World Music Supply | TC Electronic Guitar Pedals

Hey guys this is Brian with World Music Supply again, here to bring you your usual dose of gear and guitar reviews. In today’s blog I got to do something I haven’t gotten to review in a while, good ol’ pedals. I personally love the simplistic fun that comes from having a couple of pedals on the floor in front of you,  being able to press a button and have that instant gratification of a brand new sound, just cant be beat. Today I get to take a look at two of the best, by our good friends over at TC Electronics and first up to bat is the Vortex Flanger.

TC Electronic Vortex Flanger Guitar Effects Pedal

TC Electronic Vortex Flanger Guitar Effects Pedal

Flanger pedals to me are sort of touch and go, some are really good when they’re slow, but when you ramp them up they sound like cheesy ray gun sounds off of a child’s toy, and by the same rule, some pedals sound really good and swirly at high speeds, but sound like a sea sick roller coaster at slower speeds. Some are way too 3D, and some are too flat. Call me picky, but this is an issue that has kept a dedicated flanger pedal off of my main board for years. In steps the Vortex though, and my world was changed. The pedal only has four simple controls, and at first glance it doesn’t seem anything special, delay, feedback, depth and speed, with a toggle to switch from standard flanger, to a simulated tape flange, and if need be over to a tone print, which allows you to download artist presets into the pedal, letting you really nail the tones of some of your favorite artists, and once you step on it the whole illusion of simplicity goes right out the window! this whole illusion of simplicity goes right out the window!

I tested this pedal with a Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster and two Mustang IIs, so I could run in stereo. I picked a cleaner twin reverb style sound, and got to work. I started out with a pretty standard slow sweep, mid depth, medium feedback setting, with the delay time backed off to keep it from sounding too metallic, something almost akin to a early Van Halen flange tone. The wave form was pleasing, not too dramatic, and not to subtle with just that perfect amount of rise and fall. It wasn’t too hard to dial in a good sound, some flangers take a while to really find their sweet spot, but with the Vortex I didn’t have any difficulty at all finding a good sound.

A slightly faster setting, with the delay cranked for a more metallic, almost ring mod style sound, with a slightly deeper depth setting, and the speed at 12 o’clock, and the feedback a little below half way worked wonders on slower passages as it added a bit of movement to the sound that would otherwise be lacking. It made the sound fatter, and the stereo field really helped to make the effect almost otherworldly. Cranking the speed almost all the way up, and keeping the depth a little lower to keep it from having too much of an almost out of tune vibrato to it, I found the tones useful and almost Leslie like in a certain light.

Overall the Vortex Flanger is one of the best, if not the best Flanger I have ever used. Because of its amazing sound, and incredible flexibility though this pedal easily deserves a 10 out of 10, I just wish it didn’t cost so much.

TC Electronic Shaker Vibrato Guitar Effects Pedal

TC Electronic Shaker Vibrato Guitar Effects Pedal

Next up is a fun, and slightly unusual pedal, the Shaker Vibrato. Typically us guitarists tend to get tremolo and vibrato confused, thanks to the late Leo Fenders misnomer when labeling the vibrato system on his Stratocaster guitar as a tremolo, and the tremolo circuit on his amps as vibrato, luckily most pedals are unaffected by this labeling issue that has plagued the guitar industry for years. When I first unboxed this pedal however, I thought it was going to be a tremolo pedal, just labeled wrong to appeal to us guitarists, but I plugged the Shaker in, and I got what sounded like the Vibrato effect on my old Yamaha B6B electric organ, just a lot better quality, I was down right excited.

