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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

2005 - Digitech Bad Monkey

In some circles this pedal is over hyped, in others it's not appreciated.
People seem to think it's just another tube screamer clone. And it is, even though it has adjustable bass and treble, rather than just a tone control.

They're cheap, which is a bonus, they sound good out of the box. Also good, since the components are surface mount and not easily modified. There are some "secret" bass mods out there, but if you're handy with a soldering iron and can do simple R/C calculations, you'll be able to do the mod for yourself.

I have two, mine are stock.
One was made in USA and the other in China.
There are no sonic differences to my ear, but there are some visual differences.
Namely the colour of the capacitors and from memory, the PCB's might be a different colour too (it's been a few years since I opened them up).

The sound of them is a mild overdrive to a very moderate distortion. Two in series is pretty good for a metal distortion tone. The distortion never cleans up completely, so they're not any good as a clean boost.
It could probably be changed, but the traces and parts on the board are tiny and I doubt worth the effort.

Even though this is an overdrive pedal, that's not really what I use it for.
It turns out that Digitech have incorporated into their pedals, a very nice DI, complete with the correct EQ to record the guitar clean or distorted through the "mixer" output. It balances the tone and simulates the reactive load of a speaker. I use it all the time when noodling with my headphones on or recording guitars when I can't mic them up (which is most of the time). Actually I like using the Bad Monkey in bypass mode to act as a buffer and signal splitter, so that I can record the unaltered guitar tone through the desk as well as recording an amp. That way I can change my tone/fx later and if I want to re-amp the signal for re-recording "live" effects.

You should be able to pick up a bad monkey for about $50AU.
While there's nothing ground breaking going on, they offer some very handy tools for the recording guitarist.
I've even used them live when there weren't enough Mic's available for the whole band!

Monday, September 27, 2010

2010 - Peavey Delta Blues 115

Classic 50 head, with custom decal from a beer poster.
The last piece in the puzzle has been aquired.

About 12 years ago I owned a Peavey classic 50 head.
It was one of the nicest amps I'd ever owned. Unfortunately it had to be parted with as I was moving 700lm to a new city and the need for cash was greater than the need for a big valve amp.
I didn't have a speaker cab for it and it wasn't all that long after I'd injured the tendon membrane in my left hand and wasn't allowed to play guitar for a year. That was all a bit sucky and it left me ampless for a long time. I did have a BOS Gt-5, but it wasn't the same thing. So for years I'd regretted the unavoidable sale of the Classic 50 and have been trying to buy it back from the friend who I sold it to for the last 5 years. He won't budge. I've had a number of small amps in the years between then and now, but could never really justify spending a large sum of cash for an amp when a: I didn't have a car and later b: I didn't have a band.

I'd been planning on picking up a Classic 30 combo for a long time, but every time I'd found one, I had no spare cash. After getting the Mosrite a few weeks back I discovered that the classic series had two more amps in the line. The Classic 20 and the Classic Delta Blues. Since the 20 has no reverb, it was of no interest to me, as that directly affects my playing style. I like big gobs of reverb. I discovered the Delta was basically a Classic 30 with the addition of tremolo! Well, that was it. I was on a mission. I had to have a Delta Blues 115.

It didn't take long. I found two on ebay within a week of each other. One was in Brisbane and was a bit more than I wanted to spend, once couriers were factored in. Also i had no guarantee that it would have arrived in working order as the guy had not packing material. I let the auction go, only to find one for sale a mere two suburbs away!  I was the only bidder, so naturally I won the auction (all with the blessings of my dear lady). I took my $2 shop trolley along on the 109 tram and collected the amp. The guy I bought it from was really nice and we had a good old chat about amps and kids and whatnot. He even helped me tape the thing solidy to my trolley for the trip back home.

I got it on the tram in the opposite direction, fortunately it wasn't overcrowded and the trip up the hill took about 10 minutes. Not bad for peak hour.

It's not the heaviest am in the world, but I was glad to have the trolley as I had a half kilometer walk with it after the tram ride. Time was ticking and it seemed to take forever to get the thing home safely and fired up.
But get it home and fire it up I did.

