Electro Harmonix Eddy Chorus/Vibrato Review

The latest bucket bridge modulation from the legendary pedal makers reminds me of a Memory Man without the delay

Overview & Cost: $99.00 from ehx.com and Reverb.com!

There’s arguably no better pedal in existence than the Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man, which is the modulated echo most famously used by The Edge of U2. Ever since I got that pedal I’ve been firmly obsessed with EHX’s modulation tones and pedals. The Eddy is just the newest in a long line of awesome products and features “Bucket Brigade”-style chorus and vibrato in one pedal. Typical controls like rate, depth, and volume sit beside a wave form control, an envelope control, and then a tone control. You can even connect an expression pedal to control either the rate or depth while you play, with the choice of parameter controlled by a toggle switch on the top of the pedal. With that wave form control you can adjust the modulation from a typical sinusoidal wave to all sorts of assymetrical shapes to create lush, warbly modulation that you might not otherwise be able to pull out of your average chorus/vibrato. Add in the ability to control the modulation with the envelope knob or an expression pedal, and you’ve got a seriously tweak-able little pedal.

Review & Opinion:

Once I plugged the Eddy in I was hit with a wave of familiar sounds. This pedal can do all of the typical modulation sounds that I prefer. I use chorus in ways very similar to my influences: Mick Jones, Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain. I either like it very light to simply supplement and thicken up a distorted section of playing or my guitar is drenched in it for that “Lost In The Supermarket”-type feeling. EHX’s Eddy can do all that and more by just adjusting the typical controls of rate and depth. It’s nothing crazy and new, it’s just classic bucket brigade goodness at an affordable price. However, once you kick in the envelope and shape controls, that’s where you get into some pretty flexible sounds in both the chorus and vibrato. When you turn the shape all the way assymetrical and roll off all the depth, you can even pull of this amazing stuttering, tremolo-like vibrato that’s surfy and lo-fi and everything you might want in a vintage sound. But at the end of the day, the Eddy will be remembered for being a warm sounding modulation that can quickly get weird. Chorus and vibrato sound ultra familiar, like the best vintage EHX mod pedals, but with some modern updates to make it more user friendly. The sonic weirdness is easily increased but also easy to ignore if its not your thing. So for me, there is real value in having a pedal that I can use traditionally on my board all the time but can get weird if/when my music goes that way.

Final Conclusion & Rating: 7 out of 10

Overall I think the EHX Eddy Chorus/Vibrato provides a ton of value for the money alongside some ultra-useful tones. One of the reasons it doesn’t grade higher is because you do need to have an expression pedal handy to make use of arguably its greatest feature. That’s not a huge dig on the Eddy, but otherwise without that it is juts another great bucket brigade modulation that can crazier than some mods but not as crazy as the modern day mod circuits have gone. For me, this will be a staple on my live board thanks to its affordability, reliability, and overall familiar tone. Paired with a non-modulated delay, it even helps me perfectly recreate the Memory Man modulated echo that I use every day to write music. EHX has churned out another affordable winner here, and I think this is an ideal modulation for the working musician, be that stage or studio, who doesn’t have super ambitious modulation needs.

Shotmaker Instruments Heroine “Fuzz Driver” Review

There is a very good chance I just found the perfect drive pedal for my needs

Overview & Cost: $180.00 from Shotmaker.co

Equal parts fuzz, overdrive, distortion, and boost the Shotmaker Instruments Heroine is an ultra-flexible gain pedal meant for the modern guitarist. Now, that’s not to say that it doesn’t hold warm vintage tones inside this black square box. But really, it is designed to create very authentic amp-like gain instead of being built to replicate some other sort of legendary drive pedal. In fact, Shotmaker Instruments built the Heroine around silicone transistor master circuit which aims to create gain like a ’50s power-amp. It aims to create a touch responsive drive that will compress and distort differently depending on your pick attack. To me, that master circuit is like a tweak-able master volume knob on an old tube amp, which is right up my alley. The controls on the Heroine are pretty unique, which contributes to this being anything but just another gain pedal.

You’ll find two toggle switches labeled “sustain” and “bright” below the three control knobs. The sustain switch is a cascading gain option, which adds a mid boost and compression to your gain tone. Bright will create a brighter (more high frequencies) tone with less headroom and more bias. These are both flexible, with the sustain switch really helping to thicken up single coil pickups while the bright knob evens out muddy humbuckers a bit. The three knobs are a master volume (think like tube amp master volume so it makes it louder and more overdriven), a “pre” knob, and a high cut. The high cut is self explanatory, it removes some of the higher harsh frequencies (like on a RAT). The pre knob is incredibly fun, because it’s almost like a normal/dark switch on an amp, it can increase the gain even when the master volume is rolled down. Quite useful for low volume playing in my apartment or modern high gain tones when cranked.

