Scaled-down on size, but not on horesepower...
I decided, for my second pedalboard to build a compact system instead of another the same size. At the same time I wanted a similar amount of functionality, but simpler and smaller. When I have two Quilter Superblocks it is very difficult not to want to use both of them. However I opted not to build a stereo setup due to the extra complexities involved and I already know that a stereo rig is overkill for any of the gigs I play.
After spending a great deal of time comparing the two amps and swaying between which was my favourite of the two (I still can't choose between them) I discovered which amp works best with certain pedals in my arsenal. It has led me to build the big rig with the Superblock US and its associated pedals and now the small rig based around the Superblock UK.
Althought pushed for space I decided I must have two things on this board that the big rig has. The IR direct out and the noise suppression. They take up a good portion of the space available, but maintain a level of overall performance that keeps up with the bigger, fuller-featured board. This means it'll be up to the job of doing any gig, just like the big rig, just with less options for effects.
This small rig delivers the same useable outputs to the speaker cab and direct to the PA.
The gain options are setup differently with slightly less variation in gain settings, but resulting in a similar function overall."The Sag", my trusty EP Booster clone (with less headroom than a real EP Booster) is always on after the drive pedals: A Tomsline Bluesy (Bluesbreaker OD clone) and a Mosky MM Silver (I have one of these on the big rig too). Both the overdrives are set with a healthy amount of drive and volume boost into the already cooking preamp of the Superblock UK.
Into the Sag the output level of the drives gets soaked up somewhat and starts to overload the circuit of the Sag. This results in a harmonically smooth and clear drive up to a fuzz-like lead tone, but not like an actual fuzz. It's a bit more refined and a bit clearer in the overall mix. It's a nice alternative to the sound of the big rig without being drastically different.
In the FX loop of the amp I have the NUX Edge delay, which is basically the delay side of the Nux Atlantic on the big rig, keeping things familiar between the two. The output of the Nux edge is split with a Y cable that goes back to the amp's FX return and to the Sonicake Sonic IR loader - just like the big rig.
The Quilter Superblock UK is a great amp. I spend most of my time on the 1979 JMP voice (the Marshall-inspired voice), but occasionally I'll switch to one of the AC voices (Vox-inspired) to be a little cleaner. The AC voices sound better to me with the gain set higher (3 o'clock and above) and I tend to prefer the AC NORM to the AC TOP. However there is not a huge difference between them.
I set gain at 3 to 4 o'clock in general and limiter to 2 o'clock and above into a 1x10 or 1x12 cab. My closed-back 1x10 Tonetubby alnico red cab sounds great with this rig when the treble is turned up high and likewise with the IR of the same Tonetubby speaker.
The overall size of the board is 10" x 9" and fits into my small-size RockHouse case. It's a very-small, high-performance setup that is great for taking to rehearsalsand gigs alike. I can see myself using this rig as much as I use the big rig, even though it is missing some of the refinements of the bigger rig. It rocks just as hard.
No cables, no power… Believe!
A few months ago I was excited to post the latest updates to my guitar pedalboard rigs both based around Quilter Superblock amplifiers.
As to be expected, they have changed… again! After taking out the “Big Rig” at the end of July and being very happy with its performance I still felt there could be room for a little more improvement. I also came to a few conclusions that I hope will help me dial things in better without having to redesign everything or invest in new equipment.
The Big Rig is based around the Quilter Superblock US. The elements I use on this board, which is a combination of analogue gain and digital modelling seem to work better with the Superblock US than they do with the Superblock UK. At least to my ears anyway.
Here, the improved version has had a complete overhaul of the DI signal path to make it sound as splendid as possible into the PA system, whilst the amplifier signal chain has had some improvements in balancing the gain settings and added effects options.
The Precision Drive has given way to a Mosky MM Silver (Timmy clone) for the extra drive option. The Precision Drive was great for soloing, but I favor a fuzz solo tone on this board, so the Precision Drive was redundant because I didn’t like its dominant midrange compared to the rhythm sounds of this rig. Overall this setup provides plenty of clarity and openness to the overall tone, except the fuzz lead tone, which just adds sustain… lots of sustain.
