12/07/2015

Pedal Power 2015

How joining a forum can be dangerous to your bank balance

In January this year an equally guitar-obsessed colleague recommended I have a look at The Fretboard - a UK-based forum for guitar obsessives everywhere. As well giving me opportunity to put my level of interest into perspective (very mild!), it also introduced me to a much wider world of guitar equipment than I had previously found in the pages of Guitarist.

It also has a classifieds section. I had a few pedals up until the beginning of this year, but of those on the right, twelve were bought since joining the forum. I sold a few, and sold a guitar too, so I'm not out of pocket ... yet.

Following are some notes about what they are, approximately in the order I bought them, and why I bought them, primarily for my own interest in years to come.
Cry Baby Super Wah [1]
This is the first pedal I ever bought, probably in about 1986, via the classifieds in Guitarist magazine. It cost about £25. It's a late 70s Cry Baby, made in Italy by Jen and has inside it a white Fasel inductor. This is now quite a valuable model. At the time wah-wah was very unpopular, but I bought it because I read (in Guitarist) that it was a mark of skill to be able to use one. It's been with me ever since and I don't anticipate ever selling it, although it now needs some maintenance on the pot. But the Cry Baby is legendary! Watch the documentary in the link if you don't believe me!
Bright Onion Pedal Mini Looper [2]
This is the first pedal I bought on the forum this year, specifically so I could isolate the Cry Baby in a loop (it's that kind of looper). The wah is a great pedal but when it's off it still has an effect on the overall tone - and not a good one. Also perfect for auditioning pedals in a chain. Cost - £15.
DOD FX65B Stereo Chorus [3]
Back in sequence, this was bought in the early late 80s in a long-gone music shop in Amersham for the princely sum of £66 (it says on the box - the equivalent now of about £145!). No idea why I thought I needed a chorus pedal and I've never used it much, but it's a lovely wet 80s chorus.
BOSS CS3 Compressor/Sustainer [4]
Bought secondhand in the Record & Video Exchange in Notting Hill for £40 or so in the late 80s, this has had quite a lot of use but mainly (I now realise) as a boost. Given what I know now, I would have been better off with a treble booster or a Tube Screamer, but it's a classic anyway. I don't use it much now.
MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay [5]
About the same time as the DOD and BOSS I had an early digital delay pedal (a Frontline FD1200). It's long gone to the electronic graveyard but last year I decided I wanted a delay again and for some reason I wanted an all-analogue path. This got plenty of good reviews, so I went for it - cost, about £130 in Stompbox in Northwood Hills. It's a good pedal for short ambient delays.
MXR Phase 90 [6]
Another old pedal I owned long ago was a phaser made by Ken Multi - possibly a Maplins own brand thingy. It was very cheap but, even off, it had a nice effect on the sound. I wanted a phaser again and they don't get more classic than the Phase 90 ... but I was disappointed. I've since done the R28 mod and it definitely improves the sound. Cost was about £70 at Stompbox (bought at the same time as the Carbon Copy).
Electro Harmonix Soul Food [7]
At the beginning of the year I got some Amazon Vouchers from work. I'd been reading about this, apparently a clone(ish) of the legendary Klon Centaur. I've not played a Klon but I've played a J Rockett Archer (which is supposedly very close) and the Soul Food is the same kind of pedal - lots of boost and some overdrive if you want it. But compared to the Archer, it's a bit rough and shrill. Still good for boost and light drive, and contains an excellent buffer. About £50.
Electro Harmonix Neo Clone [8]
I had a bit left over on my Amazon vouchers and managed to translate this into another £50 on a chorus pedal I didn't really need. In my defence I thought the DOD was broken at the time, and its defence it does the "Come As You Are" wobble perfectly, but give I don't use chorus much, it was a bit pointless. I'd sell it but it's worth nothing really.
Joyo Tremelo [9]
I always fancied experimenting with a tremelo, mainly inspired by Jonny Greenwood I think. This was £20 on the forum. Does what it says on the tin, doesn't do a square wave trem which I realise is what I really wanted, but a good basic sound.
Marshall EH1 Echohead Delay [10]
The Carbon Copy is a great sounding pedal but because it's analogue, it's only got a short delay (about 600ms) and I decided I wanted a longer delay. This is a surprisingly versatile pedal and for £40 (off the forum) it's a steal.
Meridian SK12 Volume Pedal [11]
Very poor volume pedal acquired in a trade for my Pocket POD. A fundamental design flaw means that it cannot rotate its internal pot fully, so it either goes from off to about half volume, or goes from about half volume to full volume. The guy who sold it to me very kindly sent me a replacement pot to try, but the design issue remains. Probably only to be kept for soldering experimentation.
4114 Effects "Eight Zero Eight" [12]
I traded my EMG T-Set pickups for this. It's an Ibanez Tube Screamer (TS808) clone made by a custom effects maker in the UK. Since I traded with Dan himself, I think he must have made this for his own use. It's a bit noisy but pretty good. No idea how close it is to the original.
ZCat Poly-Octaver [13]
Bit of an odd one this. It does octave up, octave down, reverb and chorus - any or all at once. I call it "Cocteau Twins in a box". Traded my old DOD flanger for it.
Electro Harmonix Big Muff Tone Wicker [14]
Everyone needs a Big Muff. £60 in Stompbox. I'm inclined to regard the tone control as superfluous since it sounds much nicer without, but it's pretty cool whichever way. Perfect in combination with the Phase 90 - instant John Martyn on "Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhail" (from Inside Out) - one of my favourite guitar sounds.
3Leaf Audio Proton Envelope Filter [15]
I bought this because it came up the FB classifieds, I was curious and then I saw an awesome demo and realised this was the pedal I never realised I needed! £75 later it was mine. It's an auto-wah which, just like a manual wah, requires a certain amount of practice, and it has a very distinct tone of its own. Great fun though.
TC Electronic Ditto X2 Looper [16]
I'd been messing around with overlaying sounds using the Echohead and realised what I really needed was a looper (the other kind of looper, one that records and plays a recorded loop for you). The X2 added a couple of interesting features, although in hindsight I could have done without them. Lots of fun working out layers of sound.
ProCo Rat [17]
Came up cheap on the forum (£40) and it's a classic, so I thought I'd give it a go. Fizzy 80s distortion a-plenty, but probably needs a properly wound up amp to sound really good.
Handmade Phase 45 clone [18]
Another purchase on the forum, this handmade custom job set me back £60. On reflection it's probably not really worth that, but it's very tidily made. Still pretty new to me and so I am still dialling it in, but it sounds like it's got real potential as a "sweetener" at the front of my chain.

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