december 2010

Eventide lives up to their reputation of stellar studio effects with the rackmount Eclipse V4

Download Example 1
ModFreqShift + Reverb
Download Example 2
MultiShift + Heavy Overdrive
Download Example 3
Hold Filter + Reverb & Reverse Tap Delay
The way the guitar-playing community shuns rack equipment can be surprising. Despite the fact that innumerable top-name guitarists of every kind use them in their live and studio rigs and that guitar rack effects even become go-to effects in studios, they often suffer a knee-jerk association with really bad, nasally ‘80s shred tone. Eventide is one rack gear manufacturer that typically rises above such prejudices and misperceptions. The H3000 Harmonizer, used famously and extensively by Steve Vai may be Eventide’s most famous rack unit and arguably the most famous harmonizer. Eventide gear typically commands high prices. But with the introduction of the Eclipse V4, Eventide has built a rack-mount multi-effects unit worthy of their reputation that, while not cheap, does a lot for the price.

Start Me Up
The Eclipse can be an intimidating beast at first glance—packed with enough features and controls to keep me wrapped up for days. But a little study reveals it to be a fairly guitarist-friendly unit. The construction quality was rock solid, with a classy, brushed aluminum faceplate that housed a super clear Vacuum Fluorescent Display (VFD) screen, a 15-button keypad with a satisfying feel, and the famous Eventide control wheel for scrolling between patches and altering program parameters. In addition, there was a highly useful dual level meter to let me know if my signal was clipping the inputs, and a memory card slot for saving presets to a compact flash memory card. The neon green, LED backlit Tap Tempo button was a nice touch too, making it a snap for me to punch in a tempo for modulation and time-based effects.

The rear panel of the Eclipse has more connections and routing options than I could shake a stick at. Eventide has always been really good about designing processors that anticipate any connection setup in live and studio rigs alike, and the Eclipse is no exception. In addition to the standard dual analog audio inputs—specially calibrated for either unbalanced ¼” or balanced XLR cables, the device has an XLR digital interface, along with separate digital interfaces for RCA and optical connections. Eventide’s engineers even included a serial port for transferring data between the Eclipse and a PC—evidence of the company’s well-known dedication to the pickiest studio rats.

There’s also a Remote Power In jack for powering an optional MIDI foot controller, effectively making the Eclipse an all-in-one MIDI effects solution without the need for an additional wall wart for foot control power. Granted, most guitarists would probably only rely on the analog ins and outs—and possibly the MIDI interface, but it was really nice to see Eventide go well beyond the average guitarist’s conventional needs and provide interface options for any stage or studio situation.

Setting up and using the Eclipse seemed daunting at first, but overall the interface is fairly intuitive and reduces the learning curve for what is a very feature-rich processor. You can effectively think of the Eclipse as not just one effects unit, but two working in tandem. The device contains two separate effects “blocks” that are essentially separate effects processors. I had the option of using either block separately, or both together. This was an immensely cool feature that opens up the unique tones that are possible from chaining multiple effect units, while eliminating noise, clutter, and messy cable patching problems.

Building Blocks of Tone
I set up the Eclipse via the effects loop of a Diezel Schmidt head and a matching 2x12 halfback cabinet with a Fender Stratocaster, and a set-neck 1978 Ibanez Iceman. The Eventide emitted a short boot screen as I powered it up, and in no time I was ready to go. There are five program categories to choose from in the program list—guitars, vocals, drums, keyboards, and special effects, which range from subtle delays and reverbs to radical pitch shifts. There are a number of presets that can provide a good starting point for the player, which is a great idea considering the Eclipse’s position as an entry-level effects processor in their product lineup.

From a sound quality standpoint, the Eclipse is a glorious piece of equipment. The overdrive patches may have been the most challenging effects to dial in (I usually had to work to eliminate some digital graininess) But apart from distortion flavors, it was hard for me to find an effect that I didn’t think sounded absolutely stellar. The clean, crisp delays and reverbs that helped put Eventide on the map were lush and touch sensitive and delayed signals rose and fell very naturally with my varied pick attack. The same touch sensitivity was also evident in effects like the phasers.

