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Freekish Blues Freek Out!, Coily Fuzz and Betty Boost Pedal Reviews

April 15, 2010
Freekish Blues is a new name on the pedal scene that’s busting out of the gate in turbo mode with an initial offering of three pedals. As is common in the boutique world, Freekish is a small operation consisting of two people who are taking care of every facet of the business, from developing, designing and constructing to selling and marketing their products. In the Dec. 2009 issue of PG, there was a mention of the Betty Boost pedal in the Dweezil Zappa interview. Knowing Dweezil is a tone connoisseur, I was curious to see just what these guys were up to. Marrying vintage designs with unique twists and tongue-in-cheek humor, Freekish Blues pedals come off as refreshing and fun on the outside. Let’s jump right into each of the three pedals and see how they fare and what they offer up.

Coily Fuzz

Download Example 1
Recorded through a 2008 Fender American Strat.  Amp – Wallace Abaddon.  Speaker – Krank 1x12 with 70’s Celestion 25 watt tan back.  Recorded into Pro Tools with Chandler LTD-1 mic pre with SM57 off-axis.  Small amount of Altiverb room ambience.
The Coily Fuzz is based on a late-‘60s fuzz (think Arbiter Fuzz Face) with a different voicing. The pedal I received for review was a pre-release version, since the cosmetics were still getting the final touches. It was handpainted with stickered graphics and no labeling for the controls. The fact that there were no instructions, just a brief description of the pedal’s basic function, made it an adventure without any hype, and that encouraged a lot of knob fiddling and play. Refreshing. The final version of the pedal sports purple-ish lettering and a graphic of a laughing, bearded “Freek” with shades and a hat. The two controls are labeled simply “Midnight Lamp” and “Electric Ladyland.” More on those in a moment.

Opening up the pedal revealed a small circuit board and a clean layout, as well as black marker ink covering up all of the values of the components. While this is something that in the past has been a bit irksome, I can’t blame anyone for wanting to protect their creation, especially at a time when so many pedal makers and DIY’ers would certainly love to see what’s going on inside. A bonus is the 9-volt battery compartment on the back of the pedal that flips open to allow immediate access to the battery without requiring a screwdriver. Thank you for that! Rounding out the pedal is a 9-volt adapter jack and a hardwired true-bypass stomp switch.

The Coily Fuzz was begging me to plug in my Strat and give it a whirl, so that’s just what I did. Setting my amp to a generic clean tone, I dimed the controls on the Coily just to hear the most extreme side of the spectrum. To my surprise, when it kicked in it didn’t have nearly the amount of noise I expected. Tonally, it harkened back to the late ‘60s, but it definitely had more bark. Of course, in this setting there was both a wallop of gain and fuzz getting angry and snarling—in a good way. Because the boost was quite extreme, I backed off the Midnight Lamp (volume) control, which brought the volume down to a more reasonable level and let me begin to hear the subtleties of the pedal. After a good amount of time fiddling with the Midnight Lamp and Electric Ladyland (fuzz) controls, I was able to conjure up striking, Hendrix-like tones and go all the way to “Spirit in the Sky”-like broken fuzz sounds. The Coily had everything I like in pedals of that era, but with more thickness and bite at the same time. Those aren’t usually things that go together, but in this case they do, and they do so very well. Recording a few tracks, I was able to jump right out of the mix without additional EQ, which is pretty remarkable considering how much gain was going on these things tend to get lost fairly easily. In addition, it played nice with my guitar’s volume control, cleaning up to a respectable level and still letting all the goodness of the guitar and amp through. Nice.
Buy if...
groovy fuzz is your aim.
Skip if...
you’re thinking, “Fuzz? I don’t need no stinking fuzz!”
Rating...


Street $185 - Freekish Blues - freekishblues.com geargasstore.com





Betty Boost

Download Example 1
Recorded through a 2008 Fender American Strat.  Amp – Wallace Abaddon.  Speaker – Krank 1x12 with 70’s Celestion 25 watt tan back.  Recorded into Pro Tools with Chandler LTD-1 mic pre with SM57 off-axis.  Small amount of Altiverb room ambience.
The Betty Boost is described as a clean boost/ overdrive. I don’t normally get too excited about that category of pedal but this one stood out right away with its obvious allusions. The controls couldn’t be much simpler, with a single Voluptuousness knob for volume/gain and a mini-toggle labeled Cup Size to engage the overdrive—double D! It shares the same craftsmanship as the Coily Fuzz, as well as the same case size and nifty 9-volt battery compartment.

