I recently came up with the idea of adding an octave and a boost to my ProCo Rat to achieve an EQD Life Pedal type modification within its own enclosure.

So I opened up my ProCo Rat pedal, had a good look inside and decided there was enough room to add a few extra components and, if I removed the battery compartment, I could even fit an entire extra circuit board in there.

For those who don’t know The Zero Fret and the pedals that I make, I have a few that are different variations of the circuits inside the Life Pedal. Two of which, Legion and Kaiju are made using the exact same circuit board. This board contains a type of Dan Armstrong Green Ringer style octave circuit and a simple transistor boost. – I decided to populate a board and start wiring it in to the Rat enclosure.

After fumbling my way around for a little while, tracing the Rat’s wiring and intercepting it with my own, I finally completed the mod. I fired up the pedal and it sounded incredible.

The end result is a ProCo Rat distortion pedal that has an added blendable octave circuit, an always on transistor boost.

I also added a clipping diode switch to toggle between silicone to LED clipping.

For future mods, I will add a 3 way switch for op amp, symmetrical and asymmetrical clipping.

I even swapped out the ridiculous DC socket for an industry standard BOSS sized one to enable me to power the Rat using the same power supply as the rest of my pedals.

If you are interested in having this mod done on your own Rat, get in touch. Message me in here or Instagram and we can sort it out together.

70’s Carlsbro Suzz Pedal

The Suzz Pedal was part of Carlsbro’s aluminium range. Released in the 70’s, they were guitar effects pedals encased in large aluminium outer shells and built like tanks.

They were extremely large pedals and have, over the years, become extremely collectible. Not only due to their unusual look, but their vintage sound and build quality.

This particular pedal has an Electro Harmonics Big Muff type distortion / overdrive sound. It’s not really a fuzz pedal, as the name would suggest.

It’s an incredibly simple pedal. Just two knobs, gain (volume / level) and sustain (amount of distortion).

It has no mains power and will only take a 9v battery which means removing two screws from a panel at the bottom every time you need to replace it.

It’s a great looking and sounding pedal.

Here’s what it sounds like on both guitar and bass. Please let me know what you think:

Here’s a link to a schematic:

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70’s Carlsbro Analog Echo Pedal

Where do I start with this crazy pedal? First off, it’s ginormous. Like, unnecessarily vast. I don’t imagine it would leave much space on my tiny pedal board. BUT, once I got over the initial shock of opening the box to find a pedal twice the size of my foot, I plugged it in and actually warmed to it pretty quickly.

Here it is next to a boss tuner pedal:

I was initially surprised to find that it doesn’t do longer delays at all. I opened it up to see if I could calibrate it and make the delays longer but it’s very hard to get into. And to cut a long story short, I couldn’t be bothered! It may well be possible, but I’m not going to attempt it. What this pedal does do very well is shorter surf rock slap back echoes.

It is capable of everything from nice, warm, analog dub reggae tones to harsh, extreme noise rock abrasiveness.

I could see it being used in noise and ambient music to create vast soundscapes. Combined with reverb it creates a huge sound and when you turn the swell knob up (see vid) to the point where it’s almost out of control, it’s actually really exciting to use. I like the element of chaos you get from cranking everything up and letting this pedal go haywire.

It’s possible to run this echo pedal in stereo and mono modes. It has two output sockets. One for the effected signal and one for the clean. So you can run them out to two amps and blend the sound.

I bought this with the intention of reviewing it and selling it straight on but I’ve fallen in love with it. I don’t know if I can part with it! I seem to have found it in a rare finish, too. Most I’ve seen have been in a silver aluminium casing but mine is black and looks much cooler, in my opinion.

Hear me demo this awesome pedal here:

Kay / Univox Effector Guitar

There’s something charming about looking back to a point in history when we thought we were onto something new and then, very quickly, realised we weren’t.

There’s little glimpses of these moments in time sprinkled all over the history of modern guitars and amps. Zero frets being one of them and these Kay / Univox Effector guitars, being another.

They were manufactured in the 60’s and, unbelievably, right through to the 80’s. They were sold via the Sears catalogue as an affordable home guitar with an added extra. Built in effects. It even has a headphone socket, so there’s no need for an amp. I imagine this guitar was a good choice for parents who wanted to encourage their children to learn to play but didn’t want to hear them play loudly through an amplifier.

They’re powered by a 9V battery and the volume knob actually acts as an on / off switch.

I’ve heard the built in effects described as “tone suckers”, and I understand why. The echo effect (it’s not an echo, it’s a tremolo), is very useable, however. It has an old school dub reggae vibe to it. It’s nice for playing more paired back, stripped down tracks and you can get an ambient feel from it.

