Graham Coxon Guitar Setup and Rig Rundown

The 1990’s were the time of significant changes in rock and metal music. The rise of grunge and alternative rock movement opened up new horizons and completely changed the game for the coming generation of musicians.

One of the bands that made a huge breakthrough later during the decade was Blur.

blur 1991

Fitting into the alternative rock category, while also keeping some of those Britpop and indie rock traits, they paved their own way to success.

The biggest breakthrough came with their somewhat unusual but really catchy “Song 2” that, by now, everyone knows as one of the most influential rock anthems.

But the band wouldn’t have the reputation that it has today if it wasn’t for guitarist Graham Coxon.

Now, he is not your typical guitar hero rock star, the kind that spawned from the 1980s after Van Halen blew everyone’s heads off. Pretty much a reaction to it.

graham and damon

Since he began his music career in the late 1980s and the early 1990’s, Coxon is more in the vein of grunge guitar players, with just a hint of other elements in there.

But above all, he’s a very versatile musician, multi-instrumentalist, and – above all – a great songwriter, having written a ton of songs with Blur and also a lot of cool solo stuff.

In his teens, Graham was already well acquainted with a few different instruments. Aside from the guitar, he also played the flute, drums, and saxophone. There were a few bands he was a member of, but it was only in Blur (originally called Seymour) that he found success and fame.

However, as you may know, we’re all huge guitar gear nuts over here. So what we’re really interested in is tone and how he got it.

Coxon has a pretty exciting and – dare we say it – somewhat unconventional collection of guitars, pedals, and amplifiers.

There’s some stuff in his arsenal that’s pretty unique. But it’s not like you’d expect anything less from a musician like Coxon. So get ready and let’s dig into it.


Guitars

Like we said, his guitar collection over the years has been pretty interesting, and we can even find some unusual stuff in here.

So let’s start with his Fender Telecasters that he’s so well-known for. The one that’s been with him for so many years is his 1952 Tele.

Even if we ignore Blur’s greatness, this is a very valuable instrument with all the original parts and original cream finish from its production back in 1952. Graham used this one all throughout his career.

Here’s Graham talking about his experiences with Tele’s.

There are a few other very valuable Fender Teles worth mentioning here. For instance, there’s this one that Graham is referring to as being made back in 1969, although some sources claim that it’s 1968.

This is not unusual for guitars from the ’50s and the ’60s. Either way, this is yet another wonderful cream-colored instrument.

graham coxon telecaster

But what makes it interesting is the ash body, rosewood fingerboard on maple neck, and Gibson’s vintage PAF humbucker on the neck position. The bridge features a regular Fender single-coil.

Among other Teles, we can also find his 1972 Deluxe, which is the guitar he used extensively during the band’s 2009 reunion.

Also worth mentioning is midnight blue Tele, but not much is known about this instrument.

Now, since he’s become known for these guitars, it was only a matter of time he’d make his signature Tele with Fender. This instrument is based on a classic ’69 Telecaster.

Visually-wise, the only significant difference is in the pickguard. What’s a little unusual is the fact that it has a humbucker pickup in the neck position, Seymore Duncan’s SH-1.

Meanwhile, the bridge position is the classic vintage-styled single-coil by Fender.

As for Fenders in general, Graham is also a huge fan of Jaguars and Jazzmasters. He also owns a few of these instruments.

graham coxon jazzmaster

There are also plenty of other interesting electric guitars we should mention here. There’s a small collection of Gibson Les Pauls that Coxon has been using over the years.

One of his earliest LPs is the black Custom one. This guitar has been used both live and in the studio, most notably on Blur’s 1997 self-titled album.

Graham also owns a ’56 Goldtop ’56 reissue with two P-90 pickups.

We can also find a tobacco sunburst one, but not much is known about this instrument, except that it had a black pickguard that has since been removed.

While we’re at Gibson guitars, there’s also an SG that dates back to 1962, back when these were called Les Pauls.

graham blur

To make things more interesting, we decided to cover some of his unusual guitars here. One of the examples comes with his Fender Coronado 12-string.

It’s not a type of instrument you’d see that often, and it looks like a mutated Gibson 335 with a twisted Fender headstock.

There’s also stuff like Rickenbacker 330, Burns London Sonic, and a few others, although he rarely uses these instruments.

graham coxon burns

As for acoustic guitars, he has one great custom piece built by Ralph Bown, his OM model.

Graham used this guitar both live and in the studio for quite a while now. It’s a very unique instrument and includes an L.R. Baggs M1 pickup.

There’s also an inevitable Gibson acoustic guitar in there, a piece like J-160E. He also owns a Martin OM-28V.


Amplifiers

When it comes to guitar amps, Graham Coxon’s setup has never been really that exciting.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s only a handful of amps that are worth mentioning here.

For instance, his main amplifier is his Marshall 1959 SLP.

graham coxon marshall amps

You can usually see him using two of these on the stage, paired up with the ’69 Marshall cabinets, each bearing four 12-inch speakers.

In this setup, however, Graham quite often used an attenuator for each of the amps.

The one he’s fond of is Marshall PB100 Power Brake, and it goes between the amp head and the cabinet. This way, he reduces (or “soaks”) the power from the amp before it goes into a cabinet.

marshall power brake PB100 Attenuator

As we said, nothing else is really that exciting, or at least we don’t know enough to share all the details.

It is known, however, that he has used plenty of combo amps. Some claim that he has used Orange rocker 30 and a classic Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker.

As you can see, he’s pretty much a classic straightforward Marshall guy. Nothing really exciting, but it gets the job done.


Pedals and effects

But contrary to his amp setup, Graham’s pedalboard has always been really exciting.

He is, after all, a bit of a pedal junkie, and has relied more on effects rather than amps in shaping his tone. There’s a lot, so we don’t know where to begin.

