Stompbox Blog: August 2009

Stompbox Blog

Welcome to the guitar effects virtual museum. I have been collecting stompboxes for the past few years and wanted to share some thoughts. I will continually add more pics and opinions. Any comments or suggestions are appreciated. Thanks for looking.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Boss FZ-3 Fuzz


One of the most popular effects by Electro Harmonics is the Big Muff for sure. But that was the late 60's, Jimi Hendrix, and lava lamps. The FZ-3 was the 3rd shortest production module with a shelf-life of only 2 years. It's not surprising though given the release date of 1997 when the music scene was changing again and soon the unit was phased out. Now on the anniversary of Woodstock they have released the FZ-5.....where did 4 go? An interesting fact is that the simple electronics design of the FZ-3 doesn't contain one IC circuit. If you ever open a smiley-face Arbiter Fuzz Face would reveal the same circuit simplicity and Jimi didn't mind(less is more). This is the only Boss effect that features a hammered metallic finish. For more info please visit the website http://www.bossus.com/ or see http://www.bossarea.com/

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Boss MD-2 Mega Distortion


How much distortion is too much? Ok, maybe they overdid it with this one... but that might be suitable for many alt-noise guitarists. This unit has more gain on tap than any other pedal since 2001 and units are still selling. It sports a dual ganged pot control for tone. It actually has 2 controls for distortion(one for gain boost and the other for errr distortion). The Tone control has more bass response control than any other in it's class and is perfect for the Nu-Metal 7-string scene. It's housed in a beautiful red-orange enclosure....change is good. For more info on this and other Boss products visit http://www.bossus.com/ and visit http://www.bossarea.com/

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Boss BD-2 Blues Driver(Keeley Fat Mod)



What do you do when you have a great pedal suited for playing the blues? You change a few resistors and capacitors and make it even better. One of the best mods out on the street is the Keeley Electronics BD-2 phat mods. Boss intended this pedal to be more responsive to pick-attack and guitar volume controls. That didn't stop Robert Keeley from changing the circuitry into something a little better. Many musicians like Brad Paisley, John Mayer, Jason Becker, Pearl Jam, Emmylou Harris guitarist Buddy Miller and Bob Dylan's guitarist Bob Britt favour this blue meanie. Even Guitar World gave this little modded unit kudos in a review. Since SRV brought blues back into the spotlight before his untimely death many people have since tried to fill his shoes. It's one of the newer Boss effects but it's not going anywhere. For more info on these effects by Boss see http://www.bossus.com/ or visit http://www.bossarea.com/



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Boss PW-2 Power Driver


If ever any pedal was Ms. Understood it would be the PW-2. Nobody could understand what Muscle or Fat knobs could do. Now we know that one was the Mid-range contour and the Fat switch could not only improve the lows but also fatten up the sound. Most of the Boss family distortions are tame compared to this school-bus yellow /hazard sign effect. It is actually a rougher/edgier sound than the most popular DS-1 and surprisingly has more gain on tap. It is the shortest lived production model ever and will soon become one of the most collectible of the Boss line-up. It is rumoured to be modeled after the classic Nirvano grunge distortion. For more info please visit.. http://www.bossus.com/ or see http://www.bossarea.com/

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Boss XT-2 Xtortion


In 1996 Grunge controlled the airwaves of radio and even though metal was considered dead people still craved distortion. Nothing was heavier than the new Xtortion pedal by Boss with it's bright red casing. But who where they kidding? With the Contour and Punch knobs it was just another euphemism for sculpting the upper mids and the lower mids. Metal was never dead .. just in a state of limbo. Just when there might have been a re-birth the XT-2 was phased out but has become a classic given low production numbers. It is still number 2 for the shortest lived lineup(the Power Driver is the shortest) but not for lack of sound quality. This will become a rare classic someday and a likely investment today. Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots would be proud. For more info please visit http://www.bossus.com/ or see http://www.bossarea.com/

