The triple single-coil, alder-bodied, new model from PRS

Download Example 1
Middle Pickup
Download Example 2
Neck Pickup
Download Example 3
Bridge Pickup
Download Example 4
Bridge and Middle Pickups
Download Example 5
Neck and Middle Pickups
Download Example 6
Togging through each of the 5 pickup settings, starting with the Neck Pickup
Clips recorded with Paul Reed Smith 305, Paul Reed Smith 30 amp, Paul Reed Smith 1 X 12 cabinet, Shure SM57 Microphone, Avid Pro Tools
For many players, PRS has always represented an ideal convergence of the design concepts that made the Les Paul and Stratocaster great. And the new PRS 305—with its three single-coils, alder body, 5-way switch, 25.5" scale, and tremolo—flirts more overtly with the Stratocaster design than most of the 6-strings currently coming out of the company’s Stevensville, Maryland, factory. But it’s a guitar that remains unmistakably PRS in terms of aesthetics, quality, and execution. And combining so many distinctly Fender-esque design elements with a set neck gives it a resonance and tonal signature all its own.

Familiar Curves
You can spot a PRS at a hundred paces, and the 305 is no exception. The carved alder body makes a beautiful canvas for the elegant tri-color sunburst, which fades from a deep chocolate brown to orange-ish hues and then to amber. The rock-maple neck and fretboard (a rosewood fretboard is optional) runs a standard Fender 25.5" scale length and features 22 frets of DGT fret wire, and signature PRS bird inlays. The guitar’s top-quality hardware, which is available in nickel and gold, includes PRS 14:1 Phase II low-mass locking tuners and a tremolo bridge. The electronics, meanwhile, are configured in a manner that would be familiar to any Strat user: three 305 single-coils and a 5-way blade switch toggle between bridge, bridge-middle, middle, middle-neck, and neck selections. The only other controls are a Volume and a Tone knob.

Immediately Apparent Quality
When I initially picked up and played the 305, the guitar felt very solid and comfortable— no surprise there. Before I even plugged in the 305, its impressive, ringing resonance was plain to the ear, and single notes happily sustained without the assistance of an amp.

The neck’s slick satin finish felt great and played fast, and the large frets were perfectly shaped at the edges. Getting up to the highest frets unimpeded was no problem, thanks to the rounded heel and substantial cutaway. Intonation and action were also perfect right out of the case. Strings run through the back of the guitar and then through the bridge—which isn’t too chunky and is set up perfectly for deep tremolo bends or mellow vibrato textures. There’s also the usual thoughtful PRS touches, like the ridged no-slip nut and tuners that are designed for easy string installation and exceptional tuning stability.

Spectral Sound
In a fitting start to my evaluation of the 305, I plugged it into a PRS 30 amp set to a clean tone. Toggling through the five pickup configurations quickly revealed the 305’s potential stylistic versatility. The 305 neck pickup has smooth warmth that is good for jazz, and combining the neck pickup with the middle pickup results in a clear, bold sound perfect for funk, while switching on the middle pickup alone adds more midrange edginess. The 305 bridge pickup is rich, bright, and sparkly, and whether combined with the middle pickup or on its own, it has a kick, snap, and twang that’s perfect for playing your favorite country licks or snarling rock.

When I threw a little amp overdrive into the mix, the 305 became even more fiery and alive—and it sustained with superb clarity. Using the different pickup positions, I was able to get a fat, throaty blues tone, a biting Hendrix-like overdrive, or a bright, singing lead tone with the flick of a switch. The 305 pickups have a wider dynamic range than your average singlecoils, so you have the punch and detail of single-coils but with a fatter, warmer tone. Chugging power chords were muscular without being muddy, and even the notes in a more complex chord like an A13 rang out distinctly.

The super-effective Tone knob gives the 305 a wealth of tones to the mix, too. Whether I set the amp for clean or dirty settings, I felt any pickup setting had several distinct voices that I could access by moving the tone knob through its range. And it was easy to transform aggressive fuzz to more subdued distortion, or move from biting lead work to warm jazzy moves, with a quick adjustment.

