The Pedal File – NAMM Picks 2016

Welcome, everyone, to the first pedal post of the rest of your lives!  Today I’d like to (try to) be brief and just talk about a few shiny things that caught my eye from this past week at NAMM.

namm

With each passing NAMM I always hope the Land of Pedals will become more diverse, that cool new things will be made.  I’m sad to say the Land of Pedals got a little bit more gentrified with even more overdrive/distortion/fuzzes that all are transparent yet crunchy (even in milk!), give you lots of clipping options, blah blah blah (how many iterations of the Tube Screamer does one need??) and not a lot of innovation.  Stutter delays seem to be the other hot ticket right now – everybody and their mother’s third cousin twice removed once inserted made one of those.  Like, hellllo?  Don’t get me wrong, they’re cool, but not THAT cool.  Let’s move on to other ideas please!

At any rate, here are the pedals that stood out to me:

WMD Protostar

The Pedal File - WMD Protostar

A rendering of the control layout I found via Analoguezone.com


If you’ve never heard of WMD or their Geiger Counter bit-crushing/sample rate-reducing distortion pedal, I suggest you familiarize yourself now.  I’ll wait.  All I can say is these guys are known for weird stuff that boasts an amazing amount of control over the sounds their devices make.  The Protostar is based on their Super Fatman Envelope Filter and is a literal filtration playground, offering multiple filter modes, a CV patch bay, dry/wet mix, post filter compression, internal LFO, variable envelope control and more.  Check out the little video below for a taste.

Go to www.wmdevices.com for more info

Malekko Combover and Sneak Attack

Malekko has been releasing cool synth style effects lately, which seems appropriate as they have a whole line of modular synth modules.  Although these two pedals were technically revealed at last year’s NAMM, they were at this year’s NAMM and still haven’t been officially released so I consider them fair game.  Plus, they’re way cooler than most of the other ‘new’ stuff.


Sneak Attack
The Pedal File - Malekko Sneak Attack

This is a VCA (voltage controlled amplifier) amplitude based dynamics engine for controlling your volume similar to attack/decay controls on a synth.  You can set attack and decay time with short or long envelopes (up to 6s for both, offering envelopes up to 12 seconds in length).  I like that the envelope can be driven manually (say by your guitar signal or an input trigger), or by an LFO.  (Driving the envelope with the LFO produces unique tremolo effects.)  I assume manual mode will allow for those Slow Gear style volume sweeps, or at least I hope!

Combover

The Pedal File - Malekko Combover

The Combover is a spectral comb filter with a sequencer, sort of reminiscent of the ZVEX Seek Wah (which is basically an envelope filter with a sequencer).  The Combover can also be used as a notch or comb filter, which allows you to hone in on specific frequencies and really carve out your place in the mix.  Or, by running the sequencer you can produce filter-modulated rhythmic grooves that entrance.  Another worthwhile feature is the multi-mode sequencer with settings like Pendulum, Backward, Forward, and Random that can add exciting new movement and filter-modulated sounds to your tone cache.

Check out this video (from last year’s NAMM):

Go to www.malekkoindustry.com for info

Honorable Mentions:

Chase Bliss Tonal Recall
-A full featured delay the likes of which only Chase Bliss could unleash.  Basically an analog delay with digital control over every possible parameter, plus control over parameters you’ve probably never heard of on any pedal (other than one made by Chase Bliss).

Go to www.chaseblissaudio.com for more info

EQD Spatial Delivery
-A voltage-controlled envelope filter for all those auto-wah sounds, plus sample and hold capabilities for tripped out step filter Frank Zappa sounds.

Go to www.earthquakerdevices.com for more info

Hungry Robot The Wash
-An enticing delay made specifically for those looking to add a big ethereal wash of delay/reverb to their signal (Hungry Robot says the sound of this pedal would only otherwise be possible with three or four stacked reverb/delays), but with the ability to keep your guitar on top of the mix so you don’t get muddy.  Mud bad.