Let’s go with distortion pedals first. And what a better way to start than with the legendary ProCo Rat 2.

He’s been using this one quite a lot, and you can sometimes even find more than just one of these in his live setup. It’s a simple yet really effective distortion.

In addition, he’s also used another version of the ProCo Rat pedal, the company’s well-known Turbo Rat.

proco-sound-turbo-rat-144575

This one is a little harsher-sounding compared to the standard ProCo Rat, although it features pretty much the same control configuration.

Since Blur is so-well known for their “Song 2,” we can’t help but mention the DOD FX76 Punkifier pedal. And this is a rather unusual one.

The Punkifier is both an overdrive and a fuzz, which is really weird as overdrive features soft clipping and fuzz has an extremely harsh clipping process. All in all, you’ll never be able to find a pedal like this one.

Another unusual one is the old Shin-Ei FY-2 Companion Fuzz. Produced back in the 1970s in Japan, these are pretty rare to find these days.

Back then, they were pretty innovative. However, these are pretty straightforward and feature only two simple controls for volume and gain.

It’s not completely certain what he used FY-2 for, but it clearly shows his great interest in vintage-oriented stuff.

Of course, it’s literally impossible for a guy like Graham to go without the classic Boss DS-1.

boss ds-1

This simple piece can be found on many pedalboards even to this day, both with amateurs and professionals. Just a classic piece.

T-Rex Mudhoney Distortion is another one we could see and hear Graham use over the years.

While not exactly the “mainstream” choice here, the pedal is as creamy-sounding as its name would suggest.

There’s also the Mudhoney II version, although Graham has been using the original model for quite some time now.

With so many different distortion pedals in there, it’s only obvious that there’s supposed to be a noise gate somewhere.

Of course, it’s not like Coxon is a hard-hitting heavy metal player, but fuzz and classic distortion pedals can get a little “messy” here and there.

For this purpose, Coxon’s choice is Boss NS-2. It’s a fairly versatile and useful example of a noise suppressor.

Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor Pedal review

While we’re at it, Graham is a huge Boss pedal fan. Aside from the aforementioned pedals by the legendary company, there are a few worth mentioning as well.

For instance, he uses the classic DD-3 Digital Delay. It’s the classic choice among Boss lovers, even though it has a shorter maximum delay time.

Boss DD-3 Digital Delay Guitar Pedal Review

Speaking of Boss delay pedals, there’s a rather interesting old unit somewhere to be found in his pedalboard.

The one we’re talking about is the DM-2, which is the company’s famous analog delay from the 1980s.

These kinds of delay pedals relied on the so-called “bucket brigade devices” to store the signal and repeat it. This results in somewhat of a saturated and even slightly muffled repeated tones.

Again, another example showing how Coxon is into older stuff.

Going over to other Boss pedals in his inventory, we can also find the VB-2 Vibrato, PN-2 Tremolo and Pan, BF-2 Flanger, TR-2 Tremolo, and even the RV-5 Digital Reverb.

The PN-2 is a rather interesting one.

Despite having only a handful of controls, there’s so much stuff that you can do with it.

As you might have suggested, it’s capable of delivering stereo output that shifts the signal from one channel to another according to set speed and depth. Otherwise, you can use it as a regular tremolo.

Then we have some pretty exciting stuff by Line 6. Most notably the FM4 Filter Modeller.

There’s actually a lot of stuff that you can do with a filter pedal, but this thing brings it to a whole new level.

The FM4 is practically closer to a synth pedal as it replicates some classic old synths. It comes with mindblowing 20 factory presets, as well as 4 user presets.

All in all, it’s really fun to use. Not really surprised to see this one in Graham’s collection.

Another one of those complex series of Line 6 pedals is DL4 Delay Modeller.

There’s just so much stuff that you can do with it, anything from standard delays and echoes, up to wacky bouncy stuff.

What’s more, it can also replicate some analog and lo-fi stuff. Who could have thought that a delay pedal would offer you so much creative freedom?

But from all the delays in his collection over the years, nothing can really beat his Akai E2 Headrush. It’s not an easy one to find, which is really a shame.

This pedal does so much stuff, anything from simple delay up to very complex looping. With it, you can also replicate some of those vintage tape-based echoes.

However, its biggest strength lies in all the looping features and overdubbing.

Talking of weird delay pedals, he also used Carl Martin’s EchoTone pedal.

Released in the late 2000s, it’s kind of similar to DeLayla XL, although EchoTone is a little bit more versatile.

It operates with an additional switch for two different delay times and another one for tempo of repeats.

We may as well stop there, since Graham’s bag of guitar pedal tricks does run very deep.  From album to album, he’s a bit of a kid in a candy store, trying out various things on various tracks. 

This is made all the more exciting by the fact that he’s not afraid of layering guitars on top of one another, to get exactly the effect he wants for any given song.  

This is why we love Graham, as he was and is, to a large extent, the sonic architect of Blur, although everyone involved in that band brings their own brand of genius to the mix.


Conclusion

If you aren’t your typical shredding rock guitar hero type of guitar player, but love sheer inventiveness when it comes to guitar playing and especially songwriting, Graham Coxon is definitely someone to check out. 

He’s played on some of the world’s biggest stages, delivering quirky riffs that are both melodic and mosh-able to tons of fans around the world, which is a big reason Blur is so beloved. 

In other words, he’s just your regular affable brit, but with a huge knowledge of guitars, guitar history, pedals, and so on.  So definitely worth diving into to see what he’s up to at any given time.  

Have you given him a listen, or used any of the gear he uses?  Drop us a line below.

BONUS: Some great video interviews with Graham Coxon


We Review the Best Overdrive Pedals for Blues Today

There’s nothing like the joy of hearing that smooth, yet somewhat rugged, overdriven guitar tone. While many players often aim at those “scorched” tones of regular distortions, overdrives have their important role too.

