A couple of weeks ago someone asked the following question in the Wampler Pedals Tone Group on Facebook… “How long do you guys let your amps warm up in standby? I used to play about 10 mins before switching it over. Now I'm doing it within the first 5 minutes, and no sound comes out for about 20-30 secs is that the sign of an amp issue?”
I sat there and looked at it for a while, and all I could think was "I don't think I've ever been told about the real use of a standby switch, I just turn on, about a minute later flick the standby switch to on, rock out. When I stop playing, I leave the amp on but flick it to standby”. This period can be either a couple of minutes, between sets at a gig or even virtually all day when at home. I always thought “if your amp is on standby, everything is good”. The trouble is the more I thought about this, the more I realised I’d never even read what to do anywhere, I just did it – the same thing I’d been doing for years and years and years. I didn’t know if what I was doing was right, wrong, standard, naïve or anything else. I just saw the standby switch on my current amp (Fender BDri) and used it the same way I’ve always used it on every valve amp I’ve ever had.
Using the glorious medium of social media I put a question out on out my personal FB about standby switches, their use and what would be the best way to deal with them, or even use them. I tagged some extremely (and some not so) reputable amp builders and asked the question “Can someone please tell me WHY we put valve/tube amps on standby”. I wanted to leave it generic, leave it open… Wanted to hear the opinions of the people who work in the business – let’s face it, 5 minutes on Google had given me so much conflicting information that I was about to switch to solidstate as they are obviously much better and less likely to melt your face or burn your house down. So, having done this I went away to do something else and when I came back didn’t expect the response I got, it would seem this is quite the talking point.
The simple answer to this question is there is no simple answer. It would appear that the standby switch is put in place mainly due to customer expectation than anything else! Here are some of the choice comments from some of the guys.
First to respond (within seconds) was Roland Lumby from The Amp Clinic in North West England, Roland is the go to man in the area for the maintaining and upkeep of your vintage and modern amps… He said “You put it in standby to stop it making a noise while the band takes a comfort break. There's no technical requirement! Using standby means you don't have to wait for the valves to warm up.” I must admit, this threw me a little as I was not expecting such a dismissive answer basically stating that the standby switch is just not ever needed. So, I read on…
Next up to offer something was James Hamstead of Hamstead Ampworks. “Better to turn the master down or unplug the guitar. Standby doesn't do the valves any good. The cathode emits electrons, but they have nowhere to go, so they go back down to the cathode. It's called cathode poisoning, and it will change the characteristic of the valves for the worse - noisier, reduce gain etc.” – The theory of cathode poisoning was bought up a couple of times. I must admit, this kind of made sense to me in a “sounds logical but I have zero scientific logic or reasoning to support my thought process” type of way. So, after this I started to think that maybe the standby switch would start to harm my amp rather than protect it?
Then in swoops Mike Fortin. Designer of signature amps of Ola Englund, Scott Ian and Kirk Hammett. So you know, he understands gain structures and valve amps! He just posted this link which to save you trawling through it (you should, it’s great and not that long) had the following line: “Fender essentially misinterpreted the requirements, and everyone else copied Fender. Leo tended not to put anything into the circuit that he felt was unnecessary - but he came from a repair background where a standby switch is a service convenience.” This was supported by Jamie Simpson of Booya Amplifiers. So, obviously – the valves carry a lot of juice when they are in full flow so you’ll want to restrict the flow to a safe level when servicing them, so the standby switch appears to have been put in to protect the health and safety of the people working on the amps rather than any need in normal operation. The article even goes as far as stating that the best way to deal with your standby switch is “Bypass the standby switch internally so that it does nothing.”
After this the answers started to get more specific and silly (it is Facebook after all) yet some interesting points were made. “Unnecessary if your output tubes see 500v or less. If they see 800 like in a musicman (on not half) it might prolong their non microphonic life” (Harald Nowark). “When you turn the first switch on you send 6.3 volts to the heaters... This warms the cathode which is treated or coated with material that promotes the expelling of electrons. By warming up the cathode before hitting the tube with high voltage it protects the coating on the cathode. When you take the amp off standby the big voltage hits the tube. Also, I think you should turn the entire amp off if you take more than a 10 minute break... No use baking your components for no reason when it only takes a minute to warm it back up....” (Phil Bradbury – Little Walter Tube Amps). Questions were asked about unplugging speakers in standby mode “Still wouldn’t do it” (James Hamstead) and so on and so forth. This really jumped out at me “You see all those amps warming up before a concert? They're not on standby... your amp won't start to cook (class A amps excepted) without the HV on, the amp barely gets warm with just the filaments (when biased right, I must add). And... it's not the tubes warming up that does the most for your tone... it's the electrolytic caps... the ESR goes way down as the temperature goes up... so warm your big tube amp up good before you play. Standby is good for soft-start... cathode stripping is not really a problem with indirectly-heated cathodes (like all tubes we use now), so using standby and separating the HV from the filaments just lowers the inrush current, doesn't really prolong cathode life. There have been wars fought over this, google cathode stripping for more. Cathode stripping happens to thoriated (directly heated filament) cathodes, found on large transmitting tubes.” (Stephen Cowell). “The standby switch is for convenience as a way of keeping your amp ready to go between sets or a quick way to mute when making changes to your rig. There have been millions of pieces of tube gear made (tv's, radios, hifi, etc) that never had standby switches and worked just fine. If there is any validity to the "cathode stripping" theory, let me just say I have seen more tubes blown from the instant surge coming off standby than from improper warm up. And yes, an amp does sound better after it is fully warmed, but you don't have to have a standby switch in order to warm it up. All this being said, most Shaw Amps will continue to be produced with standby switches for your convenience.” (Kevin Shaw – Shaw Audio)
In regard to Cathode Stripping, Roland made this excellent point: “During the 40s,50s and 60s, the best sound we heard was from a Juke Box. This machine stood all day, all week, for many years in the corner of the Cafe, waiting for the coin. How did it play right away? That's right, it was in standby. The valves were heated by the main jukebox transformer .. The amp had a mains transformer which was switched off, it fed the rectifier valve which was directly-heated (usually a 5U4) When you put a coin in, the amp transformer was powered up, and HT would appear after 5 seconds or so, quick enough to beat the record onto the player. This meant that the valves were running the heaters continuously. Cathode poisoning was such a problem that they would have to put a new set of valves in the Juke Box every thirty-forty years!”
Trace Davis, head of Voodoo Amplification came in with this marvellous insight, not only into the industry but to tone. “When it comes to manufacturing amps it’s a great deal easier & faster to include a Standby Switch than to deal with daily emails & phone calls from those asking 'Why is there no Standby Switch? My local tech said that's bad for the tubes?' As one can imagine daily emails & phone calls like this consumes a great deal of time so consequently most companies continue to implement Standby Switches as it’s more cost effective” and “To varying degrees this also enters into the topic of tone. Does an amp sound & feel better once the tubes have come up to temperature & the bias has settled in? In my very humble opinion, yes, so once you do engage the Standby Switch into the ready-to-be-played mode it takes a minute or so (depending on the design, how long the power switch has been on, etc) for everything to settle in to where the tone is consistent.”
To support this, Roland came in with “Trace is right about the amp sounding better when hot, particularly when the output valves get older, they don't achieve full emission until the cathode has been heated for around 2 to 5 minutes. This is actually testable, and is not speculation”.
So, you know, I could rip apart all the comments by all the fantastic amp builders and repairers who contributed but instead I will summarise with the following, written in language that we can all understand.
Your standby switch is a hangover from Fender being more interested in the early days of repair and servicing. In terms of normal playing, in a normal amp, your standby switch is pretty useless. It’s just there as we guitarists expect it. Your amp will probably sound better after a few minutes once everything has warmed up and settled down. Cathode Stripping, do you want to risk it? I don’t, so I won’t be leaving my amp on standby when I’m not playing it. I’ll just turn it off (as like most people, my amps sits in that fraction of a millimeter between “Can’t hear it?” and “Ermhagerd!” so turning the volume down isn’t really an option). Please do not turn your amp on at all without the speaker plugged in and please – if you love your amp - give your valves a few minutes (minimum) to cool down before moving your amp after use. And, of course, there are no user serviceable parts inside – leave it to the professionals!
And who said social media is full of cats, politics, beard combs and pictures of people’s lunch?
The Plexi Drive Deluxe is the next step in the evolution of the classic Plexi Drive, which is one of Brian’s earliest designs. He always wanted to be able to have those great Plexi tones used in classic rock recordings from AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, and countless other bands on any amp he was using.Those famous guitarists would crank their plexi up to the max for massive walls of sound and sustain, but that's not always feasible in certain scenarios. Many famous players are still using the standard Plexi Drive today, from Brad Paisley to Jake Owen and countless rock and blues players (as well as other genres). For years since its release, customers have been requesting the circuit with added flexibility to help tailor the overdrive sound even more to whatever amp and guitar combo they were using. Brian tinkered with the circuit and added the active 3-band EQ, bass and bright boost switches, and an independent footswitchable pre gain boost. Thus the Plexi Drive Deluxe was born.
Our favorite part of the Plexi Deluxe is the immense tweakability of it. With the 3-band active EQ and two tone-shaping switches, you can tailor the pedal to match any guitar and amp combination to get that powerful, cranked plexi tone that has been driving classic music from every genre at whisper quiet or extremely loud levels. The EQ is fully integrated with the Post Gain circuit, so even the smallest tweaks can change your tone into a different flavor. Our other favorite part is the Pre Gain circuit. It’s based on the wildly popular overdrive that is famous for it’s mid-hump that people have been using to boost their plexi’s for years. Pairing the mid-based boost with the Plexi Drive’s circuit gives even more gain and tonal coverage to make it usable for any genre of music. The pre gain boost also works really well stacked with other overdrives and distortions for a great versatile boost to every pedal in your signal chain. The Plexi Deluxe works exceptionally well with any type of guitar, whether it's outfitted with single coils, humbuckers, P90's, etc. and isn't picky on what amp it goes into.
