Saturday, November 11, 2017

Ugly Guitar Truth: TC Electronic Iron Curtain Noise Gate

Alright, I guess I'm going to to do all of these things. By now, we know that TC is putting out a huge number of pedals that should look familiar to anyone that has been around BOSS or Behringer effect pedals. When I first heard of the people, I thought it was something different. I'll get into that in a second, but now we will take a closer look.

Not A Clone

So Behringer put out direct BOSS clones for a long time. They are still producing cost-effective stomp boxes that are nearly identical to their BOSS brethren. Here come TC and they look like they are upping the ante. They are pretty much taking some of the most successful circuits and stilling them in rugged boxes. Basically taking Behringer's game and raising the bar... kinda. Like we saw with the 3rd Dimension, TC pedals aren't always direct copies. I'm not saying that they aren't up to par, but some of the features don't make to the final product. The same thing has happened here. The BOSS and Behringer pedals both feature an effects loop. This isn't necessary, but it is a noted loss when comparing these very related pedals.

The Competition

Looking at budget noise gate pedals, you won't find many. Most start out well north of the advertised price of the Iron Curtain-$50. The Behringer has a spotted reputation, and the BOSS is twice the price. It's pretty much between EHX and TC at this price point. If you need anything more substantial than what those two pedal can give you, then you should probably take a look at the TC Sentry and stop messing around with bargain bin pedals. Personally, I've never really had any need for noise gate on my board. Not to say that I haven't used them. My experience with the BOSS NS-2 and MXR Smart Gate is enough for me not to recommend them. Even with the limited features, if TC made a solid noise gate at $50, then this is a huge win for guitarists in general.

So Close

They had the name and the look, but if they just could have made this a Russian Big Muff clone I think I could have forgiven the lack of green. I know this is on the heels of EHX releasing their Green Russian, but imagine for a second a world that had a choice of Russian Fuzz clones. Maybe this one goes for more of a Black Russian feel? What makes it worse is that they put out a Muff Clone in the line. The demo did sound pretty low-gain, so maybe it's going for a Russian feel... but that just makes it worse. You were so close TC!

Conclusion

I'm actually pretty surprised that I have so many feelings about a Noise Gate. But honestly, this pedal does seem to feel a bit of a gap in the market. The lack of features does give me a little bit of pause. If I were to find myself in need of a noise gate and had the option of the Iron Curtain and the Silencer, then I might just get the Silencer on the features alone. I mean, seven dollars buy quite a bit more. Then again, noise gates are a hard thing to get right, and I haven' really see TC drop the ball on any of these pedals, so it might come down to a dual.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Did I Cause Wampler To Make A Deluxe Tumnus

Today, I am a proud papa, metaphorically, I've been a father for several years now... But what I am talking today is the Wampler Tumnus Deluxe. You see, All the way back in October of 2015 I predicted this day will come. Yes, it was a stab in the dark, but it makes it no less true. Check it out if you don't believe me. The date of that post is from over two years ago. The Deluxe Tumnus features a three-band EQ, bypassable buffer, and switchable gain boost. This is a humble blog, so I don't think that I really influenced Brian Wampler to develop a new Tumnus pedal, but then again...

He Has Read My Blog

No really, He has even commented on posts before. Brian is very engaged with his audience. He is active on YouTube, social media, and forums. This is the formula that has made Wampler the brand that we know and love. Either he is a builder that wants connect to the users of his product, or he is an egomaniac that can't help Googling his own name. Given his demeanor on his YouTube channel, I believe it's the former.

He Basically Told Us He'd Do It

Back when the Tumnus was released, Brian told us that if he had put the Tumnus in a larger enclosure, then he would have been too tempted to mess with the circuit. So many people asked him to make a faithful reproduction of the Klon Centar that he didn't want to go modding the original just yet. Now that the Tumnus has become a respected pedal in its own right, a deluxe version is more sensible.

