[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.

The Looks

Stellar ! The Little Dipper features a 16 gauge bent steel chassis with shiny cobalt blue powder coating with silver metal flake and a classy array of blue LEDs. One large status LED and 6 additional smaller threshold LEDS arranged in the shape of the Ursa Minor constellation.

Three massive chrome knobs, in and output jacks and 9V Boss style plug on the top panel. No battery lid, in fact you have to unscrew the pedal feet and remove the bottom panel and gain access to the battery clip. There is barely enough room left for a 9V battery, and by no means it is a small pedal. Inside there are 3 separate circuit boards, loaded with high quality electronic elements, full-sized pots, and a true-bypass footswitch that goes penetrates through the upper circuit board and is mounted on the lower circuit board.

Impressive engineering. Awww, Eeeew, Oooooh ….

The Controls

The included manual looks like those airplane rescue guideline sheets. I have learned that you should not flush your pedal down the toilet. And it also has a page with sample setting to get you started. But it is a very interactive pedal, easy to dial in.

The controls are mysteriously labeled as Ascension, Inclination and Diffraction. Inside the pedal, there are dry blend and noise-gate trimpots.

  • Ascension control is like a Threshold control on your standard envelope filter. Use it in conjunction with the Inclination control  to finetune the depth of sweep of the filters.
  • Inclination control is a four postion switch that changes trigger time between the filters, in order to create vowely sounds. Diffraction control is like a fuzz effect. At zero setting, it produces a clean sound, turned clockwise, it adds a raspy, throaty  fuzz effect that helps to emphasize specific frequencies in the filter sweeps.
  • The Blend trimpot allows to adjust the dry signal with the effected signal. The Gate trimpot acts as a control for an internal noisegate that will filter out noise and hiss.

Awww, Eeeew, Oooooh...

The Sound

This is the best part. It sounds quite pleasant. Not at all like your average autowah or envelope filter, this pedal is very musical, natural sounding, very expressive and inspiring. It really makes your guitar talk. It also is very well suited for bass or keys. It can be really useful for reggae, funk, rock, jazz, fusion,…

Allegedly, the Little Dipper is based on a rare pedal from the seventies, namely the Colorsound Diphtonizer. Sounds about right, it also reminds me of the electro Harmonix BassBalls and even the Tube Zipper.

It is a dead silent pedal, thanks to the built-in noisegate. Very smooth and refined sounding, not at all harsh and no signal peaking or abundant filter behavior whatsoever. It triggers very tastefully and is capable of producing a lot of vowely sounds. Here we go, it does Ahs, Yehs, Aiee, Bow, Woah, Ayeh, Oh, Yih and  Yeoh.

I should point out that it does not do Yihaa.

It can really breathe life into your rhythm sounds or make your lead sound talk. Sounds great clean and the built in fuzz adds a lot of character, well suited for single coils or humbuckers. Easy to use and very interactive, with the built-in fuzz for extra character. A whole plethora of filtered sounds dripping with vowely sweetness. This is a great effect pedal, not one that you would use on every occasion, but if you want to personalize your sound and make it stand out, the Little Dipper will get you there.

OK, at 299$ it is not really cheap, but well worth it, beautiful styling, really well made, comes with a 3 year warranty, and most importantly, you’ll have a really cool sounding pedal.

Awww, Eeeew, Oooooh...

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