20 December 2013

Wiring DIY: in-phase, out-of-phase and hum-cancelling concepts


While dealing with just a single pickup or coil, it makes no sense to be worried about things as "out-of-phase" or "hum-cancelling" but, as soon as you combine together a couple of coils or pickups, those concepts have big impact on resulting sound.

If you are interested on pickups and on moding your guitar wiring to achieve alternative sounds to those few that came stock then, the wording "in-phase", "out-of-phase" and "hum-cancelling" would be part of your language but, what at the does it mean and, how do we know if we get one or the other when trying to combine one or the other coil of a humbucker with a true single coil pickup?.

Along this blog entry, I will try to let you understand what is behind this concepts and how to achieve your wanted results and, how to avoid the wrong ones.

How coils are wound, phase and polarity stuff

Usually, coils are made of a continous thin (42 to 44 AWG) isolated (formvar, etc) copper wire wound around  a frame to form a coil. Since engines rotate usually clockwise (CW from now), the CW winding direction is the usual way as EVERY coil is being wound.

The starting side of that single wire that forms the coil, after so much turns stays in the inner part of the coil while the finish of that single wire stays in the outer part of the coil (since it belongs to the last turn).
Usually, that start "wire" is connected to ground, while the finish "wire" is connected to hot (to the signal path).

That means that we assign positive electrical polarity to the finish wire and, negative electrical polarity to the starting wire but, for this to be true, the magnetic field should have South polarity.

So, most of COILS are of type CW-S (wound ClockWise with South Magnetic Polarity).
The typical Fender Strato coils are CW-S and, most of strato direct replacement pickups are, also.

In the case of humbucker pickups, both coils were wound in the same direction (once again, CW) but, since they are being placed over two different poles of the same magnetic bar, one has a North magnetic polarity and, the other South magnetic polarity.
Usually, the screw coil (adjustable) has North polarity (CW-N), while the slug coil (not adjustable) has South polarity (CW-S).

To get rid of hum in notch positions, Fender started to produce RW/RP (Reverse Wound / Reverse Polarity) middle pickups, to achieve hum cancellation in positions  2 and 4 of a typical strato.
But, take also into account that some models of Fender were historically mounted with flipped magnet rods, which created pickups of type CW-N (instead of CW-S).

A RW/RP pickup has a reverse wound and reverse polarity RESPECT OF THEIR model pickups.
That means that if for a certain model or group of models, the standard coil is CW-S, the corresponding middle RW/RP will be of type CCW-N (Counter ClockWise, North polarity) but, if the original set had pickups of type CW-N (ClockWise, North), the respective RW/RP will be of type CCW-S (Counter ClockWise, South).

Most of Fender Strato pickups are of type CW-S and, their middle RW/RP is CCW-N but, certain models, as the Texas Hot are of type CW-N and their respective RW/RP is of type CCW-S.

Following picture (click for full size), shows the different scenarios we can find when combining the 4 different types of coils described above.

You can see that for each two coils combination, we have two different columns in this table.
First one (in-phase) will have a YES if both pickups are electrically in-phase or NOT if they are electrically out of phase.
Second one (hum-cancel) will have a YES if the combination is good for hum-cancelling or NOT, if not the case.
Best scenario (in-phase / hum-cancelling) is shown in green, worst scenario (out-of-phase / not hum-cancelling) is shown in red and the in-between scenario (in-phase / not hum-cancelling) is shown in yellow.

When two coils are in-phase, they produce full sound, they just sound good.
When two coils are out-of-phase, the sound becomes thin, weak, hollow, nasal and sharp, do to the fact that most of the signal originated by the movement of the strings and caught by each coil have oposite sign and they are being cancelled.
When two coils are arranged in a hum-cancelling configuration, most of the noise (not signal) caught by both coils has oposite sign and therefore is being cancelled while the signal remains intact, in-phase.

But you should take into account that the signal produced by two different coils isn't exactly the same, never and, neither the hum or noise present.
For two coils to generate the exact same signal and noise, those should be exact clones one of the other and, stay in the exact same physical place.
As you can easilly understand, this is practically impossible, in real terms. So, even two twin coils of a humbucker will get the signal and noise slightly different and, therefore, the resulting signal will be slightly different to the signal we would get from one or the other coil alone and, also because of this, not all the hum will be completely cancelled.

The more equal that two coils will be and the more close they can be physically, the purest the signal and the lowest the hum.
The same coil placed in different spots along the guitar strings will produce different signals and noise levels.
You should have noticed that the neck (or front) pickup is always rich in harmonics and generates a strong signal, while the bridge (or rear) pickup sounds weaker, thinner and brighter.

If pickups makers didn't changed the number of turns or wire type or magnet strength in the differently placed pickups (bridge, middle, neck) we wouldn't be able to balance their output levels.

To reverse the phase (electrical polarity, in fact) of a pickup, swapping which wire goes to hot and which wire goes to ground has same effect as to reverse winding the coil.
So, if you have a CW-S coil and you solder to hot the start (natural negative) and to ground the finish (natural positive), you pickup is now acting as a CCW-S pickup. The oposite is also true.
Just understand that you are not able to change the magnetic polarity that way, just the electrical polarity.

To reverse the magnetic polarity, you need to flip 180ยบ the magnet bar (humbuckers) or the magnet rods (single coils) and, this is always harder and very specially with single coil pickups.

So, if you have two CW-S coils, swaping the hot and ground wires in one, will leave you in a CW-S / CCW-S scenario, which (take a look to the table) is a very bad one!.

To achieve an in-phase / hum-cancelling scenario, you need two coils with reverse phase (electrical polarity) and reverse polarity (magnetic polarity).

We said that both coils of same humbucker pickup were wound in the same direction (CW) but, one is placed over the North side of the magnet bar, while the other is over the South side of the magnet bar.
So, in a humbucker we have a CW-N coil and a CW-S coil. But search that case in the table above!. That's a bad case!.

If we link the start of each coil to negative and the finish to positive, we have exactly that case CW-N / CW-S but, if you remember, by swaping the two wires in a coil we are achieving the same as winding such a coil reverse so, if we just swap the wires of the North coil, we achieve a CCW-N coil and, now our scenario is CCW-N / CW-S. Take a look to the table. Yes, in-phase / hum-cancelling !!!.

This little trick allows the makers to achieve in-phase / hum-cancelling configurations even using coils wound in the same direction (CW). And that's why the typical arrangement of wires in a humbucker is as follows:

south start -> to ground
south finish - north finish (linked together, coils in series)
North start -> to hot

or you can swap ground and hot in south and north starts.

Which start goes to ground depends on each pickup maker, because for braided single conductor pickups (old school humbuckers), the start wire that is ground, is ground together with plate ground wire.

As we explained in other articles, a covered pickup creates some kind of Faraday's cage, which will get the noise in cage's walls and that noise will be thrown to the trashcan if that cage is being soldered to ground.
In braided single conductor pickups, the cage is in contact (soldered to) with the "humbucker ground wire" and, therefore, if we try the trick of swapping both coil wires we will positivize the cage, achieving an antenna that will catch lots of noise that will be thrown to the signal, instead of to ground!!!.

That's why some special mods make no sense with such a kind of pickups. You have braided single conductor examples in humbuckers, mini-humbuckers and P-90 single coils, by example.
But some Fender' single coils have a metallic plate on its bottom that is usually connected to the start (negative) of the pickup.
Once more, swapping the two conductors, we are positivizing such a plate with unwanted side effects.
That's why Telecaster mods that use out-of-phase or that need both pickups in series use a neck pickup with three wires (start, finish and plate ground).

This is not an issue with a humbucker having 4 conductors (start and finish of each coil) and an extra bare wire (for plate / cover ground).

Typical scenarios

Now that we have the background info of the previous version, it will be really easy to understand typicall scenarios and what to do in each case.

Let' start with Strato single coils.
In positions 1, 3 and 5, nothing of what was discussed here has any relevance, since each coil is being selected alone.
In positions 2 and 4 we are combining the middle pickup with either the neck or the bridge pickup.

As we explained above, most of coils are wound in CW direction and, they way as Fender mounts their magnet rods, give to that coils South polarity. So, each pickup is a CW-S case.
The black wire is the start wire and should be grounded.
The clear wire (white, yellow or alike) is the finish wire and should be linked to the hot path (pickup's output).

For those notch positions, in a standard Strato, we have an scenario CW-S / CW-S and, if you look that table above, that means that those positions are in-phase but not hum-cancelling. The sound, in this case has a nice bite and quack but, it's noisy.

