Archive for Gear

Gear Reviews: MI Audio Crunchbox

Posted in Gear with tags , , , on August 3, 2010 by stevenreedkelly

This is it.  The ultimate distortion pedal.

I’ll back things up a little bit.  See – I bought a Mesa Boogie Lone Star (1 x 12 combo) about 3 years ago and despite falling head over heels for the amplifier in almost every way imaginable, I found that the dirty channel was a little too lightweight.  At the time, my limited pedal set included a Tube Screamer (TS9) but that’s still a pretty subtle overdrive pedal.  What I was looking for was some outright ballsy distortion.

My first attempt at finding a high-gain pedal was a huge fail.  I bought an Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff pedal after playing it in a busy guitar store downtown.  When I got it home, I couldn’t help but notice that my wonderful amp sounded like a box of rocks when the pedal was engaged.  I advise everyone to stay away from this pedal unless you’re into that sort of sound.  If you are, shoot me an email – I still have the pedal.  It’s increasingly difficult to sell these things because EHX made a ton of them and you can find them all over eBay for a fraction of what I paid at retail!  Buyers market, fellas!

So after that disaster, my desire for a really good distortion pedal still was not quenched.  I visited a local guitar store (30th Street Guitars – hands down, my favorite store in New York) and Bogarted their amp room for 45 minutes while I test-drove several different distortion/overdrive pedals.  I tried the RAT and a Keeley Fuzz pedal and then I stumbled upon the MI Audio Crunch Box.  I was instantaneously floored.  It’s designed to give you the crunch of a Marshall (“British Overdrive” is how they describe it), but Marshall’s always sounded way too much like playing through a tin can – you can actually reign in your treble in this pedal.

Another thing I like about the pedal is that at low gain settings, you can still get that subtle overdrive tone.  It’s nice to have the versatility to go from very low subtle gain to borderline fuzz in one pedal.  Needless to say, I bought the pedal and it’s been the keystone in my rig ever since.

Depending on the pickups, my comfort zone for the knobs looks like this:

Volume: Right around 10 o’clock seems to be the setting where I don’t hear a volume drop or boost when the pedal is engaged.

Tone: I keep this right around 2 o’clock for my telecasters – and my strat is a little muddier, so i’ll crank this up to about 4 o’clock when I’m using that axe.

Gain: For humbuckers, you don’t have to go much past 9 o’clock for full-on distortion.  For single coils, you can wind up to about 12 o’clock.  Anywhere past that is almost too much.

To give you an idea of what this pedal can do (and because I’m too lazy to record my own video), Here’s a video from Pro Guitar Shop.  They do great demos.

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Gear Reviews: Seymour Duncan SFX-10 Deja Vu

Posted in Gear with tags , , , , , , on June 10, 2010 by stevenreedkelly

Back in my formative youth, I used to hate delay pedals.  My first delay was a Boss DD-3 – which was a digital delay – and I didn’t understand why I didn’t immediately sound like the Edge when I stomped on the pedal.  Of course, this was during college when my gear set-up included a 10-watt Fender Bronco (solid state) amplifier.  At that point, I still didn’t know how flat and lifeless my tone sounded through cheap gear… and an 8 inch speaker.

Even after I bought a nice tube amplifier – I still didn’t like the Boss.  Having to fidget with the delay time knob to sync it up with the tempo of a song (only to have it fall out of sync moments later) was frustrating and not very efficient, so I sold the pedal.

When I found out about tap-tempo features on delay pedals – and the not-so-subtle differences between digital and analog delays, I became more interested in the effect again.  I wanted to find an analog delay with a tap-tempo feature – and not go broke in the process.  It’s harder than you’d think – since most tap delay models (like the T-Rex Replica or the Empress Superdelay and Diamond Memory Lane 2) run in the $400-$600 range.  While those pedals might be worth the investment – I can’t justify spending that much money on an effect I use primarily in my bedroom.

After further investigation, I somehow came across the Seymour Duncan Deja Vu.  The interesting thing about this pedal is that you can dial in proportions of analog and digital delay (analog running through a bucket-brigade chip like those used in MXR Carbon Copy delays, and digital just replicating your dry signal) as well as use tap-tempo to quickly change delay time on the fly.  At a bargain $230 from my favorite guitar store, Pianos N’ Stuff, this pedal is a steal.

Upon receiving the unit in the mail, I placed it in my effects loop (where delay pedals should always go if you have one on your amp – unless you’re into some weird stuff).  Being familiar with the features on my previous Boss DD-3, the controls on this pedal were relatively easy to pick up:

  • Mix – This is a proportional knob to configure how much dry signal and delay comes through your speaker.
  • D/A blend – Controls the blend of Digital and Analog delay coloring your signal.
  • Feedback – Turning this know to the right gives you increasingly more repetitions.
  • Modulation – Actually kind of phase shifts each analog repeat (only colors the part of your signal that is routed through the bucket brigade chip, so you won’t hear any changes if you are in full-on digital delay mode).
  • Ratio/Delay Time – When using the tap tempo (Ratio mode), this controls the beat you hear the delay on (quarter note, dotted quarter, half note, whole note).  If you’re not using tap tempo, this just changes your delay time.

After playing around with the pedal for about 8 months now, I feel confident that I can give this pedal a vote of approval.  It’s surprisingly nice to be able to switch from analog sounding delay to purely digital delay depending on my mood.  I’ve heard that a lot of gear heads prefer to have a purely digital model and a purely analog model in their set-up – but it’s just not that important to me.  I’m just not at that level yet.

Of course the best thing about the pedal is being able to dial in tempo changes on the fly.  If I was a touring guitarist, I don’t know how I’d survive playing a gig without that feature – probably with a lot of sharpie or white-out marks on the pedal to remind me of tempos for different songs.  A couple clicks of your foot makes all that organization seem futile!

All of the features in the world wouldn’t mean a thing if this pedal sounded like pure trash though.  Fortunately, what you get with the Seymour Duncan is a very versatile and feature-packed pedal that offers very clean, sparkly sounding delay.  From what I can tell, there are no volume drops when the pedal is engaged, my dry signal comes through clearly and the delays sound excellent.  Adding a touch of reverb to the mix really makes my guitar tones take on some nice depth.

If you’re a guitarist that’s looking for an effective delay pedal to add to your rig – I’d give this one a fair glance-over before you consider buying a cheaper, more arduous delay like the Carbon Copy or a more expensive boutique delay like the Empress or the Diamond.  Lord knows it looks more attractive than those unsightly, green Line 6 things.  This might be the happy medium you need to satisfy your pedalboard!

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