Bieke's blog

[review] Ghost Effects Silicon Pep Box (by Bieke)

Ghost Effects Silicon Pep Box

Aha! Finally I get to try out one of those yummy looking Ghost Effects pedals. The Silicon Pep Box. It's a faithful clone of one of those mega rare fuzzboxes from the sixties, the WEM Rush Pep Box.

Ghost Effects is based in Birmingham UK and was founded in 2004 by Ian Sherwen, a fine pedalbuilder who is really devoted to meticulously recreate all of those wonderful fuzz circuits from the roaring sixties.

The History

OK, most fuzz addicts will agree that the first commercial available fuzzbox was the "made in USA" Maestro Fuzztone as early as 1962. The Maestro was not really a huge success in the beginning, it did not take off until 1965, when the Stones used it for the classic Satisfaction intro riff. All of a sudden, the fuzz sound became very popular, and since the Maestro fuzz pedals were not available in stores in the UK or Europe, people started making fuzz pedals over here as well. Hurrah!

Pepe Rush was a London sound engineer who produced his first Pep Box in 1965.WEM Rush Pep Box

The original Pep Box was inspired on the Maestro Fuzztone, encased in a similar wedge enclosure, but using 3 germanium transistors.

Around 1966, Pepe Rush licensed his design to WEM. Little is known about this transition. There is a picture of John Lennon toying with a silver wedge WEM Pep box during the Revolver studio session. This was in 1966. Circuitwise, it was more leaning towards a Fuzz Face then, using 2 germanium transistors.

Anyway, the silicon WEM Rush Pep Box, made by "Watkins London England" was released around the end of 1967. Later on, also a bass version of this pedal became available.

WEM Rush Pep BoxThis WEM Rush Pep Box was a rectangular metal box (32 cm long, 8,7 cm wide, 4cm deep), painted in red with a black wooden top  covered with black rubber and with bare metal trim, the controls – one for volume, the other for "pep" - were recessed into the top panel and both controls could be dialed to a maximum output of 8.

Also, the pedal did not have the familiar in- and outputs, but instead it was fitted with its own output cable. This WEM Rush Pep Box used two BC107 Silicon NPN transistors.

Ian Sherwen of Ghost Effects obtained a vintage WEM pedal and his version is faithfully modeled after an original WEM Rush Pep Box.

[review] Mooer Audio MDS2 Hustle Drive - Distortion (by Bieke)

Mooer Audio has been very active in the past couple of years, releasing a large number of  pedals that have a certain “je ne sais quoi” appeal. Mooer does not disguise the fact that they are cloning existing pedals, but they do strive to be a little different. Take for instance the Micro Series, a whole range of micro effect pedals in 1590A style casing. Well, the least you could say is that Mooer Audio managed to miniaturize quite a few of the classic vintage and modern day effects. The Hustle Drive may not sound like a familiar name, but upon first glance it is clearly a clone of the popular Fulltone OCD.

[review] Dr. J D50 Green Crystal Overdrive (by Bieke)

Dr. J belongs to the Joyo family. Joyo is one of those much talked about Chinese manufacturers, In the past couple of years, Joyo was quite successful in making cheap and decent pedals, albeit mostly clones of existing circuits. Now Joyo is taking its business to the next step with a new line of boutique effects; Dr. J pedals, made in China. I'll switch to corksniffer mode now.

[review] Mooer Audio MDS1 Black Secret - Distortion (by Bieke)

Mooer Audio is a relative newcomer to the world of effects, a Chinese manufacturer striving to bring stellar sounding budget pedals. Mooer unleashed a whole new range of exciting compact pedals: the Micro Series. Take for instance, the Black Secret. At first glance, there is nothing too secret about this pedal. It’s obviously based on one of that epic distortion pedal, the ProCo Rat.

The folks at Mooer decided to put two Rats in one pedal, the Vintage Rat and Turbo Rat.

[review] Malekko Phase (by Bieke)

Malekko PhaseAnother fine addition to the Malekko Omicron series is this Phaser.

Sweet analog phase from vintage to modern and an internal control for frequency range make the Malekko Phaser an extremely versatile little analog 4 stage phaser.