Go to www.hungryrobotpedals.com for more info
That’s all for now, thank for reading!  I hope you feel a little bit more with it now that you know the scoop on the hottest new pedals.  No need to thank me, just stick around for more….you guessed it, PEDALS!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

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The Pedal File – More Weird, More Pedals in 2016!

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Hello, loyal Pedal Filers!  The year is nearly over, so for my last post in 2015 I’d like to thank you for sticking around and reading my incessant ramblings on the subject of effects pedals.  It speaks volumes about your ability to pay attention.

This has been another therapeutic year for my pedal addiction, but of course there is no absolute cure so I ask you to take my hand as I lead you further astray into an even better year for The Pedal File in 2016!

Are you sick of fast-forwarding through demos that talk more than play?  Annoyed by shitty blues wanking?  Are you looking for unique sounds that only the most versatile pedals can provide?  Then come to The Pedal File, er, Side…

Here’s what I’m thinking about the next year:

More pedals, more knobs, more switches, more videos, more reviews, and more weird.

Sound good?  Cool.

I compiled some video (check it out below) of the newest effects I’ve acquired to give you a sneak peek of the coming months, and all I can say is that things are already weirder around here.

Is there anything you’d like to see in 2016?  Maybe then you should start your own pedal website.  BOOM!  Of course I’m kidding guys.  I’m always on the lookout for interesting and exciting pedals that push the boundaries of sound – feel free to alert me if you know something or give me suggestions to improve the page.

That’s all for now.  Thanks for your continuing readership you filthy animals!  Happy New Gear!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

Pedal Feature: Earthquaker Devices Palisades Overdrive

Ahoy-hoy, y’all!  If it’s okay with you, I’m going to talk about a pedal today.  You know what I like in a pedal, don’t you?  That’s right: versatility!  I like to be in control of a pedal and tell it what to do, the more options for knob fiddling, the better.  That is what I try to focus on in this blog, and for that reason I want to draw attention to what is perhaps the most versatile overdrive pedal on the market, made by one of the most ambitious and quirky pedal companies around – The Palisades Overdrive by Earthquaker Devices.  You may also know I like to really get into a pedal’s insides, and this particular pedal is so versatile it has just about ten vigintillion (yes that is a naughty sounding word for a 1 followed by 63 zeros) features for tweaking, and tweaking, and tweaking some more until you tweak out from being over-twerked (or as I always say, Miley Cyrus-ed).   Okay, maybe it doesn’t literally have that many features, but the point is still valid; this pedal is like totally covered in knobs and shit.

Overview

 

To make a long story short (or longer), The Palisades is an overdrive.  Remember – overdrives are typically transparent as in they don’t add a lot of color your tone, as opposed to distortion.  If you desire a somewhat clean yet gritty edge-of-break-up tone in between a boost and distortion, overdrive is the ticket.  The Palisades is based on the Ibanez Tubescreamer, or as EQD refers to it, the Tubes Creamer (hee hee).  The Tubescreamer was originally touted like 30 years ago by the great Stevie Ray Vaughn (the only guitar player with the chops to back up his layers of scarves), which helped it reach the status of ‘go-to’ overdrive for scores of guitar players even today who would rather sound like something they’ve heard before.

The Palisades is ready to be the ‘go-to’ overdrive for guitar players of the modern era; it takes the concept of the transparent overdrive pretty far, offering such numerous tonal options that only a crazy person would have set out to put them all in one pedal.  This device is much heftier than any comparably wimpy 3-knob overdrive you find out there.  On top of its rugged build (no plastic input/output jacks or cheap switches), it sports two switchable channels of gain that can go from clean to near fuzz, a switchable boost, a bright switch to shine things up, a buffer to tighten things up, a voicing adjustment to select which components are causing the clipping for different types of drive/compression etc., and a bandwidth control for selecting the amount of girth and gain.  As I’m sure you can guess, if overdrive was made of (s)tones, then seemingly none would be left unturned by EQD when the Palisades was brought forth unto this Earth.  Seriously, every jangle-y 60’s punk garage indie blues pop country jazz noise guitarist can find their tone in there.

Enough!  Let’s move to the tweakables, shall we?

Tweakables

Boost: ‘Sets the level of the output boost.’  You can have just a little, or a large helping of boost suitable to feed Honey Boo Boo on pageant night…
Volume: ‘Sets the output level.’  Lots of volume.  See aforementioned joke.
Tone: ‘Brighter clockwise, warmer counter clockwise.’  Aside from Wampler tone controls, this is one of the most versatile tone controls I’ve encountered – it’s quite sensitive and in combination with the normal/bright switch provides you with all you need to find just the right tonal shade you need.  Bright, dark, and everywhere in between.
Gain A: ‘Sets the gain for the Channel A (lower gain).’  It is lower gain than Gain B, but cranked up it gets pretty heavy, especially when set to heavier voicings/bandwidths.
Gain B: ‘Sets the gain for Channel B (higher gain).’  I believe channel B is a totally independent channel.  I noticed that you can make Gain B your low gain channel, if you so desire, by keeping the gain low while cranking the gain on channel A.  (Not that it makes much of a difference, just wanted to point that out.)
Normal/Bright: ‘Normal is a warm full tone, Bright is livelier tone with more chime.’  This is great if you need to add or take away some treble-y bite from your signal or make proper adjustments for dark/bright amps and/or humbuckers/single coils (if you need to go further than the tone knob can go by itself).  The brightness does make your tone livelier and seems to provide more harmonic richness, sort of like a tube amp.
Buffer: ‘Turns the input buffer on or off.  ON is a tighter and brighter tone while OFF is a warmer tone with more sag. The buffer is part of the drive circuit & is only available when the Palisades is activated.’  The word on the street is that you can ‘feel’ the buffer more than you can hear it.  How zen.  But it’s true – there isn’t really a perceivable tonal difference except for maybe in picking response.  Check out my video below to see if you can hear it.
Bandwidth: ‘This sets the overall tone and gain structure of the Palisades. 1 is the thinnest setting with the least amount of gain and 5 is the fattest setting with the heaviest gain. Everything else is in between. This control has a major effect on all the settings of the Palisades, especially the gain and voice controls.’  It will also have a major effect on the pants of those in hearing range, either filling them with poop or causing them to get a little tighter….  Depending on how you set it.
Voice: ‘This sets the nature of the Palisades distortion by changing the clipping diodes.’  EQD could have stopped with this knob.  Even staying on one bandwidth setting and adjusting the voice knob can give you an astounding array of overdrive tonez, brah.
1- No diodes: The most open and least distorted.  This can be used as more of a clean boost or as a way to shine and grit things up a bit.
2- LED clipping: light clipping with a lot of volume.  More of a low-gain, edge-of-breakup sound
3- Mosfet clipping: light gain OD with great harmonics.’ Medium-high gain, I like this setting a lot.
4- Asymmetrical Silicon clipping: Tighter light gain OD closest to stock 808.  This clips the waveform unevenly or asymmetrically providing more compression/clarity.
5- Symmetrical silicon clipping: tighter distorted tone.  Clips the positive and negative cycle of a waveform evenly giving the effect of more distortion (as opposed to asymmetrical clipping).  Everyone knows symmetry equals beauty.
6- Schottky Diode clipping: Looser fuzzy tone.  I had never heard of this diode before learning about the Palisades.  After some research it looks like people traditionally put them directly in their guitar as a way to add a switchable overdrive boost right to the guitar.  Loose and fuzzy is a great description of the tone as well as for the matriarch of your family.  Ba-zing! Seriously though, this setting is pretty fuzz-like for an overdrive.  It gets pretty nasty and nasally the more you crank up the gain and tone knobs.

Check out my video.  By looping a riff and tweaking knobs, I try to give an overview of different tones and show how the controls interact all without boring you with needless talking.

