VHT Special 6 – modded

russellwriter:

Hmmm … An amp project might be cool?!

Originally posted on Put on a coat:

At the end of last summer I splashed out and treated myself on a new amp, my very first ‘new’ amp!

I was on the look out for a small tube amp that would suit my needs – i.e. plodding away in the front room, and not for gigging. The VHT Special 6 kept popping up with very favourable reviews, so I bit the bullet and went for it. I opted for the head and cab version.

This is a great little amp, straight out of the box, hand-wired, with a  12AX7 preamp tube and a 6V6 output tube. There is a boost feature, which is footswitchable, although the huge jump in volume isn’t the most practical. It can get pretty loud when pushed, in a home-practice context. There is also a half power option for late night playing.

Simple controls – one tone pot and volume pot. Hi and…

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Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” comes under plagiarism charges

russellwriter:

Seriously — if this isn’t a case of actual musical plagiarism, it’s the craziest coincidence I’ve ever heard. Add the fact that the bands were on the same label, and it can’t be accidental.

Originally posted on Consequence of Sound:

The authenticity of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most iconic songs has come under question. Recently, Australian music website Max TV uncovered the striking similarities between Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Unpublished Critics”, a song by Australian rock band Australian Crawl.

“Unpublished Critics”, which was released six years prior to “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, features “the same chugging chord progression, a similarly-sweeping lead break, the verse melody, and the elongated one-syllable vocal in the chorus,” claims Max TV.

“Unpublished Critics” is by no means an unknown song. In Australia, the album which it appeared on, Sirocco, peaked at No. 1 on the charts. Australian Crawl broke up in 1986, a year before the release of GNR’s Appetite For Destruction, which featured “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. Interestingly enough, both Sirocco and Appetite For Destruction was released in the US by Geffen Records.

James Reyne, a member of Australian…

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The Univox EC-80 Project, Pt. 1

Since the People of the Interwebz have been so kind to offer information, insight, and detailed tutorials that I’ve found incredibly helpful in pursuing my various DIY projects, I thought I’d contribute by detailing my fix-it process with the Univox EC-80 and including links to many of the resources that I’ve found helpful. I hope all of the folks whose pages, words and images I link to will consider this blog post to be thanks and acknowledgment for all of the help they’ve given me!

So, back in early April I spotted an auction on eBay that caught my eye: a “not working, for parts or repair” Univox tape echo. I have  a saved search on eBay for broken guitar effects, and the Univox was listed under that; although it’s not exclusively a guitar effect, it is best known as part of the early Van Halen guitar sound, most specifically the ‘dive bomb’ effects at the end of Eddie Van Halen’s famous “Eruption” solo track on their first album. It’s no one-trick-pony, though. Browsing through YouTube I found some good demos of working EC-80s, and I was definitely hooked. I created a still-growing playlist here, if you’re interested: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLg9tD7zL7WpZKoyj_piyqvIDv-h39fm0S

I made what I thought was a low but possibly winning bid — about half of the supposed current value of the unit — and, what do you know, a few days later the old black box is on my kitchen table! My 3 year old assisted me in an initial “will it turn on?” test, the first step in the fix-it process: the power indicator light came on and, more importantly, the tape motor started whirring gently. Very good news.

univox tape echo

Plugging things into things

I’d already hit the interwebz via google and various guitar and gear forums for a basic primer on this unit’s issues and quirks. The biggest one seemed to be the scarcity of the Apollon HD-5000 tape cartridges that were the only exact match for the EC-80. My unit arrived without a tape (which I knew would be the case) but lucky for me gear DIYers had been working to find ways around tape issues for awhile. There were companies that made repros of the old Apollons,  would repair and/or put new tape in old or broken cartridges. Tape nuts had also posted instructions on repairing the Apollons DIY, and discovered that old PlayTapes would fit the EC-80 with some modification to the tapes or to the unit itself.

Hedging my bets, I nabbed a broken Apollon cartridge ($20) and two working PlayTapes ($10 each) off ebay; about a week later, tapes were in hand, and I was ready to see if this box was going to make any noise!

