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As recently as the ’90s, amateur recording still relied on the 4-track cassette recorder. And though ambitious recordists could get great sounds out of 4-tracks, the intrinsic compressed nature of cassette tapes could lend an attractive, sometimes crackling roughness. When players upped the compression quotient by plugging their guitar directly into the 4-track’s mic preamp and cranked the gain, the resulting fuzz tones could be downright nasty. This lo-fi, overdriven mic preamp tone is what Mid-Fi Electronics is shooting for in the Demo Tape fuzz.
Dressed down with colorless, rough-hewn graphics and a cassette-like image—complete with chicken-scratched control names—the Demo Tape looks punk rock before you ever plug it in. The unit is powered via standard DC adapter and is true bypass. The controls include Bass, Treble, Volume, and Trim. The latter control, of course, was the key to sending tracks into the red on your average 4-track, and it’s just as vital here.
Tape Me Back
First things first: Just because the Mid-Fi unit specializes in the skuzzy sounds of a home-brewed punk cassette, it doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of other very cool fuzz sounds on tap. Dialing up a more typical fuzz tone with the Trim slightly above noon, the Treble slightly below noon, and a touch of Bass recalls no less than my recent vintage Germanium 4 Big Muff Pi with a little more compression, which is great for heavy rock leads and rhythm alike. The pedal is also extremely touch-sensitive at these settings and the response to input dynamics is amazingly expressive. The Volume control produces plenty of boost in the output too, allowing you to blend the Demo Tape’s overdrive with your amp’s own grit when you roll the Trim and Treble back.
At more extreme settings, however, you experience the unique sonic qualities that set this pedal apart. With the Demo Tape positioned between my Fender Strat and a silverface Fender Super Bassman, and the Trim knob turned up a little more aggressively, the Demo Tape’s distortion is a deliciously abrasive and highly compressed wall-o-fuzz. The Demo Tape can also get extremely bright, and rolling up the Treble will take you well beyond where most treble controls stop. This capability can be painful if you’re running your Stratocaster via the Demo Tape into a cranked Fender Twin Reverb. But used with care, it’s extremely useful for moving key instruments to the front of the mix and can add some killer ’60s garage-punk tones to your palate.
Running a guitar directly into a console preamp is a technique nearly as old as multitrack recording itself. But like the 4-track cassette itself, the sound of an overdriven cassette multitracker is an unjustly maligned and neglected tone. The Mid-Fi Demo Tape may not always perfectly nail the fizziest and most compressed aspects of that sound, but it certainly captures the spirit and a lot of the sonic payoff of that approach. It also delivers a lot of very usable and more conventional fuzz tones—a feat that should leave fuzz fans very impressed.
you’ve always wanted that grungy, lo-fi tone popular in the 1990s.
you never look back on the era of the cassette with fondness.
Street $225 - Mid-Fi Electronics - midfielectronics.com
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