All posts by steveaudio

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.

 

Transparency…. Loudbox from Fishman

Fishman Loudbox:

One of the questions I’m constantly asked, is which acoustic guitar amplifier do I recommend…

So here’s some thoughts on the matter….

It obviously depends on the sound you ultimately want to achieve, i.e. the sound in your head. Your reference sound.

If your ‘sound’ relies on pedals and compressors, or you have a percussive playing style, then you’re going to need a different sounding amplifier to someone who plays straight fingerstyle.

That’s true isn’t it?

Well actually no.

There is a solution out there that can accommodate pretty much every style of acoustic guitar and push it out loud and clear without any colouration.

What do we mean by ‘colouration’:?

Many acoustic amplifiers are ‘voiced’ to sound a certain way, and if you enjoy that particular sound, then that’s the very fellow for you, as pretty much any guitar you put through the amp will come out coloured by the amp’s tone, and again, if you like that particular tone, all’s well.

However, there is one set of Acoustic amplifiers that deliver a transparent tone, which allows whatever instrument is plugged into it, to sound like itself and nothing else with no added colour, and that’s the Loudbox series from Fishman.

Fishman of course, have a proud heritage of pick-ups and pre-amp knowledge gained from years of being one of the leading manufacturers in the US, of acoustic amplification tools.

So their amplifiers have every right to sound excellent.

But again, the main reason they do, is that they allow the natural tones of your guitar to shine through.

Not only are they Loud! (the clue’s in the name…), but they reproduce the sound from your guitar, cleanly and accurately, with just a simple eq and some cool effects.

They even have a channel for a Mic, allowing you to sing at the same time as play your guitar, and believe me that’s where these little boxes come-on strong.

The vocal channel is so very good, I’ve never seen a singer who didn’t like the sound of their voice through it, and if you’re a singer songwriter, or just backing a vocalist, these amps are so portable and so LOUD, that you can easily play a pub gig or small restaurant without the need for a PA.

And all the while here, I’ve only been referring to the Loudbox Mini!

The Artist and Performer both have 2 channels and are 120 W and 180 W respectively.

 

Thomas Blug Signature Pedals by XVive

For those of you unfamiliar with the Xvive range of pedals, I’ve waxed lyrical about them before, but essentially these are USA designed, Chinese made ‘Micro’ pedals that sound very, very cool and take up minimal room on your board.

In an earlier post I talked about German guitar wizard and ‘Tone guru’ Thomas Blug.

Thomas has recently teamed up with the guys at Xvive and helped them to voice 4 different pedals for their range, and as you would expect, each one brings a different but remarkably accurate variation on a classic amp tone.

GOLDEN BROWNIE: LN68957

The first of these is the ‘Golden Brownie’, which is designed to give you the high-gain rock tones of the 80’s style Marshall sound, “Like a JCM800 in a box” is their claim.

The sound is definitely synonymous with the classic British Rock tones of that era, and some judicious cutting or boosting with the Tone and Presence knobs can dial in quite a wide variety of transients to give you more or less of the Presence or Brightness required.

The beauty of this type of in-expensive yet high quality pedal, is that even if you don’t play too much classic rock, it’s just a great tone to have in your palette, just in case you’re called upon to produce a minutes worth of Eddie Van Halen in the middle of your Country band’s set…..

 

TUBE SQUASHER: LN68956

The Tube Squasher is a Low Gain sound, capable of big fat squashy tones, with a little compression to back it up. Add the Bass for a full on Jeff Beck fest, and it takes on an almost “Dumble-esque” quality. Lo-cut the bass, and you have a quintessential rhythm tone, with a sharp, Punky voice as well as a mature Rocky growl….

Again, even if you don’t use Classic tube amp tones in your day to day set, these little units are so inexpensive, it seems silly not to have at least one of these type of pedals in your armoury..

 

SWEET LEO: LN79344

The word for this Overdrive unit is ‘Transparent’.

Your original tone shines through without being masked or shaped which immediately marks it out as being a fantastic rhythm pedal, but it can also conjure up the sound of an old tweed amp being pushed through its paces. Indeed it has a ‘Growl’ knob, specifically to control this.

So if you want a lovely Clear Bell like overdriven tone or indeed to spit out a little more broken up  venom, this could very well be the pedal for you.