To be continued …

Tim Lee 3 – good rockers and hard times

timlee3Tim & Susan Lee, 2 of the Tim Lee 3, found out just the other day that their long-time day-gig in the print media world was suddenly over. Tim’s got a long and awesomely checkered past in southern alternative rock; his Mississippi band, the Windbreakers, were recently featured in the Mississippi issue/CD of the Oxford American; he has musical friendships and associations with folks all over the map, including Mitch Easter’s Let’s Active.

So, if you haven’t before, check out some of their music and pick up a CD, vinyl LP or download card from their website. Proceeds go to an excellent cause: feeding and housing musicians!

Go here to listen and buy:  http://timleethree.com/store/

 

And watch this, too …

 

Wednesday Dose of Soul: “Truck Turner” – Isaac Hayes

SolidGoldFX Funkzilla Review

The auto-wah, touch-wah/envelope filter is a bit of a niche effect. Die-hard rockers and funkmeisters always seem to go for the clunky, full-size Vox or Dunlop wahs, and there are no shortage of those and their imitators to go around. I could never get the hang of constantly working a pedal with my foot while having to focus on what my hands were (supposed to be) doing. I canguyatone wr 2’t pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time, either. For the hopelessly uncoordinated who still want to get funky, a wah/filter effects pedal is a must-have. Since trading away my first Cry Baby after many thwarted attempts at playing “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” I’ve owned several of them. My first was a little purple Guyatone WR2 “Wah Rocker” that I bought used out of the window of a music store in Nashville for around $90, I think, in 2004. It was a very simple auto wah, with knobs for Threshold and Decay, and a bypass switch. Even an idiot like me could use it! Sadly, it disappeared somewhere along the long, winding and somewhat inebriatedly navigated road of my semi-professional music career. At this very moment it’s probably being used as a door stop in the ladies’ bathroom at a truck stop somewhere between Richmond and Bristol, VA. Enjoy your second life, my tiny purple friend!

My next companion in the funk wars was the dutifully named Modtone Funk Filter. With three knobs, which included settings for low pass, mid pass, and high pass filters, it was more tweakable, if less actually ‘funky’ than the Guyatone. Still, it had a thick tone, especially in the ‘mp’ setting, that fattened up single string riffs and give an interesting punch to my brief solo breaks. Unlike the Guyatone, which was an auto-wah (the sweep of the filter — what’s controlled by the pedal on a “big” wah pedal — is automatic, and controlled by a speed, or in the case of the WR2, a “Decay” knob), the MFF is a touch-wah or classic envelope filter: it responds to the signal going in, and an “attack” control gauges how sensitive the filters affect is to your playing dynamics.

Speaking of breaks, the Modtone is now broken. The 9V input assembly cracked (that’s weird, I know!) but that was a simple enough, straight-forward fix: $1 for a new power jack and some soldering time. However, I am not the world’s most deft electrical tinkerer; when attaching the new 9V assemble (which worked!), I also seemed to have dripped some solder or got something too hot — in any case, now it powers up, but doesn’t work. It will probably take awhile before I can trace down all the components that will need to be replaced in order to fix what I unfixed when I was fixing. No worries, though, as it joins yet another broken Modtone pedal in my “I’ll get around to it” box which I will probably cannibalize for parts.

Which leads me, finally, to the SolidGoldFX Funkzilla, which I borrowed when I recently re-upped my subscription Pedal Genie. For those of you unfamiliar with the service, it’s like Netflix for guitar pedals. You pay a monthly subscription fee, create a “wish list,” and they send you a pedal from that list. Keep it as long as you like; when you are ready to return it, put your pedal back in the provided box, and email the kind folks at Pedal Genie to request a mailing label. They will shoot it to you via email; tape it onto the padded flat rate envelope they sent along inside your pedal order, seal the boxed-up pedal into the envelope, and drop it in the mail. As soon as they receive it at the Pedal Genie office, they will send you another pedal on your list. It’s cool, and convenient, and a great way to try out unusual and/or boutique pedals before actually dropping $200-300 on one. I’ve gotten a Caroline Kilobyte, a Strymon Lex, an EHX B9 Organ Machine, a Tech21 Fuzz/Boost, and, now, the SolidGoldFx Funkzilla. Of all these, the Funkzilla has been my favorite, and it’s the only one I’ve been so enamored with that I’ve begun stalking it on Reverb and eBay. They are still running in the low $200’s, even for a used one!funkzilla pedal

The Funkzilla is more than just an auto-wah or filter effect; the ease of use, tweakability, and overall design make it almost an instrument itself. Billed as the “ultimate filter pedal,” the device comes in a sparkly purple rectangular enclosure; with its white knobs and white “Electric Company” style lettering, I was immediately struck by how ‘funky’ this pedal looked. While the rows of knobs and switches made my brain hurt a little, I decided to plug and play before searching online for a manual. It didn’t take long at all to figure out how the controls worked and to get busy using the various settings for musical inspiration.

