On this year-end, in-person edition of Dipped In Tone, our two hosts look back on the year’s most inspiring pedals, guitars, and amps, plus the biggest gear disappointment.
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It’s the most wonderful time of year: the “year in gear” season is finally upon us, and we’re celebrating with this special in-person episode of Dipped In Tone. Zach and Rhett gang up at Zach’s place to run down the best of the best of musical excellence and oddities in 2023.
The guys start in with their favorite stompboxes. Rhett tips his hat to Old Blood Noise Endeavors’ Beam Splitter, Hologram’s Chroma Console, and Universal Audio’s 1176 pedal, which he runs as a hard-clipped overdrive. Some might say it sounds shitty, but as Zach notes, “Shitty is pretty in the mix!” Zach’s “boring” picks include the Nobels ODR-1, his collection of new Tube Screamer variants, and the Poly Beebo. Along the way, they talk about the magic of going back to old gear they’d written off in their younger days, and dig into the root causes of Zach’s discomfort with more experimental playing approaches.
Rhett sings praises for the new Orange OR30 and remembers its early 2000s predecessor, the AD30, and he and Zach agree on the superior, “8K” quality of Two-Rock’s current offerings over nearly every other amp on the market. Out of this year’s axes, Rhett favors both Fender’s Vintera II ’60s Bass VI and the Mexican-made Jason Isbell Custom Telecaster, plus the Collings 470 JL—Julian Lage’s signature. Zach spotlights his PRS SE Silver Sky, and a gorgeous Gibson Custom Shop 1959 ES-335 Reissue.
Be sure to stick around for the end,when the duo call out the year’s biggest disappointment in gear, which Zach describes as “baby’s first modeler.”
Great tones in all settings. Practical design, High quality.
Recombined tones may not be better than the originals to some ears.
Keeley Noble Screamer
Robert Keeley marries the best of two beloved green machines in one smart box.
The Keeley Noble Screamer handsomely combines many attributes of Ibanez Tube Screamer- and Nobels ODR-1-style circuits. Neither of those iconic green machines need much introduction. Both aesthetically and sonically, the Tube Screamer is one of the most recognizable pedals in the effects pantheon, and the ODR-1’s anecdotal honorifics (“The secret weapon of Nashville session players!”) and concretized list of evangelists (Guthrie Trapp! Tom Bukovac!) are practically part of the pedal’s name. But through the use of switchable clipping and tone control profiles, the compact, clever Noble Screamer makes it possible to blend and switch between flavors from both green giants.
The Noble Screamer’s style is minimalist and striking. It marks the debut of Keeley’s new sloped aluminum housing, which looks great and feels sturdy. The Grinch-green brushed aluminum knobs look bold and easy to read against the black enclosure too. Like the TS and ODR-1, the all-analog Noble Screamer features knobs for volume, gain, and tone. But the Noble Screamer has toggles under the latter two pots that alter their respective functions considerably. Flipping the switch under the gain knob to TS mode engages soft-clipping diodes. Switching the toggle below the tone knob to TS-mode gives the user control of a low-pass filter. In OD modes, the circuit switches to hard-clipping diodes, and the tone controls sweeps from flat EQ to boosted bass and treble in the fashion of the ODR-1’s “spectrum” control. This simple switching scheme yields a lot of different flavors. The pedal can also move between buffered and true bypass switching by pressing and holding the footswitch. It’s a smart, flexible, and practical feature.
Mix and Match
The Noble Screamer sounds delightful across the board. With both toggles in TS mode and all knobs at noon, you get soft grit with great note definition and a tight midrange focus. And while TS pedals are famous for sweet low-gain tones, all-Screamer settings beckon you to max the drive control and unlock the circuit’s smooth, singing distortion. Adding output volume at these settings brings a touch more width, and the low-pass filter moves easily between spiky and silky.
Flicking the switches to OD mode with identical settings brings a very noticeable volume boost and more pronounced bass response and fullness. Compared to the TS settings, you’ll either find it a touch dark, or pleasantly alive, depending on your taste. The hard-clipping diodes make OD mode a much nastier proposition, and you can easily push the pedal to thick distortion. I preferred keeping the tone and gain around 1 o’clock, and the volume between noon and 3 o’clock, depending on how loud and rude I wanted to get. The tone control’s sweep is impressively useful in its OD “spectrum” guise as well. You can access a lot of high-end clarity, and it doesn’t overdo the ODR-1’s signature low-end thunder. In low-gain settings, the OD mode is predictably large sounding. But the best low-gain/boost sounds might be those that blend the soft clipping of TS mode with the OD tone section. These tones are especially smooth, broad, and clear.I don’t know that mixing and matching the circuits is necessarily better than each on its own, but it certainly offers a different palate of sounds. With the tone set for OD and the drive in TS you can stretch the bass and treble capabilities of the TS’s gentler, more targeted overdrive bite. Reverse the switches and you’ll get the TS’s more focused mid-range punch with harsher, heavier distortion. For my tastes, the OD tone/TS drive combo was the most pleasing. It’s big and punchy without ever getting harsh, and the boost from the OD tone circuit makes the TS drive a bit more commanding.
While you could conceivably get a Tube Screamer and ODR-1 for the same price as the Noble Screamer, the high-quality, USA-built Keeley is a more flexible solution that takes up half the space. True, the overdrive sounds here are largely familiar. But the Noble Screamer is a smarter, cooler, and more versatile way to access and reshape those bedrock tones.
The Best 2-in-1 Overdrive? Keeley Noble Screamer Demo | First Look
It's Here! Grab your Mystery Stocking Below.
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more MSRP.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 12, 2023.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, one per person, so more people can get in on the fun!