Talking about gear

Talking about gear (104)

Cleaning the pots on your pedals...

Scenario time: You’re at a gig and the show is going well. The band is tight, the crowd is loving the music and the bar owner is loving the way you your group have packed the house. You bend over to adjust the gain on your overdrive pedal, and you hear it… and the room hears it. That noisy, scratchy and crackling sound of a dirty pot. It isn’t a gig killer, but it definitely brings the joy down a notch. Resisting the urge to throw that pedal across the room in disgust, there is a way to resurrect it and get it back into full operating order once again. To get started we’ll visit Amazon.com to search for Deoxit Contact Cleaner. (Note, this is available at multiple different outlets, including some vehicle care places, and I’ve even seen it at Guitar Center before. We just chose Amazon out of simplicity).

Deoxit is designed to clean, lubricate and preserve contacts and conductivity, by dissolving the dirt and grime, and it does a great job of it. Though it’s in a liquid form, it is quick drying and will not hurt the pedal at all. Deoxit is effective, but it is also quite strong so some precautions are in order before using it. Being an abrasive substance, you want to use it outdoors in a well ventilated area and not on a windy day. To be extra careful it wouldn’t hurt to wear a face mask to prevent breathing in any of the fumes. The same goes for your eyes, you don’t want this getting into your eyes by accident, so some glasses or other form of protection wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Once you get done with the following steps, be sure to wash your hands as well to prevent some from accidentally getting where it shouldn’t.

 

Step One:

Take the pedal apart to access the pots. Remove the back cover to expose the inner pots and circuit board. If you’re uncomfortable with this process, it’s best to take it to an experienced tech that is familiar with electronics.

 

Step Two:

Each potentiometer has a small opening that will allow the cleaner to get inside and loosen the dirt that has collected in there. As you spray liberally turn the knobs back and forth quickly. This will work the dirt loose and restore the contact needed for clean transitions in your adjustments.

Step Three:

Put the pedal back together and test it out. That scratchiness should be gone. This method can be used on switches as well. Just work the switch as you spray to ensure they are free of dirt and are well lubricated. Deoxit can also be used to clean your inputs and outputs, and even your AC adapter jack can be cleaned this way. Just don’t do it while attached to power. It could void your warranty and/or seriously hurt you.

Now, this is a technique that works most of the time, your mileage may vary but it could save you some time instead of having to go through process of submitting it for repairs.

Brian covers this more in depth in his latest vlog: How to clean dirty & crackling pots (potentiometers) on a pedal...

G-Bender, in a nutshell

After the new shots of the Paisley Drive were posted, we received a lot of messages through Instagram and Facebook regarding the bridge configuration on my Crook Custom Telecaster (pictured above). I just wanted to run through the configuration and mindset behind the bridge setup and give an insight into it after using it for a decade now. I love this guitar dearly, primarily because it’s my father’s. He and I both ordered a Crook at the same time, and they’re identical in terms of pickups and wiring and hardware, but he chose a red paisley with silver flake underneath and a rosewood fretboard, where I chose to pursue a new prototype paint job with a green paisley and the silver flake underneath with a birdeye maple fretboard (pictured).

Let’s start off with low E and A strings. This compensated saddle is made of aircraft grade aluminum. Bill Crook was telling me during the development process that he uses this type of saddle because it provides and extra bit of bite and snap to the lower strings, which can sometimes flub out and sound a bit too undefined (especially using dirt pedals). Next up is a single saddle for the D string, which is also stainless steel. Again, it provides a great bite and twang without being offensive or ice-picky. We’ll skip to the high B and E strings for now (the G string will be discussed in a moment). For the high B and E, Bill decided to go with a brass compensated saddle. He mentioned that after extensive testing that the brass would retain the killer tone without the ice-pick sometimes associated with teles and those strings. The bottom two string are very warm and have loads of sustain going on, but never get muddy.

So the big question is, what’s going on with that funky looking saddle on the G-string? That’s a McVay G-bender mechanism from Charlie McVay. Charlie is a lap-steel player by trade, so he was naturally very affluent with the bending systems in those instruments. Brad always preferred a G-bender to a B-bender  because he felt it was more musical in nature based on what bends you could accomplish. It’s Brad Paisley, so who am I to disagree? Being the superfan that I’ve always been, I got one installed too. Essentially what is going on is a level system that’s installed into the body, with an small “arm” lever that you attach your straplock to instead of directly to the guitar. The way it works, when you pull the guitar neck down towards the floor, the level actually raises the G-string by one who step. This is incredibly fun to include in your regular playing because it allows you the ability to do open string bends to really get twangy. I’ll be the first to admit that I abused it when I first got it, and had to train myself not to rely on bending the g-string with that at not my fingers too. There are two distinct tones between using the bender and manually doing it.

