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


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.

Mod Alert! ::: Xact Tone Solutions' Ibanez Echomachine ::: A Horse Of A Different Color


Hello Gearheads far and wide! I'm excited to share with you an incredibly cool modification available for one of my ALL time favorite pedals --- the Ibanez EM Echomachine! As many of you know, the EM5 holds a very warm place in my heart as it's one of my all time favorite delay pedals. It's a fantastic emulation of a tape style delay that is perfectly voiced and never seems to "get in the way" of your playing. I tend to leave my EM5 on all the time, creating a subtle bed as to which the guitar's voice can lay upon. If you'd like to read more about the circuit and it's supreme coolness, please take a look at Hidden Gems /// Ibanez EM5 Echomachine Delay.

The fine folks over at Xact Tone Solutions have come up with a modification and rehousing of the EM5 circuit that takes the already incredible sounding delay pedal and knocks it out of the park. The original Echomachine suffers a plastic fate, being enclosed in a cheap almost toy-like enclosure, and almost always, the on/off latching-style foot switch never works quite right. Many of us who love the EM5 just deal with the issue, as it's worth the tone. Well, now there's a much better option available. From the top notch rehousing work, down to the very cool graphics (that look just like the original pedal) on the face of the rehoused full metal and extremely sturdy enclosure. Sturdy new true bypass foot switches are added, making sure the EM5 can sound the best in your chain regardless of the rig being used. Greg Walton, partner/mastermind at XTS, also remarked that they fixed a slight volume drop that can happen when the original circuit is actuated. These are are all very worthy modifications that merit sending in your EM5 as is, but the buck doesn't stop there. 

Cool graphics and new digs aren't the only features of the new XTS EM5. They have found a very musical modulation circuit and added it to the Echomachine. It's available via a new modulation knob on the face of the pedal and can create a beautiful warm chorusing modulation that gets mixed in to the delay repeats. It's similar to the type of warm analog modulation one might expect from an EHX Deluxe Memory Man or similar analog/tape replicators. Simply put, it's one knob that gets subtle movement all the way to sea-sick, over-the-top warble. Set moderately, it offers a beautiful element that sits within your delay repeats and makes the already incredible sounding Echomachine even more vibey and deep.


XTS have also included a HOLD/Repeat feature on their pedal. This allows you to create a huge swash of sound via infinite repeats by just tapping the new switch. This is a super cool addition and allows for all sorts of new creative ideas and soundscapes. It essentially "holds" the delayed note of the guitar and puts it through this infinite cycle of repeats. If you play lightly and sparsely, it all sits in this wide ambient bed of beauty. Dig in or use louder or dirtier tones and it starts to "run away" from you and you get huge washes of sound. It's a very cool feature and while it isn't needed for the utility type delay, it's a very fine tool for creativity induced moments. This feature is available as either a momentary or latching style switch, and is specified when you send your pedal in to be modified. 

Imagine a world where everything you love and hold dear about your tools can be fitter, happier, more productive (sorry I had to include a Radiohead reference). Now realize that world is right within your grasp! The folks at XTS are constantly pushing the envelope of how to make what we guitarists use and need better in every way. It's almost like innovation via nostalgia. Taking into account the needs of working players and making that gear so much more usable and reliable --- and most importantly, sound so much better!

Whether you have an old EM5 Echomachine laying around, or you use it often, I highly recommend sending your pedal to the magicians at XTS. They've taken an already incredible hidden gem and somehow made it shine even brighter.

Tone Tools ::: The Volume Pedal & Why It's So Important

Hello! Today I'd like to speak to you about one of my most important pieces of gear and why I keep one present in all my rigs: The Volume Pedal! A Tonal Tool in every right and circumstance, the volume pedal can often be overlooked for a simple reason --- it only controls volume right?! The common tendency is to think that a volume pedal is just another volume knob, which you've already got sitting right there on your guitar.... why in the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks would you need something you've already got!? Well, there's more than one way to skin a cat, and the same goes for volume pedals. Adding a volume pedal to your pedalboard systems can open up a new universe of tonal choices and layers that previously were not easily found. I'll get into all of that and why it's such a great tool. And of course there are better options for which Volume Pedal you might choose, in addition to how to run them, so I'll get into that as well! 

