MENATONE RED SNAPPER & J.A.C. COMPRESSOR MINI'S!

Gearheads! Mini Gearheads! Mini-Loving Gearheads! As the great Steve Martin coined…. “Let’s Get Small” man! Unless you’ve been living under a rock large or small, you’ve most definitely seen the enormous tide of miniature pedals on the effects market. They are everywhere and found on so many pedalboards, for a very good reason… cause they’re adorable! Well no, that’s not exactly it… It’s because we as musicians have found the need for exceedingly more gear. More sounds, tones and tools than space often allows on a pedalboard. Man, if I could tell you how many times I’ve thought… “Hmmm if I could juuuuuust fit that one extra pedal on there…” It’s siren song many a guitarist have sung in the throws of a new or re-build of their systems.

Cue Brian Mena from Menatone Pedals. One the O.G. boutique effects builders who opened the door for a lot of companies, has something special to bring to the table with the new Mini Red Snapper & Mini J.A.C. Compressor.

The Red Snapper is one of those quintessential overdrive circuits that’s been around since NAMM of 1998. Rich, pure, and one of those pedals that takes your hard earned tone and kicks it into the stratosphere. The Red Snapper has always held the hearts of players who yearn for transparent overdriven guitar tones, yet with the true grit and edge that an amp on the edge of breaking up can provide. It’s a fantastic circuit that’s proven it’s test of time.

The J.A.C. Compressor is in my opinion a compressor for those whom don’t speak the complicated language of compression. While it’s not quite a complicated process to compress signals correctly, many guitarists often misunderstand the usage of compression and either overly compress their tones, add too much noise or hiss, or just plain chase their own dynamic tails. Compressor pedals have always added something special to guitar tones on a pedalboard and when used right, which is often the same as used subtly, the results are fantastic. The J.A.C. is an optical compressor that works like an Teletronix LA2A studio piece. The pre-amp in it is fully discrete which yields a more transparent sound, allowing the guitar’s voice and dynamics to really come though. This is why I find the J.A.C. so inviting to play.

While all of this is great to hear, you might be wondering, “Well do these little pedals sound as good as the originals?” Absolutely! Menatone have chosen full size “through hole” components, and the pedals are completely handmade in the USA. To make these pedals work in such small confinements the battery space has been omitted, so you’ll need to use a power supply.

I found both the Mini Red Snapper and Mini J.A.C. Compressor to work incredibly well together and on their own. In the demo track I was getting fantastic tones from using the J.A.C. to boost the Red Snapper for big and rich solo tones. The J.A.C. on it’s own shined with cleaner pushed funk tones as well as getting a fat and punchy bass track.

Both pedals sounded fantastic pushing a Blankenship Fatboy, essentially 5e3 Tweed Deluxe with more output power. Rich and fat tones jumped out of the amp, tracking incredibly well giving the vintage tones a voice to be reckoned with. These pedals DO NOT sound small!

The Mini Red Snapper offers some helpful EQ choices under the hood via 2 small DIP switches. Essentially giving you various different amounts of cutting the high end. When both switches are down (factory default), the Red Snapper is the same as the original 3 knob full size pedal. For my demo, I kept it set at the factory default setting as I felt I was able to get the best out of the Blankenship Fatboy and both the Les Paul and Danocaster S-Style. I could see, however, experimenting with the high cuts when using brighter or higher headroom amplifiers. Important to note: Adding in the high cut’s will allow deeper exploration of the “Bite” knob which essentially adds that “biting” upper end of the pedal’s frequency.

The Mini J.A.C. Compressor is as simple as it gets, with no internal switches and with 3 simple controls (Comp, Gain & Volume). I find that the interaction between the 3 controls are very intuitive and dead simple. This is MY kind of compressor pedal! I can see adding the J.A.C. to any rig where you might need a transparent and juicy compressor or even a rich and fat clean boost. Add in it’s small stature and industry standard 9v power requirements and you’ve got a winner!

As the world turns, more mini pedals seem to pop up in the already saturated pedal market. While many manufactures forsake tone and substance to shrink their wares, Menatone are taking this new small world seriously & sacrificing nothing. Using full size components that are hand built in the same way they’ve always been making them, there is truly no reason to pass on a chance to squeeze one of these killer pedals into the available space on your board… There is always room for one more!

Click here for more information and how to order.

IVOR by Dustin Francis || A Step Into The Past, Present & Future of Fuzz

 My Personal 67’ & 69’ Ivor Fuzzes

My Personal 67’ & 69’ Ivor Fuzzes

As many of you know, I’m a certifiable Fuzz junky. I have spent many years obsessing over the most minute details of circuits available in the modern effect market that can shed a light on the sounds and tones of the past. To put it as easily and plainly as possible, I LOVE Fuzz, most notably, the Fuzz Face. With it’s simple circular, flying saucer enclosure to it’s constant smiley face — the Fuzz Face is without a doubt a true master tool in the world of guitar effects. It’s constant ability to let the player dictate the subtle to blasting shades of gain and color, match perfectly within it’s simple controls and circuit deep inside it’s shell.

Cut to Mr. Dustin Francis and his beautiful creations: the Ivor Fuzzes. I happened upon the insane fuzzes that Francis painstakingly makes via my tonal guru in arms and good friend David Phillips at LA Sound Design. Knowing that I have a deep affinity for great and unique pedals, David hipped me to these killer pieces. Essentially, the Ivor Fuzz Faces are replicas, recreations made to the specific year they were created in history…. in real life. You’ll find a 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970. Each year corresponds to the type of transistor and parts used, even down to the smallest detail of the look of the enclosure to the knobs and switches. The Ivor is no replica… it’s a freaking time machine!

Francis spends an incredible amount of effort, time and love crafting the look of these fuzzes so that they look and feel like the real deal. Some are more relic’d than others just as you’d experience them in real life. The artistry is completely evident in the cosmetic and the functional. The circuits are tuned so perfectly that they are essentially the very best examples of what a vintage Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face should sound like. This, my friends, is what sets these fuzzes aside from a lot of clones and recreations on the market… the feel, vibe and tone is all there. Try finding a vintage 1969 Arbiter Fuzz Face used on today’s market and after spending at least $1500 finding it sounds like a fart in the wind! That’s the joy in what Francis is doing with these fuzzes… giving the player the best of the best with the experience, eye and artistry of what makes Ivor fuzzes so good.

I personally own two Ivors, a 67’ and a 69’. The 67’ is a NKT Germanium fuzz that is the most temperature stable Ge fuzz I’ve ever come across. It’s got that beautiful rich early Hendrix gain complexity, perfect midrange content and fantastic “clean-up”. Francis mentioned many of his favorite tones from great Fuzz Faces are the “Clean-Up” tones and how rich and organic they can sound… not at all thin, shrill or bright. The Ivor Fuzzes are exactly that. My 69’ sports Silicon BC108c transistors and the fuzz is voiced very much, or rather exactly like, one of the fuzzes guitarist Eric Johnson once owned and loved, specifically the one used on his project “Alien Love Child”. This is the perfect live fuzz for me. Big and bold, rich yet cutting. With Silicon transistors always being temperature stable I can take her anywhere and always get the same tone. The “clean-up” is fantastic and really shines in a band mix on stage. These fuzzes are like friends really. They both do their own thing really well, have wonderful attributes that help usher in inspiration and joy when making music.

That’s what this is all about, right!? Making music! Of course we, I and ALL of us guitarists can get lost within a world of superlatives and hyperbole but when you strip away everything, what’s left? The need for tools that help us create and make art. Things that inspire us to jump into the unknown. The Ivor Fuzzes embody exactly that. They are totems of inspiration… helping us step into the past, present and ultimately the future. From my perspective, that future is looking bright, full of smiles and wonderful music to be made!

Check out Ivor by Dustin Francis for more information.

SHIN-EI TRIFECTA! SCREAMING SISTER 8CTAVE BOOST || VIBE BRO || B1G 1 GAIN BOOSTER

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Hello Gearheads! Today I have an incredibly cool trio of pedals from the amazing Austin, TX based Shin-Ei Products, makers of the venerable Vibe Bro (one of the closest recreations of the original Uni-Vibe). Shin-Ei, led by Bob Feldman, are setting out to not only bring back the company's namesake from the grasp of history and time, but also to recreate some of the coolest and killer sounding effects that made the original Japanese company what it was. The pedals sound amazing, look amazing and feel amazing. The amount of attention to detail is off the charts with everything Bob and crew are coming out with. Down to period correct labels, every aspect of the original design is there... and more.

While I am focusing on Shin-Ei's newest release, the Screaming Sister 8ctave Boost, I am also going to showcase the Vibe Bro and B1G 1 Gain Booster. All the pedals work so well together, it's truly evident that major craftsmanship is at play here. These are, first and foremost, handmade, hand-wired and artfully created tools for making music.

The Screaming Sister 8ctave Boost is a tribute to the vintage octave boost pedal used by many iconic guitarists including Doyle Bramhall II, Johnny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. While it's slightly different than the standard Octavia style octave fuzz, those types of tones are absolutely available. The ability to mix in the clean signal with the octave fuzz is key for a vintage fuzzed out tone, heard often by players mentioned above. Simply put, the Screaming Sister sounds KILLER... like, really good. It's got a very vintage leaning, with a germanium transistor type tone that sits in between soulful and sinister. It's the kind of pedal you step on for a solo and heads turn... there's a reason these tones are sought after. While the tone is always the most important aspect for any kind of gear, this pedal also looks amazing. It's enclosure is a nicely weighted cold rolled steel that's powder coated and will stand the rigors of any road you choose to travel. Shin-Ei are also using a new silent "Demont" footswitch that is not only the highest caliber but also is really cool for quiet moments where you don't want an audible click when turning on the pedal. A nice touch that really adds to the feel and vibe of the pedal.

The Vibe Bro of course is the flagship pedal and first offering from the newly rebranded Shin-Ei. The King of Uni-Vibe pedals in my opinion, from the incredible enclosure to the tone and feel of the pedal. I've owned a lot of Uni-Vibe clones (more than a bunch, to be honest) and over the years I've always kept a hefty search open for the best sounding and feeling Uni-Vibe available. The Vibe Bro is just one of those pieces of gear that once you get into it, you realize that it's all there. It's quite literally the closest sounding version of the photocell modulating chorus made famous by Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour and Robin Trower. Jimi was obsessed with the tone of being underwater and undulating chorusing... so am I. It only makes perfect sense that the apple of my "vibe-eye" should come from a company setting out to recreate the original in the name and tone. The Vibe Bro is truly a vibe connoisseur's Best In Show, in my opinion. Just try to not feel something wonderful while the waves flow over you as you play... I dare you! 

Lastly, I decided to showcase Shin-Ei's B1G 1 Gain Booster as I had a chance to get to know it a few months ago during a "Quick-Look" Demo on the pedal. A fantastic clean boost and EQ sweetener designed by electronics guru Lee Jackson, the B1G 1 is a serious piece of kit. Take a look at that Gearheads post here: Shin-Ei B1G 1 Quick-Look Demo. It's one of those incredible pedals that's decidedly simple yet so effective, and sounds so good!

Well, that's enough talking shop for now... Onto to the music!

Check out the video demo below and as always, please LIKE, COMMENT & SUBSCRIBE for more of the best gear reviews and content around!
- M.

CHASETONE '68 Red Velvet Fuzz || ‘Sweet, Creamy, Singing, Multi-Layered 60’s Fuzz Tone!’

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Hello Gearheads! Today I'd like to share my demo of the very cool CHASETONE '68 Red Velvet Fuzz. A hybrid fuzz capable of scratching the Dallas Arbiter itch and then some! At it's heart are a pair of BC183C Silicon Transistors that yield a wide variety of tones.

Kyle Chase set out to recreate the tones and feel of his favorite 1968 BC183 Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face and go beyond the circuit board to push the boundaries of what his pedal could do. What you get is essentially an extremely versatile Silicon Fuzz that sounds great at an extremely affordable price point. I was able to coax very convincing Germanium tones out of the '68 Red Velvet Fuzz and did not find the need to run any additional pedals after it. It's warm and full, yet still absolutely has a cutting brightness assuring that you'll never get lost in the mix.

With a nice feature set, you're able to control quite a bit of the tone of the pedal. Between the MIDS, FEEL & BASS controls, you can tailor the fuzz to pretty much any guitar or amplifier. I also found the "Clean-Up" of the pedal to be quite good, as good as many Germanium Fuzzes I've owned.

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I first came across Kyle Chase's work via his Secret Preamp, an extremely useful piece of equipment, essentially a perfected Maestro EP3 Echoplex's Preamp section. I was blown away by how great it made my rig sound and I'm happy to say that I'm equally impressed by the '68 Red Velvet Fuzz. It's a dynamic, easy to use and great sounding fuzz at a price point that doesn't reflect the tones coming out of the speaker... a win for any tone hunting Gearhead!

Check out the video demo below and as always, please LIKE, COMMENT & SUBSCRIBE for more of the best gear reviews and content around!
- M.

