james david low

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Fender Blues Jr. Presence Mod

Just recently did this is a common mod for that people do for the Blues Jr. On a Blues Jr. III it’s replacing R25 with a 25K pot. It’s basically an implementation of the Blues Deluxe presence control on the Blues Jr. Billm uses a shielded cable when he wires it in, so that’s what I did. Makes quite a special amp with the other Billm mods, a Warehouse Guitar Speakers ET-65 and salt and pepper vintage grill cloth.

7:10pm / Jul 28th / 15 Comments

Ultimate Strat / Gibson 5 Way Pickup Switch Wiring

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, my ultimate 5 way pickup switch wiring. They both require the 5 way double XL super switch, 4 poles, double wafer. They’re done in such a way that both a 2 humbucker guitar and a strat style guitar (SSS or SSH) sound as close as possible in each position. I like a 5 way because its faster than having to switch your main pickup selector and a coil tap at the same time.

Strat Style 2 Humbucker
1) Bridge Pickup Bridge Humbucker
2) Bridge/Neck Bridge/Neck Humbucker
3) Neck/Middle Series Neck Humbucker
4) Neck/Middle Parallel Neck/Bridge Coil Tap
5) Neck Neck Coil Tap
humbucker_super

strat_super

Notes:
– The humbucker coil taps work best with something like a Lindy Fralin Unbucker.
– On the Strat style I recommend a bridge humbucker or hot single coil
– The single coils in series is an interesting mod to approximate a humbucker. I’ve also thought about adding a 1M trim pot (with treble bleed) if the increased output is too big compared to the single coils on their own. You can get a taste of what it sounds like here:

7:54am / Jul 27th / 15 Comments

Pedaltrain Mini Power Supply Options

True Tone One Spot I had one of these, but I found it passed noise back when my computer was on the same power supply.
Diago Mirco I currently daisy chain with one of these. The cable is starting to wear already though, so I may go back to a One Spot.
Diago Isolator If you’re daisy chaining and need just one or two pedals isolated, this can be a cheap addition.
Mooer Micro Power 93.5×42×36 (mm) These outputs are independently filtered outputs, but not transformer isolated I believe. Here’a a pic on a Pedaltrain Nano: https://osiamo.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/bruceb_mooerboard.jpg
Mosky DC-Tank 95×38×29 (mm) Overall slightly smaller than the mooer, and according to the manufacturer isolated outputs. Super cheap at US$35.
Mosky Nano Power Station 93×38×31 (mm) Pretty much the same size as the DC-Tank, but doesn’t say the outputs are isolated.
One Control Micro Distro 98x48x35 (mm) Another non-isolated solution. I’ve seen people fit these into Pedaltrain boards here and here. It’s not isolated though: http://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/new-mini-power-supply-for-pedaltrain-mini.1177229/
Pedaltrain Volto Battery powered solution that fits under newer Pedaltrain Minis and original ones if you’re willing to cut away part of the bottom.
T-Rex Fueltank Junior Pretty much the largest that’s worth considering. Takes up quite a lot of space on top, but you can fit it underneath if you cut away and added higher feet: http://www.tdpri.com/forum/stomp-box/296043-pedaltrain-mini-has-no-room-power-supply.html

2:34am / Jul 12th / 15 Comments

Klon vs. Wampler Euphoria vs. Mad Professor Sweet Honey

Ok, so not quite, it’s actually an EHX Soul Food/Wampler Euphoria Clone/JOYO Sweet Baby, so take it with a pinch of salt. I wanted something to pair with my Lovepedal Eternity Clone (tube screamer, with more gain and high end). I didn’t have time to do a comparison video, and it was more I just wanted to write down my thoughts on these much hyped pedals for myself as much as anybody else.

EHX Soul Food
This is the Electro Harmonix’s affordable version of the Klon Centaur, one of the pedals to start the “transparent” overdrive craze. I’ve never played a Klon, but from the Soul Food, I see why people say it’s transparent. It feels transparent, which is hard to explain, but some pedals feel “in the way”, maybe its too much compression or too much mids and high end roll off, but the Soul Food doesn’t have that feel. EQ wise though it’s not that transparent. The high end is transparent, the mids have a slight emphasis that gives it a vocal quality and sings on the high B/E strings, and has quite a bit of bass roll off. Gain wise, low gain is definitely where this really shines, but because of the mid range I liked it better with front single coils than front humbucker, and the bass roll off made my bridge humbucker sound thin. I see why people like it, it does a similar job to a tube screamer pushing a overdriven amp, though different and more refined. On my limited size board though, it wasn’t versatile enough for me.

Wampler Euphoria Clone
I built my clone using a high quality kit from Fuzz Dog Pedal Parts. Yes it’s a clone, but despite being a clone it’s one of the pedals that I’ve owned that has sounded most like the demos when I played it person. In my opinion, this pedal is much more transparent EQ wise than the clone, it really has a very flat frequency response. The clipping options and large usable gain range give a wide range of tones, though they are all grittier than the Soul Food. The bass control I found didn’t really cut any bass, but can boost as well as add fuzz, making this one of the most versatile overdrive pedals around. The transparency makes it work well with humbuckers and single coils, although some more mids would help for single coil solos. This is what I’m sticking with along with my Lovepedal Eternity clone.

JOYO Sweet Baby
Like the Soul Food, this is supposed to be pretty close to it’s original, The Mad Professor Sweet Honey. It really does have a sweet high end and was very dynamic in response to picking. It didn’t have enough gain for me though, and with the dynamics I had to go rear humbucker and hit pretty hard to get much dirt. It had more bass but less high end compared to the Klon. The sweet attack worked better at taming single coils. I could see how it would work really well for certain situations, but similar tones can be achieved rolling off the tone (or even volume knob) or a mellow front humbucker, and I found it not as versatile for more aggressive tones. I also installed a WGS ET-65 speaker in my Blues Jr, which gave it a sweeter high end, so having an overdrive leaning that way as well was overkill.

Lovepedal Eternity Clone
I like a tube screamer-like pedal for basic drive and a slight mid range hump. I chose the Eternity clone for more gain and it seems to have more complex sounding harmonics than a standard tube screamer. It has too a lot of gain though and is very bright, so I changed the tone control value. I also added a bass boost switch, great for low volume practice or fatter power chords. I also added an asymmetric/symmetric clipping switch to switch between Eternity and Eternity Boost circuits. The Eternity drive does have a mid boost, but not as much and at a different frequency than a tube screamer.

1:16pm / Jun 13th / 15 Comments

Mount MacBook Pro Underdesk

I’ve had my macbook mounted under my desk for a while. I original had it on some U-shaped aluminium extrusion brackets. If I was doing something taxing it would overheat a little, so I drilled some holes where the fan is, but that didn’t really make that much difference. I was looking for something else, and eventually decided on a cheap IKEA wooden shelf mounted with u-shaped brackets. I just made my own out of the same aluminium I used before, but I’m sure there are other brackets around like these robot servo brackets.

Here are some pics of the original mount, new shelf, and all the other things I have mounted under my desk:

There are a few other good ideas I’ve seen floating around. There’s the IKEA napkin holder which I tried for a while, as well as this basket idea.

2:25pm / May 15th / 15 Comments

Best Solid State Guitar Amps 2015

I’ve recently been interested to see if the recent band of analog solid state guitar amps are starting to catch up on tube ones. I understand that digital is getting close in terms of tone, but I’m thinking more about feel, and I still think you need analog for perfect feel. Still even if you like modelling, you still need an analog power amp to hear it, and it does seem that a consensus is emerging that power amp and its interaction with the speaker that effects the feel the most, but more on that later.

