Time…for Some Reality

You just can’t say the word ‘reality’ without sounding ’90′s. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the ‘virtual reality’ tagline in the 1997 hit (except not) show VR Troopers? Oh. You know you loved it.

Anyway, once upon a time there was a pedal. For legal purposes, we’ll call it the ‘Omega Park.’ It was handmade by a small-town, hard-working, all-American guy in a basement. Beautiful, classic, opportunistic story. He called his company, once again for liability sake, we’ll say…’Mundane Yellows.’ And there was never a better sounding pedal. Guitarists who had never heard a Dumble could now hear a Dumble, thanks to this little handmade circuit. Don’t ask how 7 resistors and diodes can sound like 7 tubes, or how you’re supposed to recognize the pedal sounding like a Dumble if you’ve never heard a Dumble. It makes sense when you play them tones, bro. We marveled at the feat of genius captured in this innovation of magical boutique basement tone. The Gear Page was a buzz, emporium and ebay prices were soaring above retail as the wait time was increasing, and all was right with the world.

Then someone bought, let’s call it, a… Yoko Worst Park. From China. For $30. And they thought, ‘Wow, this sounds almost as good as my Mundane Yellows Omega Park! Hey, the controls are all the same too!’ And they opened up both pedals. And found that they were the same. Or at least, similar enough to make boutique tone junkies everywhere cry like little schoolgirls and go running back to the nearest Guitar Center and play Boss pedals through Roland Cube 6″ amps to convince themselves that Boss pedals really do sound thin and they still have ears tuned enough to recognize the difference between crystal lattice and non-crystal lattice amps.

Now, I don’t have a horse in that race (although the internet awesomeness on every gear message board in existence has made for many an enjoyable evening read as of late). I don’t know whether the seemingly simple explanation of a company taking $30 mass-produced pedals, repainting them, modding a couple components, and then scratching out the name on the circuit board, saying it was a handbuilt original circuit, and selling them for near a 500% markup is true; or if the company’s response that the Chinese company stole the circuit years ago while they were mass-producing circuit boards for him is true. The point is that there were two almost identical pedals…one was overlooked as a cheap Wal-Mart pedal because it said ‘Made in China’, and the other was hailed as the defender of all things tone because it had a cool paint job, and was said to be made in a basement.

To be fair, who knows…maybe those three diode mods really do make a difference. But the whole fiasco really threw into the spotlight for me, how much we hear tone with our eyes. I missed the whole ‘Mundane Yellows’ circus, basically because I’ve been over the flavors of the month for a few years, save for the Timeline…since I’ve been waiting for the bpm Timeline since I got the original in February of ’08, and the bpm didn’t even exist yet. ;) But I have not bought a Black Arts Pharaoh fuzz, one of the 1,805 Lovepedal Eternity versions, or a Jetter Gain Stage Rainbow. But…knowing how I am about tone and blue led’s…I very well could have been involved in this latest deal. You could very easily have seen a video demo and a glowing review of the new handmade wonder.

Couple that with the fact that in the last few months, I have sold a Tim in favor of the v1 Fulltone (almost a heretical word amongst tone junkies the last few years) Fatboost, chose the non-tube Timeline over the tube Timeline in a blind test, and no longer like Lava Cables.

And then at the same time…try as I might, neither the Blues Junior or the Frenzel sounded as good to me as the Matchless. And the tube Valvulator buffer rocked (at least in my world) the non-tube ones, boutique or no.

So…the point here is…?

You don’t always get what you pay for. But sometimes you do. haha Play what you like, what gets your heart going, and don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Except for this blog, of course.

And if that doesn’t make you believe everything I say on this blog, then I’m just not sure what will. ;)

Splendid.
Karl.

43 thoughts on “Time…for Some Reality

  1. So, I missed all of this? I refuse to read TGP anymore unless it pops up on a search when I’m looking for something specific. Can you fill me in?

  2. I think that’s pretty much where it stands right now…I tried to give both sides of it, as I guess there was talk of libel suits bring thrown around? I don’t know how all that stuff works, or who’s right and wrong. But I do know that the gut shots of the pedals are very, very, very close…and I’m wondering if maybe there’s a reason I always seem to like unmodded Boss Blues Driver’s. ;)

  3. Karl, just say “allegedly” at the end of each statement, or phrase everything as a question to avoid being sued.

    I never heard a D*mble in real life, so I could be missing out on some magic, but the clips of actual D*mbles and all of the “D*mble in a box” pedals that exist don’t excite me. To me they sound a little boring.

