World Music Supply | MXR Pedals

Hey guys, Brian here again with World Music Supply, and I’m back with another dose of gear and guitar reviews. Today might have been a slightly slower day, as we’re getting ready to head off to NAMM, and find some tasty new treats for all of you gear lovers, as such I didn’t have a ton of time to sit down and review something super complicated for you all, but what I did certainly have an appeal all their own. Today I got to look at two classics from our friends over at MXR. First up to bat today, is a personal favorite, the MXR Dyna-Comp.

MXR Dyna-Comp Guitar Compression Pedal

MXR Dyna-Comp Guitar Compression Pedal

The Dyna-Comp is one of the simplest, most straight forward compressors ever made. You get two knobs, output, and sensitivity. Output increases the over all volume and clean gain of the pedal, and the sensitivity allows you to adjust just how much squash you get out of this guy. Today we are going back to our normal test amp, the Marshall DSL40C, and with good reason, one of the first things I do when trying out a compressor, is to test and see if it can copy a trick I learned from watching old Paul Gilbert videos. The basic idea is to get a good sounding dirty tone from your amp, and set the output of the compressor low, and the sensitivity high.  This allows you to go from a growling distortion tone, to a bold, 80’s style clean with the touch of a button, and the MXR passed with flying colors.

The second thing I always try and do, is dial in a good country tone, which with its two knob simplicity, I was able to dial in a snappy chicken pickin’ tone lighting fast. Volume swells had a violin like quality now, as it deleted the attack. Finger picking had a very even, very clean quality, and the tone of the guitar was brightened up, and made far more present. I personally love the tone of the MXR, with its quick sudden squash, and its slightly brighter quality, that’s why I keep one on my board. I know it might seem biased, but with a pedal this simple, that does everything you could ever want from a compressor, the MXR Dyna-Comp earns itself a well earned 10 out of 10.

MXR M-103 Blue Box Distortion / Fuzz Pedal with Octaver

MXR M-103 Blue Box Distortion / Fuzz Pedal with Octaver

Next up is the MXR Blue Box. I always loved the name of the blue box, because in my minds eye it was named after the old gadget they used to “hack” telephones back in the 70’s to get free long distance, because they both make really computer-y sounding bleeps and boops. That is the best way to describe what the Blue Box does, it in all actuality is a complex Fuzz circuit, that creates a synth like lower octave below the guitar, which can be blended in to create glitchy computer noises.

Turning the pedal on, you are instantly greeted with a very thick, rich analog fuzz. If you have it set just about noon on both knobs you get almost Nintendo sounding growls, with a grumbly two octave bass line below your psychedelic fuzzed out guitar. Be careful as this second octave is old school analog, and as such can sometimes be a little glitchy, but in a good way, as it allows the pitch to waver between two points and sometimes seem to disappear altogether. It works better on single lines for this reason, but it can take smaller chords as well.

Sure as a stand alone Fuzz, it’s a smooth and rich, and its easily an A+ Fuzz. But as an effect, or a color pedal, the Blue Box is great, as it’s like having an old school keyboard instead of a guitar, and really whose music couldn’t use more glitchy vintage keyboard style tones? Its not everybodies bag of tricks, but it certainly deserves to be tried out by anyone who plays heavy music, and wants a Fuzz box that does more than usual, the MXR Blue box might just be your right choice. Solid 9 out of 10.

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World Music Supply | Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi

Hey guys it’s Brian from World Music Supply again, here to bring you the your usual dose of guitar and gear reviews, and today I get to serve up a personal favorite, the Electro Harmonix Big Muff. Why the Big Muff? Well that is a simple answer, it is iconic. Possibly one of the most famous, and most widely used stomp boxes in the world, it has graced the stage in one form or another with artists like Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Carlos Santana, to bands like Dinosaur Jr., Smashing Pumpkins, and Mudhoney. The list goes on and on, because the sound of this simple circuit, is so powerful, and clear, that a majority of distortion pedals in today’s market are modeled on it or one of its decedents.

The Electro Harmonix USA Big Muff Pi Fuzz Pedal

The Electro Harmonix USA Big Muff Pi Fuzz Pedal

Today I’m going to review a few of these decedents, as well as the one that started it all, the Big Muff Pi. The Pi was produced both here in the U.S as well as a factory in Russia, and both pedals are distinct from one another, with the USA model having that raunchy high end grit, and the Russian variant having a warmer, more mid range aimed bite. The pedal produced by EHX nowadays is very reminiscent of the original USA version. The controls are simple, with just a volume a tone and a “sustain” knob, which is like a gain control. The sound has a very bold, and in your face quality to it, with a lot of that vintage, late 60’s style fuzz style grind to it, which is fantastic at taking your lead lines and really letting them fly out of the mix over top of everything else.

