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Electro-Harmonix KEY9 Key 9 Electric Guitar Single Effect
Electro-Harmonix KEY9 Key 9 Electric Guitar Single Effect
Price: $221.30
32 used & new from $210.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Key9 pedal: Constrained, quirky, unique, March 21, 2016
[To get useful info out of these reviews, be sure to change the "All Formats" drop-down to filter to the pedal you're considering. Otherwise, you're reading a crazy mashup of comments on four very different EHx pedals.]

This is the most diverse of EHx's "-9" pedals, unless you count their newer MEL9 Mellotron emulator. The Key9 has serious design limitations for live performance, so you might want to consider a different electric-piano/mallets emulator for your guitar. Whoops, there aren't any! The limitations (with workarounds below):

(1) You can't save presets' parameters, nor footswitch among the models. (The way you can on EHx's POG2 and Ravish Sitar pedals.) So, to shuffle among models onstage, you have to bend down and turn knobs. Not stage-friendly.

(2) No expression-pedal input. So you can't vary the pace of the built-in flanger/tremolo effects as you play. Meaning, you might want to add time-based effects using downstream pedals that are more flexible.

(3) The single organ model, and the marimba model, each have an octave-down voice that suddenly jumps in when you play below A 220 (your A string's 12th fret = D string's 7th fret, etc.). And unlike with the handful of piano models that do the same thing, you can't dial this out. I think it was meant to fatten bass roots for chugging chords, but it makes these two models mostly unusable for improvising – you have to worry about a second octave suddenly sprouting if you play below a certain range.

Other than those quirky limitations, I like this quirky pedal. All the models track very well. The electric-piano and vibes models sound convincing enough to my ear, both clean and distorted. (It helps to play them 100% wet – no dry guitar tone.)

The Tri-Chorus model is a nice surprise: If you dial the speed down nearly to zero, you can get a very sweet softened attack that approximates a pedal-steel guitar. The marimba and steel-drum models offer different chirpy envelopes, whose possibilities I'm still evaluating.

There are workarounds to the limitations: For at least crude real-time control, you can buy a hardware-store 5/8" (internal diameter) chair-leg cap. This will fit over any of the stock knobs, on any of EHx's -9 pedals, allowing you to (sort of) twist the knob with your foot. You could put this on the knob that controls modulation speed or depth, or on the knob that switches models. But on only one knob per pedal – because the cap's whole purpose is to make one knob higher than all its neighbors.

For the octave-below sprout, the workaround is to add a dual-band compressor, or a tunable 2-band EQ, in front of this pedal. Set the crossover point near A 220, and set the high-frequency band significantly hotter than the lows. This basically dials out the suboctave. Fringe benefits are that several of the models (pianos, organ) sound more convincing with compression, and that favoring high frequencies opens up some of the murkier models.

For this, I'm use either my DigiTech Bass Squeeze 2-band compressor, or a 2-band EQ model on my Zoom MS-100BT MultiStomp. Line 6 POD multi-FX pedals usually have an "X-over" model that serves the same purpose.

The broader point: EHx sells these -9 pedals as self-contained, providing one modulation effect per model. But they really sound better with other pedals ahead and behind: Virtually all the organ models (including those on the B9 and C9 pedals) sound more convincing after a compressor. And placing more-flexible, time-based effects downstream gives you more options, especially if they include an expression pedal.

I'm pleased with this purchase, but I have a hunch that a future version will be much more performance-friendly. As with EHx's B9 and C9 organ pedals, storeable and footswitchable presets would add a lot, as would expression-pedal control over the modulation effects. Also, the organ model thrown in here is troublesome for improvisers – unless you add the dual-band-pedal workaround, you're not really getting an organ pedal for free.

Final note: For less than the cost of any single EHx pedal in this -9 series, you can buy a compact, lightweight Yamaha or Casio keyboard that will perform most of the keyboard sounds from the whole series, more convincingly than the pedals do. Because they're...keyboards. The only reason to buy these pedals is if you want keyboardish sounds from your guitar.

Peavey Vypyr VIP 2 - 40 Watt Modeling Instrument Amplifier
Peavey Vypyr VIP 2 - 40 Watt Modeling Instrument Amplifier
Offered by 24 Hours Stop
Price: $199.00
31 used & new from $165.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Decent modeling amp with some funusual effects, March 13, 2016
This Amazon page crazily mashes up reviews of 3 very different Vypyr models, as if their wattage were the only difference. It's not. So, to get useful information, change the "Filter by:...All formats" drop-down, to show only the model you're considering: "20 Watt" = VIP 1, 1x8" speaker, 16 presets. "40 Watt" = VIP 2, 1x12" speaker, 16 presets. (Which I'm reviewing here.) "100 Watt" = VIP 3, also 1x12" speaker but more power, menu-driven front panel instead of dials, 400 onboard presets.