I set it up in the middle of the lounge, switched it on and went for a cup o tea.
After letting it warm up a little while I was ready to play. I cracked out the Mosrite and got to playing.
The clean tone from the Delta Blues is big and rich and um.... I can't think of any other superlatives. suffice to say, it's particularly nice! Almost as good as the Classic 50 of old.

I've read a lot of reviews on the amp and have to agree about the dirty channel being a little disappointing.
Not so much disappointing, but not as inspiring as the clean channel. The lead channel has this bass cut which just makes the Delta Blues sound like and asthmatic bulldog. The amp has a 15 in cpeaker damn it, gimme some bass with my distortion. Fortunately it also seems to be a fairly simple mod to rectify that issue, if only one could overcome the fear of death at high voltage.

The reverb is pretty nice but is lacking a little. At maximum the reverb is just enough. But I want to gave the option to have far too much. Ok I can achieve this with an FX unit, but I don't always want to carry the m13 around. The schematic shows a simple 4558 opamp circuit which can be upgraded easily enough to get more gain and higher headroom. I've got some spare OPA2134's floating around which should take care of that rather nicely.

My last beef with the design of the amp is the tremolo, I've tread that there is a bit of a volume drop when it's engaged. It turns out that mine does it too. You can manage it if the depth knob is no more than 5, but then you don't have the full throb of a tube amp wit tremolo. The implementation is very basic, and I suspect it is to keep the cost down. It's much easier to create a tremolo effect via optical circuitry than it its to have a safe valve bias tremolo effect. 1/2 of the 4558 seems to be feeding the tremolo circuit and should prove fairly easy to correct for the slight volume drop.

I do plan to modify the amp some time down the track, but for now am happy as is and can augment it's function with an effects pedal or two.

The boost switch seems to get a lot of bad press. From my limited experience on the amp I kinda get it, but when I was playing my Jim Dunlop Octavio through the Delta Blues, the mid boost was actually quite beneficial in bringing out the dirt and octave up produced by that effect.  I've only used one pedal with it so far, but the Octavio sounds fantastic through this beast.

A couple of days after buy the amp I decided to try adding a master volume to the FX loop.
Worked a treat, I was now able to reduce the volume to something sensible for playing in a built up area.
I have my suspicions about the pot that I used, as the volume drop was a lot more than I had anticipated.
Since I broke one of the tabs off the pot this morning, I'll be getting a new one in there instead. Another option would be to use a rotary swtich with different values from 100k to 2.2m(which is supposed to be the return impedance).

I played around with it some more tonight, ran it on low volume, to keep the peace. The line 6 m13 really sounds great with this amp. I just went with it placed in the FX loop and discovered the reverb on the Line 6 is actually nicer than the real deal spring tank (go figure). This was mostly down to the level of noise the analogue version introduces.

After this I decided to run all of my guitars through the amp.

First up was the Surfcaster. It was light and cheerful, not particularly driven, which I found surprising. The lipstick pickup sounds great with this amp, as does each coil of the Seymour Duncan P-Rail.

Next was the Teisco Kadet. What has consistently been the quietest guitar on my other gear turned out to be a big fat tone machine! It sounds thick and powerful and its made of plywood!

The 3rd guitar I tried was the Guyatone LG127-t. Similarly beefy in tone to the Teisco, but it was a little quieter and the tone was more balanced than the others.

The 4th guitar... you guessed it was the Mosrite Ventures.
Very country. A lot more treble than the two vintage guitars, but thicker sounding by far than the Surfcaster.
I twanged away on it for ages, til the phone rang and I realised that my whole leg had gone to sleep when I went to answer it.

The amp does get very hot above the power valves. Too hot to touch. I think its normal, but could do with a little research. Overall the amp has excellent tone and volume, even with the mid range EHX valves on board.
In a year or so I might consider the mods and change the valves for better spec. I'm glad I bought back into the classic line. It's a great sounding amp, and with the right guitar, very fendery.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

2010 - Korg Mono/Poly

It's mine, all mine, finally mine, mine, mine!

Uh.. yeah. I've been after this synth for a long time.
Not the model, but this actual synth.
When I bought my AN1X it cost me maybe $500.
On the stand next to it was a Korg Mono/Poly for over a grand.
Everywhere I went, online and in meat space, I was told that this synth was not so good.

Well... I thought it looked cool and despite the criticism it's received, I think it sounds great with loads of functions!

This particular unit was found by a friend of a friend at Canberra Tip. That's right, the rubbish dump.
Gut Shot
He was working at the recycling centre at the time and basically had the pick of the stuff that came through before being made into land fill or sold to the public. So it wasn't covered in rubbish and bird poo.
The Mono/Poly was in 100% working order too. Whoever threw it away probably had no idea on how to use it. My buddy had told me the story and I offered a sum of money, but that was rejected flatly.

Sometimes patience pays off.

Portamento Control
A few months ago my old friend came to visit, and I casually mentioned the Mono/Poly again and he told me it was sitting in a cupboard back in Canberra and hadn't been used for years. After a little more conversation it turned out that the owner of the Mono/Poly was into collecting Starwars and Manga paraphernalia. I'd sold off my Starwars Lego, but still had a box full of akira figurines, from back when I was into that stuff.

So we had the basis of a trade. My old house mate was the intermediary and brokered the deal.

The deal was agreed to and a few months later he turned up at my door with a bucket full of old videogame console parts and a rather smelly Korg Mono/Poly.

It smelled like it's been hanging about forgotten, at 9th Ward before it burned down.
There's a smell that every synth I ever worked on gets, when it has been owned by a smoker.
Especially smokers who don't go outside to puff. It's pretty foul, but does tend to go away after a while.

Anyway I got the synth indoors, tried to ignore the smell and plugged in my headphones.

It's a funny old synth. My daughter made her first scifi laser sounds on it at 14 months of age! The portamento seems to be a little off, as in I can't switch it off for each voice. The filter is on a chip as opposed to the MS10 I used to own, which was a sallen key driven by a proprietary OTA style chip. The sound is pretty similar and will self oscillate and has a nice resonance. The poly mode is kinda funny, it can do chords, but not really in the classic sense. 

As yet I haven't had much time to play with it, but I did open it up and take some photos
There are so many knobs, it looks like it'll be a real pain to get in there to clean 'em all and reassemble the board.  Not much dust inside it either, though I found an unidentified piece of hinged metal and a dead moth.

Time to dig out the midi-cv converter and play around.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

2007 - Korg MicroKorg

I know, I know, these synths are everywhere.
Used on loads of albums apparently too(that's what I hear, but have no citations backing me up).
They have a bad rep for the presets being used on these albums as well.
Using factory preset sounds is a pointless waste of an otherwise fun and very useful little synth.
I've had mine for a number of years, and every time I've thought about upgrading or cross grading to other gear, this one never hits the sales room floor.
Why?
Well I have to admit I quite like this little synth.
It's patch panel is excellent and the ability to use the filter, vocoder and fx without having to to use the oscillators is a very handy feature.  It might not be the warmest sounding bit of virtual analogue out there, but it does have oodles of charm.  You can rout almost every parameter to just about everything else.
There are limitations of course. Ideally I'd like to see some control over the built in effects via the LFO & EG section. As there has been an update to the hardware with the XL model, I doubt the MK OS will get a look in.
The first thing I did when I got the synth home, was demo all of the presets.
The second thing I did was erase them. 
When the system is set to default (shift + f3), you get a single saw oscillator.
From there you're open to tweaking to your hearts content. The Sine oscillator allows for some simple FM style synthesis, and is fantastic for playing the Dr who intro or just get creative and modulate as much as you can to just see what happens. The rest of the oscillators have more basic control, and as to be expected the Square had PWM control which makes for great big bass patches.
This synth can do pads quite nicely, though I spent a lot of time programming electric piano and organ type sounds to it. It'll even pretend to be 8bit if you treat it right.
My only beef is the keyboard. The lack of velocity control is a little disappointing (it's available on the ms20 soft synth controller, which has the same keys). Also as there are two synth engines available, having the keyboard splittable and/or at least each voice being controlled via separate midi channels would have been a great bonus for playing live. At least you can do whatever you want with multitracking in this regard.
I've owned a number of korg products over the years and this unit is as well built and capable as any of them.
Each of them had a specific option that I'd have liked implemented, but the lack of options sometimes increases creative opportunities.
The MicroKorg is a great synth and at around $500AU 2nd hand is well worth the money.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

2010 - Line 6 M13

Guitar effects, more addictive than any other bit of music kit.
Probably because of the relatively low price for them on a unit by unit basis vs guitars and amps.
I'm not including boutique pedals in that statement, but your bog standard 2nd hand stompers.

