27 June 2013

Pedal Effects: Strymon El Capistan - First contact


Well, I never realized how important a Delay pedal is until I went to mix in the box by myself. Then, I've understood the importance of ambience restauration or recreation.

Despite of the expensive outboard gear used in Studios, it seemed to me a nice idea to have a nice delay that could change the ambience of my sound and better set the guitar in the right depth in the mix.

For sure, for a budget, TC Electronics Flashback gives you any kind of delay type and a reasonable sound. More expensive, Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay is hard to beat when used with distortion.

I am not a delay hacker. I am not going to create multi-echoed delays (a la U2) or any other kind of creative delay (well, who knows in the future!). My interest focus on a delay pedal that can put the guitar in the right space and depth in the mix, that's all.

Testing several delay types, I've decided that the delay type I was looking for was the Tape Echo type. I guess, this is because the most of commercial records were made with some EchoPlex unit and, there are a lot of top notch guitarists that rely on these units (as Brian May, that works with a couple of them!).

So nice so sad. Price of real tape echo units, as the EP 2 is unaffordable for a guitar aficionado. That's the truth. Even if it was possible, those kind of devices need a lot of maintenance to have them always in an optimal working status.

Therefore, next step was to look for some delay pedal that just could suit my needs.

Indeed, Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay is one of the best all purpose delay units. It works incredible good with distortion effects and, it just enhances the sound, when used with caution. If you overdo the effect, you can start to hear some digital artifacts (digititis) but, overall, it's highly recommended as a "plug & play" pedal. Easy to set up, awesomely sounding.

Then, I wanted to explore Tape Echo emulations and, went for a Wampler Faux Tape Echo delay. It's also a nice pedal but, to be honest, while it works really nice for clean sounds, it tends to wash distortion sounds and, to thin and edge the sound.

Probably because of that voltage issues I was discussing in my previous entry or, maybe because the pedal sounds like this. I don't know. But the truth is that I had better distortion results with the Mad Professor's one. And, I had better clean results with the Wampler's one.

To be honest, I was lately weighting whether to use Mad Professor's or Wampler's one in my pedalboard. But, in the meanwhile, I was reading lot of people talking about Strymon delay units and, I've reviewed Youtube entries and was very interested on what I've heard. So, I bought an Strymon El Capistan as my last try in delay effects.

Today, I was able to check how El Capistan worked and, this entry will discuss about such a pedal and my first impressions.

Analog, Digital?

Everybody knows it: an analog delay delivers warmer tones than a digital one. This is a drawback of using digitial audio technology. But be careful, an analog delay isn't the cup of everybody!. Maxon AD-999 Analog Delay (top notch in analog delays) wasn't my cup.

Most of digital delays have at least one mode that emulates an Analog delay.
A Tape Echo type delay is just emulating an analog delay: usually, an EchoPlex 2 unit.
You will see a wide offer for this kind of delay, including Carl Martin, Fulltone, among other large list of pedal makers.

Some pedal maker will try to convince you that their digital pedal is less digital than it seems. So, a typical selling argument is "the unprocessed signal uses a true analogical path". And, ok, that's good, indeed but, what happens to the processed (wet) signal?.

When we were discussing about digital audio, in my past entry: Home Studio: Mixing - Part 1, we tolk about the importance of AD/DA converters and, how they become a key feature to achieve the most natural (whitin the boundaries of digital audio) sound.
And, just about this is what pedal makers should had to talk about: the quality of their AD/DA converters.

We assume that we have a digital unit so, don't sell snake oil, just tell us about the quality of your converters and, the quality of the processing components you are using in your pedals.

Fortunately, Strymon isn't focusing on how analog is the (already) analog unprocessed signal but, he enhances the quality of its AD/DA converters, that are working with a resolution of 24 bits at 96 KHz of sampling ratio. And, that's a good resolution. I would personally prefer 32 bits at 48 KHz (or 96 KHz) but...

Some characteristics and Sound

One thing that surprised me is the light weight of this unit. Maybe it's using aluminium box?. I dunno but, it really weights nothing compared to the rest of my pedals.

You can read anywhere else the huge list of characteristics that this pedal has (this, just emulating a Tape Echo machine) and, you can bet that you could tweak the pedal to the extreme, to suit your needs. But, I've just tested it as it came stock.

To me, it was so easy to dial the delay sound as if I was using the Deep Blue Delay. Just some tweaks in the controls and everything started to sound really good. Not the case of the Wampler Tape Echo, that drives me crazy.

Wampler's unit is able to generate echos that are loudest than the original sound and, this adds confusion to the resulting sound. As far as I see, El Capistan is creating echoes always under the original signal level.

For my needs, I went just for the Single Head / Type A emulation. With all controls at noon, I already had an usable sound but, I wanted to roll back a bit the Mix, Repeats and Time. Very intutitive, as the Deep Blue Delay is.

I've checked also the effect of Tape Age and Warble&Flute knobs.
The Tape Age works very similar to a Tone control, achieving the brighter position at left hand. It was really sweet and, I've never got the excessive high end that I can hear in Wampler's unit.
The Warble knob adds some modulation to the sound and, works really nice.

Overall, I was greatly surprised with the resulting sound. It works flawless with distortion pedals (as the Mad Professor's does) and with clean stuff (as the Wampler's does).
In Youtube videos, it sounded to me a bit in the bright side and, I was wondering if it would sound as the Wampler's one but, in real work, it sounded really natural and, it's very easy to match the tone of the delay to the amp's tone with small tweaks on the knobs.

That AD/DA converters are working really fine and, the sound is very natural, open, dynamic and organic.
This time, I've ran Wampler Decibel+, Wampler Ego Compressor and Wampler Euphoria at 18V, to compensate the drop in voltage of my mains line. Weehbo PlexDrive and JCM Drive worked with dynamic switch at 18V also. I've also put the Drybell Vibe Machine at 18V and, everything sounded killer.
I was enjoying a lot this testing session.

I didn't heard the typical digital artifacts of digital delay units. Maybe, because I never went to extreme settings and, maybe because of the quality of converters.

To be continued...

I am gonna experiment a lot more with this unit to have a final verdict but, what I've seen up to now is that, for what I want it, it has the best characteristics of both, Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay and Wampler Faux Tape Echo and, none of their drawbacks.

The sound is clear, open, defined and, echo tails sound very natural to me.
It has more features than I need but, the one I really need it does with spades.
Very recommendable delay unit, if you are after a Tape Echo emulation pedal!.

If I feel inspired, I will come back with some specific video. Otherwise, the Strymon will sound in any video made by me in a future, beginning today.

Nice work, Strymon!.

Generic: a reflexion about the importance of voltage in guitarist's gear


Maybe, you never had voltage issues. In fact, I never had those before I've moved to a new house but, I've noticed those issues when giging, also.
Or, maybe, you are currently having voltage issues and you don't know it!.

We already discussed about the importance of to have a good ground in our mains (see past entry: how to troubleshoot noise in our rig and, entry: Accessories: Socket Tester) and, about the function of some filtering and surge protection devices (Power Conditioner), as well as the role that a good Power Regulator (see past entry: Accessories: Phonic PPC9000E Power Conditioner).

Voltage issues affect to each single device that is actually connected to the mains and, it has more or less impact depending on how many devices are depending on such an energy source.

This entry is just a reflexion about the importance of voltage in our rig, after experiencing myself several related issues and, after observing how it affects to every gear.

Voltage = Dynamics

I don't know if this is a written rule but, what I've observed is that Voltage means Dynamics in Audio.
If you don't know what dynamics means, please read this past entry: Home Studio: Mixing - Part 4.

The more the voltage a certain gear has, the more the dynamic range and, therefore, the more natural, organic and open it sounds. The less voltage, the less dynamic range and, therefore, the more compressed it sounds. And, this seems to be true for every single thing in our gear.


While most of people seems to focus on DC Resistance when choosing its pickups, I am more interested in other specifications.

Maybe DC Resistance talks about the overall EQ of the pickup but, resonance frequency and resonance peak will better talk about where this guitar will be placed in the mix and, how piercing will it be.

In fact, resonance defines somewhat the place in the frequential range called Presence where this guitar will be recognized. If it's its natural place in the mix everything will be fine, otherwise, that track would need extra EQ work to make it to cut the mix. You can eventually have issues trying to differentiate your guitar when playing with your band, also.

Then, one more parameter that interests me a lot is the output voltage of a pickup. This output voltage tells a lot, not only about the strengh of the signal but about how dynamic can be the sound. The higher the voltage, the more gap you can represent between soft and high volume notes and, therefore, the sound will be more natural, open and organic. The less voltage, the more compressed the sound will be.

Pickup voltage isn't depending on your mains source, because the pickup generates it. So, this is the the more special case we are going to discuss here. Rest of gear depends on your mains.

Since voltage in a pickup depends on the magnetic field variation, all components in a pickup have something to say (magnets, screws, rods, coil, wire, etc) and, trying to optimize some pickup characteristic have an impact in other characteristics.

You can get more voltage with a powerfuler magnet but, this can also impact in the resonance peak and make the pickup brighter or even piercing.  You can change to a thicker wire to wind the coil or, to wind more turns there but, this will change the overall EQ, by example.

We are choosing pickups for how they sound and, every pickup design is a compromise between the several specification characteristics so, we get at the end a given (maximum output) voltage for each pickup and, we usually don't change it.


If I didn't had the incredible variation in voltage levels in my actual mains, I would probably never noticed how important voltage is for pedals that are being feeded with some AC adapter.

Most pedals are designed to work, at least, with a battery (typically 9V) but, there are some exceptions, like most of Lovetone pedals, that are so small that doesn't have room for a battery and, some other pedals, as EH's Electric Lady or Morley Wahs, have their own AC adaptor and run at higher voltage levels (12V, 18V or even, 24V).

Probably, first time I've experienced the matter of voltage was with the Fulltone OCD V2 overdrive. While I was browsing  its characteristics, I've read that it was possible to enhance the sound running it at 18v, instead of 9V and, since I had a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 adaptor that allowed me to use two different 9V outputs to feed a pedal with 18V, I did the test and, I was greatefully surprised with the results.

Since that day, I tried to feed all my critical pedals with 18V. Boosters, overdrives, delays. Anything not needing a compressed sound (as distortions or fuzzes, by example) can benefite of a higher voltage level.

The drawback is that the number of outputs is limited and, that if each pedal needs two outputs, you cannot really have a large chain of pedals.

The Xotic EP Booster is another example of how much open and dynamic the sound can be with 18V.
If you wanted to try this, please be sure to read your pedal' specifications to check the admited voltage range. To run a pedal with a higher voltage than allowed can destroy your pedal.

