I've been thinking again and as usual that means I'm getting philosophical and a little grumpy... all this thinking has led me to the question - "Once digital modelling has won and there a no longer any amps/effects to model, what happens then?"
So, right now you are probably thinking "Another blog from a guy who works in the analogue pedals markets slamming digital modelling... *yawn*... here we go again" but hopefully after reading this you'll see that I'm not here to whinge and moan, just to maybe shed a little light on to what could happen, once SkyNet goes live.
Before I get going I need to tell that I absolutely love modelling gear. I've spent countless hours playing with them and always had a truly majestic time. I owned what was possibly the first full featured modelling unit, the Roland GP-100 (check out this old video manual from Nick Cooper, the guy who demo'd it to me back in the '90's, which lead to me instantly buying it) and it was without a doubt absolutely perfect for what I needed at the time. I don't expect it will sound as good as I remember, but in my head it was, and still is, awesome. At the time I was playing in a "The Police" tribute plan and that unit, powered by a Marshall 9100 all valve power amp into a Marshall 1960 4x12" was devastatingly effective. Some of my happiest memories of playing live were with that band... Moving forward 20 years I'm lucky enough to be able to play with some of the more contemporary units as well, everything from the Boss GT-100 to the Kemper Profiler (or as I like to call it, the Haunted Toaster) and have a passing knowledge of the Fractual AxeFx. I think they are all amazing units and if I was a richer man, I'd have and use them all with pride. And yes, if anyone from Yamaha is reading this, please send me a Line 6 Helix, that thing is amazing - if I had a hat on right now I'd tip it in your general direction.
However, as much as I love them, I have to also admit that the whole modelling thing really really annoys me. It's not so much that they exist, it's when they are called "the future of guitar tone" I start to see red. How many times have you heard "Man, I bought an AxeFX, I sold everything I had, I don't need anything else, everything else is pointless". If you are anything like me, you'd have heard that hundreds of times. But, you see, the thing is and the question I always ask is this, if the modelling devices become so cheap and so good that they then force the analogue guys out of business, who the hell are the modellers going to model?
The 'conventional' musical instrument industry is currently amazing... I'm going to avoid the obvious route to talk about effects, but instead I'm going to bring amps into the conversation. There are companies out there that are slaying the market with new and exciting products... From Mike Fortin who not only makes amps under his own name but also at Randall; to Daniel Klein at Port City and everyone in between (I could list them here but I'm certain you get the idea). New and exciting definitions in tone are being forged everyday, new standards of hi gain, medium gain, rock amps, clean amps and every other kind are here, right now in 2015 and it's really exciting... Imagine what it will be like in 2, 5 or 10 years time. I literally cannot wait to hear them.
Bringing it back to the subject matter, from what I can see the modellers are not creating anything new, their entire sales pitch is to recreate everything and put it in one place. For the touring/gigging musician this is fantastic, but what about in terms of the future of tone, where does it leave it? In an ideal world people will see that the modelling stuff has purpose, real purpose and has an extremely valuable place in our industry but; should it be classed as the future? Yes it should, and rightly so BUT ONLY PART OF IT! Everything has a purpose and everything has a job, let's not get things confused here. If you like, you can look at it this way - If modelling had existed in the 70's and all future instrumentation development had stopped, we'd not have the JCM800. We'd not have the modd'd JCM800 and so on... It's all very well having an app of ten different 70's Marshall's in it, but personally I'd take the modd'd JCM800 one! Now, apply that to amps of today and what they will lead to in the future.
I guess what I am saying is that modelling stuff is fantastic, buy it, love it and use it. But please, if you have any sense of excitement for what may be happening in 5, 10 or 20 years time, also keep buying amps and pedals from your favourite builders. Because if you do, they can then produce new and exciting instruments, new aspects of tone that you'd not yet thought of that can then go into the future modelling units... Modelling is a tool, not a total solution and we should work really hard to keep it in check a little. They aren't the future, they are a convenient stroll down memory lane with zero concept of the future. As you may have guessed, I really don't want to see the day that instrument SkyNet goes live.
The Velvet Fuzz was designed to to make it possible for a player to get great, cleassic fuzz tones into a clean amp. Many fuzzes excel when run into an already cooking amp, but they can fall short when running into a clean platform. Not to mention that some can be very temperamental depending on temperature changes and what signal it’s receiving.
Our favorite part of the Velvet is the Big/Tight setting, and the adaptability it provides. It really makes it so you can take only the Velvet and have it fulfill any fuzz needs you’d run into in most situations. The Big position will give a great old school saggy fuzz tones that are fat and wooly, where the Tight setting will give smoother, singing fuzz that borders on distortion that works great for covering Johnson, Gilmour, and even Bonamassa. It also cleans up exceptionally well with the guitars volume knob as well.
Volume: Though it’s pretty self-explanatory, this knob controls the volume of the output of the pedal. And this fuzz unit is no slouch, it gets LOUD. Loads of level on tap to add a slight bit of fuzz and boost to an already cooking amp. The level has to be compensated depending on where the Fuzz knob is set. When the fuzz is low, the level knob will have to be run a little higher to achieve unity. With the fuzz set low, the level can be backed off of to match unit output. This works well with a dirty amp, but it really excels into a clean format as as well.
