Sunday, January 30, 2011

Top Finds of 2010 / MXR Micro Flanger

MXR has been doing it and doing it well for quite some time now. This is a company that has been steadily creating magic in a box for as long as I can remember, and a company that through hard work has become a favorite of players from every walk of life. Thinking back on my own pedal adventures I cannot think of one stage in my playing career where I have not had an MXR pedal as a part of my tonal arsenal. The MXR line has consisted of everything from timeless classics, no-frills champions, one of a kind originals, and let's also not forget the many MXR sleepers that have come to the surface to make our tonal dreams come true. Recently MXR chose to redesign a handful of their most sought after creations, breaking them down to their purest form, and releasing them onto the masses. Simple these pedals may be but nontheless quite useful within any situation. This little collection of pedals was one of the coolest of 2010, and below I will share with you my favorite of th bunch. This is a stompbox that once again shows us the beauty of the analog circuit and why less is most definitely more. 
Micro Flanger

  • All analog circuitry with bucket brigade technology
  • Two control knobs for simple operation
  • Faithful recreation of the classic 80's pedal


This new M152 Micro Flanger is based around the sound of the super popular M117 Flanger. With the ability to knock out many of M177's tones and many of it's own, the M152 stands a beast in it's own right. Sporting an analog circuitry and designed with kickass bucket brigade technology, you can be sure you'll get the warmest and smoothest of tones. A true bypass footswitch has also been added to this design for the ultimate in tone preservation and clarity. Control layout is pretty simple - Rate knob for controling cycling speed, and Regen knob for dialing in overall intensity. I in fact have had lots of experience with the original 80's M177, and if there's one thing that has always impressed me about this pedal it is it's range. I was excited to discover the Micro Flanger rides side by side with it's classic cousin covering may of the same ground. How MXR was able to pack so much tone into such a small box I do not know, and do not care. All I know is that with all the gigantic stompboxes floating around out there it's nice to see something that saves pedalboard space while at the same time getting straight to the point. 

With an effect like the flanger you always have to be very careful how you use it. Dial in too much of the flanger and your root tone will suffer, but then use too little and you won't get the effect's point across. The key is to tap into that magical little area where your root tone and the effect will get along their best. With the M152 Micro Flanger it wasn't all that tuff to find it's sweet spots, thanks to it's stunning sounding analog circuitry and simple yet versatile control layout. I found the M152 capable of producing spot-on vintage flange tones, as well as rich and aggressive modern sounds. I first paired the pedal up with a big'n'beefy 100 watt Super Lead and my single P90 Junior copy. I worked in a mellow slow and subtle flange effect from the M152 and dialed in a nice'n'gritty rhythm tone from the amp. I picked out a handful of pretty chords to accentuate the pedal's velvety sound. The pedal produced a glowing type of effect that added imagination to my guitar's tone. The flange effect blew in and out like a mellow breath, never taking over my amp's tone while letting it's voice be heard. The subtle effect worked great for adding size to my chords and for giving the overall tone some sweet character. At medium flange setting it was more of the same. Here I found some of the coolest sounds from this pedal. Some flanger pedals you can't even dial into their medium settings without having things sound too strong. Here is where I give MXR some major props. They designed a flanger and not some extreme strange cousin. Both at high and slow speeds the Micro Flanger creates absolute magic. The little bit of grit being produced from my amp married perfectly to the Micro Flanger's warm and focused sound. Here I kicked in a bit more gain which again accented the flange effect beautifully. For those of you high gain freaks wielding hot rodded super amps, this flanger will do wonders for you. It doesn't matter if you use P90's, humbuckers, Strat or Tele single coils, or any of the many other pickups out there - the Micro Flanger will do you proper. Plugging in my buddy's Les Paul got me some more really hot tones. The fatness and weight of the humbuckers drove the pedal to really knock out some killer sounding classic sounding flange. Rolling the amp up to lead tones and getting the Micro Flanger to create stinging flange tones was absolute Rock God heaven. The effect swam in and out through the room helping to create wild psychedelic visions. Chugging down on big power chords, digging into double stops, bending strings, and striking down on harmonics all sounding spectacular, if not epic! Really there isn't much more to say about this little gun metal grey demon. Go out grab one plug it in and see for yourself. A small footprint enclosure, two knobs, and a simple design is all it takes to make this one of the coolest pedals in the scene today. The M152 Micro Flanger is small, elegant, and packs a punch much larger than most pedals twice it's size. It is pedals like these that make MXR the company it is today. With the experience that these cats own and the group of builders/designers that back their play - MXR continues to sit way up high on the totem pole. 


