In recent years, guitarists have been purchasing both boutique and modified effects pedals from a range of independent companies from across the globe. Companies such as Keeley and Analogman are well known in the guitar playing community to improve our favourite TS-808 or BD-2 stomp boxes.
One of the lesser known companies is Monte Allums, but some guitarists are saying his pedals are head and shoulders above the competition. Guitar Jar caught up with Monte, to ask him more details about his products and services.
…For the BD-2, I completely eliminated the nasty decay issue and the tone is very thick and warm. The most amazing thing is just how natural the gain sounds after the mod. This is the most dynamic pedal, short of my more expensive OD-308, that I have ever played…
- Hi Monte, before we get into the details of your range of effects, can you let Guitar Jar readers know if you play guitar and if so, who or what inspired you to start learning the instrument?
I started playing guitar at age 11. The boyfriend of my cousin would come over and play and sing and he offered to teach me a few chords. My father had an old Hawaiian guitar in storage that I used to practice on. I remember my cousins’ boyfriend taught me to play the intro to the Johnny Rivers song “Secret Agent Man” and The Beatles “Day Tripper“. He was amazed how fast I learned the two intros to those songs. Playing guitar came very natural to me. I would drive my parents crazy playing them over and over. I was just somehow magically attracted to the guitar. The look, the feel and sounds the guitar made hooked me right off.I was somewhat of an introvert so I took naturally to the instrument. It became a way for me to express myself. I discovered I could listen to something and almost instantly play it on the guitar. Not very well at first but I could still pick out the notes pretty fast.
- Why did you start modifying pedals?
It was out of necessity. I had an old Ibanez TS-5 I bought and wasn’t real happy with its tone. I eventually came across a mod for it on eBay. I bought it and it really opened the TS-5 up. It was only a couple of caps, resistors and a chip but it made the pedal sound really good. The experience peaked my interest. It was interesting to me how just a few changes could make such a profound difference in a pedals tone. I started researching and found some info about the subject and started to buy pedals just to mod. I found that making cap changes here and there would change the EQ of the circuit, that changing clipping diodes affected the gain structure and that a resistor change or opamp change also affected a circuits tone.During a period of intense research and experimentation I discovered I had a knack for cultivating good tone from these inexpensive stomp boxes. From there I went on to learn how to read schematics and the rest is history. Since I don’t have an engineering degree there was a lot or trial and error in the beginning and I made my share of mistakes along the way. But I am very tenacious and what I lack in knowledge I make up in work ethic.
- When did you establish MonteAllums.com?
I started the website 8 years ago selling Strat and Tele Pickguard Shields and other guitar shielding supplies. My wife Susan and I wanted to start a family and we wanted to home school our children. The website was seen as a way for us to supplement the loss of my wife’s income.
- What mods do you make to your pedals that differ from your competitors, such as Keeley?
The one mod that has set us apart from our competition is my “dual opamp adapters”. I started experimenting with stacking opamps when it became popular a few years ago. I wanted a way to easily implement stacking into my mods so I designed the two dual opamp adapters I now sell at my site. These are made for me exclusively and cannot be purchased anywhere except from my website.
- Guitarist Chris Manning loves the modified BOSS DS-1 you provided him. Can you go into more details about this mod?
First, I’d like to thank Chris for the plug. He’s a great guitarist with great tone. That’s my new Roxx Mod for the Boss DS-1. The DS-1 is excellent mod bait. You can buy the pedal new for $40 and I’ve seen them go for $25 used on eBay. It’s a decent pedal stock but it lacks dynamics and the highs are not very pleasant. The gain is also not very natural sounding. With the Roxx mod I built the mod around a couple of stacked NE5532 dual opamps. The stacked NE5532s produce a very warm and natural vibe. I add a 3-way spdt switch that switches between two 3mm Red LEDs and two 1N4002 diodes, both ran in Parallel. The centre position of the switch is diode lift and completely bypasses the clipping section which actually allows the pedal to be used as a clean boost. The other changes, resistors, caps, etc. shape the tone adding bass and mids and eliminating the spiky highs.I upgrade the quality of these components to help reduce noise and add clarity. The end result is a complete transformation. The DS-1 goes from being a box of bees to an excellent distortion/overdrive. The transformation is dramatic. It’s a very versatile pedal with the switch. You can go from all out thick soupy distortion to Tubescreamerish type tones with just the flip of a switch.
- I often get asked my opinions on what is a good overdrive pedal for around £100 ($150). If I asked you to provide me with a modified overdrive pedal, that works for a wide variety of genres (and cleans up well with the volume control) which Monte Allums pedal would you suggest?
