I acquired my original Blue OC45 Constellation pretty much as soon as it was announced - or back in April of 2018, and it was a mainstay of my pedal-chain for several months in a row then, and still puts in a fairly regular appearance / rotation nowadays. It was probably due another rotation right about now - so it’s handy to reminisce on its prowess versus the new limited edition CV7003 variety - which uses that slightly rarer transistor type, and where only 200 will be made.
By the time I decided I also needed the CV7003 - there were just 30 left in the run - so possibly by the time this article goes live, all of those will be spoken for. In any case the purpose of this article is to review the individual prowess of each and see how they stack up against each other. I currently have both at the front of my pedal-chain.
The earliest Constellation pedals had all-white graphics onto navy blue, while latter versions of that changed the colouring of the tube icons to cyan. Mine is one of the original all-white graphics editions. This means mine has the very original Valvo OC45 Transistors - which were in place from the start up until the summer of 2019, when the Transistors changed to the Philips Black Glass OC41’s - the colour of the tube graphics was updated to Cyan - to mark that change.
Both reviewed pedals have identical controls, albeit different graphics, and different knobs. The 3 common controls are :
Both of the circuits contain 3 carefully selected Germanium Transistors - Valvo Black Glass OC45 ones for the original, and somewhat rarer Texas Instruments CV7003 ones (Military spec OC44) for the limited edition.
Notably the early original Arbiter RangeMasters were OC44 types - meaning that said Transistor is the optimal choice for RangeMaster Treble Boost - while Philips OC141 Transistors are also excellent candidates for a full-frequency RangeMaster - besides of course OC45 and OC41 too.
The fact that both these pedals contain 6 Classic Vintage Voicings - totally delivering those original circuits authentically - makes these among the very best and most versatile vintage-style fuzz pedals available anywhere.
While there are a few pedals out there which share MK I.V and MK II Tone Bender voicings - none come close to replicating what these two pedals deliver. Every vintage fuzz fan should really own at least one of these!
In playing my original variety first, it's quite evident just how full-frequency and rich-sounding these pedals are - with beautiful raspy harmonic textures by default. Right from the start it sounds immediately grand and in fact sounds really amazing. I had almost forgotten just how great this pedal sounded.
In further testing, the core character of each unit revealed itself - while they both sound really full-frequency and full-on - just a wonderful breakup character and the ability to dial back the gain significantly with your guitar volume knob.
After an extended period of play, the core tonality that emerges here has a very slightly more raspy / reedy dry edge and slightly more open-pored density versus the CV7003 variety. I think several players will prefer the tonality and texture of the original. It's not really a case of which one sounds better or lesser - but which profile appeals to you more.
For my purposes I pretty much like the two equally - and each inspires slightly different playing as all of my best fuzzes do. You could argue that in some ways this one is slightly more refined versus the CV7003 being more full-on - but we're talking nuances and fractions really rather than enormous step changes.
That said it's quite easy to tell them apart after a while. Generally I would say that the original OC45 edition is slightly more open-pored and with that slightly reedier dry edge!
I almost wrongly used the phrase 'in-contrast' in this context, while the truth is that there is significant overlap here in tonality. Although most will notice that the CV7003 variety sounds very slightly different - a little denser / fuller, and with a slightly more pronounced low-end.
Obviously with this configuration you are getting vintage-specs configuration for the RangeMaster - which many people will love. Generally this one sounds just a fraction more full-frequency - which renders as a slightly denser and fuller texture.
Both these pedals are incredibly rich sounding and beautifully harmonically textured - and some of the differences here can be relatively minor.
In truth I'm still sort of blown away by both pedals here - they are just very slightly different voicings rather than one being inferior or superior.
Like I say - each one really inspires different patterns of play - and the texture of each lends itself to / suggests slightly different flavours of songs and phrasing.
It's certainly not a clear-cut case of one being evidently superior to the other - these are just very slightly different flavours and some will have a preference for one over the other. While many - like me - will have both, and will select whichever one lends itself better to the style of play required.
I had thought I would have likely come out in favour of one over the other - but I really genuinely like both equally. Those that have the first editions need not fret over the relative merits of these two - both are just as appealing really - both are magnificent!
So if you're still on the fence - go for the newer CV7003 when / if you want to be rather more full-on, but select the OC45 if you want more of a drier edge and open-pored nature for your tone!
It seems that the CV7003 is still up for sale as of my writing this - there can't be many units left to claim now! Christos at CTC in fact confirms that only around 20 remain as of this morning - so you had better get your skates on if you're interested in acquiring one!