Hey guys this is Brian with World Music Supply again, here to bring you your usual dose of gear and guitar reviews. In today’s blog I got to do something I haven’t gotten to review in a while, good ol’ pedals. I personally love the simplistic fun that comes from having a couple of pedals on the floor in front of you, being able to press a button and have that instant gratification of a brand new sound, just cant be beat. Today I get to take a look at two of the best, by our good friends over at TC Electronics and first up to bat is the Vortex Flanger.
Flanger pedals to me are sort of touch and go, some are really good when they’re slow, but when you ramp them up they sound like cheesy ray gun sounds off of a child’s toy, and by the same rule, some pedals sound really good and swirly at high speeds, but sound like a sea sick roller coaster at slower speeds. Some are way too 3D, and some are too flat. Call me picky, but this is an issue that has kept a dedicated flanger pedal off of my main board for years. In steps the Vortex though, and my world was changed. The pedal only has four simple controls, and at first glance it doesn’t seem anything special, delay, feedback, depth and speed, with a toggle to switch from standard flanger, to a simulated tape flange, and if need be over to a tone print, which allows you to download artist presets into the pedal, letting you really nail the tones of some of your favorite artists, and once you step on it the whole illusion of simplicity goes right out the window! this whole illusion of simplicity goes right out the window!
I tested this pedal with a Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster and two Mustang IIs, so I could run in stereo. I picked a cleaner twin reverb style sound, and got to work. I started out with a pretty standard slow sweep, mid depth, medium feedback setting, with the delay time backed off to keep it from sounding too metallic, something almost akin to a early Van Halen flange tone. The wave form was pleasing, not too dramatic, and not to subtle with just that perfect amount of rise and fall. It wasn’t too hard to dial in a good sound, some flangers take a while to really find their sweet spot, but with the Vortex I didn’t have any difficulty at all finding a good sound.
A slightly faster setting, with the delay cranked for a more metallic, almost ring mod style sound, with a slightly deeper depth setting, and the speed at 12 o’clock, and the feedback a little below half way worked wonders on slower passages as it added a bit of movement to the sound that would otherwise be lacking. It made the sound fatter, and the stereo field really helped to make the effect almost otherworldly. Cranking the speed almost all the way up, and keeping the depth a little lower to keep it from having too much of an almost out of tune vibrato to it, I found the tones useful and almost Leslie like in a certain light.
Overall the Vortex Flanger is one of the best, if not the best Flanger I have ever used. Because of its amazing sound, and incredible flexibility though this pedal easily deserves a 10 out of 10, I just wish it didn’t cost so much.
Next up is a fun, and slightly unusual pedal, the Shaker Vibrato. Typically us guitarists tend to get tremolo and vibrato confused, thanks to the late Leo Fenders misnomer when labeling the vibrato system on his Stratocaster guitar as a tremolo, and the tremolo circuit on his amps as vibrato, luckily most pedals are unaffected by this labeling issue that has plagued the guitar industry for years. When I first unboxed this pedal however, I thought it was going to be a tremolo pedal, just labeled wrong to appeal to us guitarists, but I plugged the Shaker in, and I got what sounded like the Vibrato effect on my old Yamaha B6B electric organ, just a lot better quality, I was down right excited.
An honest to goodness Vibrato is a hard find for guitarists; Keyboardists have had it for decades in one form or another, but to find a good sounding vibrato for the guitar, that’s almost impossible. This one works a lot like a good combo organ vibrato circuit too, and as I have been playing organ for years thanks to the spinet style Yamaha that used to be in our family room as a kid, I have thirsted for this effect on a guitar for years.
you have a few basic controls that work very well at replicating this age old effect, a speed knob that adjusts the length from the top and bottom of the vibrato, a depth that determines how wide the vibrato travels from top to bottom (at its peak its almost going a whole step up and down, which creates a fun sea sick feeling) a rise time that imitates the rising of a Leslie speaker when you kick it on, and a global tone control that adjusts how bright or dark your overall tone is. At slower speeds, and still using a clean Mustang II, this pedal added a very retro, very jazzy character to my playing. Big jazzy chords had a shimmering quality, which gave them a much different voice, something my ears weren’t used to when it comes to guitar.
Switching to a distorted setting, this pedal gave me a very strange, almost mid 90s metal sound, with that sickly rhythmic wobble that only a few pedals can really do correctly. I honestly adore this pedal, to have a pedal that really nails this many great sounds. For the ability to sound like everything from a shimmering jazzy swirl, a wobbly rhythmic tool, and even a guitar that has been strapped in to a tilt-o-whirl at top speeds, the Shaker Vibrato earns itself a solid 10 out of 10.