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2021 May Pedal-Chain Update - Episode V - Future Phase

Beetronics FXBig Ear PedalsBig Muff Style FuzzBlues Driver Style OverdriveBoostBoost and OverdriveBossChorus and VibratoCrazy Tube CircuitsD*A*MDemedash EffectsDistortionDrive WorkstationDrunk BeaverEmanating Fist ElectronicsEQFoxpedalFuzzFuzz Face Style FuzzFuzz-Drive and FuzzstortionGated and Velcro FuzzGermanium FuzzHarmonizerJoe GoreKlirrton ManufakturKuro Custom AudioMantic EffectsMarshall Style DistortionModulationMulti-DriveOctave FuzzOpAmp FuzzOscillating FuzzOverdrivePettyjohn ElectronicsPhaserPitchRat Style FuzzSilicon FuzzThird Man RecordsThorpyFXTone Bender Style FuzzTubescreamer Style OverdriveUtility+-
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May turned out to be another pretty busy month as far as new releases and the overall collection is concerned. I personally acquired around 20 or so new pedals - with some further acquisitions not having landed yet.

 

Obviously a fair amount of new Overdrives and Phasers in particular - while May covered most of the key pedal categories in one way or another. And most of the pedal-chain additions for the month have been reviewed or touched on in some way previously - with the exception of the Kuro Custom Audio Bakeneko - where I’m waiting for the demo video to materialise before I share further details on that smart 3-Band EQ + Boost.

 

Lots of rotation going on this month with plenty of pedals on the showcase backlog and still waiting for the right moment for a proper focus.

 

Talking of right moments - the schedule has been somewhat scuppered this year owing to ongoing parts-supply issues within the broader industry - meaning a lot of the launches have been delayed - which has sort of put a spanner in the works of a number of the monthly themes I was intending to do. I will definitely be doing a Boss month - once both the TB-2W and HM-2W properly land - which is not likely to happen much before August.

 

This month I had intended to do something of a Thorpy Focus - obviously with the launch of his future classic Pulse Doppler. There was however supposed to be a new Redbeard Effects pedal launch in May too - but that is now happening on the 8th of June. So I had that pedal set up on its slot and ready to go - in fact I’ve had the pedal since the start of the month near enough - but obviously had to pull that from this selection - meaning my Thorpy focus for May wasn’t quite the extravaganza I intended. In any case I’m working on a number of Thorpy follow-up articles - which will be spread over a longer period.

 

There are several forthcoming themes I have been preparing for - those include Boss Month as mentioned - but also with articles on Boss Modulations, Boss Waza Craft, TB-2W alternatives, Preferred HM-2 style pedals, and a Preferred Choruses Capsule Collection.

 

In terms of Overdrives - I finally picked up a BD-2W (I though I should have one - even though the Keeley Freak Fuzz Mod edition is my favourite and essential of that type), then a SD-1 40th Anniversary edition, Demedash 112+ Special Edition, Drunk Beaver FET OverBooster, Foxpedal Vixen, and Pettyjohn Gold MKII Klon Clipping Mod Edition . I also acquired a Polarbear Effects Floral Green V2 Dual-Drive - which should be with me early next month. I don’t currently have video references for the FET OverBooster or Floral Green OD - so those will likely need to wait until some materialise - before being featured on this site.

 

For Distortions - I added the MT-2 30th Anniversary Edition, Joe Gore Gross Distortion, and the oh so formidable Klirrton Grindstein - full review coming very soon!

 

As almost always - this was another key month for fuzzes! I picked up the pair to my wood-facia Big Ear Loaf - which Grant made for me especially - and what an imposing pair they make! :

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I will likely be doing a follow-up article on that pair soon - waiting for a suitable theme or occasion really to properly showcase those. I just had to have a Woodcutter in the oh-so on-brand Walnut Wood-Facia Enclosure!