Standard Strato coils, with a RW/RP middle pickup, will correspond to the scenario CW-S (neck or bridge) / CCW-N (middle) and, if you look to that table above. This is an in-phase and hum-cancelling scenario.
Since both pickups aren't exact clones and, since they are distant one from the other, some of the original signal will be cancelled and not all the hum would be removed.
The resulting sound has less presence than in the standard case, the quack isn't so pronounced but, the noise is clearly reduced.

So, sometimes, to achieve hum-cancelling positions can make slightly duller the tone of two coils combined together.

In the way the coils of any regular humbucker are being arranged, with the two finish wires soldered together and used to split the to one or the other coil (grounding the linked wires or, linking them to hot), there is the risk of splitting to the coil that, combined with that Strato single will lead to a wrong scenario. So, to understand what are we doing at every time is key for success.

When combining two humbuckers of the SAME maker (and I would say, model also), when splitting to North coils or South coils in both humbuckers, we will get in-phase but not-hum cancelling scenarios and, when splitting one to North coil and the other to South coil, we will achieve an in-phase and hum-cancelling scenario.

As explained in the case of Strato singles, which one to choose will depend on the wanted effect. If you can stand the noise and get a punchier sound, go to split same coils in both pickups. If you cannot stand the noise, go to split oposite coils in each pickup.

So, let say that we have a bridge humbucker with following color wires (Seymour Duncan's example):

You can see that the North wires were swapped (start wire goes to hot, instead of finish), to achieve that CCW-N type, while the South wires are standard (start to ground, finish as positive) so, we have a coil type CW-S.

Now, if we have to split that bridge pickup in position 4 (middle + bridge), in a Strato-alike guitar then ...

If we have a standard Strato pickup in the middle position, that would be of type CW-S.
If we wanted to achieve a typical position 4 (with the quack and the noise), we need to get a CW-S / CW-S scenario (by example, not the only possible). Since the South coil is just that, a CW-S, splitting the humbucker to South will give us that typical standard 4 position.
But, if we wanted to get a hum-cancelling position, we need to get a CW-S / CCW-N scenario and, that corresponds to split to the North pickup.

But if we are in the case of a standard RW/RP middle pickup, we have a coil type CCW-N.
If we wanted to achieve the typical positon 4, this time we need to select a CCW-N coil in our humbucker, that is, the North coil.
And, if we wanted a hum-cancelling position with that middle, we need a CCW-N / CW-S scenario and, therefore, we need to split to the South coil, this time.

Which color was used to identify which wire (north and south coils starts and finishes), widely changes from pickups maker to maker but, once you are clear about the scenarios described in the table above and the tricks we already discussed here, you will be able to always get what you wanted to achieve, while designing your wiring project.

Taking as example the above color wiring, if we put black to hot and white linked to red, the North pickup is type CCW-N and the South of type CW-S.
If we put white to hot and black linked to red, instead, we have North of type CW-N and South of type CW-S and, what we get is a  humbucker with their own coils out-of-phase. This will result in a weak signal with a nasal, hollow, thin, and sharp characteristic sound. But, maybe this is what we wanted to achieve!.

If we leave the North pickup linked as in the picture but, we swap red and green, we are having a CCW-N / CCW-S scenario and, once more, we get that characteristic out-of-phase sound.

To get a scenario with coils in-phase but not hum-cancelling isn't possible inside a humbucker. Look at the table above and, you will see that for that, you need two pickups with the same phase and polarity and, this is not possible since each coil has a different magnetic polarity.
So that kind of scenario takes place just when combining one coil of a humbucker with other coil of another humbucker or single coil pickup.

So, at the end, we can achieve following distinctive sounds out of a humbucker:

North coil alone (split to North coil)
South coil alone (split to South coil)
Coils in series and in-phase (regular humbucker sound, strong and warm, also hum-cancelling)
Coils in series but out-of-phase (weaker than previous one, thin, nasal, hollow and sharp)
Coils in parallel and in-phase (slightly weaker than a coil alone, open, clear, defined, bright and hum-cancelling)
Coils in parallel but out-of-phase (the weaker of all, thin, nasal, hollow and sharp)

Same is posible if we talk about two coils of two different pickups (being those another humbucker or just a single-coil pickup).

While for most of people the out-of-phase sound is unusable, Peter Green's typical tone was achieved with two out-of-phase humbuckers, in the middle position of the pickup selector switch (rythm + treble).
I personally like the OOP sound mainly under high distortion, when you need a razor-sharp screaming sound. I don't like so much for clean stuff, to be honest.

When dealing with Reverse Polarity Fender pickups (as the Texas Hot, among other models), which are CW-N, you will often need to swap the south and north start wires to get the wanted combinations with the trick to solder to ground or hot the link between both humbucker coils to achieve one or the other coil split.

09 December 2013

Pedals: Jetter Gear Jetdrive - First contact


After trying pedals like Weehbo's ones, it's difficult to get a pedal that can excite you enough. Weehbo pedals are, to me, one of the best preserving your tone and dynamics, while providing you a tone shaping tool to mime other aftersought amp sounds.
But, at least with my Fender Stratocaster, I don't feel them as having the right amount of gain I am needing.

I've bought a Suhr Shiba, a Suhr Riot and a Xotic SL, trying to cover all my gain needs.
Well, those pedals are "cooked pies" and, they work awesome but, to me, they lack the great dynamics of Weehbo effects and, they have a "cooked tone".
The three sound awesome, don't be fooled but, they are not what I really need, for how I like to play and combine pedals.

I don't know how, really!, but accidentally saw some youtube video demoing a Jetter Gear pedal and, I was interested from second one.

Taking into account that those three pedals mentioned above, where covering "cooked sounds", I wanted this time some kind of tube-like clean overdrive, able to get the harmonics from my amp, while playing in the clean channel and quiet volumes.

After reviewing Jetter Gear stuff, I thougth his Jetdrive could be the right pedal to complement my pedalboard.

Today, the Jetdrive came and, I had a short one-hour session testing it.
And, that's all about this blog entry, my impressions after my first contact.

Jetter Gear Jetdrive


As usual in Boutique Pedals, this pedal comes in a sad blank cardboard box, with one sticker on the upper side, with pedal name and serial number.
Inside, just the pedal and a single sheet with a few information.

I am lacking technical specificactions. There is nothing about how much current it draws and, which are the voltage ranges supported, etc. This information is key to plan your pedalboard.
Also, some sample settings would be welcome.

The pedal includes a battery and, to remove it, you need to unscrew the four short screws that stand the back plate.

To be fair with the other overdrives in my pedalboard, I plugged the DC input of the Jetdrive into a 12V output of the Voodooo Lab Power Pedal 2 unit.

This pedal weights considerablely and it seems to be built of a high quality components. Its size is even smaller than I thought. Same width than Weehbo's but, slightly longer.


It has two different overdrive channels that can be selected alone or stacked.
Each channel has its own Drive, Volume and Tone knobs (even if they are being called in other way).
Easy to tweak and, always useful tones.

No cryptic controls, highly dependent that can lead you to an infinite search of the right sound.


Did I said awesome?.
Yes, awesome!

This pedal shines out-of-the-box, whith controls at any position.
From subtle gain ranges to medium gain ranges, covering all drive needs, except for high gain stuff.

The Green channel sounds to me with some bump in mid-lows frequencies. Not a clear roll off of low end or high end but, as if it had some bump in mid-lows frequencies.
It seems to generate even harmonics, which gives it a silky and warm voice but, fully respecting your guitar and amp tone. It's just like driving your tubes to their sweet spot.
All notes are clearly audible and distinguishable but, just with that rich harmonical content.
I am finding this channel as the main overdrive channel for most of songs, even that for certain songs, I prefer the definition of the blue channel.

The Blue channel sounds to me with a plain EQ and a crispier tone, slightly more crunchy while transparenter. It's like if it was generating odd harmonics, that create a more defined sound, with an slight crunch that I wouldn't define as Marsallish.

Both channel stacked complement really good and allow you for liquid solos, while preserving all your guitar and amp nuances and QUIET enough.

Stacked with other pedals

I have to go to more in-deep tests but, I honestly didn't like how this pedal interactuates with my Area 51 Wah pedal. Probably, because the buffer of the Area 51 is on (I have to switch off that buffer !!!!).

I still have to check it with my other pedals but, had no time enough.
This will come in a new entry in this blog.

Stay tuned!.
I am planning some demo video, once I am more done to this pedal but, after testing it, I DIG FOR A DHARMA TO DEAD!!!!!

UPDATE 13/12/2013

I had the oportunity to check in depth the pedal and relationships with the rest of my pedalboard.
The first thing I've noticed is that the Jetdrive DOESN'T LIKES ANY BUFFER BEFORE.
It sound way better without its input being buffered.
I had to un-buffer my Area 51 Wah, move the Wampler Decibel+ to the end of the chain, and switch off the buffer in the Vibe Machine.