Fuzz: This knob dictates how much fuzz and clipping starts happening on your signal, and I can promise you there's plenty of it. It can go from just a hint of fuzzy grit, all the way to full-bore cranked aggressive clipping (almost sputtery on the Big setting). Fully counterclockwise, it will give you a touch of fuzz, but allows the original tone of your guitar to shine through. The big thing to remember is that the level must be set really high to achieve unity when the fuzz is all the way down. It works great for having a boost and rolling the guitar volume knob back for rhythm, then turning the guitars volume back up to add that fuzzy sustain. At 9am on the knob, the clipping becomes more apparent, adding a depth to it with added sustain and grit. At noon, there’s loads of Fuzz on tap for early Hendrix stuff, and the sustain can hold for a considerable amount of time. Noon would likely be plenty of fuzz for a lot of people, but Brian likes to go all out. At 3pm, it’s into full on fuzz mode, with loads of sustain and clipping going on. You can hit a note and it will sustain for what seems like forever. This knob changes how it reacts based on what switch position is selected. In Big mode, it acts much more in a warmer, wilder feel with the fuzz getting woollier as the knob is turned up, all the way to the point of being a saggy, completely fuzz-laden wall of sound with very minimal original signal coming out. On the Tight setting, it acts more as a fuzzy distortion of sorts (works great for Gilmour riffs). As the gain goes up, it adds loads of sustain, but retains the character of the original signal much more than the Big setting.
Brightness: This knob controls the overall high-end content that’s happening on the fuzz signal. Fully counter-clockwise is much more subdued and woollier (less high-end content coming through). It can get quite bassy. Clockwise will introduce more highs in and add some cut and depth into the signal. I will say that this circuit is very dark, so rarely do I run the Brightness less than Noon unless I’m playing on an inherently bright amp.
Big/Tight Switch: This switch is what dictates the flavor of fuzz is being produced. On the Big setting, it’s much darker and saturated, indicative of those classic fuzz tones from the 60’s and 70’s going into a hot amp. It can go very over the top and crazy wooly at the top of the gain range. On the Tight setting, it’s not as wooly and retains a clarity and note definition, even with the fuzz all of the way up. The Tight setting is often thought of as distortion-ish, and that’s definitely right. It takes the parts of fuzz that people love and refines them to retain note definition and smooth out the whole tone of the fuzz.
- The Velvet works with both Single Coil and Humbucker guitars. It’s a bit fatter and warmer when using humbuckers, and the fuzz can get a little heavier because of the higher output of the humbuckers.
- The Velvet is suggested to go first in the chain, but it’s not nearly as touchy when it comes to buffers like many fuzzes are. The best practice is to try it first in your chain, then try it in your dirt chain and see what sounds best to you.
- As stated above, the Velvet is very reactive to the guitars volume knob. Rolled back it’s more tame with less fuzz on the note, and then for solos roll the volume back up and you've got a plethora of fuzz glory at your disposal.
- Be sure to check out the video at the very bottom for a cover of a very popular EJ song using the Velvet and a guitar and amp combo that are nothing like what the original artist used.
- 5″ x 4.5″ x 1.5″ (63.5mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – height excludes knobs and switches
- Power draw: 23mA – Requires negative center tip barrel plug or 9v battery internally
- There’s only been one version of the Velvet. Quite happy with how it turned out to begin with ;-)
One great thing about the Velvet is it’s adaptability (as mentioned earlier). Eric Johnson has one of the most identifiable fuzz tones on the planet, and it can be tough nailing those tones without considerable expense. We wanted to see if we could get his live sound with a completely different amp and guitar. What do you think?
When our guitar strings wear out – we change them. Old strings need changed for a ton of reasons – they won’t stay in tune because they are overly stretched – they break – they lose their sparkle – and for you non-coated string players – they rust! Bad/ old strings can affect your performance and your tone – big time!
But many of us – myself included – are not as diligent with changing the tubes in our amps. Now, I’m not saying that you need to change your amp’s tubes as much as often as you change your guitar strings – but they shouldn’t be neglected and should be changed for similar reasons.
Older tubes can cause your “sparkle” and crunch to go away. If you are anything like me – you crank up your amp to louder volumes and really give your tubes a work out. Doing this over time, combined with turning your amp on and off frequently will simply stretch those tubes thin - so to speak– and slowly but surely your tone starts to go away. Honestly, I am often surprised how much tone I have lost in my amp until I change my tubes.
I was blown away this weekend when I changed out the Tubes in my Blues Jr. My tubes were starting to crackle and pop and my tone was darker and muddier than I like. So – I swapped out the old JJ’s for a new set of JJ’s and BOOM – blown away. MY TONE was back. Sparkle was intact and drive was sounding better than ever!