Complaints about buzz/unsuitability for bass are valid for the VIP 1. It's extremely small and lightweight, so its 8" speaker and cabinet aren't really built to render lows well. It's basically a highly portable electric-guitar amp with some extras, at a nice price. But it leaves out the fun "Evio" model (about which more below). That omission, and the limited bass response, are why I bought a VIP2.

The VIP 2 and 3 both compete with Fender's Mustang III (a 100-Watt, 1x12" modeling amp, of similar weight, with a dials-based front panel). The Mustang III is more of a pro gigging amp: It offers better, and more varied, models of Fender amps; controls to tweak simulated tube bias and sag; an effects loop and a real 1/4" speaker out; and a reasonable 100 onboard presets. The Peaveys' advantages are some unusual, wild effects that are just plain fun.

To my ear, the VIP 2 offers decent basic tones. Its models of electric-guitar amps (at least on their clean channels) don't sound radically different from each other. But the 1x12" speaker/large cabinet inherently delivers some authoritative bark, and the Budda model is especially sweet. And regardless of model, the separate dials for the 3-band EQ make it easy to shape the sound you want. (Peavey's virtual dials, with LEDs, are less disorienting than the virtual dials on Fender's and Line 6's modeling amps. Fender's and Line 6's dials have physical, numbered ticks that get out of sync with your presets' saved/recalled values.)

For those clean channels, pushing the "pre"-gain fairly high approximates the feel of tube saturation, without distorting. One surprise is that an electric guitar can deliver usable tones through the bass and acoustic-guitar amp models. (The acoustic amp models can get close to a Fender "tweed"/Bassman sound.) I've barely explored the crunch and high-gain channels.

All the amp models strike me as inherently a bit compressed, even with the compressor models turned off. The advantages are that there's some nice sustain (more than I hear from Fender modeling amps), and that it's hard to trigger the unintentional kind of distortion. But I find myself adding reverb, to frost more shimmer and dynamics onto the top, so I can pretend I'm playing through a real tube amp.

I really bought this amp for three odd effects that consistently floor me. The "MOG" model generates an octave up and an octave down (you can control their levels independently), with some square-wave distortion – like an Electro-Harmonix Micro Synth.

The "Evio" model sounds nothing like the promised electric violin, but it's a hoot. It's a fat sawtooth-wave oscillator. If you add some chorus after it, you can approximate Pat Metheny's vintage guitar-synth sound. You can adjust the portamento and the "color" (tone), with dark to bright tone settings tweaking the timbre from a synth-brass to a synth-sax vibe.

The "Synth" model sounds nothing like a guitar synth, but everything like a vintage analog keyboard synthesizer, with adjustable portamento and attack. (To be precise, you can adjust the attack, but can't entirely dial out the filter.) It also gets trippier if you add chorus after it.

Basic modulation effects, compressors, ring modulator, etc., are pretty usable. The guitar-to-bass model has some rare, usable warmth and punch – without excessive artifacts, unless you stray above your guitar's bottom four strings. The resonator model is OK.

Most of the other instrument models are just laughably bad. (And except for bass and acoustic guitar, those models are omitted from the VIP 1, which is no great loss.) The claimed "12-string" and "sitar" models sound nothing like those instruments, although they're so warbly off-kilter that you can combine them with modulation effects to get a sort-of organ tone. The claimed "7-string" and "baritone" models respectively shift your guitar tone a 4th and 5th down, but annoyingly add some spaghetti-Western tremolo that you can't control or remove.

Three other things to know: (1) There's no noise gate. And adding gain will definitely add hum. So you might want to add a pedal/multi-effects box with a noise gate in front of the amp.

(2) A second reason to add your favorite pedal(s) is that the amp's design limits you to one row each of stompbox/instrument model, amp model, and modulation effect (plus global delay and reverb). If you're Jimi Hendrix and you want both fuzz and auto-wah, you need to bring your own pedal – because both those models are in this amp's first row.

(3) There's no rhythm/drum machine. But the Tap Tempo LED is always blinking, so you can use it as a visual metronome. Or the aux in jack lets you pipe in a metronome or drum-track app from your smartphone.