Review & Opinion

It’s really hard not to love this pedal, especially when you play with multiple different gain tones like I do. The Heroine doesn’t color over your guitar’s tone unless you tell it with the various switching options, this means that you can get a warmer mid-rich overdriven tone like a tube screamer or a fully hard clipping bass-boosted RAT sound. However, the Heroine isn’t a RAT or tube screamer, it’s an ultra-shapeable amp that reacts wonderfully to your specific guitar and amp. With single coils it can create a searing lead tone, but without changing the settings it will turn your P90 equipped guitar into a garage rock beast with chugging chords and sustaining riffs. You can shape the Heroine to do what you want or you can do what I do, and let it accentuate the best aspects of your various guitars. I did the demo of this pedal with the Noventa Telecaster because I just loved how it opened up the sonic versatility of this single pickup guitar. This will essentially replace two pedals on my board, the overdrive and distortion, because when I kicked a boost on top of it, I could totally mimic those two flavors of gain. My favorite setting is the sustain on, bright off, master volume at noon, pre at about 9 o’clock (for a less heavy gain tone) and the high cut at 1 o’clock. This is the perfect rich distortion tone for me and if I role that master volume down even more, it becomes far closer to warm tube amp breakup. Subtle changes to the volume knob or my guitar’s volume can do sweeping things to this sound and I’m a huge fan of it.

Final Conclusions & Rating: 10 out of 10

I am usually very anti-boutique guitar pedals, I think many are overpriced retreads that are hard to replace if they’re lost/stolen/damaged on the road. So it should be very telling about the quality of the Shotmaker Heroine that I’m raving about its tone and feature set. I mean, I took off two of my favorite pedals to put this on my board permanently. As far as pricier, small batch pedals go, the Heroine perfectly executes the balance between something new and familiar. The classic gain sounds we love (TS, RAT, Bluesbreaker) are all buried in it but you can also “set it and forget it” and let each guitar or pickup combo do a little something different through it. For me, I can plug in a Strat and get overdrive or plug in a Les Paul and get thick distortion, all with just the one pedal on my board. That’s real value. Plus in a world that is seeing $200 and $300 pedals become the norm, the $180 price tag is incredibly reasonable. No pedal will ever be a perfect solution to tone, but this is a perfect boutique pedal that I will be using for years to come.

Farewell to my RAT and TS-9, who have been with me for years, but will now live on my travel/gigging pedalboard where they’ll (hopefully) power my sound in a band setting!

Fender Noventa Telecaster Review

Will Fender’s take on the LP Junior mixed with an Esquire be the guitar I’ve been dreaming about?

Cost: $949.99 from Fender.com and Reverb.com!

Overview & Final Score: 8.3 out of 10

Fender is at it again with another new release that pretty much instantly won the guitar world over. The Noventa Telecaster is a single P90 take on the Tele/Esquire that is part of their Noventa lineup, which also features a 3 P90 Jazzmaster and dual P90 Strat. This is an Alder body Tele, with a cut Telecaster bridge, a single “Noventa” pickup, and a gloss polyester finish. Underneath the Pau Ferro fretboard is a full scale Maple neck, with a 9.5″ radius and 21 medium jumbo frets. Much like an LP Junior, the single P90 is controlled via a volume and tone pot and nothing more. The ’60s C-shaped Maple neck is a common and incredibly comfortable shape that Fender’s has been embracing for their MIM Telecasters, much like this one. Available in three stunning finishes including Vintage Blonde, Fiesta Red, and 2-color Sunburst, there’s something for both the modern flair and vintage enthusiast guitar player.

Sound: 9

It would be easy to say “what you see is what you get”, but there is a surprising amount of versatility in this slab guitar. Where it differs from any other single P90 guitar is the inclusion of the cut Telecaster bridge. That and the alder body provide a very bright, chime-rich tone that you won’t get out of a Les Paul Junior. This really comes across when playing clean or atmospheric music, as there is a character there that is much more Fender than you might expect from a guitar like this. However, it also can nail that mid-rich classic P90 sound when you roll the tone down just a bit, which helps cut out some of those highs and re-focuses the tone for power chord-based punk music or “quackin” blues tones. It’s a flexible guitar that really lets you control the sound with your signal chain or picking attack, perfect for players who prefer a stripped down playing experience. For me, the Noventa Telecaster checks so many boxes tonally and physically, it’s my dream LP Junior meets Fender.

Playability: 8

The thing that separates the Noventa Telecaster from the pack of sub-$1000 Mexican Teles is the playability in my opinion. I was skeptical of the price for such a stripped down product, but upon picking it up I’m pretty okay with it. The neck is super smooth and comfortable, a lot like the Fender Vintera Road Worn Tele that I absolutely LOVED. Fender seemed to do really well on the fretwork and setup, though they have to stop using these low string trees (@FENDER)! I’ve barely had to tune my Noventa Tele and it feels and sound stage ready out of the gig bag and box. There are a few complaints here, but everything else on the neck is near perfect and meant to be thoroughly played and abused. Plus, the strings that come stock really aren’t that bad where as they used to bug me on new Fenders and require immediate removal. Overall, there is lots to like and enjoy here, any of those minor complaints can be very easily and affordably altered to your taste as well.