For more info on the M152 and the rest of the MXR/Dunlop Manufacturing collection go to You can read up on a ton a cool info on many many of their products and check out some really cool vids. We will continue to bring you more from our friends at Dunlop so make sure to stay tuned. More to come very soon!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Top Finds of 2010 / Rock On Audio

This my dear readers is a piece of gear I was especially excited to have discovered. The simplicity and capabilities that this gadget is able to provide is nothing short of genius! If ever you've played in a band, recorded music, or just jammed with friends - you know the hassle of getting everything dialed in and mixed just right. Playing live shows I have sat in just about every seat possible - from guitarist, bassist, and singer, to drummer, dj, and horn player - just to name a few. And in each role I have ever played in a band there is one issue that has always stood out above the rest - that being poor stage mixes. Unless you're playing a proper gig, have your own sound guy, or have an expensive in-ear monitor setup - chances are you'll end up with something not so pleasant. You know how the story goes; You start with a haywire collage of confusing noise, end up having to sacrifice one thing in order to benefit elsewhere, and then the war between what will sound decent starts to work it's nerve. For ages now I have been asking myself "Why and the hell doesn't someone come up with a simple fix for this problem?" With all of the technology out there one would think there would have been an answer to this long ago. Well earlier this year my dreams were answered, and to my surprise this creation wasn't expensive, complex, or hype driven (which was nice for a change). The responsible party for the Rock Box and man behind the Rock On Audio brand is a passion driven cat named Pete Lewis. If you guys have been hunting for a simple quick solution to your monitoring needs, please continue.

Rock Box Limiter/Rockon Cable


(Rock Box)
  • Built-in Limiter: Designed to protect your precious ears
  • Large input Range: Accepts signals up to 7.5V peak to peak.
  • Line/Spk Switch: Engages a 30dB pad for different input signals 
  • Dual Colored LED Indicator: Speaker = green / Line = blue
  • 1/4" TRS Input: Accepts mono balanced TRS and un-balanced TS signals
  • 1/4" TRS Parallel Output: In parallel with TRS Input for sharing mix
  • 1/4" Headphone Ouput: Use with Rockon Cable or headphones/in-ears
  • Volume Control: Specially designed output limiting for IEM's
  • Small Build: For setting up with any pedalboard or setup
  • 9V DC Power: Provided 9V AC adapter (+). Polarity can be changed. 
(Rockon Cable)
  • Performer End: 1/4" plug for your instruments signal. Continuing down this end of the cable about a foot or so down is your In-line 1/8" headphone jack for your monitor mix. 
  • Rock Box End: TRS 1/4" plug plug into Headphone Out on Rock Box. Splitting away from the TRS 1/4" plug is a In-line Female 1/4" jack which send your instrument cable to amp/tuner/pedalbaord/etc...


It all seems pretty darn simple now doesn't it? Well that's because it is. This product helps you experience the magic of crisp clear sound, freeing you of that muffled unpleasant stage noise, all in a simple easy to use setup. Wireless systems up until now (at least the decent ones) are expensive and usually only found in professional setups. A good quality in-ear setup makes for a spectacular tool when playing huge stages, clubs, arenas, and outdoor venues. But what about the rest of us who aren't quite at the jumbo venues yet, we could use some help too. In fact, it is on smaller stages where sound is usually at it's worst, where monitors are at their cheapest, and where one can take all the help he can get. The Rock Box Limiter and Rockon Cable are the answer to all of our dreams.

