Monday, August 24, 2009

Two classics in the making from E.W.S.

For those of you who haven't heard of or had a chance to try out the pedals from E.W.S. let me just say this...One hell of a talent! I first came across the E.W.S. line by mistake. I had gone to my local shop for a chorus pedal when I saw an old favorite of mine, the Arion SCH-1. I always thought to myself that is someone just went in and spent a little time with this pedal that it could really become one hell of a contender in the chorus pedal world. I had mentioned this thought to my buddy working at the shop and he says to me. "Go home, go online, google E.W.S. Arion mod and your wish will be granted." I was so freakin excited when the screen showed me the cool old style Arion pedal with what appeared to be some really cool mods. This was how I came about these cats and their world of killer stompboxes. At the moment E.W.S. is becoming a worldwide favorite and being used by many of the top-dogs in the music playing community. So come take a ride with me, and let's swim in some fuzz and chorus madness...beautiful madness.

The FD-1

For those of you who have been following my little blog you know I am a bigtime fuzzbox addict. When it comes to fuzz pedals I am not easily impressed, I've even been known to knock on some of the old time favorites, but is a topic for another time. When I think of a good fuzz I think thick, rich, fat, defined chaos. I think of the band Cream, Hendrix, The Velvet Underground, or The Electric Prunes, now that's fuzz baby! When I play a fuzzbox I want to hear fuzz, not out of control distortion or death metal tones, that is not fuzz. An easy way to define fuzz is that little pedal above, the FD-1 Fuzzy Drive from the good people at E.W.S. The FD-1 sports Volume, Gain, and Tone knobs, it's true bypass, and runs on the standard 9v adapter or 9v battery. But there is something unique about this fuzz pedal that makes it stand out from many other fuzz pedals, it also owns distortion and high overdrive characteristics. Not only can this pedal dish out some rockin fuzz tones, but it can also create some Blackface type smooth break-up. I have gotten some monster tones from boosting fuzz pedals with low overdrivers, the outcome is pure rock and roll bliss. The Fuzzy Drive takes this exact concept and does it damn well. This is a perfect fuzz pedal for those of you looking for a fuzzbox that can handle both chords and big fat one note fuzz licks. The FD-1's voice is a combo of rich'n'fat vintage style fuzz and harmonically charged distortion. I believe this pedal's design was directed at producing Clapton's woman tone of the 60's, and if this wasn't the plan they sure as hell struck gold anyhow. With all the tight lows and defined mids coming from this pedal I had to see how well it worked going into an already overdriven amp. We cranked up an 18 watt Marshall to med overdrive, fed it the FD-1 with the Gain knob set low. The return was a golden era rock distortion that would impress any size stadium. As we turned the Gain knob we noticed that the tone stayed intact, by compressing just the right amount the pedal was able to take the amp's already tight overdrive and break it up into perfect sounding fuzz, super groovy. By turning the Tone knob up or down we noticed we were able to control finger sensitivity. High Tone settings really creative touch sensitive response, while low Tone levels got us a warm and looser feel. Another really cool quality about the Tone knob is it's very responsive even at low volume levels. It was time to max out all the knobs through a clean amp sound. The sustain this pedal dishes out is bananas, it rings and rings, and rings some more. We also got some cool feedback effects, and once we added other effects into it things got really interesting. The Fuzzy Drive packs a mean amount of output that will have any combo of amp and guitar squealing at the sky. This is a great pedal for those of you that need to use both a fuzz and dist/od to get your tones, letting you save much needed pedalboard space. You'll get great sounding overdrive, distortion, and fuzz tones, with the ability of dialing in everything in-between. This is definitely a pedal for those of you looking to tap into the psychedelic and classic rock arena.

Arion SCH-Z
EWS Chorus/Vibe Mod

This here my friends, this here is a very very cool pedal. Everyone I have turned onto this pedal has been extremely surprised and very pleased. It has become a favorite of many professional players, used by the gigging cats, and a great pedal for adding life to any track. EWS has taken what was already a decent effect pedal and turned it into an unbelievable chorus pedal. This pedal's wide range of sounds is capable of fitting in with just about every type of music and will help expand your mind into some super cool psychedelic trips. The Arion SCH-Z with the EWS Chorus/Vibe mod was my first introduction into the world of EWS effects. This combo chorus and vibe pedal is not like any other of it's kind, it sports a sound of it's own which has really began to turn some heads. I absolutely love this, when someone can take a great sleeper and turn into something really special. To try to explain the sound of this pedal will not be easy. Like many other great sounding chorus and vibe pedals you have to hear them to really get a feel for what they're all about. A good chorus pedal is something you feel coming from your amp, just a great vibe pedal can help you get to the next lick. But non the less I will dive right in and give you the best description possible. First let's look at it's mods. For all us tone connoisseurs EWS has added a 3PDT Switch, making this badboy true bypass and true tone friendly. Next in line is the tone adjustment made to the Arion's tone circuit. The outcome is a much sweeter, smoother effect, and wider tone capabilities. Compared to the SCH-Z's stock chorus effect this modded version blows it out of the water. The chorus swirls much cleaner and warmer, making for a full lush effect. The pedal's LED has also been modified to a more vivid bright blue, a nice touch for those deathly dark stages. The next mod is where EWS really went to town, where the mono/stereo slider switch once was now lives the chorus/vibe option. This little control is what gives this pedal the ability to produce it's many many killer sounds. To add a little body or size to your tone just take the Depth and Rate controls and set them low. This is perfect for filling dead space, your chords, licks, and solos will instantly come to life. As I turned the Rate knob higher I began to get some great leslie effects. Everything from subtle to extreme leslie speaker sounds was attainable by tweaking the Depth knob. All those fantastic Hendrix and Trower classic rock tones came flying from my amplifier, and I was still only on the chorusing side of the pedal. I wanted to see just how extreme the chorus could get so I went ahead and maxed it out. I was surprised to hear that even them the sound was usable and somewhat organic sounding. We now set the Arion to Vibe mode and this is where the pedal really came to life. First let me say this is one of the easiest vibe pedals to dial-in, getting a good sound out of this pedal was cake. The vibe effect is not too thick and overpowering, it keeps your guitar signal true and doesn't wash away your playing. If you play a guitar with pickups that are either too bright or too dull, the Tone knob will help keep the chorus or vibe in just the right balance. I noticed the Tone knob worked great when playing with loud band members. Just turn it up a bit and listen to the effect signal stand out evenly. We also played some of our favorite overdrive pedals in front of the vibe effect and got some really convincing SRV blues tones. I must say EWS really payed great attention to the tone delivery and tone balance. Some vibe and chorus pedals tend to be either too weak, or become overwhelming and sink your root tone from your playing. This is not a problem with EWS's Arion mod, the pedal's effect and tone are tuned beautifully for both rhythm and lead work. I can see why so many professional players have come to rely on this pedal. It is user friendly, produces both unique chorus and vibe tones which is great for creating a signature sound, it's tone is well defined and never becomes harsh or thin, and last it is capable of delivering many different flavors. A classic in the making and most definitely a pedal that will become a collector as time passes. I highly suggest you try this one out, your tone will gladly welcome it.