The other effects are pretty much not worth even mentioning. They create harsh tones and doesn’t really provide anything useful, although the Whirl-wind effect can be fun for an auto wah style sound.

The truly useable effect, though, is the fuzz. It really sounds great for lo-fi punk rock riffs and high energy thrashing chords. But equally as great for noodling solos.

The Kay / Univox Effector is an interesting and rare piece of guitar history but it’s not difficult to understand why the built in effect technology didn’t take off in a big way.

It’s been nice to work on I’m pleased I had the opportunity to fix this one up as best as I could.

Hear the effects here and if you enjoy the video, please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel:

1977 Peavey PA-200 Mixer Amp

There’s something about these 70’s solid state amps. They come from an era when watt ratings seemingly counted for little. They’re always far louder than they should be! It supposedly puts 120 watts into a 4 ohm cab but, I can tell you, this thing will take heads clean off shoulders when cranked.

It takes pedals extremely well and the spring reverb tank sounds incredible. Nice and old school.

This one is in super good condition. The best I’ve seen. The leather pads in the centre of the knobs are all present. Usually, they’ve long since fallen off due to the glue sucking.

Each channel has a gain (volume) knob, an effect knob (to blend in the reverb tank) and a Low and High knob. Set to 12 o’clock, the knobs are at zero. So, turn them left and you’re cutting a frequency, turn them right and you’re boosting. The amount of overall reverb is controlled by a knob to the right of the unit.

I became interested in these, as a lot of people did, after finding out the Greg Ginn, of Black Flag, used one.

PA amps make super cool guitar and bass heads. You can even split your signal and use more than one channel at a time. Great for experimenting.

Here’s a video of me playing guitar and bass through it. The dirt comes from a TC Electronic Mojo Mojo Overdrive Pedal.

If you enjoyed the vid, please do subscribe to THE ZERO FRET on YouTube. Thanks!

Peavey T-60 Guitar with EGC Aluminium Bolt on Neck

I recently heard Peavey T-60’s described as “hipster gold, right now”. And while I’m no hipster, I do kinda get where they were coming from.

Peavey started manufacturing their T range of guitars and basses in the late 70’s. The T-60’s were allegedly the first guitars to be precision CNC milled out of blocks of wood.

They’re ridiculously well made. Over engineered to the teeth. For example, there’s an abundant 19 screws holding the pick guard on, alone.

All hardware is Peavey branded. Tuners, bridge, knobs, you name it.

So it’s a wonder to me, why it’s taken them so long to earn their “hipster gold” badge.

In recent years, they’ve become popular in the hardcore / punk scene. Probably because of their solid ruggedness and ability to withstand many a brutal thrashing about on stage.

Their for sale price has jumped up significantly, especially in the rarer finishes, like mine. I paid £400 for it and I’ve since seen people asking double that.

The wooden stock Peavey neck, is one of the best I’ve ever played. It’s maple and has a nice, thin profile and a 12″ radius. Very similar to the Electrical Guitar Company neck that I replaced it with.

Which brings me to the next part.. The aluminium neck!

I had this made by the Electrical Guitar Company, in Florida. I saw that Kevin (owner) was going to be doing a run of these necks via the Aluminium Axes Facebook group. (This seems to be the only place he announces when he’ll be doing a run).

The T-60 has the same square neck pocket measurements as a Fender Telecaster. The EGC square heel should fit both so that is what I ordered. After a three month wait, I finally got the neck home to find it didn’t quite fit. Panicked briefly.. And then set about sanding the neck pocket by hand. It took about and hour but I finally managed to get it in, snug.

The T-60 had the old toaster style pickups, which are famously duller sounding than the blades that the later models where fitted with. Well, the neck brightened up the tone, no end. It looks cool as heck and plays like a dream. I’ve kept the old maple neck because I can’t bare to part with it. Maybe I’ll put it on a telecaster one day. But I’m sure I’ll never want to put it back on the Peavey, as awesome as it is.

One last thing to add.. This guitar does weigh a ton.. 10lbs, to be exact. It’s not for the feint hearted!

See and hear it here:

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Travis Bean TB2000 Bass Guitar

So, I’ve been a Bob Weston fan since forever.. Like so many, I’ve pined after his killer bass tone for years.. I bought my first Kramer XKB-20 to see if I could get somewhere close to it.. And I did. But it wasn’t enough. The day after my wedding, I drove an 8 hour round trip to pick up a vintage Traynor TS-50B with matching 2×15.. Got even closer to the tone. But it still wasn’t quite there. I finally caved in and spent a dick ton of cash on a vintage Travis Bean TB2000 bass.. Et voila! There’s the famous tone. The grunt. The bark. The bite. All at my finger tips, whenever I choose to piss off my neighbours and crank up the Traynor in my two bedroom flat!

