For those who know me, it seems often I am always just in a sticky wicket, facing some kind of challenge that never dissipates.
For the most part, I face those challenges by taking on an echelon of information and knowledge in books and reading. To paraphrase Richard Wright, “…in books I found the power to save my life’.
Today, I highly recommend Neil Peart’s ‘Ghost Rider’, not only the eponymous song, but the book that prefaces the album ‘Vapour Trails’.
Among hundreds of volumes I have read, this one obviously stands out today. It recounts how Neil reclaimed his life, after the death if his daughter in a tragic car accident and then his wife’s death a year later in a failed fight against cancer.
He just got on his motorcycle and drove off, from Quebec, to Alaska, down to Mexico and back. I read it five years ago almost, and will forever be grateful to this man, who knew harrows I still cannot understand, not only for his formidable cadre of music, but the fact he felt it important to cast down a portion of his privacy, feeling it worth the telling, for imparting so much wisdom that kept me hanging on, though our experiences were greatly different.
In almost the past five years, I’ve known twenty people who have died, about five a year, formative heroes, friends, associates of friends, and family, and tonight it climbs to twenty-one.
There are so many thoughts and emotions swirling right now, how along with other artists, geniuses, philosophers in the Canadian Hagiography, there is now a trifecta of those who contract and perish from brain anomalies and ailments.
Neil Peart now enters into a trinity with Marshall McLuhan, for which much of his music, though sourced differently, tracked much of Marshall’s speculations and observations of technology, and Gord Downie.
Gord’s speed to another master lost, whose wealth unto this world and your home shall never perish, though the world is poorer this evening, fly by night, Neil, nothing can stop you now.
There’s hardly any musician out there that’s as influential to metal music as Mr. Tony Iommi.
Widely considered to be the one individual who created the entire genre on his own, it was his riffs and songs he wrote with Black Sabbath in the late 1960s and the early 1970s that brought him the fame he has today.
While it is somewhat debatable on who started heavy metal, it is a fact that without Iommi the modern rock music wouldn’t be as big as it is today.
What’s more, the style he developed can also be heard in many other music genres today, with even mainstream pop sometimes including metal-sounding riffs.
His main strength lied in his writing abilities, implementing elements like tritone the way no one did before him. The riffs were so great that they sounded heavy even played on an average acoustic guitar.
However, in order to achieve their true potential, Iommi had to find the perfect guitar tone. Not the easiest task back in the old days when standard guitar pedals weren’t a thing and achieving distorted tone was extremely difficult.
Nonetheless, Iommi managed to make his tone huge. You can hear this tone back in the early Sabbath days during their blistering early sets like this one.
While most of the people remember Black Sabbath for the Ozzy era, Tony Iommi kept the band’s legacy over the years, being the sole original member.
Over the years, his music and tone evolved, but you could still hear that it’s Tony. The 1980s and the first half of the 1990s were a bit weird for Sabbath, but there was some great material, featuring his amazing guitar tone.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the original Sabbath reunion and his solo albums, his tone was more in the vein of the older Sabbath stuff.
With all this in mind, we figured it would be a great idea to explore Tony Iommi’s setup over the years and find out more about the secrets behind his tone.
There’s a lot of stuff involved and many of the things are still unknown to this day. So we’ll try to focus on the equipment we know he used, but there will be a few mentions of the unconfirmed guitars and gear. So let’s dig into it!
Of course, by now, everyone is aware of his extensive use of Gibson SGs, with these guitars becoming a part of his sonic and visual identity.
However, what many don’t know is that Iommi started his career playing a classic Fender Stratocaster.
He used this particular guitar in his pre-Sabbath bands and he also entered the studio to record Sabbath’s self-titled debut with the guitar, but only managed to record one song with it, the “Wicked World.” After the session, the electronics on this Strat died.
Interestingly enough, the famous red 1965 Gibson SG Special was his spare instrument. After using it on the record, the guitar quickly became his number one weapon on choice, with Iommi recording most of the material on Sabbath’s first six albums on it.
The guitar bares two P-90 single-coil pickups, as well as the “Monkey” nickname due to an unusual sticker. The guitar is currently located in New York City’s Hard Rock Café over at Times Square. A legendary piece.
The next famous early SG is the white 1960s Gibson Les Paul, which was actually an SG before the official use of the SG name. It bears three humbuckers and a Bigsby tremolo. It’s not completely certain whether he used this guitar on any of the recordings, but he’s been seen using this guitar on a few occasions in the early days. Its whereabouts are currently unknown.
In 1975, Iommi got his first custom-built SG by John Birch, a guy who previously modded the old “Monkey” SG. This is a completely black guitar with a steel pickguard, 24 frets, and the well-known famous cross inlays Iommi is now known for. The guitar was used on the recordings between 1976 and 1981.
But the most notable of his SGs is his legendary “Old Boy,” made by luthier John Diggins. The story behind this one is kind of odd and long, with one part of the building process being done on a kitchen counter. As a result, the guitar has that recognizable “rotten” paint job.
Again, the guitar has 24 frets and recognizable Iommi’s cross inlays on the fretboard. The pickups are custom ones made by Diggins himself, while the bridge is a classic Schaller with fine tuners, something that was pretty innovative for the era. Sometime in the early 1980s, it became his No. 1 guitar.
A lot of other SGs went through his arsenal over the years. There were some Gibsons, including some with Floyd Rose bridges. At one point in the late 1990s, Gibson even made a special guitar for him, but that one got stolen in 2010. The whereabouts of this instrument are unknown at the moment.
But aside from many SG guitars, Iommi also had quite a few different models, some of which were pretty unusual. One of the examples is the B.C. Rich Ironbird Pro, which can be seen in the “Star Licks” instructional video where Iommi shows a few Sabbath solos from the early 1980s.
It’s not certain why the collaboration stopped or whether he used this instrument on any of the recordings. But it is known that he had another B.C. Rich in his collection, the standard Mockingbird.
Iommi also partnered up with Patrick Eggle for a few guitars, one of them being the Tony Iommi Artist Model ñ a double-cutaway guitar with somewhat of a Super Strat-style shape. He also had a few SGs made by Eggle, but he sold them later on to private collectors.
In the 2000s and 2010s, Iommi used his signature Epiphone SG Custom.
There were a few other odd or unexpected models here and there. He was seen a few times using a Les Paul, quite an unusual sight for Iommi.
At one point, Iommi also revealed that he used a certain Les Paul for some songs on the “Paranoid” album. Other guitars also include Steinberger GM4T, Guild Bluesbird Custom, Washburn EC29, Hamer Phantom, Gibson Barney Kessel, Gibson ES-175, and others.
It has been reported that Iommi played a Burns Trisonic and a Watkins Rapier – both of which are very old and pretty obscure at this point. But these have not been confirmed as there are no photos to prove it.
Now going over to his acoustics, there have been a few notable models in his collection. The latest ones we’re certain of are Taylor 815L and Taylor T5s.
He also had a Washburn EA30 at some point, which he sold to private collections. There were some reports about him using Gibson J-45 back in the early days, probably on “Vol. 4” and “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” albums.
Aside from his SGs and a few other guitars he used over the years, there were many amps that sculpted his tone.
Unfortunately, there are no official records on what he used in the earliest days of his career, but it is known that he had a certain Marshall 50-watt amp in the pre-Sabbath and early Sabbath era.
