It’s time to talk about “the hunt.” This is the term that exists among aficionados of all stripes, pertaining to building one’s collection through means other than paying collectors’ prices. Hunters regularly comb the digital (and sometimes print) landscape in search of deals and outright steals for rare artifacts from their chosen field. For us pedal geeks, it means searching out misspelled Craigslist ads, combing through broken pedal bins accumulated by longtime musicians, and even silently praying through the aisles at antique malls. Many Cabinet items were acquired in this way, and I take pride in my abilities.
As the legend goes, Guitar Center acquired DeltaLab’s trademark after its founder, Richard DeFreitas, failed to renew it upon its expiration. This was in the early 2000s, and the “pedal categories” DeltaLab chose to tackle reflect that era—there’s a green overdrive, a phase, a flanger, a digital delay, and a metal distortion. All of them are very much OK devices, but they pale in comparison to some of the completely insane gear of years past, namely the Effectron series, which is the subject of today’s Cabinet adventure.
Much has been said in Cabinet canon regarding MXR and their amazing work. And to that end, everyone is familiar with the “script” pedals (that eventually became “block” logo), but far fewer axepersons are familiar with what I am calling the “block-only” era. This is unfortunate; some of my absolute favorite MXR pedals are from this series, and there’s a decent chance that you, the reader, has never heard of any of them.
Today in the Cabinet, we’re taking another trip back to the fabled wish list, and checking out a pedal that perhaps needs no introduction, but I’ll give it a shot for the rookies. In 1962, a product hit store shelves that would go on to redefine music as we know it. Though technically not the first guitar effect, this pedal languished in dusty discount bins for three solid years before getting the recognition it deserves, and kicking off the “pedal craze.” Sales have grown exponentially since those days, which is where we find ourselves.
When I went to work at ProGuitarShop I had the pleasure of working with Andy Martin of AndyDemos fame. As you might imagine, we talked a lot about pedals. And us, surrounded by literal walls of pedals sat one day and discussed chorus pedals one day. Among all the options past and present, Andy was (and is) the most bullish on the FX65. When I dug around in the cabinet recently, I pulled the FX65 out, played it and was taken back to both the time I first heard it and when I heard it again after Andy brought it into the shop. I reached out to him for this piece to get his thoughts on the enduring semi-legacy of this exceptional device. Would you believe that the FX65 kicked a Boss CE-1 off his board?
If I had unlimited dough and space, and had to start a new cabinet from scratch, 75 percent of it would be fuzz pedals. Like any other red-blooded effects fanatic, I love fuzz pedals and the sheer variety of them. Some are super simple, consisting of just six parts—the old DIY staple, the Bazz Fuss, is one. On the other hand, some fuzzes like our Giygas contain over 90 parts. The effect is variations on a theme; sweet, saturated chewy slabs of tone that interact with other pedals and guitar controls in various ways. And when I say various, I mean hundreds. Thousands, even. There are more fuzz pedals on the market than perhaps any other type.
It’s not often you’ll see me wax poetic on a piece of gear still being made, but hear me out. It redefined an entire genre and rewrote the way musicians play with gear. And one of our era’s kings of pedal design had his mitts all over it; one Jeorge Tripps of Way Huge. However, this was not a Way Huge pedal. This is the Line 6 DL4.
And firstly, I want to get one thing straight: The Fuzz Face is my favorite circuit. I’ve built hundreds of them for various folks and myself, I’ve built them with drawers full of crusty parts occupied by the essences of repairpersons past, and I’ve built all sorts of features into them and around them. I’ve agonized over the circuit’s shortcomings and its finickiness. I’ve tried every value and configuration of those 11 components and found some great value sets and plenty of stinkers. And after all that, I’m still learning new things almost every time I put pen to paper. It’s perfect, and I want to tell you all about it.
In an age where more and more pedal companies are cropping up and more and more esoteric circuits are resurrected to broaden the total tonal spectrum, it’s surprising when new old circuits crop up. Circuits like the S. Hawk Tonal Expander and SRS EQ Exciter ended up enjoying their time in the spotlight by virtue of being undiscovered one-off devices. But it’s even rarer when one such circuit hides in plain sight, but stays obscure for one reason or another. This is the Maestro W-2.
Because only a handful of brands were making guitar effects in the mid ‘90s, if you wanted something truly unique, you had to expand your palette beyond traditional effects. For most, that meant expanding into the ever-budding tabletop effects scene. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you probably weren’t one of those people, so it may come as a surprise that there was a whole scene of effects that were meant to sit atop a table with many other effects and activated with pushbuttons and the like. I’ve written about the Alesis Bitrman in this very column, and that’s precisely the kind of thing I’m talking about. But Alesis went on to manufacture a great deal of products, while other manufacturers of this equipment stuck to their guns. This is the Sherman Filterbank.
Of course we all know about Boss pedals, but before Boss emerged as a titan of the effects industry, its parent company Roland made a handful of pedals under its own name. The first entry of this entire column was one such amazing unit, the AP-7 Jet Phaser. Others of note include the Double Beat Fuzz Wah, the Bee Baa and a surprisingly amazing flanger. While Roland didn’t really get a foothold in the effects market, they were busy getting it done in another way with a multi-sequeled line of echo units. Though many models were produced, it’s almost universally acknowledged that one sits alone at the top. This is the Roland RE-201 Space Echo.