Master Volume

Starting off past all of the above hyperbole, it is of my opinion, and many other great "Gear Gurus," that running a volume pedal first in line right after your guitar is a total waste of a great tool, and is actually just like having two volume knobs. Maybe you like having the ability to choose your volume with your foot? Maybe you like having a giant on/off button to silence the whole enchilada. I say avoid that all together, and use the volume pedal as a master volume. By putting the volume pedal after all your gain pedals (overdrive, boost, fuzz & distortion) but before your time based effects (delay, tremolo, reverb), you will essentially have a master volume on your pedalboard. This allows you to obtain any type of tone whether sparkly clean, slightly on the edge of break-up, all the way to total annihilation. The key however is you get to achieve this tone at ANY stage volume you like. This allows you to set the amplifier loud enough to "get above" the rest of the band, and just tune in that volume pedal for every musical moment. It's natural sounding and you get the benefit of the full richness of the tone without any issues with unbalanced guitar tones. It's a sound guy or gal's dream because you will be satisfied with your HUGE solo tones but they're at a level that's actually respectful for the stage and situation you're playing with. This technique has been used for ages in the live world but most often was found in studios, where session musicians had to match the levels and get the balance of tone, volume and presence in the sweet spot - and quickly.

Volume Pedal, Meet Volume Pot

Another very useful technique is to really get the marriage of the volume pot on your guitar and the volume pedal on the floor happening. This is where all the shades of color can come into play. Specifically with any tone, whether it be from an amplifier that's very dynamic and can go from clean to edge of breakup with just the signal being pumped into it, or by simulating that experience with a clean amplifier and using pedals --- you can get so much out of just rolling back your guitar's volume pot and using the volume pedal to compensate the balance of stage volume. This is just another one of the reasons the volume pedal is so important to my tone and work. It really helps me balance the entirety of what I'm doing. Couple that with the volume pot on the guitar and being able to get all those shades going, not losing any presence in the mix or being too loud, it's undeniably useful. To read more about the use of your volume pot on the guitar, learn the basics, and also tricks to get the most out of that tool, take a look here: TONE TOOLS ::: Clean "Roll-Off" ::: My First Effect

Choosing Wisely

In a market that's flooded with so many options and companies making great gear in 2017, you might be wondering where to start. Not all volume pedals are created equally and not all sound or function as good as they could. Much like any piece of equipment, it's important to find the tool that works the best for you. I can however help point you in the direction of some of the best sounding ones, on recommendation from my friend and tone-man David Phillips at LA Sound Design.

One of the easiest and affordable choices being the Ernie Ball Jr. 25k volume pedal. They're available at every modern retailer online or in-store. They fit well on a pedalboard and have a nice "throw", being the action from heel to toe on the pedal itself. The only caveat to the Ernie Ball would be the string it employs to create the tension on the pedal itself. The string can break over time due to use and it simply getting older. They do last a very long time, but many guitarists including myself have had to have them repaired. Factor in having them widely available, sounding and feeling great, they're a good option.

My favorite and considerably the best option is the Boss FV300L. It is however unfortunately discontinued but can be found fairly easily on the used market. There are no strings in the housing, only metal. In fact the whole pedal is made out of nice molded metal. It's much larger than the Ernie Ball Jr. however, so you'll need to be sure you have the space on your pedalboard for it. Other than the robust features of this discontinued gem, I find that there's a bit more transparency in the tone of the pedal. Specifically in the middle and top end. It's not that it's brighter, there's just more of a natural tone to it. For that reason, I have them on all of my boards. If you have the space they're definitely worth hunting for. Note that the newer Boss FV500L is not the same circuitry and does not sound anywhere as good. 