As an example of using a G-bender, I wanted to take a look back at one of my favorite country tunes that’s not too technically difficult, but incredibly fun to play and a great introduction to Brad Paisley’s playing style and the idea behind the bender. (There are two versions of the tab, one without a bender and one with). I loved Brad’s song “Old Alabama” from his album “This is Country Music”, so at the time of release I sat down and tabbed out the intro. In regards to the tones, I use the Ego Compressor for a light squish (sustain at 10:30) but with the blend low(Noon to 2pm) and the attack fully clockwise (slowest). This helps adds that feel of your amp compressing and also smoothes out the notes without that heavy squish on the initial not attack. Next I ran into the Paisley Drive, with the gain said relatively low (10am) and treble to taste. I was using a bright amp (Dr. Z RXJr) so my tone was set at 10:30. The key for me was using the mids in the UP (medium mid hump) position, which is closely based on Brad’s Z-Wreck tone. The volume you want set right above unity. Following the Paisley Drive I went into the Faux Tape Echo set to a light slapback, set with the mix knob just below unity, (repeats fully counter-clockwise, time knob at 9am). This gives the perfect slap that adds the depth and feel to the note to complete the full tonal package.

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And here’s Brad discussing his G-bender (and he’s actually using his prototype Wheelhouse Delay that Brian created for him!)

 

The mysteries of setting up your guitar...

I was checking out the wonderful "The Guitar Hour" last week (hosted in part by signature artist Tom Quayle) where the guys went to a luthier and filmed and dissected a full set up on guitar. It's compelling viewing and fascinating to see what happens when a professional does the job perfectly! If, like me (having worked in guitar shops for years and having set up thousands of guitars in my time) you thought you know it all, then this will be a real eye opener for you.

Part 1 - The Fret Dress - The thing that always made me really nervous! 37 minutes.

Part 2 - Taking you through the first part of a standard set up. 35 minutes!

Part 3 - The rest of the standard set up. 36 minutes.

 

Thank you to Tom, Dave, Dan and David for letting us publish on our blog, it's much apprecaited! You can check out The Guitar Hour here.

The basics of powering your pedal board

Power, power, power… This has to be the most asked question we get, well, the many variations of it anyway… I’m not kidding when I say it’s probably a daily event that one of us answers the question! So, I’m going to consolidate the headline points into here so hopefully we can provide you with the one stop place to get all the information! A few weeks ago, our friends over at That Pedal Show produced the ultimate geek-out about power, but running at 37 minutes, many didn’t get to the end so I am consolidating it here to make is easy to grab the basics, with a little of my own perspective to keep it relevant...

What power do your pedals take?

ALL of our pedals are designed to run at 9v DC, center pin negative (The DC and center pin negative is essential). Some of them can be run at 18v (you can see a list of those in our FAQ section here). So, most power adaptors will be just fine. We don’t recommend specific ones, but any one made by a reputable company should be good. If you need to double check, or a second opinion, you can ask us or any gear forum, or your local store! There’s always a load of people willing to discuss power... 9v is the amount of power (voltage) the pedal takes to work under standard operating conditions so if you want to hear it like Brian hears it, run it at 9v. However, Tom Quayle uses his Dual Fusion at 18v and I find it works best for me at around 15v. 

What are mA?

Well, basically, this is how much juice your pedal is taking from the supply. This is the current. So, if your pedal takes 30mA, a 700mA adapter will be just fine. Anything up to the amount listed on the adapter theoretically will be good. You won’t melt a 30mA pedal down by putting a 700mA adapter in it, the pedal will just take what it’s needs and the rest is just not used. So, if you have 3 drive pedals; one at 30mA, one at 15mA and one at 25mA, your total draw will be 70mA which in theory still leaves 630mA ‘headroom’.

A simple way of putting it is that the voltage is the strength of the current and the mA is how much of it is used. Most plugs here in the UK have a 5A – 13A fuse in them, the US usually has 15A, so even if you are chain up a lot of 50mA pedals, you can draw tons of them at 9V until you start to run out of “headroom” from that plug. Hope that makes sense... 