I also love the not so subtle glitching it can do, thanks to its hyper compressed signal path. This translates into grainy static like sounds that get kicked out when your strings start to ring out sympathetically. When used right, this pedal can provide you with long, harmonically rich, violin like sustain. For its lifetime of service to the music world, its definitively legendary sound, and its road worthy construction, the original Big Muff Pi earns itself a solid 10 out of 10.

The Electro Harmonix Big Muff Tone Wicker Fuzz Pedal

The Electro Harmonix Big Muff Tone Wicker Fuzz Pedal

Next up is the Big Muff Pi with Tone Wicker, which is a sort of super modded version of the Big Muff. The differences include a tone switch, and a wicker switch, which might sound strange, but just follow along. The sound without either of the switches engaged is a lot like the standard Pi, with a little bit more saturation, and a slightly warmer sound. The tone switch, when engaged, actually bypasses the tone control in the pedal, which results in a shorter signal path, slightly more volume, and a more transparent overall sound.

This meant that you could play bigger chords, without your guitar sounding harmonically muddy, or glitchy. The addition of the tone switch meant that I could use the Pi as a type of slightly over the top overdrive, or a full on distortion pedal, with far less of that characteristic glitching that was present in the standard Pi. The Wicker switch is a type of top boost control, which accentuates the upper harmonics of the signal, which helps to kick your tone way out of the mix, without sacrificing your low end.

The Big Muff Pi with Tone Wicker is certainly a amazing pedal, taking everything we loved about the standard box, and adding two very useful, and very cool mods to the overall package, and for that the Big Muff Pi with Tone Wicker earns itself a 10 out of 10. Last up for the day, is the Micro Metal Muff, which is a little bit more Pedal board friendly version of EHX’s Metal Muff.

The Electro Harmonix Micro Metal Muff Distortion Pedal

The Electro Harmonix Micro Metal Muff Distortion Pedal

The Metal Muff was designed to be a straight ahead metal machine, with tons of gain and saturation on tap. The sound of this thing can only be described as monstrous! Using this pedal with a down tuned guitar, I was able to get some serious girth, even from a bone dry amp, this pedal transformed even a crystal clear Fender, into a roaring metal stack. The controls are as simple as ever, and the Micro size really helps to to take up less of your board, without sacrificing any control. For what it is, which is a little, Metal crazed version of the Big Muff, the Micro Metal Muff does its job fantastically, and it definitely deserves a 10 out of 10 rating.

The Big Muff Pi, might have a funny name, and a unique sound, but it has definitely cemented its place in the pantheon of guitar effects. Because even if the standard model isn’t really your thing, there are so many variants and mods of it, that there is definitely one to suit anyone’s tastes. while most distortion pedals will do the job, and some may even sound almost as good as the Muff,  most of them don’t have the history of service behind them quite like that funny named pedal from Electro Harmonix.

World Music Supply | Boss Distortion Pedals

Hi guys, Brian from World Music Supply here to talk to you guys about some cool, classic pedals from our friends over at Boss. I picked to do a basic run through of their Distortion pedals, as their line is possibly the most iconic in the industry, as many of us started our pedal boards with one of their little fuzz boxes. For the better part of thirty five years, Boss has been building and designing inexpensive, great sounding stomp boxes, that have shaped the sounds of millions of guitarists world wide. It could be argued that their most iconic was the DS1, our first pedal in today’s review.

The Boss DS1 Distortion Guitar Pedal

The Boss DS1 Distortion Guitar Pedal

The Boss DS1 came along at a time when effect pedals just didn’t play as great a role as they do today, sure people could buy a few little boxes, but these were often bulky, battery powered, and often broke down. This in large part was due to the lesser availability of compact circuitry, electrical know how, and quality of components that were available over all. My favorite example of this haphazard approach to guitar effects, is by far the DeArmond Trem-Trol, which used a small canister of mercury that would swish back and forth while the canister rotated, to create a very primitive tremolo effect. Sure it got the job done, but by todays standards, this sounds down right barbaric. In comes Boss, with their simple straight forward design, tiny little pedals, and amazing sounds.

The DS-1 has a very distinctive sound, with a lot of cut, grind, and a slight fizziness to it that helps lift it up and out of the mix. This pedal can do everything from classic rock grunt, with an almost KISS like edge to them, backing the controls back a bit, you would not be surprised at all that Joe Satriani used to use one of these as his primary means of distortion. The cool little yellow pedal doesn’t have a ton of versatility, it really was designed to take the place of the overdrive channel on an amp, taking a single channel amp, and allowing it to overdrive at much lower volumes. But that doesn’t matter, the DS-1 is Iconic, with a sound that has shaped literally millions of guitarists world wide, and you can’t allow this pedals lack of versatility to stand in the way of its massive, iconic sound. The DS-1 gets a solid 10 out of 10, because without it, who knows what modern rock would sound like.