It's Still Pretty Risky

Sure, it sounds good in theory. First, give a Klon, then give us a Klon Deluxe. Deluxe must be better right? Well, we have to look at why we like the Klon in the first place. It's a simple transparent overdrive. Personally, I use my Klone to hit the front end of my amp (or another dirt pedal) to get it a little bit of crunch. I use the Treble knob to make everything just pokey enough. Season to taste using the Gain and you're done. However, a three band EQ on a Klon circuit might just be too much for some people. I know what you might be thinking, "More knobs = more better". The original only asked us how much treble we wanted. Too much? Turn it down. Not Enough? Turn it up. Now we can boost or cut Bass and Mids. In doing this, Wampler has given us the freedom to find a wide range of tones. Some of those tones are going to be crap. Now we have more rope, we can find a way to hang ourselves.

Conclusion

I'm excited about this. I mean, I did call it. Totally called it. Other than that, this is the first kind of progression. We've seen Klon circuit paired with other circuits. We've also seen transparent overdrives with fun little mods. But, to my knowledge, this is the first direct clone to get an update like this. I look forward to posting a full review soon. I wonder if other builders will follow suit. Will there be a Soul Food Deluxe, or an Archer Deluxe?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ugly Guitar Truth: TC Electron Honey Pot Fuzz

In the ever-expanding line of TC Electronics value based effect, the Honey Pot Fuzz is just one of the latest offerings. Currently available for pre-order from most major online retailers, not much is known about the fuzz. Most of the information currently know is based upon the demo TC posted directly after the announcement of their release. So what do we know about this pedal, and should we be looking forward to its release?

Don't We Already Have One Of These

Yes. The Initial release of these pedal included the Rusty Fuzz. However this was a silicon fuzz based on the Fuzz Face. For those unfamiliar with fuzzes, there are just as many fuzzes to have as there are overdrives. Does that mean that they are all different? I'll answer that question with another question. Are all overdrives different? Let's just think about how many "different" Tube Screamers there are. Sure, there may be some slight differences for one manufacturer from another, but for the most part a Tube Screamer is a Tube Screamer. But a Tube Screamer isn't a Blues Driver. 

Ruby Fuzz is to Fuzz Face as Honey Pot Fuzz is to...

Big Muff. Yes, the Honey Pot seems to be a clone of the EHX Big Muff Pi. It's also been suggested that even the name may be a reference to same anatomical location as the Muff. The largest hint as to what the circuit is based upon are the label given to the knobs. Volume and Tone are pretty basic stuff, but Sustain on a fuzz usually point in one direction, Big Muff.

Which Muff Is This Muff?

This is where it get a little trickier. The Big Muff Pi has several versions to choose from when cloning. From the Triangle to the modern USA version, there are at least a handful of circuits and sounds that we could expect from this pedal. If I had to take a guess, I'd say that we might be getting a Russian variant of the pedal. This may be wishful thinking on my part, or it may be due to the fact that another pedal announced along side this one is call the Iron Curtain (far better name if this is a Russian version). The main reason I think this is that it sounds rather tame. The Russian Big Muff is one of the lower gain version of the pedal. In any case, we probably aren't looking at a clone of the modern Big Muff Pi.

Conclusion

Yes, these pedals are bulky little tanks, but given their relationship with Behringer I'd rather have these than those. Personally, I have never been a huge fan of TC's dirt pedals. The Mojo and Dark Matter were both rather underwhelming But with the new line of "inspired" pedals, TC might just have my attention. A $50 Muff clone has my attention. But if this really is a Russian Big Muff, then it could possibly take the wind of the resent EHX Green Russian release. But for the love of Pete, they should have name this one the Iron Curtain... Such a better name!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Ugly Guitar Truth: TC Electronic El Mocambo Overdrive

Upon the announcement of the new El Mocambo, Tore himself practically called the new pedal a Tube Screamer. Uncertain whether this is a TS-9 or TS-808 clone, the allusion to "the most ledgendary overdrive circuit ever designed" almost assures it is one of the two.