Finish & Construction: 9

How can you not love the look of this guitar? The 2-tone Sunburst finish is flawless but also really lets some of the natural wood grain shine through which I much prefer on guitars. There are no real obvious errors or flaws, despite the pickup being just a bit uneven (but easily screwed back into place). You can tell the QA/QC at the Mexican factory is pretty much rock solid at the moment, as this is just the latest in a long line of really well made MIM Fenders that have come through my door. The playability and playing performance is very reassuring after my initial concerns about the price. It’s really rugged and durable, with not a lot to break/go wrong in most scenarios, plus it’s going to be convenient to fix things over time. Let’s not forget how easy and fun Fender-style guitars are to mod if you ever fall out of love with an aspect or feature.

Value: 7

As much as I love this guitar, I think it could be a hundred dollars or more cheaper. It’s not as perfect as the Vintera Road Worn Tele, which is much closer in price to this than the Player Series is. The Noventa Telecaster is absolutely rad, but it is just so stripped down that you have to love the feel and the aesthetic (like I really do) to find the true value in the guitar. This is a guitar for people who group up idolizing Mick Jones, Johnny Thunder, and other LP Junior users, but just can’t stand playing Gibson’s scale length. It still gets a strong score because at the end of the day, it’s just a fun, well built guitar. And that fun and reliable factor is incredibly important, especially to me who is always trying to pull some sort of creativity or inspiration out of a guitar. Fender should be wary of price inflation in these Mexican-made guitars, even though they’re obviously killing it right now in the guitar design/marketing process.

I rocked this Noventa Tele is my recent demo of the crazy good Shotmaker Instruments Heroine pedal!

Good for: Punk, Garage Rock, Blues, Les Paul Junior Fans, Telecaster Players, Country, Rockabilly, Gigging Musicians

Fender Acoustasonic Stratocaster Review

Will Fender’s Acoustic modeler meets Stratocaster be the next in a long line of amazing reviews?

Cost: $1999.99 from Fender.com, Reverb.com, or Amazon.com!

Overview & Final Score: 9.4 out of 10

I have put off this review for a long time, mostly because I wanted to make sure I could truly convey why I love this guitar so much. Count me as one of the early skeptics of the Fender Acoustasonic series, who by now has been fully convinced of their musical potential and convenience. Unveiled just a year or so ago, the Fender Acoustasonic Stratocaster brings the voicing and comfort of a steel-string acoustic into the electric guitar world. It’s a full scale length Stratocaster, with a Mahogany neck and Ebony fretboard. 22 frets, a Graph Tech TUSQ nut, and satin urethane finish provide a smooth, stable playing experience. The body is also Mahogany, with a Sitka Spruce top, and a number of killer finish options (like this limited edition American Flag one).

Understanding the diverse electronics can seem intimidating, but the Acoustasonic Stratocaster aims to deliver massive versatility thanks to three built-in pickups. There’s the surface mounted magnetic pickup, an N4 Strat pickup for the electric tones, an under-saddle piezo pickup, and an internal body sensor acoustic pickup. Between these 3 options, you can pull out almost any sound you could want for a live or studio setting. There is a traditional 5-way selector switch, a volume knob, and a “mod” knob. The “mod” control knob controls additional voicing of the 5 selections, blending between an A & B phase. The options include

Position 1: Electric tones, both clean and dirty Fender Strat sounds.

Position 2: Acoustic & Electric blend between a clean Fender Strat and Dreadnought acoustic.

Position 3: Percussive and enhanced harmonic acoustic tones, blend between an auditorium-style acoustic and a boosted percussive acoustic.

Position 4: Alternative acoustics that can blend from a small body, short scale guitar to a Mahogany American dreadnought.

Position 5: Core acoustic tones that blend from a dreadnought to a concert acoustic.

Sound: 9.5

It’s hard to find a fault in the sonic capabilities of this Stratocaster, it’s versatile but more importantly, it is fun. All of those options listed above from the pickup selector are high quality, responsive to touch, and very useable. It’s not like there’s only one or two modes on this guitar that are the “money” sound, and the rest are just kind of there. Fender packed the Acoustasonic Stratocaster with their take on popular and proven acoustic and electric sounds that make this is an optimal choice for the working guitarist. Let’s start with the electric tones, which are shockingly clear and genuine. In the 1st position, it’s a Strat bridge pickup through and through, percussive, rhythmic, a bit chimy, it’s all there. Roll on the dirt and you’ll have great time though don’t expect big distortion tones, just warm overdriven Strat tones that fill space. The blended acoustic/electric position 2 is one of my favorites, it’s almost like the blended piezo option on the PRS I played awhile back. You can roll all the way to an electric clean tone or all the way to the dreadnought tone plus everything in between.

