A/DA Flanger Reissue Pedal Review
November 16, 2010
An impressive recreation of the original that take you from subtle to wild
|Download Example 1|
Heavy Tape Flange
|Download Example 2|
|Download Example 3|
|Clips recorded with a Custom First Act Delgada with mini-humbuckers into a 1968 Fender Vibro Champ.|
A great flanger—which essentially varies the speed of a duplicate of your signal—can take you both places. A product of the psychedelic era (Abbey Road studio staffers claim John Lennon helped coin the term “flanging” when he described the tape-manipulation sounds they were exploring on the Revolver sessions), flanging can be subtle or absolutely mind-frying and over-the- top. Either way, if it’s texture you want, flanging will give it to you by the barrelful.
The original A/DA Flanger may be the most legendary pedal flanger ever built. Designed by engineer David Tarnowski in the late ’70s, the pedal colored countless spun-out heavy-rock, funk, and reggae tracks over the later part of that decade and into the ’80s. In 2009, Tarnowski resurrected A/DA and the A/DA Flanger. And thanks to his commitment to making the A/DA Flanger a dead-on replica of those original units, it’s just as amazing and psycho-swirling as ever—ready to pepper the guitar work of studied texturalists and radical experimentalists alike.
Armor-Clad and Authentic
The A/DA Flanger was an elegant piece of analog engineering in 1977. But even in our modern era when interface and design are king (as buzzwords anyway), the A/DA Flanger remains a smart, beautifully designed piece of gear. It would actually make a great companion to one of those gorgeous, airtight BMWs of the ’70s—it’s solid as a rock and looks set to spring into action even when it’s just sitting on a desk.
The cast aluminum case, which is dressed up in period-correct graphics that evoke a first-generation video game, has a heft and solidity you rarely encounter even in boutique pedals, and it feels capable of taking a hit onstage. Controls are ingeniously set into a recessed panel that prevents you (or your stumbling bandmate) from kicking them out of whack—an important consideration for a pedal that can change personalities rather radically.
Apart from the footswitch and a Harmonics slider with Even/Odd settings (more about that later), there are five controls: Threshold is a noise-eliminating gate, Manual sets the time of parallel signal delay, Range determines the extent to which the delay is determined by the Manual function or the Speed knob, and Enhance controls some potentially crazed amplitude-peaking effects. There’s even an input that enables you to plug in an expression pedal and put control of the Manual function at your feet.
Inside the box, Tarnowski was exacting in making the new A/DA Flanger as close to the original as possible: He still uses Panasonic “bucket-brigade” transistors, which he considers essential to recreating the original unit’s sounds (especially the more extreme effects). However, there are a few useful differences between the original A/DA Flanger and the reissue. Most notably, this latest version features hardwired true-bypass switching.
Slightly Swirled or Super Psychedelicized
Whether you apply the A/DA Flanger to your guitar sound with a measured and sedate approach or with the intent of heavily altering a listener’s perception, the pedal has a distinct richness that works well with almost any guitar tone. For the purposes of this evaluation, I used a Rickenbacker 330, a Danelectro Standard Reissue, and a Les Paul Studio through a Fender Bassman 4x10, a Fender Blues Jr., and a ’64 Fender Tremolux. In every case, the Flanger remained tuneful and responsive to the characteristics of each instrument—retaining the bite and brawn of the Les Paul and the even, full-spectrum qualities of the Danelectro and Rickenbacker.
Though you can go positively transgalactic with the A/DA, the basic lushness of the flange effect adds welcome dimension in more mellow settings. Some of the most effective sounds are the Leslie- and UniVibelike voices. These sound particularly deep with the Harmonics switch set to Odd. But they can be made less overt by dialing back the Speed and Manual knobs—a setup that can add heaps of character to arpeggiated or heavily accented rhythm parts in a band mix. Kick the Speed and Manual switches back up again, though, and you’ll enter a realm of mega-heavy rotary-speaker swirl. Through a clean amp, this range of settings enables access to delicious Mick Jones or Eddie Hazel rhythm flavors (think of his “California Dreamin’” cover.) But turn up the amp—or, better yet, put a Big Muff in front of the A/DA—and you’ll out-swirl Jimi’s heaviest UniVibe-driven excursions. Heaviness, needless to say, is one area where this pedal shines.
A sweet auto-wah-like effect can be achieved by using a variation of the rotary-style settings, switching in some even harmonics, and cranking up the Enhance control. It’s a very heavy effect in lead settings, and it works great with fuzz and distortion, though it’s important to use the Enhance knob carefully— some signal peaks can be downright piercing in high-gain settings.
True flanging effects—the kind many of us associate with the Faces’ “Itchycoo Park” and its psychedelic ilk—are predictably cool and easy to get with the A/DA. They’re effective in a surprising number of contexts, too. Slow, dreamy space-rock chord drones were a perfect match—they took on an elastic, melting, time-warping quality that can also guide or inspire a whole song, band, or vocal approach. And in a fuzzed-out lead environment, the Flanger maintains clarity and preserves the harmonic details of pitch bends and finger vibrato—a quality few flangers can maintain in extreme-gain settings.
It’s worth noting that, in more flanged-out settings, the Harmonics switch shifted the texture quite perceptibly. It’s especially obvious—and to my ears, useful—on the Odd setting, which emphasizes peaks in a way that creates an aural picture of the signals crossing over in a sort of double-helix pattern. It’s yet another feature that makes the A/DA one of the most versatile Flangers ever.
Though the A/DA Flanger beckons you to go a little wild with your playing, it’s a very musical, expressive, and nuanced pedal when you take the time to work through it’s myriad settings. And while the uninitiated may be inclined to write off flanging in general as a psychedelic or shag-rug funk relic, the A/DA is wide-ranging enough to speak softly and breathe life into otherwise stale chord progressions or rhythm patterns. In its original incarnation, the A/DA was the most wide-sweeping and versatile flanger available. And in terms of function, musicality, and quality, this reissue remains a gold standard.
you need everything from subtle modulation textures to warped flanging ecstasy.
you’re never bound to dive into the galaxy of extreme flanging.
Street $259 - A/DA - adaamps.com