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This article was originally published in issue #30
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Wampler Pedals has powered its way to the forefront of the boutique effects market over the last few years, becoming the pedal range of choice for many top level players and seasoned veterans of the session scene alike. Pedal designer and tone fanatic Brian Wampler founded the company with a vision to create the ultimate high end effects pedals, so each pedal is hand built in the USA using premium quality parts for the perfect tone. Some of my GI colleagues absolutely love their favourite Wampler creations, but this was my first time checking out Brian's products so I was extremely curious to find out what all the fuss is about. Wampler sent us two pedals to try out, the Latitude which is a tremolo effect, and the Thirty-Something overdrive pedal
Wampler Latitude Tremolo
I unboxed the Latitude first and was immediately struck by how good looking the pedal is; the white finish complete with tasteful logo and see-through plastic knobs really looks fantastic, and the embossed lettering really makes the pedal feel luxurious. The only criticism I have is the practicality of the lettering. Beautiful as it is it’s quite small and I can imagine it being difficult to read in a live environment. In reality most people know their pedals well enough that the lettering is not that important by the time they hit the stage, but nonetheless a slightly larger font would’ve been welcome.
The other thing that many players will notice when first looking at the pedal is the sheer amount of knobs and controls it has considering it’s a tremolo effect! Wampler has really gone to town on the design of this pedal, making every imaginable parameter of the effect adjustable to offer the player complete control over every aspect of the tremolo sound. Alongside the typical controls for Speed, Level and Depth there’s also a ‘Space’ knob to allow the player to control how much dead space (silence) there is between each volume burst, and an Attack knob which alters the way the tremolo sounds by controlling the speed at which the volume rises and fades on each burst, altering the effect from punchy to smooth and through to more of a volume swell-type effect.
One of the most practical aspects of the Latitude is the addition of a tap-tempo; although the pedal uses an entirely analogue signal path, digital technology is used to control the tempo of the effect. This is a massively useful function of the pedal that immediately elevates its usability above much of the competition, while a scale switch also allows a choice of different rhythmic subdivisions against the tap including quarter note, eighth note, dotted eighth note and eighth note triplet. This is just a fantastic feature that really appeals to me (and I imagine anybody using any time-based effect), completely living up to Brian Wampler's aim to make the ultimate effects pedals for players.
With such a massive variety of parameters to control it was really possible to create every form of tremolo sound imaginable to absolute perfection. Although all the functions of this effect are absolutely useable and I can imagine limitless applications for this pedal, its overall size does mean this is not going to be the tremolo pedal for players who just need something small that adds a simple bit of tremolo at select moments in their set. With that said, for studio use and more serious tremolo abusers this is arguably the ultimate tremolo experience.
Wampler Thirty Something overdrive
The second pedal Wampler sent us was the Thirty Something, an overdrive pedal designed to emulate certain British tube amps of the '60s and '70s. Brian has stated that these are amongst his favourite tones of all time, and spent over three years tweaking and refining this pedal before finally being happy with it.
The Thirty-Something impressed straight out of the box, exactly like the Latitude. Aesthetically this is a beautiful pedal, a rich, deep shade of red with white Knobs and another tasteful logo. The regal decoration is a classy nod to one of the most venerable users of the amps this pedal is emulating, Brian May of Queen. The pedal is laid out and controlled in a similar way to the amps it draws inspiration from as well, with Bass and Treble controls as well as a Top Cut knob which can be used to tame the high end of this stereotypically bright pedal, reducing the high frequencies of the tone as the knob is turned clockwise. The Gain control is used in conjunction with the Headroom switch; when in the ‘15’ position the headroom is much lower and the pedal reaches a saturated overdrive faster allowing for more control over the overdriven tone, whilst in the ‘30’ position the Gain control takes longer to reach a fully saturated overdrive effect.
The tones the Thirty-Something can produce are truly staggering. Plugged directly into a completely clean amp sound on my Fractal Audio Axe-FX II, the pedal was able to produce an outstanding replication of this hallowed guitar tone the moment it was switched on. More impressive was the responsiveness of the pedal, both in terms of its reaction to playing dynamics and the way in which the controls themselves responded to one another. Much like on the original amps, the Bass and Treble controls need to be set in relation to one another to produce the best results as each effects the others impact on the tone. The Headroom switch was also staggeringly accurate, really producing the feel of these classic amps in both settings. Meanwhile, the inbuilt Class-A pre-gain boost switch works exactly as you would wish and further improves the versatility and practical functionality of the pedal. All in all it’s just amazing to realise that this relatively tiny box can make sounds on a par with these classic tube amps, so useable and enjoyable that anyone who’s ever listened to any of the classic British guitar tones of the 60s and '70s will instantly recognise the sounds it’s able to produce.