Contributor Bradford Wolfenden II believes that in order to find the right mix of equipment for your guitar set-up, sometimes you need to keep it simple, sometimes you need to think outside of the box.

Geartopia

Gear is nothing without you, the player. Your preferences, or lack thereof, determine the entire path your expressive desire travels from the piston-fire of your synapses to the ears of your angry neighbor. One could be just as happy playing through a multi-effects processor into a set of headphones as Gene Simmons feels dripping blood from his mouth in full costume as the fireworks go off. There are may ways to split the wig but it starts with the wig. There may be computers composing sounds for the motherserver somewhere but to my knowledge there is no robot currently destroying a 12-string in front of an audience of discarded kitchen appliances. It takes flesh and blood, a will to play, and the means to acquire the equipment necessary to do what you want to do.

I’ve had state of the art $2000 rigs blow up on standby. I’ve walked into a bar and had a proprietor assume I can plug 70’s amps and gear into the white and red Aux-In cables of their “totally legit” jukebox sound system. I’ve wielded said 70’s gear onstage fully mic’d in a giant theater, living the actual dream, and damn near scrambled my own eggs when my beer moistened beard connected with the microphone as I ignored the ground switch on the back of the amp. Switches matter. Gear matters. The situation governs all. Start planning now on where you want to be and build that bridge step by step. Ask every single question that comes to your mind and talk to as many people as possible about what they play, and why, and why not.

We are almost 90 years from the Hawaiian lap-steel craze that brought us electronic amplification and centuries from the most primitive strings-across-sound-hole contraptions and we have a lot to show for it. From the guy on Venice Beach with the Pignose and roller-skates to Anne Clark’s simulation rigs you can go as large or small as you like but planning is key. If Rollerbro’s batteries die and Ms Clark’s presets reset they both will end up sitting on the wall outside a university jealous of the guy strumming his acoustic for the ladies and gentlemen strolling by. The best advice is to start simple but at the same time going one step further than you assume you need. The second pack of strings at home or the extra cable in your bag at the gig could solve and lead to more things than you’d think. You may want to record yourself on your computer but if you buy the single-input box you are going to have a bad time when you get the band together for the demo recording. Explore your options and use the ocean of the internet to research and contrast ideas and setups.

Lastly, don’t lock the mad scientist in you away but do use caution. Just because you can remove every screw on your amp and see the impossible cities of capacitors and tubes and power boxes doesn’t mean you should cut away like a haircut or pet around like it’s the kiddies section at the zoo. Use discretion in combination with imagination. Put your cellphone up to your pickups sometime. Find an inexpensive pedal and a modification kit and call your best bud with the soldiering iron. Unplug your turntable from your stereo pre-amp and run it through your guitar rig. Check out circuit bending and instead of throwing out the kid’s Fisher Price My First Keyboard turn it into the noise-glitch reverb machine of doom. Run your sister’s flute thru a chorus pedal. The pieces you’ll need to acquire to scratch these mad itches will come in handy another day in a most crucial way. Just keep the volume low while checking the seeds you’ve sewn in the mad lab. It’s a long week when your flanger mod pops off the circuit board and temporarily converts your melon to mono.

So you’ve amassed a small collection of pedals but to be brutally honest it looks a mess when they’re all set out in front of you, takes bloody ages to set them all up and can get a bit confusing. So what’s the solution? Simple…it’s time you got yourself a pedalboard.

Now it’s all well and good deciding that you need a board but where on earth do you start? Hopefully this guide will give you a good idea and shine a light on a few of the things that you may not have thought of. Before we start please remember that very rarely will two people want exactly the same things from a pedalboard. The key thing is to think about what YOU want from YOUR board.

So what should you be thinking about?

‘WHAT & WHERE’
Probably the most important element of the whole process is determining what will be placed on the board. You may think this is easy but don’t forget it can include not only effects pedals but amp footswitches, power supplies and even wireless units.

Samson AirLine AG1 wireless system

Samson AirLine AG1 wireless system

Once you’ve decided what’s going on the board, you need to decide where it’s all going to go. This is a crucial decision as this will affect how the board actually performs. Remember it’s a tool to help you when playing and is supposed to make things easier for you not harder.