The acoustic options exactly what you expect: classic acoustic-electric tones. I do think they miss a bit of the subtle, full bodied tones of a classic Gibson acoustic, so it isn’t a complete replacement for EVERY acoustic tone. Though it does almost everything else, and it does it quite well. It’s snappy, percussive, harmonic, all the words you love to use to describe acoustics. The 3 acoustic-only settings are perfect for replacing a collection you might take to a studio or to a gig.

Playability: 10

I’m a Strat player through and through. My first and favorite guitar is a MIM Strat, so this guitar instantly feels comfortable and familiar. Fender has really made the first acoustic guitar that is genuinely meant for electric players. As much as I love acoustic, I’m just not at home on one, they always feel a bit clumsy to me. The Acoustasonic though is a full on American Strat that just doesn’t sound like one. The fretwork was superb, the neck is ultra smooth and has a gorgeous wood grain. When I get home from work, this is the first guitar I pick up to play. It’s nearly flawless in terms of tuning stability, playability, and overall quality. Even if you hate the idea of this guitar, you will love the feel of it in your hands, no doubt in my mind. Part of what makes it such an inspiring guitar to play is this high quality feel up and down the neck. I think part of what justifies the price of this Acoustasonic is that it will play so well and it will be incredibly inviting to you. One of the best features any guitar can have is comfort and that is not lacking in this stunning Stratocaster.

Finish & Construction: 10

I’m sure people will be watching how these hold up for years to come but so far, I see zero signs of poor construction or quality control. The finish is gorgeous, with a satin feel up the neck and a slightly glossy yet rugged layer over the American flag finish on mine. For me, the MVP of this guitar might just be the wood grain of the Mahogany. It’s stunning, with big open pores, deep color changes, all while still being lightweight to hold and play. The fretwork, playability, and tonal quality all speak for themselves, it’s just a well built instrument. Now, I can see a world where the acoustic engine in this guitar becomes outdated as the technology advances, but I don’t think that is a fair criticism of this very cutting edge guitar. At the end of the day, it is arguably the most user-friendly solution to acoustic-electric performance.

Value: 8

I understand that some people may write this off as a high priced gimmick, but really, $2000 isn’t a lot for what you’re getting. It’s a premium instrument in both looks and feel that can serve a wide variety of purposes. I’ve already written more songs and riffs on this guitar in 6 months than I did in the prior 2 years combined. Every single original piece of music you hear in one of my demos or videos was written on this, and I’m not sure you can put a price on creativity and self expression. I think it should still rank high on the value chart for how functionally diverse the Acoustasonic Stratocaster is, giving you a wide range of uses on stage. You could easily make this your main gigging guitar, assuming you don’t play too much overdriven or distorted music. I’d be curious to see them make something that is just as functional, but less pretty/spec’d out to keep the price down in the future. However, Fender’s made the most musical instrument I have ever owned, and that is the basis of the high ratings here. If something inspires you to play or write better, it is going to get high marks regardless of price, brand, or design.

Good for: Gigging Musicians, Solo Performers, Electric Guitar Players, Country, Pop, Improvisation, Loopers, Recording Artists

Introducing Fiesta Hot Hush Puppies, Noiseless Strat Pickups

A new brand of pickups that strive to provide premium tone at a more mid-market price range.

Cost: $119.99 from Fiestapickups.com or from Reverb.com!

Starting with my recent roundup of the best pre-wired Stratocaster pickup options on the market, I’ve started really digging into different pickups, wiring configurations, and tone controls. With a huge Strat wiring harness project on the horizon, I wanted to highlight the sweet sounding pickups that will be featured in all the videos and articles. I’ll be using this Fiesta Pickups Hot Hush Puppies Strat set, in my trusted, beat up, sticker covered Squier Affinity Stratocaster. And trust me, these aren’t just any pickups, you’ll want to know them. That’s precisely why I’m reviewing them, and letting you know why they’ll be staying in this guitar for the foreseeable future.

Fiesta Pickups is a relatively new company that sets out to hit that middle-market area, where prices aren’t exorbitant but the quality is really on par with more boutique options. I have my set wired up by 920D Custom, great friends of the website, with some cool wiring schematics to explore soon!

Breaking Down The Tone

Now I’m going to release some follow up content displaying all the classic Strat tones you can pull out of this guitar, but before I do that I wanted to emphasize that these pickups perfectly nailed MY Strat tone. They can do an SRV thing with a Tube Screamer, you can plug in your Memory Man and be The Edge. You can also get your Mark Knopfler sounds with ease, they do all those amazing Stratocaster things you want to see in a demo. But what these really do well is create a clear, snappy blank canvas for you as the guitar player to create around. The original Fender Stratocaster was designed to be ultra-versatile, an every man’s guitar, and these Hot Hush Puppies stay true to that idea without requiring you pay an arm and a leg.

