The Pedal File – The Time for Pedals is Now

Is there a more beautiful word than ‘pedal’?  I don’t think so.  Say it.  Say it again.  It feels good doesn’t it?  Mmm, pedal.

I love pedals.  I love experimenting with their sounds, tweaking their knobs, caressing their enclosures, rubbing my face against them, etc.  I’m always on the lookout for pedals that are well built, entertaining, unique, strange, experimental, and/or inspiring.  That’s why I’m here today to tell you about two cool pedals and how cool you are for reading this.  No need to thank me, just doing my job.

Keeley Electronics Vibe-O-Verb

The Pedal File - Keeley Vibe-O-VerbLately Keeley has been pumpin’ it out like Bill Cosby in a coma ward.  Seriously they’ve released like 25 pedals (give or take) in the last year.  Keeley must have employed Underpants Gnomes or something to do all this work for them in such a short time.  Pretty clever because they work for underpants, not money.

Anyway, I just caught a glimpse of the brand new Vibe-O-Verb and I was pretty impressed with Keeley’s most recent reverb rendition.  It’s a modulated reverb (usually reverb with chorus on the reverb tail), the likes of which have been around for a while, but the Vibe-O-Verb takes this idea up a notch like it was bammed by that fat greaseball Emeril himself.  With the Vibe-O-Verb you can achieve sounds that would only be possible with a reverb equipped with an effects loop, plus the other pedals for adding modulation to the wet signal; that could be a whole small pedalboard’s worth of space.  The reverb is dense and moody, full of movement, sway, and atmosphere, especially when utilizing the modulation.  You don’t want your reverb to be modulated all the time?  No worries, just turn the depth knob down and all you’ve got is the nice simple reverb to play with.  You Philistine.

fibonacci

Yup, that’s a galaxy and a cabbage.

Did I mention the delay space algorithms are based on the Fibonacci sequence?  If nature follows this pattern, why wouldn’t it be a good idea to model reverb decay time after it?

Tweakables:

Depth – this affects the amount of modulation on the reverb.  Set it low for a little or high for a lot, or turn it all the way down to eliminate the modulation.  I recommend leaving this up.
Rate – Also affects the modulation section.  Set it low for a nice wash, or high for faster rotary or choppy tremolo type stuff.
Decay – Adjusts the length of the reverb.  I’m not sure of the specifics, but based on the video it can be subtle or pretty cavernous.
Blend – blend in your clean signal.  You get to choose how much effect you want.  How liberating.

Modes:

harmonic reverb – imparts some choppy harmonic tremolo (basically like a vintage Brownface amp trem or Keeley’s DynaTrem) on the reverb tail.  Some settings end up sounding like delay as the reverb reverberates and the tremolo chops.
vibrato reverb – can do anything from subtle to extreme chorus/vibrato sounds on the reverb tail.  I don’t get into vibrato too much, but I really like the way it sounds on this pedal mixed with the reverb.  Of course the chorus sounds brilliant and seems perfect for getting all spacey and out there man.
phaser reverb – the most subtle of all.  Adds a notch filter to the tails.  From what I can tell this makes the brightness/darkness of the reverb shift from one extreme to the other.  Honestly it’s hard to detect in the video, but hopefully it’s more apparent when playing in person.

Check out the video from Pro Guitar Shop for a nice taste:

For more info:  www.keeleyelectronics.com

Mr. Black Shepard’s End

The Pedal File - Mr. Black Shepard's EndMr. Black is a small, but reputable company based out of Portland, Oregon.  They specialize in two categories of effects: dirt and modulation.  When I say specialize, I mean Jack Deville (the dude behind the mysterious company name) eats lesser dirt and modulation pedals for breakfast, which fuels his ability to produce effects that are perfect for getting all heavy and psychedelic like your momma on an acid trip.  Snap!

Mr. Black is kind of a big deal when it comes to modulation.  A lot of guitar players (and players of other things) swear by their Eterna reverb for it’s lush tone and I even once spotted a Black LTD Overdriver on the board of Jamie Stillman (owner of EQD).  My point again is that this guy knows pedals and has designed a real paragon in the Shepard’s End Infinite Flanger.

Now y’all should know by now that I think flangers are the shit, and thanks to this golden age of gear we live in there are more and more flangers coming out all the time; I’m only interested in the ones that sound good and/or have something unique to offer, and that’s why I want you to want the Shepard’s End.

The Shepard’s End is unique because it’s an infinite flanger, meaning it’s capable of producing what is called ‘barberpole flange’.  So what the hell is ‘barberpole flange’ you ask?  Well you see kids, in normal flanger pedals, the filter will oscillate, or move up and down, to create that nice pleasant whoosh that is so thrilling to at least my ears.  In contrast the Shepard’s End tricks are based on the Shepard tone or effect.  The Shepard effect creates the auditory illusion of a tone that continually ascends or descends in pitch, but does not seem to get any higher or lower (if you want to learn more about it click here).  Basically it means the flange wave has no beginning and no end (how zen), which means the filter can perpetually sweep up or down.  Like forever, or at least your brain is tricked into perceiving that it does (damn naive brains).  Hence the term ‘barberpole’ being applied here.  It can also do continual ‘through-zero flange’ and also features positive and negative regeneration, so your flange can sound more chorusy-phaser-like or like an imploding metal tubular black hole respectively.  This means that this is probably the weirdest flanger you’ll come across.  In the video it sounds very synthy and at times almost laser-like.

Tweakables:

Wave – adjusts the shape of the flange wave for upward, through-zero, or downward cycles.  Either way it’s gonna get goopy and it’s gonna go on forever, like a signal sent out into space in search of extraterrestrial life.
Speed – Adjusts the rate of the filter sweep.
Regen – Adjusts the regeneration, or the amount of signal fed back into itself anywhere from none to negative and positive.  Lots of tones reside here in this knob I’m sure.

You can find the Shepard’s End and the whole line of Mr. Black pedals at www.mrblackpedals.com

That’s all for now.  Thank you for reading!  As always feel free to leave me a comment about how your day is going.  Or something about pedals is cool too.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

Pedal Feature – Alexander Pedals Radical Delay Demo

Is it time for another post already?  I suppose it is considering you’re reading this and I’ve already written it.  Cause and effect, you know?

So anyway, I’ve got a Radical Delay in my possession to exhibit just for your eyes and ears; therefore I must share what I’ve learned studying this unique specimen up close in my laboratory.  Since I’ve talked about the Radical delay and it’s tweakables in a previous post, I’ll leave most of the details to the demo video and try not to repeat myself, myself, myself….sorry, I’ve gone and repeated myself.  Here’s what I found out:

Alexander PedalsThe Radical is a knob tweaker’s dream and will reward you a king’s ransom for experimenting with settings.  That’s why you’re here right?  To seek out the pedals that will give you unprecedented authority in the tonal realm like you’re a big bank and pedals are a world currency.  Well the Radical Delay is a currency you should be manipulating, you capitalist pig!

This pedal sure can do standard digital delay sounds (10-900ms) with all the dotted eighth note syncopation you could desire.  It’s fun to play licks and have them be augmented by the delay trails into something you did not expect.  From the moment I plugged into the pedal, I was sucked in and immediately inspired – It’s tones made me feel like I was drifting backwards and forwards in time at the same time, as if I was watching an old movie set in the future.  And this was before getting into the remarkable sounding chorus/vibrato modulation, bit crushed synthy sounds, octaves, detune, strange harmonizing fun house mirror Mario on acid circus pitch shifting arpeggios, AND pseudo flange/phase/rotary/organ tones that can be imparted on the wet signal (I think that about covers it!).  No, this delay does not self-oscillate, but more than makes up for it in droves with it’s little tricks and tweaks to delight your ears.  (Don’t worry, turning the time knob while passing a signal through the Radical will still create all those cool twisted warping sounds.)


The Radical also offers some sensational slapback/short delay tones, especially when you start experimenting with the other aforementioned sounds.  It can become much more than just a delay in this way, and is great for adding subtle (or not so subtle) textures/atmosphere to riffs; so much so that it might only be apparent when you turn the pedal off, but trust me, you will quickly turn it back on.