Accessibility is the key word here. There’s no point in arranging everything on the board so that it looks good if you can’t use any of it. You need to be able to reach the pedals easily and safely whilst playing, without hitting any of the others or doing yourself an injury. Think about placing those pedals that you use most often at the front of the board and those that you use perhaps only once or twice during a set (or not at all during a song e.g. your tuner) at the back of the board. That said there’s no point in putting something like a tuner at the back of the board if you can’t see the display on it properly. The same goes for any pedal that you may need to alter the settings of mid-song (remember you’ll have a guitar in your hands too). Also make sure that those pedals that need a little extra space around them get it. Any pedals with a rocker, e.g. wah-wah or volume pedal, will need to have space for you to actually work the treadle comfortably.

An example of inaccessibility

An example of inaccessibility

Having taken all of the above into account don’t forget that your pedals need to be placed in a certain order (of your choice obviously) to maximize their performance and each one needs to be powered. Make sure that the cables you have are long enough and have the correct shape jack plug (right angled ones will save space) and that all the sockets (including the power one) are accessible. There’s nothing worse than coming up with an arrangement that looks good and works for you if you can’t plug it all together!

‘THE BOARD’
Having established what is to be included and where it’s all going, you’re now in a position to actually think about the board itself. All of the above will determine the fundamental size and shape of the board. Be realistic – if you’ve got 10 or more pedals and they’re not little ones (as is the fashion at the moment) they’re not going to fit on something the size of a piece of A4 paper.

First off you need to decide whether you’re going to flex those DIY muscles and manufacture the board yourself or buy a pre-manufactured one by the likes of Pedaltrain, Blackbird or Diago. There are several factors that all need careful consideration here and are all interlinked. You will obviously need to consider the cost. Some of the aforementioned manufacturer’s boards are not cheap so that piece of old shelf you have sitting in the shed can look very appealing. That said do you have the relevant skills to craft something from it? Don’t take on something that you’re not likely to complete, will not do the job or end up with you injuring yourself…those fingers are important. Also, don’t forget that you’ll need to transport the board every time you have rehearsal or a show so it needs to be a practical weight, shape and size. You will also need to ensure that everything that you’ve strapped to the board is safe during transit. There are a number of viable options such as flight cases, gig bags or even an old suitcase. Each has its own pros and cons, for instance flight cases may be the best protective option but they can be heavy and expensive.

Click this picture because this guy actually did build a wood pedalboard in a suitcase for $6

Click this picture because this guy actually did build a wood pedalboard in a suitcase for $6

‘SECURING PEDALS’
Now you know what’s going on the board, where it’s all going and what kind of board you’re going to have, you need to think about how you’re going to make sure that everything stays where you put it…after all none of this stuff is cheap. The usual suspects are Velcro, cable ties and be-spoke pedal fasteners (you should be able to find plenty on the internet). Most pre-manufactured boards will come with their own supply of Velcro (again you can find it online). You need to decide what works best for you given your circumstances. If the layout of your board is never likely to change then cable ties or fasteners will give you the most secure option but if you’re going to swap your pedals around frequently then Velcro is more practical.

This probably wasn't necessary to include

This probably wasn’t necessary to include

‘I HAVE THE POWER’
Like the plethora of choices you have when it comes to effects pedals the choice of power supply is just as varied. The main consideration here is that whatever power supply you opt for it should be able to provide enough juice to power all of your pedals.

The first decision to make is whether you’re going to power everything by battery or mains. Some of the modern mini pedals don’t even have the option of being powered by battery so this decision may be made for you. If you are planning to run everything off batteries then you will need to consider the cost implications as well as performance and reliability (some pedals will be severely affected if the battery is starting to run low and there’s always the chance of one going flat mid-song). A slightly more robust battery option is to go for something like Pedaltrain’s Volto. It’s a Lithium-Ion power pack like you’d find in a laptop or tablet. You simply charge it up and then plug your pedals into it. The advantages of batteries are that you don’t need to worry about locating that elusive power socket or running a huge power lead and it eliminates any problems you may encounter from a dodgy power supply.

Another option is to ‘daisy chain’ the power from one power source e.g. a Visual Sound One Spot or the Pedaltrain Volto to power each pedal. Certain pedals can help you with this (e.g. Boss’ TU3 and NS2) and can act as a booster running up to 5 pedals each as long as they get a good power supply. The disadvantages of daisy chaining pedals are the power draw (you need to ensure there are enough milliamps for every pedal you have) and the fact that you can’t power anything with a different voltage rating (i.e. if you’re using a 9v adaptor you’ll only be able to power 9v pedals).

