Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ugly Guitar Truth: EHX Green Russian Big Muff Reissue

Those that follow the history of the Electro Harmonix Big Muff know the pedal has had a long and complicated past. Starting life in New York City, the pedal has seen many revisions spanning decades and continents. Those casually aware of the pedal may be familiar with words surrounding the pedal like Ram's Head, Triangle, Civil War, and Russian. I won't get into all of those in this post, but I will take a close look at Electro Harmonix's latest muff, the Green Russian reissue.

What Does A Green Russian Sound Like?

Well, those unfortunate enough to be unable to find/afford a vintage Green Russian Big Muff (like my self) have to settle for finding clips on the internet. An excellent source for all things Bigg Muff is Kit Ray's site devoted to the accumulation of accurate Big Muff knowledge. According to the site's research, all Russian made Big Muff pedals (Green Russian, Black Russian, and Civil War) all have similar components and sound (Fatter Bass, Brighter and less-scoped Mids, and Less Gain) These features made it a natural for bass players looking to add a fuzz to their tone.

A Russian Spy?

It is speculated that maybe, just maybe, the Green Russian has been operating undercover for years and we just haven't noticed. Some suspect that the Nano Bass Big Muff has been a Sovtech Spy all along! Actually, there is a rumor that the Green Russian reissue is just a Bass Big Muff in a new coat of paint. (admittedly, that new coat of paint looks awesome.) The strongest case for this being the EHX website! From the Nano Bass Big Muff Page: "With voice inspired by the battle tank, GREEN RUSSIAN BIG MUFF" (emphasis mine). Well well well... I'll just leave this here:

Placebo Mojo

Expert wine tasters have been fooled into describing a white wine with typical red wine characteristics because it was made to look like red wine with food dye. Similarly, the same experts praised inexpensive wine when led to believe it was more costly, and dismissed top-shelf wine when told it was inexpensive. Why am I talking about wine? Because the same effect happens to guitarists. The Boutique Boom was born out of people wanting more expensive looking pedals. It's no coincident that re-boxing BOSS pedals became a big thing around the same time. You could pick up a used BOSS pedal and put it in a boutique looking box for less than most boutique builders ask for their pedals. I'm not better. I'd spend time swapping out the LED on a BOSS pedal and become the proud papa of a custom/modded pedal. There is something to be said for enjoying the way your pedals look. You always want to be proud of your rig, but remember to use your ears first.

Conclusion

It is well-documented that the Big Muff has had numerous variations. Each one of those variations having a different effect on the sound produced. Many variables come into play when discussing tone, perhaps none more hotly debated than mojo. Some tout the Green Russian as the superior Russian Big Muff others believe the Civil War Big Muff the best, but in all honesty, the circuits are nearly identical. All components have tolerances, some as much as 20%, so there is some truth to the "this one sounds different than that one". Is this the golden goose of tone the EHX has been reluctant to put out until now? No. This is a way for Electro Harmonix to offer a genuine Green Russian Big Muff... clone that was made in the far east, assembled in NYC and has already been on shelves for years under a different label (probably). But it looks really cool!
Also, just to point out, that according to NWinther of tdpri.com, the Cyrillic letters spell out "Overdrive". Which could be a shout-out to the Red Army Overdrive, the pedal that Mike Matthews of EHX produced before regaining control of the EHX brand and Big Muff name.




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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ugly Guitar Truth: Cock Fight Plus Wah

Talk about burying the lead, EHX has announced their third rocker pedal in the last few weeks. The Cock Fight Plus is planned for release soon. Fans of the cocked wah sound flocked to the Cock Fight for its expressive nature and unique filter. EHX has now taken that sound added more control and feature, then put it inside of a rocker pedal. Is it all good news?
Image result for cock fight plus
No Brainer

Fans of the original Cock Fight could add an expression pedal for real-time control of the pedal's filter. The Combination of the two pedals seemed like a given. With the release of EHX's two new expression pedals, this pedal is a perfect match. In fact, it makes one wonder which they developed first. Was the Expression pedal just a byproduct of the Cock Flight Plus' development? Either way, this pedal has a lot under the hood. You have your choice of vintage wah filter or vowel sounding format filter, in addition to a pre- or post-fuzz. Certainly not a one-trick-pony.

Return To Form... Kinda

Although most of us are glad that Electro Harmonix has done away with their "no moving part" type rocker pedals, these rockers are not just like the classics. Every rocker that EHX has produced recently has been composed from a composite material. This adds cost savings and weight reduction, but at what costs. EHX has stated more than once, that these pedals are road-worthy and just as dependable as their aluminum counter parts. But what if I have to break out my car's window? What will I use if my Wah isn't made like a brick?