Putting this little gem through it's paces I must admit was quite a blast. Do not let the size of this gadget fool you, it is capable of fitting into more applications than one might think. I was able to use it with many different in-ears and headphones, and in a bunch of different live and studio applications. The first task I assigned the Rock Box to aid me in was as a simple headphone amp. Here I paired the Rock Box up with a high performance set of Monster® Jamz™  in-ear headphones. I plugged my guitar into my pedalboard, then out into the Rock Box's input, and in-ears straight into the Rock Box's headphone input with a mini to quarter inch adapter. My first impression of this little box was how quiet it was and how crisp and defined the signal was. My Hagstrom's humbuckers came through beautifully with lots of beefy lows and mids, and rich'n'creamy highs. Another impressive thing about this piece of gear was how much output it had on tap, plenty for any stage or band practice. To get a little ambience into the in-ears I turned to my reverb pedal, dialing in just enough to let things breath. Here I also began to experiment with my dirt boxes (overdrive-distortion-fuzz-etc..). Surprisingly enough they all sounded pretty damn good. Usually pushing any stompbox directly into any piece of gear sounds flat and lifeless, but this was not the case here. As a late night practicing tool or for those of you who'd like to give your roomates/parents/girlfriend a break from the noise - this baby works like a charm. 

Next came using the Rock Box in jams, practices, and live gigs. First I brought it along to band practice, and here is where I found this baby very very useful. If there's one thing I cannot stand when in a jam or band practice it's weak vocals and loud drums. As a guitar player it is important for us to hear the singer. It helps us with the vibe and feel of a tune, helps shape the dynamics in our playing, and just plain ol' keeps us in the moment. In a matter of seconds I was able to run the PA's signal into the Rock Box and hear exactly what was coming through it. With the Rock Box's volume control I was able to maintain and tame my mix, and with my set of kickass JH Audio JH 16 Pro's plugged into box I had myself some super quality overall sound. I was able to hear the lead and back-up vocals like never before!!! Super rich and full, with plenty of sparkle and clarity, and with a superb frequency range. Getting the rest of the instruments into my in-ear mix was a cinch. To get both guitars into the mix we setup a couple of SM57's in front of our amps, with the bass we ran it into a DI and split it's signal to the mixer and into the amp. The quality in the JH Audio's really let the bass hit hard and smooth. Then last for were the drums. Believe it or not, the existing mics in the room and bang in the drummer hit created plenty of drums to be heard. Later I also experimented with room mics, a stereo mic on the kit, and micing kick and snare. All of it worked like a dream! Band practice had never sounded so damn good. Which leads us to the stage. Again the Rock Box quickly and beautifully came through like a champion. Here it was even easier to dial in and get my in-ear mix - in fact I didn't have to do much. Here I shared my stage monitors/wedges mix with the Rock Box. To do this I just ran the stage monitors out into the Rock Box's in and whallah! Just like you would when you play a gig and ask the sound guys for more drums, more vocals, less of this, less of that - I was able to do this in my ears. On the quality was stunningly better. What was really impressive was how quickly it all went down. With the accompanying Rockon Cable the task is child's play. The Rockon Cable's design I must say  is genius! I gotta take the time here to give Pete some major props. The cable just like a standard cable plugs into your guitar, but then about a foot or so down sits a 1/8" (mini) input jack for your in-ears/headphones/etc... The bottom of the Rockon Cable spilts into a 1/4" plug which goes into the Rock Box's headphone jack, and a 1/4" output for running a standard cable into it and then to your amp, pedals, or pedalboard. I found this little piece of gear works great with every gig I brought it along to and every jam I sat in on. With the Rock Box's Line/Speaker switch you can control and tame any signal. The built in limiter will also make sure your ears are always protected and in the safe zone. All in all this is hands down one of the most ingenious, coolest, and most useful pieces of gear you will ever own in your arsenal. The Rock Box Limiter makes it possible for anyone to own a great sounding IEM setup. And for it's price you really can't beat this little gem.


For more info on Rock On Audio and the Rock Box Limiter go to Also make sure to check out the many cool vids showing the Rock Box in action. Scroll to the bottom of our site and search Rock On Audio in our Youtube search engine. We will keepyou up to date in any happenings with this very hip little company and bring you more info as it comes. Stay tuned and keep rockin!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Quick Update

Hey guys,

I just wanted to apologize for the lack in posts recently. I had some issues with my laptop and an external hard drive that was corrupted. I lost a bunch files which consisted of many of my review layouts. I have been rewriting and trying to get back on track as quickly as possible. I will be dedicating this entire month to our Top Finds of 2010 and will continue with our regular posts, artist features, podcast demos, etc... in Feb. I want to thank our contributors for being patient and for the awesome gear they've helped out with. Stay tuned for some more super cool gadgets! Please keep emailing with any suggestions, any new gear companies, and any other news you may want to alert me of.