YAMAHA HAVE ALWAYS been at the forefront of the development of effects processors. From fully professional reverb units like the REV 1, down to the popular multi-effects unit, the SPX90, their presence has always been felt – or heard. The only possible hole in their operation is at the budget end of the market. True, the REX50 added overdrive characteristics to their range but it was a budget sound at a budget price. The current vogue is for units which offer four or five effects at the same time, complete with some degree of sound quality. Well, we need wait no longer for Yamaha to respond because the FX500 is now ready to take its place in the music shops.
AND A SMALL place that will be, as Yamaha have decided to go for a 1U-high half-width rack unit, plastic encased with an external power supply.
The basis of the FX500 is that it has five “modules” available, namely; Compressor, Distortion, Equaliser, Modulation and Reverb. The last of these encompasses both reverb and delay and so has various options for these effects including the order in which they occur. More of this later. Quality? 20Hz-20kHz quoted bandwidth with 16-bit resolution and a sampling rate of 44.1kHz is now becoming the norm, but let’s not get blasé about it. At this price such characteristics are impressive. Memory-wise, there are 60 presets and 30 for you to program.
The front panel is pretty self-explanatory. The rear has a single input (the front panel input takes precedence) and two outputs with a flick switch for level, -10 or -20dB. A rather odd choice this, because it makes the unit a little difficult to match up with any equipment intended for use with the professional level of +4dB. Headphones socket and level control (nice touch), MIDI In and two footswitch sockets for bypass and memory change/trigger complete the line-up.
EACH EFFECT HAS various programmable parameters pertaining to its nature, and an output level to set the overall gain for each stage. As there is only a single input, the first three effects are mono.
The Compressor has parameters for Threshold (-6OdB-OdB), Compression Ratio (1:2, 4, 8 and limit) and Attack Time (1 to 20 milliseconds).
The Distortion has variable Amount which also increases the volume, Trigger – an expander noise gate – (threshold between -80 and -30dB), and LowPass Filter (thru or 400Hz to 16kHz).
“The FX500 boasts four types of basic reverb with reverb times of up to 40 seconds, High Frequency roll off and a pre-delay of up to 335 milliseconds.”
The Equaliser operates in three bands. The High and Low are of the shelving type with variable cut/boost of -15/+15dB while the Mid band sweeps between 400 and 6300Hz with gain of -40/+15dB.
The Modulation comes in four types: Flange, Symphonic, Tremolo and Chorus. Each has variable oscillator Speed (0.1-20Hz), Depth and Mix between incoming signal and effect. Parameters specifically associated with each effect are also included. For instance, the Flanger has Feedback, while the Chorus has both Pitch and Amplitude Modulation. Everything you would expect from a complete multi-effect unit. The Reverb section is most impressive. There are seven choices, the first of which is Reverb(!). Four types of basic reverb (Hall, Room, Vocal and Plate) with reverb time up to 40 seconds, High Frequency roll off and a pre-delay of up to 335 milliseconds. Other manufacturers should pay attention to this because pre-delays are imperative for the accurate setting up of that first reflection and the times existing in many units are nothing short of useless. Next follows Early Reflection with Hall, Random, Reverse and Plate being the options, again with up to 400 milliseconds for the predelay. Delay (up to 740 milliseconds per side) and Echo (up to 370 milliseconds) each have Feedback and Left/Right balance while Reverb + Delay combines the best of both worlds. Finally, the option of whether the Reverb feeds into the Delay or vice versa. Comprehensive, or what?
A quick glance at the front panel shows that there are LED’s above each of the effects and that the Modulation and Reverb modules can be changed around in order. This is particularly helpful as they are dealing with stereo effect.
WITH ANY MULTI-EFFECTS unit, ease of programming is important. Starting from a preset close to the required effect, how easy is it to achieve the necessary result? Judge for yourself. After selecting one of the current memories, the LED’s above each effect will either light up to show that effect is in use or not. The buttons below each effect’s name are toggle switches and by holding down the Parameter button at the same time as pressing one of these, edit mode is entered for this effect. Further pressing of this effect button at this stage effectively causes the effect to be played solo or in line as part of the overall setting. Once in edit mode, the Memory and Parameter buttons double as cursor keys to allow for movement across each page with the effect button moving through the various pages of parameters for each effect (three maximum) and the up/down arrow keys change the value of the selected parameter. Then press another effect, either leaving the previous one in line or “muting” it, and continue on your way. The result can be stored at any point. A piece of cake.