The Boss SD1B Super Overdrive Guitar Pedal

The Boss SD1B Super Overdrive Guitar Pedal

Next up is the SD-1B the Super Overdrive, which is a warmer, more realistic sounding alternative to the DS-1 which more accurately emulates the sound of an overdriven tube amp. The tone is smooth and warm, with a slight graininess to it that really makes it feel like you really are playing an amp that is just grinding apart at the seams. The SD-1B, while not as iconic as the DS-1, certainly has its own place in the guitar pedal history books, listening to its classic rock style tones, with its simple, but far more versatile controls when compared to the DS-1. The tone of the SD-1B has a very blues rock sound, with a tone that sounds as close to Joe Satriani’s Ice 9 tone as you can get without buying his Ice 9 overdrive pedal. This pedal can go from that glassy, smooth blues drive, to very big, Marshall style crunch. While not as important to the history of the electric guitar as the DS-1, the SD-1B certainly earned itself a place in the history books, as well as a solid 9 out of 10.

The Boss MD2 Mega Distortion Guitar Pedal

The Boss MD2 Mega Distortion Guitar Pedal

Third up on today’s list is a pedal that is very near and dear to me, the MD2 which was my very first distortion pedal, and my second pedal over all, next to a cheap no name chorus pedal. These two little boxes helped me figure out who I wanted to be as a guitarist. I bought the little red distortion pedal, mainly because it said “MEGA” on it, and I thought it looked, and sounded cooler than its yellow and orange brethren. The big, 80’s distortion tones that this little pedal generates were perfect for the junky early 90’s metal and grunge that I cut my teeth on in those early days. This pedal emulates the sound of a heavily distorted amplifier quite well, with all of the hard square wave style clipping that you tend to get from a rectifier equipped amplifier, but with a lot more lower end than you would expect.

The pedal can do some “lower” gain settings, that could easily cover some Zepplin or ZZ top tunes, but what it really does best, is straight ahead thrash metal, and grungy rock. Now, this pedal is by no means a game changer, and by now it might just seem like another little buzz box, but this pedal made me feel like my little knock off Stratocaster, and my tiny solid state amp were really capable of being a rock star, and when you’re fourteen years old, you just can’t beat that. While it doesn’t cover as much sonic ground as the last two pedals, the MD2 does score itself a respectable 8 out of 10.

The Boss ML2 Metal Core Guitar Distortion Pedal

The Boss ML2 Metal Core Guitar Distortion Pedal

Second to last on today’s list, is the ML2, which is designed for people who tune down, and dig in deep. This pedal has virtually no versatility, no matter what this is going to sound heavy and distorted, this pedal is designed to play metal, it doesn’t matter if its thrash, hard core, speed, you need to sound as distorted as possible, this is the pedal for you. With all of the low end this pedal has on tap, you might end up competing with your bass player in that territory, so you will want to fine tune this once you take it back to the band to practice, I’ve known plenty of guys who find the “right” sound, and then get just eaten alive at practice because their sound just cant pull itself up and out of everyone else’s frequencies.

The ML2 might need a noise suppressor before it, just so you aren’t annoyed by all of the hum that a pedal with this much gain on tap can create, but at the end of the day, this pedal alone does its job of being aggressive, angry, and brutal. The ML2 might not be very versatile, but for people who need this much gain on tap, it will be more than versatile enough. If you don’t play metal, this probably won’t be your go to guy, but if you tune down, and want to be as heavy as possible, this is probably the pedal for you. A solid 9 out of 10.

The Boss FZ5 Fuzz Pedal

The Boss FZ5 Fuzz Pedal

Last up for today’s giant run down of fuzz boxes, is a box designed to recreate the pedals that gave the term “Fuzz” to them in the first place, is the Boss FZ5. Designed to recreate the very first commercially available guitar pedal, the Maestro FZ-1A, the big gritty smily face pedal, the Fuzz Face, and lastly the pedal that one Jimi Hendrix made world famous, the Roger Mayer Octavia.
The Maestro is probably most well known for making the almost trumpet like sounds at the beginning of the Rolling Stones “Satisfaction”, the pedal worked a lot like much later Fuzz pedals, by driving the signal all the way into a near perfect square wave, and was almost monophonic as a result of how it actually clipped the signal. This setting was cool, and very retro sounding, but like its name sake a little annoying, as it was pretty much monophonic.