If you’re looking for a straight-ahead digital delay that can do the usual delay tricks, the Radical can handle most of that, but you’re going to miss out on a lot of tonal/textural fun.  As I tried to demonstrate in the video, the Radical runs the full spectrum of subtle to extreme sounds (some that aren’t even actually ‘delay’), and for that reason I think you’d dig this pedal for anything – from your 80’s cover band to your cutting edge post rock, djent polka, ambient disco, space jam, dub step, emo band. I enjoy playing with this pedal immensely, and appreciate it’s ability to make me get lost in it.

If you want to get lost in the black hole of your mind ala Matthew McConaughnamahay in Interstellar, the Radical is your starship (watch out for Matt Damon though).  In other words, buy it!

For more info check out www.alexanderpedals.com

That’s all for now.  Leave me a comment with your thoughts!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

The Pedal File – Some Great Pedals Made by the Little Guys

Hello there!  It’s The Pedal File back for more pedal-packed fun!  ‘Two posts in one month?’, you’re thinking.  I’ve got to try to keep up, you’re a feisty bunch, aren’t you?  The reason I write today is to tell you about some great pedals made by some of the little guys in the pedal biznass.  I want to remind you not to get swept up on the pedal bandwagon, and that there are some truly hidden gems among the ‘lower’ classes of pedal makers.  I’d like to prove that all pedal makers are equal until proven guilty by a court of unhappy customers on a pedal forum.  Or something.

VFE Pedals Tractor Beam

VFE stands for Von Rutter Family Effects, started by mathematician/physicist Peter Rutter as a hobby.  Not the catchiest of names, but he could have named his company Peepee Poopoo Pedals for all I care.  We’re here to talk about pedals and tone, not marketing.  The reason I include this company is because they specialize in giving you as many tones in one box as you can handle (seems like more of a disease than a hobby, but I can relate).   VFE offers pedals with so much tweakability and versatility, one pedal purchase from them is like buying at least 2 or 3 pedals from your favorite Run Of the Mill Co.
The Pedal File - VFE Tractor Beam
On top of that, you can design your own custom pedal with colors, art, knobs, etc. in their Pedal Wizard, and you can actually submit circuit design ideas to them that they might put into production.  One of the coolest things they do though is support any musical artist that uses their pedals.  Got a recording with a VFE pedal on it?  They’ll put it on the site.  The icing on the nipples by far though is when ordering a custom pedal, a percentage of the purchase goes toward an artist that you can choose from their artist program!  I can’t even decide how many extra points they get.  It’s a lot though.

The Tractor Beam is for those of you who want to dial in an absurd range of phaser sounds.  Multiple selectable stages, inverted phasing, the ability to mix phaser and vibe effects together, the option of momentary switching for quick on/off effects, you can even adjust the brightness of your LED for Oprah’s sake!  You know what I think?  I think Peter Rutter is an alien-human hybrid creature created by the U.S. government to distract us with his tantalizing pedals from what’s really going on.  I’m on to you, Mr. Rutter…