For a player who likes to go from punk to melodic atmospheric music in seconds, these pickups are an excellent choice for me. They are a tad bit hotter than your average Strat-style pickups, with some bite in the bridge and neck especially. With the dirt rolled on, you’ll have a great time playing almost any style or genre. And to be fair, these really are noiseless, so far I’ve had little to no 60 cycle hum or annoying buzz with a full pedalboard and plenty of electronics nearby. Simply put, these are rock solid Strat pickups that are a lot higher quality than the budget pickups I often rely on, while still being firmly in my budget. I pulled what I consider to be my “signature” tone out of these in seconds, and will be playing them for months to come as part of several projects!

The Verdict

These Fiesta Hot Hush Puppies are well worth a look, providing true noiseless tone and genuine Stratocaster fun for a mid-market price. These would be a solid upgrade on any Squier or Mexican Fender-like guitars, or would be perfectly suited to replace some weaker, vintage style pups on a high end six string.

Orange Terror Stamp Pedalboard Amplifer Review

How will this Micro Terror in a box fit on my pedalboard and will it simply my home recording setup?

Overview & Cost: $199.00 from Amazon.com or Reverb.com

The Orange Terror Stamp was unveiled at Winter NAMM 2020 and while it took awhile to get one, it has not disappointed at all. This is a hybrid tube-solid state amp head in a box, essentially their popular Micro Terror head but it fits on your pedalboard. It has two switchable channels that each have independent volume knobs, perfect for creating a rhythm/lead dichotomy for your rig. You can adjust the mid scoop via the shape knob, with a full scoop in the clockwise direction and mid saturation on the other end. The gain knob controls the amount of distortion and drive as well. What’s really exciting is all the abilities of the Terror Stamp, despite its limited tone tweaking. You can run it direct into an audio interface or PA system but also have an output for a regular guitar speaker cab. This means you can plug into a backline cab and essentially replace an amp in your to-go rig. There’s also headphone capabilities thanks to the built-in cab sim, so you can practice quality all night long without annoying any neighbors or roommates. Add in a buffered FX loop, and a 12AX7 pre-amp tube and you have quite the amp for about $200 all while getting that classic Orange Amps gain tone.

Review & Opinion

This Orange Terror Stamp should sound wholly familiar to everyone who has ever heard a Micro Terror or Micro Terror Dark amp head before. The cleans are unimpressive but fine, the crunch is really where the fun is and you can produce some super useable tones. In defense of the clean tone though, I found it took effects, especially drive pedals, pretty well which helps thicken it up a bit and make it more useable in my opinion. With the limited set of controls, your tone is going to have to shaped by pedals if you’re planning on using this live or for home recording and want more than just rich, crunch. What it does do, it does really well, and I love plugging in and practicing like I would to my Orange Crush 20 or Micro Terror. What really wins me over is just how much function they build into this little guy, the FX loop, the cab sim, it all comes together really nicely to provide good bang for the buck. You’re not getting a Strymon Iridium alternative, but this isn’t mean to be that and you shouldn’t purchase it with that in mind. Instead, Orange has crafted a perfectly user friendly overdriven amp in a box, that will help make your rig and playing more flexible. For fans of punk music like myself, the mid scoop will get you into a nice early Green Day-era sound. When you twist it back to mid saturation, it’s rich and shapeable to cover more rock-adjacent ground, though this certainly isn’t for jazz or country players to say the least. I mean, there’s basically a built-in boost when you set the channels to two different volumes too, so that’s one less pedal to need.

Final Conclusions & Rating: 8 out of 10

What you see is what you get, this is an incredibly accessible pedalboard amp for someone who isn’t asking a lot from it. If you’re looking to take your fusion-jazz-metal rig down into a pedal, this isn’t for you. If you’re looking to practice and record quietly at home with reliable, quality sound this is for you. If you have a micro terror stack and don’t want to haul it around, this is for you. The reason the score is so high on such a straightforward product is because it has that fun factor. Once this was on my board, it was never coming off, and I pulled it out all the time to play. Orange’s Terror Stamp is also a phenomenal intro into pedalboard amps and traditional amp alternatives. I for one found it to be a bit intimidating to dive into the world of modelers and cab sims and what not, this was a great starting point for me. Any way you slice it, you will never be disappointed by this thing, especially for the price and convenience. I’m really digging the Terror Stamp and I’m going to see how much more I can get out of it in 2021.

Nux FX Verdugo Series Duotime Delay and Fireman Distortion Review

How will these versatile & somewhat whacky dual pedals stack up to the beloved pedals already on my board.

