Fender Mustang Micro Headphone Amp Review

As a proud owner and user of the Mustang V1 15 watt combo, will this little guy win me over?

Overview & Cost: $99.99 from Fender.com and Reverb.com! (Some affiliate links)

I really thought this was going to be a gimmick. I really thought it would be another low quality headphone amp, holy grail “practice amp” solution. But Fender’s Mustang Micro is actually seriously fun, seriously user friendly, and it sounds great. What you’re looking at here is basically the Fender Mustang Amp series (my first amp ever) shrunken down into a little headphone amp. With 12 amp voices, 12 effects voices, and the ability to slightly modify the EQ and effects voicing, you have surprisingly versatile control over your sound. While I’ll go through each setting and effect in the demo, the effects are generally centered in the reverb-modulation-delay genre. The amp sounds range from compressed cleans to mid-scooped metal tones, and literally everything in between. But arguably the major features I want to highlight in this overview are the connect-ability options. You can connect your phone via bluetooth and play songs or albums right into your headphones alongside your guitar signal. So you can actually play along to songs to learn or practice them. The real winner might be how you can record directly into your computer using the included usb-c cable. Plus one end into the Mustang Micro and the other into your computer, and you can record real amp sounds right into any software.

Review & Opinion:

I like this Mustang Micro so much more than I could have imagined. I really thought this was a gimmick, I thought it was going to be another low quality headphone amp that will sell thousands of copies and we’ll forget about in 2 years. But honestly, this is the real deal! The amp sounds aren’t going to make you throw out your Vox or Marshall, but they sound like an actual amp in the room with you. They have a diverse selection too, with ’60s and ’70s British inspired tones, grunge-y sounds from the ’90s, and multiple high gain and crystal clean options. It sounds eerily similar to my actual Mustang V1 15 watt amp, which is a compliment because that amp served me well during many live gigs in my life. I wish that a few of the modulated effects were replaced with other gain options, but generally speaking the different flavors of reverb, chorus, delay, and tremolo are more than acceptable. All your gain will have to come out of the amp voicing you selected, but when you combine that with the effects and the guitar’s pickups, you can cook up most every basic sound you’d ever want. The sounds speak for themselves though, and simply put, they are phenomenal for a headphone amp. Headphone amps have long been plagued by thin, one-dimensional sounds. At worst, it just doesn’t even sound like a guitar with some of the ancient attempts. This gets high grades not because it is the best amp I’ve played, but because it sounds amazing at most, if not all, settings, in a headphone amp application. I know there are some competitors out there, but this is thoroughly the only headphone or practice amp that I plan to keep and use.

Conclusion & Final Score: 8.5 out of 10

I know this is a product that’s been plastered around the web for a week or more now, but it really is that good. It’s incredibly convenient for practicing, learning songs, or recording quick scratch demos and tracks. Fender’s Mustang Micro can just do so much for you in a really small package and with a relatively small price tag. For about $100, I’m buying this tomorrow if mine gets stolen tonight. Quiet practicing in apartments, taking your guitar on the road, the applications are endless. And the price isn’t prohibitive to many players, be it beginners or experts. The Mustang Micro is a great accessory but really more of a tool for the modern guitarist. I use mine to mainly play along to songs while learning them by ear or looking up tabs. It’s great to plug in after a long day, not have to worry about turning my amp down or plugging in pedals, and just jam to some Muse or The Clash. I’m honestly buying the hype on this product, and if you need a practice amp or silent guitar playing solution, this deserves 100% of your attention!

SPS Pedals Local 2609: A Boosted Blues Breaker

How will this switchable, boosted Blues Breaker fit into a rig that is clearly lacking a transparent drive?

Cost & Overview: $120.00 new from SPS Pedal’s Reverb Shop! (Affiliate link)

Part of my favorite thing about Instagram is that you can discover a new gear brand every single day. Whether it is a pedal company, amp maker, or overseas guitar manufacturer, I’m constantly scouting out gear that I think is worthy of attention. That’s how this SPS Pedal’s Local 2609 pedal ended up in my hands, and I think it is a company and transparent overdrive that is well worth your time. The Local 2609 is based on the legendary Blues Breaker circuit, except with a slightly boosted bass bump and a larger volume boost to help keep the pedal at unity or higher with an amp. SPS Pedals also added a mini toggle switch that lets you choose between a more stock vintage mode, and a higher gain setting that isn’t necessarily a distortion, but takes you into a crunchier, brighter gain stage. Aside from those modifications, you have standard overdrive controls like volume, tone, and gain, and a pedalboard friendly standard enclosure size. It’ll take your standard 9v power adaptor with ease, and you’re pretty much off to the races after that! Extra points for the very convenient top mounted jacks!