Looks and controls

  • It’s incredibly small, casing of aluminum, undefined color, it’s not purple or pink, I’d say it’s fuchsia with a sparkly finish and white silkscreen.
  • True bypass switch and red status LED
  • No batteries, it runs off a standard Boss style 9VDC power supply.
  • 2 external controls:
    • Color adjusts the tone (phasing frequency) of the effect
    • Speed adjusts the speed of the modulation
  • Internal trimpot that controls the coarse frequency for the phase effect. Set all the way left will allow the lower frequencies to be phasing so it’ll sound bassier, all the way right allows more high end frequencies to pass, so it’ll sound treblier.

[review] Malekko Vibrato (by Bieke)

Malekko VibratoThe Malekko Vibrato is the all new analog Omicron pedal from Malekko. Featuring analog true pitch vibrato using the MN3007 BBD chip, the Malekko Vibrato gives an oldskool vibrato tone in a tiny pedal enclosure that is perfect for saving space on your pedal board.

Looks and controls

  • What a tiny pedal! Malekko calls it the space saving bantam enclosure, it’s made of aluminum though.
  • It’s yellow with a sparkly metal flake and white barcode screenprint.
  • There are 2 controls for speed and depth, creme knobs with black markers.
  • The Malekko does not take batteries, it will only operate with a 9VDC or 12VDC regulated Boss style power supply.
  • True Bypass switching, the switch is mounted on the circuit board, same with the controls.
  • Red status LED
  • In and outputs on the side
  • No manual (but it’s pretty easy to use, I think you can download a manual from the Malekko site)

[review] Jacques SG-2 Singing Geisha vs Keio Synthesizer Traveler (by Bieke)

Battle of the oddities

KEIO Synthesizer Traveler vs. Jacques Singing Geisha.

It surely was a rare pportunity to be able to A/B the Keio and Jacques pedals, so this calls for an in depth review of both, starting off with the infamous Keio Synthesizer Traveler, which according to the manual is a “Machine permitting your “NOW” sound transform!”.

[review] Catalinbread Pareidolia Harmonic Mesmerizer (by Bieke)

The Pareidolia Harmonic Mesmerizer is not the latest pedal addition to the ever growing line of  Catalinbread  pedals, anyway, time for an in depth review.

Pareidolia : a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. For example, seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon, or hearing hidden messages on records or seeing Jesus appear on buttered toast.

Intrigued? I sure was upon reading that the pedal was actually inspired by the”harmonic vibrato” on the classic 1961 Fender Twin Amp. Which wasn’t a vibrato technically, more a sine wave tremolo circuit that split the signal into highs and lows, modulated and then recombined them. The result sounded like a cross between a phaser, a tremolo and even a filter of some sort, with a hint of vibrato, but yet very different.  The general consensus is that the 1961 Fender Twin Amp has the best and richest sounding tremolo ever offered on a Fender amp, a rare, desirable and sought after amp nowadays. Terribly expensive as well.

[review] Mooer Audio Super Bender (by Bieke)

Woah! Is this the Whammy killer or what? How would I know? I never used a Digitech Whammy before. Really. I’m a total Whammy virgin.

So, my first time, I did it in my garage with a Mooer Super Bender.

It was good. It was great fun. The Mooer was amazingly easy to control, dial in and use.  I thought it sounded awesome! I was fooling around with exotic pitch shifting modes and creating loads of odd harmonies, bending notes to the extreme and blasting dissonant riffs... It all made sense to me now.

Rawr !

[review] Totally Wycked Audio LD-01 Little Dipper (by Bieke)

In 2009, Godlyke proudly announced they would be releasing their own line of effects pedals under the Totally Wicked Audio (TWA) brand. According to the press release, TWA features unique and esoteric effect types that will help set the discerning player apart from the masses. All TWA models are 100% made in the USA using the highest quality components and offer all the features and construction quality expected from a high-end analog device. The flagship model of the TWA brand, the LD-01 Little Dipper was released during the 2nd quarter of 2009. It was a good year for pedalfreaks…

I still remember I could not wait to find out more about this Little Dipper, an envelope-controlled vocal formant filter. Awww, Eeeew, Oooooh...

Well that is more or less the basic sound of an envelope controlled formant filter. The Little Dipper actually is a dual dynamic filter that simulates the vowel sounds of human voice. On top of that, the Little Dipper can simulate the talkbox sound, autowah, sweeping filtered sounds and swooshy phasing sounds. Last but not least, it has a built-in distortion that adds character and harmonics to the effect.

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