The ‘professional’ way to power your board is to opt for a power bank by the likes of TRex, Pedaltrain or Voodoo Labs. The only real disadvantages are the cost and the space they take up…other than that they’re a winner. More often than not the outputs will be isolated meaning each pedal gets its own individual power supply reducing any unwanted buzzing or noise. They’ll also tend to support varied voltage outputs i.e. you can run different rated pedals. Power banks provide a steady uninterrupted source of power. One thing you need to be sure of if you decide to go with a power bank is that it has enough outputs at the voltages you need.

Or that it at least looks rad and has a clever name...

Or that it at least looks rad and has a clever name…

Some pre-manufactured boards come with brackets (or can be adapted) to hold power banks underneath. This tidies up the board and saves space… might be room to fit that extra pedal after all!

‘CABLES’
There are a number of options available to you when it comes to wiring up your board. The main one is whether you’ll be going down the DIY route and making your own cables or using ready made ones. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. If you’re making them they can be made to spec as far as length, plug type and quality of components go (as long as you have the necessary skills). If you’re purchasing off-the-shelf cables they should be of decent quality (remember you get what you pay for) but you’ll have to make do with the lengths and plugs that are available. Somewhere in the middle of these two options is to go for custom made ones which although more costly should give you exactly what you need (make sure you use a reputable company).

There is also the solder-free option. George L, Lavacable and Planetwaves all have kits available but they can be expensive. Solder-free kits, as the name suggests, are easy to assemble and can save you a lot of space on the board as the plugs tend to be smaller. You basically make them to the exact lengths you require for your needs. The main disadvantage of solder-free kits is the durability. That’s not to say that they’re not reliable but given their very nature, i.e. no solid physical connection between the plug and lead, there is a chance of them failing more easily than a standard cable.

Lava Cable Solder-free Pedal Kit

Lava Cable Solder-free Pedal Kit

So it’s not as straightforward as you thought is it? But this shouldn’t put you off. Hopefully this guide will allow you to make more informed decisions and come up with a pedalboard that is everything you want it to be. The golden rule is to always bear in mind what you’re trying to achieve with your board. Yes it might look great and allow you to show off your pedals but it’s supposed to make your life as a musician easier and less stressful. As usual there are no right ways or wrong ways to go about it, but common sense and stepping back to consider the bigger picture will pay dividends.

Guest Author: Darren Carless

By Darren Carless

Back in the good ole days the choice of effects available to guitarists was very limited to say the least. Fast forward to present day and the modern guitarist is bombarded with just about every effect imaginable (and some that are not). So what do they all do? This edition of the blog provides a brief understanding of what each effect is along with some examples of pedals that deliver that effect and a signpost to a song where you can here it in all its glory. So here we go…

Overdrive (Ibanez Tubescreamer / Fulltone OCD)

The defining sound of rock guitar. Overdrive pedals produce soft tube-like distortion by distorting the sound wave without flattening it. In essence they recreate what happens when a valve amplifier is ‘overdriven’ producing warm and gritty or crunchy tones.

LISTEN TO: Anything dubbed to be classic rock.

…………………….

Distortion (Boss DS1 / MXR Distortion +)

Distortion is the angrier sibling of overdrive. It’s harder and more jagged, and unlike overdrive will tend to totally flatten the peaks of the signal.

LISTEN TO: Just about anything by Nirvana.

 …………………….

Fuzz (Dunlop Fuzzface / EHX Big Muff)

Taking Overdrive and Distortion to the nth degree, Fuzz totally reshapes the signal creating everything from ‘pure filth’ (that’s a technical term in these circumstances) to a warm woolly sound.

LISTEN TO: ‘Purple Haze’ by Jimi Hendrix

 …………………….

Boost (MXR Micro Amp / Xotic EP Booster)

Generally speaking a booster is designed to give your signal a bit of extra juice without altering its character (which is why they’ll often be tagged as ‘transparent’). They do this by increasing the amplitude of the signal.

 …………………….

Compression (MXR Dyna Comp / Keeley Compressor)

Compressors are intuitive little devices that respond to the strength of the signal that is fed into them and then compensate by either shifting the signal strength up or down i.e. they make loud sounds quiet and quiet sounds louder by compressing the dynamic range. More often than not it’s used to increase sustain when soloing or to increase the punch of rhythm parts.

 …………………….

Wah – Wah (Dunlop Cry Baby / Fulltone Clyde Wah)

Almost human in its sound, a Wah-Wah pedal creates vowel-like, ululating sounds by altering the frequency spectrum of the guitar i.e. how loud the guitar is at each specific frequency.