 

Readers may recall I was lukewarm to the appearance of the original Beetronics BaBee FatBee Fat overdrive - largely because of the positioning of its controls. While I've wholly succumbed to the charms of the new Beetronics Vezzpa Octave Stinger - which so won me over that I had to go for a sort of matching Memorial Day Weekend Special Purple / Magenta edition of the FatBee that I had previously sort of dismissed! In any case those make a very handsome pair too. Will need to find an occasion to showcase both of those also at some future stage :

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Other Fuzzes picked up include the amazing versatile CTC Limelight as reviewed, a Special Edition Hybrid D*A*M M-13 Meathead (OC141 + BC109 Can) from Joe's Pedals' Secret Stash, the Drunk Beaver Taras Bulba TB MKI.V/MKII, and of course the Emanating Fist Electronics Dope Priest DP-70 also from Joe's Pedals.

 

In terms of Modulation I picked up a couple more Boss classics - will probably get 1 or 2 more before I do my Boss Modulations Article. I also acquired two Phasers this month - the incredible ThorpyFX Pulse Doppler, and the really smart compact Flower Pedals Castilleja Phaser and Uni-Vibe - while that won't be with me until early next month. Obviously the Pulse Doppler is my favourite Phaser of all time- while I'm suitably circumspect to recognise other notable alternatives too. I have the feeling I will have at least 1 or two further phasers in the collection before year-end!

 

Finally - in terms of Miscellaneous and Utility Pedals - I acquired the Kuro Custom Audio Bakeneko - which as mentioned is just missing a demo video for go-live. Also my Jack White / Signature Third Man Records Mantic Flex landed - meaning that I've just the Union Tube & Tranistort Bumble Buzz to go for that particular selection / collection - obviously proving to be somewhat elusive. Oh - almost forgot - I picked up a Catalinbread Heliotrope Harmonic Pixelator (Bitcrusher) - the last in stock at my pal's Scott Hager's Axe and You Shall Receive Store - I was expecting that at the end of last week - but weirdly the delivery date then shifted to next Thursday - no idea what happened there!

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In terms of June focus and future stuff - the big news is the very imminent Boss TB-2W - which should begin to land sometime during next month. The HM-2W still seems to be quite a way off - although pre-orders may open up at some stage during June.

 

Grant Wilson of Big Ear Pedals is building me one of his celebrated Chaka Octave Fuzzes - as recommended by Scott Hager if I recall correctly or possibly Bob Guido. In any case I raised the topic with Grant - and he scoured his parts bin to fortuitously find that he had some enclosures stashed away - and most of the required parts - so that will no doubt materialise relatively soon.

 

Friends Sebastian Nylund and Björn Juhl offered to do me a special 4K BJFe Honey Bee edition - so I'm waiting to see what materialises there. I also need to check in with Dave 'Pickdropper' Friesema to see what progress he's made on his Mini Professional MKII edition - he was very close to finalising that circuit when I last caught up with him - will likely chase him tomorrow again.

 

For my HM-2 Capsule Collection I'm just missing the PBF CEN now from Abominable Electonics - I have been liaising with Patrick Emmons and trying to persuade him to make another batch in time for the HM-2W drop - so feel free to nudge him if you're after one of those too!

 

I also need to reconnect with Ed Rembold of Toneczar for a Dove Overdrive feature. I have Interchange Noiseworks also in the frame - for their Wood-Facia Element 119 Distortion and On Air Fuzz - I would like to add those too. Plenty of things to juggle for June - I feel that's going to be another interesting month - before we hit the mid-summer lull! I will also be acquiring a Joe Gore Filth Fuzz relatively soon - I connected with him for my Gross Distortion feature - and am encouraged to try more of his pedals!


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In any case - here are the new runners and riders for the month of May :


Slot #3 : Guitar Synth Normally, EQ on this occasion!

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So I'm giving the SY-1 a wee break while I fully road-test the new Kuro Custom Audio Bakeneko 3-Band EQ + Boost.

 

The demo video should be nearing post-production now - and I will share the feature / review as soon as that goes live.