Review & Opinion:

Immediately upon plugging in the Local 2609 I realized this pedal can add some serious sparkle as a sort of clean/light drive boost. It really shined on top of single coils, helping to create a more 3-dimensional sound that was a joy to play (see end of the demo). This was arguably my favorite use of the Local 2609, which isn’t far out of the realm of what most people use transparent drives for. However, the more gain-rich tones are great as well, with very sensitive controls letting you go from slight dirt to borderline distortion with the toggle switch and gain knob. While I liked the “stock” Blues Breaker mode with the gain turned up, I think the higher gain “modded” mode is far superior. To my ears, the stock mode was really just a good boost and a perfectly acceptable but uninspiring overdrive. However, the higher gain sounds totally come to life and had me excited to play with the Local 2609. To me, it thickened up the sound considerably which is arguably the most important thing a drive pedal can do for lead lines. This boosted Blues Breaker cut through the mix, added a ton of shine to my guitar signal, and was easy to dial in good sounds with. I see two types of players getting the most out of the Local 2609, those who want a light gain boost to keep always on, or those who need a transparent overdrive to push their tube amp into crunch. SPS Pedal’s Local 2609 can work wonderfully for both, and I think the versatility it provides should make it a great candidate for live/gigging pedalboards where you want your pedal to be able to do multiple things if needed.

Conclusion & Final Score: 7 out of 10

As someone who doesn’t use a lot of transparent overdrives, it was refreshing to connect with this pedal so easily. At a barely boutique price point, with versatile controls, there is a lot to really like here even if a Blues Breaker isn’t my go-to form of overdrive. And maybe most importantly, the pedal seems to be really well built, with clean wiring and soldering on the inside, and no discernible buzz or hum when engaged. I do think anyone looking for a Blues Breaker should consider this before shelling out more money for something fancier or more well known. Likewise, the subtle improvements on the original circuit make this a good choice for vintage Blues Breaker fans who have had enough of the low output and bass cut at high gain. I’m curious to see some more SPS Pedal stuff roll across my board, because I think they’ve clearly got some good ideas on how to improve classic circuits, maybe a Tube Screamer or Fuzz will be more up my alley as well. Either way, I can strongly recommend this and look forward to using it on top of Strat single coils!

Mosky Black Rat Pedal Review: The Cheapest RAT I Can Find

As a lover of all things RAT pedal related, I decided to turn my search towards the cheaper end of the spectrum.

Overview & Cost: $31.99 on Amazon.com!

Very rarely do I dip my toes into the super cheap world of Amazon pedals. It’s not that I don’t like them, as I have historically used a ton of them on my pedal boards. But really, I feel that they are so hit and miss from pedal to pedal that it is hard to give a thorough review. However, as a huge fan of the RAT pedal, I’ve decided to go deep into the weeds and review and compare almost every RAT variant I can find. And with the Wampler Ratsbane already filed at UG, and the ProCo RAT2 already established, why not try an ultra cheap option? The Mosky Black Rat sets out to be a straight up RAT clone, with the standard distortion, filter, and volume controls we all know and love. Interestingly enough, the Black Rat also has a toggle in the top corner to go between a “turbo” and “vintage” mode. The vintage mode is based on your standard RAT, while the turbo is much like the boosted, fuzzier Turbo RAT that has been incredibly popular as well. Some other cool features include the offset input/output, which helps fit it on pedalboards, and the pedal casing actually feels pretty sturdy!

