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Notable Guitar Pedal Trifectas

Big Muff Style FuzzBoostBoost and OverdriveBossCompressorDelayDelay WorkstationDigital DelayDigital ReverbDistortionDriveFoxpedalFuzzFuzz-Drive and FuzzstortionKlone and Transparent OverdriveMarshall Style DistortionModulationModulation WorkstationMulti-DriveOverdriveReverbReverb WorkstationSkreddy PedalsStryfectaStrymonThorpyFXTubescreamer Style OverdriveUtilityXotic Effects+-
2018AfBlgPedalTrifectas700-min

When I started down the pedal trail - and this will fix a fairly obvious time-stamp on it, there were 2 much used pedal trifectas in evidence on every other or third pedalboard. Namely the Strymon ’Stryfecta’ of Mobius, TimeLine and BigSky, and the mini-pedal powerhouse that was the Xotic Effects trifecta - EP Booster, SL Drive and SP Compressor - all excellent too. The Strymons owe a lot to the Eventide Quadfecta which preceded them - ModFactor, PitchFactor, Space, and TimeFactor - and had I been looking some years earlier I might have been more likely to have gone with Eventides. Currently Boss’s recent trifecta of DD-500, MD-500 and RV-500 - updated technology improvements over the Strymons - are starting to eat into Strymon’s dominant market share in that sector. Meaning that the new and improved version often has greater appeal to the current audience, and pricing of course is a factor too - which gives another advantage to Boss. Yet so far, Strymon is still doing pretty well at holding its own, and not particularly rushing to bring out further evolved versions to take on the current simultaneous dual-delay higher fidelity models.

 

As for Xotic, they pretty much started the vogue for luxe / boutique mini pedals with their original trio and blazed the trail for Wampler who have done so well with their mini Ego and Tumnus pedals. In my case the first trifecta to be completed was the ’Stryfecta’ which I still retain to this day, but it mostly plays second fiddle nowadays to my Boss MD-500 and RV-500 for Modulation and Reverb, while my main Delay pedal currently is the Empress EchoSystem. In fact the Boss DD-500 has just relatively recently been updated to the same lofty firmware heights as its follow-up range siblings - and is now really good value for an all-rounder Delay workstation. It is the only pedal in the above visual I have still to acquire.

 

So the next trifecta I completed was the Xotic Effects trio, notably in both original and Alchemy Audio modded versions (as pictured) - with internal dip-switches externalised via toggles for easier tweaking/control. Of those 3, just the SL Drive remains a first choice in my active pedal-chain; I prefer the Wampler mini Ego to the SP Compressor, and the larger and much more feature-rich Jackson Audio Prism to the EP Booster - but at their size, the Xotics are all brilliant, and I’m kind of surprised why Xotic hasn’t launched more additional mini pedals of that sort into that marketplace; the trio is currently available in limited edition Red enclosures. In fact there are relatively few boutique manufacturers that have picked up on Xotic’s and Wampler’s success. We are though seeing a neat line of Pigtronix mini (micro) pedals, and MXR has launched its own Tumnus-alike in the guise of the mini Sugar Drive.

 

The next trifecta I set about acquiring was the 5-dial and dual footswitch pedals from Foxpedal - the Defector Fuzz (Big Muff+), Kingdom Combo V2 (Klon), and The City V2 (Tubescreamer). Each of these has really smart tone-shaping controls and features a copy of the Foxpedal Ebenezer boost separately and independently foot-switchable onboard. The Defector still gets frequent rotation into the more flexible of the Fuzz pedal slots, and The City is currently my Tubescreamer of choice - and will be alternated with the JHS Bonsai when that is finally out in April. The Kingdom Combo is still excellent, but for my tastes somewhat overshadowed by the Tumnus Deluxe currently which takes my Klone pride of place - and I am thinking of adding a Greer Lightspeed too for occasional rotation.

 

The most recent trifecta completed for me is one that I’ve known about for a while, but sort of forgot about, and was then re-triggered by my fairly recent research into Fuzz pedals. Fuzz pedals are something Skreddy does amazingly well, and they also have an incredible Swiss-Army-knife drive/distortion pedal called the Screwdriver. All of these are exceptional pedals, but the Hybrid Fuzz Driver and Lunar Module are secondary swap-outs in the flexible fuzz pedal slot, while the Screwdriver plays second fiddle to Dr Scientist’s The Elements. All Skreddy pedals are exceptional too though and I love them dearly, their BC109 is another favourite of theirs that I have, and I aim to get the Pink Floyd Wall-sounding P19 fuzz too.


