Vaughn's Musical Notation

ET65 vs ET90 Is There a New King?

5
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Holy cow has this one been coming for a LONG TIME!  Yep, that’s EXACTLY the opening sentence from my last blog (Blackhawk vs Blackhawk HP) … but, well, it rings just as true.  The ET65 has been a favorite of mine since day one, and it’s new big-brother the ET90 has also really caught my attention, so I’m not quite sure how it is that this particular shootout slipped by me, but it did.  Sure, I’d done some side-by-side listening myself, but just never got around to filming it for public consumption.  Until now!  It’s a done deal, and here it is.

SPOILER ALERT!  If you don’t want to know the results then stop reading now and play the video.  If you want the short-n-sweet version of the results, here it is:

Tone: The ET65 had a fair amount more lower midrange warmth in the 200-600hz range, and more of a vintage organic tone.  The ET90 had a bit more of a modern tone, more filled out on top & bottom.  This remained quite consistent with all levels of dirt and with all pickup settings.

Volume:  Not much apparent difference even with various amounts of dirt.

Touch Sensitivity: Again, pretty much the same.

Okay, that’s it, here’s the video … please post your comments, this one was a close one for me!

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Blackhawk vs Blackhawk HP – High Power AlNiCo Guitar Speaker Shoot-out!

5
Average: 5 (3 votes)

Holy cow has this one been coming for a LONG TIME!  Truth is, I haven’t had a Blackhawk HP available for a shootout until now.  I’m not gonna waste your time with a bunch of talk; we’ll get right to the shootout video asap.  I will say this, the tone of the HP surprised me a little, as it was a fair bit brighter than the regular Blackhawk, and I usually expect high-power speakers to be somewhat dull.  The HP had more prominent upper-midrange in the 2-3kHz range, whereas the regular Blackhawk had more dominant lower-midrange in the 200-400Hz range.  As far as apparent overall volume (sens.), they were dead-on with one another. It is important to point out, however, that the HP model was fresh out of the box, and the regular model had probably 20+ hours of play time … so the HP model may “warm-up” a little with break-in.  Okay, that’s it, here’s the video … please post your comments!

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The New Home Entertainment - Free yourself of the Cables that BIND you!

5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Hi y’all!  This blog harkens back to the early days of this forum … when I pulled out my soapbox and blogged about whatever crossed my mind!  What’s been crossing my mind lately?  Television.

The New Home Entertainment -  Free yourself of the Cables that BIND you!

How many of you all out there hate your cable TV company?  Yea, that’s what I thought.  Holy crap, has there ever been such a MONOPOLY in American history?  Their service sucks, they keep raising rates, and man … even though you pay hundreds of bucks a month to them … you STILL have to sit through seemingly endless COMMERCIALS in your favorite shows, and receive the worst customer care in the world.  Worst part?  We’d all choose a different option … but there are no different options.  Comcast owns the cable to your house, and no one else can access it.  Sounds like “Ma Bell” before IT was broken up by our government as a monopoly … but Ma Bell was NEVER as bad as the cable companies.  Her rates didn’t go up practically every month, and her customer-service people were the best (remember “hello, operator speaking”?).  It seems inevitable that Comcast and the other cable monopolies will eventually be labeled as the monopolies they are and broken-up.  But what do we do until then?

My solution has two parts.

Part one: Get a nice, big antenna. 

CUT CABLE!! -  Free yourself of the Cables that BIND you!

Choose one according to where you live.  Folks in urban areas won’t need nearly as high-powered an antenna as those in rural areas.  To find out just EXACTLY what stations broadcast for FREE in your area (there are more than ever), go to http://www.tvfool.com/.  In the Nashville area, I get about 25 channels.  HD quality is actually BETTER than cable on most stations as they are not trying to cram so much crap down a single coax cable!  I bought my antenna from Crutchfield … the last great audio/video company with EXCELLENT customer service.  I put it in the attic right next to where our cable line entered the house, and simply plugged ITS output in where the cable was coming in, and now IT fed all our televisions.  Now we got all the “major” networks, PBS, and a host of indie networks, all complete with their extra digital streams, totally free.  Yep, we became cable cutters. Almost.