Slot #5 : Germanium / Sensitive Fuzz

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The Crazy Tube Circuits Limelight Germanium Fuzz is getting a lot of love this month - obviously it shares some of the same parts as the current Constellation Fuzz - including of course those very formidable OC41 Black Glass Transistors. I really love its easy versatility - so simple to dial in FZ-1, TBI and TBII voicing - and it is superb as an Overdrive and Fuzzy-Drive too. Still somewhat under the radar despite stellar demos - this is certainly a modern classic that a lot of you should love too.


SLOT #10 : Mid Gain / Dynamic / Blues Breaker / Harmonic Overdrive / JTM45 / Screamer

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Another great Overdrive released in May - well at least the new Coral-accented Limited Edition colourway of the Demedash 112+ Preamp/Distortion. It sports 3 totally different voicings - Modern, Vintage and Fat - and supports those with precisely calibrated 3-Band EQ. This is another one of those perfect all-rounder overdrives - and another really worthy candidate - while there's no shortage of quality really these days - and Overdrives is always where most of the action / competition is at. There are so many good ones now - players are really spoilt for choice!


Slot #11 : Mid Gain / Blues Driver

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Quelle horreur! The Keeley Freak Fuzz BD-2 has been sacrificed (momentarily) for the Foxpedal Vixen Dimensional Drive for the month of May. Just too many great overdrives out in one month - and several slots with fairly recent additions - so I had to sacrifice my all time favourite overdrive for that rotation. The Vixen is suitably deep and rich - along similar lines to the Keeley BD-2 - but still very distinctly it's own thing and slightly darker and denser than the Boss - and with not quite the same degree of harmonic richness - but really very close and well within that sort of ballpark - I really like it - particularly on the Nanolog N3 Clipping setting!


Slot #16 : Multi-Drive 2 / Tweed / HiWatt / Analog Amp-like Overdrive

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The Joe Gore Gross Distortion is essentially a Clipping Diodes Workstation - with no less than 25 distinct and unique varieties at your disposal via two selector banks. The main texture / breakup up generation is delivered by a single stage Silicon Transistors circuit - and it outputs glorious often raw-style early transistor type breakup - as typical of those earliest distortion effects. Undeniably fun for a lot of us - but possibly too fiddly and frustrating for others - this is nonetheless a superior Studio Tool!


SLOT #18 : Marshall in a Box / Plexi

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I touched on the Gold MKII in my recent Pettyjohn Range Overview - while this pedal had not landed at that time. Definitely my second favourite Pettyjohn after the Chime. Both of those perfectly capture the rich textures of their original amp inspirations. I acquired both of those in Modded Clipping Editions - for maximum texture and flavour! These oust the recent incumbent Menatone The King, Friedman Smallbox, and Menatone TBIAC varieties - which I still love - but where I have an overall preference for the current Pettyjohn examples - they just perfectly deliver that rich harmonics and textures that I am always looking out for. The others are fantastic too - and preferable for certain applications - so they will all be in rotation for the forthcoming months - while the Pettyjohn's are now the principals and mainstays on those slots.


Slot #20 : Silicon & OpAmp Fuzz / Big Muff / Octave Fuzz / Oscillating Fuzz / High Gain Fuzz / PLL / Rat 2

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I was lucky enough to snap up one of the 4 EFE Dope Priest DP-70's from the recent batch of 10 at Joe's Pedals. That was my first David Main pedal - and very soon afterward I picked up a limited hybrid edition of the D*A*M M-13 Meathead with OC141 + BC109 Can Transistors. Each could probably do with a little more volume - as I find I really need to deploy the Strymon Sunset Treble Booster to get the most out of those pedals - both are gloriously textured - and rather vintage in orientation - where I really could have done with a touch more modernity - in a more voluminous output really. No problem for the rig though - it is set up to deal with nearly every eventually!


