Fuzzy, Overdriven Distortion! The best of all worlds…….?

One of the really good bits about working here at Scan Towers, is the chance to test the cool new pedals that arrive here daily, but just the other day I found myself contemplating just what I was listening to and why… bear with me…

The real shame about the dearth of live music venues over the last 30 years, is the amount of guitarists, who have never got to make a real big noise on stage.

Back in the day, I can remember at least 10 venues in my local area alone, that would feature a Live band at least one of the days of the weekend, and these bands would invariably play a mixture of Rock tunes, famous in their day, which people would know and hopefully sing along with… however the common denominator was the Guitar and amplifier, and the volume was usually LOUD!

Now, what that meant, was that even the most mediocre of bands had the opportunity to get up and make a racket, and in doing so their guitarists began to understand the skillset involved in driving a powerful amp and cab at considerable volume.

And it really is a skillset… A Marshall 100 watt stack has a certain attitude, that requires a definite approach, even before you start to play. Everything from the way you hold your pick to where you stand in relation to the cab affects the overall tone and performance.

Which means that when I now play through a pedal at lower volumes, I have a different expectation based on my experience, than someone who maybe hasn’t ever used an amp in anger, so then, what do these different terms mean and what can we expect from the relevant pedals?

Fuzz:

To me, Fuzz is generic term for ‘Broken’.

Back in the early days of guitar amplification, every so often an amplifier would develop a fault like a misaligned valve or an ‘iffy’ bit of soldering, and the resulting form of distortion became sought after by those of a more adventurous ilk. It was adopted by some of the early Punk bands in the US and is still enjoyed by many as a raucous form of distortion, very suited to fast Rhythmic playing rather than searing lead guitar solos….  Famous examples include the ‘Big Muff Pi”

Distortion:

A more controlled, yet still pretty artificial version of distortion that offers a lot more gain and aggression, but is also capable of being shaped to provide an approximation of High Gain amps from the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. Boss pedals were the one-time king of this genre with their DS1 and HM2 pedals finding their way onto 1000’s of boards throughout the ‘80’s. The downside for me, is the lack of dynamics you can achieve, although when it comes to piles of dirty filthy grittiness, these things are the bomb…

OverDrive:

These pedals aim to simulate the very desirable sound of an over-driven tube amp, which can by degrees, be a creamy, smooth form of distortion, much loved by Guitarists because of the ability to control the distortion amounts and shape the EQ to suit many different styles of music. A famous example would be the Tube screamer from Ibanez.

 

So, given that this is my expectation, what else could affect my experience?

Well, this, I think, is where the experience of driving a big amp in a live situation comes into play.

I have played various Fuzz pedals over the years, and as an effect they have worked well, but the sound is still quite artificial when compared to driving a real amp. For my style of playing, this doesn’t work so well for me. Most of these pedals are very definitely a sound within their own right, and consequently, I find them pretty one dimensional, ( albeit if this is the sound you want, nothing does it better… see Jimi Hendrix Purple Haze or Machine Gun or the Stones’ Satisfaction…)

Distortion Pedals are another problem for me. When you play a valve amplifier loud, there is still a varied range of dynamics you can get from the sound, either by reducing the guitars volume or by Pick attack or finger pick strength. Distortion pedals tend to fight to corrupt the sound exactly the way they want, regardless of what you may require, and as such don’t allow the kind of control I require from a sound……

So, that leaves Overdrive pedals…. For me the most satisfying of all the ‘noise’ pedals, because they actually set out to mimic the sound of an overdriven tube amp, and consequently strive to allow the dynamics and nuances through. An easy way to test this is to play softly and then dig in hard…. The amount of distortion should change dramatically…   In a nutshell, these pedals are attempting to force your valves to work harder at lower levels, thus mimicking the effect of playing your amp much louder… Now the good bit…. There are hundreds of them out there!! And most of them very good indeed, but each offering a different sound, a different depth of distortion and a different level of control from one another.

So here, is a quick look at some of our favourite Overdrive pedals, and why…..

LN76105      BE-OD  Overdrive pedal by Friedman

Mr Friedman knows his  amp tones.

As the Father of the ‘Dirty Shirleys’ and ‘Buxom Bettys’, he has taken his amp know-how and pushed it inside this little box… and it shows. This little beauty emulates the Friedman BE-100 amplifier.

LN76104                 Ecstasy Red Guitar Pedal by Bogner

The Bogner Ecstasy amp has been hand built in California since 1992, and this is their own approximation of it’s famous Red channel…..

LN76241                 .45 Calibre Overdrive by J.Rockett

This pedal is startlingly good at one thing.

If you need the sound of an overdriven original 1962 JTM45 (think AC/DC -Ballbreaker, Gar Moore-Still got the Blues or Jeff Beck- Live at Ronnie Scotts) then this is it…

LN72684                       CKK Scream Drive

                                           (Two Gain Stage Classic Overdrive pedal)

Based on the classic Tubescreamer circuit, this offering from GKK gives you that Iconic sound and then the option to wind it up through the roof!

