Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hello, his name is FELIX!



Gear of this quality is always a blessing to come across, especially when one is an acoustic guitar player. Years and years of trial and error have tuned me to the do's and don't of playing acoustic instruments live on stage. While there are many amazing mic preamps out there designed to give you great microphone sounds both in and out of the studio - And rack mount gadgets, pedals, and amps for building just about every sound imaginable for your electric instrument needs. The same does not fly when speaking on acoustical platforms. When out hunting for great sounding gear that is truly built for your acoustic needs the pickings can be slim. As a acoustic guitar player and mainly singer/song writer the past decade I have personally had trouble finding great sounding and simple to use preamps to gig with live. What if all we acoustic playing cats could get something in a pedal format that doesn't act like just any other pedal, but instead like a proper pro level piece of gear? Thanks to the minds at Grace Design the game has just changed and this answer has been made clear. May I introduce you to FELIX - the best buddy your acoustic tone will ever have.


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 The FELIX
2-Channel Acoustic Preamplifier 


Features/Controls (Top Panel)
  • Gain Controls (ch 1 & 2)
  • Signal/Clip LED Indicator (ch 1 & 2)
  • High Pass Filter / Notch Filter (ch 1 & 2)
  • Low Frequency Shelving Cut and Boost (ch 1 & 2)
  • Parametric Midrange Cut and Boost (ch 1 & 2)
  • Parametric Midrange Frequency Select (ch 1 & 2)
  • Parametric Midrange Q Factor (ch 1 & 2)
  • High Frequency Shelving Cut and Boost (ch 1 & 2)
  • Boost Level (Global)
  •  Mix Control
  • A/B Footswitch
  • Boost Footswitch
  • Amp/Tuner/Headphones - Output Level
  • Mute/Tune - Footswitch
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Features/Controls (Back Panel)

  •  Universal 100-240VAC Power Input
  • Ground Lift Switch
  • DI Output (ch 1 & 2)
  • DI Output Source Select (ch 1 & 2)
  • DI Output Line/Mic Level Select (ch 1 & 2)
  • External Footswitch Input
  • Amp Out
  • Tuner Out
  • Effects Insert
  • Amp Source Select Switch
  • Ch 1 Input Mic/Line Switch
  • Ch 1 Mic Input
  • Line Inputs (ch 1 & 2)
  • Input Impedance Select (ch 1 & 2)

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Features/Controls (Side Panel)

  • Dip Switch Location Diagram
  • Ch 1 48V Phantom Power
  • Phase Reverse (ch 1 & 2)
  • DIP Switch Controls
  • 1/8 Mini Headphone Jack


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Just looking at this masterpiece of a pedal can be intimidating. I found myself stunned at the shear beauty of the FELIX! Honestly I had no idea what to expect at first, and once I made up my mind to just plug in and go, the picture of what this little baby was capable of was very clear. Anyone with a little know how and bit of patience will quickly find themselves mastering the very unique and superbly beneficial qualities of this pedal. I chose to run the FELIX through it's paces in a couple different scenarios - One being out in a live setting where was able to hear what the pedal was capable of from an audience standpoint - Also from a studio arena where I was able to really dig in and fiddle around with every knob, button, and switch. I also plugged in for some recording sessions but more on that later. As I mentioned before, a little noodling around with the FELIX and you find yourself in acoustic tone heaven. Let's get into just how this pedal was able to bring us sheer tonal heaven.

First I tried the Felix at home both through my little studio setup and monitors, then later had it tested in a live on stage. My go-to acoustic guitar is my Alvarez DY-38, an amazing under rated acoustic that has always delivered in more ways than one. On board my guitar has an LR Baggs I-Beam saddle pickup and at the moment I'm using a DiMarzio DP-136 Super Natural soundhole pickup. I also ran the pedal without the soundhole pickup and switched it for a couple different microphones. I began with one channel at a time to get myself too overwhelmed with the pedal. Learning one section of the pedal at a time is how I recommend anyone should learn what the Felix can offer and is capable of. I began with channel one carefully adjusting my gain control. The clip led was really helpful with letting me find my sweet spot. Next I dove into the amazing eq system onboard. With the cut and boost features for both the high and low, I was able to get a quick and great sounding foundation for where I was to take the overall tone. I found both these controls capable of delivering many different types of sounds, but most important able to shape the natural tone of my guitar where it needed to and sounded best. I then began fiddling with the mid controls of the pedal, and this is where I found so much magic! Having a high quality parametric midrange section I could control at my fingertips was like something out of a fairy tale. I had the option to cut or boost my basic midrange tone, then with the find which midrange frequency worked best with my pickup and guitar through the pedal's frequency select switch, and last dial in my high mids with the Q factor control. You might be saying to yourselves right now, "Wow, all that, really?" Yes all that control and it didn't end there. I moved on to the next channel where I was able to dial in an entirely different and equally as stunning sound for my acoustic. The feature works great for many reasons. 1. To simply have a different tone for your guitar, which gives you access to another sound at the stomp of a switch. This came in handy when I layered some guitar recordings. 2. It's great for when you have more than one guitar with you on stage and each one needs it's own special attention. And 3. If you're an experimental cat like myself, can set the second channel with effects to switch in and out of for your guitar. All in all very cool stuff. The quality of a couple quick recordings is what keeps coming into mind, I couldn't write enough good things about how easy it was for me to get my guitar sounding top notch. I've played with so many different pedals, rack equipment, plugins, mics, preamps, etc... And this little pedal was by far the easiest and quickest way to achieve high quality tone all in a compact stompbox format. Genius if you ask me! And still it isn't over yet, the pedal still delivered in many more ways. Another great feature the Felix delivers on is it's ability to blend channels A & B for an ultimate supermondo "who's your daddy?" acoustic sound. Here is where I began messing with my soundhole pickup and B3 microphone. Having landed on a tone I was happy with in channel 1 for my saddle pickup, I know focused the 2nd channel into shaping something for the soundhole pickup to deliver on. Here I once again discovered how useful the highpass filter feature came in handy. For those for those of you who play with or have played with soundhole pickups you know how much of a nightmare dialing in and cutting out certain frequencies can be. My DiMarzio is great, don't get me wrong. But on certain stages, when playing with certain instruments, sometimes it can start acting funny. The amazingly kickass quality of this pedal's preamps and it's insanely cool eq system made my little soundhhole pickup sound like a million bucks. When blended with the first channel I got out of my guitar a sound so huge and beautiful I was blown back into disbelief. Setting the pedal from A/B mode, to Mix Mode, and so on was super easy too. With the dip switches on the side on the Felix I was able to move back and fourth without any confusion. For some more flavor I finally ended my man handling of this pedal by running the 2nd channel through a Studio Projects B3 mic and a SM-81 Sure mic. Both mics sounded great. The pedal is extremely user friendly and played well with every piece of gear I through at it. I was able to get crisp'n'clean acoustic tones great for that shiny bright guitar sound - boomy punchy acoustic tones for some more country, blues, and folk sounds - and some really impressive in your face chunky'n'fat tones for completely rocking my butt off. Recorded it sounded killer, mixed with other instruments you can really hear where this pedal/preamp separates itself from the rest. It gave me a wide range of options to play with and sounded fantastic through every guitar I've plugged into it.

 My next encounter with the Felix was through listening to it's beauty from the standpoint of the audience. I was able to accompany my friend and his band to their sound check which gave me an idea of how easy and quickly a good tone is attainable live on stage. The venue itself had a decent sized room and my buddy had a proper sized band behind him. The band consisted of electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, keys, and acoustic guitar. I played in a band of this exact makeup back some years ago and always had such a bitch of a time finding simple ways to achieve really good onstage sound for my acoustic guitar. At the sound check I could very easily hear just how high quality the preamps in this pedal were. The guitar used was a D-15 series Martin dreadnought with a LR Baggs pickup system. My partner also used the second channel to blend in a SM-57 microphone for the ultimate sound. With the pickup system alone we were able to dial in a really good acoustic sound - the Felix's high quality preamp and EQ system made it pretty easy to quickly find a great overall root tone. The capabilities of the pedal's EQ system is unlike anything I've ever seen before on a piece of gear this compact. On stage my buddy Steve was quick to dial in an impressive sound that stayed with him for the entire night. Song after song I enjoyed hearing the clarity the Felix was able to push, and amazed at how loud the guitar was capable of rising without feedback or unwanted frequencies. Here is where we tested out the boost option, which was so cool and so necessary! How many times have you been playing a gig when you suddenly realize your band is going into a 5 minute exit jam? Both Steve and I were impressed from the beginning of the sound check to the end of the gig.

Anyone who has gigged as an acoustic guitar player or has had acoustic guitars in their band knows the trouble of dialing in a great tone. Either the house/club/venue you're playing just doesn't have proper preamps, the sound guy isn't very friendly, your acoustics pickups won't play nicely, and the list goes on an on. With an electric guitar you simply plug in and play, and if any adjustments need to made you just reach back at your amp and tweak away. Same with guitar pedals. With the Felix I was able to get the simplicity of a stompbox and the quality of a professional piece of equipment. This is what makes the Felix such a kickass piece of gear. The only other thing I can say about listening to the Felix live from a stage is that it kicked major ass. I could definitely hear the difference and my buddy was absolutely sold. Not only did the rest of my friends band agree that they were able to hear their acoustic guitar more clearly, but the it made the sound guy's job easier which had him singing the pedal's praises as well. Since having the Felix I have played around with putting it through bass guitars, stand-up bass guitars, keyboards, and have played around with using it to mic up different instruments. It doesn't fail to deliver in any area so far and I doubt it ever will. It's a no brainer with this baby. I'm yet to see anything like it on the market and nothing like it has every come into the blog's hands. I give you guys at Grave Design two thumbs up for sure. Keep on rocking the crazy cool gear and please keep on letting us at AWC run it through it's paces.

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For more info on the Felix or Grace Designs go to www.gracedesign.com


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