I shied away from changing my tubes – for probably longer than I should have – because I thought it might cost a lot. We are lucky to currently live in an almost renaissance of guitar gear (a plethora of great products and great prices all the time) – and tubes are more affordable than ever. For my Blues Jr. – I got a complete set of JJ’s (power tubes and pre-amp tubes) for just under $60 before shipping. If you change your tubes once every 2 years – that’s only a $30 dollar investment towards your tone every year. Now – My Super Reverb costs much more to re-Tube than my Blues Jr. – but when break down the costs over a couple years – it’s definitely worth it in the quest for maintaining your tone. (That’s what I tell the wife anyway.) Until next time tone chasers!
Endorsements. A hot topic... But first of all, let me answer the question you just asked yourself. Part 2? Where is part 1? Well, part 1 is written but I had to get it signed off by the management of another Dave and it appears to be lost in their bottomless pit of administration. I hope one to day to be able to publish it... it was all about approaching companies for artist deals... Like I said, hopefully one day!! So, part 2 is out before part 1 and just like part 1, part 2 is all about a guy called Dave...
Before I get into that, I have to tell you that in the 5 or so years I've been working here I have always been involved in artist relations. Sometimes for the international market, sometimes in the U.S. market, sometimes both - it's changed a lot over the years, but I've always been part of it and I've seen it all over the years. Most importantly, I've seen the market change and the players within it. The best way to describe an artist deal with Wampler Pedals is to split the basics down into four sections. It’s hard to keep the information within them, as they cross over, but hopefully you will get the idea!
1. What is an artist deal and how do I get one?
This is the golden question, so I'll be matter of fact. An artist deal (or as we like to call them, endorsements) is where the artist and the company benefit from a mutually beneficial relationship. We rely on the artist to continually use our gear (when appropriate) in order to give credibility to the product and make it reach a wider audience. In a nutshell, it's about building our, and the artists, reputation. The hope is that someone is so good, and their tone is so good, people who like them will buy the gear to in the hope they will be able to recreate it. Let’s face it, at one time or another we’ve all owned something that a famous person uses because they sound awesome… The artist can be someone that was historically extremely popular and still has a large and dedicated fanbase, be someone who is currently riding a wave of popular success or someone I consider to be an investment in the future - getting in on the ground floor so to speak - that is the hardest one to gauge and the one I have the hardest time when letting someone down on. To be honest, it's a gamble. In some cases I've hit the jackpot and in others some people have been quietly removed from the website without fuss and never mentioned again! ;)
In order to obtain an artist deal you have to approach me (I rarely approach people to be honest) with ether a plan or a set of facts. It's that simple. Within the approach there has to be something like a history of recorded output/releases, or a schedule of future confirmed recordings/releases, total internet reach (social media and other factors, for example if you are recording/writing pieces for magazines or teach online to a large subscriber rate), the gear you currently use, a break down of why you want us to commit to you (preferably because you love our products because if you've never played one of our pedals before you'll be instantly dismissed)... Quite the list! Obviously, you don't have to tick every box (but it's better if you do) but you have to at least tick several. The as yet so far unpublished Part 1 of this blog covered this extensively so I won’t go into massive detail, but you have to make the approach personal and attractive.
So, let's meet Dave. He is Dave Weiner. Many of you will know the name but it is likely that many of you won't. Dave is a classic example of one of our artists (and many other company's, he has an impressive list of companies he has to balance relations with) because he’s an incredibly hard working musician and is a dedicated tone chaser. Basically, Dave just loves great tone. Now, Dave came to us a few years back because he had played and loved the Paisley Drive - it was simple email, no fuss, just on point. Within it were Dave’s credentials which are as follows... He owns and runs Guitopia (formerly Riff of the Week) that is the original (and in my opinion the best) weekly internet based tutorial package for guitar players. He has 3 solo albums out, he’s a graduate of MIT and has been the guitar player in Steve Vai's touring band for 16 years. I'm guessing that right now you don't need to think too long and hard about this one, because when he came to us, we certainly didn't.
What do you get?
So, what does Dave get? First of all he has the honour of saying he's a Wampler Artist. Yep, that was a bit of a joke, I was giggling as I wrote it. :) In reality Dave is entitled to buy the gear at a discounted rate (and there goes the theory that when you "sign" an artist deal you receive a box full of Wampler's, because you don't). You get a place on the artist page (that reminds me, I need to update the site as some are missing or need removing), and you get the opportunity to be promoted by us when you do something substantial (the last one isn't always appropriate because with some of the more obscure artists out there it just wouldn't work, but it doesn't mean we don't stand by them, it's just not as visual) and you also can be featured in some of our promotional stuff. Dave's been on much of our marketing materials, videos and the like over the years - He doesn't get paid for those, but dare I say it, there was a lot of promotion for him and his primary business, Guitopia, along the line. In return, Brian has appeared as a guest on a live web chat on Guitopia - it kind of goes round in circles. So, when it's all written down like that, there isn’t much to speak of fiscally. He saves a few bucks on products should he buy one - but if I were his accountant, I'd say that there isn't actually much point... But, it’s not about that - it’s about maintaining a relationship with the company that makes the products you use. On the flip side of this, and to compare to others, to many artists just to be an "endorsed artist" is more than enough for them, they can put our logo on their website and use our gear all the time and that's that. It’s all they want. I'm a little amazed and flattered when that happens, but that's how it goes.
