This is my new Helweg Pedal Board that I got about two months ago, and I could not be happier with it. Some folks have inquired about what I use, so I’m going to run down exactly what’s on my board. Michael Helweg did the actual board for me to my exact size specs and color scheme…which we can arrange for you as well. He is all about custom.
I really wanted a scaled-down size, as weight was a big consideration, so the top panel of the case cover got slimmed down from 3/8″ to 1/4″. The Velcro top went from 5/8″ to 1/2″. That’s standard now for most boards and to be honest, it feels just as sturdy and it really did help keep the weight down. The Tolex covering is done to perfection and the whole design worked out very well for me.
My goal was to be self contained in one trip, so with this board, my Xits X10, and my Dual Mono gig bag (which by the way is awesome in its own right) success has been obtained and I only make one trip with my gear. I also now use the new Fender folding guitar stands that fold up small enough to throw 2 in the pocket of the Mono bag. They work really well and after 6 months of heavy use, no breaks.
Once I received the new Helweg board, I had to strip off some pedals from my old board so I could get this down to the bare necessities and keep to my goal of one trip with the gear. Here’s what I consider essential and what made it on the board:
EB Volume Pedal Junior (6180 pedal) – this works really well. I can tell no difference between this and bypassing the pedal. It has a great sweep to it, and it’s smaller than my old Roland FV100. I use the tuner out to go to the Boss TU2, which I have had forever. Yes, the TU3 is better, but this one does the job just fine for me.
Xotic RC Booster is next. – This is a must-have for me. It is always on. I use it more as a tone control and a slight signal booster to regulate how hard I want to hit the front end of the amp. It is ridiculously famous, and for good reason. When you turn it on, it simply makes your sound better in a very natural way. You see these on a lot of boards and there is a reason for that.
Keeley 2 Knob Compressor – I have a couple of other compressors that I really like too, but overall this comp is sweet. Always sounds great on a recording, and live it’s really natural without being too invisible. Another little secret about this is that it sounds great on recorded bass too.
Keeley Trem (TR-2) -This thing is perfect for me. I use it pretty subtlety live, but it can go from sweet to pulse-pounding easily. Again, fantastic to record with. I would really love tap-tempo, but other than that I am really pleased with this pedal.
Xotic AC Booster – This is the most important piece of the puzzle. There are a zillion drive pedals out there and I think I own half of them. (I might be exaggerating a bit.) Not one is for perfect everybody, but for me this is the most natural drive pedal I have ever used. Maybe because it reminds me of a beautiful ’72 Marshall 50 watt I had for years that had some sort of mod, but it just sounded so good. This AC Boost sounds great, but more like an amp than a pedal. It’s very dynamic and responds to touch so well. It has a sweet drive to it that is rich, but still allows you to retain great note definition. I could go on for a long time about this one. Bottom line…if I could have only one pedal this would be it, regardless of price..because this thing is a bargain for all it does.
Demeter Fuzzulator – This spot receives a bit of rotation. Right now I have the Fuzzulator. There are more opinions about Fuzz pedals out there than one could possibly imagine. I love this one because it has a great Jeff Beck “Wired” vibe about it and great low end. I also like the JHS All American, which is a strange, cool pedal that actually bridges the gap between a Fuzz and Overdrive. It takes a while to get this one dialed in, but once you do, it is fantastic. There are many, many more but these seem to do the trick for me.
Boss DD-20 is also on my board, used with a Boss FS-5U footswitch. I have to confess that I have this DD-20 because I need the presets, but I have grown to really love some of the sounds I have come up with. The smooth delay is great and so is the analog. This also has the best modulation delay I have heard. Its simple to use, never breaks, and sounds great live. For studio stuff I use a JHS Pink Panther, which is no longer made. The JHS Panther is the new beast and it is amazing. I also have 3 Keeley Modded DD-3 pedals which are tremendous. Again, there are so many good delays out there. The new TC Electronics Flashback Delay is one that gets great praise as well as the TC Nova Delay. To be honest, I think I could use any of these and then some and be happy as a pig in fresh mud, but this DD-20 really works well.
Xotic EP Booster – Last but not least is this fantastic boost pedal. I love it for solos as it gives a richness to the sound, with a bit of presence pop and great additional sustain, without adding too much ear stabbing treble. We have sold over 100 of these and guys have used them in every configuration possible, so use your imagination. It also takes up next to zero real estate on your board.
Also – I use a Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 Plus power supply and a Buffer at the front of the chain. The Buffer was a gift and has no markings, so it’s a mystery. They are tucked neatly below and do not steal real estate on the surface. There is a big debate out there about buffers. Most say you have to have them, and then there’s Nels Cline and Kenny Wayne Shepherd who are tone monsters in their own right, who do not use them at all even though they have countless pedals live and in-line. I spoke with a friend of mine about this and he brought up the point that it really balances out drive pedals when you use them cascaded, so you do not get big jumps in output. I tried this and he was right, so now I have the ‘mystery Buffer’ there for good. If it ever needs to be replaced, I’m definitely going with this JHS Little Black Buffer.
Cable-wise I am still using George L cables, which we have been carrying for years. There is no question that they sound great and are super easy to build, but they can work themselves loose sometimes which has caused some to rightfully jump ship to other brands like Lava and Mogami – which are also fantastic, but I have stayed the course with the addition of one simple solution: just a tiny drop of Blue Loctite on the right angle “plug” threads works wonders. I have not had an issue with these in years.
A few other things I always take along:
A mini mag light – it’s an invaluable tool
A little film canister – that’s where I store baby powder, which works wonders on gloss lacquer necks.
Cables – lately I have been using these Platinum Fender Cables that resemble the Cornish cables and after A/B-ing them we have found they sound just as good…which is really, really good. They are a fraction of the price and if they break you can actually get them repaired or replaced.
There you have it. My board is really nothing complicated. It does the job really well, is easy to carry, easy to set up and looks sharp. – John Flynn