The Carbon Copy® Analog Delay has been the world’s bestselling delay pedal in the world since its release in 2009. Its warm analog sound, ease of use, and healthy reserve of delay time made the pedal a hit with guitar players everywhere, weekend warriors and recording pros alike.
We sat down with the masterminds behind this modern classic—veteran MXR engineer Bob Cedro and Way Huge founder/delay guru Jeorge Tripps—to talk about the this pedal’s origins as well as the development of the newly released Carbon Copy Bright Analog Delay, a collaboration with the guys at Pro Guitar Shop that provides brighter, more refined repeats.
How did you guys conceive of the Carbon Copy Analog Delay?
Jeorge: When I started at Dunlop, the first thing I wanted to do for MXR was create a delay pedal—the line hadn’t had one since the old days, but players kept asking when we were going to fill that void. So I sat down and made a list of all the things I wanted in an MXR delay pedal: analog circuitry, 600ms of delay time, modulation, a Phase 90-sized housing, and the option to run it on battery power.
Bob: Coincidentally, I already had a design for a 600ms analog delay pedal—it was one of my first projects at Dunlop—and we almost went into production with it in 1997. Unfortunately, the BBD IC (bucket brigade device, integrated circuit) we used went out of production at the last minute, so we had to call the whole thing off.
After Jeorge joined the Dunlop team, we had many conversations about creating a new MXR delay analog pedal, but without the parts needed, it stayed on our “Wouldn’t it be great if…” list. A short time later, though, I learned that the particular BBD IC needed to create my dream delay pedal was available again. We got to work right away.
Was it inspired by any previous circuit designs?
Bob: The Carbon Copy circuit was a new design. It was a culmination of my experience both designing delay pedals as an engineer and using them as a player over the years. Back in 1979, I designed my first chorus/delay rack unit for my own personal use. It used a Reticon R5101 charge-coupled device analog delay line, and it had more knobs and meters than a power plant. The first analog delay pedal I actually bought was a Boss DM2, which I used for pretty much everything—live guitar, recorded vocals, drums, and so on.
Later, while working as a design engineer for SR&D—the company that created the Rockman product line, now owned by Dunlop—I used the Rockman Analog Delay, which had this great, warm analog sound. The problem was that it was housed in a large, half rack box with an AC power cord tethered to it, and its control setup was way too complicated.
By the time I came to Dunlop, I had grown to love the more straightforward MXR approach. I decided that Regeneration, Mix, and Delay controls were all I needed in a delay to make me happy. After that, I concentrated on putting it all into an Phase 90-sized box.
What was the collaboration process like between the two of you?
Jeorge: I drew up a graphic representation of the pedal, including Bob’s Regen, Mix, and Delay controls, but I added the Mod (modulation) switch to simulate the wow and flutter of a vintage tape delay unit. Bob put it all together, adding the modulation circuitry to his own 600ms delay design, and the result was incredible.
Can you explain the Carbon Copy’s control setup and why you designed it that way?
Bob: We agreed to keep it simple, with just three knobs on the front of the pedal. At first, I was concerned that the modulation feature would complicate the pedal a bit too much, but the switch seemed to be a perfect solution. It allowed us to maintain the simple three-knob setup on the face of the pedal, and we put the modulation Speed and Width controls inside the unit as“set it and forget it” tweaks.
How does the Mod switch simulate an aging tape echo unit?
Bob: Engaging the Mod button places a slight pitch shifting movement on the delayed signal, which is reminiscent of tape echo wow and flutter. The internal controls are factory set to best simulate those subtle effects, but they can be adjusted for a much more pronounced and intense chorusing sound.
Jeorge: The modulation was a very important aspect of this pedal—it adds depth to the repeats and makes them sound bigger and more full. Very few delay pedals had that feature at the time.
How does it compare to past MXR delays?
Jeorge: The Carbon Copy Delay is a completely different circuit from the old big green MXR Analog Delay. That unit used a Reticon R5101 BBD, and it didn’t have modulation. I think it did about 450ms? It was also very noisy.
Why do you think this pedal is still the bestselling delay six years later?
Jeorge: The market was missing a delay designed according to the MXR ethos, which emphasizes great tones, ease-of-use, and rugged durability for a reasonable price. We filled that gap, and we couldn’t be happier that it’s become the “go to” analog delay pedal.
What spurred the development of the Carbon Copy Bright Delay?
Jeorge: Well, the standard Carbon Copy Delay is famous for its dark, rich warmth. There are a lot of tone guys out there, though, who wanted to hear how it would sound if it was tuned to bring out more of the high end in the repeats so they could have more than one Carbon Copy flavor. Working with Aaron Miller and the Pro Guitar Shop team, we designed the Carbon Copy Bright with those players in mind.
Bob: Pro Guitar Shop’s customer base is very much centered around that type of player—the guys who love to find just the right sound for each application—so we thought they were the perfect partner to work with on this project. We passed a few prototypes back and forth until we found the sweet spot, and it really sounds great.
How exactly is the Carbon Copy Bright Delay different from the standard Carbon Copy Delay ?
Jeorge: The Bright functions exactly the same as the standard version, but it’s tuned differently. Because the higher frequencies are more pronounced, this pedal’s repeats are more defined, and the modulation shimmers a bit more. It’s a great contrast to the standard version’s darker, warmer repeats.
