UPDATE 1 - It’s often the case that just after you publish, something big happens which forces a change of stance. On this occasion it was the release of the truly amazing Wampler Pantheon Overdrive which has immediately found its way into Slot #10 of the chain. In fact I have sort of swapped slots #10 and #12 around - relegating the Spaceman Aphelion to a supporting role for now.
UPDATE 2 - Still no word from Jackson Audio on the delayed Bloom Compressor etc. - which means the Wampler Mini Ego still occupies that slot for now - looking more like a mid-to-late October release at the moment (#7).
UPDATE 3 - Finally word has arrived from Empress Effects - Steve Bragg sent out a recent update to say that he hopes to have the Zoia with us by the end of the year - the only current hold-up is the manufacturing of the final PCB. Looks like an early Christmas present is therefore on the cards for some!
The latest updates to the pedal-chain see quite a change in method and approach. Right up until this moment I’ve always fully followed my own 12 Degrees of Saturation methodology in how the various pedals were ordered to a large degree. In fact for sake of running true to the defined order I actually had the Strymon Sunset pictured in the wrong position - as its two different settings are at very different points on the scale - but more of that later.
I also became aware that I really wasn’t using my tuner pedal very much at all - much preferring to just use my Roadie II automated peg tuner - so I switched out that TC Electronic pedal for another - the Quintessence Harmonizer - to let me properly sound like Iron Maiden’s Trooper etc. (still getting to grips with that!)
Another pedal I really wasn’t using much was the mini CryBaby 535Q Wah - as most times I just use the Auto-Wah of the Mu-Tron Micro-Tron III Envelope Filter. So I swapped the Wah out with the DigiTech Wammy Ricochet - which I actually used to have in place before that was for a time ousted by my Dunlop Wahs.
You can see that I no longer have any Tube Screamer in the chain, nor do I have a specific OCD-style pedal - and in fact pedals in slots #10, #11 and #12 are not remotely in 12 Degrees of Saturation order. This has come about really just because I was trialling different pedals in those slots and I’ve just kept the ones in place I like the most currently. A big part of the chain is to allow easy swapping and rotation of pedals - which happens quite a lot for some slots, and particularly for fuzzes. There are practical mechanical reasons also why it’s easier to have certain pedals in certain slots - but even if I re-ordered them, I’ve started to move away more from having one of every principal type indicated in the ’12 Degrees’, with the exercise now becoming more about discovering my own specific tonal preferences - whatever they may be.
There’s also a couple of ’delayed/forthcoming’ pedals which are pictured but not yet part of the live chain as they’ve still to be released. I’ve sought advice from both Jackson Audio and Empress Effects on likely arrival times. The former is already pre-ordered and was supposed to be shipped mid-September, but there are evidently some production delays. While we’ve not heard anything constructive really from Empress about the Zoia since Summer NAMM - quite a few months ago now. Most sites still have that pedal available for pre-order, hinting at a possible November release, but with the lack of updates coming through the grapevine, one has to assume that he pedal may be delayed further - towards a possible Winter NAMM 2019 release.
I had at one stage thought I would just do a straight rotation on the Boss MD-500 and the Empress Zoia, but I’m so fond of the MD-500 and it has so many great sounds that I now use - I don’t think there’s any finer chorus pedal currently available for instance, and it has superb flangers, phasers and filters besides - which I use a lot. So I’ve changed tac and decided to make use of my one remaining power slot to up the total pedal-chain length to an even 40. Meaning that the Zoia will become an addition to rather than replacement for the MD-500.
The Eventide H9 was much further up-stream previously as I tried to make use of it’s various overdrives, distortions etc. as well as its amazing modulations, delays and reverbs. I have however decided that I am mostly using its delay and reverb algorithms so it sits best between the Empress EchoSystem Delay and Source Audio Ventris Reverb. I think I would like to see more custom patch-cable routers with A/B switches so I can electronically change the positions of certain pedals in the chain. There is no 40-pedal loop-switcher that I know about that could handle this arrangement, and I actually really like the flexibility the arrangement brings vs the obvious challenges it also dishes out. I’ve said many time before that this chain just would not work without a buffer near the front of the chain, the very best in patch cables, and 40 isolated power sockets - currently provided by 2 Friedman Power Grids, 1 Strymon Puma, 1 Strymon Ojai and one T-Rex Goliath Fuel Tank!