What do we get?
This is the big one and the one you have to sell the hardest when you contact us. It's obvious what we get from Dave, on the Steve Vai Story of Light tour that lasted 2.5 years Dave used 2 Ego compressors from the time he got them early in the tour (maybe even at the start, I can't remember) until the very end. He also swapped in and out some of our drive pedals throughout the tour as well (typical tone chaser, always tweaking). During this tour there were endless photos taken, gear reviews done (of both him and Steve) that showed our products (I’ve also heard from many many people since the live CD and DVD came out that Dave’s tone was much more organic and natural than Steve’s). Dave makes videos every week for Guitopia and quite often they have our products in them, we get... and here it is again, great exposure from him. He has helped us grow our brand. There have been times as well when Dave’s dropped me a message that has begun “I’ve got a great idea for a pedal…"
How does that apply to other players? Well, for a start, you have to give us access to an audience we've not tapped into yet. And that audience HAS to be a guitar playing audience that wants to buy new gear... This would be a classic time to mention Tom Quayle - he opened up the largely untapped modern fusion world directly to our products. A classic win/win situation. So, when approaching us, give us a run down of what you can offer us. because fundamentally, if you look at this cynically, the only question you need to answer is "How will the relationship with you benefit our company?". If you can offer us something we can't get elsewhere, then it's likely you are going to win. If you can't, then you will be disappointed.
How do you/we maintain that deal?
This is the one that is almost impossible to answer. Quite often, the onus falls on the artist to maintain. It all depends on their visibility. Our whole existence as a company is to provide tone and we are constantly bringing out new products, so you could say our part of the relationship develops daily… let’s face it, if we stopped producing pedals that sound great and started bring out ones that sucked, the artists wouldn’t want to be associated with us. We also maintain the relationship with the artist (when appropriate) within marketing materials (this could be on social media, at trade shows, etc), and there is always that presence on our website. Again, that's enough for some people, and that's always been a delight to me because they love the tone we provide so much that's all they want. They literally want nothing else from us, just to be associated. But, as with all guitar players, G.A.S. is an real issue and sometimes artists fall in love with other products, those products may be from another company like ours (which encourages us to be better), they might revert back into the player that just uses guitar/cable/amp (most of us have been there), or they might discover the joys of digital modelling (which is happening a lot, and to be honest, when they do, they are so fascinated by it their social media is all about it, endless posts and videos… it can leave us out in the cold, but if history is anything to go by, they often come back because it’s so much more organic, If they don’t, well… I don’t know yet, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it). So, let's get back to Dave... Dave does demo's for us now and then, when a pedal we release suits him and his style of playing. Sometimes, he says he can't do it because he is too backed up, fair enough - but... here is the thing, being backed up may mean he has promised to do a demo video for another of the companies that endorse him. When this happens, Dave messages me and tells me it is happening. I guess the point here is communication, mutual respect and an understand that we don't own him and vice versa. The ideal is that we both grow as a brand, and grow together AND separately.
Conclusion (sorry, the academic in me can't resist)
The thing to remember when approaching a company to become an endorsed artist, you have to offer something (and I'll list things people have used as an incentive for me) that others do not. Having endorsements from other companies isn't a consideration, having a You Tube channel with millions of hits of you playing SRV covers isn't going to work, being a successful demo artist isn't enough, offering exposure for free gear certainly isn't going to get you anything, winning an award for the fastest player in Hungary (a title I've been unable to verify) isn't enough, being given a standing ovation one time by Guthrie Govan is a no no, starting the email Dear Mr Keeley and mentioning how much you love JHS pedals (copy and paste fail)... I could list many many examples but I won’t - the thing to remember about artist relations is at that very moment of someone new and exciting landing in my inbox, is one of the very best moments in this job, purely because the potential for excitement can be infinite.
The Faux Tape Echo was designed to give the great feel of those old vintage tape delays, but without the hassle of the maintenance involved with those old units. Those old units often need the tape replaced over time or the delay quality would degrade (and it’s increasingly hard to find and expensive now), and sometimes there were issues with consistency gig after gig.
Our favorite part of the FTE is the Shade knob, and how it reacts with the level knob. The shade knob helps accentuate whether the repeats have a warmer, more analog feel, or a more pronounce, brighter tone. Combined with the level knob, it allows the player to dial in exactly how much delay they want in their signal, from warm, barely noticeable light repeats (faux reverb almost) to bright, hi-fi sounding repeats.
Repeats: This knob dictates how many repeats come after your original signal. It can go from 1 repeat to pure droning, having a significant amount of repeats on tap before it runs off. Fully counter-clockwise will give 1 repeat, where going up around 9am will start to get around 2 with the faintest start of a 3rd. Around 3pm it will start to drone a bit, allowing you to play and set a base note or tonality and play over that, but without going into full oscillation. Above 3pm is there trails repeat off for a considerable amount of repeats and the light grit from tape saturation come into play. With the repeats maxed and the shade knob on the brighter side, it can go into full oscillation (where the frequency can be adjusted by turning the echo knob. It's really a lot of fun :-) ). WARNING: As it starts to oscillate, turn the level down or else it will get very loud, very fast.