Bear in mind that the VIP 3, for all its advantages (100 Watts, 400 presets), has a very different interface: Lots of menu-diving, and no separate dials with LEDs. So lots of staring at a small LCD window. I do that constantly on my Fender digital amps, which made the VIP 2 my sweet spot among the Vypyrs.

In all, the VIP 2 provides some unusual, really fun effects, which Peavey unfortunately won't release as a separate pedal. Built into a usable, giggable modeling amp. Not up to cork-sniffers' standards, but a combo that's fun and good value.

To Brasil and Bacharach: A Tribute (feat. Marcos Silva)
To Brasil and Bacharach: A Tribute (feat. Marcos Silva)
Price: $8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The folks behind this CD, February 19, 2016
Arranger/bandleader/pianist Marcos Silva is one of Brazil's major exports to the U.S. He's Flora Purim's former music director, and a friend of/collaborator with contemporary Brazilian jazz royalty. He's contributed the Brazilian selections here, while singer D'Orazi has brought him (and his reharmonizations) into Burt Bacharach territory.

DVD ~ Jena Malone
Price: $10.41
217 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying dramedy, with model music scoring, January 24, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Saved! (DVD)
Very enjoyable send-up of hypocrisy. And, as in all the best teen/high-school movies, a walloping vindication of the outsider/nonconformist kids who are brave enough maintain their integrity.

Stellar performance by Macauley Culkin, with very strong performances by Martin Donovan (unshackled from his Hal Hartley roles), Mary-Louise Parker, and several young actors you might never have heard of.

Saved! is also a superb model of how to elegantly integrate existing music into a feature film. My fine screenwriting professor gave us the firm edict, "You can get away with a maximum one musical montage per film." And virtually very Hollywood film that breaks that rule falls flat - trying to shoehorn in irrelevant songs by "name" artists. Most Hollywood directors/editors can't get even one musical montage right.

This indie includes at least a dozen montages, all set to obscure indie rock music, with no name-checking or pay-to-play. Every montage felt natural, tweaked the pace beautifully, and moved the movie forward. Watch and learn, Directors of Tomorrow!

Hofner HCTSHBKO Shorty Travel Guitar - Black Finish
Hofner HCTSHBKO Shorty Travel Guitar - Black Finish
2 used & new from $142.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical, affordable travel/practice guitar, December 31, 2015
At least as practical and affordable as any other mini-guitar for travel or practice. The neck is full Fender 25.5" scale, so you're practicing standard guitar technique. The neck also has a pleasantly smooth satin finish, and 24 frets – goodies that can be hard to find on full-size guitars.

The minimal body actually delivers surprisingly usable sound for a few square inches of basswood. It's very lightweight. If you balance the body's waist on your left thigh (pretend you're a classical guitarist), you can offset the guitar's inherent neck-heaviness, and can hold it fairly steady.

There are two tonal weaknesses – both rooted in the pickup, and one fixable:

(1) The stock pickup is wimpy, contributing to the tinny sound that other reviewers complain about. This you can fix, by swapping in a higher-output bridge pickup. I installed a beefy Godin ceramic humbucker that I had lying around, and my Shorty now twangs like a real guitar. In an extreme pinch, you could play a gig with this. (At least a bar gig, at least for heavy drinkers, at least for some styles.)

(2) The single pickup rout is (indeed) in the bridge position. So for most jazz players, the sound will never be right. But you can still use this for practice.

The gig bag (not shown here) is a slim trapezoid, tapered to the guitar's shape, with a shoulder strap. It has room for a surprising amount of case candy: Its side pocket can hold a cable and tuner; and you can even cheat some sheet music into the main compartment, behind the guitar. The bag's only downside is that it makes it look like you're carrying a short rifle. But you can point to the "Hofner" logo printed on the side to prove that you're nonviolent.

Singing Machine STVG888W Bluetooth Digital Audio Streaming Karaoke System with Recording and Microphone
Singing Machine STVG888W Bluetooth Digital Audio Streaming Karaoke System with Recording and Microphone
Offered by HomeOnline
Price: $248.51
15 used & new from $213.93

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fatally flawed: Music tracks drown out singers, December 27, 2015
Packs a lot of desirable features into a lightweight package. (It's bulky and looks like R2D2, but should be easy for your grandparents/grandkids to lift by its side handles.) Unfortunately, it omits one basic and essential feature:

There's no independent volume control for conventional (non-"multiplex") audio inputs. There is a master volume control (which also governs the mic inputs), and there's an independent volume control for the mic inputs. But that mic volume control is basically useless: The mic preamp is so weak that we had to constantly leave it full up.

So basically, you'll struggle to hear yourself sing over conventional backing tracks. (Unless you place your mic very close to your mouth, or place an external preamp between the mic and the input jack.) One really wishes the manufacturer had focused less on all the bells and whistles, and much more on this essential.

If you're playing *only* multiplex sources (CD+G discs, or MP3+G tracks off a USB drive), this isn't an issue. In these cases, you do get to independently control the backing tracks' volume.

Still, pay attention to the limitations mentioned in other reviews: You can readily get audio in via Bluetooth, but the key changer doesn't act on the Bluetooth input. You can send video out from the onboard camera, but your can't route video in – the onboard video screen is there only to display +G lyrics, or to play video from the camera or its SD card. You can play CD and CD+G discs, but not DVDs. Both mics share the same mic volume control. And the 1/4" instrument input, and 1/8" line-in jack, also have no independent volume controls – they're also governed only by the master volume.

If you want to really handle multiple singers, and balance them against each other and against a wide range of backing tracks, you need something with real mixer functions.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 22, 2016 12:44 PM PDT

Squier Vintage Modified Telecaster Special Electric Guitar, Maple Fingerboard, Butterscotch Blonde
Squier Vintage Modified Telecaster Special Electric Guitar, Maple Fingerboard, Butterscotch Blonde

4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual, December 10, 2015
Discontinued, but you can still find copies in the retail pipeline. This doesn't sound exactly like any other stock Fender (or Fender-style) guitar.

The JazzMaster neck pickup sounds better here than on any actual JazzMaster I've played. Where JazzMasters tend to sound thin – probably because of all the Swiss-cheese routing under the pickguard – this guitar's neck pup delivers an unusual combination of rich bass response, very sharp and immediate attack, and openness.

If you like Bill Frisell's ghostly, hollow, plaintive Tele tone, that's here. You might find this guitar a little brittle for some styles. But as other reviewers have pointed out, its tone is sweet, and has a lot of soul.

The neck is tinted, and gloss-finished, with a vintage Stratocaster-shaped headstock. The tuners are vintage Fender slotted-style, which function like bass-guitar tuners.

The specs say basswood body, but several people suspect it's actually alder. It's certainly heavier (i.e., more substantial) and more resonant than any basswood guitar I've played. I'd guess several sticks of alder on the copy I have here, judging by the joins I see under the finish.

The finish is an ugly, plasticky orange, which reveals almost no wood grain underneath. You don't buy this guitar for its body finish.

No Title Available

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Boss' usual mix of high build quality and low flexibility, November 22, 2015
Very compact and lightweight – especially for a metal-housed Boss pedal. The two switches' front-to-back orientation makes it easy to press both at once, when that's required for functions like bypass.

You can use this either by plugging in a 9V AC adapter, or passive/unpowered – there's no battery option. And note that passive use limits you to no LEDs, momentary use only (no latching), and polarity "1" only. Depending on your connected device, that polarity might be unusable.

E.g.: With my Korg Pandora PX5D, using this passively keeps the Pandora constantly in bypass – I'd have to press both switches at once to ENABLE a patch. (Useless.) So I need to either feed this 9V power from my One Spot AC adapter; or else plug in only one of the two cables, which lets me use only one footswitch (A or B) to cycle through presets in only one direction.

But it's still smaller and lighter than any passive dual footswitch I could find. And you can leave it connected, because there's no battery to drain. (Still, couldn't Boss have left room for a 9V battery?)

The obvious alternative is a Boss FS-6 dual footswitch. The FS-6's advantage is that it lets you independently set its 2 switches' polarities and momentary/latch function. But the FS-6 is substantially bigger and heavier, works ONLY with AAA batteries (it won't accept an AC adapter), and many owners complain that leaving it connected drains the batteries. (Couldn't Boss have left room for an AC input there?)

Pick your poison. Boss/Roland has never been about flexibility of use. (That's why I love Zoom pedals.)