They just give a different flavor, while maintaining enough thickness of the tone. Whether we’re talking about guitars with single-coils or humbuckers, overdrive always manages to give that highly desirable and distinctive creaminess.

While many consider it to be just a milder version of regular distortion, there’s actually another important distinction.

Yes, overdrive is indeed a type of distortion, but with softer clipping. Compared to fuzz and regular distortion pedals, the tone of overdrive has softer “edges” in the clipping process.

Essentially, these pedals add their own tone coloration but still manage to keep the natural tone of your guitars and amps. In a way, it replicates the tone of clean tube amps pushed over the limits.

This is why overdrive pedals are quite popular among blues, jazz, or and vintage-oriented guitar players.

Slash

In many cases, they’ll use them in pair with tube amplifiers to push them into uniquely smooth, yet distorted territories.

Even to this day, various manufacturers are still producing overdrive pedals. While these find use in many different genres, including modern metal, they’re mostly still popular among blues and blues-rock players.

This is why we decided to look more into the topic and find out – what are some of the best overdrive pedals for blues today?

After a lot of digging, testing, and experimentation, we came up with the following list. Now, whatever your musical tastes are, these pedals can come in handy for a wide variety of genres.

However, we would argue that they work best for blues and blues-rock.

Feature Picks


Boss BD-2 Blues Driver

bd-2_1

It’s not a surprise that we open up this list with a pedal featuring “blues” in its designated name. Made by Boss, the BD-2 Blues Driver has been popular among blues guitarists for quite some time now.

The pedal is pretty simple to use, and features the always present three controls – volume, tone, and drive. Just like with the classic Tube Screamer, there’s nothing more that you need.

While it mostly comes in handy with tube amps, trying one of these with a solid-state will do just fine. In fact, it will even slightly enhance the tone and add the much-needed warmth in the mix.

While it’s great for any type of guitars, we would argue that it shines when you use it with guitars equipped with single-coil pickups.

A few years ago, Boss also made the BD-2W version, featuring their Waza Craft technology.

Visit the Boss website here


Fulltone OCD V2

Fulltone OCD V2

The only thing we didn’t like about this pedal is the Comic Sans font on the front panel. Other than that, this could easily be one of the best pedals of all time.

Its rich harmonic content and the responsiveness of controls are what make it so great. Aside from the three basic controls, there’s an additional switch for highpass and lowpass filtering.

This way, any guitar player can orient their tone towards the bottom or the higher end of the spectrum.

Also, there’s an internal switch that allows you to use it in true bypass and buffered bypass mode. So that’s a pretty neat addition.

Visit the Fulltone website here


TC Electronic MojoMojo

TC Electronic MojoMojo

TC Electronic’s MojoMojo has got to be the best deal for the price. Although it’s pretty cheap, it deserves to be mentioned among the best pedals you can find today.

This true bypass pedal allows a lot of versatility with a 2-band EQ and the “Voice” switch that toggles between the vintage and modern-sounding drive.

Knowing that Paul Gilbert uses one, it’s pretty clear that MojoMojo is worth it. It’s just a simple little piece that can do wonders when pugged into clean or distorted channels of tube amps.

Trying one of these out, you won’t believe that the retail price is just around $50.

Visit the TC Electronic website here


Electro-Harmonix Soul Food

Electro-Harmonix Soul Food

What many don’t know is the fact that Electro-Harmonix made Soul Food according to the legendary, and somewhat mysterious, Klon Centaur pedal.

Knowing that Klon is no longer in production and that they reach some astronomical prices, Soul Food comes in as a viable solution. Although reasonably priced, it still does a great job of capturing some of the original pedal’s tone.

Featuring only three basic controls, Soul Food will give you some very transparent and bright overdriven sounds.

While it comes in handy for any type of pickup, we thoroughly loved how it sounded with humbuckers.

It’s also important to note that Soul Food features a true bypass.

Visit the EHX website here


Boss OD-1X

Boss OD-1X

Knowing what a great line of products they have in their arsenal, we just couldn’t help but add at least one more Boss overdrive to the list.

Here we have the old classic OD-1X Overdrive, made according to the classic old pedal released back in the 1970s.

Some controls are added, but the tones replicate the warmth of the original pedals. The best part comes with this pedal’s dynamic response.

You’ll feel as if though you’re playing through a tube amp.

Visit the Boss website here


MXR M193 GT-OD

mxr-m193-gt-od-overdrive-pedal

Anything from subtle sparkling overtones, up to harmonically rich and tasty drives – this pedal has it all with just three basic controls.

It’s interesting, though, how it manages to keep all the smoothness while also delivering that bright, transparent, and very defined edge.

What’s more, MXR’s M193 adds a decent amount of sustain to your tone without adding any unwanted noise. We’ve gotta say, it’s a real mystery to us how they managed to make it so good.

If you like adding something in front of your tube amp to push it over the limits, while adding some coloration and clarity to your tone, you should definitely consider getting the M193.

While the looks of it might suggest that it’s just another Tube Screamer imitation, it’s actually a completely different type of overdrive.

Visit the Jim Dunlop website here


Chase Bliss Audio Brothers

Chase Bliss Audio Brothers

Audio Brothers by Chase Bliss is a fairly expensive pedal, at least compared to many of the products that we listed above. However, it’s definitely worth every penny.

First off, it’s a pedal with two separate stages. While on the top panel we have six main knobs, there are many other mindblowing and complex features.

With its numerous controls, it allows anything from simple clean boosting, over smooth overdrive, and even the buzzsaw-like fuzzes.

Audio Brothers pedal fuses analog and digital technologies, allowing you to save 33 different combinations of presets.

You can combine channel A and channel B in different ways, and even blend them together. It’s one of the most complex and intricate pedals that you can buy today.

