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This article was originally published in issue #24
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Jam Pedals offer boutique analogue guitar and bass pedals handmade in Greece, all using the highest quality materials on the market including rare NOS ('New Old Stock') chips, specially selected matched NOS transistors and carbon comp resistors. All Jam's pedals are true bypass, so shouldn’t have any effect on your original tone. They are all hand painted and decorated by their in-house artists, you can even have your own custom design if you're willing to wait!
My colleague Tim Slater looked at a couple of Jam models, back in Issue 17 but in this review I'm discussing three very distinctive pedals from the company, the Fuzz Phrase, Retro Vibe and Wahcko Plus - and if that combination of Fuzz, Wah and 'Retro Vibe' implies the sound of a certain Mr Hendrix, you're right! Each of these FX looks great, all of them finished in a psychedelic '60s style with the Fuzz Phrase, in particular, suggesting exactly what it has been designed to do. The look sums up the retro market and sound Jam are going for. The Retro Vibe needs mains power stepped down via a transformer but the other two can run on either 9V batteries or a standard power supply.
Jam Fuzz Phrase (see above image)
This vintage-voiced germanium fuzz pedal accurately produces the legendary sound that helped shape a generation of guitar sounds. There are many variables that determine the quality, sound and cleanability of a germanium fuzz pedal. Apparently, Jam's designer felt transistor choice was crucial, so he searched out what are said to be the best (and extremely rare) germanium transistors ever made: the CV7003, military-spec OC44 germanium types. The CV7003 is extremely consistent as well as heat-resistant, apparently much more so than the AC128 and NKT275 transistors sometime used. Having sourced a supply, each individual transistor is measured for gain and leakage, then hand picked and matched through sound audition. Jam has certainly gone above and beyond to spec this pedal to the highest possible level, and the results are there to hear. Many fuzz pedals are hard to tame, and they literally do just turn your sound to fuzz, taking away any note definition and clarity. I'm happy to report that that’s not the case with this one. All the rich classic fuzz tones that you've heard on those classic recordings are available in spades, from subtle undertones to full on in your face dirty fuzz!
With just two simple controls Level (pedal volume) and Gain (the amount of fuzz), you can concentrate on playing and simple tweaking, rather than trying to get your head around numerous knobs. Straight out the box set both to 12 o'clock plug in, play, and adjust to one's desired taste: simples! I found it took a bit of pushing on the gain control to get the fuzz sound I could hear in my head, but when it was maxed out there was the sweet spot. A fantastic pedal!
Jam says its goal with this model was to achieve the sound of a vintage UniVibe and they claim to have achieved that and actually taken it on a few extra steps beyond.
The RetroVibe uses four photocells surrounding a pulsating light source to deliver its very unique and recognisable sound. As you can hear from our video, it produces a thick chorus/vibrato effect, that starts off with a slow watery type swirl, gradually becoming more 'alive' as the speed knob is manipulated clockwise, eventually delivering a 'machine-gun' type warble around the nine o'clock setting.
There is an added twist to this pedal, as Jam has incorporated two extra internal trimmers. The larger one initially affects the maximum intensity of the effect, but also dramatically manipulates the sound of the RetroVibe, all the while maintaining the pedal’s true vintage character. The smaller adjusts the non-existing Level knob on the face of the pedal and it comes set all the way up to the full level capacity. If you feel that the pedal’s level needs to be decreased, you can adjust it from the inside. This is a fantastically transparent pedal, delivering a complex midrange that responds so well to varying pick attack. Once again, two simple external controls make it a plug in and play pedal. It's also fairly compact for a Vibe pedal, taking up less footprint than others. If you are a Hendrix or Trower fan, this is your pedal!
Jam Wahcko +
Ah, the trusty wah wah pedal - it must surely be one of the most common and hotly contested pedals amongst guitarists! I personally remember hearing Voodoo Child in my teens and needing to know how to get that sound on the intro. I promptly found out, saved my pocket money, for what felt like ten years, and went and bought probably the most famous brand one on the market. I still have it, and love it, but I always wonder, is there something better out there? Having tried many over the years I have yet to be swayed away, so could the Wahcko be the one?
Jam claims that; “After long and painful research, we are proud to finally come out with what we believe is a true, vocal and vintage-sounding wah pedal!”
That’s a pretty impressive list for what is essentially a tone pot on the floor! There are two versions on offer, a standard model and a Whacko + which comes with six position rotary switch. We had a + version to test. The rotary control isn’t a new idea, but it's still a great one, allowing you to adjust the sweep range. If you want a little less treble on toe down, then back off the switch slightly and vice versa. It's a very handy add-on to any wah wah. The LED is a welcome addition as well, telling you if you have left your wah on before you hit that massive chord and make everyone’s ears bleed from treble overload!
The pedal felt smooth and light to use and you don’t have to exert too much force to turn it on and off, unlike some other makes. As for the true vintage sound, well, I can only compare it to my old favourite wah, and yes it sounds authentic. There's no loss of tone and none of the “fakeness” to the sound that certain digital ones tend to give, so I think Jam's claim that this is a vocal sounding pedal is very appropriate. It's a musical pedal that with the right adjustment won't suddenly jump out and force people to stick fingers in their ears the minute it’s switched on.
Now it's just down to the player to use it tastefully, unfortunately no amount of carbon comp resisters, or rotary switches can solve that problem!