Volume: This knob controls the overall output of the Plexi Deluxe. Just like most overdrives it’s reactive to the gain control. As you raise the gain you may need to adjust the volume down to compensate, and vice versa. There’s plenty of volume on tap to set the gain low and boost the front of your amp with a fine-tuned boost on the EQ.
Bass: This controls the overall low-end frequencies of your overdrive signal. Being an active frequency control, you can add or remove low end from your signal. Removing it would help with bass-heavy amps if there’s too much thump to keep them from flubbing out. Adding in low end will fill out the sound and give your tone a thicker, meatier feel at lower gain levels, or to add some depth to a really bright amp. We suggest starting at Noon (which is neutral on the signal) and adding or subtracting from there. Small increments will open up sweet spots between different guitars and pickup positions.
Mids: This control dictates the overall mid-range presence in your overdrive tone. Also being an active EQ knob, you can add or remove the midrange to tailor the sound exactly to where you want it. Scooping the mids (counterclockwise) will yield an edgier and more aggressive, modern tone. Adding in mids (clockwise) will add midrange frequency which helps to cut through in a live mix, or to get some classic vintage recorded tones from the 60's and 70's. Similar to the bass control, we suggest starting at Noon and adjusting in increments from there. One thing to note is that adding in mids will typically increase the perceived volume of the overdrive, so you may need to adjust the volume knob accordingly to compensate.
Treble: This knob dictates how much overall high-end frequency is present in your overdrive signal. Just like the other EQ controls, it’s an active control and allows you to add or remove exactly the amount of high end you want. We always suggest starting at Noon, and adjusting from there. For extremely bright amps you could cut the treble and boost the bass, or on bass-heavy amps you can boost the treble by several dB’s and cut through the mix really well. This control works directly with the Post Gain knob, and will change the overall flavor of the overdrive.
Post Gain: This knob controls the overall amount of gain from the Plexi Deluxe. The range of overdrive available goes from a barely broken up, slightly hairy tone to full-on saturated rock n’ roll and all things between. At 9am there it will be as if you’re just starting to get some of that great plexi breakup, but the natural tone of your guitar still takes center stage. Heading up to Noon the added sustain and grit will really start to show and you’ll have that identifiable “KERANG” that plexi’s are known for (weird guitar term, but I think you get my meaning). Around 3pm there will be a major amount of overdrive happening, and the Plexi Deluxe emits the feeling of a powerful, cranked and screaming hot plexi amp. The gain is very reactive to your guitars volume knob, so rolling it back a bit will lower the gain while still maintaining volume for rhythm parts, then rolling it back up for solos for that extra saturated punch. For an overdrive pedal, the Plexi Deluxe has a considerable amount of gain, and just tweaking the knob will take you through all of the classic plexi tones from decades of great music in every genre. Running the pre gain boost will increase the amount of gain as well.
Pre Gain: The pre gain boost is is an independent footswitchble mid and gain boost that is based on a classic circuit that has been used for years by nearly every guitar player since its inception. This circuit is known to make tubes scream with a mid-presence that pairs wonderfully with other overdrives and distortions. With the one control knob, it will raise the volume and the gain in conjunction to give more of a punch to the Plexi side of the Plexi Deluxe, which will add gain and also help cut through the mix really well for leads. Because it is independent (it can be used by itself without requiring the plexi drive being engaged) it can be used with any overdrive or distortion on your board, or even as a standalone overdrive. Don't hesitate to crank that thing up well past Noon to get some great grit and sustain happening.
Bass Boost Switch: This switch is activated in the UP position, and disengaged in the down position. The bass boost changes the character of the overdrive by increasing the frequency which makes it feel like you’re going from into a cranked 4x12” cab (or two!). This isn’t a traditional bass boost which will make the drive fuzzier, but it evokes more feeling when playing live or recording. It works exceptionally well at lower volumes where it will make your tone seem much more full and 3-dimensional.
Bright Boost Switch: This switch is also engaged when it is in the UP position, disengaged will be pointed down. Activating the bright boost will add a crisp high-end frequency which works really well for dark amps or pickups, and it also gives your overdrive a different tonal sound and feel. It’s much more aggressive and bordering on the JCM territory with a more aggressive feel depending on how high the gain is set. Engaging this switch may warrant adjusting the active EQ section to find the sweet spot.