OVER THE LAST couple of years, MIDI in the context of effects units has evolved through simple patch changing to the situation where MIDI controllers can alter the values of parameters. The FX500 has a program change table which allows you to set up which memory location is called from a MIDI patch change command and also has the capability of allowing any two of 28 listed parameters to have their values changed by MIDI information. MIDI controllers 0 to 31 (continuous), 64 to 95 (switches) and 102 to 120 (undefined) can all be used, as can the note on/off velocity and channel pressure (aftertouch). For instance, the distortion amount could be controlled via a foot pedal sending out portamento time (MIDI controller No. 5) and to this end the Anatek Pocket Pedal (reviewed last month) would be invaluable as it can inject two extra MIDI controllers into the MIDI system. The range of the pedal can also be set so that full movement will only result in the chosen value changing within specified limits.
MIDI aside, one of the footswitch sockets on the rear panel has a dual identity. It can either act as an increment/decrement switch for memory numbers or can set up the delay time by tapping in via a footswitch. I couldn’t test this but would assume that a non-latching pedal would do the job.
“The FX500 is destined to be a best seller, make no mistake – excellent audio sound, easy to use, low noise… the list is practically endless.”
So it would appear that the FX500 has a lot going for it both in the way of effects and facilities. Now, how does it perform?
THE ACID TEST for a multi-effect unit has to be the quality of its reverb. Most of the other effects are quite easy to implement, but a good quality reverb usually equates to dosh – loads of it. In this respect the FX500 scores well. There’s a slight flutter when long reverb times are selected, but otherwise it’s pretty well grain free. Another useful test is to check how long delay repeats remain faithful to the original. Again, the FX500 presents no problem. Even when the feedback is increased to the point where the repeats are of the same volume as the original there is still little difference.
How about a guitar on the input? After all, many of you are going to be using this as a replacement for guitar FX pedals. For clean sounds, the FX500 is excellent. That typical sparkle which we have come to expect of Yamaha since the SPX1000 was introduced is certainly evident here and the various modulation effects really made my faithful Strat sing. The compressor tightens up funk chords nicely and is reasonably quiet. Unfortunately the fly in the ointment has to be the distortion which shows characteristics typical of digital fuzz – harsh even when only slightly in evidence, although no glitches as used to occur with the REX50. The low-pass filter is useful for removing the buzz and the expander noise gate keeps things quiet when you stop playing, but overall I felt that this was a letdown.
Distortion apart, I have to admit to being impressed with the FX500. The sound practically glistens as though it’s being passed through an aural exciter, which is most pleasant and cuts through on mixes. The parameters have been well selected and care has been taken with most of the little things – like incorporating the type of reverb with the name of each memory location.) The stereo image created by the modulation effects is also worthy of special mention.
– Unsolder the pins beneath the PCB, you have to unscrew almost everything to accomplish this…
(optional) – Get a battery holder (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Lot-5-Pcs-N…772?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2a1ee765bc)
Make sure you bend one of the pins in the holder because it will not fit properly in the PCB.
– Place battery.
– Plug the unit to AC and wait a few minutes before turning the unit ON.
– Factory Reset (Hold Comp and Mod + press power button).
Axis Wah Mods
A Great Sounding Wah…On A Budget
A couple of years ago I exposed the guts of the famous Vox Clyde McCoy wah pedal for all to see, and even built a clone of the wonderful pedal, but the problem is that it required the purchase of a replica Halo inductor and a replica of the ICAR-taper wah pot, which can end up being quite pricey. As a result, I’ve been working on modifying a Vox V847, that I just received a few days ago, into an excellent sounding pedal…minus the new inductor and wah pot! That’s right! For this project we’re using the original Vox inductor and the original Vox wah pot! You can even use the original wah pedal circuit board for this project too…but I etched a new one just so I would have a fresh start, and a fresh look. I’ll include the PCB and Layout files for the replacement board if you decide to take that route.
There are really only two major changes being made to the pedal…the addition of true bypass switching and the addition of an output buffer circuit board, which allows the wah pedal to work in series before a fuzz pedal. The other changes are all quick and simple resistor and transistor changes, which can be made quickly and easily by using a desoldering braid.
