Whack Job: Mid-Fi Electronics Guitar Pedals

Whether you’re playing a whacked-out guitar or a more traditional workhorse, inserting one of these units into your signal chain will challenge your audience’s expectations of what an electric guitar can sound like.
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I met Doug Tuttle, the creator of these mind-blowing pedals, in a most accidental if not uncomfortable way several months ago. I was reviewing what I was led to believe was one of his effect units and wrote a glowing review of it, which ran in these pages. 

At press time, however, I was unable to reach the pedal’s maker: There was no information on the box, and the site from which I purchased the effect had gone cold. I assumed he had begun working for a major pedal maker and taken his personal site down. I was so wrong.

As it turned out, the pedal was a counterfeit of Tuttle’s own Clari(not) stomp box. Though it bore no resemblance to the real thing, it had the same name. When I finally made contact with Tuttle, it was to tell him the bad news about the bogus pedal and my now-published review. Fortunately, all has turned out well. The counterfeiter has vanished, and Tuttle’s Mid-Fi Electronics is buzzing along happily.

Better still, this month I’m looking at three examples of the real deal: Mid-Fi Electronics’ Random Vibrato, Deluxe Pitch Pirate and the actual Clari(not). These are among the 16 stompboxes Tuttle is currently offering in his whacky line of noisemakers.

Weirdo Factor

For Mid-Fi Electronics, weird is the norm. Tuttle’s pedal range includes fuzz, distortion, modulation, delay and so-called chaos pedals. True to the company’s name, the boxes add an element of sonic reduction to your tone as well as extreme modulation, delay, dirt and weirdness.

Playability & Sound

Random Vibrato: Like the name says, this pedal produces subtle, irregular vibrato, similar to the wow and flutter of a mechanically challenged reel-to-reel tape player. The effect isn’t just on and off, either - it also swells in and out with varying depths of vibrato. I enjoy the “performance art” aspect of it and keep it in my signal chain. If you want to scramble the eggs a little bit, the Random Vibrato is just the thing.

Clari(not): Reminiscent of my old tape echo devices, the Clari(not) might just be one of the nicest analog delays I’ve ever used. And while you could use it just for echo, there’s enough weirdness and randomness in this box to satisfy your more extreme desires for whacky effects. 

In addition to familiar controls for delay, depth, feedback and blend, the Clari(not) has a mystery knob called tracking that adds strange modulation and pitch-bending sounds whenever you hold a note. Alternate between guitar lines swathed in warm tape delay and sustained notes that warble and become diffracted in an eerie circuit-bent way.

Deluxe Pitch Pirate: Like the Clari(not), this pedal is an excursion into circuit-bending, but it’s capable of everything from fairly traditional delay effects to random sci-fi movie noises that are downright scary. The Deluxe Pitch Pirate has six controls for speed, wave, delay, depth, blend and feedback and the delay and speed knobs work interactively with the wave control to affect the waveshape. 

Like the Clari(not), the fun happens as you increase the delay’s sustain. The Deluxe Pitch Pirate’s versatility extends to traditional delay sounds (simply turn the depth control down) and modulated delay (turn the wave control full left and ease up the depth knob).

Incidentally, both the Pitch Pirate and Clari(not) use a digital IC for the delay circuit. Otherwise, the pedals are completely analog.

Value

Reasonably priced at between $125 and $250 apiece, these pedals are a bargain. All of Tuttle’s stompboxes are made to order and wired by hand, and feature true-bypass and nine-volt DC operation.

Why They Rule

Whether you’re playing a whacked-out guitar or a more traditional workhorse axe, inserting one or more of these units into your signal chain will challenge your audience’s expectations of what an electric guitar can sound like.

Visit midfielectronics.com for more information, descriptions of controls, audio samples and video clips. The site includes a list of dealers who stock the pedals, and you can purchase pedals direct from the site as well.

Got a whack job of your own? Feel free to get in touch with me at rtcarleton@gmail.com. Who knows? Maybe I’ll write about it.

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