Lava Cables

Lava Cables are pretty nice, however the product lacks proper documentation that clearly illustrates how to assemble them.  Here are a few pictures that show the key steps.

Be sure to carefully unwrap your Lava plug from the plastic shipping bag.  Some of the components for the plug are small and can hide themselves in the plug.  If you're not careful, you can lose one of the pieces required to assemble the plug.  Also, make sure you wait for the tip to cool down once you have soldered it.  If the tip is too warm the insulator will melt and not pass over it. 

It took a few days to completely convert my entire board to Lava cables, but I'm glad I did.  The end result is a clean manageable board that sounds great.

Pedalboard: Switchable Loop

I added a switchable loop to my pedalboard which splits the board into two parts, a frontend and backend.  The "normal" or unprocessed signal flow is represented by the green arrow.  The processed signal flow (loop engaged) is represented by the red arrow.

Having a loop in this configuration provides four additional features to my pedalboard:

  • A shorter and cleaner all analog signal flow to the amp 
  • The ability to turn more multiple effects in the backend on/off
  • The ability to quickly adjust the mix of the backend effects
  • Easily turn effects on/off without extending your foot to the backend pedals

Since I play dry most of the time, I love the ability to shorten and completely bypass any digital or unnecessary effects in the signal chain.  I also love the ability to go from a dry sound to a phased sound with delay by easily taping a big green button in the front of the pedalboard.  The big knobs are a product called Barefoot Buttons.

The backside of the pedalboard is powered by the Voodoo Labs Mondo power supply.  It works great and the mounting bracket kits is especially made for the PedalTrain pedalboard.  To keep inference at a minimum, the power and audio lines intersect each other at 90 degrees.  I'm not sure if it really matters in this DC context, but it makes my OCD happy.

The 400ma output is used to drive three effects in series in the backend, whereas the more important frontend pedals have their own isolated supply.  This is how I am able to power so many pedals with one supply.  The power supply is mounted under the backend pedals.

There's very little noise with this board (if any) and offers many types of sounds.  This board provides many hours of corporate and spousal escapism.

To Compress, or Not to Compress?

For many years I convinced myself that I didn't need a compressor pedal, but this video of Paul Gilbert encouraged me to try the Philosopher's Tone pedal. 

Here's the deal.  If you're the type of person that glues the volume knob on your guitar at 10, this blog is not for you.  But if you understand the volume knob is the most important component in your setup, then keep reading.

The volume control on my Suhr Modern guitar has a treble bleed circuit built in it.  This circuit makes high frequencies bleed into the signal as the volume knob approaches zero.  Most guitars sound dark and muddy when their volume is turned down.  Guitars with a treble bleed circuit can produce a nice semi-gritty chime-like sound when the volume is around 2 or 3.  But one side effect is that the overall output volume of the guitar is low.

A compressor pedal like the Philosopher's Tone raises the output volume of your guitar when the volume knob is turned down.  But here's the best part, when the guitar volume is on 10, the Philosopher's Tone pedal doesn't alter the sound much.  Compressor pedals essentially change the role of the volume knob to act more like a second channel on an amplifier.  This is great if you prefer the simplicity of a single channel amp.   

Guthrie Govan stated that he doesn't use a compressor pedal because he prefers to let the power tubes in a tube amplifier do the compression.  In order to drive power tubes into compression, power tubes have to be driven hard, which generally means your amp has to be loud.  A compressor pedal allows me to get the sound and dynamics from a tube amp at a much lower volume.

I used to perceive compressor pedals and whammy bars as being gimmicks of the trade and not really necessary.  My opinion has totally changed.  These devices are tools that can greatly extend the craft, however these tools can be misused or completely ignored if not fully understood.

Kemper and Napster: Not Very Different

The Kemper profiling amp is receiving a lot of attention these days.  This high tech guitar amplifier is the world's first amp that copies the audio signature of guitar amplifiers and stores them digitally.  Sadly, it does a pretty good job.  It accomplishes this by using a microphone and a variety of frequency sweeps to record all the subtle audio characteristics of an amplifier.  

Make no mistake, the Kemper amp is not a modeling amp.  Modeling amps use algorithms and electronic circuits to simulate the sound of other guitar amps.  The Kemper profiling amp takes modeling amps to the next level by copying the intellectual property (IP) of other guitar amplifiers and storing it as a digital file.

It gets worse.  The IP of other guitar amplifiers are stored as a digital files in the Kemper amp which can easily be shared with other people using the Kemper amp.  This means you don't need to spend 4K on a high end amplifier.  All you need to do is buy the Kemper profiling amp and find the digital copy of your favorite amp on Kemper's website or somewhere else on the Internet.  The Kemper profiling amp can store thousands of dollars worth of guitar amplifiers and takes up as much space as a large toaster.

The folks in the UK have a law that says if you buy anything on the Internet, you can return it within 30 days for a full refund, no questions asked.  I know for a fact that guitar amp manufacturers are seeing an increased trend in returned stock for no apparent reason.  Is Kemper responsible for this?

How is this different than Napster?  We live in a strange guilt free economy where people, corporations, and even politicians think it's acceptable to steal things related to music.  If musician's don't make money, the quality of music will be greatly reduced.  If guitar amp manufacturers don't make money, we will see fewer guitar amps.

It's hard for me to accept this.  Technology and music are my main interests, but overall it seems like technology is hurting the music industry.   The Internet has solved the distribution problem that the music industry had before the 90s, but things like auto-tune, auto-groove, and Kemper profiling amps are technology daggers that contribute to the slow and steady death of new quality music.  Have you heard any new music that you liked recently?

Eye Candy and Ear Candy

Here's a shot of my current pedalboard.  It changes pretty frequently, but the Suhr Koko boost has stayed on my board since the first day I got it.  My latest pedal is the purple one called the Night Wire made by Earthquaker Devices.  This pedal is hard to describe, but its essentially a dynamic tremolo pedal and a dynamic envelope filter pedal in one box.  The dynamic range of the tremolo and/or the envelope filter can be turned off.