The Marshall Plan – Stompboxes with a British Attitude

Marshall is no stranger to the stompbox stage. In the ’60s, the Bletchley boys introduced the SupaFuzz and Supa-Wah pedals, while the late ’80s and early ’90s saw the introduction of a variety of distortion boxes. Fast-forward to the year 2000: Marshall’s new made-in-India stompers are smaller, more tonally versatile, and housed in bulletproof enclosures. Each of these bad boys offers true-bypass switching, a status LED, and 9-volt DC jacks. We tested eachpedal through a Vox AC30, a Fender Deluxe Reverb, and a mid-’70s, 50-watt Marshall head.

BB-2 Bluesbreaker II

The word “Bluesbreaker” evokes images of young Eric Clapton ferocious tone on the seminal 1966 John Mayall album. Needless to say, the BB-2 ($135) has a tall order to fill. The box offers boost and blues modes (the former function was not on the original, early-’90s Bluesbreaker pedal), and the controls are drive, tone, and volume. In boost mode, all controls are bypassed (except for volume) and the output is frightening. The BB-2 easily drove the front-end of our test amps into a frenzy–it delivers one of the most ass-kicking boosts I’ve ever heard.

In the blues mode, the BB-2 gravitates toward (not surprisingly) the classic Bluesbreaker sound. Running it through a Marshall and a 4×12 cab, I achieved a glorious timbre reminiscent of Clapton’s white-hot tone on “Hideaway” or “Double Crossing Time”–dynamic, fat, and laden with midrange nuances. The BB-2 is an astounding overdrive pedal that provides soulful, no-non-sense boost and smooth, old-school distortion.

ED-1 Compressor

The ED-1 ($135) is one of the more versatile and quiet stompbox compressors I’ve heard. It features volume, attack, and compression controls, plus a 2-position emphasis function that is quite unique. In the high position, it tightens up bass frequencies while retaining high-end slice–extremely handy if you’re playing atmospheric chords over the top of a rhythm section a la Andy Summers. In the low position, it squashes the treble, and lets the bass frequencies pass untouched.

Perhaps the hippest thing about the ED-1, however, is its ability to act as a booster with very slight compression that doesn’t affect your tone one bit. Pretty cool. Compared to an MXR Dyna Comp (the benchmark of stompbox compressors), the ED-1 not only held its own sonically, but proved to be more flexible–thanks to its ability to conjure different shades of compression and boost.

GV-2 Guv’Nor Plus

If you’re looking for best bass distortion pedal that packs mondo output and molten-lava distortion, you’ll love the GV-2 ($135). Sporting bass, treble, volume, and gain controls (plus concentric knobs for the deep and midrange functions), the GV-2 produced girthy rage through a Vox AC30 and a Deluxe Reverb. Through a Marshall, the unit makes good on its campaign promises by delivering punishing low-end and gobs of gain. (Think Tony Iommi on steroids.) The pedal responds nicely to guitar-volume tweaks, and cleans up well even on mondo-distorto settings. The deep control is an added bonus that’s very effective for beefing up the chunk factor of open-back combos.

JH-1 Jackhammer

The JH-1 ($145) is a high-output distortion/overdrive that features concentric treble, bass, volume, gain, contour, and frequency controls. Turning the contour knob counter-clockwise cuts low mids and bass. Turning it clockwise attenuates the upper mids and treble. The EQ allowed me to dial in sucked-midrange punishment or belligerent honk with any guitar. The overdrive mode can pulverize pavement with throaty, aggressive tones that pack the punch and immediacy of a Marshall JCM 800. In the distortion mode, the gain is spread on ultrathick, and the JH-1’s voice becomes darker and smoother. This is a mean-sounding, yet musical box.

SV-1 Supervibe

The SV-1 stereo chorus ($145) delivers lush textures via its speed, depth, wave, and filter controls. A variable-wave function lets you morph between fixed and variable speed LFOs, and change the character of the modulation from that of a vintage analog chorus to a more crystalline digital type. The filter control adjusts the bandwidth of the chorus effect, enabling you to dial in bright chorusing textures, or subtle, smokier effects.

Routing the unit’s left/right outputs to two amps and dialing the filter control for darker sounds produces a sweet, yet complex stereo swirl without a hint of the gaudy, pseudo-Leslie tones delivered by some other chorus units.

VT-1 Vibrotrem

The stereo VT-1 ($145) sports tremolo and vibrato modes. Controls include speed, depth, and shape (square and triangle wave). At extreme settings, the square wave flaunts an aggressive chop, while the triangle wave sounds somewhat softer. Although the VT-1 doesn’t go as slow and deep as a Fender trem, its helicopter capabilities are more extreme than most amp tremolos.

The VT-1’s vibrato mode offers trippier tones–you can conjure everything from subtle, detuned tipples to seasick warbles. Vibrato is usually used as a “freak-out” effect, but the VT-1’s vibrato mode can also be used discreetly. For example, placing a detuned guitar in the back of a mix can fatten up a track considerably. If you’re looking for a unit that nails two classic vintage effects while letting you craft your own signature tones, the VT-1 definitely delivers.

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Sporting gear: the right price, fit & function

It’s fall, and that means children are practicing their football moves, limbering up for soccer, tying on skates, or beginning a new season of dance lessons. For parents, all those activities mean a longer shopping list. Here, tips from experts on the gear your child will need, and what it’s going to cost.

Football $120 to $260

“An eight- or nine-year-old doesn’t need fancy equipment,” says Vernon T. Tolo, M.D., chief of orthopedics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “But the older a child gets, the more important the equipment becomes — football sports injuries increase with age.” In many states, at least some of the protective gear is supplied schools, but you may still need to buy a helmet, cleats, and pads. The most important thing to look for a good fit.

The helmet shouldn’t slip when your kid shakes his head. Expect to spend $60 to $80 for a helmet (more for one with a protective air liner — used by the pros and thought to offer better, more flexible protection than foam pads).

Shoulder pads should fit snugly across the shoulder blades and down the arms. Cost can run from $30 to $80.

* When buying cleats, consider your child’s ankles; if they’re weak, spring for a high-top model. You’ll spend $20 to $100 for cleats (in leather or nylon mesh). You’ll pay more for shoes with replaceable cleats, but they generally aren’t worthwhile for younger players who are likely to grow out of the shoes before the cleats wear out.

* Your child will also need a mouth guard and, depending on the position he plays, receiver’s gloves, a rib guard, and/or additional pads.

Soccer $30 to $115

Cleats and shin guards are soccer mainstays. “Your can hand these things down,” says Donald Cook, M.D., medical director of Monfort Children’s Clinic in Greeley, CO, “but make certain they fit.” If shin guards are too loose, they’ll get in the way when a child runs, and ill-fitting shoes can cause a child to trip.

* Plan on investing $15 to $70 for cleats.

* Shin guards come in several varieties, from single-strap to stirrup and sock types. Again, older kids need the most protection, which you’ll get from a stirrup with a molded plastic shell backed by gel or air tubes. Expect to spend between $5 and $30.

* You’ll also need to buy a ball so your child can practice all those newly learned moves in the backyard. The more expensive models, with hand-sewn polyurethane covers and latex bladders, are softer on impact. You’ll spend between $10 and $50.

Ballet $32 to $85

Lessons aren’t cheap, but at least “you don’t need a lot of equipment — that’s the good thing about dance,” says Jane Bonbright, Ed.D., interim executive director of the National Dance Association, based in Reston, VA. Younger school-age children need a leotard, tights, and flexible ballet slippers; point shoes are for experienced dancers.

* Slippers come in leather and canvas; if your child’s a beginner, consider the less expensive (but also less durable) canvas ones. “Have the shoes fitted by a professional in a dance store rather than buying them through a catalog,” says Bonbright. You’ll pay $12 to $30 for slippers ($40 to $55 for point shoes).

* Leotards will cost $10 to $20; $7 to $10 for tights (a bit more for run-resistant).

Ice Skating $20 to $200 Hockey $195 to $480

You’ll invest in skates for both sports, but the hockey-equipment list goes on and on, including shin guards, shoulder and other pads,

Sporting Gear

padded pants, a helmet, gloves, and a hockey stick. “Sizing is really important with skates,” says Steven Dunlap, a buyer for Gart Sports, a retailer with stores throughout the western United States. “Kids injure themselves more easily if skates don’t fit well.”

* Skates should have a stiff, high-top boot of good-quality leather. Prices range from $20 to $500 for figure skates, $50 to $500 for hockey. For smaller kids, the cheaper ones are fine; for serious skaters, you may spend in the $100 to $200 range. Don’t bother with top-of-the-line skates; they’re geared for pros.

* For hockey, shin guards, which are worn from above the knee to the tongue of the skate, should be carefully sized ($30 to $50); shoulder and elbow pads shouldn’t be too restrictive ($55 to $80).

* Helmets cost between $50 and $70.

* Hockey sticks — made from wood, aluminum, or composites (the last are for serious players) — range from $10 to $80.

Iskiing $80 to $250

Recently, the ski-equipment list grew by one item, but for safety-conscious parents, that item — the ski helmet — is a must. “I’m all for younger skiers wearing helmets,” says Dr. Cook. “They save lives and prevent injuries.” And kids actually like them. “It’s considered cool to wear them,” says Steve Wilbur, vice president, divisional merchandise manager of Gart Sports.

As for the basics — skis, boots, and poles — you have a choice of buying or renting for the season; for younger children, particularly if there are no younger siblings to use hand-medowns, renting may make more sense. Expect to spend about $80 for a season’s rental of skis, boots, and poles; $180 to $250 if you buy (more for “hourglass” or shaped skis).

* The skis should stand no taller than your child, or shorter for beginners. The new hourglass skis — widely available for kids this year — are more responsive, easier to turn, and, depending on the model, can be a good choice for beginners as well as advanced skiers. Shaped skis should be bought at a shorter length than traditional models.

* As for boots, “make sure there’s plenty of room in the toes, and that children’s heels are locked in place,” says Wilbur.

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Knee injuries are happening more often

It happened in a matter of seconds. “I was playing for my high school soccer team,” explains 18-year-old Laura Soto. “I twisted on my leg, and just then I was pushed down. I heard three quick pops and suddenly felt a lot of pain. An ambulance took me to the emergency room.”

Laura had torn her ACL, the anterior cruciate ligament, and her meniscus. The ACL is a ligament that runs through the middle of the knee joint and connects the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shinbone). It allows a person to twist and turn. The meniscus is cartilage that sits between the leg bones to act as a shock absorber.

“I had to have surgery,” Laura says, “and the doctor had to make a new ACL for me out of a graft from my hamstring. I also have two biodegradable screws my knee.”

Recovery has been difficult. The brace she had to wear reached from her upper thigh to her ankle and she dealt with a lot of pain. “For eight hours each day, I had to put my leg in a Continuous Passive Machine, which would bend my leg a little more each day. I would do it for four hours, rest, then do if another four,” she says.

“It has been hard,” she admits. “Soccer was my life, and I’d had a scholarship to Northern Michigan University.” Laura still goes to physical therapy once a week and works with weights to strengthen her new knee and the muscles around it.

Is It an Epidemic?

Laura’s story isn’t unusual. According to recent statistics, there are thousands of knee injuries like Laura’s annually. Doctors and researchers are beginning to call these injuries the new epidemic in the sports world. Girls are four to six times more likely to have a knee injury. Just ask 16-year-old Megan Okui.

“I was a guard for my high school basketball team,” she says. “I was at practice and went up for a shot. When I came down, I felt like I’d landed funny. I twisted sideways and couldn’t get up for about 15 minutes. It felt like my leg weighed a million pounds, and it didn’t want to work. I finally got up and walked on it a little. I iced it overnight, but in the morning it still hurt, so I went to the hospital. They said it was a sprain and to stay off of it. I went back to playing basketball, but it kept hurting. Sometimes it would give out.” Three months after the injury, Megan found out why. “The doctor told me I’d torn my ACL. I had surgery, followed by six months of physical therapy. Now I’m back on the team and feeling strong.”

“The sports that can cause the most damage,” states Dr. Ronald Navarro, chief of orthopedics at Kaiser Permanente in California, “are soccer, basketball, and football.” The primary causes are direct blows, falls, jumps, and twisting on one foot.

Why So Many Girls?

Reasons vary, but one of the main theories is a simple one: Girls and boys are put together differently. Girls have wider hips and smaller ligaments, first of all. After jumping, girls tend to land on their feet, rather than their toes, putting the knee at greater risk. Also, to stabilize themselves, they seem to use their quadriceps (muscles on the front of the thigh), which are weaker muscles, while boys use their hamstrings (muscles in the back of the thigh) and calf muscles, which are stronger. Another factor is something called the Q Angle, which means that girls’ thighbones angle inward more than boys, stressing the knee joint. Also an increasing number of girls are getting involved in sports.

The Solution?

Whatever the reason, it’s obvious that knee injuries are becoming a real problem. The answer is twofold. First, there’s prevention. “Proper prevention is a combination of building endurance and strength through training, plus stretching and warming up the muscles,” says Dr. Navarro.

Dr. Kevin Stone, an orthopedic surgeon and founder of The Stone Foundation for Sports Medicine and Arthritis Research, agrees. “To avoid an injury,” he says, “you need strengthening, flexibility, and preparation. I always try to communicate to my patients that world-class athletes train for their sport and then cross train with activities like weightlifting, yoga, and so on. I also believe proper nutrition plays a part,” he adds. “It leads to good muscular development and appropriate weight.”

Here are additional tips for keeping your knees strong:

* Warm up before playing sports.

* Never push through fatigue.

* Wear appropriate shoes for the sport.

* Pay close attention to pain signals.

* Build up the hamstrings and quadriceps.

* Learn how to land properly.

* Do specific knee exercises.

If you already have been injured, don’t ignore it and hope it will go away. Dr. Stone says: “If you heard a pop and there’s swelling, there’s a 95 percent chance you have torn a crucial structure.” The next step is usually an examination and tests to determine the extent of the injury.

Hurting your knee is no small thing. But if it happens, Laura advises, “Take it in stride and deal with it. Things will get better!”

Exercises to Strengthen the Knees

Often the key to strong knees is doing regular knee exercises, Dr. Kevin Stone suggests the following:

* Quad sets: Leg straight out in front of you (either oil ground or seated on the edge of a chair), tighten thigh muscles focusing oil inner thigh just above kneecap and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times, three to five times a day.

* Adduction sets: sitting in a chair with knees bent to about 90 degrees and a pillow between knees, squeeze pillow evenly with both knees and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times, three to five times a day.

* Leg raise: Start with sets of 10 repetitions and work up to two sets of 25 reps.

Lying back on elbows with right knee bent and left leg out straight in front, tighten thigh muscle of left leg and actively lift leg in front to the level of the opposite knee and then lower.

Lying on right side with legs out straight, tighten thigh muscle of left leg and lift to the side, making sure to keep foot level with the ground.

Lying on stomach, tighten thigh muscle and lilt leg behind you a few inches off the floor, then lower, making sure to keep hips on floor.

Lying on left side with right leg bent and rigid foot on the floor in front of left leg, tighten thigh and lift leg toward the inside, keeping foot level with ground.


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