An honest to goodness Vibrato is a hard find for guitarists; Keyboardists have had it for decades in one form or another, but to find a good sounding vibrato for the guitar, that’s almost impossible. This one works a lot like a good combo organ vibrato circuit too, and as I have been playing organ for years thanks to the spinet style Yamaha that used to be in our family room as a kid, I have thirsted for this effect on a guitar for years.

you have a few basic controls that work very well at replicating this age old effect, a speed knob that adjusts the length from the top and bottom of the vibrato, a depth that determines how wide the vibrato travels from top to bottom (at its peak its almost going a whole step up and down, which creates a fun sea sick feeling) a rise time that imitates the rising of a Leslie speaker when you kick it on, and a global tone control that adjusts how bright or dark your overall tone is. At slower speeds, and still using a clean Mustang II, this pedal added a very retro, very jazzy character to my playing. Big jazzy chords had a shimmering quality, which gave them a much different voice, something my ears weren’t used to when it comes to guitar.

Switching to a distorted setting, this pedal gave me a very strange, almost mid 90s metal sound, with that sickly rhythmic wobble that only a few pedals can really do correctly. I honestly adore this pedal, to have a pedal that really nails this many great sounds. For the ability to sound like everything from a shimmering jazzy swirl, a wobbly rhythmic tool, and even a guitar that has been strapped in to a tilt-o-whirl at top speeds, the Shaker Vibrato earns itself a solid 10 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 | Delay Pedal Face Off

HI, Brian from World Music Supply here again to bring you your usual dose of guitar and gear reviews. For today’s blog, I got the chance to review two of the best delay pedals on the market today, the famous Line 6 DL4, and the up and coming VOX delay lab. Outwardly these two pedals share a lot of similar features, they have four buttons, five knobs, tap tembo buttons, tons of blinking LEDs, an expression pedal input, and more delay modes than you can shake a stick at. However when you plug them in, and really get to know them, you realize these are two wildly different beasts.

The Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler Pedal

The Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler Pedal

The Line 6 DL4 is probably one of the, if not the most used delay pedal on the market delay, I mean its honestly astounding how many famous guitarists carry one, two or even three of these in their rigs. Plugging one into the effects loop of our resident test amp, the Randall RT503H, it is clear why, this guy does just about everything. The tube echo tones were warm, and sensitive, giving me a very “Gilmour” like warmth and body. The tape sounds were appropriately realistic, and warbly, which I was able to control with the Tweak, and Tweez knobs. The Lo-Fi sounds were cool, and very early 80s sounding, with tons of mid range garble and garbage that was degraded, and just delightful to use, if you wanted to sound like your delay was running through a glitched out, or circuit bent pedal, although I’m sure that’s the point of adding a lo-fi setting.

The digital sounds were all crisp and pristine, with tons of delay time on hand. The stereo and ping pong were very spacious and useful, the latter of which was great for doing Brian May esc Brighton Rock style harmonies when you set it just right. The reverse delay was interesting, although a little weird to use. The rhythmic delay had a fun, U2 like feel to it that I honestly could just use for everything if I really felt the need to. Lastly lets not forget the looper function on this bad boy, as I was able to use it as just a simple phrase looper, and play lead over a rhythm part, or I could use it to build up whole songs, and beats by just drumming on the guitar, playing some bass lines with an octave pedal, and within minutes have a decent souding four piece band all from one little stomp box.

The DL4 is famous for a reason, it has seen countless stages for a reason, because it gets the job done and it doesn’t make a fuss about it. I’ve personally owned one of these for years, and I can tell you, they are amazingly road worthy; they are built like a tank. For what it is, the DL4 goes above and beyond the call of duty, and as such the DL4 receives a solid 10 out of 10.

The VOX DelayLab Delay Pedal Processor

The VOX DelayLab Delay Pedal Processor

Next up is the newcomer, the VOX delay lab, which has everything from artist and song presets to strange pitch shifting delay settings. The Delay Lab has a lot of very out there sounds in it, and it honestly feels like a slightly more out there version of the DL4, with filter sweep delays, pitch shift delays, and plenty of other song specific delay tones rather than delays that will be used on many songs, the Delay Lab feels like something you might base riffs and solos around.

