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This article was originally published in issue #47
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It has been a long time since GI has looked at anything from Wampler. We set that right with three new pedals from one of the most respect names in the FX business in Issue 47.
Usual superb Wampler build quality
Very musical sounds
Very versatile effects
None at all
It has been a long time since GI has looked at anything from Wampler. Sam Bell sets that right with three new pedals from one of the most respect names in the FX business.
Wampler's reputation is high among guitar players but until GI's editor called up and asked me if I'd like to review a clutch of new models that had just arrived, I hadn't personally had the chance to get acquainted with any. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance and pretty soon found myself unboxing the Pinnacle Deluxe v2, Faux Tape Echo v2 and the mini Ego Compressor.
Before I get stuck into each pedal individually I think it’s only right to say that aesthetically the pedals not only look good, they are built to a very high standard, with bright LEDs and smooth sturdy switches. They are guitar pedals made for some real use, no wonder they end up the boards of players such as Brent Mason, Brad Paisley and even our own Tom Quayle! One thing I like in particular, and which is consistent for each of these pedals, is the ease of use. Some pedals can go overboard with options, but these give you the right amount of tweak-ability and the parameters of each pedal are reasonable and it’s easy to fine tune exactly the sound you want without going too far one way or the other. That said, let’s dive in and take a look at each pedals features and sounds. Be sure to check out the video sections of this review to hear them in action!
This pedal is perhaps the one of the set I was most intrigued by as I'm currently on the hunt for a new compressor. It's a mini version of Wampler's very popular ‘Ego Compressor’, sharing the same features as its larger counterpart, except that a few of the knobs have now been replaced with two way switches for each function. The pedal features a blend control to set how much compressed signal runs along with your analogue signal, this isn’t the same as volume (it has one of those knobs too) because it lets you tame the compression effect or have more of an extreme squeeze depending on your style and taste. The compression effect itself is controlled with a sustain knob which changes how much compression you have, how much it brings up the quiet details and squishes down the louder details in your signal. Finally, there's a volume knob which, as you'd expect, controls the level of the effect you have set between the blend and sustain.
On the original Ego Compressor the pedal had two knobs for ‘Tone’ and ‘Attack’. The Tone controlled the top end of the signal and the attack set how quickly the compressors effect ‘attacked’ the signal. On the mini ego these two knobs are replaced with switches based on popular positions of the knobs on the original pedal. The tone control is useful for adding some presence back in to your compressed signal. Compression can reduce the top end detail off a signal, but the tone switch is there to remedy that. You can of course leave it off if you want a smoother sound, say for R&B guitar styles for example.
The attack switch switches between a quick and a slow attack. Slow is great for sustaining chords and having a more subtle effect, while the quick attack is really great for getting the classic ‘squishy’ sound you hear from great Country and Funk guitarists alike.
Overall, I really enjoyed the versatility of this pedal, in particular how I could really get a clean and controlled compressed sound without it sounding too extreme, or taking away too much of the guitar's natural tone. In fact it only adds to what is already there as far as I could tell. It's not hard to work out why this has become such a standard among compressor pedals and in this smaller format it's only going to sell more, as the demand for real estate on our pedal boards increases every year!
As the name suggests, this is Wampler’s take on how to get a tape echo effect from a solid state device. I am often intimidated by delay pedals as they can be quite difficult to use, especially in a live setting. However the Wampler is anything but difficult and it also sounds amazing. In fact the FTE is perfect for adding a bit of ambience to your tone, maybe some slap back delay for Rockabilly rhythm work, or adding repeats for some truly epic soundscapes.
