Less than a month after I last reviewed my pedal board I decided I wasn't very happy with it. I'm not quite sure what prompted this any more, but out went about half a dozen pedals and in came at least that many again, quite a few bought brand new, and a whole new board and power supply. Since then it's changed slightly and, just in case this wasn't enough, I've recently assembled an entire second board. (Now I read this in black and white, it occurs to me that this might all be a little bit over the top ...) So although I normally review things once every couple of years, I thought this needed revisiting sooner.
|What do you mean, seven gain stages|
and five delays is too many?
- Bright Onion Shifter Switcher Patchbox
- The really posh pedal boards have built-in patch boxes, so that the pedals are always plugged in, and you just make your connections to the board as a whole via the patch box. I like this idea, so this achieves the same result. It's underneath the board at the back right, under the M5. It's also quite clever: the pedals for the front of the amp are patched in separately to the pedals for the loop, but if you only connect one in and one out, everything goes through one path instead of separate paths, which means I can use this with an amp that doesn't have a loop, without having to change anything. That's really helpful if I'm round at a friend's house using their amp.
- Line 6 M5
- A jack-of-all-trades pedal that's just too good to leave off the board. I really like the wah wah models (although see later on for my budget board!), the compressors are fine and I've been using the rotary model recently too. Since there's a whole section of delays in this thing, this counts as the first delay on the board!
- TC Electronic Sub-n-Up
- I originally used one of the octave effects on the M5 but I liked it enough to warrant a dedicated pedal. This has a surprising amount of variety in it.
- Magnetic Effects White Atom
- Now discontinued as the manufacturer has decided to move and stop making pedals. I really like the idea of this pedal, but in practice it's a highly competent but somewhat generic fuzz. It's not as massive as a Big Muff or as brutal as the SF300 (see below). I'll probably sell it at some point.
- Fredric Effects King of Klone
- I love the Klon circuit boosting anything, including itself, so this is a great pedal. A fixture of my big board.
- Fredric Effects Blue Monarch
- I'd never tried a Bluesbreaker style pedal before. This is actually more a clone of the Analogman Prince of Tone. Initially I thought it was great, but actually it's a bit too fizzy and polite for me - I prefer something with a bit more meat. Hence ...
- Tech 21 Double Drive
- I sold this about two years ago because I fancied something else, but then last year I saw a JHS video about under-appreciated pedals and realised I missed it. Luckily the guy I sold it to still had it and wasn't using it - so I got it back for exactly what I paid for it. Not letting it go again!
- MXR Phase 95
- Phaser is still one of my favourite effects, and one of the first I owned. This is a brilliant little pedal, better and more flexible than the Phase 90 (which they've ruined somewhat), and smaller!
- BOSS GE-7 (modded)
- Ideal and very necessary for sculpting tone (ahem).
- This is the last pedal before the amp, if I'm running the following pedals in the effects loop.
- Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail
- I've tried various types of delay and analogue (bucket brigade) delay is my favourite. I've been through a bunch since I sold my original MXR Carbon Copy (mistake) and landed here, which sounds pretty much the same but has the advantage of modulation controls on the top (which is why I sold the CC in the first place). Somewhat underrated but a proper analogue delay - with all the limitations that implies as well. Which is why I also have ...
- Strymon Brigadier
- Analogue delay sounds awesome but it's either very dark, or noisy, and the delay time is limited. This is a digital model but for anything apart from the extremes of self-oscillation (which the Vapor Trail can do), this is superior to anything else: it's clean if you want it, massive amounts of delay if that's your thing, and incredibly musical.
- Strymon DIG
- So given that the M5 can do several types of delay and I have two separate analogue style delays, what's this doing here? It's a different sound which is sometimes very fun to play, and if you hook it up in stereo it sounds incredible.
- Neunaber Immerse
- Probably the best reverb pedal I've ever had. It does everything (even another delay if the previous four aren't enough) and has completely cured me of wanting another reverb pedal. Despite buying this for its plate reverb, it actually spends most of its time on the hall setting, which has subtle modulation and is absolutely fantastic.
What is also new is the board itself, which is a new Pedaltrain Classic 2, which is roughly the same size as the old board but has more usable space and, crucially, allows for a new Truetone 1Spot CS12 power supply mounted underneath, needed for all the higher consumption pedals.
So this is the state of the big board, and has been since roughly the end of last year. It can do loads and loads of different sounds and any modification - like the ability to run in stereo, for example - would be expensive.
So obviously, if my main board is so capable, I don't need another one, right? Wrong!
At the beginning of this year I had a couple of hundred pounds in my Paypal account from previous sales and for some reason I got the idea into my head that instead of searching for the next boutique beauty, I should see how far I could stretch my money. The core basics would be fuzz, overdrive, delay and reverb, with optional wah and wobble of some sort. I was trying to find pedals that are generally agreed to be good pedals, not just good for the money. And although I'm not a gigging musician, I wanted a board that would be reasonably versatile for if I was jamming with a friend.
Mainly, I think it was an excuse to do some shopping without completely breaking the bank, but it turned out much better than I expected - in some respects, it's a better board than the main board, and some of the pedals would absolutely not be out of place in a pro setup. Here's what we have (right to left, signal path order again):
|The bargain basement budget board|
- Cry Baby Mini CBM95
- A Cry Baby Super was my first ever pedal and this is probably even better: true bypass, three voicings, an adjustable pedal feel and it fits on a board properly. Sounds perfect to me - just like a Cry Baby. I settled on the vintage voicing but the low voicing is really nice too. Bought secondhand for a very nice price.
- Behringer SF300 Super Fuzz
- A blatant BOSS FZ-2 Hyper Fuzz clone, this is an absolute budget classic, not just an acceptable version of something more expensive. I got this from the forum but it's only £18 brand new. Brutal at high gain, with an occasional hint of octave fuzz, it also works as a good distortion with low gain and wedged between modes 1 & 2 (a party trick the BOSS can't do), plus it serves triple duty by acting as a decent clean boost.
- Caline Pure Sky
- Another budget classic, this is generally regarded as a very, very good Timmy clone. I've never played an original but this is what I was hoping for when I bought the Blue Monarch: a nice rich overdrive, even at low gain, adding some thickness to the tone, and also very nice boosted. Just great and incredible value new, let alone the tiny price I paid secondhand.
- MXR Micro Chorus
- Originally I bought a Behringer chorus (same series as the fuzz) but it sounded a bit generic - perfectly acceptable but the least inspiring pedal on the board. Then this came up for about a third of its new price and it was worth it: played side by side, you can really hear the difference in quality. I also love that I can adjust the one control with my foot.
- Xvive Echoman
- There was a lot of hype about these a few years ago, but it's died down somewhat. Supposedly designed by the same man that designed the legendary EHX Memory Man Deluxe, this has some of the same flavour, but probably some of the same drawbacks - mainly, it's noisy. This wasn't such a bargain, although it was still a decent price. If I was a bit more patient, I would have waited for a cheaper, "analog voiced" delay, of which there are plenty. That said, it's a nice sounding pedal.
- TC Electronic Skysurfer
- TC's "smorgasbord" range includes some real value and I think this is one - particularly given that it was half the price for me because I used some of my loyalty points at Andertons. Simple but effective reverb that does what it says.