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Boss MT-2


Which manufacturer of pedals has sold more units than any other? Boss. Out of all those effects which one has sold more than any other? The MT-2. Part of that reason is the fact that it is the most powerful distortion available. Don't bother buying batteries for this unit as it's more wise to invest in a 9 volt adaptor to be eco-friendly. At the heart of this unit is the tweak ability of the mids. the 2 mid switches feature 2 ganged pots to scoop out the mids and sculpt the highs and lows for gut-wrenching metal mayhem. Warren Haynes of Govt Mule also favors this device for solos and searing sustain. The fact that it has 7 filters and 2 dual ganged tone/mid controls made it more expensive than other Boss effects but users will attest to it's "bang for the buck." Just when metal was dying in 1991 Boss took it to the next level which still is popular with many guitar players today. For more info please visit http://www.bossus.com/

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Boss MZ-2 Digital Metalizer


What could be more evil than a black pedal with red lettering? Just when Eddie Van Halen was reinventing his sound with something he coined "jape" Boss released the equivalent in digital format. If you combined chorus with distortion it gave you an added edgy quality suitable for metal playing. Combine this with the accuracy of new digital effects and a doubling effect you have the perfect hair-band sound of the 80's. The Digital Metalizer was a versatile effect that allowed you to produce 6 different modes of distortion. You also had stereo outputs for more spatial dimensionality. It was only produced from '87 to '92 but by then Nirvana had created grunge and hair-metal had destroyed the real metal. For more on Boss effects please visit.. http://www.bossus.com/ or see http://www.bossarea.com/

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Boss PN-2 Tremolo


Not to be confused with Vibrato(more of a hand effect with strings) Tremolo is a volume based effect that makes notes loud then quiet(you get the idea). Of all the classic pedals featuring tremolo the PN-2 is easily in the top 5. It is one of the only stereo-based tremolo(Demeter finally got the idea) that sport a panning effect from left to right. In essence they took a good thing and made it better. To top it off, they also allowed tweaking of triangular or square waveforms and allowed you to control the panning in stereo or mono input/output jacks. It had a short shelf life of only 5 years but is still highly regarded as one of the best of it's breed. If you ever want to get the Johnny Marr "How Soon Is Now" effect then look no further. For more info please visit http://www.bossus.com/ or visit http://www.bossarea.com/

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Boss DC-3 Digital Dimension


In 1988 Boss started focusing on the more popular multi-effect rack units of the time and only 1 compact pedal was released, the DC-3. One of the more popular rack-mount effects had been produced to rave reviews the SDD-320 and it was turned into a popular compact pedal the DC-2. Now that digital technology was taking over, they decided to eliminate the 4 presets and allow the user to use knobs to tweak this popular effect. Again, they weren't trying to produce your typical chorus effect, but more of an ambient space-effect and digital would allow a more cleaner yet less-organic feel. In the beginning they released it as the Space-D but then switched to the Digital Dimension moniker. It was produced in Taiwan for a mere 4 years so it is still one of the rarer finds although I still prefer the analog flavour of the DC-2. For more info on the current Boss line-up see http://www.bossus.com/ or visit http://www.bossarea.com/

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Boss DC-2 Dimension C


When is a chorus effect not chorus? When it becomes a dimension-based effect. The Dimension C came from an unusual pedigree. In 1979 Roland started making professional rack mount units for studio musicians and they released the SDD-320 which utilized analog circuitry to create an ambient spacial effect. It utilized 4 preset buttons that had modulation and pitch based circuitry to create a feeling of space. It was so popular that Boss decided to release it in pedal form but how do you get 2 huge analog circuit boards into such close quarters? First of all, the frequency clocks would start to squeal in such close proximity if you pressed more than 2 presets. For that reason you can only use one at a time which is just fine given the ambient sound choices. This is the only compact effect to utilize the 4 button approach but I can't complain about any of the 4 beautiful choices to select from. I like chorus pedals for their thickening watery-shimmering quality but for some reason I still go back to this beautiful enhancing effect. For more info see the Boss site http://www.bossus.com/ or visit http://www.bossarea.com/