The Funkzilla is basically a two-function monster. There’s Tap mode, which utilizes the Speed, Mode, and Depth knobs, as well as switches to select among three wave-forms, repeat-multipliers (1, 2, or 4), and >dir< which controls the “direction” of the filter’s sweep in both modes. I’d liken the Funkzilla’s Tap to an extremely tweakable Tremolo; the Mode knob gives you several different rhythmic “chopping” patterns to select from, and their character and speed are easily shaped by the aforementioned knobs, the ‘tap’ button, the wave-form selector or the multiplier switch. I could’ve spent hours playing around with just half of the pedal’s functions, but what I was looking for was the funk, so my quest continued.

Envelope mode is where you find the familiar filter effects lazy-footed guitarists are in search of — and this pedal certainly delivers. The Depth, Frequency and Attack knobs are active in this mode, and allow you to contour the filter to mimic a wide range of sound shapes, from a spanky quack to very musical, talkbox-sounding vowel sounds. And the >dir< feature really comes alive in this Envelope mode. I’d never imagined that reversing the filter sweep would do much more than muddy the initial input signal, but the effect was something nearly akin to a Slow Gear volume swell. For something I would’ve considered superfluous before trying this pedal out, the >dir< feature is one of the things that really sets this pedal apart from the pack.

My gigging experience with the Funkzilla was a very positive one. I put it after my EHX Soul Food overdrive, basically in the middle of my pedal chain. (BTW I know most sources say to put a Wah before an overdrive, fuzz or boost, but I actually prefer the ‘darker’ results of distortion going through the filter, instead of the other way around.)  I stuck exclusively with Envelope mode, as I felt that I’d need more time to really get a handle on Tap mode before I could use it effectively.  Even using only half the pedal, I found the results exciting and inspirational, both for rhythm and some solo passages. I had to do very little tweaking during the show, and was pleased to see that the purple sparkle of the pedal, contrasting with the white knobs and white labeling, made onstage, low-light knob twiddling easier. So, the funky color is both a stylish choice and a practical one. I don’t currently have an expression pedal that I could use to test the effect’s functionality with the added interface, but I imagine it would add even greater flexibility and increase the possibilities for live exploration and invention.

I don’t have a rating system for gear reviews — should I have one? — but if I did, I’d give the SolidGoldFX Funkzilla two thumbs up, four guitar picks, five gold stars, etc. My only knock would be the cost, but my experience with guitar effects is that you often get what you pay for, and the Funkzilla, even at $250 new (and still $200-225 used), packs a lot of value into that funky purple box!

Standard Responses to Online Stupidity

russellwriter:

Excellent rejoinders against The Dumb!

Originally posted on Whatever:

Dear Citizens of the Internet: 

From time to time, in your ordinary exercise of the delights of the online world, you may find yourself accosted by clods. These oafish louts crave your time and attention, but in point of fact, life is short and you have better things to do.

For you, I have created this helpful numbered list of standard responses to online stupidity. When accosted, send the twit here to read the specific numbered response(s) relevant to them. Saves you time; alerts them they’re a jerk, and this is all the response they rate.

Use and enjoy.

  1. I don’t care what you think.
  2. I didn’t ask you.
  3. No doubt you thought that was terribly clever.
  4. You’ve attempted logic. Not all attempts succeed.
  5. One should not have that many errors in that few characters.
  6. Either your educators have failed you, or you have failed them.
  7. I see you’ve invited me to an argument. I decline.
  8. It…

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Cups, You’re Gonna Miss Me: Evolution of a Song

I was doing some research for a song I’m working on that may mention Macey Springs, VA and reference the Carter Family, and encountered this blog  article: Cups, You’re Gonna Miss Me: Evolution of a Song.