When the band went into the studio, Tony switched over to a Laney amp, a brand he stuck with for most of his career.
The reason behind this switch is that Laney was a new Birmingham-based company that started around the same time as the band and offered Iommi to use some of their stuff.
While it has not been confirmed, it is suspected that Laney LA 100 BL is the amp he played on the first two albums. Then came the third record with this huge bass-heavy tone.
While it’s not certain, some are suspecting he played through a Laney Klipp. This is a fairly rare amp and can go well-over $2,000 if you happen to stumble upon one that’s in good condition.
However, it is known that Laney Supergroup amp has been a part of his setup up until the very end of the 1980s. But over the years, he liked to experiment here and there, and it’s known that he used the classic Vox AC30 during the “Technical Ecstasy” sessions in 1976. It is also assumed that he went with a Marshall Super Lead 1959 for the “Heaven and Hell” album.
During a certain period in the 1980s, Iommi went on to collaborate with Sunn for an endorsement. This didn’t last for a long time, but there is one photo of him circulating online, holding the Ironbird signature guitar and sitting in front of a Sunn amp.
So he stuck with his reliable Laney amps and the company eventually made a special model GH 100 TI for him, featuring the classic “British” EL34 tubes. In 2012, they came out with the final Tony Iommi signature model, Laney TI100 with 6L6 tubes in the power amp.
It has also been rumored that he used other amps during certain periods, like the Mesa Boogie Mark IIB in the early 1980s, as well as the ENGL Powerball during the Heaven and Hell band back in 2009.
Effects and pedals
Just like any professional guitar player, Tony Iommi also had some interesting pedal and effect setups over the years.
However, only a few pieces are widely known. It seems that Iommi was pretty much secretive about his pedals and other effects units, or that interviewers never really dug deep enough.
Going back to his earliest days, there is one particular device that made his tone stand out. Going back to his pre-Sabbath days, Iommi was a member of a blues-rock band called Mythology.
As the era is known for guitarists not being able to find a proper distorted tone, Tony was one of the guys who resorted to using the Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster.
An unknown friend or an acquaintance of his modded the device, ultimately turning it into somewhat of a full-range booster.
As Iommi explains, he’s not sure what the guy actually did, but it sounded great. This way, Iommi was able to use the clean signal boost and drive tube amps over their limitations and let them create distortion in a more “natural” way.
He used it until 1979 when, apparently, one of his tech guys threw it away, mistaking it for a random broken old device.
Another famous pedal in his arsenal is the very rare and peculiar-sounding wah called Parapedal, made by a short-lasting company called Tycobrahe.
It’s a really obscure piece, but if you actually manage to find one of the original pedals, it can go up to $1,000. There have been some replicas, but Tony Iommi used some of the original old models.
This is what you can hear on any of his solos where he’s using a wah, or in songs like “Electric Funeral” where he used it for the main riff.
As for any other effects, it’s been really hard to confirm anything else. Again, it seems that he’s been pretty secretive about his setup.
Of course, it was Tony Iommi’s rumbling tone that helped shape metal music. Even to this day, you’re rarely find anything as heavy as the guitar tone on “Master of Reality.”
While he was inclined to experiment, like with the Vox AC30 in the mid-1970s, Tony was still a fan of huge guitar tones, especially on live shows.
After all, he was the only guitar player in Black Sabbath, so it was up to him to make the sound as big and as harmonically rich as possible.
As a result, he’s still being praised by almost all of the metal musicians today. His legacy can be heard in all of the metal music, none of which would be possible without Iommi’s innovative approach in the earliest days of Black Sabbath.
So it doesn’t come as a surprise that he’s known as the “Riff Lord.”
When the gods made heavy metal, as per the gospel of Manowar, one of their first and only tenets, were to play it as loud and wild as (in)humanly possible. Since those early days, cunning minds and champions heavy music have been finding new ways to make their guitar sound louder, meaner and nastier.
And let’s be honest here – very few things in life feel better than when you plug in your guitar, strike that first evil chord and feel the very foundations of earth shake and scream at the tips of your fingers, or when you start laying down a deep, wicked gallop and an evil grin starts creeping up your lips as you something raw and animalistic stirring deep in your belly, and you’re lusting to burst into a full sonic charge, no quarter to be given.
Well, distortion pedals are one of the things that make all this possible.
Although we’ll be referring to the equipment in question as distortion pedals in the rest of this article, there are a few differences in ways various pedals dirty up your sound, and, technically, distortion is just one of the three effects from the unholy trinity of overdrive, distortion, and fuzz.
In short, overdrive enhances your fundamental guitar signal without drastic changes, distortion clips the hell out of it, and fuzz clips it so hard that it’s barely recognizable (although when speaking specifically of metal, this one isn’t used that often as it produces a warm, wooly grumble more characteristic of stoner rock for instance).
Of course, there are overlapping areas between the three, but here we’ll focus mostly on distortion and pedals suited the most for aspiring metal ax-wielders. Without further ado, here are some of the best guitar pedals to use for heavy metal…
Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff
The metal successor to Harmonix’ Big Muff Pi has been around for a while now and has proven to be a simple, yet effective solution for metal distortion, all wrapped up in a gorgeous design that just screams metal.
In addition to its name written in spike-y chrome script, you’ll see several knobs that might seem intimidating at first glance, but all are very straight-forwardly arranged and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way around it.
The Metal Muff sports a three-band EQ that helps you manage the gain, as well as a boost mode that really cranks up your signal.
It’s suitable both for gentler distortion as well as producing sounds that might have come from Satan’s own BDSM dungeon, and you’ll find that it works great both with passive and active pickups.
However, if you’re looking for a pedal capable of extreme amounts of distortion, look no further.
KHDK Dark Blood
Is there a more metal thing than Kirk Hammett’s signature distortion pedal?
This angry beast is perfect for both fans of Metallica as well as anyone who might be looking to hopefully stand toe to toe to Hammett when it comes to producing killer distorted tunes on your instrument.
The pedal itself looks gorgeous, with a red and black interface with a human heart painted on it. It is perfect for cutting off background noise with an onboard noise gate, but the real treat here is the Doom knob that really brings up that bottom end that Metallica’s sound is known for, letting you wield the powers of metal gods Hammett and Hetfield themselves.
There’s also a Hi/Lo switch which lets you play with two distinct modes – a gruff one for laying the foundation riffs (Lo), and a shrieking one that makes you soar through lead breaks with boosted top-end and sustain (Hi).
A surprisingly versatile treble control is the icing on the cake here. This thing comes with a fairly reasonable price too and is perfect for beginners and veterans alike.
Wampler Triple Wreck
This one may not be a looker like the previous two, but let me tell you, it packs a brutal punch. Straight off the bat, you’re looking at ungodly amounts of gain, which is complemented by – you guessed it – even more gain.
This blasphemous thing was made possible by Wampler’s efficient three-band EQ and dedication to providing smoothly-nuanced gain curves.
Once you plug it in, you’ll realize that, although you’ll have command over more gain than you’ll ever need, the pedal is very easy to temper and lets you play with a tremendous specter of distortion. It’s all about them gainz bro.
Blackstar HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal
Coming from the company with a hefty reputation of making top-notch amplifiers for headbangers around the globe, the HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal is a product of extreme quality and reliability.
This pedal’s cascading tube gain stages and the tube amp response are revered by amateurs and professional musicians alike.