Preferred Trifectas as pictured
(in ascending size)

  • Xotic : EP Booster | SL Drive | SP Compressor
  • Skreddy : Hybrid Fuzz Driver | Lunar Module Mini Deluxe Fuzz | Screwdriver Mini Deluxe Drive
  • Foxpedal : Defector Fuzz | Kingdom Combo V2 Overdrive | The City V2 Overdrive
  • Strymon ’Stryfecta’ : BigSky Reverb | Mobius Modulation | TimeLine Delay
  • Boss : DD-500 Delay | MD-500 Modulation | RV-500 Reverb

There are a number of different styles of ’trifecta’ - usually they are a very similar layout/format of pedals within a brand, but can also be of a specific category grouping - or even just ’MVP’ style - as is the case for my Dr Scientist trifecta of BitCrusher, The Elements and Frazz Dazzler - all somewhat different in category and layout, but all compact-size and all brilliant.

 

Hear are some of the other trifectas considered:

  • Bearfoot FX : Emerald Green Distortion Machine Germanium (Gold) | Emerald Green Distortion Machine Silicon (Silver) | Emerald Green Overdrive
  • Bogner : Burnley Distortion | Harlow Boost & Bloom | Wessex Overdrive
  • Dr Scientist : BitQuest Fuzz Modulator | The Elements Multi-Drive | Frazz Dazzler Fuzz
  • JHS modded EHX Big Muffs : Green Russian Big Muff Pi JHS Moscow Mod | OpAmp Big Muff JHS Pumpkin Patch Mod | Nano Big Muff Pi JHS MoonPi Mod
  • Keeley : Dark Side ’Pink Floyd in a Box’ | Loomer ’Shoegaze in a Box’ | Monterey ’Hendrix in a Box’
  • Meris : Mercury 7 Reverb | Ottobit JR Bitcrusher/Sequencer | Polymoon Delay
  • Truetone : Jekyll & Hyde OD/Distortion | Route 66 Compression OD | VSS-XO OD

 

Of the above I obviously have the Dr Scientist, Just the Silver Bearfoot EGDM, and the Bogner Burnley. I have long had the various Keeley’s on my wishlists, and the various modded Big Muffs, while the next trifecta likeliest to be completed is the Bogner trio, while I am most intrigued by the Meris range, but haven’t figure out how I would make use of those within my chain.

 


Notable Pedal Quadfectas

Of course there are numerous pedal groupings which fall just outside the trifecta - either one pedal too few in the grouping or one too many. For Eventide for instance - where Strymon sought its initial inspiration and then refined that, which in turn was largely ’borrowed’ by Boss’s newer and more evolved range. Eventide have 4 pedals in their range through with the addition of a PitchFactor for which Strymon and Boss have no equivalent.

 

We also have Chase Bliss Audio’s Modulation Quadfecta of Gravitas, Spectre, Warped Vinyl and Wombtone - all of which I love and have as analogue primaries in my chain. It looks like the Spectre is the next pedal to get an update and colour-change - we’ll probably see that at Summer NAMM.

  • Chase Bliss Audio : Gravitas Tremolo | Spectre Flanger | Warped Vinyl Chorus/Vibrato | Wombtone Phaser
  • Eventide : ModFactor | PitchFactor | Space | TimeFactor


Final Thoughts

As a pedal-fan, there is obviously an aspect of ’collector’ and ’curator’ that seeps into that activity, and there are lots of reasons why you might want to get pedals from within the same range - familiarity, form-factor, compatibility etc. I always have extensive wishlists of pedals, and somewhat unintentional themes which can come to dominate certain periods - like for instance my Fuzz-focus for 2018 - this means less changes and acquisitions in other areas. There also comes a point where you need to start getting rid of some to accommodate others - and then the decision process becomes tighter and more refined.

 

For instance I love the look of the forthcoming Empress Zoia Effects / Modulation / Sequencer workstation - which probably means that will take over as primary for the slot where the MD-500 currently resides. I love love the EchoSystem, so I am less likely to acquire a Boss DD-500 imminently, while I am also considering a GFI System Specular Tempus as a sometime swap-out for the RV-500.

 

Of all the existing trifectas available (which I don’t have), the Meris trio kind of intrigues me the most, even though I know they are not entirely practical for my daily use, and would be somewhat fiddly to accommodate even temporarily - they all do amazing things though - yet need a midi-switcher really to enable me to get as much out of them - and quick and easy switchability like I have with my current pedals in those areas. Most likely scenario is that they will be acquired in a year or two and used somewhat sparingly. I note in most of the demos for instance that they are mostly sat on table-tops for ease of tweakability, while on a day-to-day basis I would just want to stomp between dozens of presets like I can do on the Boss, Empress and Strymon pedals.

 

I would be most intrigued to know about other ’trifectas’ that I may have overlooked - I double-checked my Pedal Makers Directory and I can’t recall any obvious omissions, but most likely I have still missed one or two - please let me know!...

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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