At one point I had a bout 18 pedals on my board or strewn across my work area.
I only ever really used a couple at a time. Mostly just one.
My lady-love claims that I've spent at least 6 months out of the last five years plugging things in and out of my pedal board. She's not far wrong, I've lost count of the times that my board has been deconstructed and rebuilt.

There were cables running everywhere and it we were on the verge of having our little human beginning to crawl about. I needed a solution. A compact, good sounding solution. For a time I considered a Boss GT 10, but I couldn't find one at the price I was willing to pay, and was concerned by the limits imposed by its architecture.

Then one day I discovered the m13 at my local 2nd hand dealer, for a little more than I was willing to spend, but made an offer at my upper limit and walked away with a big fat multi fx unit.

Dare I say, it has too many FX?

Yes. I'm not saying that flippantly, but simply because some of the FX are so similar that they appear to be there for padding out the numbers, rather than offering something extra of value.

Not many people I know like digital models of distortion boxes.
I'm in that camp, and actually have a couple of the analogue versions of the pedals Line 6 has emulated.
I've got a Dunlop Octavio, the Line 6 version is ok, it gives the upper octave well enough, but what hasn't been modeled is the inherent instability caused by the changes in resistance between the internal inductor and the inductor that is the guitar pickup. The tone of the real thing changes drastically depending on how you pick, the Line 6 model, just sits there being consistent. It's ok in a pinch, but doesn't give the tactile feedback of the real thing.  Likewise of the overdrive model like the tube screamer, there's the basic sound, but it's missing something fundamental.  The fuzz face and big muff models sound and feel nothing like the real thing.

Instead of the duplicates of distortion models, why not have at least one bit crusher? Just one, that's all I ask.

This redundancy occurs in the other modes as well. 
The delay section has a few which have "dry thru" as an option. I can't see the point in this when the regular model has a mix control anyway. It just seems like an necessary add on. The memory could be utilised to give some processor time to some other form of delay type effect. The models are supposed to be the same as the DL4, I don't think that's quite right. They don't sound the same. At least, I remember the DL4 being a little wider in the stereo spectrum. Unfortunately the model of the Boss tape echo isn't anywhere near as good as the Boss RE-20 modeling pedal (which is superb). All of the negative comments about the delay section aside, it's still capable of some really cool sounds and the delays are very good in overall tone, I just don't like the padding.

The reverbs have less fluff there are two spring emulations in there and I can barely pick the difference.
Other verbs are crazy and fun, but at the end of the day I keep coming back to a simple spring for my guitar.

The filter section I feel is hit and miss, just a couple too many auto filters. I've heard other devices model some of these filters much more convincingly (Alesis ION). I might be a little unfair here, I've never been a fan of autowah. The filters would be more useful to me if they had LFO's as well as envelope control.

I like the modulation section, but a man has gotta ask. How many phasers do you really need?
The tremolo models are good, but no tremolo pedal I have tried, behaves lit an amp with that dedicated circuit. I like the big throb throb throb of the tremolo and the m13 doesn't quite get there. It is excellent in stereo, I gotta give it that.

Overall I think it's a great piece of gear with a huge amount of flexibility, I'd like to see a couple of models ditched to make way for some other less common FX. Maybe Line 6 will see my blog and hear my plea.
Until then, I think this is one uunit to see a long life in my gear shed.

2010 - Midibox Wilba mb-6582

This is something I built, not something I've bought.
It's sounds are generated buy the MOS 6582 chips as found in the Commodore 64.
In this particular synth's case, it uses eight, yes EIGHT of the suckers(you can also use other variants of the chip on this board).

Back in the end of 2008 a buddy of mine and fellow soldering nerd, talked me into embarking on a project that would end up taking more than a year to get to completion. "It's just a couple of chips and a few resistors and capacitors, an easy build. Aside from the chips it's cheap". Yeah, sure. Not the way it turned out for me.

