Monday, April 30, 2012

Mojo Hand Rook Review

Of the three Mojo Hand pedals I had for review, the Rook was the hardest to master. It has great tones in it, but for me, it took a good deal of tweaking to pull them out. I found it best dialing the gain of the pedal back to zero and cranking the output to really push an amp into overdrive. Using the pedal to generate dirt was less rewarding for me.

It could be that my setup isn’t ideal for the Rook. My guitars are a Reverend Roundhouse HB (think Les Paul), a Reverend Ron Asheton (set-neck flying V with three p90s), a Malden Mozak (Jazzmaster shape with tele bridge and pickups) and a Stratocaster with a Wide Range humbucker in the bridge. My amps are a Reverend Goblin in a custom 1x12 enclosure with an Eminence Wizard and a Vox AC4 combo with a Weber AlNiCo Blue Pup.

Using the Rook to Supply Dirt

With the Goblin and the AC4, I had a hard time using the Rook to supply distortion. With the humbuckers and P90s the Rook produced a low-mid muddiness that I could never dial out. This wasn't as bad with single coils and I could see where these same low-mids could have a thickening effect on the tone. Neither of my amps have a ton of headroom, so that could be part of the problem. With my strat, I got some nice tones with the switch in the middle position, the gain at 3 o'clock, the bass at noon, the treble around 3 o'clock, and the volume around 1 o'clock. This created a nice think tone with a bump up from unity gain.

Using the Rook to Push an Amp into Overdrive
This is where the Rook shines! The tones I liked most from the Rook, were setting the gain low and the volume high and using the Rook to push an "on the edge of breakup" amp into overdrive. Again, I preferred the switch in the middle position and always set the treble slightly higher than the bass.* Set like this, the Rook felt like an extension of the amp and responded wonderfully to picking dynamics. In short, it made the amp easier and more fun to play. Also, at this setting, the Rook does a much better job of cleaning up when the volume on the guitar is rolled back. Using the Rook like this, it's the feel of the pedal that you notice more than the tone. For tone, it just sounds like the base amp, only a little better. For feel, you can dig in for distortion, lighten up for cleaner parts, and use subtle vibrato to coax notes into feedback.

All said, the Rook is a great pedal. In a sea of modded Tube Screamers and "transparent" overdrives, the Rook is a unique and highly varied beast. If you want an overdrive pedal that provides its own distortion, I probably wouldn't recommend the Rook. If you want an overdrive to interact with your amp and push it into its own distortion, I doubt you'll find anything better for the money.

*The baxandall tone stack is extremely interactive and can change your tone drastically depending on the guitar and amp you are using in combination.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mojo Hand Nebula IV Review

Of the three Mojo Hand pedals I recently had on loan, the Nebula was my favorite.The sound of the nebula is just beautiful, it has that sweet chewy almost human tone that the best phasers have. But even more, it was the most versatile phaser I used since my beloved N.O.S. Mu-Tron Phasor II. A pedal which I bought in 1994 for what then seemed like an insane price to spend on a pedal ($150) and sold in 2007 for just over $400.

The Nebula can do everything a Phase 90 can do and can kick in a few Univibe tricks as well. Whenever I plug into a phaser I tend to play the same things. I start with Big Long Song (a progression I wrote in high school with lots of open drones). Next I play Breathe by Pink Floyd, Mayonaise by Smashing Pumpkins and then proceed to geek out on Cure songs. The Nebula nailed all of the above tones, but it was amazing on Breathe. Even better, I was able to get close to the Univibe throb of Hey Baby (Land of the New Rising Son) by Hendrix. It even does a decent leslie simulation with the depth cut to 1/3 or 1/2 way and the speed about 80-90% of the way up.

For comparisons, I ran the Nebula IV alongside my crappy little Danelectro Chicken Salad and the "Script Phase" and Univibe models from my Line 6 M9. Everyone knows that the Chicken Salad brings a ton of tone with its diminutive price tag and it sounded pretty good next to the Nebula IV. But as Mrs. P90 pointed it, it sounded noisy and a little distracting in comparison. The grit of the Chicken Salad is cool at times, but I found I could place the Rook in front of the Nebula and approximate the grit of the Chicken Salad. As for the comparisons with the M9 (of which I happen to love for modulations) the Nebula IV had a certain thickness and 3-dimensional feel that the M9 lacked. I don't think it's something a listener would pick up on, but it felt different to play. Then again, that's often the case of comparing a real analog pedal to a digital model.

And because I always like to push pedals to places they weren't meant to go, I decided to see what would happen if I cut the amount of voltage supplied to the pedal. In this case it didn't do much. It wouldn't do any phasing at all. However, when the voltage was cut back to around 5 volts, the pedal put out a great sputtery and sad little fuzz tone. It certainly wasn't an amazing fuzz tone, but I could see it having a place in a song.

In short, the Nebula IV is one of the better phase pedals I've played in recent years (maybe ever). It's versatile, easy to dial in, and just plain great sounding. The only improvement I can imagine is adding a jack so that you could control speed with an expression pedal.

Mojo Hand Tour Box II Review

Thanks to the fine folks at Mojo Hand FX and a fellow member of The Gear Page, the three pedals pictured to the right showed up on my door step a few days ago. I've been putting them through their paces and I will be posting reviews of each of them. In the meantime, here's what Mojo Hand has to say about them.