*One thing though, I wouldn’t try to push the adapter to the limits, leave some room. I’ve heard it say that if you draw over 60-70% of the adaptors power, you might see a drop in basic voltage which will affect the way the pedal sounds.

What is center pin negative?

Well, the tip of the plug (barrel type, usually 2.1mm) that goes into the pedal has two connectors, one on the inside and one on the outside, the one on the inside is the negative and the outside is positive. Who ever thought this up was clearly insane, it would be better to have the hot part on the inside out the way, but there you go. All of our pedals take DC, if you put AC into it smoke will appear, you will hear a pop and then you’ll have to send it back to us to be fixed – and the smell… it’s horrible. Remember, it's the magic smoke in the pedal that makes it sound so cool, so if you put the wrong power in and the magic smoke is released then it won't work anymore!  We ensure there is protection inside each pedal if AC is put in, but all it does is limit the damage, it doesn’t resist it. So, please please please please do not put AC into the pedal! It’s highly unlikely that a warranty claim can be made due to incorrect power being applied.

What is isolated power?

Basically, it’s the process of separating the power from each circuit from others present in the signal chain. Some pedals disrupt others (especially if you mix up analogue and digital) so the best thing you can do is completely isolate them from each other. Now, I could talk for hours and hours and we’d just scratch the surface, but I’ll keep it simple. If you are running pedals that are friendly to each other (modern overdrives/distortions) you should be fine to daisy chain them together (providing the above criteria is met). However, if you stick a digital pedal in the chain noise can be picked up and amplified by the ‘gain’ pedals. During the episode of That Pedal Show, Dan said that this is because digital pedals dump a lot of noise on to the ground (I didn’t know this) – isolation will take that away and doesn’t allow a pedal to disrupt another across the ground. Some people call this clock noise, some digital noise… it has many names but the only thing you need to know it’s just not a nice noise at all and you don’t want it. The more you isolate, the quieter your board will be!

So, there are the basics of the power conundrum. This is just scratching the surface but it should give you enough information to keep you ticking over (but not with clock noise) and have a happy, yet quiet, pedalboard!

 

Your Tone Knob...

When you think of tone, what comes to mind? For me it is all encompassing, from the wood the guitar is made of, the pickups, what type of wiring is setup, the string brand and gauge, to the cables, to each pedal and what it does to the signal, the pre-amp and power amp, the speaker, the wood that the speaker cab is made up. For me tone is the culmination of the effort you’ve put into selecting each part of your signal chain, and factoring in the tonality of your individual playing style and how it reacts to different gear.

I’m also 30 and a total gear nerd, and I love that stuff. My thought processes have changed over the years. When I was 15 and learning and playing punk rock and Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine and Incubus covers, my friends and I always had the same frame of mind: Hottest pickups and amps you could get in your hands, and ALL KNOBS ON 10! Our guitar volume was either on 10 or 0, and there was no in-between unless by accident. At that point we didn’t even see the need to have a tone knob, because it was never below 10 (and we dreamt of custom guitars that included no tone knobs, just volume). This served me well for many years until I grew up some and learned the subtle differences just those two knobs make on you overall sound and some of the amazing tones you can get by adjusting them in small increments.

Today, I set my amps pretty neutral EQ-wise to be pedal-friendly, except for the fact that I add a touch of extra treble and cut the mids a bit to use pedals and my guitar to fill in those tone frequencies. I normally roll the tone knob back on my guitar to about 7.5-8 depending on the guitar at all times (more with Tele’s than my Les Paul), reserving that extra bit of top end for when I really need to get out front in a hurry, or if I’m in the middle of playing and it sounds too muddy I’ll roll it up without having to change anything other than my guitars. This works on the other viewpoint as well, so if I’m changing guitars and something is too bright (my Strat bridge pickup) I will roll it down a bit more. That’s how I approach the tone knob when playing personally, but it’s definitely not a hard fast rule.

When talking with Brian and Jason, they both still keep their tone knobs on 10 and never roll them down, though they do use their volume knobs pretty heavily. How do you use the Tone knob on your guitars?

For the sake of discussion, here’s Joe Bonamassa discussing how he uses the knobs. He forgot to add that the interaction with the pedals is a thing of tonal beauty as well:

Delays.... the more the merrier… maybe?

