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Editorial: The Pedalboard

In other news: my Pedaltrain 2 has arrived, along with my new Dunlop DVP-1 volume pedal. So, the pieces of my pedalboard are lying around. All that remains is to put it all together into a configuration. Other than the Pedaltrain and the power supply, the components are, in no particular order:

  • Korg DT-10 tuner
  • TC Electronic Spark Booster
  • MXR Phase 90 (block logo)
  • Dunlop Crybaby wah (limited edition white painted)
  • Dunlop DVP-1 volume pedal
  • TC Electronic Shaker Vibrato
  • MXR Carbon Copy analog delay

The vibrato and delay will go into the effects loop of the amp, the other five before the input. Cable cornucopia! The tuner will likely be connected to the tuner out of the volume pedal, unless I prefer the sound of its buffered input. More than that, I haven’t really figured out exactly in which order to put the pedals. The one thing I know is that I want to keep the phaser before the amp input, because I’ve yet to hear a phaser that sounds good after distortion. (Edit 16 March: accidentally wrote BEFORE distortion. Oops!) The vibrato does sound pretty cool before distortion, but the delay sure as hell doesn’t. Keep the regeneration and mix above 9 o’clock and it immediately turns to mush.

One thing that strikes me is that this pedalboard is not that different from what Hendrix would have used. That is entirely intentional. Listen back to those albums from 1967 and onwards, how the great players experimented with tones. Other than the really saturated modern metal tone, all the basic rock tones were already discovered before 1972. Before flangers, before choruses. In those days, there were Leslies, wahs and phasers, which are effects that simply feel more organic to me. Believe me, I have an incredible itch for a proper fuzz and a Uni-Vibe!

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Posted by on 15 March, 2014 in editorial, gear

 

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Review: TC Electronic “Shaker” vibrato pedal

The TC Electronic Shaker is a vibrato pedal in TC’s celebrated Toneprint range. The first time I had the Toneprint function explained to me, I had to laugh. If you don’t know what it is, here’s a quick rundown: First, you download the TC Toneprint app to your smartphone. Then you use the speaker on the smartphone to upload settings to the pedal through the pickups on your guitar. But what you upload is not just a set of fixed settings. The Toneprint redefines what the controls on the pedal actually do. It won’t make a chorus pedal out of a delay pedal, but you can get one pedal to perform two different functions, provided you want to bend down towards your pedalboard in the middle of a gig and flick the little toggle switch on the pedal. And, of course, whipping out your phone mid-gig to change settings might be a cool thing for those who are into that sort of thing.

A bit about the background: I love phaser, but I have been looking for a cool modulation effect to complement it, and the natural thing has always been chorus first and flanger second. But then I plugged into one of those TC Electronic demo pedalboards and decided to give the Shaker a spin. Man, did I love it! I have nothing against chorus or flanger. Fact is, I might add one or the other later. But vibrato just felt more natural, more classic, less obvious. I immediately dialed in a cool mid-70s Camel tone, and further exploration of the settings led to a warbly Beatlesque Leslie-type sound. At once, I put the pedal on my wish list and today I finally got around to buying it.

You can indeed get chorusy-type sounds out of this pedal so long as you keep the rate fairly slow and the intensity low. I’ve also seen that you can download a Toneprint that gets even closer to chorus. However, be advised that vibrato is a fairly rhythmic kind of effect, and adjust and play accordingly.

One of the coolest little features with this pedal is the latch mode that is selected via the three-way toggle. In latch mode, the effect is only on so long as you keep the footswitch down. Here is where the “rise time” control comes into play. In “vibrato” mode, this control apparently does nothing. In latch mode, it controls the amount of time that passes before the effect kicks in. So you could conceivably also use the pedal as an ersatz vibrato bar. Pretty nice if you’re like me and block off the Stratocaster whammy bar but still want that shimmer from time to time.

Oh, and it’s orange!

 
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Posted by on 24 August, 2013 in gear, review

 

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Review: TC Electronic “Spark Booster”

I’m not a pedal expert or connoisseur by any measure of the word, but I have the distinct impression that the market for boost pedals has exploded in the last few years. Hell, even Boss has released one!

I was immediately intrigued when I saw the specs for the TC Spark Booster. Active bass and treble controls, gain and level controls AND a toggle switch that selects clean, fat or mid. I saw lots of applications for it: boosting my Stratocaster into humbucker territory as well as fattening up my Gibson tones (like that were necessary, really).

It turns out that the pedal is every bit as good as I wanted it to be. The Spark Booster is extremely flexible. You could use it as a transparent, clean boost, either for a volume jolt on a clean sound, some extra bit of dirt on a distorted tone, or perhaps even to even out the output differences between humbuckers and single-coils. I found out that it can do a lot more than that. It can add that sparkle and liquidness to a lead tone, without being as drastic as an old-fashioned overdrive pedal. You could even use it to turn a regular two-channel amplifier into one with three or four channels. It dirties up the cleans and adds lots of overtones and balls to the distortion channel. True, it is noisy, but that is to be expected when you add 26 dB of gain, and besides, you already own a noise gate, don’t you?

This pedal is now officially on my wish list and will be added to my board shortly!

 
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Posted by on 17 March, 2013 in gear, review

 

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Review: TC Electronic “The Dreamscape”

On paper, The Dreamscape is an excellent idea: a combined chorus/flanger/vibrato pedal. It costs about as much as two regular TC pedals, so what you get is three pedals for the price of two, and some of that John Petrucci mojo as well. And you only have to fit (and supply power to) one small pedal onto your board instead of three. Right?

No, you don’t. Not really.

I really wanted to like The Dreamscape, and not just because of whose signature is reproduced on the top of the chassis. Effects pedals are an on/off thing for me, and after selling almost all of them in 2010, I have recently entered a new “on” phase and am currently shopping for a chorus and a flanger. This pedal could be just the ticket and then I would get a vibrato pedal for free.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like it. It did sound really good. The chorus sounds, especially, were fantastic! They sounded good both clean and distorted, even when I put the chorus ahead of the distortion, which I prefer for simplicity’s sake. But that was basically it. The flanger and vibrato were too subtle for my taste and you also don’t get the level of control you would get from TC’s dedicated flanger and vibrato pedals. So this is basically just a good chorus pedal with John Petrucci’s signature on it. You could get that very same chorus sound by downloading one of JP’s TonePrints into the TC Corona for half the price.

 
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Posted by on 17 March, 2013 in gear, review

 

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