Gear Reviews

MXR PhaserMXR EVH Phase 90: This is the first phaser I ever really owned. I have almost always used a phaser that was built into another pedal (ala line 6 style), but when this one came out I just had to try it. The first thing that strikes you is it’s sick Van Halen style paint job. But its really the sound that makes this puppy so sick. It has one main knob that you use to basically control the sweep, speed, well shit… everything, but thats all it needs. I usually just run it with the knob set at 11 o’clock.

It also boasts a super sweet Script Switch. It lets you switch between a vintage “Script Logo” tone or a more modern sounding phaser. It takes one 9 volt battery for power or runs off of most 9 Volt adaptors. Look around whenever you see a guitar player do his specs, more often then not this pedal will be there! To me this is what phaser sounds like. It’s simple, beautiful, and perfect. Not to mention the build on it, I haven’t broken the first one I bought, and man that says a lot!

Pro Co. Turbo Ratt: This right here is my secret weapon. I have used almost every type of overdrive pedal live. Most guys use a tube screamer or some other kind of overdrive pedal to beef up their sound (and there are millions out there) but nothing rocks like the midrange in the Turbo Ratt. Its simple 3 knobs let you control the Distortion, Filter (tone), and Volume. Its build is sleek and simple and these little bad boys hold up on tour for sure! The Turbo Ratt uses one nine-volt battery for power and works with most 9 Volt adaptors. Its only downside is that the power adapter input on the pedal has a female end so it needs a different kind of adapter then boss or more common newer pedals.

Be warned this is a crazy pedal. When I first bought this pedal it was because I saw it on another dudes pedal board. It sounded so good I just had to get one. But when I got it home it just sounded like garbage. I couldn’t figure out how to get the blend with the amp to sound good. I never really got it until later producer, Brian Mcternan, showed me during the Mark of the Judas Recording. So watch out it may not sound good to you right it away

Randall RM100 Guitar Head: As soon as I took this head out of the box I was taken back by the overload of options. I usually hate amps with too many options but the way this amp is set up it’s both easy to use and versatile. Every option has a real purpose, which makes understanding them all that much easier.

The RM100 is a 100-watt all tube head that is designed so that all of the 14 Randall pre amp modules easily slide into its chaise. This allows for each individual player to chose the 3 channels in his or her own amp. I have experimented with many of the different preamp channels but the one that works best for me is the XTC (it’s the mod that is similar to a Bogner amp). Look on the Randall site for options. It’s basically amp modeling done right in an all tube head.

When I first looked at the back of the head I was pretty surprised. The RM 100 has a separate fuse, tube failure warning light, bias test point, and bias adjust for each power tube. It has both a midi in and midi thru port as well as a slave output. There are two different effects loops (both Parallel and Standard) for all you effects geeks out there. They are both controlled by a separate FX volume on the front of the head. This is really helpful, I have had amps before that don’t have this option and it makes using the loop live very tricky. Rounding out the RM 100 features on the front of the head are a separate master volume, density control, and presence knob.

The RM100 is footswitch controllable and the switch is very well built and durable. The footswitch does not have an option to turn off the effects loop which is definitely a down side but you can connect the RM100 to any midi capable external processing device and program individual effects to each channel.

Its few downsides are, well, first the price… its not cheap. I have seen a few of these online go for some reasonable prices, so shop around… you can find them! But the chances are you’re not going to get a head with all 3 pre amp channels you love, so you will have to do some more searching after you get the head. Second, the RM100 is extremely heavy for a guitar head. It’s not something you want to carry around all time (Randall does make a practice amp that you can slide your same pre amp channels into). Lastly, if you’re not sure what pre amps work for you it’s a bit hard to test them out in a store. Your best shot is to read the examples online and find the few pre amp modules that fit what you’re trying to do. Chances are if they seem like they will sound good for you they probably will, at least that has always been my experience with this head.

For all its minor shortcomings the RM100 still can take a beating live. I have used the RM on the last few tours I have been on, we have done everything from dropping it; knocking it over, to even sliding it down stairs once (I wasn’t there and those dudes were drunk). I have been happy with its sound on many different stages and in many different rooms. It has performed consistently live and has sounded good over and over; that in the end is all you can ask for from an amp.

Ernie Ball Little VP JR Volume Pedal: I always run a volume pedal in front of whatever delay I am using that way I can use it to swell into the delay. Lately I have gotten into just using the knob on the guitar to do my volume work. It just depends what you are going for but I always like to have the option. When I use this pedal it definitely makes everything easier and fluid. Much like the volume knob there are just some sounds you can only get using a volume pedal.

The construction of the Little VP is what drew me to it. First of all the size is perfect. It saves space on the pedal board and works in all the same ways its bigger counter part does. A micro taper switch in the pedal gives you 2 very distinct swell rates. There is also a separate tuner output for silent tuning when the pedal is placed in the heal down position.