The history of this particular ear-worm goes way back, probably even past the Carters, but A.P.’s name is still in the credits.

via Cups, You’re Gonna Miss Me: Evolution of a Song.

G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) Relief

ShopWhile the extended weekend/ice-enforced stay-cation of this past week has not been a boon to my songwriting and recording, as I’d hoped (my fault for lack of focus; the kids’ fault for, well, being kids and not leaving me alone!), it has helped me make a bit of a dent in my extraneous musical gear inventory. In the past three months or so I’ve been going through a serious gear acquisition syndrome (GAS) phase. While it was always with the stated intention of finding deals on gear I could refurbish, play and tinker with, then re-sell, I’d been doing more playing than I had re-selling. Along the way I’ve learned a good deal more about guitars and electronic effects, what tools I need in order to fix them, and the importance of reading user manuals. (Maybe one day I will write a piece about all the ‘for parts or repair’ gear I’ve encountered for which ‘repairing’ meant ‘reading the damn manual and following directions.’)

In any case, my Reverb “shop” is fairly well stocked right now. Check it out, if you are curious.

Shop My Store on Reverb

 

Stomp Box Fever #1

So, lately I’ve been on kind of a pedal kick. Since I’ve decided to go back to using a smaller amp — a fond farewell to my Vox AC15 and a big hello to my new purple Vox AC4 (and also to a black 2005 Bad Cat Mini Cat, which I’m still thinking of selling — I just feel so decadent owning three guitar amps … I’m counting the little Fender G-DEC I have, too) — I appear to be making up the difference by acquiring pedals as well as adding old pedals back to my effects chain. Not only am I buying and selling stomp boxes via Reverb and eBay — I’ve bought three, sold three — but I just joined and received my first pedal from Pedal Genie, which is like a Netflix (or Neckflix) for guitar pedals. I got a Caroline Kilobyte, which is supposed to create all sorts of crazy-cool lo-fi sounds. I’m hoping to hook it up early tomorrow morning and wake up the sleepyheads upstairs!

As of right now, my pedal board is rocking a Boss TU-2 chromatic tuner (thanks to Jared Bentley), a Modtone Funk Filter Enveloper (basically an auto-wah), a Visual Sound Garage Tone Drivetrain (an overdrive modeled on my old fave, the Reverend Drivetrain II pedal, used mainly for chunky rhythm), an Electro-Harmonix Soul Food overdrive (mainly for leads),  Visual Sound H2O stereo chorus/delay, and a Mooer Micro-DI with a built-in 4 x 12 cabinet simulator. I’m using the H2O as a delay and signal splitter so that one effects send goes to the amp, while the other goes to the DI and then into the PA board. The little 4-watt Vox then acts as my stage monitor, which I can adjust without affecting the signal that’s going to the board, as the sound man will be working with the signal coming through the pedals and then the DI/cab simulator.

I bought a Caline Pedal Power 5 to eliminate the need for multiple wall-warts or batteries, but it’s much noisier than I expected. I’m going to try a few different configurations and see if that helps, but I still have a one-spot with a multi-plug that I could use. The Caline was supposed to be quieter as it supposedly has isolated circuits for each power output … but it sure doesn’t sound like it.

I’d like to get a good Tremolo and a good Reverb pedal. The only real downside of the Vox AC4 is that it doesn’t have the AC15’s awesome built-in tremolo and reverb. I tend to use tremolo quite a bit, so I’m definitely going to need that … and where would guitarists be with reeve? In any case, I’m torn right now between getting one pedal that is both, like a Strymon Flint or a VHT Melo-Verb — or two separate ones, like an E-H Holy Grail  (reverb) nd a Z-Vex Sonar (tremolo).

Other than getting the humming power supply problem out of the way and the order/configuration of the pedals set, I’m hoping that I can eventually try out a Wampler Thirty Something between the H2O and the DI to see if I can improve my tone through the PA. This pedal, designed by Wampler with the help of Queen’s Brian May, is supposed to be pretty close to a Vox AC30. They are pricey, though, so I’m hoping I can try one out through Pedal Genie before I shell out the big bucks for it.

Well, that’s enough of my nerdy guitar blathering. If you are a guitarist or musical experimenter or any sort, check out some the links above.

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