This Brazilian company celebrates vintage tones, but in its own way. The designers certainly do a ton of research—and kindly explain it all on the Deep Trip website—but then they kind of forget about it, and work to devise original-sounding pedals that pay homage without cloning, and also deliver some cool tone-sculpting options to boot.
BOG actually stands for “Band of Gypsys”—not the Brit slang for toilet—as this box seeks to replicate Jimi Hendrix’s latter-day fuzz tones. The design also gives a nod to electronics wizard Roger Mayer and his constant experiments with gain stages as he modded Jimi’s Fuzz Face pedals. Therefore, BOG is not modeled explicitly from vintage schematics, and, as a result, it evokes the past, while simultaneously delivering versatile tones that shift from caterwauling fuzz to beefy distortion. The roar is stable, consistent, very tweakable, and extremely sensitive to performance gestures and guitar volume adjustments. It’s also articulate at most every setting (more on this in a bit), and works great with long effects chains and wah pedals—there’s never any muddiness or muffled attacks. Well, unless you want a beautiful mess, that is. Turning the Bias knob can get you there by producing dying battery frazzles and other, er, surprising sounds (all of which are awesome, by the way). For players who love to rattle the rafters, BOG also produces powerful bass frequencies when you turn the Lows knob to Thick. A bit timid? You can tame the bass bombs by moving the knob to Tight. There’s a lot of tonal power here—all enclosed in a very cool chassis with chicken-head knobs and a red emblem that lights up when you kick in the effect. Fun, groovy, and retro—I love it! —BOBBY CANNON
Kudos Versatile. Delightfully aggro. Built like a tank.
Concerns May be a bit big for crowded pedalboards.
The Kryptone has a core crunch that bites and soars much like the late Mick Ronson’s “Ziggy” tone—not surprising, as the pedal is based on the Vox Tone Bender circuit (although Mick used the Sola Sound version in David Bowie’s band). However, while you definitely get those vintage-like tough, gritty textures with excellent attack, you can also dial in sounds that the original Tone Benders couldn’t often touch—such as frizzy spittle, explosive low end, shimmering highs, and near-stratospheric sustain (but without cranking up a 200-watt non-master volume Marshall like Mick did). Like BOG, the Kryptone is a very dynamic pedal that tracks finger and pick attacks with excellent sensitivity, and does the same with manipulations of your guitar’s Volume knob. Also like BOG, it plays well with other stompboxes, refusing to spatter out when run simultaneously with multiple effects, or while you’re sweeping the nasal midrange of a wah pedal. The Kryptone is like having a pristine, brand new ’60s fuzz pedal at your feet, but one that also saw action in the ’70s—we’re traveling in multiple time dimensions here—and yet can deliver enough versatile grit to thrill even a jaded EDM artist. How could I not enjoy taking this box for a spin? —BOBBY CANNON
Kudos Versatile fuzz sounds. Built like a tank.
Concerns May be a bit big for crowded pedal-boards.
Named for its hometown of Sioux City, Iowa, and sporting a distinctly working-class-hip vibe, Sioux Guitars not only builds and markets effect pedals and amplifiers, it also sells clothing and personal grooming items that support its “a lifestyle, not a brand” philosophy. So if you’re not in the market for a pedal at the moment, you can always visit the website and grab yourself a tin of Sioux Pomade and an indestructible comb.
Musicality and simplicity are what the K-D Chorus is all about. With only two controls (Depth and Rate), the K-D serves up a surprisingly wide array of great chorus effects. Using a Fender Stratocaster and setting the pedal’s Depth control at about 2 o’clock and the Rate control at around 11 o’clock, I found a convincing 12-string effect that was crisp and full of chime. Then, by setting both controls at roughly 2 o’clock, I achieved a nice rotary-speaker simulation akin to what you hear on SRV’s “Cold Shot.” When I dimed the Depth control and set the Rate control to 11 o’clock, I got a Uni-Vibe like effect reminiscent of early Trower. And, best of all, there’s nothing to worry about if the pedal’s controls get jostled in-between gigs, because it’s easy to find your favorite settings again with the simple two-control layout. The K-D Chorus features a red-metal housing with white knobs, has a small footprint, and can be powered with a 9-volt battery or a power adapter. Basically, the K-D is a bright and refreshing chorus pedal that goes from subtle, phasey swirls all the way to rapid-fire warbles with panache and attitude. Simply awesome! —SAM HAUN
Kudos: Easy to use.
