Dogmatek Arctic Wolf Review
Explore a sophisticated phase shifter with unconventional options.
Innovative phase shifter with unusual features. Fine sound. Good price.
Controls can be confusing.
Dogmatek Arctic Wolf Twin Modulator
Ease of Use:
Chances are you haven’t encountered a phase shifter quite like the Arctic Wolf Twin Modulator. The latest release from Dogmatek is a compelling analog/digital hybrid. The core phasing sound is analog—its voice not far removed from, say, a vintage MXR phaser. But ambitious digital controls transport the effect to places where no Phase 90 can go. This is more like Phase 900.
Heigh-Ho the Stereo
Despite the word “twin” in the full product name, the Arctic Wolf employs a single LFO, but with true stereo inputs and outputs. You can configure it to accept stereo input, mono input, or two discrete mono inputs. The effect sounds terrific in mono through a single amp, as heard in audio Clip 1. For Clip 2, I recorded direct into a stereo DAW channel, using amp modeler plug-ins.
Arctic Wolf’s digital editing features aren’t comprehensive. There is no dedicated depth control, nor is there a wet/dry blend, though there is a traditional feedback control. But you have extraordinary control over the rhythm and balance of the modulating waveforms.
Most phase shifter LFOs generate symmetrical waveforms. That is, their sweep moves constantly and steadily between its peak and valley, regardless of the rate or depth settings. Some ambitious phasers include a symmetry control, which tilts the balance between the high and low portions of the waveform. Such uneven sweeps can add interest to the effect, as heard on the iconic 1960s Uni-Vibe (the first commercial phaser pedal).
The Arctic Wolf offers such control, but takes the concept further. Here the symmetry knob is flanked by “lower” and “upper” knobs, which specify the exact amount of time that the waveform lingers at its highest and lowest points. The three knobs provide a large palette of unorthodox sweep profiles, from Uni-Vibe-style “fish hooks” to lopsided wobbles and skittery twitches. The unvarying waveforms of traditional phasers can become tiresome. The Arctic Wolf ventures well outside that box.
Additionally, you get a choice of four waveform types: triangle (your traditional phaser sweep), a smoother sine wave, a choppy square wave, and a random/chaotic sample-and-hold mode. You can also set the waveform to manual and control it with a CV or expression pedal (not included). Meanwhile, the rate control has an unusually wide range, from sweeps so slow you barely perceive them to fast, audio-range pulses that generate clangorous ring modulation. There are a lot of options here.
Two other features merit mention: A dedicated gain control sets the pedal’s output, and you can choose whether it remains in effect even when the pedal is bypassed. There’s also a tempo-multiply function that generates rate multiples up to 16 times that of your taps. It’s handy, since ultra-fast flickers are among the pedal’s coolest effects.
The Price of Possibilities
Before joining the Wolf’s pack, though, consider how strongly you desire such unconventional options. The wave-shaping controls steepen the pedal’s learning curve. For example, the lower and upper controls override the rate control settings. If you increase the lag time even slightly, you get slow modulation even at high rate settings.
That’s not the only potentially confusing feature. A single footswitch serves for tap-tempo and preset recall. Since you switch modes by pressing the switch for two seconds, it’s easy to get confused—especially since saved sounds require 1.5 seconds to load. When you’re in recall mode, a single foot tap takes you to saved program 1. You press twice for program 2, and so on. That sounds sensible, but it means that stepping from, say, program 7 to 8 requires eight foot taps, not one. And while it’s awesome being able to save eight recallable presets on such an open-ended effect, the knobs no longer reflect the current settings after you recall a sound. (Preset adjustments can be made, however, by twisting a given knob to to the preset point, readjusting, and re-saving).
I have no doubt that these obstacles can be overcome with practice and patience. But it’s worth pausing to consider how likely you are to use the Arctic Wolf’s expanded vocabulary before you commit to its relatively complex controls.
The LED from Mordor
The Wolf lives in a light folded-aluminum enclosure sized approximately 7" x 6" x 2.5". Its visuals have a fun, retro video-game feel. The green power/rate LED is so huge that you expect the Eye of Sauron to appear. The interior is tidy, with small surface-mount components and board-mounted plastic jacks. The footswitches are soft-touch relays. The rear panel includes a jack for expression pedal input and CV in and out. You can also recall programs with an external footswitch (not included), which could come in handy on a crowded pedalboard. The effect runs on regular 9V power, but your power supply must provide at least 300 milliamps. The pedal is made in New Zealand. I think that’s where Mordor is, too.
Dogmatek’s Arctic Wolf Dual Modulator goes where other phasers fear to tread, though you might have to traverse some winding roads to get there. It provides fine classic phasing sounds and many tweaky alternatives. The build is solid, and the price is more than fair for a large-format pedal with many uncommon options.