It will provide you with a sound as gritty as Clint Eastwood’s spit, with organic qualities of the excrement to boot – you won’t hear anybody complaining about your sound sounding “too digital“ despite buckets of gain and distortion.
Its vacuum tube circuitry is powered by a 300V DC connection, and the pedal’s numerous features include 3-band EQ, Clean/Overdrive switch, and a tone shape knob, really letting you play with various effects as much as you want.
The Blackstar HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal is an all-in-one toolbox, perfect for both garage, studio and stage.
MXRM116 Fullbore Metal
MRX has been around for ages, and in their case, ‘age’ most certainly equals quality and reliability.
This one gives you an incredible amount of bang for your buck, and really lays down the foundation of your metal sound. In addition to pure distortion, loads of features let you tweak your sound even further.
Although it is (arguably) the least pretty of the bunch, the MXRM116 Fullbore Metal pedal simply emanates with no-bullshit-just-metal big dick energy.
True to its meat-and-potatoes pedal nature, it is fully analog, with a built-in noise gate as well as true-bypass.
Also, this pedal gets the job done with underpowered single-coil guitars as well. If you’re looking for a really heavy, industrial metal sound, this is as good as it gets.
Distortion pedals are essential tools for any musician intent on wreaking some heavy metal havoc. And after all, there’s no reason not to use one – they’re tremendous fun, and you’ll be able to experiment with your sound like you never could without one.
Besides, not only will having a reliable pedal be a must-have if you ever decide to take your music to the stage, but it will also encourage you to take a stroll down that path as you realize how easy and fun it is to produce sounds that the gods of metal themselves would be envious of.
Each of these five is more than a solid pick, and any musician is bound to find one that suits his taste and budget the most. I hope that you do too.
Have you ever had a moment where you listened to a guitar player, and you’re thoroughly mesmerized not just by prodigious amounts of skill and musicality, but by the graceful ease they work wonders on their guitars?
Some of these musicians play so incredibly, yet so naturally that you never feel even a hint of envy – you’re just grateful that such a being exists and you simply take the moment in.
However, due to their usually quiet natures, a lot of them go by unsung, or at least without receiving credit equal to their prodigious talent.
One such guitar player is John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. We almost said formerly but John just yesterday rejoined the band for the second time, after ten years absence!
In addition to his own unobtrusive nature, the reason that John Frusciante doesn’t spring up in everybody’s minds when talking about great guitar players is that emotional response to the whole package rather than pure skill was always the driving force behind the Chili Peppers’ success, and the latter was more often than not overshadowed by the former.
However, it is undeniable that the lasting beauty of the Chili Peppers’ music was in significant part due to John’s playing, and that John always was and remains a majestic musician.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at what gear John used to create his iconic sound, and as you’ll see, there’s quite a bit.
But first, a bit of backstory…
History with the RHCP
We’ll be taking a quick trip down the memory lane and talk about how John came to be an integral part of the Chili Peppers, his path to becoming the musician he is today, and how he evolved alongside the iconic band.
John Frusciante joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in 1988 when he was only 18 years old. In addition to his young age, he was a peculiar choice for the band that mostly focused on funk at the time, and John had no prior experience with the genre.
Of all his early influences, John said that Frank Zappa was the greatest, stating: “By the time I was 15 I owned all of the records and was spending about 70% of my musical life studying and learning his music. For me, striving for the perfection he was known for demanding from his bands was a powerful motivation and force behind the huge amount of practicing I was doing back then.”
However, back in those early days he was still pretty much just a replacement to the original guitarist Hillel Slovak and was stuck with trying to emulate his sound.
During the recording of “Mother’s Milk”, John still had very little creative freedom to speak of, as he was pressured by the producer Michael Beinhorn to play with a driving heavy metal tone, which is evident in songs like “Higher Ground”, “Knock Me Down”, which were a clear step away from the Chili Peppers’ previous sound.
By the time “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” was released, not only did John find his genuine place within the band and come into his own as a musician, but it was this iteration of Chili Peppers that introduced the band to the mainstream audiences.
In 1993, John left the band due to it becoming “too popular” as well as personal issues and came back in 1998 after Dave Navarro’s departure.
He had matured during that time since he sounded much more articulated and in control on songs like “Scar Tissue”, “Otherside” and “Around the World” when compared to his former aloofness in playing.
On “By the Way” and “Stadium Arcadium”, John Frusciante arguably reached his full potential within the band, resulting in his tasteful and original experimentation within those albums, despite them being much more pop-oriented than the previous ones.
During his time with the Chili Peppers, John evolved into a guitarist extraordinaire – but one who emphasizes the melody and the organic quality of his playing.
Despite his vast knowledge of music theory and enviable virtuosity, John’s prodigious qualities as a musician often went unnoticed due to his lack of interest in showing off and always putting the melody first.
However, John achieved his seemingly simple sound with no small amount of both gear and skill. John is known to have used a staggering amount of instruments, amps, and mods, most of which aren’t officially recorded.
What follows is a rundown of gear that John confirmed to have used in various instances, and that was integral to achieving his signature elegant sound.
Throughout his two bouts with the RHCP, John has used a plethora of guitars, and putting down a definite list would be nearly impossible to put down –some sources state that there over 40 guitars that he had used during those years.
Here, we’ll take a look at a few that he’s the best known for using, and that made the biggest impact on his sound, playing style and appearance.
A 1962 Tobacco Sunburst Fender Stratocaster with a rosewood fretboard, with the body scratched-up marrow-deep above the pickguard is perhaps the most famous of John’s guitars and the one that he’s associated with the most often.
More than once, John himself has stated that this is the guitar that he is sentimental about the most, and the one that was the “most important” to him.
It was this guitar’s mellow, bright, single-coil sound that was responsible for songs such as “Scar Tissue” and “Can’t Stop”, and especially his early works with the RHCP like “Mother’s Milk”.
In fact, you’ll hear this guitar in instances of the vast majority of the songs that John played for the band.
Initially, he used stock pickups but later swapped them for Duncans which were almost the same. John also used a ’55 Strat nearly identical to this one, except for the ’55 having a maple fretboard.
Although John is known for his love for the Stratocaster, in an interview with Vintage Guitar Magazine (you’ll notice that John has a strong preference for vintage instruments), he stated that “Around ‘By The Way’, I played Teles more than a Strat.
A telecaster he’s most widely known for using is a stock 1963 model with a rosewood fretboard.
If you listen to the songs from “By The Way” closely, you’ll notice that they resonate with the signature Telecaster twang.
Given that he almost never modifies his instruments, John is a living testament that you don’t need crazy mods to sound great.
Gretsch 1955 White Falcon
This is the guitar that John is seen playing during the iconic “Californication” live concert at Slane Castle from 2003.
While talking to Vintage Guitar, John said that the Gretch White Falcons are among his favorite guitars from his collection (as we’ve already mentioned, he has quite a few).
In fact, he revealed that he stumbled upon the Falcon purely by accident during a period in which he was guitar-shopping intensely because he thought his playing would change from guitar to guitar.
He said: With the white Strat, it was a neat experience because it made me play different, and made the band sound different.
If I hadn’t gone through a phase of buying, I never would have come upon the White Falcon…” The Falcon’s hollow body and Filtertron pickups give it a distinctive, rich-yet-resonant sound that clearly stands out from the Strats and Teles, and you can hear it in action on the album’s title track, as well as on “Otherside”.