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Boss DD-3 Digital Delay

In 1983 Boss released it's first digital delay pedal in pearl-white, the DD-2. But in 1986 they improved it and, even though there is now the DD-7 with more features, the DD-3 remains the best selling delay to date. It still remains a classic pedal that is the industry standard for the effect. Digital was unique in the fact that it retained the exact signal with very little degradation over time unlike analog based effects. Some users claimed that digital technology was too sterile and inorganic but it was virtually noiseless and could carry the echo for up to 800 ms(more than twice analog). It also had stereo outputs and had a hold function for infinite playback at the press of a foot. Eddie Van Halen would use the hold function and then adjust the delay time for a dive-bomb Doppler effect of detuning. It also boasted a feedback control and e.q. control for the amount of effect. You could even get reverb or sitar sounds if tweaked just right. It was so revolutionary that it is still being built today. For more on this effect please visit the website http://www.bossus.com/ or see http://www.bossarea.com/

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Boss DM-2 Delay


Before there was digital technology there was analog and in 1981 Boss released their first compact series effect. Back in the day, many echo devices utilized a tape recording system that looped the sound with different playing heads spaced apart for ambient delay. Later it was proven you could use time-based BBD(bucket brigade chips) that could carry the signal until it slowly faded. The appeal of the DM-2 is it's ambient Reverb-like wash in it's organic signal replication. It could only produce a delay as long as 300 ms but it was soft and tape-like. Many country players swear by it's shortened delay for chicken-pickin' slap back bathroom echo. Cranking the knobs clockwise produce the beautiful self-oscillation for a wall of sound psychedelic experience. It sold for only 3 years before the DM-3 came out and then digital took over. For more info on Boss products see....http://www.bossus.com/ or visit http://www.bossarea.com/

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Boss DS-1 Distortion


Of all the effects out on the market there is one that has outsold all of them .... the DS-1. It was only a year after the success of the Boss OD-1 when musicians craved something with a bit more distortion. It still utilized the asymmetrical sound wave but this time offered a clipped rectangular top and bottom for a sharper distorted edge. There is a reason that Steve Vai and Joe Satriani still have their original Japanese models on their pedal board despite all the boutique pedals they could afford. It's no wonder that ProCo's Rat is so similar to the DS-1 circuit board and it shows. Over 10 million units have been sold and still counting since 1978. For more info please visit http://www.bossus.com/ or see this cool website... http://www.bossarea.com/

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Boss OD-1 Overdrive


This is where the legend starts. Hot off the heels of the success of the Roland CE-1 chorus pedal, a unit that is still the benchmark by which all others are judged, Boss started the new compact pedal series. They come in all colors but the metal box has stayed the same since inception. The first 3 pedals were called the stoplight series(red, yellow, and green). The yield color was the most popular for the series sporting the overdrive effect. It was unique in the fact that it used the popular Ibanez JRC-4558 chip found in Tubescreamers but had more treble bleed and a fat bottom end. It's overdrive was also unique in the fact that the sound wave was asymmetrical and rounded. This created a smooth mild distortion on a cranked amp that became the staple sound of many 80s hair bands. It was not unusual to find this relatively cheap effect on many professional musicians pedal boards in favor of many boutique offerings. It was only 1977 when this device hit music stores but it was a sign of more good things to come. For more info on Boss effects visit http://www.bossus.com/ or this cool website.... http://www.bossarea.com/

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Danelectro Cool-Cat Chorus


Out of all the retro-styled large box metal effects there is one that stands out from it's siblings and that's the Cool Cat. Not to be confused with the new uglier pedal offering the Cool Cat series...this chorus was an instant classic just as it's 50's look. It was different too in the fact that it required 2 alkaline batteries or an 18 volt adaptor to power it's analog engine under the hood. It was a simple design, just 2 controls for speed and chill(rate and depth) but that's all it needed to produce it's classic sounding watery effect. Despite it's undeserved reputation it appeared on several professional pedal-boards for those who knew how good it was. Guitarists flocked to the smaller cheaper plastic offerings and the better ones were soon discontinued. One day guitarists will make this effect the classic it was intended to be. It was a great value just like the Danelectro guitars of the 50's even if this unit was produced in the mid 90's. For more info on the current Danelectro line-up see.....http://www.danelectro.com/

