We’re used to guitar-gear inventors and engineers touting their wares and peppering their pitch with words like revolutionary, innovative, and groundbreaking. Unfortunately few of those promises lead to products that actually improve our experience as players.
Not all of these mad-scientists-with-soldering irons are hoax peddlers, however. With the introduction of the lithium-ion powered, rechargeable Seven Sisters line of effects, Ben Fulton of Red Witch Pedals may be able to count himself among the tinkerers who have opened up new options for the gigging guitarist in a real way. And given what these little pedals could mean for the player on the go—or even players who rarely leave the house but have little dedicated space for their gear—Red Witch may be on the brink of changing up the stompbox market in a significant way. Here we check out the Ivy Distortion, Lily Boost, and Grace Compressor.
More like the Seven Dwarves
Red Witch is well known among pedal fiends as a builder of top-notch analog effects. But the Seven Sisters represents thinking beyond tried-and-true templates for success. All of the Seven Sisters are housed in just about the tiniest metal enclosures I’ve ever seen. We’re talking miniscule here—a little bit bigger than a standard size matchbook and about an inch tall. Small size doesn’t come at the expense of style, though. Each pedal is painted with a high-gloss finish and adorned with a likeness of each pedal’s namesake rendered in a minimalist, almost Japanese line-drawn style. In fact, they wouldn’t look out of place as a high-fashion accessory.
Each Sister has two knobs for adjusting tone parameters as well as a sturdy true-bypass switch. To make their presence even less cumbersome the input and output jacks are located at the top end of the box. If you were to purchase the entire series and string them together, your pedalboard would be less than a foot long.
Sometimes smaller pedals can get a little squirrely underfoot. So thoughtfully, Red Witch ships every Sister with textured rubber feet or a pre-cut Velcro strip to affix to the bottom of the effect.
Small size isn’t all that makes the Seven Sisters special, of course. Red Witch claims to be the first company to put lithium-ion batteries inside an effects pedal. What’s so cool about having a smart-phone battery in a guitar effect? For starters, they’re rechargeable, which means freedom from unreliable power sources, tangles of wire, and noise from shoddy club wiring. Just grab a 9V or 18V DC power supply and plug it into the left-hand power socket for 12 hours, and the pedal should provide one to two weeks worth of use before it requires recharging. An LED mounted on the top of the box helps you monitor the charge capacity. Red Witch dealers can replace these batteries, and the company claims the cells should have a life of about two years.
I tested Ivy, Lily, and Grace with a Vox Pathfinder, a 10-watt CEC Toll-Free Express and a 50 watt ’68 Fender Bassman, both powering a 4x12 with V30 Celestions. Guitars of choice included a Gibson Les Paul and a Fender Stratocaster.
The little black box of distortion named Ivy worked with the ’68 Bassman and the Les Paul to bring on a monumental flex of power. With the volume knob at 12 o’clock I got a level that was equal to the clean channel of the Bassman. And anything more than made the Bassman sound like it was going to leap right through the speakers to kill. As I found with most of the Sister series that have a hand in overdriving your tone, rolling off guitar volume tames the tone for rhythmic playing without sacrificing harmonic content.
Ivy’s overall character is fairly mid-centric, and you’ll hear small cuts in both bass and treble when you engage the effect. Dialing in the gain around 9 o’clock gave guitars a little more treble bite and clarity that’s ideal for percussive rhythm styles. Pushing the gain past 12 o’clock gets you a glassy lead tone that adds definition to your grungy ’90s skatepark jams—especially with an amp that’s already saturated and breaking up like the lower-wattage CEC Express.
With only two controls, Ivy does suffer a little inflexibility in the tone department. Unlike some of the other Sisters it does not have an internal trim pot for a third adjustment. This certainly does not constitute a major setback though. Almost all of her configurations are highly usable, and only those that need really piercing high-end lead or a bloated rhythmic crunch will fail to find a useful distortion tone in the Ivy.
sweet mid-range distortion in an ultra-compact pedal spells liberation.
you need really aggressive high-end from your distortion.