LISTEN TO: ‘Voodoo Chile’ by Jimi Hendrix

…………………….

Delay / Echo (Strymon Timeline / TC Flashback)

You play a note; the pedal records it and then plays it back after the original note either once or multiple times dependant on the settings you’ve dialled in.

LISTEN TO: Almost anything by U2, but we wouldn’t do that to you, so here’s Tool!

 …………………….

Chorus (Boss CE5 / EHX Small Clone)

Chorus adds a subtle (or not so subtle) shimmer to your tone and is often described as ‘watery’ sounding. It does this by splitting the signal in two and adding delay and pitch modulation to one half before combining with the other half of the signal.

LISTEN TO: ‘Come As You Are’ by Nirvana

 …………………….

Phaser (MXR Phase 90 / Boss PH2)

Whether you want to describe it as swooshing, swirling or sweeping, a phaser brings a distinct feeling of movement to your sound. Like Chorus it splits the signal in two, altering the phase of one half by oscillating it around the entire frequency range.

LISTEN TO: ‘Eruption’ by Van Halen

 …………………….

Flanger (EHX Electric Mistress / MXR Flanger)

Creating everything from jet engine-esque whooshes to slower ‘wobblier’ phaser-esque sounds. Unlike a Phaser, a Flanger allows for more control over the peaks and troughs created by the oscillating frequency.

LISTEN TO: ‘Walking On The Moon’ by The Police

 …………………….

Vibrato (TC Electronic Shaker / Diamond Vibrato)

Vibrato is a modulation in the pitch of the signal and is very similar to chorus but without the delay element. At extreme settings it can produce very dramatic ululating sounds.

LISTEN TO: Pretty much every Tame Impala song

…………………….

Tremolo (Boss TR2 / Empress Tremolo)

Tremolo produces a rapid variation in the volume of the signal i.e. it simply turns the volume of the signal up and down at determined speeds. Extreme settings can create a stuttering effect.

LISTEN TO: ‘What’s The Frequency Kenneth?’ by R.E.M.

 …………………….

Reverb (Eventide Space / EHX Holy Grail)

Used to create a sense of space and more often than not named after the type of space they emulate e.g. room, hall, spring etc. Reverb is a simulation of the reverberations and reflections of sound as it bounces off surfaces and decays.

LISTEN TO: Pink Floyd “Sorrow” (at least the intro guitar)

So there you go. This guide isn’t meant to be the Holy Grail of knowledge about effects. Nor is it meant to be an exhaustible list of what’s available…hell it doesn’t even cover Pitch Shifting, Looping or Ring Modulation! It’s simply a basic guide to get you started. As usual the best bit of advice is to get out there, get your hands on some and see what they can do for you and your sound.

Starting a band can feel like the mountain peeking from the clouds. You can see where you want to go but the path is not exactly clear and it looks a long way off. Today this couldn’t be further from the truth. There are more ways than ever both physically and digitally to meet birds of a musical feather and playing your instrument with others is the best way to further your craft. The most important part has already happened: you have a desire to create music so strong that it conquerors all hesitation and personal sensitivities.

Emphasis on "hesitation and personal sensitivities"

Emphasis on “hesitation and personal sensitivities”

Online there are many ways to connect with others both on social media and static sites. You can find numerous groups on places like Facebook for every single genre of music you can imagine and people post band needs in these groups all the time. Just join them. Want to play mandolin but fear there’s no scene for it? Search for your preferred genre and you will find the group. If anything it will be a refreshing change for your feed to fill up with local music stuff instead of your buddy’s wife’s latest batch of cupcakes (which are wonderful by the way).

In the US Craigslist is also a great place to find musicians but can be a wild ride. You’ll find fellow musicians in the community section of your metro area (community>musicians). If you visit Craigslist it will automatically find the closest city to you based on your IP address. Even if you don’t see something of interest today check back daily. There’s also a whole industry forming involving websites specifically for matching musicians. BandMix is a good example. So is BandFinder. These new websites also allow people to upload music and video to the postings so you can get an easier feel beforehand. But don’t limit yourself by this impression alone. When you join a band you add to it and the music most likely will improve for the better.

But really…there’s no substitute for just putting yourself out there the oldschool analog way. Go to your local record stores and haunt them for an hour. Find the section with the music that inspires you and when someone comes along to browse strike up a conversation. Don’t worry, if they weren’t into talking they’d be purchasing online. Also always talk to the guys and gals at the register for they are the living nexus of the store. They will remember you from this the next time a local band is in the store and lamenting about their tuba player self-destructing on stage.

