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2019 Pedal-Chain Musings and Experiments

Analog.ManAnarchy AudioBig Muff Style FuzzBlues Driver Style OverdriveBoostBoost and OverdriveBossChase Bliss AudioChorus and VibratoCoda EffectsDecibelicsDelayDistortionDouble TrackingDriveEarthQuaker DevicesEmpress EffectsFlangerFuzzGlitchMetal DistortionModulationModulation WorkstationOverdrivePedalboard and Pedal-ChainPhaserPladask ElektriskREVV AmplificationTC ElectronicToneQuestTremoloTrue North PedalsUni-Vibe and VibeZvex+-
2019GPXSKSignalChainMkI700-min.jpg

At the end of 2018 / beginning of 2019 - I start thinking ahead for the year and considering what pedals I would like to swap-out or rotate-in on my pedal-chain. The long-awaited Empress Effects Zoia did not materialise in 2018, and is now expected as one of the major Winter NAMM launches - I see that as being one of two larger (monetary) acquisitions in the year - along with the Line 6 HX Stomp. I kind of did not figure out the HX Stomp until fairly recently really, where I have deemed it to be an excellent alternative / swap-out for the Boss MD-500 / Strymon Mobius slot (#34) - offering no less than 82! different modulation style algorithms / modes.

 

Instead of featuring ever single slot as I have in the past, I will focus only on those slots where I am thinking of making changes. Green outlines signify pedals already acquired and mostly in place in the chain already (although I am still waiting for some of those to arrive), while orange outlines indicate pedals that I’m considering getting - those will likely all be in place by the end of the year - the overall priority of actions has not been settled yet.

 

In the first row - the usual Fuzz rotation slot - #5 has the Anarchy Audio Baa Bzz Fuzz in almost permanent residence - although I do rotate in others like the Spaceman Sputnik 1 fairly regularly - otherwise I’m very happy with all those pedals - including the relatively recently arrived Jackson Audio Bloom Compressor, EQ & Boost in slot #7.


The second row sees 3 changes - with the Coda Effects Black Hole (Sunn Model T clone) temporarily subbing for the Ethos TWE-1 in slot #12. Surprisingly, the Analog.Man King of Tone JHS 4-Star Mod (externalised switches and trimmers) is now mostly pride of place in slot #14 - subbing for the semi-permanent Origin Effects RevivalDrive Custom - while my new BYOC Crown Jewel and Empress Effects Multidrive, Hudson Electronics Dual Broadcast and Beetronics Royal Jelly etc. also get rotation in this slot. Finally, I’ve decided to accommodate Sheldon Ens’ True North Tweed Drive in place of one of my perennial favourites - Dr Scientist’s The Elements - I will most likely rotate those fairly frequently as The Elements is still one of my all-time favourites.

 

In the third row - slot #19 sees a lot of rotation as always - and while the Ayahuasca Trem-Fuzz has sort of taken up semi-permanent residence of a sorts, there is nevertheless quite a lot of rotation that goes on here - with the Coda Effects Dolmen Fuzz being the one about to enjoy a reasonable innings. Slot #22 will likely still be 99% of the time occupied by the Alchemy-modded SL-Drive, but I will also be rotating in Guillem Vilademunt’s Decibelics Angry Swede (HM-2 Clone) when it materialises in the forthcoming weeks. I’ve also had the new Abasi Pathos (Wampler collaboration) in slot #23 - but will be rotating the REVV G3 back in once its sibling G4 arrives from Canada!

 

Row 4 will most likely see the most action as such over the year, although this will of course be phased in in stages. The REVV G4 has already been ordered and will take over the former Diezel VH4-2 slot which is right now occupied by the Wampler Triple Wreck- obviously the G4 provides a much more compact footprint to allow for some of the larger pedals coming into row 4. I’ve had to move things around somewhat because of stereo routing - with one additional stereo pedal introduced while the dedicated rotary effect - the Tech 21 Roto Choir is now retired for a time - I find myself using the H9 mostly for that effect in any case - in real terms, it is the Pladask Elektrisk Fabrikat that knocks out the Roto Choir. I already mentioned that I would sub the Chase Bliss Spectre with the EQD Pyramids Stereo Flanger, and the Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl gets subbed by Boss’s recent Dimension C Waza. I’m also considering rotating out the Chase Bliss Wombtone momentarily for the Zvex Vibrophase. Finally, and as already mentioned - the #34 Boss MD-500 / Strymon Mobius slot will be taken up by Line 6’s highly versatile HX Stomp - which will become my Modulation Workstation of choice as such, but offers a lot more besides.

 

In the final row I’m still waiting for the Empress Effects Zoia to materialise now for the re-arranged slot #36 - as I’ve brought the TC Electronic Mimiq Doubler forward to slot #35 as it was having adverse impact on stereo panning effects (delays in particular) - it is much better suited in its current position.