Visit the Chase Bliss Audio website


Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer - Classic

And we finally come to the legendary Ibanez Tube Screamer. The history of Tube Screamer has been explored by many guitar pedal fanatics, but for a good reason – there are so many great versions and clones.

What started back in the late 1970s with the original TS-808 has evolved into so many different overdrives. Today’s TS-9 is a direct continuation of that pedal, with just a few minor modifications done over the years.

This version is made according to the old Tube Screamer made in the first half of the 1980s. The circuitry is completely the same and the tones are some of the best that you can get for blues.

At the same time, this pedal presents a great basis for any kind of modification.

Visit the Ibanez website here


Keeley D&M Drive

Keeley D&M Drive

You don’t often find a pedal that’s as good as Keeley’s D&M Drive. Here we have a two-stage piece that incorporates simple boost within an overdrive pedal.

Interestingly enough, you can use it as two standalone pedals. But what’s really mindblowing is that you can choose whether boost comes before or after the drive section.

This provides some great tone-shaping options. What’s more, you’re also able to choose between true and buffered bypass. So aside from quite a great tone, we have a lot of functionality features.

As a result, the types of tones you can get are pretty much endless.

Visit the Robert Keeley website


Strymon Sunset

Strymon Sunset

Strymon is a one-of-a-kind pedal company that manages to surprise us with every single piece they’ve ever made.

For this list of the best blues overdrives, we’d like to include their extremely versatile Sunset. Additionally, you can also venture into the world of distortion with this pedal.

What’s really great about the Sunset is that it manages to convincingly replicate the responsiveness of a tube amp.

To be fair, many would fail a blind test and between Sunset in a solid-state amp and an actual tube amp. It’s just that good.

Similar to the aforementioned Audio Brothers, this dual overdrive has so many features, including the expression pedal connectivity. You can also choose the order of the two gain stages, or just blend them together. Barely anything comes close.

One of the best things we liked about it is the replication of those vintage germanium diode tones.

Visit the Strymon website here


Origin Effects RevivalDrive

Origin Effects RevivalDrive

Now here’s a very intricate piece. At first glance, it’s pretty clear that Origin’s RevivalDrive hides so many different tone-shaping options with it.

Like some of the others we mentioned, it’s also a two-stage drive, with one on/off switch and another one that toggles between the channels.

One channel is inspired by tube tones, while the other one features the classic silicon transistor.

But then we come to an abundance of controls that would take days for us to fully explain. RevivalDrive brings the best of two worlds in one pedal.

Visit the Origin Effects website here


EarthQuaker Devices Westwood

eqd-westwood-rhp

Although the controls look like on any other overdrive pedal, EarthQuaker’s Westwood hides a few tricks up its sleeve. What’s special about it is that it has a so-called “active” 2-band EQ.

This means that, when shifted to left and right, the frequency band changes drastically, cutting or boosting up to 20 dB. Also, the drive control is voiced in a special way, providing much more response than standard controls on other pedals.

This compact piece comes in handy both as a booster and an overdrive. It’s a very crunchy pedal, to an extent where it might lack some smoothness to it.

It doesn’t mean that it’s bad, it’s just different and very useful for those who love these types of overdriven tones.

Visit the Earthquaker website here


Fender Santa Ana

Fender Santa Ana

While we mostly remember Fender for their guitars and great tube amps, it’s a shame that people sometimes overlook their extremely versatile and abundant arsenal of effects pedals.

Up next, we have the company’s impeccable Santa Ana overdrive. This is a classic two-stage pedal with very sensitive and responsive controls.

There are six basic controls for a 3-band EQ, presence, volume, and drive. It also comes with a voicing switch that picks between the classic American and British types of amps.

There are two switches on it, one to turn it off and the other one to add the boost. What’s interesting is that you can choose whether the boost option will add more drive or volume to the equation.

Another great feature comes with the addition of true and buffered bypass switching.

Overall, this is a fairly flexible pedal that manages to create a wide array of different overdriven tones.

Visit the Fender website here


Analogman King of Tone

analogman-king-of-tone-overdrive-guitar-effect-pedal-xl

King of Tone is a very special pedal. So special that you need to get your name on the waiting list, and wait for who knows how many months until you finally get it.

These boutique overdrives made by Analogman are in such demand that people started reselling them for higher prices. In fact, there’s a limited number of these pedals an individual can order in their lifetime.

And it’s no wonder that it achieved such a legendary status since it sounds so damn great. Sure, it comes with some customizable features, but the circuitry is almost the same with every one of these.

It’s a two-stage distortion that gives anything from smooth creamy drives up to sizzling heavy distortions. If you want the ultimate blues tone, then get on the King Of Tone waiting list.

Visit the Analogman website here


Thanks for reading!  Have you purchased any of these overdrive pedals?  What did you think?

We Review The Best Compressor Pedals Today

best compressor pedals

Let’s face it – any of us would just love to spend our whole lives just jamming out and looking for those perfect guitar tones. With this said, it seems like creating the perfect rig is an impossible task.

Yeah, you’ll buy something new, whether it’s a pedal or a rack-mounted effect or a new amp, but you’ll always manage to stumble upon something new and fresh that grabs your attention.

And there’ll be all sorts of stuff that you’ll want to buy, all those flashy and exciting effects that turn your tone into a strangely pleasant mush of harmonically rich content.

However, it seems that we often tend to forget about some of those less exciting but essential pieces of gear.

At the end of the day, it’s not all about the crazy stuff, there’s supposed to be something in your signal chain that controls your tone.

Strangely enough, compressor pedals often tend to get overlooked. Yeah, they might be a bit dull, but when applied properly, they do wonders for your tone.

johnmayer3

Whether it’s the rhythm or lead parts, or whether we’re talking about distorted or clean tones, dynamic compression always serves its purpose.

By making quiet parts louder and louder parts quieter, these pedals practically “squash” your tone, bringing much-needed dynamical control and sometimes even additional thickness to it.

