A dual-amp powerhouse with a plethora of features.
Great size-to-feature ratio. Plenty of tonal options.
Missing a spring reverb emulation. Tube emulations can be subtle.
DSM & Humboldt Simplifier DLX
Pedalboard amps seem to be all the rage lately. And I have to admit that I've become increasingly more amicable to getting big tones with less gear. The DSM & Humboldt Simplifier DLX, which delivers a lot of big tones in a single suited-for-pedalboard sized stomp, is the latest iteration of the company's "zero-watt" amp series and features plenty of bells and whistles for the stereo set.
Two Heads Are Better Than One?
At its core, the Simplifier DLX is a pair of individual analog preamps that can be combined in series or parallel, with separate EQ and gain controls. Each preamp offers a trio of amp voices (AC Brit, American, and MS Brit) along with a trio of gain modes (lead, clean, and crunch). You can even put two guitars through a single DLX if you really want to save space in the gear trailer. The effects section is arranged in stereo, with left and right controls for resonance and presence as well as digital reverb and digital emulations of mic position. In the cabinet simulation section, you can choose between combo, stack, and twin configurations in addition to selecting among different power tubes (KT88, EL34, or 6L6GC).
Input, thru, and send jacks are all stereo, and each 1⁄4" jack along the side is able to handle TRS cables. With the flick of a tiny switch you can change the input mode from either a mono, 2-channel amp setup or stereo with each preamp getting a dedicated output (either via XLR or ¼"). There is also a useful stereo spread feature that shifts the phase of one channel on specific frequencies to simulate dual cab setups. DSM clearly thought through all of the many real-world applications for this device, and the flexibility it offers to navigate any performance or routing situation is commendable.
Doin' the Brit Switch
Considering the different amp, cab, gain, and tube modes that are available, I wouldn't fault DSM if they made each preamp identical. However, DSM added phase-splitter saturation to give channel A the feel of a cranked amp. Channel B is mellower with a smoother top end.
I tested the Simplifier DLX with a Stratocaster, Telecaster, and a humbucker-loaded Ibanez. In clean settings, the American amp emulation was great—especially with the built-in digital reverb, which can be used in room, plate, or a very long "ether" style. But with the included footswitch I was able to switch between the clean, 'verby Fender-esque setting on one channel and a plexi-style setting on the other. And I could use those two voices for an entire rehearsal without anything else. Naturally, the stereo effects loop makes using your own effects easy.
There are many additional sounds to explore. The crunch mode with the AC Brit amp emulation became a quick favorite. It was very responsive to my picking dynamics, though higher gain settings made the top-end a little less bloomy. Meanwhile, by utilizing the right and left mix controls for the reverb, I dialed in a plate setting on the left and a dry setting on the right channel to cop vintage EVH-style sounds. These tones are just a small sample of what the Simplifier can do.
The Simplifier DLX is a rock-solid piece of gear and packed with features. While complex looking on the surface, the control layout is logical and flows well. And DSM & Humboldt designers certainly maximized the available space here. I doubt they could have squeezed in another switch, I/O, or toggle. For players who lust after set-and-forget setups, the Simplifier could easily find a home on (or next to) your board. The reverb is beautiful, clean tones are punchy and warm, and there's enough gain for nearly any gig this side of nü-metal. At $459, it's not exactly priced for an impulse buy, but the portability and power make it well worth a look.
Guitarists Tim McIlrath and Zach Blair enjoy tenacious tones with rock's mightiest tag team—Gibsons into Marshalls—aided by a few everyman effects and one mythical stomp.
Rise Against rose out of Chicago around Y2k on the back of roaring Gatling-gun guitars, blast-beat rhythms, and defiant, sharp-tongued social commentary. The band's first pair of albums—2001's The Unraveling and 2003's Revolutions Per Minute—are blistering bangers rooted in traditional hardcore chaos, spiced up with fist-pumping, boot-stomping choruses.
Siren Song of the Counter Culture in 2004 was their major-label debut, on Geffen. That album highlighted a broadening hardcore sound buffed up with more melody. (Think '90s Bad Religion messaging cloaked in early 2000s AFI harmonies.) However catchy they became, their message still ripped like a dagger. Appealing to a bigger audience with bouncier hooks, acoustic numbers, and string overdubs earned them their first splash into the Billboard 200 albums chart (eventually certified gold in the U.S.).
Elevated visibility scored them back-to-back platinum albums—2006's The Sufferer & the Witness and 2008's Appeal to Reason, and that momentum carried over to a continued residency in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 with 2011's Endgame, 2014's The Black Market, and 2017's Wolves. And 2021's Nowhere Generation represents a maturing, melodic hardcore outfit that continues to stand up for what they believe in and still provide the revolutionary attitude to back it up.
The continual growth and evolution of their melodic-hardcore formula has allowed them to roll into mainstream airwaves like a Trojan horse. Newcomers who were enamored with anthemic choruses ("Savior," "The Prayer of the Refugee," "Nowhere Generation," "Give It All," "I Don't Want To Be Here Anymore") quickly became dancing disciples because of the band's knack for earworms.
