Stompbox Fever(9)

September 1, 2004

EMMA RF-1 Reezafratzitz Overdrive/Distortion
The RF-1 Reezafratzitz ($229 retail/$169 street) is a wicked sounding pedal with one truly unique feature—which isn’t its rather bizarre name. The magic behind the RF-1’s incredibly thick and punchy tube-amp sound is its Bias control, which allows you to morph between class A/B and class A biasing. This feature is totally sweet in that it enhances the harmonic content of the signal, allowing for a much greater variety of tones compared to traditional overdrive boxes. In class A mode, the RF-1 nails the Vox AC30’s singing sustain. Class A/B mode delivers crushing Marshall tones, and, by backing off the gain a bit, Fender Deluxe-style spank. The Hi Boost/Hi Cut function lets you dial out any ear-bleeding treble that might occur with single-coil pickups, and the Level control lets you hit your amp hard for additional overdrive.

—Kent Carmical

Guyatone MD3 Micro Digital Delay
So you’ve built the ultimate pedalboard only to realize you forgot to include space for a digital delay pedal? Well, the super-teeny MD3 Micro Digital Delay ($140 retail/$99 street) might still be a perfect fit. With knobs for Delay Time, Level, and Feedback—along with a 3-position delay range switch—the MD3 won’t be accused of having too complicated a user interface, but it does pump out a cool range of clean-sounding delay textures. In Short mode, the MD3 produces delay times from 16ms to 160ms (great for dialing in Sun Studios-style slapback echo), Medium mode offers delay times from 80ms to 650ms—enough to cover the entire U2 catalog, while Long mode goes from 330ms to 2,600ms for very long echoes and quasi-looping effects. The sound is precise and non-mushy, though extreme feedback settings in the Short and Medium modes cause the circuit to self-oscillate and produce distorted, industrial-sounding effects (which can be cool if that’s what you’re looking for). The MD3 may be small, but it’s a tough little sucker that sounds great and won’t disintegrate under your foot.

—Kent Carmical

Danelectro Wasabi AS-1 Rock-a-Bye
The Rock-a-Bye ($129 retail/$99 street) takes two great effects that go great together—echo and tube overdrive—and combines them into the desert- island rock-n-roll pedal. The overdrive and echo effects have their own on/off footswitches, and you can feed the echo to a second amp through the additional Echo Only output. Despite its hefty size, the Rock-a-Bye’s controls are crammed together at the very top of the chassis, so tweaking the Level, Echo Wet/Dry, Echo Speed, Echo Repeats, and Overdrive knobs amount requires some finger finesse. The Echo Speed slider is great for delving into Jimmy Page-style Echoplex abuse, but it also feels a little shaky. The Rock-a-Bye sounds like an old tape echo through a cranked tube amp (think Cliff Gallup backing Gene Vincent). Two small switches on the back—Pickup and Hi Cut—allow you to optimize the input circuit for either single-coils or humbuckers and/or warm-up the sound a bit by taking the edge off the highs. On a purely subjective note, visual design of the chassis doesn’t rock my world. But if you’re into ’50s automobiles, you’ll dig the status LEDs in the tailfins. Thanks to its versatility and luscious sound, the Rock-a-Bye is more than a just an effect for rockabilly revivalists—it’s a great pedal for anything from punk to classic rock.

—Kent Carmical    

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