I also changed the NUX Ukiyo-E chorus for my old, cheap Donner Tutti Love (A Boss CE2 clone). It’s nice and simple and sounds great in front of the amp rather than in the FX loop. Now I also have an extra, switchable reverb by squeezing in my Nux Atlantic (in the FX loop and after the noise gate), which provides both delay and reverb. I generally like to use delay in a rhythmic way that I tap in and so I set it loud and proud. Never very subtle. The Atlantic does all the above very well in a small enough footprint.
The DI section is where there has been quite a rebuild. The Atlantic delay has two outputs, so one goes to the amp FX return and comes out through my speaker cab on stage. The second output of the Atlantic goes straight to the Sonicake Sonic IR loader where I have a selection of IRs that I have made from my own speakers (to match the cab I’m using on stage normally).
From there the IR signal goes into a DemonFX Cali76 (yes a copy of a much more expensive compressor pedal) and then out to the PA. For easy access and signal reception I have rigged up the output of the compressor to a box with an XLR socket on top of the amp. This is so I can use my XLR wireless device to send this processed DI signal to the PA. At the last gig I used this wireless and it was perfect. More on that later.
In front of the amp the signal chain is what I’d call a hybrid one. Plenty of analogue, old-school goodness combined with some digital trickery with presets.
Wireless into an always-on germanium fuzz, via an un-buffer device and a switchable volume control. Here I can switch from rhythm to lead as if I was rolling down the volume control on my guitar. The wireless stops the magic of the guitar volume control interaction happening, but the passive volume control/un-buffer gets most of that back, enough to keep me satisfied.
After the fuzz stuff comes a Mooer P1 Prime. A tiny amp modeller/multi FX unit (self-powered) that I can switch presets on with a Bluetooth foot switch. I use the P1 Prime for three stages of gain using just a couple of the pedal FX models. I don’t need to use any amp or cab models in this rig. The presets give me Clean (well cleanest), Normal and Drive with the 4th being normal plus tremolo or vibrato (depends on what bank I select). The stages of gain are dialed in to sound as close as possible to what would happen if I just had the gain of the amp set from lower to higher rather than being drastically different in tone from one another.
After the P1 is a Mosky MM Silver (Timmy clone) for extra crunch and drive and an always-on Mosky BP Booster (EP Booster clone), which glues everything together before going into the amplifier input. The gain on the Superblock US is set to about 4 o’clock on the ’57 voice with the limiter set to 2 o’clock or above.
At the last gig I used my Eminence TF1250 1x12 cab and corresponding IR. It sounded good, but at times I wanted it to be a little bit less spiky-sounding. For the next gig I am going to take my Tonetubby 1x10, which I have now housed in a closed-back cab (a converted cabinet from an old Fender Frontman 25R amplifier. After a long period of dis-satisfaction with the Tonetubby alnico red, which I’ve had since 2002 I am finding myself liking it again.
It is now more apparent than ever to me that the Tonetubby opens up greatly at stage volume and allows you to crank the treble more on the amp. Cranking the treble (to my ears) brings out a lot of the character of the amp with all those upper harmonics being let loose. If you have a warm-sounding speaker like this Tonetubby then it doesn’t get shrill, it reveals a lot of great tone!
It’s very similar with the IR I’ve made of the same speaker. Through the PA at louder volumes than I get to test at home or on my studio monitors, it gets far less ear piercing than any of my other speakers. Being a 10” speaker it also gets less boomy in the low frequencies.
Also the experience from the last gig resulted in an aspect that I am absolutely stoked about! I recently acquired a used Avatar SD301 electronic drum kit. What’s cool about it is that it looks very similar to an acoustic drum kit. The pads are actually shells with metal rims, just like an acoustic drum kit with a sparkle finish to boot, but they are smaller in size and have mesh heads, as you would expect from any other electronic drum kit.