In most of the band settings – especially if we’re talking about larger groups of musicians – you just cannot go without a compressor pedal.

No matter if you need those tasty funky rhythm tones, chugging riffs, or excessively loud screaming leads, we decided to bring you the list of the best compressor pedals for guitar that you can find these days.

Feature Picks

Xotic Sp Compressor Guitar Effects Pedal Bundle With Blucoil Slim 9V 670Ma Power Supply Ac Adapter

Buy On Amazon


Xotic SP Compressor

xotic sp compressor effect pedal

The first one we’re going to mention is fairly simple and compact. Nonetheless, this small pedal can do wonders for your tone.

What’s more, the operation is extremely simple, which makes it a perfect choice for those who don’t feel like bothering with parameters too much.

Xotic’s SP features two knobs, one for volume and the other that blends processed and unprocessed signals. But there’s more to this simple pedal, as it features a 3-way switch for low, mid, and high compression.

More tone shaping is available through four internal dip switches for attack, release, high cut filtering, and input pad. There aren’t many options for tweaking mid-session, but simplicity is the main idea behind such a pedal.


MXR M228 Dyna Comp Deluxe

DynaCompDlx-xlarge

There’s a lot of great stuff in MXR’s arsenal, and they’re pretty well-known for their quality compact guitar pedals.

Talking of compressors, they have a fairly simple and popular M102 Dyna Comp. However, we would like to include an upgraded version, the MXR M228 Dyna Comp Deluxe, on this list.

As opposed to the M102 that has only two controls, the M228 features four knobs. There’s the output volume and “sensitivity,” which determines the strength of compression and the overall sustain.

The clean blend control does the classic mix between the processed and unprocessed signals, and there’s also a regular tone knob on it. An additional switch in between the knobs switches between faster and slower attack time modes.


TC Electronic HyperGravity

TC Electronic HyperGravity

Among a variety of their pedals, TC Electronic’s HyperGravity has earned quite a reputation among tone lovers. And it definitely lives up to its name, as the pedal adds some quite tight and “squeezed” tones for any possible occasion.

First off, the pedal offers four basic controls for volume, blend, sustain, and attack. We can also find a switch for three modes of operation – Vintage, TonePrint, and Spectra.

Vintage mode, as the name suggests, offers the old school kind of tones. Spectra brings some very bright and clear compressed tones, very useful for clean settings.

And there’s the TonePrint feature, that allows you to either download presets from the company’s website, or create your own that you can upload to TC Electronic’s library.

But that’s not all. The pedal also has an internal switch for true bypass and buffered bypass modes. This feature comes in rather handy for different signal chain preferences.


Boss CS-3

boss-cs-3-compression-sustainer-pedal-review

And it’s the good old Boss up next, with their CS-3 Compressor. This pedal is the continuation of the company’s old CS-1 and the very well-known CS-2, both of which are still highly valued among vintage pedal fans.

The CS-3 brings a bit more functionality, while it still retains that bottom-end-heavy squashed, yet really defined tone and low-noise operation.

You can sculpt your tone through four basic controls for volume, tone, attack, and sustain.

The sustain knob determines the intensity of compression, while it adds actual sustain as a “side effect” of compression. It’s not expensive, it does the job well, and fits perfectly for any musical style.


Behringer CS400

Behringer CS400

Okay, some might give us weird looks for deciding to include an actual Behringer pedal on this list. But there’s a good reason for it – the CS400 actually works rather well and is extremely cheap.

It’s usually somewhere below $30, which is ridiculous for a guitar pedal. The only downside is the plastic casing, and possibly the overall design and choice of LED color. Other than that, the pedal works like many other compressors out there.

As for the controls and the tone, the CS400 is pretty similar to Boss’ CS-3 we discussed above. There are Level, Attack, Tone, and Sustain knobs on it.


Foxgear Squeeze

Foxgear Squeeze

Appropriately named Squeeze by Foxgear will thoroughly squeeze your tone. And this one is as simple as it gets. There’s the input, the output, and two knobs for output volume and ratio.

While it’s not very versatile, the pedal does bring some amazing compressed tones. The thing is, this is an optical compressor pedal, meaning that the input signal is converted into light and processed as such.

As a result, you get a very peculiar tone that no other conventional compression pedal can replicate. The response and the whole feel are a bit different.

Also, the signal is pretty clear and you can add strong compression with a vintage vibe without any interference or noises whatsoever. Plus, it looks very cool.


Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone

Pigtronix Philosopher's Tone

There’s a lot of unusual yet very useful stuff made by Pigtronix over the years. But aside from those wacky synth pedals, they also have a fairly simple and compact compressor called Philosopher’s Tone.

And its main philosophy is to bring regular compressor pedal functionality within a smaller sized unit that fits today’s trendy standard of crowded pedalboards.

So aside from the output volume, blend, and sustain/intensity knob, there’s also a treble control. In some way, it operates like the tone knob, with just a little accent on the high-ends.

The tones can get bright, especially because this is a true bypass pedal. We’d argue that it does a great job for those funky single-coil rhythm tones that you can get from Strats and Teles.


Origin Effects Cali76

Origin Effects Cali76

Now, Cali76 by Origin Effects is a high-end piece, something that gets pretty obvious with the first glance at this pedal. The interesting thing that makes stand out from most of the pedals out there is that it’s only powered by an adapter.

The main idea behind this approach is that the higher current always provides a clearer tone. But at the same time, you can run it either on 9 volts or 18 volts, which brings a significant difference in tone and overall output.

We have six control knobs on it. Interestingly enough, there are separate controls for input and output signal, while you can also adjust the ratio, attack, and release.

All this provides some very detailed tone shaping, and you can achieve some great compressed tones for literally any type of music and combination of pedals. Yeah, it’s a bit more expensive, but it’s quite worth it.


