Bieke's blog

[review] Red Witch Violetta - Delay with Expression Control (by Bieke)

Red Witch Violetta

Have you ever heard of Red Witch pedals? If you have, you’re probably a bit of a pedal geek, if you haven’t, well any aspiring pedal geek should look into Red Witch pedals designed by Ben Fulton in New Zealand. Really. Red Witch has been manufacturing pedals for more than 10 years already, so chances are big you’ve heard of them. I think the first pedal was a phaser, I could be wrong but that’s the first one I remember seeing. Red Witch has been growing ever since, every year or so a new pedal was added to their range of boutique pedals. So, even if you have no ambition whatsoever to become a pedal geek, Red Witch still has a great arsenal of fine effect pedals that will help you shape your sound.

About 3 year ago, Red Witch further diversified and released the 7 Sisters, a cutesy series of seven different compact effect pedals, powered by rechargeable lithium ion batteries. A really cool idea and an astonishingly well designed series of pedals, not strictly targeted at the boutique crowd, not exactly cheap, but not really expensive either, let’s say attractively priced.

And now, more recently, Red Witch released the Violetta delay, the first pedal in the Original Chrome Series, it kind of uses the best of both Red Witch strengths, boutique sounds in a compact, rechargeable pedal.

The Looks

Looks dandy. A shiny chrome pedal, feels solid, and quite heavy even though it is really compact in size.

From the look and feel of the Violetta, I somehow get the feeling that it must sound good. Hmmm, looks can be deceiving of course, but judging from the controls and extras, this pedal seems to have a lot in store. Lovely graphics too.

The controls are :

  • Delay - delay time up to 1000ms
  • Mix – to blend wet and dry signals
  • Mod – adds modulation
  • Repeat – to go from slap back all the way to self oscillating mayhem
  • True bypass soft switch, and 2 LEDS, a status LED and a Battery Charge Indicator LED

On the right side there’s an Exp Out that lets you control the repeat level by means of an expression pedal. On the left side, you can plug in a 9V DC adapter to power the pedal or charge the internal lithium ion battery. The battery needs a 12 hour charge for starters, after which recharging will take much less time. And it is absolutely wonderful not having to bother with batteries or wall-warts to use this pedal. Really cool feature. The lithium ion batteries have a lifetime of 2 years, and if you need to replace it, you need to take off the bottom lid, and plug it into a dedicated battery socket. In- and Outputs are on top. Nice layout.

[review] Spaceman Sputnik (by Bieke)

Spaceman Effects

Spaceman is the pedal company based in Oregon, Portland, USA. Spaceman pedals are extraordinary pedals, mostly fuzzes, but there are also boosters and an overdrive. All Spaceman pedals are hand made in small batches, so there's a limited availability. In fact, the Sputnik I am about to review is currently out of stock. To keep up to date about the availability of this pedal, you should join the Spaceman e-mail list or regularly check Spaceman on Facebook.

Spaceman SputnikThe Looks

Pristine. I'm looking at a fiery red Sputnik pedal The Red Edition (limited to 69 units) featuring a special red/yellow engraved vinyl faceplate with Russian Cyrillic inscriptions and a red jewel light. It has a bit of a Cold War and Soviet theme going, all in good taste. In fact, the Sputnik is a germanium fuzz that uses vintage Soviet transistors.

So, it looks very cool on the outside, but beauty lies within the cast aluminum enclosure. The circuit boards inside the Sputnik are a work of art, really one of the most impressive builds I have ever seen. There are 3 unmarked transistors in there that look like miniature army green Soviet army helmets. The circuit boards -there are 2 separate PCB stacked inside- are decorated with little stars and sputniks and are packed with top quality components, military spec wiring, ultra clean wiring and soldering. Stunning job. There are also 2 trimpots inside, hmmm, something tells me these are best left alone.

True bypass switching. The Sputnik has input on the right, output and power jack on the left. It takes a regulated 9-12V DC adapter with negative center.

