Sunday, February 20, 2011

Magic in a Box

There's creativity, and then there's Cusack Effects pedals. Since day one I have been a huge fan of these innovative stompbox designs. These are pedals that ooze with originality, superb sound, and one of a kind style. If there exists a perfectionist out there in the pedal building game I'd have to give that title to Jon Cusack. The coming of the Tap-A line was like nothing else before it. I can remember feeling like a first grader in an amusement park the first time I plugged into one of these pedals. All of the colors, buttons, and shiny lights drew me in like a mad sonic piped piper. Usually I am not a fan of multi-switch/multi-button stompboxes, but here was something different. Unlike the hundreds of gimmick driven pedals floating around today (EHX uhhhm uhhhm!), here was something different. These pedals made sense me, sounded great, and the quality of them is tip-top. From the simplest to the most complex creations, Cusack has proven time and time again that their pedals can stand up in just about any application. 



  • Level: Controls output level
  • Mix: Blends original and delayed signals
  • Feedback: Adjusts feedback/repeat amount
  • Delay: Controls Delay time. 50ms-750ms. 
  • Modulation: Selects one of 7 modulation settings. Up is off
  • Divide: Controls how your tap will be divided. 1/8 - Dotted1/8 - 1/4
  • Mode: Controls how the effect will react during breaking. Stay - Snap - Drift
  • Tap Speed: This works as tap-tempo switch. Holding down works as break to alter delay time.
  • Bypass: On/Off Switch. Holding this and Tap Switch changes direction of brake effect.
  • LED (blue): This LED gives you a visual of the tempo
  • LED (red/green): Works as status LED. Red = On / Green = Low Battery
  • In/Out Jacks: Standard input and mono output jacks. 
  • External Tap: This RCA jack can be used to control taps for more than one Tap-A pedal.
  • DC Power Jack: Standard 9VDC power jack.
  • Echo Tone: Internal trimmer adjusts repeat tone. From dark to very bright.


The Tap-a-Delay - Where the hell do I start!? This pedal very quickly introduced me to an entirely new level of on-the-fly delay control. As a standard use delay box this pedal is aces, but digging into it's features is where I quickly learned more than a thing or two. I began slowly, using this pedal as a simple every day ol' delay box. I dialed in a handful of quick delay sounds to get an idea of the pedal's sound and to see how it would get along with my amp's tone. Instantly I was impressed by the pedal's buttery smooth sound, and it wasn't until I read the manual that I even learned it was a digital delay. Unlike many digi-delays, the Tap-a-Delay beams with warmth and lush mojo. This gave the repeats a velvety tone that sat nicely within the mix and accented my every move. I first played this pedal through my buddy's vintage Twin Reverb - This amp would give me the perfect crisp and clear clean tone for hearing and feeling every nuance and tickle that this pedal had to give. I first set the Tap-a-Delay to some quick slapback delay sounds, using my customized Tele as the first guitar choice. Riffing up and down the neck I was able to create smooth and clear-cut echoes that came and went with perfect attack. I'll tell you this much, my so-so country licks never sounded so damn good. With the pedal's mix control I was able to blend in as little or as much of the delayed signal as I wanted, which came in handy for taming or creating extreme echoing effects. Next I experimented with longer delay sounds and switched to the modulation control's subtle setting. The result was a mellow chorusing effect that sat perfectly next to the delay sound. This setting worked out very nicely for adding some character and size to my chords and licks, and for filling in dead space. I continued to work my way through the modulation control listening to every setting and possibility. By the time I was done I had a world of sane and insane chorusing delay sounds. I'll tell you this much - you won't get bored hunting down sounds from this pedal. All in all I heard no change in my amp's root tone, not in the output level nor in the actual tone itself. I continued spreading out the delay time for longer and more complex delay sounds. For those of you delay scientist freaks this pedal works like a charm. There are so many ways to use this pedal within your playing that you can easily get lost inside of it's every echoes. The tap tempo switch I found to be very accurate and easy to use. Stepping on it I didn't feel any hesitation or ruff clicks. Throwing in on the pedal's divide control I was able to tap in just about any delay sound I could imagine. Again I found a level of control in this pedal that blew me away with excitement. But the ultimate cool feature on this pedal, at least my personal favorite, was the breaking option. By holding down on the tap tempo switch I was able to slow the delay time into strange and wonderful sound effects. Here is where the Tap-a-Delay's mode switch comes into play. With this switch you get three options; Stay/Snap/or Drift. In the Stay position the delay either slows down or speeds up with every hold and release. Letting go of the switch will leave you in whichever delay time you end up at. Very cool right!? The Snap position (my favorite) slows down or speeds up, depending on how you have it set, and letting go returns to the original delay time. Then last but not least there is the Drift mode. Here the delay time slows or speeds up and slowly drifts back to your original delay time once you let go of the switch. To change the break effect all you have to do is hold down both the bypass and tap switches, giving either falling or climbing delay effects. With the breaking effect I was able to create some maddening sound effect. All it took was one part fuzz box, one part imagination, and the Tap-a-Delay. The result was swishing, whirling, winding, slow motion, growling, haunting, bending, (you get the idea), delay sounds that left me with a huge smile on my face. But wait, there's more! Inside the pedal I found a nice little trimmer for darkening or brightening the delays repeats. This little trimmer came in handy for matching the pedal's sound to different amps, pickups, and styles. The super cool thing about this pedal is that it works for all types of players. If you're into simple straight to the point delay sounds this pedal is it. And if you're like me and enjoy finding strange new ways to create sounds, the Tap-A-Delay has all the tools. Jon Cusack has once again out done himself. I can honestly see no way for him to top this one. When all is said and done, this pedal kicks much ass. End of discussion!