Update:
It seems that most of the more recent Quilter amps are class D, but according to this patent and forum post, may still have some form of current feedback applied:
http://www.google.co.uk/patents/WO2013082166A1
http://www.ssguitar.com/index.php?topic=3098.0
http://www.google.co.uk/patents/US7924091

First the list.
It starts of with some boutique amps, the Award Session Blues Baby and Ethos Overdrive Amp. Most of the others on this list are all analog solid state amps with current feedback (Fender/Quilter/Tech 21), a few are hybrid tube preamp/ss power amp (Koch/Micro Terror) and some are Class D with no current feedback possible (PowerBlock/Magnum 44).

Current Feedback
The thing that seems to have improved solid state guitar amps since the ones I’ve tried that were made in the 80s/90s, seems to be current feedback, sometimes called current drive or constant current source (CCS). This places the speaker partly in the negative feedback loop of the amplifier causing it to sound/feel more like a tube amp. The following links, particularly the first one, are good for learning about what it means:
http://education.lenardaudio.com/en/13_guitar_amps_3.html
http://www.current-drive.info/9
http://sound.westhost.com/articles/guitar-amps.htm
http://www.award-session.com/bluesbaby2.html

The idea seems to have been around for a while. This thread seems to list some quite using it:
http://www.ssguitar.com/index.php?topic=2346.5

But it only seems to have become more mainstream as Fender started putting it in their solid state amps around 2003 like the “Dynatouch”, Frontman and Champion series, I believe in the early 2000s. You can see the resistor between the speaker and ground on schematics like the Fender Frontman 25R:
http://support.fender.com/schematics/guitar_amplifiers/Frontman_25R_schematic.pdf

A few companies like Award session mentioned above and Albion even use it in how the market their amps:
http://www.albionampsus.com/albion-ag-series/

The season of mainstream all analog current feedback amps maybe short lived though. Fender soon started adding DSP and modelling as they moved on from Frontman to Champion series and class D amplifiers seem to be becoming more popular for their size and efficiency, and I think even with the smaller manufacturers sticking with it, and even it is technically possible, it will be hard to get near a tube amp simply because there have been so many manufactures constantly working on trying to make great sounding tube amps, and there are far fewer solid state ones. It’s hard to imagine guitarists perceptions on tube vs. solid state changing too. The major manufacturers (Fender/Marshall) just want something cheap, and don’t try to produce anything that sounds close to their valve amps and I did notice it was quite hard to find that many demos on youtube of solid state amps, and often the ones there were by beginners with bad technique therefore tone. Still it was interesting on catching up on everything that has happened in the time after I’d decided tube amps were just “better” and now.

10:42pm / May 10th / 15 Comments

Fender Blues Jr. Standby Mod – International 230V Models

I recently purchased a Standby switch for my Blues Jr. with Billm mods. The instructions only come for the US mode. The international model has different wire colours, and more transformer wires which use the clips on the circuit, so I had to work things out myself a little bit.

First off standard warnings: This will void your warranty, and tube amps contain potentially lethal voltages, so I’m not responsible for any damage to your amp, yourself or others.

The standard switch is just a two position switch (off-on) which connects both the live and the neutral wires to the transformer.

Before:

The new switch is a three position switch (off-on-on), in the middle position only one half of the switch is on, and in the full on, both are. The mod involves:

1) Connecting the live (brown) and board live (black) to the half that is on in both positions:

2) Connecting an additional red jumper lead from P11 to the other half of the switch and the red transformer wire (formerly in P11) to the switch.

3) Next the neutral (blue) wire needs to be permanently connected to the white/black transformer wire. The US version of the mod uses some of the onboard jumpers to connect them.

Unfortunately these are all used on the international model so I needed another way. I happened to have a spare power switch with an insulated case that I just use to connect them together. This is the switch on the far left of the after picture.

After:

3:28am / Apr 29th / 15 4 Comments

Pedaltrain Mini Built In Jacks

I first added built in jack sockets using plastic cliff style sockets because I had some already and they keep the ground isolated from the Pedaltrain chassis. However these are less than ideal because the contacts are exposed and can short or get dusty. There is also no strain relief on the cables which could be unreliable for the solder connections. I found that flexing the cables would bend the contacts and stop them being in full contact with the jack that was plugged in.