    I will now prepare for my lynching.

  4. Dude! Karl! I always liked the unmodded BD too! I knew we were made to be friends.

    I almost pulled the trigger on that… Chinese pedal a few times, but I just don’t see the need. I have a Pearl. My name should be coming up on the Timmy list any day, which means I will buy a Timmy and sell it right back on TGP because I’m really scrapped for cash, and then go back to being happy with my little dirt section. That DOES make me happy. And it DOES sound good. Just like my stock BD sounded good. And will sound good again when I pick one up.

    Maybe that’s what I’m missing. The Blues Driver.

    In other news, our drummer at church asked me today, “Dave, have you ever considered playing for U2?” and I said, “I don’t care for that brand of coolaid.” and he said, “Oh, because you sound just like the Edge.”

    I wasn’t even using dotted eights at the time! I took it as a deep compliment.

    Playing through my Epiphone Valve Jr.

    Done.

  5. did you have some part of this post written before the Timeline was released? i think “Omega Park” should thank Strymon for taking over the thread(s) of the week spot on TGP :)

    but you’re right, those sloppy mods could have been the difference between good & great. and if it’s true that it sounds great, this thing will be a novelty/collector’s item in the coming years … so I’m going to but a whole lot of them and sell them for inflated price 10 years from now! hehehe kidding ;)

  6. I don’t think we actually “conduct business” with some countries. It’s more like war thinly disguised as commerce. China is one of them. I remember being in Taiwan many years ago ( not China per se but similar business ethics ) and seeing books that were still on the best seller lists being copied, printed and marketed dirt cheap on the streets of Taipei.

  7. Sam–haha That was on a John Stewart episode talking about how the media veils their opinions. ‘Is this the worst pedal ever? If you buy this pedal, does that mean you take little children’s lollipops and throw them on the ground and laugh? I’m not saying you do…I’m just asking.’ ;)

    And I’ve never really thought too much about Dumble’s, because I’ll probably never be able to afford one. But when Dumble himself plays through one in those famous Henry Kaiser (so awesome) videos, I think it sounds really good.

    As for pedals copping amp tones…that’s just so highly doubtful when you think about it logically. I mean, maybe a good boost pushing a Z into D13 territory or vice versa…but that’s as far as I’m willing to go right now. Barring the Ethos, which looks intriguing just because of its versatility.

    Naal–I think we could all make some pretty decent music with a Boss Blues Driver and an Epiphone Valve Junior. Those two continually surprise me. I still have my little Epi…probably never gonna sell it. Well…those are meaningless words, but still. ;)

    Austin–Lava’s keep going microphonic on me. Mark’s good about it and replaces them, but I just don’t have the time to continuously ship them back and forth to him. The straw that broke it for me was getting hum from my pedalboard and searching for it for a couple days, finally finding that it was Lava Cables that were touching the chassis of my Valvulator. None of my other cables mind touching the Valvulator.

    So I’m in the process of switching out all my Lava’s for EA’s. Again, some folks love Lava’s and that’s awesome; they’re just not working for me anymore. To each his own. :)

    Rhoy–lol They so do!! Actually, I hadn’t heard anything about the controversy until about two weeks ago when some post about something different on I think it was the Tele forum referenced something at that Free Stompboxes site. Then of course, I had to grab something to eat and sit down for a nice two hours of quality reading. lol

    You’re right, they probably will become collector’s items because of all the controversy.

    Randy–totally! That’s interesting. Ya, I remember a friend of mine going to China on a missions trip, and coming back with all these TV Seasons for like, 7 bucks that weren’t out yet here. haha

  8. I know asked you a couple days ago about build it yourself patch cables. What do you think of George L’s? My budget is not limitless and the advantage for them is that I can buy the individual connectors separately.

    • People have different opinions on the DIY cable kits but I really like my George L’s. I bought some Lava cables to see how they would work and because there are a couple places where the smaller jack would help. I have had nothing but problems with them. I’ve assembled them exactly how they said even had a friend with ALL Lava cables try it and I had a bunch of bad cable. I’ve had them short out in the middle of sets as well. I haven’t had any George L’s do that. I do check them every other week to make sure they aren’t coming unscrewed though. I move my board around a lot too and really haven’t had a problem.

  9. When I used George L’s, the grounding connections would come loose all the time, resulting in a fizzy sound. Not a huge deal, because the cool thing about George L’s is that you can just keep cutting off the tips of the wires and make new connections. But with a board as big as mine, and the cables doubled because of bypass loopers, it got to be a nightmare.