Overview & Cost: $119.99 for the Fireman and $149.99 for the Duotime

New from Nux at the tail end of 2020, their Verdugo Series pedals offer modern flexibility and versatility at a much lower price point than most dual pedals. I got my hands on the Fireman Dual Distortion and Duotime Delay Engine, and have not been disappointed. The Fireman is a dual “Brown Sound” distortion that is meant to sound like a saturated, cranked Marshall in the vein of EVH. It’s best features, aside from the tones, might be the switchable true bypass/buffer circuitry and the ability to switch between 9v/18v for more sensitive tonal controls at the higher power. The controls for each individual channel are your standard volume and gain pots, with the second channel having a bit of a volume boost built in. Then, where it gets really interesting is the global shaping features below. You can control the treble and bass (straightforward) but the presence and tight knobs make things interesting. These two knobs control a much smaller span of frequencies, the very top high (presence) and very low (tight) frequencies. Meaning you have more specific control over the tip of the normal bass/treble controls. These are great for dialing in subtle tones or really focusing your sound at higher gain settings.

Switching over the Duotime dual delay engine, there’s even more versatility to be found. You can switch between 5 classic delay types: verb, mod, digi, tape, and analog. Verb is a delay drenched in shimmer and plate reverb, that gives a 3-dimensional feel. Mod is a classic modulated delay, like the Ibanez DML algorithm. Digi is a modern digital delay sound with clarity and precision. Tape provides that classic analog tape delay that distorts and saturates with each feedback. Last but not least, analog is a classic bucket bridge-style delay with infinite feedback and warm response. All of these variations on delay can be further tweaked by the parameter knob, which will adjust the modulation of the mod and analog delays, the compression on the digital delay, the saturation of the tape delay, and the shimmery reverb of the verb delay. On top of all that, you get two sets of delay time and repeat controls. There’s even a built-in looper function in this never ending dual delay and you can control the tap tempo, in either bpm or milliseconds, using the second footswitch.

Review & Opinion

Diving into the Fireman first because it was an easier manual and control set to master. I really do like how pedalboard friendly this dual distortion is, it’s flexible, tweakable, and is capable of either covering two distinct dirt sounds or a rhythm and lead sounds in one reliable housing. It does take up the space of two pedals on your board, but it very nicely replaces two of them as well. The controls are incredibly useable too, which is nice because I usually can’t find any useful tones with the bass turned down past 11:00 in most dirt boxes. However, the ability to sculpt the very low end leads to some really cool sounds with the bass rolled off but the tight knob rolled up. For high gain players, this is incredibly useful for dialing in precise, distorted tones that don’t lose too much clarity as you shred or chug chords. The tone of the Fireman really colors your amp and guitar signal, turning even the quietest Jazzmaster into a beast, which some may like but I do prefer a distortion to more accentuate a guitar’s character than paint over it. Overall though, the cranked Marshall “Brown Sound” is fun, useable, and shapeable, perfect for a gigging musician or cash-strapped EVH enthusiast.

The Duotime dual delay engine is nothing short of inspiring in terms of tonal flexibility. I love having so many flavors of delay in one pedal without it sounding like a wash of lo-fi modeling amp delay settings. These really do sound good, each in their own independent way, and while you’re limiting in the tweaking and tone shaping by a single parameter knob, this is great for people who need a little bit of everything. The built-in looper on the Duotime is perfectly serviceable, but not super long, so don’t anticipate endless loops on this aquamarine box. Having a tap tempo function is awesome, but what really separates this pedal is whacky and weird sounds you can pull from two delays in tandem. You can delay your delay at all different speeds, creating some cool atmospherics. It can still function perfectly like a normal, single delay, but you can push it into something new and rhythmic with ease. Overall, it’s a fun pedal to play around with and I can see it being part of the songwriting process, even though it well suited for gigging too.

Final Conclusion & Ratings: Fireman & Duotime Dual Pedals Both Earn 7.5 out of 10

Originating from the same series, these pedals are designed to be very similar in terms of what they bring to the table. They are ultra versatile, well made, and capture iconic guitar tones at a nice price point. These aren’t just cheap, mini pedals like some previous Nux products, they are bonafide gig and studio ready. Likewise, they both earn the same score here because their best qualities and worst qualities are similar. The Fireman is a wonderful “Brown Sound” in a box, but it lacks some of the warmth and clarity of a real deal saturated Marshall. What it does offer is superb versatility and tone shaping, plus user friendly tech specs like a true bypass/buffer switch. The Duotime delay engine can also do so much for your tone, with a half dozen or so classic delay modes and parameters plus a built in looper. But like the Fireman it does a lot of things good but nothing great. Good enough to earn a high score and a place on lots of pedalboards thanks to functionality and value. Both are a lot of fun and deserve your time, in fact I think both would be wonderful for gigging guitarists when shows resume, as their tough as nails enclosures seem built to take a beating.

Danelectro 3699 fUZZ Pedal Review

Will this re-issue of the original Danelectro Octave Fuzz beat out the recent Thirty7fx Fat Guy Little Coat and my beloved EHX Muff for space on my board?