Like with his guitars, John seems to like to keep things straightforward, yet elegant. However, when it comes to amps that John has been using all these years, there is even less reliable info available than for his numerous guitars.
With that in mind, we’ll take a look at the three main amplifiers that he’s been known to have used the most: Marshall Silver Jubilee, Fender Dual Showman, and The Marshall Major.
Marshall Silver Jubilee
Among guitar aficionados around the world, the Marshall Silver Jubilee amplifier is famous for its incredibly short, one-year production run and has since become tremendously difficult to obtain.
This dauntingly pricy 100-Watt amplifier is a reincarnation of the 1962 Marshall Head of sorts, and it is the obvious choice for John’s sonic output given his preference for vintage sound and instruments.
In addition to being expensive, the Marshall Silver Jubilee is known for its reliable, balanced frequency response and is powered by EL34 valves which give it a clear, ringing overall sound with a smooth top end.
Fender Dual Showman
Now this one is a strange beast in regards to the other two, as John explicitly uses it only in combination with his Gretsch 1955 White Falcon.
The classic Fender reverb it produces complements the White Falcon’s ringing hollow-body sound perfectly. Furthermore, the only effect that John used with this combo was a BOSS DS1 distortion pedal.
Essentially, what we’re looking at here is the essence of JCM 800 in a different package and 200 Watts of power.
The power amp stage boasts KT88 valves, whereas the preamp contains two ECC83 and one ECC82 which pour out that creamy, controlled distortion which makes this amp so well-loved.
His on-stage combo is wrapped up by two 4×12 Marshall cabs for each of these three, making the sound of his guitar powerful enough not to be engulfed by the rest of the band.
Whether you listen to John’s gentler guitar contributions or the more hectic, funkier ones from early on, the first impression you’d get is that the man uses virtually no added effect (and that he needs none, but that’s beside the point).
However, it is now known that John actually used a wide variety of devices to further tweak his sound.
For instance, during the “Stadium Arcadium” era, he used whopping 20 different pedals for his live performances, including six Moog Moogerfooger units in addition to multiple delays, distortions, modulation, filters, and wah.
However, apart from the BOSS DS1 distortion pedal reserved exclusively for the Gretsch 1955 White Falcon, he really didn’t have a mainstay of devices that he used throughout his time with the Chili Peppers, but instead relied on intuition, current mood and desire for experimentation when deciding which effect he would keep using, and which ones he’d discard.
If one had to find a pattern behind his utilization of various effects, it would be that he had preferred effect for each of the Chili Peppers’ epochs, with both him influencing the band’s sound and vice versa.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of John’s favorite effects.
First off, we have the humble MXR Micro Amp, a pedal used for boosting your main signal for solos or as a buffer for other guitars.
John’s grittier tones are mostly owed to the tried and true combination of BOSS DS-2 Turbo Distortion and EHX Big Muff Pi.
The BOSS DS-2 is perhaps the few mods that he used since his first day with the RHCP and continued using ever since.
In fact, this little gadget’s clipping effect is the one that can be recognized in almost every Chili Peppers’ song where John does the guitar duties.
The fuzz provided by the EHX Big Muff Pi is especially characteristic of the “By The Way” era, which replaced John’s previous fuzz device, BOSS’ FZ-3, that he used more around the time “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” came out.
As far as John’s modulation is concerned, there is the BOSS CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, a simple yet reliable chorus with normal and vibrato modes.
This is the other pedal that remained ever-present in his setup in addition to the DS-2.
Despite its straightforward nature (or perhaps exactly due to it), the CE-1 remains ever popular due to its ability to maintain the qualities of the original signal while complementing it with an organic sound.
The EHX Deluxe Electric Mistress is another mod that saw steady use throughout John’s career.
Its classic analog Flanger with its unique Filter Matrix mode disengages the auto sweep and lets you position the filter manually, and is very prominent in “By The Way”, for example.
He also uses a Line 6 FM4 Filter Modeller that comes with programmable filters and monophonic synth sounds (which replaced the Electro-Harmonix synthesizer he used during the “Californication” era).
John’s choice of time-based effects was also led by a philosophy of reliability and straightforwardness.
There’s the EHX Holy Grail Reverb, a digital reverb that like a spring one, which he used until he replaced it with Fender’s vintage tube reverb unit.
Another delay unit that John used was the LINE 6 DL4 Delay Modeller, which yields more control over delay effects than a standard digital delay, or an analog one.
Interestingly, John tends to supplement the DL4 with two DigiTech PDS 1002, which give him even more control over delay effects.
As we’ve seen, although simplicity seemingly is the key to John’s distinctive sound, there is a whole lot of thought, experimentation, and gear behind the unique and elegant sound of his guitar playing.
As such, John Frusciante truly is a living testament to the wonders that a meticulous, yet sincere love for the instrument and the simple joy of playing can bring to life.
Thanks for reading! If you have and comments or questions, leave them below!
Heavy metal music has come a long way since its inception back in the late 1960s. From the bluesy, yet really doomy, songs by Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, it began going into multiple different directions.
As a result, we got some unexpected subgenres, that even led to some more extreme territories. But, at the end of the day, the classic elements of the genre remained, and some bands keep this legacy alive even to the present era.
One of these bands is Avenged Sevenfold, where the lead guitar duties are taken by Brian Haner, also known by his unique stage name Synyster Gates.
Forming back at the very end of the 1990s, Synyster Gates joined the band sometime before the release of their debut album. It was an unusual time for heavy metal, and new movements were emerging all around.
Avenged Sevenfold started off as a metalcore band, but they slowly moved into the classic metal and hard rock lane. This was a rather exciting turn of events as they added some modern metal elements and twists to the old genre.
These days, they’re even experimenting with some progressive elements. And that’s all thanks to Syn Gates and his approach to songwriting and playing.
Another vital component in this story is Syn Gates’ tone.
With this in mind, we thought we could dive deeper into the topic and explore all the gear A7X’s axeman has been using over the years. There’s an abundance of great instruments, pedals, and amps, and we just can’t afford to skip over this guitar master. So let us begin.
The most recognizable part of his whole setup and the one that became his personal stamp is the Schecter Synyster Gates signature model.
Almost all of the studio recordings and the live performances were recorded using some of these guitars. The band blew up early on in their career, so it wasn’t hard for Syn to land a deal with Schecter for his one-of-a-kind model.
As the years went by, this guitar evolved, and there have been many iterations, finishes, designs, and different hardware and pickup combinations. There are even some exclusive models that were sold as limited series.
As for Syn’s guitars, there are a few notable models. For instance, the one that he often today uses is the Custom-S. This is one of the newest iterations and has a few variants.
It’s a prestigious and expensive instrument and an all-round versatile instrument capable of delivering different styles.
The Custom-S has a mahogany body and a three-piece mahogany neck that’s enforced with strong carbon rods. The guitar features a 25.5-inch scale neck with a 24-fret ebony fretboard.
The neck profile proves that the Custom-S model is made for real shredders. It’s the so-called “thin C” neck, the same as the classic “C” profile, only thinner. Seeing that the guitar also has a Floyd Rose 1500 Series bridge, it’s a pure heavy metal mean machine.
One of its strongest points is the addition of the Sustainiac pickup on the neck position.
There have been plenty of other versions of this guitar over the years. Some of those include the Bat Country Avenger model that has a classic tune-o-matic bridge with strings going through the body.