I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m a GAS addict. That’s the lovely acronym for what we lovingly call the addiction that is Gear Acquisition Syndrome. I love trying new gear and getting my feet wet when it comes to everything out there. I just love to experiment and soak up the tones of all of the different offerings on the market. Two things in particular that are my main focal points for frequent GAS attacks are Fuzzes and DELAYS. Fuzz is a whole other topic that is left to another blog (there’s so many different styles that I could probably take up several blogs gushing about the glory that are all things fuzz pedals. Delays on the other hand are the stuff that dreams are made of. There are multiple sounds you can achieve with delays that aside from some reverbs (which technically are a form of delay) you can’t replicate using any other effect.

A good friend and I were discussing delay’s the other day, and it’s amazing the number of delays that came up in the conversation that we each believed to be fantastic, whether we had both played the same unit or we compare and trade delays so we can test them out. The question arose between us as to whether you can have too many delays? We both quickly said “NO!” and moved on. Upon thinking about it for a longer period and experimenting with different delays, I came to the conclusion that there’s really no set rule on it, it’s all based on your moods and what you’re going for.

Looking at some of the main delay uses that many players would have a delay for (slapback, added depth for a solo, rhythmic dotted 8th’s, ambient and dreamy melodies, and then oscillation off of the top of my head that I use right off hand) I came to the realization that with one great quality delay pedal that you can hit most if not all of those categories. It made me want to downsize my rig (from pictured at the top of the page) to a much more condensed board with just essentials to push myself.

At the same time, GAS had me fighting the idea of taking pedals off of my board. I quickly started weighing the pros and cons and alternatives and these were what came to mind:

 

Pros of Multiple Delays:

  • Quick and Easy – If I have more than one delay then I can set and forget them for my most common used delay settings and just kick them on when I’m ready. This is vital when changing songs or to other parts of a song because the settings are ready and you don’t have to fool with twisting knobs.
  • Broader Coverage – By having different delays on your pedalboard, you can pick and choose varying flavors of delay to cover a broad spectrum of tones. You could pair a digital delay for dotted 8th notes with a warm analog delay for a great warm slapback, or a EP3 style pedal with a really warm preamp for solos with an ambient delay (with reverb even…Ethereal anyone?). The choices are endless in terms of mixing and matching delay types and sounds.
  • Experimentation – Just like the previous part mentioned covering a lot of tones, you can mix those two delays with oscillation or dotted 8ths with triplets for a wall of sound. Stacking pedals is half of the fun, and the combinations can get really wild.

 

Cons:

  • Pedalboard Space – This is the biggie. Multiple delays means taking up extra spots on your board that either require you to give up other pedals to fit on there, or requiring a bigger board. Bigger board means more weight and more to deal with. Power can also be a big issue. If you power source is maxed out, then comes the struggle of figuring out how you’re going to power the extra pedal(s). Daisy-chaining delays is typically a no-no due to noise, so there’s that too.
  • Knob Twiddling – Another main part is that with more pedals comes more tweaking, which can really detract from playing. I’ve spent many hours endlessly tweaking when I should have just plugged my Faux Tape Echo (my personal favorite delay) in and spent the time PRACTICING. I’m guilty of tweaking way too many settings because I want it how it sounds in my head. I can usually find it quickly once I’m familiar with a delay, but until that point it takes more time.
  • COST – Pedals are expensive! Granted not as expensive as guitars or amps, but with several pedals you can buy a nice guitar or amp (or in some cases and decent car).

Multi-Effects

These are in their own category in itself because of the array of units and functionality out there. There are pros and cons to them along with multiple delays. They are usually very convenient because they’re completely loaded with various parameters and algorithms to tweak for nearly any delay style you can imagine. The appeal of such a pedal in one unit is hard to beat. That being said, they’re typically quite expensive and then you have what you have. They typically have banks of presets to choose from, but in a gig situation they aren’t always the easiest to tweak if you need to. At the same time, you have a boat load of options right there while only taking up a bit of room.

 

What are your thoughts? How many delays are enough? Will one suffice, or do you prefer multiple delays, or all-in-one units for complete tweakability? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Overview of the Hot Wired v2 Overdrive

Since early on, Brian has been a major fan of country music, and the one person synonymous with country music and Nashville is one of the most renowned studio musicians in history, Brent Mason. Brent’s style, touch and phrasing are unparalleled, where each note is played exactly how and when it should be with complete precision. Recording so often with many different artists, Brent wanted his dirt tones to be highly tweakable to allow his guitar to fit perfectly in the style and character of each individual song he works on. Brian originally created the Hotwired v1, which was meant to the THE pedal for chickin' pickin'. Fast forward a few years and the country music industry has changed, so the tools had to change to keep up to date. After discussing what Brent wanted, the Hot Wired v2 was born.