"Quick-Look" Demo ::: Shin-Ei BIG 1 Booster

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Happy Friday Gearheads! Today I'd like to introduce my first video demo in my "Quick-Look" series - focusing on a less produced and more immediate take on a particular piece of gear. Today, I'm happy to share the Shin-Ei BIG 1 Booster - an incredible high headroom, studio quality pre-amp and boost. From a company that has re-birthed the venerable name of Shin-Ei and created quite possibly the best sounding and feeling Uni-Vibe (Vibe Bro) replication on the market, it's no surprise the BIG 1 Booster is a winner.

I had the pleasure of checking one out for a few sessions I was doing here in town and shot some quick impressions before sending it back. While the BIG 1 is intended to be used at the end of an effects chain, I found it very useful in front of my pedalboard as a tone sweetener and boost for gain pedals. Essentially, the BIG 1 can be used in different locations and formats. It's extremely high headroom bandwidth offers up a bevy of tonal options. I particularly loved how the BIG 1 added punch, clarity and girth without losing any of the original tone. You can really hear the natural tone of the instrument and effects when using the BIG 1.

You can find out more about the BIG 1 from Shin-Ei here: https://www.shin-ei.com/#big1

Enjoy the "Quick-Look" Demo below and remember to SUBSCRIBE to Tinkercity Music for more videos and explorations into the best gear around.

 

 

Berkos FX Third Stone II Fuzz NEW Demo!

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Hello Gearheads! I'm pleased to bring you my newest video demo on the venerable and personal favorite: Berkos FX Third Stone II Fuzz!

For any of you who might know me or have followed my journey through the vast abyss of Fuzz pedals I've tried, owned, and experienced, the Third Stone II has stayed strong and true. It sits really well in a mix, sounds huge when you need it to, and works with every musical context I throw at it.

I wrote a Gearheads blog post on the Third Stone II back in April which can be seen HERE, and am happy to add a full new video demo that shows how I specifically use the fuzz. The Third Stone II was used on all the guitar parts in the demo: Different settings on the pedal itself and on each guitar's volume knob, to attain different gain variations.

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There are a TON of tones in this pedal and even though it's sonic structure is a strong one, there's quite a bit of uniqueness to each layer in the track --- the ultimate compliment in my opinion!

For more information and how to order the Third Stone II check out: http://www.berkosfx.com/

Without further ado, enjoy the demo below!

Please like, comment and subscribe to the Tinkercity YouTube channel below for more videos of killer gear!

Until next time! Happy Tone Hunting!

- M.

 

 

 

DAN DRIVE ::: AUSTIN BLENDER ::: OCTAVE FUZZ, BOOST & BEYOND!

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Hello Gearheads! I'm happy to bring you a new experience at Tinkercity Music... Video Demos! I will still be writing reviews and content here in the Gearheads Blog (which you're reading right now!) but will be adding some great video explorations on how I use these tools in a studio environment. Each demo contains an original composition and a unique perspective on the tonal usage of each piece. Feel free to comment below or drop me a line --- I'd love to hear from you all whether it be questions, advice or inquires on future demos.

To kick off this new year and beautiful 2018, I'd like to introduce the Dan Drive Austin Blender, a very cool Octave Fuzz, Boost and unique tone machine. Based in Germany, Daniel Querner is building some cool pedals that focus on vintage-minded tones while retaining a step towards modern guitarist's needs.

The Austin Blender is Dan's answer to the incredibly cool, yet no longer made, Prescription Electronics C.O.B. pedal. It's a unique octave fuzz pedal that has a clean blend (hence the name, Clean-Octave-Blend, or C.O.B.) to create familiar and unorthodox octave fuzz tones. While the Blender is most certainly derived from that rare and now extremely expensive RX C.O.B., the Blender offers a redesigned gain structure to help with the interaction between other pedals like fuzz and overdrive. The Austin Blender shines at boosting other gain pedals, but also sounds incredible on it's own to create some fantastically huge ring mod boost tones, as well as the classic Octavia madness.

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I found some great pushed boost tones with an almost flange voicing on the tail end of each note with humbuckers into my Two Rock Classic Reverb Signature set right on the edge of breakup. Using single coils I was able to find the familiar nostalgia of the Hendrix inspired psychedelic Octavia of yesteryear. I combined the Austin Blender with a Vemuram Jan Ray to get a massive lead tone, thick and singing enough to cut through any mix in the best of ways. I found the relationship between the gain and clean-blend controls to be incredibly useful to manipulate the "right" sound for each part in a session. Specifically, you can really fine-tune the clarity of the tone you're working with via those two controls. I was most surprised with the less crazy rhythm tones I was getting with the gain dialed back. They were rich and full with something special on the edge of each note (whether it be a slight flange or ring mod) that would really bring out the magic in layering in the studio. All in all, the Austin Blender is a formidable addition to the Octaver market, helping fill a growing hole created by an ever elusive and out of production pedal.

