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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Feature Gear Review : Analogmans Guide to Vintage Effects

Feature Gear Review : Analogmans Guide to Vintage Effects

(c) 2004 Tom Hughes. 280 pages; For Musicians Only Publishing
Review by Howard Davis

Within the past several years some trends have emerged on the guitar
effects scene. Among these are informative books on the subject for
electronics-enhanced musicians. I can't say I've read them all, but this
book is the best I've read.

What makes this book unique is its broad perspective - it fills in and
rounds out one's knowledge of effects pedal-related information. Musicians
usually know the most about the actual effects of their effects - how they
sound with their instruments and amps. Engineers and techs are most
familiar with the electronic technicalities, but do not always know much
about the history of the effects industry or see the stompbox from the
musician's viewpoint. Manufacturers see things mostly from the business
perspective, and collectors also have their specialized view - value and

The ANALOG MAN'S GUIDE TO VINTAGE EFFECTS opens one's eyes to the broad
role these devices play and have played in our music and culture. Here is
an industry of peace - one in which technology is applied purely for good,
for pleasure and entertainment. A wah-wah was never made to be a weapon,
nor a phaser turned into a hand-phazor. With these devices we create good
music, good vibes, good business. Let the malevolent and destructive go
elsewhere; we are about life, creativity, and joy!

The first four chapters give us the roots - historical, and particularly
fascinating to those that have lived through the evolution of electronics
from the radio and record player to today's music-oriented computer
applications. Individuals and companies that played a role in effects
development are discussed, as are landmark products like the Echoplex, Cry
Baby, and Fuzz Face. Electro-Harmonix, Mu-Tron, and MXR among others have
interesting histories, and whether still in business or not, have loyal and
appreciative fans that will enjoy the stories of their favorite music
industry giants and their creations. Musical pioneers like Jimi Hendrix and
Frank Zappa broke new ground with the stompox, and the stompbox evolved
with their historic careers.

There is much fascinating trivia as well as fact in this book. Did you know
that Clyde McCoy, the musician whose name was used for the very first
wah-wah pedal, was not a guitarist at all?

You can use stompboxes without understanding how they work, but without
such knowledge there would be no stompboxes. The illustrated EFFECTS
TECHNOLOGY chapter explains in simple, minimally technical terms exactly
how pedals do what they do. Good background information here for techs and
do-it-yourselfers! Following this is a directory of over 150 effects
manufactureres, most with lists of their products.

Chapter 7, "The State of the Stomp Today," discusses the burgeoning
boutique pedal market and some of the people making it happen. Sixteen
pages of color photos of pedals follow, some standards and some rare, an
illustrated list of "must haves" for the dedicated electronic musician and
the collector. "Mod Mania" details the increasingly popular trend towards
custom modifications that can greatly improve mass-produced pedals and
tailor them to individual tastes.

Ever hear of the EMS Synthi Hi-Fli, probably the very rarest of all vintage
pedals? Chapter 8, "Hen's Teeth," gives fascinating stories of many
rarities, some great and some duds, that give chronic GAS (gear acquisition
syndrome) to collectors and to guitarists seeking some lost-chord-like
sound they may have heard 20 years ago but just can't duplicate today.

Pedal naming is an art. It's hard to say who started with all the
outrageous names, but Mike Matthews of Electro-Harmonix is probably the
king of clever nomenclature. Among other things, chapter 9 raises the
question of how an EH Big Muff Pie would go with a Way Huge Swollen Pickle
or a Z-Vex Super Hard-On. Gotta love the music business, though some say
that you may go to Rock N' Roll Heaven, but this is Rock N' Roll Hell!

Towards the end of the book the information becomes even more practical. In
chapter 10 we are told how to date the manufacture of an old pedal from the
information on its parts - truly vital data for collectors or dealers in
used gear. Useful information on "tone sucking," bypass switching, power
supplies, and specific component part problems
follows, along with information on fixing noisy wah pots, purchasing parts,
and the specifics on a few known scams involving fake vintage pedals.

Interviews with famous manufacturers and design engineers follow,
reflecting a wide spectrum of personalities with but one thing in common -

In the ANALOG MAN'S GUIDE TO VINTAGE EFFECTS one can find some over- or
underemphasis of particular topics, individuals, and companies, and
possibly a few minor omissions, but I know of no other published work that
treats the subject of electronic guitar accessories as comprehensively as
this one does.

For more information on this book go to: