(circa 2011)

With effects I search for pieces that perform well by themselves and also in a chain with others. Effects open the door for experimentation and give me more options to add flavour to certain notes or passages.

VHT Valvulator 1 In-Line Tube Buffer And Power Supply This power conditioner/ preamp is in my rig and I really feel it is a great part of it's functionality, tone and reliability. It has a 12ax7 preamp tube as part of it's preamp so that it acts and sounds just like an amplifier's preamp. This keeps the signal warm and musical in tone. It also provides a regulated power source, which powers the majority of my effects safely and optimally. This cuts down on multiple adapters being all over the place and cluttering my pedalboard. The clean power ensures my effects operate at maximum efficiency.

By converting my guitar's signal from high to low impedance, it allows the signal to have less resistance going through all my effects. My tone is the same going through my whole rig as it is straight from my guitar to my amp. With isolated outputs I have no ground loop hum either.

Wampler Ego Compressor There is no small wonder that you will find many top session players using this boutique compressor pedal. The blend control that Brian Wampler put in this pedal represents a great stride forward in the compressor world. It allows me to adjust how much of the original signal is blended with the effect. This allows me to find my own tone. I find that I can get my guitar to sound even more natural than ever before, but still have the ability to tame the highs if needed (especially on a tele, as they can sound like an ice pick through your ears). I find I can make my guitar sit in the mix better (especially recording) with this pedal as it helps keep my tone tight and balanced. There is a great boost in it as well and I can adjust the tone of the effect to make sure I don't lose any top end magic. Brian Wampler is an industry leader in pedal design.

Keeley Katana Boost This is a super transparent pedal, and it doesn't change my tone at all. It is simply a boost pedal, that if ramped up, will slam the front end (preamp section) of my amp. I use it to help get a fatter tone at lower volumes so I don't have to run my amp as hot. It has a push/pull knob that when pulled out will send an even hotter signal to my amp so it will distort quicker. I try to find a happy medium where I am just starting to cause the amp to break up, so I can get as hot as signal as I can without distorting the preamp too much. Fat and fairly clean are my starting points for settings. Robert Keeley has some killer stuff and this sure helps my rig sound right.

Chase Bliss Audio Wombtone Mark II Phaser The Wombtone II Phaser sounds so voice-like. It makes me think that this might be what the sound waves of an electric guitar sound like to a baby while inside the womb, to what things sound like once born and being outside the womb. The tones are human in such a musical way. It has huge headroom for clean signals, and does not need an input pad because of the circuit's design so my clean boost (Keeley Katana) does not clip the input section. The tone does not get muddy, shrill, or distorted, and I can drive the output if I want to, as it has a great boost that is tube-like and magical in tone. I have great flexibility to shape the effect any way I want to using Joel's ModuShape controls, including making the waves rise up quick and down slow or up slow and down quick. With mini-toggle switches and totally accurate knobs for adjustment of various parameters, this pedal gives me many possibilites. The phase sounds can go from deep and swampy to frantic washes. It is midi compatable plus Joel has put little DIP switches on the side of all his pedals which allows me to further change or adjust what a knob does or how it reacts. I can also adjust or assign what parameter I want using an expression pedal. Dreamy is a word that comes to mind with this unit. Joel Korte is reshaping the effects world, and there is no better phaser in that world.

Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl Mark II Chorus/Vibrato The Warped Vinyl II is in on the same level as the Wombtone II as far as functionality, tone, and possibilities. The ModuShape controls helps create tons of musical shapes as well. The chorus can be thick and meaty, but keeps the notes from being muddy and murky. It is transparent and does not get in the way of the chime in the top end, but still adds a magical pristine sheen to the notes. It does all this in full colours. It has a lushness that I have never heard before. The warped part of it's namesake lends to the effect you can get it to reproduce, much like an old warped and scratchy record. That LoFi sound. And anything in between. The boost on this pedal is just like the Wombtone II. Again, the tone stays intact. It has an input pad which lowers the input signal so my clean boost (Keeley Katana) doesn't clip the input section of the pedal. It then bumps the signal back up on the way out to the level it was at when it went into the input section. This means basically that whatever signal I put in, will come out the other end of either pedal and keep my signal level intact. Again, no mud, distortion, or shrillness. The notes just glisten. The extra feature of having a vibrato effect as well makes this pedal a double threat. Double Trouble. It can make my notes dance beautifully. It can quiver and shimmer. It is also possible to have a combination of chorus and vibrato at the same time. SRV's "Cold Shot" is alive and living in this piece. Hendrix lives in this pedal as well. Hands down the best chorus and vibrato unit I have ever experienced. Are you experienced? Thanks again Joel! 

Ibanez Tube King (Japanese Version) This is my favourite analog distortion unit. It has a 12ax7 preamp tube in it. The tube makes it act like the preamp of an amplifier so that when you drive it hard (like a cranked up amp) you get some compression and tube sag added to the distortion making it sound more natural. It has a noise suppressor that I leave on to quiet a bit of hiss (especially at hotter settings) but not turned up too much so as to not lose sustain. If turned up too much the suppressor will shorten the length of time that a note will ring for (a shorter decay of the note). With high, mid, and low controls I can shape the tone to be transparent or I can boost the frequencies that I want to cut a bit more. With level and gain controls as well, I can make it grittier on lower gain and higher level settings or smoother and more singing in quality with higher gain and lower level settings. It’s a bit like having a Marshall stack in a box. The lows can be boosted to get more bottom-end thump and air out of my amp’s speaker. This pedal is very musical tonally and that tube is the magic behind it I believe. I replace the tube once in awhile but I choose a new one carefully. I might try ten tubes before I find the right one that tonally does what I want it to do as far as breakup.

Xotic BB Plus When added to my effects chain, this multi-functioning dual channel analog overdrive/distortion pedal doesn't change my guitar's tonal characteristics. I can cascade the first channel into the second channel or vice versa. One way it is very smooth sounding and the other way is grittier. I prefer Channel A into Channel B. Channel B has a smoother tone with more gain (better for solos) and Channel A is grittier with a bit less gain (great for tight, spitty rhythm parts). Channel B has high, mid and low adjustments on it and Channel A has a single tone control for adding or lessening the mid and high frequencies. By cascading the two channels together I can really add some hair and edge to my notes (more so when soloing). There's a button on Channel B for a bit of a compressed sound. With the button out it is softer in tone and with the button in it is harder. This pedal is really chimey and gives my guitar just the right amount of grind when I need it.

MXR M 169 Carbon Copy Sounding very natural and organic, this is a killer analog delay. It has a mod button that when pushed in can add chorus to the delay. The chorus can also be adjusted internally by using two trim pots inside the pedal (one for the rate and one for the modulation). I use this pedal mostly as a quick slapback effect to fatten up my notes. If I want a rockabilly sound, this is my ticket.

Empress Vintage Modified Superdelay After searching for a digital delay that sounded organic and not harsh, I found this wonderful piece of boutique design. Empress is tops in the digital delay world for me, tonally. This delay can emulate a tape delay and sounds very close to an analog unit as well. Along with some other great delays available, it covers any type of delay needs I have. I love the fact that I can store up to 8 presets with it. It has mini-toggles to adjust if I want modulation added, which can thicken the tone if needed. By having ratio time divisions, it is easy to change the delay settings in time with my current setting.  I can also make the delay trails more prominent or darker in tone with the flip of a toggle. I can use an expression pedal as well to control different parameters. For example, the volume of the delay repeats or the amount of repeats, etc. Having a tap tempo as well, I can sync the delayed notes perfectly to the tempo of a tune. This is great for syncing the delay with the snare or kick drum for example. This makes for tight rhythm parts in certain instances. I can tailor it to so many different applications in music and it always sounds earthy and never sterile. It is definitely the warmest digital delay I have ever used, and that alone is worth the price of admission. Thanks Empress!

Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive Having a Keeley mod so that the lows are not lost when it is activated, I find this unit very transparent and similar to the Keeley Katana. It is a killer analog overdrive/boost pedal. I use it as a bit of a clean boost for solos or when I want just a bit of drive to my tone (especially on clean solos). I can blend together the clean tone of my guitar with it’s overdrive settings (which is great), so I can add just the right amount of edge to my notes.

Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas Tremolo Joel Korte never ceases to amaze me. I swear there is a tube inside this pedal. When turning up the drive it gives a great warm edge to my tone that makes the pedal itself feel like a great tube amp being driven in its preamp stage. Another wonderful feature of it is the ability to keep the volume of my guitar the same as it was before I engage it. It doesn’t thin my tone at all. On any other tube amp I have ever used when you use tremolo it weakens the output. This pedal eliminates that problem. It can convert any non-trem amp into sounding like it has a vintage style tremolo built into it. Like all his products, this pedal is made from the finest parts available and has all the features of his others as far as the ability to store many presets via midi. It plays well with any of my effects and that is another great feature of Joel’s products. I find his products are always compatible with any other product. From Duane Eddy’s Rebel Rouser to Steve Earle’s Guitar Town this pedal has it all. Thanks Joel. You rock buddy!

Dunlop 95 Q Cry Baby Wah Wah With a volume pot to adjust the level and a boost kick switch in it, I can boost the output of this effect so it is at the same level either on or off. The boost does add a bit of dirt to the signal but in a musical way. I usually boost and turn the output level up. This keeps the tone as fat as possible. There is also a Q stem pot that adjusts how wide or narrow of a frequency range I want to alter. This helps me shape the effect to be more vocal sounding. The wider the range, the more vocal-sounding (dramatic) it is. The shorter the range, the less vocal-sounding. I usually set it for a wider, more vocal range. I also really like the fact that it is switchless. There are no clicks or pops when I turn it on or off, and it can enter or leave my signal chain smoothly and instantaneously. Not only do I use this pedal for soloing and making notes speak in a human voice-like way, but I use it for doing funky rhythms also. I use it as a mood setter by adding a lot of choppy rhythm to the beat of a tune. I find that a wah can add some real zest and personality to my playing.

Hilton Pro Guitar Volume Pedal Keith Hilton makes the finest volume pedals for guitarists and steel guitarists in the world. Period. This pedal is built like a brick school house. The quality and parts are second to none. Besides being a volume pedal, it can be used as a clean boost that is totally transparent. The tuner out does not split the signal in half like other makers. Just google this man and his fantastic products. Besides being an industry leading maker of volume pedals, Keith is a marvelous steel guitar player and is well known in that circle of players worldwide. Thanks again Keith!

Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner A great tuner is a must for me. The display is easier for me to see than a needle. I stumbled upon this pedal after searching for a better tuner to use in direct sunlight or really dark stages. It has a function on it that makes the display extra bright which is perfect for outdoor stages in direct sunlight. It is accurate and easy to use. Not only is it good for tuning but it serves as a good guide when setting my intonation. It’s fully automatic and I can do open tunings as well.

Cabling  I use all George L’s cables. Their patch wiring kit is easy to use for wiring a pedal board. All you need is a sharp utility knife. They are so easy to fix for the same reason. I use their instrument cabling to my amp and guitars also. I find they help retain the top and low-end integrity of my signal better than any other cable I have used. The fact that they are reliable and I have never had one fail me on a job is reason enough to be loyal to them.

I enjoy wiring my own pedal board so that I know how to trouble-shoot it should I ever have to.

I have everything mounted on a Pedaltrain PT-Pro 32 pedalboard. By having everything organized, properly wired and housed in a flight case, I have a rig that I can count on gig after gig.

Music is a constantly evolving art. In honour of this, I continue to search for that next inspiring piece that will help me create something that is timeless.

It's all part of my musical journey.

(circa 2011)

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