Help me buy an amp pedal
December 11, 2008 8:49 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to buy my boyfriend an amp pedal for Christmas but I am clueless about such things. I am going on two google searches he left open on the browser: "Best Fuzz Pedal for Valco Amp" and "Lovepedal Super 6." He has a Gretch amp and a Fender Princeton Reverb II (tube). He has discussed wanting an sound that sounds "turned up" when it's not. Also, a late sixties sound has been mentioned. He's not expecting me to buy one so he isn't being specific. So, any ideas about pedals I could buy? I know I just need to save the receipt so he can return it for what he wants but I really want to try and nail it. Apologies in advance if the previous paragraph makes no sense, this is all Greek to me.
posted by jules1651 to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As an ex-girlfriend of a guitar geek, I'm confident that the Frantone Peachfuzz pedal is a good fuzz pedal. If he was searching for that, he might like it. Also, as an added bonus, it's pretty cool-looking and 60's-y.
posted by booknerd at 9:12 AM on December 11, 2008

How much do you want to spend?
posted by The World Famous at 9:20 AM on December 11, 2008

Thanks The World Famous, I left that out. I'd be able to go up to $250.
posted by jules1651 at 9:24 AM on December 11, 2008

For $250, I would want a Line 6 DL4 delay modeler, and I'm quite into the late 60s sound. It's a piece of ultra-modern gear that performs the function of getting some serious vintage delay sounds at a professional quality level. So, if he is, for some reason, opposed in every respect to using modern tech to get old sounds, it might not be for him. But I cannot imagine a guitarist who would not be stoked to have a DL4.

If what he's looking for is overdrive or fuzz, then you may need to talk to him or do some sleuthing to determine what he digs. For overdrive, the vintage Ibanez TS-808 and TS-9 are sort of the standard. But I am partial to my old Boss SD-1.
posted by The World Famous at 9:33 AM on December 11, 2008

I know I just need to save the receipt so he can return it for what he wants but I really want to try and nail it.

Is there any special reason it needs to be a surprise then? Consider making a day (or at least an afternoon) of it and take him pedal shopping.
posted by ahughey at 9:40 AM on December 11, 2008

You can get a Digitech RP-250 multi-effect modeling box for about $150. It gets good reviews, though I haven't played on one yet. The demo sounds are nice. Plus, you can plug it into a computer and load up custom presets as well as record directly from the pedal. I also hear good things about the Line 6 Pods.

Unfortunately, the only way I've found to get a genuine "turned-up" sound is really to turn it up. As the owner of a 60's vintage Airline amp (made from the same schematics as Valco), I've found that modeling, effects, pedals and all that froofrah will get you close but nothing else sounds like electrons flowing through vacuum inside hot glass. Adding gain to the input with a preamp helps to overdrive it a bit more when I'm playing quiet. Anyway I'd still have lots of fun trying to get close with a modeler.
posted by leapfrog at 10:15 AM on December 11, 2008

You may want to pry a bit more... overdrive, distortion and fuzz are not the same thing, and most people are very picky about it - if they want a fuzz pedal, they will probably not be happy to get an overdrive instead. And if he's running searches on boutique pedals like the Lovepedal, I'm guessing 1) he's picky, and 2) he won't be happy with a modeler or multi-effects unit...

My recommendation is to post this on The Gear Page forums - the people that hang out there would have some really good suggestions and you get the added benefit of personal experience (the people that answer probably own the pedal they recommend).
posted by relucent at 10:34 AM on December 11, 2008

Good suggestions, but this sounds like a cool gift whether you get him the exact thing he wants or not. Most music nerds can never have enough pedals anyway.

"wanting an sound that sounds "turned up" when it's not" sounds like an overdrive pedal. Check out ebay for vintage ones, 250 is just about right for a decent 70s model.

Also make a list of what he's already got if you can, and ask those gear forums once you see what's missing.

Finally, if in doubt, get him one that looks awesome like a dragon or a TARANTULA. Yeah!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:18 AM on December 11, 2008

If you can spring for a little more or find one used somewhere, you might look into a power attenuator. They're fancy little boxes that let you actually turn the amp all the way up (thus producing the fuzz/distortion that it sounds like he's looking for) without actually producing neighbor-enraging volume. Otherwise, you might look into a Fuzz Face (introduced in the mid-60s) or a Big Muff (early 70s).

It might be helpful to ask him about examples of the sound he wants from well-known musicians. There's loads of info on the web about what equipment is favored by which artists.
posted by sinfony at 11:52 AM on December 11, 2008

My boyfriend is also a guitar geek who loves his pedals and I'm getting him a pedal kit from Build Your Own Clone for Christmas. You'll have to judge whether it's something your boyfriend would be into, but basically it comes with all the little electronic parts you need and you solder them to the circuit board. I've read a number of reviews and they're supposed to be really easy to put together, like paint-by-numbers easy. The pedals are designed to replicate (clone) the sound of famous pedals and if you solder well they're very high quality and comparable to boutique pedals. They also have great forums with info on how to do modifications to get the sound you want. I think it's a cool introduction to learning how sounds are change, making your pedals, and "taking tone into your own hands." Maybe the Extra Special Vintage Fuzz would be a good choice? It's supposed to be a clone of the Fuzz Face sinfony mentioned. BYOC even says "This is one of our easiest kits to build so it is ideal for beginners. It's also a very popular pedal, so if you're looking for a gift, this one is sure to put a smile on any guitar player's face."

other ideas:
I think the offer of taking him pedal shopping is a good one. It may end up that he's looking for a specific model that isn't available in stores and it's something he'll have to buy used over the Internet, but you could offer to pay for when he finds what he wants.

This may be to stalkerish for you, but is he a member of any online music forums? He may have made posts there or his profile may mention a gear "wish list" that you could work off of.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 12:03 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just a heads up you may want to alter your question (if that's possible). If "Best%Fuzz%Pedal%for%Valco%Amp" and "Lovepedal%Super%6%." are searches in his history this question will show up on subsequent google searches. I just tried, it was the top result. In fact I'm altering my comment now with % instead of spaces.
posted by syntheticfaith at 12:25 PM on December 11, 2008

There are as many kinds of distortion pedals as there are grains of sand. However, Z Vex makes "The Fuzz Factory" which sounds pretty versatile. It's a little out of your price range, but it would make a great gift because they are all hand built and hand painted. No, I don't work for Z Vex...

LINK to Fuzz Factory demo

These reviewers range from happy to ecstatic with theirs.
posted by pepcorn at 12:44 PM on December 11, 2008

World Famous almost had it - he'll adore you if you get him the Line 6 DM4 Distortion Modeler, which has 16 excellent, fully-tweakable overdrive, distortion and fuzz sounds, many of them modeled on classic pedals from the sixties and forward. Mind you, I own a boatload of excellent standalone pedals that do this sort of thing, but the DM4 is my go-to workhorse. And it just so happens that the street price of this pedal is $249. Seriously, this is the one to get, he'll love it and won't ever grow tired of the range of sounds it can make, and getting this for him would truly make you a very awesome girlfriend.
posted by dbiedny at 12:50 PM on December 11, 2008

And pepcorn, I adore my Fuzz Factory, but this is really, truly NOT what her boyfriend wants. Trust me, the FF is a germanium-based circuit capable of wild sonic mayhem, but it's really far from an overdriven tube circuit sound.
posted by dbiedny at 12:52 PM on December 11, 2008

There are folks who feel that you can't emulate what happens in a tube, or vintage analog circuitry. I've owned many of the original pedals that are modeled in the DM4, and I feel comfortable saying that the models sound so close to the originals in most cases, as to not be distinguishable in practical sonic terms. Further, many of the originals were sometimes made with varying components (certainly true of the many permutations of the Electro Harmonix Big Muff), which resulted in the same brand and model of individual pedals sometimes sounding different from each other. In the case of your original question, jules 1651, I'm going to predict that your guy will deeply appreciate the overall sound quality of the DM4, and go gaga over the wide tonal palette covering everything from basic overdrive to deep walls of distortion. Attenuation boxes like the Power Soak and THD Hot plate are cool, but offer far less flexibility, and are only really useful with specific tube amps, not all of them (IMO). I don't work for Line 6, but part of my professional work is to evaluate and write about these types of devices, and I own far too many of them for my own good. It's been a lifelong obsession.
posted by dbiedny at 1:19 PM on December 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

WOW, you guys. This is awesome. I think he'd be happy with every suggestion. RadioMayo's suggestion just kind of hit me immediately as the right one. It's a pedal and a Christmas toy! I think he would have a blast making it. And thanks for the headsup Synthetic faith -- I will just block MeFi from search results w/ CustomizeGoogle until after Christmas. Thanks so much to you all!
posted by jules1651 at 2:26 PM on December 11, 2008

Update: He loved it! Thanks again.
posted by jules1651 at 8:28 AM on January 21, 2009

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