I already singled out the Newly Revamped Matthews Effects Range in my piece on Pedal Graphic Design - but there I focused more on the design of the actual pedals - principally the facia graphics and control topology - knob choice etc. However there was much more to the Matthews Effects Range Revamp than just a pedal design change - and some of the most significant improvements happened within the disciplines of Packaging and supplementary Collateral.
Before I wax on further about the pretty stunning Black and Gold packaging, I would like to draw attention to the back-plates of the pedals and what I often refer to as Pedal 'Standard Notation'. I've long said that every pedal-maker should include mention of power requirement / current draw on the pedal - and Rick Matthews has raised this one further by including a full set of mini instructions on the pedal reverse - per the above picture - which shows you the context of the pedal along with CONTROLS and TECHNICAL (current draw) details - or 9V 50mA as stated. In fact I believe there should be a couple of more references for Standard Notation - including 'Unity Level' i.e. where on the Level dial Unity Output occurs or say Unity = 2 o'c. Also I would like to know max output of pedal - say +12dB - as a number of pedals I've acquired over the years have pretty much needed to be fully cranked to achieve Unity Gain, meaning that the Max Output is pretty much +0dB - for certain modulations - like Tremolo you typically need to boost the signal to avoid loss of volume - so this metric can be critical to one's enjoyment of a particular pedal! Other than that I feel the new Matthews Effects back plates are exemplary and really set a new standard for how to do things!
The Packaging motif / design is a sort of Victorian Explorer's Map - realised in Gold on Black - it's just a superb packaging execution which fully conveys high quality and attention to detail well before you get to the actual pedal. The inside and outside of the box just elevate the experience to fully justify the boutique level of pricing - which is very fair considering what is on offer. The contents of the box and the all-round consistency throughout just makes owning a new Matthews Effects pedal all that more satisfying - which is a key purpose of such an exercise - we have something here which is universally appealing, impactful and memorable.
As for the pedals themselves, they have a consistent graphic treatment throughout - using also the same knobs and the same logo placement - again making everything feel and look super sharp and refined - and wholly worthwhile. I need not mention post-purchase dissonance in reference to these pedals - as each really gives you more than most others of this type. The control topology for the Drive and Fuzz is somewhat different to the dual-channel controls of the others, but each category very much follows along very similar lines.
I have acquired 2 Matthews Effects pedals to date (earlier versions admittedly) - the Mint Green V1 version of The Whaler Fuzz, and a limited edition OpAmp Ghoul Phantom Fuzz - with useful 3-band EQ. Having chased after a Rick Matthews Dual Modded EHX Nano POG for a while, I have since been encouraged to go for The Chemist V2 instead - which covers Dual Octave Channels, as well as Chorus/Vibrato and Phaser modes - meaning you can have two different settings of each, or a mix across the two channels. In fact here we encounter the only really challenging part to these Matthews Effects pedals - which is in the naming convention of algorithms and parameters.
So for The Chemist - the Chorus/Vibrato Mode is called 'Cobalt', Octave is 'Lithium' and Phaser is 'Iridium', meanwhile the two sets of three knobs are labelled Reaction, Catalyst and Formula - with the first being Wet/Dry Mix, and then the others varying per algorithm - this is just a cute way to avoid saying Param 1 / Param 2 or Thing 1 / Thing 2 - and I'm totally onboard with that - it's not exactly a steep learning curve!
I feel that the star of the range is the hitherto somewhat overlooked The Arcitect V3 'Klone' style Drive - Rick Matthews' take on that celebrated circuit but with 3-band EQ and additional Boost, as well as Germanium and Silicon Clipping options on the Drive circuit, and Silicon and Mosfet options on the Boost. I cannot think of a more versatile Klone pedal available currently - I am a huge fan of the Wampler Tumnus Deluxe, but this one has a few more tricks up its sleeve. My Klone of choice at the moment is actually the Decibelics Golden Horse Mini, but I have determined that I will acquire The Architect V3 too - for an audition for that top slot! UPDATE! - I have already ordered an Architect V3 and it's on its way!
