Dutch Kazoo Fuzz

Despite its name, it does not come from the Netherlands, the Dutch Kazoo fuzz is hand built in the USA. Its design is not a copy of any well known Fuzz pedal which is quite noteworthy in a market saturated by Fuzz face clones.

It does appear to have some interesting and original sonic capabilities.

Here is a little demo (or click here for the obligatory Gearmanndude demo):

Boss DS-1X and OD-1X

The Boss DS-1X and OD-1X pedals were presented at NAMM last January and they have created quite a buzz since then. Thanks to Roland Australia, I have been able to test them and, well, the buzz is justified!

DS1X_OD1X_2

Based on Boss’s MDP technology (for Multi-Dimensional Processing), they are modern digital re-creations of the über classic DS-1 distortion and OD-1 overdrive pedals, the very first of their kind in the Boss line, both released in the late 70s. The DNA of those seminal stompboxes can be heard in those ‘X’ versions, but they go much further in terms of gain and EQ capabilities, these are 2014 pedals, not some sort of vintage simulations (and this is a good thing).

I will cut to the chase, here is where I think they shine and this applies to both of them:

- At full blast, they offer more gain that most Distortion or Overdrive pedals while retaining an excellent articulation. My Stratocaster has Kinman noiseless pickups which are not very hot (by design, it’s the blues set) and I often feel the need to use an overdrive to boost my distortion pedals. Not with the DS1-X or even the OD1-X, there is plenty of gain and sustain on tap, even with “vintage output” pickups.
- They clean up quite well when rolling off the volume on the guitar, except maybe at the highest gain settings with the DS-1X but that is to be expected. I have tried to demonstrate this in my videos.
- They have a very efficient 2 band EQ with a Low and a High knob, a plus compared to a lot of overdrive or distortion stompboxes which only have a tone knob.
- The tonal characteristics of the guitar still go through. I have tested them with a Fender Strat and a Gibson SG 61 Reissue, they clearly sounded different, even on high gain settings
- There was a time when mentioning “digital” and “distortion” or “overdrive” in the same sentence would make guitarists having instant fits but I suspect we will get none of that with the new Boss offering.


As I mentioned earlier, the remarks above apply to both models I think, let me go into what differentiates them.

OD-1X

Yellow Boss pedals are usually overdrives, the OD-1X is no exception, with a hint of sparkly finish. It sport four knobs: level for the output volume, low and high for EQ and drive for the amount of overdrive.

The drive is quite progressive going from a gritty not-so-clean tone to an all out nearly Van Halen-esque big rock tone. I find that with the gain at 3 o’clock (i.e 75 % or so), there is a sweet spot between clarity and sustain, it’s a very pleasing lead tone. Coupled with the aforementioned efficient 2-band EQ and a good dose of volume boost under tap, the OD-1X is a very versatile overdrive.


Tonewise, it is definitely related to the OD-3/SD-1/etc., it’s a Boss overdrive so if you are looking for something totally different, you might be disappointed (although it wouldn’t hurt to try it would it?). Apart from that, it is a top notch overdrive and it is hard to believe it is digital.

DS-1X

The sparkly orange DS-1X recalls the DS-1, the first distortion released by Boss and adopted by people like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Gary Moore (his early 80s strat Marshall tone was boosted by a DS-1), Kurt Cobain, etc.

It has four knobs: level for the output volume, low and high for EQ and dist to change the amount of distortion. And distortion there is, believe me, this would almost qualify as a metal pedal.

At low distortion (as shown in videos scattered around this post), it is already quite grittier than the OD-1X. At 3 o’clock, it’s already in the realm of high sustain, searing leads. At full blast, it’s very distorted which makes it a very versatile little beast. The EQ section is very efficient and my little Fender Champ has never been capable of generating so much bass!


Despite the amount of distortion on tap, I found that a Strat remained a Strat and a Gibson remained a Gibson. It also cleans up quite well depending on your guitar and pickups, akin to a good amp. The tone is reminiscent of the DS-1 but with more body and a more amp-like quality (rather British if you follow my drift). As such, this is quite a different beast and you might like it a lot better than its venerable ancestor.

Conclusion

I was reasonably impressed with the pedals released by Boss in the last few years (especially the BC-2) but not entirely enthralled. Well, they definitely have their mojo back with the DS-1X and the OD-1X, it pains me to have to give them back! Even if the vast majority of boutique stuff is analog nowadays, a few companies have started pushing the digital envelope a bit further recently, and I must say that Boss has just joined them in a spectacular fashion.

New Boss Products for 2014

Besides the OD-1X and DS-1X stompboxes (demos coming very soon!), Boss is coming up with a slew of interesting products for 2014:

  • The GT-001 is a desktop modelling/audio interface hybrid which includes the latest of COSM modelling. These new models are downloadable for the GT-100 which is upgraded to v2. Also the ME-80 has been announced, which is more affordable than the flahgship GT-100.
  • The GP-10 is aquite an interesting idea, it’s a hybrid of guitar synth and multi-effects with a built-in expression pedal, a bit hard to describe but the short Boss demo shows promises. It can also emulate different guitars when coupled with the Roland GK-13 midi pickup, akin to the top of range VG line.
  • The VE-2 is a vocal harmony generator which can use your guitar as input
  • The cube street EX is the latest incarnation of battery powered Roland street amps: it features 50W, stereo, COSM modelling, various inputs for mics and instrument.

Here is a Youtube playlist showing these new pieces of gear:

Jamstar Acoustics – Give Away

There has never been a better time to pick up the guitar, no more excuses people, tablets are revolutionising the way we learn how to play.

jamstar_2

A pretty pitiful score but the tablature mode was inverted!

Jamstar Acoustics is an application for iOS and Android which monitors and corrects your playing in real time. I have tested it on an iPad 2 using my Maton EC225 acoustic. Note that nothing is preventing you from using the application with an electric guitar really, but the microphone built in your tablet or your phone must be able to pick up the sound of your instrument in order to analyze it.

The application itself is free but most of the lessons aren’t. The good guys at Jamstar have been kind enough to organise a  give away for the readers of guitar Tone Overload, go to the end of this post to enter the contest. Yay!

Getting started to Rock

When you start the app, a tuner screen pops up in order to make sure your instrument is in tune, an important condition for the application to work properly and actually a pretty important thing if you intend to actually play some music.

jamstar_1

Content Galore

Once your instrument is in tune, a screen detailing the content available to you pops up, free stuff and paying stuff alike. There are two axis to the content: a “style axis” (rock/pop, jazz/blues, lessons about techniques) and a difficulty level, from beginner to intermediate to advanced.

After chosing a lesson, the fun starts!

A Very Patient Teacher

Once the lesson begins, you are confronted to a screen which resembles a guitar tab, with all six strings of the guitar and notes dancing on them. On this subject, the app had the low E string on top of the screen by default, which I promptly changed in the preferences to have the low E string on the bottom of the screen, like a regular tab. It confused the hell out of me for a minute.

The notes appear on the strings and you have to play them at the right moment otherwise the “playback” stops. These can be single notes or chords, for which the names will be displayed. It is pretty simple in principle but it is actually quite powerful. This kind of technology would have been unimaginable 10 years ago on a portable device.

Jamstar gives you a score based on how well you hit each note (or chord) which is really a percentage I think.

How does it perform?

In my testing with a (now) old iPad 2, I found the app to perform extremely well. It definitely picks up single notes and chords accurately and quickly. I can see it being a powerful learning tool wether you want to learn well known songs, scales, chords or various guitar techniques. There are lessons for every taste and since the application itself is free, and there are some free content, I encourage you to download it and give it a try!

Give away !

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