This feature was inspired by a couple of recent events, and partly as a counter to my highlighting of the really rather complex Empress Zoia Modular Synthesizer / Multi-Effects unit in my last feature. For the last week or so I’ve been working on updating my rather extensive Guitar Pedal Directory page which features all of the above, and around 2,000 more from across 160 or so pedal builders around the world.
I periodically review each of the sites referenced - to keep tabs on silent releases and such which I have otherwise not been exposed to. I obviously have a rolling wishlist, and this is significantly informed and influenced by my Pedal Directory sort of long-list - although I’ve recently changed that to be even more wide-ranging.
In any case and in light of my dealing with some very complex pedals for the last few weeks - I decided that One Knob Pedals would be the order of the day, and I also thought it was about time I acquired the Tate FX Raise The Dead Fuzz - which really appeals to me in particular in its new Lime-Green or ’Lime Scream’ colourway.
As most will know, I’m generally a pedal-tweaker where the more dials and switches the merrier! Yet I do of course also recognise and appreciate the magic of creating a circuit so finely-tuned that it can be controlled by just a single knob. There are actually more one knob pedals that you might think - while the vast majority of these are ’Boost’ style pedals which I have no desire to cover here, those have been covered to a large degree elsewhere before - including on this site.
So I decided there had to be rules as to what ended up in my listing, and what was deliberately excluded:
An example of a pedal that was excluded is the Mojo Hand FX Nebula Redux Phaser - which has a main speed dial, but also has a further toggle-switch which eliminates it from consideration here. The list is actually composed of 7 Fuzzes, 3 Phasers, 2 Distortions, 2 Drives, a Compressor, Looper and Spring Reverb.
There are a number of mini pedals too which are in the main single dial, so this list could have been significantly longer - but these are all pedals that I have had on my wishlist at sometime. I sort of own 4 of these already (High Road is en-route) - all in the bottom right corner for reasons of serendipity - the Mythos Golden Fleece Fuzz/Drive, Mythos Joey Landreth High Road Spitty Silicon Fuzz, Tate FX Raise the Dead Strident Silicon Fuzz, and TC Electronics ever-so-simple Ditto Looper Mini.
There are two pedals here that I've had designs on for the longest time but have still not got around to adding to the collection - the EQD Acapulco Gold Sunn Model T style, and Silicon style fuzz Erupter - both amazing pedals, but I seem to be somehow allergic to EQD still as even though I have a number of those pedals on my wishlist I have yet to acquire even one for whatever reason - shifting priorities I suppose.
For the remainder I have a preference for some over the others - but all are really decent. I've always been a big Skreddy fan, and the fact that they have two excellent one-knob phasers has left me in a serious quandary as to which to go for. I'm also rather intrigued by the JPTR FX Gainsaw, and every fuzz of note still seems to be fair game for me - although there is some complex weighting and priority attached to that!
For most of the one-knob dirt pedals it is paramount that your guitar has both decent tone and volume dials - as these are key to sculpting the tone and texture of the pedal.
Pedals are listed pretty much alphabetical by brand name, apart from one concession to symmetry!:
The Destroyer is actually a consolidation of two fairly high gain one-knob BAT fuzzes - the Ritual, based in turn on the Colorsound One Knob Fuzz (A sort of high gain Fuzz Face), and the Oath which is a one-knob version of the BAT Revelation Superbass Fuzz. Both of these are combined into one chassis, each can be activated by its own respective footswitch or both together - Left/Right, while there is only a single output level control knob.
This One Knob Sunn Model T Amp-in-a-Box has been on my wishlist for a number of years now - I just never quite get around to acquiring it - but I do still really want it. As an example I got the significantly more tweakable Coda Effects Black Hole PreAmp (also Sunn T) - which has six dials and a voicing toggle and which I of course also love. I guess I just haven't encountered the Acalpulco Gold yet with my name on it. The one knob here is output volume and you user your guitar Volume and Tone to adjust degree of gain and tonality by dialling back each control as required.
The concept here is similar to the Acapulco - just a single control 'Bias' in this case while the typical Volume + Fuzz/Sustain parameters are internally dimed as is mostly how you would use a vintage Fuzz. This is a highly tuned Silicon Fuzz Face style Fuzz where the only and all the control on the pedal is applied by the solitary Bias knob. You use your guitar Volume and Tone knobs separately to engage further tone-sculpting characteristics.
This sort of Fuzzstortion pedal is similarly set up to the Acapulco in that the gain is already maxed out, and the only control you have is the output Volume. This is a very Fuzz-like distortion and you dial in progressively more harmonics as you sweep to the right. This is highly textured distortion that I am actually really tempted by at the moment- may well end up in the collection before long.
The simplest of Spring Reverbs here with the single dial solely controlling Effect Level - spin to left for Less Reverb, and to the right for More Reverb - that's about all there is to it. By the nature of how it is tuned it naturally gets a touch brighter as you turn it up - otherwise you have no further control over it. All these single knob circuits live or die by how well they are tuned in.
Lone Wolf Audio is probably the most famous make of Boss HM-2 Clones in all guises from the simplest here to the most complex in its Deluxe large format edition and all kinds of in-between variations. The classic HM-2 setup requires that all 4 dials - Volume, Lows, Highs, and Distortion all be dimed or set to max. The Lone Wolf Audio Dictator saves you all of that by having just the one dial to control them all - which ends up a more of a Output Level dial. I still feel Lone Wolf could engineer this into a smaller enclosure - but it's a cool addition to their Left Hand Wrath range, while this edition is fairly few and far between nowadays as possibly discontinued. Note that demo if of standard full-knobs and switches version.