I have no idea how much I've spent on this build, but I estimate around the $600(AU) mark.
The first hurdle was getting the chips. Toby took care of that as he'd been in contact with a guy from the midibox forum. At the time I think they cost about $19 a pop, ok, not too bad in hindsight as they're now over the $50 mark on a certain auction site of some renown. They took a while to turn up and I lost my job in the mean time, it was a few months before I got another secure job and almost sold them as the project just seemed too daunting. As it turned out, I hung onto them long enough to order the boards from http://avishowtech.com/mbhp/buy.html

They weren't too expensive considering the end result, but still I think it was more than $100 plus shipping.
Now actually sifting through all of the options and information to build the synth, was what really caused me problems. It was a case of information overload. So many power supply options and different choices for different configurations. There was no all in one build solution. Or so I thought.
It wasn't until near the end of the build that I found the manual. This would've helped earlier on, but I was coming to this project sporadically over the period of a year or so and not inclined to read everything over and over.

I had planned to make the panels myself, but experiments with a nibbling tool had not worked out well and frankly my work area isn't setup fot the kind of precision needed. I ended up getting my panels milled professionally through www.frontpanelexpress.com which cost a bit ($120) but was worth it in the end.
My advice on using the panels from the Midibox site, add holes in the corners for mounting screws through. Using glue to keep your screws in place is too damn hard!

I eventually got it all housed in a bone coloured Pactec PT10 case, which ran up another $50.

The rest of the process was difficult (mentally) as I'd not been getting a heck of a lot of sleep due to having a baby in the house.

For simplicity I've added the following instructions to consolidate all of the information into one place for any who want to venture into the land of SID music.

The documents you need are titled as follows:


2. "Rotary encoders" www.midibox.org/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=encoders
3. Base board pdf  http://www.mb6582.org/plans/MB-6582_Base_PCB_R2_Mono.pdf
4. MIOS Studio midi app
(main page) http://www.ucapps.de/mios_download.html
(Hex and Sysex files) http://www.ucapps.de/mios/mios_v1_9g.zip
(MIOS Studio application) http://www.ucapps.de/mios_studio/MIOS_Studio_2_1.zip

You need to connect midi in and out on the midibox.

To upload the bios, you need to have a jumper installed on j11 for the relevant core(1-4). You need to upload the bios to each core separately.

To do this, install MIOS Studio, select browse from the hex loader on the middle of the program window (missed this when I was tired). Make sure the core ID is selected for the appropriate core(0,1,2,3) hit start and you should be rocking with your upload.

Once your BIOS is in, you can load the SYSEX vintage bank.

Remember to insulate your LCD's pcb before you attach it, some users including myself have had errors in loading to all cores cause by a short on the control surface.

2008 & 2009 Epiphone Valve Jr Combo and Stack

As many of you already know, the Valve jr is a simple two valve circuit.
It's also a modders delight, which has spawned a whole sub industry of kits and forum threads dedicated to getting the most out of it. Now I'm a guy who likes to pull everything apart and get the soldering iron in there(more on that in a future post). But I haven't done anything more than swap out the valves.

I happen to own two incarnations of this amp, one each of the combo and mini stack.

Honestly I've left them as is, for the simple reason that I like the sound of them as is.
The only reason I changed any tubes out was because I knocked over my combo and one of the tubes became rattly.

I've owned a number of valve amps over the years, and these are the only ones that I ever noticed a significant change in the tone after a good warm up period. After about 40 minutes the top end opens up providing a crisp tone and a little more volume.

My first one came along because I didn't have an amp at the time and heard the buzz on the interweb about them. I picked it up from a local 2nd hand dealer for about $180 and haven't looked back. The stack I bought new from an instrument dealer in the CBD, can't remember how much I paid for it, but it was less than retail.

They are cheap, but have earned their reputation as good little recording amps.
I use an FX unit with them to get my reverb fix, but other than that I play them as is.

One of these days I'll join the big boys again, but for now I'm running in 5watt stereo.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

2007 - Yamaha AN1X

You might've noticed that I buy and sell gear fairly frequently.
Sometimes I have regrets, sometimes not.
The AN1X is sort of half way between there.
As far as synths go, you couldn't ask for one with better function and overall useability than this one. Splittable keyboard, independent voiceing and a damn fine clone of a Prophet 10. All done digitally. It came out around the same time as the prettier Roland JP-8000. These synths heralded a new era of virtual analogue devices.

