Judging from Chase Bliss Audio’s retirement of my favourite Spectre flanger early last year, I rather feared that one of my favourite effects categories was somewhat falling out of fashion. However there has been a steady stream of new pedals in that category since - including Earthquaker Devices’ Pyramids Stereo Flanger, Mad Professor’s Double Moon, Retro-Sonic’s Flanger and now ThorpyFX’s Camoflange.
I personally have had 3 flangers in my collection for the longest time - and as mentioned previously on this blog, have favoured the CBA Spectre (Blue-knob edition), followed by the A/DA PBF Flanger and Alchemy Audio modded Boss BF-2. I had also intended to get a mini Mooer E-Lady (formerly ElecLady) for its mini-size-advantage-prowess, and one more moderately sized pedal which delivered the magical top end / high frequency shimmer which was so prominent in most of the early Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress Flangers.
Of course being a vintage device - the late 1970’s Electric Mistresses have all manner of idiosyncrasies which don’t appeal to me - like the noisy LFO, volume drop, 18V power-supply and enormous footprint. Other than that - those original boxes were one of the signature benchmarks for this category of modulation - and used to great effect by the likes of David Gilmour and Andy Summers in particular - each in their own way. I, like many others, including of course Dan Steinhardt of That Pedal Show - have long been on the look out for a modern take on that original flanger - which really delivers that high frequency magic and tackles the majority of the other vintage ownership challenges.
Dan has long documented his own personal journey to find a successor to his 1977 (V2) Electric Mistress, including the above April 2018 TPS episode where he eventually settled on the Longamp Roxanne for a period - having compared that head-to head with the Hartman Analog Flanger. Often when space was tight on his board he would make do with his Mooer ElecLady too. For my own taste I considered both the Hartman and Roxanne somewhat large for my needs at the time, and however good they were, they did not for me capture that Mistress High Frequency Magic to a sufficiently significant degree.
Most recently Canadian vintage-oriented analog pedal builder Retro-Sonic launched its own take on the Electric Mistress (similar colourway too!) in compact enclosure - with all the Mistress functionality intact - Rate | Range | Color knobs and Filter (Matrix) switch - with the addition of a really useful Level knob too - to counter any loss in output volume. This is a really smart take on the Mistress, and as you can see in Joe Perkins's comparison below, it gets pretty close to the original Mistress, but not quite close enough for me - it still does not seem to reach the lofty heights of the original Mistress High End Shimmer that some of us so love.
Several of us knew for some time that Dan Steinhardt had been in contact with Adrian Thorpy - who was working with Dan Coggins (Lovetone) on the follow-up to their superior Deep Oggin Chorus. Adrian and both Dans were evidently all agreed that one of the key goals for this new pedal would be that it properly reached those same lofty heights as the original Electric Mistresses.
We had seen glimpses of the Camoflange before, but the cat was firmly and fully out of the bag this last Friday when Dan debuted the final production version for the first time. For this occasion Dan pulled out a number of other stellar performers in the Flanger category - including his own legendary 1977 Mistress, his now somewhat flakey Boss BF-1, the slightly large but wonderfully quirky Dreadbox Komo Rebi, the A/DA PBF Flanger that many of us have and love, the Retro-Sonic Flanger per the above Joe Perkins comparison, and of course the brand new ThorpyFX Camoflange.
This was the first time we got a proper glimpse of it and most of us aficionados were delighted with what we witnessed. The Camoflange was equipped with 6 knobs - 3 of which replicated what the Mistress had - Manual | Depth | Rate, but then there were 3 genius ones not typically seen on flangers - Harmonics | Treble | Blend.
The Harmonics dial controls regenerative feedback with '0' impact in the centre and increasing amounts of Even (CCW) and Odd (CW) Order Harmonics as you turn the dial. I would typify the Even ones as sounding more subtle - sort of like perfect even octave harmonics when dialled to the left, while the Odd / right-side is more discordant and detuned sounding and more sea-sick inducing as such - I like both for different things, but tend to live mostly on the Odd-side! The A/DA PBF Flanger has just a straight 2-way switch for Even/Odd Harmonics.
