Can a bona fide funk guru help design a better Klone?
Wide range of gain. Very useful EQ.
Doesn’t do the Klon clean boost as well as original.
Jackson Audio The Optimist
Jackson Audio’s pedal collaboration with modern funk hero Cory Wong could have taken a few different paths. Considering Wong’s style, a compressor would have been an obvious choice. Instead, the Optimist is a dual overdrive that builds on a Klon-inspired baseline, adds a second overdrive, and has a clever EQ to create a super-flexible overdrive. Named after Wong’s second album, The Optimist suits Wong’s exuberant and fun-loving personality. But it also describes the way you might approach a gig with this pedal in hand. Together, the two separate overdrives and active EQ give you enough tones to cover almost any gig this side of Slayer cover band.
Attacking the Klones
Jackson Audio’s pedals are always practical, and The Optimist is especially so. Each overdrive circuit has dedicated volume, tone, and gain knobs. Just beneath those are a trio of tiny EQ controls that illuminate when you hit both switches at once. And because the EQ can be used independently, you actually get three stomps in one. That’s impressive given The Optimist’s small size.
Modeling a circuit based on the Klon Centaur is nothing new. But Jackson Audio added enough tone-shaping control to make the Klon-inspired OD1 side of The Optimist more versatile than the average klone. Without an original Centaur on hand, I used Electro-Harmonix Soul Food as a baseline, which I used with a Schroeder Chopper TL, Fender Player Jaguar, and a Fender HSS Stratocaster plugged into a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe.
Some Klon users like that pedal’s mid-heavy, medium-gain grind. Others prefer to use it as a robust clean boost. I found that the Klon-inspired side of The Optimist is most oriented toward the first application. With the gain all the way down, it has a bit more bite and grit than the Soul Food. In Clip 1 you can hear an example with the volume at about 1 o’clock and the tone at noon. It’s a very healthy low-gain tone that I can imagine as an always-on, foundational sound for a lot of applications. The range of the gain knob is especially inviting. I couldn’t find a “dead” spot anywhere in the gain control’s range. Maximum gain levels have less high-end sizzle and a bit more overall gain than many klones [Clip 2]. And you sense that Jackson Audio and Wong aimed to find the most musical and versatile possible range of gain tones that a Klon-style circuit allows.
Flat Is Fabulous
The OD2 side of The Optimist gives you flatter frequency response and more transparency. Wong compares this side of the pedal to a Timmy or a ZenDrive. Internally, your signal hits OD2 first then OD1 before the active EQ. Because OD2’s flatter response preserves more of your original tone, it’s a great blank canvas. And with the EQ controls I could easily get more Screamer-like sounds or thicken my lead lines.
Setting all knobs to noon generated a fantastic crunchy tone that paired well with P-90s. As with the OD1, the OD2’s gain and tone knobs have a broad sweep. Neither side of The Optimist would classify as “high gain,” even at maximum values, but there are plenty of nice hard-rock tones available—especially if you use humbuckers.
The Bandaxall-derived EQ engages when you hit both switches simultaneously. And you can boost or cut the bass, middle, or treble frequency bands up to 12 dB from the noon position. Used by itself, this EQ helped me darken the tone of an overly bright Telecaster and tame the woofy low end from a Jaguar. I’ve never used dedicated EQ pedal in my chain, but The Optimist certainly opened my ears to the possibilities.
I remember the first time I played a real Klon. It wasn’t my thing. However, over the years I’ve developed a healthy appreciation for this subgenre of overdrives. At this point there are so many variations on the circuit that authenticity is less important than what connects with your particular playing style. The Optimist takes this more open-minded thinking about a klone’s possibilities, and adds a flat-response overdrive and a nearly flawless active EQ that can help you tailor the pedal to your setup in very specific ways.
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Combining 11 of Brian Wampler's all-time favorite delays, the Metaverse is fully programmable and has an expression input that you can assign to any of the parameters.
Additionally, for the first time ever, we are offering a complete software version of the pedal via a set of 11 AU and VST3 plugins compatible with most popular DAWs - FREE to all customers that register their Metaverse Warranty online (plugin suite is $49.99 if purchased separately).
Just like the Terraform that came before it, the Metaverse is an advanced, feature-packed design that allows you to navigate the delay world without endless menus on a tiny display. The Metaverse offers a small-footprint stomp box that is fully programmable, preset capable, true stereo, full MIDI control, and has an expression input that you can assign to any of the parameters.