Bob: If you’re into tone crafting and all that good stuff, there’s definitely room for both Carbon Copy pedals on your board.
It doesn’t matter what style you play or how you play it—if you’re a guitar player, you want to stand out in the mix. Super Bright™ Guitar Strings put you right up front with brightness, clarity, and a balanced fundamental. And thanks to our combination of material and design techniques, Super Bright Guitar Strings generate a greater amount of complex harmonic content for a sound that’s rich and musical.
We asked a handful of Super Bright artists to tell us why they dig Dunlop’s newest addition to the guitar string family. Check out their responses below.
Tim Henson / Polyphia
“Not only do the Dunlop Super Bright Strings feel awesome, they sound awesome too. After testing many other strings, we found that Super Bright Strings give us the smooth, bright tone we like—a very versatile tone that allows for clarity in all pickup positions.”
Lee McKinney / Born Of Osiris
“For so long, I really thought guitar strings were just guitar strings, give or take a bit of difference in longevity. But Super Bright Strings are really a breath of fresh air. Not only do they sound unique and much better tonally, they also give me an extra show—sometimes two!—out of each set. Any traveling musician knows how crucial that is and how it can really lighten the load of work on you and your guitar techs. Off tour, without the heat of the venues, sweat, humidity factors, and so on, they last forever. I’m super excited about this new product, and I’m happy to be on board.”
Josh Martin / Little Tybee
“Stringing up with a fresh pack of Super Bright Strings is like taking a blanket off of your tone. They’ve got tons of bright, snappy low end for the 8-string players out there. No flabby bottoming out that I usually get from other brands. I highly recommend them.”
John Browne / Monuments
“The new Super Bright Strings from Dunlop are ace. They have that ‘gnnnaaannng’ bright tone to them—perfect for the cutty guitar tone I love.”
“Tone, durability, and feel are the 3 things I look for in guitar strings. Dunlop Super Bright Strings deliver on all counts.”
If your music demands crystal clear notes and fluid, dextrous picking, get yourself a pack of Primetone™ Sculpted Plectra. Made with Ultex® for superior tonal definition and durability, each pick is burnished by hand so that its sculpted edges glide smoothly off your strings like a broken-in pick.
Tone. Grip. Edge.
We developed these picks to have the elusive sound of tortoiseshell, and this is the closest we’ve ever gotten. Because tortoiseshell was infamous for being slippery, we gave every Primetone pick a grip with enough traction to give plenty of control but low-profile enough so you can still shift it easily in your hand. If you prefer a smooth surface, all models except the Jazz III are available in non-grip form, which have also been designed to have a slightly warmer tone. Check out the grip.
The beveled edges were inspired by guitar players’ high mileage celluloid picks, whose edges have been worn into a natural “sweet spot” bevel that makes playing practically effortless. Some players even go as far as using emery board or sandpaper on their picks to get the same effect. We decided to save you all that time and effort and just sculpt that sweet spot right onto the pick so you have it straight out of the package. Here’s a closer look—each pick’s edges are hand-burnished to further break them in and then inspected by one of our pick technicians.
Bottom line—whether you’re strumming a riff or ripping on a lead, a Primetone Sculpted Plectrum in your hand will help you do it with more flow, clarity, and precision than you’ve ever experienced.
Get ’em in a variety of shapes and gauges…
Primetone picks are available in five different shapes. Let’s take a look at what each can do for you as a player.
With a beveled edge, the tried and true Standard shape gets the smooth, quick release of a well-worn pick. The standard’s shoulders are also beveled for players who like to turn their pick around for a different sound. Gauges: .73, .88, .96, 1.0, 1.3, 1.5mm.
The Triangle shape gives you three beveled edges and a wider gripping surface for greater control. Great for bass players. Gauges: 1.4, 1.5mm.
The Small Tri is a shape that’s been gaining in popularity. Like the Primetone Triangle, the Primetone Small Tri features three beveled edges, but its smaller profile really lets you choke up and dig in with greater control. Gauges: 1.3, 1.4, 1.5mm.
The quick-release Primetone edge enhances the Jazz III’s famous control, speed, and precision. Only available with the low-profile Primetone grip. Gauge: 1.4mm.
The warm and mellow sounding Semi-Round shape features three beveled edges and two different playing tips so you can easily change up your attack and your sound. Gauge: 1.3, 1.5mm.
What do the pros say?
We asked a handful of Primetone Sculpted Plectra players a couple of questions about why they’ve made the switch. Here’s what they had to say.
How does the Primetone Sculpted Plectra affect your technique and the way you play?
Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders; custom AAL Jazz III XL with grip, .73mm: It’s really the perfect combination of material, shape and dimension. The beveled edges make picking feel fluid and unobstructed.
Zach Blair (Rise Against; Triangle with grip, 1.5mm): I play hard, so I need a pick I can depend on not to break or wear down. I know that Primetone picks will stand up to everything I put them through.
Scott Fore (National Flatpicking Champion; Small Tri with and without grip, 1.4mm; Standard with and without grip, .88mm): The grip and bevel allow me to greatly vary my tone with subtle changes in the pick angle, and the beveled edge allows a greater string to pick contact area, which gives a much fuller tone. The grip surface prevents the pick from unwanted movement, but I also like the non-grip picks. Their darker tone allows for a big, fat, clear tone on even the brightest of guitars. Perfect picks for all styles of playing. The Ultex material doesn’t get scratchy or noisy from wear, which is another great benefit.
Jude Gold (Jefferson Starship; Editor, Guitar Player; Standard with grip, .73mm): They have the classic vibe of celluloid picks, but they don’t break and they don’t slip or get sweaty, especially with that center grip. The beveled edges give you a bit of that comfortable, broken-in feel, and I love that. A broken-in pick has songs in it.
How do Primetone Picks open up your tonal possibilities?
TA: When the pick glides off the string, it produces a beautifully full and articulate tone. You can hear it even when the guitar isn’t plugged in.
ZB: I’ve come to expect a certain tone out of the Primetone pick, one that’s dark and well rounded. It’s affected my playing and overall style immensely.
SF: The Primetone picks offer the best tonal possibilities of all pick materials available, even the revered tortoise picks. They sound full and clear, producing an open, balanced tone from the lowest note to the highest note.
The M238 MXR Iso-Brick Power Supply is designed for the demands of the stage and the rigors of the road. With ten fully isolated outputs and a lightweight, pedalboard-friendly housing that’s built like a tank, this potent piece of hardware will keep your pedals running with quiet, consistent power gig after gig.
Why does having isolated outputs make a difference? We asked the MXR design team to explain that and more, including several questions on how to get the most out of this wonderful power box. Get inside the Iso-Brick Power Supply below.
What are the advantages of fully isolated outputs?
When power outputs are fully isolated, there is no common electrical connection between them. This provides ground isolation between power sources, eliminating noisy ground loops and making high gain signal chains quieter. It also prevents one pedal from corrupting the power supply of the other pedals if something goes haywire.
Basically, having isolated outputs is like powering all of your pedals with high quality batteries.
Is there anything else in the M238’s design that helps to reduce noise?
Yes—aside from isolating the outputs from each other, we’ve ensured that each fixed voltage output receives a stable, low-noise voltage source by using linear regulators. The variable outputs are regulated by a hybrid design consisting of an adjustable buck regulator and two LC filters—which block switching noise—to simulate the smooth output of an adjustable linear regulator. This was done to minimize heat and power loss in the circuitry while preserving the output characteristics of an adjustable linear power source.
How do fully isolated outputs provide more protection to pedals than non-isolated outputs?
If pedals are powered from just one source—that is, if they aren’t isolated—they can potentially suffer damage if one of the effects experiences an overload or other voltage problem. With an isolated output, that potential damage source is kept from the rest of your pedals.
Is there anything in the design to prevent overheating?
We built in thermal protection for each output, so the M238 will automatically turn itself off if it reaches unsafe operating temperatures. The outputs are also protected against short circuiting via foldback current limiting.
Which types of pedals can be used with the Iso-Brick Power Supply?
You can use almost any pedal—digital or analog, positive or negative barrel—as long as it takes DC power and meets the voltage and current requirements of the M238’s outputs.
How can players make sure they’re matching pedals and outputs correctly?
It all depends on the voltage and current requirements of your pedals, and you need to know both before you ever connect a pedal to a power source. Digital pedals require more current—measured in milliamps (mA)—than analog pedals, so keep that in mind when allocating your outputs between the two types.
The M238 has six 9V outputs: two at 100mA, two at 300mA, and two at 450mA. The 100mA outputs have more than enough current—by far—for pretty much any 9V analog pedal, but many 9V digital pedals require more current. In that case, the 300mA and 450mA outputs will be more than enough for most digital pedals. If you’re only using analog pedals, it doesn’t really matter which output you use as long as the voltage matches.
The two 18V outputs and the two variable 6V–15V outputs adjustable are rated at 250mA, which is still enough juice for most digital pedals. The vast majority of digital pedals are designed to run on 9V power, however, so you’re likely to use the 18V outputs for analog pedals. If you have odd voltage requirements—up to 15V—or you want to “sag” a 9V analog pedal, then use the variable outputs.
How can I make sure the variable outputs are set to the right voltage?
The easiest way is to measure at the end of a connector cable with a multimeter. First, make sure the power supply itself is plugged in, and then plug one of the connector cables into one of the variable outputs. Set your multimeter to measure DCV; if yours doesn’t automatically detect voltage, select the 20 DCV setting. Set the voltage control about where you want it.
Next, use one of your multimeter’s probes to touch the inside center of the plug’s barrel, and use the other probe to touch the outside of the barrel. Your multimeter will then display the output’s voltage. Use the variable control to adjust as needed. Note: whether the number shown on the multimeter’s screen is positive or negative depends on which probe touched which part of the barrel, but that doesn’t matter for our purposes. The value will be accurate either way.
What is voltage “sag”? Which pedals can be “sagged” below 9 volts, safely and with good results?
“Sag” refers to the effect of a dying 9V battery. As batteries get used up, their voltage level goes down, and this changes the sound of certain 9V analog pedals. This effect is called voltage sag, and a lot of guitar players back in the day loved it so much that they would purposely use dying batteries to get it.
The variable outputs allow you to achieve the same effect without the hassle of managing a constant supply of under-powered batteries. Overdrives, distortions, fuzzes, and wahs tend to benefit the most from voltage sag, but you won’t hurt your pedal by under-powering. Feel free to experiment.
