Affordable Rig Challenge: How Low Can The Price Go?

Dan and Mick face-off in a quest for the best tone at the lowest price!

Guitar players come in various shapes and sizes, from different backgrounds, and diverse in age across the industry. However no matter where and when one enters the guitar world, there is one thing we all shared in common at one point in time: having a very, very limited budget and wanting the best sound in the entire world. While gear is only a small part of a player’s sound, with all of the great gear available deciding whether one wants to begin playing guitar is a daunting thought. To give new and emerging, returning, or even the best guitar players a sense of the tone you can get if you’re creative with a limited budget, the guys decide to go head-to-head in a friendly contest.

This week on TPS Dan & Mick have their individual take on the Affordable Rig Challenge, a quest to create stellar tone by stretching their dollars (in this case pounds) to get the most useable sound without breaking the bank.

The Rules

Much like many of the other contests that unfold on TPS there aren’t many rules, and the guys always find loopholes and have genius ideas, however to set the stage Mick lays down the requirements. The biggest task here is to assemble one guitar, one amplifier, three pedals, a useable pedalboard, a power supply, and lastly any patch cables that are needed. Secondly, while the whole point of this episode is to create a playable, sonically pleasing rig, it still has to be affordable AND gig-ready. Lastly, Dan adds a final “rule” to the mix, “it must sound good and make me play well.” With the rules etched, the challengers, present, and the creative juices flowing, let’s see who emerged victorious!

In This Corner, Dan

When it comes to Dan and his playing style/preferences, the choices he made are not surprising yet the tone he gets out of the gear he chose is effective. For the guitar, Dan decides to “borrow” his daughter’s Squier Affinity Telecaster, and then for the rest of his rig he needs to wait for the postman to deliver his Amazon Prime package. His amplifier, the Rockjam 20-watt solid-state, and his three pedals (Tone City King of Blues overdrive, Mooer Eleclady flanger, and Electro-Harmonix Memory Toy) were all ordered from Amazon.

With the power of the Internet, Dan makes a smart and selective choice because for most new players adventuring into effects, companies like Tone City and Amazon provide great effects at an even better price. However, the real gem of Dan’s set-up is the Marshall 1960 4X12” extension cabinet for the itsy-bitsy Rockjam amp. He bought the extension cab off of eBay knowing that the 20-watt could power it and by itself it would not be enough to gig with. Lastly, for his pedalboard Dan decides to use a section of duckboard, which if you are unfamiliar with this it is a plastic grated mat that is used when you get out of the shower so you don’t slip. With his budget rig crafted there remains one question: how does it sound?

Much like Dan believed, without the Marshall extension cabinet, the rig sounds awful. “The Rockjam has a cheap 9 volt switching supply that doesn’t have any filtering on it, so there is a high pitched noise when the amp is being pushed,” Dan explains. With the addition of the Marshall, it definitely gets enough volume to gig with, however there is no headroom at all. The King of Blues hides the digital sharpness of the 20-watt amp, the Eleclady adds texture, and the Memory Toy adds physicality to the tone. The general consensus from Dan is that “if I was 15, with this rig, I’d be a hero.”

And In This Corner, Mick

Following the same train of thought as Dan, Mick decides to go down a cost-effective lane for a more crafted, more precise tone. Mick picks up an Epiphone Casino off of eBay, a Boss Katana 100-watt combo for the amplifier, the Fox Gear Manic Fuzz, Tone City Kaffir Lime distortion, and an analog Electro-Harmonix The Worm modulation pedal also from eBay. While Mick could’ve picked up another amplifier for around the same price, it is a cost-effective purchase because it has built in effects so it is a wonderful practice piece, but it is also one of the most popular amplifiers in the world, so it will always be worth something close to its original value.

He also had the same general thinking about The Worm. Since it is such a valued pedal, the price that he purchased it at is generally what he can resell it for, making it a less risky experiment rather than an investment he needs to keep forever. Following Dan’s idea with going to the home improvement store for his pedalboard material, Mick settles for using soft wood, wood screws, and a little bit of Velcro to craft his gig-ready set-up. Fully loaded up and ready to play, how does Mick’s tone stand up to Dan’s rig?

The Katana really changes how Mick’s situation feels compared to Dan’s because it is a 100-watt amplifier and designed to be played at gigging volumes. Secondly, since the Casino is completely hollow the amplifier is responding to that reverberation, making the sound such much more lively and vibrant. This also brings Mick’s set-up to not be able to handle high levels of gain, so the feedback is quite substantial. The Kaffir helps regulate the amount of overdrive the amplifier is getting, the Manic pushes the Casino too hard, and The Worm is very finicky and niche.

The Verdict, and Final Prices

All in all, it is concluded that Mick’s set-up cannot handle gain making gigging very difficult in its current situation, and Dan’s sounds completely flat and dense, making personality a challenging thing to create. However, the main challenge here was to create a useable tone that didn’t break the bank. Mick totaled in at 1034 pounds (or $1,340) and Dan spent 466 pounds ($603). With such a substantial price difference, Dan is deemed the champion of the Affordable Rig Challenge!

That’s it for this week’s That Pedal Show! Stay tuned for Part 2 where the guys do the exact same challenge, except they strip away all price restrictions and create their dream rig of one guitar, one amplifier, and three pedals!

TPS Rig Rundown:

Guitars: Squier Affinity Telecaster, Epiphone Casino

Pedals: Tone City King of Blues, Mooer Eleclady, Electro-Harmonix Memory Toy, Electro-Harmonix The Worm, Fox Gear Manic, Tone City Kaffir Lime

Amps: Rockjam GA20W, Marshall 1960B Extension Cabinet w/Celestion G12T-75 speakers, Boss Katana 100-watt

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