For more info on this and the rest of the Tap-A line, go to or click the direct link in our sidebar. There is a ton of killer info on these pedals and a wide flavor of insanely cool sounding stompboxes. AWC will be continuing on down the Cusack line so make sure to stay tuned.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Lesson in Splendid Tone


Handsome, well built, simple, and great sounding - is how I would describe the Manifold Drive if I only had a few words to do so. Everything on this pedal (and I mean everything) is super freakin' sexy and right on target. From it's gun metal grey finish and hip simple artwork, to it's very cool LED and tiny toggle switch. Right from the start it was clear this was no ordinary dirt box. Sporting a duo of controls for gain and volume, and a switch which dishes out dark-bright-and flat signals - the Manifold Drive is capable of a huge variety of sounds. The volume control alone has enough output to send your signal into natural grinding'n'growling overdrives, but it is it's gain control that really delivers the magic when introducing it into your amp's tone. The 3-way toggle works like an EQ for fine tuning and further shaping your overall sound. This comes in handy when having to compensate high and low frequencies in certain venues and rooms. The pedal rocks true bypass circuitry for keeping your treasured amp tones in check and untampered. The Manifold Drive can run off of a 9V battery or (+) DC adapter. The pedal ships with a (-) adapter for those using daisy chain power supplies and the like. Last but not least, these babies are built on a high quality PCB's, for durable and consistent designs. 

I began my rundown of this pedal with a custom built Tele and 15 watt head with 1x12 cabinet. The guitar's tapable neck bucker and hand wound bridge pickup made for a wide variety of tasty tasty tones that the Manifold Drive would easily accent and bring to life. The amp was set to a sparkling clean tone, with it's EQ stack at noon and volume at about 30%. I started with the Manifold Drive's toggle switch in it's flat setting, it's volume matched to the amp's output, and the gain control up to about 10-15%. Here the pedal kicked out a mellow very natural sounding grit which brought out all of my amp's smooth and chiming tone. The subtle grit that the Manifold created was exactly that of a proper tube amp on the verge of breaking up. In the bridge pickup position I was able to easily control the pedal's overdrive and able to get a perfectly clean signal by easing up on my pick attack. With the Tele's neck bucker the Manifold pushed out a thicker and even smoother dirt tone. The overdrive was still quite mellow, only now by digging in and grinding down on my guitar's strings I was able to bring out more of the pedal's character. In both pickup positions the Manifold Drive worked exceptionally well at maintaining my amp's natural tone and guitar's feel. All very good good stuff for such a mellow gritty tone. While in this subtle overdrive setting I also played around with the pedal's toggle switch positions, first with the dark setting, then the bright. In the dark setting the highs from the amp became more forgiving and much lighter. This made everything warmer and gave the overall sound more bloom and boom. This setting would later work beautifully at shaving off some of my AC15's treble frequencies, making it easier dirty up and play loud. In the bright toggle setting the pedal dished out more ear candy tones. Setting the Manifold Drive bright added a crisp top-end which helped make every string punch and stand out more. This was perfect for getting the pedal's overdrive to cut through any mix. Next I set the Manifold Drive's gain at about 30%, with it's volume a bit louder, and it's toggle in the dark setting. Playing this pedal setting through a Les Paul, with the 15 watter set slightly hot, and a 2x12 cab in the mix - created one of the best rock rhythm tones I'd ever heard. The combination of the 15 watt head's natural dirt and pedal's super smooth grime made for one grade A golden rock tone. Here is where I really began hearing the difference between this pedal and the average ol' TS808 style pedal.. I was able to hear these subtle harmonics, overtones, and undertones when digging into the guitar's strings and working complex chords and riffs. I was also able to hear the Manifold's signature sound when bending and double stopping. It was something in the actual grit that became accented and much richer. Pushing the pedal's volume even higher helped to create some creamy woman tones and violin-like lead tones. This would become bigger and much more focused as I began adding in more of the pedal's gain control. I also rocked this pedal through my upgraded and customized Hot Rod Deville. This is an amp I use mostly for clean tones and for getting pure pedal dirt signals, The four 100 watt 10" speakers in this amp give it endless headroom and make it the perfect amp for hearing what a pedal is really capable of. Here I played with the Manifold Drive in it's medium to highest gain settings. I began with my amp in it's home run setting (which I won't share with you) and the pedal with it's controls at noon and switch in it's flat setting. Bypassed the amp produced a huge booming clean tone that let every string come across with massive clarity. Stepping on the pedal introduced a tight rumbling overdrive that hit my chest like a ton of bricks. I went from one guitar to the next, and each time the pedal worked it's magic. Cranked to the fullest the pedal also surprised me. I honestly thought with as much output as it's volume had that the sound would become muddy. But this was not the case. All the way form it's tiniest sound to it's biggest, the Manifold Drive came through beautifully. My last test with this pedal was to see if it would get along in a pedalboard situation. First I just plugged it in to see if there would be any excess noise - and there was none. Stacking this pedal up with clean boosters and putting it in front of other dirt boxes also sounded quite nice. I was able to take my pedals into new heights and create wild and tasteful tones. I also matched it up with some delays, reverbs, and other modulation pedals which really sounded off the hook. In the end there was no way to get a bad sound out of this pedal. Electronic wizards Wes Kuhnley and Peter Bregman sought out to create a collection of pedals that would express the sounds and tastes they most wanted to hear. With the Manifold Drive they not only accomplished their mission to design something unique - they also created something for us tone hounds, something we could appreciate and incorporate into our own world of tones. Get some and get your rock on!


For more info on Field Effects/Resonant Electronic Design go to There you will find more cool info on the Field Effects line and some sweet insight on the Resonant Electronic Design amp collection. Check back with us soon for another Field Effects feature - coming atcha very very soon.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Top Finds of 2010: Nace Amps

It is no secret I am a sucker for a great sounding stompbox. But even greater than my desire for guitar pedals is my love for superbly built, great sounding amplifiers. Like the world of stompboxes, today just like yesterday exists a wide variety of boutique and commercial amp companies - all there to tempt us into snagging up one of their creations. For those of us who have been around long enough we know finding those few golden pieces of gear is not an easy task. But the gift one receives when he/she finally comes across that keeper of an amp is something that cannot be compared to anything else. Growing up I was fortunate enough to spend some time with some real heavyweight song writers and studio hounds. The one thing all these cats had in common?.... Their knowledge in amp tones and amp history. And the one piece of advice that all these cats had to give was "Play, collect, and hang on to as many good sounding amps as possible." Boy has this been truer than true. These last 5 or so years has shown us a steady come back in low and mid watt amplifiers, and for good reason too. With many players cutting their stage volumes in half, the need for great sounding low watt amps is a must. Well once again I have been blessed with another spectacular discovery - one that has shown me once again that deep rooted passion for building and designing musical gear still exists. For those of you who have experience with Nace Amps you know the magic they possess. And for those of you new to the Nace name hold on to your picks, cause here comes a doozy.