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Danelectro Fab-Tone Distortion


It's a shame that the large-box retro styled Danelectro pedal series never caught on. They looked like something from the 50's and tried to capitalize on what made them famous during the time when cheap guitars ruled. They were just as much a good value back in the day due to the fact that everything was outsourced to China. It didn't help that it's smaller sibling was housed in a cheap plastic case and were mass produced. The larger units were nice and heavy and sported a cool Chevy housing and cool names. The Fab-Tone was just that.... a nice thick sizzling distortion that packed plenty of furious gain. It was a lot harsher that it's brother the Daddy-O but had a nice singing sustain that had a retro feel of a Marshall stack. They quickly stopped production to focus on the less-expensive line-up and a less-cooler look. It's a shame but someday it will become the classic it was intended to be ... for the new product offering see..http://www.danelectro.com/

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Danelectro Daddy-O overdrive


They look old but they're not. The name Danelectro goes back to the 50's when they were known for a good value for guitars. They missed the pedal bandwagon during the golden age of effects but reinvented itself in the mid-90's when pedals became popular again. They were still a good value for the money. The larger units were housed in a heavy-metal enclosure and were manufactured in China. The smaller units were plastic and more affordable and the larger ones didn't sell that well due to it's inexpensive reputation. You couldn't fool the masses with it's retro look but these devices will one-day be the classic it was intended to be. The Daddy-O has a great tubey Fender sound that can crank any vintage tube amp with smooth overdrive. For more info on the current line up of effects see....http://www.danelectro.com/

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DOD 670 Flanger

Hot on the heels of the MXR big box professional effects David Oreste Di Francesco(DOD) started his offering in 1974 in Salt Lake City,Utah. The analog effects company was later bought out by Digitech and renamed Division of Digitech(DOD) but later repurchased by Harmon International again. The integrity of the original lineup still holds-up today and are still a bargain on the used market. The 670 flanger caught on when Eddie Van Halen stepped on his MXR black box for the song Unchained. This box can pull off the main riff of Barracuda in all it's analog splendor. The led on the device blinks with it's throbbing flanging rate. It has 4 knobs to dial in airplane sounds and metallic sounds. It can also do the watery chorus effect too with the proper tweaking. It was a classic for all it's shimmering swirling flanging goodness. For more info DOD's current offering see....http://www.dod.com/

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DOD 680 Analog Delay

DOD started it's effect line-up in the mid 70's by sporting the same look as rival MXR. These units were much more impressive than the less expensive commercial effects like Boss. The big blue units were replaced by the Performer series in the early 80's which were much more compact and then later by the cheaper FX series to compete with Boss. When this unit arrived it was an analog beast complete with 3 prong power cord to belt out a pulsing delay. When maxed out, it has a voltage controlled oscillation that no digital could ever replicate. These units are a lot more noisy than digital but then again a lot more warm, organic and natural sounding. The BBD chips in this device could only produce 550 ms of delay but what a beautiful sounding echo. For more info on the current DOD line-up please visit...http://www.dod.com/
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DOD Chorus 690

