## NEW Baroness Rig Rundown

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# The String-Tension Follies Experiment, Continued

Instrument makers have always tried to manipulate string length to optimize tone and feel, but how much is myth and how much is science?

### Length, gauge, friction, voodoo? Revisiting the mystery of real or perceived string resistance in a science-y way.

In a previous column, I investigated the relationship between overall string length and its resulting tension ["The Doors of Perception," August 2020]. I cobbled together a crude measuring fixture and determined that the length of string beyond the bridge and nut did not affect a string's (linear) tension at a given pitch. After being assailed with comments and emails loaded with physics lessons detailing the math behind my conclusion, I now know that it was folly to assume any other conclusion. The laws of physics state that string tension is determined completely by the active (vibrating) length of the string, the pitch the string is tuned to, and the string's mass. In simple terms, this means that for a given vibrating length, the tighter you pull the string or the heavier the gauge, the more tension it will have. Nothing else, like peghead length or tailpiece position, matters—full stop. Still, the feeling persisted that I could sense a difference on instruments with long lengths of string between the bridge and tailpiece, such as an archtop jazz guitar. I'm not alone.

There have been many seasoned musicians I've known who swear that a flipped 6-in-line headstock tightens up the low strings. They've reported that the strings were tougher to bend and felt stiff. Some of the string manufacturers I spoke to in my research, despite their knowledge of the science behind the materials and construction of guitar strings, offered that there might be a perceived difference. But how could this be? You'd think that if you feel tension, it could be measured, yet my test instrument showed no change. Could there be another force at work, like lateral resistance? It seemed impossible, but it was time to resurrect the string tension fixture to find out.

My string test contraption was originally built to measure the linear tension of strings, but I only had to make a few changes to convert it to quantify lateral resistance. Admittedly, human fingers can detect minuscule changes in pressure, so I wondered if my 20-pound test instrument would have the resolution to pick up any variation. My theory was that if the overall length of a string was longer, there might be a perceivable difference in the force needed to stretch a string to a given interval. I'm counting on the physics majors out there to rush in at this point with the equation that I'm oblivious to.

Perhaps the friction (or lack of same) at the nut and bridge is what we are feeling when a guitar feels easy to play, or, conversely, when we say it fights us.

Nevertheless, my method was to use a pair of .012 plain steel strings and bend them the distance needed to raise the pitch one full step. Each string would have a different overall length despite their identical vibrating length. The full-step bend at the 8th fret position is a lick that all (non-classical) guitarists employ regularly. It's also the figure we often use subconsciously to determine playability when evaluating a guitar. I used this exact move in an attempt to impress Joe Bonamassa while sampling one of his '59 sunbursts. He avoided eye contact.

In my initial tests, I observed that it required a force of 1.8 pounds to raise the pitch one full step, regardless of the total length of the string, as long as the vibrating length remained 25.5". Thinking that perhaps the string's light gauge made any difference too small to measure accurately, I repeated the experiment with a .056 low E string. My test replicated bending the same B note three frets (a step-and-a-half) sharp to D. This is a pretty bold move on a guitar, but I thought maybe I'd see some evidence of difference if I really strangled it. Again, no difference was indicated, as both examples required 4 pounds of pressure to reach the higher note.

Now, I'm sure many of you will be quick to point out that this was a pretty shoddy exercise. I didn't make absolutely certain that the friction at the nut would be equal when extending the length to the tuner. Friction is a factor often brought up when this subject is discussed. Should I have used a ball-bearing roller at the nut? Perhaps the friction (or lack of same) at the nut and bridge is what we're feeling when a guitar feels easy to play, or, conversely, when we say it fights us. What about those players who have that little quivery vibrato that sounds like Joan Baez? Do they feel these forces? As for my research, at this point I was beginning to tire and made myself an espresso.

I'm hopeful someone smarter than me will figure this out and make a YouTube rebuttal. Meanwhile, I'm planning my next test to see if longer scale length is why Eric Clapton "lost" his tone after Cream. Until then, rock on friends!

## Introducing the Orbiter Fuzz Pedal from SoloDallas

Discover the SoloDallas Orbiter Fuzz, a meticulously crafted effects pedal designed to blend genuine vintage tones with user-friendly versatility.