JHS Pulp ‘N’ Peel V4

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You know how you can use compressor pedals as boosters and push vintage tube amps over their limits, while also shaping their tone? Well, JHS has a great pedal for this occasion, called Pulp ‘N’ Peel Version 4.

There are those basic four controls that we can find on most of the compressors, like blend, compression intensity, volume, and tone that’s labeled as “EQ.”

But there are a couple of additional goodies here that make it stand out. With just one switch, labeled as “dirt,” you can tighten up the tone further and add some bottom-end to it.

The second feature is the XLR output that lets you plug it directly into a mixer. This comes in handy when you want to make a practical gig setup without amps. What’s more, there’s an internal switch for true bypass and buffered mode.


Keeley Compressor Pro

Keeley Compressor Pro

Here’s another high-end compressor pedal that comes in handy for all those who want to make fully professional signal chains and guitar rigs.

Robert Keeley is a famous pedal builder who created and modded effects units for many famous guitar heroes.

Since the early 2000s, he’s been making some of the best boutique-tier pedals on the market under the Keeley Electronics brand. For this list, we’re including the company’s Compressor Pro.

At the first glance, we can see that the controls are very detailed, offering precise attack and release times, threshold settings, gain, as well as ratios that go well into the maximum limiter territory.

Then comes even more exciting part with the hard and soft knee switch that switches between the harder and softer attack modes. The soft mode offers more control over tone and can be useful for solos and other lead sections.

There’s also the Auto mode switch that dynamically changes attack and release times according to your playing. Now, that’s an advanced feature.


Walrus Audio Deep Six V3

DeepSixV3-large

Continuing the streak of high-end compressors, we have Walrus Audio with the third version of their Deep Six compressor.

The interesting part about its circuit is that it internally doubles the voltage, bringing more headroom to the tone. The effect is adjusted through the 5 basic controls for volume, intensity, tone, blend, and attack.

We could say that the pedal’s build lives up to its tone and name, as it is one of the most robust pieces out there. Obviously, this makes it a valuable addition to live pedalboards.


Carl Martin Andy Timmons Signature Compressor/Limiter

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Andy Timmons is one of the unrightfully underrated maestros of the guitar world. Carl Martin has designed and built Andy his very own signature compressor pedal.

It’s not a complicated piece at all, but it has some interesting additions to it and makes some pretty unique compressed tones.

However, the pedal offers a 2-in-1 deal with two separate compressors in it. That’s a pretty useful option for those who don’t feel like tweaking a lot of knobs and switches but need two modes of compression during the same gig or a session.

While there are separate controls for compression intensity and output volume, threshold and response are shared and operated only through two simple switches.


Wampler Ego

Wampler-Ego-Full-PI

We can talk for days about different compressor and limiter pedals that the market has to offer these days, but a lot of people are singling out Wampler’s Ego as the best possible choice.

This pedal, that’s become so popular among guitar players of all genres, adds significant versatility to the effect. It’s especially popular among the fans of true bypass.

The controls are fairly simple and are the standard ones that you can find on most of the higher-end compressor pedals – sustain/intensity, tone, attack, blend, and output volume.

However, the tone-shaping is different and allows more flexibility compared to average compressors out there.

If you want a universal and fairly flexible piece without any complicated features, you should definitely check out Wampler’s Ego.

Looking through their list of products and seeing how great their pedals are, it’s safe to say you won’t be disappointed with the Ego.


And that about wraps it up for now!  Have you used any of these?  What are your thoughts?  Comment below!

A Beginners’ Guide to Guitar Pedals

beginners guide to guitar pedals

The world of electric guitars opens up new horizons of expression in music. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that it’s one of the most popular instruments out there. After all, there are so many different things that you can do with an electric guitar, making it a very potent musical tool for almost all of the genres that we can think of today.

The fact that it’s an electric instrument that sends a signal to an amplifier opens up new ways for further altering and improving its tone. With the development of guitar effects, guitarists worldwide were given a new tool that would help them to more easily convey their artistic message.

So it’s not unusual to know that many guitar players have dedicated their time and effort in building elaborate pedalboards. Some of them even feature very complex loops and even external controllers to create different combinations of sounds.

huge guitar pedal board

If you’re new to guitar pedals, some things might get a bit confusing. Well, you’re definitely not alone in this, and even the most experienced guitar players have been there. After all, with so many different pedals and effects, it does get difficult to keep up with how things work.

With all this said, we figured we could help clear things up for beginners and do a detailed guide on guitar pedals. We sorted them out by categories, explaining what these effects do, and how adjusting their parameters affects your tone. At the end of this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of guitar pedals and enough knowledge to start building your pedalboard.


Tuners

Peterson Stomp Classic Strobe Tuner

Tuner pedals are not effects, but we still need to include them in this guide. Essentially, they are like regular guitar tuners, only in the form of guitar pedals that you can put in your signal chain.

What’s important to note here is that they have a display or an array of LED lights along with a display so that you can easily see when the open string hits the desired note.

They’re nothing fancy, but they serve their purpose for live settings. You just hit the footswitch, mute the tone, and tune your guitar. That’s it!

However, tuner pedals usually have buffered bypass, which can serve its purpose in the signal chain. Essentially, they can balance the signal and sort things out, but that’s a whole other discussion that we’ll touch upon some other time.

Read a review of one of our favorite tuning pedals here


Filters

DigiTech X-Series Synth Wah Envelope Filter review

Up next, we have filter pedals that serve the purpose of filtering out certain frequencies in your tone. This means they can also pronounce certain frequency ranges of the audible spectrum by filtering out everything else. One of the examples of filter pedals is the wah-wah.

Wahs can change the peak frequency, pronounce it, while everything else stays the same or gets filtered out. By moving its rocking part, wah pedal sweeps over the spectrum. We also have automatic wah pedals that change these frequencies according to the input signal, or the dynamics of your playing.

