Caspian’s Guide to Creating a Wall of Sound: Four Essential Pedalboard Tricks
Massachusetts post-rockers Caspian have been road-dogging in support of their new EP, Hymn for the Greatest Generation. They've also been compiling a few essential survival tips for the touring musician. In this latest installment, guitarist Philip Jamieson reveals the band's pedalboard secrets when it comes to creating a wall of sound.
For the first installment of this series, check out Erin Burke-Moran's column, "Tour Tips: Five Essential Ways to Sleep in the Van."
Each of us delivers four different pedal tricks consistent with our never-ending attempt to blanket you with an immersive wall of sound every night.
Have at them below!
Philip Jamieson: I’ve been messing around with the decay level on my Strymon BlueSky in conjunction with live loops I create on the fly with the Line 6 M9. I have the Strymon toward the end of my signal flow, which is essential here. Have the mix level of the Strymon at % and the decay level at 0%. Record a loop on the Line 6, maybe add a harmony or another texture, and once you have what you want looped up, slooowwwwly turn the decay knob up to % on the BlueSky. The once-dry loop you had will slowly ameliorate into a thick, cloudy haze. It’s like listening to your defined, clear melody evaporate into thin air and start floating away, morphing into a drone. Switch the BlueSky to the Cathedral setting for added effect, though it can get messy. I prefer the Plate setting. I use this at the beginning of the end on “Gone in Bloom and Bough” live.
Jonny Ashburn: Rolling back your tone knob on your neck pickup in combination with a fuzz pedal like the Big Muff or Daddy O makes for a killer and very different distortion sound. This trick definitely works best with dual humbuckers. You end up with a Robert Fripp kinda sound.
Erin Burke-Moran: One thing I love to mix up is delays. Using multiple delays can be a very interesting way to color your sound. A specific setting I enjoy consists of two delays and the added touch of a reverb pedal. Start with the first delay on a normal repeat setting with the feedback at about 12 o’clock or a little more to add some depth to what you are going to play. The second delay in your chain should be set to a reverse delay with the effect level all the way up. On most pedals, this should leave you with only the reverse delays coming through while the initial signal is cut. Douse this in some reverb and bring the treble knob on your guitar down almost all the way (I like to solo the neck pickup and use my volume knob to dial back a little bit of the punch). This gives you a sound that reminds me of a soft, delicate wind. It’s excellent for quiet ambient moments.
Jani Zubkovs: As a bass player, my board is very basic. A small detail I use to create a different sound involves my Caroline Cannonball Custom, which is the multi-colored pedal in the center of the board. It’s an amazing distortion pedal handmade in South Carolina, then hand painted by a local artist. Anyway, the right switch is for the distortion channel, but if you hold down the left switch while the pedal is activated, it enters into what they call “Havoc” mode. Basically, the pedal loops the signal through itself and creates all sorts of noise and sustain. I’ll activate this switch near the end of a song or when some sort of epic part is needed.
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Wall of Sound
Music production effect developed by Phil Spector
This article is about Phil Spector's music production formula. It is not to be confused with the generic term "wall of sound", used to describe high volume, saturation, or distortion in music. For more details on that topic, see Noise music or Noise in music. For other uses, see Wall of Sound (disambiguation).
The Wall of Sound (also called the Spector Sound) is a music production formula developed by American record producer Phil Spector at Gold Star Studios, in the s, with assistance from engineer Larry Levine and the conglomerate of session musicians later known as "the Wrecking Crew". The intention was to exploit the possibilities of studio recording to create an unusually dense orchestral aesthetic that came across well through radios and jukeboxes of the era. Spector explained in "I was looking for a sound, a sound so strong that if the material was not the greatest, the sound would carry the record. It was a case of augmenting, augmenting. It all fit together like a jigsaw."
A popular misconception holds that the Wall of Sound was created simply through a maximum of noise and distortion, but the method was actually more nuanced. To attain the Wall of Sound, Spector's arrangements called for large ensembles (including some instruments not generally used for ensemble playing, such as electric and acoustic guitars), with multiple instruments doubling or tripling many of the parts to create a fuller, richer tone. For example, Spector often duplicated a part played by an acoustic piano with an electric piano and a harpsichord. Mixed well enough, the three instruments would then be indistinguishable to the listener.
Among other features of the sound, Spector incorporated an array of orchestral instruments (strings, woodwind, brass and percussion) not previously associated with youth-oriented pop music. Reverb from an echo chamber was also highlighted for additional texture. He characterized his methods as "a Wagnerian approach to rock & roll: little symphonies for the kids". The combination of large ensembles with reverberation effects also increased the average audio power in a way that resembles compression. By , the use of compression had become common on the radio, marking the trend that led to the loudness war in the s.
The intricacies of the technique were unprecedented in the field of sound production for popular music. According to Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson, who used the formula extensively: "In the '40s and '50s, arrangements were considered 'OK here, listen to that French horn' or 'listen to this string section now.' It was all a definite sound. There weren't combinations of sound and, with the advent of Phil Spector, we find sound combinations, which—scientifically speaking—is a brilliant aspect of sound production."
We were working on the transparency of music; that was the Teddy Bears sound: you had a lot of air moving around, notes being played in the air but not directly into the mics. Then, when we sent it all into the chamber, this air effect is what was heard—all the notes jumbled and fuzzy. This is what we recorded—not the notes. The chamber.
During the late s, Spector worked with Brill Building songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller during a period when they sought a fuller sound by the use of excessive instrumentation, using up to five electric guitars and four percussionists. Later this evolved into Spector's Wall of Sound, which Leiber and Stoller considered to be very distinct from what they were doing, stating: "Phil was the first one to use multiple drum kits, three pianos and so on. We went for much more clarity in terms of instrumental colors, and he deliberately blended everything into a kind of mulch. He definitely had a different point of view."
Spector's first production was the self-penned song "Don't You Worry My Little Pet", performed with his group the Teddy Bears. The recording was achieved by taking a demo tape of the song and playing it back over the studio's speaker system to overdub another performance over it. The end product was a cacophony, with stacked harmony vocals that could not be heard clearly. Spector spent the next several years further developing this unorthodox method of recording.
In the s, Spector usually worked at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles because of its exceptional echo chambers. He also typically worked with such audio engineers as Larry Levine and the conglomerate of session musicians who later became known as The Wrecking Crew.
The sum of his efforts was named "Phil Spector's Wall of Sound" by Andrew Loog Oldham, who coined the term within advertisements for the Righteous Brothers single "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'".
The process was almost the same for most of Spector's recordings, with Spector starting by rehearsing the assembled musicians for several hours before recording. The backing track was performed live and recorded monaurally; a bass drum overdub on "Da Doo Ron Ron" was the exception to the rule.
Songwriter Jeff Barry, who worked extensively with Spector, described the Wall of Sound as "by and large a formula arrangement" with "four or five guitars two basses in fifths, with the same type of line strings six or seven horns adding the little punches [and] percussion instruments—the little bells, the shakers, the tambourines".
Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans' version of "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" formed the basis of Spector and Levine's future mixing practices, almost never straying from the formula it established. For the recording of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", engineer Larry Levine described the process thus: they started by recording four acoustic guitars, playing eight bars over and over again, changing the figure if necessary until Spector thought it ready. They then added the pianos, of which there were three, and if they didn't work together, Spector started again with the guitars. This is followed by three basses, the horns (two trumpets, two trombones, and three saxophones), then finally the drums. The vocals were then added with Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield singing into separate microphones and backing vocals supplied by the Blossoms and other singers.
Daniel Lanois recounted a situation during the recording of the track "Goodbye" from Emmylou Harris's Wrecking Ball: "We put a huge amount of compression on the piano and the mandoguitar, and it turned into this fantastic, chimey harmonic instrument. We almost got the old Spector '60s sound, not by layering, but by really compressing what was already there between the melodic events happening between these two instruments." Nonetheless, layering identical instrumental parts remained an integral component of many of Spector's productions, as session musician Barney Kessel recalled:
There was a lot of weight on each part The three pianos were different, one electric, one not, one harpsichord, and they would all play the same thing and it would all be swimming around like it was all down a well. Musically, it was terribly simple, but the way he recorded and miked it, they’d diffuse it so that you couldn't pick any one instrument out. Techniques like distortion and echo were not new, but Phil came along and took these to make sounds that had not been used in the past. I thought it was ingenious.
All early Wall of Sound recordings were made with a three-track Ampex tape recorder. Levine explained that during mixing, "I [would] record the same thing on two of the [Ampex machine's] three tracks just to reinforce the sound, and then I would erase one of those and replace it with the voice. The console had a very limited equalizer for each input That was basically it in terms of effects, aside from the two echo chambers that were also there, of course, directly behind the control room."
Microphones in the recording studio captured the musicians' performance, which was then transmitted to an echo chamber—a basement room fitted with speakers and microphones. The signal from the studio was played through the speakers and reverberated throughout the room before being picked up by the microphones. The echo-laden sound was then channeled back to the control room, where it was recorded on tape. The natural reverberation and echo from the hard walls of the echo chamber gave Spector's productions their distinctive quality and resulted in a rich, complex sound that, when played on AM radio, had a texture rarely heard in musical recordings. Jeff Barry said: "Phil used his own formula for echo, and some overtone arrangements with the strings."
Main article: Spill (audio)
During the mixing for "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah", Spector turned off the track designated for electric guitar (played on this occasion by Billy Strange). However, the sound of the guitar could still be heard spilling onto other microphones in the room, creating a ghostly ambiance that obscured the instrument. In reference to this nuance of the song's recording, music professor Albin Zak has written:
It was at this moment that the complex of relationships among all the layers and aspects of the sonic texture came together to bring the desired image into focus. As long as Strange's unmiked guitar plugs away as one of the layered timbral characters that make up the track's rhythmic groove, it is simply one strand among many in a texture whose timbres sound more like impressionistic allusions to instruments than representations. But the guitar has a latency about it, a potential. Because it has no microphone of its own, it effectively inhabits a different ambient space from the rest of the track. As it chugs along in its accompanying role, it forms a connection with a parallel sound world of which we are, for the moment, unaware. Indeed, we would never know of the secondary ambient layer were it not for the fact that this guitar is the one that takes the solo. As it steps out of the groove texture and asserts its individuality, a doorway opens to an entirely other place in the track. It becomes quite clear that this guitar inhabits a world all its own, which has been before us from the beginning yet has somehow gone unnoticed.
Levine disliked Spector's penchant for mic bleeding, accordingly: "I never wanted all the bleed between instruments – I had it, but I never wanted it – and since I had to live with it, that meant manipulating other things to lessen the effect; bringing the guitars up just a hair and the drums down just a hair so that it didn't sound like it was bleeding." In order to offset the mixing problems percussion leakage caused, he applied a minimal number of microphones to the drum kits, using Neumann U67s overhead and RCA 77s on the kick to establish a feeling of presence.
Main article: Monaural
According to Zak: "Aside from the issues of retail and radio exposure, mono recordings represented an aesthetic frame for musicians and producers, who had grown up with them." Despite the trend towards multi-channel recording, Spector was vehemently opposed to stereo releases, claiming that it took control of the record's sound away from the producer in favor of the listener, resulting in an infringement of the Wall of Sound's carefully balanced combination of sonic textures as they were meant to be heard. Brian Wilson agreed, stating: "I look at sound like a painting, you have a balance and the balance is conceived in your mind. You finish the sound, dub it down, and you’ve stamped out a picture of your balance with the mono dubdown. But in stereo, you leave that dubdown to the listener—to his speaker placement and speaker balance. It just doesn't seem complete to me."
It has been inaccurately suggested in critical shorthand that Spector's "wall of sound" filled every second with a maximum of noise. Biographer David Hinckley wrote that the Wall of Sound was flexible, more complex, and more subtle, elaborating:
Its components included an R&B-derived rhythm section, generous echo and prominent choruses blending percussion, strings, saxophones and human voices. But equally important were its open spaces, some achieved by physical breaks (the pauses between the thunder in "Be My Baby" or "Baby, I Love You") and some by simply letting the music breathe in the studio. He also knew when to clear a path, as he does for the sax interlude and [Darlene] Love's vocal in "(Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry".
The Wall of Sound has been contrasted with "the standard pop mix of foregrounded solo vocal and balanced, blended backing" as well as the airy mixes typical of reggae and funk. Jeff Barry said: "[Spector] buried the lead and he cannot stop himself from doing that if you listen to his records in sequence, the lead goes further and further in and to me what he is saying is, 'It is not the song just listen to those strings. I want more musicians, it's me.'" Musicologist Richard Middleton wrote: "This can be contrasted with the open spaces and more equal lines of typical funk and reggae textures [for example], which seem to invite [listeners] to insert [themselves] in those spaces and actively participate." Closer reflection reveals that the Wall of Sound was compatible with, even supportive of, vocal protagonism. Such virtuosity was ultimately serving of Spector's own agenda—The Righteous Brothers' vocal prowess provided him a "secure and prosperous headrest", such as in Bobby Hatfield's rendering of "Unchained Melody".
Wagnerian rock derives its characterization from a merge between Spector's Wall of Sound and the operas of Richard Wagner.
Legacy and popularity
See also: Phil Spector §Musicianship
The Wall of Sound forms the foundation of Phil Spector's recordings. Certain records are considered to have epitomized its use. The Ronettes' version of "Sleigh Ride" used the effect heavily. Another prominent example of the Wall of Sound was "Da Doo Ron Ron" by The Crystals. Spector himself is quoted as believing his production of Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High" to be the summit of his Wall of Sound productions, and this sentiment has been echoed by George Harrison, who called it "a perfect record from start to finish". Spector later co-produced Harrison's triple album All Things Must Pass.
Perhaps Phil Spector's most contentious use of his production techniques was on the Let It Be album. Spector was brought in to salvage the incomplete Let It Be, an album abandoned by The Beatles, performances from which had already appeared in several bootleg versions when the sessions were still referred to as Get Back. "The Long and Winding Road", "I Me Mine", and "Across the Universe" received the greatest amount of post-production work. The modified treatment (often described as a Wall of Sound, although neither Spector nor the Beatles used this phrase to refer to the production) and other overdubs proved controversial among fans and the Beatles. In , Let It Be Naked was released, an authorized version without Spector's additions.
