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End of August Pedal-Chain Update - Episode VII - Altitude Ascension

Big Muff Style FuzzBitcrushing and Lo-FiBoostBoost and OverdriveBossBrown Sound DistortionBuffalo FXChase Bliss AudioCooper FXCrazy Tube CircuitsDanelectroDelayDelay WorkstationDigital DelayDigital ReverbDr ScientistDriveDual-DriveDunlop EffectsEnvelope Filter and Auto WahEQExpresso FXFulltone EffectsFuzzFuzz Face Style FuzzFuzz-Drive and FuzzstortionGated and Velcro FuzzGermanium FuzzGlitchGuitar Synth and SequencerJackson AudioMarshall Style DistortionMetal DistortionModulationModulation WorkstationMulti-DriveOctave FuzzOpAmp FuzzOverdrivePhaserPitchRat Style FuzzReverbReverb WorkstationShnobel ToneSilicon FuzzSitek Guitar ElectronicsTone Bender Style FuzzTubescreamer Style OverdriveUtilityVick AudioVox Style DistortionWah and Fixed Wah+-
2020GPXSKSignalChainPostNAMMAugust700V4.jpg

August was quite a slow month in many ways - particularly for those of us clinging to the last vestiges of hope towards the arrival of a Buffalo FX Reticon Flanger. That now seems a very distant pipe-dream indeed as reports indicate that Steve Painter is suffering from some horribly debilitating condition that prevents him from doing any physical activities for the foreseeable future. He’s not officially responded to any communiqués since June 30th - the last day many of us heard from him. And in the meantime his Facebook page and more recently buffalofx.com website have gone dark - which certain would require some degree of input - but still no official communiqués, apologies, advisories or otherwise.

 

I am one of a few who will not be filing a claim - regardless of whether Steve or his Bank or Creditors have those moneys. I believe most though have by now initiated some sort of refund - considering that 80% or more of the pedals had failed to materialise. It’s not all bad news though really as I always felt that the ThorpyFX Camoflange was the pinnacle and Rolls-Royce of Flangers - and I was really just interested to see how close Steve’s version came - not looking to replace my Camoflange. There being no other way to get a demo or test unit - as only 100 units were being made.

 

I’ve advocated for the Thorpy Camoflange since its first appearance and it’s been rooted to my board since - it seems that many disappointed Reticon phantom recipients shifted their focus to the Camoflange - which is very good news for my friend Adrian - and has meant that this is another of his pedals that had crossed the celebratory 1,000 units line. If you are in any way considering a flanger and missed out on the Buffalo FX Reticon - then I will assure you that you won’t be disappointed with the Camoflange - which also runs off 9V versus the slightly more inconvenient 18V of the Reticon - it is still my favourite flanger by far!


Brief Status Overview / Review

Brief Status Overview / Review

For the very first time I've decided to include a photo of my actual physical setup / pedal-chain as I've kind of reached a milestone for 2020 in hitting most of the post-NAMM acquisition goals - and which culminated with the arrival of the Chase Bliss Audio Automatone Preamp MKII last month and Tom Majeski's superbly innovative Cooper FX Arcades - which I have had the pleasure of deploying for most of this month. The Preamp MKII I believe has already crossed the 1,000 unit manufacturing threshold - so no need for me really to give added support to that runaway success. While seemingly the Arcades is proving a little too innovative for some - who evidently don't realise just how beautifully elegant it is in use. In view of that I will be producing regular articles on the use of each of the Arcades' cards - and how every guitar pedal fan can make the most of this exceptional musical device.

 

I had been meaning to get both Danelectro 3699 (Foxx) Fuzz and Roebuck (Mostortion) Distortion pedals since NAMM - and that finally happened in August. My Analog Music Company DS-1 Evil Pumpkin Mod finally arrived from Kiev - as did my Fjord Fuzz Embla from Bergen.

 

In August I also decided that I would for sure add in the Boss EQ-200 where before I somewhat foolishly considered it overkill for my needs - note though that its 10 bands took quite a bit longer to dial in than the GE-7 - but I got it to a place where I really loved it fairly expediently.

 

I added one more Buffalo FX in the guise of the Patriot MKII and I also decided to complete a full refresh of my analog modulations lineup with the introduction of the Crazy Tube Circuits 4-Mode Analog Phaser. I still totally love all my Chase Bliss Audio original / prior featured Modulations - I just thought it was fair to give some other excellent pedals a fair shift of a rotation in the chain.

 

As a final measure and having been influenced by my own article on different wah types - I felt that I had to get a Fulltone WahFull - which then somehow inspired the acquisition of a Fulltone Secret Freq - both acquired at pretty reasonable prices.