Other types of filter pedals are “static” and keep the tone according to your parameters. As a result, they can emulate some quirky synth tones. An example would be Line 6 FM4. However, these are usually more advanced “toys” that you don’t exactly need as a beginner.

Check out our review of the DigiTech Synth Wah Envelope Filter Pedal here


Equalizers

eq700

Just like your guitar amp has a 3-band equalizer with bass, middle, and treble controls, there are standalone pedals that can further shape your tone.

The simplest form of an EQ is a tone control on your guitar, and the most complex examples would be things like 30-band EQs or parametric EQs.

EQ pedals for guitar usually have anywhere between 5 and 10 frequency ranges that you can control using sliders. By turning the pedal on, you change the tone according to the set parameters, and then go back to the original tone when it’s turned off.

This is pretty useful if you need to change the tone for a certain section of a song, like pronouncing mids for a solo. MXR’s M108S is a good example of a 10-band EQ pedal.


Boosters

Fulltone Fulldrive2 MOSFET Overdrive Boost review

We could say that these are the simplest types of pedals out there. All they do is boosting the guitar signal without creating distortion in their circuit. If you need a slight volume boost without changing your tone, they come in handy.

However, they are also very useful with tube amplifiers or other tube pedals and devices in your signal chain. Tube amps tend to “break” their tone and cause that “natural” or “organic” distortion when reaching their limits.

A simple booster can help you achieve that vintage-sounding distortion with a tube amp or another tube-driven pedal.

Check out our review of the MRX MC401 Boost Pedal here


Compressors

boss-cs-3-compression-sustainer-pedal-review

Compressors often get overlooked, which is quite a shame as they are pretty useful. The proper name for them would be dynamic range compressors as they turn up the volume of quiet parts and keep the louder parts quieter.

Of course, you’re able to set parameters and intensity of this compression. They can also boost the signal when needed, but the main purpose is to keep everything in check and prevent anything from popping up in the mix.

This is why they’re very useful for bassists and rhythm guitarists.

Read our review of the BOSS CS-3, one of our favorite compressors


Expanders, aka noise gates

Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor Pedal review

An expander is the opposite of a compressor – quiet parts get quieter, and louder parts get louder or just stay at the same volume.

This effect is perfect for dealing with high gain distortions that tend to add that hissing sound when you’re not playing. While it can’t filter out the hissing during your playing, it does keep things quiet in between the notes.

They usually have just one control that sets the threshold at which the effect is activated. They’re simple to use but still require some experience to implement properly without soaking up your tone.

Check out our review of the Boss NS-2


Pitch-altering pedals

digitech-whammy-pedal-re-issue-with-midi-control

This is where the fun stuff begins. Pitch shifters can alter the pitch of your whole output or add one or more intervals to what you’re playing.

For instance, the famous example here is the Digitech Whammy that can alter the pitch of your tone as you rock the moving part of the pedal back and forth.

Kind of like a wah pedal, but it changes the pitch. You can hear this one in Rage Against the Machine’s famous song “Killing in the Name.”

Octaver pedals are also pretty common on pedalboards, and they usually have settings to add two additional tones to what you’re playing, one and two octaves below.

They can find uses in lead sections or anything that doesn’t involve playing more than one note at a time. Boss has some great Octaver pedals, like the OC-3.

We also have harmonizers that add the desired interval above or below notes that you’re playing. These can either work chromatically by adding a fixed interval (i.e. major third) or diatonically where they work “smart” and accommodate the intervals according to the scale that you’re playing.

To use these “smart” versions of harmonizers, you need some basic music theory knowledge. Examples of harmonizer pedals include Boss VE-2, Boss VE-8, TC Helicon Harmony, and many others.

Read our review of the Digitech Whammy 5


Distortion

Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion review

Now we get to the most important part of every pedalboard – distortion pedals. In the world of guitar, the distortion effect is divided into three categories, which are overdrive, classic distortion, and fuzz.

They create this effect by intentional boosting and clipping of the signal. Different types of clipping create different types of distortion.

There’s something for everyone’s taste these days, and the most attention is usually dedicated to finding proper distortion pedals for certain styles of music and playing.

Some of the famous examples include Ibanez Tube Screamer with all of its variants, Boss DS-1, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, MXR M75, the legendary Klon Centaur, Pro Co Rat, and many others.

Read our review of the Pro Co Turbo Rat distortion pedal


Modulation

mxr-m134-stereo-chorus-273109

Modulation effects include everything that adds the copy of your signal, alters it a little, and blends it in with the unprocessed signal.

The most famous modulation effect is the chorus that adds a very short delay and alters the pitch up and down according to the set amplitude and speed.

We also have flanging and phasing, which are in some technical ways similar, but in practice produce completely different effects.

Most of the modulation pedals have a “mix” or “blend” control that determines the ratio between unprocessed and processed signals.

There are also depth and speed controls, along with a few other things. Strymon has a great chorus pedal called Ola. MXR has the M134 stereo chorus that’s pretty great too.

Check out our review of the MXR M134 Stereo Chorus Pedal


Atmospheric effects: delays and reverbs

electro harmonix holy grail reverb

To keep your tone more interesting, you should think of different “atmospheric” effects. After all, you can’t keep it “dry” all the time. For this purpose, we have delay and reverb pedals. Both of these add repeated copies of your tone to create an illusion of a bigger or smaller room.

Delays add simple repeats according to set parameters. You can control the time distance between these repeats, the number of repeats, and the mix between the original and repeated signal.

It’s the classic echo effect. In some cases, pedals also have separate EQ controls for shaping the tone of the repeated signal. There’s anything from the simple stuff like the MXR carbon copy, up to very complex pieces like the Empress Echosystem.