Slot #21 : High Gain Fuzz 1 / Fuzzstortion

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The format and function of the Beetronics Vezzpa Octave Stinger is genius really - with the clever dynamic footswtich and two switchable modes onboard. The Gated Fuzzzz voicing is killer - while I would have liked one more control over the Octave voicing really. Also like my David Main acquisitions - I feel this could have done with just a touch more volume - pretty marginal though - but good that the Strymon Sunset is still finding regular use!


Slot #33 : Analog Phaser / Rotary

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Adrian and Dan have come up with another classic - probably their best yet. I cannot think of a better designed phaser - the Pulse Doppler is so powerful and with so many different and fantastic sounding voicings and effects. Every way a masterpiece and my favourite by far - while I also picked up the Flower Pedals Castilleja this month - and have one or two more phasers coming downstream shortly. Each of those will get a rotation - while I can't imagine any would unseat the Pulse Doppler for long - that is most certainly the Phase King of the moment!


Final Thoughts

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People often ask me how I choose what goes in on each rotation. I am constantly seeking the very best pedal candidates for my rig - and for those now 41 numbered slots - which aren't really quite as rigid as many assume - one has to be flexible and accommodating as much as possible. While I also need to maintain a pretty solid baseline - so I really can compare like with like and figure out what works best.

 

I typically rotate half a dozen or so pedals each week and then share my favourites over an extended period at the end of the month. Often a new pedal will have innovations and new and better features than an incumbent - while almost equally often they're just alternative candidates for that genre - i.e. sometimes a sideways move versus a forward one. While I try to never go backwards per se - each building block has to offer something special.

 

I find it vital to continue to continuously and consistently compare and benchmark my extensive collection - and figure out which are my preferences and why. Sometimes I am feeling overwhelmed by complicated pedals with multiple voicings and settings and prefer to deploy something rather simpler. At other times I'm struggling to get the precise sound I have in my head - and need more settings and combinations even to fine-tune that pedal to me current preferences and needs.

 

The collection really is quite extensive (around 600 now) - and needs re-organising on a regular basis just so I can keep tabs on everything and recall most of the pertinent details and outcomes for each pedal. At the end of the year I review all the new changes that have been made to the rig - and figure out which pedals I got the most out of that year.

 

It's obviously very much a Sisyphean task where I frequently change my mind - and do very occasionally wind-back one or two evolutions and go back to an earlier favourite pedal and setup.

 

At any given time There may be relatively few all-time favourite pedals in the chain - while at other times the pedal-chain could be entirely populated with perennial favourites - usually a hybrid mix applies - and players may well prefer previous incarnations of the rig. As an example I have and love all the CBA modulations - and some of those are still my all-time favourites, but have been out of the rig for a while - as long as new and improved pedals keep appearing - their time for return gets further offset.

 

I've often been asked to do my all-time favourites for each slot - and to those ends I've done the 32 and 28 key pedals per category - I will likely do a medium enclosure version of that too - while I mostly operate within the compact domain - bar the stereo workstations at the end of the rig.

 

The fact is that things change a lot - and this is entirely a moving feast - you can see which most of my favourites are by how often they appear in the rig - and how often they come back to reclaim their slot!

 

The above visual is where my head is currently at for compact pedals! Again totally a snapshot in time - as tomorrow some of those might be different. I've highlighted the changed slots via accent colour on the legend text!

 

Obviously the Pulse Doppler is my favourite phaser - but I also have and love the Alexander Pedals La Calavera, Boss PH-1R, Chase Bliss Audio Wombtone, Crazy Tube Circuits Cyclone, Flower Pedals Castilleja, and MXR Phase 95 Mini - while I also quite like the look of the Mu-Tron Phasor and a couple of others that will soon be revealed.

 

I was not that excited about the Walrus Audio Polychrome as I already have my two Mainstay flangers as the ThorpyFX Camoflange, and Spaceman Aurora, alongside A/DA PBF Flanger, Boss BF-2, and Chase Bliss Audio Spectre BKM. I quite like the look of the Retro-Sonic Flanger - and who knows I may eventually succumb to a Polychrome - while that is some way off happening right now!

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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