Tweakables: Quoted text from the manual.
Speed – “Sets the speed of the phaser. In version 2, we increased the max speed by 50% and doubled the rate of the slowest speed. In order to have a super-wide range that is still easy to dial in, we had pots custom-made specifically for the Tractor Beam.”  No expense spared there.
Center – “Sets the center of the phase sweep. Turn counterclockwise for low-end throb, turn clockwise for watery shimmer, and set at noon for a full-range sweep.”
Feedback – “Sets the feedback, which is perfect for those slow, resonant phase sweeps. Clockwise = negative feedback, counterclockwise = positive feedback, 12:00 = zero feedback.”
Mix – “Blends between the dry, unaffected signal and the wet, phase-modulated signal. Because phasers get their sound by the interaction of the dry signal, the 12:00 position will yield the strongest phasing. Turn counterclockwise for a resonant tone with less pitch modulation. Turn clockwise for pitch modulation with less phase resonance.”
Stages – “Selects the number of phase stages. More stages = wider phase sweep. The 3-stage position is inverted, for reverse phase sweeps.”  Not like where a play is performed, silly.  Stages as in the number of peaks/notches in the phasing signal to give you different phasey tones.
Mode – “Selects the voicing of the phaser. P = synced phase sweep, V = warbling vibe sweep, PV = half phase, half vibe voicing.”
Internal Controls – “The internal LEVEL trimpot sets the output volume. NOTE: The JFET is factory set for maximum phase sweep – DO NOT ADJUST.”
True Soft Bypass – “All VFE Pedals use true bypass relay switching combined with effect-side FET switching. This makes for pure and smooth switching that is rated for a longer lifetime than you.”  Well now I feel inferior, but hey that’d be a cool heirloom to pass down…
DualMode Switching – “DualMode is a unique VFE feature that lets you setup the footswitch for momentary operation (press & hold = on, release = off). To activate, wait 5 seconds and then press tap+tap+hold until LED flashes.”  Maybe you just want to be able to throw some quick phase on only part of a riff, or even toggle the effect on and off – now you can.
LED Brightness – “Just because we can, there’s an internal trimpot to set the LED brightness just the way you like it.”  Not that I ever thought I needed this on a pedal, but I admit there are a few on my board that light up like frickin’ laser beams.
Carling Footswitch – “The part that you step on shouldn’t be made cheap. We use rugged, industrial grade Carling footswitches in all our pedals.”  Agreed, I always feel a little sour when a pedal company uses cheap components.  Nothing better than a pedal that feels like a brick in your hand.

asduigh984qaubgaiuh49…Sorry, I drooled all over my keyboard and my fingers were slipping.

Check out www.vfepedals.com for more info, but heed my warning: there are lots of pedals and lots of info – you might spend a long time on there.  Also check out the video demos by various people who are not me, and please also note that the demo is for the original version that was called the Enterprise.


Alexander Pedals F.13 Flanger

I’ve talked about Alexander Pedals in a previous post, but I just discovered this soon-to-be-released, soon-to-be a wonder of the pedal world: the F.13 Flanger.  As I predicted, flangers are coming back y’all, and this is one you should take a hard look at.  When I saw that the makers of the Radical Delay have a flanger coming out, it was difficult to contain my excitement, so I went down to my pedal dungeon to blow off some steam.  I feel a little better now…

The Pedal File - Alexander Pedals F.13 FlangerAlexander are another company that doesn’t want to insult your intelligence with copies and clones of everything else.  Matthew Farrow is doing his own thing, which enables you to do your own thing in return.  It’s sort of beautiful really.  The F.13 takes the company a step further in that direction.  This flanger has features that I have yet to hear of in another flanger, like step flangering (think step filter) and dynamic flangering(ydingdong) (think envelope filter/auto wah effects in the way your attack/signal triggers the effect).  Alexander have already forged a path with their small line of effects in their short existence, and I have to say I’m really excited for them to release more.

Unfortunately there isn’t even a demo video to hear how it sounds (perhaps soon I can fill the void), but I’m confident it will sound awesome.  Read on for knobbage.

Tweakables:
Rate – “Controls the rate of the low-frequency oscillator (LFO) for the flanger, from glacial to space invaders.  Controls the input sensitivity in Dynamic mode.”
Depth –  “Controls the maximum LFO sweep.  In Step mode, the depth control chooses downward steps, upward + downward steps, upward steps, or random steps.  In Dynamic mode, this controls whether the flanger sweeps down (less than noon) or up (greater than noon) based on the input signal.”  I really want to hear this thing!
Mix – “Controls the blend between the dry and flanged signal.  Equal mix is at 12 o’clock.  Hint:  Pitch vibrato is available with low Regen settings and fully wet mix.”  Very cool, normally flangers don’t have a mix control, but they should because sometimes you want just a little.
Regen –  “Adjusts the amount of flanged signal fed back into the modulation.  Zero feedback is at noon, clockwise increases the positive feedback for a standard flanger sound.  Twist this knob counter-clockwise for negative feedback and a unique “inside out” flange.”  I’d sure like to turn this thing inside-out…