Obviously, Eventide is well known for its harmonizer effects, and the harmonizers on the Eclipse are distinguished by super-quick tracking and dual, fully adjustable pitch parameters. Parameters were extremely simple to access and alter. Just one tap of the Program button, a twirl of the control knob and pressing the Load command was all it took to bring up a patch. After it was loaded, the four rubber buttons lying across the bottom of the display were each assigned to the effect’s parameters, such as wet/dry mix, rate, depth, and feedback.

Still, for all of its bells and whistles, the Eclipse’s simple dual effect block design was its strongest aspect. Crafting the perfect delay tone with just the right bounce and rhythm, then joining it with one of Eventide’s famous, carefully tweaked reverbs was an experience that I will not soon forget. And the amount of depth that the unit added to my tone in these applications was staggering.

As great as the Eclipse is at producing mammoth-sized effects in crystal-clear detail, I never really forgot that it was there while I was playing. Quiet though it may be, the Eventide isn’t exactly transparent (if that’s a priority). The inherent clarity of some of these effects can often make them stand out and feel distinctly more processed, which might be a turn-off to players who prefer the fuzzier tones of analog distortions and delays. But if you’re willing to work with more clinical and precise tones, there’s no end to the textures you can create.

The Verdict
The Eventide Eclipse is designed to be an effects workhorse, and it’s a powerful tool for the guitarist that works across multiple styles and uses a broad array of textures to create moods and enhance songs and compositions. The time-based and modulation effects are flat out extraordinary, and the reverb capabilities are stellar. Such effects can possess a kind of sterility if you’re a stickler for analog sounds. But what you might lose in analog authenticity, you gain in detail, noiseless performance, and touch sensitivity. If you’re interested in a pro-level rack effects unit that covers a lot of territory and can spare the expense, look no further than the Eventide Eclipse V4.

Buy if...
classic Eventide quality and sonic range in a convenient multi-effects unit justify the price.
Skip if...
you only use a few effects or insist on analog sounds.

Street $1995 - Eventide -

A P-90 equipped boutique beauty

Download Example 1
Clean Chords
Download Example 2
Clean Solo
Download Example 3
Distorted Solo
Description of signal chain
Even before he discovered the guitar, Saul Koll was interested in how things worked—deconstructing his toys and reassembling them to his taste. When he was 12, he discovered the joys of playing guitar—and the book Classic Guitar Construction by Irving Sloan. By the time he came across the book again while studying sculpture at San Diego State University, he was building his own instruments. And after some tutoring by Jon Peterson and Glen Mers at The World of Strings in Long Beach, California, the former sculptor founded the Koll Guitar Company.

These days, Koll designs and crafts guitars for Premier Builders Guild, Empire, and Hottie guitars—in addition to filling custom orders from his Portland, Oregon, shop. And his roster of customers includes Elliott Sharp, David Torn, Henry Kaiser, and Lee Ranaldo—a virtual who’s who of today’s forward-thinking guitarists. That clientele makes a lot of sense when you check out the Koll solidbody catalogue, where you will see a lot of sci-fi looking shapes. The Tornado, though, represents a more traditional and straightforward approach.

Back to the Future—and Built for Comfort
The Tornado series features Koll’s typical asymmetrical double cutaway, a look that manages to appear both classic and new. And it’s essentially an offshoot of the Glide series, which is based on an instrument built for David Torn. The Tornado’s narrower headstock is a more recent look for Koll, and I found that its design balanced nicely with the no-frills appearance of the rest of the instrument. Designing a guitar that looks unique and classic isn’t easy. But Koll has nailed it here.

The Tornado’s handcarved, slim-C neck shape was quite comfortable. Measuring roughly .8" at the 1st fret and tapering to about .9" at the 12th, it features fretboard edges that are gently rolled to remove any sharpness. A 17th-fret body joint and a tapered heel provided easy access to the upper reaches of the set neck’s 22 frets. And Koll hand fits the neck into the body with a precision-cut mortise to maximize the gluing surface.