See also: Musicianship of Brian Wilson
Outside of Spector's own songs, the most recognizable example of the "Wall of Sound" is heard on many classic hits recorded by The Beach Boys (e.g., "God Only Knows", "Wouldn't It Be Nice"—and especially, the psychedelic "pocket symphony" of "Good Vibrations"), for which Brian Wilson used a similar recording technique, especially during the Pet Sounds and Smile eras of the band. Wilson considers Pet Sounds to be a concept album centered around interpretations of Phil Spector's recording methods. Author Domenic Priore observed, "The Ronettes had sung a dynamic version of The Students' hit 'I'm So Young', and Wilson went right for it, but took the Wall of Sound in a different direction. Where Phil would go for total effect by bringing the music to the edge of cacophony – and therefore rocking to the tenth power – Brian seemed to prefer audio clarity. His production method was to spread out the sound and arrangement, giving the music a more lush, comfortable feel."
According to Larry Levine, "Brian was one of the few people in the music business Phil respected. There was a mutual respect. Brian might say that he learned how to produce from watching Phil, but the truth is, he was already producing records before he observed Phil. He just wasn't getting credit for it, something that in the early days, I remember really used to make Phil angry. Phil would tell anybody who listened that Brian was one of the great producers."
See also: Category:Song recordings with Wall of Sound arrangements
After Sonny Bono was fired from Philles Records, he signed up with Atlantic Records and recruited some of Spector's colleagues to create "I Got You Babe" (which went to No. 1 on Billboard Hot ) and "Baby Don't Go" (No. 8), both of which featured elements of the Wall of Sound, among other songs. Similarly, when the Righteous Brothers ended their relationship with Spector and signed with Verve/MGM Records in , they released "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration", which Medley produced using this approach and also reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot , and stayed at the top for three weeks.
One of the earliest groups outside of Spector's talent pool to adopt the Wall of Sound approach was The Walker Brothers, who worked with British producer Johnny Franz in the mids to record grandly arranged ballads such as "Make It Easy On Yourself" and "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)", both of which were No. 1 hits in the United Kingdom. Franz also produced songs through the Wall of Sound method with Dusty Springfield in "I Only Want to Be with You" and "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me".
Another example is the Forum, a studio project of Les Baxter, which produced a minor hit in with "The River Is Wide".
Another prominent example that reached the top of the Billboard Hot was Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge over Troubled Water", which utilized the Wall of Sound with great effect towards the end. The production was modeled on the Righteous Brothers' version of "Old Man River", and Art Garfunkel has explicitly compared it to the Spector-produced "Let It Be".
In , British band Wizzard revived the Wall of Sound in three of their hits "See My Baby Jive", "Angel Fingers" and "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday". "See My Baby Jive" later influenced ABBA's song "Waterloo".
ABBA also utilized the technique for songs starting with "People Need Love" and fully realized with "Ring Ring", "Waterloo", and "Dancing Queen"; prior to recording "Ring Ring", engineer Michael B. Tretow had read Richard Williams' book Out of His Head: The Sound of Phil Spector, which inspired him to layer multiple instrumental overdubs on the band's recordings to simulate an orchestra, becoming an integral part of ABBA's sound.Bruce Springsteen also emulated the Wall of Sound in his recording of "Born to Run".
Jim Steinman and Todd Rundgren, composer and producer of Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell, respectively, utilized the Wall of Sound for the album, and would similarly utilize it for other songs, such as Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart".
The Wall of Sound was also utilized by The Jesus and Mary Chain ("Just Like Honey"), Mark Wirtz ("Excerpt from A Teenage Opera"), The Kursaal Flyers ("Little Does She Know"), The Alan Parsons Project ("Don't Answer Me"), Spiritualized (Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, Let It Come Down) and Eiichi Ohtaki (Niagara Calendar).
Spector's Wall of Sound is distinct from what's typically characterized as a "wall of sound", according to author Matthew Bannister. During the s, "Jangle and drone plus reverberation create[d] a contemporary equivalent of Spector's 'Wall of Sound' – a massive, ringing, cavernous noise and a device used by many indie groups: Flying Nun, from Sneaky Feelings' Send You to Straitjacket Fits and the JPS Experience". He cites s psychedelic and garage rock such as the Byrds' "Eight Miles High" () as a primary musical influence on the movement.
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Steve Mac's Home Studio 'Wall of Sound' Pedalboard Dynamics and Essential Tone Components
Steve explains further :
"I use the ML5’s (Morningstar) in categories - Compression, Boost, Overdrive, Fuzz & Modulation. For example if I want compression, I have 5 different types of compression to choose from. I can stack them if I wish and also place them wherever I want in the pedal order (courtesy of the ES-8 Switchers). It’s quite interesting trying unconventional pedal orders and certain pedals behave totally differently depending on what their neighbouring pedals are. Impedance plays a big part in this and pedals like the Tube Drivers are particularly fussy about their neighbours - so being able to change the pedal order quickly and easily is really convenient."
"I’ve always used two Powerboosts - simply because my pedals are typically out of reach in a rack. I use one as a treble booster and the other as a bass booster. When stacked - they produce good sustain whilst remaining very dynamic."
"I also use the two Tube Drivers for different purposes. One is set very clean and is used to round off harsh fuzz tones and add some warmth. The other has a small amount of gain and is boosting the midrange to produce a very vocal sound that is still quite open on the high frequencies. I also change the valves in the Tube Drivers depending on what sound I am chasing in the studio. Different gain valves make a huge difference."
Steve made the gorgeous above composition on this very Home Studio rig and utilising the Colorsound Powerboost, Origin Effects Slide Rig Compressor, Demeter Compulator Compressor, Ibanez Mostortion, Free The Tone EQ, Free The Tone Future Factory, Boss EQ, and Strymon Volante.
In doing the research and rationale on this particular arrangement of pedals, I came into this process with not that clear of an understanding of the Pete Cornish phenomenon - and approach to sound-design. In the process of doing this feature I've realised that Pete Cornish very much has the 'Tone Components' philosophy deeply ingrained within each of his pedals - and that these are very precisely and carefully calibrated tone machines - each of which solves a very specific application.
When you look at the extensive Pete Cornish range - whether the Big Grey Pro Boxes (as here) or the more modern Black Deluxe Editions (BB-enclosures) - you quickly come to understand that each of these pedals has been designed typically for a really very narrowly-defined and specific purpose. Each of the Boost and Overdrive pedals for instance step up their gain range in logical progressive increments - so it's not just a matter of distinct tonality - but what level of gain/distortion/saturation you specifically need for that application.
Steve has commented on the precise and reliable nature of Pete Cornish pedals - in that you exactly know what you're getting from each of those pedals and the tapers and sweeps of the knobs are so precise that adjustments are immediately intuited and super rapidly achieved.
In terms of a final numbers roundup before we go into individual details - obviously Pete Cornish features the most heavily here with 6 pedals. It's nice also to see my friend Adrian Thorpe represented by a trio of his finest here. We also have the Boss trio at the centre of operations, a brace of Tube Drivers, Origin Effects, Electro-Harmonix, Free The Tone and Fender pedals. I'm also delighted to see a significant overlap with my own pedal preferences here too - as I have a number of these and associated or adjacent selections in my own collection and pedal-chain - while the Strymon Volante and ThorpyFX Camoflange here are the only two currently active in my own pedal-chain!
