Check out the highlights from the second day of NAMM '15.
A faithful recreation of the Germanium Mosrite Fuzzrite with a modern twist.
From the years of 1966 to 1968, Mosrite produced two distinct fuzz circuits---one outfitted with silicon transistors, the other with germanium parts. Of the two, the germanium version is by far the most rare, with original designer and Mosrite employee Ed Sanner estimating that around 250 ever made it out the door. In that final year of production, Mosrite shifted exclusively to silicon parts, making germanium components a thing of the past. However, by 1968 the public was hungry for fuzz, having heard it on a handful of recordings, most notably "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" by Iron Butterfly and "Incense and Peppermints" by Strawberry Alarm Clock. These two buzzy, sinewy fuzz tones were part of a wave of psychedelic rock gaining traction in the mainstream, and both were recorded prior to the introduction of the silicon Fuzzrite.
Other purported users of this early Fuzzrite circuit include Ron Asheton of the Stooges, Norman Greenbaum on "Spirit in the Sky", Henry Vestine of Canned Heat, and many others. Catalinbread have a germanium version at their disposal, and we've used it as a benchmark to create an extremely faithful version with a modern twist. Just like the original, the Catalinbread Fuzzrite Germanium includes two NOS PNP germanium semiconductors with a polarity inverter IC so it plays nice with all forms of power. Unlike the original, Catalinbread added a toggle switch to shift into modern mode, significantly beefing up the low-end content to suit more contemporary rigs.
The Fuzzrite Germanium is out now and available for $179.99 at participating retailers and catalinbread.com.
Presets extend the flexibility of an already expansive and easy-to-use reverb.
Intuitive. Great range in all controls. Well-built.
Some digital artifacts at long decay times.
Walrus Audio Slötvå
Walrus Audio is a prolific builder, but, as the five reverb pedals in their lineup suggest, they have a real affinity for manipulating time and space. The beauty of the Slötvå reverb (which is derived from the company’s very similar Spin FV-1 chip-based Slö reverb) is how satisfying and simple it makes dramatic shifts between time/space textures.
Slötvå’s big departure from the Slö model is the addition of three presets, enabling quick switches between vastly different reverbs. But Slötvå’s interface is also pretty easily mastered and manipulated on the fly without using presets. And that operational flexibility makes Slötvå just as capable of delivering surprises as predictable, repeatable results.
Slötvå’s three algorithms all range to super-long decay times, especially when you hit and hold the sustain button. “Dark” adds a minus-one-octave signal, rise adds an almost reverse-like swell effect, and dream adds a latch function that effectively “freezes” the reverb signal. In all three modes, the octave content can reveal chorale-style overtones and discernibly digital artifacts at long decay times. Some players love and utilize these sounds to great effect. So, try before you buy if you don’t know where you stand. If you’re untroubled by a little shimmer at expansive settings, however, Slötvå is a fun, intuitive, and performance-practical way to source a genuinely expansive range of unobtrusive to ambient reverb sounds in a compact, easy-to-wrangle unit.
With such a flashy flame top, the Silvertone 1445 was built to catch the eyes of department store shoppers.
I don’t know what’s going on lately, but I’m breaking down all over and my shoulder is the latest to crumble. When I was a kid I would practice guitar in my bedroom near a radiator with an ungrounded amp plug and I’d get a zap right through my guitar and into my hands. Well, my shoulder pain is like that now, only without the cool story of rock ’n’ roll survival. I simply woke up one day like this. After a few weeks of discomfort, I figured I’d try out a new pillow, since mine are flattened like a wafer. I ventured out to the mall and, much to my sadness, saw the local Sears store shuttered, with weeds growing up from the sidewalks and concrete barriers blocking the large glass doors. I know I don’t get out much, but, man, was I sad to see the Sears store I’d known since childhood closed-up like that. My wife was laughing at me because apparently it had been closed for some time. But since I seem to exist on a separate timeline than most folks, it was all news to me.
The 1445 combines an elegant sunburst top with surfy accoutrements and makes a few noticeable nods toward both Fender Jaguar and Mosrite styles.
In the parking lot, I stretched my shoulder and gave some thought to Sears and department stores in general. Back in the day, I would see stacks of new vinyl records in the store, alongside the classic, huge hi-fi stereo systems. I feel like I grew up during a great time, where I had one foot in a bygone era and the other foot pointed towards gigantic technological breakthroughs like computers. But I also feel kind of bummed about missing out on the whole electric guitar/department store connection. My good buddy Mike Dugan recalls those times, and while most kids were charging towards the toy section, he was checking out the electric guitars and amps. Can you imagine?
“I feel kind of bummed about missing out on the whole electric guitar/department store connection.”
For those of you who also missed the Sears guitars, here’s a quick primer: They were almost all branded Silvertone and, in the late ’50s and early to mid ’60s, were manufactured by either Danelectro, Harmony, or Kay. By the tail end of the ’60s, a lot of Silvertone guitars were Japanese imports that were priced and aimed at beginners. I’ve always felt that the Silvertone guitars were a bit on the conservative side of the spectrum, and there weren’t many crazy designs or finishes.
The headstock on this 1445 , with binding and its sloped shape, is an elegant touch for a beginner’s guitar.
This Silvertone 1445 model hails from around 1969. It’s a cool 3-pickup model that features an offset shape with some exaggerated lines. Built at the Kawai factory, the guitar has an ebony fretboard and some standard Kawai appointments, like the in-house vibrato, electronics, and pickups. There is an on/off mini switch and volume knob for each pickup as well as a single tone knob. Around this time, Kawai was starting to cut corners in subtle ways, one of which included underwinding the pickups, which, in most cases, resulted in a thinner sound. Luckily, the series wiring in these guitars can produce quite the powerful sound. The finish is a nice-but-kinda-blah sunburst with some flamed wood. The flame veneer was a new thing for the Japanese guitar makers at the time, and I think there was some elegance attached—especially for a guitar targeted toward beginning players.
Strapping on one of these late-’60s 1445s is a familiar-feeling experience, offering up a cross between a Fender Jaguar and a Mosrite vibe. Often, Kawai electrics of this era were neck-heavy and the headstock would take a dive on you when slung around your shoulder. But the 1445 features a thicker body with a thin laminated neck. Kawai had basically perfected that laminate-neck-making technique, mostly to prevent warping, and these guitars usually hold up very well, even though the necks on are quite slender and narrow.
The Silvertone triple-pickup 1445 cost $78.95 in the 1969 Sears winter catalog and only lasted for a few years. I’ve seen all sorts of variations on this model, like bound bodies and necks, different colored pickguards, and different knobs. I suspect a lot of you out there started on a Silvertone. One has to marvel at the sizable influence Sears stores had on generations of folks. I’m really going to miss that local Sears and the feeling of nostalgia it evoked. Not quite like the electric zaps flowing into my shoulder right now, but still powerful!