- 5” x 4.5” x 1.5″ in size (88.9mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – height excludes knobs and switches
- Power draw: 22mA – Powered by a standard 9v center negative tip barrel connector (Boss style) or an internal 9v batter. The Plexi Deluxe can be run from 9v up to 18v, and doing so will increase the headroom and the overall openness of the overdrive.
- True bypass, top mounted jacks and soft switches
You can read more about the Plexi Drive Deluxe or purchase factor direct HERE.
Artist relations – A tale of two Dave’s.
I can almost guarantee that the FIRST thing people ask when you tell them you work for a company like Wampler Pedals is something like this… “I bet it’s great hanging out with artists all the time.” Many people actually apply to work with us based on the fact they think we spend all day playing guitars and hanging out with Brad Paisley. If only that was true, life would be considerably more interesting than sales meetings, product development discussions and manufacturing scheduling… Having said that, someone does have to work in artist relations and sometimes that aspect of the job IS awesome. You do get tickets for gigs, or invitations to hang out and things like that but the reality is that those days are incredibly rare. Most of the time, if I’m being totally honest, artist relations is usually just disappointing people who want to be part of our artist “family”.
When considering the artist list, we have to be choosy about who we work with. There has to be a reason for the both of us. The artist has to offer us something that no one else does, or have the ability to open the brand to a new audience (a classic example of this is the relationship we have with Tom Quayle. No one was targeting the modern fusion market until we released the Dual Fusion and Tom was the perfect person to do that with). Making the decision about bringing someone in is not as easy as you may think because quite often that person has already bought loads of our pedals and spends a large portion of their life working extremely hard to be successful in the music business. It’s not easy to let down people like that without in some way damaging their view of us.
Anyway, back on topic. After doing this for years I have found that most people really don’t seem to know how to sell themselves to us. They appear to make the same mistakes when approaching us that venues make when approaching them for gigs. Rarely does an offer that involves “you’ll get great exposure” as its unique selling point end well, especially when like gigs, you probably won’t.
I’m going to highlight this issue with two examples. Each are from opposite ends of the spectrum and will give you an indication of how you should approach a company about working with them – how to start the relationship that allows them to actively endorse our product and our company, and be able to use us in their own marketing. For those of you who are hoping for me to provide a sure fire script or check list on how to be accepted you are going to be disappointed, but if you read on, you’ll get the idea of how the decision makers brain works in this situation.
OK, so I bring you “A Tale of Two Dave’s” and everything you read here is true (and yes, it was really hard not to start this piece with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times).
Dave 1 is Dave Murray. Dave is the only guitar player to have appeared on every Iron Maiden record from the Soundhouse Tapes to the Book of Souls. Take a moment to reflect on that, take a moment to consider the amount of gigs he’s done with Maiden, the world tours, the live albums – and most importantly (considering the subject matter of this post), the potential for albums and tours of the future. Our first contact with Dave came through the “contact us” form on our website from a guy called Johnnie. Johnnie is Iron Maiden’s touring manager and also has the general responsibility for all of the bands gear. That initial contact was extremely polite, brief and requested the opportunity of testing some tones for the forthcoming album, basically it was an exploration about making this happen. Now, as you may or may not know from previous posts on this blog, I’m a long standing fanatical Maiden fan so once I’d taken a moment to get myself together, I emailed him back (acting dead cool) saying “Sure, we can do that”. Johnnie quickly put me in touch with Dave’s longstanding guitar tech Colin to sort out the details.
It turned out that Colin was already a Wampler user having at the time a Hot Wired v2, so when Dave mentioned to him trying out some new tones for the album Colin thought of us. We sent out a Triple Wreck as per the request but we quickly heard back that wasn’t right. Colin and I chatted quite a bit about Dave’s tone and worked out that as Dave generally subscribes to the school of “stuff a Tubescreamer in front of a screaming amp” to get his lead tones, a Clarksdale would be worth testing out. We sent one out, he loved it and subsequently the Clarksdale is all over his lead tones on the new album.
Now, here is the important bit. Throughout this whole experience the bands representatives had zero expectation of free gear and offered to pay for everything at all times. Any unit that wasn’t used was returned to us instantly by first class post. There was absolutely no hint at any time of “yeah but, look at the exposure you will get” or “excuse me, you do know who we are, right?” about it. Just professional people acting professionally. I’m pretty certain you can imagine how much credibility it offers us to have an artist such as Dave Murray “outed” as a Wampler user, but not once was this leverage used by them. For me that was extremely refreshing and put the approach of others into perspective.
Now, because I’m not a horrible person – well, most of the time I’m not - I’m not going to tell you Dave 2’s full name or which band he is from. I can confirm though he really is called Dave (or at least that was what his now deactivated Facebook profile said, but I do have my suspicions) and unlike Mr Murray and his representatives, he had zero professionalism and no sense of how professional relationships work.