I used the 305 for a number of recording sessions, including some music for television commercials and some music cues for reality television, which demanded fast moves between completely different musical styles. In every case, the 305 had a voice to fit the bill—whether it was blues, rock, spy/surf music, R&B, or country it performed flawlessly. Producers and engineers never have patience for a guitar that always goes out of tune, so thankfully tuning and intonation were never a problem. Nor did the 305 have any problem moving between various amplification or processor configurations—it sounded bold, clear, and cutting through tube amps and simulator plug-ins such as Digidesign Eleven Rack, Native Instruments Guitar Rig, and Line 6 Pod Farm. Indeed, the 305 was the very model of versatility, consistency, and reliability—enabling my work in the sessions to go smoothly, quickly, and without performance issues.

The Verdict

With the 305’s alder body, single-coil pickups, and 5-way pickup selector, comparisons to a Strat are inevitable. Nevertheless, there are some substantial differences. The 305 has a wider frequency response, and although the 305 single coils aren’t completely noiseless, they are quieter than your average single-coil. The 305 also resonates with more sustain that a Strat, thanks to the set neck design. And components like the Phase II locking tuners and solid, stable bridge ensure that the guitar stays in tune better than the average vintage instrument. The 305 is an exquisite instrument of superb workmanship and playability. It may or may not replace your vintage single-coil guitar, but it’s a nice option if you want a guitar that takes the single-coil concept to the next level.

Buy if...
you want a versatile, reliable single-coil guitar with modern enhancements.
Skip if...
you’re after classic single-coil tones.

Street $2300 - PRS Guitars -

Simple, inexpensive, and easy-to-use delay

Download Example 1
SciFi - Cycling through Time settings, Repeats 5, Level 5
Download Example 2
May - Time 5, Repeats 12, Level 2. Pedal in effects loop.
Download Example 3
Pluck - Time 12, Repeats 10, Level 5. Pedal in effects loop.
Download Example 4
Slapback - Time 9, Repeats 7, Level 12. Fender Strat.
Unless otherwise specified, all clips recorded with a Parker Fly guitar, Egnater Tourmaster 4212 amplifier, Audio Technica AT2021 Microphone, Avid Pro Tools
Nashville-based Visual Sound has made effects since 1994, when founder Bob Weil introduced his Visual Volume pedal. The business has expanded steadily since. And these days, pedals like the company’s Route 66 overdrive and Jekyll & Hyde distortion can be found on pedalboards belonging to all types of players.

In 2010, Visual Sound introduced its GarageTone line of affordable effects pedals, which combine high-quality construction and sounds for players on a budget. The Axle Grease is the delay offering in the GarageTone line. But it differs from many affordable delays by using an analog/digital hybrid circuit.

Simple and Effective
The Axle Grease’s hybrid circuit means the delay section itself is 100 percent analog, while the circuitry that controls the effect is digital. And in theory, the hybrid setup helps the pedal serve up warmer analog tones with precision digital control. The Time knob controls the number of delay repeats per second, the Repeat knob controls feedback, and the Level knob adjusts the mix between wet and dry signals. The sturdy housing is made of folded dark grey metal, and includes an on/off switch, a red LED indicator, and a single input and output.

Plugging my Strat into the Axle Grease and setting the delay for a slapback effect sent me straight to the honky tonk and rockabilly zone. And the Axle Grease actually achieves a cool reverb-like effect if set to a really quick delay. The Axle Grease also works well if you want a fast delay on short chord stops, quick melody lines, or faster rhythms à la The Edge. On slower, longer melodies where the delay is timed so the regenerated notes harmonize with your playing (think Brian May), it’s sometimes hard to get a delay that’s long enough for really slow passages. If you tend to play faster, the limitation isn’t much of a concern. But for players who really like to stretch out a given note using big spaces between repeats, the Axle Grease may be a bit constraining.

Sonic tricks—like tweaking long repeats with quick Time knob adjustments to manually induce super-high squeals and low rumbles—were fun and easy with the Axle Grease. However, if you’re inclined to tinker with infinite echo effects, keep in mind the pedal is self-oscillating and will often stay in infinite repeat mode after you’ve turned the pedal off and on again, requiring a reset by zeroing the Repeat knob.

The Verdict

The Axle Grease Delay is perfect for players who don’t want to spend a fortune for a quality delay pedal or for whom delay is not their primary effect. It works nicely as a simple delay for echoing chords and notes with faster delay times and is great for rockabilly-inspired slapback. And with its hybrid analog/digital circuit, you still get a warm analog tone at a digital price.