Next up was the Fuzz face setting, which was a lot more friendly to modern playing styles, as it still can play full chords, and clean up quite a bit when you roll your volume back. It’s very clear why so many guitarists have one of these pedals on their board, they just do a great job at sounding great. Lastly is the Octavia, which takes one of the artifacts of the Fuzz circuitry and boosts it, making it very noticeable, which is the fact that this pedal kicks an octave tone up into the same volume range of your unaffected guitar tone. This results in a very cool effect, that really does remind you of Jimi at Woodstock. This pedal is a must for anyone who covers any band that was big before the mid 70s, and for anyone who wants to emulate the sound of those early rockstars. The FZ5 scores a solid 10 out of 10.

World Music Supply | The Digitech iStomp

Hey guys, it’s Brian from World Music Supply here again, and today I want to talk to you guys about a really innovative new pedal from Digitech called the iStomp. The iStomp is a pedal that allows its entire effect framework to be swapped out via any iOS 4 or later device running the DigiTech® Stomp Shop™ App.

The Digitech iStomp

The Digitech iStomp

Digitech has already done something similar to this with their IPB10 pedalboard, which used the iPad as the guts of a whole multi-effect board. Now the idea behind the IPB10 is amazing, have all of the flexibility of a normal pedal board but all you have to deal with is your iPad. However this faced a few issues, mainly, many guitarists are sort of stuck in their way as far as their “tones” go, and as such they just dont like the idea of giving up their favorite ten or fifteen year old pedals for digital recreations of them on a touch screen.

The Digitech iStomp

The Digitech iStomp

       This is why pedals like the iStomp are invaluable for guitarists. You get all of the flexibility of a limitless number of pedals under your feet, but it only takes up as much room as a normal stomp box. This means that you can add a few new tonal colors into your chain without having to forgo your old favorites just to save space. The iStomp even comes preloaded with Digitechs infamous Redline Distortion from their RP series of multi effects, as well as the Total Recall delay available for free from the DigiTech® Stomp Shop™ App right from the get go.

The Digitech iStomp

The Digitech iStomp

       The most logical thing I could think to do was swap out certain pedals in my pedal chain with the iStomp and see how it functioned in their place, for example, taking out my main distortion pedal and swapping it  with the iStomp, or taking out my delay and using the iStomp in its place. This approach worked well, as the included Redline pedal has a great full sound, with plenty of ZZ top style swagger, and it cleaned up nicely with your volume knob, it actually sounded better then my road worn distortion box I’ve had for years now. The other available models sounded great too, with models of many famous pedals, like a Tube Screamer, a Dunlop style fuzz face, and of course Digitechs classic Deathmetal distortion. They all had a fresh feeling to them that always sounded spot on to what you hoped it would sound like. There were no digital artifacts or fake sounding cheapo models like you find on some lower priced multi-effect units.

       Testing it as a Delay pedal was equally satisfying, as there are more then enough pedals available to fill in the role of my little old bucket brigade delay pedal. With plenty of digital sounding delays for a nice bright repeat, and plenty of analog sounding delays that quickly became personal favorites. My favorite was not the Total Recall as I had hoped, as its repeats are just too “true” sounding to me, as you let the delay signal get longer and longer, you end up with what sounds like five hundred guitars, as opposed to one guitar with a long delay. My favorite delay actually ended up being the vintage tape delay, which had all of the nice warmth that analog delays tend to have. As well the Tape delay had a nice slightly overdriven tone, which was one of the things that was so iconic of early tape based delay devices.

The Digitech iStomp

The Digitech iStomp

       I tried out some of the more out there effects of the iStomp like the rotating speaker effect called the “Rotator”, a cool flanger called the “flanger affair”, the “sound-off” which acts like your toggle switch so you can do all kinds of Tom Morello style stuttering, and lastly the Octaver, all of which did their job splendidly. I was able to have a pedal board that was both expansive, and at the same time, familiar, which is a really cool feeling when you get right down to it. As it turns out what the iStomp really seems to be, is a trimmed down version of Digitechs much larger IPB10 interface, redesigned to work more as part of your signal chain, rather then the whole of your signal chain. The result is actually quite impressive, and really a lot cheaper then you would think as many of the pedals cost as little as 99 cents in the app store, so really you get a few dozen pedals for what one decent multi effect board would cost you, with all of the flexibility, and none of the fat.

       At the end of the day, the iStomp does its job, each of the individual sounds are powerful enough to stand on their own, even without the added gimmick of it being a multi-effect pedal with sounds downloaded from their app store, as many of the sounds are worth atleast the price tag of the app and the iStomp pedal. For its ability to do everything, and still occupy as little space as a Boss overdrive, the iStomp gets a solid 10 out of 10.