It’s all about me. World events? The Russian invasion of Ukraine? It’s all about me.

No it isn’t, but this is partly about me but also about guitar gear in general.

Vacuum tubes, right? The best guitar amps are powered by tubes (valves if you’re one of our British friends). The technology dates back to 1904, according to Wikipedia, and the guitar amps many of us like date back to the 50’s and 60’s. Suffice to say it’s not exactly cutting edge stuff.

The only industries that still use tubes are guitar amps and effects and hi-fi stereo systems. That’s it. Tubes used to run everything but now it’s down to those two hold outs. As a result there are only three factories on Earth that still manufacture vacuum tubes. Three.

One factory is in Slovakia (I think… or is it Slovenia? No, pretty sure it’s Slovakia). Another factory is in China. From what I hear, that factory recently had a bad fire and they have been offline for a while. The result of that is that tubes, already in short supply, are in a full blown shortage. Thank goodness for that third factory, huh? Hey, where is that third factory anyway?



I haven’t heard anything specific but with the sanctions the entire world is leveling at Russia to convince them to stop being evil and get their military out of Ukraine it’s safe to say that we won’t be seeing any tubes out of that Russian factory any time soon. That means that we’re effectively down to one factory. One. Let’s all send as many happy and safe vibes we can to JJ Electronic in the hopes that they keep rolling at peak efficiency with all of their staff being exceptionally happy and healthy and satisfied in their professions.

I own four tube amps. Three Fenders and a Vox. I haven’t been a tube amp guy for long, but in my very teeny tiny experience I have never had to change a tube. Please, guitar gods, let the tubes in my amps last forever. Pretty please.

One other guitar gear thing I want to mention is petty and pointless and exactly the sort of thing that the trump ass cult ranks on people like me ceaselessly for. I can’t help it though.

I really like using fuzz pedals. Of the three classic types of fuzz pedals, Fuzz Face, Tone Bender, and Big Muff Pi, my absolute favorites are Muffs. They are just ferocious and I really love them. In the last two years or so I have used a clone of a Big Muff pedal for probably 80% of the lead guitar parts I have recorded. Most of those tracks were recorded using a pedal by a company called Wren and Cuff that is called the Super Russian. Big Muffs were originally made by the Electro Harmonics company back in 1970 or so. That company fell apart in the late 80’s or early 90’s (not sure exactly when) and a new company was formed from the ashes that was called Sovtek. That company was based in the newly post-Soviet Union Russia. Many of the EHX pedals were redesigned to use Russian components and manufactured and sold by the new company. The Super Russian pedal on my board is based on a Sovtek period Big Muff.

The pedal sounds amazing and I love playing through it. It’s pretty much perfect. Still… when I was posting my RPM stuff to I was adding notes about what gear I used (so that I can know what I used when I listen back years from now). I kept having to type the word Russian into those notes. Even though the pedal and I have nothing to do with the evil spewing out of Moscow right now, I felt kinda dirty every time I wrote one of those notes. It is totally irrational and makes zero sense, but that’s how I felt. Feelings don’t need to be rational, after all. I mean we aren’t Vulcans, right?

So I guess what I am saying is… I might be in the market for a fuzz pedal that isn’t based on a Sovtek circuit. It is entirely possible that this might just be my Gear Acquisition Syndrome trying to trick me into buying a new pedal, but let’s not think about that.

Whatever. I should just send $200 to a Ukrainian charity instead and just get over my irrational self. I should also start hoarding vacuum tubes.

Hook Amps

The YouTubes and I have been goofing around looking at reviews of grotesquely expensive boutique guitar amplifiers. There is a lot of dazzling stuff out there. One sticks out to me for purely family reasons.

I had never heard of Hook amplifiers before this evening. Now that I have, I want one. Drool and all that. The R20, on the demoes I’ve heard tonight, sounds ridiculous. Just plain sick.

Oh yeah, the family reason for wanting one? The company is Dutch! I can ask Bellana to bring one home for me. The combo is only about 2,300 Euros. Consider it done, yeah?

Amp Confusion

I think I’m falling out of love with my amp.  I have a Marshall Valvestate VS265.  My friend Larry owned one and it had a feature that I absolutely drooled over.  Three switchable channels.  One clean, two distorted.  That’s not too unusual, but the part that I thought kicked ass was that all three channels had their own separate volume.  Meaning I could use one channel for rhythm and another for leads and the leads could be at a significantly louder volume and not get buried in the mix.  Abso-freakin-epically-lutely awesome.

I bought it in 2003 before my first gig with Break Even.  At the time I felt it was a little toppy, but Steve the other guitarist played a little bassy and the two tones meshed together fairly well.

Today?  I’m sick of being so trebly.  I can’t seem to find any bottom end no matter what I do.  It’s making me fall out of love with my amp.  So what do I do?  I’m considering buying a distortion pedal and only using one channel.  If I can get a fatter, warmer sound that way, it might be good.  The alternative is a new amp.  I spent the evening watching sales videos for Fender Twin Reverbs.  Yes they are usually on the top heavy side, and I’d need a distortion pedal, but something about it is making me want want want.  Sadly I don’t have $1500 lying around.

Gear… My kryptonite.