Once in a while I make my way downtown (Vancouver) and waste an hour or two messing around with whatever guitars, amps, and pedals that catch my eye. On these outings I grab some gear, go into an iso booth and compare. For example, on my first trip I compared an Ibanez TS9 to a BBE Green Screamer and MXR GT-OD – each a Screamer style overdrive – and in 5 minutes found I liked the TS9 most. It takes a great deal of self-control to walk out of the store with just one pedal or nothing.
It occurred to me that writing down some first impression reviews of the gear I try out may have some value to someone. I’m certainly not well known for my guitar playing but you guys seem to respect my opinion on gear and sound, or else you wouldn’t read AGZ.
Today was another one of these trips. It started with lunch at Chronic Tacos with Dave Chick (Inside Home Recording Podcast), then I went over to Tom Lee Music to make some noise.
devi ever aenima
The first pedal that caught my eye was a used Aenima fuzz by devi ever fx. This thing was nuts. It’s designed to a Tool style tone, but on LSD.
* Very noisy
* Thick out-of-control fuzz
* Instant feedback at almost any volume level
For $75 used I was very tempted because it’s unlike anything I have but it’s a special effect kind of distortion box that may rarely get used.
Fender Super Champ X2 HD and SC112 Cab
The amp I was playing through was Fender’s new X2 series head and matching 1×12 cab. It’s a two channel 15W tube amp that is quite versatile. I didn’t look at the connections on the back but it turns out there’s a USB port there for direct recording and extra features. It’s a real tube amp with a 12AX7 preamp stage and 2 x 6V6 on the output stage. 15 digital FX options. One very interesting feature was the 16 position “voicing” switch claiming to give you a 16 different amp models. It was easy to dial in usable tones in clean, over-driven and even high-gain settings. Unlike with Line6 or other modeling amps I’ve heard, it wasn’t obviously digital
* Flexible tonal options
* Real tube amp with DSP modelling
* More than enough volume for home studio use
* Lacks FX loop so not as flexible as it could be
I didn’t know this amp existed before today and it impressed me. It’s small but will kick your ass, flexible and still has a Fender character. The price seems very fair, $299 for the head and $249 for the cab (looking online they’re cheaper but shipping and customs fees are a bitch). I’m considering it for my studio since I don’t want a ton of different amps and like the flexibility this offers, even if it’s not a vintage Fender.
Fender Modern Player Marauder
When I was testing the Aenima pedal I was playing a cheap Epiphone Les Paul mahogany that was already in the iso booth. It sucked. On my next trip to the booth I grabbed a different guitar. The Modern Player Marauder just looked SO WRONG I just had to try it.
The body is like a stretched out Jaguar, the neck is wide and flat, it has the jack plate from a jazz bass and strange oversize pickups. It was fucked up and I can’t really recommend it. Haha, it was just bizarre to play. Browsing the Fender site now, the whole Modern Player Series is slightly stupid, except the Jazz bass, that one is pretty cool but should really have coil taps built in. Sigh. Over and over again playing guitars at the shop makes me appreciate my Aerodyne Telecaster more, nothing feels or plays better so far.
At this point, my ‘quick’ report has taken several hours to write. Two more reviews to go.
Ibanez JD9 Jet Driver
After hearing the bizarre aenima pedal I decided to look at some of the inexpensive but more traditional *cough* useful *cough* pedals. The store had a JD9 for $99, the guy at the counter hadn’t tried it yet so I gave it a shot.
The JD9 Jet Driver is a distortion pedal and the type you’d get if you wanted the sound the Jet Driver rather than pushing your tube amp harder into distortion (rather than a TS9 or the ZW44 below). The controls on the JD9 allow quite a bit of tonal variety but it is definitely a hard edged sort of distortion. It did not seem to go particularly well with the Super Champ on the clean channel but using the Voicing control was able to get a few styles of high-gain distortion. The JD9 did respond fairly well to playing dynamics and volume knob swells. It was an interesting pedal but just didn’t really thrill me. The bypass switch was very noisy in this particular one also.
Oh yeah, a disgusting orange metallic box too.
MXR ZW44 Berzerker Overdrive
The ZW44 Berzerker Overdrive is kind of like a modded Tube Screamer style overdrive but with more saturation and a more metal friendly voicing. This pedal is an updated version of the Wylde Overdrive, one of Zakk Wylde’s signature pedals from MXR.
The pedal construction is quite a bit different from the old version and different from most other pedals too. The first thing I noticed was how lightweight it was, it’s a thin aluminum case and it feels empty! The knurled metal knobs are smaller than usually found on a pedal, but they feel good.
There is a significant low roll off with this pedal, which is not a bad thing in this case. Even at low gain settings it tightened up the sound of the Super Champ.
On the amp’s clean channel the ZW44 easily provided a nice chunky crunch tone. On the drive channel I coaxed out some some really high gain tones even with that really inappropriate guitar.
It was a decent pedal but feels really cheap, I can’t get past that.
There you go. My first impressions of a bunch of guitar gear. I left the store without buying anything in the end. I forgot to buy strings so I think another trip is in the near future.
Thanks for reading.