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Jack Deville Electronics Mod Zero Pedal Review

Jack Deville Electronics Mod Zero Pedal Review

With the Mod Zero, Jack Deville has built an entirely analog, multifunction modulation unit that brings flanging, chorusing, rotary-speaker, and vibrato effects together in a single box.

Back before Pro Tools, plug-ins, and

stompboxes, getting chorus, phaser, or

flanger sounds required resources and ingenuity

beyond a few clicks of a mouse or footswitches.

The seminal flange heard all over the Beatles’

Revolver was achieved through tape manipulation—

splitting a signal to tape reels running at

different speeds and back to a mixing desk to

put the same signal slightly out of phase. The

jet-plane flange heard on many recordings from

the same era was achieved by literally touching

the rim of a tape reel to slow it down and create

a more extreme bending effect. At the root

of all of these sounds, however were human

minds, hands, and moving parts.

Creating something as organic as those original

effects is laborious and never easy—even

if certain analog and digital flangers have a

cool sound all their own. And given that even

the most dedicated tone purist can’t afford to

haul around matching reel-to-reel decks or

Leslie speakers, it’s a good thing that effects

builders like Jack Deville Electronics have

kept up the fight and remained on the prowl

for new flavors of these modulation effects.

With the Mod Zero, Jack Deville has built

an entirely analog, multifunction modulation

unit that brings flanging, chorusing,

rotary-speaker, and vibrato effects together in

a single box. And the sum is a very original

evolution of some very recognizable effects.

On the Box

The Mod Zero is built around vintage-style

analog bucket-brigade technology and uses

the Jack Deville Click-Less true-bypass switches,

which are also found on the company’s

Buzzmaster fuzz box (reviewed August 2010)

and sold separately as a replacement for pedals

suffering from analog snap, crackle, and pop.

With six knobs on its face, the Mod Zero

provides a slightly complex, yet intuitive,

gateway to tapping into its many varieties of

warble. The two largest knobs control the

Dry/Wet mix and the Speed rate, which is

indicated in real-time via a flashing LED.

Volume controls the overall output level—a

nice feature that many modulation effects

seem to overlook these days—and it goes

from mellow to grindingly loud.

The real power resides with the Depth,

Regeneration, and Manual controls.

Counterclockwise, the Depth knob eliminates

modulation, while a full twist clockwise

produces maximum effect intensity.

The Regeneration control doubles the modulation

upon itself, creating magnification

that can get squirrely or subtle, depending

on how aggressively you set things up.

Lastly, the Manual knob sets the signal’s

base delay time. Two separate switches activate

the chorus and flange effects. You can’t

operate both at the same time, but you can

jump from one effect to the other with ease.

Zeroed In

Like all Jack Deville pedals, the Mod Zero

lives its life in an ominous, ’70s sci-fi-style

housing that looks something like Darth

Vader’s Imperial counterpart to the big,

colorful, early Electro-Harmonix boxes. It

could use a clip inside the unit to secure

the loose battery, but this minor annoyance

shouldn’t cause any performance issues.

The Click-Less true-bypass switches

are an improvement to most true-bypass

systems, although there was still a noticeable

(albeit slight) pop when engaging or

disengaging the switches. The switch posts

are made of plastic, and their give within

the mount might be a cause for concern for

those who tend to stomp hard.

Under the hood, I noticed that these

switches were secured to the top of the unit

and distanced from the capacitor-strewn

board. All of Deville’s pedals are handwired,

and the company’s attention to detail is

evident once you examine the guts (fun

fact: “smoke and mirrors blood and tears” is

laser-engraved on the silicon wafer).

Two footswitches enable you to move from

chorus, vibrato, and tremolo on one side, to

flanging, Through-Zero Flanging, or Leslie

settings on the other. Unfortunately, since

there’s a single control set for both effects,

you can’t switch from chorus to flanging with

different parameters. However, the provided

instructions suggest that the Speed and Dry/

Wet knobs are larger for adjusting on the

fly with your foot. Such adjustments were

achievable on a sparse pedalboard, but more

complicated on ’boards starved for real estate.

Shape Shifting

I tested the Mod Zero with a Fender

Stratocaster and a Gibson Les Paul running

into a Vox Pathfinder, a Fender Twin

Reverb, and a ’68 Fender Bassman matched

to a 4x12 with Celestion Vintage 30s. Right

out of the box and set to relatively neutral

settings, the pedal dripped liquid swirls and

sweet analog curlicues. Everything from

miniscule water-drop vibrato to nose-diving

B-52 flange was accessible with minimal

knob tweaking, and it was difficult to find

harsh or unusable settings.

The Zero treads on the dark side tonewise,

but it’s not all shadow. With the

Stratocaster I was able to easily dial up the

bright arpeggiated chime of Pink Floyd’s

“Brain Damage” with a little tweaking of

the Manual control on the Leslie setting.

Flipping over to the flanger and making a few

minor adjustments to Depth gave me a very

Hendrix-like Univibe sound à la “Machine

Gun.” Single-coils and humbuckers performed

equally well, and the Mod Zero is

transparent enough to leave pickup selection

to personal preference rather than necessity.

Overall, I found the Regeneration control a

little extreme on higher settings, especially with

the Vox—it yielded a throaty and less-than-totally-musical bark at the peak of a wave, especially

for the chorus effect. This was slightly less

of an issue on the Bassman and Twin Reverb,

which had more headroom to work with.

For adventurous minds and ears, it’s worth

experimenting with different sweet spots

between the Regeneration and Manual settings.

Certain combinations yield ghost-like

harmonics that sound wonderful when augmented

with a delay unit running after the

Zero. On that note, the Mod Zero was very

friendly with additional pedals, and it especially

warmed to overdrive and distortions—

in my case, a Fulltone Fulldrive 2 and a modified

Electro-Harmonix NYC Big Muff Pi.

The Verdict

At $250 each, the multifunction Mod Zero

isn’t exactly inexpensive. But in the boutique

pedal market, one could easily spend that

kind of money on a box that serves up a single

effect. So on that count it represents a real

value for real craft. The unique circuit will

satisfy tone chasers and hardcore pedal geeks

seeking individual turf and more modern

voicings, although classicists who find solace

in vintage tones may miss some time-tested

textures. Using the pedal to the full extent of

it capabilities on the fly can be challenging,

too, given the capable, but sometimes limited,

control set. On the whole, however, it’s

a great pedal for everyone from experimentalists

to lead players looking to spice up stale

jams, and it will reward any guitarist who

takes the time to explore the myriad sonic

options it puts at their fingertips.

Buy if...
you love classic modulation effects but want more modern and unique voicings.
Skip if...
only the most authentic vintage modulation sounds tickle your fancy.

Street $250 - Jack Deville Electronics -