Hey Dude, Don't Volume Pedals Suck Tone?!

Yes they do, thank you for bringing that up! Volume pedals do suck tone, sometimes in the worst of ways, making the sound dull and lifeless. This terrible vampiric tonal nightmare can easily be avoided however by the use of a buffer. It's important, actually required, that if you put a volume pedal on your pedalboard, to have a buffer circuit before it. It can be a high quality buffer interface like the PI-01 or the BB-01 Boost/Buffer from LA Sound Design or it could be any pedal that has a buffer that's always on. Just be sure to have that pedal be before the volume pedal, and you won't loose any high end content, and your sound will ward off those tone suckers. If you'd like to skip buying a high quality buffer circuit for your rig, a simple Boss pedal would do the trick. The Boss pedal tuners are a good choice. Essentially, the buffer or buffered pedal helps "drive the signal" through the impedance loading and takes that darkened tone and brings it back to life. It's an important piece of the puzzle that must be utilized for the best results. The converse however is that if you have an extremely bright rig, you might like the the dulling effect, so as always don't just take my word for it... do what's right for your ears. For most rigs however, that would not be the case. 

All in all, adding a volume pedal to your tool box can offer up a whole new world of interactivity and dynamics to your sound. It's easily one the most important pieces in my rigs. I rely on that control in both the studio environment and on stage. Being able to match the actual volume and offer a balanced presence in a mix is a very attractive trait as a working musician to have. When playing for the song is the most important task at hand, having tools like this at your disposal are invaluable.



Tinkercity Survival Tips ::: The RocknRoller Multi-Cart

In today's issue of Gearheads I'd like to speak about an often overlooked aspect of being a professional musician... Cartage! For most musicians, professional cartage where a company will come and pick up your gear and take it to either a recording session or a live show, just isn't a reality. Most in-town gigging musicians are carrying our own tools of the trade back and forth between often multiple locations --- in and out of the car so many times, I've certainly lost count. While it's a true luxury to have someone else carry the load, and I've been lucky to experience that strange sense of abandon --- the reality is that the working musician is just that! Working on the stage and off the stage. Finding innovative ways to make that work less taxing and safer when transporting all our valuable and often times irreplaceable equipment is key. 

The traditional experience with most musicians doing their own cartage is taking many trips back and forth from home to car, car to venue staging area, staging area to stage... and after playing to your hearts abandon, repeating that process in reverse. That is a lot of trips and energy spent.

Enter the RocknRoller Multi-Cart. It is truly unlike any other multi-cart or hand cart. It's an extremely flexible transportation solution for any working musician. While traditional hand carts are an obvious option, what makes the RocknRoller a much better solution it's it's ability to be used in different configurations, whether it be length or orientation. All the RocknRoller Multi-Carts also break down into a very small portable package. This makes for extremely handy storage that won't take up much space at all in a closet at home or in your studio and more importantly in the trunk of your car on the way to work.

I've been a long time supporter and user of the RocknRoller, finding my first "R2 Micro" about 7 or 8 years ago. I used that cart to it's last fateful breath --- with so many gigs and sessions under it's weathered frame it was the wheel bearings that eventually led me to replace it with a new and improved version. That is an incredible feat for any piece of mechanical machinery to work so well for so many years under extreme circumstances. The folks at RocknRoller have also assured me that the new and improved "R2 Micro" that I've got now doesn't use the same wheel housing and therefore bearings wearing out will never be an issue. With the incredible workmanship they offer, I expect many years of hard cartage from my new "R2 Micro".

Lastly, it goes without saying, the RocknRoller isn't only for the working musician. I have used the multi cart for every single move from either home, studio, gifts at Christmas, laundry baskets, piles of groceries --- it's a single handed solution to being able to carry ALL of what you've got going on in ONE TRIP. That alone is worth it's price of admission! Fold it up and stow it away in your closet and you're good to go. The folks at RocknRoller have truly created a masterpiece for this modern survivalist --- without it, I would admittedly be at a loss. I highly recommend checking one out if you have to carry or transport anything of weight or significance on a routine basis. It will change your life!

Tone Tools ::: Clean "Roll-Off" ::: My First Effect

Hello Gearheads! It's time for another segment of Tone Tools, and today I'd like to talk about one of the most vital pieces of the tonal puzzle in my world, as well as many other guitarists. It's the first effect many guitarists will find at there fingertips and might not even know it... what is this magical, mysterious and apparently invisible pedal!??? Well, it's not a pedal it's on your guitar and it's called a volume knob or volume pot (short for potentiometer). If you are not familiar with the eccentricities of the usage of the volume pot, you might only see this as a useless knob that either you turn all the way up to be heard or have to make sure it's not turned all the way down when you strike that big open cord of nothingness.... yes that has happened to me before! At the end of the day, the guitar's volume pot is an incredible tool for tone and if you haven't adventured much into those depths, I highly encourage it. So, without further ado, I'll get into why it's so great and important to my technique.

The guitar's volume pot is the first place in the signal path to effect dynamics, tone and volume. Depending upon the type of volume pot or whether or not there are any tricks (I'll get to that later) done to modify the way the pot works, it can yield a myriad of tones just by adjusting the volume of the input while you play. You can essentially dynamically adjust the timbre of the voice of the guitar by just moving the pot up or down a little bit. This is easily the simplest thing to try, well, right now! If you own an electric, go and grab your guitar and play along...

You might be asking yourself, "Ok, well all you've told me is how the volume pot makes it louder or softer... what gives!?" You'd be right if that were all it did. What really makes the volume pot an incredible tone tool is how it interacts with pedals and amplifiers -- specifically when the amplifiers are overdriven or you're using pedals that introduce gain and/or distortion. The pinnacle of this ideology is the Fuzz Face, an incredibly simple circuit but one that responds dramatically to the use of the volume pot. With just a Fuzz Face style pedal you can get any shade of sparkling clean tones, light overdriven tones, all the way to the full-tilt fuzz roar we all love. It's interaction at it's finest. Much of what Jimi Hendrix was doing live and in the studio was accomplished by this method. I mean, it makes complete sense... Jimi didn't have every effect under the sun to tickle his fancy! He had to make and create landscapes of sound with what he had at his fingertips. The volume pot is a hero in these moments. If you, the player, can allow yourself to be married to this notion of motion and balance between the tone, sound and volume... major yields will be rewarded. 

I find the volume pot and this technique most useful on the stage. I'm mostly trying to do as little as possible with my body other than stand up right, not fall down and give an incredible performance. Having to hit 5 different pedals to catch a part along with singing and then hitting another jump above everyone in the mix to solo.... it's all just too much. The volume pot is my best friend in this scenario. I'm mostly able to use just a few pedals without having to switch a bunch of things on or off constantly, and get ALL the tones I need from dynamically shifting them with the volume pot. It's important to pick pedals that respond well to this technique and there are many on the market that do. One of my favorites is the Maxon SD-9. It's a weird little (and most of the time nasty sounding) distortion box... but when you tame it, it's like nothing else. I've scoured the effects world trying to find a better SD-9 and still have not been successful. It reacts very much like an amplifier: round and sparkly clean tone with the volume pot low, then it very smoothly and evenly moves up the gain and EQ range as you move that pot up. It's a pedal that when I'm playing live is almost always on. This allows me to stay away from my pedalboard and stop thinking about which box I have to step on next. Once you fall for this technique it becomes quite impossible to go back to just thinking of that pot as either on or off. There's so much beauty in that middle ground. Another pedal that works really well for this technique is the the Xact Tone Solutions Winford Drive. Based on a heavily modified RAT pedal, and capable of practically every type of gain tone available, the clean roll-off is very good here too. I used just the Winford Drive in a production of "One Man, Two Guvnors" where I was wireless and had to be away from my pedals and gear at all times, but still had to get sounds that were clean all the way to 60's style fuzz. I couldn't have accomplished any of this without this approach.

Now, onto the tricks I mentioned previously. There are a few things that can be done to make the this technique work the best it can.

Firstly, without any modifications the sound of "Rolling Off" your volume pot can make the tone sound a little dull and less brilliant. A common modification to fix this is called a Treble Bleed. It's essentially the addition of a capacitor in the circuit of the volume pot to allow the treble frequencies to "bleed" through as you roll down the pot. There are different values that you can use and it's most common to pick a value that sounds the most natural to the full sweep of the pot. This is common on Fender guitars, especially Stratocasters. I have this installed on both my Danocaster Double Cut and my custom Montuoro Hollowbody. The Treble Bleed has been an integral piece of this puzzle. With it installed I can achieve realistic and sparkly clean tones all the way up the gain range. For more information of the Treble Bleed circuit take a look at this article from Fender: https://www.fender.com/articles/tech-talk/how-a-treble-bleed-circuit-can-affect-your-tone

Another trick is often used on Gibson guitars and more specifically the Les Paul. It's called 50's Wiring and while it isn't as drastic as the Treble Bleed explained above, it still allows for a clearer less dull tone as you move the volume pot down. The 50's wiring vs the modern wiring on a Les Paul allows for a clearer voice but loses a little overall volume, which was the purpose of creating the modern type of wiring to allow for even volume distribution regardless of where the volume pot is set. For more information on 50's wiring and how it's accomplished, check out this article from Seymour Duncan: http://www.seymourduncan.com/blog/tips-and-tricks/lespaulwiring

The final trick to getting the most out the volume pot Roll-Off technique is pretty simple and obvious. A volume pedal! Regardless of what type of guitar, effects, and/or modifications you might have going on, as you roll off that volume you might experience some actual volume loss. To solve this I simply use a volume pedal in my systems. It's important where you put the volume pedal - if you put it before the other pedals it will just act like another volume pot on your guitar. I put it after all the gain pedals and before any delay, reverb or modulation. This way, the volume pedal acts like a master volume for the entire rig. You can essentially get realistic overdrive and distortion tones at any volume with the volume pedal in that spot on a pedalboard. It's incredibly helpful and useful. Combining that with the rolling off of the volume pot on your guitar and you've got any shade you will need tonally right at your fingertips. It's the most interactive way to manipulate my tone in a live environment I've found, and I couldn't perform without it.

All in all, using this technique is about exploring the depths of what lies deep in the instruments we play. In a world where you can buy any effect to make practically any sound you want or sometimes sounds no one wants... it's a cherished tool to me to be able to control the guitar as best as I can. I highly suggest you try to open this door to greater control over the instrument as it's yield is incredibly rewarding and it will ultimately allow you to connect with the song, band and audience, better than ever.



Tone Tools ::: Builder Profile ::: Xact Tone Solutions, Mods & Beyond!

Hello fellow Gearheads! Today I'd like to bring you another edition of Tone Tools, this time spending some time profiling a company that I really love supporting due to the incredible work they do for guitarists, and musicians, alike. Xact Tone Solutions, also known as XTS, are a Nashville, TN based company that deals in rig solutions for musicians; as well as making some of the best sounding overdrive, boost and fuzz pedals in the market today.

Xact Tone Solutions is a formidable hot spot for tone seekers. Owned and run by Greg Walton and Barry O'Neil, together they have created a business that not only creates incredible pedals and rigs, but also very creative and unique solutions for signal routing and modifying existing pieces to get the fullest potential. Today, I'll be focusing on XTS's Modifications and how well they've worked for me personally.

At the moment, I've got three pedals that Barry and crew have done their magic modifications to. Most often players will seek out the type of mods XTS do for the sake of functionality, improving the way a piece works within a rig and how the it effects the system as a whole. On to the pedals!