I consider a number of these pedals somewhat impractical for my own needs - I think most of my readers know how I feel about big box pedals in general. While there are many 'Tone Components' here I actively subscribe to, have in my collection or am in the process of acquiring too. Interestingly the total number of pedals here including utilities is 41 - which exactly matches that of my own current pedal-chain!
Here follow the individual details :
01 : Colorsound 'Aussie' Power Boost - £
Originally done as a sort of favour / special edition modified Power Boost with master volume on the side - by Macari's of Charing Cross Road (formerly Denmark Street), but now produced by the same in limited quantities to the exact same specifications - and listed as the 'Aussie' Power Boost. Note that there is a waiting list for this item - which is kind of made to order to a degree, or in very small batches. The Colorsound Power Boost is one of The essential David Gilmour pedals / Tone Components - and the modifications here make it 'cleaner' for a longer sweep of the essentially drive / boost knob - or higher headroom really before the onset of breakup. Steve uses one as a treble booster (presumably this one) and the other as a bass booster (below). When stacked, they produce good sustain whilst remaining very dynamic. I am personally quite a fan of the Power Boost, but not really of this oversized enclosure. I did a Power Boost roundup a while back where I indicated some of my preferred choices - I actually wanted a rare 'Wall of Sound' variety that has not materialised on any site since, and I've been sort of chasing down an original ThroBak Overdrive Boost in V1 vertical configuration. I eventually acquired the excellent Basic Audio Futureman equivalent, but currently am probably angling towards the recent Buffalo FX Supa Driver derivation. If you want to be fully authentic though - you would need to go for the 'Aussie' variety Colorsound Power Boost from Macari's!
02 : Andy Betts 18V Powerboost clone - £POA
This second of Steve's Power Boosts is a clone of the above Aussie variety, but upped to 18V supply for even greater headroom - otherwise I understand that the circuit is pretty much identical. This is presumably used as a bass booster in conjunction with the treble boost function of the previous one (or vice versa). These pedals are all made to order - and you will need to contact Andy Betts via his site Andy Betts Music to commission one for yourself - pricing depends upon availability of specific components and your own preferences and requirements - but in theory should be around the same price of the Colorsound original. Andy Betts has become a good friend of Steve's over the years and he performs in his own Pink Floyd Tribute Band - Eclipse. Where he started making David Gilmour style pedals / clones for his own performance needs. Andy currently builds highly authentic versions / clones of the Ram's Head Big Muff, Black Russian Big Muff, Green Russian Big Muff, Power Boost/Powerboost, Fuzz Face, Clean Boost, and Brian May Treble Boost - mostly in BB-style enclosures as far as I gather. I was unable to find any specific YouTube demo featuring this particular pedal - and will of course add one if such materialises later on.
03 : Pete Cornish ST-2 - EQ / Tone-Shaper / High-Headroom Clean Boost - £
And so to the first of the Pete Cornish pedals - which is largely a Tone-Shaper / High Fidelity, super clean high headroom EQ - so somewhat adjacent to the super high-headroom Power Boosts at the start of the chain. Obviously if you max the gain you can drive the front of your amp for some overdrive tones too - but this is more intended as precision tone-shaper. According to the dials in the reference, this looks to be set up as something of a Bass-boost currently - with Bass at 4 o'c, Treble and Gain at 2 o'c and Volume at unity.
04 : Pete Cornish SS-3 - Crunchy / Bluesy Overdrive / PreAmp - Soft-Sustain - £
This is the first of the Pete Cornish Overdrives here - with that lovely sustaining bluesy break-up tone. These Pete Cornish pedals have such a distinct tonality which is so evocative of vintage rare-component / transistor and valve gain effects - there's something really special about the character of the breakup that just sounds unique. Sure you could find some near matches, but nothing I'm aware of that would match this tonality exactly - or certainly not out of a single equivalent pedal necessarily. Gorgeous bluesy drive tones.
05 : Pete Cornish CC-1 - 2-stage low-gain soft-clipping crunch overdrive - £
I've referenced the above video as the classic incarnation of the CC-1 tone in combination with a vintage EHX Electric Mistress Flanger and a Free The Tone Flight Time Delay. Just one of David Gilmour's many legendary tones, and easily one of my favourites. If I were in a position to acquire any of the Pete Cornish pedals - I would get this one in its slightly more compact BB-style Black Deluxe enclosure. This is a beautifully harmonic drive with an exceptional sort of almost fuzz-like transistor-style breakup - which I hope to successfully recreate on my recently arrived Catalinbread Gyigas Fuzz with the Fuzz cranked back, and the Dry-Blend elevated! Actually the Pettyjohn Rail at low clip seems to hit pretty close too.
06 : B.K. Butler Tube Driver 5K - $
I have referenced these proper tube-driven pedals several times on this site and listed out various alternatives - while I've still to pull the trigger on an acquisition in this category - where the likeliest candidate for me is the Buffalo FX TD-X. The original BK Butler varieties can obviously sound amazing, and are another of those synonymous Gilmour sounds alongside the Power Boosts and Big Muff Fuzzes. Yet these boxes are fussy as hell and have a super high degree of reactivity and influence on any surrounding pedals - and buffers and impedance in particular. Many players complain that the Tube Driver can overly dominate the tonality of the signal chain - where it imposes its character over everything else. Steve mentions how he uses his two Tube Drivers for different purposes. One is set very clean and is used to round off harsh fuzz tones and add some warmth. The other has a small amount of gain and is boosting the midrange to produce a very vocal sound that is still quite open on the high frequencies. Steve also changes the valves in the Tube Drivers fairly regularly depending on what sound he is chasing in the studio. Different gain valves make a huge difference - and he currently seems to be favouring the Mullard ECC82 varieties. Joe Perkins does another superb demo here - which will suffice for both this and the 4K reference below.
07 : B.K. Butler Tube Driver 4K - $
The only significant difference between the first and second Tube Drivers here is that the first has an additional 5th control in the guise of a variable Bias Knob on the rear of the unit - a difference that adds $ to the price tag - but obviously gives you a lot more precise fine-tuning over the behaviour of its single tube. This pedal is largely here because of how Steve uses his two units in rather different ways - and if you can afford it - it's obviously less hassle to have two units set to the most regular settings, than having to constantly re-calibrate and tweak a single pedal towards those preferred settings. As mentioned in the intro - there are times too when Steve stacks several pedals together for particular applications - which I'm pretty sure is not the case for the Tube Drives because of their inherent sensitivities. Please refer to the above 5K demo video for sound samples.
08 : Pete Cornish OC-1 - Optical Compressor - £
Compressors are another essential of that Gilmour tone - to delivery those sparkly and sustaining higher frequencies in particular. This is the first of no less than 5 mostly optical compressors - all of which are set slightly differently to serve different frequency clusters and tonal applications. Steve uses these both individually and stacked, and via the Boss ES-8 Switchers - where their order can be shifted in all manner of different ways within the signal chain. I would personally question the need for quite such a large compressor in the rig, but with Pete Cornish you know it delivers something precise and unique which the others cannot. I actually really like seeing the selection of compressors in descending size order, and the fact that Steve has found use for a Mini Mooer Optical Compressor in line with all these other somewhat more pricey boutique varieties.
