Ken B Jammen

The Essential Ken B Jammen

Boss Hyper Metal HM-3 Reviewed

March 7th, 2015

HM3

Have you ever heard that too much of a good thing is not a good thing.  How about too much of an average thing?  That’s really what you get with the Boss HM-3.   Yes I do realize I am reviewing a pedal that was first introduced 22 years ago!

This pedal was bosses highest gain pedal until the MD-2 was released in 2001. (Highest gain from 1993-2001 eight years of madness).

As a tweak monster, I hooked this bad boy up to an oscilloscope right away.  The first thing I noted, is that there is no cleans possible engaged.  Even with the gain all the way down, there is radical waveform clipping.  The clipping is a cross between a triangle and square pattern, so think of that when thinking of the tone.

The controls of this are pretty self-explanatory.  The distortion level goes from 8 to about 1.6 billion.  There is too much distortion on tap with this monster and it is not controllable.  On a plus side, easy to create the metal scooped sound.

The good: Tons of distortion on tap. Great for hair metal bands.   Please try and make sure you keep your hairspray out of the pedal as it will void the now expired warranty.

The not so good:  Sounds blah when played through a high end tube amp (such as a marshall, etc..) sounds disgusting through anything solid state.  Expect notes and noises from alien life forms when leaving this pedal on too long.  Sends pings to local police officers to write disturbing the peace citations when played for more than 30 minutes.   Same old boss look we have been seeing forever and will see forever.

  1. Visual Appearance: 3 out of 5 stars. The same old boss gig.
  2. Construction: 4 ½ out of 5 stars.  After 22 years, mine is still there, with a ton of paint gone, it still works great.  – ½ star for being the same old boss gig.
  3. Ease of use: 2 ½ out of 5 stars.  Takes a very long time to dial in to get a useful tone.   Some people will not be able to dial in good tone no matter what.
  4. Tone: 2 ½ stars out of 5 stars. Noisy, gritty bad clipping scheme.  Will make anything single coil sound like doggy doo doo.  Hard to dial in usable tone.  Impossible to dial in low overdrive, not that anyone who would buy this would.
  5. Value: 3 out of 5 stars.  Very average tone, but can be usable sometimes…. maybe. For under $30 if you want some silly crazy over the top distortion, then go for it.  Not for tone snobs, or those who do not have a mullet.  Hairspray not included.

Overall Rating 3.1 out of 5 stars.   You should be able to find one cheap for under $30.

Afterthought.  Boss (a division of Roland) has really come up with anything new and amazing for quite some time.  They had a few success stories with the DD-20 and loop station, but nothing like the hype EHX has created.  Boss has been stagnant entirely too long and need to release something new and innovative to remain competitive in the market.  EHX has an amazing drive for $10 more than the Boss Super Overdrive, which is a pretty average, hard to dial in pedal that sounds, just pretty average.

 

 

 

 

 

The KenBJammen 5 star ratings explained

March 5th, 2015

The KenBJammen 5 star ratings explained: I have had a few questions recently what I mean by 5 star, 4 star, etc..

So here is how I take my personal view and give it a star rating. Remembering that this is just my opinion based on information that I have at the time.

5 star – In this domain, this product or service is in the top 10% of products. There is little if any room for improvement in this area.

4 star – In this domain, the product or service is in the top 33% of products. There is room for improvement, but because of easily noted constraints on improvement, improvement may be very challenging or cost prohibitive for the manufacturer.

3 star – Average. The product or service does not shine, nor does it bring to a level of not purchasing the item because of the averageness. Common pitfalls in product or service should be easily rectified without burdensome costs but are not taken into consideration.

2 star – Below Average. The product or service is below acceptable standards. Any customer thinking reasonably should be annoyed at the product or service at this level. A 2 star rating in a certain domain does not mean I would suggest not to purchase an item or service, just that you should know that this area needs improvement.

1 star – Unacceptable. The product or service is unacceptable. Most all users would find that the product or service would not be to their standards. Most if not all buyers should be cautioned in purchasing a product with a 1 star rating in any domain.

½ stars. If a topic is somewhere in between a category, sometimes a ½ star will be given. This shows that it is better than the lower rating, but not quite to the higher rating.

Although ratings are by my personal experience, I will not rate below 3 stars something that I cannot test because it falls in a niche market that I do not have enough experience in.

JHS Modified EHX Soul Food Review.

March 4th, 2015

If you are a guitar player, I would hope that you are noticing the big play that ElectroHarmonix is making to be the king of the pedalboards. In the past year, EHX has released some significantly impressive pedals, nothing like the industry has seen in a long time.