Overview & Cost: $199.00 from Reverb.com & Amazon.com

With a revamped pedal lineup in 2020, Danelectro is back in the effects game. They made a strong impression with these premium releases, which are all different remakes of classic Danelectro ciruits, though the best may be this 3699 fUZZ which boasts an octave effect as well. Based on the ’70s FOXX Tone Machine, the 3699 fUZZ has volume, tone, and fuzz controls in addition to a mid-boost toggle switch and octave footswitch. When engaged, the mid boost helps create a punchier, fuller sound that cuts through the mix of a band or recording track nicely. The octave effect is an octave up only, so Jack White/down tuning fans might want to look elsewhere right off the bat. With the $199 price tag, it is certainly pricier than a lot of the fuzz pedal competition, though it is the most affordable way to get your hands on the recreated FOXX Tone Machine circuit that is upwards of $600 now.

The pedal isn’t short on looks however, with a stunning yellow on red casing and almost cartoonish text on the logo. It’s a pretty pedal and it looks absolutely great on any pedal board. A few things to notice, it is a lot thicker than most standard sized pedals, in terms of the height of the pedal off the ground. Though it is standard in terms of width and length thankfully. Likewise, the two footswitches are bit close together, though not too close to be useable for most.

Review & Opinion

Right off the bat, the 3699 hits you with volume and a surprising amount of static clarity. It’s both crispy and fizzy yet articulate, meaning you don’t lose a lot of notes in your playing until you really crank the levels of volume and fuzz. Likewise, the mid-boost switch really helps push your guitar tone into a nice lead tone, that won’t let you be lost in the mix. It’s a vintage fuzz through and through, with warm and rich sounds that do get crazy but not nearly as crazy as some of these wild new modern fuzzes out there. So if you’re looking for something in the Fuzz Factory direction, this is not for you. When you hit on the high octave, it actually thickens up the sound quite a bit more than I anticipated, which I love. It’s not as crystal clear, as in you don’t hear two clear signals. It’s a lot more of a blend and I don’t think it’ll satisfy most octave fan’s needs. But if you’re like me and just want something to nudge your tone a bit closer to onstage madness, it’s perfect. That’s really the whole appeal of this wonderful 3699 fUZZ, it’s a versatile, but time octave fuzz. For players more grounded in classic rock, punk, or older styles of music, this is a superb fuzz option for your pedalboard.

Final Conclusion & Rating: 9.0 out of 10

There’s a lot to like here, even with the high price tag in my opinion. Danelectro did a lot little things right here that make this a really fun pedal. It’s warm sounding, vintage inspired, and gorgeous to see when you look down at your pedalboard. Overall, it just sounds flat out good, and has some fun tones you can coax out of it with the mid-boost and octave. It’s one of those pedals that is almost under the radar when it comes to versatility. So as long as you’re shopping for a vintage-style fuzz instead of a more modern circuitry, this is a top contender any way you slice it.

My pedal in action below, it sits between my distortion (RAT) and Phaser (Phase 90), and it sounds great though my Fano Omnis JM6!

Best Of Virtual NAMM 2021

Despite an entirely digital footprint, new gear releases are rolling out and many builders don’t seem to have missed a beat.

Credit: Fender & Sterling by Music man

While it may not be quite as exciting as the biannual mecca to convention centers in Anaheim and Nashville, the NAMM show is still buzzing as builders roll out new gear in early 2021. Some are partaking in NAMM’s “Believe In Music” week which starts this week, while others are rolling out their own live launch parties. Major companies like Fender, Gibson, PRS, and Ibanez have already unveiled a slate of new features and more announcements from big and small gear builders are just around the corner. We’ll be updating this article as new rolls out, but let’s start highlight the new gear releases you need to know.

Squier’s Updated Contemporary Series Find Your Own Here

Let’s start with this eye popping new Contemporary Stratocaster Special which boats some premium features for under $500. A flame Maple neck, a contoured heal, and unique pickup configurations and wiring make this far different from the Strat we all know and love. The middle and bridge single coil are incredibly close together, giving you some additional chime and high end in your tone. A 5-position blade switch gives you the following crazy pickup options:

Position 1: Bridge + Middle in Series/Hum Cancelling (think Humbucker)

Position 2: Middle Pickup only

Position 3: Middle + Neck in Parallel

Position 4: Bridge + Middle + Neck

Position 5: Neck Pickup only

Oh and the new finish options don’t look so bad either huh? You can choose from Sky Burst Metallic and Black.

PRS SE Custom 24-08Find Your Own Here

I was fortunate enough to be part of the release and announcement of this guitar, with a full review & demo already up HERE. But it is still without a doubt, one of the coolest guitars that has been announced so far and I wanted to highlight it again here. The real big feature of this PRS is the 8 different pickup configurations you can create using the individual coil split toggle switches for each humbucker. But in addition to that versatility, it is a stunning, well made guitar that is under $1000 and is ready to be someone’s main instrument for decades.