Despite the very large number of pedals, and my operating wirelessly - I get beautifully clear crisp sound and pretty pristine ’noiseless’ output. I feel that the various EQ’s I have employed / deployed carefully throughout the chain are a big part of this as they of course compensate for any natural loss of high-end frequencies along the length of the chain.
There are numerous challenges with operating as complicated a stereo rig as this, but for me the outcomes vastly outweigh those challenges and as long as you’re only chopping and changing roughly one pedal at a time, I find the whole chain holds up pretty well - and I don’t have to check very often for loose or inefficient connections.
Right along the way I’ve learned that there are way too many myths about pedalboard or pedal-chain builds - and lots of untruths certain players still peddle out there on the web. I think all you can do is experiment really and do lots of trials and errors. All manner of people tell me that my pedal-chain must sound horrible because it’s so long, or that a variety of my pedals are in the wrong order / position etc. Yet I have judiciously tried ALL positions and A/B’d them back and forth painstakingly within the proper scientific method.
I feel that there are too many out there simply trying to recreate what came before rather than striking out in new directions. Most great music came about by throwing out the rule book - three of my favourite musicians of all time totally trashed the rule book and went their own way - Jimi, Eddie and Prince. I certainly take a lot of inspiration from those, but my Brown Sound for instance is my version of EVH’s sound - it has evolved to my own preferences - with certain frequencies adjusted and tightened up. I like being able to play just about anything and everything at a drop of a hat, and my extensive pedal-chain allows me to do just that. I’ve very much ended up as a one-guitar guy, and with all the tonal variations coming from the 6 different pickup selections on that PRS CE Classic Electric and combined with the many thousand variations possible via the soon-to-be 40 pedal strong pedal-chain.
Pedals are now listed fully by their actual position and sequence within the chain - note also that pedals in slots #14 to #26 sit within the loop of the Boss GE-7, while the first few Boosts / Drives get the pass-through treatment.
I've always had the TC Electronic PolyTune Mini Noir Tuner here, but have decided that since I pretty much entirely use my Roadie II auto-tuner these days, I don't really need a tuner in my chain - so I can drop in the Harmonizer again to help achieve those Iron Maiden Trooper style harmonies (note - still struggling a touch to get fully up-to-speed with that!). I may still add a Boss PS-6 Harmonist or EHX Pitchfork here at some stage, while I am now unlikely to be looking at other tuner alternatives.
I actually had a Whammy Ricochet first - quite a while before I had a proper CryBaby Wah - I've now decided that since I use the Mu-Trun Micro-Iron III Auto-Wah / Enveloper Filter pretty much 99% of the time, that the Whammy Ricochet is again preferable here to a Wah.
I actually really like the Octavider which though seems to get fairly mixed reviews - it does a couple of things really well - and I can get really decent octave down and synthy style sounds with this - especially in combination with the Micro-Iron III. Occasionally I might want a more capable octave - so the Sub 'N' Up for that. I really want the discontinued for a while now - Electro-Harmonix Nano-POG Matthews Effect Mod - and I can see myself definitely getting a Meris Enzo Synth here for sometime rotation - next year for sure!
This is almost definitely the coolest / greatest compact envelope filter pedal currently on the market - the combination of switches, dials and dual footswtiches just works perfectly. I had at one stage considered other alternatives, but would only do so now if I can find something better and more versatile at this size - which so far has yet to materialise. The Micro-Iron III functions superbly well and sounds amazing with everything - I really love it.
I have two Fuzz slots that get a lot of rotation, and two which are pretty much permanently fixed these days. The two ones that experience rotation are this one #5 and the #19 slot - which is far more variable. In this slot I have 13 fuzz alternatives that I rotate every now and again - plus on occasion - appearances from the Mini Ditto, or Mini Phase 95. While I love the Sputnik 1 so much - that of late, it has pretty much taken up a permanent residency in this slot - it of course sounds tremendous, but is really versatile too and the toggle switches are larger enough for me to activate with my toes!
I am actually a really big fan of different sorts of boost pedals, and have always used an 'always-on' boost to enhance my core tone - give it extra dynamics / sparkle and warmth. In the earlier days of the rig it was the Xotic EP Booster Alchemy Mod, but since it arrived on the market, it has been the Jackson Audio Prism which gives you 3 flavours of boost - Transparent, Amp-like and Treble-Booster-style - all of which I use on occasion, but currently actually have it on Transparent for just a little added warmth and sparkle. The pedal also provides an essential buffer - which I really need for my super-long chain of effects. My one wish here really is that it had a 3-band EQ, which is why I am toying with the idea of possibly replacing it with the ThorpyFX Team Medic - although I will really likely just get that for occasional rotation - same for the Chase Bliss Condor. The Jackson Prism currently does a sterling job for me, and I think I will most likely persevere with that.
I got a really good Labor Day discount on one of these on Reverb.com - it was due to ship middle of September, in fact the Jackson Audio site still says that too, while it's quite evident that there are significant delays - how long is not yet clear, but I have one of these on its way eventually, and it's a really clever mix of Compressor, 3-band EQ and Blooming Boost - in many ways it tackles some of the Prism's weaknesses and then adds some cool bells and whistles on top. For the longest time I was convinced I would never need anything more than a mini Compressor, and the Wampler Mini Ego is still amazing. However - up just a step in size though you can now get the most amazingly feature-rich Compressors - like the Bloom, and the equally new and impressive DryBell Unit67 which I also like the look of. I was considering the Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe for a long while too, but the DryBell and Jackson Audio give you somewhat more bang for you buck and are my picks in this category.
Previously the Klon(e) slot - with that pedal type now moved to Slot #9 and taking over the usual 'Screamer' slot where there is now no longer a screamer-type pedal active in my current chain. I initially thought the Mercury IV was a touch large for what it does, and was looking for the earlier Mercury III - which was just way too over-priced on the second-hand market, and besides the IV gives you more tonal combinations - and it works a real treat within my chain - adding extra harmonic depth and textual richness when I need it. It's not an always-on one though, as I prefer some of my heavier / metal and extreme distortions without it - as they remain more brittle and hard-edged as I like them to be. I also have my eye on the the really cool and very reasonably priced Black Country Classics TI Boost - will probably get that next year for some occasional rotation in this slot.
This slot has seen quite a lot of change really - starting way back with the TCE MojoMojo, and then a stock Soul Food, before finding my way to the JHS modded version, and then truly finding my own Klone(e) sound with the Wampler Mini Tumnus - which lived in this equivalent slot for the longest time. Of course I leapt at its bigger more versatile sibling when that came out - the truly great sounding Tumnus Deluxe. But that was before I came across the superbly crafted Decibelics Golden Horse - which I have raved about quite a bit on this site. I have not seen a more immaculately constructed pedal - say perhaps with the exception of the Origin Effects RevivalDrive - in any case Guillem Vilademunt has done truly exceptional work here to produce such a wonderfully rich sound at this diminutive size. I'm not going to make any claims about it sounding just like the original Klon, what I will say though is that this is my favourite default Klon-typ / Transparent tone, and that the control pots have such a vast dynamic range, that I don't feel that I'm missing out on 3-band EQ on this occasion. I can dial in a huge range of tones - and the core warmth and richness holds well throughout the range. It's rare that I move from a full-featured pedal to one with fewer options and controls, and the Tumnus Deluxe is certainly more versatile and has more range and gain in particular. But I still somehow prefer the core tone and timbre of this smaller pedal!
This was originally the OCD / Crunch style slot, but I use other pedals for that now (TWE-1) - although the Pantheon can also crunch up too if necessary - I just have a thing for harmonic overdrives at the moment, and intend to get a number of additional pedals here - for judicious rotation, including the Greer Amps Southland, Hudson Electronics Sidecar and ThorpyFX Gunshot Overdrives. Right at this very minute I am using the Basic Audio Futureman quite a lot in this slot - and the Hamstead Intergalactic Driver is of course also amazing.
So my original pedal in this slot was the Mooer Blues Mood, then I switch to Boss JB-2 Angry Driver and am now back with the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Keeley Freak Fuzz + Phat Mod edition - for all kinds of cool enhancements to the core tone. This slot is intended for both Blues Drivers and Bluesbreakers - so I intend to have a few of each for rotation.
