turret board design that is made specifically for the pedal addict who uses their pedals for dirt and that are looking for the perfect canvas to create their own tonal work of art on. Along with being the perfect platform for dirt pedals, the FX loop was also designed with Dave Friedman to have zero tone loss and make your time-based and modulation effects sound pristine and fantastic.

Going forward into 2017, we’re VERY excited about some of the things we’re working on. There will be something new at Winter NAMM, and many more things in process of being developed for our 2017 release schedule. We’re so thankful for the support and the feedback, and we’re looking forward to an even more exciting 2017!

Bravado 40w Amp

 Brian Wampler has taken his intimate knowledge of circuits and built the Bravado from the ground up, designed to be the ultimate high-headroom clean pedal platform.

The Bravado is equipped with 6L6 power tubes and delivers 40 watts of clarity that works well with nearly every pedal, making it sound exactly how you expect it to - perfect. Unlike almost every other amp on the market, the Bravado is engineered to give players warmth and natural tube compression that gels with all types of pedals, whether a simple boost or massive distortion.

When it comes to the EQ, the Bravado provides a multitude of tweakable tones. A wide range three-band EQ sculpts any pedalboard while the tube-buffered effects loop is a nice warm place for your delay/reverb effects.

The Fat switch which gives your signal chain a ballsy push in the midrange without being nasally. Three positions provide varying levels of midrange enhancement and extra gain for players looking for a brawnier tone.

Wampler found that amps with bright switches were either too bright or too dark, and so a multi-position bright switch rounds out the EQ controls. Six positions of brightness let you dial in just the right amount to liven up your chain before the power section gives it what for.

The Bravado is expertly handwired, point-to-point, in Los Angeles, CA and loaded with top-shelf components for optimal tone.

The Bravado will be available in a 40w head (2x12" cab available) and 1x12" 40w combo!

Full details will be published on the main web site product pages soon, with pre-order links and confirmed release dates! 

Tone chasing just went to the next level!

Product update - 2016

The day that we felt would never arrive is finally here! As you all know, we announced the Mini Ego along with some other pedals in January of this year at Winter NAMM. From that point it has been a metaphorical rollercoaster trying to get the final product out to the players.. Admittedly the announcement was done a bit prematurely, and it was an exercise in frustration trying to get the Mini Ego’s into full release.

In the process, we’ve also had a lot of things going on in the background, with the eventual goal of wanting to convert the entire line to top jacks and soft switching. This is a set of features that players have been requesting for years, and we wanted to make good on our promise to eventually make that happen. With the delay in production for the Mini Ego, we decided to go ahead and pursue the process to make those conversions a reality.

Today, we’re very pleased to announce that our entire line-up has converted over to top jacks and soft relay switching (with the exception of the mini pedals), with several pedals receiving a graphics facelift to signify our next step in evolution. Rest assured that NONE of the tones have changed whatsoever, it’s merely switching to a more advanced, reliable switching system with the added space-saving factor of top jacks. You can check out our website to see the newest versions available. These will be available world-wide (ask your local dealer) as well as direct from our site.

Along with the line-up overhaul, we’re happy to announce that we’re also releasing a new version of the Pinnacle Deluxe, as well as a new Faux Tape Echo! The new Pinnacle will feature an 3-band EQ, Modern and Vintage tone selector, a Gain boost switch, and a footswitchable pre- volume/gain boost (yep, 2 different boosts!). The boost operates by the volume and gain going up simultaneously and despite being standalone, is made to really kick the Pinnacle to the next level of clipping and distortion. The Pinnacle was originally designed with the “Brown sound” in mind, but with this new version Brian wanted to take it a step further and make it one of the most versatile distortions he possibly could. He also decided to include a SAG switch. Players with active pickups or extremely hot pickups sometimes experienced enhanced levels of compression and sag, often requiring the player to lower their pickups. This switch helps solve that issue quickly and effectively.

The new Faux Tape Echo will feature 4 subdivisions, 1/4 note, 1/8th note, dotted 1/8th, and triplets. Along with the graphics and subdivision overhaul, the controls have changed up a bit too. There’s a Delay knob that sets the amount of delay time (up to 600ms of clean repeats, but maxed out around 800ms with some grit added to the notes), Delay Mix that lets you blend in the delay with your dry signal, Repeats lets you select the number of repeats, from one repeat to self-oscillation past the 3pm range. The modulation on/off switch has been removed and we now have dedicated Rate and Depth knobs that let you adjust quickly without having to mess with a switch. Turning these knobs fully counterclockwise will result in no modulation on the repeats. The Tone control controls the repeats only, from darker aka warmer to brighter and a bit more of a digital feel.

