Witty? Yes. Offensive? Only if you have no sense of humour.
Witty? Yes. Offensive? Only if you have no sense of humour.
Glenn Cullen finally ditches passive aggression for the real thing, in Series 4, Episode 7 of the Thick of It.
Glenn Cullen: Come on out everyone! Tally-ho! [yodels] COME ON, BRING OUT YOUR FUCKING DEAD! Right, everybody listen, I’ve got an announcement to make!
That’s called burning your bridges.
I occasionally sift the wheat from the chaff of my survivors, to ensure that I’ve not missed one of them surreptitiously slipping off this mortal coil. There is, at the time of writing, a plucky band of 18 remaining and these good people really are hanging on in there, with an average age of ninety and a half – that half is all important, at both ends of the age scale.
Having seen some recent photographs of a few of them, I believe I’ll be due a couple more points this year, since there’s little holding them together bar the plastic surgeons’ most recent intervention. Being rich and famous, they have access to the best medical attention money can buy, so there may be many years of waiting to see the final few to fight it out. Hell, I could go before the last couple on here!
One shouldn’t have really have favourites but my money’s on Prince Philip to go next.
BB King 88
This month’s full moon has been the talk of the planet, given it’s orbit’s current close position to the earth providing the illusion of a much larger appearance.
Well here in Edinburgh any decent view has been occluded by the usual conspiracy of clouds and rain.
How significant we are!
I originally bought a Fender Mustang II modelling amp when I bought the Telecaster, as it was tremendous value and the on-line reviews were excellent. Being an IT bod, I was initially attracted by the ability to dial in, combine and modify the range of modelled historical amps and the wide range of effects. This can be achieved on the amp itself but even more easily by connecting it to a computer and using Fender’s Fuse software. Fuse enables you to download and install a myriad of sounds and settings which other Mustang users have spent time creating. These cover all manner of musical genres and are often attempts to replicate, with varying degrees of success, the sounds of particular artists at different stages of their careers, for example Eric Clapton in the late sixties.
The Mustang is very loud, being rated at 40 watts. Even with the master volume set to a lowly 3, the volume is probably too loud for my neighbours, as my scales, finger exercises and chord changes pass through the walls, sometimes working well, sometimes sounding very raggedy.
However, the Mustang began to sound artificial to my ears after using it for a couple of months. The very versatility of having so many “bells and whistles” at one’s disposal began to intrude into my practising and playing, since tweaking the buttons to find my desired tone became a time consuming and distracting occupation.
The lack of a screen on the amp, which is present on the more expensive 100W Mustang III, means that you cannot always tell what amp model you are using and what effects are active. I ended up producing and referring to a crib sheet, so I could work my amp. Hmmm… not what I wanted.
While there are some excellent tones, especially on the clean Fender amp models from the 50s and 60s, very often the effects are over done and sound artificial. You can attenuate them but without having a computer attached the whole time, the process is hit and miss, as you have to remember which dial position relates to which of the 12 modulation effects and 12 reverb effects are active. The fact that when you change one of the main 24 presets, the modulation effects and reverb buttons may not actually be pointed at what is active, just causes confusion and annoyance, and of course more tweaking.
My needs are simple. I wanted easily adjustable reverb and a warmer, clean tone than I could find even after fiddling with all those buttons and tweaking the downloads. The option after much research was a valve amp. The lure of the tube being strong.
I bought a Blackstar HT-1R to join, or possibly replace, the Mustang II. That’s the little Blackstar box on top of the bigger Blackstar box, more of which later.
I’d done my homework and knew that the HT-1R is a small, 1 watt tube or valve amp, specifically designed for home practice or studio recording. 1 watt of valve power is easily loud enough for domestic use in a flat, although removing such a small amp from the shipping box was still quite a shock. The other main design criteria is that it’s possible to overdrive the valves, if you want to obtain crunch and over-driven tones, without annoying the neighbours at ear blistering volume.
The HT-1R is very simple. You have an input, a clean channel or an over-driven channel (press the wee button), gain, volume, a tone control and reverb. That’s all the controls you need to achieve a variety of excellent tones. There are also a couple of other interfaces, for headphones or connecting to a recording suite, an input for your digital audio player so you can play along with your favourite artistes and songs, and finally a speaker out to connect to a separate speaker cabinet.
Listening to your playing on the headphone socket, is a pure delight on this amp, as the sound is emulated to reproduce what would happen if you hooked the amp up to a 4×12 cabinet. It’s fantastic. Balance your guitar volume with the input from the digital audio player and you can jam along your favourite players without embarrassment at the bum notes, wrong tempo and general lack of skill – get it right and you are playing with Eric or Jimi or Roy!
The contrast between my favourite clean tone on the Mustang, with that compared to the HT-1R is rather difficult to describe without hearing it in person, but the best I can do is to say that the valve amp is warmer, more alive and responsive than the solid state Mustang. The sound feels real rather than contrived or digitally manufactured.
When practising, I set the amp to gain to 9 o’clock (barely on,) the volume full up, the ISF EQ also to 9 o’clock, which is a clean “American” tone compared to 3 o’clock which is a much raunchier “British” tone (think Fender compared to Marshall) and the reverb is set at 1 o’clock. I like having a goodly dollop of reverb and the HT-1R has an excellent, albeit digital, reverb. I can set it high, as the amp only has an 8” speaker the sound from which benefits from the extra “space” the reverb imparts. The volume is on full because on the clean channel the HT-1R, with the gain set low, is quiet; almost too quiet. This is the famed “headroom” which is defined as the amount of clean volume you have available, before the amp distorts. With the low gain, I set for a clean, clean tone, I’m banging my head up against the ceiling mostly all the time.
Volume is NOT a problem when you press the over-drive button to select that over drive channel. The volume knob has to come down so as not to annoy. It’s still a pleasant, fairly clean tone with the gain at a low setting but I actually prefer to remain on the clean channel and use my Blues Driver pedal as a booster, which gives more volume on a truly clean channel. If I need a little crunch, I can up the gain. I find this approach less metallic than using the amp’s over drive channel, which is probably too harsh for my desired blues tone. Yet the ability to produce crunch and raucous over-driven sounds at domestic volumes makes the HT-1R very popular with rockers, shredders and metalists, if I can term them so.
A downside of the HT-1R is having one 8” speaker, means the sound is lacking some bass and can be a little boxy. In contrast, the Fender has a 12” speaker and is noticeably bassier. So the final tweak to obtain the sound I wanted was to output the amp through a speaker cabinet. Blackstar produce two cabs which I thought would work well with the HT-1R, a 1×12 and a 4×8. I opted for the latter as this offered a multi-speaker effect and a bigger tonal range; it shifts more air than a single 12″ speaker.
Plugging in the cabinet made all the difference. The bass is better but the mids and highs are still there. It’s also far less directional than either the Fender or the amp using its internal speaker alone. It’s not necessarily louder but the tone is better. I now have the perfect tone that I was after. I can boost the quiet clean channel to practice and play along with just the right level of volume. I’ll hang onto the Fender for the remote occasions I want to muck about, but the HT-1R and 4×8 cabinet bring my Telecaster to life.
Now I need to practice, practice, practice!
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