What’s also cool about this is that they are silent on stage and as a result I am able to run my Quilter Superblock at 1 watt, powered by my power bank along with all the pedals. This means that my guitar rig is 100% cable free (except for the speaker cab and patch cables on the board): Wireless from guitar to board, wireless from DI output to PA and no power cable to power the amp. The battery lasts for a long time and if I need to make a quick exit off stage to save my rig for a sudden change in weather (which happens a lot when playing outside) I can just pick it up and run for cover!
So all-in-all this Big Rig is now ready to take on anything. Most of the music I’m playing at the moment has an old-school flavor and attitude and this setup delivers just what I need. It’s also great to know that an affordable, modern piece of digital gear that some players may consider a toy or a gimmick contributes very positively to delivering that old-school vibe!
Long live the Big Rig. At least long enough to get me through several gigs instead of just the next one!
When I say "To the max" I mean maximum features in my existing, compact footprint. I don't mean maximum size!
I decided long ago to minimize the size and weight of my setup and those who know me understand that I'm pretty obsessive about minimizing the things I have to carry without sacrificing features to the point of being obsessive about it.
So this is where it's at right now, as of May 2023. The pedalboards pictured are similar in their functionality, but have their own distinct voice from each other. I could use either one for any given gig and they would both deliver the range of tones I would probably need, despite their differences.
The basic format I like is to have several basic steps of gain from cleanish to hammering crunch (in a classic rather than modern, hi-gain sense). Then added to that I like to have a lead boost type of pedal for soloing, a chorus, mostly for certain cleaner tones and a delay pedal with a tap tempo.
I like all of that paired with a single-channel amp that performs well as a pedal platform. I like to eliminate as much noise as possible because hiss and hum seems to bother me more than it does anyone else I know.
I also want all of these things with as little cabling and connecting as possible, so I like to have all of this performance to sit on ONE pedalboard! In this case my pedalboards are about 17" x 13" in the carry case and this is the size that I have decided is the maximum size I will tolerate.
The format allows DI-only use or running through a guitar cab as well with up to 25 watts of amplifier power (it's pretty loud), several cab DI emulations to select the best tone for the stage I'm playing on and the ability to go 100% wireless & battery powered for the entire rig.
Amplifer: Quilter Superblock UK - 25w (or 1w) - "Marshall" & "Vox" voices.
Nux Atlantic Delay/Reverb - Dual output for independent DI and speaker cab signal path.
Noise Supressor: DemonFX Filtration G-String.
Programmable Loop Switcher (for gains): Hotone Patch Kommander.
Gain Stages: DIY "The Sag", Mosky MM Silver & D250X, DemonFX Precision Drive.
Chorus: Donner Tutti Love.
Tuner: Korg Pitch Black Mini
Impulse Response Loader: Sonicake Sonic IR (my favourite one!)
If I use the amp's power supply from the mains then I get my full 25watts into my 1x12" cab, but some gigs when I don't need to be that loud I can get away with using my pedalboard's powerbank, making my amp run at 1 watt. That will power everything on the board for hours. I can also go wireless from the DI out to the PA and I go wireless from my guitar into the board.
There are often times when I am likely to get away with running my amp at 1 watt. Usually this is when the drummer is playing an electronic drumkit to keep the stage volume fully controllable for the venue. My speaker cab serves mainly as a monitor for me (I have it tilted back on the floor in front of me.
If it starts raining when I'm playing outside it makes it much easier for picking up my rig and running for cover! This is a regular consideration for the gigs I play. You see, I've thought a lot about this... Really a hell of a lot! Over the years I've gradually added and refined things to this point. Obsessive it may be, but it makes the difference to me between grafting and a nice, enjoyable process.
My years of recording and mixing in my project studio have helped me put this together. These pedalboards can sound sweet and refined like a recording or raw and raucous whenever required. I can't wait to find out what new ideas I get to refine the setup further - because I know it will never end!
Amplifer: Quilter Superblock US - "Tweed", "Brown" & "Blackface" Voices.
Nux Edge Delay/Reverb - Dual output for independent DI and speaker cab signal path.
Noise Supressor: DemonFX Filtration G-String.