I love to death Weehbo Effekte's approach. Every Weehbo pedal has a DYNAMIC switch that changes the internal voltage from 9V to 18V. You will need to feed the pedal just with 9V and, the pedal will internally double this voltage, if you want it.   That smart switch demonstrates the importance of voltage for dynamics and, in my experiences, converts a good pedal (at 9V) into a top notch pedal (at 18V).

I already saw that inner doubling system in other pedals and, I liked it but, to have a switch outside the pedal is the first time I see it and, something for what Weehbo should be congratulated (among THE sound).

Some pedals, because of their design, will not noticiable enhance their sound when stepping up in voltage levels but this, every time that your mains delivers a consistent and stable voltage level.

Vintage effects can even need a worn battery to sound their best. This is typical in vintage germanium fuzzes, that work better with worn low efficiency batteries (forget Duracell and similar). At this point, you should guess why!. The fuzz is an ultra-compressed sound and, therefore, wants low voltage range to compress the most.

So, to run pedals at higher voltage usually makes sense but, not always. Hear your pedal, stock. Do you feel it could sound better if it had just a tad more dynamics?, then increase the voltage level and, check it.

All that was just related to dynamics but, considering that your mains source delivers a stable voltage level but, in my home, this is far away from real world. I am having voltage variations between 185V to 240V in the lapse of a couple of seconds, some days. Other days, the average level can be at any level . This seriously impacts all my rig, from amp to pedals.

The easier way to avoid this issue would be to run all my pedals with batteries, instead of feeding them with a power adaptor. But, you know the drawbacks of this. Batteries worn really fast in some pedals and, can leave you without a certain effect during your performance. If you forget to remove each input patch cable in each pedal, your batteries will dead while you sleep and, you will have no pedal board next morning.

Since power adaptors are my way to go, there are some things I could do. First, to claim the company and ask them to deliver me a good electrical line (something that I've already did with more or less same outcoming). Second, to buy a Power Regulator, to ensure a consistent and filtered electrical power (something I cannot do because of its price).

Probably, the company can fix issues at my home (after several claimings, I hope so!) but, this will not solve the issues when I have to gig outside. I had exactly same issues when giging. So, probably, best solution is to buy a Power Regulator and bring it with me in any circumstance.

But, while this is economicaly possible, what I've recently noticed, while testing a couple of Weehbo units, is that pedals with a higher voltage suffer the less that voltage dropping.

I loved Mad Professor and Wampler pedals, while they were sounding good (when my voltage was correct) but, without knowing the root cause, I moved from Mad Professor to Wampler because I've noticed that the sound was very inconsistent in Mad Professor pedals, to finally discover that I had same issues with Wampler pedals!!!.

As Weehbo pedals are doubling the input voltage, I guess that there is always more than the original 9V available for that pedal. Imagine that the voltage that the Power adaptor delivers at the end falls to half (4.5V). This will be very poor for an unit that was designed to work at 9V and, that's why Mad Professor and Wamplers were failing delivering the right sound in my case. But, since Weehbo is doubling the voltage internally, 4.5V x 2 = 9V, I will get the minimum voltage to get an usable sound from that pedal (that sounds good at 9V and incredible good at 18V).

I didn't thought on this when buying those Weehbo pedals. I was just so interested in how they sounded but, this smart design helped me to have a consistent sound even when my electrical line was delivering a weak voltage.

When I was trying the Carl Martin Octaswitch MKII unit, I tried it with the wrong power adaptor. Since they current needs of the Octaswitch where so high, there was no way to feed it with the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 and, therefore, an additional adaptor was a must. My first try was to re-use some of the adaptors I had around (with less current levels) and, the result was an awful wistling and permanent feedback, when switching on the unit.

With weak current and voltage levels, I've noticed that even top notch pedals can start generating strange or unexpected noises, high pitched sounds, etc.


The design of an amp determines its dynamics and, there is really few you can do to increase it without hard moding it. A vintage-voiced amp has usually way more dynamics than a high-gain-voiced amp (designed to cover highly compressed sounds). There are amps with several channels and, each channel very differently voiced and, with very different dynamics.

What I've noticed is that the more dynamics the amp has, the most affected by voltage variations is. I instantanely recognize that my mains is weak when that amp starts to sound thin, weak and liveless. I take a look to my Power Conditioner's voltimeter and, I visually confirm that I am having voltage issues.

When this happens, all my rig is being compromissed and the resulting sound is just annoying. We already discussed about the convenience of a Power Regulator to fix this issue.

When the electrical line delivers an stable and regular power, I've noticed that tubes can change a tad dynamics of the amp (always within the boundaries stablished by its own design). Even same tube maker / model, with different characteristics (output, transconductancy, etc) can make a difference.

Usually, tubes with a higher voltage output are increasing dynamics, also. As happens with pickups, to optimize certain tube characterist affects the rest of them so, maybe getting more voltage means to have less transconductancy (inmediatness) or less output (strength) or any other parameter (EQ, break-up spot, ...).   As we do with pickups, we choose tubes based on how well perform for a certain position of a certain amp and, therefore, we are somewhat limited by amp's design and tube's design, respect of our dynamics. A very dynamic tube that produces an sterile sound interest us nothing, at the end.

What I've noticed is that the impact of voltage drop in amps is less dramatical than in my pedals. If pedals work fine, the amp can stand more range of voltage drop than pedals can. So, even that there is a clear change in sound quality, by using those Weehbo pedals, the sound remains usable most of the time. Just extreme voltage drops seriously affect the resulting sound and, make me to hung the guitar and switch off everything.