Our favorite part of the Hotwired v2 is its ability to adapt to just about any genre of music (even some degrees of metal!). The clean blend on the overdrive side allows the player to specifically tailor the precise amount of overdrive they want blended with their natural tone, so it’s similar to running a dirty and clean stereo amp setup! The distortion side is also very versatile, and allows you to cover loads of classic rock, country, and even harder rock tones.

 

Channel 1(Overdrive):

Volume: This knob controls the overall level of the overdrive side of the Hotwired v2. Counterclockwise will give less overall output (fully counterclockwise will have no output), where turning it clockwise will allow you to reach unity in correlation with the overdrive knob, as well as providing a boost to the front end of your amp to push it into natural overdrive.

Overdrive: This control dictates the overall amount of clipping that is happening on your signal. It can go from the lightest, edge of breakup tone to a very saturated overdrive tone and all levels in between. Counterclockwise will yield less gain, which is great for adding just a bit of punch to lead lines and fattening up your attack. Turning the knob clockwise will up the saturation, but still retaining the overall characteristic of your guitar’s natural tone.

Blend: This knob controls how much of your clean signal is blended with the overdrive signal from the Hotwired. Fully counterclockwise will result in only your clean tone passing through with no effect, and turning the knob clockwise will begin to introduce your overdrive tone mixed in with your clean tone. Fully clockwise will yield only your tone passed through the overdrive side of the Hot Wired. This knob allows you to have complete control over your tone with the right blend of clean sparkle and gritty crunch to suit any situation. The effects are most noticeable with the overdrive knob turned up, but the key is finding the sweet spot on the overdrive knob in conjunction with the blend to get the deepest, most three-dimensional overdrive tone that Brent has used as his characteristic tone for years on end on countless records.

Tone: This knob controls the overall high-end frequencies that are present in your overdrive tone. Fully counterclockwise on the knob will give a much mellower, darker tone which is great for jazz and smoky blues. Turning the tone knob clockwise will add in high-end content which provides a sparkle and depth to your notes, allowing you to cut through the mix at just the right amount of high end. The tone knob works in conjunction with the switch to provide loads of tone shaping options. We suggest setting your gain level and the fatness on the switch position, and then starting at Noon add or remove the highs from your tone.

Normal/Fat/Fatter switch: This switch allows the player to fine-tune their overdrive tone in conjunction with the tone knob. On the normal setting, there is no effect on your tone, it’s just the base signal from the overdrive knob and wherever your tone knob is set. The Fat setting adds an low-mid punch that works exceptionally well paired with brighter guitars to fatten up your tone. On the Fatter setting, it’s designed to make your tone sound MASSIVE. The lows and low-mids are the most pronounced in this setting, creating a much warmer and thicker overdrive tone.

 

Channel 2 (Distortion):

Level: Just like with the overdrive side, this level controls the overall output of the distortion side of the Hot Wired v2. Being a distortion, there’s plenty of gain on tap to give a great lead boost with the gain on tap, and unity is directly correlated with where the distortion knob is set. If the distortion is set lower, then you will have to compensate by raising the level. As the distortion goes up, you can back down the level to reach unity.

Tone: The tone controls works in the same fashion that the overdrive side does. Counterclockwise will result in a darker distortion tone (great for single coils), where turning it clockwise will give more brightness to your signal for darker guitars. We suggest starting the tone control at Noon and adjusting to taste based the tone you’re looking for and what guitar you’re using.

Distortion: This knob controls the overall crunch and amount of distortion that is happening on your signal. The gain range goes from slight breakup to full on rock glory and all things in between. It’s based on a Plexi-ish tone, but with a much more neutral tonal profile and less aggressive clipping. The distortion tone is based directly on where the tone knob and normal/fat/fatter switch is positioned. It can go from a light crunch to a fat wall of searing tone.

Normal/Fat/Fatter switch: Just like the overdrive side, the distortion side has a 3-way switch to adjust the low and low-mid presence of your distortion tone. Normal will have no effect, Fat will increase the “oomph” of your tone and fill out your sound more, and Fattest will give a great wall of fat sustain.