Junior is Special
With its unbound mahogany body and twin P-90s, this particular Tornado rocks a distinct Les Paul Special vibe, but it also improves on that simple and effective formula. The body is gorgeously finished in a transparent-red nitrocellulose lacquer. And the Lucite pickguard is an excellent idea, as it would be a shame to cover up the beauty of this mahogany or its finish. Arm and belly contouring—which are not found on Juniors or Specials—add to the Tornado’s playing-comfort quotient.

The fretboard is ebony rather than rosewood, too. And, unlike on a Special, the Tornado’s is unbound. Keystone tuners contribute a vintage look, but lock to help keep the vibrato system in tune. They are aided in this task by the straight string pull of the headstock and a beautifully cut nut. The strings rest on top of the nut slots, which prevents sticking and yet keeps them perfectly secure.

Of course, no Junior or Special ever came with a Strat-style vibrato bridge. The sturdy Wilkinson version here was set up to float, and it rocked smoothly and stayed in tune as well as any nonlocking whammy I have played. Further, the instrument’s 24.625" scale, 12" fretboard radius, and medium-high, flawlessly finished frets made the Tornado a dream to play—sliding into notes and bending proved equally easy, while its 7 pound 10 ounce weight was easy on the shoulders.

Bark and Bite
The Tornado’s pickups stray from the ordinary, as well. They’re made by TV Jones, and they use Gretsch Filter’Tron-style magnets to produce a variation on the traditional P-90 voice. And when driving an Orange Tiny Terror or the lead channel of an Egnater Rebel 30, they delivered all the bark—think “Mississippi Queen” or Humble Pie—that has made the P-90 style pickup a rock-and-roll legend. But with the Tiny Terror set clean, or through the Rebel’s clean channel, they offered a bit more twang than your average soapbar. These pickups make this particular Tornado model especially versatile. The neck pickup had enough bite for articulate solos in everything from clean-ish blues to higher-gain hard rock. Pairing the two pickups in the middle position produced plenty of jangle for pop or, with a little whammy-bar rocking, creditable Gretsch sounds. In clean mode, I felt right at home chicken-pickin’ with the bridge pickup, but as soon as I started pushing the gain, the classic P-90 snarl reared its aggressive head and fattened my leads.

The P-90 pickups could be a little noisy— like any high-output single-coil. The signal-to- noise ratio of these pickups ensures that, in most live situations, you will not be bothered by the hum while you are playing. However, when you stop playing you will want to be quick on the volume knob or pedal (or use a noise gate). Such are the trade-offs for a sweet-sounding P-90.

The Verdict
There are some custom builders who build objects for collectors, and there are those that build guitars for working players. Saul Koll has several years of practical touring and playing experience, and it shows in this instrument. The Tornado is beautiful and meticulously constructed and finished. But it is, first and foremost, a player’s guitar that reflects the savvy of someone who knows what performers want and need. Such an essentially simple instrument might seem pricey at over three grand, but what you get is a guitar that can serve a variety of purposes without requiring a manual— and that rings and plays like only an brilliantly constructed instrument can.

Buy if...
you love P-90s and want them mounted in a first-class instrument.
Skip if...
more traditional single-coils, humbuckers, or stop tailpieces are your thing

MSRP $3700 - Koll Guitar Company -

As everything else progresses, we''re still using the same equipment of our predecessors

It has already been 11 years since we entered a new millennium full of promise and intrigue, yet I still don’t drive a hovercraft and we’re not all wearing the same silver jumpsuit with padded shoulders and a lightning bolt across the chest as promised in so many ’50s sci-fi movies. However, there have been a great number of advancements in gear and travel since the motion-picture industry tried to advise us about the future of our transportation and wardrobes.