GAS or need?  

Indeed, we want everything we see and buy just what we can, even if we shouldn't do that!. This is GAS and, it's difficult to deal with it.

I recognize that apart of one amp and one guitar and one pedal of each type, everything else  I've got is GAS but, in the particular case of pedals, my move from one to the next one was motivated because I wasn't achieving a good tone with such a pedal.

Did you ever noticed that that pedal that was sounding incredible good and that you loved to death is lately sounding annoying?. If so, maybe you have a voltage issue. Check it.

If I probably knew the real impact of this kind of issues, I would save a BIG amount of money if I'd purchased just a Power Regulator first and, then those pedals I liked more.

First pedals that were sounding incredible nice for me where Mad Professor's ones. But, since (before understanding what was going on with my mains) I was finding myself re-tweaking each pedal several times in same session or, every new session. I was fed up and, decided to move to other maker and, Wampler was my next election. But, once more, I am having same issues. I KNOW those pedals sound awesome, because I'VE ALREADY HEARD them but, I cannot get a consistent tone and, I am tweaking those pedals constantly, what drives me crazy.

The issues seems to be less dramatic with Weehbo pedals, by now but, for sure, I need more time to be convinced on that. Clearly, I need a Power Regulator but, that's a lot of money so... time to Time.   I hope my own (bad) experiences can be of help to you and, I hope that you can save more money than I did, also.

23 June 2013

Pedal Effects: Weehbo PlexDrive and JCM Drive - First impressions


As already said, overdrives and distortions are the pedals that mostly rotate in our pedalboards. We seem satisfied for a while with some and then, there is something else that seems to cover the gaps of our current pedals or, that they seem to do it just a bit or a tad better.

To date, the pedal that left me closer to that Plexi (or early Marshall) sound was the Wampler Plexi Drive and, still works awesome but, all Wampler users are claiming to Wampler the same: "please, give a full tone stack to that pedal to exactly dial the right amount of treble, mid and bass".

Well, I've decided to wait for the next Plexi Drive release but, it doesn't seems to be close in time.

But... in the meanwhile... someone was talking about Weehbo effects. I was curious and, I've checked Youtube demos. I was really impressed with the sound. I thought: "Man, that fills the gaps of the Plexi Drive. They sound really organic. I HAVE TO TEST IT!.

Taking into account that Weehbo is an European firm, we, the european people can celebrate to have an outstanding line of boutique pedals, without having to source them from USA (what means lot of additional expenses in shipping and customs fees).

This blog entry discusses about my own testings with this pedals for about 1 week.

Weehbo PlexDrive and JCM Drive

Both pedals are nailing Marshall tones but, they are covering different types of Marshall vibes.
The PlexDrive is oriented to reproduce the characteristic sonic fingerprint of early Marshall units, as the JTM45 or JTM50 or, even the 1959 (SuperLead).

The tone of most of Rock beasts was built around those amps.
JTM line, with that plexiglas front panel (from where it comes the name), had a very distinctive tone that cutted the mix with authority. Those were low gain to mid gain amps that were pushed harder with the help of some pedals, like the Range Master booster, any kind of vintage fuzz (face fuzz, tone bender, etc) or any kind of treble booster or light overdrive (as the TS-8'08).

So, you should take this into account. The PlexDrive will sound with just that gain level that those amps had and, at its maximum gain level, you will get the same as with a driven Plexi amp. If you want more gain, you should use any thing else before or after (some booster, overdrive, distortion, fuzz).

The JCM Drive has two sides, a JTM side that shares the characteristics of the PlexDrive (even that the PlexDrive sounds to me more accurate) and, a JCM side that covers the original tones of the JCM800 (not hotroded!).

None of both pedals are delivering high gain and, even that the JCM has more gain available, don't expect the gain levels of a hotroded JCM800 or the line of JCM900, by example.

With the PlexDrive, you can easily nail the tone of "Little Wing" or, "The Song remains the same" or many other classic Rock and Hard Rock titles.

With the JCM, is quite easy to get that Deep Purple tones.

Both, stacked, give you a nice and organic Marshall driven sound, nice for leads but, never so compressed and fluid as the sounds you will expect from a Marshall's high gain amp (for that, you have the Weehbo JVM !!!).

Wise Design

Something I've loved from Wampler was that he always gave some additional options to every pedal, that made it as versatile as you would need but, dude, Weehbo goes beyond Wampler boundaries and, does it with spades.

Let's talk first about the INPUT knob. This knob allows you to change the input impedance of the pedal and, therefore, changes the load your pickups see. That translates to the fact that you can use any kind of guitar and any kind of amp without any kind of issues. You can leave rest of control as they are and just to adjust the input knob to suit your rig.
This knob injects the needed guts to your signal and, pushes the pedal in the wanted way.
Play with this knob!. It's key in Weehbo pedals.

Now, let's take tops off, when talking about the DYNAMICS switch.
These pedals are made in a way that your traditional 9V input is being internally increased to 18V.
If you ever checked how a booster or clean overdrive works when operating at 9V or 18V you should now what I mean.
Increasing the Voltage Rail inside the pedal, increases the dynamics of the sound (there is a higher range of voltage to represent different sound levels). So, at 18V, those pedals sound as organic as any tube amp. They really seem the real thing!.

At 9V, the sound is more compressed. Maybe is what you wanted if you are thinking on lead lines but, to my taste those 18V make those pedals to play in another league.