The twin-guitar team of singer Tim McIlrath and lead guitarist Zach Blair welcomed PG down to Birmingham, Alabama's Avondale Brewing Company to see how their simple-but-stinging setups have morphed since 2015.
[Brought to you by D'Addario XPND Pedalboard: http://ddar.io/xpnd.rr]
The Black-and-White Guitar
Lead guitarist Zach Blair's No. 1 was given a facelift for this run to match the black-and-white motif of the recent release Nowhere Generation. Honoring a hero, Blair went full Schenker (his favorite lead player) on this Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul Custom to vibe with the new album.
(If you recall from our 2015 episode with Blair, he had an "Ace Frehley" Les Paul Custom that loosely mimicked a Starman signature, with white pickup surrounds, a stark white pickguard, and gold speed knobs…. That's this guitar!)
Pivoting from Ace to Schenker, he swapped out the bridge Seymour Duncan Distortion for a SH-4 JB—otherwise it's that axe with a different personality.
All of Blair's electrics are strung with Ernie Ball Burly Slinkys gauged .011–.052, he's typically tuned to E-flat standard, and they all integrate with his Shure UR4D+ rackmount wireless.
Here's Zach Blair's 2012 Gibson Les Paul goldtop that was affectionately aged by Nash Guitars to appear like a true-blue '57. Blair's gear guru and fellow Rig Rundown alumnus Brian Baker (Bad Religion) suggested he put a DiMarzio Super Distortion in the bridge. Baker didn't need to tell Blair twice!
Zach Blair's 2013 Gibson Les Paul Standard also got the Nash "makeover" treatment, so the newish guitar looks (and plays) like a seasoned vet. This one received a bridge-pickup swap by introducing a Lollar humbucker into its DNA.
Drop D Me
Rise Against's current set spanning nine albums requires one jam in drop-D tuning, so Blair brought out this 2012 Les Paul Standard to cover the task.
The Mighty Marshall
While touring with A Day to Remember, Blair became fast friends with their tech, Johnny Myer, who hotrods Marshalls. Blair offered up his '70s JMP that was malfunctioning from an awry "EVH brown sound" mod, hoping Myer could resuscitate the rock in the head. To his amazement, the amp gnashes like a Bengal tiger. Thanks to Myer, the JMP was rejuvenated, complete with a resonance mod and five cascading gain stages.
For the band's "clean" tones (Blair approximates them to a slight AC/DC grind), he switches on this 1987 Marshall JCM800. Before the tour, the 800 was re-tubed with fresh EL34s.
Last time Blair relied on his tech to make all the changes, with his pedals safely stowed in a rolling rack case. This go-round he wanted to "put pedals in front of me like a normal human being," so he can manipulate his tone as he likes. Standbys from 2015 include an Eventide H9, MXR Carbon Copy, and MXR Phase 90. New flavors include a Klon KTR, Dunlop Cry Baby Q-Zone, and a custom amp switcher (lower right-hand corner) that toggles between the JMP and 800.
A Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner keeps his guitars in check, a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus juices his stomps, and a Radial JR5 Remote Foot Controller handles any amp moves.
This Guitar Is On Fire!
Founding frontman/guitarist Tim McIlrath goes into most stage battles with his fearless sidekick: a 1982 Gibson SG that survived a fire. Everything appears to be stock (this was in storage the last few tours), but it did get upgraded with locking tuners, and the infamous snake-bite marking indicates a move from a vibrato tailpiece to the current Tune-o-matic configuration. Most of McIlrath's electrics take Ernie Ball Slinkys (.010 –.046) and he's usually in E-flat standard tuning.
Bubbling Under the Surface
The SG's tortured headstock has seen better days but it's still in one piece.
Oh, Black Betty!
Playing second fiddle to the '82 SG is the above 2015 Gibson Memphis ES-Les Paul that's been retrofitted with an EverTune bridge.
When Tim straps on this Les Paul, the fans know they're about to hear the title track off the band's 2021 release. This LP takes Ernie Ball 2215 Nickel Skinny Top/Heavy Bottom strings (.010–.052), because he tunes down to drop-D. (One cool thing to note are the mirrored inlays.)
SG Me, Please
This 2012 Gibson SG—also given the EverTune treatment—is another backup Tim McIlrath has toured with for years.
Mahogany Martin For McIlrath
For acoustic songs like "Forfeit" or "Swing Life Away," Tim McIlrath hits the stage with just his scratchy pipes and this Martin D-15M StreetMaster.
Acoustic backup duties are handled by this 2015 Martin D-35 50th Anniversary model spruced up with a sticker of the city of Chicago flag.
Marshall! Marshall! Marshall!
McIlrath fills his side of the stage with a pair of 50W Marshall JCM900s from the 1990s.
A Little Goes a Long Way
Tim McIlrath's rack contains his basic five pedal groups: phaser (MXR Phase 90), EQ (Boss GE-7 Graphic Equalizer), octave (Electro-Harmonix Micro POG), delay (MXR Carbon Copy), and everything else (Eventide H9). A Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus feeds his stomps and an RJM Rack Gizmo helps with signal flow.