Controls are:

  • Signal: Output Volume
  • Range: Fuzz Gain
  • Calibrate: Tone
  • Scan: hard to describe, when switched in Drift mode, the Scan control interacts with the Range and Calibrate controls and yields the craziest fuzz sounds imaginable.
  • Sync/Drift (toggle switch): again, hard to describe, I'd say in Sync mode it acts like you would expect from a fuzz whereas Drift mode is a fuzz surprise, let the fuzz entertain you.
  • Filter (toggle switch): enables bass cut with mid-scoop filter

[review] OGRE Thunderclap Distortion (by Bieke)

OGRE Thunderclap

For those who have not heard about OGRE pedals, well you came to the right place. OGRE is a new pedal and guitar manufacturer, a subdivision of Hankuk Precision Co. Ltd. and is operating out of South Korea.

OGRE pedals were released in Korea about half a year ago and also made an appearance at NAMM earlier this year, and OGRE will also be on display at the Frankfurt Musikmesse next month. Eungsoo Lee is the chief designer for OGRE and he's a songwriter/musician as well.

As for effects, so far OGRE have released 2 models, an overdrive (the Tubeholic) and a distortion, and there's one more pedal in the pipeline, a delay. Really anxious to hear more about that Kronomaster delay, especially since I noticed that Eungsoo is a fan of the Roland Space Echo ...

Anyway, lets have a look at the Thunderclap distortion...

OGRE ThunderclapThe looks

Well, it is all a matter of personal taste. But there is no way around it, it looks spectacular, it has this skull & bones theme, also horns, two big ones and 4 smaller ones, 2 piercing blue status LEDs are watching you when you step on the lower jawbone to engage the pedal. The 4 smaller horns on the forehead are in fact controls for volume, bass, treble and gain. If you look up close, the horns are marked with V, B, T and G.

It feels a bit strange to be turning horns on a pedal, and it also takes a while to become familiar with the settings, from the orientation and angle of the horn tips, you can get a rough feeling of the settings, I still prefer knobs with markers for easy reference, but this is also fun, and different to say the least. Also, these controls seem to hold up well and have a solid feel.

The casing is a die cast aluminium, with a nice 3D effect and with great attention for detail a and finishing, quite an ingenious design. The Thunderclap is available in different colors, gray (stained aluminium), yellow, red and green (the yellow one looks really cool).

Bottom plate has an easy access battery compartment, in and outputs are on the top (of the skull), with the 9V DC power socket, a bit recessed in the skull. For that reason, you get a straight angle power connector with the pedal, so that you can power it without interfering with your patch cables.

Also, a lot of detail went into packaging and presentation of the OGRE pedals, it all looks very classy and prestigious. I have even seen that some pedals come with a miniature skull, same shape as the pedal, but then as a necklace.

So the Thunderclap appears to be directed towards the metal player? It sure has a satanic theme going.

Is it the ultimate Doom pedal? Well, read on.

[review] OGRE TubeHolic Overdrive (by Bieke)

A couple of months ago, Bart told me that -in his never ending search for new pedals- he stumbled upon something special. Something different. He would not tell me more. But it did not take long before he revealed his discovery on FXDB. And I think I'm not the only person who spotted the OGRE pedals here first. Fast forward and Bart handed me a couple of pedals to review. Also, Bart asked me to get on with it and finish a review pronto, before the whole world finds out about these. But I'm the slowest reviewer in the world. So here it is, my fast and furious review of the OGRE Tubeholic.

OGRE Tubeholic OverdriveThe Looks

Funny looking pedal, in a kind of cool way. Or cool looking pedal, in a kind of funny way. I am looking at an alienating robot slash alien face, with blue gloomy eyes, and a forehead that lifts, hinges  and slides forward to reveal 3 controls (the brain section), familiar looking controls, volume, tone, gain. The controls have a nice stiff feel (I like that).

Love it or hate it, it is not your usual Hammond box pedal, in fact, a lot of detail went into design and creation of this oddly shaped pedal. I must say, I quickly gotten used to it and was soon able to forget my initial feeling about it being a bit too much and over the top. I'm used to those Hammond boxes and this is certainly a somewhat outrageous design.

The casing is a die cast aluminium, feels solid, the bottom plate has the familiar Boss footprint, but with an easy access battery compartment (I like that). In- and Output and 9V DC Boss type power plug on the top (I like that too).