The Gear That Got Me Here

I have a longtime friend, Dave Fontana, whose father D.J. Fontana was the renowned drummer for Elvis Presley. I’ve been privileged on a few occasions to hear D.J. tell stories about touring with Elvis in his heyday. It would send shivers down my spine to learn that D.J., Scotty Moore, Bill Black, and the King would travel the country in nothing more than a roomy town car with Black’s doghouse bass strapped to the roof. As D.J. told me of his days on the road, I gained an appreciation for the bus I was tooling around the country in at that time. It was a beat up, 20-year-old, 35-foot Buffalo-style bus with a manual transmission that ground gears when you shifted. But it was home.

When I first left Maryland and headed to Nashville to make a name in the music industry, I brought a few basic guitars—a Fender Strat, a Gibson ES-347, a Guild S-100, and a Guild D-55 acoustic. Accompanied by a Music Man HD-130 piggyback amp, I felt I was ready to meet any challenge the music industry could throw at me. My go-to guitar in those days was a 1984 tobacco-sunburst Fender Strat Plus with Lace Sensor pickups. I worked hard on my tones and effects to get that thing to sound big and fat like a Les Paul when I’d cover the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See,” and to ring like a bell on Eric Clapton’s barroom standard “Wonderful Tonight.” I ran my Strat through the same Roland GP-8 effects processor I have in my effects rack today, and then directly into the Music Man HD-130 head and 4x12 cabinet. This was my stock rig for about 12 years. It followed me from my high-school block party and teen-dance days to club dates around Nashville and that first tour bus, where I would load and unload it myself to play county fairs, theaters, and festivals.

Once I started gigging heavily in Nashville, the workload became too much for the aging Music Man’s EL34 power tubes, and I started having issues with them overheating on me. Being young and poor, I couldn’t afford the hefty price tag associated with changing out tubes regularly, so I reluctantly switched to an ART solid-state preamp and MosValve power amp. I can’t deny that this was a durable setup, but I paid dearly for that durability with my tone. Although the preamp had both a clean and a drive channel, I kept it set to the clean channel and began a long-lasting habit of dialing in the smallest amount of overdrive with the effects processor to simulate output-tube breakup. After a while, I moved into a Groove Tube Trio preamp with the MosValve power amp. Although it didn’t sound nearly as full as a real class A tube amp, the GT allowed me to set three different gain stages and switch between them via MIDI. This let me get back into using some tube drive again and took me one step closer to the warmth of a real tube amp.

Rediscovering That All-Tube Magic
I continued to use my tube amps in the studio for recording, and that made me long for the days when I could get that sound again live. Meanwhile, my career as a touring musician was taking off and the conditions under which I traveled began to get more and more comfortable. With satellite TV, DVD players, and even a mobile internet connection, I found that living on a tour bus became quite easy. I knew it was time to get back to the best possible tone and start playing through a genuine tube amp again.

After conditioning my ears to the clatter of a solid-state amp, my new Kustom Coupe half-stack sounded incredible! But the switch back to an all-tube rig came suddenly, with little time to tweak my gear before the first show of a new tour. So I temporarily had a rat trap of cables hanging out the back of my rack. It took a few weeks of dragging my rack into hockey-rink dressing rooms to clean it up without missing a beat of the 75-city tour we were grinding through. Working diligently with my tech in the afternoons, cutting and soldering cables and connectors, while pulling off the show each night without any disruptions was a major task.

However, each night I was getting closer to the brass ring—real tube drive once more! It was worth every minute we spent on it.

Yes, a lot has changed in the world of touring since the old Elvis days in the ’50s. Today, you’re nothing if you don’t dangle a giant video screen behind you on stage. Your band will be scoffed at if your bus is the only one on the road that doesn’t have the coveted slide-out living room and Wi-Fi internet. And clearly you haven’t really “made it to the big time” if you still have to set up your own rig. But the one common bond that connects all of us to old-school guys like Scotty Moore, Keith Richards, or B.B. King is the tube amp. No matter how many electronic advancements are introduced to the world, electric guitar still sounds best when amplified by glass vacuum tubes and paper-cone speakers.

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