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Paul Gilbert 2021 Pedalboard Dynamics and Essential Tone Components

BoostBoost and OverdriveChorus and VibratoCompressorCryBabyDelay WorkstationDigital DelayDigital ReverbDistortionDriveDunlop EffectsFulltone EffectsJHS PedalsKlone and Transparent OverdriveLoop-SwitcherModulationMXRNeo InstrumentsOneControlOverdrivePower SuppliesReverb WorkstationRotary SpeakerTC ElectronicUni-Vibe and VibeUtilityVoodoo Lab+-
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I have long been a fan of the highly convivial Paul Gilbert - with his Racer X Scarified fretboard workout being a particular favourite of mine. Paul is one of the most naturally gifted players out there and can pretty much play anything in any style. He’s a big fan of the Beatles and can play near enough their whole back catalog off the cuff.

 

There’s certainly plenty to admire about Paul - a lifetime Ibanez Artist with a few signature guitars and pedals to his name. What I particularly like is his very common-sense approach to pedals - where he selects an ever-evolving roster of actually almost entirely very standard mainstream affordable pedals.

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It is highly fitting that he's finally been given his own TC Electronic MojoMojo Edition as no one has done more to promote that pedal. In fact I feel it's Paul's one consistent core pedal - which he has endorsed pretty much since its launch in 2011. The MojoMojo is a properly cheap pedal and has largely been an under the radar classic - which several players claim as their secret weapon.

 

I feel this is much more a Signature pedal even than Pauls' recent JHS PG-14 collaboration and more so than his signature Ibanez AF2 Airplane Flanger - which seems a very long time ago now.

 

For this feature I've actually comped together two of Paul's recent 2021 pedalboards - as I personally prefer the Mini CryBaby over any of the larger sizes. Paul of course chops and changes his board regularly, while he mostly seems to have a fair smattering of TC Electronic pedals - and at least the JHS Compressor.

 

Everything here is standard and off the shelf - so the magic is entirely in Paul's fingers. Anyone can easily approximate is core tones, while Paul's nuanced playing onviously adds considerable nuance and character above and beyond what those very standard pedals provide.

 

Note that a couple of these pedals - the latter TC Electronic ones are now retired - meaning Reverb.com is your most likely source for those. Normall with artist pedalboards you have a least one secret sauce component element - but that does not seem to be the case here.

 

I will detail each of those pedals in turn - in rough pedalboard position order! :

 

NOTE that the OneControl 1LoopBOX put the DejáVibe in an effects loop with the CryBaby Wah!


Fulltone Mini DejáVibe MKII - $259

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Controls : Volume, Voicing : Modern/Vintage, Mode : Vibrato/Chorus, Intensity, Speed.

 

Readers of this blog should be well familiar with this pedal by now as I've featured it a few times, and of course it resides on my imminent wishlist / acquisitions list. The more recent form factor is really the perfect size - and with the large Speed knob on the corner it's very cleverly engineered for maximum dynamic control. Paul has rocked both sizes of DejáVibe so it's quite obviously a perennial favourite. I aim to get one soon enough - or as soon as priorities will allow. For sure a great quality choice for the genre.


JHS Pulp N Peel V4 Compressor - $229

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Controls : Volume, Dirt : On/Off, Compression, EQ, Blend.

 

I believe Josh Scott's Compressor is evolved from Dan Armstrongs Orange Squeeze Compressor - as indicated by the graphic too really. The original JHS version had only 2 knobs, then 3, and hit this current format back in 2016. There are so many great compressors out there - and where I also have my own favourites. Nonetheless this one is great to, and has been much used by Paul over the last few yeats in particular.


Neo Instruments Mini Vent II - €348

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Controls : A/B Switch, Parameters Set via Combination Footswitch Presses on Start-up.

 

The Medium Enclosure format is where most of the action is at for Leslie / Rotary style effect and the Mini Vent II is certainly a classic of the type. I personally use the Josh Smith Settings on the Eventide H9, and also have the Tech 21 NYC RotoChoir. The RotoChoir won it for me in a 3-way head-to-head between this Mini Vent and the Strymon Lex - I felt it delivered a little bit more full-on flavour - but all 3 were excellent and I could have gone for any one of them on a different day. I will still probably get the Strymon Lex at some stage, and don't rule out a Mini Vent making an appearance at some stage either. The only down-side with the Mini Vent is its lack of proper controls - where you set the sub-modes etc. via morse-code-like input from the two footswitches on startup.


CryBaby JHM9 Jimi Hendrix Mini Wah - £130

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I'm a big fan of the Mini CryBaby Wahs and in fact have all of those bar this one - or namely the original CBM95, CBM535Q and latest CBM535AR. This one has also been on my list the longest time, it is distinguished by its chrome treadle. Obviously tuned to Hendrix preferred calibration it's the form factor here that should win you over. Paul has used a wide variety of CryBaby Wahs over his career and recently sports mostly the Mini Hendrix and the newest Junior Edition.


OneControl 1LoopBOX - DejáVibe/CryBaby - $45

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This is a really cool single FX Loop or Send/Return - which puts the Dejá Vibe in the loop with the CryBaby Wah. This obviously proved some smart playback dynamics for Paul - in particular when deploying those two effects together. Very simple really, the footswitch simply engages whatever is in the Send/Return Loop - which on this occasion just happens to be the Dejá Vibe! I've been thinking how best to get some smart parallel loops into the pedal-chain - and this looks like an excellent solution for that.


