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This article was originally published in issue #8
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We're going boutique crazy this issue - with a look at two more of Wampler's hand-wired pedals, the Ecstasy Overdrive and the Ego Compressor. Jamie Humphries gets ready to stomp.
Wampler pedals are designed and hand-built in the USA by Brian Wampler. A self-confessed tone geek, like many guitarists Brian spent many hours modifying pedals, until eventually he gained such a reputation he found himself modding pedals to order. Fast forward a few years and Brian now produces a range of his own FX that have won him countless accolades and a star-studded artist list including Brad Paisley, Brent Mason, Keith Urban and Dweezil Zappa.
Back in Gi 5, Rick Graham sampled Wampler's Faux Tape Echo and the SLOStortion pedal and was so impressed that we've come back for more! For my turn, I was given the Ecstacy overdrive and the Ego compressor pedals.
The Ecstacy overdrive is an overdrive pedal designed to give your clean channel some balls and crunch. It features four rotary controls including tone, bass, volume and gain. The pedal also has a switch that labelled Smooth, Open and Crunch, which alters the type of crunch, making this a very versatile unit. The idea of the pedal is to offer the guitarist a fully dynamic range of natural overdrive and crunch tones. There has been a lot of thought put into the design and features of this pedal and the range of controls greatly alter the sound and how it responds. The volume and gain controls speak for themselves, the gain alters the amount of crunch, while volume controls the level of the effect. The pedal also has a true bypass stomp switch.
The Wampler's EQ controls are very interesting. The tone control comes after the drive circuit and allows you to alter the high frequencies of the crunch tone, ranging from thick dark tones to crisp bright tones with lots of presence. The bass control is before the crunch circuit, so it affects the low end of you note before it hits the clipping part of the pedal. The three way toggle switch allows you to change the type of overdrive. Smooth gives you a classic warm "Dumble" style overdrive, while Crunch will help you achieve almost fuzz-like tones. The middle setting, Open, gives you a full range very dynamic overdrive, with plenty of crunch at your finger tips.
I was very impressed by how natural and rich this pedal sounded. The smooth setting had plenty of "bark", with a nice full rich bottom end, with the tone cleaning up when I backed off the guitar volume. The crunch setting was aggressive and raw and with the bass control backed-off and the tone pushed it produced authentic fuzz style tones. Push the bass control and the tone became very reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix. The open setting produced a louder tone, and was very dynamic. Not only could I produce a wide range of crunch and overdriven tones, but if I backed-off the gain and boosted the volume the pedal turned into a very transparent clean booster.
Wampler Ego CompressorGuitar Interactive star rating: Four and a half stars
Now let's take a look at the Ego compressor. Compressors are often misused, and sometimes they sound too obvious. In basic terms, a compressor will control the level of your playing, stopping louder sounds from peaking and lifting the level of more delicate quiet sounds. They are great for evening out your playing, especially when picking with a clean tone. Compressors can also be used to aid sustain, as well as being used to help drive amps and pedals for more saturation.
The layout of the pedal is pretty familiar in terms of compressor design, although it does include a couple of extras. The bottom row of controls includes Volume, which controls the level of the unit, Tone, which will enable you to add sparkle to your sound, and Sustain, which controls how long the compressor holds onto the note, producing long sustain. The top two controls are Blend, which is a great feature, as it enables you to mix clean sound with the compressed tone, making this pedal very transparent, and Attack, which controls, a slow compression is more subtle, with the compressor gradually compressing the signal, while a fast compression grabs the note instantly and gives the note a characteristic popping tone: think Chilli Pepper's Under the Bridge.
In use, this compressor more than lived up to my expectations, giving me a very transparent dynamic compression, that was hard to notice - until if I turned it off, when it was immediately obvious that it wasn't there, which to my mind is the sign of a great compressor! But I could also dial-in more extreme tones, to give me a popping Country tone. It also worked great with high gain sounds, helping me push the amp harder for more saturation, and aiding sustain. Another interesting application for this pedal was to use the blend control to turn the unit into a clean boost. I have to say that this is by far the best compressor I have ever used. It ticks every box, and does what you expect it to do in a natural and musical way.
There's no doubt these two Wamplers are pedals of the highest quality. Not only are they well built but they also help you to create natural usable and very musical and inspiring tones. These pedals don't just simply do what other units do. The more you experiment with the carefully designed controls, the more you can unlock many other applications, making both these units a must for the guitarist serious about tone.