Level: The level control dictates how much of the delay signal is blended in with the original signal. It can go from non-existent to actually being louder than the original note. It works wonders to set the delay how you want it, and you can adjust the level to where the repeats are barely audible, turning into a faux reverb. At 9am, you’re looking at the slightest amount of a subtle delay behind your signal, adding a depth to your tone. As you turn the level up to 11am-12 it will start becoming more pronounced. At this level your original tone will still shine through and stay really pristine. Up around 2pm approximately, the delay signal is equally as loud as your original signal (great for rhythmic dotted 8th Edge-ish stuff). The thing that we like about it is that it never gets in the way of your original tone. The tone stays pristine, and the repeats have that tape decay as the repeats trail off. Fully clockwise will give you a slightly more pronounced delay signal than your original signal.
Shade: This control affects the delay signal only, not the original signal. Counter-clockwise will have a darker, more analog tone to the repeats, where clockwise will give a brighter, more out front tone to the repeats. This is one of the magic parts of the pedal for us. To add a bit of mood and ambiance, just roll the shade knob back to around 9am. The repeats will be warm and have low-mid presence that just adds depth to your signal. Around Noon the delay tone is pretty much the same as your base signal. 3pm will give a noticeable presence on the top end, giving it a much more hi-fi sound, with a punchy feel that works for rhythmic comping.
Echo (and tap footswitch): This knob controls the amount of time from when the original note is played and the first repeat to occurs. This circuit is capable of up to 800ms, but because of the delay chip, as the time gets above 600ms there will be some grit from pushing the chip to its absolute limits. At around 7:30am on the knob, it works great to add that old slap sound from recording studios in the 50’s at around 50ms, just adding a slight vintage feel with the shade on the warmer side. Around 9am it works great as a country slapback, where around 10:30 or so works well for that Edge-y dotted 8th stuff. Noon is just perfect for added depth and adding feel to it (roughly 300-350ms, which is where most analog delays go to). Around 3pm it gets into the longer delay times and can be great for ambient noodling or mood music.
Faux Tape Reel (engaged/bypass switch):
Movement: This dictates how much modulation or “tape warble” occurs on the repeats. This only affects the delay signal, not the original signal. At around 9am, it’s very subtle and barely noticeable. Noon will have a more pronounced amount of modulation but still staying clear, and around 3pm will be full on modulation with the “detuning” effect, though still staying musical.
Sway: This knob controls the speed at which the modulation occurs, and is very dependent on where the Movement knob is set. At 9am, the modulation will occur slowly with a bit of sweetness. At Noon, you can hear it moving at a more aggressive rate with some extra frequency change on the notes. At 3pm it’s fully swaying and the delay signal will give a very “dizzying” sound with the movement rate up.
- 5” x 4.5” x 1.5″ (88.9mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – **height excludes knobs and switches
- Power draw: 40mA - Negative center barrel tip only. Internal batter connector for a standard 9v battery.
- There have been a few different versions of the FTE, but the biggest jump was moving from the version with no tap tempo to the version with tap tempo and full modulation controls. There very well might be some changes on the horizon as well…
G.A.S. is a popular acronym for Gear Acquisition Syndrome. It’s loosely defined as the inherent never-ending search for the elusive “perfect tone.” As guitar players, we constantly analyze our rigs and think about the songs we want to play and the next thing we want to try the next opportunity we have to pick up our axes. In the process of those thoughts, it can lead to several of the things listed below. I’ve broken it down into a few recognizable symptoms and a few causes for the onset of G.A.S. attacks. Do these seem familiar?
YouTube Overload: You've been on YouTube a lot. I mean A LOT. You've watched every demo from every major player on YouTube, and also some of the less-than-flattering ones done by amateur demo-er hopefuls.
Lack of Focus: This piece of gear is just stuck on the brain. You think about it while you're eating, you think about it while you're walking the dog, you think about it before you go to bed (or often can't go to sleep because of thinking about it). I doesn't really leave your mind totally.
Anxiousness: You're just overly excited for no explainable reason other than the idea of getting that new pedal/guitar/amp, or the remote possibility of pressing the purchase button on something you've been researching for quite awhile. "Should I do it?" will likely cross your mind at least 2 times.
Tunnel Vision: Gear is all you talk about, even to people who care absolutely nothing about gear. You find a way to bring up gear in a conversation hoping to steer the conversation towards guitar gear
Habitual Checking: You keep checking your email for a shipment notification. You check the shipping status at least twice daily. The expected date of arrival, you check the mail at least twice, and/or you check the window to see if the mail person is there.
Boredom: Lack of interest leads our minds to wander into the unknown. It could be a situation where you’re sitting at your desk at work on your lunch break, nothing exciting on social networks, nothing good on TV at home, etc.. The internet is more accessible now than it ever has been, so it’s a very simple step to jump on YouTube and proceed down the gear rabbit-hole. Most of the next few relate directly back to boredom, and it’s just an endless intertwined mess of gear lust.
