Signature Sound

My amp collection has been downsized considerably from the olden days of running my recording studio (back when I had 20+ amps). This is more due to my tastes being more pointed in terms of what produces the sound I’m actually looking for, and not seeing much of a residual need for anything but. Handwired, non-PCB, Class A or Class AB, and with headroom for days.

Picture here is a modified 1977 Fender Bassman (left), my signature Velvet Twin amp (center), and a restored 1964 Ampeg J12 Jet (right).

I run two separate pedalboards as part of my recording rig. On the right side, and first in the signal chain, this board consists of frontend boosts, drives, EQ, compression, and gate control for the rare circumstance when I’m pushing above-healthy amounts of gain.

Also positioned between the two boards at the far left is my TC Helicon harmonizer for vocals.

On the left side, and trailing in the signal chain, this board consists of modulation effects, phasing, reverb and delay, as well as with a pair of loopers mixed in at the end.

The large purple bar at the bottom is the PXL-8 router, which I use to keep everything controlled due to the length of my chain by this stage.

The Girls Dead Distortion was the first overdrive pedal I ever built, and purely due more to luck than skill on my party, it’s been a stable part of my board since its inception.

Designed to mimic some of the classic guitar tone from the anime ‘Angel Beats’, it produces a very 2203 JCM 800-esqe drive template, but with a tighter control in the midrange to prevent over-saturation while under moderate gain.

I originally made these as a small-release set of 25 after the success of the initial prototype. All 25 were sold out by the end of the first day of public sale. I’ve always retained the original prototype.

Maxon stopped making their ROD881 tube driver in 2007 and not very many of them were released in the U.S., but it remains the most versatile tube driver I have.

Two stages enable you to use either one half, or both halves of the onboard 12AX7 preamp tube, running in either overdrive mode or in distortion mode. I tend to favor the distortion side since I otherwise have plenty of ODs.

Runs on a 10.5V PSU as recommended, although you can safely down-volt it to 9V negative-tip with no issue.

Those that know me know that Saitama Saisyu Heiki, also known by his handle of S.S.H., has been a large influence on my sound in recent years, particularly with his use of downsampled, retro video game-ish overdrive.

The Malekko Scrutator has helped me get a measure of what S.S.H. does in post-processing, except in frontend sound. The rate and bit reduction combo very well with distortion effects to produce the retro drive sound.

Pairs with an expression pedal to control the Q-point on the phasing when you have it enabled.

After witnessing this pedal used in an old Johan Segeborn video online, I knew that it was going to be my quintessential pass into Plexi-style tone territory as a front-end boost into a classic drive pedal.

Purchased in defective state for $20 from a local parts shop, and restored to working order after a parts order from Carl Martin in Denmark, its a go-between for actual compression and boosting on my board.

“You gotta put a little Liquid Love on it!”

While I jokingly used this saying at some jam sessions in the past to imply that a guitarist needed to drive harder than they were, it inspired a creative adventure for me into the realm of Power Drivers.

The Liquid Love is a handmade power driver-type pedal, designed to boost the unity volume level of your signal so high that an amp with high headroom will be boosted into natural overdrive purely based off the signal level.

Intended for use with loud amps. Will offend neighbors and scare off girlfriends. Sounds great.

For seasoned guitar players, many regard the Analogman ‘King of Tone’ pedal to be one of the greatest boost/drive pedals ever made. Unfortunately, they’re extremely rare and expensive due to that reputation, and due to artificially-produced supply shortages.

In working with the 68pedal company in Hong Kong, we were able to create the Queen of Tone, which is an exact 1-to-1 component copy of a KoT, but at a reasonable price point and with some creative art.

Started as a meme, lived on as a dream, then was birthed as a real thing. Tone for days.

In a similar vein, the Klon Centaur is a byword among players as one of the greatest transparent drives ever created. But, with less then 10,000 in existence and having not been produced for nearly two decades, they’re pretty hard to come by.

I started down the road of building this 1-to-1 component copy after realizing that the trademark infringements for doing so are only applicable if you’re trying to sell them in a for-profit setting. If you’re building a one-off for just yourself, then there’s no legal worry.

It took two months, but has been completed down to an art form; even using the same lead/tin percentage blend mixture in the solder used for the original. Sounds stellar.

It’s not often (maybe with humbucker guitars with low end that I can’t easily control) that I’ll need to use an EQ to try and mellow the signal out to the point that it’s not overloading the bass end in one of my amps. This EQ pedal is purely just for that; nothing expensive, just for that extra change you need in a pinch.

On the left, you have the Tyrant – made to mimic the tyrant theme tone from Xenoblade Chronicles X. It’s a modified Bluesbreaker-type pedal.

This is purely an MXR noise gate in a re-tooled housing (original housing what covered in some weird, white gunk that I sincerely hope wasn’t s*m*n).

Only used when I’m pushing crazy amounts of gain that I need to tighten up a bit on ambient feedback. It’s a rare occasion where I’ll be at the point to need it, but when that occasion comes, it’s absolutely essential.

The Coil Splitter is a manually-oscillating phase shifter, designed to function similarly to a cocked wah, but with phasing.

To give credit to where credit is due, Jeff with BEZ Effects produced an original draft of how to build a pedal like this many years ago, and I’ve only made minor modifications to his base design.

BEZ Effects ended up going under. Wherever you’re at now, Jeff, thanks – you did my tone a tremendous service.

Knob on the side allows you to shift the Q-point starting threshhold, and the switch above it converts the pedal to just being a regular ‘ole volume pedal.

Some of the older budget pedals from the 80s and 90s are actually made to a standard of quality (handwired, point-to-point circuit, etc.) that make them leagues better than many of their cheaply-made modern counterparts, and the Ibanez FLL from ’85 if no exception.

Handwired, all-analog flange that can handle the job of a chorus admirably as well. I keep the modulation on it fairly mild, and slightly between flange and chorus territory.

Two loopers, for random jamming or laying down some creative tracks.

The OMB offers drum tracking for when I want something percussive to play over, and the Ditto is more of a conventional looper.

To clarify, I don’t run these as stereo between two amps at once – they’re just for singular use on one at a time.

Designed to mimic the shooting standoff music from one of anime’s most beloved franchises, the Trigun Gunslinger is an analog tremolo, with a true photocell in the fashion of vintage tremolos.

It reflects my taste in trems – keep things simple, and easy to control. Two knobs – one job.

The Shibuya Skyline – my take on a digital, non-buffered reverb.

I’ve always preferred Hall-type reverb, and won’t use anything else. I like the ability to keep things brief with minimal aftereffect, or extend into a multi-second lush layer of ambient cleans.

The Skyline is only Hall, with the option for extremely long overlay times, and incredible depth when needed, but short and sweet when under heavy drive.

Hiroshima’s Wake – an analog, mostly-handwired delay with a non-buffered digital processor for handling the recorded delay in a split channel.

The pedal has to be designed this way to allow it to play nicely with the Liquid Love; not making it like this will cause it to not keep up with the unity volume boost from the LL.

Artwork provided by a 16 year-old highschool student in Osaka.

My guitar rack has been slimmed down substantially from the old recording studio days as well. (no Gibsons anymore for this guy!)

It consists of a Yamaha FG730S Acoustic (far left), 1985 Peavey Patriot (left), 1983 Japanese Bullet Strat (center), 1981 Vantage 455 (right), and my signature Spellcaster (far right).

All guitars feature Dragonfire pickups; I’ve switched everything over to them after being unable to beat them with anything close to the same price camp as they’re in.