09 : Origin Effects SlideRig Compact Deluxe Compressor - £
Steve talks about the Gilmour Seagull effect in the song Echoes - which is actually just a reverse sweep wah. Before Pete Cornish let him in on the secret - Steve was playing this by using Slide-technique on his regular guitar - where obviously the SlideRig compressor comes in handy for those sort of tones. A lot of Gilmour's solos have that sustaining slide quality - and no doubt this pedal comes in handy for just those kinds of occasions.
10 : Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe Compressor - £
It's no surprise to see the de facto Pro Guitarists' Compressor Pedal of choice in this selection. Origin Effects are probably the most featured Compressors now on pro pedalboards - and it's usually the Cali76 Compact Deluxe variety. I of course went for the Jackson Audio Bloom instead being the maverick that I am - which gives me analog compressions, but with a 6-preset digital control surface - and with optional foot-switchable 3-Band EQ and optional foot-switchable Blooming Boost. So I largely have a lot of what Steve has here in several units - in just one - albeit I can't stack those presets together! I had for a very long time considered the Cali76 CD and was right on the cusp of getting one when the Jackson Audio Bloom materialised. I still feel the Cali76 is probably the reference standard for pedalboard compressors - and may very well acquire on of these in the end anyway! Actually I mustn't forget to mention Becos FX here either - whose compact Stella CompIQ Pro Compressor is the most fully featured variety yet - and about as close to a studio compressor as you can get in a pedal format.
11 : Demeter COMP-1 Opto Compulator Optical Compressor - $
Another optical compressor which is seemingly less in circulation nowadays - in fact I overlooked it when I did my last 28 Compact Compressors overview - I just don't see it on that many boards nowadays. Obviously still a classic variety though, and it gives Steve something slightly different to what these others deliver. I know Demeter best for their Reverbulator Spring Tank Reverb - both that and the Compulator are just excellent high fidelity quality and come highly recommended.
12 : Mooer Yellow Comp Mini Optical Compressor - £49
And finally! The 5th and last of the Compressor selection is this diminutive Mooer Optical Compressor - based on the Diamond Pedals variety as far as I'm aware. I love seeing the different mix of pedals in Steve's selection - and most people are now very aware that there are a number of Mooer pedals which are actually pretty rather decent - most of which I've covered variously on this site before - although not sure I've focused too much on the Yellow Comp which is one of those that gets a lot of love.
13 : Giuseppe Bagnara Sagittarius Overdrive (Klon Klone) - NFS
This is a very special Klone variety - significantly modified from a circuit schematic of the original Klon Centaur. Now a long-term friend of Steve's - Italian engineer and sound-designer Giuseppe Bagnara made this as a gift for Steve many years ago - he thought Steve would appreciate the special tones generated by this pedal. Giuseppe kindly shared the schematic with me and his notes on how he re-engineered the circuit to his own preferences and sensibilities - I can tell from all the work and smart decision-making that went into it that this is most definitely a Klon Klone of the highest order. Giuseppe's final circuit is significantly different to the original schematic as he majorly adjusted key parts of the circuit such that they sounded better to his ears and touch sensitivity. If you are hoping for one of your own of these though you need to be aware that Giuseppe just makes pedals as a hobby in his spare time for friends and family - and extremely rarely as such - and as far as I understand - this specific 'Sagittarius' labelled/branded pedal is/was a total one-off. I was unable to source a demo video of this specific pedal - while the vast majority of players should be very familiar with the Klon sound - and could surely imagine an enhanced extremely dynamic version of that. In the absence of the availability of further Bagnara Sagittarius Klone editions as such - I obviously highly recommend the Klones of my good friend Guillem Vilademunt of Decibelics fame which I firmly believe are the best currently available.
14 : Analog.Man King of Tone Dual Overdrive (TS + BB) - from $
I've featured the King of Tone several times on this site - I of course have the JHS 4-star modded edition of this pedal with the interior switches and presence controls externalised. I really feel that everyone should have one! - while there are of course excellent alternatives to this too - like the Browne Amplification Protein Drive, JHS Double Barrel, Keeley D&M Drive, King Tone The Duellist and VS Audio Royal Flush to name a few.
15 : Ibanez MT10 Mostortion MOSFET Distortion - discontinued - c$ for pristine second-hand example
It's not long since I did my Mostortion pedals roundup with all the recent suspects. I would quite like an Ibanez original - it's the only one of the 10 Series that I'm interested in. But currently prices are ridiculously high and pristine versions exceedingly difficult to come by - I have various keyword feeds active, but will in any case be acquiring the Danelectro Roebuck version as an interim measure. There is something really special about the original Ibanez Mosfet units - I'm sure there is a fabled dividing line there when something changed in the circuit or assembly - but it's the original versions that are the most sought-after and they're typically around the $+ mark currently even for just good to very-good versions - while I typically try to source 'Excellent' or 'Mint'.
16 : Xotic Effects BB PreAmp - £
Another exceptional Boost/Overdrive pedal - with up to 30dB+ of Clean Boost and ±15dB on its two band Baxandall style active EQ. This has understandably been a hugely popular pedal over the years with various artist editions too including an Andy Timmons variety. It's interesting to see just how many boost type pedals there are in Steve's lineup - I totally understand that philosophy as I have several in mine too! If you set each of them just right you can have the most amazing stacking combinations. These are essential elements of the whole 'Tone Components' philosophy as there are lots of different kinds of 'boost' including compressors and harmonic texturisers / 'sweeteners'. I in effect have 3 'boosts' right near the start of my own chain - Jackson Audio Prism PreAmp Boost, Jackson Audio Bloom Compressor and Thorpy FX Heavy Water Dual Boost - these are essential components to my clean-pedal-platform signal chain - to add dynamics, sparkle, warmth, definition and harmonic texture - and to enable fully 'saturated' tones at relatively low levels of output!
17 : Pete Cornish G-2 - Overdrive/Distortion - £
This is supposedly modelled on those 70's Jimmy Page Super Lead Plexi tones - and has a superb distinct, crips and crunchy character profile enhanced by several rare germanium diodes - with really finely calibrated frequency clusters and gorgeous harmonic texture and sustain. I rather love the tone of this unit too - and it would be my second choice Pete Cornish pedal after the CC And while I have numerous Plexi varieties in my own collection - including the Menatone KOB Vertical edition currently in my pedal-chain. I have nothing which sounds exactly like the G I recently reviewed the DryBell The Engine PreAmp - which is exceptional and will likely get you closest to the the G-2 tonality, while my next Plexi-style pedal will probably be the Bogner La Grange - which I've been meaning to get for years, but never quite got around to! Had I unlimited funds - I would most definitely get the Pete Cornish G-2 and CC-1 pedals in their BB-sized Black Deluxe form-factor - but we are talking well over a grand for the pair!
