Category Archives: Review

MXR Bass Auto Q

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If Parliament were condensed into a genie-in-a-bottle like place, they would live here. The MXR Bass Auto Q

This little black box is basically an auto-wah effect – with full tweaking controls coming at not extra cost. It runs on a wall-wart (not supplied) or just a standard PP9 battery. As far as external links go, that’s about it. Not forgetting the obvious input/output jack-ins. A nice touch to the design of this pedal is how the knobs are arranged, in a scowl-like fashion. Link this with a personified pout and you’ve got a funk player.

Volume is joined by Range (how low the effect goes) and Q (wah intensity), and on the right there’s Decay (how long the wah effect lasts relative to note sustain). All very clever stuff but the icing on the cake are the two knobs Blend and Rate. Blend controls the mix of wah and trem (left for wah only, right for trem only), and Rate handles the intensity.

When fiddling with all the settings and trying to find the sound to pound to, I quickly rendered this pedal absolutely useless if I were even to think about shredding. You will just hear nothing. It’s best to sustain your chords if you want to get the potential out of this pedal; and it has bucket-loads of that. Rotating the Q clockwise adds a harsher edge to the overall tone while Decay will dictate how quickly the wah and tremelo peak and lull. All these settings really make for a nice three-dimensional sound.

For an ‘out there’ player who’s not afraid of experimenting. In fact, you’d better welcome that idea!

The MXR Bass Auto Q retails at <!– /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:””; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-ansi-language:EN-GB;} @page Section1 {size:612.0pt 792.0pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:36.0pt; mso-footer-margin:36.0pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –>
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£175.

Freshman Apollo 1DC Dreadnought

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Looking to spend more than a modest amount on an acoustic Dread? Look no further than the Apollo 1DC

This Martin-styled cutaway dread is a smartly satin-lacquered instrument. It sports a solid sitka top partnered by laminated mahogany back and sides. Binding is white with herringbone purfling around the front and around the soundhole. This binding also continues along the rosewood fingerboard. In fact, the only thing that is a little naff about this guitar is its tuners. The colour is a little on the wrong side of Deco for me personally, but as long as they hold their pitch, and they do, it doesn’t really matter.

Moving away from typical cutaway dread territory, the neck is surprisingly girthier at the body compared to the headstock end. This makes for a folkier feel than that of a competing Yamaha or Ovation. Something that the Apollo 1DC has that many others are looking do include in the package now, a chromatic tuner. As well as this uncomplicated unit comes a phase switch and EQ, which simply comprises of a Contour button. This launches the Freshman into a happy-go-lucky mind set to give the tonality that brighter feel, should you need to.

This isn’t the punchiest dread around, sadly. There are a lot of other things going for it though, the EQ for one. You may miss being able to tweak a three-band EQ but this Ion 301 system does it justice, alleviating squashed headroom and brightening high end frequencies.

This is a good guitar but there are better instruments out there for better money.

The Freshman Apollo 1DC retails at £299.

Sandberg Panther Special Bass Review

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The undeniable appeal of Sandberg has always been it’s wallet-friendly pricing compared to its vintage counterparts. So how special is this Special Panther? …

When looking straight at it, while keeping Music Man’s back catalogue at the forefront of your mind, it does take a lot of its styling from the Stingray. This Panther Special version has an exotic wood body with a walnut top, a mahogany back and added layers of maple and more walnut. The bolt-on neck is slim and fast, and arguably by the means of a nice rosewood, really feels great to play.

The bypassable active electronics are powered by a PP3 housed in a quick release chamber. The pickups are fantastically elaborate, parallelogramically shaped, designed by Sandberg themselves and encased by Delano. But don’t think that their both the same spec… A Power Humbucker hugs the neck while a Split Coil sits on the bridge. To further pursue tonal perfection and reach that ‘unique’ stature, Sandberg run both pickups through a three-band EQ, before sending relays to the player via tone and volume pots.

The Panther is as clean as a whistle in the twin-pickup mode. A lot of low end grunt is apparent in the bridge split coil whereas the Humbucker is reserved for fashioning funk. Increasing bass EQ adds a silky sheen to the bridge pickup, ideal for slaps and pops; the twin-pickup setting does make the overall tone lose its flick and speed though.

Sandberg’s build quality is simply marvellous. Splicing materials the way this company has, while carefully and accurately considering the electrical hardware, has given Sandberg the edge. For a handmade forefrontal company flagship of a bass guitar, the price questions logic.

The Sandberg Panther Special retails at £1299.

Logic3 Valve 80 iPod Dock & Speakers

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Recently, audiophiles have scrutinised compressed audio players and the like for not creating the same tone of Hi-Fi counterparts. Things are crossing over, there’s been a compromise… The Logic3 Valve 80 iPod Dock.

