Fender 59 Bassman Reissue Drum Kit Review

A well-broken in RI bassman drum kit, recorded inside pro tools, with the blueframed Eminence that were most common in the early ones, a 5U4 , decent 5881’s and a couple of tube swaps…PLUS a good Shure controlled magnetic mic really well-cupped and they are anything but “clean”. In fact, they are the bassiest thing out there, custom or otherwise, and develop heaps of deep pleasing crunch…fairly early…if treated as above.

They get loud for sure (that’s why we buy them) and don’t get any kind of tone worth playing at less than 3/4 volume before feedback. But they have to be all the things I mentioned above, or they’re not so special. Both mine were bought new and really had to break in the speakers to get the serious granola, they can have a little harshness to the note hits. I sat in with a band last night and played through the RI Bassman rig I set up for thier singer, also using one of my customized mics (CM). A very beat ’90 RI Bassman, which had obviously been owned by a drunken rock guitarist who played real loud all the stinkin time. What an AMP. In its own way, it’s as cool as my Sonny JR 4/10 for a different thing, but surprisingly without much bite to the abundance of crunch, …but, I had to dial it in! They just have to be loved up properly, preferably after a previous life of rock n’ roll hell.


I went to a very popular jam with way too many people on stage at once. There were three guitars, extra percussion, sax, keyboard. I took advantage of the opportunity to use a 59 Bassman Reissue that another guy had set up on stage already. I also used the free drum kits from Real Drum Samples.

He told me that his tube lineup was 12AY7, 12AX7, 12AU7, counting from the input side toward the power tubes. I plugged in my microphone and nothing else. I noticed that the tone on the normal channel was way too bright, and I didn’t even touch the Bright channel. I turned the bass to 12, high to 1 or less, and mids to around 4, and it was still pretty bright.

This amp is LOUD! If you like good old fashioned blues harp crunch, this amp did’t do it with the tubes the guy had in it, although you may possibly be able to overdrive it at a stadium show. At the volume required for playing in a club, it didn’t crunch or overdrive at all. I didn’t try turning it up to make it overdrive because I didn’t want to be arrested for public nuisance.

The Bassman did provide a nice amount of signal compression, kind of reminiscent of Paul Butterfield playing his free drum samples at radioshack.

I would be interested in putting more 12AU7s in one of these things to see what it would do. I usually carry one or two of them in my gig box, but I didn’t have any with me yesterday so we couldn’t experiment. I would like to get the gain down to reasonable levels and hear it with more mojo and less volume. (Anybody else who has tried different tubes in this amp, submit another review so we can all see how they are SUPPOSED to be set up.) fender-59-bassman-ltd

This amp did get the job done, and it sounded OK. But the band played a few really greasy sounding blues songs and I just couldn’t get the same trashy feeling out of this amp. The way it was set up it just wasn’t versatile enough for my tastes. The best thing I can say for it was that the crowd could always hear me, even when the trains were crossing an intersection at the end of the block, and when a couple of bikers started an engine revving contest right outside the door.

I suppose that this experiment proves the point that although these free drum kit amps can sound really good, you take the time to set them up right they or they won’t sound like anything special at all. As it was, it sounded like just another amp to me.

Danelectro Chili Dog Octave Review

I don’t know why, but I got a crazy notion to buy an octave pedal recently. The Danelectro Chili Dog is quite affordable. It goes for about 30 bucks brand new. I’m pretty cheap, so that seemed like a good deal to me.

According to a bunch of online reviews, guitar players seem to think that it does a decent job of tracking low notes. I wouldn’t have bought it if they thought it was a piece of crap.

The short version of this story is that it worked well on any amp I plugged it into at home with my Shure controlled magnetic microphone. It has three knobs on it, one for the original signal, one for one octave lower, and one for two octaves lower. You can set all of them individually, and the pedal comes with a sheet showing a suggested starting point for a “good sound”, whatever that means. Their idea was main and octave 1 all the way up, and octave 2 at about 1 o’clock. That sounded good, sort of like the guitar solo on Fool in the Rain by Led Zeppelin. I prefer it with main all the way up, octave 1 at about 1 o’clock and octave 2 at 10 o’clock. That gives it a funky sound, kind of like a synthesizer.

I had a lot of fun playing with this thing in my basement for a few hours. It sounds very cool with or without the reverb added, but be sure to put the octave first, and the reverb second. Also, it doesn’t know what to do with chords. If you want to play with one of these, play single notes only. It can follow you if you play fast notes, slides and bends, but stay away from chords. Even playing two holes will confuse it and it will sound like a bunch of noise.

It was tricky to use this device on a stage with a band. I took it to a couple of jams, which can get very loud. When I kicked the pedal on at the beginning of the song I had to keep fiddling with my microphone volume control because if I had it turned up where I wanted it, the sound of the band would feed through my mic and out the speaker with an octave effect, which sounded very bad. It was basically unmanageable under these conditions, and the addition of reverb made it worse, so I left it turned off most of the time. A couple of times when it was my turn to solo, the band brought it down a few decibels and I was able to kick the pedal back on and treat everybody to some funky tones. On one occasion I played sax through a stage mic on Brick House and switched over to an F harp with the octave effect for a solo, and everybody loved it. (Can’t play sax through the Chili Dog. Sax notes are too fuzzy.)

Note tracking gets a bit nebulous on super low notes and super high notes. The 1 hole on a low G harp gets weird, and anything above the 7 hole on most of the higher harps causes some tracking problems. I’m sure there are better octave effects, but keep in mind that you will never be using one of these things for a whole night, and you’re not going to build a musical career on it. If you want to throw some funky jive into the mix for one or two solos, and you don’t mind staying in the normal range while you do it, the Chili Dog is a nice little gadget for such a reasonable price. I played around with a friend’s Digitech Whammy pedal the other night, and it was more versatile, but with the higher price tag I didn’t really care.