  • Class “A” 5 watts average power clean, 7 watts average power rock distorted with a 6V6 power tube.
  • Cathode biased: uses proprietary “phase invariant cathode biasing” which reduces resistor/capacitor cathode biasing phase distortion.
  • Power tubes: EL34, 6L6, or 6V6
  • Pre-amp tubes: 12AT7, 5751, ECC83, 12AX7
  • Controls: volume, treble, bass, reverb
  • Input: ¼ mono
  • Output: ¼ mono – plug into one of two outputs 16 ohm, 8 ohm
  • Reverb on/off 1/4 mono - external switch pedal to turn on or off the reverb
  • Built in power conditioning: proprietary “trans flux power module” which enables the above specifications to be valid for the following input profile: 117vrms +/15%,48 Hz to 1 KHz or from 100VDC to 180VDC. Specifications shall not change over the specified input voltage/frequency range. Ideal for those “out of the way” gigs.
  • Very low noise: better than -60db. Studio/stage quality ideal for micing or recording. 120 Hz amp hum is gone. Note: guitar and pedal hum is a separate issue.
  • Also available in 1x12 combo with 12” Celestion Greenback - or - 1x12 combo 12" speaker ready


If I had to put into just a few words I would say "Giant monster in a  little box." This was the character that this little amp put out from the get-go, and from there it would onyl get better and better. For me (like for many of you I'm sure) there is nothing better than a simple, great sounding and elegant, well built amplifier. The Nace M2-7R is all of these things and nothing less. I found this little beast to be the perfect go-to amp for both live and studio applications, a great little amp for practicing and writing, and a stunning amp for incorporating into it stompboxes of all types. The M2-7R got along beautifully with speaker cabs of all sizes, guitars of all makes, and playing styles of every color. I found the amp to be very versatile for it's size and very quiet at it's highest levels (no unwanted noise here folks). Quality wise the amp is right on the money - all the way from it's cool knobs and clean tolex work to it's guts. For the price you couldn't ask for a better amp. At the end of the day though, when all was said and done, it was all about the amp's tone. Here is where amp guru Art Nace really put his talents and soul into this design.