Mode Toggle:
Step -“The flanger LFO is forced to “step” to eight different values for transforming robot sounds.  Sweeps either up, up + down, down, or random.  The random mode is similar to a synthesizer “sample and hold” effect but with flange instead of filter.”  Umm, I am seriously interested.  Damn you, Alexander, and your temptations.
Sweep –  “Traditional flanging is found here.  The LFO for the F.13 is actually a “hypertriangular” waveform, so that the flanger spends more time in the interesting portions of the sweep.  Hint:  Set the Rate control at zero for “filter matrix” style manual flanging.  The Depth knob controls the flange position.”  I might need a new keyboard, more drool commencing.
Dynamic –  “This one is kind of unusual, even for us!  The flanger delay time is set by the volume of the input signal.  The Rate knob adjusts the sensitivity, to allow for different pickups or effects before the F.13.  The Depth knob controls which direction the flanger will sweep when it hears the input signal.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you.”   I won’t.

And to think flangers couldn’t get any cooler, the F.13 is in my opinion the most enticing to date.  I’m impressed by Matthew Farrow’s creativity when it comes to pedal design.  It’s apparent that this guy has some experience with what he’s doing, and that each new pedal he makes will most likely be a pleasant surprise for pedal enthusiasts, thus proving that the pursuit of rockin tones will continue on.  There’s a perk to giving this company your money too – they’ll put a portion of it toward cancer charity in honor of Mr. Farrow’s brother.  Hey and unlike the Red Cross, I bet they actually donate it too!

Alexander only has a small line of other effects so far, but you should check them out.  Now.  Go on, get! www.alexanderpedals.com

So that’s all for now, kiddies.  I hope this will hold you over until next time, but until then feel free to shoot me a comment and tell me what you think, or get at me through my Contact page if you’re a little Anonymous Andy.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

Pedal Feature: Pigtronix Quantum Time Modulator

Hey there, just another exciting post from your favorite neighborhood pedal pal, The Pedal File!  Today I’m going to talk about a versatile and otherworldly pedal – the Quantum Time Modulator, produced by Pigtronix.  Based in New York, Pigtronix have been getting my attention, along with the attention of pedal lovers everywhere in the pedal world for a while now with their complex and originally designed pedals like the Echolution delay and Mothership Synth pedal.  Pigtronix pedals are full of analog goodness and built so sturdily (no cheap plastic crap components) that they could probably survive a cycle in your dryer.  With a man like Howard Davis (you know, that dude who designed tons of legendary effects for Electro-Harmonix??) on their side how could they do any less?

Pigtronix Logo

Per usual, I’ve had my eye on this pedal for a long time.  I fell in love with Pigtronix after buying the EP-2 Envelope Phaser a few years ago, so naturally I was giddier than a hillbilly stranded on a desert island with a pack of goats to get my greasy hands on the QTM.  I’d first like to point out that the Quantum has a great name.  Anything that sounds like it’s out of a science fiction book gets +1 from me.  Secondly, I like Pigtronix’s own description of the pedal: Multi Dimension Chorus Horror Film Vibrato DynaFlanger.  That’s creative.  Does that creativity steep into the pedal?  Read on, loyal tone minion, to find out.

The Quantum Time Modulator is, in layman’s terms, a chorus/vibe pedal.  It’s great for adding depth, dimension, swirl, and space to your guitar (or bass, or synth, or ukelele, or whatever) like you’re flying a time machine into a black hole to another dimension (I feel dizzy).  While it is a chorus, overall the QTM produces tones more like how you say, ‘dimension chorus’ – the kind of “dimension” effects used in professional recording studios.  These effects can add to the spaciousness of instruments in a mix as well as double a track, i.e. make it sound as if there are two tracks playing when there is only one.  Add to that the ability to modulate the delay time via envelope (more on that below), emulate rotary speakers, achieve pitch vibrato and recreate classic tones such as the MicMix DynaFlanger utilized by the great Frank Zappa, the TC Electronics TC 1210 Spatial Expander most commonly associated with Alex Lifeson of Rush, and the Roland Dimension D chorus, and the QTM is a whacked-out-chorus-swiss-army-modulator-of-time machine.  ***If you wanna know more, go to the bottom of the page for more info.

At first glance, the QTM’s controls look deceivingly simple, which sport only three knobs (or as I like to call them, pedal nipples) and one switch to choose either chorus or vibrato mode.  Say whaaaat?  A chorus with three knobs?  And they’re labeled sensitivity, speed, and source??  And this thing is supposed to emulate three much bigger and tweakier rack units???  Are you scratching your head?  Well at least close your mouth while you think like an ape, stupid!  It’s easy to guess what speed does, but how bout all them other knobs?  I was confused and intrigued (confrigued?) by this at first, but once you realize the relationship the knobs share, it becomes simple to understand how these controls work in combination to give you a pretty unbelievable amount of  lush 3D chorus/doubling/vibe/flange tones with only three freaking knobs.  Everybody knows; usually a cool chorus pedal used by cool kids has to have a minimum of four knobs (rate, depth, mix, and delay time).  Duh!

Tweakables:  the majority of this text is taken from the manual.

Sensitivity – this knob controls how hard you have to hit the string in order to produce a modulation voltage from the envelope circuit.  Lower settings will be appropriate for hotter pickups or in situations where you want only a small amount of envelope modulation to occur.  Higher settings will be needed for low output pickups or when you want to produce significant amounts of modulation via envelope.  As far as I know, this is a unique characteristic of this pedal.  In other words, the harder your attack, the harder the chorus modulates (kind of like an invisible hand cranking the depth or the delay time).  This adds a greater sense of dynamics by creating more dramatic modulation when you pick hard and more subtle modulation when you lay off.  Another way to think of it is like a regular envelope filter, but instead of a filtered wah sound, a heavier, swirlier chorus/flange sound is produced.  It sounds complicated, but it’s easy to get a feel for when you actually play it.

Speed – this knob controls the rate of the LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) modulation.  Slower speeds will create more spatial washes while faster speeds accentuate rotary and vibrato sounds.  This knob has great range.  I LOVE the lushness and depth at slow speeds as well as the movement and texture at faster speeds.

Source – this knob determines which of the two modulation sources (LFO or Envelope) is acting on the bucket brigade delay line.  When this knob is fully counter-clockwise (to the left in case you’re wondering) the Envelope is the only modulation source.  At full clockwise (to the right), the LFO is the only modulation source. Parked anywhere in between the two extremes causes the delay line to be modulated by a mixture of both Envelope and LFO.  This is a big part of the versatility of this pedal.  You know I love versatility….don’t you?

Chorus/Vibrato switch – when Chorus mode is selected the output is a combination of your clean tone with the modulated signal.  When Vibrato is selected, your clean tone is cast out of the signal like the town ginger to live a lonely life surviving in the woods.  All that is left is the pure effected signal that becomes, like, mayor and gets all the chicks.  That’s because effects are cool, kids.

The output can be either mono using a standard patch cable or stereo using a TRS (tip, ring, sleeve) cable.  As you can hopefully guess, the effect of the effect becomes stronger with a stereo setup or as Dweezil runs it – mono through one amp in a two amp setup.

The QTM sounds great stacked with other effects, especially anything that distorts.  I used it with a RAT distortion into a Moogerfooger MF-107 Freqbox into the QTM.  The Quantum made the tone sound better, while sometimes being so subtle that I couldn’t tell it was there until it was off.  The enhancement is hard to describe, but it seems to add movement, texture, shimmer, and depth making the signal more harmonically complex.  I found myself leaving it on most of the time while I played (unlike my pants).  Check out my video demo for an example:

Props to Pigtronix for somehow distilling three of the coolest and most unique chorus effects into one small unit (hehe).  Pretty clever considering their tonal overlaps.  The controls will leave any chorus vet feel like they’re looking at some kind of alien device upon first glance.  However, soon after first tweak, the role of each knob should reveal itself to you like Kim Kardashian in a grotesque photo.  Truly some of the best 70’s & 80’s chorus resides within this pedal along with a host of cool new modulation sounds to explore.  No matter what style you play (noise included), the QTM can easily find a place on your board.  Pigtronix didn’t just step out of the box.  They stepped out of the box, killed its family, set its house on fire, then turned around and took a crap on it.

pigtronix logo

Be sure to check out Pigtronix and their whole line of effects pedals.  You won’t be sorry.  Also feel free to leave me a comment at the bottom of the page with your thoughts.