18 & 20 : 2 x BOSS ES-8 Programmable Effects Switching System - £
These are pretty much industry standard Loop-Switchers / Midi-Controllers and are well up to the task here for those more advanced multi-loop applications. They're right on the cusp of where I would be considering TheGigRig G2 controllers too as alternatives - while the two Bosses do also cover most of that ground - including the essential ability to shift the order of the loops. I'm obviously a huge Boss fan, and considering how Steve and his Aussie Floyd bandmates started off with mostly Boss and Ibanez pedals in their rigs - I might just be a tad disappointed that no further Boss pedals than those 3-in-a-row featured made this selection!
19 : Boss EQ Programmable Graphic Equalizer - £
The 2nd of the Boss trio all in a line - is the superbly capable EQ Programmable Equalizer, which comes in super-handy with all those midi-activated presets and in tandem with the ES-8 switchers. Disappointingly for those without Midi-controllers there are only 4 onboard presets - 4 x 2 really as you can set a separate profile for each stereo channel. This is the best and most versatile Band EQ currently out there, where the only improvements it could make would be motorised sliders and further onboard presets. I have and love my Alchemy-Audio-modded GE-7 - I don't really currently need the extra 3-bands or presets for my own particular needs - while I recognise the enormous flexibility on offer here - but this remains a nice-to-have for me right now, while I will likely acquire it one day anyway. My whole pedal-chain is sort of overkill to a degree - so my regarding the EQ as a little much is somewhat a strange take in line with that. Probably I'm just keener on acquiring more tone-generating pedals - utility pedals, power supplies and the like have always taken somewhat a lesser priority for me - while I of course still recognise the need to have highest quality components in place there too.
21 - 25 : 5 x Morningstar ML5 5-Loop switchers - $ x 5
I've featured the Morningstar MC6/8 Midi controllers and ML5 5-Loop Switchers several times on this blog before - usually being used in conjunction with each other. It's cool to see the mix-and-match application here in tandem with the Boss ES-8 units - which generally provide a little more hands-on control than the Morningstar MCs. We're seeing these units used quite regularly now - but I don't often see 5 of them patched up in a row!
26 : Electro-Harmonix Late 70's V3 Red and Black Big Box Big Muff Pi (Ram's Head V2) - discontinued - c£ equivalent for pristine second-hand version
This relatively early big box version - the originally V3 Red and Black edition is really mostly just an artwork change to the V2 Ram's Head with some slightly tweaked internals which yield more sustain and aggression than the previous Ram's Head V2 variant. Ram's Head, Civil War and Triangle style muffs in particular were a huge part of Gilmour's signature sound - and this is a slightly fuller sounding version of that. I love the tonality here - but I don't much like the impracticalities of accommodating these now over-sized enclosures.
27 : Pete Cornish P-1 Fuzz (Ram's Head Muff Style) - £
I believe this is Pete Cornish's take on the Ram's Head Muff - or at least Ram's Head adjacent. It certainly sounds very much in the ballpark of the Ram's Head character. Both these big box editions in Steve's chain are somewhat impractical for my preferences. I have a number of my own favourite Ram's head style compact editions - including the Basic Audio Tri/Ram, Black Arts Toneworks Son of Pharaoh, Electro-Harmonix Alchemy Audio modded Violet Ram's Head, Skreddy Pedals P19, and Wren and Cuff Custom Small Foot Caprid. I still intend to get my hands on a Maxon Fuzz Elements Water FWA10 - and then I will probably call time on that selection as 6 varieties should do me fine! Note that Pete Cornish's P-1 is closer in character to the Ram's Head, while his P-2 'Precision' Fuzz is rather a blend of Ram's Head and Civil War characteristics - each has their own loyal group of followers - while I prefer the specific character of the P I actually really like the sound of the P1 too - but could never see myself owning that in addition to the CC-1 and G2 - which are already a tall order. Besides I own more than 50 varieties of Muff style fuzzes - and most of those are quite superb. So would be very unlikely for me to own a P1 however much I would like too!
28 : ThorpyFX Fallout Cloud Muff Fuzz (Triangle) - £
Thorpy's most enduring pedal in my opinion and one of his original award-winning trifecta. This is largely a Triangle style muff with 2-Band EQ - and wonderful range and tonality. It's one of my 5 favourite Triangle varieties - alongside the Basic Audio Tri/Ram, Jam Pedals Red Muck V2, Skreddy Mayonaise II and VFE Fiery Red Horse. I've still to get the Stomp Under Foot Red Menace, and I of course have all the recent EHX compact reissues in either JHS or Alchemy Audio modded editions. Triangle is generally my favourite variety of Muff followed by Ram's Head - while I really like all the the core varieties for different reasons - including Civil War, Green and Black Russian, OpAmp and NYC editions.
29 : MJM Sixties Vibe Classic - $
Steve has tried and trialled numerous Uni-Vibe style pedals over the years - and the MJM Sixties Vibe Classic is his all-time favourite variety. He reports that it just has a richer more visceral texture than any of the others, and he's tried most of the top-tier alternatives. Interestingly his second choice for Uni-Vibe effect is courtesy of his digital Zoom MultiStomp MSBT Multi-FX unit which delivers a slightly more subtle flavour - but still with plenty of textural definition. I have to admit that the MJM Sixties is one of the very best I've heard - while the Sabbadius Funky-Vibe and Shin-ei Vibe-Bro should probably also be considered in similar larger form-factor. My preferences as always are for somewhat more compact units - I personally have the JHS Unicorn V2 with onboard tap-tempo, while I also favour the Dawner Prince Viberator, DryBell Vibe Machine, Fulltone Deja'Vibe V2, JAM Pedals RetroVibe, and Retroman UberVibe.
30 : Free The Tone PA-1QG Programmable Analog 10 Band EQ - £
I've considered a number of EQ's over the years including this digitally controlled one, and the recent Source Audio EQ2 Programmable Equalizer - which does largely the same thing - albeit wholly digitally and in a much smaller compact box. I am personally a tweak-on-the-fly kind of guy - and I get very frustrated by these sorts of interfaces where you have to access each frequency band separately by selecting and tabbing / honing in on that particular frequency column. Much easier for me is the manual hands-on control of the Boss EQ just recently touched on. It's interesting to see that Steve has both the mostly digital Boss EQ with manual sliders and this mostly analog EQ - but with digital edit menus! Obviously each of these yields different results for Steve - which is why both are in the signal chain. I use a number of different EQ's throughout my chain - so I can totally see the benefit and utility in that.
31 : Free The Tone Future Factory FF-1Y RF Phase Modulation Dual Delay - £
Free the Tone has always done stellar delays - and their sort of airplane console style of a Delay with cool phase modulation and soft clipping is one of the smarter units currently out there - particularly how informative and intuitive the display and controls are. Free The Tone's previous FT-2Y Flight Time delay unit had an onboard microphone which picked up the tempo from the band's or playback's rhythm section for really clever tempo-syncing. This one combines some clever modulation across two simultaneous paths. It's not as full featured as something like the Empress EchoSystem or say Strymon TimeLine or Boss DD - but this delay can generate some truly spectacular sounding repeats. In some ways the Keeley Eccos is a more compact derivation of the same sort of idea behind the Future Factory.