Chicken Feed

Fans of the original Cock Fight might not trade their pedals for this. After all, the main attraction of the original was that it was a wah pedal that was attached to a wah. You can set-it-and-forget-it unlike a wah that is easily displaced from the 'sweet spot'. However, those that want a feature heavy wah, or those that use an expression with the Cock Fight, it is time to rejoice. For less than 12 dollars over the cost of the original, you have the Cock Fight filter, an expression, and fuzz in a single box. All that for a poultry sum.

Conclusion

I enjoyed the Cock Fight when I first tried one out. I never bought one because I wouldn't use a cocked wah sound and I had a wah that did its duties well. I did think would have made more sense to put the whole thing in a rocker but maybe I just missed the point. We now have what is possibly the best of both worlds. Two filters, a fuzz, and a rocker come together to make Dunlop cry like a baby...  



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Monday, August 14, 2017

Ugly Guitar Truth: EHX Hot Wax Overdrive







Somehow, EHX was about to the keep the announcement of their new overdrive pedal a secret from me for the last few weeks. They have produced a new dual overdrive pedal that has taken me by surprise. The Hot Wax is not at all what I expected for Electro Harmonix. As it is explained by EHX, the Hot Wax overdrive is basically the Hot Tubes overdrive mated with the Crayon overdrive. Is this a match made in heaven or some hellish concoction? Let's discuss.
Image result for ehx hot wax
It's Probably Not What You'd Expect

Unlike previous match ups, the two drive circuits share some functions. This means the two drives are not independent from one another. Unlike the Turnip Greens and Soul POG, this pedal shares tone controls and does not feature an effects loop. Were these cost cutting measures or lazy design? Maybe neither. Electro Harmonix is, if nothing else, a company that doesn't suppress creation. Does this mean that everything they make is a winner? Hardly. I imagine when something at EHX make Mike Matthews say, "That's cool." it gets produced. At least they aren't telling us that this is the latest and great, brand new, totally original design from EHX. They're honest. They told us that if these two pedal had a baby, then this is the result. It's not two pedals in the same box, it's a product of commingling,
Image result for ehx hot wax
It's Nothing New

I know we discussed how it was the product of two other pedals, but there is a problem whenever you have these situation. These two pedals, respectively, have been on the market a while. I checked out the Hot Tubes when I first noticed it a few years ago. I passed then. I was rather excited about the Crayon during its release, and it continues to be a go to pedal for me. It could be that these pedals sound great together, but that would only prompt me to buy a Hot Tube pedal to test that theory.
Image result for ehx hot wax
Rebranding

What EHX may be doing is branch out into larger, more complected drive pedals. Looking back at the catalog of EHX drive pedals, you'll notice their wasn't much that didn't have MUFF in the name. The popularity of their (for the lack of a better word) clone pedals is allowing them to move in a different direction. Let the Muff return to its fuzz roots and develop overdrive circuits that stand on their own. While most drive options have been compact, three-knob-jobs, the line needs more complete and capable gain stage options. Instead of reinventing the wheel, Eletro Harmonix married two existing circuits. Instead of blowing (cigar) smoke up our collective butts, they gave us the truth. Respect. But this could all just be EHX trying to flesh out there Drive pedals with a more diverse offering.

Conclusion

For me, I already own a Crayon, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to pick up this pedal. I would like to give a run through. For someone looking for a overdrive/boost or dual overdrive pedal, then this might be your thing. The Hot Tubes in my opinion does a fine job at being a mid/light gain, mid-humped overdrive. The Crayon is a good sounding, flexible overdrive. Put them together and what do you get? Magic? Gold? ... Hot Wax...



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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ugly Guitar Truth: EHX Dual Expression Pedal

So, as much I look forward to new products from Electro Harmonix, Expression pedals are not extremely exciting. EHX did release several rocker pedals a couple years back. The "Next Step" line of rocker pedals looked futuristic and new, but that's always a gamble with guitarists. The fact that you couldn't attach it to your pedal board and unfamiliar functionality kinda doomed them. However, the new Expression Pedal is back to basics and that is the best news we could hope for.

It's Plastic

Yes, this pedal is basically the Wailer Wah, but in expression pedal form. It has great features, for an expression pedal. You can reverse the polarity and set a minimum value via trim pot. It works with a wide range of pedals and has a conventional construction. Constructed out of glass-reinforced nylon (plastic), the pedal is light weight and hopefully affordable.

Expression Impressions

I like that EHX is providing choices. They've taken risks with unproven ideas, but they've also provided a good option to those who prefer conventional pedals. It Seems like they are covering all bases. The Expression Pedal is much more affordable than the "Next Step" Expression pedal. Just moments ago, EHX posted the list price of $49.30, which is roughly half the price as their previous expression. However, It's hard not to compare this pedal with the MOOG expression...