Part Two:  Roku, Apple TV, and Magic Jack.  This is where it kinda sucks … because you STILL need an internet connection.  In our case the only real option for internet with acceptable speed is … you guessed it … the cable company.  In my case, I chose Comcast “Business Class” internet, which has a whole different “team” than the regular home division.  Better reliability, better install folks, better customer service.

For my home business phone lines, I went with Magic Jacks … and they have both been rock solid for nearly two years now.  That’s phone service on two lines for $30 a YEAR!  For TV / video-on-demand, I tried every streaming box I could get my hands on, and for us the clear winner was the ROKU.  We now have three of them, one in my office, one in the bedroom, and one in the living room. 

CUT CABLE TV!-  Free yourself of the Cables that BIND you!

For $16/month (the cost of Netflix & Hulu), we now have EVERYTHING we could ever want, when combined with what we get for free over the air.  I might mention that we also have one Apple TV box, which works SOOO cool, but it doesn’t have nearly the channels as the Roku.

Okay, so let’s get to the best part: the savings breakdown:

With the cable company: TV (that got the channels I wanted), internet, and 2 phone lines was $225/month by the time they add the seemingly endless and very cryptic fees and taxes on.

Now, the same services cost $92/month ($70 for Biz Class internet, $8 for Hulu, $8 for Netflix, and about $6 for the magic Jacks … although I actually bought 5-years of service on them at once).

So what can I do with an extra $133 a month?  Buy guitar goodies, of course :-)

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Vaughn Skow Amps – Quest for the Ultimate Speaker

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Average: 5 (3 votes)

So this week finds me once again looking for YOUR advice!  I’m just now putting the finishing touches on the first “production-run” of ten of my Vaughn Skow amps.  Four of them will be 1x8 combos, and they will, of course, be outfitted with WGS G8C’s … there has NEVER been an 8” speaker that sounds this HUGE, juicy, and NOT BOXEY!  So, that’s an easy decision … but, what about in the 1x12 combos, where I have SO MANY choices?

First, it was an easy decision to go with WGS speakers exclusively (except for a possible true vintage speaker on special occasion); no other company even comes close!  American made speakers with impeccable tone at unbelievable prices!  But which specific models should I offer?

Because of my lengthy and thorough time spent with all the speakers … and in a great number of amps … I was able to narrow the field down to my perennial favorites in 1x12 tube combos.   

First, the Black & Blue, which seems like a perfect fit for a 15-watt combo.  But it’s not, really, because this combo has a lot of filtering and can easily push the B&B out of its comfort zone … so I’ll stick to only offering this in my 10-watt versions.

So, the logical choice is the Blackhawk!  My, oh my how I love this speaker in nearly all applications.  If only AlNiCo material were not so very expensive!  So, for ceramic (ferrite) options…

The ET-90: My new favorite all-around winner in the ceramic category … everything the ET-65 is, but with a little more … for lack of a better word, “balls”.

The G12C/S: This smooth-cone speaker brings out uber-warm smoky twee-tones in spades, but also has a very tight bottom end, and a silky (but somewhat muted) top end.

The Retro 30: A clear winner for having both Fender-ish top-end chime and a VERY solid bottom end!

So, this little video was really just for me … but boy, oh boy would I LOVE to hear you all’s thoughts.  So, please, comment away!  I’ll take it all into consideration, I promise :-)

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Spring Reverb Pedals – Help a Brother Out!