The first couple weeks I had the amp I used it only with a 1x12 cab. This was really all I needed. The amp made it so easy to dial in desirable tones that I found no reason to plug into it anything else. Having the 1x12 cab was nice for dragging around to shows and setting up in recording sessions. I was able to get tons of different tones on the fly and able to blend in a handful of my favorite stompboxes (which all sounded and played fantastic!) For those of you fellow pedal junkies you will absolutely love this amp. First thing I wanted to hear when I plugged into this amp was it's clean tones. My experience with pulling sweet sounding clean tones from low watt amps hasn't been all that great to tell you the truth - but here things were different. The Nace M2-7R was able to produce clean tones sweet and powerful enough to rival some of my favorite classic blackface and tweed amps. Getting overall clear and sparkling tones was easy, getting the amp to kick and punch was a cinch, and taking those tones to the next level a piece of cake. On it's own the amp kicked out plenty of spank and clarity. Each pickup I played through the amp whether it be single coils or humbuckers all did something very special. What stood out from the beginning was how well the amp let each pickup project it's own special tone. Rocking the tone controls from their lowest to their highest settings all sounded great. And fine tuning those controls to fit the room or guitars being played sounded even better. Through my semi-hollow guitar I was able to get everything from beautifully dark jazz tones to jangly chiming classic rock sounds. With the M2-7R's reverb at hand I was able to add in more character and size - making my guitar sound just bigger than life! The amp was very touch sensitive when needed and barked out with plenty of growl when pushing my strings to the limit. Playing quick riffs and runs up and down the neck bloomed and blossomed with precision, making the amp's tone blend in perfectly in band situations and recording sessions. I played a few blues and funk gigs with this amp and it's clean tones definitely hit the mark and then some. At medium gain levels the amp is capable of producing huge sounding rhythm tones. In fact, the amp was much louder than I expected it to be, and very very quiet on the excess noise side of things. Getting the amp to give up some slight grit or mellow crunch was very very easy. With it's volume at about 10'o'clock things can start to get pretty crunchy, depending on what pickups you got on hand. With the semi-hollow's buckers all I had to do was a little bit of digging into the strings and wahla! One pickup that really stood out with the amp at a medium gain settings was the filtertron, and the P90 now that I think of it. This isn't to say others sounded bad, I just mean for me this are the two pickups types that I usually have the tuffest time dialing in - because of either noise issues or otherwise. I was able to get these insanely aggressive clean tones through my buddy's Grestch - those rockin' clean tones that seem to be hanging on to their last inch of clarity. Good stuff for blues, all around rock, and rhythm work. At medium gain levels the amp also pushed out killer alt-rock and punk rock tones. The P90 proved a great pup for this. Later when plugging into bigger cabs I found the power of this amp transfered over perfectly. Not all low watt amps sound good through all cab sizes, something I have had to learn the hard way. The amp's treble and bass controls proved versatile enough to match to plenty of gigs, rooms, and plenty of musical styles. The sweep within each tone control rolled beautifully and covered more ground than I expected them to. Going from zero to ten wasn't harsh or extreme, instead subtle and pronounced. This goes for the reverb circuit as well. I was able to get small bouncy verb tones, medium and large room verbs, and haunting good hall sounds. A real treat for amp of this size. Going into it's higher gain settings I discovered the M2-7R was able to hold it's own with much larger much more powerful amps. My Eminence Red Fang equipped 1x12 cab proved a great match for the Nace's wide range of sounds - but time did come to plug into my buddy's 2x12 Vintage 30 rosewood handbuilt cabinet. Never have I heard such a loud, chest punching guitar cab. The Nace matched up with this cab was like voodoo! I don't know if it's the wood, the build, or the speakers - but the combo of all these things stacked up with the M2-7R was quite epic! My 60's build Strat was able to get me a world of big'n'bright rock tones which brought me instantly into Hendrix heaven, and I mean proper authentic Hendrix tones, not wimpy wannabe sounds. On it's own the amp was able to kick out some pretty impressive rich distortion. And it seemed the louder and louder I pushed the amp, the more it would come to life. When I finally did put a clean booster in front of the amp everything came to life ten-fold. The booster help me to achieve these crisp and clean lead tones which accented the amp's natural tone and filled the air with mojo. This was also true of overdrive pedals in line with the amp's dirt. Everything from Tube Screamer type pedals to more aggressive dirt boxes did a wonderful job in bringing out more from this amp. Even when I pushed huge stompbox levels through the amp I didn't find it to sound flimsy or overpowered. At full blast the M2-7R was very usable and capable of further tone shaping. If you've played low watt amps and have ever cranked them you've noticed that one problem that many of them share is that they can't be manipulated or tamed once you got them full power. Things start to get muddy, too mid-rangy, and just overall too damn harsh. The M2-7R can more than hold it's own when cranked way on high, and beautifully take on the might of any dirt box. I was even able to push fuzz boxes through the amp and still get good string articulation and clarity. Getting the amp to clean up was as easy as rolling back my guitar's volume control - and all without loss of the amp's character. The really cool thing was that this amp was able to go from blackface type tones when setup clean, to plexi-ish sounds when cranked loud. Very cool stuff if you ask me. Gotta give it up to Art for that one, very very clever indeed my friend. In the end the M2-7R was able to pull from me inspiration and the drive to play. Which is more than anyone can ask for. If you're looking for an easy to use workhorse boutique quality amp - you must try one of these puppies.  What more can I say?


