San Diego-based Lightfoot Labs are nothing if not single minded in
their intent to make one of the best tremolo effects available. After
all, the Goatkeeper GK3 is the only pedal they offer. But the payoff for
this focus is a one-of-a-kind effect with excellent build quality and a
wide range of sonic capabilities.
Built for Business
The Goatkeeper’s control set includes two footswitches. The left
switch turns the unit on or off, as indicated by a bright red pilot light.
The right switch is a tap tempo button to set tremolo or LFO (low-frequency
oscillator) speed. Six black knobs run across the top of the
unit—all far enough away from the footswitches to prevent accidentally
fouling your setting with an errant kick. Each knob is actually a
rotary switch, except for the far right knob, which is a standard pot
used to control waveform depth and amplitude when recording your
own wave into the unit. There is also a small pot on the back of the
device for adjusting output volume.
The first knob lets you select one of six standard waveforms including
square, sine, sawtooth, and echo, and provides another five positions
for user-customized waveforms. Four discrete LFO Time Division knobs
help you create complex tremolo patterns. You can also set the Time
Division switches to skip a step, multiply a step by various values from 1
to 16, or generate random steps.
Along with Audio In and Out jacks, the back panel has an LFO Out jack for
driving other devices, a Sync In jack to control the LFO rate with an external
click track, and an Expression In jack, which lets you use an expression
pedal, along with the depth/wave knob, to control the LFO rate.
Complex Controls, Big Rewards
Guitarists who know their way around analog synths or know the basics
of LFOs will definitely have a leg up programming this pedal. It’s much
more complex and capable than an amp tremolo channel or even a
typical tremolo pedal, so you can anticipate a great deal of trial and
error on the road to mastering the GK3. But it’s capable of some amazing
and unique sounds that range from the positively bizarre to otherworldly,
yet totally musical and rhythmic guitar sounds.
Getting a handle on tremolo rates isn’t all guesswork. Each Time
Division knob has its own LED that indicates the speed or rate of the
division in the sequence. Getting a straightforward tremolo setting is
fairly easy: You select a sine wave and set each Time Division knob to
1. The result is a traditional tremolo sound similar to a blackface Fender
tremolo, but with more punch. Selecting a square wave and maxing the
depth knob creates an attack-heavy, chopping tremolo sound, while
the reverse sawtooth summons psychedelically flavored reverse-guitar
effects. And these are just a few of the nuggets that can be discovered
hiding in the circuits of this box.
As a standard tremolo, the Goatkeeper is exceptional. But to use it
exclusively for that purpose is like buying an iMac for its calculator.
And while it took some experiments that really annoyed the neighbors
and my cat, I started to grasp the Goatkeeper’s mojo pretty quickly.
My experience with synths shortened the learning curve somewhat.
The Goatkeeper can generate potent noise-rock effects suitable for
experimental- and post-rock sounds. It’s also very capable of broken
and scary industrial guitar rhythms, so an avant-garde player could
probably build an entire set around it. Indeed, the Goatkeeper may be
overkill for the tremolo traditionalist, but for the adventurous player, a
unique world of oscillation awaits.
you want traditional trem sounds and
highly tweakable, non-traditional effects.
you only need enough tremolo to play
Link Wray’s “Rumble.”