Tag Archives: Van Halen

The EP Booster Pedal, Xotic Effects USA

The original, vacuum tube Echoplex units have been used by many of the biggest names in guitar history.  The likes of Chet Atkins, Duane Allman, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Walsh, Eric Johnson, Randy Rhoads, Andy Summers, Joe Satriani, Jimmy Page, and many others, have all utilized the Echoplex as an integral part of their tone.  A tape delay effect unit, the Echoplex uses magnetic tape to record input signal and then output the recorded copy at desired time intervals, thus creating an “echo” effect.  This was the earliest incarnation of delay/echo – a truly analog guitar effect. Roughly designed after its predecessor, an amplifier called the EchoSonic, the Echoplex incorporated recently developed vacuum tube technology, which could be used as a filter when the delay effect was turned “off.”  This made the Echoplex function as a pre-amp, supplying a boost to the signal before it was processed by the amplifier.  This is the way in which a majority of the infamous Echoplex devotees have used it – as a pre-amp.  Most will use an Echoplex in the beginning of their signal chain with the delay effect turned “off,” gaining a clean signal boost that, many claim, is the key secret ingredient to their tone.

For whatever reason, the boost supplied by the Echoplex adds elements to a guitar signal that just sound better!  The unique combination of EQ, slight compression, and gain boost create harmonic qualities that beef up any guitar tone in the most desirable way.  The problem – vintage Echoplexes usually go for around $1000 dollars.  Not only that, the unit is heavy, about 1 square-foot, and filled with fragile, expensive magnetic tape.  Who wants to deal with all of that just for a signal boost?

That’s why Xotic Effects created the pedal that everyone is talking about – the EP Booster.  Probably the smallest pedal on the market, the EP Booster takes all of the unique elements of a vintage Echoplex pre-amp, and puts them into one compact stompbox.  With up to +20dB of clean boost available, dictated by one knob, the EP Booster provides that tonal “spark” that has made the Echoplex legendary.  Used as a permanent staple at the beginning of a signal chain, or as an occasional clean boost, the EP Booster will radically improve the tone quality of any guitar.  It also has an internal DIP switch for dialing in EQ and boost frequencies, to really hone the tone.  Overall, this little pedal has a big effect on the sound of an amplified guitar, one not easily described, but undeniable.  Don’t believe it?  Just ask the EP Booster’s biggest fans, Steve Lukather, Joe Bonamassa, Brent Mason, Dave Weiner, Oz Noy and Tim Pierce, to name a few.

So check out the EP Booster by Xotic Effects USA!  For more info on the pedal itself, check out the EP Booster website, and be sure to check out YouTube for some great examples of what this amazing pedal can do.

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The Ibanez RG 350 DX – To shred, or not to shred?

Like many guitar players, when I began, I was all about the classics – Fender and Gibson.  Nothing appealed less to me than a Parker, BC Rich, or even Ibanez.  These companies were associated with a mentality I didn’t like – I didn’t want to sacrifice soul or character for playability or a Floyd Rose.  But as I progressed as a player, and became more interested in “shredding,” it seemed as though my old friends just couldn’t handle the heat.  Single coil PUs with hum, low radius necks, heavy strings – not a recipe to sound like Eddie Van Halen.  Plus, I was ignoring one major factor – I thought that “soul” came from the guitar, when it really comes from the player.  Since then, I have witnessed many character-less solos on classic guitars, and some extremely emotional, original ones on the newer breeds.

Eventually, my interest in the other side prompted me to make a purchase.  I went on eBay and bought a factory second, White Ibanez 350DX for about $350.  It was the first guitar I ever purchased with a locking nut, “Floyd Rose”-esque system.  At first it was weird – the neck was so thin and flat, there were 24 frets, there was a usable whammy bar – but soon it became one of my favorite axes.  I loved the way it felt, but the stock PUs were terrible, so I replaced them.  Knowing I would hardly use the middle single coil PU, I just put a Seymour Duncan Jazz SH-2 at neck position and a Seymour Duncan JB at bridge.  With this change, this guitar became my weapon of choice.

Now, a good guitarist can play on any guitar – but playing with this axe was like using training wheels.  So many techniques – legato, tapping, string skipping – that were previously impossible on my Strat or Tele were suddenly pretty easy – and sounding good!  Using high output humbuckers, I could finally achieve a distorted tone with cleanliness and clarity.  This guitar also became my number one studio axe.  It’s totally silent when not being played, and can create a wide array of sounds, from sparkling cleans to death metal overdrive.  And the best part – after playing on this guitar for a while, I could suddenly do all these complicated techniques on my classic guitars.  It was as if practicing these techniques on a guitar built for them allowed me to better understand their mechanics, and how to implement them on any guitar.  Basically, I am so thankful that I purchased this guitar.  It has taught me so much about my own playing, and how to coax classic charm out of even the most modern beast.

In conclusion, I advise every guitar player to spend a little time with an axe like this.  They are generally foreign made, very inexpensive, and easy to find second hand.  I equate them to “rice rocket” racing cars – they are the perfect blank slate, ready to be modified into the ultimate Rock machine.  You can learn a lot from having 24 frets and a high neck radius, and may be surprised how much “tone” you can actually get from one of these “shredders.”  If you’re into modern guitar playing, yielding a weapon like this is a must.

For more on Ibanez, check out the Ibanez website.

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