At this year’s NAMM show, Keeley Electronics showed off their new Workstation line of pedals, which combine the functionality of several Keeley pedals in one. Although recently released, the pedals are in short supply, but we were fortunate enough to get our hands on the Mod Workstation. It’s an analog multi-effects pedal with three independent effect sections: Mod, featuring eight different modulation effects; Drive, with two varieties of overdrive, and Drive/Boost, which offers clean boost or a third flavor of overdrive, and all three sections can be run together. read more…
One of the new pedals Electro-Harmonix debuted the 2016 NAMM show was a Leslie-speaker simulator called Lester G. Not only does it offer rotating speaker sounds, but also an overdrive circuit and a compressor. read more…
Wah pedals are useful for more than just the standard “wah wah” effect. Sweeping the pedal’s filter to find a cool tone and then leaving it static as you play is also very effective. Known as the “cocked wah” effect, that’s the basis of Electro-Harmonix’s Cock Fight pedal, along with built in fuzz and a talking wah. read more…
Diverse Overdrive Serves More than Just the Blues (Doc Music Station - Blues Delight II)
By MGR/Brian Johnston, 17/08/2019
This pedal may be dedicated to the Blues (and the tones associated with the genre), but Blues Delight II certainly acts as an effective drive to push higher-gain amps, due to its very clean to dirty range in both distortion and drive. On a clean amp you can achieve full-bodied tonal improvement, but also get into the realm of crunch and edgy lead (this will depend on how clean your amp is, of course, and I demoed on The Countess’ clean channel, which is very clean and slightly glassy).
The reason for such broad responses is that this pedal has three positions (Clean, Soft and Hard) that affect the Drive knob. The Clean mode definitely is clean, offering very mild boost and fullness to the notes, particularly if the Drive is not up too much. The Soft mode pushes the signal somewhat hard, to add edge to the notes, ideal for crunch and moderately intense lead tones (relative to the Blues); soft mode uses MA858 diodes placed in the loop of the operational amplifier (chip). Hard mode increases drive and distortion for a more searing and saturated tone; it places the diodes at the output of the operational amplifier. In all, there are several combinations when you combine the three modes with varying degrees of drive and with a clean vs. driven amp channel. Moreover, like many amplifiers, there is a trim pot under the hood of Blues Delight II that allows you to adjust how much Presence you want in the signal, from very dry to very sparkling. Overall, Blues Delight II allows you to achieve varying degrees of tube amp warmth while respecting the character of the gear you’re using. I did not demo the Presence trim pot inside the pedal. I liked the setting at the half-way point, which added some sparkle, but did not make the guitars sound bright. When turned all the way down I found the pedal sounded a tad dark or dull, but all the way up it sounded too bright. Of course, that would depend on your pickups and preamp/cabinet choices, and so consider my preference in that regard.
GENERAL USE: There are a lot of options with this pedal, and so some experimentation is required with the Blues Delight II, particularly with different pickups (on the same guitar or other) and depending on the gear used. In other words, there are several options, which I’ll address in brief. The three knobs are straight forward enough, being Drive, Tone and Level. How much push, how loud and what EQ you want can be dialed in quickly. However, this pedal also has three settings of Clean, Soft and Hard, all accessible via the toggle switch and all of which need to be coordinated with the Drive (specifically). The Clean mode (center position) produces a very dramatic and open sound – very much like a clean boost, although with the added Drive as set by that knob. The Soft mode pushes the signal harder than Clean, in case you want that added energy in your tone. The Hard mode increases distortion and overdrive even further. Overall, the sound can range from very full and broad without adding any notable distortion and all the way up to edgy Rock lead. The Blues Delight II has one other trick up its sleeve… or in this case, under its hood. There is a Presence adjustment (a blue trimmer) that allows you to add sparkle to the signal. The demo included with this review has the Presence set midway. Blues Delight II does not run on batteries and requires a 9VDC power supply.
From Transparent to Just a Little Dirty, Bolt is a Versatile Drive (Ananashead Effects - Bolt)
By MGR/Brian Johnston, 17/08/2019
OVERALL IMPRESSION & SOUND: Whether adding some clean boost, turning a clean channel into a crunch channel, or pushing a dirty channel for added bite and clarity in the mix the Bolt is a fantastic overdrive. What you will notice immediately is how transparent this drive pedal is, even when turned up full – it brings an amp’s character to life with very little coloring and without compressing or adding mid-humps. Guitar pickups or amps that are on the dark side tend to clear up and stand out in a mix much better, although if you like that darkness you can tweak the Filter on the Bolt or adjust your amp’s EQ accordingly. Pedro Garcia (the designer of Ananashead FX) relayed to me that he designed this pedal to act as a second channel for a friend’s non-master volume amp, a 1970s Sinmarc – it just so happened to work exceptionally well as a transparent Overdrive for other amps.
The Bolt is highly transparent with very little coloring, even when added to a hi-gain amp. With the Drive very low there is obvious energy and depth added to the signal, but without sounding darker or brighter. With the Drive up (at different levels and depending on your needs) the effect is more of aggression and boosting. The Filter has a useful range – when turned all the way counterclockwise there is a nice tight bottom end, whereas turned all the way clockwise the tone becomes very clear without sounding trebly or harsh – more of a sparkle. Whether working with dark or bright amps I found the Filter could be cranked up in either direction without sounding out of place. Also, there is very little added noise in the signal, whether working with clean, crunch or dirty amps and largely due to the position of the Drive. Some pedals have a lot of hissing going on, but not the Bolt.