This was actually my first proper waiting list pedal, and it took as long as promised to arrive, which was still probably a touch too long for me - I am rather impatient I suppose. In any case it has a huge range of really dynamic sparkly overdrive and distortion and can be tuned nicely both by gain and guitar volume dials. I use this quite a lot currently for more crunchy overdrive and lighter distortion - but you can easily tune it to be more smooth and Dumble-esque. The various dials and switches may seem a touch odd to start with - but they give you a sort of 3-band EQ in the end just by very different means. This is a really dynamic and crisp drive.
This is actually primarily used as a 3rd boost in the chain - often on top of the Mercury IV - for more saturation and attack. And less occasionally for its second / 'favourite' voicing - a sort of singing 80's style hair-metal tone! Also attached is a Strymon Mini Switch (13b) for even more volume boost if and when required (rare). The main boost here is set to work very much as a Treble Booster - and there is some shaping to the Bass and Treble here too. This is a really versatile pedal which can do all manner of amp-like tones - and I switch up the second 'favourite' voicing fairly regularly, though more often I just come back to the 80's (light) metal voicing that it has for most of the time.
I was sad to have to oust my much loved Empress MultiDrive - but the Origin Effects RevivalDrive gives me slightly more dynamics and texture and its two channels offer slightly more versatility in the Drive/Distortion range - while lacking the Fuzz channel of the MultiDrive. This pedal sits circa midway along my chain and has a fairly sizeable slot / footprint assigned to it - so it also doubles up as the slot for any of my larger size drive and fuzz pedals - as you can see below. For the most part - say 95% of the time - the RevivalDrive really owns this slot.
This is a really dynamic and lively sounding pedal which actually sort of overlaps both Marshall Plexi-ish and Boosted Vox tones - I tend to have it set toward the latter, and it gives me a slightly different voicing to the one I have on the Left Channel of my RevivalDrive. I've also been rotating somewhat sporadically with 2 of my other Bearfoot FX pedals - the Model Hs (HiWatt/Dumble) and the Sparkling Yellow OD3 (Tweed/Blonde/Plexi).
The Elements has become pretty much a permanent feature in this slot - there's something about this really amp-like overdrive/distortion that I like - and I use it a lot. It gets very occasionally switched out for the Bogner Burnley - but it's in its slot for pretty much 99% of the time.
The Super Crunch Box is still my Brown Sound pedal of choice and has really only been swapped out on a couple of occasions by the Suhr Riot - otherwise this super-versatile pedal really owns this slot. I may at some stage add some swappable alternatives for rotation - but there's really no priority on that.
This is another pedal which has never been budged from its slot - I use it as a dedicated Fuzz - with the Boost and Overdrive flavours adding texture to my chosen fuzz tone/s. I have no intention of replacing this.
This is actually my main rotational fuzz slot - with some 30+ different fuzz pedals vying for attention. I am currently mostly rotating the Ayahuasca, Bat Fuzz, Esplora and Termofuzz - but all of the following get a look-in:
This is the 4th and final fuzz slot - a sort of 'Rat' / fuzzstortion style slot which has seen the Dr Scientist Frazz Dazzler in pretty much permanent residence. In fact currently my favourite 4 fuzzes in the chain are tending to be the Sputnik I, Chase Bliss Brothers, Abracadabra Ayahuasca Trem-Fuzz and Dr Scientist Frazz Dazzler - exactly as pictured. Those all sound very different, and provide a rather excellent variety of fuzz tones.
Like it's yellow brother - the Riverside, the Sunset is mostly used as 2 separate voicings - a sort of down-stream treble boost, and a kind of punchy mid-rangey distortion as its second channel voice - and both of which of course combine nicely. It's another really versatile pedal that I really don't see myself shifting, but I would quite like to have a couple of alternative backups here for occasional rotation.
This is one of only 2 mini pedals remaining in the chain, and it has a phenomenal range for such a small pedal. I run the Alchemy-modded version with external switches at 18V and tune the pedal to a sort of dark driven Plexi tone perfect for Led Zeppelin style tones - the way I like them of course. I have frequently thought about ousting this for a larger pedal - but really don't feel the need as it does exactly what I want - much like the Decibelics does exactly what I want while not having the same range or versatility as the larger Tumnus Deluxe.