"If I can't see you, you can't see me, which means I don't have to listen to your mix tape, DJ Tuba Trackz."

“If I can’t see you, you can’t see me, which means I don’t have to listen to your mix tape, DJ Tuba Trackz.”

Also visit the bars most bands play outside of normal show times. Musicians are humans first and need to just hang, talk, and meet new people outside of stages and vans. You’d be surprised who you meet just by living in the world and rubbing actual elbows with it. If that’s not your thing just make sure your circle of friends know you want to play with others and share your music and playing with them. They may be blow away by it and mention it to their girlfriend later, who then remembers her friend’s boyfriend who’s in a band and needs a bass player.

Which leads me to my last point: do not limit yourself. Sign your instrument up for everything you can. Think you don’t like country? You’d be amazed at the crowd engagement and money to be made. Don’t like metal? Again, the crowd and power of the music once you get inside of it is like nothing else. Use the experiences to build not only your skill but your experience and local presence. Joining or starting a band seem like a mission to the Himalayas but once you throw your pack on you’ll be amazed at what you will find and how much harder it is to convince yourself you aren’t ready than it is to take any port in a storm of creative desire.

By Guest Blogger Bradford Wolfenden II

The Orange VT1000 is the world’s first all-digital, portable tube (valve) tester. But what exactly does that mean? Well, it means that we took all the technology that formerly went into this:

Eico1

Which looks like it could murder you

And fit it all into this little guy right here:

VT1000-Top-Right-View

You may want to ask yourself why nobody else did this already. After all, it makes perfect sense. If 40% of the amps purchased today are tube-driven then shouldn’t the technology associated with TESTING those tubes have, ya know, EVOLVED a bit since the first tube amps were produced? The answer is “not necessarily” and the reasons are many. The assumed difficulty of testing your own tubes. The acquisition and maintenance of a vintage tube tester. These are great reasons not to have previously tested your own tubes.

But the main culprit is the attitude some tube amp players take towards the little glass life-blood of their amps. I asked five guitar player friends why they didn’t test their own tubes and four of them answered “Why would I do that?” These are people who are fully aware that the VT1000 exists and regardless of how many times I’ve reminded them it exists the idea still hasn’t stuck. So I’m going to lay it out for you right now. These are the reasons you should test your own tubes:

It will make you sound better.

You’ve got your amp sounding awesome. You go to practices and play shows and this awesome tone is just as awesome as it can be. Then, one day, you notice it’s started to lose a bit of gain on Channel A, and only on Channel A. You ask your friends if they can hear the change and they’re all “dude, you’re just drunk, it sounds the same.” But you KNOW it doesn’t sound the same and so you freak out about it all weekend, adding pedals and checking cords and changing out guitars. Nothing is fixing the problem!

Here’s the deal: it’s probably a preamp tube, especially if it’s only affecting one channel. With a VT1000 you could test all the preamp tubes in about 8 minutes, identify the bad tube, and throw in a new tube. More than likely you’ll be back at full gain in under 20 minutes total. And here’s where it gets better, because instead of trashing the so-called “bad tube,” testing the tube will allow you to arrive at a number of 1-10 indicating how much strength is still in the tube. That’s called the “matching number” and you can use it to “match” that tube with other tubes like it. The benefit to “matching” tubes is that you can essentially control the gain, and therefore the tone, of your amp. So instead of throwing away what you assume to be a tube-gone-bad, hold on to it for those times when you want to change up your sound.

VT1000

Watch the demo video for the VT1000 on YouTube

It will save your butt.

You finally got that coveted opening slot for Yanni and your band, Fart Quality Control, practiced for a whole 90 minutes before the gig (hey, it’s hard to be a lawyer, dad, Boy Scout Leader, bird enthusiast, and have time left-over for rockstar-ing). You arrive 9 hours early to the venue to make sure there aren’t any snags. The soundcheck goes well, Dr. Richard Felter is absolutely shredding the uke and the back-up singers, your wife and probably her friend from PTA, are all really on point. This is guaranteed to be the single best experience this group of parents that started a band solely for the purpose of getting away from their kids one a day week has EVER had.

The lights go down. The announcer exclaims “without further ‘o-dor,’ here’s Fart Quality Control!” And suddenly your amp takes a dive. You’re getting no sound. Dr. Felter freaks out. He’s usually so calm and collected when he’s at the hospital performing life-saving surgeries 14 hours a day. But this isn’t the hospital. This is the biggest moment of his life, opening for Yanni, his favorite ethereal pianist, and it’s all come crashing down because you couldn’t test the tubes in your amp before the show.

