Live Looping, My All-Time Favorite Pedal, & ‘I Don’t Know What to do with My Hands’

Beauty (meaning tone) comes in many different forms (of delay). It can be a handpainted Freakshow Digilog (tone is in the paint, of course), in the looks-so-boutique-you-know-it-sounds-good Skreddy Echo, or the calm, cool black of an Empress Vintage Modified Super Delay. For others, it might come in the form of a flanger. We humbly call those people wrong.

For me, it comes in the form of the spectrum of tonal light emanating from this pedal:

You don’t see the spectrum of tonal light? Not even emanating a little? Ya. I know. My little Arion SAD-1 looks as if it may at one time have been an effects pedal. I still don’t know how it’s working. I’ve re-taped those wires so many times, as the adapter jack is broken. And I never step on it; bypass looper only. I’m afraid, realistically I think, that if I step on it, it will disintegrate. But here’s the thing. I have delay pedals that can do more than this thing. I have delay pedals that sound better than this thing. I have delay pedals that are not in danger of developing a short in the wiring and frying my whole board. But I have yet to hear a delay do what this one does. There is a strangely dark, meshed quality to this pedal’s tone that almost seems to meld things together. Or even synthesize sounds. Like a chorus, but good. 😉 And I cannot get any delay pedal to sound like this one. And I’ve owned and played more delay pedals probably than anyone ever should. To me, this is the most beautiful one. I got it six years ago this December, at the now defunct Future Music on Sunset Boulevard. (Oh, how I loved that store. I still have dreams about it. No, for reals.) And it has been through pedalboard after pedalboard, and has seen hundreds of pedals come and go. Yet it’s still here. And well, I can’t sell something that looks like that, so…it always will be. But it would be anyway for the tone! hehe

To truly appreciate what this pedal can do, you really have to hear it. This is another new song I just recorded, and towards the middle/end of the video, I put the guitar down and start messing with the POG, and then this Arion. And you can hear the almost orchestral sound that starts as I turn the mix knob up. And sorry for yet another song, but it’s where all my spare time has been going lately. (Pedals that do not have homes yet, if you’re reading this, I’ll come back soon.) So here’s the new song, and this one is not tracked, but played straight through and looped live, while recorded via external microphone:

And you can hear what the Arion did. This is truly one of those beautiful, gorgeous sleeper pedals that we all dream of finding. I’ve never heard another delay, analog or digital, do what this one does. Just be careful not to breathe around them.

Now, I must mention that undoubtedly the best part of this video is that I obviously have no clue whatsoever on what to do with my hands when there is not a guitar in them. I had no idea I was doing that. If I had to guess, it looks like I’m first conducting the POG (inanimate object, folks), and then wofting the sound from the amp up towards my nostrils. Sounds like something I would do.

I am so awesome. Nope.


97 thoughts on “Live Looping, My All-Time Favorite Pedal, & ‘I Don’t Know What to do with My Hands’

  1. I love it how after about the 4 minute mark, it begins to climax into an almost orchestral like mass of sounds then, slowly begins to come back down in the last minute.

    I was wondering, were did you get your boots? I think I want a pair but, I’m not sure if I can pull them off.

  2. Thanks, bro! :)

    And those boots are a Ross blue light special. haha Do you guys have Ross in Australia? Only place I can afford cool things! And as long as you have a guitar in your hands, I bet you can pull them off! haha

  3. Can’t say we do although, there is an awesome shoe store in Melbourne I recent;y found that has some fantastic looking shoes or I could pick up a pair of R. M. Willams boots.

    My guitar lends its self well to fashion. It has a real vintage look particularly, with dark red finish, abalone and pearl inlays and, gold hardware.

  4. oh brother, that is nice! you know what impressed me more besides the tone & melody? your memory! how do you remember what to click on what riff at what time?!?!?!

    and who says you can’t play guitar without a guitar? awesome!

  5. Bought a SAD-1, it’s really awesome…
    I can nail the JMayerish-Slow-Dancing-in-a-Burning-Room-tone, hands down.

    Karl, my zendrive is picking up radio! It’s the only pedal that does that…

  6. yea, i was at my friends house playing through his line si…..i mean amp and a boss DS-1….i mean timmy and it was picking up some really legit latino music.