Review & Opinion:

I think it is pretty clear that this pedal doesn’t actually sound all that similar to my Pro Co RAT2 and Wampler Ratsbane. In just a few moments of comparing them, it is so much muddier and bassier than those two. It also feels like part of that is that it has less of a mid scoop compared to the other traditional Rats. It’s actually not a bad sound in a lot of these positions, it can be thick and there is some rich distortion tones. But if absolutely doesn’t cut through the mix the way the others do and sounds are much less flexible, as in you can’t sculpt them super well with the controls on the pedal. It doesn’t inherently sound bad, but I really don’t think that this is that close to an actual RAT pedal. I can confidently say I’d rather take a $50 Boss DS-1 to use as my RAT alternative on stage or in the studio than take this pedal. It’s thick, wooly, muddy bass heavy, but it doesn’t transform your sound into this huge wall of sound that the RAT does, and I think the different really is those high end frequencies. It’s certainly a fine distortion pedal if you can’t afford another, but I’m want to emphasize that it is not really a RAT to my ears at all. So don’t buy it for that reason and that reason alone. I honestly don’t hear much a difference between the turbo mode and the vintage mood except that the turbo mood is volume boosted. No matter how I cranked this pedal, I could not get it to do that edge of fuzz sound that RATs are famous for, even on the turbo mode. Now, having it boosted was still quite useful as it helped improve on the vintage tone, which was sort of low output in my opinion. But again, this won’t be a Turbo RAT, and it won’t get really fuzzy.

Conclusion & Final Score: 4 out of 10

I know these Mosky pedals are really loved by a lot of budget minded musicians, but this just doesn’t do it for me. Especially when it’s not like it is a cheap copy of a super expensive pedal. It’s not a Klon or Timmy, the ProCo RAT2 is $70, the Boss DS-1 is $40-50 used, probably way less even. I just feel like this is the one legendary pedal you don’t need an Amazon copy of. The Mosky Black Rat is by no means useless, but it is underwhelming no matter what the price point is on it. It’s a great option for people who need bass heavy, rhythm oriented distortion pedal on a budget. RAT pedals can do that too, but they typically do so much more too. This one can’t really do anything more. And to be fair, I could have just gotten a dud, that is always a concern with these affordable pedals. One sounds amazing, the next sounds hollow. Overall I can’t say I’d recommend you buy it to replace a RAT on a travel board or gigging board, but I think it is worth the $30 to use as a different kind of distortion for when you’re creating a layer of sound lower in the mix. It doesn’t seem poorly built and the casing feels far sturdier than the plastic Amazon pedals of my high school years. It’s worth a shot if you have $30 to burn, but if each pedal purchase needs to go a long way for you, save up for the Boss DS-1 or RAT2.

Orange Amplification Acoustic Pedal Review and Intro

Just released today, Orange steps into the world of acoustic pedal board amps!

Overview & Cost: $169.00 from Reverb.com, learn more at Orangeamps.com

Orange Amps are one of the most beloved amplifier companies in the world, and for good reason. Whether it is tube amp stacks, solid state practice amps, or hybrid creations like the Terror Stamp and Tiny Terror, they just make awesome stuff. While it all generally leans in towards loud, high gain electric guitar territory, they’re doing something pretty neat here. The Acoustic Pedal, introduced today, is an acoustic guitar preamp/amp in a box. It’s based off their well received Acoustic Pre TC preamp and their Crush Acoustic 30 amplifier. It’s a low noise, JFET-based circuit that runs on 18v, a buffered FX loop, and it can be run directly into your audio interface (standard 1/4″ jack) or into a PA system thanks to balanced XLR output. It’s basically a whole acoustic rig in a box, that can make playing on the go much easier and recording demos/songs a breeze. The controls are pretty intensive too, with a “notch” control that lets you dial in how precisely you contour the mid frequencies via the middle control knob. Paired with the treble and bass knobs, and you have a very sensitive 3-band EQ. The Q Factor can set the total range of control you have over the EQ, while also helping to limit feedback when you roll it off.

Review & Opinion:

If the Acoustic Pedal is anything, it is tweak-able. I plugged my Acoustasonic Strat right in and was pulling out a quite a few useable sounds with ease. It’s definitely a treble-rich sounding amp, but rolling off some of the treble went a long way. It was very snappy, with some acoustic string buzzing but nothing crazy or disproportionate from other acoustic amps. Part of it is probably because I’m an awful acoustic guitar player. The notch and Q factor controls were super useful for me, letting me alter how much of the frequencies I could actually adjust using the EQ controls. When it got too buzzy or high pitched, I could perfectly dial in a better sound. But when I found something nice, it was easy to just set it and forget it while still exploring some more subtle changes. Overall though, this is incredibly useful and I think you’ll hear one or two performance-grade sounds on the short demo video I made, even if the playing is a bit rough. This can totally replace the acoustic amp you lug around, and for me, it was a blast to just be able to plug it into my audio interface and record some chords and riffs. It’s very user friendly, very convenient, and for the price, it gives you so much power in one little box. I think live performers will get the most out of this product, as they can take a much more complicated amplifier, shrink it down to this one box, and go direct into PA alongside a band or vocal mix. It does remind me a bit of the Terror Stamp in that it is packed with lots of good sounds, but doesn’t necessarily pack any that are truly life altering. Jack of all trades, master of none is kind of the territory here, but that’s not a knock on it, more of just a broad description of the sound and function. My favorite tones were with the bass rolled up, the treble cut, and the mid’s very precisely dialed in for a smaller range of frequencies. I would firmly take this on stage or in the studio with me with no reservations whatsoever!