Reverbs also repeat the signal, but in a more “shimmering” manner, giving the impression of one prolonged atmospheric continued repeat. It’s as if you’re playing in a large hall or a cathedral.

They also include blend or mix controls, just like delays. Strymon’s Big Sky is a great example of a very spacious-sounding reverb.

Read our review of the TC Electronic M3000


Volume pedals

morley-volume-pedal

While they could be the most boring part of one pedalboard, volume pedals should be an essential part of every signal chain, especially if you’re playing in a bigger band or an orchestra.

They’re pretty simple – you use them to control your output volume. They have a rocking part that you use to turn the volume up or down. There’s usually the “minimum volume” switch that sets the volume when the pedal is at its minimum position.

There’s a common misconception with beginners thinking that the volume pedal can do the same thing as the booster pedal. The thing with volume pedals is that you’re reducing the volume to the desired level. You use it when you’re supposed to keep quiet in the mix.

There are high impedance and low impedance volume pedals, but we’re not going to get too much into technical details about this. Low impedance pedals are more common and they go at the very end or near the end of the signal chain. Ernie Ball has its MVP volume pedal that’s very reliable.


Expression pedals, tap pedals, and sequencers

8StepProg-large

Some of the effects we mentioned usually support connectivity with external control sources. For this, we have expression pedals, which are just multi-purpose potentiometers in the form of a pedal.

Automatic wah-wah, certain modulation pedals, or even delays can work with an expression pedal, but only if they have a separate input jack for it.

On their own, expression pedals do nothing, although many volume pedals also have the expression pedal functionality.

Tap switches work the same way, it’s just that they have one control switch that sets the tempo of the effect. For instance, you connect it to a delay, and when your delay pedal is turned on, tap the switch pedal twice and the tempo of your repeated tones will be set according to the tempo that you tapped.

Sequencer pedals are a bit more complicated, and they’re definitely not something that a beginner would use. It’s a complex controller that has a sequence of adjustable steps.

It controls any effect with the expression pedal connectivity feature, but it does nothing on its own. An example here would be the well-known Electro-Harmonix 8-Step Program Analog Expression Sequencer.


What’s the correct order of pedals in the signal chain?

First off, there’s no such thing as the “correct” order of pedals. There are, however, some standards in arranging your pedalboard that may help you get the clearest tone without any unwanted noises or hisses.

This is the usual order, but you’re free to experiment. The whole thing is open for discussion.

From guitar to the amp, it goes like this: tuner – filter – EQ – compressor – boost – pitch altering – distortion – modulation – volume pedals – delay – reverb. Volume pedal can also come after the delay and reverb.

We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal

The Ghost Rider – The Depth and Touch of Neil Peart

neil peart rip

Guest blogger: Curtis James Healy

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.

Tony Iommi Rig Rundown

iommi

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.

tony iommi

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!


Guitars

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.

TI with guitars from Original Black Sabbath by Steve Tarshis

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.

1965 Gibson SG Special Monkey

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.

white 1960s Gibson Les Paul

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.

iommi old boy

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.

signature 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.


Amps

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.

tony iommi laney amp

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.

laney-klipp-100-2324801

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.

iommi sunn amp Ironbird guitar

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.

Parapedal

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.


Legacy

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.”

Feature Picks

We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal

Horns-Simpsons-Drooble

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.

guitar metal face

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.

Feature Picks

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

MetalMuff-large

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

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

triple wreck wampler

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

ht-metal-front-view-large

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

FullBoreDist-large

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.


Conclusion

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.

Recommended Rig Run Downs

John Frusciante Rig Rundown

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!

john frusciante rig rundown

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

john frusicante

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.

who-is-john-frusciante

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.

Read our feature article about John’s musical life, Who is John Frusciante?

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.

young-john-frusciante-1989

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.


Guitars

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.

Fender Stratocaster

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.

frusciante-stratocaster-1962

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.

Fender Telecaster

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.

frusciante_feature

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”.


Amps

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.

Marshall-Silver-Jubilee-John-Frusciante-Amps-Slane-Castle

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.

fender dual showman guitar amp

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.

Marshall Major

Essentially, what we’re looking at here is the essence of JCM 800 in a different package and 200 Watts of power.

Marshall_Major

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.
Effects

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.


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.

mxr micro amp

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.

Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion review

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.

boss_ce1

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.

DlxMistress-large

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.

electro harmonix holy grail reverb

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!

Synyster Gates’ Rig Rundown

synyster gates

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.

synyster-gates-avengedsevenfold-gettyimages-647264106

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.

Guitars

The most recognizable part of his whole setup and the one that became his personal stamp is the Schecter Synyster Gates signature model.

syn gates custom guitar

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.

synyster gates

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.

bat country avenger

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.

gibson ES335 DOT

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.

Schecter Diamond Series Blackjack PT

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.

Godin ACS-SA

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.

Amps

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.

schecter hellwin

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.

JVM205H-large

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.

jp2c john petrucci signature markIIC

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.

axe-fx-iii-1920-front-white

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.

Effects pedals

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.

Dunlop+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.

visual sound h20 V1 liquid chorus and echo pedal review

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.

MicroPog-large

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.

Ebtech HE-2 Hum Eliminator

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.

lg_brick

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.

Feature Picks

 

Schecter 6 String Synyster Gates Custom-S, Satin Gold Burst (1743)

 

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Schecter Hr412-Sle Hellraiser Stage 4X12 Slant Cab

 

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Marshall Jvm M-Jvm205H-U Guitar Amplifier Head

 

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Truetone V3H2O Liquid Chorus And Echo

 

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Final thoughts

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.

axe-fx-iii-1024-transparent-1024x271

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.

Fender Bassman ’59 Reissue LTD Amp Review

59 bassman

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.

fender vintage reissue '59 bassman

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.

Features

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.

Design

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.

Performance

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.

Conclusion

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.


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