A Little Love for the Les Paul Tribute Plus

Epiphone Les Paul Tribute PlusAfter nearly a year, I’m still loving my Epiphone Les Paul 1960 Tribute Plus.  I‘ve played a number of gigs with it and it has proven itself absolutely reliable and roadworthy.  It has really excelled in every situation – loud indoor gigs, scorchin hot outdoor summer gigs, and of course my everyday practice, both unplugged and amplified.

This model seems to be a diamond in the rough at Epiphone- a truly great collection of features, including the awesome Gibson ‘57 Classic pickups, for a very competitive price.  

140 Years. Epiphone Les Paul 1960 Tribute PlusI’ve often wondered why I haven’t seen Epiphone really promoting this model as much as it deserves.   Well today, I noticed that it’s currently featured on the front page of Epiphone’s website, as part of their 140 years (1873-2013) anniversary.  There’s a nice write up with a few choice quotes from Les Paul, and some gorgeous pictures. 

Maybe they’ve finally decided to seriously promote this gem of a guitar!

New Amplitube iRig HD interface

iRig HD with iPhone and AmpliTubeIn my series on building your own iDevice Guitar Interface, I demonstrated an interface which connects through the headphone/microphone jack.  This is similar to the commercial products like IK Multimedia Amplitube iRig, Peavey AmpKit Link, Griffin GuitarConnect.   And like all those, it works well, but it is not the most high-fidelity solution.

There are also a number of products that instead connect using the dock connector on the bottom of the iDevice, for example the Apogee Jam, Sonoma GuitarJack, Alesis iO Dock and Line 6 Mobile In.  These interfaces have their own A/D converters, and pass the signal digitally to the iDevice providing higher quality audio.   The downside is that you can’t charge the iDevice on battery while using the interface, which may be an issue for live performance and recording.

There’s a new contender in the dock-connected interfaces, and it looks pretty nice: the IK Multimedia iRig HD.  In appearance, it looks very similar to the Apogee Jam.  I prefer this style of interface, rather than the Sonoma, and Line 6 approach which have the entire unit hanging off the dock – that seems very precarious and likely to break the dock. 

iRig HD connector cabllesAlso, at $99 the iRig HD is cheaper than the $129 Apogee Jam.  If you have a newer iDevice with the lighting connector, the iRig HD is an even better deal, as it includes the lightning adapter cables as well as the older-style 30-pin connecter, and also a USB connector for use with a computer.

All that said, I’m perfectly happy with my DIY interface for practice, but if I was using it for recording or live performance, I might consider buying this iRig HD.

Alternative Pedal Enclosures from Rixen

Rixen Pedal EnclosuresIn pedal building, we almost exclusively see the Hammond-style diecast aluminum enclosures.  You know their names- the ubiquitous 1590B (aka 1290NS) and its plus-size cousin the 125B.  Then there’s the larger 1590BB, and the tiny and temperamental 1590A.     What these all have in common is the simple generic rectangular shape.

Rixen Chorus ExampleBut what if you’re a fan of the spring-loaded foot-pedal enclosures made famous by the BOSS and Ibanez pedals? 

Typically, the only way for DIY pedal builders to achieve that look was to buy an old pedal and gut it- but then you’re stuck with the original pedal’s drilling layout. 


Now there’s a new option- I just came across these new enclosures from Rixen Pedals.

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When is 9V not 9V?

Measuring Korg 9V power supplyAnswer:  when it’s 13V! 

As I mentioned previously, my pedal board’s power supply died, so I’ve been temporarily using an old Korg 9V power supply.

I’ve been getting some hum from Ryan’s Fulltone Fat-Boost, and finally decided to do some sleuthing to figure out why.

Fortunately, before I even cracked open the Fat-Boost, I hooked up a multimeter to measure the voltage output of the Korg supply, and it turns out that this little guy is really putting out 13V, not 9V.    Well, that’s annoying.   Is it mislabeled, or just over-compensating for something?

Measuring 1 Spot 9V power supplySo, I decided to pick up the relatively inexpensive and well-reviewed Visual Sound 1 Spot.    Quoting from the FAQ:   “The voltage output is fully regulated.  It’s at least as quiet as the PedalPower, maybe even quieter.”

Measuring the 1 Spot with the multimeter, I see this one is putting out 9.5V.  I’m guessing 5.7% over is within normal tolerance for a 9V supply.

Better yet, no more hum on that Fat-Boost.

Note to future self, don’t trust power supply labels!

Update: Several people asked how the power supplies behaved under load, so…

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Pedal Power Fiasco

Drop Daddies Rehearsal at Annex 2013-03-15 The night before my St Patrick’s Day gig with the Drop Daddies, we were setting up at a rehearsal space for a last minute practice.  I powered up my gear, and none of my pedals were working!

After a bit of trial and error, it was clear that my ancient SKB PS-25 pedalboard power supply had finally keeled over.  I never use batteries, but fortunately a couple of the pedals had old 9V batteries still in them, so it was enough to scrape by for the rehearsal.