Sure, you can achieve the same with any of your current drive pedals, every time that you feed them with 18V (watch out!, read specifications. Not all pedals allow such an input voltage level). But, to be honest, I've never experienced so much difference as you can hear with Weehbo stuff.
Since Weehbo stuff were designed specifically in that way, they work very differently in each mode and, the dynamics change remembers me the big effect that the Dumping switch has in the Orange Rockerverb 50 amp.

I was browsing the line of Weehbo pedals and, they are mostly covering British sounds, except for a couple of pedals. It seems that Weehbo is just working on the gain pedals area and, even than the Dumbledore is a really good Dumble take (I think I like it more than the Hermida Audio Zendrive or the Wampler Euphoria), I am missing some other kind of pure overdrive unit (a la Timmy or Centaur).

Some of Weehbo pedals have ACTIVE tone stack, which allows you to dramatically change the sound of your guitar and amp and, this is very unusual in pedal makers.
So, I am very excited with Weehbo stuff but, I am missing some basic tools (I hope they will come some early day). I am quite sure, the designer is able to do anything with spades in the drive department.


Well, in most of the Youtube videos I've seen, these pedals are being actually demoed with a Marshall amp!.
Do you want to achieve the Marshall sound in a Marshall?. What's the point, here?.

The first amp where I've run those pedals is the Fender Princeton Reverb reissue I've got.
Nothing more far away than this amp respect of a Marshall signature sound.
The Princeton sounds saggy, darker, a bit compressed and lacks the punchy and crunchy mids of a Marshall. Good for Blues work, not so versatile for rest of things... or it is?.

Well, the Princeton is the hardest of my amps. It takes not so good any pedal and, pedals that shine in my other amps, sound lifeless in the Princeton, maybe because there is no way to regulate the gain at its input (other than use high or low gain inputs). Its sound is so particular that it's hard to "overwrite" with the help of any pedal so... how those Weehbo worked there?.

AWESOME. Enough said.

Instantanely, the Princeton was converted to a family of Marshall amps (depending on pedal settings). It sounds as Marshall as my Marshall 1923C 85th Anniversary Combo (some kind of JCM 2000 DSL50).
For the very first time, those 6V6GT tubes started to seriously cut the mix.

The only thing that worries me is, maybe, an excesive high end content that tends to generate feedback.
I've also noticed this in Youtube videos (looks as Brett Kingman is muting the guitar when detecting that feedback).
I've noticed exactly the same in this amp. There is some ringing high end that tends to generate feedback and, this worries me respect of live gigs.
More on this, I've seen same issue in all Weehbo pedals, according to Youtube videos.

Appart of this issue, pedals sound incredible good, like a real Marshall amp (in an amp that has nothing in common with a Marshall !!!).

To be continued...

I still didn't checked those pedals with all amps and guitars but, tests I did with the Fender Stratocaster and the Charvel San Dimas were really promising.


I've prepared a couple of videos, demoing these two exciting pedals.
First one focus on the PlexDrive and, the second one in the JCM side of the JCM Drive, since the JTM side is close to the PlexDrive. At the end of the second part, I'm testing both pedals stacked together.

20 June 2013

Pedal Effects: MI Audio Neo Fuzz - Test and demo


Note: this entry was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog, around August / 2011. Just revisiting it here.
The Fuzz was the very first pedal effect I had and, I had it just because I've built one myself. This is an effect that accompanies me from the very beginning and therefore, it's very familiar and useful for me.
But, I was so stupid that I thrown to the trashcan my hand-made fuzz (among with another hand-made distortion unit I've also built that time). With the past of time, when I wanted to recover the sound of such a fuzz, none of the multi-effect emulations (Zoom GFX-8, POD X3 Live, etc) and none of the several fuzz pedals I've tried leaved me satisfied.

The closer I went to that sound was with the Hudson Electronics' Stroll On, an expensive clone of the Tone Bender MKII but, cheaper than the D*A*M one and, with a reasonable lead time.

But anyway, the fuzz is a cursed effect. It can sound really good or really ugly, depending on several variables. Fuzz magic depends on a correct election of its set of transistors and a correct biasing of such a set.

In my case, I more interested in Germanium fuzzes and, unfortunately, production of germanium transistors is really inconsistent and, there is some uncontrollable rawness in each one. Just that unpredictable factor is what produces a more musical result (respect of silicon ones), in a similar way as tubes sound more musical than the more technically perfect transistors.

One more turn to the screw, germanium transistors are very sensible to temperature changes and, in extreme conditions can stop to conduct the signal. This obliges you to have to re-bias transistors to bring back the nice sound to the unit.

Another typical issue is related to the interaction between this pedal with every different rig (guitar, pickups, cables, amp and rest of pedals). Early pedals were originally designed for electronic organs and, therefore, the input impedance was established according such a kind of instruments and, that means that is actually very low compared to the needs of an electrical guitar. By example, the Fuzz Face had an input impedance of 1 KOhm, when your amp has an input impedance of 1 MOhm (1000 times higher).

A fuzz works better when it's receiving the direct signal from your guitar, because under such conditions, pickup overload is creating the right sound.
Typically, if you place a modern pedal, with a very low output impedance (below the 1 KOhm that expects the fuzz), the sound of the fuzz will be compromised.
Additionally to all that, depending on the pickup we use (single coil, humbucker, low / medium / high output...) the fuzz sound can radically change.

All these issues, typical in germanium fuzzes, drove me to search for some current alternative, with special interest in to find some fuzz with a certain control of tone and bias and, that can be compatible with the rest of the pedalboard.

