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Eddie Van Halen's Pedals, Typical Pedalboard Arrangement and Suitable Alternatives

BossBrown Sound DistortionChorus and VibratoCryBabyDistortionDunlop EffectsEddie Van HalenEffects Pedal MakersEVH ElectronicsFlangerMarshall Style DistortionMetal DistortionModulationMXROctaverPhaserPitchSeymour DuncanThorpyFXWah and Fixed WahWampler+-
2020GPXEVHPedals700.jpg

Key to Eddie’s signature sound has always been his use of Chorus, Flanger and Phaser effects in particular, along with some Wah-based flourishes. As a result MXR has built up a small range of EVH branded pedals - which Eddie mostly used on his latter-day pedalboards - with some occasional exceptions.

 

For this particular exercise I’m referencing one of Eddie’s 2012 pedalboards - as per the visual below - which also features a Boss OC-3 Super Octave, and an MXR Analog Chorus in place of Eddie’s larger branded EVH 5150 Chorus.

 

The above visual consists of the 5 pedals in the MXR EVH Range - in the middle and the 4-corners, with alternative equivalent suggestions. For Flanger, I have no finer recommendation than the current King of Flangers - ThorpyFX’s Camoflange, for the Chorus I have featured the MXR Analog Chorus obviously as often actually used and preferred by Eddie. Obviously Eddie’s distortion tones were delivered directly via his Amps - 5150 etc. but for us Clean Pedal Platform guys it means using one of the formidable 5150-style Drive/Distortion pedals - where my alternatives here include Wampler’s excellent Pinnacle Deluxe, and the fairly recent Seymour Duncan Diamondhead Multistage Distortion. In each case I’ve tried to come up with a suitable alternative - where appropriate - in a more convenient and/or more feature-rich format.

PY 2

You really can't go wrong with the EVH Phase 90 - but you can still get more with the Mini Phase 95 - which gives you Script and Block formats for both Phase 90 and Phase 45 MXR variants. In place of the Boss OC-3, I've obviously included the recently improved OC-5, and as an alternative to the rather large EVH Signature CryBaby - I'm recommending the brand new Mini format CryBaby CBM-535AR - essentially a mini 535Q with Auto-Return Treadle and Auto-Sensing On/Off-Switching.

 

I am doing a separate article on my favourite Compact edition EVH Brown Sound style distortion pedals - where the compact style of enclosure is obviously my favourite format. Of all the EVH pedals - the only one I'm most likely to get is the 5150 Overdrive - while I would probably take the more practical form factor Pinnacle Deluxe and Diamondhead Distortion over that. The EVH 5150 Overdrive is the only EVH pedal I would really be properly interested in acquiring - possibly I might also like an EVH-branded Phase 90 just for nostalgia really - but generally my preference is for the alternatives in the list. My favourite current EVH-style Distortion is in fact the Jackson Audio El Guapo - which we shall see in my forthcoming Compact Brown Sound Pedals overview!

 

Pedals are arranged and grouped harmoniously for maximum aesthetic and compositional impact - vaguely in originals alphabetic order, but with the 5150 Overdrive in the centre! :


MXR EVH 117 Flanger or ThorpyFX Camoflange Flanger - $189/£199 or £250

The EVH Flanger is actually just a very slightly modified version of the classic MXR M-117R BBD style Flanger. It has the same knobs - Manual, Width, Speed, Regen., but has an additional EVH Button for 'Unchained' Preset Setting - which essentially sets the parameters to specific internal values. This does everything you need and sounds really great. I've recommended my favourite all-time flanger - the Thorpy FX Camoflange as the alternative choice here - with its 6 controls - Harmonics, Manual, Depth, Treble, Blend, Rate, greater fidelity, and higher versatility. It also comes in a slightly more practical form factor which eats up less horizontal pedalboard space. If I can - I will almost always take a vertical BB-format over a horizontal one, while in general Compact enclosure format pedals are my favourites - and especially for single tasks. I don't think you can go wrong with either choice here really - while in several ways the Camoflange is going to be a better option for most. Note that there was also a 35 year anniversary model of the EVH Flanger in Red Frankenstrat livery - so some will prefer that over the standard white with black stripe edition.


