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.
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.
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.
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.
you love classic modulation effects but want more modern and unique voicings.
only the most authentic vintage modulation sounds tickle your fancy.
Street $250 - Jack Deville Electronics - jackdeville.com