Art Nace also lends his talents to the world of Trillium Amps, which if you haven't seem I highly suggest you also check out. The M2-7R also comes in combo form (which is pictured here). Nace also produces their own matching cabs for those of you needing the whole package. For more info on these killer little amps go to Or click on the direct links on our sidebar. You can see one of these bad boys in action by typing Nace Amps in our Youtube search engine below. Stay tuned for more. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Have much fear - Tonebutcher is here

 Bronx Cheer
dynamic fuzz


I must say it has been an honor to have come across such a cool and creative stompbox company. Each and every Tonebutcher pedal that I have had the chance to try has been nothing short of amazing! In each one of these boxes I have found the ultimate in excitement and madness. Besides the crazy cool sounds that this particular Tonebutcher pedal is capable of it also sports the super hip signature Tonebutcher look - A look which by the way reminds me of a tail light on an old Volvo that I once drove. The Bronx Cheer is certainly a dynamic fuzz to say the least, and an effect that will inspire and pull from you tons of wild child riffs. Plugging into this bad boy I found myself drenched in a world of super thick and syrupy fuzz tones. And probably the most impressive thing about the Bronx Cheer is it does what it does with only a couple of controls. On it's face there are only two controls - one controlling the pedal's effect output, and a switch that flips between wild and wilder fuzz sounds. For those of you synth-fuzz loving, extreme rock tone addicts, this pedal will be a dream. A big part of wha this pedal dishes out has to do with what pickups you play it with and how you pluck and pick your guitar's strings.

At first go I thought to myself "How, when, and where will I use this pedal?" The fuzz tones  that were blaring from my amp had me overwhelmed and ready for new heights. I'll say this much, If you stompboxes adventures have only led you to the average everyday ol' fuzz box, you're in for quite a treat. Getting hooked on this pedal is as easy as plugging into a 100 watt monster and strumming away - something that will have you stuck for hours and hours. After cranking both the pedal and the amp I wanted to see what kind of range the Bronx Cheer had - so next came taming this beast. I began by setting the Super Lead clean and serene, and setting the pedal at it's mellowest level. This got me a tight and super focused fuzz tone that rumbled and filled the room with magic. My amp bled out a rhythm tone alien to anything I'd ever heard before. It was still chill enough to sit beautifully in a mix, yet aggressive enough to let cut through beautifully. The Les Paul's smooth sounding humbuckers ended up being a perfect candidate for the Bronx Cheer. Everything from fierce blues tones to slamming alt-rock guitar tones were ripe for the picking. Slowing I began rolling up the pedal's level while still in the mellower toggle switch setting. At mid levels the Bronx Cheer was entire different beast. Here it began dishing out subtle hints of frizzed out/synth-like undertones. The super thick'n'creamy fuzz tone was still there 100%, only now it was chased by a completely new animal. These tones were still very usable for blues licks and rock n'roll of all types. It especially sounded killer being played to dirtier rock flavors, such as garage, punk, and hard rock. Adding in some analog delay or reverb and I had a massive lead tone. Way up on the guitar's neck the pedal's tone stung with chilling wide open harmonics. Last, before going to the pedal heavier toggle switch setting I went ahead and blasted the level knob. Here the Super Lead sang and growled like a mythological ancient Greek beast. The only limits of what could be done were my imagination. Once I got an idea of the first setting's range, I flipped on over to the Bronx Cheer's wild side. I also swapped out the Les Paul for something with single coils - first P90's then a Strat with a set of spectacular handwound 60's spec pickups. My first impression was vintage Japanese fuzz meets classic Arbiter + robotic synth sputter. I don't know about you but I do love me a fuzz box that converts single note hits into huge sounding chords. Playing even the most elementary of single note guitar runs sounded like World War III. I could strike a single note and listen as it warped and transformed into a being of it's own. And still as wild and freaked out sounding as this setting was, it still had the original smooth and articulate fuzz sound that it had at low levels. Like the humbuckers the P90's created a sound all their own, being very punchy and in your face. This sound also ended up working quite nicely through low and med watt amps, and single speaker cabs. Containing and pushing the pedal's sound out through a smaller package seemed to bring out even more oddball harmonics and undertones. Again cranking the pedal and playing way up on the neck made for some interesting effects, and even cooler was dialing in some gritty amp tones then playing the Bronx Cheer through it. My chords all sounded twice as insane and exaggerated, lines and riffs became much more complex, and the simplest of licks sounded enormous. And as I began to delve deeper into the Bronx Cheer's mean side through different amp and guitars, I began to hear possibilities for other instruments, such as bass and keys, and even vocals. On hand I had myself an old Dano bass, a Rhodes keyboard, and a very hip electric mandolin. Each of these gadgets did something different when played through the Bronx Cheer, and all of them being down right awesome. This is something not possible with all fuzz pedal, especially with fuzz pedals that are a bit on the wilder side. Yes it's fine and dandy to own a crazy wild noise machine for experimentation and trickery. But this is only true if you can actually use those sounds. Many of the freakout fuzz machines that exist out there today are only that - noise machines. You get those pedals home and realize they can't be used for anything other than noise. The Tonebutcher Bronx Cheer is the alternative to many of these pedals. Once getting a hold of what this pedal is capable of it makes it almost impossible to walk away from, and mainly because of how usable it actually really is. I found dialing in the sounds I wanted was a cinch, getting completely original fuzz sounds was cake, and getting this pedal to go bananas was a walk in the park. I can only imagine what other strange and beautiful creation Tonebutcher has in store me next.