The Rook: Thanks to its Baxandall Tone Stack, The Rook can be as bright or dark as you like. It's Gain and Level knobs are your helping hands in navigating through the countless shades of drive offered by it's 3 way toggle. Toggle UP for Classic Overdrive tones filled with rich "harmonicy" goodness, and even with the Gain dimed, The Rook maintains astonishing note articulation and chord clarity (think a highly tweakable Tube Scre@mer). Toggle DOWN to add extra gain stages for a raw and edgy, almost distortion type drive. And last but not least, the MIDDLE position removes diods for a louder and cleaner sound. This position also causes the EQ controls to be more pronounced, and excels as a boost. It's best to start with the gain down to get a feel for this position. Or feel free to crank it up for amp melt-down.

Nebula IV: The Nebula IV Analog Phaser is 4 stages of swirly, analog goodness that will instantly transport you back to 1974! In addition to the standard "Rate" control of classic 4 stage phasers we've incorporated a "Depth" control and a "Level" knob. No need to worry about a volume drop or boost. The Nebula IV can be adjusted to taste. Like all Mojo Hand Fx the Nebula IV has true-bypass switching, a die-cast enclosure, professionally powder-coated finish and the finest components available.

Recoil: Featuring 550ms of sweet analog voiced digital delay.  Along with traditional controls for Mix, Repeat, and Delay Time, the Recoil also features a full range tone knob that ranges from clean and clear to warm and dark. Like all Mojo Hand FX the Recoil has hard wired true bypass switching, a die-cast enclosure and a professionally powder coated finish and nothing but the finest components and build techniques available.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What Were They Thinking?

 What Were They Thinking? A Story About the Prior Owners of My Home

Do you ever want to punch the prior owners of your home? I'd like to torture the original owners of my home. I frequently have dreams where I track them down, wrap them in the six rooms worth of floral f***ing wallpaper that I many a weekend removing, and then crush them under the weight of the ceramic tile floor they had installed in the kitchen. Never mind that the rest of the first floor of the house is hardwood, these dipshits paid for ceramic tile (that I swear to god has PEACH!! undertones) to be laid in the kitchen. Why? 1. Because cleary they were idiots. 2. Because they wanted me to have to cook while wearing Mario Batali-looking orange Crocs or develop plantars fasciitis.

I’m ranting about this because we had the house appraised earlier this week and the appraiser referred to the ceramic tile as an "upgrade." Upgrade over what? A floor made of nails, bee stingers, and jellyfish? One made from the discarded hideous floral outfits worn by the female casts of 90210 and Saved by the Bell? Exactly what is it that people are using for floors over which ceramic tile can be considered an improvement?

Sure, I could be mad about the price difference between what we paid for the place in April 2007 and what it’s worth now. But that’s not the issue. If we hadn’t bought this house (or some other house in the Spring of 2007) we’d still be living in a 2 bedroom townhouse in Burtonsville. So no, what I choose to be mad about is a ceramic tile floor that hurts to walk barefoot on, is ugly as hell, will have to be jack-hammered to be removed, and which has provided a not so soft landing surface for my daughters whom have both managed to do headers down the stairs in the last few months.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wish that floor was linoleum. At least then I could just pull it up and lay down a cork floor. Because in the list of things I won’t do, is “try to remove a ceramic tile floor.”

Join us next time for "A story about the Ryland Homes, aka, why wouldn't you want one of your porch lights to be a good three inches lower than the one on the other side of the door?"

Friday, April 6, 2012

Egg Roll, The White House Kind

The P90 family is going to the White House Egg Roll on Monday. Mrs. P90 entered the lottery at random and we got tickets. How cool is that?

But seriously, this Egg Roll is crazy on about 1,000 levels. First, the Bay City Rollers are playing. Yes, as in "Heed - turn down the Bay City Rollers" and as in a Scottish boy band from the 70's!

S   A   T   U   R   D   A   Y    NIGHT!
S   A   T   U   R   D   A   Y    NIGHT!
S   A   T   U   R   D   A   Y    NIGHT!
S   A   T   U   R   D   A   Y    NIGHT!

And if that wasn't crazy enough, you have the most ridiculous list of prohibited items ever! Wait what? I can't bring this stuff?! WTF? Why wouldn't you bring fireworks, knives, mace, and weapons to the White House Egg Roll? Who do they think is planning to attend this thing? 50 Cent and the Michigan Militia? Did we really have to stipulate that you can't bring fireworks? Is there really someone reading this saying "ah $hit, I can't bring mace and firecrackers! what kind of lame-ass non blowing $hit up kind of easter egg roll is this going to be? I was gonna jam an M80 inside a chocolate bunny!"

Whenever I read a list like this I lose my faith in man kind.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Edible Lawn

It's no secret - I don't have the prettiest lawn on the block. I refuse to use herbicides or pesticides, and the only fertilizer I have used is "bay safe." So it was no surprise a few weekends ago when Mrs. P90 mentioned that one of the neighbors hinted (not so subtlety) that we should hire a lawn service or at least deal with our weeds.

But oddly enough, it was on that same day that we noticed the first few morel mushrooms popping up in the front yard. We first saw morels in the yard last year. There were only four or five and they were past their prime before we realized what they were.

So last Monday, I picked one of the morels and brought it to a colleague. She confirmed it was a morel and cooked it up that night. Today, that same colleague headed over to my yard at lunch and picked 84 morels! I kept about ten of them because I'm not a huge mushroom fan. I'm seriously allergic to portobellas, and can take or leave many others.But some people are crazy for morels and many folks spend their spring weekends hunting for them in the woods.

Either way, I'll take this as a sign that my lawn care regime (or lack there of) is just about perfect. As if not wanting the kids and dog to be playing in a lawn full of chemicals wasn't reason enough, I'm creating a delicious and nutritious mycological wonderland. Bon appetit. Don't mind the weeds and moss. hocofood@@@