Can the M238′s outputs be combined?
Any output may be combined with any other when stacked in series. When combining outputs in parallel, however, you need to make sure that the outputs match each other in voltage.
Are there any features to help players troubleshoot problems?
Yes—the M238 has LEDs to indicate a good or bad connection on both the input and each of the outputs, which allows you to quickly identify the source of a problem.
What precautions should players take when using any type of power supply?
First and foremost, make sure the voltage and current specs of your pedals are compatible with the voltage and current specs of your power supply’s outputs. Ignore this information at the peril of both your pedals and your power supply.
As a general rule, don’t give your pedal too much voltage—for example, by plugging a 9V pedal into an 18V output—and don’t force an output to give up more current than it can handle—for example, by plugging a pedal that draws 250mA into an output that only has 100mA on tap.
BONUS: Are you a Pedaltrain Pedalboard user who wants to know if the new MXR Iso-Brick Power Supply will fit on your Pedaltrain board? Our friends at Pedaltrain sent us this reference sheet for the Pedaltrain models that can accommodate the Iso-Brick, as well as a handy step-by-step guide to mounting the Iso-Brick to the bottom of your board. Click the link below to view/save/print the guide…
Chorus is an effect you should always have in your tool box, whether you’re slamming out riffs, firing off precision-guided arpeggios, or weaving ambient sonic tapestries. You can use chorus to fatten up your sound at lower settings, add depth and fluidity at moderate settings, and go full on space age at extreme settings.
How does it work? Chorus pedals double your signal and then delay the duplicate at a constantly varying rate—usually with an LFO, or low-frequency oscillator—before mixing it back into the original signal. Varying the duplicate signal’s delay time causes pitch shifting thanks to the Doppler effect. This pitch shifting mimics the slightly off-key sound created by a choir of singers—even though they’re singing the same piece of music at the same time, no one person is singing with exactly the same pitch and intonation as any of the others. And that’s why we call it chorus.
Guitar players first got their hands on the chorus effect in 1975 as a feature of Roland’s Jazz Chorus Amp. Pedal versions followed shortly after, but it wasn’t until the ’80s that chorus really found its place in popular music. Since then, artists from all over the stylistic map have embraced the effect, from Alex Lifeson and Andy Summers to Eddie Van Halen and Slash.
The MXR Line
MXR first entered the chorus market in 1980 with big, yellow, three-knob box simply called the Stereo Chorus. The original Stereo Chorus was all-around great sounding pedal, but its most defining feature was its Manual control. As with the MXR Flanger, the Stereo Chorus’ Manual control allowed players to adjust the effect’s delay time (the Speed control adjusted the oscillation rate).
The Micro Chorus followed the Stereo Chorus in 1981. With a single Speed knob for straightforward operation, this pedal is to chorus what the Phase 90 is to phasing. While compact and easy to use, the Micro Chorus pours out volumes of rich, modulated shimmer with a hint of flange around the edges. A few years back, we re-introduced the Micro Chorus—along with the Micro Flanger—as a faithful reissue of the original circuit.
The Stereo Chorus returned to the MXR line several years ago with a complete circuit overhaul. Today’s version has a very clean, modern sound with a very pronounced pitch shifting quality. Running on 18 volts, the Stereo Chorus now has a ton of headroom. The MXR team swapped out the Manual control for an Intensity control—essentially a wet/dry mix—and added Bass and Treble EQ controls and a Bass Filter switch to remove the effect from low end frequencies.
The Analog Chorus is MXR’s take on the classic “dirty” analog chorus sound. Compared to the Stereo Chorus, its pitch shifting quality is more subtle, but with lower headroom, this pedal breaks up nicely when pushed with a little extra gain. Like the Stereo Chorus, the Analog Chorus has controls to tweak the wet/dry mix and shape the high and low end of the chorus effect. The Analog Chorus is a natural fit for hard rock and metal—just ask Slash and Rise Against’s Zach Blair—but its tweakability makes it an incredibly versatile pedal.
Using the Chorus Effect
How you use a chorus pedal depends on your needs as a guitar player or bass player (bass players, be sure to check out the Bass Chorus Deluxe). Here’s a few tips to get the most out of the effect without overdoing it.
First, have an idea of why you want to add chorus to a song. Adding ambience and movement to a slow piece, making your solo stand out, thickening up strummed passages—these are all good reasons to use a chorus pedal.
When you decide how you want to use your chorus pedal in a song, experiment with different playing styles and control settings. You’ll have to play differently with a subtle tone thickening sound dialed in than you would with a spectral, ambient sound or with an all-out deluge of swirling oscillation.
Finally, try combining chorus with other effects. Experiment. Overdrives, distortions, and delays are a great place to start. If you want to take your modulation game to the next level, try adding a flanger or a phaser to the mix. As for the order of effects, there’s obviously no hard and fast rules, but most guitar players will tell you to place your chorus pedal after the effect you’re pairing it with. This allows the chorus effect to fully develop and work its magic on the rest of the signal.
We used the Analog Chorus to dial in the chorus tones of a few hit songs from all over the map to show the versatility of the effect. See below, and try them out yourself.
