Sunday, January 25, 2015

John Popper Signature Harmonica by Fender

This was just released at NAMM. It is a repackaged Session Steel, and looks great!
I will of course get one, but I doubt it will dethrone by current harps.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Zoom MS 100bt

Before we go any further, this pedal is only great if you own an iOS device to update effects through a Mac, iPad, or iPhone!!!

You should own this pedal.  If you don't, you should buy it right now.  Here is the link to read up on the pedal and its amazingness....

After reading up on it, buy it here...

You're welcome.

Why do I love this pedal so much???  Well, let's say not for the amp sims, which I don't dig.  I love it for everything else.  The Bass Booster works great for a clean to dirty amp tone with a dynamic mic like a SM57 or 58.  The RC Booster works just like a LoneWolf HarpBreak if you take time to dial it in - plus it has a slew of amazing sounding effects!!!!!

Staples of my rig include many of the delays and reverbs.  If you use effects at all, you'll be familiar with most of the effects, but my favorite are Shimmer, Ice, Space, and Bass Octave.  Running with the John Popper theme, you can nail or get ridiculously close to all of his time based and pitch based effects.

If you don't care at all about amp sims, the Zoom CDR70 is a great alternative if you are just after the delays and reverbs.  It does not have amp sims, distortion pedals, or other effects like auto-wah.  If you are just after time based effects, it is cheaper and maybe easier to use.

John Popper-like Rig on the "Cheap"

I'd love an Axe FX.  That being said, it is way more than I need.  New, the Axe FX and midi controller like John Popper would run $3,000 new and still require some sort of amp or speaker to run it.  I already own a QSC K10, which would work great, but we're still talking $3,000 and the time it would take to program at home, tweak live, and adjust as needed.  I am not a full time player.  In fact, I am not even gigging right now.  While there are MANY terrific gear options around, I'd like to share what I am using, including pros and cons, and how close it gets to a Poppler-like rig.

I am still messing with the order of pedals, but above is the following:

Lone Wolf HarpBreak
Zoom MS 100bt
Saturn Works Looper
Xotic EP Booster
Strymon Lex Rotary Pedal
Pedaltrain Nano
Visual Sound 1spot Power Supply with daisy chain

New, this rig would run 1/3 of the cost of the Axe, if not even less.  That is still pushing $1,000, though.  While there are cheaper options, this rig works great.  The HarpBreak works like a dirty amp.  The Zoom is used with the looper to create an effects loop I can turn off and on so I can cycle through MANY effects including just about anything JP has ever used.  The EP acts like a clean amp if set up as such, and the Lex is a FANTASTIC rotary pedal.

This rig is a compromise of size and function without sacrificing tone!  It really works well for anything I ever play, and I think it is very easy to tweak.

If you had two Zoom pedals (or a Zoom 70cdr), you could do without the HarpBreak or EP Booster, which would save you close to $200 (I have also used that comb with the 100bt set to go between an EP Booster model and a RC Booster which sounds damn near identical to the HarpBreak).  That is only four pedals and also saves space.

My board didn't cost me $1,000.  I bough everything other than the 1spot and looper used (I got the 100bt new, but on sale).  Here is a breakdown of my costs:

Lone Wolf HarpBreak ($100)
Zoom MS 100bt ($100)
Saturn Works Looper ($25)
Xotic EP Booster ($95)
Strymon Lex Rotary Pedal ($200)
Pedaltrain Nano ($35)
Visual Sound 1spot Power Supply with daisy chain ($40)

While there are many other pedal options, especially in the world of multifx, this rig gives me a level of tone and flexibility the other pedals don't.  For one, I can run my clean, dirty, and rotary on the fly without any planning.  I can also easily tweak them in real time.  Other gear, like the Zoom G3 and Digitech RP360 are harder to adjust in real time and they also require you to cycle through presets or carefully coordinate scenes.  Their rotary tones also really really suck compared to the Lex.  

The Zoom MS 100bt doesn't require an effects loop, but it would have to always be on, which is frustrating when you want to use an effect on a whim.  The loop lets me turn take the 100bt out of the signal path while I cycle presets.  While not as convenient as a full pedal board, it is functional and I don't feel I am giving much up.  The only con is trying to move from one effect to another without audibly cycling.  

I use this setup for everything - acoustic, country, blues, and issues or complaints from anyone.  I should not that it also easily covers the JP tones with Brother's Keeper.  In addition, you'll note that even when using the 100bt for "amp" tones, I do NOT use the amp models.  I much prefer the Bass Booster and RC Booster, which are models of the Xotic EP Booster (with much more gain and eq options) and RC Booster/BB Preamp.  

While I currently have the EP and HB on my board, it sounds just as good using the Zoom 70CDR for all my effects and the Zoom 100bt in place of the EP and HB.  It is scary how much the 100bt can sound like the EP and HarpBreak.  While this saves space and offers even MORE eq options, I find that I like the ability to place the EP and HB in different parts of the chain than having them in the same position.

For example, I have since switched the EP Booster until the very end of the chain so I have a volume control that won't push any other pedals into clipping.

Depending on YOUR needs, other units and arrangements could work way better.  I really like the tone and cost of the other Zoom pedals and anything Digitech has done with the RP series (and iStomp).  I also love the Tech 21 Sans amps.  There are endless ways to go about a pedalboard - and not really right or wrong ways!

Pictures of John Popper's Axe FX Rig

I noted that John Popper switched to an Axe FX rig some time ago, but here are actual pictures...

Here is the backline from the first show with the Axe.  My understanding is he was running the Axe in the FX loop of the Bogner.  The Orange was for feedback, and the Mesa was for guitar.  His rotary amp is also somewhere. At recent shows (2014), it looks like he has ditched the Mesa.
 Here is the Axe rig and the midi board he controls it with.
 Here is an after and before shot, lol.  Below is the midi pedal he uses to control his whole rig - amps and effects.
 Here is what it replaced.  He is running a MUCH cleaner rig now!  Keep in mind he also has a bunch of rack effects not pictures controlled by the midi controller.  I contacted Fractal Audio, the makers of the Axe FX, about the effects and routing of John Popper's rig.  I did get a response, albeit, not super detailed...

FX were very basic stuff... (coming from a guy who programs rigs for Fractal Artists, I guess that isn't saying much ;-)

Pitch Shift
Drive Pedal
Rotary Speaker

Here is a fun concert with the Axe FX (allegedly).  The backline appears to be a Mesa Boogie again.  The amp on top is something else too, but just used for feedback.  The Axe has replaced the rotary amp and all other floor effects

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Popper's Rig with Brother's Keeper

Brother's Keeper has a GREAT album that has recently come out featuring John Popper and Jono  Manson. If you are a fan of well written rock and Americana, it is quite the treat!
Live it looks like Mr. Popper is using a Princeton Reverb. His board has an Xotic BB Preamp with a Neo Ventilator and Ibanez AD99 analog delay. You can also see a passive DI and a volume control in the pics. 
There are plenty of vids of the group on YouTube. You can hear and see him bounce between clean, dirty, and rotary tones. 

Here is a vid with the Vent and the clean tones of the Princeton Reverb during the solo.  The vid has a lot of the room's natural reverb, which is not a pedal-based effect.

This vid is a great example of the rotary sounds of the Vent and the distortion of the BB Preamp: