Greetings, pedal seekers and tweakers. I bring you news and tidings of pedals and such! Today I’d like to talk to you about a great pedal company I think is underrated and not well known – Wampler Pedals. Specifically I want to talk about the Pinnacle Deluxe, my current favorite distortion, but first allow me to give you some background info. In fact, you have no choice in the matter (I’m beaming mind-control waves through the screen to keep your attention on every single glorious word…and you thought it was the Ritalin. And the aliens.)
Brian Wampler started out modding pedals and even wrote a book (now out of print damnit) about pedal building and modification. Since about 2006 he’s built a high quality product line that mostly consists of distortions/overdrives and ‘amp-in-a-box’ pedals with a few takes on modulation effects like delay, reverb, and an exciting new deluxe tremolo that I posted about previously. He also offers a buffer and a compressor, the latter of which is currently on my board…not that you care. But famous muckymucks like Brad Paisley who actually matter use them so you should care! In addition I’ve begun to notice a lot of session guitarists and studios use Wamplers, which to me said, “Hey Nick!” And then I was like, “What?” And then my brain was all like, “Wamplers must be pretty god damn versatile to be used by so many people needing so many tonal options!” Then I was like, “Brain, you might be on to something!” My brain and I agree for once. Any company that can build such a reputation so quickly must be doing it right. You might be thinking, “Come on, the Brad Paisley Drive? I don’t want to sound like a country guitar player. I play punk or metal, I’m super hardcore, and that’s not for me !” Well I say ‘listen with your ears and not your dick’ (what, that’s not a saying?). I’m no Brad Paisley fan, but I can’t deny a pedal that sounds fantastic. Even if they called it the ‘Justin Bieber Drive’, I don’t care, it’s all about the tone, right?
Speaking of tone, we’re not talking about the Brad Paisley Drive so why did you even bring it up? Kind of off topic, but anyway…The Pinnacle is like a Chipotle burrito chock full of distorted goodness. Stay with me. The guitar is your mouth and the amp is your ass. Let them become one and you’ll be blasting diarrhea geysers of tone like volcanoes erupting into outer space like a true ass-tronaut! This sexy red-sparkled contraption offers up everything from mild overdrive to fat and crunchy, super high gain distortion that borders on fuzziness, to scooping those mids, to the famous or infamous ‘brown sound’ (depending on your opinion of Eddie Van Halen). I like the idea of tone that could potentially make people poop their pants, and I’d like to think Eddie’s was named after the elusive frequency. Simmer down you damn hipster, I’m not that crazy about Van Halen either, I just admire the tone: high gain, crunchy heaviness with presence that’s not too treble-y or muddy. That is what Nicky likes and again it’s about what pleases your ears, not imitation. (But let’s be real, who wouldn’t enjoy playing to an arena of a bunch of drunken people who all crapped themselves at once?) I haven’t been successful at making anybody poop yet, but don’t be scared because even if you hate Van Halen I’m convinced you could still produce distorted tones that are satisfying. The Pinnacle goes way far beyond just emulating the EVH sound.
Volume – This perky knob adjusts the output level. Mr. Wampler says, “There’s plenty of volume on tap in either standard or Boost mode, so whether you want to go farther than your input level or just make sure it can do unity volume (the same level of signal going out as you feed it, when active), you’re covered. The Gain, Tone and Contour knobs, and the Boost toggle (or for Pinnacle Deluxe owners, footswitch) all have an impact on total output volume level, so you’re probably better off waiting to adjust the Volume until you’ve dialed in the other controls. Re-adjustment might be necessary if you get it to the desired level and still need to tweak the sound.” He makes volume sound hard, but don’t worry, I have faith you can figure it out!
Gain – “This control, in conjunction with the Boost toggle (or, for Pinnacle Deluxe owners, footswitch), lets you dial in anything from a classic, almost laid back early rock tone all the way to modern high-gain. Our users, from international pros to weekend warriors, all have their own favorite ways of using the pedal, so however you end up liking the Gain setting, that’s just fine. The “Brown Sound” is in there, that’s the goal after all! But in terms of how much distortion you want, there’s a great deal of flexibility and we encourage you to run through the whole gamut to get a good sense of how it works and responds before you settle on how you’ll use it.” I agree. The gain is incredibly touchy so you have really fine control of how much break up you want in that there tone of yours. Also, I think it’s totally cool that this pedal is made to emulate a certain tone, yet it can also sound pretty much like any distortion/overdrive (and almost fuzz) you could want. Extra points all around, Sir Wampler.