Frustration: The fact that you feel like you've hit a brick wall in your playing and can't get past it. The urge to get better is there, but you feel like you're not making any progress with becoming better. The idea of getting new gear just might help kick-start your drive to play again. This honestly works sometimes, and other times it just circles around the more frustration.
Discontent with Current Gear: You’ve gotten to a point where you’ve tried to make a pedal or guitar or amp work for you, but it just doesn’t quite do what you want it to do. This is the most justifiable of the reasons. It’s understandable to want to upgrade if a piece of equipment isn’t suiting your needs. It could lead to finding something with better audio quality and tweakablity, or it could drive you to a completely new piece of gear that you never thought you’d use. The key is finding the balance between discontent and the next thing on the list:
Curiosity: Is the grass greener on the other side? Sometimes, YES! Sometimes, NO…. The idea of finding something that takes what you love and can improve on it is exciting. There’s always that question lingering as to whether something can be improved upon even more, even by the slightest bit. What better way to find out than to try? “Worst case scenario I don’t like it and I’ll return it for a refund or I’ll sell it.” – Says every person experiencing G.A.S., ever.
Peer Pressure: “Dude, this thing sounds awesome. You’ve gotta get one to try!” – Sound familiar? Could be your best friend, family member or even a thread on a gear forum, but someone is absolutely head over heels in love with their new pedal, and can’t recommend it enough. This can make you look into something that you don’t really need, but because it’s said to be so good, you’ve at least got to watch the demos. At this point there are three possibilities:
- It’s a pedal that you’re interested in sonically, and it starts the process off. Watching YouTube demos, reading reviews, asking questions to the people who own one, searching for a price, more YouTube videos to be sure, and finally purchase (or trade).
- It’s something you don’t really care anything about, but you’ll look up regardless because it’s something to do (back to the boredom and curiosity section). The question arises of “Wonder how it would sound with my rig?” or “That would be really interesting to write songs with.”
- You somehow miraculously escape and just look past it without another thought.
Excitement – The desire for this feeling is overwhelming. The idea of getting something new in the mail is exciting! The thrill of the purchase, then comes the dreaded wait that seems like takes an eternity. You check the shipment tracker and excitement only grows as they’re updated. Label created…..package picked up by carrier….in transit (from source location)….arrival at sorting facility (in your home state)….package out for delivery! You know what carrier it’s coming from, so you know what time that carrier usually delivers to the house. It edges closer and closer, and your nerves are on edge with excitement. The package arrives and the sense of joy and excitement is overwhelming, to the point where you can feel the nerves firing all over your body and you get those excited tingles. You can’t quite open the box fast enough, and then you just stare at it for a few minutes (guitar gear is typically really awesome/cool/pretty to look at). Pictures typically are taken, and straight to the woodshed you go.
A board full of gorgeous, G.A.S. -inducing gear. Photo courtesy of Michael Hecker
What is the solution to Gear Acquisition Syndrome? Honestly, there is no definite cure (apart from maybe continually buying more pedals from us :) ). It’s more of a mindset than something you can physically do (because it always stays in the back of your mind). Here are a few things to try when the GAS starts welling up inside of you:
- Put the phone down/turn the computer off: Simplest thing to do is to completely disconnect. If the demos aren’t available to be watched, then you can focus on other activities to keep your mind occupied.
- Learn a new song/riff: Another great way to deter from GAS it so bury yourself into learning a new song. I stuck with a challenge of learning one new thing every day, whether it was a riff from a song, a scale, a playing technique, etc.. Again, it goes back to keeping busy, and what better way to do that than improve your proficiency with your instrument.
- Tweak existing gear: You can try moving the order of your signal chain around, or test stacking one overdrive into another (and the opposite). See what it sounds like putting tremolo before dirt instead of after. Try seeing if you can find a unique sound at the highest range of the knobs. Experimentation will keep you from getting bored, and it will often lead to discovering new sounds you might not have found before.
Here’s my way of approaching G.A.S. that keeps me out of trouble. I look at the cost, and as long as I’m not dipping into savings, taking anything away from my family, or missing bills then it’s alright to do in moderation. Luckily the used gear market is pretty prevalent right now, along with excellent return programs at a lot of major stores (along with ordering direct from companies). It’s a good way to test out gear, and if you don’t like it return it for shipping costs. There are also companies out there that will let you try gear for a certain amount of time with a monthly subscription cost if you want to go that route. It’s possible to live with G.A.S. and not go broke. Balance is the key. If there's ever a doubt, just remind yourself that there are a lot worse things you could be doing with your time and money :-)
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go back to looking at delay’s….
Here is one of the most common questions we are asked at Wampler Pedals - "Can I run this pedal at 18v"?
As you may already know, I'm not one of the engineers in the company, I'm more on the marketing side so this post is not going to be full of nerd stuff, just the basics - I hope it will be everything you need to answer your questions about the amount of power you stick into your favourite Wampler to make it sound the best it can for you.
During the design stage of every Wampler, it is all done via a power adapter that is giving out a steady 9v. So, if you want to hear what Brian hears - take a telecaster, take a pedal, power it via a 9v supply and plug it into a Fender style amp (obviously, he uses other guitars and amps in the testing stage but these are the main reference point for him). To be honest, whenever I receive a new Wampler, that's what I always do. I try to hear it as he does, then I carry on to make it work for me with my preferred gear.