In case you are wondering how this differs from the original Wampler FTE, I have to admit that I have never used an earlier version, so the best I can do is tell you what Brian Wampler says, which is:
"While keeping the original analog dry path, the Faux Tape Echo v2 provides up to 600ms of clean, tape-style delay with realistic modulation and note decay. There is more time on tap, with the Faux Tape Echo capable of up to about 800ms total of delay time, but with light grit on the delay signal past 600ms because of pushing the delay chip to its absolute maximum. V2 has done away with the on/off switch for the modulation and substituted with two streamlined controls for Rate and Depth to control the lush modulation, where turning each fully counter-clockwise will add no effect to the delay signal. The Repeats and Delay Mix are still present in this newest version, allowing the delay signal to be integrated on top of the analog dry path seamlessly for the desired blend of delay without losing your base tone and the warmth it provides. The Repeats control ranges from one repeat fully counter-clockwise to self-oscillation past 3pm, with the oscillation being tamed via the Tone knob. The Tone knob affects only the delay signal, not the analog signal at all, allowing the player to dial in very warm and ambient-style repeats, or brighter and more percussive repeats rolling the knob clockwise The Delay knob dictates the delay time, which is also controllable with the built-in tap tempo switch. This newest version goes a step further and provides four subdivisions to choose from: 1/4 note, 1/8th, dotted 1/8th and triplet, which are based on your tap tempo. "
What I can tell you about, however, is how it is in use! The Wampler features an effect on and off switch and a tap tempo which adjusts how much delay there is between your original note and the repeat. The delay can also be dialled in via a knob next to the tap tempo switch. You can change how many repeats you get with the repeat knob and there is a tone knob which controls the tonal texture of the repeats. I love this feature in particular, as you can change how subtle or in your face the delay effect is using that control alone. If that’s not enough you can use the delay mix knob to play with how much you can hear the delay in dB compared to your original signal.
The FTE also features a modulation section with rate and depth controls, which gives your delay repeats slight changes in pitch or lets you go really extreme for some truly crazy sounds. If you dial these knobs back to zero it takes the modulation effect out. I really like this feature in particular, as it can help add some size to some of the delay notes - especially when you start playing around with echo repeats like I did at the start of my video review.
You can change the subdivision of the repeat by simply tapping the middle switch, which lets you change between quarter notes, eighth, dotted eighth and eighth note triplet repeats and you could even access this switch on the fly with a bit of careful footwork!
The Faux Tape Echo is another example of Wampler's solid, versatile and, above all, easy to use pedals and I think that's pretty rare among delays. Once again, it has that musical quality which is so hard to define but to so good when you hear it!
The final Wampler we had to test is a deluxe version of another model in the Wampler range known simply as the ‘Pinnacle Overdrive’. This pedal has all the knobs you would expect on a regular overdrive plus some more. Volume, controlling the level of the effect and Gain, controlling how much saturation you have, letting you go from a light crunch to a singing sustain classic brown sound (when switched to Vintage mode - more about this in a moment!) The pedal also features a three band EQ which gives you the ability set the bass, middle and treble of your tone exactly how you want them. This was very welcome and would come in particularly helpful if you have a single channel amp. Overdrives run into a clean amp can lose a bit of bottom end or become a bit trebly or scooped at times, but with the Pinnacle you can adjust your overdriven sound almost as if you were using a second channel with its own EQ settings.
The pedal also features a boost knob and switch which you can change between a clean boost (for a more open sound and increase in sustain) or a gain boost which simply adds more gain to your signal.
Having this amount of control effectively makes this a two channel pedal in its own right. For example, you could dial in a crunch tone with the main gain knob set quite low, then add gain boost for those ripping pentatonic licks!
And then there's the Vintage boost switch I alluded to earlier. For my tastes, I found the Vintage setting ideal, delivering sustaining mid-range and a lovely warmth that reminded me of classic amps from the late '70s/early '80s. I wasn't quite so sure about the 'Modern' setting, which I felt was a bit tinny, though a lot will depend on your chosen guitar and amp combination.
Overall, this is another really substantial pedal from Brian Wampler and justifies the good things I've been hearing about his pedals. It's extremely well made and while your choice of distortion is always going to be down to personal taste, what you get here is a lot more versatility than you find on most pedals of his kind, which means you are very likely to find a sound you like.