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End of May Pedal-Chain Update - Episode IV - A New Hope!

Ambient EffectsAnasoundsBig Muff Style FuzzBitcrushing and Lo-FiBlues Breaker Style OverdriveBoostBoost and OverdriveBrown Sound DistortionChase Bliss AudioChorus and VibratoCooper FXDigital ReverbDistortionDr ScientistDriveEarthQuaker DevicesElectro-HarmonixEnvelope Filter and Auto WahFlangerFuzzFuzz Face Style FuzzFuzz-Drive and FuzzstortionGFI SystemGlitchJackson AudioKlone and Transparent OverdriveKuro Custom AudioMarshall Style DistortionMenatoneMetal DistortionMI EffectsModulationModulation WorkstationMulti-DriveOctave FuzzOddball ModulationOverdrivePhaserRat Style FuzzRedbeard EffectsReverbReverb WorkstationSilicon FuzzSpacey ReverbSuper-Fuzz StyleThorpyFXToneQuestTremoloVox Style DistortionVS Audio+-
2020GPXSKSignalChainPostNAMMMay2700.jpg

May was the month that several things finally slotted into place - all my missing / presumed lost USA orders finally landed as did a few other pedals which had been somewhat lingering in the wild - so May delivered a pretty decent pedal yield overall in the end. I also got to be involved in a couple of exciting up-and-coming brands - Kuro Custom Audio of Italy and MidValleyFX of USA. I’ve already published a feature on the excellent Kuro Akuma Fiery Fuzz as featured on slot #5, and hope to be doing a piece on the Kuro P.h.A. Boost/Overdrive/PreAmp in the next couple of weeks or so. The MidValleyFX project will be a Brand Introduction / Overview which will be published in a few weeks’ time.

 

I’m also fortunate to be involved in a couple of pedal development and prototyping projects - with Decibelics of Spain and Expresso FX of UK respectively. So in theory there should be something grand to report on those in a month or few.

 

As for my main pedal-chain - this is very much shaping up for 2020 now - while there will of course be some unexpected arrivals and additions. I’ve still to secure a Spaceman Sputnik III and Cooper FX Arcades - both of which I’m hoping to target in June. While I’m not yet really in a position to be adding the very imminent Chase Bliss Audio Automatone PreAmp MKII. Possibly that will need to wait until later in the year - depending how this year goes it may even drift into next year. Joel and co. have reported that there are some delays already and that because of Coronavirus the work is being done in shifts - which means builds and orders will be phased and staggered over several weeks / months.

 

There are still a number of key pedal launches yet to happen - with more than half the year still remaining. As it is, my pedal-chain and collection has me pretty well covered in all areas already and it’s not necessarily always a case of replacing / rotating to improve - but sometimes just change for sake of change or some slight nuance or variation.

 

I still have some patch updates to download to some of my digital pedals (including the Synesthesia) - I’m looking to have all that wrapped up this coming weekend. All in all - things are mostly looking up and life is pretty good all things considered. It has to be noted though that financially things aren’t where they used to be - and with several builders now refusing to ship abroad and also some very significant delays in delivery - it has made for a pretty major slowdown in pedal acquisitions. It will be interesting to see what kind of phases and challenges we have still to go through this year - and how things will work out eventually. In the spirit of this post - the Icelandic saying ’Þetta reddast’ is the general prevailing attitude and mood encouraged here - at least as regards guitar pedals! :

Here follow the documented additions and changes, and planned and intended targets :


Slot #4 : Filter / Auto-Wah!

I'm still loving the Dusk Dynamic Filter a couple of months later on - it sounds fantastic with everything I throw at it - and has just the right mix of features and usability - and tones. This will surely do here for quite some time. I did say that I should check out the Flower Pedals Hosta properly at some stage too - but I currently don't really feel the need at all. I'm really enjoying the Dusk and see no reason for changing things any time soon. The Hosta may need to wait until next year for its turn.


Slot #5 : Germanium / Sensitive Fuzz (Usually!)