Second thing is that, compared similar settings between the Jetdrive and the Suhr Shiba, Suhr Riot and Xotic SL, the Jetdrive gets same overall feeling but stays more defined and dynamic so, I've ended romemoving those three pedals and, now, my pedalboard is of a very small size.

I would probably go for some pedal with that Hellium from Jetter Gear and a nice hi-gain distortion, to complete the picture.

I can unload the Wampler Decibel+ since, it's doing no good and, at the end, I am planning to substitute the Vibe Machine with a Strymon Mobius (for all the modulation stuff) and that Wampler EGO with some good and no-brain compressor. I found Wampler's as thinning a tad my tone.

This is the picture on how my pedalboard was reduced, to cover a lot of ground:

Just the minimum!
And the decibel+ can disapear, I have it switched off all the time.

04 December 2013

Pedals: Suhr Shiva Drive, Suhr Riot and Xotic SL Drive - First contact


Here we are again, testing new drive pedals. I think I will never end!.
Well, Weehbo effects are absolutely top notch pedals but, I've found them difficult to drive with my needed amount of gain, without compromising their tone or having clear feedback.

To be honest, I was thinking on to get again a Mad Professor Little Green Wonder (which I sold to a friend) for that bluesy sound and, some clearer overdrive for opener and sparkly sound.
For Hi-Gain, I wasn't satisfied with the sound of the Bastard. It's eq'd in some way that sounds veiled to my hearing and, I am not able to dial a cutting EQ without going harsh.

Maybe, all that is my fault or, just because of my gear but, it clearly didn't worked for me so, I went back to the market looking for something else.

For clean overdrive, I've choosed the Jetter Gear Jetdrive, because in my book it seems that will fill that hole. For hi-gain, I wanted to check again the Suhr Riot, even that I remembered that the sound was a tad too much for what I was looking for and, for bluesy overdrive  I was angry to get again the Little Green Wonder, after selling it.

I was surprised seen that Suhr enhanced their Shiba and Riot pedals, this time renamed Reloaded. I've carefully heard some videos and was interested on to try those (so, I could forget the LGW, by now).

In other side, one of the sounds that I love more is the sound of a Marshall 1959 SLP.
The Weehbo JCM Drive goes really close but, once again, it hasn't the amount of gain I need and, as per other users comments, the JVM Drive is not the remedy.
Being familiar with Xotic effects, I saw they were delivering that new SL Drive and, after looking some videos, I thought it worths the try.

Today, those three came and, I had my first contact with them so, that's what I would like to share with you in this article.

I am still pending on receiving the Jetter Jetdrive, which I expect also for this week and, will do a review of such a pedal very soon, also.


Well, I know the picture doesn't makes justice to the nice look of this pedals but, my mobile's cam has serius issues trying to focus a pedal with some shinning metallic logo or part (as the SL) so, sorry.

Those Suhr pedals have the best presentation I've ever seen in a pedal maker. And, I am not talking about the appealing cardboard box, I am talking about how well protected the pedal remains inse the box.
The box has a preformed foam that completely envolves the pedal. Even the box' tap has a preformed foam pad.
Very good job, Suhr !!!.

When you remove the pedal, on the bottom there is a 9V battery, ready to use.
Pedals seem well made and with parts of quality.
No user's manual inside so, you have to go to Suhr' site and download the manual.

The Xotic SL comes in a very unpersonal white carboard box, with just an sticker on one side, identifying brand and pedal. Inside, the pedal is wrapped with paper (do you see the difference?). and, you can find the typical single-sheet user's manual and some advertisings.

While the two Shur pedals are light as helium, the Xotic is heavy as an output transformer.
After removing the battery from inside, the pedal still weights considerablely so, don't be fooled with its size because it's built like a tank.
I always wonder how that Xotic people is able to put so much tone in so little boxes.
While Lovepedal does the same, no Lovepedal of such a size works with a baterry, since they have no room but, Xotic always have room for a battery.


The three have three controls and, the same three: Volume, Drive and Tone.

Volume controls the overall output of the effect and, I've found them as working really nice. I was able to easily get the unitary volume level for each one so, it was easier to stack all them together.

Drive controls the gain or amount of distortion of the effect. All them have a nice range of gain, from subtle to beefy gain. Nice.

While the Tone control has a broad range, I find that in the three cases, the tone is reasonable between 10:00 and 2:00, before or after the tone goes or so muddy or so harsh. But, this will always depend on amp and guitar, at the end.

The two Suhr have a mini-toggle switch to choose between three different voices, that affect to EQ but, also to compression or clipping (more notable in the Shiba).

The SL has 4 internal dip switches to change the content in low, mid-low, mid-high and high frequencies.
I've tested it stock, with factory setting.

The two Shur have an input jack to switch the pedal on and off remotely, depending on the position of the 3-way micro slide switch, beside the DC input jack.


Suhr Shiba Drive Reloaded

I find the Shiba Drive in the ballpark of enhanced Tube Screamers. It goes very close to the best settings of the Wampler Paisley and, even being less versatile than the Little Green Wonder or the Rihno, it sounds plainly awesome.

Not tweakable but, the sound is really good from the beginning and really easy to achieve. There is no need to move highly dependent controls to one and the other side (as in the case of the Wampler). Just a sound, but a good one!.

Weehbo has nothing in the line of TS but, the left voice of the Shiba Drive remembers me the sound of Dumbleish pedals, as the Dumbledore, Zendrive and Euphoria (smooth voice). This position has a clear roll out of highs and a hard compression that tames your attack.

The other two positions are more dynamic and, very specially the middle one (which is the one I am using).

It was very easy to get my wanted sound, while other cryptic pedals drove me crazy during days.

The voice is a tad boxy, as if you were running your amp in a closed back cab but, not muddy.
The sound is rich in harmonics and, goes apparently undefined, because of this but, if you hear the sound carefully, you see that definition note to tone is there, even in open or disonant chords.

While I had issues trying to make the Paisley or the Dumbledore to cut the mix, this pedal cuts it with attitude, from second one.

Stacks really nice with the other two and helps them to go just a spot higher in their gain dial, liquifying solos and increasing the sustain. Pushes other drives really nice.

Suhr Riot Reloaded

To be honest, since most of the videos I see related to this pedal are made shredding or doing metal with drop-d tunings and alike, I thought that probably wouldn't work for me.
But, man, it does!.

Once again, the voice switch allows you to choose one of the three different EQs and clipping levels. To me, the middle position worked the best.

As the Shiba, the foundational voice of this pedal is boxy, as if you were running your amp in a closed back cab but, surprisingly it cuts the mix without issues.

It's very easy to dial liquid sounds and, easy to get pinch harmonics. Overall, the sound is well bodied and, solos are a pleasure.

I had no issues stacking the Shiba or the SL before. Each one gave a different nuance to Riot' sound and, both worked really good, pushing the Riot into a very controlled and musical feedback.
The SL into the Riot sounds more like a Marshall driven  hard, while with the Shiba before the sound is less classy but, incredible good also.

Xotic SL Drive

Well, does it sounds like a Super-Lead?.
Really close, yes and, even if not... who cares?.
Sounds really good, this little monster!

The closer pedal I personally know is the Weehbo JCM Drive but, while I had serious problems trying to dial a nice gain with the JCM Drive, in the Xotic was ridiculous easy.
It sounds awesome alone and with some pedal stacked before or after. No issues.

If I have to find something not so exciting in those pedals, this would be that they don't clean really good.
I needed to roll out the guitar volume practically to mute levels to be able to clean the sound and, even cleaining it, there was always some kind of extra harmonics or clipping.

The SL Drive, with the guitar volume at maximum sounds a tad compressed (over-beefed), compared to the sound that you can get just slightly rolling out the volume one or two numbers on the dial.

Comparatively, Weehbo pedals clean way better. Most of Wampler's also.

Overall, I would say that the sound is less refinated than in Weehbo or Wampler pedals but, I think results are easier to achieve and the three sound very musical and cut the mix so...


Since there are a lot of videos demoing the sound of those pedals and how their controls give you this or the other sound, I've just focused on how these pedals work in my pedalboard.
I've just set up each one with the sound I liked more and, unitary volume level.

The video starts with a couple of free downloadable mp3 tracks, based in a couple of songs of Eric Clapton (Cocaine and Old Love). Specially, the second song has a lot of dynamics and, allows me to try a broader range of picking strengths.

After those couple of backing tracks. I am just testing each pedal, first separately and then one stacked into the other.