I went back to my clean amp setup, which in this case was a Krank Rev Jr. Pro on the Krank channel, but set to a warm, tube-clean sound with just a hair of breakup—not Fender-style clean, but more like a non-master Marshall set to 2 or 3. I plugged in my Les Paul with Sheptone AB Customs and strummed a big, clean G chord to get my bearings. Switching on the Betty Boost does just what it should do, it adds clean boost as you travel up the dial. As I increased the control, it stayed very clean all the way up to almost full. Throughout that range the pedal stayed true to the sound of the amp, just giving more of everything it had. The last little travel on the Betty is where things are really interesting. The pedal adds a pretty significant crunch that has some major heft to it. There is a fatness to the boost I haven’t experienced before, and in the range from almost full to full up there was a spectrum of tones to be found. To me, this is where it shines; it’s like steroids for your amp. The Cup Size switch looks so innocent when in the B position, but switching to DD changes everything. DD is the overdrive mode, and they aren’t joking around. With the pedal still set to full, I was treated to a sustain that was unreal. Flipping to the neck pickup and rolling off the tone produced a killer “woman tone” (I hate that term, but I love the sound) that had endless sustain and a beautiful, thick sound that also cut through without being harsh. When I switched back to the bridge pickup, it dawned on me that the rolled-off neck sound actually had a slightly brighter voice, which at first didn’t make sense. Going back to the neck pickup and rolling the tone up and down showed that the Betty Boost is highly sensitive to tone controls and interacts with the voicing in a unique way. This opens up many new sounds that usually get skipped over if you’re used to just fiddling with your guitar’s volume knob. Imagine that—the tone knobs are actually useful on the guitar! Backing off the boost a bit conjured up tones reminiscent of a Rangemaster and various other overdrives, proving that one knob and a switch can be very deceiving.

The Betty Boost was my favorite of the three pedals simply because I haven’t had that experience with any other clean boost. It was a shock in a good way, and one I definitely want to experience again.
Buy if...
you want clean boost with options that take you beyond.
Skip if...
you already like your tone as it is and don’t need more.
Rating...


Street $190 - Freekish Blues - freekishblues.com geargasstore.com




Betty Boost

Download Example 1
Recorded through a 2008 Fender American Strat.  Amp – Wallace Abaddon.  Speaker – Krank 1x12 with 70’s Celestion 25 watt tan back.  Recorded into Pro Tools with Chandler LTD-1 mic pre with SM57 off-axis.  Small amount of Altiverb room ambience.
The Betty Boost is described as a clean boost/ overdrive. I don’t normally get too excited about that category of pedal but this one stood out right away with its obvious allusions. The controls couldn’t be much simpler, with a single Voluptuousness knob for volume/gain and a mini-toggle labeled Cup Size to engage the overdrive—double D! It shares the same craftsmanship as the Coily Fuzz, as well as the same case size and nifty 9-volt battery compartment.

I went back to my clean amp setup, which in this case was a Krank Rev Jr. Pro on the Krank channel, but set to a warm, tube-clean sound with just a hair of breakup—not Fender-style clean, but more like a non-master Marshall set to 2 or 3. I plugged in my Les Paul with Sheptone AB Customs and strummed a big, clean G chord to get my bearings. Switching on the Betty Boost does just what it should do, it adds clean boost as you travel up the dial. As I increased the control, it stayed very clean all the way up to almost full. Throughout that range the pedal stayed true to the sound of the amp, just giving more of everything it had. The last little travel on the Betty is where things are really interesting. The pedal adds a pretty significant crunch that has some major heft to it. There is a fatness to the boost I haven’t experienced before, and in the range from almost full to full up there was a spectrum of tones to be found. To me, this is where it shines; it’s like steroids for your amp. The Cup Size switch looks so innocent when in the B position, but switching to DD changes everything. DD is the overdrive mode, and they aren’t joking around. With the pedal still set to full, I was treated to a sustain that was unreal. Flipping to the neck pickup and rolling off the tone produced a killer “woman tone” (I hate that term, but I love the sound) that had endless sustain and a beautiful, thick sound that also cut through without being harsh. When I switched back to the bridge pickup, it dawned on me that the rolled-off neck sound actually had a slightly brighter voice, which at first didn’t make sense. Going back to the neck pickup and rolling the tone up and down showed that the Betty Boost is highly sensitive to tone controls and interacts with the voicing in a unique way. This opens up many new sounds that usually get skipped over if you’re used to just fiddling with your guitar’s volume knob. Imagine that—the tone knobs are actually useful on the guitar! Backing off the boost a bit conjured up tones reminiscent of a Rangemaster and various other overdrives, proving that one knob and a switch can be very deceiving.