This slot used to be home to the Friedman BE-OD, but I prefer the REVV G3 in most ways - it is slightly tighter and more percussive sounding and has greater range via it's 3-position voicing switch. The Friedman is still excellent and does of course get a look-in every now and then, but of late it's been very much the REVV G3.
It took me a while to get a handle on this one, but it's no doubt the most versatile high-gain machine on the market - with its dual channels and all those dials and switches - I run a heavy more open sounding JCM800 style distortion on the left, and a much tighter closed and percussive sounding voicing on the right channel. I can't see anything shifting this one long-term.
I initially acquired this one as an alternative occasional swap-out for the Empress Heavy above, but I so liked it that I gave it its own slot - this pedal easily has the most low-end capacity of any of my high gain pedals. I may acquire the forthcoming Horizon Devices Apex PreAmp at some stage for very occasional swap-out. But I feel the Megalith Delta is overall more my style, and slightly more versatile.
This is my currently most 'extreme' distortion - with a really cutting punchy tone. I could conceivably dial the REVV3, Empress Heavy and Megalith Delta up to similar levels, but the VH4-2 is currently the one dialled in with the highest gain in my rig. I am of a mind to acquire the new Diezel Herbert at some stage too - as well as the KMA Wurm (HM-2 clone) and the RockFabrik Mind Abuse - which are all excellent alternatives.
This is still my Noise Gate of choice - I briefly tried an ISP Decimator II G-String, but did not get on well with it, and upgraded from my previous stock NS-2 to an upgraded components Alchemy Audio modded one - which will probably be my gate of choice for ever more - although I do intend to check out the TCE Sentry at some stage - but it's such a low priority it will likely never happen.
I really love this post-dirt EQ - allows me to fine-tune all the drives, fuzzes and distortions and add some top-end back into the chain which has been likely lost along the way - obviously because of the volume of pedals and resultant length of cables involved therefore too. I really like the easy visual reference and quick adaptability of these slider-style EQ's which puts them above parametric EQ's for me - ideally I could do with a multi-band parametric EQ featuring circa 7 sliders with range and Q dials attached to each.
The first of my analogue modulations which I can't see myself swapping ay time soon - hardly any of the others come close to this feature set - tap-tempo etc. - and I really happen to like how this one sounds. There is a newer version - first in orange, but now in black livery, and it swaps the volume dial for 'Sag' - for more pronounced warble. While I am still quite partial to a volume dial on most modulation pedals!
This is likely the only Chase Bliss pedal under any sort of reasonable threat - as I have decided that I will at some stage acquire an EQD Pyramids Flanger - which offers up a few more / different options and full stereo separation. Otherwise I really like the Spectre, a real pity that so few people bought into it and Joel Korte was forced to discontinue it. In any case I have two other really cool flangers that I can already alternate around.
Still my favourite tremolo by a whisker - I still think it and the Stone Deaf Tremotron are just about still at the head of the pack - with the Mastro Valvola LFO likely my next one to try. I've always had a soft spot for the Strymon Flint too - which I will likely get at some stage!
I really have plenty of phaser options already, and for various reasons the Chase Bliss is still my number one choice overall - I would though quite like to add a Zvex Vibrophase into the mix at some stage.
I see so many people using the Mini Vent II nowadays I often wonder if I'm missing out. I still really like the Roto Choir - even though it's missing a couple of controllable parameters for me. I will likely get a Mini Vent II and Strymon Lex eventually sometime anyway - and then I can rotate at will. As it stands the Roto Choir gives me everything I might want and I'm not really caught up in which of these is the most authentic towards the original Leslie sound - I just care what sounds it delivers to my rig, how great sounding they are and how versatile overall.
However good the Strymon Mobius is, I still mostly prefer the Boss MD-500 by some margin. When I was first thinking about introducing the Zoia I thought it might become the primary pedal for this slot, but have decided that this Boss is just too essential, so I will be accommodating both. I may eventually acquire a Keeley Super Mod Workstation too just for occasional rotation with the current 99% MD-500 and 1% Mobius roster.