He initially contacted me via my personal Facebook profile having adding me as a friend some days before. His message told me that his band has enjoyed minor success with their first album and have managed to work a tour across the U.S.A. in support of the album. He was honest about the size of the venues, about how many people were in them and the likely exposure he was getting. He told me of their plans for the future, future bookings and how the second album was in the works. When written like that, it’s quite an attractive prospect – we actually support more emerging artists than established ones, so he has a fighting chance based on the evidence above. He was obviously an extremely hardworking guy who was determined to make his way in the music industry. On that basis alone, I could almost forgive the “PM through Facebook” thing.
The thing I can’t forgive is when approaching us about working together is the use of this phrase, or something like it (and some of you will have heard this in terms of being paid for gigs… yeah, you guessed it) and I quote directly from Dave 2’s initial contact: “I can give you significant exposure for your brand if you give me the gear and some t-shirts so I can use them on tour and the album, we are really keen to partner up with a reputable brand such as yours and I’ve been told how great you are and how great your gear sounds”.
Hang on a minute, is that a generic cut and paste statement put to many other companies? Is that a generic statement that isn’t even pedal specific? Is that how a professional person approaches a professional company? The pedal industry is actually quite close knit, we all talk to each other and actually have each others backs (there are some personality clashes but I can say with almost 100% certainty that every company talks to all the others in one way or another). I spoke to the guys I was closest to at the time (and the ones who happened to be available on Facebook at the time) and we’d all received the same thing in quick succession. I since found out that he had approached some other boutique guitar luthier’s and amp builders the same way. Well, way to go to make us feel special Dave 2, way to go.
It’s pretty simple to work out that Dave 1 is in a better position than Dave 2 to obtain gear and to work with the people who will represent him well. Companies will want to work with Dave 1 regardless because he’s Dave 1. The thing is though, Dave 1 is acting like Dave 2 should and Dave 2 is acting as if he is Dave 1 (or at least how people would expect someone as 'big' as Dave 1 to act). If you think about it, there is the cornerstone of this issue, the moral of the story - If you want to work with us, or want to have access to our products and create that professional relationship – because even if you are a significant rock star don’t act like one. Be Dave 1. Then buy Dave 1’s last album with Maiden, the Book of Souls and go see them on tour (or try to spot their private 747 being piloted by singer, Bruce Dickinson), his solo tones are nothing short of magnificent!
*please note – as a rule, we don’t send out pedals to be auditioned by artists, but certain situations allow.
Tom Quayle is one of the premier fusion guitarists in the UK, who is well known for his vast knowledge of music theory and is leading the forefront in terms of instructional material to help guitarists develop their technique and hone their fretboard knowledge all over the world. His legato speed and fluidity is nearly unbelievable to watch and his ear for tone is absolutely spectacular. In 2012 Tom was already using our pedals, and he and Jason Wilding struck up a great friendship. The Dual Fusion came about when Tom was discussing with Jason about how much he loved the Euphoria and Paisley drives, and how he enjoyed stacking them in different combinations to create his signature fusion sound. Fast forward about a year and it was decided that they would make a perfect pairing for a dual pedal, but there were a few things Tom wanted modified to suit his fusion playing style better. A few changes included removing some switch positions that he didn’t use, as well as the bass knob from the Euphoria side, but he wanted more transparency and clarity most of all, along with a certain response in the gain structure. The result is the Tom Quayle Signature Dual Fusion. (Note, there is a video at the very bottom of the blog where Travis Feaster compares the Dual Fusion to the Paisley Drive and Euphoria).
Our favorite part about the Dual Fusion is the ability to setup the switching order exactly how you would want it. 1 into 2, 2 into 1, or each side set independently through different loops and combos of other pedals. This allows for infinite tone shaping options and combinations, limited only by the imagination (and cabling!). They are made to be fantastic standalone overdrives, but stacked the magic combines into a “fusion” (sorry for the pun) of smooth and sustaining gain, while still remaining transparent and sparkling with the original guitar tone always taking center stage. This video will show you a brief description on how the switching system is setup:
The Dual Fusion is extremely versatile due to this switching option setup, and it works really well paired with humbuckers, singlecoils, P90’s and all things between. The Dual Fusion reacts directly with the guitar at the heart of it’s tone, so if you love the sound of your guitar into the amp but with loads of tweakable tone-shaping options, then this is the pedal that will do it.
Volume(s): These knobs control the overall output of each side of the Dual Fusion. The level of the volume to reach unity depends on the type of guitar and where the gain knob is set on each side. If the gain is higher, then you won’t need the volume as high, where if the gain is low you’ll have to raise the volume to compensate. This pedal overall is not excessively loud, so don’t be afraid to turn it up a bit to reach the level that you want. That being said, there’s still enough volume on tap on both sides to give a boost to the front of your amp for some great amp breakup.