Deja Vu

Plastic construction and identical feature set, make this pedal a near clone of the Moog EP3 Expression pedal. Not that EHX is a new-comer to cloning pedals. However, not everything is a direct clone of the Moog. First off, the EHX pedal looks like it is larger than the Moog. I don't have exact dimensions of the EHX pedal, but by simply looking at the promotional photos, you can tell that the EHX looks much like a typically Dunlop Wah shape (if not size). The Moog is sized between a full sized and the mini sized pedals that we've seen released lately. With the larger size, you have a slightly larger price tag. The Moog sells right at $40. So, less than $10 difference for a near identical pedal.

Conclusion

I like this pedal, if only for the fact that it is a departure from those weird rocker pedals that they put out previously. It comes with a 6' TRS cable (just like the moog). It doesn't work with everything, probably. I know that the Moog expression doesn't play with Line6 very well. Also, the Moog seems to use an audio, rather than linear, pot. This means that moving the pedal half way won't necessarily give you a 50% value. This lends its self to wah-type applications, but it will still work with effects like pitch bending and other non-wah types. If you liked the Moog but wished it was a little bigger, this might be your thing.

So, as much I look forward to new products from Electro Harmonix, Expression pedals are not extremely exciting. EHX did release several rocker pedals a couple years back. The "Next Step" line of rocker pedals looked futuristic and new, but that's always a gamble with guitarists. The fact that you couldn't attach it to your pedal board and unfamiliar functionality kinda doomed them. However, the new Expression Pedal is back to basics and that's the best news we could hope for.

It's Plastic

Yes, this pedal is basically the Wailer Wah, but in expression pedal form. It has great features, for an expression pedal. You can reverse the polarity and set a minimum value via trim pot. It works with a wide range of pedals and has conventional construction. Constructed out of glass-reinforced nylon (plastic), the pedal is light weight and hopefully affordable.

Expression Impressions

I like that EHX is providing choices. They've taken risks with unproven ideas, but they've also provided a good option to those who prefer conventional pedals. It Seems like they are covering all bases. The Expression Pedal is much more affordable than the "Next Step" Expression pedal. Just moments ago, EHX posted the list price of $49.30. Which is roughly half the price as their previous expression. However, It's hard not to compare this pedal with the MOOG expression...

Deja Vu

Plastic construction and identical feature set, make this pedal a near clone of the Moog EP3 Expression pedal. Not that EHX is a new-comer to cloning pedals. However, not everything is a direct clone of the Moog. First off, the EHX pedal looks like it is larger than the Moog. I don't have exact dimensions of the EHX pedal, but by simply looking at the promotional photos, you can tell that the EHX looks much like a typically Dunlop Wah shape (if not size). The Moog is sized between a full sized and the mini sized pedals that we've seen released lately. With the larger size, you have a slightly larger price tag. The Moog sells right at $40. So, less than $10 difference for a near identical pedal.

Conclusion

I like this pedal, if only for the fact that it is a departure from those weird rocker pedals that they put out previously. It comes with a 6' TRS cable (just like the moog). It doesn't work with everything, probably. I know that the Moog expression doesn't play with Line6 very well. Also, the Moog seems to use an audio, rather than linear, pot. This mean that moving the pedal half way won't necessarily give you a 50% value. This lends its self to wah-type applications, but it will still work with effects like pitch bending and other non-wah types. If you liked the Moog but wished it was a little bigger, this might be your thing.



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Friday, July 14, 2017

Ugly Guitar Truth: BOSS WAZA Craft 75-Watt Head

The Katana amps have made a huge wave in the solid state amp market. So much so, that it is easy to forget that the Katana amps share a blood line with the WAZA craft amps. The WAZA was the very first amps under the BOSS name. Roland has been producing amps for decades, but only in recent years have they put the BOSS logo on the front. Now, with the popularity and notoriety of the Katana, the WAZA line has expanded to include a 75-watt head. Is this finally the WAZA for the masses? Let's see...

Something Old, Something New

There is a feature list a mile long on these amplifiers. No matter what the amp can do, it has to sound good first and foremost. The WAZA was authentically voiced after the heavy rock sounds of the 70s and 80s. These amps also have a separate independent B channel that selects a"Brown Sound" Tone Capsule. Both the A and B settings have 4 channels: Clean, Crunch, Lead1, Lead2. Included with vintage tones are modern features such as Dual FX Loops, Midi controls, USB and Line outputs with cabinet simulated outputs.

Affordability?