32 : Strymon Volante Magnetic Echo Machine - £
I was hooked on the Volante from its first reveal - and have had one in my pedal-chain ever since it was released. It will be interesting to see how Dawner Prince's new tube-powered and long-forthcoming Boonar Tube Deluxe will fare in comparison to the Volante. The Boonar has always had a slightly warmer sound which many prefer, but the Volante is about as perfect a tape-style delay as I would want - bar the horribly clunky way its onboard presets work. My core delay section is the Volante plus the Boss DD, with further assistance for the Eventide H9 Max when required. I have several other equally impressive delays to fall back on if needed - like the Empress EchoSystem and Red Panda Particle V2.
33 : Custom Pedalboards Muff War Mini - £96
This is actually a pretty cool Civil War derived Big Muff - which reasonably closely captures that tonality in mini format - while it could do with a little more gain and volume. And while there seem to be plenty of pretty decent Ram's Head Mini clones, this is the only decent Civil War variety I'm aware of. I'm obviously a fan of mini pedals too - and love the Muff format, so I might very well sweep this one up also at some stage. Custom Pedalboards has a range of mini pedals - including the Big Up Clean Boost, Dynamic Overdrive Power Boost, Mr Squeezy Compressor, and Mustard Drive DODstyle.
34 : ProCo Rat 2 Distortion - £67
I assume this is one of the earlier LM OpAmp types versus the newer OP07 varieties which populate the newer Rat 2's - since I obviously love the Rat format too in all its derivations and as detailed in the recent 28 compact Rat-style pedal roundup. This is a distinct classic distortion effect and nicely rounds out Steve's distortion component alongside his PC G-2 and Ibanez Mostortion. Generally the OP07 is seen as being very slightly tighter and brighter than the sightly saggier/bass-heavier LM - where the OP07 characteristics a lot of the modern players actually prefer. As with everything, it so much depends on your particular usage scenario - what level of gain and what other components you are utilising in combination. But there really shouldn't be any stigma or prejudice between the LM and OP07 - each of those can sound great. I'm of course as guilty as any at occasionally falling overly for the mojo parts myths and illusions - sometimes those differences are more evident and more relevant, while oft-times they really don't amount to anything properly discernible. Within my own chain I also use a number of Tone Component Enhancers - so I can get most everything to sound pretty stellar in my chain - all that should be factored into your considerations and gear acquisition decisions.
35 : Electro-Harmonix Mel9 Tape Replay Machine - £
EHX's '9' series of keyboard and synth emulators has become a firm favourites on pedalboards over the years, and while I've had several of the varieties on my wishlist - I've not yet hit the trigger. The Mel9 variety provides 9 flavours of the earliest tape-driven pseudo synthesizers like the Mellotron - which were rather just mechanical analog sample-loopers technically which played back extended samples on replayed tape - Strawberry Fields Forever!
36 : ThorpyFX Deep Oggin Analog Chorus - £
All of Thorpy's pedals are great and the Deep Oggin Analog Chorus is no exception - just a beautifully textured watery chorus with the perfect balance of modulation. I personally prefer my choruses slightly more compact - but may get this version anyway some day as it just sounds that stellar. For now I'm very happy with my equally refined VS Audio Alchemy which is still properly Analog, but comes with 6 ingenious footswitchable presets.
37 : ThorpyFX Camoflange Analog Flanger - £
The second of just two pedals in this selection which overlap with my current active pedal-chain. Easily my favourite flanger to date - which perfectly captures those sparkly high frequencies of the early EHX Electric Mistresses. Will be interesting to see how well the new Buffalo FX Reticon Flanger fares against the Camoflange, I'm hoping it can match it, but I can't see how the Camoflange can be bettered - it sounds just perfect to me.
38 : Korg DTRW Chromatic Tuner Ltd - discontinued - c£ for pristine second-hand example
A rather large format tuner albeit highly visible - but a fairly rarefied red/brown edition of the Korg DT Obviously benefits from fairly decent visibility - while the display windows take up a relatively small proportion of the overall real-estate. I would have thought that the tuner to beat nowadays is the Peterson StroboStomp HD - while I still have a soft spot for TC Electronic PolyTune and Sonic Research Turbo Tuners - both compact and mini versions.
39 : Fender The Pinwheel Rotary Speaker Emulator - £
I've not really gotten into the relatively recently re-launched Fender effects yet - cannot really explain why apart from the fact that there are hundreds of other brands which have taken my focus thus far, but there are a number of pretty great ones in the Fender range now - with some unique and smart features. The Pinwheel Rotary Speaker is one of the standout pedals in the collection and is garnering very favourable reviews. My main Rotary is the Josh Smith profiled Eventide H9 algorithm, while I have backup now too from the GFI Synesthesia which cleverly splits the Horn and Drum across two separate channels. I previously used to have the Tech 21 RotoChoir in my chain which I still love - but possibly I kind of prefer the Josh Smith H9 profile. I've also long considered the Strymon Lex, Neo Instruments Mini Vent and NUX Roctary pedals - the last of which delivers a pretty impressive sounding Hammond style tone. I would really prefer a more compact sized stereo unit, but these just aren't any suitable examples in that area as far as I can see. The DigiTech Ventura Vibe comes close-ish, and I have that, but it's not quite close enough or sufficiently richly detailed or resonating for my preferences.
40 : Zoom MultiStomp MSBT Stereo with Bluetooth - discontinued - £ when new
I've never really gotten fully onboard with Multi-FX pedals - I tend to favour individual Stereo Multi-Modulation, Multi-Delay and Multi-Reverb Workstations, with only my Eventide H9 really representing the Multi-FX devices properly - it too has a Bluetooth connected app like this Zoom MultiStomp. Steve uses his mostly for a secondary Uni-Vibe effect - which he alternates with his rather more full-on MJM Sixties Vibe covered earlier. This MultiStomp though combines amp-modelling with a huge variety of effects - + - so you can view it more as a mini version of a Line 6 HX Stomp if you wish - where each preset can combine up to 6 different effect blocks. These Zoom boxes tend to be somewhat underrated - while for certain effects they really do deliver pretty cool and properly usable tones - which of course you can further enhance with other analog pedals in combination. I feel a Zoom MultiStomp is a really handy pedal to have for its huge variety of applications (+full stereo in and outs) and very neat form-factor. I am actually tempted by this to hunt down this earlier now discontinued variety, as only the current MultiStomp MSCDR also has full stereo ins and outs - but is limited to Chorus, Delay and Reverb algorithms. Update! I snagged an 'Excellent' condition version of this on Reverb.com - this will very much be a secondary / experimental pedal for me - but I'm intrigued by its form factor and functionality and feel I could use it for some really clever applications in line with my regular pedal-chain.
41 : Fender Tre-Verb Digital Tremolo/Reverb - £
There are a number of Trem-Verb pedals out there now - of which the Strymon Flint is probably the most celebrated archetype, and the relatively recent Champion Leccy Skitter possibly the most quirky. In a similar form factor you also have the Henretta Engineering Tremble Tank and Milkman Sound F-Stop. I would have thought most of the competition would be between the Flint and Fender's more recent Tre-Verb - which is half the price of that and has an additional handy Level control for its Tremolo side. It's certainly a smart choice to have a Trem-Verb at the end of the chain.