Tone(s): The tone knobs dictate the amount of high end and presence each side of the Dual Fusion has. Counterclockwise will yield a darker, warmer tone with less accentuated highs, which works really well for bright guitars and amps to tune your overdrive precisely to where the sweet spot it. Clockwise it will increase the high end content of the overdrive and give it a much brighter and punchier tone, which is fantastic for humbuckers and inherently darker amps. A good place to start is a Noon, and making small incremental adjustments from there. The tone knobs react differently based on which position the Voicing switches are at on each side of the pedal. Adjusting the voicing switches may require you to adjust the tone up or down to find the sweet spot in that configuration.
- Side 1 (Vintage): The Smooth setting is based more on the classic *D*-style amplifier (the name rhymes with Rumble ;-) ) . The touch response is much smoother and the EQ is a bit more neutral in terms of any particular frequency being accentuated. It works equally well on any pickup selection, adding a richness to your tone even at the lowest gain settings. In this position the Tone knob may warrant a bit extra high end to cut through the mix, or to make it even smoother you can reduce the tone knob towards the counterclockwise direction. This is the preferred setting of Tom Quayle. The Fat setting has a much more pronounced midrange and more accentuated lows and low mids. This works really well for fattening up single coils or cutting through the band mix. There’s a bit of a volume bump and overall less overdrive than the Smooth setting. In this position you may want to lower the tone knob to compensate for the jump in midrange, or raise it as a boost for your tone on solos and control the output with your guitar's knobs.
- Side 2 (Modern): The Throaty setting has warm EQ profile, which accentuates the midrange but still allows your tone to shine through like a naturally breaking up amp. This particular setting works great for rhythm chording, and it allows each note to bloom into a beautiful space of tonal bliss. There's very 3-Dimensional character to this voicing that works in all genre's of music. The Natural setting has a much more even EQ profile that lets all of the frequencies work together to give the most transparent feel while still fattening up your tone. This works really well if you love the sound of your amp but want a bit more “oomph” to sound like you’re pushing your amp into sweet sustaining overdrive.
Gain: The gain structure is really where the two sides differentiate the most. Side 1 (Vintage) has a much more open and natural gain profile, which lends itself to sound like your amp breaking up instead of a pedal doing the work. This side is the brighter of the two, and sounds great paired with humbuckers and singlecoils alike. At 9am there is a slight bit of hair added to the notes, but the guitar’s natural tone takes front and center stage. At Noon, there’s a bit more edge but with the clarity of an amp starting to breakup. Around 3pm there’s loads of added sustain and crunch, but it remains transparent and lets the natural tone of the guitar shine through. The gain is very reactive to picking dynamics, so picking lightly will give a sweet clean tone with light grit and smooth sustain. Digging in and picking more aggressively will give much more grit and sustain and really sounds like an amp overdriving, but at manageable volumes. This is imperative for fusion playing as well as most any other style of music because it allows the player to adjust their gain on the fly just by altering their touch. Side 2 (Modern) has a different feel overall and is the perfect companion to side 1. Side 2 has a more aggressive feel, with the gain structure being overall fatter, with a thicker sound, as well as being the darker of the two channels. At 9am, there’s a nice punch to your tone with some added grit that fattens up your lead playing and lets the notes bloom. At Noon, there’s more sustain and grit, and it also fattens up and has more edge on your natural tone that works great for blues and rock. At 3pm there’s a considerable amount of gain and sustain, and it covers everything from smooth fusion playing to even modern rock music.
Stacked together the two sides create a layered overdrive that fills out the sonic space tonally, but still retains your guitars natural character. Depending on which way you stack the overdrives, it will give different results. 1 into 2 will yield a fatter sustain and overdrive that’s pushed by the clarity of the vintage side into a rich, creamy overdrive with some sparkle. 2 into 1 will yield a more open, transparent gain with sparkly highs and a tight, sustaining bottom end.
- 5” x 4.5” x 1.5″ (88.9mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – height excludes knobs and switches
- All Analog, True Bypass
- Power draw: 16mA – Powered via negative center tip barrel-type power (Boss style) or an internal 9v battery connector.
- Switchable stacking order (1 into 2, 2 into 1 or you can completely separate them).
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!
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.
