Brownface-style tremolo in a stompbox.
If there’s such thing as a cult modulation effect, the “harmonic tremolo” found in certain early-1960s Fender brownface amps certainly qualifies. Unlike most trems, which modulate the entire frequency of your signal, the circuit splits your sound into high and low bands, modulating one with an LFO, and the other with an inverted version of the LFO, alternately emphasizing treble and bass. The result isn’t pure tremolo, but a trippy trem/vibrato/phaser hybrid. Fender soon replaced this complex, three-tube circuit with the simpler (and cheaper) single-tube optical tremolo found in most Fender blackface amps. But for some players, the phasey brownface sound remains the definitive tremolo.
The harmonic tremolo effect is often resurrected in the digital realm, where it’s easy to simulate the two-band effect without tricky, tube-intensive circuitry. But it’s rarely been realized as suavely as in Coldcraft’s Harmonic Tremolo stompbox, which combines an analog preamp stage with a DSP chip and some clever new controls. It’s the company’s second edition of the effect, replacing a discontinued all-analog version.
Coldcraft has crammed so much circuitry into a standard 1590B enclosure that there’s no room for a battery—AC is required. In addition to the effect circuitry, there’s soft-touch relay switching. An oddball mix of ICs and both standard-sized and miniature analog components are laid out on two circuit boards linked by ribbon connector, with board-mounted pots and jacks. Construction seems solid, aside from soldering-iron scars on a couple of the box capacitors. High-quality metal knobs lend a classy touch.
The stompbox offers a convincing version of the original brownface effect. Naturally, you don’t get some of the subtle, random variation of the analog circuit, and you’ll never get the exact brownface sound from a stompbox positioned before the amp’s input. But there’s nothing overtly “digital-sounding” about the tones here, and the effect is every bit as pretty, immersive, and swirly as it should be. It definitely sounds distinct from standard single-band tremolo.
But the coolest things about Coldcraft’s pedal are the ways it goes beyond Fender’s original design. In addition to the expected speed and intensity controls, the pedal boasts three extra pots that unlock cool variations on the original concept.
A volume knob, which sets the amount of analog boost, is a big part of the equation. Some digital trems sound limp simply because the designers didn’t realize that tremolo effects require a bit of signal boost—otherwise, there’s an inevitable energy drop when the effect is engaged. Here you can fine-tune the level to taste. You might, for example, set the gain on the high side if you tend to use tremolo on quieter, clean-tones passages.
Equally useful is a treble-nixing tone cut knob. A darker setting might suit a bright single-coil pickup, for example, while you might want maximum brightness to cut through with an overdriven humbucker tone.
Phase for Days
But the coolest new feature is a balance control, which regulates the blend between the two frequency bands. With the knob centered, you get something close to the original Fender sound. Twisting it fully clockwise emphasizes treble trem, while the opposite direction puts the low-frequency effect front and center (and provides a darn good Uni-Vibe sound). There are many nice variations along the way. You can’t do that with a ’62 Fender Pro!
Another clever idea: A momentary mode, where the effect is enabled only when the footswitch is held down. (You enter the mode via a tap-tap-hold footswitch sequence. To exit this mode, repower the pedal.) It’s a nice option with many possible application, though because of the optical muting component of the bypass system, there’s a slight disruption when the effect is engaged—not a pop or a silence, but enough of a contrast that you probably wouldn’t activate the effect over a sustained chord. But it works great for applying the effect to a single phrase.
Coldcraft’s Harmonic Tremolo is a cool digital incarnation of a rare and revered two-band modulation effect. Core tones are warm and inviting, and thoughtful extras such as volume, tone, and balance controls unlock additional colors brownface Fenders can’t deliver. You get fine sounds and innovative design at an inviting price.
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The Oregon-based company extends their line of sustainably sourced models with an inventive new bracing system and a wallet-friendly price tag.
Myrtlewood grows in Oregon along a 90 mile stretch of the Pacific Ocean coast. It is Breedlove’s favorite tonewood for backs and sides. In addition to its highly varied color patterns extenuated by the thin Burnt Amber Burst finish, myrtle delivers surprising energy and extraordinary tonal balance. To further boost the high-energy sound, we chose a European maple neck—which is denser than mahogany—and an Ovangkol fretboard and bridge. Of course, the top is European spruce for responsive, powerful projection. We spared no detail, including brass inlays, Fishman Flex Plus-T Electronics, and a travel-ready hardshell case.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.