You know where to go for more info on Tonebutcher.... but in case you don't the website is or click the direct link. You can also check out some video demos on our Youtube Search Engine at the bottom of our site, just type in Tonebutcher and the pedal you're seeking info on. We do have more to come very very soon so please hang tight you stompbox freaks.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lay Down Your Soul

Sometime in the middle of last year while surfing the web for new and exciting gear outfits, I came across this keen little pedal company by the name of Penfar FX. Instantly I was drawn in by the magnificent looking stompboxes that flooded the Penfar website. To top it off not only were the pedals all lookers, but they were all also reasonably priced. I was instantly hooked, and even more so curious beyond belief. After a little research I'd discover a handful of great write-ups and video demos - this would only fuel my interest even further of course. This led me to contact Penfar FX's builder and creator Chad Leavitt. Chad was more than happy to work with me in having AWC feature some of his creations. The outcome? Read on.


Soul Taker

  • Invoke = Volume
  • Body = Presence
  • Agony = Tone
  • Pain = Gain
  • 22AWG Handwired
  • 1/4" Neutrik Jacks
  • True Bypass Switching
  • 16mm Alpha Potentiometers 
  • 2.1mm (-) DC Power Jack
  • Heavy-Duty Steel Knobs
  • Hand Built in the USA


This was by far one of THE coolest finds I made last year. From it's build quality to it's guts, and versatility to it's stunning tone - the Soul Taker is there to impress. Across the board you will find controls for volume (Invoke), presence (Body), tone (Agony), and gain (Gain). Together these four knobs along with it's brilliant circuit, make the Soul Taker capable of a handful of killer overdrive and distorted tones. As an overdrive pedal the Soul Taker is an honest to goodness no-frills grit pushing machine. You can land anywhere from splatty crunchy overdrives - to grime soaked woman tones. Entering it's distortion capabilities the Soul Taker can do everything from smooth big'n'bold rhythm tones - to sustain heavy lead tones. And it does this through any guitar or pickup you stack it up against. I'm sure many of you have had dirt boxes that sound great through one guitar, then you go and switch that axe out for something different only to find it's all down hill from there. You won't have that issue here, read on.