If the large rectangular box looks familiar it's because DOD wanted to capitalize on the success of the similar casing by MXR. In the mid 70's, when guitarists were looking for more professional sounding effects, DOD started taking off. DOD was originally started by David Oreste Di Francesco in Salt Lake City UT in 1974. The company was bought out later by Harmond International and then by Digitech in the 80's. Many people associated the name as Division of Digitech... but today they are once again seprate entities. The most unique feature of the 690 analog chorus is the fact you can switch between two different speeds of chorus. Because the effect is analog you can hear the speed ramping up gradually when the effect is engaged. The LED on the unit also blinks to represent the speed of the sweep too. Nothing can replicate the organic blend of de-tuning as these original analog machines. These heavy effects are still a bargain compared to it's rival MXR on the used market and have yet to be reissued. For more info on it's current product offering see....http://www.dod.com/ or visit this fan's database for the FX series that followed the originalhttp://www.americaspedal.net/.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

MXR Analog Delay

No would could deny Andy Summer's wonderful use of effects for the guitar textures on the Police albums. He highly favored the Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress for flanging but for delay he chose the MXR analog delay. This was an easy decision for studio recording for its natural sounding decay and lush organic clarity. It featured stereo outputs and a regeneration knob to control feedback. The Reticon chips found in these units have long since been discontinued but the legend lives on. You can hear it's depth on Every Breath You Take from the album Synchronicity. Maxing out the control creates some powerful self-oscillation that you could never replicate from digital technology. The sweeping is so intense, you would think that Earth was being invaded by flying saucers in your back-yard. For more info on Dunlop and MXR effects please visit....http://www.jimdunlop.com/

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MXR Chorus

By the early 80's MXR had gained the reputation of one of the best in the business for creating studio effect devices in the industry. Before the age of digital technology these large boxes contained state of the art analog circuitry to produce lush sounding tones for recording. One example is the MXR box logo chorus which many players like Randy Rhoades used in the making of ground-breaking albums. This unit was re-released due to it's popularity but the original is still sought after. These units were pricey for the time and out of the reach of many guitar players but still considered a bargain today on EBay. Although digital effects are more prevalent on the market, nothing can match the original analog organic lushness of this watery effect. For more info on the reissue product please see...http://www.jimdunlop.com/

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MXR Distortion +


By the early 70's several manufacturers were producing fuzz-boxes and noise making devices that were becoming popular with guitar players. After awhile many people were looking for a "distortion-free sustainer" without all the fizz or bee-in-a-can buzz. Any guitar player will tell you that the only pure form of distortion comes from a cranked tube amp that produces clipping of the sound wave. The MXR product was simply more than distortion.... it had that extra plus people were looking for. For starters, they didn't simply use the harsh treble boosting ICs or silicon transistors that other boxes contained. Instead, they used a germanium 1N270 clipping diode for a gentler breakup. This effect, along with the better sounding hi-fidelity tube amps that were being produced created a more natural sounding tube sound even with solid state transistors. Randy Rhodes found this unit pleasing through his Marshall stack and a staple of his sound when triple-tracking solos because of it's clarity. For more on this unit please see...http://www.jimdunlop.com/

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MXR Dyna Comp


If you could only take one compressor to a desert island it would probably be the original classic by MXR innovations. By the last 70's Keith Barr and Terry Sherwood had turned a basement operation into one of the largest high-end pedal manufacturers in the U.S. The idea of a compressor is simple... it makes the loud notes softer and the soft notes louder. It simply squashes the notes and evens out the sound for a more uniform playing. Soon Nashville session guitars found them ideal for chicken-picking style runs and a staple of their sound. Rock guitar players seeking more sustain for their solos also found them useful like David Gilmore of Pink Floyd. Some people find the grey Ross Compressor the holy grail of effects and Trey Anastasio would agree wholeheartedly. Actually Ross took the Dyna Comp effect and tried to improve it's circuit by adding more dynamics. Since then, many boutique builders are making slight improvements but it's hard to deny the original effect that started it all in this red box. For more info on the reissue cult-classic please visit....http://www.jimdunlop.com/