Conclusion

As evidenced by the Palisades, Earthquaker pedals are for tweakers and practically beg to be touched.  The versatility found in them gives one the ability to go exploring beyondThe Pedal File - Scary Carrot Top traditional tones (the Sea Machine & Afterneath come to mind) like a regular Dr. Livingstone (I presume…only the goal is to not make it back from the unspoiled land of new tones).  This ability to cover a fuller spectrum of ‘unusable’ to usable tones makes their pedals perfect for too-cool-for-school noisey noise-makers and square traditional tone hounds alike, which I’m sure is a big part of the success of the EQD pedal line.  I also admire that Earthquaker didn’t buckle to the requests for just another Tubescreamer clone and instead went out on a very large limb and brought to life their own perverted version, like a forsaken monster pieced together from human remains, a.k.a. Carrot Top.  But in pedal form.

If Stevie Ray Vaughn somehow had a chance to check out the Palisades, I think he’d go back in time and let his Tubescreamers take that helicopter ride to oblivion.  Too bad that’s not the way it went down.  No other single pedal more sensitively straddles the line of boost, chimey mid-focused overdrive, and dirty high-gain fuzzyness.  I said it before, but it still stands:  If you need to replace your whole collection of overdrives with one pedal, this one could and should be it.

As always, leave me a comment and let me know what you think about the Palisades, or whatever!  If you really can’t share your thoughts in public, you can also drop me a line via my Contact Page.

For more info on the Palisades, as well as the rest of the EQD pedal line, check out: www.earthquakerdevices.com

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

 

The Pedal File – NAMM 2015 Pedal Picks

The Pedal File - NAMM pedal news

Hello again.  I know it’s only been a day, but I thought about you all night long.  I had to let you know about mooooore pedals.  As you may know, the 2015 NAMM show just ended and many young supple pedals have just been released into the world.  While there are far too many to list, I picked my five favorites and compiled a list for you to eye-fondle.  Read on, these are in no particular order.  Just don’t get your computer keys sticky…

Source Audio – You might already know the Soundblox line of highly tweakable and progammable effects as well as the amazing Hot Hand Controller to control these pedals with a hand sensor.  Pretty cool stuff already.  This year they brought more stuff to NAMM than I can talk about in one post.  The REFLEX expression pedal really stood out for me and is the coolest expression pedal I’ve seen.  You can send three simultaneous standard expression (or CV) signals, MIDI continuous controller messages, as well as six LFO wave shapes.  With the control panel you can program which outputs are active, the depth and direction of the expression signal, and the curve of the tapers (not sure what they mean, but my guess is the shape of the waveform as it goes down to ‘zero’).  You can also assign one of its six LFO wave shapes with expression control over the LFO speed.  Plus, the Reflex can save up to 128 pedal configurations, recallable via the onboard controls or external MIDI program change messages.  There is so much you can do to your other innocent pedals with that…Just try to tell me that’s not titillating.  These guys have been busy!

For more info: www.sourceaudio.net

DOD (Digitech) – DOD is smart because they realize they need to compete with all these silly boutique pedal companies abound.  They’ve released a few new pedals that show they’re paying attention to the market by adding cooler and more colorful graphics as well as going beyond totally cookie-cutter tones.  The pedal that stands out to me is the new Boneshaker, whose circuitry was designed in collaboration with Black Tone Artworks (again showing their awareness of the rise of boutique).  This looks like a standard DOD-sized enclosure, but with a lot of tweaky features for maximum phalangeal stimulation .  The bonecrusher was designed with drop-tuned or extended-scale guitars, baritone guitar, and bass in mind, so the 3 band parametric EQ gives you a lot of low-end versatility with independent low level, low frequency, mid level, mid frequency, high level and high frequency controls.  The most interesting feature is the depth control.  A depth on a distortion pedal?  I know it sounds weird, but it adds low frequency growl.  Do you want your bass to be mean?  Turn that shit up.  I’m sure it can make even your puny little normal scale guitar sound pretty ripping too.  Check out this demo by Pro Guitar Shop.