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

***
MicMix Dynaflanger – this is a now discontinued rack unit flanger with the unique ability to control the delay time by the envelope of the input signal, creating weird and unexpected modulations.  This is part of what gave Zappa his beautifully bizarre tone on his ‘Shut Up N’ Play Yer Guitar’ album.  This was also the unit Dweezil Zappa used for Zappa Plays Zappa to achieve the specific tones of his father…until the QTM came about.  Check out this article for more info: http://www.zappa.com/zpz/tourlog/index.php?year=2008&month=6&day=6

TC Electronics TC 1210 Spatial Expander – this is a really expensive chorus/flanger rack unit capable of all sorts of modulation sounds (on top of making things sound better – this guy from a Sound on Sound article puts it on just about anything while recording for tonal enhancement).  Alex Lifeson has used one of these forever.  It’s made by TC Electronic and is based on the Haas effect, defined as the ability of our ears to localize sounds coming from anywhere around us.  In short, our ears determine the position of a sound based on which ear perceives it first and its successive reflections (arriving within 1-35 ms from the initial sound), which will give us the perception of depth and spaciousness.  This thing adds the depth and space.

Roland Dimension D – although it’s another rare one, this is the one you’ve probably heard of (the Boss Dimension C pedal is basically a mono version for guitar).  Instead of knobs, this unit has preset buttons that allow you to select different chorus effects with varying amounts of depth and speed and is known for its legendary stereo chorus effects.  The “Dimension” chorus effect is one where thickness, depth and a sense of width, is added to the sound to produce a kind of 3D effect.

My Case of Why Flangers Rule – Specifically, the DOD FX75-B Flanger

The Pedal File - DOD logoOk.  I’ll admit it, I’m not ashamed.  I love flangers (and all modulation effects for that matter).  I get lost in the whooshing, metallic, stuck in a pipe sound that falls somewhere between chorus/phaser/really short delay.  I get hypnotized, mesmerized, and a little aroused by it (maybe not literally, but definitely figuratively).  I just read a Reverb.com interview with Josh from JHS pedals where they mention how flange is always last on everyone’s mind these days.  Reverb.com even references a Facebook survey they conducted where it was voted the most ‘out-of-date’ effect.  I strongly disagree and would like to clarify:  I think people think flangers are lame because they got overused in a lot of lame music.

The Pedal File - DOD FX75-B FlangerThink about all the crappy music out there with fuzz/distortion/etc.  But you don’t hear anyone claiming the Big Muff to be for losers who are living in the past.  This is because enough players have proven that fuzz can be awesome.  Flange has been deemed guilty by association.  However, Josh does prophetically claim the flanger will make a comeback in the next few years as it is showing up more on recent albums, and therefore people will start looking for (re)’new'(ed) sounds.  I’m here to see that happen because, like the title of this article says, flangers rule.

The way the effect was originally developed is interesting.  It was first discovered by the genius guitar/effects/recording pioneer, Les Paul – though he didn’t use tape, but rather employed phase shifting through acetate disks on variable-speed record players.   Later in the 60’s, flange was an issue encountered when recording long takes onto tape.  As the tape would wind around the reel, it would get weighed down.  This would make the reel turn slower by a few milliseconds, which doesn’t seem like much, but the perceived difference in speed would create the harmonic avalanche that we now know as ‘flange’.

Some smart person (allegedly John Lennon/George Martin – The Beatles’ producer) realized it actually sounded pretty cool, so a technique to recreate this phenomenon was developed.  An archaic method of flanging was achieved by recording two identical takes to two separate tape machines.  The machines would be played back simultaneously.  At some point (the point at which one would want some tasty flange) the engineer would put a finger on the edge or ‘flange’ of one of the reels, causing playback of that tape to be slightly delayed.  This pairing of the normal speed tape with the delayed tape is what produced this unique sound.  Pretty neat, huh?