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MXR Phase 90

In 1972, MXR was founded in Rochester NY by two high-school pals, Keith Barr and Terry Sherwood. The started their business by repairing audio equipment but then started producing effects of their own by trying to build better units. They started with a simple lush sounding unit that quickly caught on after selling them to individual guitarists at gigs. They weren't hard to sell based off the lush swirl and were soon building 50 units at a time in their basement. The first units were housed in the bud-box cases from Ohio and featured script press on logos. They placed an ad on the back of the 1975 issue of Rolling Stone magazine simply stating "We're Here" but didn't leave an address or phone number. Their success on word of mouth reviews were all they need to grow into the second largest manufacturer at the time. A young LA guitarist plugged into one for a treble boost(the sweep was set to the lowest counter-clockwise setting) but you could still hear the modulation when he recorded Eruption. Keyboard players found favor with the units too because of the lush swirl. They were more expensive than the rival effects at the time but were also considered the Porsche models because of their sound. They were later purchased by Dunlop manufacturing but many of the originals are being produced due to popularity .... for more info see.....http://www.jimdunlop.com/

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Electro Harmonix Small Stone


Which Electro Harmonix pedal has sold more units than any other you might wonder? A lot of people might guess the Big Muff due to it's legendary status. Actually the Small Stone phase-shifter has outperformed the muff in sales since the 70's and it's no wonder. The MXR Phase 90 has one of the best cult followings for phase shifters but it is simply a different animal altogether. Electro Harmonix pedals have never had a reputation for subtlety or being quiet...but that's what makes them so good. This phase shifter produces a swirling analog flavor that is chock-full of tonal texture. Just when you think you couldn't get any creamier with it's depth or sweep you can hit the color switch for more psychedelic flavor. You can turn the sweep all the way down for a Pink-Floyd sound or add distortion for the classic Van Halen solo. Rotating the knob clockwise all the way will produce some nice robot sounds or lasers. The Green Russian models are a little more noisey and colorful...but that is a great thing. For more information on the Small Stone and other Electro Harmonix products please visit... http://www.ehx.com/

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Electro Harmonix Big Muff


Ahhhhhh.... the stuff of legends. Of all the legendary pedals the Big Muff is a cult-icon. Jimi Hendrix bought one from Mike Matthews before they were released to the public and Carlos Santana ran one into his Mesa Boogie around the same time. Hot off the heels of the popular LP1 power booster(a one transistor mail order box) Matthews wanted to create a noisy fuzz box that would totally saturate any amp with sustaining tonal pleasure. Every guitar player wanted to emulate the fuzzy sounds of their hero playing Foxy Lady and the Muff was fuzzier than a moldy peach. There were several incarnations of the Muff over the years.. the rams head, triangle knob, NY style, little Big Muff, Deluxe Big Muff, Sovtek Green, etc.... J. Masics of Dinosaur Jr. has one of the most impressive collections of this device for fear of losing his unique style of tone but particular color always seems to be found on his pedalboard. The Russian Green muff allegedly has the same knobs found on their space modules. The green Muffs are perfect for producing the Smashing Pumpkins or Black Sabbath wall of sound. For more info on the Big Muff and other Electro Harmonix products please visit...http://www.ehx.com/

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Visual Sound H2O


Fish & Chips, The Captain and Tennille, and Chorus & Delay. What do these things have in common you might ask? Well they just go great together.... ok I know that was bad. But like all other Visual Sound pedals they give you a 2 for the price of 1 pedal that delivers tonal goodness. The interesting fact about this unit however is that one side is analog and the other is digital. Bob Weil admits that certain effects are going to sound better in analog like chorus/flanging and he uses the old-school BBD(bucket brigade chip seen in older echo devices). Nothing else can replicate the creamy liquidness like analog. On the other hand....digital is very accurate in replicating a delay or echo signal especially on longer delay settings. The pedal allows you to switch between long/short delay depending on whether you want to chicken-pick with slap back echo or delve into a spacier Pink Floyd/Cure effect. The H2O is twice the thickness of it's siblings but that's because they have separate circuit boards stuffed into the enclosure. In a shoot-out for tone this chorus held it's own against the Danish TC Electronics unit at almost half the price. For info on this and other Visual Sound products please visit.....http://www.visualsound.net/

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