For more info on EWS effect pedals you can go to or click the EWS logo in our links. Look for more EWS features, reviews, news, and updates. Remember, Let'em Hear You Scream!!!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Sound Floating in Your Head

The one pedal that is floating around out there more than others is? You guessed it, the overdriver. Tons of cats spend numerous hours tweaking, modifying, and even cloning old favorites. To be honest most of the time it's hard to really separate these pedals from each other, I mean yes some are brighter, some darker, others full, and some thin. But when it comes to really making an impact and delivering something that stands out from all rest it can be difficult. Then there's the dreamers, the cats that walk around out there with that one sound in their head, that tone that is special to them for whatever reason. These end up being the pedals that become standards in the industry and timeless classics. My buddy Keith from Machine Head Pedals is one of these cats, taking stompboxes to the next level and bringing us tones we can incorporate into our signature sounds. A true tone artist.

Machine Head Pedals
72 Degrees

My dear friends I'd like to introduce you to the 72° overdrive pedal. It sports a Level, Drive, and Tone knob. Simple enough right? I will be completely honest with you all, when I first received the 72° I didn't think much of it. I had seen so many overdrivers that just didn't cut it, overdrivers that sounded like or exactly like so many of the pedals out there there today. Then I plugged it in, and it was like a breath of fresh air. The perfect amount of grit and compression. I then got the name of the pedal, 72°, the perfect temperature for any day. I had to hand it to Keith, for the first time in a long time here was an overdrive pedal that not only sounded like it's own but also delivered everything that makes the "greats" great. These are the most exciting kind of stompboxes, the ones that surprise and knock us on our asses. Cats that have been around long enough to workout great tones for themselves will absolutely dig this pedal. It sounds like a great tube amp that was taken and dialed in for sweet vintage rock tones. The first guitar we threw at this baby was my rhythm guitar players vintage Strat. The amp of choice of course was a Fender set to clean. I matched the 72° Degrees Level knob to the amp's volume, flipped the knob to noon, and set the Drive at zero. The outcome was a hint of clear, crisp, and defined overdrive, the kind of overdrive that you need to dig into to get it to really yelp. Slowly we added the Drive and this is where this baby really began to sing. When we pumped the Drive to full we started getting those killer old school fuzzy, compressed overdrive tones that make a player want to cry out in solos. Throttling back on the pedal's Tone knob made for some really sweet rhythm guitar tones, tones that would work perfectly for recording. This is a great pedal for pairing up with any single coil guitar. Next in line was my semi-hollowbody, a Hagstrom Viking with Skatterbrane humbuckers. I started out again at low Drive settings. The sound of the 72° through this guitar produced some of the best woman tones I have ever heard come from a stompbox. Awesome for both lead and chord work, Clapton would be proud. That's how I can tell a great overdrive pedal, when it brings into mind a killer player or awesome band. Like any great overdriver the 72° also works great with your guitar's volume and tone knob. Something I had to do while still plugged into the semi-hollowbody was set a booster pedal in front of the 72°, this is a test I like to do with overdrive pedals when playing through humbuckers. I like to see how far I can push it before things get annoying. But again surprisingly enough the tones stayed usable. The final test was playing the pedal though my Tele, a custom job I modded out throughout the last few months. This is the guitar I use for most everything, it sports a humbucker in the neck, single coil in the bridge, and a push/pull knob for a wider selection of tones. I wanted to work the pedal's Tone knob knob here so this is what we did. I began by recording some tracks with the Tone all the way down. Then I layered that track with the Tone set at noon, and last I recorded some lead work with the Tone at full blast. Beautiful! This is how I can always tell how well a overdrive pedal will work for live situations, because rooms change and you always want to be able to fit in a sound that will work for you, no matter where you need to set the pedal's tone. I'll tell you something, I have never played a pedal that takes so well to so many different guitars, stunning! Last I'll say this about the Machine Head Pedals. If you're looking for something with that great golden era rock sound, this is your stop. I believe Keith will certainly be one of those cats that will continue to knock out great pedals, it comes natural to can hear it in his work.

For more info on Machine Head Pedals go to or click the logo in our links. Stay tuned for next month when we'll be feature another of Keith's amazing pedals, we'll be interviewing this stompbox genius. Can you dig it!!!?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

DHA: A sound so sweet

One really cool thing about spending time in the studio environment is the great gear talk to gets thrown around from player to player. This was how I came to discover David Hall Amps, I don't remember exactly who it was that tuned me on to them but I never forgot the gear itself. From the website alone you could see just how much attention to detail goes into DHA gear. DHA is responsible for some of the highest quality vacuum tube pedals, preamps, and amplifiers available today. These are true tools of rich sound and power, capable of taking your already great sounding tone and enhancing it to the next level. This is part of that elite high grade gear that stands in it's own category, gear that is capable of enhancing and complimenting anything you use it with. We'll be looking at three amazing sounding DHA pedals this month, the VT1 EQ Bass, VT1 EQ Guitar, and VT1 EQ Acoustic. By the end of these three gear demos I was not only highly impressed and satisfied, but able to see a whole new level of guitar pedal design and build. Come one, come all, and get your fix of pure uncut tone.

In this review we'll be taking on the mighty mighty VT1-EQ Guitar pedal. We took this pedal and put it through just about every setup we could think of. Solid state amp, tube amp, low wattage amp, and in-front and behind other pedals. The outcome was just what I thought it would be, spot on.

VT1-EQ Guitar
valvetone series pedals

 * Single 12AX7 - ECC83 tube powered overdrive
 * Blue backlight LED visible via tube vents
 * True bypass 
 * Balanced DI out w/Level
 * 3.5 mm Stereo Line Output/Headphone Amp w/volume control
 * 3.5 mm Line Input (include iPod/MP3 player music to headphone amp for practice play)
 * Gain & Volume controls for incredible volume control
 * Color Switch/adds negative feedback to circuit for more gain and compression
 * Boost Switch/adds clean output volume to tube signal using low-noise op-amp
 * 3 Channel active EQ - Treble/Mid/Bass - w/Midrange Q control i/p Pad control
 * Audiophile quality (12 volt DC, 30 watt, 2.5 amps)

