For those of you who’ve followed TGM for awhile, you’ve no doubt seen more than your fair share of pedalboard posts from yours truly. I can’t deny it, I LOVE pedalboards and find that I’m constantly rebuilding and swapping in (and out) pedals in search of that elusive “perfect tone.”
Now that I’m an old(er) guy I’m pretty sure that I’m off the road for good, so last year I decided to downsize from the gigantic touring board to something a lot more manageable. Now that I have to cart this thing around myself in the back of my wagon, the old board just didn’t make sense. I’ve definitely had to give up a few pedals that I liked, most notably the EHX Micro POG. But in the grand scheme of things, I have everything I could ever need and then some. So I thought it might be interesting to take a look at how the pedalboard has evolved over the last year. I’m still playing a mix of traditional and modern country up here in the Northwest and that definitely influences what you’ll find on my board.
You’ll see three pedals in every picture and they’re the ones I can’t live without. They are the Sonic Research Turbo Tuner, the Xotic EP Booster, and the Wampler Ego Compressor. The EP and Ego are on all the time. Give me those three pedals plus virtually any good overdrive pedal and I could easily cover any show. Hmmm, that sounds like the makings of a new, even smaller board…..
So without further ado:
The Alairex Halo pedal is like a two-channel amp-in-a-box and is my go-to OD for mild overdrive and hi-gain lead tones. Much like the Ethos overdrive, this pedal turns any clean amp into a three channel monster. Hand built by Alex Aguilar formerly of Aguilar bass amps, these things are expensive and totally worth it. Everyone I know who’s tried one has bought one (including Ray). They really are that good. Mine is currently back with Alex for repairs as one of the pots went bad, but it will be back on the board as soon as it’s fixed.
The Nobel OD-1 was on the board for about a minute. I know it was all the rave in Nashville for a long time, but I couldn’t find a single useful tone in the thing. Now to be fair, one of my favorite guitar players, Guthrie Trapp, uses two of them and has killer tone, so I’ll chalk this one up to user error on my part. Wouldn’t be the first time…..
My favorite overdrive currently is the Mojo Hand Rook. This is maybe the most versatile overdrive I’ve ever used. It has three different base settings that range from clean boost to overdrive to distortion, and I have yet to find a bad sound anywhere in there. I actually considered running two of them on different settings, it’s that good. While this one is a little harder to find, it’s definitely worth the effort in my opinion.
A pedal that’s in high demand right now is the Electro Harmonix Soul Food boost. Said to be based on the infamous Klon Centaur, this pedal is great at that edge-of-breakup sound. I use it mainly as a solo boost with just a touch of drive and it works great. Does it sound like a Klon? Eh, maybe. I’ve used three different original Klons and they all sounded slightly different to me, so this is just another variation on that theme in my opinion. At $62 however it’s a steal and I would suggest picking one up immediately if you happen to find one.
My good friends at Mesa were nice enough to send me two of their new pedals, the Tone Burst which is their clean boost pedal, and the Flux Drive which falls in the middle of their three overdrive pedals. If you’re looking for a clean boost that doesn’t color your sound even with the Gain turned up, the Tone Burst is the pedal for you. I use it as a solo boost and it’s great because you get exactly what you put into it, only louder. I’ve been switching back and forth between the Soul Food and the Tone Burst for solos, but I’m liking the warmer solo tone of the Tone Burst better currently. I was super excited to try the Flux Drive as I recently saw the Keith Urban Rig Rundown that Premier Guitar did (check it out here), and his tech said that he was using it for 80% of his solos. Being a huge fan of Keith’s tone (and playing) I couldn’t wait to try it. It’s supposed to be similar to the Xotic BB Preamp gain-wise, though I think there’s a bit more gain on tap in the Flux Drive. I’m still tweaking it to find the perfect setting for my ear and actually have the BB back on the board currently for comparison purposes.
So that’s basically it at this point. Hopefully I haven’t bored you all to death. I have an old Ibanez chorus on there as well as a great Vox delay, but I really don’t use them all that much. And for those of you who were wondering what the ancient DOD pedal was doing on there, that’s just used to switch on the boost on my amp.
I love talking pedalboards so comments are always welcomed!