Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Ugly Guitar Truth: Danelectro Billionaire Pedals

First off, sorry for the extended hiatus. NAMM nearly killed me. Ok, it didn't kill me as much as it burnt me out. I wrote about as much as I did the entire year in the span of a few weeks. Honestly, its hard to find interesting things to talk about all the time anyway. So now that I've given you a few excuses, we will talk about the one thing that I've actually had an opinion on in the last couple of months. Daneletro Billionaire Pedals...

I Hate Them

From the moment I saw them, I did not like a single thing about them. Not that I could avoid seeing them. Obviously, I follow the major guitar manufacturers... and Danelectro. So, I saw these pedals on the daily after their announcement. However, I started seeing them everywhere. In the Blues, 60 Cycle, and today (the day I'm writing this) Andertons all posted videos on Youtube. Others are posting on Twitter and Instagram. Daneletro already looks like they are trying to hard, then they push these pedal via online-influencers. Gag me with a spoon (actually, please don't). Everything from the look, to the names (SRV much?), to the oversaturation of social media, these pedal are just annoying and I hate them.

I Don't Actually Hate Them

I do. That is, I did until I tried them. I sat down with the Big Spender, Pride of Texas, Billionaire Boost, and Filthy Rich. I played a Fender Stratocaster through the previously mentioned pedals into a Peavy Bandit. As much as I wanted to confirm all the dislike I had for these pedals, I was completely corrected. The Pride of Texas overdrive is extremely usable. It invokes its namesake. It performs extremely well in an amp that is less than perfectly clean. The big spender is a super-solid Leslie simulator with a ramp function that adds a ton to this effect. The ramp function isn't adjustable that I'm aware of, but this pedal performs just as well or better than its peers. The Boost and Tremolo are pretty par for the course, but I can't find anything wrong with them.


So, I've gone from actively hating these pedals just based on the marketing and promotion of these pedals to admitting these are perfectly fine. I wouldn't mind owning the Pride of Texas or Big Spender pedals if I needed those effects. I'd only be slightly embarrassed by the way they look.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

NAMM 2018: JHS Panther Cub V2 Analog Delay

The Panther Cub has been a massively popular pedal for those that love analog, bucket-brigade delays. JHS has somehow stuffed the contents and features of the previous versions into a much smaller package. Good things come in smaller packages because the Cub now has active EQ, Smoother Oscillation, Gain Control, and Full Wet Mix. Everything you love from the original, plus some, in less pedal board real estate.

More Info From JHS:

In 2011, we released the Panther Analog Delay. Almost exactly two years later in 2013, we tried a nearly impossible feat of taking everything we love about the Panther Delay, making a few improvements, and packaging it into an enclosure half the size. Today in 2018 we're repeating the feat and making the Panther Cub V2 half the size once again!

What's New on the V2?

- Half the size of the Panther Cub V1 and Panther Cub V1.5
- Fully Wet Mix now available
- Gain Control to set overall volume
- Even smoother oscillation and run-away
- Active EQ, which functions at a Tilt style EQ

100% Analog Bucket Brigade Technology

The Panther Cub V2 is voiced to deliver the dark and chewy repeats that analog delay fans clamor for. The Panther Cub offers you 1,000ms (one full second) of delay time! Bring in beautiful, ambient modulation with the pedal's modulation controls.
- 1,000ms of Delay (1 full second)
- Four 3205 Bucket Brigade Delay chips
- Onboard Modulation that stays accurate even when using Tap Tempo

Extensive Onboard Control

Thanks to its groundbreaking feature set, the Panther Cub Delay has been one of our most intriguing pedals to date. It's not often you find an all-analog delay with onboard tap tempo and a 4-section RATIO control with settings for quarter, dotted-eighth, eighth, and triplet divisions. In fact, our original Panther Delay was the first to do it in 2011!
- Soft-touch Tap Tempo switch
- 4-position RATIO control (1/4, 1/8, dotted 1/8, Triplets)
- True Speed LED (indicates rate of actual delay)