    And this is not just with George L’s for me…I don’t particularly care for any solderless cable. I like things hardwired. :) That’s just me, though. There are plenty of George L, Lava solderless, Planet Waves solderless, etc. on many a touring pro’s board.

  10. wow what a freekish story. sadly it seems like its a common thing for companies to rebrand stuff and sell it for different markets, like say, batteries, or drugs etc.

  11. I haven’t heard a Dumble live but I saw Mike Landau last month and he was using two Dumble modded amps (Super Reverb and Hot Rod Deluxe). His tone was great but it was probably just him.

    On Randy’s point, I feel like we’re more at war with ourselves. You can download any book, album, or movie you want right now. It’s okay to sell clones of current production boutique pedals if you do them ‘off-menu.’ Allegedly. ;)

  12. VR Troopers. ooooo, that was bad. Speaking of YouTube, our Pastor wants to start putting the sermons on video. I thought the Easter play etc would be more suitable, but hey, Pastors think differently than other folks sometimes. :-) I know a quality camera is first and foremost, but beyond that I see YouTube has a 10-minute limit so that’s out. I see a 320×240 video at bitrate of 400kbs might be 3mb per minute so maybe 200MB to upload for an hour sermon? Our website is on Google Sites so I’ll have to check their hosting/bandwidth limitations also.

  13. Who was it who copied mass produced designs in the first place? Could it have been the boutique builders by any chance? Galatians 6:7. Mass produced equals good cheap tone for worship guitarists. Life is good!

  14. Dan–ah, Michael Landau. Never seen him live, but I used to have a dvd of him playing at some jazz festival out of a Marshall. And he coaxed blues tone out of that thing good enough to be a breath of fresh melody in the midst of all the ‘let’s see how many aug9′s we can stack chords.’ hehehe

    I’m with ya on the clones. Possible post coming soon. It’s time.

    Randy–I think most churches are using Vimeo. You have to pay, but it is really high quality and you can upload hours of stuff. :)

    James–haha Yep! I know of a few boutique circuits that are original or at least fairly close to being original; I also know of a lot that are tubescreamers and DS-1′s. ;)

    Brandon–ya, I really like the DD20 too. :D Not huge on their volume pedals, but I do like their DD7, TR2, and RV5. And for what it’s worth, the SD1 already has the correct JRC4558 chip that the original TS9′s had in the ’80′s. The current production run TS9′s do not. (!) Long live Boss.

    And if we’re gonna go back to black label Japan-made Boss, almost every single one sounds incredible! The DM2, CE2, NF-1, original Turbo Overdrive, just to name a few. :)

  15. I would like to point out that while VR troopers was entertaining at times, The Power Rangers have reigned for a span of 2 decades.

    In direct correlation, while D*mble, T*m, and similar boutique pedals and their clones have warmed the souls of many, Boss has also stood the test of time, reigning for multiple decades as well.

    In conclusion,

    If Boutique Pedals/Amps = VR Troopers
    then
    Power Rangers = Boss

    Extreme! Go!

  16. I modded my BD2 and absolutely love the smoothness of the tone (I think it is from the silver mica capacitors). I found the original a tad harsh. The modded BD2 also works as a boost when I use it with my acoustic guitar.

    I have tried replacing the BD2 and my modded SD1 (TS9 type mod with the JRC chip) with more expensive stuff but keep coming back to the Boss pedals. My eyes says it is a common and mass produced pedal but my ears love it. A dilemma. The Boss pedal doesn’t have the cool factor on the pedalboard. Maybe a paint job could change that.

  17. Joel!! haha This is kinda funny/kinda cheesey, but I just can’t help it. So many memories…

    Sal–I either have it, or it’s been passed along to someone else. It sounded killer though!! You are the man, the way you give away gear, bro. That piece helped me a lot!! It was my first fooray into tube rack/pedal gear. :D

    James J–right on! Ya, I had a Keeley modded BD2 that I gave away. Sometimes I regret it. haha

    And I modded a couple SD-1′s a while back…the ones I modded already had the correct JRC4558 chip. Albeit, not the Texas Instruments Malaysia one, but… Do they still have it stock?

    • I bought the mod kit from Pedaldoc. It came with both the JRC4558D and RC4558P (used in the old 808). After testing both, I liked the RC4558P which I found smoother compared to the JRC4558D.

