Built my dream guitar rig, now I’m selling it — Part 2: The dream rig

The culmination of 5+ years of building my dream rig and the absolute pinnacle of what I think are my favourite sounds from these little stop boxes — this is my homage.

Jonathan Thomas
Mar 23, 2017 · 9 min read
The culmination of my efforts to find the ultimate set of pedals that define my sound.

The gear

So, after years of searching for the ultimate stomp box — here’s my list…

The amplifier

I’ve had many amplifiers over the years. It’s perhaps a little ironic and always makes me laugh that I started with a Laney, a ‘Linebacker’ 30w solid state that was given to me by a friend who also gave me my first electric guitar, and now I have the immense 20w tube driven Laney Lionheart — my favourite amp of all time.

20w Laney Lionheart head, could this be my last valve amp?

Pete Cornish LD-1 — Buffer

I love Pete Cornish’s gear, I’ve had a P-2, P-1, SS-3 and OC-1. The common link between each of them was the presence of his divine buffer circuit. Some claim it’s nothing more than a regular buffer, but my ears say something different and I’m convinced it smooths out everything, maintains some vital frequencies and just makes things sound beautiful.

Origin Effects SlideRig CD — Compressor

I tried and loved the Boss CS-2, being a Gilmour fan. Then moved on to the Cornish OC-1 because us guitarists always think that there’s something “better” out there. The OC-1 was subtle in comparison and didn’t impart a particular tone (that I liked) like the CS-2 did. Searching for something that imposed on the signal a little more, I looked at the tube driven Effectrode PC-2A, but again it didn’t sound like my trusty old CS-2. My final shot at a different compressor was the Origin compact series.

Overdrive/Distortion

PIOD FX What You Want 2

PIOD FX What You Want 2 (WYW2) — High gain distortion

As mentioned above, I loved the sound of a roaring Mesa. I owned a Single and Dual Rectifier (twice!) and always loved the build quality. But since moving to a smaller amp, I wanted to experiment with how I could get those tones through a pedal. The dream sound was “tight”, saturated and thick with plenty of gain on tap. Emphasis on the “tight” part, because this is exteremely hard to get when running a low wattage, clean amp with a single 12" speaker — there’s too many factors that play against you.

4:55 is THAT tone, I’m referring to!

Buffalo FX M-1 Fuzz — The obligatory ‘Big Muff’

Ah, the Big Muff. What an absolute bitch.

Buffalo TD-X — Low gain distortion/Overdrive

Again, being a Gilmour fan, this valve-less clone/approximation of the BK Butler Tube Driver is a must as far as I’m concerned. Though I rarely used it for the Gilmour tunes I like to play, I managed to get some huge tones for my own compositions. It’s an articulate, clear, dynamic and harmonically rich overdrive that can really squeal and sing.

Bogner La Grange — Marshall style gain

This thing goes from light Plexi-style grit, through to JCM roar, and does it with ease. Coupled with the EL84’s in my amp and it was British sounding city!

My first love, the Marshall Guv’nor MkII

RYRA The Klone — Boost/Low gain overdrive

Based on the Klon Centaur, this is one of the best and most acclaimed “Klone”’s out there. I use this for its beautifully clean boost, to boost the Muff (not that it’s needed), and to accompany the TD-X. It also does a cracking job of making the drive channel on the laney sound incredible.

Modulation

Drybell Vibe Machine v2 — Vibe

As it says on the tin — I wanted Jimi Hendrix vibes and this is the best out there at the moment, to my ears. I had a Sweet Sound Mojo Vibe and that too was a great sounding pedal…this is a little smaller and lots of geeky options.

MXR Phase 95 — Phaser & Mooer Elec Lady — Flanger

I don’t use these much, but they’re great little pedals. Surprisingly inspiring. My inner Gilmour bought these.

Boss CE-2 — Chorus

Ah, chorus. The Marmite of the pedal world. I love it though and for me, the CE-2 is the pinnacle of a good chorus sound. Gilmour used it to great effect on the Division Bell tour in ’95 and that’s what made me fall in love with the sound…especially when coupled with the Muff and a bit of delay, beautiful.

Pitch

Earthquaker Devices Organizer & Digitech Whammy V

Everyone gravitates toward the EHX Micro POG but the first time I tried the Organizer I was hooked by its warmth and presence. The POG sounded artificial and bland in comparison. The Organizer is simply a beautiful sounding unit, especially when coupled with some reverb and/or delay. The Whammy V is essential for Marooned.

Delay

Delay is my favourite effect, I’ve tried a few. Here’s a few, but I settled on two in the end:

  • TC Electronic Nova Delay — incredible. Probably my longest standing pedal.
  • Strymon Timeline — don’t rate it
  • Strymon El Capistan — what a pedal
  • Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man — the Holy Grail of analog
Possibly my favourite delay pedal, ever, showing my favourite delay setting. A rhythmic dotted 1/4 with plenty of modulation! The Strymon DIG delivers on so many levels.

Strymon DIG

What an incredibly inspirational pedal. It’s pink. It’s dual delay, it’s stereo (I hate playing mono now) and it sounds great…it makes me want to write new music. My favourite setting has a bit of modulation, and the tempo is set to dotted quarters, sounds amazing.

Source Audio Nemesis

My one regret is not getting this sooner, or rather, not getting another after my first unit broke. I left it 12 months to rectify that and have only had this new unit for 2 months, and now I’m getting rid of all my gear! Such is life.

Reverb

I don’t currently have a reverb pedal as I’ve been waiting patiently for the Source Audio Ventris dual reverb, due out in June 2017, sadly I’ll not experience it except in shops — hopefully it won’t tempt me back into pedals!

  • Neunaber Stereo WET — what an algorithm, stunning.
  • Boss RV-5 — beautiful modulated reverb
  • Mr. Black Supermoon Chrome — I’m a fan of modulated reverb and this is one of the best
  • Mr. Black Eterna Gold Modified — love a shimmer (the marmite of the reverb world!)

Final thoughts on pedals

The biggest compliment I can pay these pedals and their respective manufacturers is to write about them and to tell people how amazing they are. It was a labour of love cycling through endless pedals and buying and selling, borrowing and stealing to find the one I loved that fitted into each slot on my “board”. I strongly believe that the pedals listed above are some of the best I’ve ever played and will have the pleasure of calling my own.

Did you enjoy this? Read the rest too…

Red Chair Riffs

For guitarists.

Jonathan Thomas

Written by

User experience designer and guitarist

Red Chair Riffs

For guitarists.

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