The good news is that the WAZA 75-watt head costs $750 less than the 150-watt version. However, that means it still costs $1,500. Paired with the 2X12 cab, the combo will run you $2,500. That's Marshall stack money. Obviously, these amps are meant for the touring professional. If you were hoping that this would be a cheap option to the full bore 150-watt version, then you might be a little disappointed. This isn't exactly bridging the gap between the affordable Katana line and the premium WAZA, but it's good to see that they are still supporting and developing their high-end amps.

Conclusion

Is it time to run out and buy the WAZA Amp.  No, it is not. Unless you are a touring professional that can justify a high-cost rig, this option isn't very approachable. More approachable than the 150-watt version, but when we are talking about starting at $2500, then why not get the high-powered version. These are impressive amps that hopefully translate into great affordable products like the Katana.



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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ugly Guitar Truth: Chasebliss Tonal Recall Red Knob Mod Delay

Those familiar with Chasebliss know the amount of engineering that they put into each one of their products. No product more recognizable of their than the Tonal Recall. An absolutely stunning display of quality, features, and control, the Tonal Recall has made a name for its self on its hard-earned merit. Just before Summer NAMM Chasebliss announces that they've produced a second version of this pedal with some very special features. Let's check it out...

The Tonal Package

It's hard to improve on such a beloved pedal, but Chasebliss have done just that. They've increased the delay time to 1100ms while still using the MN3005 that gave the first version its character. It now carries more repeats before its signature breakup. Its runaway hold control has been improved to sound more natural. The overall tonal range has been expanded to be able to sound a bit brighter. Quite simply, the people over at Chasebliss have made their amazing delay even better.

Still The One

Although they have made many changes, the Tonal Recall is very much the same pedal. There are a dizzying array of options available in this pedal. Deceptively simple look at a glance, the Tonal Recall lets you control nearly every aspect of your delay sound. These controls are also controllable via expression pedal as well. Rest assured that this is still the pedal that everyone knows and loves.

Conclusion

No doubt that the fans of the original will love the Red Knob Mod just as well. It is hard to believe that they've created a way to make this absurdly great delay even better. The only thing that you could criticize is the price tag. Not to say that the price isn't worth it, (I'm pretty sure that had to put actual magic in there) but when you start looking at $500 delays you find a lot of great options. Chasebliss has declared war of the big box delays with this one.



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Ugly Guitar Truth: DigiTech SDRUM Strummable Drums Pedal

NAMM is currently afoot and it is again time for new gear to be debuted. This is a very exciting time for us who enjoy discovering new gear and musical equipment. The thing I look forward to the most is the new pedals at NAMM. I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to guitars, but I always look new and different ideas when it comes to pedals. That what DigiTech has done with the SDRUM. It is a drum machine that takes input from a guitar to create a groove. Much like the pads on a midi controller, you use your guitar strings to play a rhythm and that rhythm becomes the bass or snare beat. Let's take a closer look at this pedal.

A New Kind Of Groove

Continuing to capitalize on the success of the Trio, Digitech has developed a new tool for the solo artist. Taking the lessons learned from their first outing into the "Band in a Box" market, Digitech has given us another tool with even great potential. While the Trio was innovative, it lacked the flexibility that many serious artists needed. DigiTech has been active in the Live Looping scene for a decade or more. The JamMan is a recognized and respected tool by many solo looping artists. While the Trio might be a great practice tool, the SDRUM brings the ability to create any rhythm with nothing more than the pedal and a guitar.

All About The Bass?

The one notable exclusion the SDRUM possess is the bass line. The Trio is named so because it adds drums and bass to a guitar loop. The SDRUM only does drum loops. Let's not get to hung up on that fact. To think that this is an update or replacement for the Trio is a little foolhardy. While the Trio offers to fill in the holes in your ensemble, the SDRUM allows you to be more expressive and in control of your music. Having said that, the solution for a bassline already exists. An octave and looper pedal allows you to create your own bassline in much the same way the SDRUM creates drums.

Teamwork

The SDRUM has another trick up its sleeve. It integrates with the JamMan pedals. If you've ever tried to sync two looping pedals, then you know why this is a major feature. A fraction of a second can become a distracting lag over the course of a 3-minute song. This appears to be a well thought out approach to creating drums of the fly.

Conclusion

I'm impressed with what I've seen from this pedal. It seems to be a straightforward solution for artists that need a flexible tool. Its intuitive design makes it simple yet still elegant. However, this is still a unitasker. It does one job. Also, you will not be seeing this pedal in the bargain bin at your local music shop. At $200, this is a serious tool meant for the working/avid songwriter. This pedal won't be seen on every pedalboard. It is, however, an excellent execution of product design.



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