Tone –“This adjusts the frequency emphasis on the highs. It interacts substantially with the Contour knob and Vint./Modern switch. There are several ways you can approach adjusting the Tone. You could start with it maxed and roll it off until you like the amount of highs, or you could start with it lower and adjust it either direction if you want more or less. Either way, it’s a fairly straightforward control, but the interaction with the other tonal adjustment options means you should expect to spend some time getting used to the overall tonal possibilities.” Maybe this is a stupid thing to say, but it still surprises me how much control this knob has over the tone of the pedal. It adjusts from way scary dark to shiny, bright and glittery. I like to keep mine set from around noon to 3 o’clock depending on how bright I want it.
Contour –“This adjusts the frequency emphasis overall. It interacts substantially with the Tone knob, and is affected by the Vint./Modern switch as well. At noon, this knob gives you a balanced presentation of the overall frequencies; counterclockwise it becomes very midrange-forward, and clockwise it takes the mids out pretty heavily, contouring the sound for a very “scooped” tone. A little adjustment goes a long way with this control. The best approach would be to start with the Contour knob at noon, and adjust from there. Of course, making such broad tonal changes, you’re going to want to adjust the Tone control in conjunction with the Contour knob!” This knob is how you go from vintage to modern voiced gain. I’m not usually a fan of scooped mids, but I’ve been digging the scoopage on the Pinnacle! This is a useful feature for recording because I don’t have to have 7 pedals on hand (I do have them on hand anyway just because! Pedals!!). I can use the Pinnacle’s versatility to give it to me (ooh yea). Typically I keep mine around 9 o’clock as I prefer more mids in the mix.
Vint./Modern Switch –“This control essentially sets the overall voicing of the pedal’s frequencies, to be either darker with a classic tonality or brighter and more modern if you’d prefer that. Setting this up first will give you a good “starting point” for your tone, but it’s also useful if you’ve adjusted everything else and feel the overall tone needs to shift in a larger direction.” Once again this feature makes this pedal great for the studio. I wouldn’t say the change in voicing is incredibly drastic, however I would say it’s enough to be like two pedals in one. Why do I like that idea? That’s right, versatility, Stupid! I prefer the vintage setting myself, but the modern is great for when you need to kick it up the gain some more. The Pinnacle is perfect for intricate riffage and lead playing alike, and the ability to toggle between the two modes makes it well-suited for blues, jazz, rock, punk, metal, polka, muzak, easy listening, hard listening, and your mom. Just kidding about that last one, don’t plug your mom into the pedal or vice versa! I doubt that’s covered by the warranty…
(Pinnacle Standard Only) Boost Toggle –“This switch alters the internal gain structure of the pedal to bring much more drive, heavier and more aggressive distortion when engaged. On the Pinnacle Deluxe, this functionality is found on the Boost foot switch, for adjustment on the fly!” I don’t use the boost a whole lot, but it does add a nice dose of gain to push the pedal a little further if you need extra cream in your crunch. Brian Wampler says it’s not intended to be an actual volume boost but I swear my ears hear a boost in volume. Could be my stupid brain perceiving something that’s not there… There’s also an internal trim pot to adjust the output volume if you want to ‘go to 11’. I do. I do want to go to 11.
At first impression it’s easy to presume the Pinnacle (and Wampler pedals in general) aren’t intended to get too wild. But it doesn’t take much knob-fiddling to realize it possesses a deliberate flexibility that could surprise the naughtiest of noise-makers and tone-chasers (especially when stacking pedals together. This pedal stacks fat with fuzzes and other distortions as well as any gauntlet of modulation effects. I like it stacked with an EQD Bit Commander>Wampler Pinnacle>Pigtronix Envelope Phaser. It’s the fattest, funkiest, fuzziest synth sound from hell). I’ve owned my Pinnacle for a while now and can still find new tones I didn’t know it could make every time I play. The best part is that 99% of them are pleasing and musical, proving to me that Wampler pedals kick ass. Even though Brian Wampler seems kinda nerdy and unassuming (I presume he smokes less weed than the goofs at ZVex or my silly neighbors at Earthquaker Devices), it doesn’t mean his pedals aren’t creativity-inspiring mean green tone machines much like those of the more experimental builders. Just seems like most Wampler players are Nashville chicken pickers and not so much the shoegazers or experimentalists. Part of this review is to spread the truth of the good word to the world: Wamplers are for everyone! Hallelujah!
Speaking from personal experience, Wampler pedals are rugged and could take any hard wample-stomp (I’m coining a new word…) from your combat boot, chuck taylors, or stilettos better than a fetishist’s balls. Some pedal companies skimp on jacks and switches and whatnot, but not Wampler. Rest assured that your pedal will sound and look great for a long time. With a 5 year transferable warranty on a ‘Merican-made product you can’t go wrong!
For more info, please check out www.wamplerpedals.com
What do you think about Wampler? Love em, hate em, don’t care? Make sure to leave a comment in the reply box at the bottom of the page!!! Oh yea, and also be sure to subscribe to stay up-to-date with The Pedal File!
That’s all I got. Thanks for reading! Until next time…
The Pedal File