The Betty Boost was my favorite of the three pedals simply because I haven’t had that experience with any other clean boost. It was a shock in a good way, and one I definitely want to experience again.
Buy if...
you want clean boost with options that take you beyond.
Skip if...
you already like your tone as it is and don’t need more.
Rating...


Street $190 - Freekish Blues - freekishblues.com geargasstore.com




Freek Out!

Download Example 1
Recorded through a 2008 Fender American Strat.  Amp – Wallace Abaddon.  Speaker – Krank 1x12 with 70’s Celestion 25 watt tan back.  Recorded into Pro Tools with Chandler LTD-1 mic pre with SM57 off-axis.  Small amount of Altiverb room ambience.
The last pedal in the group is the Freek Out! The Freek Out! is another variation on a ‘60s fuzz, this time coming in around the mid- ‘60s. Think Maestro, Univox and MKII Tone Bender, and that will give you an idea of the vibe. The voicing is once again an altered version of the pedals of that era in that the mids are more accentuated in order to stand out in the mix or with a band. With two controls, Travel Agent (volume) and Turn On Tune In Freek Out! (fuzz), you have the ability to dial up a wide range of classic ‘60s fuzz tones all the way up to garage-band vibes.

I liked this pedal a lot for its shades of color and subtle differences in tone as you go through the Travel Agent. Unlike a lot of similar pedals, it was interesting to find that middle knob settings sounded more extreme than full settings, depending on the way each knob was set. Both knobs work almost like an active setup, with one affecting the other. The range of tones was incredible, and I was easily able to pull up a pretty convincing Keef sound, even though I was on my Strat. With a little finessing, I also extracted some serious “Walking on the Sun”-style fuzz, which incidentally was recorded with a broken Fuzz Face. It worked equally well with my Danelectro U2 and early ‘50s Supro Comet for seriously funky tone. In fact, that setup got me into early Zep tones with ease and made me never want to put down the guitar.
Buy if...
you want a modern spin on a classic tone.
Skip if...
you need more extreme gain on your fuzz tone.
Rating...


Street $185 - Freekish Blues - freekishblues.com geargasstore.com

The Final Mojo

Freekish Blues may be a new company, but they make products like they’ve been doing it for years. There are plenty of fuzz boxes and clean boosts on the market, but somehow I feel like these will be turning heads. Aside from the silly graphics and great naming conventions, these pedals all exhibit the comforts of the tonal past with additions that lean to the future. I’d call that a trifecta.



Freek Out!

Download Example 1
Recorded through a 2008 Fender American Strat.  Amp – Wallace Abaddon.  Speaker – Krank 1x12 with 70’s Celestion 25 watt tan back.  Recorded into Pro Tools with Chandler LTD-1 mic pre with SM57 off-axis.  Small amount of Altiverb room ambience.
The last pedal in the group is the Freek Out! The Freek Out! is another variation on a ‘60s fuzz, this time coming in around the mid- ‘60s. Think Maestro, Univox and MKII Tone Bender, and that will give you an idea of the vibe. The voicing is once again an altered version of the pedals of that era in that the mids are more accentuated in order to stand out in the mix or with a band. With two controls, Travel Agent (volume) and Turn On Tune In Freek Out! (fuzz), you have the ability to dial up a wide range of classic ‘60s fuzz tones all the way up to garage-band vibes.

I liked this pedal a lot for its shades of color and subtle differences in tone as you go through the Travel Agent. Unlike a lot of similar pedals, it was interesting to find that middle knob settings sounded more extreme than full settings, depending on the way each knob was set. Both knobs work almost like an active setup, with one affecting the other. The range of tones was incredible, and I was easily able to pull up a pretty convincing Keef sound, even though I was on my Strat. With a little finessing, I also extracted some serious “Walking on the Sun”-style fuzz, which incidentally was recorded with a broken Fuzz Face. It worked equally well with my Danelectro U2 and early ‘50s Supro Comet for seriously funky tone. In fact, that setup got me into early Zep tones with ease and made me never want to put down the guitar.
Buy if...
you want a modern spin on a classic tone.
Skip if...
you need more extreme gain on your fuzz tone.
Rating...


Street $185 - Freekish Blues - freekishblues.com geargasstore.com

The Final Mojo

Freekish Blues may be a new company, but they make products like they’ve been doing it for years. There are plenty of fuzz boxes and clean boosts on the market, but somehow I feel like these will be turning heads. Aside from the silly graphics and great naming conventions, these pedals all exhibit the comforts of the tonal past with additions that lean to the future. I’d call that a trifecta.