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This article was originally published in issue #30
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We have an exclusive - delivered direct from Red Witch's home in Paraparaumu, New Zealand. It's the rather cool Factotum pedal down in The Bassment for an in-depth review!
There are many reasons to like this pedal and that's even before we plug it in. Though the company might not be the world's best known purveyor of FX, Red Witch has already garnered much love from some really big names (how do Sting and Andy Summers from Police, Tool's, Justin Chancellor, John Mayer and Brent Mason grab you? They're just a few from the list!) so there's promise of good things to come.
Not only does it look fantastic with that chrome finish and neat scripting, but you get two great bass effects in one box!
For me, there are just some 'effect pairings' that just work, they go hand in hand. Reverb and Delay, Synth and Fuzz, Compression and Distortion, and here probably one of the most useful for bass players, the Factotum pedal unites an all analogue sub-octave effect with a similarly all analogue overdrive effect. That's two separate pedals in one box. Each half can be used stand alone or together as a big fat dirty bass machine that will have your guitarists running for cover! When disengaged though it'll be as quiet as a mouse owing to the true bypass switching built in.
So, first up - you punch in the sub-octave pedal alone and the indicator glows blue. The octave effect mix is controlled by just one single knob. Dead simple. As you progress the control, more of you sub-octave sound is fed in to the overall mix and as you pass 12 o'clock the mix favours just the octave sound until your dry bass is faded out. The octave tone itself is pleasing. Looking at the video, you'll see my rather unscientific demonstration of how well the effect tracks walking down the A string on my bass. The ability to sense and then turn the bass note in to an octave lower is very good and certainly up there with the better all analogue octave pedals on the market. To be honest, I'd expect to be using this effect further up the neck anyway, but it's a test worth doing so you can hear that the Factotum doesn't have a wobbly hissy fit before you even get started! My disclaimer for the uninitiated is that modern 'DSP' type octave pedals will track down much lower and if that's your bag, then of course, that's cool - generally, consensus I have found on bass communities such as BassChat is that the trade off in tracking low is more than made up by the pleasing tone of the sub-octave note over the digitally reproduced version.
Moving on in the review, I disengage the octave half and turn my attention to the drive section, which when engaged lights the indicator red. Four more knobs govern the overdrive effect. Like the octave half (and a BIG tick in the box for Red Witch) is the ability to mix in your clean bass tone with the distortion sound. Anyone who has tried using guitar distortion pedals on bass will most likely notice that though you can get the sound gnarly, the chances of your bass end staying intact are slim, unless you have a way of keeping the lows mixed in. The Factotum sorts this for you allowing you to retain your bass guitar's natural full tone through the signal path.
The next three controls are pretty standard on most drive pedals: a tone control and output volume, with the drive control on the right hand side which can take the pedal from the very mildest bite all the way round to a medium high distortion. Careful mixing of the dry instrument and gritty drive available gives us access to some really cool 'vintage valve amps on full tilt' bite, all the way up to synthy madness when the sub-octave is kicked in too.
I nearly forgot to mention: when you engage both halves of the pedal at the same time, the red and blue LEDs shine together and produce a tasty purple colour. I'd buy it just for that!
I found only one minor thing to comment on off camera about this pedal and that's the superb shiny finish. Yes it looks great, but under bright studio lights it's hard to read the script for each control. In reality though, it will only take you about five minutes to remember what each control does anyway!
Rounding up, as you'll see and hear in the video review, I really enjoyed using this pedal and I look forward to seeing what other bass orientated FX are going to come out of the Red Witch workshops, especially if the company comes up with some more cool bass effect pairings in a single box!