There is no footswitch, the idea is to just step on the face (where the mouth is) to engage the pedal, you'll hear the familiar click of a footswitch (true bypass) and another thing you need to become familiar with is you do not see the controls, you're supposed to dial in your settings and close the cover.

Hmmm, because of that, it is not really pedalboard friendly, unless you have a big board or leveled board, it could be comfortably sitting on the top row, it needs a bit of extra space to uncover the controls, if you need to adjust the control settings.

Anyway, everything about the pedal, the packaging (a stylish black and red coated cardboard box) and the whole theme and the styling is quite unique. I can even imagine people putting this in a cabinet display.

Top quality build as well, nothing cheap about this OGRE pedal.

[review] Sola Sound Tone Bender Mk1.75 (D*A*M Reissue) El Diablo (by Bieke)

During my last visit to Bart's gear vault, he was putting pedals for me to try in a box and then said "I also got another one of these" and showed me a lovely looking old skool Tone Bender. I swiftly replied that I most certainly wanted to give it a try and do a review accordingly...

Couple of days later, during a chat with Bart, I mentioned that I was really digging it, and asked if it was a Mk1.5 by any chance. Bart replied by sending me a link of the El Diablo Mk1.75, with OC75 and OC84 transistors.

Well, close enough, I figured. Still left me puzzled. After playing it some more, I had a look inside … this one had two OC75 transistors. It sounded sort of like a mix between the Mk1.5 and MkII.

This Tone Bender is built by fuzz guru David Main of D*A*M. And for this particular fuzz, he was aiming at making the Mk1.5 a bit different, with OC75's. This is not obvious, as it would likely turn into a very unstable fuzz. I vividly recall playing Bart's vintage original Mk1.5, which was my personal favorite in a huge fuzz shootout we once held in my garage. The Mk1.5 is a very lively and unpredictable fuzz, still very musical sounding. Bart definitely got a good one, since the original Mk1.5's are also known to differ a lot soundwise.

David Main went with the OC75 circuit but with two slight mods. A first modification correctly biases the circuit for the OC75 transistor, this is also used in the MkII. The second modification is a pull-down capacitor on the input. Again same as used on some MkII's. The Mk1.5 Tone Benders that were made in 1966 also featured two OC75's, and the circuit that was used back then also used for the Italian made Vox Tone Benders.

A review nonetheless.

[review] Electro-Harmonix Nano RTG Random Tone Generator (by Bieke)

THE RTG or Random Tone Generator is a synthesizer pedal, originally designed by Bob Bednarz and first released in 1980. It is one of the wackiest Electro Harmonix pedals, only few were made and the old EH1300 RTG pedals are super rare, I have never seen one.  The original RTG looked a bit like the EH4600 Small Clone or EH4800 Small Stone, it had the same casing and control layout, but it did not have a footswitch, an input and no status LED either.

Electro-Harmonix released a reissue of this rarity and after I have seen and heard it in action at a live concert by a local band Mon-o-Phone, I was anxious to give it a try myself.

And do a review of course.

[review] DOD 201 Phasor (by Bieke)

DOD started making pedals in 1974 and the company was named after its founder and head engineer, David Oreste Di Francesco.  One of the first DOD pedals was the DOD Phasor 201, it was very similar to the MXR Phase 45. Anyhow, the early DOD pedals were very popular because these simply were great pedals. Still are, the pedals made in the seventies and early eighties are really sought after and hard to get.

There are at least four different versions of the Phasor 201: gray, yellow, blue and a blue reissue. Each version has a slightly different speed range, but all are capable of producing pleasant phase tones.

At some point, the DOD company was sold to Harman International, also known for other familiar brands like Lexicon or Digitech amongst others.

Harman decided to reissue the Phasor 201, but it will only be available for a limited time. This calls for a review.

[review] DOD 250 Overdrive Preamp (by Bieke)

In the 1970s, DOD was one of the big American pedal manufacturers. DOD Electronics Corporation was founded in 1974 by John Johnson and David O. Di Francesco. The first DOD pedal was the DOD Overdrive Preamp 250. This pedal was very similar to the MXR Distortion+, but due to the use of different capacitors, the DOD produced a mellower, more tube sounding distortion and the yellow DOD pedal became a classic. Later on a grey version was made and this one is more sought after and is supposedly even more tube sounding.  Also a reissue and modified version were made.  The older pedals have the OP741 opamp and the reissues had a 4558 chip.