As 2015 disappears into the distant memory of broken strings and replaced tubes, I've decided that my final post of the year should be a tongue in cheek look at how to use the internet, and mainly social media, in 2016. As always, this is just me talking nonsense and doesn't represent the feelings of Wampler Pedals etc ;)
- A friend buys a new toy (guitar, amp, pickups, pedals, house, car, planet, underwear, tevz): Instantly post in the thread about how "XYZ" is better because you own it (as you probably don't like them getting new stuff and you, obviously, are the world expert on this item and other associated with it);
- Someone posts a clip of their playing or whatever they are working on musically at that time. It's your duty to undermine it and point out what they do wrong. After all, they aren't that good anyway because they couldn't play that tapping bit you could at the age you first played it at!;
- You must take 5 selfies a day and post so we can share in your constant need to see your own face (let's face it - when man first went to the moon in 1969 they took 5 pictures which is approximately 1/100th of the amount taken in the restroom mirror of by virtually every girl in every nightclub in every country on every night);
- You once met *insert famous person here* and had your photo taken with them. Make sure you use this as your profile pic whilst calling them "your good friend" at all times (guilty as charged on this one ;) );
- You microwave a meal: Sprinkle a tasteless herb over the top, put it on your best plate on a nice wooden table and then Instagram it. You must then share the post on FB making out you are Gordon freaking Ramsey;
- You have a "fan page" on Facebook: Repeatedly invite all your friend list into submission (so they eventually like it just to shut you up) and then you make a gushing post about how humble you are that people have liked your work; After all, you're just a humble musician and it's amazing how many people "get" you musically;
- There is slight adverse weather forecast/upon you: Educate the world on the situation as you obviously have a degree in Meteorology and after all, you've been outside and got jolly wet and there is no knowledge like the knowledge gained from having boots on the ground;
- You are bored and lonely: Post pictures of cats, or maybe "comedy" memes involving cats, all the time;
- Attention seeking posts. You must, infrequently, post things like "WTF...." or "I've had enough!" as your Facebook status. This way, all your lovely friends can fill up the thread with "s'up hun", "txt me babez", "u OKz?" or other various deviations from the language that only apply to attention seeking Facebook status updates that will make you feel better, or self important, or something I don't quite understand;
- You are lucky enough to see a popular TV first compared to the rest of the world. You openly talk about the most important part of the plot and don't give a crap how much it ruins the enjoyment for others, because you've seen it, so who cares!;
- The R.I.P. race. You must be the first person to post R.I.P. about someone who has just died, that way you be the person to tell everyone the news. You then have approximately 1 hour to research that person on the internet so you can give the impression of being a lifelong fan of them and regail all your favourite memories of them on other peoples threads;
- You are the member of a gym: Tell everyone all the time you are going and post repeated pictures of your weight/loss gain to improve your self esteem safe in the knowledge you are probably intimidating others at the same time. Total win/win. But please, don't forget, there is nothing better than posting pictures of your veiny arms with the word GAINZ written under it;
- Remember, you own You Tube so have the right to destroy anyone who posts on it. And yes, writing "First" is still hilarious and makes you immensely important and a valuable part of humanity;
- Speed is everything. You must upload a video 'proving' to the world you can play at 3200bpm. Speed is all that matters despite every other guitar player on the planet knowing that playing at this speed is both impossible and the concept is utterly nonsense. Speed is great, at the right time, speed competitions are... well.... I better move on before I say something I shouldn't;
- You are the world expert on politics or theology. Your view is the only one that counts so you must make sure you tell everyone you can what is right and wrong and should they have a differing opinion, they are wrong and you must destroy them intellectually; and
- You spot a spelling mistake in someone's post: Mark their work like some FB teacher and delight in pointing out their errors. After all, you are the Oxford English freaking Dictionary and invented the language in the first place.
DISCLAIMER: *of course, my constant mocking of people and winding them up on FB is excluded from all of the above.
Happy New Year tone chasers I hope that 2016 lives up to expectation, may it be full of great tone, love, light and laughter. Remember, you are beautiful, talented and most importantly you are wonderfully unique. Take what you have been born with and make the most of it. Work hard and play harder.
Tomorrow is the first blank page of a brand new 365 page book, make it your best story yet.
Most importantly, if you love someone, tell them - there is no feeling better than being loved. :)
(apologies for sounding like Jerry Springer at the end there)
2015, The End. I'm off to get drunk, see you in 2016... :)
A couple of months ago I asked the question to many people in our industry what does the word boutique mean to them and how does it relate to their company/business and the industry we work in…
The reason I did this is because I have an issue with the word - as long as I've worked for Wampler (over 5 years) I've never really understood it as I've never been able to relate to it properly. When I first met Brian he was describing the company to me and he kept using the phrase 'a lot of people would class us as boutique'. I’m not sure he related to it either thinking about it, so, I looked in to this ‘concept’ and discovered that it appeared to be everything Wampler Pedals shouldn’t be - so it's safe to say everything I've done in this time has to move us away from that label, usually against Brian's wishes I’d say, but sometimes you have to take a step out of the marketing hype and take a reality check.
What many people don't understand about Wampler Pedals is that Brian's absolutely loves marketing – I’d say it’s his passion, as much as he loves to breadboard and get new releases out there, the most excited I've seen him get is over a marketing direction or a plan that has worked out how we wanted it to. This is why when the rest of our peers were hiring builders in 2010, he was hiring me to take ownership of the internet marketing and social networking. Is boutique about marketing? Is it just a marketing phrase? Anyway, as usual, I digress...
