October 20, 2010
A versatile, musical, and aggressive overdrive
|Download Example 1
Old school metal tone
|Download Example 2
Darker lead tone with massive sustain
|Download Example 3
Ratty distortion with percussive attack
|Recorded with a Godin Redline HB into Fractal Audio AxeFX set to clean Bogner Shiva tone.|
The RF-2 comes in a nearly square aluminum box with a gorgeous red top adorned with filigree etching, and its control set consists of Level, Low, High, Bias, and Gain knobs. Power supply and input and output jacks are arrayed across the narrow rear section of the casing. Held down with four Phillips machine screws, the battery hatch is located on the back of the pedal.
There is a lot going on under the hood in the RF-2, starting with the tone controls. Both the Low and High are active circuits with cut to the left and boost to the right of 12 o’clock. Level controls the output of the pedal, but it also works in conjunction with the Low and High, so that turning down the EQ and bringing up the Level adds more mids. It’s an ingenious design for a pedal that doesn’t include an actual mid knob. The Bias knob shifts the circuit from class B (left) to class A (right), and changes the harmonic structure from aggressive to open.
Complex and Nasty
I tested out the RF-2 with my ’74 Les Paul Custom driving the blackface channel of a 3rd Power American Dream. Using the Emma’s prescribed “Rock” setting (where all controls are midway up), I was treated to a seriously thick and saturated tone. Although there was plenty of gain, I experienced no loss of tonal clarity, which enabled me to play relatively complex chord voicings that would have become a blur when processed with other distortion circuits.
Next, I tried Emma’s hilariously named “Fat Fred” recipe, which entails setting the Bias fully counterclockwise, Low all the way up, High just over halfway, and Gain at 2 o’clock. I expected a super bassy and muted sound, and while the tone was thicker than with the rock setting, the RF-2 yielded more harmonic complexity than I anticipated. “Fat Fred” is more than a little evocative of “No One Knows” by Queens of the Stone Age.
Backing down the Low and High controls all the way generated enough midrange to please any Marshall fanatic, and the notes exploded off my pick like the amp was about to blow. I found you have to be careful not to use the Level too aggressively, as it can create a huge imbalance between clean and dirty volume.
The RF-2 is full of piss and vinegar. It likes to feed back, cause trouble, and get in your face, yet it sacrifices none of the musicality you want from an overdrive designed to enhance a tube amp’s essential voice. Best of both worlds indeed.
you want a versatile and badass overdrive/ distortion pedal.
you need a dedicated midrange control in your gain pedal.
Street $245 - Emma Electronic - emmaelectronic.com
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