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Whoa! Someone’s having a little too much fun here.
Start with the nine-word product name: Dr. No Road Runner Octave Fuzz Wah Flying Machina. Then there’s the enclosure: peach-fuzz flocked in loud blue and red. And the rubber treadle pad, embossed with a lurid three-color design. And the pièce de résistance: rubber Hermes-style side-wings. (The control labels and product notes cleverly inscribed on the wah’s bottom plate include a warning: “This device actually flies … cannot be held responsible for physical damage like broken bones just because you can’t fly the damn thing.”) Color me amused.
Dutch boutique brand Dr. No created this outrageous contraption with and for David Catching, the Eagles of Death Metal guitarist and owner of Rancho de La Luna, a famed recording studio in California’s Mojave Desert. Beneath Machina’s hilarious cosmetics lies a straightforward octave fuzz/wah effect with a few cool twists.
You Shall Not Pass!
I can’t tell you what’s inside the Flying Machina because I couldn’t open it. Perhaps it’s been deliberately battened down for secrecy’s sake. The pedal has no battery option—you must use a 9V power supply. So there’s no reason to remove the plate unless you’re a stompbox busybody.
Dr. No describes the octave-fuzz circuit as an “old school” Octavia. The original Tycobrahe Octavia employed three silicon transistors plus a transformer and a pair of clipping diodes. There are two knobs: boost (distortion amount) and volume. The Machina adds two popular Octavia mods: an octave on/off switch (it bypasses the octave-generating transformer for a conventional fuzz sound) and what sounds like an input-trim control. (At any rate, dialing it back yields the same result as rolling back your guitar’s volume knob.) While you can switch the octave effect on and off, fuzz and wah are always active—you can’t use either alone or invert the effect order.
The wah portion boasts switchable frequency ranges. The mildest setting is comparable to the sweep of a ’60s-style wah, goosing frequencies from around 400 Hz to 1.8 kHz. Two brighter settings boost frequencies from about 600 Hz to 2.1 kHz, and from approximately 800 Hz to 2.4 kHz. If those numbers mean nothing to you, think of them as “regular bright,” “extra-bright,” and “incinerate.” The filtering effect comes on slowly in the lower half of the pedal’s range. Intensity increases and accelerates in the upper range. You’ll probably get the hang of the sweep after a few minutes of playing. The brighter settings can seem harsh in isolation, but they could be perfect for blasting through heavy riffage in a multi-guitar band. They bite, in the better sense of the word.
Octave-fuzz will forever be associated with Hendrix. (Jimi didn’t use a Tycobrahe, but his Roger Mayer octave fuzz was quite similar.) Bear in mind that this octave sound is far subtler than that from later octave fuzzes such as the Foxx Tone Machine (and Tone Machine spinoffs such as the Prescription Experience and Fulltone Ultimate Octave pedals), and nothing like the digitally generated octaves of, say, a DigiTech Whammy pedal. The octave sound is most prominent when playing single notes above the 12th fret while using your neck pickup. (Many modern Octavia fans care less about the unreliable octave than about the harmonic anarchy that can occur when you throw the circuit a curve by, say, lowering your guitar volume or playing chords.)
Typically, Octavias aren’t very loud, providing little to no volume boost when engaged. And while many Machina wah tones cut like a hot knife through soft brains, the overall level doesn’t increase, even with everything floored—so you’d need a downstream booster for a louder solo level. Octavias don’t tend to clean up much when you roll back your guitar’s volume—the fuzz just gets less intense. Octavia-style fuzz minus the octave can also sound a bit bland, but when paired with the wicked wah in the Flying Machina, it can do serious damage.
Loogie Oogie Oogie
Some guitarists love the suave, understated response of early wahs like the Clyde McCoy. Those players probably shouldn’t be in the same room as the Machina—maybe not even on the same continent.
The filtering here is angry and over-the-top. Paired with the always-on fuzz, the wah sweeps evoke decrepit analog synth filters, rutting pigs, and the scraping sound in the back of your throat when you hock a loogie. Pretty, it ain’t—but it could be perfect for heavy, dissonant, and aggressive rock.
Dr. No’s Flying Machina combines two classic circuits for bold, sometimes brutalizing, results. It’s fun as hell, even when you’re not savoring the cockamamie cosmetics. But there are potential issues, like no independent use of wah and fuzz, no fuzz volume boost, and a near-total absence of sonic subtlety.
The biggest hurdle may be the price ($366 by current exchange rates, though worldwide shipping is free). For that kind of cash, you can get a great Octavia clone and a fine multi-range wah and still have at least a Benjamin in your wallet. The high price tag is surely due to the decoration. (Have you checked the production cost of custom-made rubber wah-wah wings lately?) But for the well-heeled aggro-rocker who values a bold visual stage presence, this could be the ticket. Put your tray tables in the upright locked position and enjoy your flight.
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