There's nothing so sweet like pure tube tone. Don't get me wrong there has been some decent solid state amps out there, but when it comes to smooth, gritty overdrive tone nothing beats the tube. David Hall Amps products have been steadily rocking the UK and Europe for the past several years, and now thanks to John Rosato they are available here in the US. When John first got his taste of these amazing devices was when he knew he had to do something about making these killer products easily available to players in the states. I tell you, I was blessed to have come across such awesome pedals. The VT1-EQ Guitar pedal is part of DHA's ValveTone Series Pedals. These pedals are built using 12AX7 (ECC83) preamp vacuum tubes for achieving the ultimate in tube tone heaven. The series ranges from electric guitar, bass, and acoustic style pedals. These pedals run off of the standard 2.1mm socket for power input. There is an internal switch mode power supply which generates the 24V Plate voltage. This is so the tubes run at their best which keeps the pedal operating at the highest quality. We first set the VT-1 EQG through a Fender Deville 4x10 amplifier, being that the certain Deville I own has some pretty impressive tone mods I figured I wouldn't be able to hear all that much difference...boy was I wrong. First I used the pedal's clean op-amp booster to define, brighten , and enhance my root guitar tone. By introducing the Gain little by little I was able to find the exact rhythm tone I needed. I was also able to get some insanely cool low volume dirt tones by setting my amp at a low level and thumping the VT-1 to cook and fry. The warmth and richness that was already coming from my amp only got better, stronger, thicker, and sweeter. The sustain from this pedal is beyond impressive, dig and hold on to your notes for as long as you wish. We also set VT-1 EQG behind some basic boosters. We set our rhythm tone and threw a booster into it to see what kind of lead tones we could get...oh baby baby. Ride the volume on your guitar and you have every sound you need to get through a gig. There's another fun little trick this pedal can do, and that's produce some great fuzz tones. By adding in the Color Switch you introduce negative feedback into the circuit which makes for killer gritty overtones of fuzz. This isn't even the beginning. The balanced DI out has it's own Level control for recording, live situations, or anything else you can think. We mixed some mic'd and DI tracks together and got some of the fattest guitar tracks ever. Play through active or high output pickups? No problem. The i/p Pad control will help you level out any volume you need to get just the right sound. The real test with this baby was when we plugged in a old Fender solid state amp that we have around the studio for layering guitar tracks.  The difference between playing the VT-1 EQ Guitar pedal through the amp vs not using it was like day and night. Getting vintage tube amp tones through a solid state amp is enough to impress anyone. The reason for this is the VT Series pedals act like high gain tube pre-amps when combined with solid state amplifiers. The VT-1 Series pedals also work great with other tubes. Use the standard 12AX7 tubes for more high gain setting and tubes like the 12AU7 for low gain and compression. The possibilities are endless with these pedals. They make for a great investment, work great for studio use, gigging, and will brighten up anything you throw at it. I highly suggest you go out and get your hands on one of these amazing pieces of gear, your setup will love you for it.

For more info on DHA USA go to or click the DHA logo in our links. Remember we will be featuring two more of the VT Series pedals so make sure to stop by and get your fix. Get some!!!



Monday, August 17, 2009

Shoot'em down

Core One/Bullet Cable

When it comes down to playing music there's never anything wrong with throwing in a bit style into your setup. As a matter a fact, I wouldn't have it any other way. The Bullet Cables from Core One are definitely a cool way to add a killer retro look to your style. The over-sized telephone style coily cable first made it's way into the music scene in the 60's and 70's, at least that's when it became popular amongst many of the rock legends of that time. The difference between these and the vintage cables? These badboys are built to last, built to perform on a professional level, and come in just about every color to fit your personality.


Coil Cable

* Oversized Kink-free coils
* Polyethylene -potted .44 mag bullet connectors
* 99.99% oxygen-free copper conductors
* Spiral shielding in a coaxial design/for clear, defined tone
* Corrosion -resistant 24K gold-plated connector tips
* Custom voiced for both bass, guitar, and keyboards
* Expands to 30 feet/9.14 Meters

Times have once again changed for the way players go about achieving their sound. With the sudden "boutique" craze of the last couple years musicians have really become aware of what works for them and what doesn't. For years only studio cats and professional musicians knew and had access to high-end cable. Many companies in the last decade have started offering their cables to everyone, and many have sprung up to build their own spin on these fantastic tone tools. The one company that stands out from all these is Core One, not only are they building a great sounding cable but they've taken a classic killer looking design and turned it into a worldwide favorite. Many of today's bands and players such as Queens of the Stone Age, System of a Down, Paul Gilbert, Mike Watt, and even Prince are using the coiled Bullet Cables. Core One also produces totally custom cut-to-length cables kits, unique & cool connectors, amazing guitar straps, acoustic guitar cables, and many more sweet products. But the focus for today is their Bullet Cables. I had a chance to put these popular cables to the test and was able to hear first hand how well they preserve your tone #1, and 2nd how freakin cool they look playing them. The coiled design isn't just there for style though, there's a purpose to this slick design. How much does it suck when you're playing a perfect kickass show and run across the stage only to trip over someone's guitar cable and end up looking like a lame? Not much fun at all. The purpose for the coily design back in the day and with these new and improved Core One Bullet Cables is to prevent these random accidents. The cables stretch out to 30 feet and their tuff and rugged build keeps them from easily being damaged. We also tested the cables in out little studio to check and see just how well they stand up to large pedalboard setups. Cats these days (including me) tend to go big when it comes to pedals on their boards. With the average pedal setup with no noticeable tone loss being 3-4 pedals, it can be ruff when using the wrong cable. We started first with 10 pedals, went up to 15, and then setup two entire boards which ended up being a total of 22 pedals. In the end the Bullet Cable was able to hang and keep the signal strong, defined, and balanced. For those of you who keep it old school with their setups, straight guitar-cable-amp, this is also a great cable. With some of the cheaper cables we used the outcome was ugly ugly. The first place to look for tone sucking is in the clarity, sometimes your tone will sound like there's a blanket over it. You also begin to lose tight lows, your highs get shrill, and your mids become non-existent. There's been times when I hit a guitar shop, play some awesome pedal, decide to take it home only to find out it doesn't respond the way it did in the shop. This was how I first learned of high quality cables and haven't turned back since. With Bullet Cables you'll get to kill two birds with one stone, sound great and look good doing it. The average player might not notice the difference basic and high-end cable, but us cats that take it to the next level (tone chasers) will always be aware. And it's like they say, the tape never lies. Get down with some extra hip, sweet sounding cables. Bullet Cables baby ;^)


For more info on Core One Creative Inc. products please them on the web at or click the logo in our links. Let'em hear you scream!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Give me some of that old time Rock and Roll!!!

Being an addict of gear can sometimes be one big pain in the ass, "I want this, I want that, when will they make this...", and so on and so fourth. Then there's those few moments when we come across those very special pieces of gear. For me it's all about the old school, the classic sound of years gone by. Who the hell knows why it sounds so good, something about the way music sounded, was recorded, and played in the those days just bled earthy tones and organic greatness. One of the tools responsible for the meaty sounds of yesteryear is the vintage P.A.F. pickup, there is nothing like it. And unless you own one those magical guitars like a 50's Les Paul, chances are you won't be getting that tone. And so came along Rod Kinkade and his Skatterbrane pickups. To give us back the sound we have been craving and needing for so so long. Ah yes my friends, our tunes will scream vintage heavenly tones.

handwound pickups
In 1955 Seth Lover invented one of the greatest greatest guitar pickups known to man, the PAF, the world's first humbucking pickup. Through the years the humbuckers construction would change, using different materials and methods would eventually change the outcome of the pickups characteristics. Well, now we have the great old school tone of the original PAF through the wonderful Skatterbrane Pickup brand. Skatterbrane Pickups is the brain child of Rod Kinkade, a man with a talent for building some of the world's sweetest, and true to vintage voiced humbucking pickups. The sound, the build quality, the dynamics, and the harmonics all come together to make one hell of a killer P.A.F. pickup. A tone heard in all our favorite classic rock records, a sound that unleashed the rock and roll era. Now you can rock out with a authentic vintage humbucking tone by slapping in a set of Skatterbrane's into any guitar you see fit, it is an absolute dream come true! I put a set of Rod's humbuckers into a Gibson Studio Les Paul and the outcome was like day and night. A sudden rush of Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Frank Zappa, and Santana came blasting out of my guitar amp. I couldn't even begin to compare the Studio Les Paul's stock pickups to the Skatterbrane set. I was instantly shot right into a mind blowing, thick'n'creamy, rich'n'screaming tone of classic rock madness. It is damn near impossible to get a bad sound of these pickups no matter what amp I plugged into, now matter what pedal I used, and they sound absolutely amazing when recorded through low wattage amps. Skatterbrane pickups are well balanced, respond great to your playing dynamics, and stay tight and even through both light and heavy overdrive settings. They're also capable of growling out some really heavy and extreme guitar sounds, which makes them perfect for scorching lead tones. We all know when hunting down a pair of vintage PAF's that it can be a risky and difficult trip, you're never certain to get that great sounding set. Sometimes we strike gold, sometimes we're not so fortunate. The price of a vintage set can also rip a serious hole in your funds and with today's world we just can't afford to throw away that kind of money. With Skatterbrane's Rod makes sure every pickup delivers to it's fullest while at the same time keeping to the traditional build of the old time favorites. I believe just like our music writing sessions, shaping a pickups to give us the sound we want is also a form of art. How this is achieved I do not know. All I do know is that as a player I absolutely love the sound and tone of a great P.A.F. I needed to get it straight from the man himself, needed to find out where his nitch for building us pickups comes from.

