Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Night of the Living Fuzz





Spencer Amps
Distortion Processors/Modifications






That's right kids, we've got another extra special treat for you from the awesome mind of Bill Spencer. Earlier this year when I discovered Spencer Amps I had no idea what I would be in for. In this life of a tone conscience/tone hunting fool - I come across and am introduced to lots of different gear. Some of the time the finds are real gems, and other times it is just more of the same. With Bill's gear it was a refreshing combination of familiar and wild'n'crazy tones. For those of you didn't catch our Spencer Amps feature on the Mystique Overdrive click here and come back to us once you've finished. You'll be glad you did. So what is it that makes these pedals a force of their own? Well, it appears Bill has a knack for uniting distortion tones with killer sounding fuzz. This is a talent that has led Bill to modify and design some real champion stompboxes. Below Bill has taken what in my opinion is not all that great of a pedal, and converted it into a spectacular one. You players that dig swimming within the distortion and fuzz box realm will ab-so-lut-ely dig this one. 




Supra Zombie Distortion
Mixfuzz (Total Conversion Mod)


Controls:
  • Level: Controls overall output, with enough on tap to send your amp into a fierce overdrive
  • Tone: Shapes your overdrive's tonal character - From smooth to sting
  • Gain: Dials in grit amount and overall aggression
  • Mix (Zombie): Works to blend in a second distortion circuit for a world of dirty tones

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This is one pedal I have been very very excited to share with you. I have always thought DOD pedals could be easily improved on and always wondered why more builder hadn't done so. Bill Spencer's "Zombie" modification of the DOD Supra Distortion is one that not only converts this pedal into a higher quality stompbox, it also provides it with the ability to deliver tons more tonal possibilities. What was once a normal run of the mill dirt pedal, is now a beast of many many faces. The Supra Zombie is capable of hitting you with everything from gritty boosts and overdrives, to distortions of all types and fuzz's of all colors. But dirty signals isn't all this pedal can do, no sir. In the right settings this pedal is also capable of synth-like tones, gated overdrives, and even controllable noise and feedback sound effects. Exactly how this pedal does this I won't get into. If you'd really like to read up on the specs and techs of the Supra Zombie you can click here. Instead I will share with you my experience with this saucy demon.

One of my favorite amp's to push with the Supra Zombie was a mighty fine ol' 22 watt Fender Deluxe. This amp's ability to go into naturally smooth and silky overdrives, makes for a great painting canvas. The Deluxe is an amp that on it's own is capable of great clean, semi-clean, gritty, and all-out distorted tones. By playing the Supra Zombie through this amp I was able to add to and accent everything the amp created. Guitars of all sorts were also something this pedal worked with magnificently. Through the Deluxe amp P90's and Strat pickups were my favorite. With the Strat I was able to get awesome Texas blues tones, super sustain soaked lead tones, and Hendrix-like fuzz tones. With the P90's I was able to some of the most aggressive and brutal dirt tones ever! And getting all of these tones was a cinch too, all thanks to the Zombie knob. Some dirt pedals you will wit with for hours trying to find and dial in sweet spots. Many dirt pedal you will plug into and just end up with the same old thing. With this baby that ain't so. In one direction the Zombie control will act much like an overdriven tube amp, giving you plenty of dynamics and letting you control the character of the crunch with your pick attack. At the opposite end the Zombie knob will take you into non-traditional dirt tones. I began by experimenting with the pedal without it's Zombie circuit blended into the signal. I Set the pedal's level and tone at noon, and the gain at 9'o'clock. Here the pedal pushed out a spot-on Pete Townshend rhythm tone that sounded amazing through all types of chord work. No matter how strong or soft I pushed the strings, the signal would dish out balanced and defined notes. It was something quite special actually, and it really took me my surprise. Strumming lightly the Supra Zombie kicked out perfectly clean notes that had plenty of sparkle and chime. Whenever I wanted more from the pedal I had to do was dig into the strings and I was home-free. With every bit of gain that I added to the signal I would get more crunch and more attitude. Once I got to about noon on the gain knob, the pedal began producing these harmonically rich super charged under/overtones that sang and howled with every little touch. This was really noticeable when chugging down on the strings, playing up on the higher frets, playing harmonics, and bending and playing double-stops. Here I was able to dial in a killer sounding David Gilmour lead tones. Then by adding in a hint of analog delay only made it that much better. Last before getting into the Zombie knob I went ahead and cranked the gain to full blast. Just like I expected the pedal's grit stayed intact with killer note articulation and smooth sweet compression. But even with the gain at full blast the pedal wasn't done doing it's magic. By rolling off on the tone knob I was able to get even more tonal characteristics and colors.And then, it was time to mix in the Zombie control.I started slowly, rolling it up while playing a chord. At low levels the Zombie control created these light synth-like tones that only got in the way enough to give the tone some extra sizzle. I began crunching down on a bunch of complex huge chords, and just like magic the pedal was able to hold it's own. Everything from riffing to bending sounded spectacular! Then I rolled the Zombie up a little more and the pedal began creating these killer sounding gated overdrive/distortion tones. But unlike sticking a normal gate pedal into your signal, this baby made things much more user friendly. The Zombie control was able to maintain and tighten the guitar's overall signal, yet produced a smooth enough roll-off that things didn't sound too choppy or robotic. Then I set the Zombie control at noon and things really started getting interesting. Here is where the signal turned into something other than just an overdrive or distortion tone. It was synth city all the way.And once this started the possibilities were endless. I was able to shape and mold the tone with my guitar's volume and tone, with my picking, and with my feedback. It was lovely! A little trick I found to be quite fun was playing way close to the bridge, with the volume rolled back half way, and the tone at full blast. Talk about a stinging hot signal. Passed noon the Zombie control began to blend a perfect balance of the first distortion stage into the second one. I got plenty of sizzle and zap, lots of smooth overdrive, and a hell of a lot of weird overtones. The type of pickups I played with the Zombie circuit engaged also made a huge difference on it's outcome. High watt amps, overdriven signals, through clean boosters, wah pedals, dirt boxes, etc... all sounded rock and roll. What was really cool though was how the pedal's dirt signal would stay defined and balanced no matter how much gain or Zombie I introduced into it. For anyone on the hunt for something a little bit different, a little bit strange, yet capable of getting back to the traditional - this pedal is it. If any of you out there have a stock DOD© Supra Distortion laying around the house collecting dust - Do yourself a favor and contact Bill Spencer for a proper mod. You'll be stoked you did!

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For more info on Spencer Amps go to www.spenceramps.com or click one of the Spencer Amps links. Make sure to check out our other Spencer Amps reviews and look out for more from this company in the near future. 

1 comment:

  1. This is so cool! I have always liked DOD pedals just as much as the rest of the lot. I bet this mod is outstanding!

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