Great Expectations

Great Expectations

In my recent review of the Arion SOD-1 Overdrive, a pedal which is generally well thought of but I found to be very disappointing, I raised this point:
"Perhaps the good reputations enjoyed by budget pedals such as the SOD-1 are partly, or largely, due to the Value For Money factor and lower expectations... but that’s a debate for another day."

Well, today is that day.

While I personally don't (consciously) base my expectations of pedals (or other products in general) on price alone, I often read reviews or hear people say things along the lines of "it's great for the price"...

I admit that - like probably everyone else - I have been guilty of this myself, but it is something I don't really understand; either something is good or it isn't...

Having read many Harmony Central User Reviews of budget pedals where the reviewer has stated that the effect is great for the price, then given it a 9/10 or 10/10 rating, I find this absurd...

It raises the question - for me anyway, that, if the pedal was more expensive, would the rating be lower? Even though the sound is the same?

Conversely, if you spend £200 on an overdrive/fuzz/whatever, and then only rate it at 6 or 7 out of 10 for sound, would it suddenly become 'better' and worthy of a higher rating if it only cost £20?

By all means say a budget/mid-priced/expensive/boutique pedal is great and give it a high rating, but leave it at that: Price is irrelevant in terms of whether an effect sounds good or not.

Aria MP-5... Metal Pedal?

Aria MP-5 Metal Pedal

Having liked the Aria CH-5 Chorus so much, I've been on the look out for other pedals from the series. Although, a 'heavy metal distortion' pedal wouldn't usually be anywhere near the top of my wishlist, my experience of 80s 'heavy metal' pedals is such that they don't really sound very metal - a case in point being the Boss HM-2 - so I was willing to take a chance. And it was cheap!

Like the HM-2, it has four controls: Level, Dist (gain), Low and High (EQ) and is more of a moderate gained, slightly fuzzy distortion, whereas a modern heavy metal pedal tends to have insane levels of gain and a tighter distortion quality.
In use, it shares a quirk with the HM-2; the gain control does very little over much of its range. With the MP-5 though, this trait is much more pronounced and there is very little distortion at all until you get to about 9 (assuming a scale of 0-10) on the Dist control. [I show this in the video.] I don't mind this though; this pedal sounds best to me with the gain all the way up.
Gear used:
  • Guitar - Epiphone Casino
  • Recording set-up - Award-Session JD10 as a preamp (DI'd) through a Palmer PDI-09. Recorded to Cubase on PC (via a MOTU audio interface) with no additional processing.
The High and Low tone controls are fairly interactive (and also affect the output level quite drastically), but where I'd say the Low control is usable throughout its entire range - although it does boom all the way up, the High control's usability is more restricted. I'd say its working range is 3-7 (using the 0-10 scale). Boost the treble too much and it sounds harsh and nasty, cut too much and it sounds cheap and lo-fi... although some people could find it useful as an intro/breakdown effect.

So, I'd say this is less a Metal Pedal and more a general fuzzy distortion, best suited to 90s-esque Alt Rock, Shoegaze etc.

In its favour, the MP-5 is very tweakable (thanks mainly to the powerful EQ section) but it should be approached with caution: it is just as easy to get a bad sound out of it as it is a good one.

Guyatone Crossover Box Auto Wah | Filter

Guyatone PS-104 Crossover Box
Auto Wah | Filter
Auto Wahs. Fun though they are, I've never really had much use for them. I picked this up a while ago quite simply because it's a Guyatone pedal (which I like) and they're fairly uncommon; I may not have had another chance to try one out for years... or at all.

This is one of Guyatone's earliest PS-Series pedals, which were first made in the late 70s according to my sources. Production ceased in 1980/81 when Guyatone brought out their first range of the more familiar, compact 'Effect Box' pedals (which included the PS-003 Compressor I reviewed a while back). This new range expanded over the following few years, with yet another - although not so drastic - cosmetic shift (see the PS-014 Dual Time Delay).

Most of the early Guyatone pedals (including this one) remained in production for a short time (some with slight changes) as part of Vox's 1900 Series.

  • Decay - Controls how long it takes for the filter to sweep back down after being triggered
  • Drive - Controls the sensitivity of the filter*

* * * Notes about the video * * *

Gear used:

  • Guitar - Epiphone Casino
  • Recording set-up - Award-Session JD10 as a preamp (DI'd) through a Palmer PDI-09. Recorded to Cubase on PC (via a MOTU audio interface) with no additional processing.


Whenever I mail a pedal - or anything else for that matter, I always make sure it's in suitable packaging.

When sending a pedal, 'suitable packaging' to me means bubble wrap around the pedal, with the pedal in a box with extra packing material (if needed) to prevent it from rattling around... hell, even when the pedal is already in a box I'll sometimes bubble-wrap that and put it in a cardboard shipping box!

So... why is it that some people think it's OK to just stick the pedal in a padded envelope?

I've had two* incidents recently where I've bought a pedal on eBay which has arrived broken - where it was sent in just a padded envelope (albeit with a little extra bubble wrap within).

Anyway... one of these broken pedals is a cheap Danelectro, but the other is a rare 1980s Series 2000 MXR Stereo Flanger - which is (for now) totally useless as the 'Width' (depth) pot has broken. Very disappointing.

[For what it's worth, both of the people I bought the pedals from have handled these situations well; immediately offering refunds... I am keeping the MXR though (after a part-refund) and will hopefully get it up and running soon.]

* * *

* There have been numerous other occasions where people have done this but luckily, the pedal has survived. It sometimes shocks me what passes for packaging materials in the minds of some crazed individuals!

I've had all sorts:
  • The aforementioned padded envelope.
  • Huge boxes about 20 times bigger than they need to be.
  • A massive ball of bubble wrap and gaffa tape (which wasn't easy to get in to).
  • And one time I received a pedal which was very well wrapped up, nicely set in a sturdy box... but the box was wrapped in some very dodgy, 70s-looking wallpaper! (Which was pretty cool actually!)

* * *

EDIT: Here's some photo evidence to disprove the scandalous claim that I have been buying Behringer pedals and fraudulently claiming them to be something much more desirable. ;-)

MXR M-203 Stereo Flanger
(From the 2000 Series)

Note the position of the 'Width' control on the left;
it now turns through 360°.
Very Linda Blair.