True Bypass Switching
Adding an Output Buffer
|Changing the Transistors
The transistors that come in the Vox V847 and Dunlop Crybaby pedals are the high gain, general purpose MPSA18. I personally think that these transistors are way too high gain to make a good sounding wah pedal. The toe-down position is quite ear-piercing and unpleasent. To help make a more mellow wah pedal, I’ve chosen to use a pair of nice BC109C transistors that I ordered from Steve Daniels of Small Bear Electronics a while back. For Q1 I chose a unit with a gain of 400, and for Q2 I chose one with a gain of 388. The end result was a very nice, a bit more mellow sounding wah that’s not as ear-piercing when toe-down, and the heel-down is still nice and fat…the bass response actually made the springs in my Twin Amp’s tube shields rattle!Below is a schematic of the Axis Wah with all modifications mentioned above.
At first glance, the Silverbird might make people think it’s the old Iommi model that the Duncan company makes that is currently known as the El Diablo. Preceding the Iommi by a solid decade, the Silverbird provides a little of the DNA for what followed. Mostly when it comes to the bobbins and the magnets.
The bobbins are Tele bobbins, which might have someone thinking they are too big. Fret not (ha! a pun!), I had no issue fitting them into a humbucker cavity. It is also generally found with it’s own fitted pickup mounting ring, but a trem-spaced ring should also do the job.
What looks like big thick rails are actually the magnets. The Silverbird has a pair of Alnico 2 magnets, right out there to grab a hold of that energy firsthand.
If you’re looking for a hard-to-find Duncan pickup, it doesn’t get much better than this. Even so, the Silverbird is almost as scarce as any hands-on evaluations.
That’s right. Of the guitar gear curiosities that some send me to check out, the Seymour Duncan SH-9 Silverbird humbucker is one.
Generally speaking, the pickups that follow in the same basic design of the Silverbird are known for having a pretty heavy and dark character. So I’m not sure what to expect. Still, not to be too terribly confused for a trained monkey, I install the Silverbird into my main test guitar. It has 4-con lead wire, so I go with the typical (for me) series/split/parallel wiring. And away we go.
The lion’s share of the SH-9 models that you can find on the internet seem to be 9BJ. That means Maricela (MJ) Juarez made it/them. It also means there’s a metric ton of mojo going on, because 1) MJ made it, and 2) it was made during what some are starting to consider the Duncan company’s Golden Age of everything always sounding good.
You know, it’s a pretty interesting pickup. A big bold low end that stays firm (is that a JLo reference?) and doesn’t get muddy. The mids are pretty even, with a bit of a grunt in the low mids and a bit of a snarl in the high mids. And the highs are chirpy and airy while retaining a bit of the A2 sweetness.
For dirty amp settings, the Silverbird can go vintage “brown” and it can do prog metal. Slight adjustments to the pickup height reveal a little more of a shift that I see in some humbuckers in this class. I’m still have a little shock over how much articulation there is in the punchy lows, which gives riffing a rhythm work plenty of authority thanks to the natural compression of the pickup.
The Silverbird has a little more push to it than a vintage style option, so clean amp settings might require a of a rolloff on the volume (at the guitar or at the amp). On split and parallel options, it blended really well with a P.A.F. style neck humbucker. By itself in series mode, you’ll easily get a usable crunchy clean.
This bad boy is so few and far between that I really can’t find a usable video. But you know I have specs:
Series – 14.29 K
Inductance – 5.608 H
Split N – 7.188 K
Split S – 7.109 K
Parallel – 3.565 K
Magnet – Alnico 2 bars
This pickup does show up for sale online from time to time, albeit not often. For what it’s worth, my experience would suggest going for the real deal original SH-9 with the 80s era sticker on the baseplate. In the event you find someone that doesn’t know what they have, the DCR specs clearly give it away.
The SH-9 is more of a mystery.
It was initially called the Silverbird, and this pickup was supposed to go in an obscure guitar. Unfortunately I was unable to discover which guitar. I spoke with some guys at the R&D department of Seymour Duncan and one thing that stands out in all stories is that this humbucker was comprised of two Tele bobbins and had two Alnico II bars as pole pieces. The Silverbird was quite hot for the day, but with pickups like the Alternative 8, the Blackout series, the Parallel Axis Trembucker II and the visually similar but tonally different El Diablo, the Silverbird can be considered a medium hot pickup by todays standards.