5
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Hey WGS friends!  This blog finds me needing YOUR help.  I often play Fender Super Reverbs and Vibrolux Amps on gigs … but plan to start using my Bassman, Bandmaster, and my own new combos more (All no-verb amps); and so, I’ve decided I need to add a verb pedal to my board.  Mostly, I just want good spring verb … something close to what I’m used to in my “Holy Grail” Fender’s.

So … without wasting any more time, here’s the video.  Ya’ll let me know your thoughts.  Would you all say one might suffice?  Do they all suck?  Do they all ROCK?  Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what they ARE???

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Digitech Bad Monkey, Ultimate Tube Screamer?

5
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Digitech Bad MonkeyI’ve managed to collect some seriously cork-sniffer level gear over the last few decades, but make no mistake: I am absolutely NOT a gear-snob.  No way.  Not even a little bit.  My philosophy is this: a piece of gear is fully awesome if it does what you need it to, and does it well … regardless of price.  So, using that convention, let’s talk monkey … BAD Monkey!

I’m a Tube Screamer guy.  Oh sure, I dig Fuzz tones and straight-up distortion on certain tunes, but it’s the ubiquitous mid-heavy tube tone of the Tube Screamer type pedals that serve as my go-to dirt pedals.  Over the decades, I’ve owned almost every T-S type pedal ever produced, from the original 808’s and Maxon’s to the cheap knock-offs, to the modern boutique re-creations.  The one that has found a permanent (for now) place on both of my gigging pedal boards is the under-rated Digitech Bad Monkey.   Now, for those of you out there who really ARE gear snobs (or at least pedal snobs), I’m sure you find this to be utter heresy, so please, let me explain.  Here are my reasons:

  1. Like I said, I’m NOT a gear snob, and seriously, I LOVE getting a good deal, and I HATE paying more than I need to, especially when the more expensive product actually is lame by comparison.
  2. Pedals take a LOT of abuse … for God’s sake; we “stomp” on them with our feet!  Why on earth would anyone put a $400 pedal in harm’s way on a grungy club stage when a $40 pedal can nail the desired tone as well or better?
  3. Yea, I love, love, love the characteristic mid-heavy throaty vibe of a T-S, but sometimes, I NEED to balance lows and/or highs with that big mid-boost; the “typical” tube screamer just CAN NOT do that with it’s simple high roll-off tone control.  The separate bass and treble controls on the Bad Monkey can do that, and can provide so much more tone sculpting than just a “tone” control alone.
  4. The separate “amp emulated” output of a Bad Monkey can be a gig-saver, and for me it was just that on one occasion.  When my well-worn blackface Super Reverb showed up DOA for a club gig, I was able to get a passable tone from the “amp-sim” output of the Bad Monkey DI’d into the PA.  At that gig, all I had was the Bad Monkey and a Cry Baby, and I survived just fine. Not something you could do with any other T-S type pedal!
  5. Like all Digitech pedals, the Bad Monkey (I don’t think I should abbreviate it B-M … if you know what I mean) is built like a tank and is utterly reliable.
  6. I like the form-factor.  The big rubber switch that engulfs nearly the entire forward half of the pedal is something I rarely miss … even when I was a hard-drinking chap! And, the knobs are positioned and recesses so as to make breaking them off something that you almost can’t do by “accident”.
  7. The TONE.  The biggie, of course!  Every point up to this one would be moot if the thing sounded like crap, but it doesn’t.  In fact, the Bad Monkey sounds more like a vintage 808 than most any other “clone” out there.

Okay, so there are a few caveats I should mention: 

  1. The Bad Monkey REALLY sounds like a vintage TS-808; a lot of the modern T-S type pedals have upped the maximum dirt available way beyond that of the original Tube Screamer, if that’s what you want; look elsewhere.  The Bad Monkey actually provides just a tad LESS available “distortion” than an original TS-808.
  2. In real life, it looks even cheesier than it does in pictures.  I mean seriously, it’s downright stupid looking.
  3. It’s not true-bypass, but don’t worry TOO MUCH about that, “True-Bypass” gets a lot more credit than it deserves!
  4. There are no bragging rights associated with having a Bad Monkey on your board.  Nope.  In fact, other guitar players may actually joke about it behind your back. 