28 November 2013

General: comming soon

Comming soon

There are four gain pedals I REALLY NEED to test and, they will come very soon.
As soon, as I can put my hands on, I will create some review/demo video with all them alone and combined together.

Pedals to come are:

Jetter Jetdrive (which will take a bit longer to be delivered)
Suhr Shiba Drive Reloaded
Xotic SL Drive
Suhr Riot Reloaded

I am hopping to cover my gain needs with those and, if I like the Jetter, I am planning to get some more.
While I love Weehbo pedals, I am finding they are awesome alone but, hard to stack together and, I love to have gain pedals that work as pieces of a puzzle that I can redefine by combining several pedals together.
Also, Weehbo doesn't have a particular take of a TS alike overdrive neither a light all-purpose overdrive to enhance other overdrives or distortions.
I am missing that flexibility and, I hope the Jetdrive can fill that hole.

The Shiba seems also a good take of a TS and, lots of people talks about its goodness so, why don't try it.

The Xotic SL Drive seems to cover those Super Lead tones that I love so much, in a very practical and slim pedal. I was a bit disapointed with the amount of gain in the JCM Drive but, it seems that the JVM hasn't the same outstanding sound of the JCM Drive.
In my book, that SL seems to cover that intermediate gain I am missing between the JCM and the JVM drives.

The Suhr Riot is one of the most sought-after hi-gain distortion pedals but, the hearings I did of their first version, sounded to me a tad dark, noisy and compressed.
Suhr is now offering the Reloaded version of both, the Shiba Drive and the Riot.
I've seen the videos of Pete Thorn and, liked!.
Most of videos are focusing on D-tunning which is a bit deceptive to me, since I am usually working with standard tuning. But Pete's videos give me a closer approach to my applications.
So, I am expecting the Riot can do a better job than the Bastard, which still sounds to me as having a blanket on the cab (like an small Mesa combo).

Will I ever end my quest for tone?.
I dunno, but the trip is always exciting!.
I love (good) pedals so, I am waiting those with open arms.

Stay tuned

Accessories: Testing V-Picks plectrums with traditional shapes


Moved by the mood and own curiosity, some years ago I was testing some V-Picks plectrums.
In that time, I had the sensation that the material which they were made and their finishing were outstanding but, the size and shapes were uncomfortable for my playing.

Just by casuality, I've seen that V-Picks was delivering some picks with very accepted traditional shapes.
The shape I like more is the one that corresponds to Dunlop Jazz III pickups. This size is just perfect for me but, I can live with traditional Fender Shell pickups shape, as well.

So, I was very curious to test V-Picks take of those two highly accepted shapes and, I am really happy with results.

V-picks Small Pointed Pearly Gates and Tradition plectrums

See this picture (click for full size):

As you can see, they are close in shape to "originals" but, not exactly the same.

The Pearly Gates (first pick, on left hand) is close to the Dunlop Jazz III (second) but, while the upper angles of the Dunlop are smooth, the V-Picks has three clear angles.
That makes it a bit less comfortable on hand, to be honest but, in other side, you have 3 exactly-the same points you can use to play so, if one worns you still have two more to use, which gives a longer life to such a pickup.
One of the issues with those Dunlop Jazz III (even the Ultex model) is that they worn really fast, which affects to the accuracy of your picking technics.

The third pick is the V-Picks Tradition, compared to a typical Fender-alike Shell pick (forth).
See that, in this case, the upper angles aren't so smooth as in the original one, which makes that pickup slightly less comfortable. But, once again, they are sharped in a way that you could use any of the three points for your picking but, being the natural point more appropiated for that.

Even that shapes are, overall, very close to original ones, they aren't exactly the same. More than this, the materials are totally different and, the thicness is the most relevant difference.
V-picks seem to be twice thicker than the original models.

But, don't leave that thickness to fool you. Borders of those picks are so awesomelly beveled and filed that it's a pleasure to play with them. Also, that extra thinkness increases the grip of the pick so, it's really comfortable on hand.

It took me about 1 hour to be used to those V-Picks but, as soon as I was comfortable with them, I've noticed a better precision in my picking, playing smoothly.
Surprisingly, that extra thickness (and, at the end, mass) wasn't increasing the attack and making strings to bump out of the nut. I would say that they've worked smoother than the original ones.

After a couple of days, I went to test back the original ones and I had weird sensations. They seemed to me so slim that were tasteless to the touch and handling!!!.

It's really curious how picks impact to me.

Well, from those two models, I am feeling more comfortable playing those Pearly Gates, both because of its shape and because of its sound. I think it has a smoother attack than the Traditional, is more comfortable on hand and, better to get pinch harmonics.

Guitars: Testing wax potted Seth Lover with A8 magnet


In a previous article (http://hermeticoguitar.blogspot.com.es/2013/11/guitars-magent-swapping-and-wax-potting.html), I've shared with you the process of wax potting and magnet swapping that I did for a Seymour Duncan's SH-55b Seth Lover (bridge) pickup.

The aim of such a modification was to get rid of two issues.
First one was to remove feedbacj in such a pickup, which made it unable as soon as even the lightest overdrive was applied to the sound.
Second goal was to raise the output level of such a pickup, without compromising the tone, to achieve a better balance with that Seth Lover and the two Seymour Duncan's SM-1 Firebird mini-humbuckers on Neck and Middle positions.

Do I succeed?.
Well... partially.

Goal 1: to remove feedback by wax potting the pickup

As I've explained in article linked above, I wasn't using the correct wax / parafine proportion, since I hadn't any bee wax available. I was using a set of parafine candles to do the potting.

The bath needs 80% of parafine and 20% of true bee wax, to achieve the right balance to penetrate every quatter and to remain there. Parafine is very liquid and bee wax very dense so, just the proportion mentioned above is the right one for a right potting work.

I did that potting without following the right "formula" so, I wasn't expecting good results.
But, I would say that at least, I was able to remove around the 90% of the feedback issues.
Currently, I can use the pickup under overdrive and, I just have feedback under high gain distortion, which is more than I expected, to be honest.

I know there are still some things that I should do to try to fix the feedback issues, as by example, to substitute the springs with some rubber tube.
But there is also something that worries me. This guitar has metallic pickups rings, that could produce micro-vibrations against the pickup cover and, therefore be part of that feedback issue.

So, I am still not done with feedback issue but, there are some steps to follow first.

Goal 2: to increase pickup output without compromising its sound

This goal was achieved but, even that the original output was clearly raised, those mini-humbuckers are still having a huge output level.
At least, now I can better balance the output levels.
Respect of sound, if you are used to Seth Lover's sound YOU, better than me, should be able to determine if the original sound was preserved after swapping the stock magnet with an AlNiCo Roughcast A8 magnet.


I did a video recording the testing session I had.
The guitar isn't fine tuned, still. Action and rest of set up are still not finished so, the axe isn't comfortable to play, actually.
Also, pickups heights are a bit too much, to my taste so, the sound can go a tad compressed under gain.

This is also an oportunity to you to hear the Firebird style mini-humbuckers, if you never did it.
In a three pickups axe, as this Firebird of a friend of mine, the combinations with that middle pickup bring a broad spectrum of sound nuances. Just playing with volume pots in one or more pickups, the sound can change really radically, from warm to stratish single-coil.

I am quite sure that, once I fine tune this axe, it will be a real sound-making-machine.
I was greatefully surprised with the sound and power of those mini-humbuckers and, after this magnet swapping, the Seth Lover can be part of the sound equation.

20 November 2013

Pedal Effects: Hermida Audio Zendrive and Tiki Drive


Note: this article was already published in my old Spanish Version of this blog, around September 2011. I am just revisiting it here, in English.

One of the kind of effects I love the most is a good overdrive. The OD allows you to simulate the sweet spot of tube amps, without having to go so louder in that amp.

There are a lot of overdrives and, while some just try to "push" the tubes (as the Ibanez TS-808), others just overwrite amp's sound (as Boss SD-1). There are transparent (like the Timmy) or coloring ones (the most).

To my ears, those overdrives that push tubes sound best, because they can force the tube itself to extract its rich harmonical content but, of course, you need a certain minimum volume in your amp to have a good sound with some of those.

In other side, those that overwrite the sound can work really good with solid state amps, since they deliver a tubular sound to those.

A transparent overdrive is what we need if we love the natural tone of our amp but, for this, a nice clean booster can work, also. A pushing colorant overdrive will push the tubes but will add something else to the sound and, that's something that we want some times.

Probably the most classic overdrives are the Boss SD-1 (overwriter), MXR Distortion+ and Ibanez TS-808 (and family).

Most of overdrive pedals that you can find in the market are just a redesign off one of those, trying to remove something that the maker didn't liked and to add something else that the maker wanted to hear.
From all, the TS-808 is probably the "father" with more "childs" world wide. It seems to be the "barely perfect" overdrive but, everybody tries to make it perfect (to his/her hearing!).

