Saturday/Sunday Shopping

Weekends typically find me taking my son to karate and then and window shopping at the local instrument retailers to kill time. This weekend was subtly different because I actually bought something. Normally music stores don’t have anything gear that I’m really interested in using, and  usually don’t have the best prices,  but this time I wanted to get a multi-plug cable to replace the Ibanez DC3 (daisy-chain) which won’t fit in my Buhwah AC jack, and doesn’t reach my Barber Tonepress from my pedalboard’s Eneloop power supply.  I saw one of these, and paid about 500yen too much for it, instead of waiting to search Yahoo! Auction for a cheaper price.

I also saw a used Korg NanoPad2, and got it for 2000. Both were impulse buys, but both were something I really needed. Now I can neatly power all the pedals on my board, and make original beats in realtime with software (once I midi-map the NanoPad to Live.) Also, that trip was almost the last one I made there. My kid’s karate class schedule is changing to weekdays meaning I won’t be able to take him anymore. However, I saw a bunch of cool used pedals that I could potentially covent this time which brought me back on Sunday with my guitar for a test.

Just when I got there the next day, a ukulele player was giving an in-store concert, so I sat down and listened to him and the piano accompanist close their set with a very slow rendition of, “When You Wish Upon a Star.”  Then I went to another part of the store and plugged into a Roland JC-77 to try the pedals. Then the ukelele player started a group lesson on “Happy Birthday”  so I couldn’t play too loud, or at least would have felt like a guilty asshole if I did,  probably because I’m there talking to the staff almost every week. Last time, the girl at the register gave my son an egg shaker! Some skinny guy in a necktie kept buzzing past me, ready to pounce if I did, anyway…and anyway, that amp was overpowered. I tried asking if I could try the pedals with something smaller like the 1-watt Blackstar HR-1R, but the answer was no.

The first pedal I tried was the Xotic Robotalk. My friend and local guitar hero Peter Montgomery said he wanted one, which piqued my interested. Turns out this is just a dual-envelope filter. The features and sound are great, but not really any better than my Guyatone Wah Rocker, and harder to tweak. I never did get a satisfactory envelope after adjusting the sensitivity, input and decay. The resonance and direct controls didn’t really do much to improve the basic sound. Still, there is some potential here. I’d like an envelope filter with a boost for solos and this one’s definitely got that. So I might give one of the other versions a try some other time.

The next pedal was a Fulltone ’69 fuzz, my first experience with germanium transistors. It took a while tweaking the input (HIGH) and contour controls (low) to find a sound I like, but again, it didn’t sound better than my Seymour Duncan Tweak Fuzz — just different. It’s definitely a warmer, softer and more dynamic sound, but I like the extreme compression,  overtones and almost synth-like sound of the silicon based pedal. The ’69 had less gain, and harder to tweak the other parameter. In otherwords, I’m happier with a cheaper fuzz. I also tried an old Boss Hyper Fuzz because David Gilmour uses one. That sounded REALLY cheap, but in a cheap way — not such a cool way.

It also has a massive clean boost which didn’t sound as nearly good as the Fulltone Fatboost (FB-1) I tried there that day. It sounded just as good as I imagined, and boosted the signal enough into the Roland’s “low” input, so I didn’t have to use the “high” input which is way too loud even at “1” on the volume knob. The Fat Boost warmed the amp up, and enhanced the round tone of my GB-10. All the controls were very easy to use, and I think I could even get some nice low-gain overdrive from that box. The price they were asking was very competitive, too. I guess they either don’t realize the value, or don’t want to discourage someone spending more on the newer FB-3.

I might have even bought one of those pedals if I wasn’t so constrained by the ukulele demo, and amp better suited to wedding gig than trying pedals in a store. This reminded me why I rarely try gear out in a store. It’s usually better for me just to order it by mail, try it at home and then sell it on an auction if I don’t like it. That saves a lot of time and embarrassment, if not money. Back home in the den (I need a better name for that room), I fixed my AKG headphones, and G&L Legacy’s TBX pot (half of it, anyway) but couldn’t figure out how get the Nanopad to work with Live. It works great with Garage Band, though. So I guess I will follow Yosuke’s advice, and start making beats with that instead.



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