Seems like I've been waiting for this one to materialise forever. Still nothing official on any of Empress's sites / social media etc. since Winter Namm. Prymaxe seemed to indicate this was imminent via a recent listing on its site, while Andertons still indicates sometime in November. I'm not exactly holding my breath, but I feel this is a certain shoe-in for me - and will mean I need to acquire less individual experimental effects once I move to my more experimental phase!
Still my favourite Delay Workstation by a country mile. The only other one I would seriously consider acquiring currently is the also Dual Engine Boss DD-500 - so I could finally get my hands on my much loved Tera Echo ambient echoverb sound again. In the meantime I'm waiting for everyone else to catch up with Boss and Empress - possibly Source Audio will be next in line with a Dual Engine updated version of their Nemesis, but there's nothing else currently on the grapevine. Free The Tone's Beat-sensing microphones are a cool feature, but for a home player like me not really essential - I would expect future delay workstations though to appear with both Dual Engine DSPs and some sort of beat-sensing component - and probably some smarter looping functions too.
The interface and over-reliance on mobile app initially put me of this device, and I as somewhat justified. However I improved the control topology immeasurably via addition of Barn3 OX9 enclosure and Tesla mini switch - giving me proper workstation controls for the unit now. Although I was totally justified about the main control interface which is rather limited and fiddly. The way to do it though it do all your tweaking on the app - and just save everything as presets, then the H9 makes a lot of sense. I do though tend to use it mostly for its TimeFactor and Space functions, I've not really gone far yet with ModFactor or PitchFactor algorithms, and I don't get on particularly with the various drive, distortion and fuzz algorithms - I've probably not spent as much time with this device as I need to, but I will get there, there is no doubting it potential - albeit there are some limitations also vs the more modern everything Dual Engine DSP workstations.
I seem to really like Reverbs, and I will very likely add two more before long - the GFI System Specular Tempus and Meris Mercury 7. As it stands the Boss RV-500 is probably the most capable of mine, the Ventris the easiest to get along with, and the Strymon the easiest to achieve glorious tones on as the defaults are so well tuned-in. I can see the Ventris though being my overall pedal of choice here for some time - but we'll see. I would probably also immediately snap up an Empress Dual Engine Reverb or MKII if they ever get around to making one.
As per previous occasions I really don't seem to be using this pedal as much as I should - not really sure what the matter is, but I'm always on the look for a clever stereo looper - possibly with a drum-machine built-in and some extra clever editing, modulating, quantising and switching ability! I also really like the look of the Hexe reVOLVER which does a slightly different kind of thing - but is truly amazing if used judiciously.
Weirdly enough this is the safest pedal in the chain (i.e. least likely to be swapped). I've said before that this is pixie dust for stereo rigs and I still stand by that. It does magical things to my sound, and I could not / would not every want to be without it. This is my absolute definitive always on always there pedal - it just makes everything sound a whole heap better - and unfortunately does not achieve the same results on mono - which is why so many people are still mystified by its cultish appeal!
So where I am in my musical education / evolution is graduating and evolving from basic '12 degrees of saturation' more towards my specific favourite tones. I can see that I don't won't necessarily need all the different boost, overdrive, fuzz and distortion pedals I currently have, and will will probably move onto more granular and specific experimental tones - not necessarily Henry Kaiser level experimentation, probably more Dennis Kayzer.
I do like a lot of the weirder sounding pedals, and have barely scratched the surface of what is available to me there. I am currently still a 'Fuzz Fanatic' also love Overdrives and Distortions, so I need that to settle somewhat but I feel that the next part of the journey will involve greater degrees of experimentation. I'm still very rhythm, groove and melody-led - so even though I do like to get weird - it is rarely too far removed from what most people would consider to be music.
Too much experimental music still sounds somewhat like an alien orchestra warming up and that' definitely not where I'm going. I will need to come up with a whole new topology for that! What is clear though is that I will start to move away from the more generic pedals - which I am already starting to have plenty of in my collection. I reckon the next phase will be a lot more hit and miss - while I've been very fortunate otherwise in my pedal acquisition strategy - with not a single dud amongst my collection - all my pedal have significant merit! Which means I must be doing something right...