Pedals want DC negative-polarityThe following morning, just a few hours before the gig, I went through my box of old guitar gear to try to find a replacement 9V DC negative-tip power supply.  

Hey, here’s the power supply for my Digitech Jamman Delay which I’m not currently using in my live rig.   It says 9V, 1.3A.  Strange, it doesn’t show a polarity, but it’s a power supply for a guitar pedal, and the plug barrel fits, so it must be good, right?  What could possibly go wrong?

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Why “saw-der” instead of “sole-der”?

LYou wouldn’t believe how often I get asked this, in the comment-responses to my electronics videos.  (I’ve just added this to my FAQ)

In the US, solder is pronounced "saw-der" (ˈsɑːdər) without the L. My family is Australian- I grew up doing electronics projects with my Dad, pronouncing it with the L as "sole-der" (ˈsɒldər).  I have to really make an effort to say it the American way.

Here’s an interesting etymonline entry that shows the original mid 14th century word was “sawd” with no “L”.   It seems unlikely that this is the reason Americans pronounce it without an “L”, but it’s as good an excuse as any Smile

solder (v.)
mid-14c., sawd, from Old French soldure, from solder "to join with solder," from Latin solidare "to make solid," from solidus "solid" (see solid). Modern form is from early 15c. The -l- still is sounded in Great Britain. Related: Soldered; soldering. The noun is first attested late 14c.

For reference, here is the entry for "solder” in the Oxford English Dictionary, including recordings.  The pronunciation with the L is listed as British English, while the other is listed as American pronunciation.

And here’s a fun article about other words with missing L’s.

GarageBand feedback resolution

Some users of guitar interface cables like my DIY cable project have noticed an unreasonable amount of feedback when using Apple’s GarageBand iPad app. 

Good news- Apple rolled out an update to GarageBand yesterday which appears to resolve this. 

Garage Band Update

Thanks PaulB for letting me know!

Grover Locking Tuners

Locking Romomatic 106 SeriesMy Epiphone Les Paul Tribute Plus came with Grover locking Rotomatic tuners.    These tuners work phenomenally well. They stay perfectly in tune no matter how much I bend and beat on the strings- and adjustments are smooth and accurate.

These Rotomatics are different from typical locking tuners, like the Sperzel’s or Grover’s own Roto-Grips, where you lock and unlock the string using a thumbscrew around back.

On the Rotomatics, you just insert the string, and give it a wind, and an inner-cam rotates, locking the string into place under the string’s own tension.   I always feel a little uncertain when changing strings on these because the process is a bit different from other tuners.  Here are the instructions from Grover:

Locking Grovers Method1. Turn tip of string post until it clicks into place. This aligns string post holes.
2. Note string hole is off center. Turn knob to rotate post until string hole is positioned away from knob. Thread string up through bottom of hole and pull firmly. See drawing.
3. Turn to begin tuning. At first, only inner “Locking Cam” is turning, securely locking the string. Once the string is locked, outer post will turn.
4. Bring string to pitch.

A Toothpick Trick For Loose Screws

A carpenter once showed me a great trick with a toothpick.  One of our doors was sagging, because the screws in the hinges were loose, and couldn’t be tightened.   With a glint in his eye, he pulled out a handful of toothpicks from his pocket, saying “my secret weapon”.   After removing the loose screws for the hinge, he stuffed a few toothpicks in each hole, cut them off flush, and then re-tightened the screws in the holes.  Presto chango- it was all nice and tight.  Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best!

In this video, I apply this simple trick to the tuners on my Epiphone Riviera P93. Some of these screws have been loose since day one – the kind of loose where no matter how much you try to tighten the screw, it just spins freely in the hole. The wood fibers in the hole are stripped out and no longer gripping the screw threads. One simple toothpick, inserted in each hole and cut off flush, just like that carpenter had shown me- and now the screws go in nice and tight. The soft wood of the toothpick makes the perfect filler. No glue necessary.

That same carpenter also shared these fine words of wisdom: “Caulk and paint are what a painter ain’t”, but that’s a story for another day Smile

The most critical factor in an electric guitar’s sound

67 Fender Dual Showman Blackface"Until it’s recognized that the amplifier is AT LEAST 50% of the sound of the electric guitar, its full potential cannot be realized" Leo Fender

I couldn’t verify whether that quote is truly attributable to Leo Fender, but it’s a good point. 

We tinkerers spend all this time tweaking our electric guitars’ pots, caps, pickups, etc- when really the biggest factors in how your guitar sounds are the amp and pedals you play through.  Your guitar may be puttin out the most beautifully kickin tone in the world, but if you’re playing it through a crappy amp, you’re gonna hear crap.    

I found this interesting collection of FAQ’s about amps, tubes, etc (along with a ton of other tips) by Steve McKinley at Atlanta Tube Amp.  Check it out:


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