Mosrite aesthetics, Japanese flair, and a circuit reminiscent of the Electro-Harmonix Linear Power Booster.
Do any of you have memories of high school classes like wood shop, mechanical drawing, or electronics? I have some clear recollections of those days, whereas my other school experiences have become rather foggy. It was probably because I really liked working with my hands. I’m pleased to know that in my daughter’s school, the kids are still learning about woodworking, plastics, and even 3-D printing, which is awesome.
After looking at my daughter’s latest plastics project, it got me thinking about my days in wood shop, where I made this really cool butcher-block cutting board that my mom actually used for many years. I remember selecting different types of wood based on color, gluing all the strips together, and shaving off the ends. It was so simple, yet quite the feat of creation for an ape like me.
As with all things in my brain, it led me to make a connection to a “butcher-block guitar” with a built-in fuzz circuit. Yes, once upon a time in the late ’60s, there was a guitar that could carve out some seriously gnarly sounds. Born out of the legendary Tokai factory in Hamamatsu, Japan, this 6-string was built well beyond my wood shop project and was actually the flagship for Tokai’s first foray into electric-guitar production.
Released in 1967, this aggressively styled guitar was dubbed the Humming Bird 230S. Its butcher-block-type body was created by using alternating dark woods, and then stained to show the grain and beauty of the alignment. All of these 230S guitars were finished in a dark, natural hue, so you won’t find any color variations out there in vintage land.
The offset body reminds me of a flipped Mosrite, which isn’t surprising since the designer—Masahiro Matsui—was inspired by the Mosrite Ventures guitar of the same era. It’s also no surprise that all of the original Tokai electric guitars combined Mosrite aesthetics with Japanese flair. Check out the German carve and the sharp points (Photos 1 and 2) that came to exemplify the earliest Tokai offerings.
What really made the 230S different from the other Humming Birds in the line was the fuzz circuit hidden under the pickguard. There is a separate tone circuit on the upper bout, à la Fender’s Jazzmaster, but rather than a darker tone, it provides a truly interesting fuzz that’s reminiscent of an Electro-Harmonix LPB—with a little more edge and rawness. It’s hard to describe because there isn’t a modern equivalent, but the sound of the fuzz reminds me of some old bands from Japan like the Outcast or the Jaguars. The fuzz totally captures the era so authentically, and the circuit stacks really well with other gain pedals for some rather in-your-face tones.
The pickups in the 230S (Photo 3) are unique, because they were only made for a very short time and also appeared briefly on a few no-name guitars from the era. The pickups read out in the 6k to 7k range, have excellent clarity, and can push a small tube amp nicely. These pickups remind me of clear P-90s—suited for all sorts of music, but particularly awesome at ’60s- and ’70s-rock riffing.
Tokai is still making guitars today and recently reissued some of the old Humming Birds, but this first venture into electrics only lasted a little more than a year. I still see this model pop up every now and again, which is nice since they were only released in Japan in small numbers. Yes, these butcher-block guitars are something of an anomaly, but if you can find one, carve away!
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
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Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.