I was looking for a dependable, flexible and most importantly quiet power supply for my secondary pedalboard — Boss Loop Station, EHX Freeze, Arion SD4, DigiTech PDS-1002 and a TCE Wiretap. I had heard about TRUETONE’s new “pro” line from a friend of mine who was contemplating buying a VoodooLab Mondo I was selling — I’d trimmed my big board down, stepping down to a Walrus Audio Aetos power brick.
Best intentions aside, I eventually realized that (of course) I was going to need an additional power supply. I liked the Aetos both functionally (keeps things quiet, doesn’t get hot, bright blue LEDs so I know when it’s on) and aesthetically, but instead of just grabbing another one, I went trawling on Reverb for some other alternatives. I’d been through most of the VoodooLab series at one time or another, and have never had a bad experience with one, but I always balked at the prices. And, yes, the Walrus Audio power bricks are over-priced, too, but I found mine for an almost literal steal on Reverb, so there!
Anyway, I’ve been through several Dunlop DC Bricks and the various Chinese knock-offs (the quietest of which was the first one I purchased: a Mooer Micro). What I wanted was something with the features of the VL’s, but with a lower price tag and, preferably, a more compact size. I’m using an amptop HoleyBoard for the ‘extra’ pedals, so it needs to be something I can strap under the board and still allow enough clearance for the feet of the HoleyBoard to sit evenly on a flat surface. I remembered that my friend had been happy with the PRO CS12 he’d picked up instead of the Mondo, so I hit the wilds of Reverb until I found a great deal on a nearly-new CS7.
Sorry for the long wind-up, but the pitch is this: the PRO CS7 is great. Maybe not as pretty as the Aetos, but who’s looking underneath my pedalboard anyway? Plus, with all of its great voltage options, I’m seriously thinking about switching places between the CS7 and the Aetos, as the Walrus Audio supply has everything I need for my loop/sample/mangle board and the CS7 would allow me to run a couple of my main pedals at higher voltages for more headroom. I hope this review was helpful. Please visit my Reverb store to check out some of the funky gear (always coming and going, you know how it is) — and rock on!
I’ve spent the past year or so trying out various tremolo pedals, in search of “the one” that can both suit my gigging needs and give me that little ‘something extra’ to spark the creation of new songs, sounds, riffs and licks. Tall order, I know. From high-priced, high-tech and boutique offerings to plain-jane no-names, quite a few contenders have spent quality time on my pedalboard. I’m not going to rank them (because ‘different strokes for different folks’), but these effects are all worthy of mention as gig-worthy Tremolos that spent considerable gigging and playing/writing time on my board:
- VHT Melo-Verb
- Black Cat Mini-Trem
- CMATmods Tremoglo
- Catalinbread Valcoder
- SolidGoldFX Stutterbox (V.1)
Note: I acquired almost all but one of these pedals second or third-hand via Reverb; I’ve also turned around and sold many of them via Reverb, once I’d decided to move on. I’ve found that this is a better and, in the end, more affordable way to “audition” pedals than using a Netflix-style effect rental service because 1) I can usually find the pedal I want when I want it, and 2) if I’m patient I can make $5-$20 per sale, beyond the initial cost of the pedal — or at least break even.
Now, I can finally declare a winner in the ‘Tournament of Tremolos’ — it’s the Empress Tremolo2. I’ve had it for about a month, now and have used it on two 3-hour gigs and for lots of at-home fiddling around. The T2 is both gig-worthy and musically inspiring, my main criteria, but it also shines in some very specific ways.
Ease of Use? — What a Concept!
The T2 has a digital heart hiding beneath its analog trappings. The Empress site describes the pedal as having an all-analog signal path with the tremolo effect “controlled digitally via opto technology.” Whatever digi-log voodoo mojo they performed works for me, because my ears don’t detect even a hint of artificiality in the tones the pedal produces.
However, the combination of technologies does explain how the T2 is able to save multiple presets (I used 4 — with some additional fiddling around, you can set up to 8!) that allow you to tweak and save all of the manual settings you make for each sound/speed/rhythm you need. I liked the four presets that came with the pedal (I have no idea if they were the factory settings or had been set by the previous owner), but ended up tweaking them to my liking and to the needs of the songs I’d be playing. After adjusting a mellow Blackface Fender-tone in preset 1, and a faster, deeper version of that in preset 2, I made preset 3 a hard, choppy Valco-style trem for a couple of more garage-y songs, and gave preset 4 a less choppy, but rhythmically unusual, flavor of the same.
Changing between presets is a breeze, even for a stone-cold idiot like me. Set the switch to “Presets” then click the bypass button — you are in preset 1 (blue LED). To switch presets, hold the tap tempo button down until the LED changes color, and there you are!
On top of all that, you can tweak each preset on the fly with the knobs on the pedal’s face. Has the drummer counted off that ballad too quickly? Then adjust your preset with the speed knob. These tweaks aren’t saved, unless you go to the trouble of saving them, but making adjustments like this quickly, without having to go through screens or menus on a digital pedal, can be a song-saver.