JHS PG-14 Distortion - $199

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Controls : Volume, Mid, Drive, Tone, Mid Freq, Push.

 

I have this PG-14 but it didn't particularly gel with me and was off the board just a few weeks later. This is often the case with Signature Pedals in that they are tuned very much to the Signature Artist's own idiosyncratic needs - including high level compatibility with signature guitars etc. Some signature pedals are incredibly broad and versatile, while others somehow less so. This does give you a broad range of tones for sure - but something about those tunings and frequency clusters doesn't quite work for me and my setup - at least not as well as many other pedals of the ilk. I've not given up on this pedal yet, but so far it's not really worked out for me. It's of course great in Paul's hands - but then again he has a way of making everything sound just right!


TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive Paul Gilbert Edition - €69

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Controls : Drive, Gain : 11/Low Gain, Level, Bass, Treble.

 

I've had the original Brown Edition of this for many years now while it doesn't get that much in on regular rotations - even though every time I try it I am surprised at just how good it sounds. I have this as a sort of Klone adjacent pedal - while not based on that circuit topology. It sounds really well-rounded and organic. And Paul's Purple Edition is much the prettier and still relatively cheap - I will likely get one of these soon enough too. I'm glad to see we still have some proper TC Electronic pedals left - those Behringer circuits in those plain and clunky TC Electronic branded boxes are a travesty as far as I'm concerned. Behringer have singlehandedly eroded all of TC Electronic's brand cachet. It would be the equivalent of Dacia buying Toyota and re-branding all its own cars as Lexus. Most of TC Electronic output these days is cheap re-housings of cheap Behringer knock-off circuits.


MXR M137 Stereo Chorus - $170

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Controls : Bass, Treble, Intensity, Width, Rate, Bass Filter Button.

 

A somewhat unusual choice of chorus - specifically because of the girth of this pedal really. Obviously understandable if deploying in stereo. While there are plenty of really decent compact stereo choruses at your disposal too. Paul has used a few MXR Choruses over the years, and seems particularly found of this variety. While I would find is slightly over-sized. I feel there are plenty of equally smart stereo choruses with a significantly smaller footprint than this.


TC Electronic Alter Ego V2 Vintage Echo - €202

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Controls : Time, Subdivisions : 1/4 | .8ths | 1/4 + .8ths, Feedback, Level, Modes : Erec2, DMM C, T Org, 2290 M, Rev M, BDM2, CKAT, EP1, SP, LP, TP.

 

I never acquired TC Electronic's popular Delay and Reverb pedals - or Flasback and Hall of Fame respectively. Paul has gone with the rather rarer and more vintage-leaning TC Electronic pairing of the Alter Ego and Arena. I fact both pedals that I've considered over the years but not made a concrete decision on yet. I tend to deploy large workstation pedals for Delay and Reverb - typically with triple footswitches, meaning the smaller TC Electronic variants don't give me quite as much control as I wish - nor do they have proper presets that you can scroll through on the fly. They do though provide a wide array of different Modes - with a TonePrint slot too for your own secret sauce variant. I have long thought I would acquire one of these, but I haven't got around to it yet - plenty of other more pressing priorities!


TC Electronic Arena Reverb - €202

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Controls : Decay, Pre-Delay : Short/Long, Tone, FX Level, Modes : Room, Hall, Spring, Plate, Church, Mod, Royal, Parl, PAS, SEAS, Tone Print.

 

Same goes for the Arena as for the Alter Ego in being a sort of vintage equivalent of the Hall of Fame, much like the Alter Ego is the vintage equivalent of the Flashback. Sad then that both those are now discontinued - while there should still be a few in the system, and plenty on the second-hand market. I guess TC Electronic aimed to have these appeal to older / more vintage style players verssus the slightly more everyday all-rounder contemporary nature of the Flashback and HOF. There's much to like here though - obviously does not have as much dynamic control as my various Reverb workstation pedals - but provides more than enough variety for most - and of course includes a TonePrint slot for your own Settings experiments. I still feel the logical way ahead for TC Electronic is to observe what Walrus Audio are doing - as they've likely displaced TC Electronic from the chasing pack of innovation.


Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus - $180

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Voodoo Lab power supplies are somewhat old-school nowadays compared to what Anasounds, Cioks and Strymon are doing. For me Cioks is the current leader in that market with its Future Power Generation Range. Obviously Paul gets what he needs from the 8 outputs of the Pedal Power 2 Plus - while he could get even more out of the Cioks DC7 + 8 + 4.


Final Thoughts

I feel Paul has created a very much 'Everyman' type pedalboard here - which is wholly accessible to most. There are a couple of pricier pedals in the mix - while everything else is very much mainstream and at those typical mid-market prices.

 

You can't dispute any of Paul's current choices as he very evidently makes it all sound amazing. While individual players might have different preferences for some of those effects types. It's nice to see 2 proper signature pedals here - and everything else can pretty much be easily acquired from your local emporium.

 

There's quite a few here on my wishlist - and I will likely be adding the Dejá Vibe, Purple MojoMojo, Alter Ego and Arena at some stage in the not too distant future - oh yes - and probably the Hendrix Mini CryBaby too - in order to complete that particular capsule collection!

 

Do you have any of these? Or are you thinking of acquiring one or two more like me?

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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