Sometimes a mixed bag is a bad thing. Yet as the last few weeks have shown, on TPS a “pick n’ mix” of pedals is an excellent way to sample some of the latest gear from big name to boutique builders alike. This week, Dan & Mick’s board included something for everyone—fuzz, delay, boost, etc. Yet among these, three made an exceptional contribution for their sophistication and simplicity.
The Modulation Library of the Boss MD-500
Boss’ release of the 500 series earlier this year seems to have set their sights on some industry mainstays and favorites for reverb, delay, and modulation, not least those by Strymon. (In fact, Dan & Mick promised a cage match between items in the Boss 500 lineup and their Strymon nemeses in a future episode…stay tuned!) For now, a quick play through allowed for some profound first impressions on where the Boss MD-500 modulation machine excelled.
So what’s under the hood of the MD-500? A lot. We’re talking four choruses, two flangers, three phasers, two vibes, two vibratos, four tremolos, the famed Boss dimension effects, a ring modulator, a rotary speaker emulator, a filter auto wah, and a slicer. (Man, my fingers are sore from just typing all that!). Each of these also come with endless customizable parameters to create entirely new sounds through deep design.
Beyond this panoply of sounds and presets, the design of the MD-500 includes some insane features. As Mick noted “Here’s the key bit, most multi-function modulation devices only let you have one sound. The MD-500 has managed to [make it possible] to have two on at once.” Added to this, when the tap tempo is engaged the pace set by your foot applies to both of the effects selected in the chain, which will keep your playing in time and congruent upon switching. The list of onboard assets that Boss thought of for the MD-500 extends well beyond this to include full MIDI functionality, a built-in effects loop, stereo in/out, and patches for two expression pedals.
Boutique Builds with a Little Hair on Them
The TPS board this week featured some overdrive, fuzz, and boost sounds from a few lesser known pedal makers. As seen a few times on TPS recently, the all passive pedals by Bigfoot Engineering offer a powerful sound without any power required at all. The King Fuzz XL did not disappoint on this front. As Mick highlighted, “It’s going to hit your amp really hard!” With tandem voiced fuzzes inspired by vintage overdrive sounds (think Angus Young) and more modern fuzz (think Dan Auerbach), the King Fuzz XL proved that sometimes the most well-crafted pedals are ones that step out of the way. After experimenting with a few different guitars, Dan noted there was never a need to recalibrate the EQ. In all cases he noted, “What I heard, was the guitar.”
Another pedal that proved less is more was the Grindstone Audio Reveal Boost. Here the frontend of the pedal stares out like a cyclops with a single large knob dialed in to taste. As Dan described, “It adds a little bit of chewiness to the top end but it’s really glassy and just fabulous.” While boost pedals have a clear benefit for gain sounds, as Mick reviewed “the use of a really low gain overdrive to give you a bit of sparkle on a clean sound when the guitar’s turned down” can really add to your tonal foundation. For the Grindstone Reveal, he commented that, “I quite like that for that function.”
The Pedal You Need that Makes No Sound At All
Few items on your board are sought after for their lack of sound and tone. Yet one item fits that bill: your tuner. There are a number of “go-to” tuners that have risen to the front of the pack. Arguably, two line-ups dominate this corner of the pedal universe: the classic Boss TU-3 and its new half-size sibling, the Boss TU-3s and the full range of TC Electronic Polytune options (Polytune clip on, Polytune 2, Polytune 3 with built-in BonaFide boost).
At summer NAMM 2017, however, D’Addario proved they were not only about making excellent strings, they also want to help you keep them in tune. Meet the D’Addario/Planet Waves Chromatic Tuner. So what does this new pedal have going for it? After doing an outdoor gig in full sunshine, Mick commented that, despite all the potential solar distraction and need to tune in a rush, “I could still see it, so there you go…it’s accurate, quick, and bright as hell.”
Whether you need a simple tune job or a sophisticated pedal that opens up the modulation cosmos, we’ve got you covered over at Riff City. Be sure to stop in and check us out for new and used gear!
Guitars: Dan: 1963 Closet Classic Fender Telecaster (ca. 2000); 1958 Gibson Custom Les Paul Standard (ca. 2002); Duesenberg Bonneville. Mick: 1962 American Vintage Fender Stratocaster (ca. 2000); Paul Reed Smith DGT.Boss MD-500; Free The Tone Flight Time FT-2Y; D’Addario Chromatic Pedal Tuner.