  7. I like the song Karl. When will it be on your bandcamp page??

    But I’m sorry. I’m just not feeling the boots. A bit to metro for me maybe? Ha!

    J/k, good stuff as always brotha.


  8. Sam–that guitar is just calling for some fashion! lol

    Rhoy–thanks, brother. And I ‘kind of’ remember everything…I recorded this a few times, and each time was slightly different. haha

    Marcelo–right on! Such a great pedal for sure.

    And I’m so jealous! I’ve never picked up any radio signals! How are you powering it?

    Nater2–lol It was a modded DS1 right? Right? hehe J/K Seriously though, I would love to get some radio signal! How do you do it? 😀

    Nate–I need to put it up there, but I have to try and edit out some of the louder pedal clicks. I didn’t move the pedalboard far enough away from the mic on the amp for it not to pick up those true bypass switches. lol

    And I must concede…the boots are extremely metro. haha

  9. I’m powering the Zendrive properly, I think, with a Voodoo Labs pedal power 2… I’ve tried a battery but the RI remains!
    I live pretty near a huge antenna, but I managed to keep even my wah pedal silent with some extra grounding on the pedal…
    I read some stuff about replacing the input wire for some with shielding and then connecting the shield to ground at one end. Maybe I’ll try that.
    I sent an e-mail to Alf (since I currently have a zendrive, I can call him that), no response yet – maybe he’ll have an idea on what to do….

  10. Dude. I demand some sort of downloadable mp3 version for mah ipod, etc. It’s like what I try to do with Logic only 39475x better.

    Also … thoughts: why all these effects/sounds with the guitar instead of a keyboard? Just always seemed to me that the “normal” instrument you’d get those sorts of sounds from is a good synthesizer. Preference or just lack of availability, etc?

  11. Rapha–oh good, glad you found the Music page. :) And there’s just something about making music with actual vibrating acoustic strings rather than on a keyboard. It’s an earthier feel that I really, really dig. However, there is something awesome as well about some ambient music created on an old analog synth like a Prophet or Roland Juno. :)

    Darrell–thanks, brother! Ya, I like their stuff. Great guitar lines. Didn’t they use to be Common Children back in the day?

    Don–thanks! And ya…in some of these I can never play the same incarnation twice. :) It’s like a fusion of composition and improvisation. And then of course, I post the one that ended up sounding most like I knew what I was doing. hehe 😉

  12. Great one Karl, the Arion does add a subtle nuance that is hard to describe. But it is a good thing. Your Timeline duo is giving me gas… where can i get one these days since they’re discontinued. Have been searching high & low.

  13. Marcelo Kato – Shield the input and the output with some of the wire found in guitars. Also try swapping out the opamp. The NE5538p is my favorite for stompboxes, it’s a newer version of a TLO72 (used in Klons and a few other famous designs), its transparent and good quality for audio circuits.

    There’s not much else you can change after those two things…

    Does it pick up interference with the drive all the way down and volume all the way up? Also does it do it if you’re on the ground floor or in a different building?

  14. James – Thanks for the help!
    I’ll try to find a NE5538p here in Brazil. Never thought that swapping opamps would make a difference on RI. I’m guessing the overal tone of the pedal might change, correct?

    By shielding the input and output you mean replacing the standard wire for a shielded one, and conecting one side of the shield to ground?

    I’ll experiment with drive all the way down and volume all the way up when I get home. Never tried the pedal outside of my apartment. Probably if I went somewhere else the RI would go away – I live near a huge TV antenna.

    I tried some stuff after posting, and was able to reduce the RI to almost an acceptable level…. maybe my audio cables aren’t that good, I’m replacing everything with Mogami W2319 (Following Bob Bradshaw’s advice on his website).
    Cable position, placing the zendrive after my KORG tuner (buffered), and a clip on ferrite bead on the power suply cable near the input helped to reduce the interference.