External Tone-shaping Power

The Panther Cub's control and tweakability extend further than what you'll find onboard.  An expression pedal input can be assigned to change many of the pedal's settings on the fly. And you even have the opportunity to externally control your tap tempo and tap slave the Panther Cub to your other time-based pedals.
- Dry Out (via TRS splitter) for stereo field of sound
- Assignable Expression (control Time, Ratio, Modulation)
- Tap Input/Output allows external tap controller or tap slaving

Additional Panther Cub Benefits:

- Even smaller Pedalboard-friendly size
- Space-saving top-mounted Input/Output jacks
- True Bypass Switching
- Standard 9V DC negative power

100% Designed, Populated, and Assembled in Kansas City USA

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

NAMM 2018: JSH Andy Timmons V2

The Andy Timmons pedal from JHS has been a huge success for JHS. Guitarist have loved the original so much that JHS has come back with a version 2. So how the guys at JHS have found a way to squeeze a boost into their compact pedal. The boost is selectable via an addition footswitch. If you are a fan of the original, then you might dig applying the AT just the way Andy does. With a specially designed and tuned boost, you can boost it just like Mr. Timmons too.

More Info From JHS:

In 2016 we brought you the AT, Andy Timmons artist signature pedal and we're really proud to bring you the next iteration of this phenomenal stomp box, The AT+.
The JHS Pedals AT is Andy Timmons signature overdrive pedal that gives Andy his unmistakable lead and rhythm tone. Upon purchasing a JHS Angry Charlie in 2013, Andy began using it as his primary tone and soon after got in touch with Josh Scott about modifying it for his needs. Through going back and forth and tailoring it to Andy’s tastes, the “@“ was born and eventually released into production in 2016. This pedal gives you all the soaring overdrive and distortion that you hear from Andy with plenty of options to craft your tone with your rig.  So pay ATtention and we’ll see what makes the AT rock.

Does the AT+ sound the same as the original AT?

Yes!  The drive channel of the AT+ is identical to our original AT pedal.  No changes were made whatsoever and the controls remain the same.   They include Volume, EQ, Drive, Air, and a three-way toggle for 25-watt, 50-watt, or 100-watt modes. The Volume gives you plenty of headroom to play with, while the Drive control has a wide range from high gain blues to thunderous distortion. The tone controls work together to give you the ability to shape your tone and sit perfectly in a mix. The EQ works as a standard bright/dark tone control, while the Air control rolls in top end like a presence control so you can have just the right amount of brightness for articulation and clarity. The three-way toggle gives you the feel of different wattage amplifiers. The up position is the 25-watt setting with the most compression and saturation with the least amount of volume. The down position is the 50-watt setting for a good balance of compression and openness. The middle position is the 100-watt position for tons of volume and open crunch while being less focused.

Two channels are better than one!  

New to the AT+ is an independent foot-switchable Boost...essentially creating a second channel and gain stage for the pedal.  The boost side of the AT+ is a slightly dirty and overdriven pre-boost that allows you to hit the front end of the AT drive channel and achieve more saturation and definition for applications where you need more.  Since the Boost is independent, it can be used alone to drive your amp or other drive pedals in conjunction with the AT+ drive channel.

This pedal requires standard 9V DC Negative power, consumes less than 100mA, and measures 2.2"x4.8"x1.6".

You can safely run “The AT“ at 18 or 9 volts.

NAMM 2018: Semour Duncan Silver Lake Dynamic Reverb

At NAMM, Seymour Duncan let us take a look at their Silver Lake Dynamic Reverb pedal. If there was a award for the most improved pedal brand, then Seymour Duncan would have to take it. There is no other brand that has risen out mediocracy as well as SD. The Andromeda Delay was impressive in a time where everyone was producing some of the best digital effects that the world of guitar has ever seen. Now we get Seymour Duncan take on a top shelf Reverb. This pedal is packed full of features and designed beautifully. It's priced ($350) to compete with pedals like the RV-500 from BOSS and due to drop soon.

More Information From Sweetwater:

Fully Programmable Reverb with a World of Ambiance

With the wide variety of powerful multi reverb pedals on the market, it's refreshing to see one as intuitive and great-sounding as the Seymour Duncan Silver Lake Dynamic Reverb pedal. Onboard you'll find eight different reverb varieties, with enough tonal tweaking to create the exact sound your music needs. And thanks to Duncan's dynamic technology, you can set the reverb's character to react to the intensity of your playing. And with its MIDI capabilities, the Silver Lake is also the perfect companion for switching-based pedalboards.