Final Conclusions & Rating: 7 out of 10

I really like the direction that Orange took this Acoustic Pedal, prioritizing the functionality and diverse controls over copying a specific legendary acoustic tone. This is a product I would love to have demoed live, but with the pandemic, that couldn’t happen, because I feel it is really suited for performance. This isn’t some premium preamp that is meant to sit in studios, it feels rock solid, well built, and I’d throw this on a board instantly if I was keeping it for myself. The buffered FX loop was a killer addition to this pedal, because I think it opens up the possibilities even more for performing musicians. You could throw ambient reverbs, delays, or some sort of boost right into this on your pedalboard, and shrink your fly rig or travel rig immensely. Truth be told, I’m not crazy about all the sounds, like I said before. It felt buzzy at times, too snappy and treble-rich, but nothing that couldn’t be dialed out. It’s a brilliant idea, and a well executed one at that, for players getting back on stage in 2021, give this real consideration as it is ample function for the price!

Perfect Gigging Pedals? JHS 3 Series Reverb and Delay Review

As I build out my live rig/to-go pedalboard, will these affordable and rugged JHS pedals be just what I need?

Overview & Cost: $99 each pedal from JHSpedals.com, Reverb.com, and Amazon.com! (some affiliate links)

If there is one thing I love, it’s affordable workhorse pedals. The JHS 3 Series was introduced at the end of 2020 as reasonably affordable, made in America standards for guitar players who need reliable performance and classic tones. Dubbed the 3-series thanks to their 3 control knobs, the Reverb and Delay pedals doing pretty much everything you could want even if they lack some bells and whistles. The Delay features your standard time (length of delay), repeats (number), and mix (volume of delays) controls with a flexible mini toggle that lets you choose a clearer digital delay or darker, analog delay flavor. Likewise, the Reverb prioritizes controls for the size of the verb, from small spacey echos to cascading walls of reverberation. You can tweak how it decays as well, plus control how bright or dark the reverberation is thanks to the EQ knob. Like the Delay, you have a toggle switch to add some spice. Click on some short delay before the reverb begins with the switch, changing the style of verb from a spring-like sound to an old timey slapback-style verb.

Review & Opinion:

Reverb in action above!

Instead of shooting a full length demo for these pedals, I wanted to show how often I use them and how many different awesome sounds they can produce. If you haven’t noticed, they’ve made an appearance in pretty much every guitar or pedal demo from early February through now. Once I put them on a board, I realized they were pretty much capable of doing everything I could need. And that’s really the best example of how these 3 Series pedals should be valued. They’re wonderful examples of classic circuits, that are affordable, built to last, and just sound plain good. No, they will never replace my two absolute favorite reverb and delay pedals on my board, but instead they’ll be an absolute staple component of my live sound. More importantly, if these were around when I was a teenager I would have been thrilled (and sounded way better on stage). Whether you’re looking for an introduction to pedals or for something reliable, these are really superb options. Now, with both pedals, you’re sort of locked into one or two styles of each effect only. The reverb type is more hall in my opinion, I haven’t gotten it to really do the drippy spring sound yet, plus it sounds very lush and rich. The toggle switch does open up some fun, slapback-like Spring sounds though! On the other hand, the delay pedal feels just a bit more flexible, thanks to analog and digital voicing options. You won’t get built-in modulated delay like my beloved Deluxe Memory Man, but it has these wonderfully rich and articulate delay sounds, from short to long. The digital option is really clear and accurate, which makes it great for using on lead lines, solos, anywhere you might want to thicken up a sound without losing note definition. I really liked using it to show off this shorter delay sound on the Noventa Tele video, where it just creates this killer tone for lead lines.