I’m saddened by the cancellation of this pickup, because it looked quite cool and I suppose the tone is awesome too. However, I do have a hard time figuring out exactly how this pickup would sound. Some say the SH-9 sounded bold, articulate and bit fat. Others say it was very clear with lots of treble. All I know is that I’d love to see the SH-9 in one of my guitars! I could wait for it to pop up on eBay, but why wait? The Custom Shop can make almost any pickup you can dream of!
This leaves just one more question: why were these pickups renamed in the chase of the SH-7, and discontinued in the case of the SH-9? In case of the SH-7 Seymourizer, I suppose they renamed the pickup to streamline the line-up. I guess it was convenient to make matched sets because the market kind of demands it. So many humbuckers in the Seymour Duncan lineup come as a set: the ’59, the Jazz, the Invader, the Distortion, the Pearly Gates, the Alnico II Pro, etc etc. And of course the JB is available with its friend the Jazz as the Hot Rodded Humbucker set.
Scott Miller says: “I think the main reason this one was discontinued is that it was too big for a lot of guitars. It was built with two Tele Hot Stack bobbins, and there is no way that pickup could ever fit into any humbucker mounting ring (and we did not provide one that would fit). And, in a lot of cases, the mounting ring was a moot point because the pickup wouldn’t even fit physically into the route. Size is definitely the issue on this one.”
One of the earliest treble boosters was the Dallas Rangemaster. Unlike most of today’s clones, the original Rangemaster was not a pedal, but a box meant to be placed on top of the amplifier. The circuit makes use of a single OC71 or OC44 germanium transistor.
The Rangemaster has also been used extensively by Brian May, Tony Iommi, Marc Bolan, and Rory Gallagher. Tony Iommi’s Rangemaster was modified to be full-range.
There are a gazillion treble boosters out there now so plenty to choose from. I have no idea on the specific mods done to Tony’s Rangemaster but those early Sabbath albums are full of some of my favourite guitar tones of all time
.01 uF for the input cap – that seems to be Sabbath-Sound tonewise
Create full range blend pot in a Rangemaster type circuit, like in the Easy Face schematic: LINK. The input wire goes to the 100k lin pot. Use 4n7 for the treble cap and something like 1uF or even 2.2uF (.01 uF) for the bassy cap and you’re done! You can now dial in anything from the standard treble boost to a mid boost, full boost and even bass boost.
Iommi wasn’t a huge effects guy in the early days, but he did use a couple of key items to achieve his signature tone. In addition to cranking the mids and high-end on his Laney amps, he also hit the front of them with a Rangemaster treble booster for more overdrive and punch. The result was a fat, fuzz-like tone that is often mistaken for a Big Muff or some other pedal. It is, in fact, just a treble booster and a big-ass tube amp set on “destroy”. Modern guitarists also tend to forget that Iommi’s sound was not a high-gain one. Even with the Rangemaster, his tone was quite clean by modern metal standards.
Even if you don’t know an ohm from a volt, Craig Anderton’s revised and expanded book shows you how to build 27 accessories that enhance your sound and broaden your musical horizons. If you’re an old hand at musical electronics, you’ll really appreciate that all of the processors, from tube sound fuzz to phase shifter are compatible and work together without creating noise, signal loss, bandwidth compression or any of the other problems common to interconnecting effects from different manufacturers. There’s even a complete chapter on how to modify and combine effects to produce your own custom pedal board. Low cost project kits available from PAiA help make even your first exposure to electronics a pleasant, hassle-free experience and thanks to CD bound into the book, you know just how the device will sound before you even start.
How the Enlightenment Ends
Philosophically, intellectually—in every way—human society is unprepared for the rise of artificial intelligence.
Henry A. Kissinger
XMACHINA is a Probability Auto Generative Drum Machine Engine with 4 BPM sync LFOs autopanning each sound while modulating “seed” factors that plays drum samples plus has built in CR78/MFB502 type Drum Synth that also transmits 4 channels of generated MIDI patterns for driving hardware at same time from the “Probabilty” Engine… XMACHINA also directly writes multichannel MIDI data compositions into DAW