The newer version of The Whaler Fuzz has been retuned and expanded somewhat with extended range across its five dials - particularly in the Gain/Sustain area. I may consider this next year, but I'm not looking to update or replace my existing Whaler any time soon.
Finally we have two different combination of dual-channel Reverb. The Astronomer V2 Celestial Reverb provides Canis Major (EchoVerb), Orion (Hall Reverb with Shimmer) and Ursa Major (Chamber Reverb with Octave) which you can double-set or mix up across the two channels. While the Cosmonaut V2 Void Delay/Reverb provides Luna 2 (Dark Modulated Reverb), Sputnik (Reflective Plate Reverb) and Vostok 1 (Warm Tape Delay) flavours.
As my rig / pedal-chain is a stereo one - all my Delay and Reverb pedals require stereo output - which somewhat disqualifies the Astronomer V2 and Cosmonaut V2, while I feel that I will likely acquire the three others at some stage - in the order of The Architect V3 , then The Chemist V2 - and finally The Whaler V2 some time later.
The above images show The Architect V3 Packaging followed by said pedal front and back - and then the other 4 pedals from the current range - which I will highlight briefly too as below. I expect there are several other classic Rick Matthews pedals on the way no doubt - including most likely The Conductor Optical Tremolo...
I'm a big fan of Klon-style overdrives and already have quite a number in my collection - so was excited when this new version of The Architect appeared with new Boost Footswitch and mode options attached to that to - Silicon or Mosfet. So with the exception of the dual footswitches and new boost elements The Architect V3 is at least superficially very similar to the V2 - having 3-band EQ and a 3-way Clipping switch - Germanium/None/Silicon.
Note that as is usually the case - the Germanium clipping is significantly quieter - and could probably to with a midl boost for sake of volume. I so like the make-up of this pedal that I pretty much made up my mind that I had to have one. It will go head-to-head with my existing Klones - and I will keep it in the chain for a while to get fully acclimatised to its capabilities - before deciding on which is my longer-term champion in that slot - signs are good for this one though!
The Architect also has an External Bypass Jack which allows you to control Boost and Bypass via TRS cable and separate dual footswitch remote (not included).
This is a significant refinement of this pedal's predecessor - with option switches along the side - like on the Architect, and now a cleaner 2 rows of the 3 same controls that can be applied against each of this pedal's two channel.
The modes are as follows:
Canis Major - Swelling EchoVerb
Orion - Hall with Shimmer
Ursa Major - Dark Chamber Reverb with Octave
And these are the controls:
Mass - Wet/Dry Mix
Glow - Shimmer Degree on Orion and Canis Major, Octave Mix on Ursa Major
Travel - Decay Time
While the Expression Jack allows for control of the 2nd row Travel parameter, and the Alternate Jack Out allows you to control the 2 footswitches remotely via TRS patch cable
As mentioned in the preamble above - I had long lusted as such after a Rick Matthews Dual Modded Electro-Harmonix Nano POG - which was a hot item on Reverb.com for a while - but now all have dried up. Rick no longer makes those Mods, but has wrapped the methodology into his The Chemist pedal which adds Chorus/Vibrato and Phaser options/alternatives to the Octave Up & Down.
The Chemist's modes are named as follows:
Cobalt - Chorus/Vibrato
Lithium - Octave
Iridium - Phaser
With the following controls:
Reaction - Wet/Dry Mix
Catalyst - Speed of Chorus/Phaser and Degree of Upper Octave
Formula - Delay Time for Chorus, Resonance for Phaser, Degree of Lower Octave
The Expression Jack allows for control of the 2nd row Formula parameter, and the Alternate Jack Out allows you to control the 2 footswitches remotely via TRS patch cable
Matthews Effects' second Reverb gives you 3 different flavours to the Astronomer - although there are some similarities in arrangement - i.e. 2 Reverbs + a Delay. Both pedals have excellent algorithms, and I don't know which of the two I would prefer - for me it's somewhat a moot point as my stereo chain needs stereo outputs for Delays and Reverb which these don't cover. Yet for a mono rig both provide superb ambient textures - as ably demonstrated by Pete Thorn and Henning Pauly.