He takes off his uke and bashes it into the PA. Sweating bullets, Dr. Felter picks up a large piece of the splintered wood and rushes towards the mellophonist. The B-flat scream through the muted chambers of the horn signal his demise. The doctor rampages across the stage and, one by one, the members of FQC fall. All the while you’re still playing with the knobs on your amp.But there is no power…there is no power.

If you had tested your tubes before your show you would have saved a lot of lives.

Seriously though, knowing which tubes are wearing out can make or break a live gig. The smart guitar techs for major touring bands have a reserve of tubes on hand at all times. When they get into a new town and start load-in one of the first things they do is test the tubes in their amps. Drew Foppe, tech for Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, tests and replaces ALL the tubes in ALL the amps EVERY SINGLE DAY. (Is that necessary? If Lindsay asks you to, yes. But still, probably not. Tubes have a “play in” phase and usually sound best after about 10 hours of jamming.)

The point is that tubes can go bad quickly and without any early indication that’s audible to the ear. If you test your tubes prior to a big gig, you might find that what were 4 previously matching power tubes have become 3 matching tubes and 1 tube that’s several numbers off from matching. If you’ve got a Class A amp rated 30 watts or under then it could be as simple as throwing a new power tube in the amp. If you’re playing a 100 watt beast that requires biasing when replacing power tubes, you might just reconsider playing the amp at all that night, or having a back-up plugged up ready to rock in case of a failure.

It will also save you buttLOADS of money.

Literally, and this is not a fake number I just made up, but LITERALLY 75% of the technical service issues Orange encounters on a day-to-day basis are tube-related. That’s not because our tubes are low quality or because tube gremlins actually exist (even though they totally do and I’m tired of being considered an “outsider” for my belief in them). It’s also not a result of the shoddy build quality of our amps. We make the tanks of the amp world. No, it’s because tubes are made of thin glass, are gas-pressurized, and contain strands of metal so delicate they can only be handled by tube gremlins (I’m not letting this go). They are going to break and when they do it is going to cost you money.

Don’t take it straight to a tech or service center. I know you’ve “got a dude,” and he’s the “only guy you let touch your amp,” but if 75% of the tech calls we get on a daily basis are tube-related then don’t you think it’s worth considering a tube as the culprit? Don’t rush out the door with your wallet in hand. If you can identify the tube that’s causing the issue then you’re half way there already. If it’s a preamp tube then you can usually swap it yourself. If it’s a power tube then which one and are the others still good? Knowing the answers to these questions can give you the knowledge to keep your tech from performing unnecessary service. Most of the time when our techs find a single faulty power tube in a customer amp they’re able to replace that tube and that tube only. This doesn’t change the fact that any amp over 30 watts needs to be rebiased anytime you change a power tube. But it might save you significant cash when you can safely answer “no” to the question “would you like me to replace ALL of your tubes?”

Changing tubes is like changing the oil in your car. It’s a requirement. You might be able to go further between some oil changes than others, but inevitably you end up back at the garage.

Do you have any friends that change the oil in their own cars? I do and I hate them for it. Why? Because they’re saving money while I’m getting fat eating biscuits (Note: I wrote biscuit just to appease the UK management). The only reason I don’t change the oil in my own car is because it requires me to change the oil in my car and SCREW IT I JUST DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT CARS! Luckily testing the tubes in your amp only requires you to know how to access the tubes in your amp.

I’m not advocating that you perform any major service on your amp. All you need to know is how to remove your chassis from the wooden sleeve or metal casing or whatever holds your amp together (string?). Obviously make sure the amp is unplugged and if you’re not a tech don’t go touching components that you don’t understand. Some things in there can shock you. But if you can remove the housing then you should be able to pretty easily access your tubes. Here’s a quick video about it.

Congratulations! You can now test your own tubes and reinvest all the money you save into orange-colored amps!

 

 

Orange-Crush-CR60C-Top-Side1-675x450

Welcome to the second installment of Real World Orange. My name is Derek Carvotta and I am one of the Regional Sales Managers for Orange USA. Each month we will feature a different Orange amp being used in a different environment. From rehearsals to gigs to recording sessions, we will detail the gear used and the settings of the amp as well as provide you with a practical run-down of how Orange products can be used in real world situations. For this second installment we have chosen to highlight the new Crush Pro CR60C  which I used on my last couple of gigs with the Atlanta based cover band Shark Fighter. The first gig was our regular monthly gig at a local pub where we play 4 sets worth of 80’s and 90’s Pop and Rock. The second gig was for a private corporate event that found us adding a sets worth of acoustic material to our normal song list.