The Spaceman Sputnik III is still very much an acquisition target - while for March/April the Vemuram Josh Smith Signature Myriad Hybrid Fuzz occupied this slot really successfully, and right now is the time for the Akuma Fiery Fuzz - which is unusually a Silicon fuzz on this slot - where normally I assign sensitive / Germanium Fuzz pedals at the front of the chain. The Akuma as reported sounds immense - and it has so many different flavours hidden up its sleeve that you can do all kinds of different things with it. In fact with the Akuma on the slot currently I'm less in a rush to get the Sputnik III - it will happen eventually - while I'm delighted in the meantime to give the Akuma an extended run / rotation. If you haven't checked out this Fuzz pedal before - then now is definitely the time for it - super high quality components and construction and really something a little bit special and different - more people should definitely be checking it out.


Slot #10 : Tube Screamer / Blues Breaker Style Overdrive

I don't know whether you - like me, watched the live Rhett Shull YouTube episode where he appeared to have been sent a dud version of the Golden Boy Overdrive. Mine only arrived a couple of days after that - and I was for a moment concerned over quality control - but I need not have been as all 4 of my Jackson Audio pedals have worked robustly and fully reliably right from the start - including this most recent arrival. The enclosure and something significant in the construction has most definitely changed - as the pedal that got rotated off this slot - the Jackson Audio Broken Arrow - in most respects the predecessor of the Golden Boy - is nearly twice or three times as heavy. Obviously the chassis changing from Steel to Aluminium will have been a significant part of the weight-loss - but holding the two of them together somehow makes the Golden Boy feel somewhat empty and under-weight! Playback though is stellar - and I've settled into Green mode here as my favourite for now - whereas for the Broken Arrow it was always the second / Magenta mode that I tended to prefer. A great sounding warm overdrive though with plenty of dynamics.


Slot #14 : Various Twin Drive/Fuzz/Distortion Pedals or Multi-Drive

As I've mentioned before - this is the slot ear-marked for the CBA Automatone PreAmp MKII - but I'm not sure when exactly that is going to happen for me - certainly unlikely in the next couple of months - but we'll see - stranger things happen at sea as they say. In the meantime there are actually two pedals on this slot - which have variously been the Thorpy Bunker and Gunshot, Bearfoot FX Bone Bender and BossHorn, Bearfoot BossHorn and Basic Audio Zippy, and right now the relatively recently arrived Dwarfcraft Baby Thunder and She-Fuzz. This particular slot sees a lot of movement / rotation - and is used in the head-to-head stakes and when running in new pedals and audio experiments. This is the slot where I test most new Fuzz / Drive / Distortion / Modulation pedals - unless they're more sensitive and need to go further towards the front of the chain - or stereo and therefore meed to be at the back. I think there will be a lot of movement on this slot / these slots for most of this year - and up to the time I get the Automatone - even then this slot will still see a fairly high frequency of rotation, while I would except the Automatone MKII to become the default assignment.


Slot #15 : Natural Amp-Like Overdrive and Distortion

I've decided to re-arrange these next 3 slots (#15-17) in a more logical fashion with a natural scale-up on the gain / saturation side. So first in place of the sequence is now the lesser gain variety - which means actually a mix of different pedals - including the current Fish Factory Vertical, Dr Scientist The Elements, Sinvertek N5 Drive Plus and True North Tweed Drive to name but a handful. Once again there is likely to be some fairly significant rotation on this slot - and I will then try to pick a winner for the year when we come to the final annual overview. I'm very much enjoying the Fish Factory - and have dialled in both sides really well - while I slightly still prefer the Red Snapper side - but they're both really great. My next Kuro Custom Audio project is likely to land on this slot for a period too - the super-versatile P.h.A Boost/Overdrive/PreAmp - we'll see how that all shapes up once I get my hands on one in the next week or two.


Slot #16 : Boosted Vox Distortion

I'm still loving the Menatone Top Boost In A Can - I still love my Bearfoot FX EGDM of course - but the TBIAC delivers a tone even closer to Brian May's classic saturated sound. This didn't take me long to dial in at all - I spent a couple of weeks experimenting with range - but since then I've wholly got the measure of this pedal and how the controls interact - and it's a real joy to calibrate. I still think the TBIAC is the champion in the Brian May soundalike stakes - and in this form factor it has no equal really.