These other Syn Gates signature models are pretty similar in construction, although they have a few different features here and there. Custom-S still stands as his No. 1 weapon in the arsenal.
But he’s also used a few other guitars over the years. In the band’s earliest days, Syn could be seen holding a Parker Fly Deluxe model. It’s a classic instrument, used by many guitar players of countless different genres.
What some may not know is that Syn Gates is also deeply rooted in old school stuff like blues and jazz. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to see that he has a Gibson ES-335 in his possession. The guitar was used for studio sessions over the years.
Of course, it’s not unusual to find a Gibson Les Paul in his collection. He owns one LP Custom, and you can see him rocking it out in the “Unholy Confessions” video. However, this guitar hasn’t seen that many live shows.
Another electric worth mentioning is his Schecter Blackjack PT that he used earlier in the band’s career.
It’s a two-humbucker Telecaster-shaped guitar with the strings going through the body. The Blackjack is a very playable piece and a great solution for all the heavy tones that Syn certainly needed over his career.
As for acoustics, there are a few exciting pieces worth mentioning in his arsenal. Since he’s been a partner of Schecter for so long, they also made signature acoustic guitars for him – the Synyster Gates 3701. It’s a single-cutaway guitar with a slightly peculiar twist on its design.
Just like the electric Custom-S, it features the easily recognizable Avenged Sevenfold logo on the fretboard’s inlay. It also includes a Fishman pickup and a preamp, along with a 3-band EQ. It’s a very versatile acoustic guitar and an overall quality instrument.
Then there’s a surprising addition of Godin ACS-SA that he began using since 2016’s “The Stage” album. This thin profile nylon-string guitar is often used by jazz players.
But since Avenged Sevenfold began diving into some unexpected proggy territories, it comes as a great addition to Syn’s collection.
Generally speaking, the Custom-S still remains his primary weapon and his main workhorse. It’s really easy to play, it has good access to higher frets, and certainly delivers the classic metal punch, kind of in the vein of standard Gibson guitars, although it had a bit of a sharper edge to the tone.
Quite a few different amps came through Synyster Gates’ setup over the years. Unlike his choice of guitars, he wasn’t stuck with one particular brand of amps. If we were to look at all of his choices, the picture is pretty clear ñ he likes heavy sound with an in-your-face mid-range punch.
So let’s start with his Schecter amp. Yes, the company is not that well-known for their guitar amplifier line, but the Hellwin model is a powerful 100-watt all-tube amp in the style of classic Marshalls.
This can be seen with the implementation of EL34 valves. He always used it in pair with the Hellwing SYN412 cabinet. For some reason, Synyster Gates stopped playing it after a while.
While we’re at Marshall amps, he’s also known for using the JVM205H 50-watt head. These are pretty versatile amps, and cranking up a 50-watt amp is a great idea for larger gigs.
Since it can be miked up for live shows, he’s able to get that authentic “organic” drive out of them by pushing the volume all the way up. It features the classic configuration of two channels – clean and drive.
He also owns that real beast of an amp, the Mesa Boogie JP-2C. Yes, the John Petrucci signature model, based on the good old Mark IIC+ amp. It’s an extremely versatile piece of gear and can create anything from smooth jazz up to big crushing tones for riffs and screaming leads.
While we’re at it, Syn’s also known for using the legendary Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier amp. Another great example of the company’s rich and tight-sounding guitar amps.
Now, Bogner Uberschall is a really delicate piece. A real jewel in his collection, it’s a 120-watt amp head with some of the most mindblowing tones you’ll ever get the chance to hear.
However, a real change came when Synyster began using the Fractal Audio’s Axe-FX III. Just like Kemper and a few other examples, it caused quite a stir in the guitar community.
Since Syn himself is all about modern technology, the addition of such a piece to his rig was inevitable. Needless to say, this powerful amp modeler successfully replicates any of the most advanced tube amps we’ve ever heard.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see his entire rigs replaced with one or two of these.
His love of modelling amps came some years ago when he began using the Axe-FX II. However, he used it only for some features and effects and not actual amp models. The story goes that he really likes the harmonizer in this digital processor.
When it comes to pedals and other effects, he never really had too much of a complex layout. There have been a few compressors here and there, delays, boosters, wahs, and a few other occasional pedals.
His choice of wah is pretty interesting. Steering away from conventional pedals, he has Dunlop’s rack module Cry Baby DCR-2SR.
It’s a potent piece that allows you to shape your own wah and to determine what kind of sweep will it add to your tone. This is as pro as it gets with wahs.
He’s known for using a few different compressors over the years. There’s the classic choice of Boss SC-3 here, which is a continuation of the old CS-2 pedal. Then we have another piece like the very simple MXR CSP202.
Among modulations, delays, and other effects, there’s one rather interesting piece in his signal chain that Syn uses even today. It’s called Visual Sound H2O, and it’s a chorus and echo pedal in one.
This unconventionally shaped 2-in-1 pedal gives delays between 10 and 800 milliseconds and allows you to use a chorus or delay individually.
As for the aforementioned clean boost pedals, he uses a very simple yet effective MXR MC401. This little piece can do wonders when paired with the kind of tube amps that he’s using.
And just to throw in another one in here, Syn’s been seen using Electro-Harmonix POG, or the so-called “Polyphonic Octave Generator.” It’s a very intricate pedal, although we’re not sure how much he’s been using it in actual songs.
There have been a few other pedals here and there, but the ones described above are worth mentioning. Like we already said – Syn Gates has always kept it simple when it comes to the signal chain.
Accessories and other gear
Being a professional player that he is, it’s only expected to see a whole bunch of different accessories in Syn Gates’ setup. For instance, there’s Ebtech HE-2 Hum Eliminator in his setup.
This one allows the elimination of unwanted noise from AC adapters and other electrical interferences. Although small, it’s a very complex piece that does magic to your tone.
Since he has a few different pedals and devices, there’s got to be a reliable power supply in there somewhere. For this purpose, Syn uses the classic Dunlop DC-Brick – a 1-amper device that can power up to 10 pedals and effects at the same time.
Avenged Sevenfold are the classic arena metal band, so it’s only expected to see them using wireless systems. Synyster Gates’ choice for this is Audio Technica AEW-5111a.
It’s a very advanced and expensive rack-mounted wireless unit that provides stable operation in these large venue settings.
From looking at this brief guitar setup and rig rundown, it’s pretty evident that Synyster Gates has evolved over these past two decades, along with his band. It’s always welcome to see this kind of an approach.
A great surprise came when Syn revealed that he’s interested in jazz music and that he plans on recording a full-blown jazz album. There are a few videos of him online playing some swing jazz.
With this being said, it’s highly likely that we’ll see his setup evolve even further. And this is already taking place with his use of Fractal Audio Axe-FX III. His overall tone and setup will depend on the direction that Avenged Sevenfold as a band will be taking in the future.
Hearing “The Stage” that they launched back in 2016, we’re pretty excited about what they’ll do in the future.
After all, now that all the old metal bands are retiring one by one, they’ll be the one to continue carrying the torch of the genre, and they’ll be free to take it into any direction they want.
There’s just something about those thick and bottom-end heavy tones that makes every guitar player satisfied. Whatever it is the genre that you’re into, every now and then, you really need to get some of that stuff going.
Sometimes even you might even feel like plugging into a bass guitar amp. Well, that’s nothing unusual since way back in the 1950s, that’s exactly what some of the 6-string players did in order to thicken their tone.