For more info: www.dod.com

Moog – Everytime I hear about a new Moog product I feel like Jeffrey Dahmer in a morgue cafeteria.  Man how I love flange…I previously stated on this very blog that flangers would make a comeback.  Lo and behold, there were more than a few flangers being shown at NAMM this year.  The new MF Flange offers two types of flange – vocal comb filter and a more traditional flange as well as control over depth, time, feedback, and rate.  You can also control the time knob with an expression pedal.  If you’ve never invested in a Moog product, now is the time.  Their pedals are top quality both in sound (all analog, bucket brigade chips) and design (sturdy like your fat momma), and the Minifooger line offers an affordable Moog tier for even the most deadbeat of poor-ass musicians.  I’ve owned a Moogerfooger for about 12 years.  It’s one of the tweakiest pedals I own and it works just like the day I got it.

For more info: www.moogmusic.com

Catalinbread – These guys hopefully are on your radar by now because they’ve already made some great stuff.  I’ve talked about their delay pedals, but today I’m talking about the new Antichthon Fuzz Tremolo pedal.  This pedal is pretty nuts, being billed as a dynamic fuzz tremolo, a tone-generator that can be controlled with your guitar’s volume knob, and a harmonic fuzz drive.  With controls for volume, gravity, time, and space I can tell you I honestly have no freaking clue what the latter three controls do.  But I think that is the point.  The Antichthon is designed to be that new sound you’ve been searching for.  This pedal is made to be different every time you play, to surprise and inspire you and take you somewhere else outside our normal realm of existence.  That’s pretty out there, like the guy demoing their stuff in the video.  It reminds me a bit of the Fuzz Factory or Fat Fuzz Factory with all it’s gnarly tones, oscillations, and robot alien noises.  Just watch the video to get a better idea.

For more info: www.catalinbread.com

EQD – Is there any introduction needed for Earthquaker Devices?  If you have any hopes of being cool you should at least smile and nod when someone mentions their name.  Their coolness goes beyond any mere trend or gimmick, however.  Their pedals are totally unique and can play as nice or as bad as you want, making rabid fans out of schooled shredders and know-nothing noisemakers alike.  The most eye-catching pedal for me is their Fuzz Master General.  This is based on the Ace Tone Fuzz Master FM-2 Professional fuzz, but of course with EQD’s mods and in their words ‘re-imagineering’, the Fuzz Master General goes well above and beyond what it’s vintage predecessor can do.  You get a full spectrum of dirt from nearly clean to full-on post-Chipotle fart explosions.  A voicing switch allows you to select germanium or silicon clipping for open fuzz or tight fuzz respectively, or an open transistor drive for ring mod octave up type stuff.  That covers more fuzz territory than yo momma in a wet suit.  Oh snap!

For more info: www.earthquakerdevices.com

That’s all for now.  I hope you feel like you’re keeping your head above the ever-rising waters of the pedal world after this article.  More reviews to come!

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

More Cool New Pedals of 2014!!

Hallo und guten tag!  Oh, sorry that’s German.  Oh well, good luck translating that sentence…   I try to keep up on the happenings of the pedal world so I can then report to you, the pedal enthusiast.  This year has seen some really unique and innovative designs – so many that I could make this a big long list.  But because I know you have the attention span of Honey Boo Boo in a butter factory, I’ve narrowed the list down to three pedals.  I want to bring your attention to a couple of boxes that are worth a percentage of your hard earned dollars from whatever it is that you do for money (you dirty person).  Get out your notebook, take some notes, and go buy these pedals.

MXR Phase 99

The Pedal File - MXR Phase 99

MXR has some cool pedals in their line, but they often get overlooked for other more boutique brands.  A lot of their designs are simple, standard effects – offering only a few knobs for tweaking, but they sound good as evidenced by the many recordings in which you can hear them by the many artists who endorse them such as Beats Antique and Dweezil Zappa.  But lately, it seems like the engineers over there have decided they wanted to do something a little different.  The MXR Phase 99 basically takes two Phase 90 circuits, joins them at the hip, and adds some nice tweakable features that I was surprised to see on a pedal from them.  A series/parallel switch?  Sweet.  A vintage switch?  Sexy.  A sync switch to synchronize the rates of both circuits?  I like.  I’ll elaborate under tweakables.