Ideally I’d use Neutrik sockets with the protective strain relief covers. But the Neutrik sockets see too large for the rear panel of the Pedaltrain mini. My solution was to use the insulated plastic switchcraft style sockets which while square, still seem to fit the Neutrik strain relief covers. I was going to add a cable tie to keep it tight, but seems to be snug enough without it. Here’s some photos:

4:11am / Mar 22nd / 15 Comments

Cheap China Pedal Clone Comparison List

Its questionable how ethical some of the cheap china pedals are, being almost complete rip offs of US designs. But some (like Mooer) are doing unique work, and like JOYO most of the US manufacturers clone a tube screamer. Here’s a list mapping various clones to the original or comparable pedals. Some our just similar, not complete clones, and some, like the Fender Micro DI is an actually rebrand of a pedal original designed in China. The initial list was gathered from here Please enter corrections or additions in the comments and I’ll try update the list from time to time.
View the list…

4:26pm / Mar 11th / 15 Comments

Michael Kelly Hybrid Special Mods

For a few years my main guitars has been a Michael Kelly Hybrid Special. These are fabulous looking guitars for the price, and an interesting setup with piezo bridge and electric pickups and stereo output. Being mid priced guitars though, there are some things that can be improved. Here is a list of what I’ve done to mine.

1. New pickups
The stock rockfield pickups are ok, but a bit modern. I like a bassy and hotter bridge pickup, and more vintagy. I initially went for some Dimarzio Air Classics. The neck was ok, but the bridge was too weak. I changed the bridge to a Dimarzio AT-1 (similar to an Air Zone that I liked before), and the neck to a Catswhisker S-Bucker which has a better coil tap sound and classic/jazzy humbucker sound. I’m still not fully happy with the single coil sound so I may go for something else like a Lindy Fralin in the future.

2. Volume pot replacement and coil tap switch
I found that the volume pot with the onboard switch got scratchy and loose very easily. I eventually changed it to a smooth Bournes full size pot, and installed a separate mini toggle coil tap switch. I think the original was a Bournes pot too, since it was really smooth, but having the switch on there too put too much wear on it. This also allowed me to install a 3PDT toggle switch and add a 470K resistor across the volume control when coil tapped. This makes the volume control a 250K pot, which really helped the single coil tone to be to bright and shrill.

3. Locking tuners
The grover tuners that come with it are great, but I wanted to lock down the tuning as much as possible. I bought some Grover 106C tuners, which stick up a little more than usual and so look different and change the tuning angle a little, but work great and make changing strings super fast.

4. Bone nut and saddle
Michael Kelly aren’t very specific about this on their website, but their customer service said “The nut is a synthetic graphite and the saddle is ABS”. Both my nut and saddle had started to wear in places, the strings didn’t sit properly in the nut, and I think was effecting tuning stability.

I bought a pre cut bone nut and saddle I found on eBay. I had to sand down the bottoms quite a bit, and the radius on the saddle was a bit flatter than the original, but close enough to work.

The tone of the electric side definitely improved. The fundamental note was louder, and upper harmonics a bit fuller. It didn’t sound significantly brighter, just fuller. Strangely I think the unplugged volume was a bit quieter, but that could just be my imagination. The bone nut helped the tuning stability a bit more.

5. Removing active system
After a while I found the active system had two issues. Firstly the jack power switching was unreliable. This means that it would sometimes cut out or produce a large static noise if the jack was pulled at the wrong angle. Secondly the Fishman Powerbridge stereo cable detection was unreliable at detecting the stereo cable, so would sometimes send the piezo to the magnetic output by mistake, or do it only a little bit and produce a small hum.