 

Technical Stuff:

  • 5” x 4.5” x 1.5″ in size (114.3mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – height excludes knobs and switches
  • Power draw: 17mA – The Hot Wired v2 can be run on an internal 9v battery, or a Boss-style negative center tip barrel connector. The Hot Wired v2 can be run at up to 18v, doing so will increase the headroom of the overdrive and distortion.
  • Completely true-bypass, Handbuilt in the U.S.A.
  • Built to the exact specifications of world renowned session artist Brent Mason.
  • There have been 2 versions of the Hot Wired, with v1 having several different graphic iterations before settling in on the current closest graphic layout. The v2 is the most up to date version.

 

Demos:

 

You can read more about the Hot Wired v2 or purchase factory direct HERE

Overview of the Thirty Something Overdrive

Several years ago, Brian created an overdrive called the Cranked AC, which was loosely based on the legendary Class-A amps many famous users such as the Brian May, the Beatles, Tom Petty and the Edge used to achieve some of their most signature sounds. The Cranked AC mimicked those tones to a degree, but not as much as Brian wanted for a true amp-in-a-box. A Class-A style pedal was one of the most requested pedals for years, thus the Thirty Something was born.

Our favorite part of the Thirty Something is its ability to be paired with any amp and guitar and still obtaining that great glistening clean tone that made those old amps so great. We really wanted the clean tone to be the foundation of the pedal, then identified the characteristics of those classic overdrive tones to create the pairing that we feel nails those fantastic clean and overdriven Class-A tones.

 

Controls:

Volume: This knob controls the overall output on the Thirty Something. It has plenty of volume on tap to boost your amp into natural overdrive, or to set as another “gain channel” for your amp. The volume is directly affected by the amount of gain that is set, so more gain may result in needing to adjust the volume down, where less gain will warrant raising the volume to get the proper volume to overdrive ratio.

Bass: This knob controls the overall low-end frequency of your overdrive signal. This really helps to tailor the Thirty Something to whatever amp and guitar you are using. For darker amps or some guitars with humbuckers, you may want to reduce the bass to prevent it from getting “woofy”. When using an inherently bright amp or singlecoils, the bass control can be used to thicken up your tone or fill out the sound if playing at lower volumes. We suggest starting at Noon and adjusting to fit your guitar from there.

Treble: This knob controls the overall high end frequencies present in your overdrive signal. This works exceptionally well paired with dark amps or humbuckers to sit better in the mix, or rolling it off will help with spikiness from too much treble from singlecoils. This control works at a different frequency than the Top Cut, as it’s more based on the high and upper mids. We suggest starting at Noon and adjusting based on what type of tonality you’re looking for.

Top Cut: This knob is similar to those old Class A amps that were inherently very bright (the Thirty Something is also inherently bright), and it allows you to roll off some of the upper high end frequencies which can be brittle or too aggressive for use with some guitars (singlecoils especially) or amps. Fully counterclockwise none of the frequencies are affected and everything is neutral. Turning the knob clockwise will begin to roll off a bit of the top high end to smooth out your tone. We suggest starting it fully counterclockwise and adjusting from there to suite your needs.

Gain: This knob dictates the overall amount of overdrive present in your signal chain. The level of gain is dependent on what position the Headroom Switch is set to. The Thirty Something goes from a clear, chimey clean tone enhancer with loads of cut like those old amps all of the way to full on saturation and copious amounts of overdrive. It can go from Edge-inspired riffs with delay to Brian May-inspired crunch with the turn of the gain knob. As you increase the gain, the volume will also raise and likely need to be adjusted. We suggest starting around 9am and exploring the cleaner-side of the gain range, then cranking it to get those soaring lead tones that defined some of rock’s early years.

Boost Level: The boost knob is based around a Top Boost like many players used on those Class A amps to boost them further into overdrive. This boost accentuates the highs and high-mids to increase the gain and punch of the overdrive and add sustain and a clarity to jump out front in the mix. Being an independent boost, it can be paired in front of any pedal to add that extra high-mid crunch and cut.

Headroom Switch: This switch selects between two different gain settings on the Thirty Something. Set on 15, the Thirty Something will clip into overdrive faster because it’s a "smaller wattage” amp-style compared to the 30 side, thus having more gain on tap and achieving it quicker. On the 30 side, there is much less gain and it stays cleaner with just a bit of added grit like an old 30w Class-A amp (which were loud and clean). This switch directly affects how the gain knob reacts, so we suggest starting on the 30 side (cleaner) and switch to the 15 for more gain.