All of these products are now available to buy, in store or direct from us via our webstore, which is right here!

Stairway to litigation

As I watching the news here in 'sunny' England yesterday i was confronted with a picture of a rather serious looking Robert Plant and Jimmy Page and the headline of "Stairway Heaven in copyright trail".  I expect like most people did, I just rolled my eyes and thought "... not again" but then the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it became.

Before I start, let's look at a couple of copyright trials in terms of music in recent years. Famously Joe Satriani took Coldplay to court because of the claims he made that their song "Viva La Vida" from 2008 was based on his 2004 track "If I Could Fly". Here they both are....

I can hear some similarities in the two, but I'm not certain enough to bring about a court action. Now, I love Satch - big love for him and his career but I don't get this - there are parts of the Satch song I can take over to the other but for me it's not that obvious... Waaaaaaay back in the 90's I worked in a music shop in Exeter and Chris Martin was a regular in there as a young 17/18 year old music freak. I remember him having a talent several miles wide and hated it when I dropped Vai and Satriani licks in when there was a shop jam happening. He just didn't like that style of music and never listened to it... But, that's incidental. Anyway, it is strongly rumoured that this was settled out of court under the banner of being "dismissed".

George Harrison was famously found to have subliminally plagiarised "The Chiffons" track "He's So Fine" for his track "My Sweet Lord"... now, this one I can hear completely. Have a listen to the melodies throughout... I do find it 'amusing' that after the case was found against Harrison he went on to buy the publishing company that owned The Chiffons track!

So, Stairway to Heaven. Apparently, this copyright infringement action has been brought by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the late Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe, who played on the same bill as Led Zeppelin in the 1960s, and claims he should be given a writing credit on the track. Let's have a listen to them put together (man... I love the internet).

I think everyone can hear the hooks in the intro being similar. But let's be honest, it's not exactly an uncommon progression/feeling in either of these songs is there. At what point does a song become solely identifiable from one section of the track, in this case, it would appear to be the intro and maybe a hook in the middle. At what point do we draw the line at what is obviously an inspiration and what is blatantly plagiarism. As I said above, Zep and Spirit shared the the same bill in 1969 and Spirit played Taurus that day. Could it have been the case that Page heard it and it stuck in the back of his head? Probably. Could it be the case that Page/Plant sat down in that cottage in Wales and said "Remember that band, Spirit, we played with them a couple of years back - they did a song called Taurus and it had a couple of great hooks in it, let's use them in a new song"... Unlikely. I mean, it's not as if Zep were struggling for hooks or general abilities for songwriting was it?

I'll think I'll just leave you with this to think about before I start ranting about lawyers and the pointless pursuit of money, something for nothing and creativity...

Actually, I'm not going to rant but I will say this... If this is decided in favour of Spirit on May 10th, I will just transfer all my future gig earnings to Messers. Gilmour, Vai, Satriani, Mason, Reed, Edge, May, Paisley, Smith, Murray, Bettencourt, Gill.... and everyone else's who's licks I've picked up over the years and are all bastardised together to make me sound like me. I wonder if I can just set up a direct debit to their accounts, or maybe I should just stop playing. Maybe the fear of litigation will stop is all from playing soon anyway. How I wish I was the person who can claim rights to the 12 bar progression... Imagine that!

Country legend passes on his 79th Birthday

2016 has been a year of sadness, where musical legends that defined our childhoods have been taken from us, seemingly out of nowhere. Today is such a day, where country music has lost one of it’s forefathers. One of the infamous outlaws if country music, Merle Haggard has sadly left this world at the age of 79, and of all days to leave it happened to be on his birthday.

Merle’s contributions to country music spread far and wide, being a successful working and touring musician for over 50 years, standing beside other legendary country music giants such as Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash to pioneer what many of us define today as “real country music” and the subsequent sub-genre of Outlaw Country, which mean that the artists didn't care about pleasing everyone, but more so for speaking their mind and living how they wanted to. Despite growing up a troubled teen, he learned valuable life lessons that he used to craft some of his greatest songs. The Hag was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in ’77, and also the Country Music Hall of Fame in ’94, and his songs have stood the test of time to today. I think it’s safe to say that nearly every musician who plays country music could play “Workin’ Man Blues” in their sleep.

Despite surviving a bout of lung cancer years ago, Merle had been sick recently and it was his time to go. We send our condolences to his family and the country music community in their time of loss, and we raise our glasses to toast the poet for the common man.