Slot #17 : Plexi / Chewy Marshall-like Distortion

I used to have this as the JCM800 / Brown Sound / EVH style slot - but I've moved that further down the chain as it fits in much better in that position. In fact I just switched slots #17 and #22 - which actually makes a lot more sense this way around. I have several different Plexi-style pedals in the collection and in fact a couple of weeks ago had 3 different Plexi's in the chain - this King of the Britains, the ThorpyFX Bunker and the ThorpyFX Gunshot. In many ways sound-wise the Gunshot and King of Britains are quite evenly matched - while I very slightly prefer the more tweakability available on the King. It's profile is overall slightly softer than the Gunshot too - on some days I prefer the slightly more bite of the Gunshot - but you can dial them in quite similar - albeit the King also has a boost - I am very happy with all that at the moment - and it sounds just as I want it to.


Slot #19 : Big Muff / Rat / Extreme Fuzz

And I am still really enjoying the searing saturation of the EQD Life Pedal V2 - which means it should be safe on this slot for quite a while longer. Slot #19 has traditionally been one which has chopped and changed the most - while the dual slot on #14 is where most of the rotation is occurring nowadays. I was itching for a moment to bring back the Beetronics Swarm for another stint - but the Life Pedal is likely safe for a good couple of months yet.


Slot #20 : Rat / Fuzztortion (Typically)

This was kind of to be expected really as probably my favourite ever Fuzz Pedal - the Dr Scientist Frazz Dazzler returns to its pride of place. The ThorpyFX Field Marshal had a really decent stint here - and is still getting rotated in on slot #14 on occasion. And however much I like the Field Marshal - and it is a fantastic pedal - as born out by Andy Martin's fairly recent demo - my all-time favourite is still the Frazz Dazzler - rightfully back in in its spot.


Slot #22 : JCM800 / Brown Sound Distortion

As mentioned this was actually rather logically recently swapped around with the former slot #17 - and my favourite JCM800 pedal the MI Effects is firmly back in business here. It may get rotated out by the slightly more versatile forthcoming Jackson Audio El Guapo JCM800 + Tube Screamer - but we'll see what happens closer to the time of release - and exactly which pedal is in the slot come Christmas. The MI Effects Super Crunch Box V2 will always be one of my favourites in this area regardless.


Slot #23 : Modern High Gain Distortion

This slot which was formerly occupied by the REVV G3 and the Keeley-modded Boss MT-2 Metal Zone in the main is now very solidly dominated by my favourite of Thorpy's recent trio - the sister brand Redbeard Effects' Honey Badger Dual Sub-Octave Fuzz. It's a proper heavy metal-style fuzz with a blendable one and two octaves down secondary effect - which is foot-switchable to boot. Hearing Mikey Demus's riff-off at Birmingham's The Guitar Show back in February just really sealed the deal on this one. I had already ordered one by then by some distance - and if there was any doubt in my mind it was overcome by Mikey's blisteringly crisp and punchy sounding demo - this pedal sounded immense then - and it sounds immense in my rig - both Redbeard pedals are sitting pretty fast in my chain. I have entertained acquiring and bringing in a Blackhawk Balrog V3 on this slot or perhaps a Lichtlaerm Gehenna High Gain Distortion. But am so enjoying the Honey Badger that there is really no rush on that.


Slot #29 : Analog Chorus

I'm still finding nothing but joy with deploying the VS Audio Alchemy Analog Chorus and hope Panos is selling these by the bucketload. It deserves to be regarded in the same sweep as the Analog.Man Mini Chorus, Boss CE-2/W / DC-2/W, Jam Pedals Waterfall, Neunaber Inspire and Walrus Audio Julia amongst many exceptional choruses. The Alchemy delivers a little more in many ways - and having the footswitch-selectable presets alongside that high degree of versatility really puts this pedal in a class of its own currently. If you've not checked / tried one of these out yet - you really should.


Slot #30 : Analog Flanger

This will likely be one of my favourite all-time effects pedals - just supreme in what it delivers - and just the style of flanger I had been seeking out for so long. It does now though have a genuine competitor in the form of the slightly more compact Buffalo FX Reticon Flanger which seeks to do much the same thing as the Camoflange but also has the Matrix filter switch of the original EHX Electric Mistress. I am of course loyal to Thorpy - but I am still intrigued to see how Steve Painter's version measures up overall. As a fan of Flangers I'm sort of tempted, but I don't really need it, can't imagine it would be better than the Camoflange - and besides don't really have the funds - and even if I did I have more pressing priorities! Intriguing though!