Conclusions & Final Scores: JHS 3 Series Delay 8 out of 10, JHS 3 Series Reverb 7.5 out of 10

I think all you need to know about these pedals is that they’re really good. They’re not experimental, they’re not crazy, you’re not going to be doing your best Nick Reinhart impersonation. But they are really tough, look great on your board, and will cover your bases (and more) if you’re not super into these types of pedals. For cash strapped musicians, I would go as far as to say the 3 Series is the best sub-$100 pedal line. There are plenty of overdrives for $50 that could probably beat the 3 Series Overdrive in a head to head, but honestly reverb and delay are usually pretty costly for this level of quality. Great work from JHS, I really like the way they’re embracing some lower price points without going to overseas production. I’m gonna strap these to my gigging pedalboard for the rest of my life most likely, so I’m clearly happy to fully recommend this product.

RWM Offset T-Style Review: More Reclaimed Wood Goodness

How will this offset T-style compare to the wide range of Teles I’ve reviewed recently?

Cost: $1300.00 from RWMguitars.com

Overview & Final Score: 7.3 out of 10

After reviewing some RWM Guitars back in 2020, we have a few more to go through this year as well. Starting us off will be the beautifully blue offset T-style, which features a bright blue dye instead of a traditional finish. This guitar is made from Pine trees that were cut down along a local highway in Connecticut, and the body is relatively flat and wide compared to your typical offset guitar, though it doesn’t feel too foreign. Featuring GFS vintage wound Tele pickups, you’ll find your standard controls (volume, tone, 3-way selector switch) plus a classic brass Tele bridge. Turning to the neck, you’ll find the Maple neck and Rosewood fretboard feel comfortable, with a 9.5″ radius and 22 medium-jumbo frets. It’s the definition of solid, with great craftsmanship and attention to detail to build a workhorse instrument, that’s just a bit outside your standard find. The pearloid pickguard nicely contrasts the body as well, especially with so much of the wood’s natural grain and beauty shining through the dye finish.

Sound: 7

What you see is what you get, but that isn’t a bad thing in any way shape or form here. This is a classic sounding Tele, that could go two to two with the ever increasing prices of the Fender MIM line. It might even sound comparable to some low end MIA stuff, but either way this RWM guitar is studio and stage ready. The GFS vintage wound pro series Tele pickups are really nice, being a higher end offering from the beloved affordable pickup supplier. You can get the twang and snap on the bridge for country and rockabilly, but you can also kick on the gain and hit those sustaining Jimmy Page Tele licks. This perfectly captures the versatility and flavor of a classic Tele, which makes it just a joy to play in any situation. While I have said the same thing in previous reviews about upgrading from GFS pickups, they really do nail the classic Tele sounds here, so there isn’t much to complain about. It’s very much your above-average, everyday Tele, just with with some upgraded looks, a cool finish, and a nice story from a local builder.

Playability: 7

RWM does not build their own necks, instead opting to buy high quality, Fender-like necks that really helps each guitar feel very consistent and comfortable. The fretwork and set-up done by RWM is top notch however, providing you with a very stable, responsive instrument. Overall you’ll find the playability and playing experience to be above average, but as it currently stands, this isn’t probably going to wow you. As I interpret this guitar, it is meant to be used and abused, all while staying in tune, sounding like a Tele, and looking awesome. There is real value in that, and I think the build quality and attention to detail could be the main selling point here, as all the RWM guitars feel super nice and super reliable in my hands. At the same time though, I’m not sure you should order this and expect a premium boutique experience. You will get a killer instrument that will never fail you however.

Finish & Construction: 8

If the rock solid reliability isn’t the main selling point, the TransTint blue dye finish might be. It perfectly accentuates the grain and natural beauty of the Pine body, and gives the guitar an almost vintage or worn-in look and feel. Plus, because it is dyed, I bet a scratch or chip or dent doesn’t look nearly as bad as it would on a poly-finished guitar. It’s also a very clean guitar, with not a lot going on to distract from how it’s a great mix of familiar and foreign. With offsets in style now more than ever, I could see literally dozens of musicians picking this up and loving everything about it. As I’ve stated a million times, it’s just well built, and that’s really something to commend RWM for. Pickups are well adjusted, hardware is very snuggly installed, and the instrument feels like one whole complete unit. Quite frankly, the guitar is just better than the sum of its parts, which is always the sign of a good instrument and worthwhile investment.