Vintage Technologies BFD Tremolo

The BFD Tremolo is a personal favorite and recommendation from my friend David Phillips at LA Sound Design, another incredible rig building company here in Los Angeles. The BFD is unique to most tremolo pedals in that it sounds so incredibly close to a real amplifier's tremolo circuit. The way it pulses, undulates and moves the air beneath your note is remarkably close to the real deal. The BFD is a slightly rare pedal in that it's no longer manufactured and Vintage Technologies is no longer around. They can however be found from time to time on the used market. The circuit itself inside the pedal is very simple --- which is an attest to it's pure and rich tone. There are unfortunately a few caveats with the simple design and it's performance in the "real world". Firstly, there is a volume drop when you click the pedal on. This is a common occurrence with tremolo pedals due to the perceived loss of volume that happens when the signal wave is raised and lowered, thus creating the tremolo'd effect. There is a little more loss of volume than other tremolo pedals, and having XTS adds a non-intrusive buffer circuit that doesn't completely alter the tone, but allows you to fine tune the "headroom" of the circuit. The pedal now can hit unity or above unity volume and still sounds incredible. Another issue with the original pedal is the non true-bypass switch which creates all sorts of problems with other pedals and the entire signal as a whole. XTS replaced the switch and the pedal can be placed anywhere in a system without any worry. Also added, was an LED indicator light as there isn't one stock on the pedal and everyone needs to know when our pedals are on or off, right!? The BFD Tremolo is a dark star in the world of tremolo pedals and having these mods from XTS really help the pedal be the best it truly can be. 

Ibanez Mostortion MT10

The Ibanez Mostortion is a favorite overdrive of mine. In fact, it was my very first Gearheads post! Check it out HERE. The Mostortion is a sleeper of a pedal from the 10 series of Ibanez that has been a favorite of the Nashville recording scene for some time. It's a great tool in that it has a familiarity tonally but also has something unique about the feel and decay. The original housing however leaves a bit to desired, and can be slightly suspect to not being the most "road worthy" housing. For this reason, they are often rehoused putting the circuit and components in a new casing ensuring a long new life on any pedalboard. I'm a big fan of the rehousing work XTS performs, keeping all the key elements to the tone that I feel makes the pedal what it is and swapping out the elements that do not. I opted to have XTS only make the pedal true bypass so that it did not effect the rest of my pedalboard's signal and put the circuit in a new enclosure. I prefer to keep the original potentiometers and jacks etc... intact, as I feel they play a role in the tone of the circuit. What's left is fantastic sounding Mostortion with a new lease on life!

Nobels ODR-1

The Nobels ODR-1 is very neutral, natural sounding boost and overdrive. It sits somewhere between a light boost to medium drive. They were originally made in the 1990's and then later reissued. The EQ and presence of the ODR-1 makes the pedal great for recording due to it's rich low end profile and natural harmonic content, which is why it's another Nashville recording session favorite. I've got one of the original ODR-1's and found that while I absolutely loved the tone, I could not get past the awful bypass signal it created. It dulled my entire signal when the pedal was off and made other pedals sound less distinct and ultimately just didn't work that well. One obvious solution is to keep these types of devises in a "true-bypass loop," which is just another pedal that isolates the circuit, and allows you keep your signal chain problem free. I didn't have the space on my pedalboard for this solution and ultimately wanted to be able to use the ODR-1 in different situations where it could be used without a loop. Enter XTS and a very creative mod! The other option to solve my problem is to simply rehouse the pedal like my Mostortion was.... however I LOVE the look and the feel of the ODR-1 in it's present form. I didn't want to change ONE THING about the pedal. I love it's soft actuating footswitch and the vintage look. I just wanted the bypass of the pedal to be fixed so I could use it with willing and free abandon. Barry and crew at XTS devised a way to allow the pedal to essentially be true bypass but without changing out the switch or messing with the existing enclosure in any way. They installed a relay bypass inside the switching element that does exactly what I wished. Now the pedal sounds and looks incredible and it's become quite a favorite of mine in the studio.