Create your own space

At the heart of the Seymour Duncan Silver Lake Dynamic Reverb pedal is a powerful digital engine. It's this power that allows you to access eight separate reverb voices, including room, spring, shimmer, delay verb, and more. From there, the Grit, Damp, Mix, and Pre-Delay controls take over, tuning your delay trails to perfection. Whether you want the vintage sounds of a cranked spring tank, the natural sound of a large hall, or something completely your own, the Silver Lake Dynamic Reverb is a more than capable partner.

Dynamic Expression control

Even with all this tone shaping onboard, what sets the Silver Lake Dynamic Reverb effects pedal apart from the crowded pack available at Sweetwater is its ability to change its character based on your playing dynamics. Dynamic Expression can be tuned to affect the Mix, Mod, or Damp settings of your tone, depending on how hard you hit the strings. With this feature, you can go from a warm, modulated ambiance when lightly picked to a cavernous modulation by digging in, and it couldn't be easier to control.

Power to spare

On top of its multitude of reverb types, tone-shaping abilities, and dynamic expression, the Silver Lake packs a ton of features onboard to make it extremely player friendly. The pedal's MIDI capabilities integrate the pedal into a larger rig for effortlessly accessing your presets on the fly. Stereo I/O allows you to spread your tone across multiple amplifiers. The Silver Lake's ability to run at 18 volts enhances the pedal's headroom and clarity. And a USB jack is there when it's time to keep the Silver Lake's software updated far into the future.

Seymour Duncan Silver Lake Dynamic Reverb Pedal Features:

  • Powerful programmable reverb pedal with a bevy of intuitive features
  • Multiple voicing options, such as Grit, Damp, and Decay
  • Dynamic control changes its sound depending on your playing dynamics
  • MIDI switchable
  • Over 100 preset locations
  • Fully programmable via the top of the unit
  • USB connectivity for software updates
  • 8 types of reverb selectable with a rotary switch

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Ugly Guitar Truth: Boss Katana Artist Amp

When the BOSS Katana was first announced, I wrote up my impressions of it. I liked the idea of it. It seemed like a well though out and executed design but it wasn't without it faults. I never did like the look of the amp. It was simple, but the overall look was a little bland. There was too much black on black. While I like the concept of the Kanji symbol for Katana being the amp's main design feature, it too was underwhelming and too close to familiar English letters. The price and features were too good though. BOSS had nearly every competitor beat hands down. So it's no surprise that BOSS has once again expanded their line of Katana amp with the 100 watt Artist model.

Still 100 Watts

If you are familiar with the BOSS Katana 100 Watt, then you are familiar with most of the features of the Artist. The five amp models are still there. The tone section still lets you control Lows, Mids, and Highs. You still have your Three FX: Boost/Mod, Delay FX, and Reverb. You still get Presence, and Master controls with 100/50/0.5 Watt settings. So if you were a fan of the Katana before, then you are still going to like the Artist, but is there enough to really call this an upgrade?

What's New

For starters you get a WazaCraft speaker in the Artist model. Waza is BOSS Premium line, but personally, I've never really thought that the Waza amps met the hype (or the price for that matter). The Waza was a feat for sure, but the Katana was were BOSS really hit the homerun. Having said that, is the Waza speaker an upgrade? After hearing a side by side comparison, the Artist does have the edge. However, that might be due to the cabinet construction. Another key feature is the more robust cabinet construction and the semi-open back cab. My money is on the shape and size of the cab having more to do in the change in sound than the speaker, but that's just my two cents. Other than that, the Artist gives you Cabinet Resonance and Line Out Air Feel functions.

Is It Worth It?

So, right now the Katana is priced at $600. The 2x12 100 watt Katana is priced at $500. You're getting one less speaker for 100 more dollars. While this seems like a bum deal at first, there is a fair amount of value for your money. The cabinet alone is a huge improvement. The Waza speaker may help as well. The Cabinet Resonance and Line Out Air Feel could help breathe a little life into you signal. The overall look of the amp is much improved in my opinion. Will I buy a Katana Artist? Personally? I'd love to see the head version, but I love what they done. BOSS has done an impressive job topping their already impressive line of Katana Amps.