Go Deep — Seriously, Even Deeper!
Some boutique pedals are difficult to use right out of the box — you probably know which ones I’m talking about — because they offer so many options from the get-go that you have to read the full manual before you can even summon a tone as basic as Link Wray’s “Rumble” tremolo.
The T2 is not only is good-to-go right out of the box (note: the manual is available online and is written to get you started playing ASAP), there are features a-plenty under the hood. Yes, the T2 is gig-ready, but there are enough unique features (e.g. three wave forms, eight rhythm patters) and control options (external tap, expression, control voltage, MIDI.) to inspire you to continue deepening your knowledge of the pedal’s creative possibilities.
If you are interested in some audible samples of what the T2 can do, check out the Empress site; they have numerous sound clips showing off many of the features I’ve mentioned, and much much more.
If you are looking to purchase a T2, new or used, check out Reverb.
If you have any questions, comments, or thoughts on Tremolo pedals (or guitar effects in general), post a comment below.
While the extended weekend/ice-enforced stay-cation of this past week has not been a boon to my songwriting and recording, as I’d hoped (my fault for lack of focus; the kids’ fault for, well, being kids and not leaving me alone!), it has helped me make a bit of a dent in my extraneous musical gear inventory. In the past three months or so I’ve been going through a serious gear acquisition syndrome (GAS) phase. While it was always with the stated intention of finding deals on gear I could refurbish, play and tinker with, then re-sell, I’d been doing more playing than I had re-selling. Along the way I’ve learned a good deal more about guitars and electronic effects, what tools I need in order to fix them, and the importance of reading user manuals. (Maybe one day I will write a piece about all the ‘for parts or repair’ gear I’ve encountered for which ‘repairing’ meant ‘reading the damn manual and following directions.’)
In any case, my Reverb “shop” is fairly well stocked right now. Check it out, if you are curious.
So, lately I’ve been on kind of a pedal kick. Since I’ve decided to go back to using a smaller amp — a fond farewell to my Vox AC15 and a big hello to my new purple Vox AC4 (and also to a black 2005 Bad Cat Mini Cat, which I’m still thinking of selling — I just feel so decadent owning three guitar amps … I’m counting the little Fender G-DEC I have, too) — I appear to be making up the difference by acquiring pedals as well as adding old pedals back to my effects chain. Not only am I buying and selling stomp boxes via Reverb and eBay — I’ve bought three, sold three — but I just joined and received my first pedal from Pedal Genie, which is like a Netflix (or Neckflix) for guitar pedals. I got a Caroline Kilobyte, which is supposed to create all sorts of crazy-cool lo-fi sounds. I’m hoping to hook it up early tomorrow morning and wake up the sleepyheads upstairs!
As of right now, my pedal board is rocking a Boss TU-2 chromatic tuner (thanks to Jared Bentley), a Modtone Funk Filter Enveloper (basically an auto-wah), a Visual Sound Garage Tone Drivetrain (an overdrive modeled on my old fave, the Reverend Drivetrain II pedal, used mainly for chunky rhythm), an Electro-Harmonix Soul Food overdrive (mainly for leads), Visual Sound H2O stereo chorus/delay, and a Mooer Micro-DI with a built-in 4 x 12 cabinet simulator. I’m using the H2O as a delay and signal splitter so that one effects send goes to the amp, while the other goes to the DI and then into the PA board. The little 4-watt Vox then acts as my stage monitor, which I can adjust without affecting the signal that’s going to the board, as the sound man will be working with the signal coming through the pedals and then the DI/cab simulator.
I bought a Caline Pedal Power 5 to eliminate the need for multiple wall-warts or batteries, but it’s much noisier than I expected. I’m going to try a few different configurations and see if that helps, but I still have a one-spot with a multi-plug that I could use. The Caline was supposed to be quieter as it supposedly has isolated circuits for each power output … but it sure doesn’t sound like it.
I’d like to get a good Tremolo and a good Reverb pedal. The only real downside of the Vox AC4 is that it doesn’t have the AC15’s awesome built-in tremolo and reverb. I tend to use tremolo quite a bit, so I’m definitely going to need that … and where would guitarists be with reeve? In any case, I’m torn right now between getting one pedal that is both, like a Strymon Flint or a VHT Melo-Verb — or two separate ones, like an E-H Holy Grail (reverb) nd a Z-Vex Sonar (tremolo).
Other than getting the humming power supply problem out of the way and the order/configuration of the pedals set, I’m hoping that I can eventually try out a Wampler Thirty Something between the H2O and the DI to see if I can improve my tone through the PA. This pedal, designed by Wampler with the help of Queen’s Brian May, is supposed to be pretty close to a Vox AC30. They are pricey, though, so I’m hoping I can try one out through Pedal Genie before I shell out the big bucks for it.
Well, that’s enough of my nerdy guitar blathering. If you are a guitarist or musical experimenter or any sort, check out some the links above.