This is all my stuff. The frens listed here are what I use primarily, Sunday in and Sunday out. I love to talk gear and really like to try new things looking for the sound inside my head. Occasionally things change. I like to flip pedals a lot. A whole lot. But the guitars stay the same, unless Something new gets added. Gear that I liked but that’s no longer with us is here.
2010 Hofner Verythin, Ella– She is the newest addition to my tonal family. You’ll recognize Hofner for their unmistakable violin bass Paul McCartney played in The Beatles. In the 1960’s, Hofner released a 335-style electric that, unlike the 335, was completely hollow. They had real problems with feedback and were considerably fragile. In 2010, Hofner re-released the Verythin with a solid maple center block, improving sustain and killing the feedback issue. When I bought her, I was expecting the jazzy, 335ish tone, and she totally delivered. What I wasn’t expecting was the fact that she TOTALLY SCREAMS! The pickups are touch responsive and unmuddled and with a cranked amp, she really comes to life. Her name is Ella because she’s fat, black, and totally screams.
1964 Fender Stratocaster, Mr. T– He was a lucky find. In 2008, I put a G&L S-500 on layaway at a local vintage shop here in Pensacola. A few months went by and I accidentally forgot about my layaway.. In 2009, I remembered about it, and decided I wanted to play a song for my then fiance, at our wedding reception. I went into the shop and they told me they had sold the guitar because I had forgotten about it. Understandable, but disappointing. G&L’s are excellent guitars.
I talk with Jim, the owner of the shop, and he agrees to let me put the money I had payed toward another guitar. I look around for a while and then I see him: a gaudy, gold Strat, hanging alongside the budget American Fenders. “Not really sure what year this one is, but it’s old and has Lindy Fralins in it.” I plug him in and love the sound! A classic Strat tone and the neck is perfect.
So I buy him and no sooner am I home, than I am taking the neck off to check the stamp. Mr. T’s neck is stamped 3AUG64B, which means he was originally a custom order, as his color, Firemist Gold, wasn’t officially introduced until 1965, with the induction of “new car colors.” The Cadillac color made by DuPont used on him was available since September of 1963, and his gray base coat is consistent with other “car color custom” orders made in the mid-60’s.
The sound is clear and punchy, as classic as you can get. The Fraylins aren’t too aggressive and position 2 (bridge and middle) and 5 (neck) are definitely my favorite. I’ve played custom built Strats and Fender Custom Shops, and for me, they just don’t come close to the real, pre-CBS Fenders. I’ll never sell him, and he’s by far, my favorite guitar.
1994 Squier Pro Tone ’69 Reissue Thinline Telecaster, Red– First of all, shut up. I know it’s a Squier, but hear me out. From ’93-’94, Squier, then still made in Fender factories, put out the Pro Tone series. Solid, 1 piece bodies, and fender hardware. If you read the history of these guitars, you’ll find that their sales infringed on Fender’s Mexican instruments. The Squieres, though less expensive, were better quality than the Mexi-Fenders, and were infringing on Fenders profits. So after only 2 years of production, they discontinued the series.
Red’s previous owner put Custom Shop Texas Special pickups in her, and she really sings. I love the neck pickup in Teles and the TS’s in her really bring that throaty, punch. I installed a Custom Shop 4-way selector, and position 4 places the pickups in series, like a big humbucker. I don’t use it that often, but it’s nice to have the option. She’s a little heavy for a Thinline, but in a good way.
I’ll list these in their signal chain order. This photo is out of date.
Morely Tremonti Power Wah– Get off my case. I know Tremonti’s a medal head, but at the time, this optical wah with up to 20db of variable boost was the most frequency responsive wah on the market. I don’t use it often, but it’s definitely a good thing to have in the arsenal, and should always be in the front of the chain.
Paul C. Tim– I’ve used a lot of overdrives in the past. TS808’s, Blues Drivers, Fulltones, and even some I’ve built. This is by far, the most “buzz word worthy” OD I’ve ever played. It’s the 1st version, so there are no diode clipping switches. Just bypass and boost. I’m a huge fan of stacking overdrives, and the Tim does it better than any other OD I’ve played through. And they’re under $200 new!
Colour Tone Stratoblaster Boost– In the ’70s, Dallas Arbiter made a pedal called the Stratoblaster. A 2 knob, volume and tone, boost pedal that only lasted for a while, because Electro Harmonix’s LPB-1 and 2 were less expensive. I took the schematic and removed the tone control, giving it an eq specifically for singlecoil guitars. It pushes the upper mids of your signal to articulate your tone as it boosts the signal into your amp. It places a resistance on the pickups so they have to work harder and this increases their natural tonal quality. I use it, most of the time, more than any overdrive pedal.
Boss CS-3 Compression-Sustainer– Its a noisy compressor, but it works well if you spend time dialing it in. Sounds great with Red for that spanky Tele pickin’ stuff.
Vox Brit Boost- I use this pedal in its “full range” mode and love it. The overdrive is harmonically rich, and responded exceedingly well to both changes in pick attack and guitar volume. The pedal’s tone control is also very useful, and does what it should, nothing special. At unity volume, engaging the pedal was like instantly cranking the pre-volume and dropping the master volume of my ac15. Once the tone control was set correctly, the pedal’s eq profile becomes transparent.
Ernie Ball Jr Volume– I put this pedal in the middle of my chain for a few reasons. Some people like it first, but there it acts as a secondary guitar volume, lessening the resistance on the pickups, taking high end fidelity away, kind of like the opposite of a buffer… Some people like it last, but you can’t do good swells with delay like that. In the middle it doesn’t affect my incoming signal, so my signal can already be overdriven, and I can swell into delays and have them trail off naturally. It’s important to me that I use the guitar volume and the pedal differently. The guitar volume is an extremely useful tool and I think it’s underused by a lot of people.
Strymon Timeline- I did a write up here. So go read it already.
I think unless you’re a billionaire, most of us take our gear purchases pretty seriously and slowly. We build our rig with attention. But eventually and inevitably, there will come a time when we discover the weak link in our signal chain, and for some people, it’s a pretty expensive link.
I loved my Jet City. It was a fantastic amp for the price, but within that statement, there is a problem. “Fantastic amp for the price” doesn’t always equate to “fantastic amp, period.” And while I do think that you’d be hard pressed to find a better sounding 20 watt amp in the Jet City’s price range, the fact remains that it is a budget amp.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
But regardless of the price-to-quality ratio, there comes a time when budget equipment, no matter the quality, just won’t do.
I recently bought this Vox AC15hw1, Vox’s hand wired, 15 watt offering. The amp lists new for $1,100, which is, for most players, not within the “budget” category. However, it’s not a completely unattainable figure either. I bought the amp used, and in perfect condition. 3 12ax7s, into 2 EL84s, with an Ez81 rectifier.
It’s as voxy as it gets. and the tube rectifier makes a huge difference. Balanced, smooth overdrive and chime, with awesome response to pick attack and guitar volume. Just a great amp, all around.
I’d like to point out that I don’t like to use words that can be relative when describing tone or musical characteristics. All the time you hear guitarists say, “man that amp is really warm,” or “this delay is cold and sterile.”
All this jargon is completely relative to who you’re talking to and if you ever work with a competent sound guy, they’ll call you on it. I definitely have been called out in the past.
That’s why I started using different terminology. Clear is clear to everybody, punchy is punchy, etc.