Ugly Guitar Truth: Fender Blues Jr Mk IV

Just ahead of NAMM Fender announced that they were updating four amps in their current line. This didn't really peak my interest until I heard that the Blues Jr. was one of those amps. I have used a Blues Jr. for many years. To me, it is almost a right of passage. This was the amp at the music store that you sampled all of your pedals through. It was the amp that you hoped to upgrade to from your cheesy starter amp. Even by many professionals, this amp is considered a valuable tool. It is the 'everyman's amp' that has the iconic Fender sound. It was, what many considered, the perfect pedal amp. Now, Fender has gone and changed that.

What They've Changed

The overall look of the amp has changed very little. I believe the backplate is now black and the knobs are white. Other than that, the two amps look identical. That is until you look at the speaker. Gone is the Eminence for favor of a Celestion A-type speaker. They've also fiddled with some things inside the amp as well. While a part for part breakdown is yet unknown, the tone-shaping and reverb are notably altered from the Mk III.

For Better or Worse

Have they improved upon a classic or messed with a good thing? Well, at this point it is a little hard to tell. They've only been available for a few days and hands on testing is limited. What I can say is that a few Key features have been changed. The spikey high end that many Fender are known to have is now rounded out. The amps presence is still there, but the high-mids that seem to rattle around in you noggin are tamed to tolerable levels. The low-end might be the measurable change though. While the Mk III was know for its defined low-end. The Mk IV has made the low-end its trademark. The Mk IV sounds much fuller when the lows are pushed. Side by side the Mk IV out shines the Mk III. Making the Mk III sound thin. The reverb is also a point of noticeable change. Despite the fact that many guitarist can conjure a sound upon hearing "Fender reverb", Fender has changed it in favor of a darker, more controlled spring.

Other Notes

While some might look at these changes as messy with a good thing, many of the changes are simply keeping up with times. Obviously, older players will still seek out that original Fender sound, but younger players desire an amp with more modern features. This line of amps is still, for the most part, a working man's amp. Pro Jr.s, Blues Jr.s, Deluxes, and Devilles, are staples of backlines and bar-stages everywhere. While I think that the Blues Jr has lost a lot of what makes it a Fender, the changes have made a little more of versatile amp.

While I wouldn't call this a Marshall-y sounding amp. Fender has made the Blues Jr more Marshall-y. Before, I would use a Blues Jr to act as the platform for my pedals. The Mk IV makes a decent sound all on its on. The breakup and overdrive/distortion are much more pleasing and usable. I can see where they might have taken bits of the Bluesbreaker amps and transplanted them into the Blues Jr. While this might make for a better overall amp, it may change the way we view and use a Blues Jr. This all sound pretty flattering, but imagine if Vox made their AC15 sound a little more like a Mesa Boogie. I know that is a dumb "what if", but what would you do if you wanted an Vox AC15 sound, but they'd changed the sound to some high-gain scooped mids nonsense. You'd have to find an older used version, right. Well, that probably our future. Our favorite pedal platform is now a thing of the past (and craigslist).

NAMM 2018

NAMM 2018 is finished and there is ton of new stuff that is out there. There is still a load of stuff that is yet to be released. Digitech was a big hold out this year. They didn't show us anything new, but they have promised much more stuff later this year. Several other companies showed some pretty exciting working prototypes, so we still have a lot to look forward to in 2018.

There is so much stuff out there that I can't wait to dive into. Milkman came out with a pedal based amp as did Victory. Vox expanded their MV series to include a 150 watt head. Line6 gave the HX multi effect pedal. There are more new guitars from major bands than I know what to do with. Marshall showed us the Origin series. I'm really looking forward to taking a much closer look at a lot of the stuff that has been announced as well as the stuff the I just mentioned.

NAMM is a super busy time, and I've been trying to cover most of the stuff that I've found interesting, but if there is something that you've seen from NAMM and I haven't mentioned it, then let me know in the comments. I'll try to check it out and be sure to let you know what I think.