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JB Custom
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
R&R for the main Next Gen employees (after hours) is to rent a jam space and mess around for a couple of hours. Everyone is pretty competent at at least one instrument, some of us play multiple instruments, so it makes for a good time!

However, since I basically sold all of my personal gear and I give away most of my DIY projects, I needed something simple but versatile enough to so I could get a small variety of tones to jam with. I had switched to a primarily digital modeling direct-to-FOH rig around 15 years ago and never looked back. I've had Axe-FX, Helix, and the like. But, this time around I wanted something really simple (meaning, analog).

Why not go digital again? Honestly, I spent as much time in the past 15 years tweaking my presets as I did playing guitar. While I absolutely love the versatility of digital, I'm tired of menus, presets, gain staging/matching, and just tone-chasing in general. I really don't need to dial in tones that critically any more anyways. I'm not playing gigs or doing session work. I just want a couple of knobs/switches to get me a variety of sounds while I jam with some buddies. I'd like it to sound good, but I'm not looking for perfection.​

My preference was something with a built-in tuner, an overdrive and boost, delay, and reverb. I found a lot of things that came close, but few that had it all. Enter the Tech 21 Fly Rig 5 v2. The first one (I think the only one actually) to check all the boxes...
359420

PHYSICAL:
Size/Weight - 32cm x 7.5cm x 3.5cm / 580g
It really lives up to it's name "Fly Rig" in terms of size. My wife could probably fit it into her purse. It easily fits inside the little compartment in a hardshell guitar case along with the adapter. It also comes with numerous plug converters so you can fly anywhere in the world and still be able to plug in. Pretty sweet.​

Connectivity - Input, FX-loop, 1/4" output, and XLR output
Not sure what else you'd really need for something like this. The FX-loop is a nice touch because you can do the 4 cable method with an amp.​

FEATURES:
Plexi (drive) - Level, Tone, Drive, and a "Cali" Voicing Switch
Sounds as good as any other decent plexi-voiced drive pedal I've tried. It has a little switch labelled "Cali" which changes the voicing. There's a little more bass, more gain, and the midrange shifts a little. I would guess this is voiced after their Brit and Cali SansAmp voicings, but I could be wrong. Either way, both sound good in the right context.​

Boost - Level, and a Pre/Post Switch
There is a LOT of range in the level control. It works as a clean boost when set to "post", making it great for boosting the volume for solos. In the "pre" setting, it acts as a boost before the "Blonde" section, which boosts the volume a bit but mostly dirties things up like when you put a boost in front of a tube amp.​

Tuner (chromatic)
Hold the "Blonde" footswitch for a couple seconds to engage a mute and activate the tuner. It's a functioning chromatic tuner. Nothing special here.​

Blonde (amp sim) - Level, High, Mid, Low, and Drive
It's Tech 21's "Blonde" character pedal (minus the "character" knob). It has a speaker switch on it which engages the cab sim on/off for the 1/4" output. The speaker sim is always on for the XLR output. I've always enjoyed their character pedals and consider them among the best analog amp sims out there. Obviously not going to compete with digital, but as good as it gets. I like to keep the drive way up and turn the volume down on my guitar to clean it up. Sounds great and breaks up really nicely when pushed, for a solid state circuit. It is not a tube amp, so don't expect it to react like one. But it's good for what it is.​

Delay - Level, Repeat, Time, and Tap Tempo (via the "Reverb" switch)
It's actually a digital delay, but it's in parallel with the analog signal, so you still have an unaffected analog signal path. This is a pretty versatile delay for such a tiny device with so few switches/knobs. The only thing I wish it had was a tone control, but it's pretty great even without it.​
  • "Drift" mode - Adds tape-style drift to the repeats, making them sit behind your playing a little better. If you drop the delay time to zero with "drift" on, you can use the level and repeat knobs to get some cool modulation effects.
  • "8th" mode - With this engaged, it changes the repeats to dotted eighth notes (assuming you tap tempo in 1/4 notes).
Reverb - Level, and a "Size" Switch
Hold the "Tap/Reverb" switch for a couple of seconds to engage the reverb. Again, this is a digital effect that runs in parallel with your analog signal path. Not much to say about it. It's a room reverb with a level control. The "Size" switch, changes the size of the room (more or less decay). Sounds good.​

SOUNDS:
I've honestly only had it for a little bit, but I'm really impressed with how great this little guy sounds in every scenario I've tried it so far...

Into An Amp - I plugged it into the Marshall at work. It sounds great in front of the amp using the drive, boost, delay, and reverb. It works in the 4 cable method, putting the delay/reverb after the preamp (the boost "pre/post" switch also moves it before/after the FX-loop, so you can boost the front of the amp or after the preamp). I also ran it into the FX-return on the Marshall, with the Blonde sim on. Again, top marks for me.​
Direct - I plugged it straight into my interface and jammed through my studio monitors at home. For some background, analog cab sims have always sounded TERRIBLE to my ears. Well, I have to say, this is probably the best analog cab sim I've ever heard. I don't hate it. Maybe I'm just not as critical as I once was, but I actually don't mind it at all. I'm really digging just plugging in direct at home and jamming along with backing tracks.​

CONCLUSION:
So far I am pleasantly surprised with it. It has enough sounds in it to jam almost any style of music, and it actually sounds pretty good. The few things I could think of that I'd want to add would kind of defeat the purpose and appeal of its simplicity.

I'll have to report back after the next jam session to see how well it worked out in the mix with the rest of the band. There are a couple of tube amps at the jam space that are free to use (I think a Twin Reverb and a Vox AC30). Or, I could just run direct with the XLR out. We'll see.

SIDE NOTE:
If you're in Ottawa, check out Record Runner Rehearsal Studios on Colonnade in Nepean. I've spent more money on way crappier rehearsal spaces in the past. Seems like a decent spot from my limited experiences there so far.
 
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