Yes, I've got an Ibanez TS-808 reissue and, it brings you that well known bluesy and rocky sound, with recesed basses and trebles and a good presence in mids and an overall tasty warm tone. But, it tends to go undefined when pushed hard, and specially when combined with other gain pedals.
Also, it delivers its best when your amp is already boiling, with a good volume level so, for quieter applications, if your amp has 30W or more and you have a quiet volume, this is not the best OD to choose.

I've got an OCD, also. Versatiler than the TS and, which can work better at quieter volumes. But, this is a pedal that tends to have some impedance issues and that react very differently depending on which pedal is stacked before and after.
The OCD has a broader dynamic range and a wider gain range, but it has excesive low content to my ears.
When pushed hard, it enters in tight distortion territory, with asymetric clipping (sharper and coder than TS).

As none seems to fully satisfy me, I am in the market again, searching for alternative overdrives. I was after some TS-alike overdrive but, clearer and with a better dynamics.
After watching some Youtube videos, three names where sounding as candidates: Paul C's Timmy (or Tim), Klon Centaur and Hermida Audio Zendrive.

As a transparent overdrive, probably the Timmy is the natural election.
To me, the Centaur and Zendrive sound similar but, I liked more how the Zendrive seems to retain the dynamic range and, its voice sounds more interesting to me, at this moment.

In other side, as classic distortions, the Boss DS-1 and MXR Distortion+ are the platforms that everybody seems to take as a basis for a re-design. The ProCo The Rat is a (successfull) derivate of the MXR Distortion+ and, from those, The Rat is the one that more organic and powerful sounds to me.

There are more modern designs, that more or less, try to mime the sound of the high gain channels of a certain amp (Mesa Boogie, Soldano, Diezel, Bogner, 5150, ...), totally overwriting the natural sound of your amp.

So, once more, I am in the market for a distortion unit, with a classic vibe (as the Rat) but, with a better EQ control, better note to note definition and more usable gain range. Hermida Audio Tiki Drive seemed to me so interesting as to try it.

So, I've finally ordered both pedals, the Zendrive and Tiki Drive and, that's all about this article.

Hermida Audio's (lack of) Customer Service

Before going to my impresions about his pedals, I would like to complain loud about the lack of customer attention of Hermida Audio.

Since you cannot buy his pedals thru any distributor but, only thru his web site, you have no other options than order there your pedals.

I've placed my order on 26th July but, because of an Internet issue, my order was duplicted.
Intantanely, I've sent a mail to Hermida, warning about the issue and, explaining that the first order was already paid but, that I needed them to delete the second duplicated one.
Up to now (September), they didn't answered back to that email and, my duplicated order is still there, in there web page.

I was also interested on to know if there was waiting queue and, which would be the expected delivery time.

A week later, I've received an standard mail saying that my order would be delivered soon, answering NONE of the questions in my mail.

On 10th August, I receive a Paypal mail saying that my order was delivered, via US Postal Service, with the tracking number and link to USPS page.

I was checking the status every day and, it never changed from "delivery documents received", as if Hemida wasn't delivered the parcel at all.

While I was waiting without news, I've sent one more mail asking for techincal questions, as the recommended way to stack both pedals and, asking about the status of my order.

On 25th August, already upset because the lack of attention and information, I've sent one more mail to the three addresses listed in Hermida's page, warning them about the fact that during 15 days, the tracking information didn't changed its status and that, in my understanding they didn't deliverd that parcel to USPS and, if they did it, I would like them to talk to USPS and investigate about my parcel situation.

On 28th August, without any mail, I see that USPS tracking page is updated. The parcel was received on 26th August so, just one day after my last mail and, the 28th it was ready on Spanish Customs.
The 31th August, I had those pedals at home, after clearing Customs taxes.

  • Mr. Hermida answers no mail back. It doesn't matter to me if he is really busy. It's his function to delegate to someone else that task. Otherwise, the customer feels like a shit and, with the suspect of 'I've lost my money'. Maybe he is really friendy by phone but, he cannot pretend that we waste more money in transcontinental calls than the pedals cost themselves!!!.
  • I supose that, to "calm down the beast", he indicated a false delivery date 15 days before the delivery took real place. If the intention was to calm, results were the oposite because, that lack of feedback was making me really nervous.
I don't know which kind of issues Hermida Audio has but, clearly they cannot attend questions of potential or real customers.

Seen that and, taking into account that the Zenkudo sounds as good or even better than the Zendrive and that, it's more versatile and every customer knows the status of his order at any moment, I will choose another continent next time.

Even knowing about the existence of that Zenkudo, I went for that Hermida Zendrive because some kind of "hispanic patriotism". I wanted to help to a smart hispanic with its business.
I am today doble upset with my decision, even that those two pedals sound really good.


Both pedals come in an annonymous cardboard box, without any indication, neither the maker or model.
Inside, the pedal wrapped in bubble plastic and, nothing else.
I am missing few words about how controls interact and, some sample settings to have a reference about possibilities of each pedal.

Size is more or less as MXR pedals and, they are coated just in the front side of the pedal but, with really good looking motives, to be honest.

They look sturdy and, made of quality pieces.
Inside the sensible components or key design parts are covered with some plastic substance to hide design decisions. Something that, seeing the amount of clones available in Internet, wasn't so successful.

Hermida Audio Zendrive

The Zendrive was designed to emulate the sound that Robben Ford was achieving in a very determined song, thru his Dumble amp.
At the end, Hermida ended with some kind of Dumble-in-a-box pedal.

I cannot confirm such a thing and, I doubt there is a lot of people that could ever compare his pedal to a real Dumble amp.

But, comparisons doen't matter to me. I am just interested on how it sounds, independently on how much it resembles that Dumble amp and, Youtube videos made me really interested on it.


Controls de overall output level of signal.

Controls the amount of gain given to the signal and, responsible to push the amp to excite its own harmonics.

Controls de amount of trebles and basses and, it's highly dependent on Voice settings.

This knob changes the overall character or voice of the overdrive. On left positions, the sound goes darker and warmer, more like a Bassman or Dumble. To right, the sound seems to bump mid-trebles, going closer to a Marshall.


Easy. You set the output volume and setup the gain level and, tweaking together Voice and Tone you look for your desired foundational tone for this overdrive.

My impresions

This pedal clearly colors the sound but, its clear and defined at same time. Without having the oportunity to plug my guitar in a Dumble, the sound can cover from Bassman to Marshall with a great detail and a very human-like voice.

The overall sound resembles an old-school tube amp, simple design, harmonical rich and very vocal sounding. It gives to me the impression of to be playing an amp on its right spot, where you can control the break up level with the strenght of your picking.

The pedals has great dynamics and perfectly responds to the strenght and attack of your picking, without loosign definition and, with that kind of "micro-tubular-explosions" that I love to dead.

Stacked with other gain pedals deliver excellent results. I've tested it with a RAT2 into the Tiki and into the Zendrive and, finally those to a Xotic EP Booster and, even that the resulting sound has an expectacular gain, it never looses note to note definition. Just what I was looking for.
Even with that excesive gain, to clean the sound with your guitar's volume knob is quite easy.

It delivers a great amount of middle-lows (similar to TS-808), which can make it a tad difficult to cut the mix but, with the help of Voice and Tone knobs, it's possible to find the right place in the EQ field.

Essentially, this pedal seems to get all the best from the voice of a TS-808, removing its deffects and enhancing its bests.

Hermida Audio Tiki Drive

The Tiki Drive was specially designed for guitarist Ellion Aston, who wanted a Zendrive but, with lot of more gain available on demand.
That high gain ratio is achieved cascading a couple of amplification stages, each one with its distinctive voice.


Controls are exactly the same as the Zendrive but, with the exception that the Tiki Drive adds a second gain pot.


Each gain control has a slightly different voice so, you should check different mixes of Gain 1 and Gain 2 until you achieve the exact gain character you are after.
With Volume, we set up the output level and, with Voice and Tone we get the overall character and EQ of the distortion.

My impresions

This pedal delivers a gain very close to a RAT but, with posibilities to cover from the typical Zendrive settings (with Gain 1 off) up to the high gain levels of RAT but, always maintaining an outstanding definition.

As a difference respect to Zendrive, there are light touch of "fuzz" effect, that pops up sporadically.
The sound remains well defined note by note, even in extreme gain settings.

To play a bit, I've stacked a RAT 2 into the Tiki Drive, this into the Zendrive and, this into the Xotic EP and the results were impressive!. A massive gain but, with outstanding definition, like in a good Peavey 5150.