 

Technical Stuff:

  • 5″ x 4.5″ x 1.5″ (88.9mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – height excludes knobs and switches
  • Power draw: 13mA – Powered by a 9v center negative tip cable (Boss style) or internally via a 9v battery. The Thirty Something can be run from 9v up to 18v and anywhere in between. Increased voltages will lead to higher headroom and less gain.
  • Boost can be used when main pedal is off to drive amp/other pedals
  • True-Bypass switches
  • There have been two naming iterations of this pedal. The first with the name being the “Ace Thirty”. Due to a nasty-gram from a certain company (long story), it was lovingly renamed the Thirty Something. There is no difference in the circuits whatsoever, it was merely renamed.

 

You can read more about the Thirty Something HERE and also buy factory direct.

Overview of the Faux Spring Reverb

The Faux Spring Reverb was developed because Brian wanted a flexible, but authentic-sounding reverb without having to lug a reverb tank around. The idea to put it into a pedal format made it easy to travel with and allowed flexibility on the fly instead of having to go over to the amp to adjust. The FSR is a digital reverb, but it has an all analog signal path, so your base tone remains the same with the added reverb effect being blended in. This works well because it allows more flexibility to tweaking the reverb signal to exactly where the player wants it.

Our favorite part of the Faux Spring Reverb is it’s natural sound and feel. It feels and reacts like a reverb tank, but allows you to adjust the tonality to fit any amp and guitar, going from a light room-ish vibe to add depth, or full on surfy wash.

 

Controls:Faux Spring Reverb Settings

Level: This knob controls the amount of reverb that is merged with your analog signal. This ranges from no mix at all fully counter-clockwise, to a full canvas of reverb that adds depth and feel to your tone like having a spring tank nestled on top of your amp. The key to reverb is finding the sweet spot where it’s got the depth that you want without drowning out your guitar tone (unless you’re using it for ambient washes). This allows you to tailor it precisely to the amount of reverb you want. We suggest starting it at Noon, setting your shade and depth, then adjusting the level to the desired effect level.

Shade: This knob controls the overall tonality of the reverb signal (it does not affect the dry signal). Setting the shade counterclockwise toward the dark side will yield a mellow, warmer reverb tone that sits nicely in a mix for added depth, without overpowering the guitars original tonality. Adjusting it clockwise toward the light side will give a more out-front and noticeable “spring effect” for your reverb tone. The darker setting is great for just adding a bit of depth in a dry room, where setting it lighter will give those classic surf tones of the reverb tanks. This knob changes the effect of the Depth knob, so adjusting each to find the right balance is key. We suggest starting it at Noon and adjusting to match your guitar and what type of atmosphere you'd like to create.

Depth: This control dictates the length or amount of time the reverb signal continues on before fading out. The max reverb time is 2.8s, so there’s plenty on tap to get a great ambient wash. Turning the knob counterclockwise will yield a quicker reverb effect and fade quickly as well which is reminiscent of a smaller spring tank. This setting works great for country picking with the shade knob on the lighter side. With the Shade knob darker it will be a more mellow feel, where it provides an ambient undertone that makes your guitar tone a more three-dimensional. This control is interactive with the other knobs, so adjust the shade will dictate the character of your reverb. The depth will then dictate how much decay occurs, and the level can be used to set it from light to heavy mix for any combination of great reverb tones.

 

Technical Stuff:

  • 5″ x 4.5″ 1.5″ (63.5mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – height excludes knobs and switches
  • Power draw: 78mA – Powered via 9v negative center tip (barrel plug like Boss). NOTE: You cannot use a battery with the Faux Spring Reverb, and it should not be run at a higher voltage than 9v.
  • 8s max reverb time
  • True bypass
  • There have been 3 color variations on the Faux Spring Reverb. Early versions had a silver case with black knobs and lettering, later versions had a dark greenish-brown with white knobs and white lettering. The latest version has a brighter green with white knobs and lettering, and the Tone knob has a graphic denoting lighter or darker.

 

 

 

 

 

Demos:

 

  

You can read more about the Faux Spring Reverb HERE as well as purchase factory direct.

Should I put my amp on standby?

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?

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