A final thought:  Like darn-near every pedal out there, there are several mods available for the Bad Monkey.  To my ears, none of them really improve the tone … again IF you actually LIKE the TS-808 sound, so I recommend you just forgo them.  However, if you replace the LED with some alternative color and put some kind of a “modded” sticker on it … then caveat #4 becomes null-and-void :-)

Here is my #2 pedal board, used exclusively for playing direct with in-ear monitors. It's quite a mix of high-end, mid-range, and downright inexpensive pedals ... with the Bad Monkey most certainly in the latter catagory!ultimate guitar pedal board pedalboard

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Silvertone 1482, Poor Man’s Deluxe?

5
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Silvertone 1484

Hi gang, and welcome to 2014.  My world has been seriously Silvertone lately.  First, I got to review the “new” vintage reissue Silvertone guitars for Vintage Guitar Magazine, then I wrote a feature story on the history of Silvertone electric guitars, and just last week I had a vintage mid-60s Silvertone model 1482 combo amp on my bench.  Don’t tell the folks at Fender, but I’m kinda turning into just a little bit of a Silvertone guy!  In case you don’t know, the 1482 is rated at 15-watts with a pair of 6V6’s in the output stage, and has kool 60’s shagadelic power-tube tremolo.  I’ve seen it referred to as “the poor man’s blackface Deluxe”. Let’s talk a little about what I learned from my time “inside” the 1482.  Sound like fun?  Yeah!

First a confession:  Before working on this amp, I’d never so much as peeked inside a Silvertone amp.  Don’t know why, but life just never took me in that direction.  Okay, with that disclaimer outta the way, let’s dig in.

This amp belongs to my buddy and notable Nashville Guitar Slinger Brad Sample.  Brad brought it in because it “just didn’t sound right”.  It had a certain amount of yucky fuzziness at all volumes, and it had been suggested that it needed a “thorough going-over by a good tech”.  I put her up on the bench, brad played just a note or two, and I turned the amp off.  “I know what’s wrong” I said, “the speaker’s blown”. And it was.  This is ever so common amongst “budget” amps of that era.  If an amp was rated at 15 watts RMS, they felt they were doing fine fitting it with a 15-watt rated speaker.  Shoot, who on earth would ever push an amp beyond its design specs, anyway, right?  Ha!  Can you say “overdrive pedal”?  This is why I always recommend that folks who plan to actually USE a vintage amp for regular gigging remove the original speakers, put them safely in a box for safe keeping, and replace them with something that they won’t fry! 

Silvertone 1484 with WGS ET-65 Speaker Upgrade

Brad just happened to have on hand a “one-of-a-kind” black ET-65 that, as he put it was “made for the 1482”.  So, as far as the speaker is concerned, he’s good to go.  But …

The old gal had a few other issues.  Truth be told, these amps look to me like they were NEVER really built to take the rigors of serious professional use.  And of course, they in fact were not.  They were sold through the Sears-Roebuck catalog to an almost exclusively amateur demographic.  Be that the case, they are still cool as heck in a “definitely NOT a Fender” kind of way.

Here are a few factors that distinguish these amps as most certainly not resembling Fenders in any way.