One of the most famous examples that we can remember now is the use of a Fender Bassman amp.
Initially intended as a bass guitar amp, it soon became more than just that. Guitarists, pedal steel guitarists, and even harmonica players began using it for their performances.
But since this series of amps got the most attention from 6-string players, it began developing in that direction. One thing led to another, and it became known as one of the most popular and influential amps of all time.
Even to this day, you’ll find some models that replicate the old tones. And there have even been some solid-state Fender Bassmans over the years.
In this article, we will be focusing on the more modern version that we can find today, which is a recreation of the old 5F6-A model from 1959.
Introduced in 1990 and still produced to this day, you can find it labeled as Fender Bassman LTD or Vintage Reissue ’59 Bassman LTD.
So let’s dig into it and find out more about this great amp that’s a continuation of this legendary long-running and game-changing series.
First off, it’s designed to be as true as possible to the original model from ’59. The first noticeable thing about it is that it’s a combo amp but with a configuration of four 10-inch speakers.
The speakers in question are Jensen P10R. The output power is at 45 watts, and the sound is shaped through three preamp tubes, the classic 12AX7 ones. As for the power amp section, we have the classic American configuration of two 6L6 tubes.
The whole thing is rounded up with one rectifier tube, the 5AR4 (interchangeable with the standard British GZ34).
The amp has two channels on it, “normal” and “bright.” It comes with the classic vintage configuration of four inputs, two for each channel. The No. 2 inputs are for higher gain instruments, or can just be useful if you prefer to have your own pedals instead of going directly into the amp.
Each channel has its own separate volume control. As for the other parameters, the 3-band EQ and the presence knob control both of the channels.
What’s kind of unusual, at least for today’s standards, is that the amp has the fuse compartment right on the front panel. While some might find it odd, it’s a really practical feature for changing the fuse when it goes out.
For those willing to experiment with different power amp tubes, Bassman LTD also has a special internal bias pot. But that’s mostly for advanced users.
As for the design, we can see the classic “tweed” style finish on the Bassman LTD. Some would argue that it looks exactly the same as these original amps made back in the day. While there are some small differences, the similarities are pretty obvious and it’s a great tribute to the old original pieces.
What’s really unique about the amp’s front panel design is that all the labels of the control knobs go from 1 to 12 instead of the standard 1 to 10. We wonder what would Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel say about this.
Since this is an old blues rock (with just a dash of jazz) vintage-oriented amp, the looks definitely correlate to its tone and features.
Now we’ve come to the main part ñ how this amp actually sounds in action. Well, it’s a pretty convincing replica of the old models. However, it’s not the classic vintage-oriented amp with a very narrow use. In fact, there’s a lot of stuff that you can do with it.
Sure, it’s best known for its sparkling bright channel, producing those ear-piercing tones, especially if played through any standard Fender Telecaster with single-coil pickups. But tweaking the controls, you can achieve some smoother and even harder tones.
Pushing the volume over the limits delivers a great response from the preamp and power amp tubes. In fact, the amp can just scream when you need it to. In addition, the dynamic response when the tone breaks at higher volumes is just out of this world. All this while managing to keep heavy yet tight bottom ends in your tone.
Using it with your own pedals can be really interesting, although we would advise for you to go with an overdrive pedal and not a high gain scorching distortion. Softer clipping just goes better with this amp. However, you’re free to experiment and maybe you’ll be able to find distorted tones you need some other way.
As we said, this amp is a pretty convincing recreation of the old ’59 with just some minor differences, usually not noticeable by an average guitar player’s ear.
On the other hand, some more trained and experienced vintage lovers might point out some differences. However, this does not change the fact that it’s a great amp. It may be slightly different compared to the original, but it’s clearly a high-end professional guitar amp.
But with this being said, it for a specified target group only. Sure, it may be able to deliver some versatility, but Bassman’s true power lies in its classic blues-oriented tones.
The price in the area between $1,400 and $1,500 is most certainly justified, as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into. A great choice for all the vintage lovers who desire some versatility.
The guitar lovers usually go crazy for some of those good old vintage tube amps released way back in the 1960s, or even the 1950s.
Despite the technological advancements which gave birth to some really refined amps or even digital amp modellers, the fans of the vintage stuff still take the significant portion of the guitar-playing population.
But the one model we’re going to focus on here is really special. In fact, it takes us back all the way to the very beginning of one of the biggest companies of the guitar world.
In 1962, a guy named Jim Marshall started a small shop, not knowing that his name would be celebrated by all the coming generations of musicians.
The first product that came out of his shop was the almighty JTM45 amplifier that marked the beginning of the revolution in rock ‘n’ roll.
In this review, we will be explaining a thing or two about this legendary amp model and a few of its different variants that came out over the decades.
First off, since it was originally made so long ago, the JTM45 has some pretty simple features. The total power of this amp head is 45 watts, although there are different versions with different wattage.
The newer model like the JTM45 2245, which was introduced in 1989 and is made to this day, features 30 watts.
Interestingly enough, the amp was made after legendary Fender’s Bassman. So the earliest versions of the Marshall JTM45 used 6L6 tubes in the power section or even the US 5881 tubes.
During the later years, these amps implemented KT66, KT88, and the classic EL34 after which Marshall amps are now known for.
The preamp section had the classic ECC83 valves, and some of them had the 12AX7 variants. The currently produced 2245 versions bear two 5881 tubes in the power section, three ECC83s in the preamp, and one GZ34 rectifier tube.
As far as the controls go, they have always been straightforward. And even the newer versions still have some of those intentionally vintage things to offer. The amp has two channels, each with high and low gain inputs.
Then we have the presence knob, as well as the 3-band EQ with bass, mid, and treble. Then we have two knobs labeled as “high treble” and “normal.” This “high treble” controls the first channel and the “normal” controls the second channel.
The controls and some of these basic features remained the same over the years with the releases of the new models.
On the back end, we can find the two standard 1/4-inch outputs for speaker cabinets. There is also a selectable load switch that allows you to choose between 16, 8, and 4 ohms.
Being vintage-oriented, even the present-day versions do not come with any kind of effects of effect loops.
The initial versions of the Marshall JTM45 differed in design from the classic Marshalls we know of. They had the gold plexiglass front panels, with “Marshall” written in block letters.
It was only after 1965 that they introduced the Marshall logo as we know it today ñ the white plastic one in cursive.
But the overall looks changed as well and we got the well-known easily recognizable Marshall amp heads. The original ones had the so-called “offset” control panel, which was located in the bottom right corner.
The versions from 1965 and onwards had the classic golden plate located in the low middle part of the front face. It’s the same design we see on many other Marshall amp heads as well.
All that we can say – really vintage and really British. Even the newer versions manage to capture that classic old sound conceived back in the early 1960s.
However, if you do get your hands on one of those oldest models, like the aforementioned “offset” ones, you’ll be in for a treat. With volume control pushed over its limits, you can get some surprisingly great distorted tones with some fuzziness on top.
Of course, these amps came, and still come, without any reverbs or other effects on it. It’s the pure sweet organic distortion that comes out of it. Even the clean tones get some sparkle on it without “spilling” all over the place.
The bright “treble” channel does this perfectly. But if you’re playing the guitar with single-coils, you might want to get some of the high ends toned down a bit if you want to avoid those “icepick” ear-piercing tones.
It is probably easier to control with those vintage-styled lowe output humbuckers. This is probably why the Gibson Les Paul plus classic Marshall combo has worked so well over the years.
The moment you play the first notes through it and the moment you hear it’s tone, it becomes pretty apparent that the JTM45 and any of its versions are dedicated exclusively to vintage tone lovers.
While it is true that you’re allowed to experiment and do whatever you feel like doing in music, this amp is not exactly recommended if you want to play anything that’s modern.
It’s dirty, it’s fuzzy, it’s filthy, but all in a good way. As we said, it was designed to copy the legendary Fender Bassman amps, but it features a bit of a different twist.
Then we come to this amp’s price. The new models, which were introduced in 1989 as sort of a re-release of the original JTM45, can be around $2,500 or even more.
However, if you somehow have one of the old versions from the 1960s, then you’re in for a treat. The ones in good condition can reach staggering prices, even somewhere around $10,000 or more.
Well, this comes as no surprise as even Jimi Hendrix used these back in the 1960s. Now, we could argue whether these prices are overblown due to Marshall’s reputation, but one thing remains – their tone is still highly sought after by even the biggest professionals in the guitar world. So there must be something other than just simple hype.
Luckily for us, there are plenty of distortion, overdrive, boost, and fuzz pedals to choose from these days. In fact, there are so many that it can become challenging to go out there and choose the best one for your own needs.
Entering a guitar store can sometimes give you weird feelings – there are so many effects and pedals in existence, with so many different features, that it becomes impossible for you to try them all out.
Just imagine: there are pedals that you won’t be able to try in your lifetime!
However, despite all this, a considerable portion of the guitar-playing population still loves to keep it simple. Whatever are the amps, pedals, or other gear – some of them just like to use equipment with simplified and straightforward controls and features.
Now, this doesn’t mean that these products are not good enough. It means they have a very narrow use. In this article, we will be exploring one of these simple pedals, which you can find in the rigs of guys like Mike McCready and ex-Guns N’ Roses’ DJ Ashba.
Made by a small company called Love Pedal, it’s called AMP 50 Overdrive.
About the company
Before we get into it, we’d like to share a thing or two about Love Pedal as they’re not exactly one of the famous mainstream pedal producers.
Started by a guy named Sean Michael, they’re focused on making quality boutique pedals. The main twist here is simplicity, led by the idea that “less is more.” Pretty much all of the products are straightforward.
But Sean took it to a whole new level in 2009 when the company introduced their “Mini Line” featuring some minimalistic and really compact pedals.
One of those is the Amp 50 Overdrive, but the series also includes Pickle Vibe Vibrato, Echo Baby Delay, as well as the Baby Face Trem.
The AMP 50 is currently not produced by the company, but they still have some other great products at the moment.
And like we said ñ Love Pedal AMP 50 Overdrive is straightforward. It’s a compact little dirt box with just an input jack, output jack, one control knob, a footswitch, and a LED light indicator. That’s it! Straight to the point without any flashy additions.
The pedal is essentially based on Church of Tone 50 model, just gives a smaller and simplified version of it. And what’s more, the control is unlabeled. But it’s referred to as “bias/gain” by the builders.
The idea behind it is to be more than a boost and a little less than a distortion. Well, technically, it is a distortion effect since it adds some saturation and clipping to the tone. But it’s so nuanced that at lower settings it brings just a regular boost without almost any distortion. But we’ll get to that later.
What also needs to be mentioned is that the pedal features true bypass. Now, there have been countless discussions over the years, debating whether true bypass or buffered are the way to go. In case you’re up for buffered stuff, you need only one buffered pedal in your signal chain to get this sorted out.
Just like most of the pedals out there, it’s powered either by a standard 9-volt AC adapter or a regular 9-volt battery.
Like we already mentioned, the whole idea behind this pedal is to be as simple as possible. This is also the case with its overall design.
So let us start with its size. We could compare it to those mini pedals by TC Electronic or by any other manufacturer with similar small-sized and compact units.
This comes as a great advantage if you’re having troubles fitting a new pedal in your signal chain, but you really need an additional overdrive in there. Or in case you need just one pedal in front of a tube amp and just want to keep it as simple as possible.
The color of the pedal is white, the knob is the classic one you’d find on vintage-type pedals, and the only thing breaking the monotony is the name of the pedal written on the front panel. That and the blue LED light (which could be better if it was red but let us not be so picky).
Its aluminum casing is pretty sturdy and the overall build quality is impressive. There won’t be any worries with taking this little bad boy on tour with you.
Talking about the tone and the performance, the main intention behind such a pedal is to have something to just a little bit of boost and coloration to clean or overdriven channels of your tube amps.
Although we would argue that it works best in pair with those vintage or vintage-inspired clean tube amps. It adds just enough of overdrive to have solid and dynamically responsive performance.
Setting the knob lower will give more of a boost with just a dash of that sparkling crunch. As you move it up, you’ll get more saturation in there, and at highest settings, you might get into some solid mid-range soft clipping natural overdrives. Tones are a bit brighter than compared to a Tube Screamer.
But plugging it in front of a solid-state amp, you won’t get much of a tone there. Not that it’s terrible, but it’s surprisingly disappointing compared to tube amplifiers. The sound won’t be as thick, and there won’t be so much dynamic response in there.
A pedal like the Love Pedal AMP 50 Overdrive generally has a narrow scope of use. It’s a very specific unit aimed at those who prefer old bluesy tones and just some boosts and colorations to their tube amps.
Obviously, it’s not that versatile, but it can act bost as a boost and as an overdrive. Additional volume control would have been great, but we generally get the idea why there was just one gain knob on it.
If you’re looking for anything for these purposes, AMP 50 is definitely a great choice to consider. In case you manage to find one of these somewhere.
Whatever is the instrument that you play, it’s always a good idea to have some additional effects to enhance your tone. Not too much, but just something that will help you in not sounding so dry all the time.
Of course, there are plenty of pedals out there that will help you get all the tones that you need. But what if you want to take it to a whole new level and get yourself a rack-mounted multi-effects unit? After all, this is something professional musicians have been doing for their entire lives, so it must be a good thing, right?
With this in mind, we decided to look more into one of the discontinued pieces by the legendary TC Electronic.
Generally speaking, it’s a unit that’s often used by instrumentalists, even for live shows. We’ve seen some of the biggest names in the world of the guitar using it, including Eric Clapton, Larry Carlton, Steve Vai, Alex Lifeson, and even Dream Theater’s John Petrucci.
Without further ado, here’s some exciting info about TC 1210 Spatial Expander & Stereo Chorus + Flanger.
First off, the TC 1210 is a rack-mounted product featuring a few onboard different effects. It is based on the company’s famous SCF Stereo Chorus/Flanger pedal but with a bit more features.
The whole idea behind the TC 1210 was to have a suitable effect for creating a solid spatial stereo image of one’s tone. In addition, there are some other effects that we will discuss here.
It is an entirely analog unit relying on the old bucket brigade device technology that people are still crazy about these days. There are seven different presets and effects to choose from: spatial expander, two choruses, two flangers, a doubler, and a stereo delay.
The 1210’s greatest superpower comes with its stereo features. Each of the effects can be used either in stereo or mono modes. In addition to this, you’re able to use two separate inputs as two independent channels and process them individually.
There are plenty of controls on there for separating these channels, using the same or different effects on them, and even using each of the dedicated outputs individually or as one whole audio image. All of the features and controls just wouldn’t fit into one brief review.
Inputs and outputs are located on the rear panel. There are two inputs and outputs for regular 1/4-inch jacks and additional XLR inputs and outputs.
Aside from that, there’s an input for bypass footswitch control and the “speed” footswitch jack that lets you choose from five different effect speed modes. There is also a “direct mute” switch that completely mutes the signal coming out of the unit.
Overall, 1210 provides a surprising amount of controls for such an old piece. The combinations are almost endless, and they’re all designed to provide you with some really spacious choruses, flangers, delays, doublers, and expanders.
Although not many will go to the lengths of looking into your rig, we could say that the TC 1210 seems pretty neat. Nothing too fancy, but it clearly shows somewhat of a vintage-ish ’80s and ’90s feel.
The writing on it is a bit too small, but when you get used to setting it up, you won’t have any trouble knowing where each control is. At the end of the day, not many will care about the looks of your rack pieces so there’s nothing to worry about here, really.
Just like its name would suggest, there is a lot of “spaciousness” feel to all the effects on it. But the TC 1210 is best known for its 3D stereo chorus.
Most of the guitar players who have used it over the years were able to create some really spacious feeling stereo tones through it. At some points, it could feel as if there are actually two instruments playing.
But whatever is the effect that you want to use on it, it provides a very 3D feel to it. In some cases, even when the sound coming from the left speaker is louder, you’ll get the impression that the tone is coming from the right speaker.
The illusion is created by delaying the signal to the left output. It is just one of the examples of how complex and detailed this piece actually is.
The analog feel is definitely noticeable with TC 1210 and it won’t sound like any of the standard sterile digital products you can find today. However, the whole operation is a bit outdated.
These days, you can get some pretty convincing (at least in our opinion) digital replicas of analog effects that would be a lot more easier to set up.
1210 will also provide stable operation for any kind of setup, whether you want to use it in front of an amp, FX loop, or in the standard rack configuration.
You can also send the signal to two amps or to separate it and go into an amp and a mixer. The options are endless, but it would take some time getting used to TC 1210.
One thing you need to know is that these are not exactly easy to find. TC 1210 has been really popular throughout the 1990s and these days you can find a used one for well over $1,000.
It’s an entirely professional vintage analog device that will provide some really “spacious” tones.
The TC 1210 is succeeded by some of the modern pieces, all of which are based on this old rack unit. For instance, there’s the TC 1210-DT Desktop Controller, which has a similar spatial expander effect on it.
But to conclude this review, this multi-effects piece is something those vintage seekers are crazy about these days. Aside from the guitar, it can be used for processing vocals or any miked-up acoustic instruments.
But if you’re a beginner and an average enthusiast, you’ll probably want to skip this one and go with something a little more simple and practical.
If we were to, somehow, go back to the earliest days of rock ‘n’ roll, we would stumble upon numerous guitar players having a hard time achieving a distorted tone.
After years of pushing their tube amps over the limits and using faulty equipment, some even resorted to damaging their amplifiers.
This was the case with The Kinks guitarist Dave Davies who even slashed a speaker cone on his tube amp to achieve that recognizable rugged fuzzy tone in “You Really Got Me” in 1964.
Who remembers this clip?
Well, anyway, that’s too bad since the Gibson subsidiary company called Maestro already came out with an actual fuzz pedal in 1962, the first-ever commercially produced fuzz effect – the Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone pedal.
Up until then, the only actual distortion devices were custom made and you would have a hard time finding an engineer who would know how to make them.
We won’t blame Dave for damaging his amp since the pedal was only widely accepted after The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards recorded “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” through it.
From then on, the guitar world was changed forever and the trend of distortion pedal was initiated.
But before we get into this old piece, we’ll have to share some sort of background on the whole thing. In the old days, the distortion was looked down upon by engineers as an undesirable effect.
When distortion finally found its place in rock ‘n’ roll, Gibson, under the Maestro brand, decided to release this new device.
However, it was not originally marketed as a distortion device but more like a “multi-effects” unit for bass guitarists. It was even able to emulate horn sections and other tones with its simple controls.
After trying to break into the guitar player market, they still didn’t see any success until Keith Richards finally ended up using it. Gibson kept making them until the early 1970s with the last model being FZ-1S Super-Fuzz.
These days, it’s remembered as an important part of rock music history as it opened up the doors for the creation of new distortion pedals.
Looking at such a device these days, FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone was a pretty simple pedal.
There was one output jack on the top side, two knobs for volume and attack, and an integrated cable that takes the signal from the instrument.
Although “attack” would not be the best way to describe the control, it was essentially like a gain knob on you see on regular fuzz or distortion pedals these days.
The original versions of the Fuzz-Tone came with three germanium transistors in the circuit and were powered by two 1.5-volt batteries.
There were some changes to the circuit made with the later versions, but the overall features remained the same.
More significant changes came with the FZ-1S Super-Fuzz version with additional controls and the design. Overall, it was a pretty simple and straightforward piece.
Speaking of the design, you can clearly see that this is an old piece made in the 1960s. Wedge-shaped and dark, it’s not really an eye-pleaser.
However, no one really cared about its design but rather what tones it could make.
Despite the lack of more controls, FZ-1 is a surprisingly versatile pedal. It was a very unusual type of fuzz, unlike most of the stuff you find today.
When used on basses, you could achieve tones resembling horn sections. Used on the guitar, the fuzz is usually pretty thin. On some tube amps, you could get enough of a push to get that natural drive going along with the fuzz.
But if you were to put them directly into solid-state amps, you wouldn’t get much of a thick tone. Not that it’s bad or anything, but it’s unlike any modern fuzz pedals we’re used to.
In addition, germanium transistors were never really practical. Yes, their tone is great and you might even get some smoothness to it despite being a solid-state piece.
However, germanium transistors tend to heat up during longer playing sessions, which clearly makes an impact on the tone. It doesn’t sound bad, but it just makes your tone inconsistent. This is why later versions of FZ-1 were made with silicon transistors.
To put it simply ñ it is a very specific piece and it’s preferred by those who like vintage tones and tube amps. Don’t expect anything tight-sounding.
After the initially produced pieces were all sold out in 1965, Gibson began producing the FZ-1a version. It ran on one 1.5-volt battery and it saw some circuitry changes.
A few years later, they launched the FZ-1B version which implemented two or four silicone transistors and ran on 9-volt batteries. It also came without the integrated cable but rather regular input and output jacks.
The final version was the FZ-1S Super-Fuzz which saw a complete redesign and some new features. It was basically a completely new pedal with different tones.
Gibson reissued the old FZ-1a versions for a brief period in the ’90s. Some other smaller manufacturers paid tribute to the pedal by releasing products that replicate its sound. However, the original early 1960s versions are still valued the most among collectors.
If you’re looking to get your hands on the original version from the 1960s, be ready to have anywhere between $200 and $500 with you. They’re pretty rare to find and have a very narrow specific use.
It’s definitely not something a modern tone lover would like. It’s far from tight. In fact, it’s really fuzzy and vintage sounding. The germanium versions might be a bit warmer, but it’s still a better idea to play them through tube amps.
Fuzz-Tone is an important piece of history and it marked the beginning of the distortion pedal era, something that lasts even to this day.
However, it’s not for everyone’s taste and you really need to know what you’re looking for if you want to get your hands on one of these.