From the visionary depths of the Way Huge laboratory comes the Saucy Box™ Overdrive. Like the acclaimed Pork Loin™ Overdrive before it, the Saucy Box Overdrive derives its unparalleled versatility from discrete clean and overdrive signal paths, combining them to deliver one of the most organic, amp-like overdrive pedals available. To give discerning guitarists a dynamic, finger-friendly overdrive with plug-and-play simplicity, the Saucy Box Overdrive forgoes individual clean and drive controls and automatically balances the optimum ratio of the two with a single Gain control. This unique design provides for everything from pure a unity-gain buffer to a clean boost and all the way to a salaciously buttery overdrive. To top it all off, this pedal has a passive tone circuit that will play nice with any pickup type.
We sat down with Way Huge mastermind Jeorge Tripps for a look at what inspired this pedal and how it works. Check it out.
What can you tell us about the development of the Saucy Box Overdrive? Is it based on an older Way Huge circuit? If not, what inspired this pedal’s design?
Jeorge: The Saucy Box Overdrive started life as an experiment. I was making tweaks to the Pork Loin circuit to make it simpler, and this pedal was the result of that process. Basically, the Saucy Box Overdrive is a clean blending pedal—that is, it has an overdrive circuit and a cleanish circuit that are blended together. So this pedal is similar to the Pork Loin Overdrive in that way, using a similar clean circuit path, but it has a totally new OD section.
How does Saucy Box compare to other Way Huge overdrives?
Jeorge: The Saucy Box Overdrive uses a similar British mic preamp style clean circuit just like the Pork Loin Overdrive does, but again, the OD circuit is a completely original design. It has a simple three-knob setup, with the OD and clean sounds blended together with the Drive knob. As the drive knob goes up, the clean sound goes down and vice versa.
What type of player will want this on their pedalboard?
Jeorge: This pedal is good for many types of players since it ranges from a cleanish boost to serious overdrive. So it’s very versatile while being really easy to use. You just find a spot on the Drive knob that gives the right clean/OD mix to let chords ring out with a nice chime and let single notes bloom.
Which amps, guitars, and pedals would you team up with the Saucy Box Overdrive?
Jeorge: It works great with both humbuckers and single coils. As far as amps go, I prefer non-master volume amps. But I always say the best thing to do is experiment. There is no right way.
There it is. Before you go, watch the awesome in-depth demo of the Saucy box Overdrive below.
MXR Bass Innovations has joined forces with Fuzzrocious Pedals to create the MXR Bass Distortion, a pedal that deals out huge, gnarly tones with all the low end your bottom-dwelling heart desires. We took a famously nasty sounding distortion circuit and re-tooled for the modern working bass player. It’s loud, it’s cutting, and it’s versatile, and with separate Dry and Wet volume controls, it’s like a split amp chain right at your feet.
Operating out of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, Fuzzrocious Pedals is a full-on family endeavor for indie phenom pedal designer Ryan Ratajski (pronounced “ruh-tie-skee”), his wife and head pedal artist Shannon, and their two children, who assist with the company’s more avant-garde artwork. Ryan has developed a reputation for over-the-top, face-melting distortion pedals that are heavily modded and tweaked to sound great with the bass guitar. When we decided to add a distortion pedal to the Bass Innovations line, working with Ryan was a no-brainer.
We talked with Ryan about how he got into designing pedals, what it was like to collaborate with the MXR design team, and a bunch more. Check it out.
When did you pick up your first bass, and when did you first start experimenting with effects?
Ryan: I bought my first bass—a J-style Fender rip off—from a local music shop in 2001, but I didn’t play for real until 2006 when I played in a psych/shoegaze band. My first effect on bass was a Sansamp 3 Channel Programmable Bass Driver DI. I knew nothing about effects and wanted something to shape my tone and drive my amp, so I bought the first thing I saw in Guitar Center marketed towards bass. In 2008, when I was in a heavy/spacey noisy band called Cavale, I was influenced by my fellow bandmates to start using better effects and even build my own.
I didn’t know any bassists that used effects, mostly because I didn’t really listen for that specifically. I just knew that, in the studio, they made things sound heavy/dirty. Once I knew what I was listening for, some bassists who were using effects in 2008 that influenced me alongside my bandmates were Nick Thieneman (Breather Resist, Young Widows) and Ed Breckenridge (Thrice).
When did you first start tinkering with pedals?
Ryan: My bandmate convinced me of how easy it would be to learn to solder and start working on pedals. I had my dad help me out, and we practiced on a General Guitar Gadgets BMP, which is similar to the EHX Big Muff Pi. It was all full-speed from there because I started building kits for friends, and my wife painted the housings, and we called the company Fuzzrocious.
I wanted to be cool like my bandmates because they had so many weird pedals. The GGG BMP helped me find my sound, and I haven’t had a clean tone in years! The first effect that was truly our own thing was the Grey Stache, which was not built on a kit board. Instead, it was done on veroboard/stripboard.
What made you decide to start actually selling pedals?
Ryan: I don’t know that it was ever a definite decision. Making pedals was like making music for me. Most people don’t get into playing music to just to make money from it—they do it first and foremost because it’s fun and enjoyable. Getting paid is usually secondary to the joy that making music brings. Same thing with making pedals: we did it for fun at first, and selling the pedals came second. We kept doing it because it was great to have people support and love what we were making for them. Things grew naturally from there. We made kits for the first year, but I didn’t want Fuzzrocious to just be a build service. I wanted to our work to be more original than that.