 

DYNAROCK: LN79346

This pedal cuts through with a lot of clarity, no mushy tones here. However, it also features a mid- boost that can deliver a lovely full fat tone, perfect for those fusion-y legato players.

If you’re called upon to put on a little Metal or Hard Rock, here’s all your High Gain tones in a little box…

 

 

 

Bluguitar AMP1 Nanotube 100 Guitar Amp

Bluguitar AMP1 Nanotube 100 Guitar Amp

Ok, I have to confess a bias here before I start.

Thomas Blug is a German guitarist, who has for the last couple of decades, built a reputation for having one of the best Guitar tones in the business.

He’s also been a mate of mine for a long long time.

We met first at trade shows in the early ‘90’s when I was demonstrating Takamine and Parker guitars, and he was demonstrating for Hughes & Kettner amps (for whom he was hugely important in the development of their sound)

Later, the company I worked for, took over the distribution of Hughes & Kettner, and Tom and I worked together on sales and demo’s for the UK.

So I know him as an old friend.

I also know that he has 2 of the best ears in the business.

This guy really does know about guitar tones.

So when he announced he was coming to market with what appeared to be a pedal, I was intrigued.

But I needn’t have been, you see,

It’s still an amp.

In fact it’s all amp.

In fact it’s a fully functioning 100 watt amp head, that you can attach straight to a 4 X 12 cabinet and make a proper racket with.

Light, Portable and efficient, yet capable of generating a full 100 Watts of blistering tone, this amp is at home either on stage or in the studio.


The first time I heard it in the studio, I immediately removed all the other Amps, Amp sims, modelling units etc, because this, is the best I have ever used.

Bar none.

Because it’s real.

Don’t get me wrong, I love using my UA plug-ins for mixing down, but when it comes to tracking, there is nothing to beat a real amp.

And remember, it’s not just for the studio, it sounds unbelievable live too.

The Amp One features 4 configurable channels. Clean, Vintage Classic and Modern.

Each of these is switchable and has adjustable Boost and Reverb controls.

The amp also features a Killer speaker simulation output for use in the studio as well as a headphone out.

This tiny package, that can fit easily into Hand luggage or a gig bag, delivers a round, fat bass with crisp, non ‘tinny’ trebles and an overall tone that you’ll recognise immediately as that of a true modern, boutique amp.

Why not give us a ring and arrange to come and demo one in our new ‘Blue Room’ demonstration suite.

 Bluguitar AMP1 Nanotube 100 Guitar Amp

 

 

Multi Effects or Dedicated Pedal Board?

Multi Effects or Dedicated Pedal Board?

It’s an age old question, in these days of super modelling, Ultra High DSP and Super compact sizes, why would anyone ever bother with a Big Lunky Pedalboard?

Well, the first thing to say I guess is Horses for Courses….

If you’re playing at home or just jamming with friends, or even in a local ‘covers’ band down the local pub every Saturday, the quality of sound from the new generation of Multi FX boxes like the Zoom or Korg or Boss really is very accurate, and indeed if you’re looking to emulate the exact delay of a U2 track or the chorusy swirl of a Stone Roses cover, you’ll probably find that someone has done the hard work for you, and the sounds are VERY close indeed, but for those seeking the Holy Grail of real guitar tone from a real amplifier with real dedicated Stompboxes, the Pedalboard will always be the way forward.

There’s just something about the ‘physicality’ of the guitar, where you have to physically ‘make’ the notes using both hands, (as opposed to say a Piano player who just pushes a key and the sound is there) that sits so well with a dedicated pedal.

Let’s try and explain…

For me the one thing that will always be missing from the Multi Effects brigade is the movement of air by the speaker cone, and the way that sound evolves over the course of a show, as the room warms up and the tubes in the amp warm up and how a pedal fit’s right in to that mix, as another thing to be controlled.

Indeed, I usually recommend to anyone playing a Multi effects box live, to run it straight into the PA and let the sound guy give you your sound back through the Monitor. Especially if the unit has the ability to model or emulate a speaker cab. (What’s the point of a great speaker cab emulation which then gets run through your existing amp and consequently takes on the character therein, hence doing away with the Cab sim completely…)

In these circumstances as I said before, especially in a small Pub or club, these units can sound absolutely accurate for classic tracks, and the sound man will love you forever as you entrust your levels to him, but for the true guitar Tone Meister, only the real thing will do.

