A wise man once said, “A serious fuzz-wah shortage is happening in the pedal community.” This was actually said by my dear friend Andy “clean tone” Martin, and I wholeheartedly agree with him. In the same breath, he spoke of companies that used to offer these combo pedals which either stopped making them or are now defunct; companies like Colorsound, Vox, Shin-Ei, and others.
Even though the most obscure effects often become the most collectible, the Cabinet would become a trove of curiosities rather than a real collection without a few stone-cold classics. And a classic doesn’t achieve such a status without a real story. Though you wouldn’t think so, the modest Cry Baby wah has one of the most convoluted histories of all effects, but it starts with the Beatles.
If ever there was a manufacturer that truly struck while the proverbial iron was hot, it was Maestro. To that company’s credit, it developed the aforementioned first commercially-available fuzz unit, octaver, compressor, filter and a few others I may be forgetting. While the fuzz is most certainly a legendary piece, the others fell a bit by the wayside despite having been the progenitor. Once such piece is the PS-1 series Phaser, of which the PS-1A is the most well-known
Developed by one David Cockerell of EHX, the Electric Mistress relied on the bucket-brigade device to produce them. This mild mannered chip found its way into nearly all time-based effects. Anything that required the delay of a signal in any way was suddenly brought to life in the ‘70s. In one fell swoop, tape echoes, tape-based double tracking and chorus effects, and to a lesser extent reverb units were rendered obsolete. It was truly a monumental time for effects pedals and the Mistress was caught up in the hoopla.
There’s some kind of nasty rumor going around about tape echoes; every piece of copy about them suggests that “tape delay” is some dark, moody thing. And some of it is. But the Echoplex decidedly is not. Known for its bright, percussive repeats, the Echoplex brought tape echo to the masses.
f you need a moment to collect yourself and realize that MXR made a piece of rack equipment, take as much time as you need. Then take as many as you need when you find out they made eight (not counting equalizers). If you didn’t know MXR also made drum machines, pour yourself a drink, it’s going to be a long read.
What was once only achievable via complicated mechanical means whose history is composed of magnetic tape, magnetic drums and electrolytic oil, was forged in the fire of parts developed for telephony. One of the finest examples of solid-state delay is the Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man, the pinnacle of bucket-brigade stompbox tech.
Ask a casual pedal fan to name 25 pedal companies and Mu-Tron probably won’t be in the list. But the brains behind the operation, Mike Beigel, brought a huge degree of metamorphosis to the industry and crafted a pedal line that stripped some of the unitaskery and gimmickry from pedals and turned them into intuitive performance tools.
This leads me to today’s pedal, the Ultra Fuzz. Replete with superlative, the Ultra Fuzz looks like it came out in the mid-‘90s, but actually was released in 2001. In fact, when I pulled it from the Cabinet, a coworker asked me the date and I actually thought it was from 1995. But the Ultra Fuzz’s 2001 birthdate puts it squarely in the crosshairs of an ugly rumor which I will be happy to dispel in due time.
The Mr. Multi is quite simply a triumph, and I am happy to share it with you if you’ve never heard of it. All the way back in 1973, before the Phase 90 was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, just six years after the first wah pedal was released, the Mr. Multi delivered both with an amazing twist.