Sure all of the “normal” delay sounds are there, with bucket brigade tones that are warm and fat sounding, and as someone who owns a vintage BBD equipped pedal, it is atleast as accurate as the DL4 at recreating the soft and spacious effect of a BBD pedal. The tape echoes are warbly and appropriately vintage feeling, great for everything from Pink Floyd to Elvis. The Tube tones are warm and wide sounding, with added harmonic content to the delay sound, and the digital tones are bright and punchy.

This pedal takes a quick left turn when you start really delving into it, and especially when you add the expression pedal. My favorite by far was the pitch shifter delay, as I was able to make crazy Star Trek noises, with sweeping atonal, almost ring modulator sounds. The second in line on the favorite list has to be the reverse delay, as it was very psychedelic sounding, with an almost sitar like quallity to it. For all of its weirdness, the VOX is still a great run of the mill delay pedal, but if you’re looking for a weird out there, signature type of sound to build yourself around, the VOX just might be it, which is why it receives a well earned 10 out of 10.

 The VOX has a sound all its own, and a much more vintage vibe to it than the DL4, and while they have many of the same style of tones to them, they do each have their own personality and power. The Delay Lab is made to be a center piece, with tones that stand out, but also tones that are very standard on a pedal like this. For all of its power and dexterity, the Delay Lab can be a bit daunting to someone who just wants a “normal” delay pedal. The DL4 is the ultimate standard delay pedal, as it does everything you could ever want one to do, stores three different mains sounds, and if you’re anything like me, this pedal will probably remain on all night, just switching through a preset here or there, or tapping the tap tempo button once in a while, it’s a great pedal, and its clear why its so famous. The trusted friend, with everything you could ever need, or the new one with tons of weird out there sounds that you are just excited to get to try out, it might just pay off to have both on your board.

World Music Supply | Danelectro Pedals

Hey everyone, Brian from World Music Supply here again to deliver your usual dose of guitar and gear reviews. In today’s blog I get to take a look at some neat pedals from our friends over at Danelectro. Danelectro is probably most well known by guitar enthusiasts for their lipstick pickup equipped instruments from the 60’s and 70’s, with their masonite bodies, and their cases with the cool little built in amp. My generation however probably knows them most for their cool little FAB pedals from the early 2000’s which sold for next to nothing and didn’t sound half bad to boot.

Today I’m going to cover some of their more retro styled effects, which includes their Spring King Reverb, the Reel Echo Delay, and the Free Speech Talk Box. So lets kick things off with the Spring King Reverb, which is the only real spring reverb I’ve ever seen packaged as a guitar pedal. Inside the Spring King are three actual springs, inside of a real reverb tank, and a short slap back delay circuit that is designed to help boost the depth and realism of the three springs.

The Danelectro DSR-1 Spring King Reverb Pedal

The Danelectro DSR-1 Spring King Reverb Pedal

The resulting tone is perfect for that 60’s surf rock sound, with the cool smooth swampy tone that has made spring reverb such an endearing effect over the years. You do have to have some knowledge about how to use this pedal or else you can run into some problems, first and foremost, is this is a spring reverb, and it can vibrate sympathetically at times, so make sure you keep some room between it and the amplifier. Second off is, you have to place this correctly in your chain, or have to deal with terrible sounding clatter, for example, if you are the type of guitarist who just runs all of their effects into the front end of their amp, and then uses their amp for distortion, you will hate this pedal. This pedal acts like a typical reverb, meaning that you probably will have to place it in the effects loop of your amp, or make sure you place your distortion pedals before the Spring King.

However, when used correctly, this is one powerful piece of equipment, and the verb it creates easily bests any emulation I’ve ever heard from a pedal, because you just can’t recreate that organic sound of a real spring reverb. For the vintage vibe, and tone that you get from this pedal, the Spring King earns itself a deserved  9 out of 10, only because a real spring reverb might be a little finicky for some guitarists.

