Speedster Turbo Charger
Machined from a solid billet of aircraft-grade aluminum, the Turbo Charger ($240 retail/street price N/A) is finished with scratch-resistant swirly-blue anodizing and sports a separate 1/8 "-thick top that's secured by six large chrome hex-head screws. The chunky casing (which resembles a dragster's magneto) is also conveniently angled to make the switch easier to step on, and the logo and In/Out markings are beautifully laser etched.
The 9-volt battery is accessed by removing two screws on the bottom.
The controls include Boost, Tone, and a combination Volume knob/on-off switch, which is a great idea for those who don't want to yank their cords out every time they stop playing. Thoughtfully, the Turbo comes with a rubber non-skid pad for floor use and Velcro for pedalboard mounting.
Compared with an Ibanez TS5 Soundtank (a damn good TS9 alternative), the Turbo sounded a little more luxurious. The lows were lower, the highs more sweet and refined, and the overdrive was a little more natural sounding. The Turbo Charger also cleaned up nicely as my guitar's volume was decreased, and it sounded equally cool with humbuckers or single-coils. As with the original Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer, the Turbo features a JRC 4558 chip. However, its true-bypass switching means that the guitar's signal isn't colored by the circuitry when the effect is off. A lovely piece of performance art, the Turbo Charger scores highly for its stout construction, high-performance styling, and neutral and transparent tones that allow your guitar's character to shine through.
Ulbrick Megalodon Super Solo
Hailing from Australia, the land of big beers and baby-munching dingos, the Megalodon Super Solo (price t.b.d.) offers up decidedly old-school boost and distortion. Housed in a seriously durable brushed-aluminum enclosure, the Megalodon sports Gain and Volume controls as well as an on/off LED.
Running the pedal between my Telecaster and a Fender Twin Reverb, I set the Megalodon's Gain control half-way up, and the Volume to full. The subsequent tones were still clean as a whistle, but punishingly loud, with just the slightest hint of hair around the edges. So slight, in fact, that just barely lightening my touch was enough to return the tone to the land of sparkly clean.
However, when I ran the Megalodon in front of a less powerful Fender Deluxe Reverb that was turned up about half-way up, it was party time! This is where the pedal really shines as the Megalodon doesn't change your sound at all. No loss of bass, no rolled-off highs in an effort to be "creamy," and no midrange buggery of any kind. Instead, you get the sonic equivalent of the Tet Offensive, as the pedal pushed the already breaking-up Deluxe into various states of orgasmic overdrive. Yum indeed.
Dunlop EVH Phase 90
Offering four-stage phasing and a variable Speed control, the EVH Phase 90 ($189 retail/street price N/A) might appear to be merely a Van Halen-inspired version of the school-bus orange Phase 90 that Dunlop has been producing for years.But what makes this pedal so special is its Script button, which toggles between the circuitry used in the original "script" logo MXR Phase 90 and that of the later block-logo model. The sonic differences are fairly subtle, however, activating the Script function does alter the midrange response, providing darker, slightly more restrained phasing textures. Through a mid-'70s Marshall, the EVH Phase 90 delivered rich, chewy tones with the Speed knob set very low (nine o'clock or under) and the Script function on. The slow swirl added a unique shimmer to distorted humbucker tones (which is probably why Edward Van Halen used that setting a lot back in the day), and single-coil pickups also sounded fatter and juicier in this mode. Bypassing the Script function and turning the Speed knob closer to the halfway mark yielded brighter, more effusive textures that allowed uptempo rhythm parts to stand out beautifully in a live mix. Compared to some new phase shifters, the EVH Phase 90 is a one-trick pony (well, make that two) but if you just need the right phase sound when you step on the button, this is the pedal to get.