Les paul ac30 overdrive shootout

Funky54

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AC30 TB / Les Paul -Overdrive / Distortion pedal shootout

I tried a lot of pedals, all side by side for eight weeks. My opinions are below. If you don’t wanna read my journey, skip to the summary at the end.

The Vox: 1965 AC30 TB with new JJ power tubes (early break up) new mallard 12 ax7s. Two original grey bell vox / Celestions. Keep up with a band at 3 with volume.

Les Paul: 1954 Custom with PAF’s from a 61. The coils have been tapped and can go in and out of phase Neck to Bridge. ( Yes they are P.A.F. No I didn’t do this to it, P.O.)

PEDALS: Keeley Java Boost, Crowther Hot Cake, Wampler Plextortion, Wampler Super Plextortion, Wampler Cranked AC, Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret, OCD V4, Purple Plexi, TS9 Keeley mod, Cmatmods Signa Drive, Aullom 308, SIB Varidrive.

I wanted to try, but couldn’t get a Exotic BB. All pedals were tried with and without attenuation (Weber Mass 50) I’ll review attenuators also.

The Mission:
1) a great sound all its own. Important, but not as important to me as can I sound like specific covers.

2) can I get Brian May's sound in any way? (I will try it with delay and three amps as well, Fender Blues Jr moded to sound AC30ish and 67 Fender BF Super Reverb)

3) Can I get a great fitting sound or a good reproduction off What I play,
Thin Lizzy and Boston, Badfinger, ELO, Ronson, Cars, Foo fighters, Weezer......

The Process: I put some Lizzy & Queen in my Opo blue ray player and listened to Jailbreak with 200 watts of tube audio bliss through Alon mains. I paused, and started adjusting pedal knobs..again and again for days. I did this with Cowboy song and the lead to We are the Champions. I wrote down every change. I let my ears calm down and rest every couple of hours. I would come back through all my findings days later as well. Once I knew what each pedal was doing and got a feel for them, I asked my wife (who likes elevator music and thinks American Idol is good music, a TOTAL non musician) to come in and listen to the CD solo, and then to me, then back to the CD and then to a different pedal. Her opinion was Interesting…I expanded to a friend who is also a guitar player. Read and Weep!



Finding Brian May


Keeley Java – Normal channel and my AC turned to about 3:00, my break up beginning (me facing the grill cloth) truly transparent. No Brian May yet. Added a little warmth. I’m not gonna dime my AC30. So,Half way it went..now starting to get a good overdrive..Petty not May.

Brilliant channel? Same as the Normal channel with the Java. You wanna dime your AC to see if it gets to Mr. May go for it. I love his tone, but I’m not gonna cook my amp for it. If you’re after Rory Gallager…Java is it! I love Ronson, with the Attenuator the java rocks!

Weber Mass- The Mass Attenuator was awesome. I only used it to cut a little of the volume. Just using it enough to play out and get that crunch without destroying the house. Look, I’m not Eric Johnson, but I didn’t hear that much difference when it’s used as a good helpful tool. The Mass is a keeper. I didn’t like the Ultimate.. it did cut the highs to my ears. My wife said it “was brighter” after I switched to the Ultimate..Meaning, the Ultimate took some highs. If she can notice it cutting treble…... everyone can.

Wampler Cranked AC-Normal Channel back to maybe 4:00 on the volume. The Cranked AC was good. Every bit as good as the Java and the attenuator for a Rory sound. The Cranked AC was pretty versatile. Still not May. Did a great Free, “All right Now” It’s a great alternative to playing loud. It was a real nice compromise between some of the other pedals. One thing I really liked is that it always sounded pretty good. It’s very lively. It didn’t compress nearly as much as the Plextortion pedals. In the Brilliant channel, you get a little more response and it’s a little livelier sounding. Go to proguitarshop’s demo of a cranked AC15..that sound dead on, at any reasonable volume! It’s really great! But it crunched a little more in the normal channel.




Finding Thin Lizzy


Dirty Little Secret: Normal channel of the AC30, volume around 4:00, me facing grill cloth. Ok, hear me out on this one. All these pedals are great, not one of them was a waste. The Dirty little secret is a tuff tuff call. It’s up against all these other pedals that make great Marshall sound. There isn’t one that’s better than the other in all things. Here’s what I liked, It doesn’t just turn your AC30 into a Marshall, It flavors it to a Marshall but retains its integrity. Your AC sounds awesome; at any given gig nobody would think you missed the mark. ”it sounds like the record” would be the audience’s compliments. It’s NOT the best at copying a Marshall sound. But it’s the best at giving you a ac30 with a marshal personality. Here’s what I didn’t like. Sometimes it sucks. It wants to get brittle on you, you have to adjust it, and it’s sensitive compared to the others. The treble gets a little Ice picky at times. You can adjust it out, but it has to be right on for each type of tone you want. The good side of that observation is some of the pedals get to dark or middy at times..not the Dirty little secret. Playing out I’d rather be a tad too bright then a tad too dark. You could get lost in the mix with some of the other pedals. The Dirty Little Secret is one of the keepers for me, But I’ll have to really watch it, so it doesn’t get out of hand. A tiny little turn of a knob and it’s a crappy sound, right on, it’s one of the best. Brilliant Channel was not a good fit. The Dirty little secret was just to bright and treble rich to go into the bright channel. She’s a high maintenance woman. Sexy and hypnotizing but a pain in the behind other times. She can Be Thin Lizzy..but man she is all over a Zepplin sound! The wife consistently picked out this pedal without looking as the favorite. She did this consistently for days. My buddy voted for the other guy.