      I also did other mods not in the kit including changing most of the resistors to metal film ones and also added a toggle switch to use either a 1N4007 Silicone Diode or 1N34A Germanium diode on D4 for more variation.

      Interestingly, the Germanium Diode sounded bad when used with a Solid State amp but since going tube amp, the Germanium Diode is nicer and adds more clarity.

  18. Karl, love that Plankeye video. Always been one of my favorites.

    James, I was incredibly humbled a while ago when I saw pics of FoF’s pedal boards from a show. I always figured it was boutique (or expensive) everything, but there was a surprising amount of Boss to be seen. Delays, reverbs, drives. It seemed like between the two of them they had at least one pedal from every category. So enlightening knowing I don’t have tone that good from “better” gear, let alone from Boss.

  19. Love this…. from JamesJ

    My eyes says it is a common and mass produced pedal but my ears love it. A dilemma. The Boss pedal doesn’t have the cool factor on the pedalboard.

    • haha … definitely no cool factor for you!

      seriously though, I sometimes miss my old BF-2. that thing it’s so versatile as it can do chorus, trem in a pinch

  20. My old CS-2 compressor is the only Boss pedal left on my board. Still liking my Barber Small Fry Burn Unit and leave the RC Booster on all the time. But no substitute for a tube amp. Those pedals along with various other paraphernalia run into my amp which is miked.
    I really would like to get a better tube amp than my Carvin Vintage 16, preferably with a 2×12 cab but the Matchless types aren’t in the budget.

  21. James J–gotcha. Ya, I’ve got the RC in my TS7. Sounded deeper to me. Of course, this was 6 or 7 years ago, but hey…I choose to believe I had good ears back then. haha

    And I agree on some germanium stuff. I’ve had people angry at me for suggesting germanium fuzzes because of how horrible they sound with their solid state amps.

    JFarabee–definitely agree on Boss pedals. I love them more each day, it seems. They do the job, do it well, don’t break, and people with better tone and feel than me use them. hehe

    Sal–so true. But that DM2…I’ve yet to hear anything like it. A guy I was selling an amp to one time brought his along to test it with the amp, and the stuff he got out of that little 300ms pedal was astounding. You should rehouse yours and say it had a 3 year waitlist to be imported from Iceland. ;) Makes it cooler.

    Rhoy–me too!! I sold it because it said ‘Boss.’

    Randy–I totally agree…no substitute for a tube amp. :) Have you looked at the Frenzel Amps or the Ceriatone Muchle$$? hehe Both cop a really good Matchless tone. (On the Ceriatone’s though, make sure you get one actually bought by Ceriatone…not a kit. :) )

    Craig–normally, speed doesn’t do much for me. But that…that was pretty astounding.

  22. I hate and love when pedals sound good but have no cool factor. I love my DD-7. I keep finding new and better sounding uses for it. It’s so uncool but I can’t get myself to not like it. I played an RV-5 the other day and I may be buying one for the modulate setting because I can’t really afford something like a Blue Sky right now. I hate that I like the way it sounds though! :)

  23. So what’s the controversy exactly (lazily asking b/c of stubborn desire not to search tgp)? Is the Chinese company Omega Park?

    Anyway, my favorite pedal (or one of my favorites heh) is probably the fatboost v1 I picked up. I don’t use it all the time, or just by itself exclusively, but I love how I can add and take away from the effect of other pedals. And I really probably am not using it to its full potential. Life’s been busy lately and I haven’t been eq’ing any of my pedals, just plug n play for worship team.

  24. Josh–haha Those stupid RV’s, man! They always sound so good, and look so dumb. Supposedly…when Robben Ford can’t get his hands on a Dumble for a certain gig, he grabs a Fender Twin and an RV3. Although, that could just be internet forum folklore. ;)

    Brandon–cool! :)

    Caleb–basically someone opened up the boutique pedal and found that it was basically identical to this mass-produced Chinese pedal…save with 3 or 4 sloppily soldered mods, and the Chinese pedal name scratched off the circuit board.

    The boutique builder claims that the Chinese company ripped him off years earlier. So he…bought a bunch of their mass-produced version of his pedal and changed them back to his specs, and then resold them. ?? That part confuses me.

    I’ll let you decide who’s telling the truth. ;)

    And I have no idea about all the names and lawsuit talk being thrown around, but since I wrote the post with both sides of the story represented, I feel fine telling you the name of the Chinese pedal is the Joyo Ultimate Drive. A quick internet search with that should give you more than you’d ever want to read. haha

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