Rod Kinkade


Analog War Cry:
Where did the passion for building pickups come from?

Rod Kinkade:
It was simply that I tried so many other "Boutique" pickups, wanting to improve my Historic Les Pauls, and they always left me wanting to put the Gibson pickups back in. So, I started experimenting with winding my own. Now, all my Les Pauls have my own pickups in them.

How long have you been in the game and when did you start Skatterbrane Pickups?

Once I got the tone I was seeking with my pickup experiments, I decided to market them. I started SKATTBRANES in 2007, so, as you can see, I am a newcomer compared to the established masters like Lindy Fralin, Tom Holmes and Jason Lollar.

Is there a certain era that influences you?

Music wise? Well I love all kinds of music, rock, jazz, classical, pop, trip-hop, electronica, from Elvis to Emerson Lake and Palmer to Eurythmics, to Evanescence to Everclear. (I can do that with any letter of the alphabet.)

What goes into the build process if you can walk us through it?

Well, before I go to bed, I lay out all the parts, and get them prepped for the next day. Trim burrs off the bobbins, cut lead lengths, strip connecting wires, etc. In the morning I set up my machine and get my coil wire primed. I wind all the coils for the day first. Once they are wound, I do the assembly. Now, I am very paranoid about something causing a dead coil, so I test each coil individually, test them again when a pair is connected together, test again when they are mounted on the backing plate, again when I tape them up and once more after the cover is soldered on. I also test just before I ship.

I see that for the most part you offer humbucking pickups. Why is that and are you planning on building others?

I have already started to offer P90s, I call them SKATTER90BRANES. They have tested well in the field and I am ready to take orders.

There is a very special sound and feel about your pickups, you can definitely hear the vintage tone of classic P.A.F.'s in your work. What is it you hope players are getting for your pickups? What separates your pickups from others?

Well, I try to make a pickup that matches the tone I like, that is in my head. I have noticed some others are too creamy, or smooth, some are too harsh, some seem great until you dial the tone down and then they seem weak. I try to offer the best balance possible in the P.A.F. tradition. I LOVE when you turn the tone to 0 on the neck pickup and you get this woman tone, but with some grit and punch still present. It is also important that they FEEL right. Any experience player knows what I am talking about.

What kind of materials are you using?

I use only the best steel keepers, screws and slugs I can find, 42awg plain enamel coil wire, German silver backing plates and covers, individually rough cast AlNiCo magnets and the current industry standard in bobbins.

Can you tell us a little bit about the different kinds of models you offer, some that you're most proud of?

When it comes to humbuckers, I just wind one variant for the neck and one for the bridge. (and one for the middle pickup for a Les Paul Custom) You will get tonal variance with the magnets, various covers and pole screws I use. I also offer Pat No or P.A.F. stickers on my more expensive models. My Raw set and especially my R-K I-Q set have fairly expensive covers that retail for $60-$120 a pair if you were to buy them individually from a retailer, hence this accounts for much of the difference in price between say my $295 set, and my $395 set, and the magnets account for some of it too. People have to remember my standard set INCLUDES nickel cover and shipping to the USA for $295. This set is about 60% of my sales, although the Raw set is beginning to outsell the Standard set recently. I am most proud when my customers write back and basically say "finally"--as in their tonal search is satisfied. You see most of my customers have already tried so many other pickups, that is part of their hobby, to seek out equipment that can improve their tone. I also feel pretty good when I get so many return customers. This is very nice. I have ongoing conversations with many of my customers.

What is it you hear when you think of the perfect humbucking pickup?

Well, I like Peter Green and Danny Kirwan. I also like early Santana when he played a SG. I like Martin Barre of Jethro Tull, and even John Fogerty of CCR. Then there is Page, Clapton and Beck of course, and oh, Robert Fripp, Duane Allman etc. Now I really like Warren Haynes and very much like Derek Trucks.

Was there a lot of trial and error when you first started building pickups?

Oh hell yeah! I have always loved Les Pauls, and have studied their history and details, along with the humbucker pickup. Way before I even considered making pickups, I had a basic understanding of their construction and some of the specs. So I had a good starting point as a basis for my "trial and error". I made quite a few before I zeroed in on what I wanted, and with a few tweeks, I have stuck with what I settled on for the last 2 years or so. Man you should have seen some of the hairy monsters that were my first few bobbins!

Is there any new designs coming out or anything you're planning on working on?

Well, I have already developed a P90 as I mentioned. This is a very recent development that has happened since we last spoke. I like Telecasters, so it is not out of the question that I may do vintage style Tele pickups in the future. But, don't expect it soon.

For more info on Skatterbrane Pickups go to or click the logo on our links. I must say that if you're hunting for a great classic sounding humbucker this is a great place to start. Rock on and may the voice be with you.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Saying goodbye to Les

What did this beautiful man give us and our world of rock, jazz, blues, and folk? Some of the greatest guitars known to man, some of the most revolutionary changes in recording sound, and some of the greatest music of all time. Les Paul was to the guitar world a true hero and legend. His inventions, music, and the all mighty Les Paul guitar changed us forever and did for the 20th century what was needed for the rock movement to set in place. When the Gibson Les Paul guitar was introduced in 1952 the guitar playing world would be changed forever, it's powerful sound would create some of the most memorable signature rock tones existing in rock & roll today. The Les Paul began with what would become one of the most sought after guitars in history, the Goldtop. Then came such beauties as the Black Beauty, Les Paul Custom, Les Paul Junior, and later the Special. Les Paul guitar models have become time machines passing through our world of music, not needing to change and changing the outcome of so many wonderful and revolutionary sounds. When we think of Les Paul guitars one pickup comes to mind, the PAF. This combo has created so many of the killer sounds we tone chasers hunt for. It doesn't matter which model you've played or had the chance to listen to, in the end it all came from the mind of a man on a mission to be heard. Les would also become the inventor of some of the recording studios most useful and revolutionary tools. Multi-tracking was also one of Les Paul's dreams and realities, I mean come on, how awesome was this cat.