RWM is constantly churning out some rad guitars, go give them a follow on Instagram!

Value: 7

For $1300, you’d be hard pressed to find a guitar that is as unique, but still high performing. Most of what you’re paying for is the build quality, the construction, the unique shape. It sounds absolutely great, but you’re also not getting the world’s best take on the Tele, you’re getting one of the more fun takes on the Tele though. Gigging musicians would probably get the most out of purchasing this or another RWM guitar, because his whole thing is taking these classic designs, and just making them a bit weirder without compromising their utility and durability. It’s leaps and bounds better than a $400 Squier Offset Tele, but it is way more accessible than the next best thing which is probably ordering a Fender Custom shop take on the Offset Tele for $3000+. I’m also a big fan of the all the reclaimed wood and old wood he uses, so for me, I derive value from the guitar’s story and past life. It’s well worth the money, but unlike some guitars, if is most valuable to a specific core of musicians in my opinion.

Good for: Gigging Musicians, Offset Guitar Fans, Telecaster Players, Country, Rockabilly, Classic Rock

Interchange Noise Works Element 119 Distortion Pedal Review

With adjustable clipping and interactive LED’s, will this be more than just a gimmick?

Overview & Cost: $175.00 from Interchangenoiseworks.com

I have to be honest, every time I get word about a new distortion pedal I expect it to be too derivative and boring. However, the last few pedals that have passed through my hands have been shockingly inspiring and unique. And then I got this Element 119 distortion….

This pedal perfectly encapsulates why you see so many positive reviews online these days. It’s because people are making better, more functional gear than ever before in history, it’s all good! What you have here is a distortion circuit with standard controls like bass, treble, and output volume (labeled exposure). However, then they add in the decay knob, which adjusts how hard the distortion clips and interacts with the colored LED to display how your guitar tone is clipping in real time. Green for heavy, blue for medium, and red for light clipping. This pedal isn’t just cool because it’s interactive however, it sounds absolutely gnarly. Interchange Noise Works put together a pedal that really responds to your picking attack, and displays the results in real time, while distorting and decaying while shorting the bias voltage. What you end up with is a pedal that is flexible, and covers a lot of distortion ground without being built to be derivative of a popular circuit. The Element 119 also features, what they refer to as, “assymetrical pyramid clipping”, which carries over some traits from a gated fuzz to this distortion pedal.

Sound & Opinion:

The similarities between this distortion design and a gated fuzz are apparent right off the bat. When you really crank the volume and decay knob, this is distortion really becomes an ultra-clear, ultra-articulate fuzz. Perhaps it can be best described as the sound of a Marshall amp seconds away from exploding. When I kick it on and turn the knobs up, you get this fizzy, rich, wall of sound that is distinctly different from the bass-rich sound of a RAT distortion. It really gets fuzzy but it never loses any of that clarity and chords ring out beautifully which does keep it firmly grounded in distortion territory. At the same time, it adds such a thick, room filling quality to single note riffs and lines, something that is hard to pull out of a lot of distortion pedals easily. Interchange Noise Works’ attempt at creating a flexible-clipping distortion that displays the clipping in real time is relatively bold, but well executed. Especially because it is a knob-controlled as opposed to the typical toggle switch, which I feel provides a little more touch and sweeping control to dial in your sound here. It’s a good idea, and a great high gain pedal for the modern guitarist. And if I’m being honest, the price isn’t too bad by small batch, boutique standards anyway.

Final Conclusion & Ratings: 8.75 out of 10

After reviewing a series of distortion and high-gain pedals I really liked, I was expecting to be a bit distortion fatigued. However, Interchange Noise Works put together something really cool and different with the Element 119 that makes it worthy of your attention. With great touch sensitivity, that you can literally watch via the color changing LED, it is very fun to leave the Element 119 always on, and control the dynamics of your sound via your guitar’s volume knob and your picking attack. In some ways, it is a great high gain distortion for the minimalist who wants a lot of the sound to come out of their playing style or fingers. It’s packed with ultra useable sounds, that span from cranked overdrive to cranked Marshall to cranked fuzz. For moderate fuzz enthusiasts, you could probably put this on a board in place of your not-so-often used fuzz, giving you a bit more flexibility than your average big muff. Otherwise, garage rock, metal, and hardcore punk players will probably get the most use of this awesome stomp box!

Line 6 Pod Go Review: Are Modeling Amps Really Worth It?

My first attempt at understanding and using a digital amp modeler went a lot better than I could have expected.

Credit: Line 6

Overview & Cost: $479.99 from Line6.com, Reverb.com, and Amazon.com (some affiliate links)

As a staunch lover of warm tube amplifiers, I have always been skeptical of these digital amp modelers. It didn’t matter if it was Line 6, Axe, Fractal, etc….I just wasn’t really sold on them even though I was curious. The Line 6 Pod Go made a lot of sense as a sort of jumping off point, both for me and any of you who are curious as well. Coming in at a fairly affordable price point, you get voicings for essentially every major amp and cab model/company. My beloved AC15 is on there, as are AC30 options, Marshall options, Mesa Boogie, Fender, you name it the Pod Go has it. Effects are the same way, with every major genre and stompbox represented. Plus, you get an FX loop to control an additional external pedal from your rig through the footswitches. You can always just plug your pedalboard into the front of the Pod Go too, to really use it as a replacement for your amp without relying too much on their effects modeling. With each preset, you can tweak the amp’s EQ, drive, and whatever other features that amp may be known for having. Then, you get 4 effects pedals, an EQ, plus the expression pedal to layer. So you could realistically create my rig on here by using the Vox AC15 or AC30 pre-sets, layering on their tube screamer, RAT, a warbly chorus (of which they have many options), and some sort of crazy delay (even more options). Add in some EQ and then I use the expression pedal for a volume and wah effect. I literally could just take this, plug into my computer or a PA and not have to rig up my whole set up at a gig or recording session. Other fun features include a built-in tuner, and endless pages of wonderful pre-sets that will inspire you to build your own or let you experiment with new amp types and sounds you didn’t have access to previously.

Review & Opinion:

While I’m sure I could go into a ton more detail about how the Line 6 Pod Go works, this is a review and not a demo article. So the point is I want to convey what I liked and disliked, and how I think people can use it to make sure they get their money’s worth. The good news here is that there is something for everyone and a plethora of useable sounds. I really dig the clean tones from the Fender and Vox-style amp modelers, they are very useable for recording and likely even performing. The big take away here is that I could absolutely see myself taking this instead of an amp to my next gig or band practice. And that’s really important, because a lot of the value is derived the convenience, portability, and versatility of the Pod Go. Obviously the amp tones aren’t going to be perfect, they aren’t going to be as warm and chimey as my real deal Vox AC15, but it gets really quite close enough that it just makes more sense to use for traveling or recording demos and scratch tracks. For me, this will never replace my amp entirely, I still prefer to write most of my music on the Vox and if I go into a legit music studio I’m taking the Vox with me. But, I can now play my guitar quietly late at night, I can now record a demo late at night when I discover a new riff or melody. I can take my rig on the go way easier now and set up quickly. The Line 6 Pod Go shines brightest when you treat it as a gigging/practice/home recording solution that won’t break the bank. I don’t think it is fair to expect it to be your midi-controlled solution to replacing ultra-high end rigs. But it is fair to expect it to accentuate your rig and provide flexibility where you didn’t previously have it, especially on a budget. For that, I’m a big fan and proudly grade this as a superb product.

Final Conclusion & Rating: 8 out of 10

There is just an insane amount of value for the price with the Pod Go. It’s a produce that addresses multiple needs for the modern guitarist including at-home practicing, at-home recording, gigging, travel, versatility, etc. I think Line 6 perfectly straddles the line between the HX Stomp and Helix products with the Pod Go and this sort of amp modeling has come a long way from where it was when I was learning guitar. These are real amp sounds, that can sound great live or in a studio mix. And most importantly, I think it is at least on par, if not way better than whatever amp you’d buy for about $400-$500 all things considered. If you’re looking to dip your two into the modeling world, the Pod Go is perfect for you, because it has been perfect for me as I consider exploring the non-tube world. I’m really sold on the utility and overall fun aspects of having all these tones a few clicks away, and the minute I can safely gig or join a band, this will be coming out of the apartment and used heavily! Stay tuned as I try to recreate my entire live rig, tone for tone, in this Pod Go in the coming days!

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!