LN81096                   One Control Strawberry Red 

Of all the Overdrives featured here, this is my favourite. It doesnt actually try to emulate any one amplifier or sound. Instead it has been voiced to put out a sound that One Control hope all guitarists will enjoy. And I do.

 

Distortion Units:

So if you want to go Hell for KLeather into the world of pure Distortion, here are our recommendations:

LN72834                           Valeton Darktale Vintage Distortion

This peadl has a sound based on the famous RAT distortion pedal from Pro Co.  Everyone from Jeff Beck to Blur have used this sound, and this klittle beauty brings it straight to your door..

 

LN72836                      Valeton Hell Flame Extreme Distortion

From the vintage to the MOdern, this brings you a very modern ‘Metal’ Distortion with a very aggressive tone.

LN81124                     One Control Anodized Brown Distortion

With this pedal, One Control were looking to give the player a lot more physical control over the distortion sound, and If I were to use distortion, this is the kind of thing I’d be looking for…..

LN78881                    Wampler Pinnacle Standard Distortion

Think Eddie Van Halen’s ‘Brown Sound’ and you’re right there…. A very high-gain guitar sound that exudes liquid sustain, warmth and Organic response.

LN78891                    Wampler Dracarys Distortion Pedal

A Gain monster! With a 3 band active EQ to allow you to ‘sculpt’ the tone, The Dracarys is modern and versatile, and if you like Game of Thrones, you’ll even understand the name…..

And finally, the Scuzzy, Buzzy world of Fuzz!…. Here’s our pick of the Fuzz tones:

LN68968               Fuzz screamer from Xvive Micro Pedal

Cheap and effective, if you only need a fuzz pedal for one or two songs in your set, this little cracker is the most cost effective thing on the market. Classic Fuzz with a 21st century twist…..

LN72837                      Valeton Red Haze Vintage Fuzz

This is based on the legendary ‘Fuzz Face’ circuit, and usimng a special Germanium transistor to recreate the vintage fuzz tone, this is the sound of Jimi’s ‘Foxy Lady’ and other Iconic fuzz tones…

LN79616                       Voodoo Labs Superfuzz

Back in the ’60’s there was a tiny little unit called a Jordan electronics Bosstone. Randy Californis’s band ‘Spirit’ were the famous users of the day, and this pedal gives you the famous tone whilst allowing a wide selection of variations…..

LN76547                   KHDK Scuzz Box Fuzz Pedal

Kirk Hammett ( he of Metallica fame) has put together a company yo make guitar effects pedals, and they are gaining quite the reputation. This is their take on the Fuzz sound, and I have to say it would be my choice too. Two different types of sound, one is a dynamic fuzz tone, where the Scuzz sound is just c razy….

 

LN76245                     Hooligan Fuzz by J.Rockett

To my mind, this is the most versatile of all the Fuzz pedals here, in that it can replicate many classic tones, as well as being capable of creating a right sonic mess…..

So there we have it, take your pick of the myriad pedals here in stock at Scan, and whichever way you like your dirt, we hope you have fun.

We also stock all the nits and pieces you might need to build agreat board including different sized boards, jack leads, brackets etc.

 

Casting an eye over the Intel i7 Skylake X editions.

Following on from our first look at the i9 7900X, we’ve now had a chance to take a look over a few more interesting chips from this enthusiast class range refresh. 

We have before us today two more chips with the first being the i7 7800X which is the replacement for the older 6800K, once more offering us 6 physical cores with hyper-threading giving us a total of 12 logical cores to play with. It’s running a 3.5GHz base clock and features an all core turbo of 4GHz although being the 6 core it offers us the most potential to overclock we’ve seen within this range.

The second chip we have here is the 7820X and on paper it looks to be the most interesting one for me on this generation due to its price to performance ratio. Replacing the 6900K from the previous generation but coming in for around £350 less, this chip offers 2 more cores and a higher all core turbo rating along with a 1/3rd more cache than the 7800X edition.

For reference the current price at time of writing for the 7800X is £359 and the 7820X currently retails for £530.

I’m not going to go too much into the platform itself this time around, I gave some background to the changes made on this generation including possible strengths and flaws back in the i9 7900K first look over here. If you haven’t already checked that out and wish to bring yourself up to speed, now is the time to do so before we go any further.

Everyone up to speed? Then let us begin.

The Long Hot Summer

The first question I had from the off was one of how are these going to handle given the heat we saw with the 10 core? The quick answer is surprisingly well compared to the earlier testing we carried out. The retail releases I’ve been playing around with here are allowing us to drop the voltages on them to almost half the level that we expected to see with the previous generation and certainly a  few notches lower than we saw in the earlier testing we carried out.

