Monday, April 16, 2012

Update III: Broken Sigma Guitar

Sadly, our friend the Sigma guitar is gone. This can only mean one of three things: 1) Someone thought it was worth fixing, and took it home to give it the proper care and love it deserved. 2) Someone was making a campfire, and looking for free wood to help it burn. or 3) Someone finally realized it was garbage, and made the necessary steps to ensure that it would end up where it belonged - in the dump.

Whatever happened, it is a sad day for bloggers everywhere (especially me), since I have that much less to write about. Since being in Korea, my guitar and pedal acquisitions have tapered off, and I am forced to relive old glory or go out and buy things at full price just to add some content to my blog. This is sad. If you have any ideas for things I could write about, please comment, or email me at All the best!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner

This is the Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner Pedal.

Just to be clear, I'm old school. A big proponent of analog equipment, I never thought I would be converted to using a digital tuner. I've been using a Boss TU-6 Stage Tuner (analog) for the last eight years - something about the little needle makes it seem like it has to be more accurate than any digital tuner could ever be. How wrong was I!

A few years ago, I had a Matrix 3000 digital tuner pedal, and it gave me nothing but grief, until I sold it for $60, which was actually a $20 profit for me. Ever since, I've been told repeatedly that the TU-2 is the pedal that would change my mind. Now that I have one, I thoroughly regret switching every string manually like a chump on my TU-6 for so many years.

This is a fantastic pedal! I can't stress that enough. To quote Ferris Bueller, "if you have the means, I highly suggest picking one up". The Boss TU-2 definitely joins the Ibanez Tube Screamer on my must-have list.

Price Range:

-Sturdy Boss construction
-bright, easy to read LEDs
-Bypass output
-DC power output (can power another pedal)


Rating: 10/10

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mini Amplifier Showdown!

This is a comparison/review of the Fender Mini Deluxe and the Epiphone EP-1.

Both these amps are rated at 1 watt of power. This means that they are appropriate for practice, but not for performance. As such, I will be reviewing them as practice amps - not judging them as compared to "real" amplifiers. That said, there are many plug-in style practice amps that do not come close to the quality and sound of these little beasts.

As you may know, I am currently living in Seoul, South Korea, and I brought these babies along with me from Canada so I wouldn't have to play acoustic guitar for a whole year - what a great decision!

First, the similarities: Both amps are 1 watt, solid state, single speaker amps. They are both quite portable, and feature a single input and a headphone jack. Both can be powered by either a 9v battery or a 9vDC adapter (a standard Boss pedal adapter does the trick). However, this is where the similarities end. Despite being designed for the very same purpose, these little guys are actually quite different in their features, their construction, and their sound.

First up, the Fender MD-20 Mini Deluxe. One of the neatest things about this portable tone machine is its appearance. It is essentially a miniaturized Deluxe Reverb (though obviously without the reverb). The casing is made from plastic, but the chassis is metal, and there is even a little handle on top!

The controls on this amp are pretty simple: Volume, Tone, and Drive, and all of them go up to 12! The clean sound is decent, but it is a little tinny, and if your guitar has bad pickups, the tone is almost intolerable. Conversely, if you have good pickups, especially humbuckers, the sound is totally tolerable. Where the Mini Deluxe really shines, though, is with the drive cranked all the way up, and the tone around 3 or 4.

Another cool thing you can do with this amp is use it as an overdrive pedal. Just plug your guitar into the amp, and run a patch cord out from the headphone jack into your amp (I actually saw Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead do this at a show back in 2007). Probably the best thing about this amp is its portability; it is pretty small (about 4"x6"x2.5") and weighs less than a pound.

Next up, we have the Epiphone EP-1, a solid, quality practice amp. It is about twice the size of the Fender Mini Deluxe, and much more ruggedly built. With its tweed-covered wood enclosure, and a larger 3" speaker, this amp has better acoustic qualities than its Fender counterpart. It is also much louder; again, most likely due to its larger size.

The controls are slightly different; there is a Volume and a Tone knob, and a 3-way switch to select between Off, On, and Drive (there are separate clean and overdriven channels) The clean sound is far superior to the Fender, but the drive channel leaves much to be desired. It is not very saturated distortion, and tends to sound a little like a chainsaw. However, if you put the amp on the drive channel and turn the drive down really low, it does fill out the sound quite a bit. The EP-1 is also more forgiving to low-quality pickups, and takes pedals much better than the Mini Deluxe.

The Verdict: Both amps are pretty nice, but which one is better really depends on what you want to use it for.

Fender Mini Deluxe
                                                  Epiphone EP-1

-Great lead tone                                                       -Great clean tone
-Super portable                                                        -Very solid construction

-Tinny clean sound                                                   -Bad drive tone
-Plastic parts (jacks, casing)                                   -No separate drive knob

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My First Homemade Pedal: Loop Bypass Box

This is my first attempt at making a pedal of my own. I decided to go really simple, and make a loop bypass box. This is essentially a pedal that makes your whole effects rack true bypass (if you step on it, your signal doesn't go through your effects, it goes straight to the amplifier).

I started with a simple wooden keepsake box I bought for $0.99 at the local thrift store.

Next, I removed the lid and hinges from the box, and saved the lid to close the bottom of the pedal once I was done building the insides. Nothing too complicated yet.

(Missing a few pictures here - I got too excited about the build and forgot to photograph the in-between stages)

 The only parts I used for this project were four (4) 1/4" input jacks, and an SPDT switch (Single Pole, Double Throw). Before installing them, I used copper shielding tape to insulate the insides of my enclosure. Using a metal enclosure would make this step unnecessary.

I used some orange spraypaint to cover the enclosure, and made paper stencils for the symbols on top. If you want to go low-fi, a Sharpie would work equally well, I think.

The finished product: a fully functional, and actually pretty useful pedal (and it's my favorite color!)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Gratuitous Thank-you Post!

 Thanks to my new and loyal readers, I have officially reached 2000 views! In honor of this momentous occasion, I give you this: a nice picture of a sweet Les Paul/SG custom. It's not mine (yet), but it looks like a prize worthy of such an achievement. Now I just have to find one for sale in Seoul, and I can treat myself...

Stay tuned for more updates, pedal reviews, and random blathering about guitar-related issues. I promise someday this will be your favourite blog, unless of course you're not into guitars, in which case you probably already think it's shite. Rock on!

Update II: Broken Sigma Guitar

Someone appears to have stomped the shit out of our friend the Sigma guitar. The whole left side of the guitar is crushed now, and it's starting to look more and more like trash. However, in the meantime, it has attained a certain celebrity status, with many neighbourhood passers-by stopping for a glance, and many internet users like yourself coming to my blog to check its progress. Sadly, it has also become a receptacle for random trash, the latest being a juice box. 

Interestingly, the several bouts of pouring rain we have been experiencing lately seem to have had little to no effect on the wood, proving once again that Korean made Sigma guitars are not only beautiful, but tough as well. I am a little sad that someone chose to take out their aggression on (what's left of) this beautiful instrument, but on the other hand, I wouldn't have anything to write about otherwise. Stay tuned for more updates and random stuff from Korea!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Fender Van

This is one of the best things that I have seen since coming to Korea. Not only can you tell that this person is awesome just from looking at their van, you can be sure that it's on its way somewhere cool. Follow the Fender-mobile to the rock!