Posted by: kubiakl | May 30, 2011

Weird Science

I thought that simplifying my signal chain would make the tone better – if the guitar was interacting only with the MJM London Fuzz and the amp, it should be optimal, right?

Turns out there’s some weird chemistry I can’t explain happening.  If I go directly into the London Fuzz and roll back my guitar’s volume knob, it goes from fuzzy to almost nothing pretty quickly.  What should be happening is that the signal cleans up as I roll the volume down.  Instead I get full on fuzz from 10-8 or so, then a sudden drop.  (I have read posts by other people who say they have the same issue.)

Same thing happens if the Guyatone is behind the London Fuzz.  But putting it as the first pedal in the chain changes everything.  It doesn’t even have to be engaged, but for some reason going through that pedal in the off position before the fuzz gives me the full range I want from the MJM.  Again, no explanation here really – if anything, it should be worse with the Guyatone in front.  I have one of the first versions of the Micro OD and I’m not even sure that it’s true bypass.  But hey, whatever works to get my mojo working.  It allows me to clean up the signal for a “The Wind Cries Mary” sound then crank the volume for some “Sunshine Of Your Love”.

I also picked up the Fulltone OCD pedal from Guitar Center yesterday.  It’s honestly not what I thought it would be – not in a bad way, just different.  I assumed it would give me an overdrive similar to the Blues Jr. when cranked; kind of a soft drive.  Instead it’s very crunchy.  A smooth crunch, think of ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid” or maybe Zep’s “The Ocean”.  At least that’s how it sounds with the settings I’m using.

The Fulltone does have a wide range of useable effect though.  Most pedals have one sweet spot but this one goes from clean boost to all out crunch and it does it pretty well.  There are three knobs (volume, drive, and tone) as well as an HP/LP switch for High-Peak and Low-Peak.  Low-Peak gives a softer drive, High-Peak gives more drive and boosts the upper-mid frequencies.  Low-Peak is how I use it at the moment.  I don’t like the way it sounds with the London Fuzz but that’s okay, not everyone has to play together.

So far what I’ve found is that the London Fuzz works best with the Jet City and the OCD works better with the Blues Jr., which is about what I expected.  I have my fuzzy signal chain and my bluesy signal chain.

My next goal is possibly a delay pedal.  I know Eric Johnson uses a Boss digital delay, but the Danelectro Reel Echo looks more my speed – the controls just seem a little more intuitive:

Intuitive is good.  As much as I work on my sound (as I explained to a friend:  I have to have a good tone – it makes up for my shoddy playing), I don’t like having to earn a degree in audio engineering to get the sound I want from a pedal.  The Boss just looks more complex:

There’s also the cool factor – the Dano pedal makes me think of ’57 Chevys, the Boss makes me think of NASA.  Could just be the color scheme and fonts used though.  Since I’m in no hurry on a delay I would use sparingly, this purchase can wait a while.

Oh, and another thing I should probably mention:  the Danelectrode (yes, that’s spelled correctly).  The Danelectrode is a 9v power supply for pedals with a variable power option.  It can also be used to daisy chain power to multiple pedals at once.

Basically it works like this:  for years guitarists have insisted on using carbon zinc batteries in their pedals (especially fuzz) and want them close to the end of their life for the best tone.  What happens is that the battery becomes weaker and changes the sound of the pedal.  Danelectro produced this power supply with a wheel that allows you to adjust how much power the pedal is getting, all the way down to 3 volts.  You can actually see the LED grow dimmer as you adjust the power down and the change in sound is pretty significant.  At extremely low voltage I experience a high pitched whine out of the London Fuzz but at around 7 volts it sounds pretty nice.  A little more relaxed.

I have one on order from Amazon (I was buying some books for my summer vacation anyway) but Guitar Center had them on the counter when I bought the OCD.  I also like the fact that it saves space on a power strip – instead of the gigantic space-hogging wall warts common in power supplies, it takes up only one or two spaces.  It doesn’t look like the sturdiest of constructions but it works very well so far.

The great thing about this whole quest for tone is that it’s a never-ending journey.  There will always be some improvements to be made but for now I’m pretty happy.  One of these days I might try to borrow a friends Flip camera and record a little to show the different tones…

But I’m pretty bad about one of these days never happening.

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