So, what is the actual benefit of running your pedal at a higher voltage? Firstly, you'll get an increase of overall volume - the output goes up (great when you are using your pedals to slam into the preamp of your amp to get more power and balls). Secondly, you'll get an increase of clean headroom. So, if you favourite dirt pedal is breaking up a little too quickly for you and you need the sweep to be a little more gradual, try putting the voltage up. As a reference point, when Tom Quayle is recording, he tends to run his Dual Fusion at 18v so he can have more control over the amount of gain.
There are certain types of pedal that don't like the voltage being increased from 9v. For example, the fuzz circuits in the Wampler range. So, the Velvet Fuzz and the Triple Wreck should be run at 9v (you can run the Triple Wreck at 18v but the boost control will sound absolutely awful). The Tumnus will be extremely unhappy if you try to put 18v into it as well. Part of that famous circuit is a thing called a charge pump that increases the voltage to 18v internally, it's one of the reasons the pedal has such a responsive sweep across the gain control. So, if you put 18v into the Tumnus, it will literally melt down!
- a quick note on Tumnus and other circuits like it, although you should always separate and isolate your analogue pedals from your digital when using a power supply, this is all the more relevant with pedals like the Tumnus. If you put a pedal like the TimeLine daisy chained to the Tumnus you get some really interesting, and not in a good way, noises come from it. There have been countless forum posts about this over the years! As a reference point, when Max wires up the boards for trade shows, he uses the Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2. Over here in the UK, I use the Carl Martin Pro Power 2. Each one performs perfectly and gives us consistent isolated power for the entire board.
Obviously, the benefits of running 18v is pointless on some pedals, for example, those with a digital element. Although most of our Faux range and the Latitudes have protections built in within them, you shouldn't run them any higher than the standard 9v. From the conversations I've had with Brian and Justin over the years, the actual circuits of these pedals run somewhere between 3.5v and 5v - the 9v input is brought down to the level they need to perform consistently. A lot of power supplies claim to be 9v but there is a small amount of difference in each one, so we bring them down to the level that will be perfect and completely regulated.
So, the list is this: The following are safe to run between 9v and 18v for an increase in clean headroom and increased output:
- Paisley Drive, Hot Wired, Dual Fusion, Black '65, Tweed '57, Plexi Drive (including the Deluxe), Thirty Something, Euphoria, Low Blow, Sovereign, cataPulp, Pinnacle(s), SLOstortion, Clarksdale, Triple Wreck (although the boost will sound terrible if you do) - Also included in here are some discontinued models: Plextortion, Cranked AC and OD, SuperPlex etc.
Can run at 18v, but all your get is an increase in volume:
- Ego Compressor and dB+
Please don't do it, nothing good will become of you doing it. Remember, 9v only unless you want to literally destroy the circuit within:
- Velvet Fuzz and Tumnus
You can do it, but it's pointless because Brian and Justin are waaaay too clever:
- Faux Tape Echo, Faux Spring Reverb, Faux Analog Echo, Latitude(s).
So, enjoy your pedals, enjoy tweaking them and enjoy seeing what the difference in power makes to them, but please, only do it to the ones that can take it!
*addition - if your pedal states "9-18v" on the casing (or manual), as a general rule this means that the pedal is OK to run between 9 and 18 volts, not either 9 or 18. You can count on every Wampler Pedals to follow this rule, but you should check with other manufacturers before doing so on their pedals.
The Pinnacle was designed to recreate that hot-rodded ’78 Marshall setup that Eddie Van Halen was using to achieve what’s now known as the “Brown Sound”. The key to obtaining that sound is breaking down what it actually is. It’s a Marshall flavor, but the clipping was so much more aggressive, and there was a bit of sag happening because EVH was pushing them past the breaking point on a consistent basis. A lot of time went into getting the clipping to be realistic and not overly noisy, but still allowing flexibility to work with all styles of music. Flexibility is the key word here. The Modern/Vintage switch was added, along with the contour to dial in the gain exactly where you would want it.
Our favorite part about the Pinnacle is the flexibility. It’s designed to give the brown sound (which is does in spades, regardless of using single coils or humbuckers), but it’s capable of far more than that. It’s really the perfect pedal to cover a majority of the tones that came out of 80’s rock and metal, including Van Halen, Guns n’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Ratt, Dokken among many others. It can also go from alt-rock chunkiness to pop-punk downstrokes, searing lead tones like Satriani and Vai use, all the way to heavy, scooped-sounding metal. It reacts very well to adjusting the volume on the guitar. Just roll the volume back a bit and it cleans up, but still retains that bite and presence for rhythm work, then roll the volume back up for full on searing leads.
Level: This controls the overall output of the Pinnacle. There’s a considerable amount of volume on tap for boosting an already cooking amp. This (along with most of our other pedals) works directly with the gain knob. As the gain knob goes up, the volume will need to be reduced to reach unity. With the gain lower, the level will have to be raised to reach unity. In most cases the Pinnacle works really well setup as a "second channel" to your amp, where you already have your preset volume ready and can switch to it quickly on the fly. One note, with the gain fully counter-clockwise (off), there is no output, even if the level is maxed.