This is easy! My “Blues Stack” mod for the Boss BD-2. It kills! Many feel my H2O mod is the best mod on the planet for BD-2. If that’s true then the Blues Stack is the best mod in the Universe for a BD-2. I am continually amazed every time I kick in the Blues Stack. I completely eliminated the nasty decay issue and the tone is very thick and warm. But the most amazing thing is just how natural the gain sounds after the mod. This is the most dynamic pedal, short of my more expensive OD-308, that I have ever played.
- What¹s the most popular pedal mod you sell?
The most popular pedal mod I sell right now is the CS-3 Opto Plus. But once the word gets out about the new Ultra Mod I expect that to change.
- Can you tell Guitar Jar readers more about your treble bleed modification? Is this suited to most types of electric guitar?
Absolutely, I have always liked the Treble Bleed Mod for some things but there were times when having the treble reduced was advantageous. This mod gives you a choice of three options. The switch allows you to switch to (1-cap/resistor), (2-middle) stock tone, (3-cap only). The Cap/Resistor will allow you to retain the highs as you dial down the volume pot. The Middle position bypasses everything and gives you the stock guitar tones. And the other side of the switch with just a cap will retain the highs as you dial the volume pot down but will also affect the bass and mids. All three, when used in conjunction with the guitars tone pot(s), will give you a wide variety of tonal options.
- I’m rubbish at soldering but your DIY kits look awesome. Is there hope for me or would you advise I leave your kits well alone?
It’s an acquired skill. It’s not difficult. It’s just like most things, it’s the lack of experience that frightens most. But after a few projects you become proficient. There are very good educational websites on soldering. All you have to have is a want to. I supply the rest.
- What on earth is the eNut Tuning System?!
A little trivia for you. What is t-u-n-e spelled backwards? Believe it or not I didn’t realize that eNut was actually tune spelled backwards until after I came up with the name. The eNut is a very inexpensive way for the common everyday player to achieve amazingly accurate intonation without spending hundreds of quid on one of the more expensive systems. Man, I could write a book. Guitar intonation has always been a thorn in my side. I have very keen pitch perception and for years intonation drove me batty. When one very well known system hit the market I honestly thought it was all a bunch of hype. But being the inquisitive type that I am I set out to research the system and came across Stephen Delft’s article on nut compensation. If you Google nut compensation Stephens article is the first thing that comes up. I read it and was intrigued by the article. Thus the eNut was birthed. I simply took Stephen’s concept and implemented a few changes. My special altered tuning system (eNut Tuning Offsets) came later as an attempt to further improve intonation after nut compensation had been applied. The result is what I call the ETS or eNut Tuning System. I could go on and on about it but it’s all explained in depth at my website.
- A DeLorean Time Machine has just pulled up outside the Monte Allums office. Where would you like to go on the timeline? Would you go back to rectify any mistakes, stay where you are or take a sneak peek in the future?
Definitely the future. I try not to live in the past. As a Christian I live for the day when there will be a new Heaven and Earth. A life without death and taxes, now that will be utopia. That is the future I long to see!
- Your house is burning down. What¹s the one guitar item you would save?
Definitely my 1995 MIM Strat. In 1996 I walked into Strings N’ Things in Memphis, TN and saw a Olympic White 1995 MIM Strat with a Floyd Rose and Rosewood neck. Picked it up and it spoke to me. I’ve since refretted it with jumbo fret wire and pretty much replaced everything on it that was stock except the wood. The guitar acoustically sounded better than any guitar I had ever played and it just felt right. It’s the one I use on the majority of the sound bites at my website. I don’t know what I would do if it were lost or stolen.
- If you could form a super group using famous musicians past or present, who would you have on drums and why?
Neil Peart. Without a doubt one of the greatest drummers that has ever lived. His sense of style and timing is unmatched, plus he’s into motorcycles so we would have a lot in common.
- Lager or Cider?
Milk, don’t drink alcohol.
- What¹s the plan for you for the next 12 months?
Hard to say. I am always trying to think outside the box. The past year has been hectic. I’ve created a few new mods but the majority of my free time has been spent designing a new pedal kit. In fact, I just put the finishing touches on it. The cogs are always turning. I’m constantly searching for ways to improve my tone and enhance the playing experience. I’ve never been one to accept the status quo.I am planning to release new mods for the OD-3, MT-2 and possibly another full pedal project, but having said that I also want to get back into writing and recording. It’s always a challenge trying to manage my time. I just have way too many projects and too little time.
For more information about Monte Allums products, please visit: