Sunday, December 05, 2004


Delays, delays....

As I mentioned a few days ago, I've been looking at delay pedals that can also do looping overdubs, and I'd narrowed down the choice to the Line6 DL-4 and the Boss DD-20. Since my travels this week took me past not one but two Guitar Center stores I decided to stop in and check things out. There was a Les Paul that momentarily distracted me (although amazingly enough for Guitar Center the salesman was willing to cut me a deal that would've saved me about $150 on the guitar), but it didn't really scream "take me home" at me (the honeyburst finish was a bit wishy-washy for my taste, and the sound was just OK). I suppose I'll have to wait till Xmas week and head down to Music Zoo in Queens to take a look at their stock of Les Pauls. My local dealer had a nice PRS Custom 24 that I liked yesterday, but I digress.

Since my local dealer had neither pedal in stock (he did have another Boss pedal that just did loops, but since I've kind of really gotten into Edge's sound lately I wanted one that had a fine-grained delay control). That's what cinched getting the Boss pedal for me, as when I got to GC and took a look at both pedals side-by-side, the digital readout of delay time was important, this way you can dial in whatever is the right delay (although of course you've got to agree on what the right tempo is; every so often at band rehearsal we have a funny conversation about whether the preceding song was too slow or fast, and of course trying to dial in a delay for U2 stuff could prove to be a load of laughs when you're trying to dope out tempo). The Line6 had loads of emulations of various echo units, which I really don't care about (the originals didn't sound all that great, if you ask me. The clincher came for me when I found myself totally fascinated with Tom Scholz's sound way back when, and I read that he used a heavily modified Echoplex. I saw Boston at the Garden back in '78, on the Don't Look Back tour, and the echo sound he got out of that thing was so cheesy wimpy, it really cooled my interest in Boston for anything other than hearing the first side - you do remember those on LPs, don't you? - of the first album, which still ranks as one of the finest pieces of 70s rock IMHO). However, the Line6 didn't have any sort of readout other than the positions of the knobs, and it just wasn't grabbing me.

The Boss pedal is a typical double-wide pedal from them, with a small LCD readout in the middle, along with a fine-grain control for setting the delay time. I just set it to its "standard" setting, dialed in 3-4 repeats, dialed in 425ms delay, and started in on "Pride (In The Name Of Love)". How'd I get 425ms? The song is usually reported as having a tempo of 106bpm, therefore a quarter note would be about 566 ms (60,000 / 106). Since Edge likes to use a dotted eighth note for a delay effect, a dotted eighth would be three quarters of that quarter note value (an eighth of course would be half, or 283ms). Sounded real good, even though I was only playing through headphones.

Next test was trying looping, and this is where it got interesting. The idea with looping of course is to set up some kind of base track over a few measures, record that using your delay line, then let that loop, solo over it, and perhaps overdub some of that solo to start layering or harmonizing sounds. I pulled out my Roland GR-33 guitar synth for this bit, and played a C-G-F-Am chord progression using a strings patch and set that to loop. Then, I set the GR-33 to a grand piano patch, and overdubbed the bass note of each chord onto that loop. It sounded great, except that I wasn't happy with the loop level (it sounded a bit too low for my taste, but since I didn't really tweak the delay that might be easily fixable) and the transition from the end of the loop back to the beginning was very abrupt. That could've been due to not letting notes ring enough, or being a bit off on timing my foot on the pedal. I'm pretty sure it was the latter, since I then put the Roland into a patch that emulated a Strat through a Roland JC120 amp, and started playing a simple G-C-D barre chord progression (the "Sloopy" chords, but I was playing it with a different rhythm) over 8 bars, and I got that transition pretty smooth. I then flipped the Roland over to a sax patch, and played something vaguely Clarence Clemons-ish over the progression, then started going a bit crazy with adding in some other horn and organ patches. By the time I was finished it sounded like a big old horn band, even though it was just me and the Brian Moore/Roland combo. Unfortunately, I hit a bum note in the last layer, hit the off switch, and there it went, into the bit bucket. Gotta try that one again.

The pedal itself is built solidly, typical Boss construction. Since I've only messed with it for a couple of hours I can't comment yet on how long the batteries will last. One minor annoyance which may not be one for everyone is that if an AC adapter isn't used, the pedal will turn itself on when a guitar cable is inserted into the input. There's no separate on/off switch ala the old Electro Harmonix pedals or the big Boss ME-50 multi-effects unit, and the documentation sort of implies that hitting the foot pedal will turn the power on and off (if you read it carefully, it actually does describe the pedal's behavior accurately, but being an impatient sort who didn't want to RTFM, I was momentarily concerned). LEDs are nice and bright, but I don't think the display is backlit (there's that RTFMing again), so that might be a pain on stage. Then again, there are plenty of preset slots you can program, so unless you're going nuts changing delay times around you probably won't be impacted.

So far it looks like a nice box.


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