One of the problems of the Old Fashioned Pedal board, was the perpetual ‘Tap Dancing’ to be seen on stage, as the hapless guitarist tried to switch pedals in and out for different parts of a song, but nowadays, there are some pretty sophisticated switching systems that lie on your board alongside the pedals , and are capable not only of switching between various pedals, but also switching patches within the pedal or Patches via MIDI.

Also, in the same way that a real amp moves air in a different way depending on the venue, a real pedal can be reached down to and tweaked on the night, mid song, as the room eq becomes more apparent, in a way that a multi-effects unit can’t ( most of them being editable via a series of LCD or LED windows ).

However, it must also be said that in the studio, where you have the time to tweak the unit and add extra e.q.’s and tone shaping, there are some Multi-effects boxes that work a treat, and in truth, you’d be hard pushed to know the difference between them and the real thing in the depths of a mix.

Also, there’s portability…. My current board is not dissimilar to carrying a Mini Clubman under your arm, and the resulting benefits in tone, are completely offset by the lack of ability to play properly after carrying it in from the car… So… what’s the answer.

The answer is obviously, you have to have both.

In my studio at home I have all manner of Guitar FX units, each capable of creating sounds that fit wonderfully inside a mix, ( I have a Korg A1 unit from 1991 that does one sound I cannot re-create anywhere else…), and I’m seriously tempted by the latest little Zoom units,

but ultimately, for me to play live, I still rely on my board,

after all,

he who has the most toys wins, right? J

The Scan Pro Audio Show

The Scan Pro Audio Show: Preview episode

Scan Titles
 

Many of you will remember our Pro Audio Webcasts which ran until the back end of last year. For those of you that didn’t manage to catch one, many of them are still archived on our Scan Pro Audio channel.

https://www.youtube.com/user/ScanProAudioTV

Well, this year we launch the new look, Scan Pro Audio show, in which we build on the webcast idea, to produce a full blown magazine type TV show featuring, news, items of interest and demonstrations from the world of Pro Audio.

Last week we aired the very first “Preview” episode, featuring Luke Edwards from Korg talking us through the new Korg Minilogue Synth and an item featuring Ben from TMS ( The UK’s most prolific Hit Producers ) talking us through how they use the Universal Audio Apollo console application and break down in detail the vocal monitoring effect chain that they use when recording acts such as Little Mix, Professor Green, Emeli Sande, One Direction, Jess Glynne, The Vamps & Rita Ora

You can catch the show here…

https://www.scan.co.uk/shops/proaudio-show

and you should also remember each show features the “codeword”, where viewers can email in for some exclusive offers of the week.

Cover Page!

 Congratulations to our own Pete Gardner on reaching the cover page of the prestigious Sound on Sound magazine!
Pete has been a contributor for a while now, but this month, he has put together the definitive version of “What’s the best CPU for todays Audio Production software”.

Pete is one of the most informed guys in the country (probably Europe!) when it comes to attaching things to the innards of a PC, and in this issue he shows all the various benchtests he uses to measure the different CPU’s available.

Sound on Sound is probably the best Audio Production mag available, and if you’re serious about the world of Audio Recording, you should make sure of your subscription now.

Musical Geisha Nights : Manchester 27th April

Musical Geisha Nights : Manchester 27th April

 

For those of you who haven’t yet experienced the unadulterated joy that is a Geisha Night, then be advised, the next one is coming very soon!

Following on 3 years of successful networking events, Scan are pleased to confirm the 3rd Manchester Musical  Geisha evening to be  held at Blueprint  studios in Salford on April 27th.

There’ll be a bar, and a chance to look around one of the top studios in the North West, (This is where Elbow make their home when they’re not touring…)

blueprint-studios-ethos-630-80

For those of you in the know, these nights  are an exclusive ‘invitation only’ event that allows people from the Music industry to mix and network with others  with the aim of collaboration and education.

Rowena Morgan is the self-confessed ‘Musical Geisha’,  (She has a little black book full of incredibly important people’s  names and numbers)  and on Geisha nights she can be seen moving  effortlessly through the room, introducing writers to singers, and singers to managers, producers all in the spirit of collaboration. And it works. Very well in fact…..

