Across The ’Board

With his Helix seemingly throwing a wobbler, Neville Marten visited That Pedal Show to suss out a new ’board for theatre shows and beyond


“I wanted something that I could use in theatres with in-ear monitors but also in front of my Matchless Lightning for pub gigs”

My Line 6 Helix seemed to have gone a bit nuts lately, with 80 per cent of the sound suddenly dropping out mid-gig. It’s incredibly panicinduc­ing, especially as I’ve had it for four years and it’s done literally hundreds of fuss-free shows. Mind you, one can never rule out pilot error on these occasions!

I’d already been looking at back-up solutions, based around the plethora of pedalboard amps that’s recently arisen. I wanted something that I could use in theatres with in-ear monitors, but also in front of my Matchless Lightning for pub gigs. On a recent social visit to Mick and Dan at That Pedal Show, Dan kindly offered to build me a new ’board for exactly such occasions. So last week I took my higgledy-piggledy bunch of boxes over and Mick and I spent an afternoon auditionin­g ’board amps, distortion­s and delays, as I wanted to upgrade my pub gig pedalboard, too. As you do.

We narrowed it down to a Strymon Iridium, which boasts three amp types and a number of speaker emulations, and the DSM & Humboldt Simplifier. The Iridium is digital, whereas the Simplifier is analogue, but with similar amp types and speaker emulations. I’d whittled the choice of delays down to Strymon’s El Capistan or the equally fabulous Volante, and was open to suggestion­s from Mick regarding drives.

On my ’board at present sit a TC Electronic PolyTune 2, a Dunlop Cry Baby Junior, Fulltone OCD, Analog Man King Of Tone, Providence Anadime Chorus, Voodoo Labs Tremolo, and Keeley-modded Boss DD-3 Delay. The King Of Tone has never really done it for me, despite what everyone says about it, and while I love the Keeleymodd­ed DD-3, I really require something more versatile.

Armed with my red Strat we set about our business. Mick rigged an Electro-Voice full-range speaker cabinet and we went through the amps first, using my current pedals to add colour. While the Strymon was fantastic, there was something about how the Simplifier ‘felt’ that tipped the balance its way. Both the El Capistan and Volante delays were awesome – open, transparen­t and authentic tape delay sounds. But the Volante won the day as I do need to instantly access two distinctly different delay types. Its reverb was incredible, too.

We then looked at a bunch of overdrives, and wound up choosing one I hadn’t even considered – the Hudson Electronic­s Broadcast. On its own (and we now had the Volante and Simplifier in line) it gave a genuinely real-sounding amp crunch, but mated to the OCD the results were spectacula­r. The guitar’s tone was never subsumed by gain; instead, the Strat retained its own voice across all pickup selections. What’s more, the Broadcast’s germanium transistor preamp can deliver huge and stable fuzz tones should that be required.

Hopefully Dan can put the whole thing together with one of his neat switching systems. We opted for a beautiful Schmidt Array 450 pedalboard and I’ll have two outputs, one from the Simplifier amp and one bypassing it for when running the ’board into my Matchless. We left the wah-wah off, as I so rarely use it, and while I was going to include my Line 6 Relay G70 wireless receiver/switcher at the front, we decided this would also be better used separately.

And thereby hangs a tale. When using a temporary ’board that Mick wired up for me, at exactly the same point in the show the sound dropped out again. Surely not? A closer inspection revealed the fault to be with a worn transmitte­r cable, and not the guiltless Helix at all.

Many thanks to Mick for his time and knowledge, and to Dr Dan for building me a beautiful pro ’board. A big nod, too, to Andertons for supplying the pedals, and to Schmidt Array for the stunning pedalboard. I may well get back to using the Helix for my theatre shows because it’s so simple and so rugged, but now I have a brilliant backup, too. A ’board for all seasons!

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