The Treble control allows you to tame or accentuate those higher frequencies - and really reach those magical shimmery Mistress heights, while the Dry/Wet Mix control of the Blend knob allows you to further refine the degree of flange effect - so that you can go maximum high frequencies on the Treble, but then temper those by dialling back the mix.
As part of the That Pedal Show collaboration - Thorpy agreed to launch the first 100 pedals through Dan and Mick's Show - with the Patreon Patrons getting first dibs on the first 50 co-branded pedals, and then the wider viewership having to scrabble a toute vitesse to the TPS Store for the other half of the batch. While I generally admire brand collaborations, I'm getting a little fatigued by limited editions this year and don't particularly like the anxiety that comes with bum-rushing a site to try to snag one of a handful of pedals within an artificially limited window of opportunity. It feels far too much like feeding time at the zoo to me.
I really don't like going to sales in shops either - I tend to avoid those like the plague - and I've become overly weary of the same sort of mechanics applied in the digital domain. I knew very early on that I wanted one of these - but I was quite prepared to wait for the exclusive TPS 100 limited batch to sell out (which I had an inkling would be very rapid - as was the case) - and thus I negotiated direct with Adrian to acquire one of the first of the stock model releases. The stock pedals are identical apart from that they don't have the That Pedal Show logo stamped onto the side of the pedal. Everything else is the same - including the rare Matsushita/Panasonic MN3207 & MN3102 BBD Chips left over from the Lovetone '?' Flange with No Name builds abandoned nearly two decades ago.
In reviewing the controls of the Camoflange - you have essentially two closely interactive groups of knobs - which you need to tweak in concert - namely the Manual and Depth controls, and the Harmonics, Blend and Treble controls. I styled my visual infographic to be based on those clusters, and decided that I would customise my version of Camoflange - with Adrian's help - to reflect more intuitively the knobs that needed to be tweaked together.
The look of the camoflange pedal derives from the classic British Military camouflage pattern - previously classified as Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM), but now commonly referred to as a Multi-Terrain Pattern (MTP). The one colour missing from the existing colour-mix is of course black, and thus I decided to assign the Cream coloured knobs to Harmonics, Blend and Treble; Brown to Manual and Depth; and Black to Rate. Adrian had to empty out several drawers before he uncovered his sole remaining black heptagonal (MXR-style) knob in the correct format.
My CBA Spectre is now rotated out of my pedal-chain - and the Camoflange takes up pride of place in that slot (#31). In the limited time I've had this pedal I found it to be exactly the sort of Flanger I've long been actively seeking - there are of course still plenty of alternative flangers out there - per my articles on Compact and Medium Enclosure Flangers. But none in my opinion which hit those same vintage Mistress highs as this. I feel that right now - this is the new benchmark - for sure there are different quirky ones out there, and Subdecay and others do some amazing flangers - but none that exactly match the qualities of this - which is just the right combination of tonal versatility and feature set for me.
Yes I would probably prefer it in a smaller compact enclosure with a second tap-tempo footswitch. Also when you tweak some of the dials to their extremes - you can get a discernible drop in volume, so I would probably want an additional level/volume control in their somewhere - let's hope Thorpy takes that input into consideration for the V2 whenever that might happen some years hence. Update! - Thorpy has advised me that it would be nigh impossible to shrink the pedal size with the current selection of THT components - so I have to be satisfied with its current dimensions - still would like to see the extra volume knob and tap-tempo footswitch some day though.
For now - I feel that for £249 this is about the best vintage-style Flanger you can get - particularly if you're a fan of those early Electric Mistress tones. The Camoflange does a lot more besides that - but the vintage Mistress is its most obvious ballpark benchmark! This becomes my fourth and current champion of Flangers, I will probably just add the tiny Mooer E-Lady for fun and then call it good for this selection. I feel I have a pretty solid selection of flangers for now - and I think I can park this for a while!
As a final note all current stock of Camoflanges is sold out at source - although a number of those are on their way to dealers and should shortly be available in circulation - you need to be quick on the trigger though or wait for the second batch to come through in January.
On a final final note I have to commend Adrian on his genius naming convention here and the brilliant graphic that accompanies that - this Beret-wearing Camoflange Chameleon is truly one of the finest applications of applied art I've seen in all of pedaldom - past and present!