Why Do We Need Another TS Pedal?


Short answer is that we don't. But, when you are cranking out pedal after pedal for your corporate overlords, a tube screamer is a sure-fire win. It's a simple circuit, so all you have to do is give it a cool name and mount it in a decommission soviet tank and call it a day.


Who really Needs To Buy A Pedal


I own two tube screamers (a TS-9 and TS-808) but I have many more that give me that same feel. Honestly, I prefer an OCD to either of my TS pedals. But, I can't deny the fact that I have a morbid curiosity when it comes to this pedal. I want to know what it sounds like compared to my other mid-humped overdrive. I know it's going to sound the same... but the marketing it too strong.


Conclusion


If you are trying to move to all your pedal having top jacks, or if you need a pedal that you could break a car window or fight out an attacker with, then you might want to check out this pedal. However, if you already have a TS type people, maybe try before you buy. If you've never used a TS or you want a TS but want to spend a little less, then maybe this pedal is for you.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Ugly Guitar Truth: TC Electronic Crescendo Auto Swell

If you think like me, and let's be honest who wouldn't., then you think that volume swells in guitar-based music is just the bee's knees. No better way to make you guitar sound spooky, seductive, and whale-ish (welsh?) than to add some volume swells. In fact, volume swells are so prevalent in you guitar work that you don't have time to work a knob, and a volume pedal doesn't fit on your board because you added yet another transparent overdrive that you absolutely need for "that" tone. (That last klone totally makes your amp sound just like a modded Fender Dumble.)




Hot Take



This pedal is just a reheat BOSS SG-1. Behringer made a clone and this is that in a TC electronic box. All these things are probably true and that is complete fine. I'm ok with TC electronic doing this. I mean, it's not like this is the first straight copy of the Slow Gear. There have been clones and DIY kits for ages. My Line6 M5 has an auto swell effect among the five thousand other ones. Did I buy it for that one effect? No. Do I use it consistently? Also, no. I mean, I do have a volume pedal...


Same Old Problem


So, I have story about how the SG-1 came about. Disclaimer: I have no idea if this is in any way true. It's just something that I heard once. It sounds like a think that might be kinda true. As it goes, The guys at BOSS were putting out pedals left and right and making a ton of money because pedal just love the guitar pedal things. There was only one problem. The line of BOSS pedals had been pretty fleshed out and there wasn't a huge outcry for anything more. BOSS had to come up with a new idea. You see, BOSS wasn't always a huge company that followed trends only five years too late. They were once a young, innovating company with ideas. At this particular time, they were having a lot of trouble coming up with anything. That is until someone had the idea to make a pedal that was basically the inverse of a Noise Suppressor which they already made. So, the SG-1 Slow Gear was born. It worked, but it's a little crude. VFE make a similar pedal that fine tunes the idea. The Slow Gear was never supposed to be the end-all be-all of swell pedals, but the limited run made it rare and so it can fetch a high price. This, incorrectly, gives some the impression that it somehow superior to other auto swell pedals. So, if this is a faithful copy of the original, then we are getting a pedal that someone at BOSS pulled out of their butts when they couldn't think of anything better.


Conclusion


I'm only human. Even though I explained that the Slow Gear is nothing special, and despite the fact that I own Two pedals that can reproduce this effect, I still want one. I wouldn't mind owning an actual SG-1, but I probably wouldn't put the Behringer pedal on my board because I'm vain like that. So yeah, this is a compromise that spares my ego and lets me not spend $500 on vintage pedal I'd hate to take out of the house.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Ugly Guitar Truth: TC Electronic 3rd Dimension Chorus

TC Electronic showed us the next line of their smorgasbord line of effects. There were several interesting things to note. Probably the most noted was the chorus. We are so used to looking pedals with some arrangement of knob that when we see something the 3rd Dimension it is quite striking. A pedal with the non-familiar shape and size of the new TC boxes with four push buttons instead of our trusty knobs. Is this a better way to do chorus? Maybe, maybe not, but let's take a look at it.