We first started selling on the TalkBass forums, starting with mods and kits and moving on to our original designs, and they embraced us very well. Word of mouth started there. After that, we started selling our pedals through MySpace—yes, MySpace—and then built our own website where we could take sales via PayPal. Fast forward to last year, when Jeff Klein of My Jerusalem helped us create a beautiful website and store to make things even easier for us and our customers.
In 2015, you and your wife decided to commit to Fuzzrocious full time. Where did you guys find the courage and confidence to make that final commitment?
Ryan: Neither of us felt fulfilled in our teaching jobs, in large part because of the New Jersey education system. Fuzzrocious was taking up all of our time away from work—before, during lunch breaks, on sick days, on days off, after work, and all evening.
It’s not healthy to be “on” for almost all of one’s waking life. Shannon took the leap first and found happiness in painting full time from home. We waited as long as we could for me to quit my day job. The first step was to make sure that we could survive on my income plus Fuzzrocious. By January 2015, it became a “fish or cut bait” situation. The wait time was up to 4 months for direct orders and growing, and that wasn’t fair to customers. And mentally, emotionally, and professionally, it wasn’t healthy for us! Once finances were in check, I resigned from teaching. It’s still VERY scary because we’re only making enough to pay the bills at the moment. We will keep pushing, though!
Why the obsession with dirt pedals? What are some of your favorite songs with distorted bass?
Ryan: Since dirt pedals were the first thing I listened for and understood musically, it was a natural progression. It just so happened that when we got into making pedals, the boutique market was missing a few sounds and modifications that we ready to provide.
Failure’s “Heliotropic,” “Another Space Song,” “Small Crimes,” and “Frogs” are excellent go-to songs for bass dirt. The entire Breather Resist and Young Widows catalog boasts bass distortion. O’Brother’s “Disillusion” album is a bass player’s dream for dirt thanks to Anton Dang’s love for going deaf. Brian Cook’s resume (Botch, These Arms Are Snakes, Russian Circles, SUMAC) is chock full of burly tones. This just scratches the surface for me…I could list dudes ALL day who make me a happy bassist.
Now let’s talk about the MXR Bass Distortion. What was your role in the design?
Ryan: One day, Scott Shiraki contacted me to buy a Rat King after years of our mutual friends Thom Brady and Dave Edwardson (Neurosis) badgering him to give Fuzzrocious a whirl on his rig. He shared his new RK with his colleagues at Dunlop when they were looking to design a new bass distortion. Scott hooked me up with Joseph Trau, who was our liaison to the R&D team.
We eventually decided on a simplified version of our design with the addition of MXR’s separate Dry/Wet configuration and some tweaks made by the MXR design team to basically “enhance” what was already there.
The process was actually really easy and never frustrating—they were clear about what they wanted from us and we made changes and revised month by month. We sent prototypes and schematics back and forth. Conversation was kept up between Scott, Joseph, and me on a weekly to bi-weekly basis. I couldn’t have asked for an easier transition into the designing world!
What is it about this circuit that makes it work so well with bass?
Ryan: The beauty of the circuit we used as a starting point is that it’s super cutting without completely thinning out or compressing your tone out of existence. But bass players always need the option of more low end, and this pedal’s Dry/Wet control setup gives you the ability to go from no clean to a lot of clean—or whatever effects you have on before—to ensure that you don’t disappear in the mix.
The LED/SIL switch gives you two different clipping styles, each with different max gain levels, which gives a bassist TONS of flexibility. Jazz, doom, ambient, shoegaze…bassists from across the genre spectrum can use this pedal equally well. There’s something to be discovered in this pedal no matter who you are as a bassist.
The Tone control—which has a wide sweep from mud to trebly grind—and the Distortion control—which can take you from clean to fully blown out—are the icing on the cake.
Explain the LED/SIL switch. What’s the difference, sonically, between LED and silicon clipping?
Ryan: As I mentioned, the LED/SIL switch changes the way the distortion signal clips. The default setting uses silicon diode clipping, which is a warmer, more compressed and growly sound. The LED clipping more is brighter, more open, and more biting. It’s also quite a bit louder, because you need more gain for tonal characteristics of LED diodes to totally come through.
If the Wet volume is too out of control for you in LED mode, you can use an internal control to bring that mode’s max gain down. The more you bring it down, though, the less distinguishable it is from silicon mode.
How do you see yourself, as a bass player, using this pedal?
Ryan: I like my clean tone to be dirty, in general, and this pedal can do just that. Mixing in some clean and running the distortion around 11:00/12:00 would be a great way to maintain a slightly dirty/overdrive sounding clean tone that would accent other pedals much more effectively in my setup than without the MXR Bass Distortion. This pedal opens up so many doors for me.
Now I can have a sound closer to what an engineer would set up in the studio in my live rig! I like having a more “open” sound with distortions and less compression, so using the LED mode is my best bet to keep the natural sound of my bass present. Silicon would be good for a heavier distortion setting, in my humble opinion.
This thing can get pretty insane, but it also cleans up well. Any tips for how to operate this pedal?
