Monday, January 23, 2012

Briefcase Pedal Board

A couple years back, I saw a blog about someone making a pedal board out of an old briefcase, and I decided to make one for myself. I scored the case from the local thrift store for $3.99, and went to work! This is what I came up with. The board has a two-level bottom made from 3/8" plywood, with a slightly lower area on the right to accommodate a wah-wah pedal. All of the wiring connecting the pedals runs neatly underneath the bottom layer, and the entire rig runs on a one-spot power adapter.

Although these are no longer all the same pedals I have on the board, they are, from left to right:
(top row) MXR Smart Gate, MXR Micro Amp, MXR Phase 90
(bottom row) Ibanez DL10 Digital Delay, Ibanez CS9 Stereo Chorus, Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
(far right) Modified Jim Dunlop GCB95 Crybaby Wah

I have since painted the bottom black to give the whole thing a cleaner look; I will post pics as soon as I have them. Thanks for looking, and feel free to contact me for any advice if you're trying to make one for yourself!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My New Guitar: Peavey HP Special CT

This is my latest guitar, a Peavey HP Special CT. This is one of the finest guitars I've ever played. Along with my Levinson Blade, this guitar is proof that you don't need a Fender, a Gibson, or a PRS to get the highest possible quality in an instrument. This particular guitar is the brainchild of Hartley Peavey, the owner and sole proprietor of the Peavey Musical Instrument Company, and the only guitar to bear his name and signature.

The similarity to the EVH Peavey Wolfgang is no coincidence: while Eddie van Halen had an endorsement deal with Peavey - this guitar could be considered the evolution of the Wolfgang. The body shape is slightly different, but the same woods are used (birdseye maple for the neck, and an alder body with a thick flamed maple cap). The bridge is a solid, well-built Floyd Rose style tremolo that can be set (by means of a movable brass block inside the spring cavity) to down-only or floating.

Although the guitar itself is pretty impressive in many respects, by far the best feature of this axe is the pickups, which are hand-wound humbuckers designed by Hartley Peavey himself. They are splittable as well, by means of push-pull volume and tone pots, although in my opinion they sound much better in humbucker mode. These pickups are extremely high output, and have a clarity I've never heard anywhere else. Unfortunately, they are ONLY available in this guitar (I'd love to take them out and put them in one of my other guitars, but then I'd have no pickups in this one!).

The original retail price for these guitars was almost $3000, which is, I'll admit, a bit steep, especially for a guitar made by a company without a reputation for world-class instruments. And, although this is an exception, the price was too much for most, and very few of these made it to market. Nowadays, you can buy them used for around half that ($1500) on Ebay, in a shop that sells used guitars, or from someone who for whatever reason, actually bought one brand new. For this money, I'd say the HP Special is a great deal and can truly compete with anything in that price range.

My only recommendation for someone looking into purchasing one of these is to try and find one of the later ones that were made without a tremolo system, unless you a) REALLY love whammy bars, and can't live without one, or b) are a professional guitar tech with a ton of experience setting up guitars with Floyd Rose style tremolos. Otherwise, you will have trouble getting the bridge to 'float' properly while still achieving perfect tuning. If you set the guitar to down-only mode, there is an unpleasant 'clunk' noise when the bridge hits the brass stopper, and because of the hotness of the pickups, this can come through your amp when you don't want it to.

Overall, this is a great axe, and a very beautiful one at that. As I said to my wife earlier today, "this guitar doesn't make me miss my other guitars," and that's really saying something!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Score: 1983 Boss DS-1 Distortion

It sounds as dirty as it looks - and as beautiful! I've been told for years that there is no contest between the original Boss DS-1 Distortion pedals made in Japan before 1988 and the ones made in Taiwan thereafter. Now I know for sure. I was fortunate enough to pick this one up at a pawn shop for $35, a very reasonable price, considering they run upwards of $180 on Ebay on a regular basis. Like most pedals from this era, it is not in the best shape cosmetically (dirty, paint-chipped, and a nice hole drilled through the back of the case), but it is fully functional, and sounds like a million bucks.

Made in 1983, this is not the first issue of the DS-1, which had silver screws, a silver thumb-screw to open the battery compartment, and a longer dash in between the 'S' and the '1', putting the 'D' underneath the 't' in Distortion, instead of the 'i'. This one has black screws, a black label, and a black thumb-screw. However, this version of the pedal uses the same Toshiba TA7136AP op-amp as the earlier versions, and, besides the appearance, is identical to the silver screw version.

So far, I've only had a chance to try this baby on a little 1-watt Fender Mini Deluxe, but I figure if it sounds good running through that (and it does, believe me!), it should sound awesome when I plug it into a real amplifier. I can't wait!