I’ve mentioned before I’m not a big fan of Eddie Van Halen, but there is something about his guitar tone that really fascinates me.  He used a lot of chorus/flange and was all about crispy textures with a multidimensional tone that makes you feel like you’re a small animal being carried away by a large eagle.  But alas, who can stand to listen to Van Halen (or especially Van Hagar) for that long?  (I hate the 80’s.  That’s when the word ‘rad’ became popular – please stop saying rad, hipsters.  Plus, every musician during the decade seemed to develop some kind of musical retardation, except for maybe The Police.)
The Pedal File - DOD FX75-B

Even though I like the sound of that hideous guitar, it’s hard to get past the cheesiness that was inherent in music during the 80’s – like dipping your ears in a big fondue pot of cheeseburgers.   One thing the 80’s had right though was the sound of the flange (chorus is a runner up and another article topic).

I should point out that not all flangers are equal.  Too many don’t have the kind of control you need (I prefer to have control over the delay time), or they don’t offer any good useable tones (most digital flangers).  There are a few companies like MXR that cater to the EVH fans or like Subdecay, whose flangers are more complex than a modular synth (not really, but they’re pretty intense) and cost well over $100.  But I’m here to remind you in this article that you don’t always have to look at brand new or boutique gear.  Some 80’s and 90’s pedals were well-made and can usually be found for less than $100.  A lot of them aren’t true bypass and whatnot, but if you’re open to the idea of modification or if you don’t care, vintage pedals are a great bet!
The Pedal File - DOD FX75-B
I’ve found a true flanging diamond in the rough in the DOD FX75-b stereo flanger.  It sounds so thick, metallic, and robotic.  Like dipping your guitar in electric molasses, this pedal takes your tone to a sticky gooey territory.  It’s easy to dial in a pretty shimmery chorus, but it also does to-the-max jet pack blast-off flange, as well as some vibe-y, rotary type stuff.  I can’t say enough how great this pedal sounds.  I love it so much, I now have two – just in case.  I plan on getting at least one of them modded to be true bypass (they do generate some noise at some settings) and have even thought about rehousing them both into one enclosure.

Tweakables:
Delay – sets the delay time, which controls the degree of phase shifting. Set it shorter for a chorus-y sound or longer for voluptuous flanging.  Like I said, this knob is really useful for different sounds (on chorus pedals too).
Speed – sets the speed at which the delay time changes – low settings are good for a thick chorus or subtle flange or crank it up for vibe-like throbbing, pulsations, etc.  (The width and regen have to be set around noon or higher for the vibe stuff).
Width – sets the range through which the delay time will vary.  I think of it kind of like a depth knob.  Turned all the way down, there is no sweeping time delay.  Turn it up and the time delay gets introduced to the phase shifting at the sweeping speed that is selected by the speed knob.  Lower settings = time delay sweep through a narrower range.  Higher settings = wider range.
Regen(eration) – adjusts the height of the comb filter peaks by controlling feedback through the delay circuitry.  This feeds the effect back onto itself for more phasing/time delay.  This knob is also what takes you from subtle to totally tripped out alien robot space monster sounds.

Even at low and subtle settings, I love what this pedal does to the guitar.  It excites your playing and makes it feel more alive while thickening the tone up a bit.  At more extreme settings, you can really impart a sense of movement and make people feel sea-sick.  The DOD FX75-B makes it hard to tell sometimes if it is actually chorusing or phasing, but that’s what I love.  It puts a mystical, intangible quality into your riffs.  I implore you to stop over-looking flanger pedals and dare you to put one on your board.  I guarantee if you’re a modulation fan, you’ll enjoy it.  If not, send it to me.

DOD is now owned by Harmon/Digitech who has released a few reissue pedals under the DOD name, but if you want in on the great DOD pedals of yore, your best bet is to check out EBay or Reverb.com.

Check out my band’s new single, ‘I Miss You’, for an example of how I used the DOD FX75-B to achieve 80’s tone for modern rockingness.

As always, let me know what you think!  Please leave me a comment below and tell me how right I am.  Or what your favorite flanger pedal is.

That’s all, thanks for reading!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File