 

Of course Winter NAMM is just around the corner so some of this will likely change / be impacted with other new arrivals I’m not aware of or may have overlooked somehow. The forthcoming Neunaber Neuron Overdrive/Distortion pedal looks really interesting too - and there are of course a myriad of other pedals still on the wishlist - including still a few fuzzes. Generally though 2019 will be typified as a more experimental year where I will be acquiring a few more Glitchy and specialist pedals and looking to integrate those somehow within the chain - including most likely the Drolo Molecular Disruptor and MWFX Judder - possibly even an Hexe reVOLVER too - it’s all fairly nebulous at the moment.


Slot #5 : Anarchy Audio Baa Bzz Fuzz - c£122 (via PedalEmpire.com.au)

I really love big bold singing saturated fuzzes and this is a great example of one of those - I believe it is an Integrated Circuit rather than specifically transistor based - but it works really well near the start of the chain - as seen to great effect on That Pedal Show. The other major player in this slot is the Spaceman Sputnik I along with all my other Germanium-type fuzzes which include recent acquisitions - Big Joe Freakshow Fuzz and Tone Mob Model 001.


Slot #12 : Coda Effects Black Hole - c£165 (from Coda-Effects.com)

This Sunn Model T clone is taking up temporary residence in slot #12 in place of the more customary and much-loved Custom Tones Ethos TWE-1. I have lots of other temporary swap-outs here too - like the Bogner Burnley and Wessex, Bearfoot FX Model Hs, Mad Professor Golden Cello and Simble, Sinvertek No.5 Distortion and Wampler Euphoria - oh an I will also be getting the Demon Pedals Kondo Shifuku which will likely become my Dumble-style pedal of choice!


Slot #14 : Analog.Man King of Tone JHS 4-Star Mod - c£450 (via Reverb.com)

When I acquired the Origin Effects RevivalDrive Custom, I thought nothing would dislodge it, and once I acquired the Wampler Pantheon - I initially though that the be-all of Bluesbreaker clones, yet the King of Tone is obviously a very special pedal - and particularly in this rare JHS modded edition which externalises the various internal dip-switches and trim-pots for incredibly versatility. Unlike the RevivalDrive you can very usefully stack the two Channels here and vary the channel profile - Boost/Overdrive/Distortion very easily by way of the now external controls. On this slot I also have the recently acquired sonic blue BYOC Crown Jewel Drive/Distortion, as well as Empress Effects MultiDrive, Beetronics Royal Jelly, Electron Analog Drive, Hudson Electronics Dual Broadcast, OBNE Alpha Haunt and Rainger FX Dr Freakenstein Fuzz to name a few! I may still acquire the excellent True Tone Jekyll & Hyde for some-time rotation here too.


Slot #16 : True North Tweed Drive - c£180 (from TrueNorthPedals.ca)

I've decided to rotate in Sheldon Ens' excellent Tweed Drive pedal here - in place of my usual favourite Dr Scientist The Elements - which still really owns this slot as such. Other pedals on occasional rotation here include the Bogner Burnley, Keeley Filaments and Subdecay Vector, while I still intend on acquiring the JHS Kilt and Wampler Sovereign too at some stage for further rotation.


Slot #19 : Coda Effects Dolmen Fuzz - c£175 (from Coda-Effects.com)

A second appearance from a Coda Effects pedal - whose Montagne tap-tempo Tremolo is also very decent, in any case #19 is my most rotated slot - and bar some of the more odder fuzzes and 'Rats', sees the appearance / rotation of all my various IC, OpAmp and Silicon Fuzzes - of which there are myriads - all the modded EHX Muffs for instance, while this slot has been heavily occupied by the Ayahuasca Trem-Fuzz and Jacques Bat Fuzz of late.


Slot #22 : Decibelics Angry Swede - c£195 (Estd. forthcoming via Reverb.com)

The Alchemy-modded Xotic SL Drive pretty much owns this slot - but I will be making an accommodation for Decibelics' forthcoming Angry Swede HM-2 clone when that materialises sometime in the next few weeks or so. I have a number of mini Drive, Fuzz and Distortion pedals, and most of them would be rotated into this slot. I keep meaning to get the recent Suhr Minis too - the Riot and Shiba Drive - which would also be rotated in on this particular slot. Pedal not out yet - no video available therefore!


Slot #26 : REVV G4 Distortion - c£205 (from REVVAmplification.com)

This has been the Diezel VH4-2 slot for the longest time, which I've decided eventually is really too large a pedal for my current pedal-chain. Right now I have the Wampler Triple Wreck occupying this slot, but feel it will inhabit generally more compact pedals in the future - such as Metal Zones and the forthcoming REVV G4 which I have pre-ordered. I also still really like the RockFabrik Mind Abuse and will likely get that eventually, while I've decided I likely won't be getting the Diezel Herbert now because of its over-large footprint, not sure it really needs to be so big!


Slot #29 : Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas - £299

So the pedal hasn't really changed, rather the slot assignment as incoming pedals have meant some re-arrangement is required. The Gravitas is still my favourite Tremolo, followed by the Stone Deaf Tremotron and Alchemy-modded Boss TR-2 - I've considered a Swindler Effects Stereo Red Mountain Tremolo, but don't feel I really need another Tremolo at the moment - but if I was considering one - I might pick up the Mastro Valvola LFO.


Slot #30 : Zvex Vibrophase - £198

I still reckon the tap-tempo Chase Bliss Wombtone will be my perennial favourite here, but I've decided to rotate in this rather tasty Zvex effort. I still have the Alexander La Calavera, Boss PH-1R and MXR Phase 95 Mini too - don't really need any more phasers after this. The Vibrophase is quite distinctive though and gives you a sort of mix of uni-vibe and phasey textures.


Slot #31 : Pladask Elektrisk Fabrikat Granular Synthesizer / Glitch Machine - $300/c£236

This has ousted the incumbent 'Rotary Slot' or Tech 21 NYC Roto Choir as it was, I find myself using the Eventide H9 more for that effect in any case. This therefore becomes the dedicated 'Glitch' slot - for which I have 3 pedals acquired already - this forthcoming Pladask Fabrikat, the Montreal Assembly Count to Five, and The King of Gear Mini Glitch. I am also considering the MWFX Judder, Drolo Molecular Disruptor and Hexe reVOLVER which I may or may not add within the next year or two. The MWFX Judder is pretty much definite.


Slot #32 : Boss DC-2w Dimension C - £202

This is another transplanted slot as such - now likely to feature the forthcoming (for me) Boss Waza Dimension C Stereo Spacial Effect (Chorus really). I still really like the Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl - but am going to give the Boss a rotation. I also have the TC Electronic Dreamscape in reserve here, and may also consider the Neunaber Inspire at some stage.


Slot #33 : EarthQuaker Devices Pyramids Stereo Flanger - £319

Another pedal slot that has had to me moved because of the Pyramids' stereo capabilities. I've mentioned several times how the Pyramids impressed my in 2018, and that I would eventually rotate it in for this slot. I thought it might happen in 2018, but will now likely happen at some stage in 2019. I still love the now discontinued Chase Bliss Spectre - and will continue to make use of that on frequent rotation, and I have the A/DA PBF and Alchemy-modded Boss BF-2 Flangers in reserve.


Slot #34 : Line 6 HX Stomp - £465

The bulb really did not switch on quick enough for me on this one - I see this now more as an Eventide H9 competitor, although I will be using it mostly for its 82 different Modulation modes / algorithms. It oust the Boss MD-500 and Strymon Mobius which I will still keep in reserve. I wasn't sure about the HX Stomp, but I've seen so many fantastic implementations of this pedal that I just have to have it - it has a much more user-friendly interface to the H9's too, which only really works properly for me with the Barn3 extras applied.


Slot #35 : TC Electronic Mimiq Doubler - £72

This is still essential 'fairy dust' for my stereo rig - producing a thicker and sparklier tone. It's stereo magic though was overly interfering with panning dynamics - particularly on delay ping-pong - so I moved the Mimiq away from near the end of the chain to towards the start of the stereo pedals - and ahead of all those I intend to use for panning-effects!


Slot #36 : Empress Effects Zoia Effects Sequencer - £449

I was hoping this would appear in 2018, but it will now likely be properly launched at Winter NAMM 2019 with much fanfare - a full year after it was first introduced! Will be fascinating to see what final form it takes, what presets are onboard and more details on its exact capabilities - I do rather think this is going to be one helluva game-changer though for both guitar and synth players alike!


Final Thoughts

There is some degree of futility in this early exercise as NAMM always has a major influence on the year's decisions. All the pedals highlighted with green outlines are a given though - and some of the others are much more likely than not. What does change rather is the order and priority in which they are acquired.

 

And I will likely get the Zoia before the HX Stomp - even though the latter is already available. As you will see by some of my other soon to be published posts, there are plenty of other areas that I will be pursuing too. My main Fuzz thrust is nearing its close - there's still a smattering of pedals I want, but I will likely pick them up piecemeal over several years now - as and when they can be acquired at an appealing level. The idea was always to have the very best pedals (for me) in every slot of my pedal-chain, with a couple of handy subs / alternatives for occasional rotation. The next few years will see more measured advances in breadth and depth.

 

I will likely do my own Periodic Table of Guitar Effects this year and try and cross-tabulate that with my growing library / spice-rack of effects. I don't feel there is any genre that is particularly under-represented, bar possibly ring-modulation. I also need to decide if the Meris Enzo is really for me, and where it would fit in. In fact I like each of the Meris' pedals, but I'm not sure where they would sit in the roster - they're not fully versatile enough necessarily to be principals or second-stringers / immediate understudies - and of all the range - it's probable the Mercury 7 Reverb which most appeals to me - while I really like the Chase Bliss Dark World too - but have yet to figure out how to fit that in.

 

I have largely moved beyond the more rigid definitions of my '12 degrees of saturation' with the pedal-chain a little more free-formed at the moment, and certainly more intended for significant experimentation throughout 2019. I wish you all happy hunting and much joy in your own ToneQuesting adventures.

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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