I’d like to leave you with this rendition of some of my favorite artists paying homage to Merle Haggard in the best way possible, which is through music.

 

Nicholas Harris - CatalinBread Effects.

I'm writing as I think, this will probably contain some bad language, so if you are offended by curse words, you might want to skip this!

Over the next few days, weeks, months and hopefully years a lot of words will be said about Nicholas Harris. Most of them will be full of praise, some will be controversial, some will make people laugh. I'm not going to sit here and talk about his achievements in tone as they are obvious, but I am going to talk about my friend.

I first met Nicholas at Winter NAMM a few years back. I was (obviously) fully aware of who he is and the company he built - his reputation had proceeded him... But, I was surprised at the softly spoken, quiet and unassuming man I was talking too. We discussed a few things about the industry but it was obvious that neither of us wanted to talk about pedals so we went our separate ways, politely and professionally and without incident. I was quite surprised at how uncontroversial he was and that I came out with all my body parts intact. My first impression was that the persona that other people attributed to him was well off the mark.

Fast forward a couple of months and I'm at our distributors booth at MusikMesse and I'm playing with either the BelleEpoch or EchoRec (I can't remember) and just having the BEST time with it. When I got home a few days later I pinged him a friend request on Facebook. After a few days a message appeared in my PM from Nicholas basically sounding me out and my intentions of asking to be his friend on social media... He explained how boring he was (!!!), how all he talks about is golf and his real friends and that I won't find it interesting. I responded that I digged his work, I hate the politics of business and I just wanted to be able to connect with him. There are a lot of people in this industry with their heads firmly up their own backsides and I liked the person I met and just wanted to get to know him better. He finally relented and we became "friends".

It quickly became obvious that we enjoyed each others (virtual) company and made each other laugh. I would often wake up to a drunken PM in FB from him (he was 8 hours behind me in terms of timezone) which was hilarious - often wildly offensive and TOTALLY honest about another manufacturer, a distributor we share, a dealer or about something irrelevant... often it was just a chat about nothing and everything... quite often about something specific to our business and their business, a path smoothed, a problem avoided. He quickly became one of my favourites in the industry because there was no bullshit with him, he was a very real person who took me at face value and allowed me to take him as such. He worked out that most of my online presence is a front, I am socially awkward and just allowed me to be me. Really quite refreshing as he had no interest in my online persona.

When it comes to products I am in awe of the way Nicholas led CatalinBread. I often called him "the f***ing Rock star" of our industry, that I'm pretty certain slightly annoyed him (which is why I kept doing it and because there are people who like to think they are a rock star when they are anything but... you need more than a beard, hair, vinyl and some well placed artist endorsements to make you that) because he didn't pander to customer expectation or market trends. He designed and built pedals based on what they thought was cool and what inspired them to play. Basically, the true essence of artistry. I am so jealous of that I cannot begin to tell you, but I am wired up differently. I am constantly looking at the market and what we need to do to be successful in it. He saw this in me and quite often made some wonderfully cutting remarks to me about it. We butted heads a couple of times about some things I'd said... it never ended bad though, just two guys who are basically the opposite ends of the spectrum with a common goal. I think we liked to remind each other often about those differences.

I last saw Nicholas at Winter NAMM about 4 weeks ago. I went in early one morning to catch up with some faces before doors opened as once the people come in, you're tied to the booth for 8 hours flat. Being him, he wasn't in yet so I left a message and I hoped to see him soon... A couple of hours later he came up to our booth with Howard and we caught up. We talked about our eye sight (I had the same operation he did about a year before he had it so it was a conversation we often had), we talked about Hipsters and Portland (again, just to annoy him as I liked to poke him with a stick when I could) and loads of stuff that I wish I could remember. Later that day I saw Howard at the pedal builders social gathering and we chatted for bit, and that was that, we went our separate ways. Between then and now we chatted a bit, he popped up on a couple of my threads on social networks which ended up with us deciding (about a week ago) that I should go to Portland and go drinking and jamming with him. We thought it would be great fun and lots of laughter would be had. I last spoken to him on Wednesday, the day before he died - I asked him about getting wider HiWatt tones from the RAH and WIIO pedals and if they could be Gilmouresque. Looking back on it, the most disappointing conversation ever considering it was our last.