One of the most recent releases the “Soul Food” is a Klon Centaur Clone (Aka Klon Klone). Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to play many Klon Klones and a Klon KTR, but have never touched the magic that is the original Klon. The Klon is a lower gain overdrive pedal. It is rumored that Bill Finnegan was able to wire up some sort of diode made from unicorn droppings. Whether that is true or not, the Klon is an amazing pedal and the Klones have been piling out of builders warehouses for the past few years, but nothing like they are now.

JHS Pedals is well known for their pedals and their controversy in the pedal industry. Prior to this review I had owned two different JHS pedals. The first being the Asto Mess. I purchased this locally. When I purchased it the store owner said if I didn’t like it I could return in up to 7 days no questions asked. So I played it for a few days, and returned it. When I returned it I thought of picking up a Devi fuzz and the store owner told me to save some time as the Asto was an exact copy of a certain Devi Fuzz. Whether true or not, that stuck with me for quite some time.

The second JHS pedal that I got was an Angry Charlie. Honestly, it is an okay pedal, but by that time I had already discovered Pedals By Tone. The PBT OD is a better overdrive, better tone response and on the oscilloscope shows better harmonic response. Strike two for JHS, although on a positive note, most JHS pedals resale very well.

*Editors note, the previous two paragraphs are not to dispute JHS pedals assertion that their designs are their own, it serves only to describe my personal experience with JHS pedals prior to owning the JHS modified EHX Soul Food. You may have different results than I do.

So, come to last fall when I picked up a EHX Soul Food. On it’s own it is an amazing pedal. Not that difficult to dial in, great low gain to semi-transparent overdrive. Reviewing many of the Klon Wars videos there is very little discernable difference between the EHX Soul Food and most Klon Klones. In the unmodified state, it is a killer pedal with rich harmonic saturation without the buzziness of higher gain pedals. It can easily be too bright or trebly and there is some bass response that is lost when the pedal is engaged, but it is very livable at the right setting.

In November I had the opportunity to purchase a JHS modified Soul Food new from JHS Pedals. So I did. The first concern that I had was the time to shipping. Their website quotes 1-2 weeks but it was not shipped in three, so  I contacted JHS. I got a very friendly response, but the pedal was not received until a month after it was ordered.

After receiving the JHS mod Soul Food, I wanted to take a look to compare the mod to the original. I noted that one of the screws on the backside had been stripped and unless I wanted to drill out the old screw and replace it, I wasn’t going to get inside this bad boy. That was okay, because I really got this for the tone (or the mystery tone).

The first thing I tried is to A/B compare the mod with the original in original mode. Hooked up to the oscilloscope and the “Meat Mod” knob turned all the way down, it is an exact duplicate as it says it is. In all frequencies tested, harmonic response was exactly duplicated. The reason I am mentioning this is this pedal is a good A/B test against itself. The “meat mod” is a bass knob to help round out the bass lost in the original circuit. That is a great addition if nothing else is added.

Switching to the “open clipping” was a little grainy and notched clipping can be seen in the oscilloscope early in the distortion cycle. It is a very usable setting, but to me not as pleasing as the stock with a little “meat.”

Where this mythical creature shines in in the Germanium Diode setting. It is hard to believe there is that much difference, but it tonally shines. Compared with the KTR Klon, there is very little sonically different when A/B’d. This pedal which is new under $150 is pretty spot on comparable with the $400+ plus KTR with the ability to add some low end. Some things to know about the JHS modified Soul Food.

This pedal is more sensitive to input levels that other gain pedals. Switching from a guitar with single coils to humbuckers is going to give you a drastic change in gain. Do not be afraid to turn your guitar down and slowly pull up your volume till you hit the sweet spot. This pedal will most likely play the best at the start of your signal chain. Putting a buffered pedal before this pedal will also alter the gain response and is not recommended.

Don’t overdo the meat. The meat control is very helpful, but be careful not to overdo it. It is as easy to overdo the meat control as it is the treble control. Additionally, I do not place the Mod Soul Food on the right side of my board as it could be too easy to bump the meat control, I place it where there is another pedal to the right (an unbufffered tuner). Very slight changes are audible with this pedal.

The hype is true. Going through my history of overdrive pedals that I have owned (somewhere between 50 and 70 different pedals, depending on what could be considered low gain pedals), this one is the best. I would venture to say a better deal than a KTR because there is more tweakability and the ability to beef up some low end.