And, this quest lead me to the MI Audio Neo Fuzz, which sound liked me in Youtube videos and, which technical specifications seemed to cover all my requisites.

So, in this entry, I will talk about my impressions while testing this interesting and modern unit.


It comes in an anonymous cardboard box, without any kind of logo. Just a simple stick on the upper side identifies the product.
Inside, the pedal comes wrapped in an air-bubble plastic sheet and, you can find a paper sheet with the description of this product and the basic function of its knobs and switches.
There are no example settings but, just some few notes about the function of each knob or switch, to understand how each change contributes to the overall sound.

Most of pedal makers forget to include some example settings that can be of help to get the basics of its pedals, something very interesting when you face any new effect for the very first time.

A second sticker says that this product has a warranty of 5 years!. That talks about the quality that should have such a pedal.

When you open the back cover, you can see a couple of PCB containing the components and, they look really professionally finished (bright soldering, rigid wires, etc...).

The unit is slightly wider than any typical pedal (MXR, Ibanez, Boss, etc), closer to the size of Voodoo Lab pedals.


According to the maker, this fuzz load 3 military NOS germanium transistors, around 30 years old, that were carefully selected (he thrown around 70% of bought transistors).
It seems that this fuzz isn't a clone of a vintage design but, it was designed from scratch, based in a careful analysis of several classic fuzzes, taking into account the issues related to each particular design and, checking how each component contributed to the tone.

Always according to the maker, it seems that his design has a double negative feedback that helps to stabilize the variable behavior of germanium transistors, even with sudden temperature changes.

This pedal works as any effect based on germanium transistors, that is, with the positive grounded. It allows to use an external supply unit, with a typical boss barrel connector with negative center (the standard in pedals, what is nice!). The unit will swap negative and positive internally.

Even that this is a genial idea, you should take into account that you could do that only in the case that you have some power supply with ISOLATED outputs or, if you use a separated power unit just to feed this pedal (among any other with germanium transistors or reversed polarity).
Watch out, you can damage your pedal and / or your supply unit !!!.

I am running it with a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus supply unit, which has isolated outputs so, I have no issues.

Anyway, worn low efficiency batteries are the typical way with fuzzes. That way, they sound the best.

All these characteristics, together with the versatility of its controls and, the fact that this design was made from scratch, with a moderner take but trying to preserve the "vintage tone", is what made me to try once more with another fuzz pedal.



One of the two bigger knobs of this unit. As in any fuzz, it controls the output level of this pedal.


The second big knob. It controls the amount of the fuzz effect applied to the original signal and, it's highly dependent on the rest of controls and, very specially, on Bias and Load settings.

This is control that you don't see externally in fuzzes. If any, they are small trim pots inside the unit that force you to open the back cover, tweak, test, tweak, test.
The Bias controls the sweet spot of its transistors, where they can work more linearly and, where you achieve the best headroom to handle negative and positive signals.
As I mentioned before, this is one of the key characteristics I was looking for, to allow me to comfortably re-bias transistors when needed.

I don't know of any other fuzz having this characteristic.
Load changes the input impedance level, in a way that the pickup sees different load levels. This allows you to adjust the load to different pickups and, to compatibilize this pedal with the rest of your pedalboard.
One more specific characteristic that made me to choose this fuzz.


Most of fuzzes have a tone control that just cuts the highs, throwing them to ground. The Neo Fuzz increases the low end when rolling on to left hand or, increases high end when rolled on to right hand.


One more unusual control in fuzzes. This knob controls the content in Mid frequencies of the sound.
To left hand, it seems to enhance mid-lows while, to right hand it seems to enhance mid-highs.
This control is highly dependent on the Tone knob. If Tone is all they way to left hand, Body hasn't effect.
Tame Switch

This 3-positions switch is the responsible of controlling the higher frequencies content.
In the middle position (off), nothing is being cut and, therefore, you get the brightess (or piercing) sound.
To the left (some), some is being cut, helping to tame the sound of bright guitars or amps.
To the left (lots), the high end is being drastically cut and, it's specially good for bright hi-gain amps.
This control is also highly dependent on the Tone control.


I've tested the fuzz alone, to check what can it do by itself and, to be sure I am getting the best fuzz tones.

Differently to other fuzzes, which they have some spot where they start to sound over-compressed and over-saturated, with excesive hard clipping, the Neo Fuzz was delivering a very dynamic sound, covering all gain levels (from a colored booster to a powerful fuzz) with spades.

Once the Bias was set up, the Load knob allows you to control the body of the effect, so we can achieve very different level of compression in the effect.

The four tone controls help you to achieve barely any kind of fuzz sound you have in mind, from dark and deep tones to bright and cutting trebles.

In some setting, I was achieving a sound very close to an Octavia effect (for a casual!).

Indeed, this is a very versatile fuzz, in the line of the Z.Vex Fuzz Factory but, with an important difference.
While the Fuzz Factory seems to be oriented to achieve "Freaky" effects (apart of the basis tone, that's excellent), the Neo fuzz seems to be oriented to achieve only useful variate sounds, without covering the extremes of the Fuzz Factory.


Following video covers my experience while testing this pedal, in all the combinations that I was able to imagine.
It starts describing the characteristics of the unit, functions of each control and, continues with the step of finding the right Bias spot.
Once the Bias was set up, we check the Load knob and see how the body and overall sound changes.
Then, we go to analyze the several tone controls, seen extreme and middle combinations.
Once all controls were seen, there is a small series of riffs with different random settings, to check more clearly the different voices of this fuzz unit.
I am finishing the video checking the ability to clean the signal when rolling off guitar's volume.