The AN1X does have some "shortcomings" namely the filter Zipper, but it made up for that with Aftertouch, 4 tracks of your own virtual CV control, to just about any parameter you wanted. It's limited front panel was supplemented by a software interface for PC and allowed much experimentation.

Honestly, the only thing I didn't like about this synth was that I was too stupid to realise how badass it was at the time. Its just one of those things that one shouldn't part with, but left me with many pleasant memories and countless hours of tweaking patches.

I think I sold it to buy a Korg MS10.

Specifications

* Polyphony - 10 notes
* Oscillators - 2 osc: saw, variable width pulse, FM
* Effects - Reverb, delay, 3-band EQ, chorus, flanger, phaser, enhancer, compressor, distortion, overdrive,   amp simulator.
* Filter - Resonant 12/18/24dB/oct low/band/hi pass filter + 1 more hi pass
* Arpeg/Seq - Arpeg: 1 mon/poly, up, down, up/down, random; MIDI-capable. Seq: 16 steps, 1 track
* Keyboard - 61 keys (with velocity)
* Memory - 128 patches
* Control - MIDI (2 parts)
* Date Produced - 1997
AN1X Demo by TheAwesomePowerOfRockets
Keep you safe from the cold by TheAwesomePowerOfRockets

Monday, September 13, 2010

13/9/2010 - New Guitar Day! Mosrite of California(MIJ) 2000's

I'm sitting here chewing the remains of my burnt dinner to give my first impressions of the guitar I bought a couple weeks back. It turned up at work today and all the strings were relaxed to east tension for travelling.

Unfortunately circumstances had it that I wasn't able to play. It arrived after lunch and the boss was.... in a mood.  Anyway I tried tuning it by ear. It's a noisy office and not particularly loud when unamplified.
Anyway I played a couple of chords before I went home and wondered what I'd bought. I have short, wide finger tips and the neck is nice n' narrow, but I had my concerns that I was going to have trouble with the guitar.  Anyway I trundled it off home and put on some Man or AstroMan? to get  me in the mood.

So... what can I say?
It's a weird guitar.
Very thin neck, in both directions.
The strings are close together and I thought maybe I was in for some trouble. It didn't sound quite right. I played it through my Epiphone Valve Jr Stack(un-modded). Its nice, but doesn't really do the guitar justice.  For reverb I used a Line 6 M13 and a boss SD-1.
Arrival at the office.


First off the SD-1 kills the bottom end and tone out of this guitar so I ditched it from active duty(still in the chain). It's not bad on the Guyatone, but on this guitar it's just not good.  Oddly enough the "Tube Drive" model on the M13 actually sounds good!  The HOG sounded terrible with it, so it's not an all rounder.
After a while of playing I put the guitar down and picked up the Guyatone version. Suddenly it was obvious that the Mosrite felt weird, be cause I din't have to fight the guitar to play it! It also became clear that the Guyatone needs a good setup. It's been a while and feels like piano stings on there. Also accounts for the discomfort in my finger tips! 

I ended up playing the Mosrite for 90 minutes tonight and enjoyed the feel of the neck, though it will take a while to become familiar.  The whammy is responsive and easy to go crazy on, a little too easy... I already broke a string.










Sunday, September 12, 2010

2009 - Electro Harmonix HOG

I'm kinda obsessed with the sound of a Hammond B3 through a Leslie.
I can't play keys very well and definitely can't afford either a Hammond or a Leslie(in money as well as room).
The next best thing seemed to be a midi-guitar. Problem is, either midi guitars suck, or(more likely) my playing sucks. So when I heard about the POG, I thought nice idea, but not quite enough, a while later EHX released the HOG.  Now this seemed to be the answer to all of my needs.

I watched stacks of video's on youtube and decided that s soon as I saw one locally I'd give it a go. I didn't. I just sat there..... The local one was over a grand. I didn't want to go to the store and try it out, knowing that I couldn't buy it(ie: guilt for wasting the sales guy's time). Then later on I found one at a decent price and snapped it up. I think I sold my Whammy 4 to cover the gap.

Frankly I was a little mystified with the thing, impressed yet disappointed. The upper register sounds weird and needs filtering. The harmony notes don't suit my playing style and just seem add-ons for the sake of add-ons. It can do an organ sound pretty well, but in order to mask the upper register, it needs to be swamped in reverb. There are some cool functions, but it relies on your technique to be reasonably clean, not perfect but paying attention to what you're doing.