Tone: This controls the overall clarity and high end of the Pinnacle. Counter-clockwise, the gain will be warmer and great for rhythm work, where above Noon adds some clarity and treble to cut through the mix. This control works directly with the Contour Knob. As you adjust the Contour knob, the treble will act differently because of the mid frequencies changing. It can go from very warm and thick to sounding like it will bite your head off.
Modern/Vintage Switch: This switch is used to change between two voicings of mid frequencies on the Pinnacle. Vintage will have a darker, smoother and fatter tone to it where the Modern side is much more aggressive and has a lot more bite to it with a brighter frequency. The Vintage side nails classic rock tones from the 80’s with ease, allowing fluid lead lines and crunchy, fat rhythms to punch well in the mix. The modern side has a lot more of an aggressive growl to it, and it can go all the way to shred and full on metal or punk rock.
Contour: The contour knob affects the mid frequencies, along with how the tone knob controls the highs of the Pinnacle. Counter-clockwise, there will be more mid-presence that’s great for cutting through the mix. Clockwise, it lends itself more to a scooped-mids sound and becomes much more aggressive and brutal sounding. This control relies heavily on where the Tone knob is set. As the Contour moves clockwise, it’s suggested to reduce the tone knob a bit to remove any brightness. This knob functions similarly on both Vintage and Modern switch settings, but the Vintage setting actually gets a bit woollier as the contour moves clockwise. As the knob is rotated clockwise (less mids), you'll have to add a bit more level to compensate to get back up to unity.
Gain: Being a distortion, the gain starts to break up pretty quickly, and there’s a massive amount of gain on tap within the Pinnacle. Around 9am on the gain is great for some lower gain, classic rock tones where the base tone of the guitar still shines through really well. As it goes up to around Noon, the clipping just gets crunchy and fat and has loads of sustain and saturation. great for newer rock. Upwards of 3pm is full on shred territory, with loads of saturation and sustain, all while remaining articulate and responsive to pick attack. At high gain, it's still very quiet compared to many pedals out there at such high gain with minimal hiss. If you’re doing single, sustaining notes, the gain and bloom of the notes mesh together and intertwine to let the notes ring fluidly together in the upper gain regions. The Contour knob frequencies will be more noticeable as the gain level goes up.
Boost Footswitch (or Toggle on the standard): This switch gives a gain boost to really add some saturation and bite on the Pinnacle. It works extremely well for lead boosts to add some great sustain (one of the benefits of the extra footswitch on the deluxe). For instance, I leave the boost off for early Van Halen songs during the verse, and then kick on the boost when the solo comes in. That being said, there isn't a major volume boost, it's more of a gain and presence and attack boost.
- With some extremely high output pickups, people have reported extra sag. The way to correct this is to lower the pickups a bit to compensate for the higher output. You can see a video about sag here and how to deal with it.
- The Pinnacle works really well being hit by a boost (tubescreamer and the like). It will get much fatter and fuzzier if you are using a full-frequency boost, where a TS or klon-style overdrive will give more gain and tighten the tone up a bit. Placing a boost after it will boost the volume primarily.
- It’s an Amp-in-a-Box style pedal, so it works well at the end of your dirt chain, pre delay, modulation and reverb, but after wah’s.
Wampler employee Jason Wilding has this to say about the Pinnacle:
“As someone who started playing guitar in the 80’s and was fascinated by that live, crunchy tone of people like Van Halen (VH I), Thin Lizzy (Live and Dangerous), Nuno (Pornografitti), Iron Maiden (Live After Death) and Slash (AFD) - That saggy low end that pushes massive amounts of air when palm muted, the powerful mid positional sweep and beautifully saturated gain structure makes it my perfect pedal. I just can’t imagine a board of mine in the future not prominently featuring the Pinnacle (or any of it’s descendent’s) at all times!”
Techincal Stuff of the Pinnacle:
- 5″ x 4.5″ x 1.5″ (88.9mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – **height excludes knobs and switches
- The power draw of the Pinnacle is 9mA - Requires Negative Center tip barrel plug, or internal 9v battery.
- There have been several different versions of the Pinnacle, most notably in the visuals, along with the layout of the controls. The current circuit has not changed in 7 years. Might be time to revisit that :-)
- The only difference between the current standard version and deluxe version of the Pinnacle is that the deluxe has a footswitch for the boost instead of the toggle switch.
I recently discussed with Curtis Kent what the Tumnus would sound like when put side by side with his Silver Klon Centaur. We all know that each Klon is slightly different due to Bill's delightful habit of tweaking the circuit (parts were more inconsistent than they are these days) so it sounded the best it possibly can... So, here is the Tumnus (that will sound consistent at all times) compared to his Silver Klon Centaur. Considering that another one of the originals will sound a little different to this one I think we got pretty close!
I'd like to personally thank Curtis for doing this, he did it mainly for his curiosity but also mine (and I generally hate comparison videos so this is a big departure for us), it would be beyond awesome if you could give his You Tube channel a follow here!