Super Plextortion: Normal channel of the AC30, volume around 4:00, me facing the grill cloth. The Super Plextortion is awesome.It is very versatile. If you purchased it and not any others you would think it’s got to be the best ever. This one really does “nail” the Marshall tone. If you’re in a cover band, this is the one to sound the most like a Marshall amp. You can do a pretty good Rockman sound. Yes you can get a good Thin Lizzy sound. What I don’t like, however, is that it is the exact opposite of the Dirty Little secret in that it can get to dark and compressed at times. You can always tweak it out and get it to be what you want, but you have to adjust it just right. This is an awesome pedal, but she can get stale if you don’t insure some highs. In the Brilliant channel it’s much much more at home. It helps to keep the tone with enough feeling to be real sounding. When it gets dark it can sound a little compressed and loose some of its touch and response. Now you could always adjust your amp and use the bridge pick up to compensate, but I don’t wanna work against all my other tones. Remember too, I’m only trying humbuckers. It can lose articulation on the bottom at times without doing something to compensate. I’m never willing. It’s one thing to step on a pedal and have a new song, but if I have to adjust guitar, amp and pedal to get a sound, I’m too distracted to keep playing. I’m splitting hairs between the DLS and the Super Plex, they both require compromises. It’s just the DLS was more right for me. If I never had a DLS to compare I would have quit searching when I hit the Plextortion stuff. The Super Plextortion was my buddies pick. He had some Cult riffs going that were dead on. It’s that good. Also this has a lot more gain than the DLS. I usually had the switch on high gain but the gain knob rolled almost all the way down for a Lizzy sound. Half way up and it’s Boston in a can.

OCD V4: Normal Channel The OCD is a great pedal. I didn’t find it responsive like the other pedals I tried. It was my least favorite of the bunch. It kinda reminded me of my Proco Brat pedal that I got rid of. It really wasn’t good with my Fender Black Face Super Reverb either.

Purple Plexi: Nope. Good pedal, just not as good as the Plextortion or DLS. A little stale unless you crank the volume quite a bit. I’ll bet this would be a winner with single coils.

Keeley Moded TS9: This is a good pedal. I liked it because it always sounds good no matter where the knobs are. It compresses the mids a tiny bit, but in a desirable way. The pedal also gives you a nice rhythm and lead sound. It’s a little sweet yet hairy. I liked it in the Brilliant channel best. You can’t go wrong with it. It’s not a keeper. Not because it isn’t great, I just have been playing a TS9 for like 15 years, and I want something different and the Mod wasn’t enough of the “different” for me. You know I’ll tell you. I never got into the boutique pedals until now. I was expecting night and day improvement over the factory stuff. To tell you the truth, I think they are just different but not better. The TS9 holds its own with anything I have tried. It’s a great pedal. It has a nice harmonic to it when really driven. It’s the best for an Elliot Easton sound out of my Vox. My Gretsch guitars love the TS9 better than any of these pedals. In fact none of these pedals was even good with my Gretsches. But that’s a different review and post all together.


Plextortion: Great pedal. Again, if I never tried others I would think it’s the winner. My only complaint is that it’s to compressed. If you open up the volume quite a bit it becomes to my ears much more open, but if I’m gonna open up the volume that much I might as well turn up the amp with no pedal. Again it’s not really Thin Lizzy for me. It can be…but it just looses too much definition. I think anyone would be happy with this pedal. But after comparing it to the DLS, I have to go with it for now. The DLS and the Plextortion are opposite ends of the spectrum in that while the DLS is too trebly the Plextortion is to compressed. I would rather deal with the peaky highs of the DLS than the over compressed Plextortion. If I was running single coils, the Plextortion would be the one.