Building upon the legacy of the 1966 Arbiter Fuzz, the Orbiter Fuzz enhances this classic circuit with advanced fine-tuning circuitry.

Key Features:

• Vintage Tone: The Orbiter Fuzz delivers smooth, musical fuzz tones with cutting sustain, offering immediate inspiration.
• Vintage Power: Our unique power circuit internally converts modern wall power to emulate the draw of a vintage carbon zinc battery.
• "Sweet Spot" Dial: An internal mini potentiometer allows you to dial in the perfect impedance response for your favorite pickups.

Versatile Controls:

• FUZZ: Adjusts the overall amount of fuzz by shaping the signal’s waveform from triangular to square as the knob is turned clockwise.
• GAIN: Increases the amount of signal entering the circuit, pushing it into harmonic clipping for smooth overdriven fuzz tones.
• BIAS: Modifies voltage to the matched pair of transistors, unleashing a wide range of vintage fuzz tones. Lower voltages produce spitty Black Keys responses, while higher voltages create smooth American Woman fuzz.
• Compact Design: Optimized for pedalboard space and easy integration with any standard pedal.
• Durable Construction: Crafted for reliability to withstand rigorous touring conditions.

Technical Specifications:

• Input Impedance: 500 kOhm
• Output Impedance: 10 kOhm
• Power Requirements: External 9V DC center-negative power supply
• Dimensions: 4.75" x 2.50" x 1.5"
• Weight: 0.8 lbs
• Bypass: True bypass

Design Details:

• Custom Artwork: Retro space-age design that pays homage to the Arbiter’s flying saucer enclosure.
• High-Quality Housing: Durable reinforced steel enclosure with a vintage metallic blue hammered finish.

Why You Need the SoloDallas Orbiter Fuzz Pedal:

A great fuzz pedal is essential for every guitarist and bassist. The Orbiter Fuzz offers the smooth, singing fuzz tone every musician dreams of, combining musicality with the reliability you need. If you’re looking for a pedal that excels in both sound and style, the Orbiter Fuzz is a must-have. Complete your search for the perfect fuzz pedal with the Orbiter Fuzz.

Arriving on Planet Earth 9/1/24! The Orbiter Fuzz will be available for purchase exclusively at SoloDallas.com starting September 1, 2024. The first 100 orders will include a SoloDallas swag pack guaranteed to impress. All SoloDallas orders ship within 24 hours.

Price: \$249 USD.

## Vox Real McCoy VRM-1 Review

### Revisiting the very first wah circuit with delicious vintage-flavored results.

Delicious, present voice. Satisfying, expressive range and filter curve. Well-made. Very little noise.

Toppy tones could be too hot for some players.

\$279 street

Vox Real McCoy VRM-1 Wah voxamps.com

4.5
4.5
5
3.5

Some pedals are more fun than others. And on the fun spectrum, a new Vox wah is like getting a bike for Christmas. There’s gleaming chrome. It comes in a cool vinyl pouch that’s hipper than a stocking. Put the pedal on the floor and you feel the freedom of a marauding BMX delinquent off the leash, or a funk dandy cool-stepping through the hot New York City summertime. It’s musical motion. It’s one of the most stylish effects ever built. A good one will be among the coolest-sounding, too.

### Vox Real McCoy - MAIN by premierguitar

Needless to say, there are not a lot of original Vox Clyde McCoys on the gigging circuit. They’re collector-spendy and a rarity, even in nice studios. And as anyone who has ever owned a wah knows, the combination of vigorous stomping and relative fragility in electro-mechanical terms means many wahs live short lives. A late-’60s Clyde McCoy can indeed sound special, though: top end that’s substantial, sweet and searing, and vowel-y contours in the filter sweeps that lend a haunting humanity to the voice. The new Vox Real McCoy VRM-1 is exhilarating in many of the same ways vintage specimens can be.

### Of Halos, Pots, Treadles, and Trips

The Real McCoy mixes old and newer components and circuit construction techniques. The machine-populated board is clean, neat, and dotted with time-tested, familiar parts, like BC-109 transistors, and a contemporary halo inductor design. The latter component, like any inductor, shifts the resonant peak and shapes a wah’s voice. The one used here is less noisy than those on early Clyde McCoys, but clearly shares many very similar tone attributes.