Even that it sounds awesome alone, I am really happy to see how good it stacks with other gain pedals.


A couple of pedals of this quality well deserve a detailed video, covering the full range of each control and, checking how well they combine with rest of pedalboard.

In those videos you will hear and see each pedal in detail so, you can take your own conclusions.


Tiki Drive

19 November 2013

Pedal Effects: TC Electronics Hall of Fame Reverb


Note: this is an article published around August / 2011 in my old Spanish version of this blog and, that I am revisiting here, in English.

The reverberation effect maybe was create to fix a "historical error".
In early times, musical recording where made by using a couple of mics, to get the stereo sound on the room, to be recorder in some tape system.
The issue with that method was that the whole band should work as a precision clock.
The smallest error would force to the whole band to record everything again and, recording sessions are expensive and time consuming.
Also, these kind of recordings were able to catch other unwanted noises that were present in the room without no one having noticed them but, you know, is surprisingly what mics can catch!.

With the born of multi-tape systems, also born the idea to record separately every instrument in a track so, this would let you to record again just the track of the instrument that failed during performance.
But, since the new recording was made without the rest of band, the ambience sound of the recorded track, didn't matched the ambience sound of rest of tracks.

So, there was the need to completely isolate each instrument from the rest.
For this, separated recording rooms were prepared and, acoustically treated to remove some sonical aberrations, as "comb effect", "room modes", etc. That lead to create "dry rooms" (where you can clap and have no echo feedback).

And all that was nice to isolate instruments and to focus just on the parts that failed before. That speeded up the workstream of recording tasks. But, the big drawback is that dry sounds doesn't like to human hearing. Together with the original source of sound, we need to hear the complex echoes that are being generated while the original source starts to bounce against the several objects it finds while traveling. This is key for us to clearly identify distance and direction of the original source. This was key for a hunters specie, as ours.

If in real world we can see vocals in a first line, with keyboards and guitars in a second and, drums and bass guitar in a third line, in a dry recording everything comes to a first line, going from a "3D picture" to a "2D picture".

So, we were successfull by isolating the instrument from the rest but, to that recording all the right spatial information was missed so, engineers started to test artificial ways to restore the ambience to push every instrument back to the line in that 3D representation of sound.

First reverberations were made as Reverberation Rooms, were they reproduced the dry sound and, they recorded again the reverberated sound produced in such a room. This is a complex reverberation information that depends basically on dimensions and material of the room. Have you ever seen a ROOM reverberation effect in any pedal or rack effect?. Then, you know what it means, now.

Fender made some boxes full of springs in their amps. The signal was sent to a springs unit. A tube was increasing the power of the signal to create some vibration on those strings and, the results of such a vibration was mixed with the original signal. This is the type of reverberation known as SPRING reverberation.

In studios, a new way of reverberation was used, by means of a series of metallic plates to generate such a reverberation, which delivered brighter echoes. This reverberation types is known as PLATE reverberation.

The in-depth study of spaces, how echos are being generated, mixed and spread, which frequencies are being reinforced or dimmed and many other variables, were key for a new reverberation approach and, we can see some emulations of the reverberation characteristics that can be found in certain spaces, like stadium, cathedral, bath room , cave and, anything else a sound designer was interested on.

That spacial emulation was evoluting to a impulses reverberation. For this, a signal is sent in a certain real space and, how the signal evolutes in time is being recorded in many variables at same time, creating an impulse file. This "sonic fingerprint" is being used to modify any other signal and, in that way, results seem to be closer to real world.
The big issue with impulse reverberation is the kind of algorithms that are needed for an accurate representation of the original impulse and, that means a lot of processor resources, what makes this kind of plugins really heavy for a PC.

The amp's reverberation (springs) is one of the typical effects that a guitarist uses but, such an effect is switched out when recording the guitar and, later, studio quality reverberations will be added to guitars track, by example.

Therefore, a reverberation pedal should be of help to us if our amp hasn't such an effect and, if we are playing with our band or alone with some backing track.
Usually, in a live performance, our sound goes thru a good mixing desk and, it's possible that the engineer will choose its own rack effects for that task.

Currently, I've go a Line6 Verbzilla that sounds with a certain "digititis" and, that doesn't fully convinces me. I am running it in front of the amp (the Night Train hasn't FX loop, by example) and, specially combined with gain pedals.

In studio world, reverberations from TC Electronics have a big reputation (specially those coming with their system 6000). As I already decided to go for a Flashback (delay) pedal, I wanted to test their Hall of Fame, as well.

And, this is all about this article. I will give my impressions will testing this pedal effect.

TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb


This pedal comes in a very small cardboard box, very "marketed" with serigrhapy.
Inside, the pedal, a user's manual (well, a DIN A2 sheet in several languages), some ads, a TC Electronics sticker and a USB cable.

The pedal has an unsealed battery inside so, you can choose to install that battery or to feed the pedal with son AC adaptor.

To open the pedal is really easy. The whole bottom plate is removed with the help of a big centered screw, with an slot where you can fit any coin so, you don't need a screwdrive for this.

Inside, the complete circuit is hidden by a metallic cover and, just the battery slot and, a micro-switch with two switches is visible.


On its sides, it has a couple of inputs and outputs so, it works in real stereo.
In the upper side, there is some USB port, that will allow to update the user bank (called Toneprint) and, an iput for a 9V adaptor.

Rest of controls lay over the frontal side and, are as follow:

Fx level
It's the volume of the wet (effect) signal. The amount of processed signal that is added to the original signal, which goes directly to output without processing.

Time of decay of the revereration effect, that is, how long is the effect respect to the original sound.

Allows to modify the overal tone of the reverberation effect.

Reverb Type Selector
Allows you to choose between 11 distinctive reverberation effects, which will be described below.

A toggle micro-switch allows you to choose between 2 different types of pre-delay. Up is a short pre-delay. Down, a long pre-delay.
Time between direct and indirect reflections.

Pedal switch
Switches the effect on and off.


Reverberation types

This unit includes 10 different types of reverberation. Following the order seen on the selector, these are the algorithms.

Corresponds to the very first reverberation type used in studios, as discussed in the introduction.
Is about an small room, where most of reflexions are being absorved by soft materials, being the sound reflected mainly by walls and windows.

Wide and diffuse reverberation. Like a big hall but, it adds somewhat an accoustic character to the sound. Very useful for percusive sounds.

Typical amp spring reverberation.

Studio plates reverberation type. Bright and diffuse.
Very useful as a clean reverberation for guitar.

It uses a gate to cutoff the decay in reverberation tails.
Broadly used in studios for snare and kick in '80s.

Reverberation modulated with a vibrato effect.

Dirty and low quality reverberation effect. For very special uses.

The kind of echoes you can hear in a bathroom. Strong effect.

Ambience reverberation. Very short and, simulates a very natural space. Very useful to give just a bit of ambience to dry recordings, with a very close mic.

Cathedral simulation. Wide and diffuse and, emulates the echoes procudes with tight objects of different size that you could find inside a church.

This is a user writable bank.
If you download the proper software from TC Electronics site and, you use the USB cable that comes with such a pedal, you can overwrite the stock algorithm with any kind of reverberation effect you like. You have complete control over every parameter.
You can, as well, download one of the professional Toneprint files that some people already designed.

Fine tuning the reverberation effect

Once you choose the type of reverberation, you should fine tune the sound, controlling tails with Decay knob.

You can drastically change the effect with that Pre-Delay switch, for any type. This switch controls the time between the direct and indirect reflexions. The greater the pre-delay time, the closer it sounds (more "in your face"), because early direct reflexions mean closer walls.

Bypass y Kill-Dry modes

As we mentioned, when removing the bottom cover, there is a small micro-switch with two switches.
One of them controls if the pedals should work as True Bypass or Buffered Bypass.

When the virtual length of the cable from guitar to amp is long enough, there is clear lost in tone and, the chain can benefit of a buffer at the beginning and the end of the chain. But, to activate a buffer before vintage pedals like wah and fuzz can be worst than leave that tone as is. So, you should try how it works in your case.

When we activate the Buffered Bypass mode we can, also, to remove the original (dry) signal in the output of this pedal. This is useful if you are using this pedal inside a Parallel FX Loop in your amp.

My impresions

My main interest on this pedal was to cover the lack of reverberation that some of my amps have and, therefore, I was more interested in to use it in a conventional mode, without excentitries.
Because of this, I think there are videos enough in Youtube that you can check and, I wasn't thinking on doing one by myself, because I think I couldn't add anything else.

So I was trying the different options to finally choose that one that better worked in my case.