Now after almost 40 years, Harman Digitech decided to bring the DOD Overdrive Preamp 250 back, and rumor has it that it is even better than before.  A review.DOD 250 Overdrive Preamp


Still looks like a pedal that was made in the seventies, but now it is in a aluminum casing, much lighter. Also, it is not the classic bright yellow paint job, it has a more distinguished metal flake yellow, looks classy. The bottom lid is matte black. There is no battery lid, but one of the improvements is that the pedal now has the standard 9V adapter plug. Also it has a true bypass switch and a blue status LED. Controls are the same. Level and Gain.  Took a peek inside but the chip is not labeled, by the looks of it, it appears to be an OP741.

[review] Mu-FX (by Mike Beigel) Tru-Tron 3X (by Bieke)

In the beginning of 2013, Bart told me that he discovered that Mike Beigel - founding father and chief designer of Musitronics Corporation -  had filed a couple of trademarks at the USPTO. So the wait began...

A couple of months later Mike announced that he started a new company – Mu-FX™ – and that he was nearly ready to release a first pedal, the Tru-Tron 3X™,an envelope filter, very similar to the original Mu-Tron III he designed about 40 years ago.

Now, the Mu-Tron III was originally meant to be part of a Guild synthesizer, but Guild stopped this project and not much later Mike Beigel formed Musitronics together with former Guild electronics engineer Aaron Newman. They developed a pedal using the Timbre Generator section of the Guild synth, and this became the Mu-Tron III, the first envelope controlled filter pedal. Bob Moog helped to file a patent application.

The Mu-Tron III was a big hit, it was an effect that had many applications, and a lot of talented artists incorporated it into their music, Bootsy Collins used it on bass, Stevie Wonder used it on keys, Jerry Garcia used it on guitar...

Beigel eventually got his patent granted and Musitronics licensed the Mu-tron III circuitry to Univox, Monacor and others in the seventies.

ARP Instruments bought Musitronics in 1979, they continued making the Mu-Tron III until they went out of business about a year later. In the 1990s, there was a "reissue" - the HAZ Mu-Tron III+, but Mike Beigel did not have any connections with this reissue and the circuit was different to that of the original Musitronics Mu-Tron III.

However, in 1995, Mike Beigel teamed up with Electro-Harmonix to recreate the Mu-Tron III and this cooperation resulted in the creation of the infamous Electro-Harmonix Q-Tron.

Jump to 2013, Mike Beigel starts production of the Tru-Tron 3X™ and announces: "The unit, although smaller than its predecessor, the Musitronics Mu-Tron III, is bigger in features and equal or better (my opinion) in sound and versatility.”

This calls for a review.

[review] 6 Degrees FX Sally Drive (by Bieke)

6 Degrees Music

6 Degrees Music is a store operated by a bunch of local musicians in Vancouver B.C. Canada.

They started out about 5 years ago and entered the pedal business with a fuzz and an overdrive pedal ,both of which stayed under the radar. Or rather, there’s not much talk about these pedals, the 6 Degrees Music team is not really trying to create a pedal hype,  they’re all about making tools for other musicians to make music.

6 Degrees FX Sally DriveThe Looks

Well you have casing, powder coated in red, slap some racing stripes on it, add knobs and voilà, a pedal.  The Sally Drive has a Ford Mustang theme going, so it has a certain degree of styling, but it looks minimalistic, 3 large knobs, a footswitch, in- and output and 9V DC plug on the front, that’s it, an incognito pedal, no name, no labeling, controls are Volume, Tone, and Drive.

The casing is a bit higher and taller that your usual compact casing, very sturdy, no frills.

Not too exuberant on the outside.  The racing stripes are real though.

Beauty lies within. You want to unscrew the bottom lid of the pedal and take a look inside, and gasp at the superbly handwired point to point circuit, with exquisite components, Kamaya resistors, Mollary caps, metal can transistors, cloth and silver plated wiring, neutrik jacks, Bourns pots resistors, the obligatory true bypass switch. The stuff you’ d expect to find inside a super expensive boutique amp.

This looks promising.

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