Kick on the Pedals, M#ther F@cker!
Sidestage, McIlrath's tech Geoff Bilson triggers all the effects with a RJM Mastermind GT.
Cory Wong talks with Dirty Loops bassist Henrik Linder about their blistering, new collaboration, Turbo, how the band became an accidental YouTube sensation, playing with tempered frets, the changing role of bass in pop, and tips for increasing speed and improving technique. Plus … Flea!
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Henrik Linder (Dirty Loops) on Flea | Wong Notes Podcast
Orange Amplification extends its Crush amps series with the launch of the Super Crush 100 head and combo, taking the now classic Crush Pro and moving it a big step further toward a more valve-like tone. The completely new design is more than just an upgrade. It delivers all the immediacy, definition and character expected from any of Orange's top-of-the-range valve amps.
The Super Crush 100 effectively mimics the huge, rich and responsive tone of the Orange flagship Rockerverb amps. It uses the same 100 Watt Class A/B power amp as the Pedal Baby and combined with the 2-channel JFET preamp design, it provides masses of authority and musicality which will have guitarists swearing there are valves inside! An on-board digital 24 bit reverb module provides a lush, spring reverb ambience and the fully-buffered, ultra-transparent, series FX Loop takes care of all effects needs.
Super Crush 100 - A Demo with Ty Tabor
Two completely independent, all-analogue preamp channels give instant access to a whole spectrum of warm, valve-like tones. From high-headroom clean to high-gain metal, every sound ever needed is dialled in with ease, thanks to a versatile circuit and intuitive simple control layout. The Dirty Channel boasts four cascading stages of proper Orange gain and the Clean Channel is a bright, vintage-flavoured, two-stage design with plenty of headroom, keeping clean tones shimmering and clear at any level.
The Super Crush 100 features a balanced XLR output with Orange's CabSim speaker emulation technology giving instant access to great D.I. guitar tone, straight into the P.A. or recording interface. The additional rear Cab Back switch offers the choice of an open or closed back sounding cab. The compact 1×12 combo boasts a Celestion G12H-150 speaker giving it a hard-hitting, classically British voice.
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BOSS announces the IR-200 Amp & IR Cabinet and SY-200 Synthesizer, two powerful new models added to the popular 200 series pedal lineup. The IR-200 brings next-level performance to direct sound for guitar and bass, offering exceptional audio quality, premium amps, and over 150 hi-res speaker cabinet impulse responses from BOSS and Celestion Digital. The SY-200 delivers a massive library of expressive synthesizer sounds for guitar and bass, onboard memories for storing sounds, and numerous options for real-time control.
IR-200 Amp & IR Cabinet
The IR-200 turns any pedalboard into a self-contained direct sound solution for live playing, studio recording, and practice. Two custom DSPs provide class-leading IR performance with support for mono and stereo files, up to 32-bit floating point/96 kHz resolution, and up to 500 ms length for natural bass response. The 144 BOSS and 10 Celestion Digital IRs cover a vast range of cabinet and mic combinations, and users can import up to 128 of their own WAV IRs with the IR-200 IR Loader software for macOS and Windows. Eight guitar amps offer go-to platforms from classic clean, tweed, and class A to vintage and modern high-gain, while three bass amps provide rich, punchy sounds from clean to driven.
With its intuitive interface, deep sound-shaping tools, and 128 memories, the IR-200 lets users build a library of setups for every playing situation. Connectivity includes a mono input, mono or stereo outputs, and an effects loop, allowing the IR-200 to integrate with any mono or stereo pedal setup. Two IRs can be used at once, and it's possible to feed independent signals to different destinations, such as a stage amp and house PA. Two onboard footswitches are available for memory selection while performing, and users can control various functions with external footswitches, an expression pedal, or MIDI.
Along with its other great features, the IR-200 functions as a high-quality USB audio interface for music recording and streaming software on macOS and Windows computers and iOS devices. A headphones jack is available for sound monitoring, along with an aux input for playing along with backing music from an external device.
Introducing BOSS IR-200 Amp & IR Cabinet
Offering a universe of rich, analog-inspired polyphonic tones in a small footprint, the SY-200 makes it simple for players to weave BOSS's expressive guitar and bass synth technology into their musical journeys. Building on the fun, instant-gratification experience of the acclaimed SY-1 Synthesizer from the BOSS compact series, the SY-200 features an expanded sound set, more tone-shaping possibilities, and 128 memories for storing sonic creations. Two footswitches are available for real-time performance control, and users can take things even further with external footswitches, an expression pedal, and MIDI.
The SY-200 provides 171 total sounds organized in 12 intuitive categories and adjustable parameters for customizing the tone and response. Calling up great sounds is quick and easy, thanks to the informative display and hands-on controls. The SY-200 can be used with any guitar or bass via a standard 1/4-inch cable, and selectable modes are available to optimize the synth engine for either instrument type.
BOSS SY-200 Synthesizer featuring McRocklin
Availability & Pricing
The IR-200 and SY-200 will be available in the U.S. in January 2022 for $399.99 and $299.99 respectively.
To learn more, visit www.boss.info.