Eleven Onboard Delay Algorithms
1. ANLG - Analog Style Delay
This Program was inspired by Brian’s love of the Boss DM-2 analog delay. He pays respect to characteristics of its warm and responsive tone and gives it that Wampler touch. This program gives you that kind of dark, smooth, analog delay that would have been found in the mid-1980’s.
2. WET - Modulated Analog Delay
Sometimes an echo adds a bit more chewiness and subtle tape-like modulation and hits the right spot. That’s one of the things that Brian loves about the Aqua Puss analog delay. So, we created those characteristics in this algorithm as a homage to the famed delay. If you love vintage boutique analog delays, you’ll love this setting which can almost warp space and time with its liquid repeats.
3. BBD - Bucket Brigade Delay
Brian was always pulling out an old Memory Man Delay to inspire performative, improvisational delay expressions. He wanted to create a program that would recreate that feeling, tonally. Drawing inspiration from one of the warmest sounding delay pedals ever, this algorithm will take you back to the late-1970s when the visionaries of the pedal industry first introduced a real alternative to tape-based echo thanks to a humble little circuit - the Bucket Brigade Delay.
4. JET - Analog Flanger Delay
This is where the team had a little fun. This Program combines the smooth ANLG Program with the unmistakable whooshing sound of a beautiful additive flanger effect.
5. DOC - Wampler ‘The Doctor’
The next regeneration of the Doctor is surely a welcome one and has been fully modelled in this program. Experience the warm modulated delay tone and trail degradation from one of Brian Wampler’s most experimental delay pedals.
6. FTE - Wampler ‘Faux Tape Echo’
This is one of our most popular delay pedals and for good reason. A lot of tape emulation delays simply add chorus to an existing digital delay circuit. Brian was not satisfied with this approach. So, he re-imagined and re-engineered it. The result was a delay pedal that reacted and sounded like a real tape delay unit.
7. ETH - Wampler ‘Ethereal’ Delay
The Ethereal is Wampler’s famous ‘all-in-one’ digital delay and reverb pedal. This program recreates the overlaying twin delays present in this pedal. This is not strictly a ‘dual delay’ algorithm. There is also a secondary delay layer that adds a new pulsing dimension to the sound.
8. MOD - Digital Flanger Delay
Like the JET delay program, this program mixes a gorgeous flanger modulation with our crisp/clean DIGI algorithm to add an extra mix of awesome delay and modulation.
9. SPC - ECHO SPACE DELAY
This tape echo algorithm is a tribute to the classic Maestro Echoplex delay with Brian’s unique take. This delay is famous for its self-oscillation capabilities and this program takes that a step further.
10. TAPE - Multi-Head Tape Delay
Inspired by the tones on classic records utilizing the vintage Binson® Echorec® and other mechanical tape and drum delays, this program emulates some of the most important delay sounds in rock music.
11. DIGI - Digital Delay
Based on Brian’s tonal interpretation of what was considered the ‘Industry Standard’ digital delay, TC Electronics 2290 Dynamic Digital Delay, this program is super clean for precise and modern delay tones that are both studio and stage worthy.
- Studio quality conversion 48 kHz Sampling rate with 24-bit audio
- Full 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response
- 11 Studio-quality vintage and modern delay effects designed and realized in-house at Wampler
- Includes entire Metaverse Plugin Suite ($49 value)
- Simple user interface making your sound design instantaneous
- All parameters controllable via an outboard expression pedal
- 8 onboard preset locations to save your favorite patches, 128 total via MIDI
- Full MIDI control with CC and PC commands
- True Stereo or mono I/O
- Pedalboard friendly enclosure footprint
- Power draw - 9v DC center pin negative, external supply only: 130mA at 9v
- Dimensions : 4.5" x 3.75" x 2.25"
- Weight: 2 pounds
- Includes Wampler’s limited 5-year warranty
- Assembled in the USA
MAP/Suggested Retail - $349.97. More info at www.wamplerpedals.com.
- Demonstrate a variety of drone guitar techniques and approaches.
- Examine drone points of reference from an array of genres.
- Learn how to use standard, drop D, and uncommon alternate tunings in drone contexts.
Playing a melody or solo with a “drone” means playing over just one note or, in some instances, one chord. Besides playing without any harmonic accompaniment, it is about as simple a concept as one can image, which also means the possibilities are endless. We’ll look at ways to use drones in a variety of contexts, from ancient to contemporary, blues to metal, traditional to experimental.
Drone in Standard Tuning
Being one of the simplest forms of accompaniment, droning is one of the oldest–before harmony there was the drone! Ex. 1 highlights the ancient nature of the drone with a Taqsim, an improvisation that frequently precedes the performance of traditional Middle Eastern compositions. For this example, you need only hit the open, low 6th string every now and then to keep the drone going. The melody uses notes from the E Phrygian Dominant scale (E–F–G#–A–B–C–D).
The blues is full of droning examples. Particularly in the playing of Lightnin’ Hopkins (“Big Mama Jump”), John Lee Hooker (“Bottle Up and Go”), and Big Bill Broonzy (“Hey Hey”). Ex. 2 is based on Lightnin’ Hopkins’ so-called “Dead Thumb Blues” approach. Just keep pounding out that low, open E string.
John Lee Hooker - "Bottle Up & Go"
Ex. 3 pays homage to Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun.” Starting at 0:43 Jimi plays a lovely Mixolydian melody in octaves, with a bass line emphasizing the low E. In this case, we have a melody inspired by Jimi’s, with the low E string droning throughout, taking the place of the bass.
Ex. 4 also features a classic rock point of reference, in this case, the Rolling Stones’ “Moonlight Mile.” That timeless song, and this example itself, both feature droning open strings with a melody that moves up and down the neck. In the case of “Moonlight” the guitar riff became the basis for Jagger’s vocal melody, imbuing it with a pseudo-Eastern atmosphere.
An unexpected model emerges from the 1980s. Ex. 5 emulates the Police song “Contact,” with a second instrument doing the droning (the bass guitar plays G throughout). While the bass plays steady eighth-notes, guitar one plays four different arpeggio patterns, which imply different chords in every measure. Guitar two plays a simple, if syncopated, melodic line on top of both the drone and the arpeggios. Other Police songs that also feature one-note bass drones are “Reggatta De Blanc” and the highly disturbing “A Kind of Loving.”
Reggatta De Blanc
Drop-D tuning (as well as other alternate tunings), allows players to get some tonal variety into their drones. Ex. 6 was inspired in part by the call-and-response, instrumental section of “Within You, Without You,” the Beatles’ take on Indian drones (Indian music is perhaps the most well-known of the droning genres). This example is unique in that the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings all drone throughout, creating a D power chord. This illustration also imitates sitar performance by playing the melody on only one string, while moving up and down the neck.
Ex. 7 demonstrates one of the most useful aspects of playing with a drone, the ability to change keys. In this case, the drone is maintained by alternating the bass with the thumb, between the 6th and 4th strings, which are both tuned to D, though an octave apart. While the thumb drones the bass, the melody in the first few measures plays notes from the D major scale, specifically the major 7 (C#), root (D), 3 (F#), and 6 (B). After this melody is performed twice, the key changes to the parallel minor, D Natural Minor, wherein all but the root note are replaced with flatted pitches, b7 (C), b3 (F), and Bb (b6). Don’t let that theory overwhelm you. Instead, actively listen and let your ear tell you that you’ve clearly gone from the major (happy or bright) to the minor (sad and dark) mode. It is the simplicity of the one-note drone that allows for the smoothness of this key change.
Uncommon Alternate Tunings
Arguably, the easiest way to get your guitar droning is to perform in alternate tunings. One can hear this approach in everyone from Robbie Basho to Glenn Branca, Sonic Youth to My Bloody Valentine, and many others. The Velvet Underground were among the first to get such milage out of unusual tunings, specifically their “Ostrich Tuning,” which entails tuning all the strings to the same note (although in different octaves).
Ex. 8 is a tribute to Velvet Underground’s droning “Lady Godiva’s Operation.” My example uses the tuning C–C–C–C–C–C. For more on this tuning check out my lesson “Punk-Rock Madness: It’s More than Power Chords.”
Lastly, no droning lesson would be complete without a mention of the drone metal scene. There are several bands to reference here, going back decades. For Ex. 9 I have chosen to allude to Sunn O))) and the piece “It Took the Night to Believe.” This is a radical piece with the low 6th string tuned down to A—that’s ridiculously low! You might consider putting on heavier gauge strings for this style. This example also features tremolo picking, which isn’t too challenging when you’re playing one note, but it can be tricky to maintain tone and consistency when the second melodic note is added in measure 9. Practice this piece slowly and find yourself a nasty distortion/fuzz pedal to round out the sound.
As you can hear, there are endless possibilities when it comes to droning. And although the idea may have been around for thousands of years, new approaches are still being developed and deployed (I didn’t even discuss drones in the classical realm, though there are many examples, or Krautrock). I hope this lesson will inspire you to invent some of your own methods.