Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - December 2014

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Quibble with Guitar World's "Top 50 Effects/Processors" List

  A friend of mine, one Mr. John Donelly, brought to my attention that Guitar World had published a "Top 50 Stomp Boxes, Devices and Processors of All Time" list.  

 It is kind of a curious mixture of truth and advertising (note that I wrote ".. and advertising", not "... in advertising").  I've played through or owned nearly all of the pedals in the list, save the Seek Wah, the Lovetone Meatball, the Gig-Fx Chopper, and ironically the last one on their list, the Ibanez Flying Pan.  While each of those may be the Greatest Thing I've Ever Missed, I'll just pretend they don't exist for my purposes here today.  In other words, that gives me 4 pinch hitters I'm going substitute later.

The first thing that I noted was the Line 6 DL4 delay pedal being listed so low.  IMO this is one of the most well designed pedals/devices of all time.  It essentially does everything you want a delay to do, gives you 3 (possibly 4) programmable presets, the way you interface with it is "didn't read the manual" intuitive, and it sounds great.  

 Likewise, you can spot this metallic green pedal on a lot of pedal boards.  I would say it's maybe as ubiquitous as Guitar World's #1, the Tube Screamer.  It sometimes seems like an easy bet to say "there will be a DL4 on That Player's pedal board" without looking.  I've had one for a long time, still works great, and do not expect someone to make something more functional.  

 The Fuzzface is down at #28.  I cannot fathom how this pedal did not make the Top 10?  Without this pedal you don't have Jimi Hendrix effectively (hmm.. maybe pun intended?).  You also don't have Eric Johnson, and plenty of famous players and classic songs.  The quintessential sound of a Fuzz Face is not as splatty as a Foxtone, but I would say more iconic.  Also more more practically useful.

 Echoplex at #18?  Again, a Top 10.  Without this device there is no Eddie VanHalen, countless guitar players in the 70's, and for that matter "moments involving delay in an age with you didn't really have many other choices".   Look at the fact that most delays feature an "Echoplex" setting - they have other pedals on the list which has an "Echoplex" setting.  If imitation is a form of flattery that alone should make it higher.  

 The Rangemaster is down at #17.  Granted, a very unknown pedal today BUT again, without this pedal you lose Queen, Judas Priest, lots of Clapton, Tony Iommi, and another plethora of 70's iconic artists whose sound relied on this circuit or a variant.  

 Some of the items on their list I find sort of suspect.  MXR Carbon Copy is really a "Top 50" pedal?  Digitech Jam Man?   The order seems a little strange, too: having worked in music stores most of my life, I'm not sure the Metal Zone should be in front of the DS-1.  I can sort of understand the Electro-Hamonix bias, but the Big Muff being #3 over the Fuzz Face seems a bit peculiar to me.

 As does some omissions.  The ADA MP-1 was a very big seller, and the harbinger of the rack-mount midi-switchable-programmable era.  A good sounding and versatile unit, reasonably priced, well made.  At one point in the late 80's this was seen in almost everyone's rack - it just made too much sense for that era.  

 Similarly, the SPX-90 was a Very Big Deal when it debuted, not only for it's (unique at the time) glowing LCD display (I remember at the NAMM show that year Yamaha having a big room with wall-to-wall SPX-90's, and you could read a book from the alien green glow...), but also because of the then new multi-effect capability AND midi switchable function.  While it did drop out when switching programs if the signal was ran serially, it was THE thing to have visible on stage in your rack for every touring artist for a few years (for better or worse).  Storeable "presets" were a revelation for a $500 device that basically could do every time-domain based effect.  
  So that's two of my wildcards down.  The last two are very related as far as I'm concerned, and their function and retail sales are almost indentical: the Scholtz Research Rockman X-100, and the Line 6 Pod.

 Both fulfilled the same mission - one box that did "everything".  These were the OG "plug in".  For both units, their sound was heavily responsible for a big chunk of recordings during their respective ears.  No offense to the Gig-Fx Chopper, but way more important and definitely should be on that list.

 Some other wildcards: the early 60's Fender stand alone reverbs;  Korg SDD-3000; Ernie Ball Volume Pedal; Binson Echorec and the Roland Space Echo (both of which are more unique and iconic in use than the MXR Carbon Copy IMO); Deltalab Effectron/Effectron Jr. (first affordable digital delay); Alesis Midiverb (first affordable digital reverb (barely...); Alesis Quadraverb (basically came on after the SPX-90 as being the first programmable multieffect that didn't drop out on patch changes, AND could do 4 effects simultaneously)(and had a unique sound; see Jeff Buckley's "ambient" effects); Rocktron Intellifex (offered 8 modulated-voiced delays in one unit); Peavey EDI direct box (preceded the Radial/re-amping signal path solutions); Hughes and Kettner Cream Machine (great idea too soon, low wattage mini-power amp); Antares power soak; Rockman power soak.

Long time...

Sorry for not posting in so long, I only recently discovered a numbered of people were actually reading this routinely!  Sorry!