Featuring a Waveform switch and a Shape knob to alter the character and on/off ratio of its undulations, the Pulsar ($138 retail/$99 street) sculpts an exceptionally broad selection of tremolo effects. Made in the U.S. and sporting a '70s-style, wedge-shaped stainless-steel enclosure, the Pulsar can be powered by a 9-volt battery or an external AC adaptor.
Effects purists will appreciate the Pulsar's true-bypass switching and tone-preserving 1M input impedance (there was no appreciable high-frequency loss when the effect was engaged).
The Waveform switch provides either triangle or square wave oscillations. In triangle mode, with the Shape knob pointed straight up and at a moderate Depth setting, I was able to closely approximate the gentle, round-shouldered throb of a Fender Deluxe's tremolo. Higher Depth settings produced a stronger and more profound tremolo effect that stood out better than the Fender's in a dense band mix. In triangle mode, with the Shape knob turned counterclockwise, the pulses ramp up gradually, then fall off steeply. Conversely, turning the Shape knob clockwise produces pulses that ramp up quickly then tail off with a gradual decay. In square-wave mode, the oscillations become choppier and more abrupt, while the Shape knob varies the on/off ratio to provide everything from spacey blips to barely noticeable momentary dips. Considering its impressive range and flexibility, the Pulsar is clearly light years beyond the rest of the tremolo pedal pack.
Flip TD-X Tube Echo
Combining analog and digital technology, the Tube Echo ($300 retail/$225 street) is a hybrid delay pedal that offers controls for Level, Feedback, and Delay Time. The latter knob works in conjunction with a Delay Time switch that provides three delay ranges: 20ms-160ms (Short), 80ms-650ms (Medium), and 330ms-2,600ms (Long).
Also included are a Simulation/Analog control that adds bucket-brigade-style saturation distortion to the delay signal and a Simulation/Tape knob that allows you to make the repeats sound progressively more lo-fi. As its name implies, the Tube Echo uses a 12AX7 tube to warm up the signal before it hits the digital delay circuit. The unit sports a steel enclosure, dual outputs (Dry and Mix), true-bypass switching, and is powered by an included 12-volt wall-wart adapter.
The Tube Echo delivers juicy-sounding delays that can easily be adjusted to sound as clear or as lo-fi as you like. Seeking to make this compact pedal replicate some of the fat, organic goodness delivered by the excellent new Fulltone Tube Tape Echo (stay tuned for an upcoming review on this fab box), I dialed in a delay time of about 500ms, adjusted the Feedback control for several repeats, and turned up the Simulation/Analog and Simulation/Tape controls just enough to put a little hair on the delay tone and make each repeat sound a bit browner than the one preceding it. Using the Delay Time switch to toggle between Long and Medium settings, it was possible to obtain great sounding slapback and ambient effects that were vibey and very distinguishable from my straight guitar sound. The Tube Echo doesn't have any tap-tempo looping, or preset functions, but it's easy to use, and it sounds killer.