Boss SY-300 Advanced Guitar Synth
Boss SY-300 Advanced Guitar Synth
Offered by 8th Street Music
Price: $699.00
6 used & new from $575.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great tracking (and possibilities) using standard guitar pickups, November 15, 2015
This review is from: Boss SY-300 Advanced Guitar Synth
Tried this out using a Fender (MIM) Standard Strat. Tracking was excellent on all pickup selections -- slight tonal differences among neck versus bridge versus intermediate positions, but all tracked equally well. Almost no artifacts, except a slight pitch wobble on some extreme pitch transpositions. Most patches faithfully follow your articulation, so you can (for example) use finger vibrato to add expression.

Of the 70 factory presets, 65 did little for me -- they're the usual over-effected patches that manufacturers foreground to lure mouth-frothing tweakers. But the other 5 had exactly what I wanted: Nice vintage Pat Metheny synth tones, organ and flute simulations, bell-like sine waveform, and chewy inverted-triangle waveform.

More importantly, playing with the Blender function immediately made it clear that you can build many, many other fine patches of your own, including some tripped-out sitar sounds. And this was simply using the Blender on random -- I wasn't even borrowing specific items from specific other patches, let alone deliberately editing the 3 oscillators' settings at all. (I was doing all this without looking at the manual.)

You start random Blender iterations by punching a dial, and then punch the same dial to stop them when you hear something you like. You can then turn the dial backwards to up to 100 iterations you skipped over. Also, I can tell that many of the over-the-top factory patches would readily get usable if you just edited the patches to dial out (or dial down) excesses like auto-harmonies, amped-up delays, etc. (Several presets add an octave-down harmony only when you play pitches below a certain cut-off point -- an annoying inconsistency that I'd dial out pretty fast.)

The size and weight are quite reasonable (comparable to a DigiTech RP 355, or a Zoom G3, multi-FX pedal). The external AC adaptor is nicely lightweight.

The four footswitches are well-designed for stage use: The left switch is labeled "On/Off," which really means synth+FX in versus transparent bypass. (Or you can reassign it to bypass only the oscillators, leaving the pedal's FX rows applied to your guitar's native tone.) The "Ctl 2/3" switches are factory-assigned to patch down/patch up, but you can arbitrarily assign them different functions. (And you can punch both at once for a tuner function, to which you can assign either mute or transparent bypass.)

What impressed me is how the fourth "Ctl 1" switch remains free for several expression functions per patch. The factory presets use it to punch effects in/out (sustain, auto-harmonies, chorus, etc.), or to shift the overall pitch by a predefined interval. And those shifts had a smooth-enough portamento that I think you could get away without adding an external expression pedal.

Better still, you can assign up to six functions to each "Ctl" switch. So even if you leave only one footswitch available for modulating your patch, this compact box still gives you a lot of control.

Pedaltrain PT-M24-SC Metro 24 Pedal Boards with Soft Case
Pedaltrain PT-M24-SC Metro 24 Pedal Boards with Soft Case
Price: $99.99
11 used & new from $99.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid choice for small pedal rigs, November 3, 2015
If you're considering this, you're presumably looking for a lightweight, ultra-portable pedalboard. The aluminum pedalboard itself is surprisingly light. But it seems sturdily welded, and its feet provide enough clearance to zip-tie a slim AC adaptor (One Spot, Snark, etc.) underneath.

The gig bag is surprisingly heavy (about 3x the board's weight), because it's lavishly padded all around. If this dropped on any surface, I'd expect my pedals to survive intact. It's also quite tall, at 3". At least one magazine review faulted Pedaltrain gig bags for not providing an outside pocket to hold cables and accessories -- but there's actually lots of interior space for case candy on top of your pedals.

The real constraint is Pedaltrain's odd decision to hold this board's depth to just 8" (and the gig bag's depth to 8.75"), as opposed to 10", or the 12" depth of some earlier Pedaltrain 24" boards. This Metro 24 is specifically designed to hold a single row of pedals side-by-side, and there's no wiggle room to cheat in a second row.

Also, some larger multi-FX pedals might not quite fit here. E.g., my DigiTech RP 350 turns out to be 8.5" deep. The pedal itself fits the board OK, with a slight overhang. But once the RP 350 has right-angle 1/4" connectors plugged into its back, it's 9" deep, which stresses the bag.

This is why I've personally ended up with a Diago Commuter (UK brand little-known in the U.S.). Neither that board nor its gig bag are nearly as sturdy, but its 19" x 10" dimensions give me more flexibility to load more pedals -- plus I save a couple of pounds. Whereas, if I knew I'd be using only one row of compact (Boss-style stompboxes), I would have chosen this Pedaltrain for its tougher build quality.

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