4-presets - for gains: Mooer Prime P1 with bluetooth footswitch.
Extra gain Pedals: Mosky BP Booster, Tomsline G-Fuzz & DemonFX Precision Drive.
Chorus: Nux Ukiyo-E.
Tuner: Built into the Mooer Prime P1
Impulse Response Loader: Sonicake Sonic IR.
The fuzz stays on all the time and I have a passive un-buffer/volume control in front of it to clean up. It allows me to use a wireless with a fuzz without ruining the sound. The passive volume control is housed in the shell of an old MXR Phase 95 that failed.
I can use the DI from the IR loader or the built-in amp DI... or both as well as running a speaker cab. There are lots of options for dialing in the right sound for the environment I'm playing in. I can even send a direct signal from the Superblock wirelessly to the other side of a bigger stage into a power amp and speaker or powered wedge for extra stage spread if needed.
This format of pedalboard is very compact, but it is also easily expandable to form a more complex setup for bigger stages if I want to bring more equipment!
I'll be posting more about other elements to my overall live sound. Both of these pedalboards also form the platform for my guitar recording, where I can record DI'd tones and mic'd up cab tones using my DIY Isolation cab.
Here is my old, beat-up black S-type "parts-caster". It's gone through many changes and is now subject to future pick-guard swaps due to me always changing my mind about what looks and sounds best for this guitar.
It's currently sporting two PAF-style humbuckers: A Vanson '59, alnico V in the bridge and a Vanson '57 alnico II in the neck. The neck pickup is wired with the coils in parallel, which makes it less muddy and fat-sounding. That makes the neck humbucker actually useable for me.
A tiny-value capacitor (a 222 - 2200 picoFarads) for the tone controls results in a subtle adjustment that pretty much only takes off extreme high frequencies. This is mostly to cut out RF noise as this guitar is unshielded and sometimes can buzz a bit.
I also placed another capacitor (even smaller 471 - 470 picoFarads) across the output to further cut out some extra high frequencies. It also has some effect on the overall tone by moving the resonant peak of the pickups, but it's not a huge change.
It's an odd-ball guitar. It gets me close to the Gibson-type sounds whilst being able to stay on my preferred Fender style scale length and familiar layout. It's had a lot of damage and a lot of physical abuse, but it plays beautifully. It has a very nice neck profile (a super-cheap £23 Kmise neck from Ebay) with a nice satin finish. The action is low, it stays in tune and since I made it a string-though-body (after converting it from a trem-route to a top-loading hardtail initially) it has become a very solid-performing guitar.
So, probably not much appeal to anyone else, but to me it's worth its weight in gold (so not much, seeing as it's a light guitar!) It's a proper work-horse and reliable instrument. It is ready to rock.
The Black Wreck Parts List:
I also have another pickguard (SSS) that will fit this guitar - a 50's style 1-ply for a real authentic look and sound of a 50's hardtail Strat and even when adding up the money I've sunk into it over the last few years, it still cost peanuts compared to an off-the-shelf Fender Strat.
It's not a guitar I think would be easy to sell as it's not worth much and it isn't that pretty, so I guess this one will stay with me until the end of it's life or mine. Whichever comes first!
All hail 'The Black Wreck".
My internet activity has changed so much since I first started blogging and documenting my guitar and music adventures. There just seems to be less reason to keep spending so much money on web-hosting, so I decided to scrap the hosting company I had used for the last 15+ years.
I found a way of being able to host my website for free (at the moment at least), except I'll have to continue paying for my domain name. Well not everything can be free can it?
Anyway, after this nothing post that is not about guitars I will resume the guitar and music-related posting and if I find myself in a situation where I can make some serious money from this then I will probably rebuild a proper website again, but much better than it ever was.
I have a backup of my old posts from the last decade or so, but I'm not sure what to do with them here. I can't just import them into this blog as far as I can tell and I'm not going to re-type them!
So for now, I'm starting from zero, back to having a free blog to express my fanaticism of modifying, breaking, fixing and playing guitars.
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