### Something in the Wahter

When I play a wah, I love using long, slow filter sweeps—like, “Maggot Brain”-at-half-speed slow. The McCoy’s nuanced taper means lots of copious tone colors to paint with if you take that approach. If you’re accustomed to the narrower vocal range of inexpensive wahs, the Real McCoy can inspire a relaxed approach to the effect—the kind that compels a player to lean on a single note and enables sweet, vocal-style support in more tender, soulful musical settings. As much pleasure as there is in these lazy-footed adaptations of the effect, the McCoy’s range and treadle action also makes it a standout for Wah Wah Watson and Skip Pitts “wocka-wocka” rhythm jabs. The Real McCoy is quiet, too, adding little hiss or noise to your signal.

At extremes of the potentiometer’s travel, the McCoy shines. The toppiest of the top end is blue-flame hot—a killer place to punctuate a solo or linger for a whole one, for that matter. The bassier reaches of the sweep are throaty, thick and powerful rather than muffled. I love the sounds the Real McCoy makes here, particularly with a nasty fuzz on the receiving end, which can sound really snarly and focused rather than grating.

### The Verdict

The Real McCoy sounds, in most respects, very vintage in its tone profile. There’s lots of range, sharp trebly peaks, and fat, bassy resonance. It feels great underfoot, too. It’s responsive—facilitating fast, fluttering “Dazed and Confused” filter sweeps and long, slow throws of the treadle. About the price: \$279 is on the high end for new wah wah. That’s only 20 bucks less than Vox’s V846-HW handwired wah and anywhere from 100 to 180 bucks more than wahs at the affordable end of the price spectrum, where the occasional wah-ist tends to look. If lyrical, super-present wah textures are a cornerstone of your sound, the Real McCoy merits a listen to see if the differences here justify the cost. Even wah newbies, however, may well find the Real McCoy’s characterful voice infectious and irresistible.

## ENGL E658 Steve Morse Signature 20

Introducing the ENGL Steve Morse Signature 20, a compact and versatile all-tube head with two channels, power soak options, built-in noise gate, delay, reverb, and more. Made in Germany, this amp delivers Steve Morse's precision and clarity in a powerful package.

Steve Morse, the legendary guitarist known for his work with bands like Deep Purple and the Dixie Dregs, has recently announced a new collaboration with ENGL Amps.

The result of this partnership is a small signature head that promises to deliver the perfect tone for any guitarist looking to achieve the same level of precision and clarity that Morse is known for. The new ENGL head, aptly named the Steve Morse Signature 20, is a compact and versatile amplifier that packs a punch in terms of both features and sound. With two channels, guitarists will have the ability to dial in a wide range of tones to suit their playing style.

What makes this signature head stand out is its unique preamp and power amp design. The clean channel offers a warm and articulate sound, while the lead channel delivers a classic rock tone with just the right amount of grit. With its powerful and responsive gain stage, this head produces a rich and dynamic sound that can go from smooth and creamy to aggressive and punchy with just the twist of a knob.

But that's not all the E658 also features a built-in noise gate, making it perfect for high-gain playing without any unwanted noise. And for those who want even more tonal options, the head also has a built-in delay and reverb as well some handy features like an IR loader, midi, headphone out. Whether you're a fan of Steve Morse's playing or just looking for a versatile and powerful amp, the ENGL Steve Morse Signature 20 is definitely worth checking out. With its compact size and impressive features, this head is sure to become a go-to for guitarists of all styles and genres.

• Power Soak (Full Power / 20 Watts, 5 Watts, 1 Watt, Speaker Off)
• Preamp tubes: 4 x ECC83 (12AX7)
• Poweramp tubes: 2 x EL84
• Tube buffered FX Loop
• Noise Gate Master Volume Boost (M.V.B.)
• Reverb
• Delay
• Midi: MIDI In (with ENGL Phantom power switch)
• Headphone Output with Level control
• XLR Ground Lift Switch
• Store (for MIDI programming)
• Controls: Gain (separately for each channel), Bass, Middle, Treble, Lead Volume, Clean Presence, Master
• Controls (Rear): Powersoak, Noise Gate threshold level, Delay, Reverb
• Outputs: 1 x 8-16 ohms or 2 x 16 ohms

The Steve Morse Signature 20 is available now from authorized Engl Amplifiers dealers worldwide.