These are the moments where digging and searching, and hoping and praying pay off. Us gear addicts, tone junkies, and guitar monkeys want one thing and one thing only... A great sound!!! Many times we find ourselves stuck and unable to move forward. Or we get close to how we want our tone to sound but never quite make it there. I personally think sometimes we tone maniacs over do it. We get so caught up in the whole "Holy Grail" tone thing that we end up sacrificing our guitar's and amp's true sound. If only you could see the things and combinations of things I've put together trying to achieve certain sounds. When I discovered El Musico Loco a few months ago something remarkable happened. Something that landed me back on planet earth and was able to give me instant gratification. As I sat there with my new little box, tweaking and turning it's knob, I discovered just how simple a killer tone could be achieved! Later I would email the head honcho (Chris Bradford) over at El Musico Loco to express my gratitude for creating such an amazing simple little box. That amazing simple little box?...
So now you have the perfect amp tone that you've worked so damn hard to dial in. You plug in your guitar, grab a pick, then strum the strings to hear a beautiful symphony of balanced, life-breathing tones. Or maybe you've worked out a killer amp/pedal relationship. One that gives you everything you've ever wanted. Now, what do you do when you want to take that tone to the next level? Usually we plug in some sort of dirt box and pray that it won't color or change the tone's feeling. But like any player will tell you, finding the right pedal isn't as easy as one might think. Then the Honky Dong steps up to bat, and makes this task a lot easier. With only one knob (labeled "Stiffy") this pedal will have your amp smiling and exploding with addicting overpowering tone. It's like having a Mojo knob on your amplifier or guitar. Every single amp, pedal, guitar, and tone I stacked the Honky Dong up instantly fell in love with it.
I began by using the Honky Dong up against completely sparkling clean tones. For this I broke out two different Fender's, a Twin Reverb and a Hot Rod Deville. I first plugged in the Hot Rod, setting it's eq and presence just past noon, bright switch off, and reverb at about 3-4. Guitar of choice? My 60's build Stratocaster. Without the pedal I got what you would imagine - A twinkling, thick, and defined tone. Then I stepped in the Honky Dong, and things became very quickly much more interesting. My hands were able to pull more variety from the root tone, and the pedal created a sound and feel that pumped life into my speakers. I still had the amp's pure uncut clean tone, with the same color and character. A swift hard striking of the strings and the pedal would deliver bits of grit and grime. With steady digging the pedal held it's own and dished out grade A crunch. I slid down the strings riffing out scales, occasionally digging into a note with violent attention. The pedal had the Strat's single coil pups pushing out a tone that jumped out and barked with subtle aggression. The sweet thing was that I could get this sound whenever I wanted, just by switching my pick attack. It was the same type of response you get when you push a great sounding vintage amp just to the point of breaking up. Something that really stood out was how I could hear both the pedal's inspired grit and amplifier's clean tone. The more of the Stiffy control I added in, the more saturation and aggression I would get. At about half way up, the Stiffy knob really started to cook up the amp's signal. I was able to convert the Deville's sparkling clean tone into a medium overdrive classic rock crunch. I will tell you right now playing double-stops and bending notes never sounded so damn good! Here I began to experiment with the guitar's volume and tone knobs. By shaving off some of the guitar's volume I could tame the tone back to a mellower state. With the tone knob pushed back the tone became bassier and boomier but without loosing it's clarity (Sign of a high quality stompbox). Next I tried the Honky Dong through a louder Twin Reverb tone. Not with the amp exactly breaking up, just with an overall louder sound. I left the Stiffy knob at noon and blew through some simple barre chords. Again, the tone was just like that of pushing a tube into natural overdrive. I got greater harmonic content, awesome break-up compression, and stellar overall tonal balance. I didn't matter if I struck down hard or soft, the Honky Dong dished out defined and clear notes every time. I then clicked the pedal off and went back to playing around with more amp settings. I dialed in the amp with more midrange honk, more bass, and less treble. I also rolled down on the reverb and added in the bright switch. I started with the pedal at a low setting first, then an extreme one. In both settings the Honky Dong left my tone be, and at the same time gave it killer sounding grit. The dry no verb signal sounded brilliant! Hands down one of the most attractive rhythm tones I had ever dialed in. I was clear this pedal was a champ at blending in with clean tones. Next came time for pushing the Honky Dong through some big'n'beautiful overdriven amp sounds. I took the Twin Reverb to an unbelievably loud crunch. At first I thought to myself "There is no way this tone is going to get any better." Boy was I wrong. Everything about the tone that made it rock just became bigger and livelier. Soon after this I began to nickname the Honky Dong "The Makes Everything Better" pedal. Seriously, this is the easiest way to explain what this pedal can do to a sound. I was able to convert my Twin Reverb into a scorching screaming Marshall type lead tone. The shaking and bending of notes exploded with second order harmonics, and morphed and changed into magical squeals and feedback. Absolute Rock God stuff. Really it didn't matter what level of overdrive I set the amp to. In the end the pedal just makes everything sound so much better!!! With a little analog delay thrown into the mix things got even better. It was really cool how I was able to go from a clean to a semi-clean, then a light overdrive to medium drive, then to this. It was time for another guitar. I figured my semi-hollow body and buddy's Jazzmaster would do nicely. First the humbucker equipped Hagstrom Viking. I rolled the amp back to a light grit and get the pedal up to push just a tiny bit further. The guitar's thick bucker sound attached itself to the Honky Dong's and created a truly magical sound. I thought of Jimmy Page right away. The more I'd push into the amp's light grit, the better the sound became. Then I set up the ultimate lead tone by switching amps to a Super Lead and using the pedal as the booster. With this setting alone I was able to get everything I needed. The pedal reacts to the guitar's controls so well that you can get everything from semi-cleans to the lead tone you originally set. It's perfect for gigging and for those who don't want many pedals on their boards. Here I also began to play the Honky Dong through some of my favorite overdrive pedals. Man what a treat that was!!! I instantly was able to take every pedal I stacked the Honky Dong up with and make it 10x's better. Then I got hooked and started breaking out all kinds of boxes, from boosters to fuzz. Even some of my not-so-good pedals. Ever plug in a pedal to find you just can't quite get it to do what you want it to? With this you can fix that problem. I plugged the Honky Dong up with an ok sounding overdrive, then put both pedals into an effect looper and used the tone as a preset. Now imagine what that would sound like with the Honky Dong blended with an amazing sounding box. Every type of driver and distortion, fuzz and freakout pedal. This pedal made every single one of them champions. Like I said "The Makes Everything Better" pedal. Really there is no better way to put it. Sometimes you just come across this type of pedal and you are damn lucky to do so. This will certainly become one of those pedals that players collect and hunt down religiously. The Honky Dong is a true timeless creation and a pedal built for the true tone shaping player. Have one of these stunning handmade pedals built for you and see just what I mean when I say "makes everything better".
For more info on these mind blowing little boxes go to www.elmusicoloco.com You can also click on the El Musico Loco logo in our sidebar for a direct link to the site. We will be looking at more of Chris's pedals so make sure to keep an eye out for that. Until then go out and get a Honky Dong and tell them Analog War Cry sent you.