If you feel you could benefit from an introduction to someone who could help move your career along, or indeed someone who could just answer your questions about the industry and how to get on, then why not contact Rowena at:

musicalgeisha@hotmail.com

RM Glam

Let her know who you are, who you’d like to meet, and why you think you should be there, and then wait and see if you get an invite!

The Songwriting Academy…..

As regular readers will know, Scan have a long history of working in collaboration with selected partners. I’d like to take a little time to introduce another one of our Pro-Audio partners….

The Songwriting Academy | Songwriting & Production Courses

Their aim is to become the number one songwriting, production and music business training organisation in the world, delivering the best music education available.
They have a team of experts on hand ( that’s where we come in!) to help you create hit records and be part of one of the most exciting industries ever.
They have brought together a diverse and passionate team of experts with proven track records and decades of experience.

Their team includes Grammy and Ivor Novello winning writers and between them, they’ve written hits for Beyonce, Shakira, Christina Aguilera, Backstreet Boys, Kylie Minogue, LeAnn Rimes, Jennifer Lopez, George Benson, Will Young, EMF, Kenny Rogers, The Saturdays, Lulu, Celine Dion, Seal, Leona Lewis and X-Factor/Idol winners worldwide.

BeyonceKylieCeline DionCherCorinne Bailey RaeDuncan JamesBoyzoneGeorge BensonJennifer LopezJordin Sparks

They’ve studied techniques from hit songwriters writing for the world’s charts through the decades, and have developed their unique SCOPE Song System. They will guide you through the entire process from the spark of creation to getting your songs out there.

The Songwriting Academy has everything you need to know about being a songwriter under one roof: workshops, retreats, seminars and resources to help you with writing, producing, publishing, record deals, management and understanding today’s music business.
The next course is called “How to make Money from your Music” and it is led by the Founder and Head Course Instructor Martin Sutton. It takes place on the 28th and 29th of March at
The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, Balham, London SW12 9HD
Martin Sutton is the founder of The Songwriting Academy and multi platinum songwriter and producer. Starting as a young busker on the streets of Norwich, he spent years developing the craft of songwriting, travelling the world to work with other writers, learning about the music business and honing his production skills. He is now a successful songwriter/producer and has sold millions of records in nearly 50 countries around the world.

His work includes Backstreet Boys, LeAnn Rimes, Celine Dion, Gary Barlow, Pixie Lott, Mark Owen, Olivia Newton-John, Andrew Roachford, Brian McFadden, Lulu, Mike & The Mechanics, K-Pop superstars Super Junior and X-Factor/Idol winners worldwide.

His teaching methodology and ethos have been described as “life-changing” by many of his students and over the years he has shared his knowledge and experience with thousands, opening their eyes to the world of professional music making. His diverse programming and production skills are widely sought after, from orchestration for Celine Dion and Andrew Lloyd Webber to quirky programming and beat-making for K-Pop/J-Pop artists, and rich country productions for artists including LeAnn Rimes.
If you fancy yourself as a songwriter, and would like to know how to move it on, why not check out the courses on their website here…
http://thesongwritingacademy.co.uk/

Musical Geisha nights: Coming to Manchester

Scan Pro Audio is proud to announce that the Musical Geisha nights that originated in London are coming to Manchester.

Rowena Morgan is known as the Musical Geisha. (A Geisha was a Japanese Hostess in olden times…)

RM Glam

For the last couple of years she has run the Musical Geisha evenings at Metropolis Studios in London, and Scan Pro Audio has been the sponsor for these events supplying drinks for the first few rounds of the evenings and bringing special guests who can talk to people about kit and arrange special discounts.

Rowena has a very special little black book which includes contacts for some of the biggest and best names in the Music Industry (she is friends with legends like Tony Visconti, Paul McCartney and Hugh Padgham)

By hosting these evenings, she is able to introduce Singers to Songwriters, Songwriters to Producers, Producers to Musicians etc. and many chart topping collaborations have come about because of her introductions.

Starting this month, she is bringing the concept to the North to Manchesters own Blueprint Studios (latterly home to Elbow and who’s clients include R.E.M., Justin Timberlake amongst others…)

Entrance is by Invitation only, but if you are interested in coming along you can write to her at

musicalgeisha@hotmail.com

let her know what you do in the industry, and see if she can swing you an invite.

It’s gonna be the place to be….ro and TV

Ro and Sir Paul