Slot #31 : Analog Harmonic Tremolo

The Anasounds Ages Harmonic Tremolo still does everything I want it to and sounds phenomenal throughout - while I wish that the secondary modes could be a little more intuitive both in how you access them and how you set them - it doesn't always entirely go the way I expect it / want it to - and I'm not always clear on what I've done wrong. It's no biggy really as I manage to sort things out with the minimum of fuss - as long as I maintain a disciplined level of concentration. I just wish it was all just a touch easier and more definitive is all. I think I personally would have snuck in another rotary selector knob somewhere on that circuit!


Slot #33 : Glitch Pedal / Multi-FX / Workstation

The 2nd batch of Cooper FX Arcades seems to have hit the dealers - all bar UK's Guitar FX Direct - for whom there is still no trace of this pedal. I think I will likely need to acquire from France or Germany most likely and pay a little over the odds for that. The pedals are still only being shipped with sets of 2 of the 4 available cards - in the Delay + Reverb / LoFi + Pitch configurations/variations - and there still seems to be no way to acquire the set you might be missing. I will check in with Tom Majeski at the start of next month to see what's happening there - so I can advise further on when those might be available - and the other 4 more cards which were announced at launch. I really want this pedal - and I'm looking to make it happen one way or another in June!


Slot #34 : Stereo Digital Multi-Modulation Workstation

With the new firmware release with 15 additional algorithms - the GFI Synesthesia has gone from Ingenious to Unassailable - there is no other Multi-Modulation Pedal that covers anyway near this one's ground now. It was already a formidable proposition at launch - now it's just supreme in its category - this is the perfect pedal for wannabe radioheads anywhere. The way it blends and melds two algorithms together - from a library of 37 effects - is just immense as all the demos confirm. If you're serious about modulations - this is your pedal!


Slot #39 : Stereo Digital Reverb Workstation

This has become another one of my mystery lost in the post pedals - it was due to arrive last Friday - but there's still no sign of it a week later. For some reason this was coming from Germany - I had hoped to have it in my hands before the end of the month - and Friday and Saturday are still potential delivery windows - I have an inkling though that it may not materialise until next week. I am still counting it as part of this month's acquisitions as it really should have been here by now. I also intended to get another GFI Tripe Switch for use with this pedal - but they seem to have largely sold out in Europe currently. Then are a little dearer than the EHX equivalent, but significantly more compact which is what carries the decision for me. So I still need to get the aux pedal for ease of preset control etc. - I will let you know how that has all gone - in the forthcoming end of June update.


Final Thoughts

To be fair - May has been quite a relief after a somewhat dark and stormy April - which I did not much enjoy - as shared on this blog. And apart from more builders suspending international deliveries - things seem to be heading in largely the right direction.

 

I have a number of projects that should keep me occupied throughout June - and I will for sure look to secure at least a Spaceman Sputnik III and Cooper FX Arcades during that month - probably with the emphasis on the latter in terms of how I'm feeling right now.

 

There are still vast swathes of pedals on my wishlist - and in reading the articles on this site you should be well apprised as to what most of those might be. This year hasn't really gone to plan in so many ways - but I'm still relatively close to where I want to be - and I'm really quite fortunate in most ways - all things considered.

 

Besides the errant EHX Oceans 12 - I have a couple of Fjord Fuzz Pedals overdue - both in the smaller format - a dual footswitch Embla, and one of the newer Berserk's which seems to be taking the best part of a month to reach me from Norway - where a week is typically the norm!

 

I mentioned I would be doing Kuro Custom Audio and MidValley FX projects in June. I still need to secure a 2020 Edition V2 Crowther Audio HotCake - and there are numerous Mythos pedals that are on my priority list. There's also a quartet of pedals I need to sort out with my good friend Sof over at Expresso FX.

 

Those are generally the known events for the next month or two - obviously there is other stuff on the release cycle - but we haven't heard much on what is happening in the likely vacuum of Summer NAMM. Even if this event does go ahead on July 9-11 which I still think is relatively unlikely - I have a feeling that far fewer vendors and exhibitors - not to say visitors either will be in attendance. Release schedules have been somewhat wayward and haphazard this year and I expect that to continue well into the autumn if not longer.

 

For sure there will be some further unexpected hopefully pleasant surprises along the way - any of you aware of any exciting forthcoming happenings or launches?

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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