The hold function is pretty cool, but struggles to be balanced in a mix, either dominating or not cutting through.  I like it, but am not sure I'll hang onto it forever. Really depends on what my next musical project can get out of it. Right now I'm inclined toward getting a nice tube amp with reverb and ideally tremolo. Maybe an old Musicman 65w or a Fender Blues Jr

Friday, September 10, 2010

2008 - Sequential Circuits Prophet600

Selling this synth is one of my bigger regrets.
I was trying to raise cash to buy an Alesis Andromeda, turned out the shop I was buying through sold the one I'd had a deposit on. I was plenty annoyed about that. 

The Prophet 600 doesn't have the best reputation for stability, indeed mine was about as reliable as a plummer's estimate. It really depended on what happened when you turned it on if the controls would do anything. It's primitive processor was maybe a little bit under powered to track everything that was asked of it all the time. Not that it was much of a problem. I never played live with it. The sound of this thing is what I miss. I'd made a few typical "cars" patches and then hit upon one which was just awesome.

I've heard that a lot of people complain about the envelopes, but it never bothered me, even the "zipper" when using the filter cutoff had it's charms. Slightly more complicated than the Juno 60 on the front panel, but my favourite by far.

It was sort of an electric piano patch. I'd nailed the attack and release and there was this growly bottom end. The tone was almost acoustic. I loved it. Then one day the battery failed. All of my patches were gone!

Replacing the battery was easy, just a trip down to the local electronics dealer. Since I'd read about PCB's being destroyed by leaky batteries I moved the battery offboard and into the far coner of the synth where it could do no harm.

Alas all of my patches were gone for good. I never could get the right combo of sounds back.
That bummed out considerably, and may have resulted in me selling the synth. It eventually went to a guy in New Zealand where I last heard it was still working well and seeing some use in an actual band. Hopefully it lives a long life.

Specifications:
  • Polyphony - 6 Voices
  • Oscillators - VCO A saw / pulse / tri; VCO B saw / pulse / tri / PW
  • LFO - pulse / tri
  • Filter - cutoff / res / env / kybd
  • VCA - ADSR
  • Keyboard - 61 keys
  • Arpeg/Seq - Sequencer: 2-track, real-time only; Arpeggiator: up, down, up/down 
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - 1982

Thursday, September 9, 2010

2008 - Roland Juno 60

I've owned two examples of this species of 80's polyphonic synth over the last 5 years. The first was the non-preset, Juno-6 which I sold to make way for some other synth monster. I can't really recall. later I got my mits on a Juno-60 which is essentially the same thing, but with memory and dcb control. Mine came with a sequencer and I later purchased a Kenton Midi-DCB.

Oddly enough the only recording I did with this beast, was on the Juno 6 which had to be done manually.  I'm a lousy keyboard player, so i generally sequence everything or edit any live playing to correct any errors that crop up. The synth itself is pretty simple, though you can coax a lot of interesting sounds from it.  Ingeneral I used it for big drones, strings and most often organ sounds.

With both chorus buttons pressed in, it gave a nice vibrato/leslie sound.  The chorus is wide and prone to hiss a bit, but in a mix you can't really tell. Frankly I think it add's to the character of the overall tone.  I recently sold my Juno 60 to fund another purchase as I'd not been using the synth much since I'd recently built a synth based on the Commodore 64 6582 chip and it does pretty much everything that the Juno's do in the bass department.

Overall it's a nice synth, but not something that I couldn't live without. 
  
Specifications:
  • Polyphony - 6 voices
  • Oscillators - DCO: pulse, saw, and square
  • LFO - rate and delay
  • Filter - non-resonant high pass and resonant low pass
  • VCA - level, ADSR and gate
  • Arpeg/Seq - External JSQ-60 Sequencer
  • Keyboard - 61 note keyboard (no velocity or aftertouch)
  • Control - DCB Roland to Roland sync/interface (Roland MD-8 converts DCB to MIDI for MIDI control)
  • Date Produced - 1982

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

2009 - Guyatone LG-127t


I got this bad boy a little after my first child was born, a kind of celebration. I'd wandered into a local guitar shop and saw this upside down melted strat shape on the wall and was instantly enamored. It was but a year from my introduction to and subsequent obsession with Man or Astro Man? Their unusual choices of guitars and other instruments instantly appealed to the science fiction fan in me.