So whilst I did hope for some marked improvements on the final release I didn’t quite expect to see it quite so quickly, normally these sorts of improvements take a few months of manufacturing refinement to appear and its great we’re seeing this right now. It certainly gives me some confidence that we’ll be seeing improvements across the range over the coming batches and I’m now far more confident that the larger i9’s that they have already announced should hold up well when they do finally arrive with us in the future.

 If I was to give a rough outline of the state of these Skylakes i7’s I’d say they are still running maybe 10% hotter than the last generation Broadwell-E clock for clock. However Intel has these designed to throttle at 105 degrees, essentially giving it 10% more overhead to play with so they do seem to be confident in these solutions running that much hotter in use over the longer term.

One thing I noted in testing was that we were seeing a lot of micro-fluctuations across the cores when load testing. By that I mean we’d see temperatures bouncing up and down by anything up to 6 or 7 degrees as we tested, but never on more than a core or two at the time and it would be pulled straight back down again moments later only for another core to fluctuate and so on.

Behind this is Intels new PCU (Package Control Unit) that has been added to Skylake X series, and whilst I did note the ability to turn it off inside of the BIOS by doing so we’d also see some additional rise in the temperatures with it disabled. One of the strengths of the PCU and these new P-States appears to be the ability to load manage well and it actively aims to offer the smoothest experience as far as power saving goes. It’s certainly welcome as it does seem to offer more control over the allocation of system performance and doesn’t appear to be causing the same sort of C-State issues we saw when that first appeared so this looks to be another welcome feature addition at this time.

Once again we’re seeing the same sort of 99% CPU load efficiency across the board as we saw when testing in Cubase on the 7900X. This I suspect is in no small part down to the board and CPU trying their hardest to strike that power to performance balance I mention above and is great to see.

Hit The Bench

On to the figures then and first up the standard synthetics in the shape of Geekbench 4 and the CPU-Z benchmark.

7800K CPU-Z 4 @ 4.4GHz

7800X CPUZ test

7800K Geekbench 4 @ 4.4GHz

Geekbench 4 7800K

The obvious comparison here it to line it up against the previous generations 6 core solution. The 6800K saw Geekbench single core scores in the region of 4400 and multi core scores around the 20500 mark, meaning that these results are sitting in the 10% – 15% increase range which is pretty much where we expect a new generation to be.

7820K CPU-Z 4 @ 4.3GHz

i7 7820X CPUz

7820K Geekbench 4 @ 4.3GHz

7820X Geek4

In a similar fashion we can take a look at the last generation 6900K which had a Geekbench score in the 4200 range and the multi-core was sitting around the 25000 level. Once again we’re looking at around a 10% gain in these synthetics, which is pretty much in line with what we’d expect.

Hold the DAW

So far, so expected and to be honest the isn’t any real surprises to be had here as we start with the DAWBench DSP test.

Skylake i7 Dawbench 4

With the 7800X can see small gains over the previous 6800K chip which is just short of the 10% mark so even perhaps just a little lower than we would have expected. In fact in this test the 7820X offers similar modest gains over the older 6900K model and doesn’t do much to surprise here us here either.

7900x DawbenchVi

The DAWbench VI test tells a similar story at the lowest buffer setting with the 7800X and 7820X both sitting roughly where we expect. What proves to be the one point of interest beyond this however is that both chips scale better than their previous iterations once you move up to the larger buffer sizes. Whilst testing these chips much like the high-end 7900K, we saw them managing to hit CPU loads around the 99% mark, but you can see that each chip scaled upwards with better results overall when compared not only with their previous edition but also when placed up against the chip above them in the previous range. 

We saw a similar pattern with the Ryzen chips too and their infinity fabric design is similar in practice mesh design found in the Skylake X CPU’s. The point of these newer mesh style designs are to improve data transference within the CPU and allow for improved performance scalability, so with both firms looking to be moving firmly in this direction we can expect to see further optimizations from software developers in the future that should continue to benefit both platforms moving forward.

Conclusion

Looking towards the future and the are already plenty of rumours already circulating regarding the expectation of a “Coffee Lake” refresh coming next. This includes a new mid-range flagship that is shaping up to offer us a contender against the 7800X and might prove to be an interesting option for anyone looking for a new system around that level, but doesn’t currently find themselves needing to pick up a new system right away.

Also we’re expecting Threadripper to arrive with us over the next few months which is no doubt the comparison that a lot of people will be waiting on. It’ll be interesting to see if the scaling characteristics that were first exhibited by Ryzen get translated across to this newer platform.  

The entry level enthusiast chips have long  proven to be the sweet spot for those seeking the best returns on the performance to value curve when considering Intel CPU’s.  This time around however whilst the 7800X is a solid chip in its own right, it’s looking like the the extra money for the 7820X  could well offer a stronger bang per buck option for those looking to invest in a system around this level. 

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