Tweakables:
Speed 1 & 2 – controls the phase shift speed on both circuits.  You can set one fast, one slow, or however the hell you want to get unique phase tones.
Series/Parallel switch – run the circuits in series (circuit 1 into circuit 2 to create a more intense effect with exaggerated frequency cuts and peaks) or parallel (circuit 1 & 2 stay separated).
Vintage switch – engage a vintage voicing for the phasing.
Sync switch – like I said above, synchronizes both circuits to speed 1 rate.

Do you want to have classic phase tones, but with added flexibility and tweaking options?  Check this one out!


Check out www.jimdunlop.com for more info

Strymon Deco

The Pedal File - Strymon Deco

This pedal was just announced, and as soon as I read about it/listened to it, I knew I would more than likely own it someday.  The Deco (I assume it’s named after the popular art of the time of tape reels) is all about emulating old tape effects that engineers used in the early days of recording.  Offering a slew of effects like tape saturation for warmth/compression and overdrive, doubletracking for slapback, tape flanging, tape echo, and chorus, and with bypass switches for the saturation and doubletracker, it all feels too much like a wet dream…(what, you don’t dream about pedals?)

Tweakables:
Saturation – smooths out the sound with compression and fattens it up with a transparent overdrive.
Blend – mix between the tape saturation and doubletracker controls.
Lag Time – sets the delay offset like you were controlling a ‘lag deck’ and ‘reference deck’.  This is what gives you the doubletracking, slapback, flange, chorus effects, and tape echo (up to 500ms delay) effects.  Such a big and powerful knob…
Volume – duh, controls the output volume, stupid!
Wobble – adds random modulation from subtle to extreme just like tape would.
Type switch
– sum: the ‘tape decks’ are in phase
– invert: ‘lag deck’ is phase inverted
– bounce: right channel of the ‘lag deck’ is phase-inverted and bounced to the left channel input for ping-pong stereo effects, or a double-repeat effect when running in mono.

One pedal that can provide such a bounty of effects is surely worth a spot on your pedalboard.


Check out www.strymon.net for more info

Earthquaker Devices Afterneath

The Pedal File - Earthquaker DevicesAfterneath

If you haven’t heard of Earthquaker Devices at this point I’ll assume you’ve been living under a rock or you have just arrived to this planet from a distant solar system.  Welcome to Earth, watch out for humans – they suck.  But they build these things we call pedals, so I guess the ones who make them don’t completely suck, and Earthquaker Devices is on top of the pile of not-sucking.  Just released at Summer NAMM, the Afterneath is yet another unique EQD take on the boring old reverb effect.  The Afterneath is all about transporting you to another world that isn’t above or underneath ours  – it is after…neath (another angle would be a future world).  This one uses a ‘swarm of short delays to create wild and cavernous reverbs and scattered, short rhythmic delays with bizarre characteristics.’  It can self-oscillate, be bright or warm, and generally offers an abnormal and unconventionally open and ambient playground for the reverb lover.

Tweakables:
Length – Controls the decay length of the reverb.
Diffuse – Adjusts the spread of the reverb. Sharper with more attack counter clockwise, more ambient and washy as you turn it clockwise.
Dampen – Clockwise for brighter tones, counter clockwise for darker tones.
Drag – This digital reverb is made up of a bunch of short delays, this separates the delay lines creating a stuttering, pingy effect. This is the coolest control on the Afterneath, we highly advise slowly turning this while you let notes ring out for a cool warped speed effect. More delay as you turn it counter clockwise, more reverb as you turn it clockwise.
Reflect – Controls the regeneration of the reverb, turn clockwise for more wash and echos, counterclockwise for less. This will self oscillate if turned up high.
Mix – Blends the wet signal into the dry. Though it does not actually go full wet, it will gradually lower the clean level as you turn it clockwise and give the appearance of full wet.  This makes me ‘full wet’ just reading about it…

If you’re tired of all those reverb pedals that are so straight-forward, perhaps you should look into this one.


Check out www.earthquakerdevices.com for more info

So there you have it!  Three pedals that are new, exciting, and worth your time.  Feel free to let me know what you think, or what you consider to be sweet new pedals.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File