So, what is boutique? Let’s look at what it was in 2010. Boutique then meant a small company, handmade by a guy in his basement making unique designs (tubescreamer variants usually ;) ) and presenting them in a fancy painted box. So, from what I could see – that was not Wampler Pedals! We had maybe 1 pedal that could be associated with a TS, our boxes looked awful and we were being built in a factory. But, everyone called us boutique… I think the label came from us because of the price point, the level of care that Brian insisted on with each stage of the process and after sales service. After bringing them to them to life on the breadboard he then worked extremely close with Justin in the PCB layout to ensure the signal path remained as pure as possible (this is why our pedals are usually so quiet in terms of floor noise compared to others), the parts used are to his spec (and not to price, for example – 2/3 of the PT2239 delay chips were binned upon first inspection because they weren’t good enough and at least 60% of the jfets were also thrown out), the 7 part quality control process during manufacturing include a play test for each pedal... so, from that respect I can understand it why people called us that, there is a huge element of care and love put into each one.
Let’s fast forward to 2015. What is boutique now? Well, those of you connected to me on social media will know how much I like to poke Hipsters with a stick – need to get this out the way, I don’t mean any of it, some of my favourite people are hipsters, one of the hippest people I know taught my kids for years and I love the man dearly, but you know – sometimes they ask for it! A classic example of what boutique means these days can be found in here. Really fancy packaging, unashamed beard growing (I do hope that ‘tache comb is organic and made in Portland sir) and moody photographs (I’m trying really hard not to insert a barrage of jokes here) and what can only be classed as a mediocre product. It would appear that boutique has flipped on it’s most fundamental principle. A quality hand built product.
Let’s look at Wampler Pedals now. We are much much bigger than you probably expect, because we’ve somehow managed to retain the ‘boutique’ image. I think also we have retained it because of our communication channels, we run a massively successful group on Facebook dedicated to Tone Chasers – it’s the only group I know that isn’t just full of idiots arguing about who the best is and what flavor picks they like etc., it’s just people talking about gear. We are actively open on other social network feeds as well. Myself and my good friend Alex Clay do all the social media and we try to demonstrate a sense of humour in what we do, we’ve both been playing for ever so we understand the customers well so I think they relate to us so the posts we make strike home in one way or another. The legend that is Max Jeffery (one of the unintentionally funniest people on the planet) and Brian do the Chasing Tone podcast every week, Brian personally does a lot of stuff on the Periscope app… so we are approachable, does that make us more boutique that others (although, I must admit to noticing that many other companies now have Podcasts going as well these days)? It probably does.
Looking around at our peers, our friends in our industry I find it hard to see any of them being 2015 boutique. Look at Robert Keeley. He made a video for me when I asked the question originally (also check out Pt 2) to show what he thinks about the whole boutique thing. And, being Rob, he also cross referenced the literal meaning of the word boutique from the dictionary! If you look at Rob’s set up, it’s all in-house. From the moment he decides on the pedal to the when it get’s sent to a customer/dealer – it never leaves the building. Everything is done in house, right there under his watchful eye. Then look at Josh Scott from JHS (he despises the label boutique as for him the whole hipster substandard product and customer service infuriates him), every part of his product is cool and is intentionally made that way. Nick from CatalinBread, he and Howard lock themselves away and make products that they think are cool and they think their customers would dig, it’s almost an artform to them – they paint their tones with a fine brush and hope people hear them properly. Philippe from Caroline Guitar Company – the coolest and most intelligent guy I have ever met, a lot of thought goes into the entire design process, a sense of humour and personality is present in everything he does... is that boutique?
My thought process in 2015, going into 2016 is this – boutique companies are dead, but the boutique industry is alive. I"m pretty sure that of all the companies that work at their product full time are not boutique, but, the collective of companies are. We, and they, are determined to bring you the best toys we can, the best tones we can, but in the way we do it. We aren’t truly handmade any more, they aren’t either – most companies employ SMT to populate their boards, most companies effectively mass produce their products (to order), most of the companies are dedicated to provide excellent customer service, most of the owners/builders/marketers are friends who regularly chat, compare notes, help each other and support each other in times of need. I guess you could say we are boutique family, from the small to the large. And yes, I do include companies like Strymon and TC Electronic in that…
What about you, what does boutique mean to you as a customer? What makes a company boutique? Are we, Wampler Pedals, boutique on our own as a brand or are we part of the wider boutique as the collective?
Most of you guys out there who have like me played one too many wedding gigs for all the right reasons (basically, money) you'll appreciate this. I often used to play the game of inserting lines/licks/chops in to the most inapprorioate places, actually I've done this in every band I've been in. Satriani into Pink Floyd songs, Vai into Sting, Iron Maiden into Steve Earle and even managed to get a hook from Dimebag into a major blues jam last year. It's never boring when you get bored!
I've never quite taken it this far though, I've never tried to insert basically the entire song into something with differing rhythms. I'm quite in awe of putting Metallica into a Bossanova number...