In 1977 the year I was born, Les and Chet Atkins would create the grammy winning album "Chester and Lester". This was just one of the ways Les showed us his passion and dedication to the instrument. Of course before this was the unforgettable relationship of Les and Mary Ford. They would go on to create countless inspirational albums that would influence the rock and roll movement of late 50's. After many ailments Les would return in the late 80's to continue performing and recording projects. His release of "Les Paul and Friends" in 2005 would again win him a grammy and would feature such heavyweights as Keith Richards, Buddy Guy, Billy Gibbons, Joe Perry, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton. Les would go into the Rock and Roll Hal of Fame in 2008 which was not only a great tribute but well damn deserved. Even in his later years Les continued to play gigs and jam with countless musicians, some famous, some everyday cats like you and me. I will never forget the first time I picked up my first Les Paul, it felt like a weapon of wood and steel, a weapon I could use to truly make my signature sound. This is a sound we all recognize the second we hear it on our favorite tunes, a sound that has influenced the likes of Clapton, Page, Beck, Garcia, Frehley, Townshend, Zappa, Santana, and Bob Marley to name a few. Today the Les Paul guitar continues to mold and shape the way music is played and heard, it's design is perfect. Today the music world looses a true gift and talent. We will never forget what Les Paul did for us and we will always think of him when we pick up our guitars. So now we say goodbye to Les, but we will always hear a little bit of him in player we come across and see what he did for music worldwide.

Rest In Peace you shining star.
Les Paul

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Not your adverage little knob

Ah yes, they're back. The name is Rothwell Audio Products and their gear is most definitely something to write home about. Not too long ago Analog War Cry featured Rothwell's Switchblade distortion pedal in our OD/Dist/Fuzz Pedal Hunt Podcasts. Well once again the wonderful people at Rothwell have sent us another unique and great sounding product. It's called the Cool Little Knob, and the name doesn't do it justice. Let's imagine you had the ability to manipulate, shape, and mold your humbuckers to sound like some of your favorite single coils, p-90's, and everything in-between. Believe it my friends!!!

Rothwell Audio Products
CLK (Cool Little Knob)

When it comes to the world of splitting coils and different wiring schemes I am a rookie, all I know and like is what sounds good to my ears. Whatever works best for live situations is usually what I end up going with. When I started gigging heavily last year and realized how much of a pain in the ass it was to switch from guitar to guitar is when I started hunting for a way to make things easier. Then I tried my first coil splitter and it helped a little, but I knew there had to be something with even more tone control and flexibility. When I discovered the Rothwell pedal line is when I saw that they were also producing tone shaping knobs. At first I didn't think the CLK would be all that different from the basic coil tapping device, boy was I wrong. The CLK is 100% passive and works with any humbucking pickups fit with 4 conductor cable/any humbucker fit for coil tapping. Installation is super easy and very very quick to do. I chose to set the CLK into a Telecaster with a humbucker in the neck position and single coil in the bridge. I've always wanted to have a humbucker in a Tele with the ability to get back to traditional Tele neck tones, this was the answer. You might be thinking to yourself "What's the difference between this and any other coil splitting device?" The difference is not only can the CLK tap into full humbucking and single modes but it can also fly between both settings, which makes for some interesting and useful guitar tones. It's unique filtration circuitry works by controlling how each coil in the humbucker works together, the outcome is a world of familiar and rare guitar sounds. Your eq stays balanced, bright, clear, and defined, and every little nuance stays intact. To work the CLK simply pull the knob and rotate to the desired sound. One sweet trick is the ability to set your overdrive crunch and growl, roll back for mellow rhythm strumming and turn it full force to hit your lead lines. It's wonderful! Another great way to use the CLK is with your effects pedals, it can work to shape od's/dist/and fuzz pedals tones and sounds. You'll find a whole new world within your stompboxes which will not only keep things interesting for a long time but keep you from going out and buying more boxes. My favorite thing about the Cool Little Knob though was the ability to get P90 tones from a humbucker, yup P90 tones. This makes for one of the best mods I have ever come across and had a chance to try. The Rothwell pedal line rocks, these knobs are amazing, so now let's look into the man responsible for these fantastic products. Ladies and gents, Andrew Rothwell.

Analog War Cry:
Your favorite stock stompbox?

Andrew Rothwell:
Well, if you count the Rothwell Hellbender as stock, maybe it's that. Or is that cheating? Ok, I have a little Guyatone reverb that I use all the time and I have a very old valve Watkins Copycat echo that I wouldn't part with.

Growing up whose sound/musicians had an impact on you? What pedals were you playing as a kid?

I think the first time I was struck by a tone so awesome it really moved me was when I was about 9 or 10 years old. My older brother had a copy of Deep Purple In Rock, and after the staccato bit in Child In Time comes the guitar solo. It was the slow, bluesy bit at the start of the guitar solo before the tempo picks up which really knocked me out. I thought it just sounded great, fabulous playing and fabulous tone. I still think it sounds great.
David Gilmour has great tone, too, of course. Whether he's playing clean, dirty or somewhere inbetween, it always sounds great. And when Eddie Van Halen burst onto the scene, everybody was knocked out. Eruption really shook up the guitar world. His sound had a awailing banshee element to it, but it was very fluid, too. I saw Black Sabbath in 1978 with Van Halen supporting them. That was a gig to remember!
The very first pedal I had was a fuzz box which I made myself, but that's your next question, isn't it?

How did you get started in the effects building scene, how long have you been at it?

I made my first pedal over 30 years ago when I was still at school. It was a fuzz box which was a design from an electronics magazine. Basically, it was a copy of a Fuzz Face, though I didn't know that at the time. I thought it was great, but in actual fact the Fuzz Face is a very crude circuit and I don't think much of them now.
I started getting a really good sound when I got rid of the shitty transistor amp I had at first and got a WEM Dominator. That sounded great. I later got an old Vox AC30, a Fender Twin, and now I have (amongst others) a 50W Marshall head from 1969. They were all great amps. I don't believe it's possible to get a good sound with a pedal if you haven't got a decent amp to go with it. I like simple amps without channel switching and without high gain master volume circuits, and I like to get extra dirt by using pedals in front of the amp. The downside with that approach is that the setup really only sings at one volume, which is usually bloody loud. That means having to have a range of different amps, depending on how loud you want to play. In truth, it nearly always has to be pretty loud. I use a 5 watt amp at home, but it's still very loud when you turn it up to the point where it's really on song.
I made my first valve amp maybe 20 or more years ago. That's the 5 watt amp I just mentioned. I made that before the current craze for low powered amps turned up loud was fashionable. Back then it wasn't as easy as it is now to find information and circuit diagrams. The internet and the information superhighway were still years off in the future. I started by pulling apart an old Marshall Mercury (you've probably never heard of it - look it up) to copy the circuit and work out what was happening. Then I managed to get hold of circuit diagrams for Marshall and Fender amps and I started to get to grips with how they worked.
At this time I had no intention of making amps or pedals commercially because it just wouldn't have been feasible to produce anything cheaply enough to appeal to customers. Back then there was no "boutique" or "high end" market for guitar products. It's only in more recent years that customers have started to appreciate equipment made in small quantities and are prepared to pay the extra that low volume production inevitably entails. The boutique market became established in the USA long before it was accepted over here, but it's here now, and now it is feasible for me to produce pedals. However, I have been producing electronics commercially for about 20 years. I started by making domestic hi-fi amps. I made a valve outboard phono stage before outboard phono stages were common. Actually, I did make one guitar product back then - it was an effects pedal power supply. I don't think anyone else was making anything specifically to power guitar effects back then, certainly not in the UK.
The current range of guitar products from Rothwell started in 2004 with the Hot Little Knob and Cool Little Knob and the pedals were launched in 2007.