Buy if...
you want a basic, easy to use and inexpensive delay pedal
Skip if...
you need a more complex delay unit with long delay times

Street $70 - Visual Sound -

Tone Games 2010: 30 Stompboxes Reviewed
Next in OUTER LIMITS: Boss PS-6 Harmonist

A flexible pedal with chorus and vibrato settings

Download Example 1
Clean: Speed – 11, Depth – 3, “Minus” setting, Chorus effect
Download Example 2
Dirty: Waterfall Chorus in Effects Loop of Egnater Amp. Speed – 2, Depth – 10, “Plus” setting, Chorus effect
Download Example 3
Trill: Waterfall Chorus in Effects Loop of Egnater Amp. Speed – Varies from Slow to Fast, Depth – 3, “Plus” setting, Vibrato effect
Download Example 4
Vibrato: Speed – 2, Depth – 10, “Plus” setting, Vibrato effect
All clips recorded with Parker Fly guitar, Egnater Tourmaster 4212 amplifier, Audio Technica AT2021 Microphone, Avid Pro Tools
Jam Pedals, who build their stompboxes in Greece by hand, aren’t yet a household name among guitarists. But with users that include Nels Cline, John Abercrombie, and Greg Koch, Jam’s analog pedals are steadily popping up on more pedal junkies' wish lists. Most Jam stompboxes are based on old circuits of the ’60s and ’70s and incorporate rare NOS chips, matched NOS transistors, and carbon comp resistors. The Waterfall is not based on any specific vintage circuit, but in terms of delivering warm, analog chorus sounds that can range into the realm of Leslie-quality modulations, the Waterfall has few equals.

New/Old Wonder
Under the hood, the Jam Waterfall is built around original NOS Panasonic MN3101 and MN3007 chips. But on the outside, it’s designed around a fairly basic set of controls consisting of knobs for Speed and Depth, plus two toggle switches—one to control intensity and the other for switching between chorus and vibrato. Inside the pedal, there’s an internal trimmer for adjusting the maximum modulation speed, should you want an even more intense chorus.

All of Jam’s pedals sport folk-art graphics that enhance their cottage-built vibe. The Waterfall features brushed blue paint to simulate rushing water, and it also has a water faucet on the face of the pedal, with the two mini toggle switches cleverly placed on the handle of the faucet.

Let It Flow
The Waterfall is a plug-and-play effect with a forgiving and intuitive set of parameters. Using a Parker Fly with humbucking pickups and an Egnater Tourmaster amp, I started working with the Waterfall’s basic rich, smooth chorus and immediately fell in love with sweet tone of the humbucker in the neck position and a clean, uncomplicated chorus setting.

Working the Speed and Depth knobs yields everything from a subtle doubling effect to a really swirly, warbling sound. The Waterfall also works well within an amp’s effects loop. For example, if you want to treat your preamp overdrive with some chorus, the Waterfall adds a smooth, liquid tone to the distortion that sounds great for either rhythm or lead playing. With the pedal in its more extreme settings, it can also add some wilder effects to your playing, such as super-fast speed rates or a crazier vibrato sound.

The two toggle switches add variety—and extreme sci-fi textures—you won’t find in many analog chorus pedals. The switch labeled with plus and minus signs enables you to move between a contemporary chorus sound and a fuller, more Leslie-like tone. The other switch allows you to select a chorus or vibrato effect.

The vibrato can get pretty crazy, especially when you start tinkering with the speed knob. My favorite vibrato effect was setting the depth about 3/4 of the way up, resulting in what sounds like a minor second trill. By adjusting the speed, you can make the trill speed up and slow down. With the toggle switch set to the plus side, the individual notes in the trill interval get more defined. On the minus side, the notes get a little more slurred. It’s a cool effect if you want to make single notes sound like trills up and down the fretboard.

The Verdict
Rich, smooth, or wild, the Waterfall chorus is a pedal of great depth and flexibility. Both Chorus and Vibrato settings are very warm and musical. But this is also a pedal that can work for those inclined toward more radical use of modulation effects. This range—combined with the Waterfall’s no-compromise quality, NOS-based circuitry, and hand-built look—make this one of the most remarkable chorus pedals made today.

Buy if...
you are looking for a chorus and vibrato effect that sounds as good as it looks.
Skip if...
you’re not concerned with having a vintage chorus made of rare NOS chips or if you want a digital effect.

Street $240 - Jam Pedals -

Tone Games 2010: 30 Stompboxes Reviewed
Next in MODULATION: MXR '75 Vintage Phase 45

A pedal designed to capture the tones of ''70s rock records from the Chrysalis label

Download Example 1
Level 12, Tone 2, Drive 5. Epiphone Slash Les Paul, both humbuckers.
Download Example 2
Level 11, Tone 3, Drive 5. Burns Brian May guitar, middle and bridge pups in phase. PRS 30 Amp.
Download Example 3
Level 12, Tone 11, Drive 3. Fender Strat, neck pickup.
Clips recorded with Fryette Memphis amp (unless otherwise specified), Shure SM57, Avid Pro Tools.
There’s no shortage of pedals designed to emulate the sonic qualities of vintage amps. But a pedal that captures the sound of a vintage amp as you’d hear it on a record? It sounds like pretty esoteric stuff. But according to EarthQuaker Devices, that’s the aim of their “amp-on-a-record- in-a-box” overdrive pedal, the Chrysalis.

Lean, Green…
The Chrysalis’ name and logo script suggest an homage to the ’70s record label that was home to such rockers as Jethro Tull. Housed in a light-green metal case, it’s a handmade, true bypass pedal with a discrete transistor design. Running the Chrysalis from an 18V DC power supply yields increased headroom with a wider gain range and more focused tone, but it also works fine drawing juice from a 9V cell. The pedal is easy to navigate too, with just Level, Tone, and Drive, plus a handy on/off switch.

…And Pretty Mean
Evaluating a pedal designed to emulate the sounds of classic rock called for using an iconic ’70s rock guitar, so I hooked up my Burns Brian May model with Tri-Sonic pickups and a Paul Reed Smith 30 amp.

Straightaway, I was in sweet, midrange-voiced British rock territory. Humbucker-equipped guitars, including a Parker Fly and Charvel So-Cal with DiMarzio pickups, predictably coaxed some very fat sounds out of the Chrysalis. But even when driven with humbuckers, the Chrysalis retained a focus and bright clarity that would cut through any mix.

I also ran the pedal into an Egnater Tourmaster, a Fryette Memphis, and a Marshall 1959RR Randy Rhoads amp. I adjusted each amp for a clean and neutral setting, and let the Chrysalis take care of the overdrive. Even when I dialed in a super high-gain setting on the Chrysalis with its Drive knob all the way up and the amp cranked, the pedal added a lot of color without muddying the signal. With the Drive turned down halfway, the Chrysalis still provided heaps of crunch and responsiveness. During my tests, I discovered that the very versatile and useful Tone knob has a wide range that lets you make the overdrive as warm or biting as you want. But this pedal is essentially about midrange and presence, and even with the Tone knob all the way down, the signal remained lively and defined without sounding either flabby or muffled. This impressive midrange performance is essentially where the Chrysalis lives up to its “amp-on-a-record-in-a-box” billing. It has an uncanny ability to claim its own sonic space, as if it were being EQ’d and mixed by a very crafty engineer sitting behind the desk at Sunset Sound or Trident studios.

I did have an issue with noise and hum, especially at louder amp levels, and might be tempted to use a noise gate to eliminate some of that unwanted sound. But if you’re using this pedal in the context for which it was created— brawny, raucous, ’70s rock—you probably won’t be too concerned.

The Verdict
EarthQuaker sets an odd set of expectations for the Chrysalis by billing it as the sound of a recorded amp. But in the sense that it can provide the kind of cutting boost and distortion that will find room in any mix, the Chrysalis can help you maintain a certain presence that’s typical of those classic records. The pedal isn’t high-gain enough for metal, but that may be its only limitation. Whether you’re playing with a cranked 100-watt stack or a practice amp at bedroom levels, the Chrysalis will provide the kind of biting lead tones and harmonically rich chords that defined ’70s rock.

Buy if...
you’re a classic rock player who wants a guitar tone straight off a ’70s rock record.
Skip if...
you play metal or need a lot of high gain.

Street $145 - Earthquake Devices -

Tone Games 2010: 30 Stompboxes Reviewed
Next in DIRT: Emma Electronic RF-2 ReezaFRATzitz Overdrive/Distortion