MXR EVH 5150 Chorus or MXR M234 Analog Chorus - $199/£199 or $99/£109

The EVH 5150 Chorus is somewhat unusual in having a couple of Output and Input Level switches. The first Output Level Switch toggles between -20dB and -35dB, While the 3-way Input Level Switch toggles between -20dB, -35dB and -50dB, otherwise you just have the standard Intensity (Depth), Tone and Volume knobs. Seems like Eddie found this model rather cumbersome - as he often preferred to deploy either a Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble, or the MXR M234 Analog Chorus - which splits the Tone into High and Low, and adds Rate control. I can well understand why Eddie would prefer to utilise the more practically compact Chorus alternatives. There's lots of really great compact choruses currently out there - including the Boss CE-2W and DC-2W, Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl, JHS Emperor, VS Audio Alchemy, and brand new Walrus Audio Julianna. My current favourite chorus is the VS Audio Alchemy, which I've featured on this site quite a lot this year.


MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive or Wampler Pinnacle Deluxe or Seymour Duncan Diamondhead - $199/£199 or $240/£209 or $229/£209

I've mentioned how Eddie would obviously derive his distortion tone directly through his amp of choice - typically some 5150 variant, while us Clean Pedal Platform aficionados would need an equivalent distortion pedal to generate the same tones. In the centre of the visual sits the smart 5150 Overdrive with its Output, Bass, Mid, Treble, Gain, Gate, and Boost-button controls. A much love pedal which pretty much perfectly replicates the desired tones. I've included the Wampler Pinnacle too - which is the most frequently recommended alternative to the 5150 OD - with its Bass, Mid, Treble, Gain, Volume, Boost, Sag push-button switch, Modern/Vintage Mode Switch, and Boost/Gain Mode Switch controls. And also the fairly recent Seymour Duncan Diamondhead Multistage Distortion + Boost - with its Bass, Mid, Treble, Boost, Level, Gain, and Saturation On/Off controls. I mention in the intro that I have more than 20 EVH / Brown Sound style pedals in my collection - mostly at my preferred compact enclosure size. While I've not acquired any of the 3 listed varieties here yet. All 3 are on my wishlist - and while I really like the 5150 Overdrive - the other 2 are more practical for pedalboard placement and would thus likely be my preferred choices. I do pretty much intend to get all 3 varieties eventually, and of all the EVH Signature Pedals, the 5150 Overdrive remains my most likely acquisition. For now it's the Jackson Audio El Guapo which is my Brown Sound pedal of choice!


MXR EVH Phase 90 or MXR M290 Phase 95 Mini - $129/£138 or $99/£89

The classic Eddie Phaser sound is usually achieved in Script mode / variant with the Speed dial set between 9 and 10 o'c. The Signature EVH Phase 90 4-stage Phaser is obviously perfect for this with its one Speed knob and 'Script' Mode button switch. I've also included the smaller MXR M290 Phase 95 - which gives you both 45 2-Stage and 90 4-Stage variants in tiny enclosure - also with Script button option to flip the Mode. I've noted that I will most undoubtedly be getting the 5150 Overdrive at some stage, while the EVH Phase 90 is the only other EVH Signature Pedal that vaguely interests me - and more for reasons of nostalgia than any practical concerns. For the longest time I sported my Chase Bliss Audio Wombtone MKII Phaser - which is still probably my all-time favourite phaser, while my current incumbent is the almost as excellent and superbly versatile Crazy Tube Circuits 4-Mode Cyclone. I think both my main choices are preferential to the EVH Phase 90, but then I also have the MXR Phase 95 if I want to keep things authentically MXR. I would quite like the one Red series Frankenstrat artwork pedals - which means I might just end up with an EVH Phase 90 at some stage - if I come across one at an unbeatable price say.


Boss OC-5 Octave - £119

There's not too much to be said here - Eddie has frequently used the Boss OC-3 Super Octave as his Octave Pedal of choice - while the new Boss OC-5 is superior in every way to its predecessor so that is the sole option listed here. If you want to be totally authentic - then by all means go for the earlier slightly less good OC-3 - I'm not sure though why anyone would knowingly make that choice based on the evidence and references available!


CryBaby EVH Signature Wah or CryBaby CBM535AR Auto Return Mini Wah - $169£186 or $159/£159

There's a few references on this site to the larger EVH Signature CryBaby - which Mikey Demus amongst other luminaries also tends to favour. The EVH Signature CryBaby is one of those enormous flipper / paddle style Wah's which are just way too large to be practical for my needs - and I have therefore always favoured the more compact CryBaby Mini varieties. In fact I'm due to acquire the forthcoming CryBaby CBM535AR Auto-Switching On/Off and Auto-return Wah - which would seem to be perfect for my requirements - I already have the CBM95 and CBM535Q Mini Wah's - and am just waiting to add the third more suitable variant when that appears in UK retail channels. The EVH Signature Wah as no controls beyond the treadle/rocker plate, while the Mini Auto Return variety sports a Boost Switch, 4-way Frequency Range Selector, Volume Knob, and Q-Adjust knob. There's currently no demo available of the still forthcoming pedal - but I've included the earlier CBM535Q demo which has identical controls, but none of the the Auto-Switching or Auto-Returning functionalities.


Final Thoughts

In my current chain - I already incorporate the ThorpyFX Camoflange and Boss OC-5, while I'm soon due to acquire a CryBaby CBM535AR - in the meanwhile I make do with the Fulltone Wahfull and Dr Scientist Dusk - and even CBM535Q if need be. My current chorus of choice is the VS Audio Alchemy, but several options present themselves - including the new Walrus Audio Julianna. My current phaser of choice is the Crazy Tube Circuits Cyclone - while classical it has been my favourite Chase Bliss Audio Wombtone MKII.

 

Conventional Wah pedals are just far too big and impractical for my needs - so I would never go for something as large as the EVH Signature CryBaby. I've mentioned that I will at some stage acquire the EVH 5150 Overdrive, while I already have more than 20 options in that area. I will also likely eventually pin down a Pinnacle Deluxe and Diamondhead Distortion - I already have the Compact Standard Pinnacle. I'd quite like an EVH Phase 90 too - but that's no way essential or anywhere near any sort of priority.

 

Generally I'm very well covered for core EVH sounds - in fact I will next be endeavouring to build an EVH Patch on the Boss GT-1000 CORE - with switchable Chorus, Flanger and Phaser - with some help and guidance from Matt Knight and Mark Harley of course!

 

What are your thoughts about the EVH pedal range in general - are you still feeling nostalgic about the whole thing like I am? Do you have or will you acquire some of these as actual deployed pedals, or will you acquire them more as mementos and memorabilia?

 

Note that I'm unlikely to to do an EVH Guitars overview - as I am such a Fuzz fanatic that I need my guitars to have separate Volume and Tone controls - I'm also not at all a fan of Floyd Rose floating bridges - just too fiddly to set up and maintain. So in general I favour versatile multi-purpose guitars where I need different tonalities and enhanced control. While most of Eddie's guitars were single pickup with only a volume knob. They of course looked cool - while I'm more interested in the tones and practicalities here. I like to have a whammy bar on my guitars, but like I said I'm not a fan of the Floyd Rose!


POSTSCRIPT - EVH Gear Guide

It only felt right that I should include PMT's Dagan Wilkin's superb Eddie Van Halen Gear Guide / Overview - where he takes us through some of Eddie's gear history highlights - including all the key EVH Branded / Signature Pedals. It's quite evident that he's a significant Eddie fan himself which comes through clearly in his delivery.

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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