Posted by: kubiakl | August 15, 2011

Tone Update

I’ve expanded my electric family a little.  Recently I purchased a few modulation pedals as well as a couple of delays.  I’ll try to give decent opinions but I’m pretty beat right now.

The first was a Fulltone Mini Deja Vibe:

It’s based on the original Univibe pedals that became famous in the late 60’s.  Originally the Univibe was created to mimic the sound of a rotary speaker cabinet.  While it sucked at that, guitarists loved the sound on its own – Hendrix used it on the landmark recording of “Machine Gun”.

The Deja Vibe is a high quality recreation of the original Univibe, made to exact specs.  It has two switches – one for modern or vintage voicing, and one to switch between vibrato and chorus.

Vibrato by itself is a weird sound.  It’s a warbling pitch modulation (listen to the intro to “Cold Shot” by Stevie Ray Vaughan).  It’s pretty rare that anyone wants a Univibe for the vibrato alone.  Where the Deja Vibe shines is a recreation of the chorus-phase swirling tone of the “chorus” setting.

The knobs are handy and can be manipulated easily by foot.  There is a volume (most modulation pedals have a drop in volume when engaged), intensity, and speed knob.  Intensity controls the depth of the effect and speed is pretty self-explanatory.

It’s a very nice pedal.  The sound it produces is pretty and the range of the pedal goes from barely there to a trippy psychedelic effect.  It adds some girth to the sound thanks to the chorus.  All of which is great, but probably not a pedal I’ll use often.  I like a lo-mid fi sound and the Deja Vibe is very high-fi.  I will say that the Fulltone is one of the highest rated Univibe-style pedals around if you’re looking for one.  I was lucky enough to find a used one on Guitar Center’s website (which was fortunate since I probably won’t use it all that much).  It did work really well on a recent recording I did where I wanted a haunting ethereal tone.

The other modulation pedal I bought was much less expensive, but will probably be used more.  A Danelectro Cool Cat Tremolo.  Tremolo is volume modulation (mislabeled on old Fender amps as Vibrato).  It produces waves of sound as the volume fades and rises.

A $40 pedal but it has a metal casing and is true bypass.  I’ve read (but haven’t checked it out personally) that if you have a problem with volume drops, as many tremolo pedals do, there is an internal trimpot to adjust the gain.  What sold me was how much love it got from people on guitar forums – sure, there are more expensive options (Fulltone’s SupaTrem, for example), but it’s a well-built pedal that won’t color your sound.  Three knobs – depth, speed, and a hard/soft switch.  The “soft” setting is classic sine wave tremolo, while the “hard” setting makes it a stuttering, square wave type of tremolo.  The sound cuts in and out at whatever speed you select (the depth knob is disengaged when the hard mode is on).  It’s not a setting you’d use for a full song but can be used sparingly for a nice effect.  The soft sine wave tremolo has a good range and sounds just like you were moving the volume on your amp.

I’m happy with those two pedals.  Both sound good and have their own uses – for me, the trem will be used more than the Deja Vibe, but I like having that option when I want it.  Both are also well built.

I didn’t have as much luck with delays.  I found a guy selling two of them on Craigslist, a Wasabi Forward-Reverse Delay that’s no longer in production, and the Danelectro Dan-Echo.

Wasabi pedals were produced under Danelectro for a short period of time.  I’m not sure why they stopped, since many people loved the Wasabi pedals.  They certainly look distinctive:

The tailfins have lights – the right one lights up when the effect is engaged, and the left blinks at the tempo of the delay.  What was really cool about this pedal was the Reverse function.  When the mix is set full and the reverse button engaged, it plays short phrases backwards and leaves out your original playing.  The other delay settings were pretty standard for a digital delay but the reverse was its main selling point.

The only reason I’m disappointed is that the output jack is a little messed up.  The contacts inside have compressed and won’t make a good connection – in order to play the pedal I had to set something heavy on the cable to push the plug into them.  This makes it pretty unusable except in a recording situation.  Still, it was used on Craigslist and bought fairly cheaply, so I shouldn’t complain.  It will be a fun toy to try out ideas with.

The Dan-Echo is another that gets much love on the forums.  It’s a digital delay with an analog sound, courtesy of a knob that tapers the highs on the repeats (much like old tape delays).  The sound is good – I set it for a little slapback delay when I want to go rockabilly, but it can do higher levels like The Edge from U2.  It won’t get all crazy like some delays that offer 3 seconds but for your general delay sound it works quite well.

Again, my only complaint is construction – there’s a little short in this one as well.  Maybe the guy who owned them previously just abused the hell out of them.  It’s nowhere near as bad as the Wasabi, and remains functional.  I get a little bit of background noise when using it though, which I have to assume is the problem with the jack.  It’s a problem I can live with for now.

At some point I may break out the soldering iron and see if I can switch the jack on the Wasabi.  It has two output jacks for sending the signal to two different amps, I may switch them around and see if it works.  Since the jacks are Danelectro’s plastic jacks I can’t just buy a quality metal replacement to put in.  Rehousing the pedal is an option but I’m not sure I want to go that route.  The Dan-Echo will probably stay as it is until I decide to replace it with a nicer analog delay.

So no crazy changes to my sound, just a few extra pedals to alter my tone when I feel like it.  And that’s what I like most about these pedals – they will modify my sound a little without changing it completely.

Now that I’ve started a pedal addiction it probably won’t stop until I run out of space.  I feel like I have my bases covered for any sounds I might want to use (flangers aren’t my thing, the Deja Vibe is similar to a phaser, and ring modulators sound like robots having sex), but will probably try different versions.

Fortunately there’s no law against owning multiple types of the same effect.



  1. Hi! Do you have a Wasabi pedal to sell? Thanks! Mike

    mgkimmel AT gmail,cim

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