Guitar Aficionado

Z.Vex Builds a $6,000 Candle-Powered Effect

The Candela Vibrophase vibrato/phaser is the world's first candle-powered musical-instrument effect.
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By Christopher Scapelliti

Zachary Vex has made his name building unusual effects that let guitarists shape their tone in remarkable ways.

After 21 years of building effects, Vex has created what may be his oddest yet: a vibrato/phaser powered by...a candle.

Yes, a candle.

The Z.Vex Candela Vibrophase is clearly no ordinary effect pedal. Instead of using a standard nine-volt battery, it takes its power from a low-power Stirling engine design created about 200 years ago. In the Stirling engine, the heat from a lit candle drives a tiny piston that powers a flywheel.The flywheel turns an optical disc that has a bank of photo cells on just one side. This produces an intermittent input to the cells that drives the tremolo sound.

The photo cells are themselves powered by solar cells and feature a filter to increase or decrease how much light galls on the cells. This is akin to adjusting the dry/wet knob on an effect. To change the intensity of the effect, a neodynium magnet can be moved relative to the flywheel.

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So why build a candle-powered effect pedal? Why not? It might just save you money on batteries.

Then again, maybe not. Vex estimates Candela Vibrophase will cost about $6,000 to manufacturer. So no, you won’t be buying this unusual contraption any time soon.

However, “Someone would buy it because they want to have it in the their man-cave basement studio,” Vex tells the Tone King, “When you’re trying to create music, having stuff that inspires you... helps you think more clearly and helps you be more creative.”

Check it out.