  1. The cabinet.  Finger-jointed ¾” pine?  No way, baby, it’s more like medium density cardboard butt-jointed and glued.
  2. The speaker baffle.  Plywood?  Nope.  Once again, barely above ¼” cardboard.  In the case of this amp … and I’d guess most of them … this baffle was just about disintegrated and needed to be beefed up with actual plywood.
  3. The chassis. This was downright amazing.  It was simply a L-shaped piece of aluminum, held in place by three small wood-screws.  No support, and free to flex like mad!Silvertone 1484 Chassis Capacitors
  4. Turret board electronics?  Nope!  It was heath-kit “build it yourself” style point-to-point wired.  Where one component ends, the next begins.  This was a real problem when combined with the previous point about the chassis, because when that chassis flexed, the components literally got yanked apart!  In the case of this amp, the carnage was limited to one orange-drop capacitor.
  5. Filter Caps.  (or lack thereof).  I’d literally NEVER seen an amp with this little filtering.  I mean, even an original 1940’s 6-watt Fender Champion had more filtering.  If you’re looking for bottom-end that falls apart in a hurry, well, this is a good way to accomplish it.

So having pointed all this out, you might begin to believe that I downright dislike the little Silvertone combo … but you would be ever so wrong.  Truth is I flat out LOVE it.  But!  I believe it’s important to understand what it is, and what it is not.  First, it certainly is NOT a poor man’s Deluxe!  It’s also probably not a very good choice for a hard-gigging player.  What it is is an amp that can dish out knarrley, raunchy, 60’s garage-band rock tones in a way that will NEVER EVER be produced by any form of “modeling”.  You just can’t model that level of imperfection.  All of the shortcuts and cost-saving measures employed in the design and construction of this amp add up to an amp of unrivaled glorious imperfection.  This is the antithesis of  hard-hitting gut-kicking scooped-mids nu-metal tones … it hits with a fluffy velvet glove and has a big-fat mid-section even a middle-aged Italian mob boss would be hard-pressed to best.

And, when it comes right down to it, no other amp is “sexy” in quite the same way.

Silvertone 1484 1485

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Christmas Past Meets New-Years Sneak-Peek!

5
Average: 5 (3 votes)

Ho Ho Ho from the frozen north land … of WGS.  Okay, that’s corny, but hey, ‘tis the season to be silly … fa la la la, la la la la!  I hope Santa brought all of y’all a bunch of super-cool guitar goodies.

As I reflect upon 2013 (wow, we’re already “reflecting” on 2013) I gotta say that, while the year has not been without it’s challenges … it was a banner year for WGS.  We’ve released some new models, which in itself would be no big deal, but oh, what awesome models they are.  The ET90 is a big wow-factor speaker that more than delivers on its promise to take the ever-loved and ever-popular ET65 into new territory, and the little G12Q is quite possibly the best sounding low-wattage, small magnet lightweight vintage 12 this side of 1965. 

Also new for 2013 is WGS’s worldwide acclaim.  The U.S. and most of the “western” world have known of the superior tone and quality of WGS speakers for years now; in 2013, however, the gospel of tone has found its way into most every nation on the face of the earth.  In an era of decline among most American manufacturers, WGS stands out as a phenomenal story of success.  Don’t ya just love it when the hard-working, good natured underdog comes out on top?  It’s sort of the “feel-good” story of the year :-)

And now on to the sneak-peek I promised.   In 2014 I will officially launch my own all-tube amp line, creatively named after myself!  (Hey, if Leo Fender can do it…)  These amps have been nearly 40 years in the making, since I tore my first cassette deck apart at age nine to turn it into a guitar amp.  They actually sport a logo I first used on drawings of amps I dreamed of building at about age 14.  Those amps looked like the proverbial “wall of Marshalls” so famous in the late 70’s.  The amps I actually have ended up building bear little resemblance to those dreams of youth.  However they do, in fact, bear much resemblance to the Woody, Tweed, and Brown Fender amps that were among the first amps I owned and grew up playing through.  As the amps mature, I’ll do my best to keep y’all informed of the progress.  For now, here is a sneak-peek of three models: A 12” combo, an 8” combo, and a head.  All sound downright amazing, and I’ll be using WGS speakers exclusively, of course (except for possibly a true vintage speaker from the 60’s from time to time).  The 12” combo, with a Black & Blue Alnico sounds fat and brilliant in a way never before experienced, and already has enough pre-orders to keep me busy for the first part of 2014 … but the 8” combo is the real startling surprise.  After hearing the amazing luxurious tone of the 1x12’s, I almost didn’t continue with my plans to build a “champ sized” 1x8” combo; I’m SOOO glad I gave it a shot.  The combination of an extremely fat & juicy, very vintage amp and unique tube complement with a cabinet of hand-selected finger-jointed pine and walnut, slightly oversize from a traditional tweed Champ, and outfitted with the WGS 8” results in the biggest, warmest, fattest, juiciest little combo the world has ever known.  Okay, enough tooting my own horn!  Here are the first pics :-)  Talk to y’all in 2014!