    Funny thing is, the interference is some sort of worship radio, not the kind Karl is probably used to… this church is known here in Brazil for being more interested in money than anything else (the leaders of this church were arrested in the US with huge sums of undeclared dollar bills).

  15. Matthew–thanks. Ya, that Arion…I don’t know exactly how or why it does what it does, but I’m glad. haha And I was very lucky on those Timeline’s to get them before they became popular. Really well-made pedals, and hopefully they’ll start producing an updated version soon! :)

    James–killer info! Thanks a ton!

    Marcelo–haha Well…we have those church leaders here in the US, too. lol Ah, the good ‘ol church scandals.

  16. Marcelo – Here’s what I’d do, in the order I’d do it in :)

    1) Check that the metal enclosure is grounded. See if you can measure 9v from the positive pin on the power input to the enclosure. If you don’t have a voltmeter use a standard LED, see if you can light it up with the enclosure as ground. It may be that whatever method the builder of the zendrive has used to ground the enclosure has failed.

    2) Look for the circuit input wire from the 3pdt switch going to the board. Place a 220pf capacitor either from the input on the board to ground, or if it’s been annoyingly gooped over, from the board input on the switch to ground. This should fix your problem. Most pedals have this capacitor and it should be common practice for the manufacture (if they know what they’re doing) to include it! This will make no difference in tone at all.

    3) Yes thats the right wire. Shield the outside and send the signal along the inside.

    4) Try using an OPA2604. They’re higher quality than the one used in the zendrve (like the NE5582p is) but are reported by hobbyists to be an improvement on the zendrive opamp.

    Will be interesting to hear back from you about putting the drive all the way down. If it stops then your problem lies with the opamp, clipping combination in the pedal which is somehow picking up RI. Step 2 should fix this anyway.

    On the subject of audio cable I’d never buy from someone aiming to sell their cable to guitarists. Chances are it will be overpriced. Try looking at a well know electronics distributor not associated with guitars. In the UK we have rapid and farnell. Both of them sell professional low capacitance audio cable which is transparent, easy to work with and doesn’t cost insane amounts of money. It’s the same type of cable which would be used to test high quality audio equipment in a lab :) works a treat on pedalboards, in my opinion of course!

    I hope that you get it all working!

    We don’t have any Christian radio to pick up in the first place here in the UK :(

    • James, first of all, thanks for all the effort and time spent writing down all the excellent info! Thank you!
      Here are my findings:

      1) I checked the positive pin to enclosure voltage with a multimeter and was able to measure 9v.

      2) This one I couldn’t try out – I’m going shopping for capacitors this weekend.

      3) Got the wire, will try it out after the capacitor to ground mod.

      4) Bought a OPA2604 on ebay to try it out. Probably more expensive than usual, but it’s not going to break the bank.

      With the drive all the way down I still get radio interference. Seems that the drive is just amplifying the RI that’s already there.
      One thing I noticed is that when my guitar volume is lowered from 10 the RI increases. On 10 I have RI, but on 9,5 it increases by 80%, going back to usual RI when it’s on zero.

      I bought the mogami cables from REDCO, and got a good deal on their bulk TS right angle connectors, supposedly switchcraft rebranded…

      Karl, the community on your website is awesome! It’s a pleasure to hang around the comments!

      Just a side note, I had a problem with a switch on my T-rex Moller, emailed them and they sent me a replacement from Sweden in less than a week (I live in Brazil) Excellent customer servivce! After some solder the pedal is up and running!

      • Did a bit of research, the opamp in the zendrive is an enhanced tlo82 which is very similar to the NE5532p. I said above that it was better which really bugged me after re-reading the comment and realizing what I had put.

        If you’re quite handy with a soldering iron try using a value of capacitors from about 10pf to 220pf, just cheap ceramics because it wouldn’t be in the audio path. The lower the value the less the tone loss, you may just be loosing some of the audible frequencies with a 220pf although I am sure that there are many pedals about with 220pf’s on their input. Your guitar volume pot observations show that it’s coming from the input of the circuit so this should almost definitely be the Zendrive RI fix solution! I can’t take much credit for it though, I learn a lot of this stuff off of my old man!