Eventually I decided it would be better to just go passive, install a 10 Meg volume pot with treble bleed and have a single switch for selecting stereo output, or sending the piezo to the mono output. In general it’s good to have a preamp as soon as you can in a piezo signal chain, but my Fishman Aura preamp pedal has a 10M input impedance, and I run short cables to that, so I thought overall it would be ok. The output volume from the piezo is definitely less, but the large pot and my preamp pedal’s high impedance mean it still seems to have a full bass response. I definitely prefer the solid metal switchcraft stereo socket, rather than the switching plastic type, and its good not to have to worry about running out of batteries.

Large value potentiometers don’t have a smooth taper, so Fishman actually recommend a different setup with multiple resistors and capacitors to use a smaller value pot while preserving bass response with the piezo. I might try that in the future, but for now the simple large 10M pot works.
http://www.fishman.com/files/powerbridge_install_guide.pdf

6. Future
There are two future mods I think I might do to the guitar to have it playing as well as possible.
– Refret and professional setup: The stock frets can’t be the hardest because I’ve already worn mine quite a bit, and have a little bit of buzzing. I might get it refretted with stainless steel so I never have to do it again.

– Change bridge to a hardtail steel piezo bridge. This would make it much easier to adjust the action and intonation of the guitar, but would be another job I need a professional to do, and I’m not sure how well they could refinish the place where the acoustic bridge is removed.

6:00pm / Mar 8th / 15 Comments
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Fender Blues Jr. Presence Mod / Ultimate Strat / Gibson 5 Way Pickup Switch Wiring / Pedaltrain Mini Power Supply Options / Klon vs. Wampler Euphoria vs. Mad Professor Sweet Honey / Mount MacBook Pro Underdesk / Best Solid State Guitar Amps 2015 / Fender Blues Jr. Standby Mod - International 230V Models / Pedaltrain Mini Built In Jacks / Cheap China Pedal Clone Comparison List / Michael Kelly Hybrid Special Mods / Fishman Aura Spectrum DI Preset Footswitch Mod / Humbuckers with good single coil split sounds / Fender Blues Jr. Fat Footswitch with LED / Custom Neunaber ExP (3 Switches and other variations) / Fender Superchamp XD Line In/Mute Switch Mod / Changing Batteries on a Mobee Power Bar / Custom Neunaber ExP Controller / World's smallest true bypass looper / Western Digital Black² in a Apple Macbook Pro 13" / Third Culture Parent / Presonus iTwo with Garageband on iPad / Dumble in a box pedals list / Low cost made in China pedals / Small single-pedal sized multi effects / Pedal and amp list / Fulltone Fulldrive 2 Circuits / Ikea Standing Desks / Who I'd like to see in the dunk competition / Top 10 things I am missing about HK, enjoying about the UK / Simultaneous MIDI/Audio with Apogee ONE for iPad / iPhone Repair Bristol / Disable Git in Eclipse / A New Language for App Engine / iPhone Push Notifications with JavaPNS on Google App Engine / Midi Keyboard Velocity Curve Calibration With Pianoteq / Top 10 things I will and won't miss about Hong Kong / List Apps To Update After Moving iTunes App Store Countries / DynDNS via curl on Apple TV 2 / iOS-WebStack with Apple TV 2 firmware 5.2 (iOS 6.1) / Fast Track Ultra 8R in Mountain Lion / Google DFP with Appcelerator Titanium / Alternatives to Google Apps / Digitech iStomp and the new iPhone 5 lightning connector / The case for wired keyboards / Cornerstone vs. Versions vs. SmartSVN / Use of Foxconn and other manufacturers / iPhone Screen Setting / Pedal Board / New Family Friendly Homepage / Tip for efficient living / Detecting Quercus / Amazon S3 for WordPress with CloudFront / Database Read Replicas / Force User Login Multisite / Moving Church / Top 10 things I love about living in Ocean View / My Paper / iPhoto '11 No Place Smart Album / Creed / Random OSX Hacks / Getting Married :) / Diddy Feet / Very helpful error message / Apple LED Cinema Display with a PC / Simply Christian - N.T. 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