This thing is an absolute beast. Weighing in at a huge 12lbs, it sounds like thunder and plays like butter.

It’s mid 70’s – I’m not sure of the exact year. Serial #517. Apparently Travis Beans can be difficult to date. All original aside from the fretboard, which was removed and replaced with a new one by Kevin Burkett, who now owns Travis Bean.

It has a few small pick scrapes to the body but, for me, that only adds to the character. This bass has clearly been used and loved over the years. Well loved. In fact, it’s previous owners include Dominic from the post rock band, Mogwai, and Aluminium Axes Facebook page owner, Iain Quimby, who I purchased it from.

The neck design on Travis Bean guitars, is brilliant. It goes right the way through the body, increasing sustain and ensuring minimal neck dive. The quality of these things is mind blowing. It feels super well made, like it would withstand a nuclear blast.

The pickup resting right on the neck produces such a killer tone.

I think I can safely say that this is my “forever bass”.. At least until I get too old and decrepit to strap the beast round my neck and play it!

Here’s a scrappy Shellac bass cover I did using the TB2000 and my Traynor TS-50B:

Aluminium Neck Kramer XKB-20 Bass Guitar

This was the first aluminium neck instrument I owned. A vintage Kramer XKB-20.

I hear a lot of people bitching about Kramer as a brand. Mainly die hard Travis Bean fans bad mouthing Gary Kramer’s business ethics.

In the late 70’s Gary Kramer was a Travis Bean sales rep, who, to cut a long story short, attempted to improve on the idea of an aluminium neck guitar and got the patent for his own design. This, apparently, put Travis Bean out of business.

Kramer later dropped the alminium neck idea and started making instruments aimed at 80’s cock rock and hair metal players. To which, he sold many thousands and made a big name for himself.

I’m not one for taking sides in Kramer / Bean debate. Believe it or not, it’s possible to enjoy both. – I own both!

Apparently some of Kramer’s instruments weren’t built to the same rigid quality as Travis Bean’s, but the same can’t be said of my XKB-20.

It’s essentially a simple P bass. It has that P bass grunt to it. But the aluminium neck adds a certain clarity to the tone. A shimmer and a natural chorus. Great for chords and tapping.

Add some vintage solid state amp distortion and a pick and you get a really gnarly tone from this thing!

Perfect for punk rock / hardcore / doom.

The ebanol fretboard is one feature where I think Kramer beat Travis Bean hands down. This bass is 36 years old but you’d never be able to guess that from the condition fingerboard, because it doesn’t mark, wear or get clogged with finger grease like wood does. (Also, TB fretboards are known for detaching from the neck, as wood doesn’t expand or contract at the same rate as aluminium so the glue comes un stuck).

The only thing that bugs me about this bass is that it Neck dives quite savagely.

To counteract this, I added weights into the back plate of the body cavity. The bass now weighs 11lbs. – still 1lb less than my Travis Bean TB2000.

Here’s a review I made when I first got the bass (apologies for the quality, it was my first YouTube video):

Here’s a video of how I solved the neck dive issue:

Kramer basses are a great, affordable entry into the world of aluminium neck instruments. – this one is for sale for £750 – use the contact page to enquire about purchasing it from me. It includes the original Kramer branded hard case.

HH Electronic VS-Musician Amp

In the late 60’s and 70’s, these amps were big business. Initially sparking interest among up and coming punk rock bands of the era, HH equipment eventually became a favourite of big name acts like Pink Floyd, T-Rex and The Buzzcocks.

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This particular model, the VS-Musician, offers a feature not seen on any of their other amps. VS, stands for “Valve-Sound”. And, for a solid state amp, it does emulate the warm sound of a glowing valve, very well. The clean sounds are so clear and crisp, I actually think I prefer these to any real valve amp. And when you crank the gain up, it really comes into its own.

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The green glow of the front panel always looks great on these things.

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One reason I bought this amp is because it came with the now super rare Valve Sound foot switch. Unfortunately, I no longer have the pedal.

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The VS-Musuician is a 100W 2×12 combo and it’s as loud as hell!

If you get the chance to pick one up for a good price, for the love of God, do it!

This is great amp is for sale for £250. Get in touch here to make it yours.