HOT CAKE: Oh yeah….I hated its look. I thought it was a goofy name. I didn’t like this pedal aesthetically. But ohhhh…baby…..It is special with the Vox. At first I didn’t see the big deal. It sounded good nothing like overly special. With all the pedals I tried you had to fool with them to get a good tone.. NOT THE HOT CAKE! Any ware the dials are, it’s awesome. Spend some time with them and oh baby.. this turned out to be the closest Brian May sound I have found in a pedal. It’s just plain awesome no matter what! It is less open than some I tried, but in the best way. I may just go with two Hotcakes adjusted two different ways for a Brian May lead tone and a Lizzy vibe. This pedal is NOT a marshall in a can. Its gonna make its own sound. I still think its an ugly pedal to look at. But man is it the best! Great Bad Finger riffs. Like I said any ol way the pedal is twisted, it’s a great sound.

Cmatmods Signa Drive: Pending
Allum 308: Pending

Ok I can finaly update this review. Real simple in a nut shell,

SIB Varidrive: Great pedal! think Queens of the Stone Age or maybe some space Hog type tones! very thick an dvery smooth, some compressed in sound

Signa Drive: It just wasnt good with the vox. Way to fizzy sounding. Compared to the "keepers" the DLS & the Hot Cake, it just pales on all counts. AGAIN, I"M SAYING WITH AN AC30 AND A LES PAUL, it pales. Its a well made pedal that I'm sure sounds great with many combinations.

Allum 308: Awesome pedal. Now I know why so many recomended rat pedals. I must have tried all the crap rats out there, cause this pedal is really nice. Its very dynamic in both the top boost and normal channels. It isnt the best at a Thin Lizzy or Brian May sound..not even close. It's its' own sound. I am keeping it too. Its a medium gain, and gives the Vox a very modern sound. If you play covers and need to do Foo Fighters...ding ding ding! This pedal gives you that. Its a great pedal for doing covers, if you want I nice less used sound, that is appropreate for many covers, but you don't care about "sounding like the record" Its a keeper..still no mild gain pedal for the Vox. The closest is the DLS when set that way.

Summary: So far the best tone period is the Hot Cake. The best Brian May tone is the Hot Cake. The best Thin Lizzy, Zepplin sound it the DLS. The Allum 308 is a great go to versitile pedal, that is its' own sound and more modern sounding than the DLS or Hot Cake to me. To tie it to a sound for a common ground for all to get the idea of it, I say Foo fighters is prime.
 

4nd3h

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Very good info here, good reading.

Even though I can't afford an AC30 :(
 

Lowdown

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Thanx heaps for this Funky. Just what I have been looking for. Very detailed and well written. :thumb:

I have almost pulled the pin on an AC30,which I can get new for a great price and have been searching around for what pedals work best with my LP.
Funnily enough the DLS is exactly what I was looking at.

I wonder,how a Crunch Box would fare in the running :hmm:

Don't stop now mate...keep the reviews comin'!
 

Funky54

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Thanks, It was a lot of work. I also did a review on Delay pedals. I compared the Carbon copy, Delta Lab DD-1, Dano Reel tape Echo and the Deluxe Memory Man and chose the DMM. But then I tried three different DMM's and a Berhinger Vintage time machine copy. In all, I liked the three prong big box DMM over the moded blue one, the wal-wart big box, the XO and the Behringer. That Behringer is pretty darn good, I've read some reviews that trashed them, but thats Bull. That thing is amazing for $50.00.

I'm not 100% satified with the DMM cause of my humbuckers being to much for it to handle, but i still think when clean with say my Gretsch's, its the most versitle warm sounding of the bunch.

I may try a Aqua Puss.

I am also going to do a review Of Gretsch's with all the same pedals from the Les Paul review plus a few more. (As a side note, I dont like any of these pedals with the Super Reverb except the Keeley TS9 and the SIB Varidrive.) I'm still searching there. My next choice to try with the Super will be a Analogman King of Tone.

For the Gretsch review I'll be using the solo from "Just What I Needed", "Sleep Walk", "Rock this Town" & "I Feel Fine" all into the Super Reverb, I'm leaving the Vox alone with that review, cause a Gretsch and a Vox without a pedal is bliss for all that kinda stuff.
 

Beekay

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Funky, great review...

You should definitely get your hands on a KoT pedal - I just love mine - '76 custom through a '64 AC30... amazing sounds... try the Beano Boost on top too it works really well with the set-up
 

Lowdown

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Yes. Back from the dead thread.
But,as I've just gotten an AC15C1,I'm wondering how you still feel re. your choices now?
 

Funky54

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I'm still playing the DLS and the Hot Cake. Very very Happy. I'm still Using a Big Box DMM in to the Super in stereo with the Vox. I ended up for now with a Butah for the Super Reverb, still want a Kot or a 1/2 gainer.

What I am really stuggling with is Phase. So far:

Ibanez 777 flying pan
phase 100
small stone
option 5
Ibanez pt-p

none of them are perfect. The PT-9 is the sweep I like, but its to compressed and doessnt dig the butah (does like a TS10)

Going for a Baby Quazar and probably a keely phase when I have the coin.

I use the DLS most, did let go of the Allum 308. Great pedal just like the vintage sound of the DLS.
 

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