Mortality is a bitch. I'm 42 now, 5 years older than Nicholas will ever be. I'll never be able to have that drink with him. I've lost a valuable friend with whom I can compare notes about dealers and distributors with (yes, you should all be really scared as we talked openly and honestly about you ALL) and most importantly, someone I can make laugh and who made me laugh. Fortunately, we have have his legacy, his company and the circuits he designed with the team and I, as a simple guitar player, am thankful for that. I spent a long time in PM on FB, in several threads, with some other guys from the industry yesterday, talking about Nicholas and our memories of him. I laughed a few good times as I thought about conversations we'd had about these very same people before. He saw us all, with perfect clarity, I don't doubt there were some incredibly accurate perceptions about me floating around with his name on it someplace.

I have no doubt there will be the usual charity auctions pop up soon to give financial aid to his family in this horrible time. I don't doubt for a moment we will contribute and promote it fully. However, I'm kinda leaning towards this opinion - Just go to their website and buy one of their pedals. Direct from them. HERE. I'm pretty certain he would hate a charity auction in his name, would hate the concept of financial assistance so if you want to help. Go buy a pedal from them direct.

Sleep well my friend, I hope one day our paths will cross again someplace else and we can have that beer. I'll miss you, your quiet confidence, your humour, your wonderfully different to my own brain and your insight into this wonderfully diverse and complex little industry. I'll leave with this picture that sums how I feel for Nicholas, this was taken at NAMM 2016. Here I am displaying all my levels of social awkwardness, and here's Nicholas putting his arm around me for a photo. I liked that about him, most would sense I don't feel that comfortable and retreat from me, I like to think he did it just keep me on my toes. Or because he was just a down to earth nice guy.

 

UPDATE (11th March 2016, 19:39BST) A gofundme page has been set up to assist the Harris family in these horrible times. If you don't spring for a pedal from them, please give generously here.

Pre NAMM stuff...

It’s that time of year again! NAMM is upon us and we are all gearing up for the trip out to California to show at what is arguably the biggest and best musical instrument trade show in the world!

Descending upon L.A. from Indiana, Virginia and the U.K., the 2016 Wampler team are geared up for a great show and are excited at the prospect of potentially (emphasis intended) showing some prototypes! We are currently in a blind panic rush to get them ready, it’s looking good but we may even be at the position where we are putting them together on the show floor on Wednesday… if this was Facebook we’d make a meme asking for positive vibes/good wishes/prayers etc to help us along! ;)

So, what do we expect from NAMM this year? Well, for a start MUCH nicer surroundings than the last 3 years. Let’s put it this way, last year we were directly opposite a cymbal manufacturer, the year before within the main drum section and the year before that we were directly opposite a Korean metronome manufacturer, who had about 80 on display, all going, all the time, completely out of synch with each other. I remember looking at Travis at one point and the look in his eyes were telling me he was plotting the same ill fates for those things as I was! This year we are in B5267 which is right in the middle of the guitar sections, we back onto companies like Friedman and Morgan, we are opposite Martin, round the corner from Seymour Duncan and within reach of Marshall, Randall and some of the other serious manufacturers! I must admit, when I saw the show map I was delighted to be no where near the drum section!

The run down of gear this year is as follows, Max has spent a couple of days wiring up the show board with the following… to ensure we have enough clean power with masses of headroom we’re utilizing 3 Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 Plus supplies, that way we can be certain that all of our digital and analogue based pedals receive enough power to make sure they perform to Brian’s exacting standards. We are of course having a complete board with the potential of 3 new prototypes… As I mentioned above, these are going to be on the line in terms of time to get them ready so fingers crossed!

The boards, as usual, are from the brain of Bob Hebert who makes all of our cabs and boards. The board will be fed into the front end of our trusty Port City 50w Pearl into a stock 2x12” Port City non ported.  Both of these are kept in solid Bruton Road Cases. We’ll of course be having a couple of tiered show boards (just so people can rock up and have a good look at the pedals) there as well - all instrument cables are our branded ones, because they just sound ace. Patch cables was interesting, we started off with an extremely well known brand of cable, but they sounded so bad we ditched them instantly. So, we went with some pretty generic low cost ones because they don’t suck too much tone, but enough for us to show what out buffer does so well… We thought that we should get some cables that people are likely to use themselves that way they can hear exactly what difference it will make.

We hope to have a fair selection of guitars at NAMM for testing, at this stage I can only guarantee Brian is bringing his Whitfill Telecaster and the HSS Strat made famous in the Dual Fusion video when he broke it… Helping us demo on the booth this year are ace players Greg Marro and Tommy Baldwin. Notes will be plucked and a couple of faces will be melted, in the best possible way. It is NAMM after all...

So, that’s our run down of pre NAMM stuff… between Brian, Max, Alex and myself we’ll be jamming our social network channels with all manner of stuff from the show floor, and uploading many photos when we get back to the hotel… Make sure you are subscribed to our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels... Also, this would be the prefect time to download Periscope and have that ready, you never know what or who you might see on it!

We will be filming the last ever Chasing Tone Podcast from NAMM, would be great if you'd all check it out when it's released! See you on the other side tone chasers!

The world needs more people like David Bowie

There are going to be a lot of pieces written today and most of them will come with more personal insight, fandom or knowledge than I can ever bring, but I wanted to give an insight to the level of his impact to our world from a non-fan, from someone who never really understood the vast majority of his work... I know, shame on me. I hope you find it as confusing as I do that I feel the need to write down how I feel and the need to grieve and mourn the loss of this incredible artist.

David Bowie was a simply that, and incredible artist. An artist who lived at a level that is rare in humanity. He wasn't just a singer; he was a songwriter, a producer, a dancer, an actor... He was theatre in the best possible way. He was nothing more than an artist. Every performance he made, every piece he wrote, was just delivered on his own terms and for no other reason than to have that art freed from a mere mortal constraint.

The world needs more people live David Bowie.

I'm 42, I wasn't aware of the whole 70's thing at the time, I visited it in the 80's and 90's and I remember being amazed at the level of sheer genius that was so freely available to us within a mere record. I didn't understand it, but I could see it, I saw it in the dedication of some of my friends who totally understood it on a deeply personal level (in a way today I am mourning for their loss as I can feel it coming from them even through social media), I can't think of many people who provide that level of love and dedication from strangers whilst deliberately changing himself at every opportunity, almost daring those people to leave him behind and then follow him again. When I think of him, I think of the Goblin King, dancing with Mick Jagger in the headlights, singing Under Pressure with Annie Lennox, looking at me from countless record covers, videos, posters and making me feel like I was falling into something I didn't understand.

The world needs more people like David Bowie.

Any person who can inspire so much love and emotion from sharing their art is a genius, and I hope that if you should read this one day, you'll join me in wishing this giant of a man safe travels into the next stage of his incredible being. The journey into our memories. As an imprint of art into humanity that I hope lives in our consciousness as long as any other legend. Whether that be Rhembrandt, Mozart, Chaplin or Sinatra, we should feel lucky that he chose to share it with us, allowing us to rejoice in his freedom of expression of love and life.

The world needs more people like David Bowie.

Today the colour has been turned down, it's all looking slightly more monotone out there today. Although I fully expect someone far more qualified to share his music than I will be horrified by my choice of song, I simply have to chose this one. Originally just a song under construction, destined to be an album filler it was at best going absolutely nowhere. There to sing backing on another song, Bowie wrote with them to gave it direction and took it to a place that touches me deeply every time I hear it. My favourite collaboration between two independently enormous artists, it's just art.

 

The world needs more people like David Bowie... Our only solace is that I believe the world to be almost 5 billion years old and has another 5 billion or so to go and we were here the same time he was.

Klon v. Klone - the shootout!

So, the Dan and Mick at That Pedal Show have been at it again, this time taking a couple of original Klon Centaur (Silver and Gold) and putting them side by side next to "The Klone Pedal" the "Archer", "Archer Ikon", the "Soul Food" and our very own Tumnus. They both played through each of the pedals extensively and seemed to appreciate the minimal floor noise of the Tumnus as well as the full and balanced low end.

Once again, not only is the pedal show a great place to listen to pedals, but the guitars and amps on display are always worth looking out for, the usual Mitchell rehoused JTM-45 is here but this time we have some Two Rock Action and one of the most gorgeous Nik Huber guitars you'll hear! Also a lovely '57 reissue Les Paul, USA Vintage '62 Strat and Collings SoCo.

You can check out the shootout and see for yourself, which one do you think sounds best? Can a klone ever sound as good as a Klon?

Shreddy Cat Fight!

 

There's nothing worse than when you are trying to shred on camera and your cat decides it wants to sit on your lap... especially when the cat won't take no for an answer!

Wampler Artist Toni Martinez (Spain) can't help by laugh as his persistent cat refuses to move from his lap despite his best efforts to keep shredding!

Personally I don't blame the cat. I've seen Toni play many times on a number of his beautiful Suhr's and it's hard not to get up close to stare, although I'm not sure if the cat is looking to absorb some of his skills like I usually am...

Disclaimer. No Suhr, guitar players, cats, notes or any related equipment were harmed during the making of this film. Well, apart from the small chunk that was taken out of Toni's right knuckle!