I am a big fan of Peter Rutter’s VFE Pedals (VonRutter Family Effects) and currently own 4, with twice as many on my wishlist. Peter has been building pedals since 2009, after getting inspired by doing a BYOC ’Confidence Booster’ DIY kit build the year before. It was not long before he was devising his own line of pedals - which would become the Alpha Dog, Blueprint, Bumblebee, Fiery Red Horse, Old School, Pale Horse, and The Scream. The last two mentioned being very different takes on the classic Tube Screamer circuit. Many of Peter’s circuits might have started with the classics, but you can see by the number and quality of parts that he uses how different a circuits those effects evolve too.
As Peter’s brand has always been somewhat Leftfield - I was quite late to the party on this one - the first I heard was his all-time best-selling take on the classic Rat sound with the Alpha Dog - with those now signature 6 control pots - 3 regular and 3 mini in overlapping triangles layout - the Alpha Dog is probably the most versatile Rat pedal out there - allowing you to go from surprisingly mild and smooth to the more typical raw full-throatedness associated with this type of fuzzstortion pedal.
I next acquired my Vomit Hound (aka Dragon Hound, aka Crown Jewel) which is a plain gold prototype I acquired from a collector in Romania - courtesy of Reverb.com of course. I never particularly liked the graphic design of that particular pedal type - so I am kind of delighted to have this as a plain gold pedal with just black hand-written script. Next I decided I wanted the Distortion3 - which combines the tones of 3 pedals - the MXR Distortion+, DOD 250 and MXR Micro Amp via smart mode switch. And my most recent acquisition has been the Big Muff -inspired / starting point - the Fiery Red Horse Fuzz.
Had I but waited patiently, all these are now available again from VFE - in part to fund a family extension. There are currently 19 of the discontinued range (out of 29) available in either plain back or plain white enclosures - with a choice of silver or black knobs, and I suppose just basic script for the controls, or possibly even stealth / secret mission styling (sans legends). These pedals are worth having in any enclosure though, while I will always have my own favourites as well as less-wanted alternatives. What you always get with VFE pedals though is more tweakability, more dynamic range and more versatility. These are all ’Plus’ pedals as they give you the basic fundamentals of each type of circuit, but then expand on those significantly - which for a pedal-tweaker like me is perfect. I do occasionally find the mini dials a touch fiddly and think I might prefer 6 more moderately but equally sized ones, but there is a certain aesthetic and control topology - which I suppose separates out the key functionality.
Here are the 19 Black/White types currently on offer again (these are the ones Peter has the parts for) obviously some of the others use rarer transistors etc. which are much harder to come by nowadays.
All are priced at $199 - please allow for a 4-6 week build time - free delivery in USA, $10 to Canada, and $20 for ROW.
Peter’s current range consists of just 4 pedals:
I really like the look of the Klein Bottle, but am not sure how exactly I would use it in my rig / chain, the other 3 are essentially more simplified 4-pot evolutions of some of Peter’s classics. There’s also a couple of copies of Peter’s 18 Effects behemoth Megapedal Mult-Effects unit somewhere out there in the wild - I would rather have the individual pedals funnily enough.
Of all these different VFE pedals - as stated at the top of the article - I already have 4, and these following are my overall 12 favourites - 10 of which are available directly from Peter again per the above, and 2 of which you will need to hunt down on Reverb.com.
Generally I like pretty much all of Peter’s Overdrive, Fuzz and Distortion pedals - and the really versatile Phaser / Vibe Tractor Beam modulation - as follows, pedals listed in current name order.
Note that these pedals exist in squillions of different enclosures - with different types of knobs - and that the earlier versions feature 2 and 3-way toggles in place of some of the fuller-range mini dials. I don’t believe the range look-and-feel has ever been fully homogenised - as you can see in the above visual - that we have various different looks at play - this is also partly as I don’t like some of the newer graphics!
My 12 Favourites in preferred enclosure / livery:
This is actually the only pedal so far I have acquired direct from the VFE store on Reverb - at the time I was first interested these were discontinued and unavailable - but magically one became available in peppermint green livery soon after I made an enquiry to Peter. This is a truly fantastic distortion pedal - based on the same underpinnings as the Rat pedal - same OpAmp, but with so much more versatility. The magic ingredients here are the Fat, Hard and Soft Controls - or basically all the mini dials - they make this pedal so much more than the original Rat - this is still probably my favourite Rat style pedal, and deservedly the best-selling VFE pedal of all time.
I have only one Bluesbreaker pedal to date - the equally versatile Snouse BlackBox Overdrive 2 with external switches mod. I've long had the Analog.Man Prince of Tone on my wishlist too, but would probably prefer to get my hands on this one in many ways - all three pedals mentioned cover a whole lot of ground - and are all significant evolutions of the Marshall Bluesbreaker sound. This one is currently on my wishlist.
This originally started off as a pretty faithful Boss DS-1 clone, but then evolved very significantly to give far more range and body to that core Boss-style tone - helped by its 3-way clipping mode selector - Sustaining Germanium, LED and Asymmetrical. As well as extended tonal controls.