We’ve seen things like this before. The idyllic idea of the portable mini-disc player – while a logical step, it didn’t really fit the portable scene. This is kind of the same story; it’s a fantastic looking amp being hooked up to an iPod. Essentially, the two are in the wrong setting. But this is no ordinary kitchen-sink plug-in, and iPod’s have got a lot better in terms of sound quality…

On the front you’ll find just a power light, the understated Logic3 logo, a sensor for the bundled remote control, the volume knob and a three way input selector. The overall feel of the amp is that it gives you this understated feel of class. It’s the kind of amp that makes you want to appreciate it first before turning it on, full of valve glow…

Using a combination of mosfets and valves to create that solid sound, the Valve 80 amp also features two weighty speakers. These beauties will stay well planted on whatever surface you want to place them on, thanks to rubberised feet. They also feature gold-plated banana plugs, instead of tack you would be expecting to find in this field. Consequently this makes for supremely good audio quality. The low and mids are punchy while keeping the headroom of the trebles and highs crisp.

If you want classy and vintage styling cradled by modern circuitry, buy this! There’s nothing out there quite like it.

The Logic3 Valve 80 iPod Dock & Speakers retail at £300.

T-Rex Twin Boost

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We’ve reviewed a few T-Rex products here at MusicGadgets over the last year or so, and all are crackers. Will the Twin Boost follow suit?

As far as versatility goes, few pedals are quite as useful as a clean boost (just look at how well MXR have done). T-Rex have gone one better than the standard few knobs and single footswitch – que three band EQ. Engineering has been good to T-Rex giving the Twin Boost its good looks and allowing you to do what it’s all about in the first place: the ability to set up two extra sounds on top or your basic tone.

In use, whether it be in a poorly lit pub or just simply at home, the Twin Boost’s EQ knobs of your selected channel glow blue. Thoughtfully, the input and output jacks are situated at the back rather than either side, making for easy action for pedalboard users.

Although there is a bit of hiss and background noise, there’s nothing to get in a flap about. Sure, when straining to consciously listen to it in your home with nothing else playing, it’s there but minimal at the most. Practically talking, this bit of hardware is fantastic in use on stage. If you plan on changing quickly from rhythm to lead, I advise you set up either accordingly. Boosting the mids and the output on the secondary channel is a must for solos.

Versatile player? Lots of genres to get through in your live set? This would sound great, as well as looking the part in your pedalboard.

The T-Rex Twin Boost retails at £150.

Yamaha CPX500

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Making your way through the low-end semi-acoustic spectrum can be hard – especially with Yamaha because of their massive product range. Is this cheap and cheerful CPX500 mini-jumbo a hit?

When looking at this you get the impression that Yamaha have probably had to cut a few corners to get to where they are with the price tag. The solid body is slowly being ousted with the replacement of laminated spruce, taking its place. Does this affect the playability? No. Yamaha is renown for building excellent instruments and this is no exception.

By closely examining the craftsmanship that went into the making of this guitar, lots says to the trained eye, ‘melody player.’ The mini-jumbo shape, for instance. This in itself makes for a great reach-around action, thanks to the neck joining the body at the 14th fret. You can really get up to that rarefied area, especially in the acoustic world, and utilise all you want.

When playing it, all the build features make sense. A top nut that has been properly cut and neatly fitted helps to smooth the action and cancel any fret buzz. The six, rather plain looking, machine heads are strong and sturdy, holding everything in place from gentle fingerwork to Verve strumming. Additionally, the pickguard is transparent, implying that Yamaha are happy with their finish – not to mention diverting too much attention from the inlaid rosette on the headstock.

The sounds are never going to be as best as a Gibson J-200 or anything from Martin at this price. There is a distinct lack in bass tone, mainly due to the body shape and materials used. Also, when pressing on above the 12th fret, it does tend to lose that projection it had somewhere around the 3rd – headroom is constrictive. Retrospectively, you have to judge this guitar on its merits.

If you are thinking of going cheap, the Yamaha CPX500 is the best in its class.

The Yamaha CPX500 retails at £384.

Larrivee OM-09 Acoustic Guitar

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Very well made, lush tones and beautiful presence – just some of the endearing qualities of the Larrivee OM-09

Canadian luthier Jean Larrivee began making his guitars back in early 1970’s. Since then he has adopted the classic X-bracing, something that is at home to the infamous Martin guitars. Today the refined version can be found in Larrivee guitars and this instrument is a shining example of not only this build technique but fantastic playability.

The soundboard is an integral part to this guitar. Even Larrivee themselves think so:

“Over 20,000 steel-string guitars have proven conclusively that this design has great structural integrity. With the bracing design problems such as bulging of the top behind the bridge or sinking around the soundhole can be eliminated.”

It’s back and sides are constructed from Indian rosewood, while the soundboard is built from bookmatched Canadian sitka spruce with a tight, straight grain. Other build cares include using a tinted lacquer to give that classic aged look and a clear polyester finish that shows off spruce’s pale, creamy colour.

So, the sounds. Because of the low playing action, the Larrivee OM-09 is very easy to play. The combination of an attentive fret construction and a realistic bridge height makes for accurate intonation and a zero fret-buzz. With a definite dreadnought feel to it, the Larrivee OM-09 is very responsive in the mid-high and treble tones when strumming. It is somewhat lacking in warmth so it could be suggested that this guitar is made for a melody work, and it shows/sounds. The maple body gives great sustain in the runs and in longer augmented notes.

If you like elegant unstated looks and fantastic fingerpicking tones you need to try one of these!

The Larrivee OM-09 retails at £1,999.

(Quote source: Guitar Buyer).

Tonebone Plexitube

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Valve power married with preamp circuitry, it’s been done before but the Tonebone Plexitube’s features make this a versatile, pioneering beast…

Canada’s Radial Engineering has been producing Tonebone effects pedals and switching boxes since 2002 and can boast a number of high-profile users, including Toto’s Steve Lukather and Mettalica’s Kirk Hammett. This pedal’s aim? To deliver ‘four generations of Marshall Plexi tones.’ Along with this monumental claim also comes the equally substantial price tag. It’s got a lot to prove, let’s see what it’s got…

First of all, the construction is sound. Made of very sturdy solid sheet steel gives it the ruggedness to be worthy of a good thrash on stage. Whereas the boasted features are personified through various knobs and switches. The two main footswitches, one to bypass the effect and the other toggling between two sets of settings that effectively act like separate amp channels, work well but mean there are a lot of other knobs to fiddle around with as a result.

Amidst the 12AX7 all-valve heart of this pedal beats a tin soul of circuitry genius. The EQ provides a hugely wide tone-shape. The shared low and high EQ controls mean that you can manipulate this Marshall JCM800-esque sound into anything from reserved crunch to a more bowel-moving fuzz. The excellent creamy tones of the Tonebone Plexitube make this an expensive, but equally good contender against Electro Harmonix’s Black Face.

The Tonebone Plexitube retails at £353.36.

Behringer Echo Machine EM600

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As some of you may have read, I have already written about one of the pedals that Behringer have recently bought out. I however figured that the range was so good, and so inspiring that I needed to tell you about the other gem of the RSM range

Staring with the single and only bad point that this range has; not-so-fantastic plastic. The Echo Machine EM600, as well as all the other RSM pedals, has a plastic casing. This doesn’t bode well for the likes of you who want to be heard right at that precise moment in the song – everyone then. But it does mean that Behringer have been able to keep that all important cost down.

Unlike the Super Flanger MusicGadgets reviewed yesterday, the EM600 is the only one that will require you to read the manual. Beyond the usual mix, repeat and time controls there is a mode knob that offers three varieties of tap tempo delay. The time periods are broken down well in this pedal, featuring quarter or eighth note multiple repeats, two multi-tap settings, slap ducking, ping pong, sweep, swell and reverse delays. So as you can see, abundant is the EM600 with features, but you only get two seconds max of delay itself.

Finally, the trail and type switches give the pedal that old analogue, vintage twang; mixing it up with the newer functions can really make your guitar sound very versatile indeed. Background noise is a slight issue with this pedal but you can’t really go wrong for the price.

The Behringer Echo Machine EM600 retails at £36

Behringer Super Flanger SF400

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This Super Flanger SF400 is straight out of Behringer‘s new pedal series of ‘Real Sound Modelling Pedals.’ That’s all very well and good but does this flimsy flanger deliver?

Now, those who are at home to the genius of Behringer will know that among the newly fashioned pedals they produce, they churn out all sorts of speakers, headphones and other pro audio equipment. The foundations have been laid and I can’t wait to shake them down, using their own Flanger.

Keeping the cost down has meant that the chassis is made from plastic. You will have to be light when stomping the… well… stompbox, ironically. There is a huge upside to this though, it’s incredibly cheap for what it is.

Flange is arguably regarded as a bit of a dated effect, the classic and misconceived sound of a jet inspired Dopper-effect. Behringer have included all the classic tweaks as to not dismay guitarists looking for marginalisation. You get your depth, rate and resonance controls but there’s the all important switch that sets this pedal apart from others, the mode switch. This allows you to choose between a standard effect, a much deeper ‘ultra flange’, a gate/pan effect and a momentary flanger. With some tweaking you can get a forced chorus. Accent it more by cutting it in and out. Something Mike Einziger, Incubus lead guitarist would love in his pedal arson.

Affordable and fantastic, adaptable sounds and from a brand who really know their stuff… what are you waiting for?!

The Behringer Super Flanger SF400 retails at just £36.