I have only had one problem in 6 years with one of these pedals, and you really cant ask for more then that. I once wore out the fine string that seems to balance the foot plain of the pedal. It’s funny, but its just really a thick piece of string. It doesn’t instill much confidence, but at the same time replacing this pedal once in 6 or 7 years of touring isn’t too bad either.

To sum it all up the Little VP JR is a simple piece of gear and does its job beautifully. The size, the build, and functionality of this pedal make it a perfect fit for any pedal board.

Digitech Whammy Pedal: This pedal is pure fun. Its rare that you can buy a pedal on such a whim and find that it is so amazing you want to use it all the time. For real, if I could, I would play my guitar through it all the time and never turn it off! I know it doesn’t sound really fancy or technical but I just use it to make crazy noises!

The Digitech Whammy pedal is built like a tank. It may be one of the most solid pedals I have ever put on my pedal board. It has one on/off switch and an effects knob that lets you scroll and set the various effects. With the pedal control you can then swell within the chosen effect. The whammy gives you the option to harmonize notes with themselves, detune and whammy up, push notes an octave or two octaves up and down, and of course dive bomb! Its not a subtle effect so be warned, you may bum out a few people with this thing until you get it right.

The Digitech Whammy pedal has a direct in, wet and dry output, and midi input for maximum options and controls. It is powered by the provided 9 Volt adaptor and this is where its downside is revealed. There is no battery power for this pedal so it must be powered using the appropriate adapter. This adapter is not small and takes up a ton of room on my board. I have tried and had some intermittent success with using this pedal with pedal power or another type of pedal adaptor and it just seems to be unreliable.

A common mistake most people make with this pedal is they use it like a novelty. You know they think, “I’ll use it once or twice for a crazy squeal or to dive bomb a les Paul guitar with no whammy bar.” But the truth is, the Whammy doesn’t sound that close to a real whammy bar. It’s kind of its own thing. The best use that I have found is to really fill out recordings. Its always nice to record an octave higher on a lead, throw in a harmony 2 octaves higher, or even add some ambient low noises by cranking this guy down 2 octaves. The Digitech Whammy pedal can add depth, size, and most of all color to any recording you are working on.

This pedal is its own beast! I have never experimented with any pedal that sounds like or really even close to the Digitech Whammy. We really have to thank the dudes over at Digitech, they used their imagination to make one hell of a crazy pedal so know you can use yours!

The Ebow: The Energy Bow (or Ebow for short) is probably my favorite of all guitar effects. I get asked questions about my Ebow at almost every show and have used it on tons of records. I prefer to use it much like the Whammy pedal, to fill out records and give them depth.

Basically the Ebow works by using a magnetic drive field to force the guitar string to continuously vibrate over and over. This gives the guitar a bow like effect that at first listen sounds like controlled feedback. With the Ebow you can manipulate this exact sound with greater control, tone, and volume.

I have seen dudes do everything from sweep arpeggios to make an Ebow sound like a Theremin. It’s pretty much an instrument to itself. It takes a bit of practice but as soon as you get used to it I promise you’ll love it. I have never shown the Ebow to someone who asked and had him or her not be impressed. It’s just a magical piece of gear.

Located on the back of the Ebow are its only two controls. The black switch lets you select between regular/standard mode or the harmonic mode that favors the upper harmonic tone.

The Ebow is powered by one 9-volt battery that slides right into it. Small and easy to use, it fits just about anywhere. Made out of hard plastic the Ebow can take a beating but it’s not as durable and road ready as some of the other gear here. I have dropped my Ebow a million times live and although it is heavily taped up it still works amazing. Oh, and its hard to find when your on the road, so try not to break it… like I said, nothing sounds like the Ebow.

There are so many different uses and options that I really have just begun to experiment with this awesome piece of gear. I suggest checking out their website and exploring for yourself. They even have a tutorial on how to use one. My advice, go get one and start jamming. The Ebow is just too fun to not play around with!

Washburn Rover Travel Guitar: Its funny you can own all types of guitars but you still end up just jamming on a guitar that’s worth about $160.00. This guitar is the cure for your guitar-playing itch no matter where you are. I can say that without a doubt this guitar has made many riffs and songs possible by just, well playing awesome and being there!

The Rover is a guitar designed to travel just about anywhere. It’s full scale neck (24inch), Solid Spruce body/neck, Rosewood fingerboard, and solid tuners make this little guy a force to be reckoned with. The guitar only weighs about 8 pounds and comes with a killer carrying case. It’s just big enough to allow itself to sit in your lap and be played as a normal guitar but just small enough that it can go, like I said, anywhere. Bands, fans, even random people in airports always stop me and ask about this guitar.

They want to know “ Does it stay in tune?” Yes, it actually holds a tuning better then most full size guitars that I own.

They ask, “Does it play like a real guitar?” Hell Yeah, it actually is a REAL guitar. It’s not a toy or novelty this is a real guitar and it shreds pretty hard.

“Yeah, but how does it sound?” Actually, it sounds amazing. Its not as full sounding as your average guitar acoustic but its loud and clear.

Go out and find this guitar. You will see it feels good, stays in tune well, and is the perfect travel guitar. I have bought just about every travel guitar item you can and this one is a must for the touring musician or dude who just likes to jam on the beach!

Voodoo Lab Pedal Power Plus 2: In my journey to build that most righteous pedal board I have tried just about every way to power my pedals. For a long time I just used batteries, then a power strip duct taped to some particleboard. Later I graduated to a Ferman pedal board that had all the adaptors and power built in but that too was bulky and unreliable. Frustrated I began a search for the easiest, most versatile, space effective unit that could power all different types of crazy pedals.

Enter the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus. With just this little box. I can power: (4) Standard 9 Volt and 12 Volt Boss style ACA Style pedals, (2) High current 9 Volt pedals (like the Line 6 style pedals), and (2) Standard 9 Volt battery adaptors w/ SAG Control. The SAG actually just stands for the word sag. It just means that you can adjust the power output to the pedal so you can sag between 4Volts to 9 Volts. According to Voodoo labs this is most useful for older transistor based pedals as newer ones aren’t as easily affected by different voltages. I have to admit in all honesty I never use this feature.

Another of the Pedal Power Plus options I rarely use is the ability to use custom cables from Voodoo Lab to join two different outputs to make a custom current. I don’t have to many pedals that run off of anything that uncommon so I haven’t experimented with this. Plus you have to buy the custom cables separately so really there is no reason to do this unless you have specific pedal you are looking to power. Finally, there is also a separate rear auxiliary AC outlet that is 200 watts max, I can’t tell you how convenient this has been to have on the road.

There is plenty written on Voodoo Labs site about the specifics of why this power unit works so well. Honestly I don’t understand most of it. What I do know is that this has been the solution to all my pedal powering needs. It allows me to switch out and combine pedals of different voltages easily, safely, and with very little noise. I love the Pedal Power Plus 2 and would highly suggest it to any pedal geeks out there on tour.

The Dunlop ZW-45 Zakk Wylde Signature Wha Pedal: There are not too many dudes out there who can shred a Wha sicker then Zakk Wylde. So it’s no mystery why when I went looking for a killer Wha it was Zakk’s own model that won my heart.

Built with a raw metal casing this pedal is road ready. It’s a bit more solid then a few of the other Dunlop Wha’s and definitely more solid then a VOX Wha. Apparently its been tweaked by the man himself for perfect Wylde Wha action. Now I’m not sure what that really means but I will say that I love the sweep on this Wha. Its got a nice fat end to the bottom when in the heal back position and when you crank it up and slam the pedal down you get really awesome treble biting cut! It sounded perfect to me the day I plugged it in.

The ZW-45 runs off of one 9-volt battery or Dunlop ECB-003 AC Adaptor (I run mine with a voodoo lab pedal power). The battery compartment just like so many Wha Pedals is located on the bottom of the pedal so don’t Velcro this to your pedal board if you want to use the battery (its going to be a pain in the ass to change that battery all the time).

The ZW-45 doesn’t have nearly the options as the Dimebag Dunlop DB01 Crybaby from Hell Wha Pedal. But I found that I could never get the setting just right when I had that many options. If your looking for the ability to change the Q Control, volume boost, or fine-tune that Wha sound then the DB01 might be better suited for you.

I have found time and time again on the road that what works best for me is simplicity, reliability, and quality. With its solid build and killer built in sweep the ZW-45 has it just right for me, right out of the box.

4 Responses to Gear Reviews

  1. Darryl says:

    Just get Dunlop to send ya some replacement strings for the volume pedal.
    Takes a few minutes and yer not just wasting a fine housing:)

  2. Linus says:

    Great reviews!! I’m gonna buy that wah as you seem to have the same preference as myself when it comes to gear!! And the whammy, i love the sounds buckethead gets from his so i’ll be getting that to!

    I recommend you to try out the Hughes and Kettner Switchblade if simplicity and reliability is your thing to!
    it’s a four channel all tube amp with delay/chorus/flanger/rotary/reverb and an built in midiboard so you can store presets!!
    i tell you, it’s the best sounding amp I EVER played and its features meks it more likeable, as i can switch from aggressive rhytm to smooth thick lead tone with a little delay!

    PS. I admire your playing very much to 🙂

  3. Nate Burke says:

    Mike made me a believer in the turbo ratt. Since then I use it on everything…bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals, drums. The thing has some range and it rips.

  4. Cole says:

    The digitech whammy pedal really is a pedal. The sounds you can get out of it are just plain old fun and sick as well. I also found it interesting that you are a Pro co Rat fan, recently for leads and boost and such I’ve been using a BBE green screamer, and I love it…..but as you said it took me a solid week or two to find it’s sweet spot, it souned like dirt in the beginning. Also that randall head sounds sweet how you put it, Im using a peavet XxX and the thing kicks ass but is sometimes a little noisy.

    Good reviews keep it up Mike.

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