With all the people out there making boosters, overdrivers, etc... You've still managed to create some with their own signature sound.
How do you approach the building of an effect? Do you go at it with a sound/tone already in mind?

I like to design circuits from scratch and try to do something which hasn't been done before. I hate the idea of simply copying someone else's circuit and I refuse to do clones of Fuzz Faces or Tubescreamers. With distortions or overdrives, I'll aim for a certain type of sound. The Hellbender for example is quite raw and has something of a vintage Marshall or early blues/rock sound to it. The Switchblade is more modern and has more distortion and a weightier bottom end. However, I don't want Rothwell to be a brand that does only distortions and boosters. That's why the next few pedals will be something else. I've just been working on a compressor and I think that will be available in the next few months. Then there's a tremolo which is currently on the drawing board, and there's a kind of Leslie simulator, too. I haven't exhausted all the possibilities for different flavours of distortion, but for now I think there are enough Rothwell distortion pedals.

Is there any design you especially proud of?

The Cool Little Knob is a very simple but elegant circuit which goes way beyond what an ordinary coil tap does. I don't think that circuit has ever really had the appreciation it deserves. As far as pedals go, I'm quite proud of the Hellbender, simply because it was the first pedal I produced commercially and I think it allows the guitar the "breathe" and doesn't completely swamp it in distortion.

One thing that separates you from some other effects pedal builders are the super cool custom tone shaping knobs you offer in your line, tell us a bit about them. How did that idea come about, and what other products do you build?

The Cool Little Knob is an idea I came up a long time ago. I initially submitted a patent application and tried to get one of the big guitar companies to use it under licence, but I made the mistake of employing an agent to do that and basically he was useless. It's amazing how quickly 12 months can pass and after 12 months you have to proceed to the next stage of the patent application process. Well, I decided it wasn't worth throwing good money after bad and let the application lapse. However, I designed some derivatives of the Cool Little Knob for Patrick Eggle Guitars and JJ Guitars. I can't remember the model numbers now, but a review of the JJ Guitars fitted with the CLK type circuit said "A coil-split is often only a passable impression of a genuine single-coil tone, and generally gets regarded as a useful option for occasional use at best. In this case, however, the results are extremely impressive. There are elements of a P-90 at work here in my opinion; the output is gutsy and rounded, with enough midrange punch to prove convincing with a generous dose of overdrive. With the Electra V, there’s more of an open, less focused vibe, only missing a touch of the standard model’s excellent definition. On both guitars in allswitch positions, however, these are just about the best tapped tones I’ve heard yet in a guitar."

Oh yes, I should have mentioned that the CLK is basically a sophisticated replacement for a coil tap. You get the clarity of single coil pickups without the weedy bass that tapped humbuckers normally have. The Hot Little Knob was an idea I had while I was looking through the original circuit diagrams I did for Patrick Eggle Guitars. I realised that a similar idea to the CLK could be implemented on strats, but sort of in reverse, ie instead of splitting the two coils of a humbucker and controling the way the two coils interact I could combine two of the coils of a strat and control the way they interact instead. Simply putting two strat pickups in series isn't the same as what a HLK does.

I think it's great you're doing more than just pedals. Is there any upcoming pedals, projects or designs you're working on?

I'm working on stuff all the time. I've been working on a compressor for ages but now I think it's ready and that will be available in the next few months. It will do subtle compression with fattening and it will boost levels too, if you want it to. It has low noise and doesn't completely squash your signal. I don't like most compressors for those reasons but this one is something I really enjoy using. It sounds great with a Tele. I haven't chosen a name for it yet, though.
There's also a tremolo due to be available later this year. The difference with this one is that there's a spectrum control on it. The spectrum knob controls the frequencies which will be modulated by the tremolo. When it's set to full range, the full range is modulated, ie the volume goes up and down. When the spectrum knob is set to HF (high frequency), just the high frequencies are modulated, so the tone modulates between bright and dark. The spectrum knob can be set anywhere between the two extremes.

Is there anything out there that can't be built? If you had access to any component or part what would you build?

I designed a compressor using LDRs (light dependent resistors) but those contain cadmium sulphide which doesn't comply with the latest EU regulations so it's illegal to make anything with LDRs in them now. That's a shame because it did sound good.

If you could capture anyone's tone in a box whose would it be?

I don't really like the idea of capturing anyone's tone in a box because tone is just as much about the way someone plays as it is about their collection of gear, and I think we should all strive to create our own signature tone anyway. I saw a band in a rehearsal room a few years ago. The guitarist had an upmarket strat and an upmarket Marshall stack but it sounded awful, truly dire. Then when he took a break a friend of mine picked up his guitar and without touching any controls on the amp or touching the pickup selector he started to play and it instantly sounded like a classic strat/Marshall combination. The difference was night and day and it was all down to two different people playing. I think too many people are under the illusion that you can just go out and buy someone's tone by buying the same gear. You can't.
Having said all that, Brian May has always had superb tone, but Digitech have done the "Brian May Tone In A Box" thing already. I was never a big fan of Queen, though. Scott Henderson has great tone and I really dig his playing.

What is it you hope people get from Rothwell Audio Products?

I hope they get a pedal (or knob) they really like using, that will last a lifetime, and will help them express their musical ideas.

And last. If you were stuck with only 5 pedals for the rest of your life what would they be?

I'm actually not a pedal junkie in as much as I don't like to use too many pedals and I certainly don't like an over-processed sound. I have a Digitech modulator pedal that does chorus and Leslie simulations and such, and it sounds great, but the problem with it is that your original tone gets lost somehow, and even when you bypass it, your natural raw tone is gone. I could probably live with less than 5 pedals if I had to.

Anything else you'd like our readers to know?

Only that it doesn't matter where in the world you are, we can take your order and deliver your pedal, no problem. A few weeks ago the pound was very weak against the dollar and it was a great time for people in America to buy a Rothwell pedal. But bear in mind that really great tone comes from really great playing - don't think you can just buy it, you have to work at it.

For more info on Rothwell Audio Products go to or click the logo in our links. Look for more Rothwell products to come in the near future.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Texas Tone in no Time

Imagine you're playing your Strat, something isn't quite right and so you decide to swap out the pickups and do a little hot rodding. If you've ever had to work on you guitar before you know it's no walk in the park, especially if you've never changed your pickups or if you're new to the game. Then there's cost of having to take it in to a tech to do it for you, not cheap. Now there are a hundred and one cats out there building pickups and doing it well, but there is one that comes to mind when thinking of great tone, quality, and quick way to upgrade your axe, Kent Armstrong. We are all familiar with Kent Armstrong and the amazing pickups they have been producing for God knows how long. Something even cooler is now you can get a killer pre-wired Strat pickguard with a set of killer Kent Armstrong pickups. It doesn't get much better than this my friends.

Wired Assembly w/Texas Vintage Pickups

*Alnico V Polepieces/Magnet Dimensions 5x17mm

TVS4N/Neck Pickup= 6K
TVS4M/Middle Pickup= 6.7K (reverse wound/reverse polarity)
TVS4B/Bridge Pickup= 7.5K
Pickups available as set or individually)

If there's one cat out there that deserves his dues more that he's gotten it is Kent Armstrong. Since the early 70's Kent has been working the pickup game, starting rewinding pickups for his pop then later taking over the shop and starting his own biz. In the jazz world Kent Armstrong pickups are well known and used by many of the top players. It's the rockers that are yet to pick up on his work. I'll say this much, the rock and roll world is in for a real treat when they catch up, and for those cats that are already there they own one of the best kept tone secrets out there. I was quite stoked when the Texas Vintage pre-wired pickguard landed on my doorstep, not only was my guitar aching for a upgrade but being that they were a Kent Armstrong set made it that much cooler. The assembly was easy, I unscrewed the old pickguard, unsoldered a few wires, wired a few to get the new pickguard in place, and that was just about it. It's literally that simple, anyone with minimal to little soldering skills should be able to do this. I plugged my guitar into my amp, grabbed a favorite pick, took a deep breath and let it fly. The change and clarity in my sound was right in my face and an instant gift. I started out playing clean through a modified Hod Rod Deville and got some of the best clean blues and jazz tones I've ever heard come from that amp...yes that's right I just said jazz tones. By cutting back on the tone knobs, playing with my fingers, pumping a little bass on my amp and laying off a bit on the highs is how I was able to achieve this. It was lovely! If only my jazz playing skills were just a little better. The snap and balance of each note came through my speakers like a favorite final mix. Adding in a little bit of compression was where I finally heard how special these pickups really are. There are pickups out there especially single coils that don't take to compressors all that well. Either they become too noisy or they lose dynamics. I tell you there is nothing better when you land a piece of gear this good, it's all about having the tools that make our job as players easier. It was time to line up my favorite overdrivers and really put the Texas Vintage set to work. I began with some mellow overdrive pedals getting some really great Stevie Say, Brian Jones, and early Clapton tones. There is a clear articulate sound to these pickups that pushes a good overdrive pedal to sound great. Even banging out chords at full force the note separation was spot on. Next was the pickups through a 57 Tweed Champ, oh baby baby how marvelous did this sound! Playing the amp with everything set to 7 I got the best Hendrix tones I have ever heard come out of that Champ. One super cool thing I noticed is while playing the bridge pickup and throttling back on the volume I was able to get some pretty sweet Tele sounds. We actually started getting such killer tones that we had to spot what we were doing to throw on a track we had been working on, we ended up using the tones we got with the pickups and the Champ on our new EP. Last but not least was fuzz pedal madness time. Oh yes, this is where the fun really began. Every element of a good psychedelic classic rock tone was present and singing loudly through my amplifier now, we moved the guitar into a Twin Reverb for this. I'm a fiend for fuzz pedals and own more than my fair share. These pups didn't sound through one of the fuzz boxes I put them through and let me tell you there were a lot. I began by playing some of my favorite Cream riffs, moved into Black Sabbath territory and of course set into some Jimi licks. The neck position belting out a heavy, chunky, and thick growl, the middle defined and cutting through like a screaming banshee, and the bridge taking it to the next level with a ever lasting amount of sustain and feedback. Even at extreme levels the highs didn't become shrill and stabbing. The mids and lows stayed intact and never gave out making the notes sound woolfy and dull. The only thing else I can say is I had a blast, and these pickups haven't yet left the guitar we swapped them into. This is hands down one of the easiest and quickest upgrades of I ever gotten from a pickup. If you're hunting for something to make a difference and have you standing out from the rest pick up a set of these, there is no way to go wrong. Whether you play blues, funk, jazz, or rock and roll, these pups will deliver on point and spectacular guitar tones.


For more info on Kent Armstrong Pickups go to or click the logo i our links. You can also visit the WD Music website for tons of great Kent Armstrong products and much more. May the future hold endless hours of tasty tone for you!

Heaven Sent

I am always surprised and blown away whenever I mention the Holy Fire to someone and they haven't heard of it. This isn't necessarily a brand spankin' new pedal, but what it sports under it's hood sure is. I had first learned of Creation Audio Labs through some studio rat buddies of mine. Because of the pedal boom that was going on at first I thought it was going to be nothing but a bunch of hype. Hype there was non! The stompbox world has never seen a design quite like this, and the result has turned out to be one of the most versatile, organic, and spot-on overdrivers to come along in a very long time.

Holy Fire

Gain Knob: Controls gain amount
Overdrive Knob: Controls overdrive amount
Distortion: True distortion square wave/From low to 100% distortion clipping
Filter Knob: Works as a high cut/10hz-20k

Voltage: 48 volts
50's/60's: Analog computer technology for wave shaping
LED: Interactive LED


Now some of this might be familiar to you and some of this may not. Of course we all know what a Gain, Drive, Overdrive, and EQ knob does on a stompbox. But believe me when I say this, you have never ever experienced anything like this pedal. The designers of this pedal took 1950's and early 1960's analog computer technology and computer technology to shape the sound waves this pedal produces. The outcome is the most tube-like sounding pedal to ever land in a stompbox, a true tube emulator. The combination of the Holy Fire's controls blend together to create the most musical overdrive and distortion I have come across in a long long time. I must tip my hat to the designers of this badboy and say this is surely one of those pedals that will become an all time favorite and collector's item in years to come. I began like I do with all drive pedals, I set everything at noon to see how things sound. Right form the get-go this pedal sounded so good I was stuck playing riffs with everything at noon for about 25 minutes. Taking the Gain control I set my overall level and dove in. With the Overdrive knob I alone I was able to get a wide range of drive sounds, from subtle classic rock tones to killer lead tones. The OD controls really does one hell of a job at producing really level overdrive, the kind of overdrive that holds together no matter how hard to strike your strings, very very nice I must say. Now here is where this pedal separates itself from the rest. Add in the Distortion knob and you're on a whole new level, there is a creamy, smooth, and extremely defined quality to this pedal's drive that will put your TS-808's to shame, that's right I just said that. The distortion tone is thick, fat, and in your face, a professional sound you will appreciate and admire. It doesn't end there with the distortion knob either, once you pass a certain level you hear it compress and hit a level of distortion that is absolutely beautiful, clipping from the heavens. Your level will become quieter but a quick twist of the Gain knob will fix that, believe me there is plenty of gain to go around. Because of this you can play your hardcore distortion tones at any level, I was chucking away Eddie Van Halen tones at 2am with no hassle from the grumpy old man that lives next door. That makes for some killer recording tones. The High Cut knob was an absolute cherry on top, matching this pedal to your amp has never been so easy, matching to pedals is just as easy, and we know how much a pain in the ass it is when we find two pedals that sound great but can't get to sound good together. Combine all of this with 48 volts of ass kicking power and you have one baddass pedal. I did an experiment with pedal that consisted of me replacing my booster, overdrive and distortion pedals with the Holy Fire. I took it to all my practices and gigs for a while to see if I would be able to work all my tones with just one pedal. The outcome? Great drive, great boost, and heavenly distortion sounds. As a booster it is stunning, it stays 100% transparent, other than your level getting louder you really can't hear a difference in your tone. To get my drive and dist tones I set the pedal at my lead tone. Then I rolled back my guitars volume to find the perfect grit and overdrive. I swept back and fourth and was amazed to hear how well balanced the eq of my amp and guitar had stayed. No matter where I set the pedal it was damn near impossible to get to sound bad. Whether you play humbuckers, single coils, or P90's, this pedal will deliver and do it damn well. There is a size to this pedal's tone that pushes through any mix and makes for some killer recording sessions. The Holy Fire was able to dial-in just about every genre of overdrive and distortion known to man, from the birth of overdrive to the freakish limits of killer distortion, and everything in between. If you play a Fender amp (like I do) this is the perfect amp, cats that rely on stompboxes for their drive and grit will absolutely fall in love with this amazing pedal. It is always a pleasure whenever I get to introduce something this special to players. As players we are always hunting for those tools that will make our job easier, or tones greater, or playing more fun. In the end it's all about finding that piece of equipment that will separate you from the rest and bring the beginning's of your signature tone. The Holy Fire lives in that realm and unleashes pure un-cut passion, motivation, and drive. It doesn't get better than that.