This is a really lovely Tweedy style amp in a box where the one knob is really just an output level control, but there is some very slight gain added too - much like with a slightly gainey booster pedal. This has a loverly nasal sort of small amp quality and sounds wonderful to my ears. A really great Tweed option for sure.
There are a number of mini one knob compressors around but relatively few compact sized ones like this is. The Clementine is a very smooth compressor with single external volume knob and internal bias trim-pot. This was a limited edition 100 unit run which sold out relatively quickly. You do get occasional examples on Reverb.com but they're fairly few and far between because of the small number of units made.
The legendary simple 1970's phaser in its original format produces that well-loved swirly effect excellently used by luminaries Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen. This orange box is still the world's most iconic phaser effect. Funnily I went for the more diminutive Phase 95 Mini which gives you Scrip and Block Letter modes from both Phase 90 and Phase 45 circuits. So single knob will rarely give you the ultimate versatility, it rather brings you unadulterated flavour in the simplest of formats.
Mythos are a little cryptic about which circuit this is supposedly a sort of clone of - Update! - now confirmed as a clone of the Alan Yee Fuzz Nuts. In any case I have this one knob wonder which gives you that perfect mix of drive and fuzz - which gets louder and fuzzier as you crank it up. This is just a really useful beautifully balanced / textured fuzzy-drive!
I've actually just recently pre-ordered this soon to be released miniaturisation of Joey Landreth's Signature Spitty Silicon Fuzz. It's essentially a Silicon Fuzz Face which has been biased to give it that slightly spitty voltage-starved tone when fully cranked. You have just the single Output dial here which is mostly about the volume, but the tone does get more progressively broken up too as you spin the dial. Note that the above demo is for the older discontinued compact model - the circuit is the same though.
Skreddy supremo Marc Ahlfs's latest pedal is the updated Cephalopod Octave Fuzz - just beautifully textured as all Skreddy Pedals are really - and even better than the original by the sounds of it. The pedal is so new that it is still no way near reaching UK distribution (Joe's Pedal and Luck Fret Music Co). If you want it you'd better go direct! It only just missed the cut on my recent best of Octave pedals - on further consideration, I would probably include it had I done the article again more recently - just a wonderful sounding octave fuzz.
I actually really like both of Skreddy's Phasers and I thought I should have one at one stage, but could not come to a decision as to which one I preferred - so still sort of in option paralysis. These phasers are very much period correct with just a single speed dial and a deep rich tonality that you would be familiar with from music of that decade. The Little Miss Sunshine is a touch more swooshy, while the Swirl is a more delicate watery vibey tone. I really like both - but they are relatively pricey for you to own both!
The second of the Skreddy Phaser pair is slightly more psychedelic, and closer to the Zvex Vibrophase which I have, but which can be a touch tricky to dial in on occasion - it suffers a little from the same condition as the Fuzz Factory - whereby 5 dials need to be pretty much cranked in unison. So this is a very elegant solution to that problem - not as versatile as the Vibrophase for sure - but really delivers that beautifully watery vibey swirl - it sound gorgeous. Decisions decisions...
Another classic Silicon Fuzz Face style circuit using BC109 transistors. Again beautifully tuned right out of the box - lovely thick and powerful fuzz where other circuits of this type can be rather sharper and more piercing. I have so many Fuzz Face style pedals that I'm really not sure I need one more - but the one would certainly be up there on the list of considerations - just sounds beautifully textured and tuned.
The Raise The Dead is another sort of Silicon Fuzz Face style Fuzz - rather aggressive and a little more strident in the upper range when cranked than many similar - but still gloriously rich and powerful - and can go very loud! I had this on my wishlist for a while - and when the new Lime Scream edition came out I had to have one. Just as well really as that first batch of Lime disappeared really quick. This is a rather high gain version of this circuit, and I love it for that - while other similar don't go quite so aggressive. Again reacts nicely to you guitar's Volume and Tone dials.
This is just the best mini looper around - most pros have one, and Pete Honoré absolutely loves these. This is not a permanent fixture in my chain, but typically gets used when I acquire a complex new pedal where I need a looped signal to really dial in the tones properly. With my Stereo rig this can only go at the front really; I have the Ditto Stereo X2 as the end of my chain for capturing the entire stereo-separated output, but when I get the Empress Effects Zoia - I will likely relegate that for a while - I'm not really using the larger looper a whole lot at the moment. This Mini Looper really is the industry standard in its category - with record / overdub / playback and stop all on the same footswitch, and just that one output level control.
I am often in two minds about single knob pedals - what you loose in versatility and adaptability though you often gain in simplicity, ease of use, immediacy, creativity and sheer unbridled joy. There is no time-consuming fiddly tweaking required - it just usually on or off, and how much of that effect you want.
In the past I've always been more tempted by versatility, and I'm a proper sucker for 3-band EQs - particularly on distortion pedals. Moreover, I am an avowed Tweaker and ToneQuester and so constantly and continuously seek out more unusual sounds as well as the ability to be able to simply recreate every part of the mainstream.
A lot of my existing pedals are pretty complex, and I do use them to their maximum capabilities - not just matching a single core tone to my amps and rig, but sculpting a series of diverse tones by using and abusing the settings differently - much like I do with my Origin Effects RevivalDrive. I am currently having lots of fun still with my BYOC Crown Jewel Multi-Drive - although I feel it needs even more onboard switchable options - particularly on the Boost side - one more gain stage, and a digital control layer for saving presets.
With single dial pedals you really don't need to worry about presets - there is no anxiety about your ability to exactly replicate your perfect tone - as you really can't go far wrong with just the one sweeping dial.
As reported, I already have four of the above and I will no doubt add at least a couple more in the forthcoming months and years - most likely around the EQD, JPTR and Skreddy areas indicated. In short - you can mix things up anyway you want, and on numerous occasions the simple solution is the right one!