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Vaughn Skow 1x12 Tube Combo amp

Vaughn Skow 1x12 Tube Combo amp

Vaughn Skow 1x12 Tube Combo amp

Vaughn Skow 1x12 Tube Combo amp

Vaughn Skow 1x12 Tube Combo amp

Vaughn Skow 1x12 Tube amp

Vaughn Skow 1x12 Tube amp

Vaughn Skow 1x12 Tube amp

Vaughn Skow 1x8 Tube Combo amp

Vaughn Skow 1x8 Tube Combo amp

The Awesome Fender Supersonic 22 gets Even More Awesome!

5
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Fender Supersonic 22

Hi speaker friends!  Today I deliver on the promised Supersonic speaker shootout.  First off, I gotta say that this amp probably makes my top-10 list of all time.  It’s an absolutely marvelous little Deluxe Reverb sized grab-n-go amp that will fit many gigging situations with nothing more than a guitar and a cable.  It’s cleans can hang in there with the very best vintage blackface cleans, and it’s gain channel is probably the best you will EVER find in a stock Fender amp.  The spring verb is, once again, second to NONE, and the boost and effects loop switches on the included 4-button footswitch really nail the “no pedal board necessary” vibe.  If, like me you just gotta have a delay (I think of reverb and delay as the audio equivalent of meat & potatoes … while chorus, phasing, flanging and the like are but mere spice) … then it’s oh-so easy to keep a delay pedal in the back of the amp hooked up to the efx loop and switched with the amps footswitch … so ELEGANT!

Okay, now on to the speaker upgrade shootout.  Here is where I need to come clean and say that I was dead wrong going into this shootout.  I thought I LOVED this amp just as she is, but it turns out that amp-love can be a fickle thing; once I heard her with the proper speaker, I find I can never go back to loving her just the way she was.  Does this make me a bad person?

Okay, anyway.  On this one, I’m not going to give away which speaker I perceived as the winner … you’re just going to have to watch the video to find out.  Truth is, ALL the speakers I tried sounded better.  The real surprise to me was in the amazing improvement in the “burn” channel.  That channel actually was what I would consider a total transformation with the right speaker.  Okay, so now that I’ve teased you enough, let’s roll the video.  Please, please, please post your comments here and let me know your thoughts on this very close shootout.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Az9BG21ZzHw&feature=youtu.be

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Give Thanks For Cyber Monday!

5
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Hidy-ho fair blog neighbors and a big-ol’ southern Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you!  Before going any further, watch this awesome video to put you in the proper mood:

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90IFOJM7pnM)

Wow!  How about that???  Keith Richards sharing a mic with George Harrison!  Like I said … WOW!

I pen these words the day after Thanksgiving, and maybe it’s just the Turkey talking, but I’m feeling awfully thankful.  I’m Thankful for my family, thankful for the music that flows through me, and most of all I’m thankful to be living in the USA.  Oh, and for all of you out there that may be in the market for a speaker upgrade, you have something to be thankful for, too: THE WGS BLACK FRIDAY till CYBER MONDAY SALE, 2013 … just use code WGS2013 at checkout!

feeling thankful now?

See ya next week with my super-cool, super-long Fender Supersonic speaker shootout.

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