Villa Ave Distortion
Falling nicely between a light overdrive and a heavy distortion, the Villa Ave covers lots of tonal territory with only three controls: Volume, Gain and Tone. When I plugged in my Tele clone with Kent Armstrong single-coils, I found a tone that was crispy, punchy, and in your face—perfect for southern rock or electric blues. Diming the Gain yielded a gritty, grinding overdrive that was particularly pleasing. When I switched to a Les Paul with Rio Grande humbuckers, the Villa Ave took on a whole new personality, becoming a blistering, scare-the-hell-out-of-the-pets kind of pedal with fat, searing, harmonically rich grind. Keeping the pedal’s Tone control set around 12 o’clock while making adjustments to the Volume and Gain controls will take you into classic-rock or indie territory, and channeling the electrifying tones of the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones or the Replacements’ Paul Westerberg is a breeze with this spunky pedal. The Villa Ave is a smooth-sounding distortion pedal with a low-noise floor that’ll tighten up your bass, sweeten your midrange, and make your top end really sparkle. —SAM HAUN
Change can be rather constant in the music-gear industry, but some were still surprised to learn the much-respected TC Electronic was acquired by Music Group earlier this spring. Details weren’t completely solid at press time, but it appears TC’s guitar effects will complement Music Group’s Behringer and Bugera brands.
The Helix is a technologically advanced effects pedal, but even before all of that enters the party—in “dumb” mode, so to speak, with just Speed, Depth, Feedback, and Mix controls to craft tones—it’s a great-sounding phaser. Set the mini toggle to Vintage, and explore the deliciously phasey ’70s-style tones made popular by early Pink Floyd and Van Halen recordings. If you prefer something that sounds hollow and quirky, set the toggle to Smooth. Now, if you stopped there, you’d still get some pretty sexy phase sounds. But you won’t stop there—or shouldn’t—because the tech stuff, via TC Electronic’s TonePrint software, delivers bountiful ways to explore, craft, and manage tons of custom tones.
Download the TonePrint Editor to your computer, then connect a USB cable to the Helix, and you have access to numerous parameters you can control in real-time with a slider-based interface. You don’t even have to know anything about signal processing or engineering—you can just grab a slider, hear the results when you move it around, and love the sound or leave it. If you’re timid about devising your own tones, a complete library of artist and user sounds is available to peruse. My favorite celebrity TonePrints were Guthrie Govan’s “Thing” (which ranges from subtle waves to vocal-like warbles), and John Petrucci’s “LunarEclipse” (a clean and dreamy phaser that works fantastically with open chords and lots of sustain). Finally, if you want a new tone on the go, you can also download the TonePrint app to your Android or iPhone, and beam a TonePrint directly into your guitar’s pickups and right to the pedal—a very cool and fun way to change up phase sounds when you don’t quite have the right kind of phaser for a particular gig. There are so many phaser permutations to audition, that even the pickiest tone fiend would have to find something that wowed them. —JOYCE KUO
Kudos Versatile sounds. Stereo I/O. Analog-Dry-Through output for direct sound. True bypass and optional buffered bypass. TonePrint.
Concerns TonePrint tech sometimes requires a little bit of troubleshooting.
TC Electronic Viscous Vibe
The Viscous Vibe is a stunning recreation of the classic Shin-ei Uni-Vibe of the ’60s (think Hendrix’s “Machine Gun,” Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs,” and Pink Floyd’s “Breathe”). Of course, the TonePrint-enabled Viscous Vibe doesn’t just nail the swirly psychedelic sounds from the hippie era. It delivers extremely versatile chorus/vibrato sounds that can be almost endlessly customized. I absolutely spoiled my guitar with all kinds of syrupy, liquid tones that fit an impressive array of styles, riffs, and songs. As mentioned in the Helix review, the TonePrint Editor library comes into play to offer countless options. Two of my favorite TonePrints were named “Count Funkula” and “Funkylicious.” Using the clean channel on my amp, these sounds put the “fun” in “funk,” bringing rich, creamy overtones to my rhythm figures. For dreamy, interstellar soundscapes, I went for “SuperVibe,” with its slow, flanger-like sweep. When it was time to get really weird, I chose “VoxishVibe”—a vocal-formant-like tone that sounded best when combined with distortion.
The Viscous Vibe also offers a ramp feature, so speeding up pulses is as easy as holding my foot down on the pedal. Using the TonePrint Editor, you can also use the pedal’s stereo outputs to send two different effects to two different amps. Super trippy stereo! TC Electronic has done an outstanding job with the Viscous Vibe, earning it a permanent spot on my pedalboard, as well as an Editors’ Pick Award. —JOYCE KUO
Kudos Versatile sounds. Stereo I/O. Analog-Dry-Through output for direct sound. True bypass and optional buffered bypass. Speed ramp feature. TonePrint.
Concerns TonePrint tech sometimes requires a little bit of troubleshooting.