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3 Cool Cats From Bad Cat

January 30, 2014
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Black Cat Pedals is the brainchild of Texan Fred Bonte, who started the boutique company in 1993. Although Bonte ceased production in 2007, the company was restructured soon after, and manufacturing now continues using his designs. blackcatpedals.com

Bee Buzz
$225

The Bee Buzz is Black Cat’s rethink of the vintage Roland Bee Baa, and it’s one crazy-ass pedal. Click to the Bee setting, and prepare to be frightened and astounded by searing, face-melting sizzle fry. Too much for you? Then flip the switch to Buzz, and get some thick and chunky saturated raunch. The Boost feature ain’t no sissy clean boost, and it delivers a gritty, growling punch that evokes classic treble boosters. My favorite tone? Diming the Sustain knob on the Bee setting to bring on a caterwauling hurricane of feedback-infested fuzz. Totally ferociously fabulous. —MM

Mini Trem
$175

Here’s what makes this awesome trem better than non-awesome trems: It gives you two speeds, the fast one twice the speed of the slow one. No big deal, you say? Well, it also gives you a Boost knob, which is key, because trem is by its very nature a subtractive effect that can make your tone seem to disappear onstage. Still not convinced? The Black Cat sports a Tone knob that can make the tremolo pulses as bright or as dark as you want, and I was able to easily create the bassiest, most throbbifying trem I’ve ever heard. Count me in.—MB

Super Fuzz
$195

Not surprisingly to those in the know, the Black Cat Super Fuzz is based on the original ’70s Univox Super-Fuzz, and retains its somewhat arcane Balance (actually “volume”) and Expander (it’s really “fuzz level”) knobs. A 2-position switch toggles between scooped-mid and “flat” tones. Of course, one of the secret weapons of the Super Fuzz circuitry—both then and now—is the subtle octave above (as well as slightly below) that imparts shimmering dimension to the fuzz. This pedal uncorks gritty, spitty, biting, oscillating frazz that’s absolutely gorgeous in its bold ugliness. —MM

Pigtronix Fat Drive
$149

This straightforward box delivers tubey crunch with good touch sensitivity. The vibe is more Fendery than Marshally, where the low end can get a little looser and the overall gain is swampy rather than slicing. The Tone knob has a ton of range and can be taken completely out of the circuit by cranking it clockwise. The More switch ups the gain quotient and adds some top-end sizzle for great sustain. This pedal has gobs of output and covers a lot of ground, from slightly gritty cleans to ZZ Top snarl to Hendrix-esque wails. pigtronix.com —MB

Resonant Electronic Design Manifold Drive
$200

The compact Manifold Drive (street $200) packs a surprisingly broad range of mild to heavy overdrive tones for its simple two-knob, two-switch layout. The discrete, Class-A circuit bridges the gap between overdrive and fuzz at higher settings, while retaining your guitar’s clarity and your amp’s character. It’s not a “tubey” overdrive per se, and no signal passes at the lowest Gain setting, but it offers fat, hairy leads and chunky crunch rhythms aplenty, without the fart-out or brick-wall homogeneity of many fuzzes. Nasty, yes, but an elegant nasty and a cool distortion flavor as a result. resonantelectronic.com —DH

Rocktron Sacred Fire Compressor
$129

The Sacred Fire is a gorgeous-sounding compressor that is super easy to use. Three knobs, one button, and nary a bad sound to be found. I liked a subtle thickening on dirty solo tones for transparent sustain and I loved the fully squashed humongous cleans tones I got at more extreme settings (think Andy Summers on ’roids). And if you’re nervous about using compression because you think your tone won’t cut onstage, don’t be. This thing has loads of makeup gain to keep your guitar right out front. A winner. rocktron.com—MB

Rocktron Texas Recoiler
$129

The manual says the Texas Recoiler “makes any single-coil pickup sound better.” It does sound great on single- coils, but it’ll do a number on humbuckers too. By using the Frequency knob to select a center frequency, the Windings knob to send more or less gain to that frequency, and the HP Filter to adjust the amount of lowend, you can make a Strat pickup big and fat or make a humbucker brighter and skinnier. If you switch between a Les Paul and a Strat on a gig but struggle with the differing outputs and tones, this box could be a godsend. rocktron.com —MB

Strymon Flint Tremolo and Reverb
$299

Featuring a powerful SHARC processor and a wonderfully voiced analog front-end, the Flint captures the magic of three different classic Fender-style tremolos as well as three different reverbs. From the phasey throb of the ’61 Harmonic Trem to the ’80s Reverb setting, the Flint is unbelievably musical and infinitely useable. It captures the surfy spring of Fender reverb combos from the ’60s and its take on early digital reverbs yields beautiful ambient options with every guitar and amp setup. Its small size, stereo outs, expression pedal input, and jaw-dropping digital renderings of hard-to-capture analog classics make it one of the most impressive boxes I’ve heard in a long time. strymon.net —DH

Tech 21 Boost DLA
$199 direct

This updated version of the Boost DLA aims to replicate the sound and behavior of vintage digital, analog, and tape delays by combining up to one second of digital delay with otherwise analog circuitry—including Tape Drift and Fidelity controls for simulating wow and flutter and high-frequency attenuation—coupled with up to 9dB of clean Boost. There’s also a Tap Tempo footswitch and buttons for Dotted 8th and Trails (delay spillover post bypass). The delays are fat, vibey, clean, and quiet, and the responsive controls let you dial in sounds from pristine to lo-fi. The DLA also handles layering beautifully, without getting muddy, and will generate nice self-oscillation—although increasing or decreasing the delay time for “runaway” effects generates trashy artifacts (which, of course, also have their uses). tech21nyc.com —BC

Visual Sound V3 Tap Delay
$169

Essentially one half of the Dual Tap Delay (reviewed in the March 2012 issue of GP), the V3 Tap Delay sports the same rugged build, analog/digital hybrid technology, selectable time divisions (quarter, eighth, dotted eighth, and eigth-note triplets), chorus-like modulation, a Tone control, Trailing (delay spillover after bypass) capabilities, and a second mono output switchable between effected and dry. There’s also a choice of Manual or Tap Tempo delay modes, and for the latter you can either use the silent Tap Tempo footswitch or slave the pedal to an external source via the 1/4" Ext. Tap Input. The V3 sounds fantastic and exudes oodles of old-school character—producing big, warm, lush, and lively delays, much like a vintage tape echo. And while it can’t self-oscillate smoothly like a tape delay, it can create nice layered sounds with the Repeats control cranked, and get nasty when you then manipulate the Delay Time control. visualsound.net —BC

Wampler Hot Wired Overdrive-Distortion
$259

The Hot Wired features two channels that can be tapped individually or cascaded (overdrive-into-distortion order only). Channel one offers modded- Tube Screamer-style overdrive, with a handy Blend control to roll from clean boost to overdrive. Channel two runs from instant stack-crunch chug to wailing contemporary high-gain lead. Both channels offer good transparency and dynamics, although humbuckers do lose just a touch of their lowend girth at some distortion settings—no biggie, but the pedal really excels with single-coils. All together, it’s a great performance tool that paints several useful shades of dirt. wamplerpedals.com —DH

Way Huge Supa-Puss
$249

Offering up to 900ms of clear, juicy sounding analog delay (and up to three seconds of grungier echo via tap tempo), the Supa-Puss features Delay, Feedback, and Mix controls, along with mini Depth and Speed controls (for the chorus), and Gain and Tone for the delay path. The ’Puss defaults to one of four rhythmic subdivisions (quarter note, dotted eighth, eighth-note triplet, sixteenth-note) when you tap in a tempo, and you can toggle between note values by pressing the Feedback knob. Even better, holding the Feedback knob for a few seconds activates a “Chase” mode, in which the delays cycle sequentially through the four subdivisions creating crazy cool “shifting delay” rhythmic patterns. Pressing the Feedback knob selects between five different sequences with the rate controlled by the Tap switch. Add a selectable Delay Trails mode (delays trail off after the effect is bypassed), and the Supa-Puss is in a class all its own. wayhuge.com —AT

Zoom MS-50G Multistomp
$99

It’s impossible to list everything that the mind-boggling Multistomp can do here, but I plugged in, pushed the center mini-knob, and that told me I was playing through a Pro Co Rat emulation which sounded great. Twisting the top three knobs let me adjust the parameters. Pushing the middle knob again allowed me to scroll through 50 (!) presets, which can contain up to six effects and amp models. The greatest ones were the Phaser (full-on Physical Grafitti), the pitch shifter, which tracks amazingly well and can nail Alex Lifeson’s solo in “Analog Kid,” the super-funky auto-wah, the mod delay, and the Hendrix-approved “Castles” patch. This thing is USB-compatible (for firmware upgrades), sports an onboard tuner, allows you to scroll through three presets of your choosing with the footswitch, it’s dynamic, quiet, and takes up no more floor space than a standard stompbox. Excellent! samsontech.com/zoom —MB

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