Ryan: The trick with cleaning up distortions is to play with them in the live mix. What sounds good at your house may not—i.e. probably won’t—sound good in a mix, and then you’re convinced your pedal sucks.
You should really go through the following process with any effect you use as a bass player, but it’s especially important with overdrive, distortion, and fuzz pedals. I suggest that you:
1. Politely ask your bandmates to bear with you and keep playing. I know it sounds silly and they will most likely roll their eyes at you, but this allows you a moment to try what works for my ears when tuning a pedal to work in a band mix.
2. Turn the clean tone OFF, tone fully clockwise, distortion starting fully counterclockwise, wet/dirty to unity.
3. While alternating hitting an open note on your low “E” string then an open note on your open highest “G” string, slowly turn the distortion up to a slight to medium grind (around 10:30-12:00).
4. Slowly roll the tone counterclockwise until you feel a good mix of present bass, present mids, and present, but not overpowering treble (around 2:00-4:00).
5. Slowly mix in the clean signal now until you feel present in the band mix, but still dirty.
Want to learn more about the Fuzzrocious family business? Watch the Altar TV short doc “This is Fuzzrocious” below. After that, go and get yourself an MXR Bass Distortion and summon ancient forgotten things from the outer darkness.
Don’t let its small size fool you—the CBM95 Cry Baby® Mini Wah’s tones are just as powerful and expressive as those of its larger compadres. It’s built like a tank, and at half the size of a standard Cry Baby pedal, the CBM95 is perfect wherever space comes at a premium. Whether you’re trying to make room on a full-sized pedalboard or add authentic Cry Baby tone to your micro travel board, this pedal is a must-have.
Senior Engineer and Cry Baby design veteran Sam McRae sat down to give us a run down of the Cry Baby Mini Wah’s sound, feel, and construction. Read on.
How does the sound and frequency range of the CBM95 compare to the GCB95? Does it use a Fasel® Inductor?
Sam: The Cry Baby Mini Wah is indeed equipped with a classic red Fasel inductor, but it has three different frequency ranges, which you can select by removing the bottom plate and using the internal 3-position switch.
The High setting (H) gives you the same sound as the GCB95. The Mid setting (M) gives you more of a classic or vintage sounding range, and the Low setting (L) gives you a darker sound. Basically, we took our three most popular Cry Baby voicings and put them into a housing that’s half the size. That way, you can get pretty close to the voice of your favorite standard-sized Cry Baby Wah and save pedalboard space at the same time.
Does the CBM95 have the same physical sweep range as a standard-sized Cry Baby Wah?
Sam: Yes, the physical sweep range of this pedal is the same as our standard-sized Cry Baby Wahs. What that means is the rocker can travel just as far in either direction, so you have just as much control over the behavior of the effect.
Is there anything mechanically different about the CBM95?
Sam: The potentiometer is a totally custom design that preserves the historical taper of the original pedal but while being scaled down to fit the smaller space. We employed the latest technology to give it exceptionally long life (greater than 3 million cycles), minimize noise, and retain the iconic Cry Baby sound. We also sealed it to keep out dust and any other particulates that might interfere with the wiper and the resistive element. We further reinforced the longevity of this pedal by designing the rack and pinion gears so as to provide a constant relationship between the rocker rotation and the rotation of the potentiometers shaft without any variation in the interface pressure.
We designed the CBM95 for serious, rigorous performance—it’s not just a cute little afterthought.
Who is the Cry Baby Mini Wah designed for?
Sam: If you already use a Cry Baby Wah as part of your sound but you want to free some space on your board, or you’ve wanted to try a Cry Baby Wah but you were reluctant to do so because of the footprint, then this pedal is definitely for you.
And even if space isn’t an issue on your board, this pedal sounds great in its own right. The three voicings make it very versatile.
Last year, we expanded the tonal palette of our bass strings line with Super Bright™ Bass Strings. Their huge success got us thinking about how to extend the same design philosophy—pristine top end, solid fundamental—to guitar players.
Our strings team got to work and created Super Bright Guitar Strings. They’re for guitar players who want a bright and punchy sound with crystal clear chords and leads, players who want their tone to blaze its way to the front of any stage or studio mix. Guitar players have needs that are quite different from bass players, of course, so these strings aren’t just skinnier versions of the Super Bright Bass Strings. They were designed from the ground up—specifically for guitar players—to balance the low end and upper order harmonics for a sound that’s lively and expressive while remaining rock-solid.
How did we do it? Master string designer Les O’Connor, product manager Frank Aresti, and guitar player Bryan Kehoe sat down to fill us in.
Why did you decide to come out with Super Bright guitar strings?
Les: Following the success of Super Bright Bass Strings, we felt that a Super Bright series for electric guitar players would be the perfect balance to our string line. So we set out to enhance the brightness of nickel wound guitar strings while keeping the mids and fundamental balanced and intact.
How are these strings different from standard Dunlop Nickel Wounds?
Les: The fundamental difference between the Super Bright sets and the regular sets is the nickel content. Our standard nickel wound sets contain 8% nickel-plated steel in their wrap, which is the industry standard. The Super Bright Guitar Strings, however, contain 2% nickel-plated steel. We experimented with different formulas, core-to-wrap ratios and winding technique, but we found that the 2% nickel plated steel rang out better using our proven core-to-wrap ratios and winding techniques.