The Danelectro DTE-1 Reel Echo Pedal

The Danelectro DTE-1 Reel Echo Pedal

Next up is the Reel Echo which is designed to emulate the sound of a real vintage tape echo like an echoplex or a Roland Space echo. As a guitarist who has actually gotten to play with a real tape machine before, I can attest that the tone and saturation of the tape adds a very warm edge to their sound. Granted the unit I got to play belonged to my old highschool, and it looked like someone had made it out of spare boom box parts, the sound was still there. The only problem was, that the tape had a tendency to snap, corrode, or start warbling uncontrollably. I know that even top of the line machines had this problem, as I’ve gotten to talk to plenty of guitarists who had gone as far as to tour with tape delays in their rigs, and had to hear the horror stories ranging from the tape warbling so bad that they sounded out of tune, all the way to once when one of these machines motors seized up, and the unit itself caught fire half way through a song.

As you can tell, its no wonder that when the Bucket Brigade circuit came out, and delays suddenly were transistor based rather than tape based, that almost every guitarist swapped out their giant tape machines, for a tiny stomp box. However, over the years the want for the smooth tone of tape has never wavered, but the problem of finding tape for these old machines, to the fact that these machines break down consistently, has kept many guitarists from finding the tone they crave. Enter the Reel Echo, which is as close as you really can get to the sound of a reel to reel echo machine.

 The controls are simple and intuitive allowing you many of the same controls and features you would find on a real tape machine, there is of course mix and repeat, which function like a typical delay pedal, but there is also the lo-fi knob which allows you to adjust how much high end is filtered out with each repeat, as well as switches that allow you to mimic the sound of either tube or solid state delay, and whether the simulated tape creates that signature wow and flutter. This effect is really accurate sounding, with all of the same warm response I could expect, and the slider that you use to adjust the rate of the delay is pretty cool to use too. The sound on sound feature took some getting used to, but after you know how to use it, its easy to figure out when and how to use it.

Overall the Reel Echo is a great solution for guitarists who are looking for a sound that not many other pedals can satisfy, and despite a few draw backs, like the sheer size of this pedal, and the fact that changing the rate doesnt cause it to pitch shift, this pedal is still an amazing sounding effect, loaded to the brim with vintage vibe, and its because of these reasons, that the Reel Echo gets a solid 8 out of 10.

The Danelectro DTB-1 Free Speech Talk Box Pedal

The Danelectro DTB-1 Free Speech Talk Box Pedal

Last up on today’s list is the Free Speech talk box, which is a really cool little pedal, although it definitely takes some getting used to. I’ve only used a talk box once before this review, and was really confused how it worked, first off, it needed an entirely seperate amplifier to function, and even then, the sound was rather quiet and it was difficult to make it work the way I wanted it to. The Free Speech tries to fix a lot of the problems that I had with talk boxes, and it does a pretty good job of that.

 First and foremost it needs to be mentioned that this pedal does come with a tiny set of microphones that clip onto the tube, the problem with microphones like this, is they tend to feedback at anything more than bedroom volume, meaning they are great for studio work, but not so much when it comes to the stage. For my test, I decided instead to use a proper microphone, and use an A/B box to split the line and run the pedal direct into a P.A. This set up worked amazingly, and the problem with feeding back dropped substantially, its also important to note that you typically have to turn down the “growl” knob which acts like a built in Fuzz circuit, as having this running in conjunction with another distortion pedal, or running into a distorted amp is just looking for trouble.

After you get used to how the pedal works, its easy to get everything from “living on a prayer” style wah noises, Frampton style singing guitar, to even weird ELO robot talking sounds. Sure the effect sounds rather gimmicky, but that’s what it’s designed to do. The power that this pedal contains is amazing, and though it takes a good deal of getting used to, it really is worth it once you have the hang of it. For it’s ability to reproduce an effect that once cost many guitarists an arm and a leg, the Free Speech talk box earns itself a 10 out of 10, because really, who doesn’t want to be able to make their guitar sing?