GENERAL USE: I found there to be three typical uses or (general) settings with the Bolt. If I wanted to give a clean, crunch or dirty channel a slight boost of energy (merely some added liveliness), then I keep the Drive turned all the way down while adjusting the Level (the Filter has no effect when the Drive is all the way down as it’s meant to select frequencies being distorted, viz., no drive = no filtering). If I wanted to make a clean channel into a crunch channel, then the Drive can range from 9-o’clock to all the way up, depending on how much crunch I want, but also how clean the clean channel is (some clean channels do have some grit or may already be considered a crunch channel, as is found with some hi-gain amps). In the demo accompanying this review I added the Bolt to the very clean channel of The Countess V4 preamp and could turn the pedal’s Drive all the way up, which resulted in both a nice crunch, but also sufficient gain to play lead. When added to the ‘clean’ channel of The Sheriff V4 preamp (which is more of a crunch channel), turning the Bolt’s Drive to around 12-noon was more than sufficient and added some nice grain to the signal. When adding the Bolt to the dirty channels of the two aforementioned preamps, as well as The Kraken V4, I preferred the Drive to be around 10-o’clock (a level that added some excellent energy with grit, but without over-saturating the signal). The Filter (which is a bass/treble knob) has a very nice range and its position varied depending on the preamp (The Countess is rather dark, whereas The Sheriff and The Kraken are brighter). You can order the Bolt with either top or side mounting jacks, a great option typically not afforded most pedals (I’m a sucker for top-mounted jacks, but different pedal board configurations have different needs). This pedal also can be daisy-chained (connected with the same power supply) with other pedals. The Bolt does not run on batteries and requires a 9VDC power supply while consuming approximately 100mA.
Sweeping EQ Abilities in a Wah Style Pedal (Night Owl Industries - Q the EQ)
By MGR/Brian Johnston, 28/08/2019
EQ can do a lot for your tone, but when you consider applying EQ in a dynamic sense you then enter a different realm. With Q you can set the Treble and Bass (two knobs), but then fluctuate the Midrange mix (via the pedal’s treadle).
The pedal’s three bands are centered on the note C in 3 different registers (to match the musical note and equivalent frequencies) for the following combinations: 65.41 Hz (C2 bass knob), 523.25 Hz (C5 midrange treadle) and 2.093 kHz (C7 treble knob). You can achieve a wide array of tone changes so that as you work the pedal it can mimic a phaser or wah (although not sounding like a traditional wah), or can be used as a volume pedal (but not in the traditional sense either, since you’re not cutting volume completely). With the treadle parked toe down Q also works very well as a boost. Overall, the EQ transitions are smooth and the engagement (clicking on the toe switch) is 99% quiet (you hear a change in signal output or tone while playing, but no loud clicking or popping). The demo included with this review demonstrates the various uses and sounds with both clean and dirty amp channels. Clean channels can sound very modest and smooth (depending on how clean it is), whereas there’s definitely aggressiveness with a dirty channel –similar to a wah, phaser, etc., in that the character of the pedal becomes more apparent between clean versus dirty.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Handmade in Greenwood Lake, NY, Q retails for $225 USD. Its price is fairly standard for a quality pedal, but what it offers is a completely unique perspective on modulation and tone through its dynamic EQ possibilities. Not only can you add dimension by altering the midrange of your tone on the fly, but each band (Treble, Mid and Bass) has a 20dB cut/boost, thus allowing volume swells when desired, but also boosting of the signal while being able to sculpt the tone. The huge headroom of Q is the result of the same internal voltage tripler found in the Edison Preamp (also by Night Owl Industries), which gives you a lot of boost without overloading the signal (at least if placed last in the signal chain). Since the sound from Q isn’t cutting or narrow like a wah, you get a more organic scooped sound when jacking the bass and treble, or you can cut the bass and treble for some great lo-fi tones. Q also is fantastic as a basic boost pedal for lead playing and for adding swells and character while working the midrange via the treadle. Unlike a wah pedal, you can keep Q turned on and it sounds natural, since it’s an EQ pedal and the three bands can be matched ideally to your desired tone.
GENERAL USE: Q allows you to sculpt your tone in real time (although the pedal can be parked without EQ sweeping) while playing guitar, bass or keyboards. The demo outlines some possibilities, but I bet there are several more. With toe down and the Treble and Bass dialed back (or turned off completely) you can achieve a very authentic lo-fi sound. Again with toe down, you can adjust the Treble or Bass to sculpt your tone, but also act as a boost (since there is a 20dB cut or boost with either the Treble or Bass). The real fun begins when you manipulate the treadle, which either cuts or boosts the Midrange by 20dB. This is where you get some interesting tone variations that seem to mimic a volume pedal and/or a phaser and/or a wah – depending how you use it. Get enough Treble and Bass in the mix and hear some very intense growls (without that shrill typically heard in wahs). When working the treadle in the front half of the range the mid scooping is not as intense, and doing so makes for a very good subtle wah-type effect. And whether working in broad or narrow sweeps, I find Q to work exceptionally well as a tremolo or Univibe – but what makes Q special is that you can control how fast or slow you want the tremolo/vibe without having to bend down and adjust any knobs like you would with a typical tremolo… you control the rate or speed with your foot so that you can have slow mixed with fast, etc. Placement is important, as often a volume or wah is at the beginning of the chain; but with this being an EQ pedal with 3-times the headroom of typical 9V pedals, your signal can be overdriven too hard if placed at the front end. Rather, place Q at the end of the signal chain (unless you want to overdrive earlier effects), viz., after distortions, delays, reverbs, etc.