Reboxed Behringer?


At first glance, this pedal looks to be a direct reboxing of a Behringer Chorus Space-C with one glaring exception that we'll talk about later. TC is now owned by Behringer's parent company, so they have been put to task taking care of the most repeated complaint of the Behringer effects, their plastic boxes. So now these pedals have a case that, along with a poster a Raquel Welch, could easily aid your escape from prison. To me, the new box seems to be a serious upgrade to the Behringer. Maybe "upgrade" it too strong a word...


Where's the Stereo?


Both the Space-C and the BOSS DC-2 it was based off of took a single input and provided two outputs. However, the 3rd Dimension doesn't provide the 2nd output. Personally, I don't run a stereo rig or stereo effects, so it doesn't really effect me much, but many people do, and those people would benefit from a faithful reproduction of the classic chorus. However, let me remind you that TC teased a Juno-106 type chorus, and people lost their minds. That pedal was also mono.



Limited


The first question I asked when I saw a push button pedal was, "But, how do I dial-in my tone?". Watching the video the TC put out, Tore talks about spending hours fine tuning a chorus sound. Help me out here, but has anyone spent hours doing this? Most of chorus experience has been CE-2 based, so there wasn't much to mess with. I'd think that four buttons lacking any label, other than being numbered, would be harder to tune than clearly labeled knobs, but that would be an unforgivable deviation from the classic... shm.


Conclusion


To the average player who is not worried about the heritage of there chorus, this is a very interesting pedal. The demo that TC did sounded fine. I'm not a huge chorus user, but it can add a little complexity to your sound when needed. I probably won't pick one of these up. Not because I don't like the 3rd Dimension, but because my Lyon (by Washburn) chorus is meeting my chorus needs. Plus... it's Stereo.

Ugly Guitar Truth: JHS Russion Big Muff Moscow Mod

The JHS Chernobyl Moscow Mod for the EHX Russian Big Muff Overdrive was announced on the official JHS Instagram. And yes, the original name for the mod was Chernobyl, as in the massive nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. At first glance I thought that the name was metal AF, but then I thought about naming a product after a horrible tragedy and profiting off it. So I support the name change. Other than the name, there are some interesting things about the pedal. Why don't we take a look are what in the mod.


All The Hardware


Two switches and a knob are added in this mod. If you like your new Russian Big Muff, but want it a little bit heavier, then boy does JHS have a deal for you. All joking aside, reading the description of the mod of the JHS website, I'm not exactly impressed. Straight from the JHS site description: "Experiment with all the knobs to see what kind of sound you get." Wow, I'm surprised that they didn't include the detail, "This pedal makes sounds!" or just the word "GREEN". The description is just senselessly lazy.

It Does... Something

So, the description does mention "lower gain synth style gated fuzz sounds". Which makes me wonder what a lower gain-gated fuzz sound would sound like. Perhaps a "dying battery" effect, or a super saturated, compressed clipping section. IDK, sure wish the description could clear that up. Anyways, After my personal experience with a JHS modded Soul Food (I could hardly tell that there was any change in tone when changing the mod's 3 different modes) I'm not waiting in line to get this one done.


Is It Better?


There once was  a time with adding switches and knobs would make me believe that the modded pedal with new and improved. But I've come to learn that just because it is different/altered/modded doesn't mean that it is better. I like the Green Russian Big Muff. Do I really think that it needs a mod? No. Does the description tempt me into wanting it? Not even close. Are people going to get this mod even though it had barely been described in any way? Sure, just look at the comment section on their facebook or Instagram. I think I'll hold off.


Conclusion




I think I end my last paragraph with my conclusion. I don't think I want this mod in any shape or form. Maybe I'm wrong, I haven't heard the pedal in question, but it was just announced so lets wait and see what it actually does. But we can all agree (probably) that their description needs some what...