Fortin Zuul Blackout Noise Gate - £
A little out of eyeshot / out of frame in the referenced picture you will find a Fortin Zuul Bllackout noise gate which Steve uses to temper some his noisier pedal combinations. The Zuul is extremely well regarded for its exceptional dynamic pass-through of all the essential signal details and dynamics, while only screening out the unwanted hissy bits! For my own pedal-chain I swear by the Alchemy Audio modded Boss NS-2 which has pass through for my cleaner / less gainey pedals - and all the noisy ones in the actual active filtering loop. The Zuul funnily enough is sort of the de facto Noise Gate for the Heavy Metal brigade - who like things to sound super-tight and dynamic - with as much pass-through of the vital and visceral distortion texture.
Cables - Evidence Audio and Belden - Various
It looks like there is a good mile's worth of cabling here - about which Steve relates the following:
"In my live rigs I use Evidence Audio Lyric cables for my main guitar cable and Evidence Audio Monorail for patch cables within the racks. The Monorail was designed to work with George L style solderless connectors but I found that they gradually became problematic over time. We play a minimum of shows a year all over the world so our guitar rigs are subjected to a lot of abuse from transportation and the variations in climate. After some very frustrating tours with intermittent faults I ditched the George L’s and went back to soldering Neutrik connectors. Problem solved. Evidence Audio’s approach is to use solid core wires and they do sound stunning but at the expense of durability. They don’t like being bent regularly and the solid core wires can eventually break so with that in mind I also use Belden for any cables that get manhandled and plugged in and out at every show. The is extremely rugged."
"I took a different approach with the studio rig because it’s also my test bed for new equipment that I may use live so its cables are often being swapped around. It’s a bit like an old-school studio patch bay with around 50 FX pedals/switchers/midi controller/volume pedals/expression pedals etc etc patched in. I swap things in and out regularly depending on what music I’m working on so I wanted something that was durable, had good shielding specs, sounded good and was cost effective. I settled on meters of Van Damme Pro Grade XKE Instrument cable and Neutrik connectors. I have some of it left, but not much."
For me personally - my favourite patch cables are still the EBS Gold Flats and Rockboard equivalents for longer lengths - while there have been a number of recent low-profile entrants into the market with even more compact footprints - so will probably need to review that again in one or two months.
Power Supplies - Various, including 6 x MXR M Iso-Brick Outlet Power Supplier - 6 x $
This is a mixture of actual dedicated power-supplies and isolated power-supply bricks, per Steve's following account :
"If a device comes with a power supply I always prefer to use that. For everything else there are six MXR ISO BRICK’s to ensure that everything receives its own isolated 9v or 18v supply."
Amps - 2 x Fender '68 Custom Vibrolux Reverb - 2 x £ + discontinued Yamaha R / R Rotary Speaker Cabinets - c$ - $1, depending on condition
On the first sweep I forgot to reference which amps Steve uses here - which is of course essential to know what all those pedals run into, and about which Steve has the following to say :
"I’m running them (the pedals) into 2 x Fender Custom '68 Reissue Vibrolux’s (with an assortment of Yugoslavian long plate pre amp valves) with 2 x : 4 x12 Rawson Sparfield Starfinder Cabinets. I also blend in a Yamaha RA50 and as of next week Yamaha RA rotary speaker cabinets to add some movement."
Editors Notes : while the Reissued Fender '68 Vibrolux's are still current and in wide distribution, the Yamaha rotary speakers first introduced in the mid 70's are long since discontinued and very hard to come by nowadays. They come in RA / / varieties - which refers to their output wattage and size to a degree. I believe David Gilmour favoured the RA's for quite a while. They occasionally turn up second-hand on Reverb and other resources in hugely varying degrees of condition - and can go for anything from c$ to $1, Some have to be significantly re-conditioned to get back to full working order!
It is probably about time we had some neat modern equivalent rotary speakers - but I've done some cursory research and am not sure those exist yet - would appreciate if someone who knows better could drop me a line if relevant!
This 'wall of sound' board is both intended for Steve's home studio Pink Floyd sonic explorations - as well as wider more experimental forays for his own music. There's obviously a large number of exceedingly Gilmourish pedals here - and that philosophy of individual finely calibrated 'Tone Components' is evident throughout the signal chain with multiple versions and duplicates of effects.
There is so much to learn here in terms of best practice in signal-chain setup and versatility - and how exactly you should apply the David Gilmour and Pete Cornish methodologies to your rig.
My biggest take-away here is in the area of complementary effect-stacking and a greater understanding of the Tone Component approach on an individual specific device function level. I have my own Tone Components methodology - but I'm equally led by extended range, individual versatility and practicality in areas like footprint and ease of use. I've often considered the BK Butler or Kingsley Amplifiers tube-powered route - but don't really want the extra level of maintenance and overhead.
I am encouraged to get back on the acquisition trail for another suitable compact-ish Power Boost / equivalent, while I still need to sort out my Tube Driver and Mostortion equivalents. Other than that I have typically multiple overlapping and adjacent preferences for all these varieties listed here.
In terms of what sort of influence this review has had on my pedal acquisitions and ToneQuest - I am now actually quite keen to own a Pete Cornish or two however financially impractical - where previously I rather regarded them as over-priced and over-sized anachronous boxes. I've always had a love for the David Gilmour signature tones - and have long had acquisition targets in those areas - this article and process has certainly helped refine and focus my appreciation to a significant degree. I obviously picked up a Zoom MSBT directly based on on this overview - as that was somewhat of a low-hanging fruit and one was readily available within reasonable parameters. Over the next few months I will for sure likely acquire another Power Boost and a Tube Driver variant - most likely the Buffalo FX varieties, also a Mostortion variety and possibly one or two more Muffs - Civil War and Ram's Head derivations in particular. The EQ is probably a longer-term target, and the Pete Cornish CC-1 and G-2 still somewhat further ahead. Are you guys considering any acquisitions in this general area?
The next exercise I intend to do with Steve Mac is to identify a minimum Gilmour / Floyd rig / setup featuring his own favourite pedals, and a modern / practical and more compact alternative - that would cover say 90% of the signature sounds. I have yet to have that conversation with Steve - but we will probably have to set some parameters for that in terms of maximum numbers of pedals limits.
Towards the end of the fabled Guitar Nerds Podcast, Steve listed his 6 essential Gilmour style effects as being the following :
- Colorsound Power Boost with High Headroom - so you can run it cleaner for longer ('Aussie' Power Boost)
- MXR Dynacomp Script Compressor
- Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Big Tin - by which I presume he means the above 'Red & Black' > V3 Ram's Head
- Sovtek Civil War Muff
- Tape-style Delay - Binson Echorec / Strymon Volante
- Rack Reverb - Lexicon PCM70 Digital Reverb
Of pedals wall sound
Of paper. The girl came up to her and pulled out one ball, handed it to the presenter. He took it with a smile and opened it, read it and said: You are lucky. The task is pretty easy.Post-Rock/Ambient Guitar Tip #1 - Creating A \
Sasha is there one more time trying to correct her, I dont know how he will succeed, but Im already all-pass. Need help. " - he suddenly sharply brought his face closer to me and, breathing his fumes, whispered hotly, You know what a woman. Do you know which one.
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I told Kurumu to her, "Ashley hissed angrily. There is. " the operator surrendered. In Kuruma it was not as cheerful as in the stinger, besides its understeer was already familiar to me. Well, if that's the case, maybe we'll take everything off as soon as possible.