Frank: From a technical perspective, this 2% nickel formula allows Super Bright Guitar Strings to generate twice as much complex harmonic content than traditional nickel wound strings. Complex harmonics are naturally pleasing and musical because of the structure of our ears and the way our brains process sound. What that means is that these strings give us even more of what we love to hear. It’s a very sweet sounding brightness and musical presence.
What can a guitarist expect to hear/feel when he or she tries them for the first time?
Les: To me, they sound like a fresh set of strings that have broken in for a day and still have that upper high end brightness. And they keep that brightness for over a long period of time, giving the string life longevity.
Bryan: The first thing I noticed when playing this set was that it has a different harmonic structure. They ring out in a more bell-like manner with a more present timbre. They just kinda bring everything to life, like when you add just the right amount of salt and pepper to a recipe.
Although the 2% nickel material is only on the wound strings, the plain strings interact tonally differently—they “clang” against the wound strings in a new and wonderful way.
The other thing I noticed was that they feel just like our standard strings, and as Les said, they seem to last longer. Maybe because of the accented harmonics, they don’t dull out as fast.
Frank: It’s like turning up the Presence knob of a really nice tube amp—string up, and your sound comes alive.
What genres or playing styles will these strings work best with?
Les: I tend to not think of genres, but rather of players themselves. These strings are for the player who’s always reaching for the treble knob, or the player who feels like they’re fighting for a little extra in the mix, or just wants their top end to ring out a little longer. I think that covers just about all of us guitar players.
Bryan: I second that. Any player, any genre. Want a set of strings with a unique timbre that is rich in mids and upper order harmonics, that’s not as sterile as steel, but with a bit more spice than standard nickel wounds? Get yourself a pack of Super Bright strings.
Frank: And all of that comes through whether you’re playing a gig or recording in the studio. They were designed to cut through the mix. Bright, solid, and always musical. Never harsh.
When guitar-driven rock ’n’ roll took over the music scene in the mid–1960s, the era’s trailblazers were equipped with Herco’s original nylon pick. By the end of the decade, nearly every guitar player was using them. Their smooth feel and warm sound appealed to the pros who were recording hit records and playing on the world’s biggest stages, while their widespread availability made it an easy choice for anyone wanting to learn to play rock guitar.
The list of greats who have used Herco picks over the years is extensive, and it includes Jimmy Page, Joe Walsh, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy, Pete Townsend, David Gilmour, Don Felder, Tommy Bolin, Rory Gallagher, and Gary Moore. The popularity of those picks endures today, with some artists—such as Keith Urban, Steve Jones, Gene Simmons, Billy Duffy, Troy Van Leeuwen, Don Felder, Eddie Van Halen, Nikki Sixx, and Madonna—having their own custom molds.
Now, for the first time in years, the classic Herco nylon pick is available to guitar players once again in the form of the Vintage ’66 Series. To resurrect this iconic tool faithfully, we had to get right to the heart of what made the originals so great. How did we do it? Dunlop pick guru Jimmy Dunlop gives us the details.
What inspired you to bring back the original Herco pick?
Jimmy Dunlop: Last year, we discovered several pick molds had been stashed away in storage ever since we acquired Herco 20 years ago. When I realized they were the molds used to create the very first Herco nylon picks, I immediately knew that I wanted to recreate that classic pick magic. The problem was that the molds were just not in a condition to produce picks to modern standards.
So how were you able to capture the spirit of those picks?
JD: Even though they were unusable, they gave us some very valuable insights into the design process. To fill in the gaps, we gathered up as many vintage Herco nylon picks as we could and played and studied them relentlessly.
After that, we analyzed the pick material itself. Simply put, nylon is made differently today than it was 40 years ago, and that difference bears out in the sound and feel of a pick. We had to tweak a number of different parameters, but I worked with product manager Frank Aresti and the rest of my team to come up with a formula that perfectly captures the tone and feel of that old school nylon—it’s virtually indistinguishable.
Through all this analysis and experimentation, we arrived at the Herco Vintage ’66 Series, and we couldn’t be happier. Even our pick experts were at a loss to tell them apart from the originals.
Top: Original Herco nylon picks. Bottom: Herco VIntage ’66 Series.
How is the Vintage ’66 Series different from the Flex Series?
JD: There are two important differences between the Herco Flex Series and the Herco ’66 Series. The first has to do with grip: the Flex picks have a grip on both sides, while the Vintage ’66 picks have a grip on one side. Grips add stiffness to a pick, so you’ll notice that the Vintage ’66 picks are more flexible—just like the originals—than the Flex picks.
The second important difference brings us back to the old nylon versus new nylon thing. Because the Vintage ’66 picks are designed with the characteristics of the older nylon style, they have warmer sound and a smoother attack than the Flex picks.
Ultimately, the Vintage ’66 Series was created so that you can get everything you love about your vintage Herco nylon picks without having to take your collectibles out.
What type of player should check out these picks?
JD: Plain and simple, if you want the classic warmth and smooth attack that you get from collectible vintage Herco picks, the same picks used by rock and roll giants to write music history, then the Herco Vintage ’66 Series is for you.
Check out some of our custom Herco artist picks below, and just below that, be sure to watch our interview with the Cult’s Billy Duffy, where he recounts his first Herco pick experience.