Sterling By Music Man Artist Series MariposaFind Your Own Here

Sterling is the officially licensed overseas builder of affordable Ernie Ball Music Man guitars, though it is not actually owned by Ernie Ball itself. As such, they are beloved by guitarists for distilling down the best of EBMM to much more budget friendly prices while still delivering massive quality in each instrument. Their newest addition to the artist series is the recent and highly popular Mariposa, the signature guitar for none other than Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. Sporting a roasted Maple neck, locking tuners, and Ernie Ball Music Man’s trademark original body design, there is so much to love here. It’s engineered to be an ultra high performance guitar from top to bottom and makes the Mariposa far more accessible for many broke musicians like myself.

New For 2021: PRS SE Custom 24-08 Review

With up to 8 pickup combinations and stunning finishes, PRS adds a truly versatile guitar to their affordable SE line.

Credit: PRS

Cost: $899.00 from PRSguitars.com and Reverb.com!

Overview & Final Score: 8.6 out of 10

That’s right, this review is going live the same day this guitar was unveiled to the world thanks to the wonderful people at PRS guitars. They absolutely started 2021 off with a bang, packing 8 distinct pickup configurations into this dual humbucking SE Custom 24. You get a Maple body with a Flame Maple veneer in this gorgeous Eriza Verde (a new finish for 2021) alongside their beloved Vintage Sunburst finish as well. It’s a 25″ scale length guitar, in typical PRS tradition, with 24 frets on the Maple “wide-thin” neck with a Rosewood fingerboard. The body carve is their gorgeous and comfortable shallow violin carve design, that lets some gorgeous Maple peak through the cut outs. A PRS-designed tremolo system is paired with their TCI “S” pickups to power this new SE Custom 24-09. So where does the -08 come from in the name? Thanks to individual coil splits switches for each pickup, you have 8 pickup configurations when using the 3-way selector switch. It’s an impressive amount of features packed into a stunning guitar.

Sound: 8.5

Obviously, you’re going to love the versatility of this PRS SE Custom 24-08. I mean, it has 8 pickup combinations, with coil split and full humbucker tones. But don’t let the sheer volume of tones distract you from how good the pickups actually sound on their own. This isn’t a guitar that does a little bit of everything well but nothing great. It does great things, especially when hit with a little bit of drive and put through my Vox tube amp. The neck pickup never gets muddy, giving you some awesome lead tones to mess around with. My personal favorite, the bridge pickup, is all sorts of warm and rich while staying pretty clear through chords and aggressive picking. No, you’re not getting perfect pickups, they certainly aren’t the loudest or most touch sensitive, but they’re really good for the price of the guitar and the tonal flexability. The coil split is also a big winner here because it isn’t just some lazy volume cut that thins out your tone. It actually adds some spank and sparkle, which contrasts the bigger sounds of the humbuckers nicely.

Playability: 8

PRS’s “wide-thin” neck did not disappoint at all, providing a fluid and fast experience up and down all 24 frets. I’m not much of a shredder, so I’m not best equipped to take advantage of the extra few frets. However, it was way more comfortable and easy to reach those frets than it is to reach the 22nd fret on some guitars, so props to them again. The SE Custom 24-08 was really ready to go out of the box, with good action, a properly cut nut, and solid tuning performance. It needs a tweak every now and then if you really work that tremolo but otherwise it’s pretty impressive. Most importantly, it’s not a glaring issue that would keep this guitar off the stage. PRS seems to have a stock, higher end overseas tuner that they use here and on other nice SE’s I’ve played. They work well, don’t slip often, and shouldn’t need to be replaced unless you require true 24/7 locking tuner stability. Overall, it’s a joy to play this guitar from the minute you pick it up!

Finish & Construction: 9

Hard to not give them a perfect score here, but the Flamed Maple veneer is just a bit too thin for me to dub this a 10/10. However, this new Eriza Verde finish option is stunning and matches up wonderful with the flaming of the Maple and the natural beauty of the back body wood. The way the natural finish pokes out of the carve at the cutaways really gets me. Attention to detail is evident up and down this guitar, with the hardware well installed, killer fretwork, and a straight neck that is well set up. When you look over the guitar with a fine tooth comb, you’re not really going to find anything else to complain about either. Finish work was practically flawless, and I am not excited to take this down from hanging on my wall. It’s like a work of art, except it’s also a cutting edge instrument that is highly user friendly.

Value: 9

Not hard to figure out, this guitar is a great value through and through. At this price point, this is basically the PRS for someone who wants all these features but knows that they can’t afford what would likely be double or triple the cost of this for a USA-made variant. It’s a great way to get an ultra playable, versatile, and sweet looking instrument without selling an arm and a leg. Furthermore, PRS did such a good job with this SE Custom 24-08 I do think it would prevent me from ever buying a more expensive model in the future. This could literally do everything I want from a PRS guitar and I wish I could have this long term for some serious gigs and recording sessions. With guitar prices generally rising across the market, I think you get a lot of guitar for the price with this newest addition to the SE line.

Good for: Classic Rock, Pop, Jazz, Studio Musicians, Gigging Musicians, Versatile/Genre-bending Players, PRS Fans On A Budget, R&B