Washburn Stacks/JHS Big Foot
distortion, delay, described
If you've got an idea, then sell it. If it sells well, then put it in another slightly different box and sell it some more.
In such a way one could paraphrase the effects industry, where several basic and, ahem, effective ideas coexist, and many hundreds of combinations exist in order to flog these to you.
So to a tiny box of a very recognisable shape from Washburn — or at least, with a Washburn name tag on top. Stack In A Box, it's called. We mentioned it in Shredder the other month because it indicates some semblance of a sense of humour on the part of an effects manufacturer. A rare commodity.
Stack = amp (at least 100 watts and valve-based) plus cabinets (4x 12, one driver, at least, usually defective). These components are piled on top of one another and were invented some time in the mid 1960s by British beat groups and have the names Marshall and Hiwatt on them, mostly.
Implications = here is the same sound scaled down into a little effects pedal.
Well of course it isn't. Can't hope to be. I mean, there's no way you could get all those valves cooking away on top of all those dodgy speaker cones with a surprised Les Paul going full blast through the lot, now is there?
Nope, this is merely a souped-up distortion box with, admittedly, a very funny name stuck on the top. There are but three knobs here with pink tops to them which show up well in your chosen gloom. LEVEL, DIST and TONE they're called and you'll know what they're about. Jack sockets too, and a screw on the bottom which you must remove before you get to replacing a battery.
And jarring painfully against the pink is the red LED up top, which tells you when it's on. You'd have to be deaf not to realise. It's raucous, over-the-top, and makes guitar notes stick to each other in a gooey, syrupy mess. I loved it.
Now what do you do with this basic idea so you can sell it some more? You put it in one of those awfully nice rackmounting boxes, slim and sexy, put another one by its side in there, and then chuck in a graphic equaliser for good measure. And with similar wit, assuming you're Washburn, you call it a Stack In A Rack. Chuckle! Though not as much of a chuckle as at Stack In A Box.
Stack In A Rack has on/off buttons for each of its three bits: the graphic has six sliders and a level control, pitched from 100Hz (deepish bass) up to 3.2kHz (cutting treble), and the very wide range of ±18dB means you can add to or take away from a lot of the tone at each of the six points in the frequency range offered.
The two distortion sections are identical, called A and B, and have, as we've seen, been successfully lobbed in from a couple of In-A-Boxes. Same knobs, but blue tops instead of pink.
Problems with the In-A-Rack include the setting of levels, as individual sections have a habit of overriding, or at least interfering, with neighbouring bits. The setting up of a good graphic noise gets thrown askew when you bring in the distortion sections, for example.
But the two distortion bits working with/against each other are nice/nasty. With a little self-deception you can hear each of them working in their defined area. If you're truthful with yourself, though, they merely make a cacophonous riot of a racket.
There are other such handy things around as an input and output jack and a bypass switch. There's also a footswitch socket on the back, but as a footswitch didn't come with the Rack, and we've never ever seen, let alone owned, a footswitch with a DIN plug on the end, we've no idea what it might do. At a guess it'd control all sections turned on at the Rack.
Now we come to the marketing ploy that reverses the Stack-In-A techniques: you've got a successful rack-mounted gadget, but you suddenly realise that it'd make an ideal floor-mounted unit. You can also up the spec a bit and clear out a few oddities from the rack version.
So JHS got out a screwdriver and some bits of wire and made their rather good 1024 delay (see review in our May issue) into the 2048 Big Foot.
Much of what we said about it before therefore still holds, with an obvious thumbs-up for the expansion to a maximum 2048mS delay time, via a "multiplication" knob which takes the basic settings of two, eight, 32, 128, 512 and 1024mS and gives factors of x0.5 to x2. Work it out, write it down, and show me after class.
Also, thanks very much, they've added a trigger socket so you can use the sounds you choose to lock into the minimal and somewhat arbitrary "hold" sampling circuit in a more flexible way with drum machines and so on. It's still very hard to get anything too useful into the second or so of storage time here, but it's better than nowt.
There's also a better array of lights to indicate more or less what's happening.
Wonder who'll be the first to offer all three devices in one box, rack-mounted, with individual footswitch control?
Box £59; Rack £149; Big Foot £265
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Review by Tony Bacon
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