All in all, many companies perform great modifications on all sorts of musical gear and I'm just happy to share my very satisfied experiences with the fine folks at Xact Tone Solutions. They are truly great lovers of all things gear and seek to help us musicians make the most out of what we've got. They definitely have gone above and beyond in making my tools that much more useful, something any musician would appreciate. Until next time, Happy Tone Hunting!


Vemuram Custom Pedals ::: Oz Fuzz

Hello Gearheads! Today, I'd like to share with you some thoughts on one of the newest offerings from Vemuram Custom Pedals: the Oz Fuzz! Created in collaboration with Oz Noy, incredible guitarist who blends jazz, funk, rock, blues, and r&b in an intoxicating mixture of sound. Oz has been working with Vemuram on and off during his tours in Japan, where Vemuram hail to create a signature fuzz pedal that incorporates all of the things he loves and wants out of a fuzz pedal. All I can say, is that the work both Vemuram and Oz have done has resulted in an extremely well voiced fuzz pedal capable of many different shades and colors.

The Oz Fuzz at it's base is a Silicon Fuzz Face circuit, capable of rich and full tones from an amplifier about to explode all the way to a fuzzy boost. There's an incredibly rich tone in this pedal derived from the two Silicon transistors and NOS (New Old Stock) parts that Vemuram and their master engineer Daiya Tezuka have sourced. There's a silky quality to the Oz Fuzz's voice, different than most fuzz pedals. Typically fuzzes, and the Fuzz Face in particular, range in voice from ragged and compressed to sometimes bright and even shrill. Fuzz Faces are loved and hated for their ability to sound and feel incredible with the "right" combination of gear and player or completely awful in the wrong hands. The element of settling in a Fuzz Face is just part of the beauty of the experience, the more dynamic you are as a player, the more dynamic the pedal sounds. Luckily, the Oz Fuzz does not suffer any of the pitfalls previously mentioned --- it's an incredible sounding (and feeling) fuzz.

One of my favorite elements and changes to the simple Fuzz Face circuit is the addition of a two band EQ, consisting of Treble and Bass controls. For such a simple circuit, adding such controls can really alter and mess with the delicate tone, but almost magically the Treble and Bass controls work really well with each other to get the most out of the tone. Raising the Bass control to the max will increase the available gain, and the Treble acts something like a "high cut" allowing the amount of high end EQ to be present in the signal. In speaking to Daiya Tezuka, he and Vemuram were vary conscious to be sure the touch response and dynamic floor of the circuit were not altered with these additions. Essentially what you're left with, is a dynamic Fuzz Face that can be tailored to each individual guitar and rig situation with ease.

Another element of what I feel makes the Oz Fuzz sound so great is it's gain range. While one could certainly use the pedal at it's maximum gain, full-on for massive rock and blues tones (and I'll tell you they sound very, very good), I love using the gain dialed back some and employing it as a fuzzy boost. It's a warm and rich tone, very 3D in nature. I was able to squeeze out some very convincing warm Clapton and Page tones, very woody and yet somehow silky. Using the pedal this way can work wonders as a semi clean to mid gain voice and can boost other pedals into enormous tones. I, like many guitarist who love dynamics, use my guitar's volume potentiometer control constantly to obtain as much control over the tone as I can. The Oz Fuzz works splendidly in this manner, with fantastic rolled off clean tones. They are never shrill or bright, very much like what you'd imagine a perfect clean tone to sound like. Clean volume roll-off is a very important characteristic in any piece of guitar equipment for me personally and I'm quite impressed by the tones available here. It seems that this is a limited release, with only 300 pieces being manufactured due to the availability of parts, so I'd suggest grabbing one while you can. I know I definitely will be.

Happy tone hunting friends!