For the purpose of this evaluation the following guitars and amplifiers were used and were able to achieve amazing tone:

Guitars, MSP Zebra Top, Fender American Deluxe Strat, Fender CS Relic Telecaster, Gibson LP standard, Gibson Firebird VII CS, Gretch Electromatic Duo Jet, Gibson ES-137.

Amps: Vox Night Train, Orange Mini-Terror, Orange Micro Terror, Fender Super Reverb silverface early 70’s, Fender Bassman 59 RI, Ibanez TS15AH, Mesa Mini Rec.

1. Delivery and Packaging: 4 out of 5 stars. Slow build equates to slow delivery. A 5 star company would have initiated contact prior to the shipment being delayed.

2. Visual Appearance: 5 out of 5 stars. Looks cool enough, switches are not too small or too big.

3. Construction: 4 ½ out of 5 stars. The original is solid but the rebuild had a stripped screw. If anything ever did go wrong I would have to send it somewhere to have it looked at.

4. Ease of use: 4 ½ out of 5 stars. Very touchy controls on original and meat controls means a learning curve to optimize output tone consistently. Learning curve not too bad, but might be a problem for someone not familiar with how a low gain overdrive works.

5. Tone: 5 stars out of 5 stars. From the JHS website “Centaur Mystery Meat Never Tasted So Good.” I agree 100%.

6. Communication: 3 out of 5. Delay in construction and delivery should be communicated to the customer timely

7. Value: 5 out of 5 stars. Probably the best low gain overdrive I have ever owned. Better than those costing 4 times as much.

Overall Rating 4.4 out of 5 stars.

A good investment if you want a tweakable Klon Klone.

 

*Update November 2015 – This pedal no longer functions.  Updates forthcoming.

StoneWork stone guitar picks Review summary

February 27th, 2015

Summary of StoneWorks Picks

This review has been really fun to write. Here is the summary of the individual characteristics that I look at for every product.

1. Delivery and Packaging: 5 out of 5 stars. Sent as expected, in bubble wrap mailer. I have to question a bubble wrap mailer, my goodness they are made out of stone what could happen, they get dropped? Their website tells you not to drop them on concrete.

2. Visual Appearance: 5 out of 5 stars. Cool looking picks. Just like any other cool looking stone. Great variety.

3. Construction: 5 out of 5 stars, Best stone picks I have ever felt in my life. I am very honored that I have the ability to do this review.

4. Ease of use: 4 ½ out of 5 stars. I am giving this 4 ½ stars due mainly to the learning curve from using a regular pick

5. Tone: 5 stars out of 5 stars. Tone from these picks is really neat. It gets the tone that it says it will get.

6. Communication: 5 out of 5. Great guy to communicate with, easy and returns emails quickly.

7. Value: 4 out of 5 stars. This was a very hard value to assign. The picks start at around $25 and go up from there. If you are prone to losing picks on a frequent basis, these picks can be a very expensive proposition.

Guitarists are always in search of the ultimate tone. Seeing that most guitarists use a pick that is 0.08% or less of the value of their guitar, it is now evident to me that this is the most overlooked aspect of tone. $25 may be a lot to spend on a pick, but we do not hesitate to spend $100, $200 or more on a new effect, or even more on a new amp or guitar. The tone circuit starts at the pick, goes through the guitar, the effects, the cable, the amp and the speakers. Any weak point can be a weak point.

Taking the previous comments into consideration, $25 does not seem much for a cable? Maybe high for a pick, but certainly well worth the cost.

Overall Rating 4.8 out of 5 stars. Beautiful picks, excellent tone, takes some getting used to, a tad bit pricey compared to standard cheap-o picks, but well well worth it.

StoneWork stone guitar picks Part 3

February 26th, 2015

Additional thoughts –

Up until I received these picks I had only heard of stone picks being used on acoustics. Most of the videos I had seen were acoustic players using a stone pick. This video was one I had actually watched about a month ago.

But never had I thought about using a stone pick on an electric guitar. After reviewing a few other youtube video’s I decided to give it a shot. I chose a readily available backing track on the internet. I chose a thinner StoneWorks Pick for this jam. This is the pick that I chose for this song

I wanted to see if I could get some serious artificial harmonics and wanted to see how the dynamics affected a dynamic filter.

http://burlapandblues.com/bluesblog/reviews/stonejam.mp3

Overall a pretty good clip. The pick performed excellently, no slippage, great harmonics, great speed.

Remember StoneWorks picks can be found on the internet herehttp://www.stoneworkspicks.com/. . .

Review equipment – Ibanez Jem 7V, StoneWorks guitar pick as above. Keeley Mod DS-1 into Mesa Boogie simulated amplifier.