Since I have to cover a lot of stylistic ground in this band, I carry with me a small assortment of effects that give me the ability to come close to some of the tones of the original recordings while making it easy for me to transport and set up. The CR60C works fantastically with effects both in front of the amp (as I have chosen to use here) and in the effects loop. For these gigs I plugged my 1996 MIM Fender Stratocaster with Mullinax & Seymour Duncan pickups into the following:  Vox Wah, Korg Pitch Black Tuner, Xotic SL Drive, TC Electronic Nova System and then to the front of the CR60C. The connections from the guitar to the pedal board and from the pedal board to the amp were made with two Orange Premium 10Ft. Instrument Cables.

For the first show I primarily used the Dirty Channel with the gain set around 9 O’clock, Bass at 10 O’clock, Middle at 12 O’Clock, Treble at about 1 O’clock, and Channel Volume cranked.

CR60C-Control-Settings

This gave me just a hint of break-up when I played a bit more aggressively (which I happen to like) and it allowed me to have a slightly broken-up tone that would layer well with my SL Drive. I have been setting all of my amps up like this lately and the CR60C did not disappoint.

For the second show I set the CR60C so that I could use the Clean Channel for my Acoustic Guitar (EQ set at 12 O’Clock for both Bass and Treble) and the Dirty Channel (same settings as above) as my basic Crunch tone that I could layer with my Xotic SL Drive for leads and more aggressive Rhythm sounds. One thing that I immediately noticed was the CR60Cs ability to clean-up as you decrease the volume control on your guitar. I used this method to get cleaner tones from the Dirty channel whether or not I had the SL Drive engaged. This behaves very much like a tube amp and made this set-up that much more enjoyable to play with.

The sound samples I recorded represent just a small portion of the variety of tones that you can get with the new Crush Pro line. The first example is a clean, strummed pattern using the Dirty channel set as listed above with no effects.

Clean No Effects-mp3

The second example is the same channel and settings, but this time I added a bit of delay to accentuate the arpeggiated pattern.

Clean & Delay-mp3

The third and last example uses the Xotic SL Drive, the CR60Cs Dirty Channel and some delay to create an Eric Johnson-like lead tone.

Lead & Delay-mp3

Just like the Orange tube amps that I have had the pleasure of using, the CR60C affords the player maximum flexibility of tone with a minimal control set while preserving the individual characteristics of your instrument and playing style. Pair that with the fact that these amps work fantastically with effects both up front and in the loop and you have a portable, gig worthy tone solution.

Thanks for reading! See you in the next installment of Real World Orange. Cheers!

Click anywhere to view the video!

After you’re done watching the video, learn more about the CR120H and all the amps in the Crush Pro line over at the Orange Amps Website.

Read what booking agent, manager, and promoter, George Gargan, has to say about his experience with Orange Terror Bass amps and cabs…

“Backline Without The Backache”

By George Gargan

I started to put on gigs in London back in 2006 under the name of Damnably. I have a particular taste in music and the bands I love would not always play the UK so I got into booking tours and then releasing records. All the while I followed super DIY principles I’d lifted from the hardcore scene.

Bands coming over from Japan, Canada, USA or Europe would request backline because bringing over amps and drums is just not viable (due to cost) unless you are a pretty big band.

So I checked out the London backline hire places and found them to be prohibitively expensive. For example, in 2007 I needed a drum kit and bass amp for a Thee More Shallows/Lone Ladygig at The Social W1. The cheapest drum kit hire I could find back then was £300 a day plus deposit, delivery and VAT.

Shocked, I checked out new drum kits online and bought an Olympus drum kit and Behringer bass combo for £300 in total. I used them for that gig, then sold them a little while later making back the outlay. That gig was a sell out and the bands were very happy with the gear, plus I was able to cover their meals, cab fare, and paid them quite well.

Our record label started to get more acts so we decided to help them by investing in a decent touring drum kit, drum hardware, guitar amps and a bass amp. Any act coming over could happily use the gear on tour for free. For bass we chose the Orange Tiny Terror Bass Head and the Isobaric Sp212 cab.

TB500H_SP212

Ihave to say our F****r Twin [name deleted to protect the innocent] has had to be repaired 3 times to the tune of £400, but our Canopus drum kit and Pearl hardware have not had any issues and the Orange mini bass stack has been amazing!

Size really isn’t everything. Each time we let a band use the Terror Bass they are skeptical of the power the little head and cab can muster, but without exception, after every show the bassist has loved it and been impressed by the clarity of tone and sheer volume power. This has included Shonen Knife, Bitch Magnet, Bored Spies, American Werewolf Academy, Bottomless Pit, Shannon Wright plus London bands: Former Utopia, smallgang, Crumbling Ghost and Slowgun,  and scores of support acts that have used the backline on UK/Ireland/European tours to save bringing their own gear to a venue.

Shonen Knife performing with the Terror Bass and SP212

Shonen Knife performing with the Terror Bass and SP212

The bands we work with are usually pretty heavy post punk and create some very distorted, dissonant hard rock sounds. But the SP212 has handled everything we’ve thrown at it with a lot of headroom to spare thanks to the isobaric design of the cab.

This little bundle has survived a lot of tours, saved our bands a fortune on hire all over Europe, seen massive festivals and tiny venues, and has always fit in superbly. It’s lightweight and easy to carry and takes up hardly any space in a tour bus yet still delivers the sort of power an old 8×10 stack would (and anyone who has been on tour will know that a 8×10 Bass cab is a recipe for back ache!). So our bands and backs praise this little Orange Stack.

Damnably records
www.damnbaly.com

Orange Amplification is extending its best-selling Crush amps range with the launch of three new professional solid state products: the CR60C 60 Watt 1 x 12 Combo, CR120C 120 Watt 2 x 12 Combo and CR120H 120 Watt Head. Designed without compromise, these new amps are built with high quality components but at a superb value for the money.

The new additions to the Crush range are the first solid-state professional amps to be launched by Orange since the late 70’s. Working on the brand philosophy ‘simple is better’, the Orange engineers have created a pre-amplifier based on the highly prestigious and respected Rockerverb range of amps.

Shipping worldwide now! Use our dealer search to find your local dealer.

chappers

TH30C_FrontRight

Real World Orange highlights our products in live settings. My name is Derek Carvotta and I am the Inside Sales Rep for Orange USA. Each month I will feature a different Orange amp being used in a different environment. From rehearsals to gigs to recording sessions, I’ll detail the gear used and the settings of the amp as well as provide you with a practical run-down of how Orange products can be used in real world situations. For my first Gig Report I have chosen to highlight the TH30C  that I used on a recent recording session for a cover band that I play with here in the Atlanta area called Shark Fighter . We were in the studio recording tracks to be used as part of our EPK (electronic press kit) and to be posted on our Facebook page and website.

The objective of the first session was to capture the basic rhythm tracks for a handful of songs. We would then each make separate trips back to the studio to perform any overdubs or corrections as needed. My goal was to cut as much of the song as possible “live” with the band. That meant tracking solos as well as rhythm just like we would play the songs in a live setting. The TH30C was set up in an isolation room and mic’d up using a Shure SM57 slightly off-axis and about 3-4 inches off the speaker grill.

TH30C-Control-Settings-Girlfriend

For this track (Girlfriend by Matthew Sweet) I needed a dirty tone that would work well for both lead and rhythm. I set the controls of the dirty channel with the Gain at 7.25, Shape at 3, and the Volume at 3.5 (see attached picture). I had the switch on the back of the amp set to use all 4 power tubes and the front power switch was set to Half Power. By keeping the amp set to use all four power tubes I maintained the clarity and punch of the lower frequencies. Using the power scaling in this way allowed me to get a bit more saturation at a lower volume which was perfect for this studio setting.

On this session I plugged my Ibanez AR325 straight into the amp using an Orange Premium 20ft instrument cable. The sound clips I have chosen are the intro and outro lead breaks. I left the main solo out of this because, in all honesty, the performance was not as good as what I had hoped to capture. I’ll go back into the studio to re-cut the main lead break at a later date (and hopefully get a better performance!). These samples will give you an example of the type of tone I was able to achieve using the above settings.

Girlfriend – Intro 

Girlfriend – Outro

Every time I use a different Orange amp I am amazed by the flexibility and ease-of-use that the minimal control set provides. Dialing in a specific tone is a breeze and, because of the simplicity of the circuits, the individual characteristics of your different guitars shine through no matter how the controls are set. Thanks for checking this edition of the Gear Report out! I’ll be back next month to highlight a different Orange amp.