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This article was originally published in issue #44
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Guitarists the world over are always looking for the next best Overdrive, Fuzz, Distortion, Boost, treble boost, super this and super that to enhance their guitar tone. Some are subtle, some are super saturated, some are hairy, but the Fredric Effects Utility Perkolator is certainly something different! I personally hadn’t heard of a harmonic perkolator until this unique pedal arrived on the doorstep of Guitar Interactive's studios.
The Utility Perkolator is based on a 1970s Interfax Harmonic perkolator and is made in London, England, by a small boutique maker, Fredric Effects, which has been in business for the past five years. This isn't a copy of the original pedal, it's a new and improved version. The original circuit was open to lots of modification and tweaking and Fredric Effects has sought to capture of the original pedal's sound, while improving the general level of performance to the sort of standards we expect today.
We asked Fredric to explain to us what was going on here and this is what the company told us: “We already build a faithfully vintage correct version of the Harmonic perkolator, however the Utility Perkolator takes this circuit in another direction. Using higher gain, lower leakage Russian germanium transistors, and a low pass filter which only removes the high-end hisses and glitches associated with the HP, the Utility Perkolator has a considerably lower noise floor. The result is a tighter and more controllable effect which is still capable of producing the classic Harmonic perkolator sound.”
OK, though that still doesn't tell us what it does, so please watch the video and then read on!
The sound it makes can only be described as having a distortion/fuzz like quality with glassy harmonic overtones ringing through. It has a light crunchy/compressed feeling depending on where certain controls are set. It is definitely not 'just another Tube Screamer' that's for sure!
The box featured just two controls that manage the gain and level. The level control really does boost the volume sound, with the ‘gain’ control down and the level up we have a similar effect to a clean boost. With the harmonics (gain) control past 12 o’clock we begin to hear some overtones coming through and a bit of break up, once on full we end up with a cool sustaining fuzz tone. The switch control in the middle of the pedal selects between their new and improved perkolator clipping, no clipping at all (huge volume boost!) and clipping in the same vein as the old perkolator would demonstrate. I feel it is important to mention this distortion/fuzz tone is meant to be hairy and almost ‘out of control’ style sound. Having said that it is very dynamic and responds nicely with different styles of playing. Some might describe this sound as 'transparent', which is a word reviewers love to use but I am going to try and start my own trend with a world that I feel describes this unit better: 'ceramic'. It's solid but it also lets the light through, in this case, the dynamics of the subtleties of your playing.
Constructionally, the clean internal wiring is something to behold. The pedal features Cliff jacks and Alpha footswitch and pots, adding to the all-round build quality of this unit. If the word 'handmade' suggests something a bit funky to you, forget that because this is a sturdy unit very well made indeed. It looks cool, too, coming in 'Cold War Cream' with an image of the Berlin TV tower as the top graphic!
This is a unique effect that could be used for many things, hence the 'utility' part of its name. I can imagine there are lots of ways this could be combined with other modulating effects or unique amps in order to create some experimental sounds. I am sure the Utility Perkolator would respond wonderfully with other pickups too, other than single coils I used to demonstrate it with. It's certainly one to check out and from a particularly interesting smaller maker.