 

August thus really only had the one significant disappointment in the lack of resolution for the Reticon Flanger - but saw several successful additions in other areas - particularly in the case of the Cooper FX Arcades. When you chop and change things as much as I do - you do often have to re-calibrate fairly large chunks of the signal chain! I'm pretty much where I intended to be for this time of the year though - and have hit most of my key intended post-NAMM targets.

 

As a final note I will very briefly mention the inclusion of the superb new Sitek Joss Allen Signature Freya Overdrive/Booster - for which I've written a detailed review for - but we're waiting for one more killer demo which is due any day now - before we release that article. I will of course signpost that when it's ready to go live.

 

There are a few new pedals already incoming for September - which I expect to be a somewhat busier month for many pedal builders - where things are starting to pick up after a long summer of Covid-19 impacted delays and Summer NAMM cancellation.

 

Here below follow the key changes for August with some hints at future joys to come! :


Slot #4 : Filter / Auto-Wah / Wah

Although not pictured on this occasion as the Dr Scientist Dusk has still been the principal pedal on this slot for most of August - nevertheless my new Fulltone WahFull has already had a pretty decent innings here. I'm sort of rotating the Dusk and WahFull depending on my mood and how industrious I feel on the day. I still have the Dunlop CBM535AR Mini CryBaby Auto Return Wah down for acquisition - while Andertons indicates a release date of September 30th - which frankly means an October target date if everyone is being totally honest. Weirdly there is still no target date for the TC Electronic Ditto+ Looper which was due at a similar time!


Slot #5 : Germanium / Sensitive Fuzz (Usually!)

This is one of the slots that always sees a lot of rotation action - and while my recent Expresso FX Custom Dual MKII has been seeing most of the action here, it has been in rotation with its Custom Dual Fuzz Face sibling, JDM Elektrika MKI/Zonk Fuzz and of course the very recent Danelectro 3699 of late. I typically add a few fuzzes each month and this slot as mentioned is seeing quite a regular carousel of alternatives - while my 2 Custom Expressos have still dominated for the month.


Slot #12 : Fuzz-Edged Overdrive / Fuzzy-Drive / Dumble-Style

I feel a little sorry for the key incumbent on this slot - the now legendary Demon Pedals Kondo Shifuku D-Style Overdrive. As I reckoned with the addition of the CBA Automatone Preamp MKII - slot #12 has become another sort of carousel - where I always return back to my long-term favourite Kondo, but various different pedals still get an innings on this slot - and for August that pedal has in the main been the excellent Danelectro Roebuck Distortion with 3-way clipping selector and 3-Band EQ - it was interesting to see that the final edition pedals were significantly different from the format promoted at NAMM. I'll probably give the Roebuck another week or two on this innings before I return back to my favourite favourite Kondo!


Slot #14 : Various Twin Drive/Fuzz/Distortion Pedals or Multi-Drives

Around a month on from acquiring the CBA Automatone Preamp MKII I'm still somewhat significantly impressed with this amazing pedal. I see it as THE pedal release of the year alongside the Cooper FX Arcades - and I still get readers asking me for my opinion on this stellar pedal. I will say one last time - that if you can afford it you should get it - it's just The most fantastic overdrive (+fuzz) pedal ever created. The hype is entirely justified - it sounds and works wholly magnificently. For the record it pips the equally excellent sounding Origin Effects RevivalDrive - by virtue of its easier controllability, dial-in-ability and PRESETS! In any case you don't really need my say-so as the praise has been universally effusively positive. I also included his mention so I could feature Pete Thorn's quite superb demo - which is the best one yet for this wonder pedal.


Slot #15 : Natural Amp-Like Overdrive and Distortion

I don't want to say too much about the Sitek Freya Overdrive/Booster in advance of my full review - just to say that it sounds particularly great on the Orange LEDs clipping setting with pre-gain boost applied - lovely warm soft-clipping overdrive with beautiful sustain. This slot has already been earmarked for another incoming pedal - Roman Belonozhko's Shnobel Tone Daily Driver which I somewhat missed / overlooked at this year's NAMM, but had really grown on me in recent weeks - more on both of these coming up pretty soon!


Slot #19 : Big Muff / Rat / Extreme Fuzz

I feel this is settling in as a somewhat 'Gilmourish' slot for now. For August I've been enjoying the smooth Muff tones of the recently added Buffalo FX Patriot II - while I think ongoingly I will be rotating between that, the Buffalo Evolution and Vick Audio V-2 - both exceptional but distinctly different PC G-2 derived variants. Slot #19 is one of the main rotational slots - and I probably need to bring back the EQD Life Pedal V2 at some stage and a myriad of other mostly Muff pedals I have for rotation here. My next significant phase will very much be Vick Audio targeted - so expect a lot more Muff variants here in the next rotations.


