Tubes

I purchased my Mesa Boogie Lone Star Special 1×12 combo amp back in 2005. Wonderful sounding tube amp. A few weeks ago, one or more of the tubes became microphonic. I was able to trace the noise back to one set of power tubes — they operate in pairs — although it looks like I need to retube the whole amp. It has been four years after all.

Although I do pay some attention to the tone wars on tubes, I’m not sure that I have the time or money to audition dozens of them. I ordered a full set of tubes from thetubestore.com, a Canadian source for such products. I purchased 4 JJ EL84s, 5 JAN-Philips 12AX7s and 1 Sovtek 5Y3GT.

I still used the amp over the past two week-ends and it held up fairly well although I did have to put it to standby when I was not playing.

Some players believe that retubing opens up the sound of an amp. That even after six months or so, the tubes can become “tired” with frequent play and the sound does not bloom as it should.

Not sure I believe that but I do know that when tubes start to go microphonic, it is time to replace them. Funny, the tubes on my 1984 Fender Super Champ were replaced only once after 20 years. I replaced the tubes with some highly recommended NOS tubes. I did not notice a major change in sound. Did the amp sound different or better than before? I guess spending a couple of hundred dollars on tubes might influence the answer to that question.

Jammin’ with the Boys

Rockin’ Rick and the Holy Cows. Really fun to have a new member join us on the drums.


Trailer Trash Pedal Board

I wired up the pedal board last night and I am really pleased with the result. First up is a shot of the old pedal board:

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And here are some shots of the finished pedal board. Much cleaner and much easier to use.

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Cosmo Music

Headed into Toronto this evening as I have a series of meetings here tomorrow. After I settled into the hotel, I decided to drop by the new Cosmo Music Superstore in Richmond Hill. I was looking for some George L’s as my Trailer Trash Pedal Board came in yesterday. And I will be rewiring the pedal board over the week-end.

What a store. One of the staff was good enough to walk me through some of the special features of this location. Aside from tempting me with a new Suhr or Tom Anderson, he took me into a special room that models different halls. If you want to hear what your instrument sounds like in a cathedral, this room will model the acoustic space in a pretty compelling way.

I have traveled widely across Canada and the United States and I have been in a number of guitar superstores. Cosmo is certainly one of the best I have seen. Most impressive.

And maybe I might be swayed to a particular model of Suhr. Andrew said he would cut me a great deal on this guitar.

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Trailer Trash

I have been running a relatively small pedal board for my live guitar rig. During the past few months, I have been running into a few issues with it during my live gigs. Not enough space for all the pedals I want to carry and redundant power and signal loops. Although the cabling is relatively neat on the board, it is still exposed and subject to some wear and tear as much of it gets externally routed and pulled during performance play. I have a line in from the guitar, a line out for the amp channel switch, a line out for the amp input, and a send and return loop for the delays. And an AC input for the VooDoo Labs Pedal Power.

Here is an older photo of the current board. Since this picture was taken, I added a wah pedal, and an Analog Man Orange Squeezer. Needless to say, the board is a bit cramped with too many exposed cables.

pedalboard

I decided to move ahead with a Trailer Trash Pedal Board. The 28 by 16 Pro Series. Better design and a lot more flexibility to wire the board without exposing the power supply, the signal lines as well as the AC lines. I ordered the board from James. Really nice man and very prompt in answering my questions.

My layout will be a bit different and I will post some photos once I get it all set up. But for those guitar geeks who drop by the blog from time to time — and you know who you are — here is an example of the new Trailer Trash Pedal Board. Very clear from the photo that the board can basically dress all cables underneath with secure connectors on the sidewalls:

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56 Strat NOS

I have my eye on a Fender Custom Shop 56 Strat NOS. I enjoy my American Deluxe Fat Strat but I would like to get back into a more traditional Strat and I cannot afford to get a vintage model. Even this one is a bit expensive for me.