This was serendipitously my 3rd VFE acquisition - and it provides a huge range - providing mode options based on 3 very classic distortion pedals as referenced in the title. I don't use it quite as much as the Alpha Dog or Vomit Hound, but you can't deny its versatility and the incredibly wide range of tones.
This formidable pedal covers VFE's 2 most popular circuits - the Alpha Dog (Rat) and Pale Horse (Tube Screamer++) and allows you to blend those two circuits together or skew one way or the other. You don't get as much individual variety as having both the originals, but you do get some exceptionally harmonically rich distortion. This pedal was originally prototyped as the 'Crown Jewel' it then became the 'Vomit Hound' before it changed to the 'Dragon Hound'. My own copy of this is a plain gold Vomit Hound with just black hand-written script - which is kind of preferred look for this pedal. I also prefer the gold Vomit Hound graphic to the later versions.
This was my latest VFE acquisition - again via Reverb.com - a really versatile fuzz pedal based on the Big Muff circuits - but with usual VFE magic added and greatly extended tonal controls. I am a very significant fuzz fan these days, and this is yet another really great fuzz that is well worth having!
I'm still after a mixable Germanium & Silicon circuits fuzz pedal like the Spaceman Gemini III - but I'm not really willing to stomp up the current £1,000+ asking price. This smart multi-circuit pedal has essentially two pathways - where you can select either Germanium or Silicon on the first gain stage, and the same again on the second one - with 4 different modes possible - sounds great, but appears rarely these days - only been one on offer on Reverb.com this year - and that went for c£102. Note also that I really don't like the newer police car graphic - so my preference is for the older style of enclosure in black with gold writing.
I've become quite the Klon / Klone aficionado these days with several options already in that slot - including the Tumnus Mini and Deluxe, the Foxpedal Kingdom Combo and current resident - the Mini Decibelics Golden Horse. As always, the VFE take on this delivers a slight different version of the Klon with a superb degree of tonal sculpting pretty much equal to the Tumnus Deluxe - it just goes about it in a slightly different way - as expected.
VFE has two pedals based on the venerable Tube Screamer circuit - this more dynamic and versatile one, as far as the more faithful TS808 clone - The Scream. The Pale Horse delivers far more significant tonal sculpting and dynamics - which take it a lot closer to the Paul Cochrane Timmy and Fulltone OCD in overall tonal profile. I have plenty of Tube Screamers already, including the 9-mode JHS Bonsai, but I would still happily add this one to the rotation!
This is the one VFE modulation pedal I still long for - a really clever mix of Phaser and Vibe which gives you all manner of in-between modes (note this pedal was formerly known as the 'Enterprise'). You have a 3-mode selector and 2, 3 and 4 Step selector - which takes it far further than the Phase 90 type circuit this was originally based on. You get really lovely and syrupy thick swirly modulation - which is almost infinitely tweakable.
I thought Seafoam Pedals' Trident Overdrive was the first to do individual drive circuits per EQ band - i.e. separate drives per Bass, Mids and Treble - but obviously the VFE Triumvirate got their first. In fact the newer Trident overdrive goes one further by giving you toggle-switchable frequency bands you can apply to each of those drives - that costs you and additional $50. There is currently a pink colourway Triumvirate listed on Reverb.com for circa £90 - but I've seen a few pop up over the years - they're definitely worth snapping up at the c£100 price range.
The third VFE Fuzz is based on that lesser known Maestro Octave Down fuzz circuit - with particular emphasis on tonal sculpting - and particularly for those lower frequencies. I had for years been mis-reading this as a Bass Guitar fuzz - while the Bass in the title is actually indicative of the Octave Down effect rather than the much more common Octave Up.
I feel that pretty much all of my top 12 are bonafide classic pedals - yet many of these remain unknown to the pedal-buying public at large. Possibly some find the controls a touch fiddly, and prefer just to have 3 basic controls rather than the extended range provided here.
There's also been some downsides to the Peter's rather free-wheeling nature with enclosure design - where there are a number of pedals that obviously fit a certain pattern, but then an almost equal number which sort of clash badly! I really like most of the silhouette style graphics - particularly the various horse and hound ones. There's a couple I really don't particularly like and would choose older style enclosures for those which do without the graphics entirely - possibly an advantage of buying plain black or white enclosures.
There's no doubting though that most players will like the Alpha Dog, Dragon Hound, Pale Horse, Fiery Red Fuzz and Merman Overdrive pedals - all those sound amazing and give you significantly more than is currently available from other pedal-makers.
I alas have so many pedals on my wishlist/s that I am unlikely to acquire all of these - I have set targets for each month and a sort of 'float' for sudden launched - and that all gets used up pretty quickly usually. My top 3 of those I don't yet have are probably the Blues King, Merman and Tractor Beam (actually I really like the Pale Horse too, and the ...) - and all those are currently directly available from Peter's site - VFE Custom Pedals - go show your support!