For more info on Creation Audio Labs products go to or click their logo in our links. Keep on rocking and look for more products from Creation Audio Labs to come soon. Peace!!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

1 part quality + 1 part talent = KILLER TONE

I have been so fortunate this last year to come across some pretty great boutique gear companies. One of them being Rumpelstiltskin, a fantastic one-man operation pickup company run by the talented Aaron Campbell. All of Campbell's pickups are hand-wound one at a time, right here in the good ol USA, with tip top materials and parts. You will not only hear the quality in these pickups but notice how well they are put together when take them out of the box. The specialty of the day for Rumpelstiltskin is and always has been Strat and Tele pickup sets. They hit everything from the '54 Strat sets, Pre-CBS Strat sets, to killer sounding Black Guard Tele sets and beyond. Aaron's spin on these classic pickups is spot-on, it is something you can tell the man has studied and studied well. These are perfect pickups for tricking out a guitar or adding some extra needed character to an already ok sounding axe of yours. There is one thing that's for sure, that much needed vintage howl that has been missing in today's music can easily be found in these amazing pickups. If you don't know now you know.

Black Guard Tele
Telecaster set

This set instantly gave me the feel and tone of the authentic vintage Blackguard Telecaster. I've been lucky to have had some pretty cool guitars in my hand, a Blackguard being one of them. This is a tone one will not forget easily and will fall in love with on the spot. I'm happy to say Aaron has captured this beautiful tone. There is something about these pickups that just stands out from the many I have tested and tried. One thing, holding them in your hands you can feel the work that went into building them, this is an area in gear that I just can't get enough of. How can you go wrong when you have a nicely built piece of gear? People who know me know that the Telecaster is my #1 guitar of choice, they also know that I am one tuff judge when it comes to Tele pickups. The Tele tone is unlike any other, it's a guitar tone that has worked so well for so long and for so many types of music. The classic, traditional, and spot-on twangy tone that these Rumpelstiltskin pickups deliver will have even the most hardcore of guitar collector drooling and satisfied. To make sure I got the most our of these bad boys I tested them through a series of clean and classic vintage Fender amps. The chime and ringing goodness floored when I struck that first chord, there is a bite to these pickups that give them their own signature tone while maintaining the classic Blackguard tone. You can definitely hear a bit of Aaron Campbell's flavor in these pickups. I've never been much of a "chicken picker" but you can sure as hell count me in when it comes to blues, funk, and rock. I slammed down on some James Brown funk chords and was quite impressed at the how well they held their clarity, each string well balanced and defined. With a tad bit of overdrive, just a hair, these pickups sound absolutely immaculate! I almost want to say I was able to get a killer Stevie Ray tone out of these pickups. There is a response to these pickups that I haven't been able to get out of most Tele pickups. When I cranked up the overdrive level of my stompbox they were able to hold their own, and boy did they do it well. One thing about some other Tele pickups I haven't dug in the past is how they begin to sound muddy once you introduce a fair amount of drive. You won't get that unwanted character out of these pickups, whether it be funk, blues, rock, you will be able to hang. The Rumpelstiltskin Blackguard pickups passed with flying colors and I would highly suggest you get your hands on some before they blow up...These are one one of the best kept secrets in the underground and boutique world.

Pre-CBS Strat

The name of these pickups says it all. If you've been fortunate enough to try out the classic Pre-CBS Fender guitars and pickups you know how wonderful they sounded and played. It is just a fact that the guitars from back then were built much better than the standard runs that are available today. What about them is better? Play one and you'll know the answer to that question. Well now you can get the tone of those killer guitars in any Start model available today. Think of the great tones from yesteryear and you have what these pickups are capable of, it is a gift sent from heaven! Again I must speak on the attention to detail and quality of Rumpelstiltskin pickups, you know you're holding something special once you get them in your hands. These Pre-CBS model pickups just like Tele sets are built just as beautifully. Now the tone. If I could get it down in one word it would be...immaculate. The springyness, definition, and pop of a great Strat pickup all live inside this amazing Rumpelstiltskin model. There is a character to these pickups that bring back all the great tunes I grew up with. I ran them through my favorite overdrive, boosters, and fuzz pedals, getting some of the most tasteful and true to vintage tones possible. Now we all know how killer a fuzz pedal sounds through a humbucker, but I still think that the best way to get a killer fuzz tone is with a quality single coil pickup. These pickups fall into that category of pickups that work really well pedals no matter what kind the effect. The bridge pickup had lots of tasty highs, with a hint of tight lows, and well balanced mids. The bridge pickup being perfect for cutting through any mix when things get wild on stage. The in-between of the bridge and middle pickup sounded to me like everything I just described only a bit more of it, more balls if you will. The middle pickup alone is the perfect position for slamming down on chords and picking. The mid pickup rings really well as if being pushed by a hint a compression, how Aaron did that I do not know. Now my favorite position, which surprisingly enough is most Strat players least favorite position. The mid/neck pickup setting, oh baby! Through these bad boys you get everything you want, great for rhythm strumming, picking, lead work, and everything in between. I found some really wonderful tones by rolling back on the volume, which reminds me. These pickups hang in there when backing off on the volume control, the eq stays intact and doesn't get too muddy and lost. The neck pickup really growls and sings like a beast leaving it's cave. I had a blast with these pickups and had to throw them into a Stat style guitar of my own...actually my rhythm guitar players Strat, but I do get to play it and see it everyday. I can't say enough about these pickups. Aaron Campbell has a special and great talent for knocking out some wonderful sounding pickups. He is part of that elite group of pickup builders that will continue to be a favorite amongst the "player" community.

For more info please check out the Rumpelstiltskin website at or click the logo in our links. If you're looking for a great vintage tone or looking to upgrade your guitar these are perfect for the job. Have a blast!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bringing us the tools to get the job done

There are many site's out there with tons of great gear for sale. With a quick google you will find a handful of websites offering up just about everything out there, whether it be pedals, amps, or guitars. But when it comes to effects one website comes to mind....Tone Factor! Not only do they offer one killer line-up of great effects, but they also have a fantastic Youtube channel with tons of video demos. When it comes to buying pedals there's one thing we pedal junkies must have, that is info. The videos are all done very straight up and give us a great insite on each product. Their website is very informative and very easy to to get around on, it's been my experience with some of these gear websites where I just get lost in a sea of useless information and advertisements. Tone Factor's main focus is effects and they do it damn well. You will find just about every boutique name, underground company, and one-man operation on Tone Factor's site. If your thing is discovering some cool new gear this is a great place to check out, and if you need some info on the pedal you're interested in just go to their Youtube channel and pull up the vid. You can't go wrong! Great gear, killer info, and before I forget, spot-on customer service. Below you'll find some of my favorite vids from the Tone Factor Youtube channel. Enjoy and remember...Let'em hear you scream!!!

For more info on Tone Factor go to or visit their Youtube channel at