It seems as though money is no object for some players. I see some vintage Strats going for over $45,000 USD. When the Fender Custom Shop put the Eric Clapton Blackie Strat up for sale — a limited edition run of 185 guitars — they sold them all in seven hours. At $24,000 each. Over $4 million dollars in sales.

Given the performance of the market, I wonder if it makes sense to switch from stocks to Strats.

Check the Obvious

Took one of my guitar rigs out to rehearsal on Saturday evening. This rig consists of a really great sounding amp, the Mega Boogie Lone Star Special, and a pedalboard.

The pedalboard has a fairly sophisticated signal path. From the guitar the signal goes through an Ernie Ball volume pedal which has two flows: one to a Boss tuner and the other to a Dunlop wah pedal. From the wah pedal, the signal goes through an Analog Man orange compressor, an Analog Man modified Ibanez TS-9 overdrive pedal and out to the guitar input of the Lone Star.

Within the Lone Star is an effects loop. The signal from the pedalboard goes out through the effects send back in to the pedalboard where it is processed by a Line 6 DL-4 delay modeler and a VooDoo Labs chorus pedal and then back into the effects return.

I have another footswitch on the pedalboard to select one of two amp channels as well as a Solo switch to add some boost when I solo.

As usual, the rig worked flawlessly on Saturday evening. But rehearsal on Sunday morning was different. I turn everything on and no sound.

Bad tube? I check the amp and all of the tubes are lit. I turn the unit off and, with my gloves on, I check the seating of the tubes. Everything seems fine.

Maybe it is something in the pedalboard. I unplug my guitar from the pedalboard and I go direct into the amp.

No difference.

I switch cables on the guitar.

No difference.

I am now starting to panic. I call my wife and ask her to bring my backup amp — a modified Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue with NOS tubes and a Weber speaker.

And then I noticed something.

The cable from the VooDoo Labs chorus pedal was not fully plugged in. I use George L cables for the rig and I have solderless connectors. Most of them, including the plugs in the chorus pedal, are right-angle plugs. This plug had been pulled out by someone. Not by me as the position of the cable is deep in the centre of the board.

Not sure why the cable had been pulled. Fortunately pushing it back in resolved the problem and everything worked as normal.

I always have to remind myself to check the obvious when things go wrong. In this situation, more often than not, a loss of signal is a cable issue not a tube issue. I have this wonderful tendency to make simple problems complicated.

Guitar Hero

Activision Blizzard is reporting that sales of tracks on the Guitar Hero platform have tripled on average.

Some examples from last year:

  • Guns N’ Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle” (1987), Geffen, released on “Guitar Hero III” Oct. 27, 2007: 38,000 downloads, up 153 percent.
  • Pat Benatar, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (1980), Chrysalis, released on “Guitar Hero III,” Oct. 27, 2007: 9,800 downloads, up 180 percent.
  • Aerosmith, “Dream On” (1973), Columbia, released on “Guitar Hero III,” Oct. 27, 2007: 10,000 downloads, up 15 percent.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Suck My Kiss” (1992), Warner Bros., released on “Guitar Hero III,” Oct. 27, 2007: 3,900 downloads, up 200 percent.
  • Nirvana, “In Bloom” (1992), DGC, released on “Rock Band,” Nov. 20, 2007: 9,000 downloads, up 543 percent.
  • KISS, “Detroit Rock City” (1976), Casablanca, released on “Rock Band,” Nov. 20, 2007: 3,400 downloads, up 89 percent.
  • David Bowie, “Suffragette City” (1976), RCA, released on “Rock Band,” Nov. 20, 2007: 1,700 downloads, up 55 percent.
  • R.E.M., “Orange Crush” (1988), Warner Bros., released on “Rock Band,” Nov. 20, 2007: 3,200 downloads, up 256 percent.
  • Smashing Pumpkins, “Cherub Rock” (1993), Virgin, released on “Rock Band” on Nov. 20, 2007: 6,600 downloads, up 843 percent.

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