        • Do you think the OPA2604 could be an improvement over the enhanced tlo82? Dont worry about it, I paid like 10 bucks for the opamp, and I always wanted to change opamps to learn what kind of difference it can make….
          I’ll try the capacitors, since this isn’t the only pedal in the chain, some high end loss is probably ocurring everywhere. I’ll be better off with no RI, wich makes the zendrive pretty unusable.
          Thanks again James!

          • Yes, the OPA2604 will be an improvement. It is being used in a few boutique pedals now and is used in very expensive audio stuff.

            Anytime mate. Hope you get it sorted.

  17. Karl,

    When you do this live during worship, does the rest of the band know and just pretty much stay within the same chord progression throughout the entire time? And when is this most appropriate?

    Also, does it make it sound better having it played with two amps on stereo?


  18. James–thanks for much for the info. That’s great stuff, and I’m going to save it for future reference for sure!!

    Jonathan–the only times I use it for live worship is when I’m leading completely solo (usually on acoustic) with maybe just another vocalist, or when I need just a quick rhythmic passage looped so that I can throw a riff or solo over it, and then I shut everything off. It’s kind of scary to do it too much in a live band situation because there’s no give to it, and things can get off tempo fast! haha So, it’s a really quick thing here and there, or it’s for when I’m the only instrumentalist. And in those situations, I’ll do a lot of stuff like Blessed Be Your Name, where the same progression can go for the whole song. :)

  19. Haha! As I suspected. I’d be too scared to use the loop.

    BTW, How is the stereo delay on two amps sound versus having it mono through one amp using the Timeline? I just scored a 69 Twin Reverb and I am dying to try it out.

  20. It feels like you’re floating on clouds of tone in stereo into two amps. lol I actually force myself not to use it because I know I’ll get addicted to it, and then frustrated when I go to set up at church and realize that it so won’t sound that way when running stereo into 95% of church house systems which are either in mono, the speakers are too close together for it to work, the sound tech will hate me, or all of the above. lol

  21. Marcelo–man, I’m just as stoked as you are. There are some really cool, nice, and knowledgeable folks here, and that has nothing to do with me. haha :) And T-Rex have great customer service! Stoked to here that! One time when a power surge fried my Replica, they sent me a brand new one for free!! Crazy good guys!

    Jonathan–only at your own risk. lol 😀 And great score on the Twin. Yikes!!

  22. There is a looper on the market (also on my current wish/need list…) that can make live looping a little more “band friendly”. The DIgitech stereo jam man has a separate output for a click track which can be fed into your monitor system. Now, weather or not your worship band is used to following a click track is another story but, it’s a start at least

  23. what a coincidence.
    years ago as i was learning to play guitar -i learned how to use delay with that very same pedal- i still use it today after my vox time machine- sometimes before. i had always thought this pedal was crap, because i found it sitting around our basement as a kid, but i’ve learned to appreciate it and the lessons i learned with it-
    later i bought the Time Machine with the tap tempo function etc, but that SAD-1 was what made me believe i could figure what the Edge was doing-

    Arion- the poor kids deserve good pedals too-

    great blog,
    i’m always looking for new ideas for pedals and guitar chops for church-
    i chanced upon your blog after seeing demos for the timeline on youtube-
    and you sound great- it must make God smile hearing your work-

  24. Ok which Arion is it?

    And what did it exactly do? After you messed with the pog, hit the true bypass. Is it when the mix goes up and the dominant super sweet sounding pad comes in?

    This is an awesome song like you are a maestro conducting a full orchestra. And I love the droning of the 4 notes in the end.

  25. Wow, I missed a lot of posts on this one…sorry!

    Jonathan & Marcelo–yep, Denmark! Pedals sound better from there. 😉

    KennyG–I had the Jamman and found it unfriendly in live applications. So we’re still just using a standalone metronome.

    Andy K–thanks for the kind words, and ya!! Arion is awesome!!

    Codek–it’s the Arion SAD-1. It takes everything and melds it together and masks the attack; as well as adding its own ‘tape-like’ sound. :)

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