I'd never been interested in surf music, but Man or Astro Man? really opened my eyes to the genre. Unfortunately little else is as good as these guys in my opinion. Every day I'll put on a couple of MOAM songs on the stereo or portable music playing device. Can't get enough. 

The Guyatone guitar is a  strange beastie. It has this really hard wood neck, I've bumped it a lot and there have been no dents and barely a scratch. The body is light and as it turns out made of laminated wood. The pickups are somewhere between a P90 and a Strat single coil in tone, a lot of bit but also the hollow honk.  The vibrato is straight off a Jazzmaster and works quite well, the original arm was gone but the shop gave me a replacement. The replacement was from a Jazzmaster, but was too long for my playing style so I went out and bought a bar from a Strat style tremolo. The neck is narrow and very round, suits my small hands and my sloppy playing style. The action drifts a bit as my palm constantly hits the thumbscrew on the bridge.
I've never heard anything so good ad this guitar plugged into a Vox AC15 with a stack of verb and a little tremolo. Makes my valve jr's seem lame by comparison. I love this guitar and am glad that I bought it, however it did inspire me to an even greater purchase.....

Monday, September 6, 2010

1994 - Marshall JCM800 (100w Brown Face)

This amp was awesome.
A bit large, but totally awesome!
I had it for a few years and used it a lot with a couple of different bands.

The first week I had the amp I was using an underpowered speaker cabinet and drove them too hard causing the voice coils to melt and short out. This killed all of the valves in the power section. You could imagine the expense back then! I was soo sad. But it got sorted and then I paid off my quadbox and it was volume city.
Between gigs and rehearsals this amp took a fair beating.

For reasons not clear to me now, I used to place the head on its side.

The band jammed in a warehouse owned by one of the guy's parents.
Couldn't ask for a better location to make noise either.

The crunch channel was neglected as I turned the amp into a meaty sludge machine by adding the Sovtek Bigmuff. The two just worked well together.

The JCM800 stack and I parted ways because I couldn't lug it around easily and always had to rely on other people to transport my gear. I used to leave the stack up at the rehearsal space and somehow managed to borrow a 50w combo of the same amp.
These things just OOZE big fat warm tubey goodness.
I'd love to get my hands on the combo again one day, but it has to be a brown face.
God Given by TheAwesomePowerOfRockets

Sunday, September 5, 2010

2008 - Teisco/EKO Kadet/Bison (1960's Made in Japan)

Teisco/Kay/Segova/EKO... who knows?
EKO/Teisco Kadet
I got this guitar a couple of years ago from a local guy who was selling on ebay. My intent was to buy a crappy guitar and modifiy it with some crazy on board effects and a sustainer setup. But once I got it home I just couldn't bring myself to do anything of the sort.

The body is obviously has a dodgy spray paint re-finish(you can see the paint run in spots. Apparently the whole thing is made of laminate. You might recall the horror I experienced when my first guitar was made of plywood. Well the thing about this guitar is, that it sounds really good!
The neck is laminate too. You can see the layers through the finish. At first I thought it was some weird rippled wood (my house has poor lighting). The pickups only measure about 4.7 to 5.6kohms so they're pretty low output. That's no problem if you have a booster handy.

The low output of the pickups match the dodgy input impedance of my Sovtek Bigmuff and is the only one of my guitars to sound any good with that fuzz pedal. So bonus points there!

The tremolo is a simple stamped steel affair that is just wonderful to play with. You can get some really wild vibrato happening and the guitar stays in tune 75% of the time.

I had some trouble Identifying the guitar as there's no branding on it, just Made in japan stamped on the neck plate. The body is the same shape as a Sekova Bison, and there is the same shape out the with the brand name Kay on them. I'd always suspected it to be a Teisco, but only recently confirmed via the Tym Guitars website(see gray guitar) that its either a Teisco or Eko.


The switches along the top control the pickup combination and the switch on the bottom is for bass cut. There are three volume controls and one tone control.  If you find one, at least give it a go, expecially through an amp with a bit of reverb, its surf-tastic!
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