I began my demo of this pedal through my semi-hollow Hagstrom Viking. I figured the humbuckers would be a perfect place to start for pushing the pedal through it's paces. Amp of choice was a AC15 based head, first hooked up through a 1x12 cab, then through a 2x12. I started by setting up the 15 watter as clean as possible with it's tone at noon and bright switch to the off position. The Soul Taker I started also with it's tone (Agony) and presence (Body) controls at noon, it's gain (Pain) up to about 15%, and the volume (Invoke) matched to get along with the amp's output. Once engaged the pedal kicked out a mellow gritty overdrive tone which worked beautifully for all types of rhythm guitar tones. Something that stood out about the Soul Takers tone, which was quite nice, was it's ability to cut through without sounding harsh or honky. With the treble pickup the pedal's tone had a very forgiving brightness to it which made each string sparkle with attitude. In the rhythm pickup things got smoother and warmer. Getting back to the amp's clean tone was a cinch - just a bit of tapering from the guitar's volume control and I was good to go. In both pickup positions the pedal let the amp and guitar's natural tone shine through beautifully. Something I always look out for when playing a dirt box for the first time is the change in my amp's tone. I begin by setting the pedal to a low grit amount, move up from there, and listen listen listen. If a pedal can't pass the test at low dirt settings forget about them doing your root tone justice at high gain settings. The Soul Taker didn't add any extreme coloration or dullness. Leaving my amp the push fourth it's rockin' good tone. Next I began playing with the pedal's medium overdrive/low distortion settings. From really low to mid gain settings the Soul Taker holds it's own dishing out sweet sounding overdrive tones. Once you hit past the medium gain settings and on into the high settings - the Soul Taker begins it's venture into it's distortion tones. Set just right you can get these splendid overdrive/distortion hybrid dirt tones. Depending on where you have the pedal's tone control set the Soul Taker is capable of everything from classic woman tones to sharp aggressive rock tones. I began playing with the guitar's tone and volume controls which ended up producing some pretty interesting sounds. Some pedals you take your guitar's tone control back even a little and it's all down hill from there. Same goes when you start playing with your volume knob. The Soul Takers circuit was definitely built to get along with on-the-fly adjustments and fine-tuning of your overall tone. Next I cranked the pedal's gain up to full blast and got to picking. Here the pedal turned into a completely different animal. Harmonically charged overtones and undertones swam and flew all about, making leads, licks, and rocking riffs sound like magic. A hint of analog delay and I had me one of the most epic lead tones I'd ever gotten from a dirt pedal. At about this point the pedal had proven more than worthy of doing my guitar's handwound humbuckers justice. Time came to break out my 60's Strat build and put it's single coil pups to the test. And just as beautifully as it worked with the buckers - it did so as well with the single coils. I was able to get the same amount of versatility, feel, and overall smooth tone. With the Strat's pickups it was a bit more harsh though - perfect for alt-rock, punk, and everything in between. At low gain gettings with the presence and tone just behind noon I was able to get these amazing blues tones which were quite a surprise and quite a treat. I was able to riff and dig into chords with perfect string articulation and a great amount of dynamics. Then setting the amp to a slight grit itself things got even more aggressive and wild. I was able to pull these stinging fuzz/overdrive hybrid tones which my little 15 watter really loved pushing out. The combo of the amp's dirty goodness and Soul Takers crunch created something more than worth listening to. It was time to plug into something with more juice - and so then came the Super Lead. I disengaged the Soul Taker, set the amp to a loud slight grit, and began working in the pedal's dirty tone. Here I found the pedal's volume pedal worked quite nicely for taking the amp's natural grit to the next level. At the lowest possible gain setting with the volume blaring and the tone matched to the amp's - I was able to create something very special. If you've ever heard those slamming good old school Soundgarden Badmotorfinger tones you can imagine what was coming from my amp. With an upgraded Les Paul Studio things would only get better. By the time I was done with my first run of this pedal I had myself a squadron of rock tones. Things like putting a clean booster in front of or behind the Soul Taker also sounded good. And this is only the beginning of the Penfar FX rock and roll adventure - besides this pedal I've also had a chance to try a couple more, and all of them just as good as this one. But more on that soon to come. I say do yourselves a favor and try some of these pedals for your setups, absolutely no way to go wrong.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Feb: Updates/News

First and foremost I would like to once again apologize for the lack in write-ups and for our short 2010 Top Finds. If you read the post at the beginning of Dec you know that I ran into some trouble with an external hard drive going bad. Rewriting and catching up has proven a task much harder than I first expected it to be. I am happy to announce that with the help of some good friends, some late night writing missions, and patience - I was able to get things back on track. All of the remaining scheduled posts for our Top Finds of 2010 will still be featured throughout the next couple months amongst the regular reviews and articles. Keep your eyes peeled for some more AWC favorites and some amazing new finds. I would also like to take a moment to thank our regular supporters, welcome our new friends, and thank you our loyal readers. Analog War Cry is working on moving to a proper .com within the next couple months so please keep an eye out for that and keep on spreading the word. I have some more giveaways and contests coming soon which you guys will absolutely dig. Again, thank you so much for your patience everyone and for hanging in there with me.