As an additional note, I have to say that changes in tone are more notable in real world. It seems that recording and further audio transformations removed some of the sound nuances and, very specially in the high end zone.

Pedal Effects: Fulltone MDV2 Mini Deja Vibe 2 - Test


Note: this blog entry was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog, around July / 2011. I am just revisiting it here.

The Vibe effect is a cousin of Chorus and Phaser effects. It's an old modulation effect type, that wanted to emulate the behavior of Leslie rotary speakers that were used for electronic organs that time.
Even belonging to same family of effects, the Vibe has its own and distinctive voice and, even that we can go closer with a Phaser, there is no way to get the exact Vibe sound like this.

You can hear this effect with total clarity in "Machine Gun" by Jimi Hendrix, or more subtlety in "Shine on You crazy diamonds" by Pink Floyd and, in most of themes of Robin Trower, by example.
I particularly love this effect.

As happens with most of vintage effects, to find a modern unit having THE SOUND is really complex.
My first try was Roger Mayer's Voodoo Vibe+ (ex Jimi Hendrix tech, among others). Indeed, the Voodoo Vibe is an excellent Vibe unit but, there are a lot of controls to tweak before achieving what you are after.
Also, it's an excellent Studio pedal but, its big size makes it not so comfortable for pedalboard use.

My second try was to look for an smaller unit, with less controls and, I've choosen the Vodooo Lab Micro Vibe, which had just the Chorus side of the Univibe original effect (the side I was interested on, anyway).
To be honest the Micro Vibe sounds to me very dark and, often its being lost in the mix (not the case of the Voodoo Vibe+) and, lacks I-don't-know-what in the sound.

My third try is this Fulltone MDV2 Mini Deja Vibe 2, which I am just discussing in this blog entry.


As usual in Fulltone stuff, the pedal comes in a white cardboard box, with no pics, very anonymous.
Inside, the pedal wrapped in a plastic bag, a couple of paper sheets that are intended to be the "user's manual" and, some sticker to ad Fulltone for free.

This pedal looks like close to any Wah. The rocket is being used to regulate the effect speed and, rest of parameters are controlled with pots and switches.
As the original Univibe, it has two modes: chorus and vibrato and, two sub-modes: modern and vintage.
Mode and sub-mode are selectable with the help of a couple of switches in one side of the pedal.

The Intensity pot regulated the amount of effect that will be blend with the original dry signal. The more intensity the more wet and less dry signals.

The Volume pot is very useful to balance the output level, respect of the input level (something that also has the Voodoo Vibe+ and hasn't the Micro Vibe).

Additionally to this, there are two more trim pots inside, to fine tuning some characteristics (pulse of photocells, by example) but, better to leave stock settings (at least, until you are really familiar with the pedal).

The pedal looks solid and a tad rude, in the line of Fulltone pedals, which seems more interested in the sound than in the look.


Apart from the sound, which probably more differentiates this pedal from others is the possibility to regulate in real time the effect speed with the help of your foot.
Usually, Univibe units allow to link some external expression pedal to do the same (by example, the Voodoo Vibe+).

This is good ... and bad!.

It's very useful to be able to modify the speed in real time and, seems even better if such an expression pedal is already incorporated in the own pedal, as in the case of the MDV2.  This is very interesting to save room in your pedalboard for other effects.

And, now, the bad side. If you have an external expression pedal, you can leave such a pedal in any position (any determined speed) and, when switching on/off the vibe effect, you will have same speed you left there.

The issue with the MDV2 is that, to switch on/off the effect, you should press the switch that is is the rear side of the rocket so, you cannot leave a determined speed, you need to "search" again the right speed when switching on the effect.

More weird even, the switch is of type "momentary off" and, that means that the unit will be switched off if the rocket stays over the switch by weight. The minimum movement of the rocket switches on the effect, what is a real mess.

Respect to sound, I have nothing wrong to say. In fact, it sounds awesome. Indeed, this Vibe effect sounds as it should. Instantaneously Machine Gun tone, complex, deep but, cutting the mix.


From the sonical point of view, it's barely perfect.
From the operational point of view, I don't like how Fulltone solved the speed regulation and switching system. To me, this should be fixed to make it really usable.


Following video isn't exclusively dedicated to such a pedal but, to its function integrated in my pedalboard and, therefore, will not explore the whole possibilities of this pedal but, can be of help to get the overall sound of this Vibe effect.

14 June 2013

Accessories: Phonic PPC9000E Power Conditioner - Test


Note: This entry was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog, around July / 2011. I am just revisiting it here.
Amps and rest of studio gear are delicate electronics devices, that you should protect against irregularities in your mains source. Even that the standard for Power Conditioners in Audio seems to be Furman, their prices seem to be as really high for such a kind of device.

For a correct protections, just a Power Conditioner isn't enough. We need a Power Regulator also. Both should have some kind of transformer inside that can physically decouple the ground of our mains from the ground of our gear, to clean up a dirty ground.

Browsing an online store, my first impulse was to buy a Samson unit (a brand with some reputation and excellent relation quality / price but, absolutely forgotten by everybody) but, there were nothing in stock.
So, in the range of affordable power conditioners, I've found this Phonic PPC9000E, that has a Voltmeter and 3 protection levels, typical in this kind of devices and, very similar to those that Furman offers.