Thanks for checking out my experiences with the Dan Drive Austin Blender. You can find more information about the Blender and the other great pedals they're making here: https://www.dandrive-pedal.com/

Stay tuned for much more content and cool gear demos & reviews soon!

Check out my video demo of the Austin Blender below!

Builder Profile ::: Danocaster Guitars ::: Vintage Heaven

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Hello Gearheads! Today I'd like to talk a bit about one of my favorite guitar builders: Danocaster! Dan Strain, the owner, builder and practically all-in-one magician who makes these beautiful creations is building some, if not the most vintage, period correct instruments on the market today. These instruments look, feel, play and sound vintage --- and that is not an easy feat. They are, without a doubt, some of the most inspiring guitars to play and I am lucky to call my "number one," a Danocaster.

Firmly rooted in the world of 1950's-1960's (sometimes 1970's) instruments from the sunny Corona, CA guitar scene, Danocasters just burst with mojo and vibe. Strain builds what he dubs "Double Cut", "Single Cut", "Offset", and does include a bass guitar here and there. Needless to say, everything that comes out of their shop is a one-of-a-kind instrument. While Strain will build you a guitar based on your needs and wants, he's more apt to suggest an era or particular sound you're after, then he can do his magic. Typically, a Danocaster will be period and era correct down to the type of wood, finish, fretboard material, pickguard etc... it's all about making a vintage replica that can stand up next to an original in tone, feel and presence. Danocasters do exactly that. They are the embodiment of true artistry with the art of vintage replicas.

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Strain has since moved slightly away from only building relic'd and era correct instruments per his customers requests, I for one asked that my "Double Cut" be as untouched as possible. I wanted to do all the relic'ing myself over years of playing. My guitar was what he considered a "closet piece" or rather, a lovingly cared for but not touched much, 1959 Double Cut. Maybe it was your Grandfather's guitar he never played much but kept in it's case for years in the back closet or under the bed. This is the true magic of Strain and Danocaster --- the details. These details equate to major mojo and vibe with a guitar. I've been playing mine for years now, as it's my main instrument on the stage and in the studio, and it has indeed started to show signs of wear. This is a wonderful experience to see my hard work reflected in the thinning finish and scratched wood. It's the tale of a journey, I walk with my tools that help me do the best of things in my life.

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When I ordered my Danocaster Double Cut, I simply mentioned the tones I was after and the look of the guitar itself. I wanted vintage Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Michael Landau and Philip Sayce tones from the guitar. Essentially, a perfect amalgamation of classic single coil tones. I also wanted a two-toned sunburst as I've always loved the way two colors merge together to make almost a third whole color. I did have a major requirement to have a dark rosewood fingerboard, important to my tactile needs as well as the tone. Maple boards are wonderful and often spanky and present, but I was set on rosewood. Well, keeping with the tradition of era correct, my Double Cut could have been made in "history" in late 1959 when rosewood boards started to show up on the 1960's instruments, albeit in 3 toned bursts... so my guitar is sort of a transitional "it could have happened" piece. All of this of course is fun and simply adds to the fact that the guitar itself is a monster tone machine. 

Strain has been seriously busy these days, well rather these years! Generally, ordering direct from Danocaster will come with a bit of a wait, 8 + months at the moment. Anything worth it's salt is often met with a waitlist these days in the boutique gear world. However, Danocaster has ONE dealer, Clif at LA Vintage Gear. LAVG are based locally in Burbank, CA and ship worldwide. They are retailing some of the best and coolest gear on the market right now. The store is the only spot where you can not only buy a Danocaster straight off the shelf, but try them out... and they carry a ton of them at a time. It's a great place to spend some time checking out really good and groundbreaking gear.

In a world where working musicians would die to have a vintage instrument of this caliber at their disposal but cannot mortgage their house or sell their car to fund such an endeavor, finding a builder like Danocaster is a wonderful moment. These instruments not only stand up next to the originals they're cut from but often times outshine them in every way. I seriously look forward to my next "life-time" instrument from Danocaster and cannot wait to put my hard work into and onto it, yielding many years of great music made.