3x3x3 Perfect Guitar Rig

I’ve seen a couple of recent blog posts and forum threads talking about top lists of classic guitars, amps and pedals, and at the same time, in the same places, people talking about uncluttering their rigs. That set me thinking about what my ideal rig would be – restricting myself to three amps, three guitars and three pedals. I’m also going to restrict myself to freely available gear; no customs, boutique or limited numbers stuff. So here are mine:

Guitars

Gretsch G6120DSV
dsv12

Fender Telecaster Standard
tele

Gibson Les Paul Goldtop 56 Reissue
goldtop

Amps

Fender Priceton Reverb Recording
princeton

Roland Jazz Chorus JC-120
jc120

Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker
bluesbreaker

Pedals

Dunlop Crybaby Wah
crybaby

Fulltone OCD Overdrive
ocd

Strymon El Capistan Delay
elcapistan

Now I want to hear about your perfect 3x3x3 rig. Go!

Going analogue

Over the past few months I’ve been pulling together a bunch of interesting and quirky pedals to put together a pedal board. When I was playing live more then my pursuit was for simplicity and reliability which lead me to the Line 6 Pod XT Live. Now most of my playing is back at home I’ve felt the need to put a foot back into the analogue world.

Here’s what I’ve got so far.

Left-to-right and top-to-bottom, they are;

  • Boss RV5 Digital Reverb – I traded this for a TruArc stainless steel bridge with one of the guys from the Gretsch Discussion Pages.
  • Digitec DigiDelay – Bought from another member of the Gretsch Discussion Pages.
  • Dod Flanger 575B – Kindly donated by fellow Six String Blissner, Doug Darrell. This is a really interesting pedal. It is an absolute beast and takes either two 9v batteries or a 20v DC power supply. I’m currently trying to track down a suitable power supply but if I can’t find one I’ll be building something.
  • Behringer UT100 Tremolo – A budget buy from eBay. I stumbled across it going for pennies within a couple of minutes of ending. One of my more successful snipes. Not a particularly robust enclosure but sounds brilliant.
  • Alfalfasprout69 Custom Shop Blue Alpaca (Way Huge Red Llama clone) – The one that started me off on this pedal board route. Custom made for me by Alfie, of Six String Bliss fame. Quite simply the mutts nuts of overdrive. This does absolutely everything I want.
  • FirstAct 222 Distortion – When Clint sent me the Crybaby this was tucked in the bottom of the box. A wonderful surprise. I’d put it in the same class as the Behringer Tremolo – not classy, not desirable, plastic box, sounds as good as any boutique pedal I’ve tried.
  • Nocturne Dyno Brain – I got this one from Pappy of FifthFret.org. A gem of a pedal. It replicates the preamp section of a Roland Space Echo. It has currently got a noise problem (that I suspect is a grounding issue) which I need to fix.
  • Alfalfasprout69 Custom Shop Tonekicker – This is a small 18db preamp that is designed to fit into a guitar, made by Alfie, but which I have housed in a small enclosure.
  • Dunlop Crybaby Wah – A donation from Clint Searcy of Searcy String Works fame. It has seen better days but within second of switching this one on it is obvious why it is a classic. It is easy to forget, with so many mods and clones available, the reason this pedal is so much modded and cloned is that the original is an absolute gem.

New overdrive pedal arrives. Behold the Blue Alpaca!

I posted recently about the overdrive pedal that my good friend, Alfie, had made for me. Today it arrived. In the flesh this thing is a real beauty; put together by a craftsman.

I hadn’t expected the personalised baseplate that Alfie added.

Nor was I prepared for the very clean way he added the LEDs to the case. When they’re off you can’t see the LED at all. Switch it on and they glow brightly through the bronze finish.

Of course, none of this beauty matters if it sounds crap, but that is certainly not the case. I’ve only played with it for an hour so far, but it is as close to my perfect overdrive as anything I’ve ever plugged into. It covers the bases from mild and creamy through to biting almost fuzz-like. The tone and hump controls are very subtle. The tone on most pedals leaves you with a 20-30% range of the adjustment between the extremes of what is usable. The tone of the Blue Alpaca is useable right through the range. As will be expected, I’ll be putting my recording where my mouth is, but I’m going to spend a day or two getting to know my new baby first. Patience is a virtue, right?

New overdrive pedal is on its way

A few weeks ago I asked my good friend, Alfie, if he would consider building me an overdrive pedal. I was delighted when he said “yes”. Alfie is the man behind Sydney boutique pedal maker Alfalfasprout69 Custom Shop. Perhaps his best known pedal is a variation on the Way Huge Red Llama, that he calls the Blue Alpaca. Here is a demo of the original.

I’ve asked for a slight variation on the standard build – there is usually an internal trim pot that allows you to tune the EQ to suit a particular guitar. Because I’m hoping to use this with many different types of guitars and basses I asked if this could be moved to the top panel to give an additional level of control. Alfie calls it the “hump” control.

Today I received an email from Alfie telling me that it had just gone into the post, along with a couple of pictures of the pedal. I don’t know about you, but it is a long time since I’ve seen something quite as luscious as that.

Of course, as soon as it arrives I’ll report back with more pictures and sound clips.

A DIY valve overdrive pedal – Goldie

In an amongst the guitar building I decided to break out the soldering iron to build an overdrive pedal – as light relief. I had stumbled across the “Valvecaster” schematic and layout at Beavis Audio.

This is a very simple circuit that uses a 12AU7 valve, running at a low voltage. Because it is running at such low voltage it is very easy to overdrive.

The schematic specifies an operating voltage of 9v but I decided to bump it up to 12v to give a fraction more headroom. I chose one from the tangle of old wall-warts I have tucked away in a drawer. It could use a battery but I suspect that the current draw for heating the valve would suck a PP9 dry in a matter of minutes.

If you search for “valvecaster” at Youtube, you’ll find plenty of examples of the pedal in action. One of the common comments is that this is a naturally “dark” sounding pedal. This was not exactly what I was after and so I was going to experiment with different types of tone stacks. As laid out in the schematic it includes a simple treble cut tone control. Even turned up full this would only make the pedal darker, allowing treble frequencies to escape to earth. I decided, initially, to build it with no EQ, and then add it later. One of the results of this was that it is not a dark pedal at all. It is wonderfully balanced and punchy just as it is, and it’ll not be getting any additional EQ added. To remove the tone control I just eliminated the 10nF capacitor (C2) and the A100k potentiometer (VR2).

I reused an old enclosure I had laying around, which I shot with a coat of black nitro-cellulose and a very light top coat of gold (both left over from my Shaftesbury restoration). The gold coat is thin enough to allow just a hint of the black to show through.

The chemistry geeks amongst you may, by now, have worked out where the inspiration for the name and colour came from.

I have yet to print up and apply the decals for the pedal but there’s the standard 1/4″ input and output jacks round the back. The top has the valve, a true-bypass footswitch and the power toggle switch. On the front, left to right, are the gain, a dummy pot (filling up a surplus hole in the old enclosure) and the output volume.

When I was buying the parts for this I also got hold of a 12AT7 valve. This works well too. It is more subtle and has less gain, but in some ways is all the better for it; smoother, warmer and just a bit less wild.

You can listen to a quick demo of Goldie with the 12AU7, that I recorded for my friend Alfie Lanos, who was really helpful in helping me plan this one out.

It was recorded on my mobile phone so the sound quality is not the best, but gives you an idea of what the pedal does.