My goals

Far from thinking that this device could remove the noise in my signal, my goals were:
  • To really know which voltage is reaching my amps (I was suspecting something wrong there)
  • To protect amps and pedalboards from the common dangerous electrical alterations.
A bad Voltage can make amps to work below of over their possibilities, affecting the tone.
In such a case, best is to have some Voltage Regulator device (instead of a Power Conditioner), which will deliver a stable and filtered mains but, their price is really high and, maybe is a better idea to use some kind of UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply), with a nice capacity (between 5 and 10 KVA), not being so necessary to support a long offline time (running from batteries). But, UPS world is still more complex than expected.

Recently, I had seen a worker from the electrical company that was making changes to the electrical lines because, it seems that some neighbor was claiming about not having voltage enough at home.
That made me to think about, which quality of mains did I had.
So, I've expected that the voltmeter of this device would inform me about any irregularity in my voltage source.

I've decided to go for this unit because of two reasons.
First, the price. If it didn't worked at the end, I had wasted not so much money and, if it worked fine, I would save a lot of money.
Second, I've already have something else of this brand. I have a SPL Meter also by Phonic and, it looks a good device to me, with quality enough and nicely working.


The unit comes packet in a cardboard box, commonly protected, as any kind of consume domestic electronics device. Inside also, an User's Manual in English, Chinese and Spanish.

It looks like solid and with an standard quality. It has not that "cheap Chinese" look. Seems as good as any other of my home's devices.

It has 10 output plugs, of the same type of those that we usually see in PC's monitors, videos, TV sets, etc. Those outputs are protected and, you activate them by pushing a frontal switch.
Additionally to those 10 protected outputs, there is one more output in the front, unprotected.

This device supports a maximum current of 10 Amps, situation that forces the device to shutdown, until we re-arm the device, with the corresponding frontal switch.

The device takes the room of 1U Rack and, can be inserted in any Studio Rack.
It has a couple of telescopic lamps (included), that can be lighted on via one more frontal switch and, which intensity can be regulated with a potentiometer.

In my case, the unit is laying over a 4x12" speakers cab, feeding all amps and pedals.

Since the plugs aren't compatible with amp's plugs, I had to source some aerial adaptor cables, to connect everything there.

The front has a set of leds in three colors. Red for very low voltage levels, yellow for values between 210 and 220 and, green for values between 220 and 250 and, red again over 250V.
The accuracy of the voltmeter is of +/- 2V, more than enough.

The device is being plugged to any wall socket of your mains and, you connect each one of the gear to protect to any of the 10 available outputs. You switch on the switch to activate the filtering and, everything works transparently.

It was very curious to see how my mains voltage varies, constantly. Without going below 220V, there are very frequent oscillations between 220V and 240V.

What I am missing is a general switch. The voltmeter is always working, as soon as the device continues plugged to your wall socket so, to avoid any energy consumption you should unplug the device. Weird.

Till today, the protection circuit never jumped and, at least, I can see how consistent is the voltage I am receiving at home and, it's ok by now (I had doubts).

What I never imagined is that this device, that has not a system to decouple the ground, could clean the sound in any single way. Surprisingly, the sound of some engines (freezer, ...) that were inducing some noise in my amps seems to be over and, the pedal board, overall works more quietly.

Even that the manual specifies that it cleans the noise, in very different degrees, depending on the frequency ranges, I wasn't expecting a real change but, surprisingly, it seems to do something good.


A nice purchasing, considering performance, quality and price.
If you talk to some electronics guy, he would probably agree that Furman' stuff is highly overpriced and, there are some other cheaper alternatives of quality at lower prices, that correspond to well known brands in the industrial sector but, probably unknown for musicians.

If you wanted a best protection and a higher attenuation of electrical noises, you should go for a Power Regulator or an UPS, with a transformer that could decouple your mains ground from your gears' ground.

The equivalent of the Phonic PPC9000E in Furman is the model PL-PLUS CE. While the Phonic costs 85 Eur, the Furman costs 338 Eur (a huge difference !!!).
Samson had a device very similar to that PPC9000E but, with an slightly higher price.

Related to a Power Regulator, Furman has the model P-1400 AR E, that costs around 1125 Eur.
I am quite sure that you could find Power Regulators with similar characteristics in the industry, at lower prices but, even an UPS of between 5 to 10 KVA could be a good solution. You don't need a long batteries time, because you don't want to close a Server, you just want a consistent voltage, a good filtering and a right protection, that's all.

Update July,  17th 2011

Today, I've chased the ghost!.
As ever, I had reviewed the setting of every pedal and amp before starting my practices.
Everything was sounding great and, I was enjoying like a mad... until that, after one hour, more or less, I've noticed that everything started to sound thin, hollow, lifeless.
I thought: "what a strange, I don't feel tired, I am not bored but, this isn't sounding any good... are my ears or what?".
I've turn my head and saw that the Voltmeter was in the Red area!. I had a voltage below 200V!.

So, finally, my suspects were right. I've noticed that some days the gear was sounding awesome, while others every was sounding really bad and, none of my settings seemed to work.
Well, after this, I have arguments enough to claim to my power company, because they gave me a bad line and my gear suffers their lack of quality.

Also, a friend of mine went to my home and, he was surprised saying that everything was sounding really quiet and, asking me what I did. I've introduced him that Phonic unit and said: "this little boy, for 83 Eur is doing the job!".

Absolutely satisfied with this unit.