This is the 4th of my recent ’12 Degrees’ Series - this time moving beyond the boundaries of gain / saturation into the area of modulation. There are of course many more than the 12 modulations I have selected here - there are aliasing, ring modulation and lo-fi signal degeneration effects as well as more complex multi-combo effects, splicers and complex pattern modulators - including for instance the excellent recent Big Ear Albie. Of course the more obscure the category of modulation - the fewer the suitable candidates and alternatives. So these are the 12 that most appeal to me, that I use in my pedal-chain - and that I indeed actively look out for examples of.
Interestingly you can also see a total match-up of categories for my favourite Digital Multi-Modulator Workstations - the GFI Synesthesia and Wampler Terraform - they have their Algorithm Selections spot on - while other workstations happen to be missing a couple or few of my favourites.
As always, this is a fluid process - and when initially compiling this overview, I wasn’t aware of the new JAM Pedals Harmonious Monk 2-Speed Harmonic Tremolo. Now that I’ve heard Mick demo it - it’s at the top of my list for next Tremolo to acquire!
So likely I’ve missed out / overlooked one or two essentials here - or perhaps I just have different preferences. As with the various 12 Degrees of Saturation roundups - I feel this is a pretty rounded and representative overview of the best of what’s currently available in Compact and Mini format - and hopefully you will find something too here which appeals to you, or which you weren’t previously or particularly aware of!
These are my 12 favourite Modulation categories as featured here :
Again we have a lot of the usual suspects here and not atypical numbers for Brands or Countries either. Obviously there are not that many salient candidates in the Dimension category - which means we're a couple here off having a full house. There will likely be some healthy debate about some of my choices and omissions - while I feel that most of the obvious ones are present and correct.
So a decent 74 pedals overall.
Diversity is fairly decent again - with 45 different individual brands although from not too many countries. America as always dominates - while Japan, China and Greece are well represented here too.
It's evident that I'm a Boss, Chase Bliss Audio and Mooer fan with several candidates being provide by those leading brands. No single brand here though has potential candidates for every category - there are usually some distinct specialisations. And distinct brand leaders for Chorus, Dimension, Flanger, and Phaser in particular. I don't always favour the brand leaders though as other brands often do more interesting things with the format.
The Grandaddy here is obviously Boss's original SG-1 Slow Gear pedal from 1979 - I've often predicted that as a likely Waza Craft candidate - while I'm not so sure it will ever happen now. TC Electronic have made a decent stab at it with their Crescendo B-line pedal, while for me I would probably be looking to track down a Malekko Sneak Attack or VFE Bumblebee some day.
I actually have a the Volume Swell on a number of my workstation pedals - where it's often a flavour of reverb for instance. So I already have solutions within my armoury - but I would quite like to pin down a more dedicated Auto-Swell pedal at some stage - but there needs to be something a little more about it. Note that Guyatone also had the pretty decent SVm5 Mighty Micro Slow Volume Swell from back in the day.
For Mini pedals it's between the Mooer Slow Engine and Outlaw Later Riser - when in doubt I always go for the Mooer - I have several of those, and they're usually pretty decent, and some are actually rather surprisingly good.
Here are the preferred Auto-Swell candidates :
For me this often goes hand-in-hand with Filter type pedals - and there is some degree of overlap, while there are also distinct pedals in each category. Sometimes the separation is rather arbitrary, while I stand by my selections here. The one Auto-Wah pedal I own in this category is the Custom Shop CryBaby Q-Zone Fixed Wah - and I've still to get ANO from the Boss AW-3 Dynamic Wah, Mad Professor Snow White AutoWah - or possibly even the brand new Tone City Funny Boy Auto Wah.
There are certainly plenty of candidates to pick from - Boss's AW-2, AW-3 or TW-1 even. I love my full-featured CryBaby Q-Zone, but have long had the Snow White AutoWah on my wishlist. CKK's Q Cat is also decent, as is Lovepedal's Organic Grooves and the aforementioned recently released Toney City Funny Boy. Daredevil Pedals also have the Atomic Cock Wah, Guyatone the WR6 Auto Wah, Ibanez the AW7 Auto Wah, Maxon the AF-9 Auto-Filter Auto Wah, and Sizzorfite the Studio Duck Duck Auto Wah.
Preferred Auto-Wah candidates :
I've obviously just recently completed a roundup of Compact Bitcrusher pedals and here sit my favourites from that overview. All those listed are on my wishlist bar the Dr Scientist BitQuest which I already have. My likeliest next additions here are the Catalinbread Heliotrope and Electro-Harmonix Mainframe. To be honest I like the look of the Alexander Syntax Error too and WMD Geiger Counter CI.
Other notables are the AC Noises Ama V2, Analog Music Company & Noise Space Audio DS-1 Evil Pumpkin Mod, Iron Ether FrantaBit, Malekko Scrutator, and PLBR Effects Pizzacrusher which I also have.
There wasn't much in the way of a Mini selection - obvious shoe-in here is the Mooer LoFi Machine.
Preferred candidates ;
This is another category where historically Boss / Roland has reigned supreme - but there are a lot of really great alternatives. I keep meaning to snag a CE-2W - it will for sure happen one day soon as I consider that an essential - while my mainstays in this area have been the Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl, and VS Audio Alchemy more recently. I really like all the selection here - and will likely get a Walrus Julianna next, the JHS Emperor and probably the PastFx Chorus Ensemble Mini. And then the Zvex Instant Lo-fi Junky Vertical Yvette Young Limited Edition, whenever and if I can get my hands on one.
There's lots of competition for Mini Chorus - Ibanez Analog Chorus Mini. Mooer Ensemble King Analog Chorus. Mr Black Mini Vintage Chorus, OneControl Little Copper Chorus, and TC Electronic Corona Chorus Mini. This category was really between the Ibanez and Mr Black for me - and I went with the Ibanez in the end - which I would also quite like to add to the collection.
There's no shortage of really decent alternatives in this category - per my recent Compact Chorus Overview - which came a little before the Julianna release if you're wondering why that's missing from that overview. The Analog.Man Mini Analog Chorus is also excellent, along with the EarthQuaker Devices Sea Machine, Electro-Harmonix EDDY Chorus/Vibrato with Enveloper Filter, JAM Pedals Waterfall, Lichtlaerm Trugbild, Mad Professor Double Moon, MXR M234 Analog BBD Chorus, Neunaber Inspire Tri-Chorus Plus V2, Paradox Effects Futura, and VFE Choral Reef.
Preferred candidates :
This is another category that Boss owns really courtesy of its original Analog DC-2 and DC-2W pedals and Digital DC-3 Digital Space D pedal, and Roland Dimension D Digital Rack Unit. TC Electronic does a decent take with its B-line 3rd Dimensions Chorus, while I've also included the not too dissimilar TC Electronic Juno 60 Chorus.
I will also mention the Behringer CC300 and CD400 Space C/D respectively - while ethics prevent me from publicising or promoting them. There's only one pedal here on my wishlist - the DC-2W, which I had aimed to get this year along with a CE-2W - but there was just too much else fighting for my attention. And I went with the VS Audio Alchemy Chorus instead this year which kind of carries a flavour of this too - for sure the two classic Chorus Pedals will happen soon / eventually. The Dimension algorithm is sort of a phasey dual-path chorus with modulation in opposite directions simultaneously. It's most well known as the Prince Purple Rain intro effect.
One Control makes the Dimension Blue Monger Mini - which is not exactly the same thing, but is still a phasey modulating chorus.
Preferred Candidates :
This is another category that I've covered in part this year - and in fact I updated my #4 slot from the Mu-Tron Micro-Tron III to the recent Dr Scientist Dusk Dynamic Filter. I fully intend to get the Flower Pedals Hosta too - that is somewhat next on the list alongside the slightly larger BB-size Spaceman Effects Artemis Variable-State Filter.
There are lots of decent candidates for this category - including all those listed - like the Pigtronix Resotron and Source Audio Spectrum Intelligent Filter. Also in this category are the Analog.Man Block Logo Envelope Filter, DigiTech Synth Wah Envelope Filter, Earthquaker Devices Spatial Delivery, FTelettronica Envelope Filter, Function F(x) Accufunkture, Keeley Neutrino, Mojo Hand FX Little Wonder, Mr. Black FwonkBeta, Seamoon Funk Machine, SolidGloldFX Funk-Lite, TWA Wah Rocker, and VFE Mini Mu Filter.
For the Mini Filter - it's between the F-Pedals Punkmonk, Function F(x) Accufunkture Mini, Menatone Mail Bomb Mini, and Mooer 'Envelope' Filter Mini. My choice here is the Jr Accifunkture in that appealing red metallic enclosure - with proper milled alumimium knobs.
Preferred Candidates :
Flanger is probably my favourite current modulation - actually I really love my core analog quartet of Harmonic Tremolo, Chorus, Flanger and Phaser - where it's the sort of BB-size ThorpyFX Camoflange which is very much my current Flanger of choice. I have 3 in this highlighted listing - Boss BF-2, Chase Bliss Audio Spectre, and the A/DA PBF Flanger. I fully intend to get the excellent and recently revamped Retro-Sonic Flanger and Subdecay Starlight at some stage too.
Others I've been eyeing up include the Alexander Pedals F-13 Neo, Catalinbread Zero Point, DigiTech Nautila, Old Blood Noise Endeavors Flat Light, and TC Electronic Vortex Flanger.
For Minis there's actually some healthy competition between the Ibanez Mini Flanger, Mooer E-Lady, Mooer Jet Engine Multi Flanger, Mr Black Mini Flanger, and TC Electronic Vortex Mini. I was leaning towards the Ibanez at one stage, but came back to the already classic Mooer E-Lady in the end - Dan Steinhardt uses that on his board occasionally - which is about as good an endorsement as you could wish for.
Preferred Candidates :
I think this is the category I own the most examples of here - with 5 of the featured candidates in my collection - CBA Wombtone, CTC Cyclone, Alexander La Calavera, Boss PH-1R, and MXR Phase 95 Mini. I'd quite like the Mu-Tron Phasor here and Subdecay Quasar, but by and well I have good overage for now - I also own the rather more vibey - Zvex Vibrophase.
Other notable candidates include - the MXR Phase 99 Stereo Phaser, Native Audio Midnight Phaser V2, TC Electronic Helix, Vein-Tap Dark Arts, VFE Enterprise, and Walrus Audio Lillian.
For the Minis it's a 3-way between Malekko Omicron Phase Shifter, Mooer Ninety Orange, and the MXR Phase 95. The last mentioned being the obvious shoe-in. In fact with MXR being the heritage Phaser brand - the Phase 95, and Phase 99 are my favourite varieties over the classic 90 and 45.
Preferred Candidates :
The Leslie / Rotary effect is rather under-represented at the compact enclosure size - with all the leading candidates being in medium-sized enclosures and with proper stereo output. For me Stereo is pretty much essential for a decent Rotary sound - while only 2 of the selection are properly that. I personally have the DigiTech Ventura Vibe - which isn't quite syrupy or rich enough for my taste - but will suit those wet who want more of a subtle flavour. DigiTech provides both the stereo examples here with the Ventura and Hardwire TR-7. Neo Instrument is famous for its big and mid-size Vent boxes, and these mono variants get you close - but lack the stereo ambience. Same goes for the Keeley Roto Sonic and Mooer Soul Shiver. I feel there is plenty of scope here for a better compact stereo variant with a full set of controls.
There's no shortage of Rotary alternatives - just none of them are full-frequency stereo. They include the Alexander Chesapeake, Danelectro DBK1 Billionaire Big Spender, Dr. Scientist Mini Reverberator, Keeley Dyno My Roto, and TC Electronic B-line Vibraclone Rotary.
What I would really like to see in a compact Rotary pedal is the trifecta of Rotary Footswitch functions - Fast / Slow / Brake courtesy of a second footswitch - and with proper stereo input and output!
I could only really find one proper Mini Rotary equivalent - Mooer to the rescue again with its Soul Shiver!
Preferred candidates :
Tremolo is an interesting category in its being split into more classic amp-style Amplitude Tremolo and the more vibey Harmonic Tremolo - I felt it important to include both. And at the head of the more conventional group is the fantastic Stone Deaf Tremotron Dual Tremolo, followed by the Sentimental Bob Tacana, Native Audio Rising Sun, Coda Effects Montagne, and Subdecay TremCoder.
There are plenty of other alternatives - Anasounds FX Teacher Sliver, Boss TR-2, Copilot FX Polypus, Dr Scientist Tremolessence, EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird, Hamstead Soundworks Signature Tremolo, JHS Kodiak, Magnetic Audio Electrochop, Malekko Goatkeeper, Matthews Effects The Conductor, Suhr Jack Rabbit, TC Electronic Pipeline, and VFE Old School Tremolo.
There's a whole lot of competition for the Mini Tremolo too - including F-Pedals Tremelon Mini Tremolo, Ibanez Mini Tremolo, JHS Tidewater, Malekko Onicron Mini Analog Tremolo, Mooer Trelicopter, Mooer Triangolo Tremolo, MXR M305 6-Mode Tremolo, OneControl Tiger Lily Tremolo Mini, Tone City Tremble Tremolo, and Xvive V16 Undulator Mini Tremolo. The Ibanez ended up as the principal mini choice here.
Preferred candidates :
There are actually a lot more Harmonic candidates nowadays as there has been something of a trend of late. I always prefer my main Tremolo to be a Harmonic type - formerly the CBA Gravitas, current Anasounds Ages, and in the very near future will for sure be the JAM Pedals yet to be released Harmonious Monk - which Mick Taylor of TPS fame has though teased a couple of times. The best Harmonic Tremolos give you a slightly syrupy Uni-Vibe flavour - and the forthcoming Jam Pedals does just that - sounds stellar from the demos I've heard, and is a likely shoe-in for my next Tremolo.
Other candidates include the fantastic Stereo Swindler Effects Red Mountain, Walrus Audio Monument and Flower Pedals Dandelion. Also EarthQuaker Devices Night Wire, Korora Audio Merlo, Subdecay Vagabond, Source Audio Vertigo, and of course Supro's well respected Harmonic Tremolo.
As far as I am aware there is only the Mr Black Mini Tremolo which is of a Harmonic Type at that enclosure size.
Preferred candidates :
Uni-Vibe is similar to the Rotary category in that a lot of the class-leaders are slightly larger in size - or medium and large enclosures typically - that doesn't mean there aren't some great examples in the compact domain too - and the first 3 listed in particular are particularly well regarded - the JHS Unicorn which I have, the DryBell Vibe Machine, and and Dawner Prince Viberator.
I obviously typically go for tap-tempo or multi-speed varieties - which can be seen by most of my principal choices within this overall roundup - and I feel it's a somewhat neglected area in that only the JHS Unicorn has tap-tempo at this size. That said there are a number of decent alternatives at this size - Lovepedal Vibronaut, TC Electronic Viscous Vibe, DigiTech Ventura Vibe (again), Dunlop / MXR JHM7 Jimi Hendrix Uni-Vibe, and EarthQuaker Devices The Depths amongst them.
For Mini choice it's really between the Dunlop / MXR JHW3 '69 Psych Series Uni-Vibe, Lovepedal Pickle Vibe Mini, and NUX NCH-1 Monterey Mini Vibe. I have no reason to look beyond the really cool recent Mini Hendrix '69 Psych Series - and that's kind of the logical choice here.
Preferred candidates :
My first proper modulation box was the Strymon Mobius, to which I first added my sole stand-alone modulation effect then - analog harmonic tremolo - courtesy of the Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas. I so much liked the Gravitas that I acquired all 4 Chase Bliss Audio Analog Modulation pedals - with the addition of Spectre Flanger, Warped Vinyl Chorus/Vibrato and Wombtone Phaser.
Next I added the Tech 21 NYC RotoChoir as my preferred version of that effect (medium box), and then lastly the JHS Unicorn Uni-Vibe. At a maximum I've had 6 mostly analog stand-alone modulation pedals, ahead of my digital multi-modulator - which as mentioned started as the Strymon Mobius, then Boss MD-500, then Empress Zoia, then GFI Synesthesia, and currently in that role is actually the new Boss GT-1000 CORE.
At the most I've had 6 stand-alone modulations in my chain in the order - Chorus, Flanger, Harmonic-Tremolo, Phaser, Uni-Vibe, and Rotary. Right now my 4 stand-alone Modulations are the VS Audio Alchemy, ThorpyFX Camoflange, Anasounds Ages Harmonic Tremolo, and Crazy Tube Circuits Cyclone Phaser. The Boss CORE is on Uni-Vibe duties, and Rotary is provided by my Eventide H9 - Josh Smith settings! I still retain all my pedals - and the Chase Bliss Audio quartet in whole or in part still get a rotation every now and again and may even return in full again some day.
Right at the head of my own Modulation wishlist/acquisitions list is the very imminent JAM Pedals Harmonious Monk Harmonic Tremolo which rumour has it will be launched via the TPS Site / Store on Friday 11th. I have heard a couple of Mick Taylor demos now and it sounds like exactly my sort of thing for that role - so that is definitely the next modulation and Tremolo pedal to be added.
For Auto-Swell I have a number of workstation pedal algorithms / voicings that do that sort of thing - I'm not actively seeking a stand-alone solution - I would of course grab a Waza Craft Slow Gear if that every materialised - otherwise I'm really waiting for some slightly more clever / innovative dual-footswitch execution!
For me there is a lot of overlap between Auto-Wah and the various Filter pedals - where for that combined category my next intended acquisition is the Flower Pedals Hosta or Spaceman Artemis. For now I'm more than satisfied with the CryBaby Q-Zone and Dr Scientist Dusk in those respective roles.
For Bitcrusher I actually like all of that featured listing really - and I for sure intend to get the discontinued Catalinbreda Heliotrope next, probably followed by the EHX Mainframe.
There's a number of Choruses I still want - I still have to pin down that Boss pair of CE-2W and DC-2W which was supposed to happen this year, and I also want one or more from the new Walrus Audio Julianna, the JHS Emperor, Paradox Effects Futura, Past Effects Chorus Ensemble, and the Yvette Young edition of Zvez Instant Lo-Fi Junky - so probably a few years to land all of those.
I'm more than happy with the Thorpy Camoflange, which I still consider best in class, and that will surely remain my favourite for pretty much forever - I have though earmarked a Retro-Sonic Flanger for acquisition too - with its further enhancements recently to its high frequency response.
For Phaser I'm very well covered already - but do kind of want a Mu-Tron Phasor too.
For Rotary I'm waiting for a dual-footswitch compact edition with stereo outputs and that embodies the Fast / Slow / Brake functionality onboard - I'm looking at you Josh Scott! You can make it happen!
There's lots of Tremolo pedals on the wishlist - including pretty much all the ones featured here that I have yet to acquire - the JAM Pedals Harmonious Monk is definitely the next in the collection though and will be taking over duties from the Anasounds Ages.
For Uni-Vibe I've long shared my admiration for the DryBell Vibe Machine and Dawner Prince Viberator - while I'm still holding out for updated versions with tap-tempo onboard - or at least a slow/fast speed alternative via second footswitch.
Where I am currently in my pedal-chain formation, I limit my stand-alone Modulations mostly to 4. I will on occasion switch out the #33 slot for Uni-Vibe - while I'm broadly satisfied with the Rotary variety Josh Smith edition - on the Eventide H9. The Boss GT-1000 CORE is really mostly a Multi-Modulator for me and provides interesting deviations and other flavours of modulation not adequately covered by the H9 or stand-alone pedals!
Mind also that while I acknowledge and revere the original classics - I don't always go for the most 'authentic' varieties necessarily!
What are your own favourite modulations? And what's next on your wishlist?