To me, the sound has some digitits that its more clear while playing the guitar alone. Some settings, where the level of effect is high and the decay is long, show that digital artiffacts, which are more clear during the attack phase of the sound (where you could even hear some kind of chask) and, during the release phase (some metallic touch).

As discussed, those artiffact are usual in digital pedals and, you can hear them more or less depending on the quality of its converters and signal processors.

But, once the sound is being integrated in the mix, it's excellent!.
I've tested it with some backing tracts and that digitits sensation disapears (it also helps to reduce the amount of effect or the decay time) and, the sound is, overall, very satisfactory.

I went for every reverberation type and, in my opinion, the guitar sounds better with not so wide reverberations, defined and not so long.
For a classic sound, the SPRING type gives us the typical amp reverberation sound.
The PLATE type is more bright and helps to clean the sound.

Wide reverberations, as CATH or HALL, seem to push the sound of the guitar to the back and, can be of interest for more ambiental sounds.

Compared to the Line6 Verbzilla, the Hall of Fame seems to work better and, very specially under distortion, where the Verbzilla goes dark and confuse.

Esentially, this pedal brings you 10 different modes of reverberation and, each one is very distinctive of the rest and has some specific application, which gives a great versatility to it.
While the SPRING mode is the one closer to amp's reverberations, it hasn't the warm character of the real deal, sounding to me more metallic but, I recognize that, once in the mix, the results are really good.

I was combining thsi pedal with the rest of the pedal board, getting a great sound (barely studio-alike) and, it work really good together with the TC Electronics Flashback Delay (already reviewed in a previous article).

Guitars: Magnet swapping and wax potting a pickup


When I was working on the Epiphone Firebird of a good friend of mine, I decided to go with a couple of Seymour Duncan's SM-1 (Firebird mini-humbuckers) for Neck and Middle positions and, I (wrongly) bought a Seymour Duncan's SH-55b (Seth Lovers) for Bridge.

I've found two issues with Seth Lovers. First, those mini-humbuckers have a hot output and, far away of the weak output of the Seth Lovers. Second, that Seth Lovers comes unpotted (to be period-correct), which results in an awful feedback, as soon as the slightly amount of gain is added (even with a light overdrive).

Issue with feedback is usually fixed by wax potting (or re-potting) the pickups, but output can be changed  well re-winding coils (more turns and/or thicker wire), which would dramatically change the foundational tone of such a pickup or, well swapping its magnet, which could eventually modify the tone, as well but, not so dramatically as re-widing it.

Well, I am not an expert (by now!, he he he) on which effect in tone has a certain magnet in a certain pickup so, I went to Seymour Duncan's forum and asked there to the experts. My forum mate LtKojak was so kind to send me one of the series of A8 magnet bars that he makes / sells for this mod.
If you are in Europe area and your are in the market after some good magnets for guitar applications, don't hesitate to contact that guy. He knows his stuff and will guide you about the right magnet for your needs.

This blog's article is all about how to swap a magnet and, even how to wax potting your pickup, with some guidance and the help of some pictures.

I will add some "magnet tonal guide", as ellaborated by people that knows that stuff really good.
This should help you to choose which magnet can bring you what you are a missing in your current pickup.

As a side note, I would say that A8 was selected in this case because, it clearly increases de output, respect of stock magnet and, because it does it in a very transparent way (without re-equing the pickup).

Magnet Swapping

To me, the really hard part of Magnet swapping is just the difficulty to remove pickup's cover.
For this, be sure to have on hand a soldering iron of 80W or higher!.
Pickup cover and plate have a big surface to disipate the heat so, you will need there a powerful iron that could instantaneusly heat the area were cover and plate were soldered together in factory.

Here we have the Seth Lover, a manual unsoldering pump and a 80W soldering iron (click on the picture for full size):

Focusing on pickup, highlighted in red we can see the two soldering spots that link together the cover to the plate and, in green the four screws that retain the coils against the plate.

Our first task is to heat those two soldering spots with the iron and, to remove the solder with the help of the pump. On the picture below, you can see the cover already removed and, the two coils lifted from the plate (once the four screws were unscrewed).

That little black bar you can see on the plate up, is just a spacer.
Coil screws are inserted thru a drilled metallic bar. Between that bar and the poles of the slug coil you can see the magnet bar.
I've used a mark pen to write the down face, left and right sides, to be sure I am mounting the new magnet in exactly the same position.

Notice that highlighted with a red square there is one more soldering spot. This one corresponds to plate ground and, the bare wire of that 4-conductors humbucker is soldered there.

Now, we can pull that magnet out and get the new one.
We need to check up / down, right/left and lateral up / lateral down.

Move the new magnet over the old magnet, if their faces attract, they have same polarity so, you should use the reverse face to have the magnet in same position. So, the down face of the old magnet will attract the up face of the new magnet.
Mark the new magnet upper and bottom faces with some pen.

Now check left an right sides. The right side of old magnet should attract left side of new magnet.
Identify sides (left and right).

Now check the lateral sides (height of the magnet). The upper lateral face of the old magnet should attract the bottom latteral face of the new magent.
Identify positions.

Now, you should install the new magnet in the exact same position your old one was. This is necessary to maintain the right magnetic polarity and hum cancelling properties of your pickups. Also, this ensures your pickup will not enter in out-of-phase mode when combined in (a natural way) parallel with the other pickup.

Just mount everything again, as it was before.
Be sure screws are in the right place thru the cover holes.
Press the cover against the plate and be sure everything is ok.
Then, apply some solder to same stock spots and, you are done!.

Wax Potting

Once the cover is removed. There is still one more solder spot to unsolder, as shown in the previous picture above. This corresponds to the plate ground (linked to the bare wire).
You should unsolder the plate ground to completely free the two coils of the pickup.
Pull up that black cable that holds the 4 conductors, to remove it from the pickup's plate.

Ok. We have the two coils ready for a warm wax bath.
You could even remove the black tape around coils but then, be very careful handling coils, because wires are so thin that you can easily break them.

To prepare the wax bath, you will need wax bee (20%) and parafine (80%).
In my case, I've just used some cheap candles (mostly parafine) but, a correct bath should have mentioned composition.

If you use candles, cut them in half (at least) to remove those parts that aren't wax.
Be sure you get a cheap pot that you will never use to cook.

Prepare a wider pot with watter inside, for a "bath Maria" operation and, insert your wax pot inside.

I had to wrap some thermal tape to lock the pot's handle and to avoid the inner pot to touch the walls of the outter pot.

Once the wax was melt and, it isn't smoking (careful!, really hot then!), you can throw some clean pebbles over the bottom of the pot, to avoid the coils to directly touch the metallic bottom.

Just be sure the wax isn't so hot. The outter watter shouldn't be hardly boiling, you wax neither and, wax shouldn't be smoking. Those pebbles should cold a bit the wax for a while and, that's ok.

Gently, leave the coils over the pebbles and, wait for between 15 to 20 minutes, when you cannot see more bubbles being generated.

Now, you can pull out those coils and, with the help of some fabric or cooking paper, you should gently remove the excess of wax, specially on metallic parts (poles and screw heads).

Those coils have both very short wires, black (negative or start) and white (positive or finish) and, each of those was soldered to one of the 4 colored conductors (red of screw finish, green for screw start, black for slug finish and white for slug start).
Those twisted and soldered wires had some isolant tape wrapped around and, a couple were lost in the bathing.
So, I had to wrap some new isolant tape around those, to avoid shortcuts.

Wrapped some isolant tape aroung both pickups, to stick them together and to maintain controlled the 4 conductor junctions inside the wrap.

Once done, I've mounted everything back (includeing that new A8 magnet bar!), soldered the cover to the plate and, installed back the pickup on the axe.

Well, that Firebird has the two SM-1 and that SH-55 (potted and with an A8 magnet) back.
I will test if there was some improvement in a new blog entry.

Magnets Tonal Guide

As you know, every pickup is a compromised solution of the several constitutive parts to achieve some determined goals (EQ, output, resonance, etc.).
If we preserved rest of components always the same and, we did just a magnet swap, these are the effects that the different magnet types do in pickup's tone.

Some overall considerations

Magnets are made of different compositions but, they are usually of AlNiCo (Alluminium, Niquel and Copper) or Ceramic, even that there are more types (neodynium, samarian cobalt, etc.).

From those, AlNiCo, that presents several different formulations, are considered as more organic, less defined note by note but with a complexer voice while, ceramics are considered as more defined note by note but, somewhat plain sounding.

For sure, a good pickup maker can do a good job with either but, some seem to fit better certain styles than others and, remember, we are considering here what a magnet swap can do to the exactly same pickup, in any case.

Also, AlNiCo magnets are less powerful than ceramics, that tend to be used in high-output applications.
Some other magnets seem so be so expensive than aren't usually seen in pickups and, more specially, as spare parts.