The Cosmonaut contains 3 modes:
Luna 2 - Dark, Haunting Modulated Reverb
Sputnik - Reflective Plate Reverb
Vostok 1 - Warm Tape Style Delay
With 2 rows of 3 controls:
Fuel - Wet/Dry Mix
Anomaly - Modulation Mix for Reverbs, Delay Time
Travel - Reverb / Delay Decay
And as per the other dual channel pedals - the Expression Jack enables control over the 2nd Row Travel parameter, and the Alternate Jack Out allows you to control the 2 footswitches remotely via TRS patch cable.
The Whaler is the one pedal here I have a lot of prior experience with - well actually the V1 Mint Green version of this - which Rick says has been significant beefed up for its second coming - with more gain available, and more range across each of the 5 dials. This is obviously the simplest pedal on offer here - just the 5 dials:
Output - Level
Sustain - Gain/Fuzz
Squish - Control Bias
Tone - More Highs/Less Lows Clockwise or More Lows/Less Highs Anti-Clockwise
Body - Mid Scoop Clockwise
There is no further clipping or additional features or ports / jacks to concern yourself with - just those 5 dials which actually provide a huge degree of variety. Even though billed as a unique circuit, I would say that it lives very well within the ball park of a Big Muff - being texturally and tonally most similar to that style of Fuzz, albeit not matching particularly any of the main reference versions. In any case it's quite a potent and thick fuzz (albeit not really sludgy or doom either), and when not scooped - should cut nicely though the band mix!
Rick Matthews and Boutique Amps Distribution have quite evidently leveraged this revamped range to the max, and it should offer lots of great reference points to pedal-builders / manufacturers of all sizes. Of course most won't be able to avail themselves of the expansive facilities at Boutique Amps - but there are various other platforms out there which can help raise the impact of your own line of pedals or assist with the manufacture. Another example is Cusack Music working with JHS and ProAnalog Devices. For smaller players there are a variety of services they can avail themselves of - but they still need to be conscious of unit costs, profits and margins. I feel in the modern pedal game and for mid-size brands it's the distribution element which is often the difference between success and failure - actually getting our products in front of as many potential customers as possible. Even then - with all the choices now available - success is never a shoe-in - and many a great brand can fall by the way-side.
I've often harped on about how important it is to maintain consistency of brand look and feel - and how all the little details matter, and to-date I don't believe anyone has accomplished this in a more concerted fashion than Matthews Effects right now - possibly with the sole exception of Chase Bliss Audio - but at roughly twice the price.
Also companies with larger ranges cannot very easily re-tool their whole line and change livery right across the range overnight as is possible for more compact catalogues. I have no doubt that this exercise will elevate Matthews Effects and should promote more sales overall.
I'm frequently poor at guessing which the bestsellers are for each boutique operation - I too often gauge things from my own perspective and preferences - where some are more obvious and some will always be rather oblique. Delays, Reverbs and Drives tend to to pretty well, but Fuzzes not so much - and Modulations can be rather more hit-and-miss.
I've already stated my preferences here and put my money where my mouth is in acquiring The Architect V3, I will also very likely have a The Chemist V2 at some stage, with the updated Whaler a little less certain. All 5 pedals are excellent though - they are formidably versatile, sound great and have some degree of extra smarts versus the typical competitor for each one. That said competition is fiercer than it has ever been - and just because your pedal is great does not mean it will 100% win through - the right packaging and presentation really helps and this updated range is off to a flying 're-start'.