Slot #22 : JCM800 / Brown Sound Distortion

Slot #22 : JCM800 / Brown Sound Distortion

It seems that after one of the longest stints of recent time - that the superb MI Effects Super Crunch Box V2 will be finally getting a well-earned rest for a while as it seems that the next Jackson Audio pedal - the Mateus Asato Signature El Guapo Overdrive/Distortion is due to land some time in September. I'm still chasing details from Brad Jackson who should be furnishing me with more clarity any day soon. The El Guapo though has already put in an appearance on Reddit, LoopersParadise.de and AmericanMusical.com. No trace remains for American Musical Supply any more - while Loopers Paradise says he pedal is currently in stock for €369/£329 - with a supposed USA RRP tag of $350 - which is a touch higher than that advertised at NAMM ($279)! Most of us were expecting the Jackson Audio Modular / Octave Fuzz to land first as that's the order we had been told - but it seems that the El Guapo has been given priority - this time with a different colour scheme and Mateus Asato fully onboard! The left footswitch will allow you to access 4 clipping modes for a JCM800 style distortion using the 6 regular control knobs, the right-hand footswitch will allow you to access the 4 modes of the same main Broken Arrow Tube-Screamer style circuit as far as I am aware - with 3 mini knobs for control - Volume, Tone and Drive - you can check the known details from NAMM in my follow-up Jackson Audio Article from then.


Slot #25 : Punchy / Bassy / Heavyweight Metal Distortion

It's with much sorrow that I announce that the second of my MI Effects long-term heavy hitters is getting a break from the chain as I re-up and bring back the Boss OD-200. I feel the OD-200 is particularly adept at the heavier more textured distortions - particularly when you double up on the Boost and apply the EQ cleverly. Part of me still wants parametric mids and some sort of Q-control. But an abundance of superior heavy / metal / extreme tones and textures can be dialled in with relative ease - including that amazing Big Muff Fuzz voicing in combination with itself or other Metal pedal mode variations.


Slot #28 : Post-Gain-EQ

This slot now updated to Boss's programmable EQ-200 Graphic Equalizer - with 128 presets onboard - this is no longer just balances the high frequency content of the signal-chain - but is used for a plethora of tone-sculpting and modifying tasks - including a Bass-Cut / Tightness preset. I worried that I really did not need the bigger EQ or the presets, and that I would struggle to fit it into my already exceedingly crammed real-estate. It turns out I had just the right amount of space to squeeze it in - and while a little more tricky and time-consuming to dial in than the GE-7 - I still got to a place I liked within a relatively short time. It's evident that the EQ-200 is somewhat more finely calibrated than the GE-7 so tiny moves can make quite significant impacts. I've made so many changes to the signal chain in August - that it's bound to take a few extra minutes of tweaking to get everything back in balance and sounding optimal across all my different pedal types and two amps.


Slot #30 : Analog Flanger

So my Buffalo FX Reticon Flanger project does not seem to have worked out - I had a couple of articles already plotted out on best Buffalo FX Pedals and Best Medium Enclosure Flangers. The short answer to all of that is my good friend Adrian Thorpe's category leading Camoflange Flanger which I firmly expect to be me favourite flanger for life - I like everything about it, in fact the only marginal improvement would be to make the pedal more compact and give it a tap-tempo. Other than that it's absolutely perfection - and my favourite ThorpyFX pedal to date - actually I have a few of those! In any case I'm still very much enamoured by the Camoflange - and if any of your were disappointed by the Buffalo Reticon incident - I advise you to focus your attentions on the Camoflange instead!


Slot #32 : Analog Phaser

For the briefest while this was the last one standing of my original Chase Bliss Audio lineup of analog modulations - from the former Warped Vinyl MKII, Spectre BK, Gravitas, and Wombtone MKII combination - only the last named was still standing. I had been much impressed by the Crazy Tube Circuits Cyclone 4-Mode Analog Phaser - so decided that would be best to go in on the rotation to complete a clean sweep / refresh of analog modulations. I still wholly love my original CBA quartet - and they will return - I'm just giving some other superior quality pedals a run / rotation / innings in the chain!


Slot #33 : Glitch Pedal / Multi-FX / Workstation

This is my second big white whale landed this yeas alongside the CBA Automatone Preamp MKII - those were really my 2 key targets for the year, and I'm delighted to finally have both together. Many thanks to Tom Majeski for his ongoing kindness towards me and the time he spared me to answer my Columbo-style questions. Hopefully most of you enjoyed my in-depth review. I still feel that not enough players are recognising the full potential fo the Arcardes - with is every bit as revolutionary and innovative as the spotlight hogging Preamp MKII. Of course all power to Joel Korte and his Chase Bliss Posse - but all power to Tom Majeski too. He is also doing magnificently innovative devices which deserve to be equally highly lauded, celebrated and supported. A key tip for using this device is to set the clock rate slightly lower for more ambient texture!


Final Thoughts

I don't always feel the need to write a final thoughts for these sorts of pedal-chain status updates, but this one seems like quite a milestone for me. I'm 11 pedals off reaching 500 now - which will likely happen in September - and I have some truly magnificent devices here with numerous equally high quality substitutes and understudies in reserve for pretty much every slot now. I could put out numerous wholly different still amazing editions of the pedal-chain with the many gems that are currently sitting out of rotation.

 

If I look back to my post-NAMM target list - the only really key ones I'm still chasing are the Jackson Audio El Guapo and Modular Fuzz. There are several other pedals I sort of meant to get from earlier times - a few harking back to previous NAMMs even. Yet I'm really rather satisfied with where I've got to already. For sure there are a few more surprises yet to come no doubt before the end of the year. But not likely major slot challengers really in my estimation. I can't see anything shifting the Preamp MKII or Cooper FX Arcades for a very long time - while I'm acutely aware that Boss has been holding back the release of a number of new pedals which were originally scheduled for Summer NAMM - those are likely to hit at some stage soon over the coming months.

 

I'm in a position where I really don't need to get any more pedals in for my own personal needs - but I do so very much still to fuel this blog and keep moving the conversation forward - such that I can better advise my ever-inquisitive readers.

 

I have a feeling that Chase Bliss Audio will drop their Meris Automatone CXM Digital Cross-Over Modulation Reverb relatively soon - while I understand that some Zvex collaboration is underway too - so CBA may do their typical pre-Christmas drop surprise! I like the look of that Automatone CXM - but to be honest I've not spent enough time with my relatively new EHX Oceans 12 to be entertaining another Reverb quite so soon - so that will most certainly be a 2021 target if I decide I can accommodate it - space is tight as you can plainly see now!

 

I still keep meaning to get a Banana Effects Mandala Mini Glitch pedal - while I really don't need it with the Arcades - I just kind of want it. Same goes for the Blackhawk Balrog V3 Distortion where I would not currently know where to slot it in at the moment - and I'm still chasing two cool huge sounding mini fuzzes - the very apt Free Fall Diver Huge (Japan only so far), and the almost equally impressive Fortin Mini Fuzz.

 

I indicated and unilaterally announced the possibility of a Specular Tempus MKII along the same lines / form-factor of the GFI Synesthesia - I would so jump on it if and when that materialises - but my Indonesian friends say that it's going to be a fair way into 2021 before they consider such a move. Hopefully my mockup earlier this year inspired them!

 

I still have a variety of older and discontinued pedals on my wishlists and continue to scour the various different resources for pristine condition bargains - which seem to have been relatively few and dry in the last few months.

 

As mentioned - the Shnobel Tone Daily Driver is already incoming, I may have one or two further examples incoming from Sitek - and I'm of course mid-negotiations with Brad Jackson over the forthcoming El Guapo - so hopefully that will put in an appearance in September.

 

In terms of a final flurry for the remaining second half of the year I can't foresee any major incoming game-changers that could in any way displace or upend the majority of the current roster. I will be doing a couple more custom pedals with Expresso FX's Sof at some stage in the autumn; while looking at everything currently in place I cannot see any major significant outstanding enhancement or change which I haven't already got covered with current and backup pedals. Whichever way I look at things currently I seem to be pretty well covered - but then again I really don't know everything that's just around the corner. While I feel that I'm in a position that I would still be delighted by year-end if I didn't really change anything from what's already currently in place right now.

 

Of course for the sake of the blog I will continue to rotate and experiment - but I don't think any normal sane person would rotate quite as much or as frequently as I continue to do. I could really do with things to be a little quiet for the next few months which I don't expect will happen. That said there should be a number of Vick Audio pedals inbound at some stage and a few more of my longer term / backlog targets. Most of the really obvious ones have been picked off so far. And in other areas like say original opamp Ibanez Mostortions - I need to wait for the price to drop again as I'm not really wanting to pay £350 equivalent for a pedal in relatively shonky condition.

 

I will continue to scrutinise the resource diligently and continue to reach out to the community for input and inspiration. All in all though I think I would have to say it's been a pretty excellent pedal year - despite all the other weird sh1t 2020 has thrown at us!

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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