To describe tone is always hard to do with words so, get everything with a pinch of salt.
We are just going to discuss the several AlNiCo magnets available in the market and, even being just a handful of types (formulations), they can be finished in very different ways, what opens the possibilities and considerations about tone.

By example, some magnets can be oriented or unoriented. This refers to the arrangement of its particles. Oriented magnets have their particles aligned in a certain direction, while unoriented ones have each particle randomly oriented.

It seems that, as happens with regular and scatter winding of coils, unoriented magnets have slightly more complex tones and, sound more musical to the hearing, while oriented ones are more accurate reproducing the note.

They can be polished or roughcast. Polished has slightly more output and more trebles.

And to make things even more complex, they can be fully charged or aged or degaussed (de-magnetized).

Ceramic ones, overall, have more present mids than A5 (AlNiCo 5) magnets, more output, controlled basses and a bit piercing trebles.

AlNiCo Magnets

Take into account that even that there are AlNiCo Magnets formuled from A1 to A12, we are going to describe the more usual in guitar pickups.
(this info was compiled from comments of some serious users).

Overall, good cleans on neck position. For chords and melodies.
They overdrive the amp really nice, a tad darker but liquid solos (think on Slash).
A tad weak on bridge position, a tad piercing on highs.
Works for old-school riffs but not enough power to deal with AC/DC stuff, by example.

Really great cleans on neck position. Belly highs, full mids, few basses. Awesome for clean stuff.
Under overdrive, similar to A2 but, less basses and more highs so, it sounds clearer but, without any special character. You miss something.
Slightly less output than A2.
In Bridge pickup, very bright but not piercing, tight drived sound but overall weaker than A2.
Good for Jazz, Funky, etc.

Probably, the most EQ balanced magnet.
In Neck, delivers sweet sounds and, under overdrive, stays clean and defined.
Bridge delivers what you have in your head respect of vintage PAF pickups.
I personally love PAF necks with A4 magnets.

UOA5 (UnOriented A5)
Jimmy Page's tone there.
Like a succesfull mix of A2 and A5 magnets. The mids from A2 and, adds a bit more basses, trebles and tightness.

Scooped mids, slightly boomy basses and slightly piercing highs.
This a very often seen magnet in production pickups and, very specially, in bridge positions.
It cuts as a razor under overdriven situations and, has a lot of presence.

More output than A5 (practically the same as ceramic) and, EQ-wise similar to A4 and, therefore, very even balanced.
Maybe because of that extra output, not so sweet as the A2 or A4 and, a tad more plain on harmonical content.

I hope this little guide can be of your help.
Anyway, contact one of those magnet wizards (as LtKojak in Seymour Duncan for more accurate guidance).

In a new article, I will comment about my impressions after swapping the original A2 magnet with a Roughcast A8 magnet that LtKojak sent to me, to increase the output of that Seth Lover Bridge, to better balance its output with the output level of the SM-1s, without loosing too much of their original character.

13 November 2013

Guitars: typical measures equivalents with handy objects


This article was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog. I am picking it up because it complementes my previous article.

In the previous article (http://hermeticoguitar.blogspot.com.es/2013/11/guitars-please-lend-me-your-card-and.html) we discussed the steps and handy-objects that can be used as tools to do a basic guitar setup.

Since, early electric guitars were manufactured in USA, maker's meassures are always given in inches or fractions of inches (1/16", 3/31", 5/64", etc.).
Asian makers are usually manufacturing using milimeters.

So, there is often the need to translate units from one to the other side.
At the end, to properly measure you will need to use quality rules or gauges but, could be use some well know and handy objects to do our measurements?.

Yes. We can. As soon as we measure first the thickness of common objects we have a way to simplify everything together.

We are going to use money for everything better than to buy an instrument: to setup it!.
Stay reading...

Long life to Euro!

One day, I was using a caliber to measure the thickness of the several Euro coins (but, you could even find those measures in some official page, for any coin).
Most of thickness are really close the measures usually handled with guitar makers for their setups and, therefore, combining some coins we can measure and adjust practically everything in an axe.
Interesting, right?.

These are the thickness of the several Euro coins:

2 Euros = 2,2 mm
1 Euro = 2,32 mm
50 cts = 2,38 mm
20 cts = 2,14 mm
10 cts = 1,93 mm
1/2/5 cts = 1,67 mm

You can check your own coins to stablish a direct relationship between typical measures and one or more coins.

Typical measures used in guitar setups

Pickups heights

Depending on pickup class, output range and magnets strength, recommended pickups high varies but, heights are mostly determined with very few values.

By example, Dimarzio recommends following clearance from pickup poles to string:
First measure is for low string (6th) and second for treble string (1st).

Low output pickups (rails or AlNiCo II, III magnets and alike):

Normal setup
Neck & Middle: 2.4 mm /  1.6 mm
Bridge: 1.6 mm /  1.2 mm

Open setup (weaker but clearer)
Neck & Middle: 3.2 mm / 2.4 mm
Bridge: 2.4 mm / 2.0 mm

High output pickups, humbuckers and AlNiCo V, IV, VIII and alike

Normal setup
Neck & Middle: 3.2 mm / 2.4 mm
Bridge: 2.4 mm / 1.6 mm

Open setup
Neck & Middle: 4.0 mm / 3.2 mm
Bridge: 3.2 mm / 2.4 mm

Some makers also give some specific measures.

Gibson recommends following pickup heights for their humbuckers:
Neck: 3/32" (2,38 mm) both sides
Bridge 1/16" (1,59 mm) both sides

Fender recommends different heights, depending on type of pickup:
4/64" = 1,6 mm
1/8" = 3,2 mm
1/16" = 1,6 mm
3/32" = 2,38 mm (2,4 mm)
5/64" = 1,98 mm (2.0 mm)

So, in fact, measures are usually between 3/64" and 10/64":

1,2 mm (3/64")
1,6 mm (4/64" = 2/32" = 1/16")
2,0 mm (5/64")
2,4 mm (6/64" = 3/32")
3,2 mm (8/64" = 4/32" = 2/16")
4,0 mm (10/64" = 5/32")

And here is where we can use the closer Euro coins to measure those gaps:

3/64" --> 1 / 2 or 5 cts. coin (closer)
4/64" --> 1 / 2 or 5 cts. coin
5/64" --> 10 cts coin
6/64" --> 50 cts coin
7/64" -->  50 cts coin (closer)
8/64" --> 2 coins of 1 / 2 or 5 cts
9/64" --> 2 coins of 10 cts (closer)
10/64" --> 2 coins of 10 cts

So, with a couple of coins of 5 cts, a couple of coins of 10 cts and a coin of 50 cts. we can cover any pickup height.

Quick pickup adjustment trick.

If you don't know recommended height or you are in a hurry, following procedure will give you usable sounds with humbuckers and single coils:

A 50 cts. coin in both sides of Neck pickup.
A 5 cts. coin on both sides of Bridge pickup.

Single Coils:
Two coins of 5 cts. on Neck' sixth and, one coin of 50 cts on Neck's first.
One coin of 50 cts on Middle' sixth and, one coin of 10 cts on Middle's first.
One coin of 10 cts on Brigde' sixth and, one coin of 5 cts on Bridge's first.

From there, you should probably have to low a tad the pickups (1/4 of turn to each side each time).
Seems stupid, right?. Just check it!.


  1. Put the coin (or coins) between pickup's pole and the bottom of the string with guitar in a horizontal position.
  2. Push the string on the last fret.
  3. Raise the pickup side until the coin gets trapped between the pole and the string.
  4. Put the guitar in a vertical position (as if you were to play).
  5. Lower the pickup side, step by step, until you notice the coin moving or falling down to floor
  6. You are done!

My card has not credit but, still useful!

With coins we can measure gaps greater or equal to 1,67 mm but, there are some other adjustments that need inferior measures as, by example neck's curvature.
Depending on the maker, heights are in values between 0.008" (0,2 mm) and 0.014" (0.36 mm).

You can do a quick check and setup just with a credit card or any other plastic card, as explained in previous article. Just leave a clearance enough to make the credit card to slightly lift the string.

OMG, I can reuse my broken strings!

Don't throw your used strings!, wait a momment?.

Which are the gauges of strings? they are between 0.008" to 0.054" and, even greater values.
Probably, one or more of your strings can be used to measure some gaps.
You just need to attach those strings to any piece of wood or cardobard and, you have some gauge there!.


With that tedious coins that are only adding weight to your purse and, that you never see the oportunity to pay with them and, some old plastic card and your used strings, you have a lot of measurement tools to do your basic setup without the need of expensive tools.

Do you like it?