Octave options abound in an inventive, aesthetically intriguing, and unique stompbox tool.
Unique take on an octave pedal. Telegraph keys are sturdy and fun. Effects loop makes for mega creative possibilities.
It’s expensive and heavy. Kill switch/effects loop doesn’t have latch function.
CopperSound x Jack White Third Man Triplegraph
Leave it to Jack White to figure out how to use telegraph keys in a guitar pedal. In this retro-inspired collab with CopperSound, they’re not just a kitschy aesthetic element either. The Triplegraph is a digital octave pedal, with one key for octave up and another for octave down, both of which can be set to momentary or latch modes. A third momentary switch key can be used as a kill switch or to activate an effects loop (there is no latch mode here). It’s a simple proposition, but thanks to that effects-loop option, possibilities are limited only by your imagination and gear stash.
Listen to the demo: Coppersound Triplegraph
The Triplegraph feels totally open-ended and free of stylistic baggage. While riffing around, I dropped in low and high octaves in call-and-response fashion. At times I used the momentary function to make those feel a little more glitchy. Though the proprietary switches are designed as footswitches, they can just as easily be operated with your hands. Using a wash of droning feedback from my guitar, I took the hand-operated approach and bounced with morse-code-quickness between the octave down, octave up, and effects loop, which I wired with a fun distortion/delay/loop combo from my pedalboard.
At $399, the price may seem high for an octave pedal, but it would be hard to argue the build quality and ingenuity involved. Overall, the Third Man himself managed to make a cool aesthetic statement and create a fun, unique tool for musical exploration.
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A thunderous, ripping riff on the Ram’s Head theme.
Cutting, open, and airy fuzz that communicates chord detail and packs a punch.
You can, ostensibly, buy the same pedal without a signature and with less fancy paint for 17 bucks less.
Electro-Harmonix J Mascis Ram's Head Big Muff Pi
If there is a single quality that distinguishes the music of Dinosaur Jr., it is the band’s knack for wedding brute force to heart-wrenching melodicism. And though much is made of the band’s volume, the most important pillars in Dinosaur Jr.’s musical architecture are the deceptively tuneful sensibilities of songwriter and guitarist J Mascis.
Mascis and Dinosaur Jr.’s ability to graft Gene Clark’s sense of song to Motorhead’s megatonnage is a trick that can feel just short of sorcery. And as anyone who has tried can attest, communicating nuanced, beautiful melodies and moods through a haze of fuzz damage is not easy. For starters, you need a fuzz that doesn’t crumble under the harmonic weight of a first position chord. Strangely, given its capacity for sheer horsepower, an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff is pretty good at that task. Where other archetypal fuzzes like Tone Benders and Fuzz Faces tend to turn to a spitty mess when you play a C chord, a Big Muff stays surprisingly cohesive. This capacity for clarity and potency caught J Mascis’ ear in the earliest days of Dinosaur Jr.’s evolution. And as much as any other factor, the Muff became a critical underpinning of Mascis’ live sound.
The J Mascis version offers heaps of the balanced but scorching tone colors that make the music of Dinosaur Jr. so melodically monstrous.
Electro-Harmonix elected to celebrate Mascis’ allegiance to the Big Muff with a signature variation of the Nano Ram’s Head. That’s no small matter: In EHX’s long, storied history, this is the company’s first signature edition. Appropriately, the J Mascis does not disappoint. It does everything the already awesome Ram’s Head Big Muff does. That’s little surprise given that EHX tells us there is no significant difference between a regular Ram’s Head circuit (in its current guise) and the Mascis version. I played the two side by side for a long time and swear I heard a more present high-end and a touch more buzzsaw aggression in the J Mascis. Your results—or perceptions—may vary. Either way, the J Mascis version offers heaps of the balanced but scorching tone colors that make the music of Dinosaur Jr. so melodically monstrous.
Vive Le Différence
As is noted often in Premier Guitar, there is no definitive Ram’s Head Big Muff. Inconsistencies in components during the original run make the likelihood of any two Muffs sounding identical pretty slim. Even Mascis’ own favorite original Muff is an oddball, with wildly drifting component values that have thrown obsessive circuit detectives like Matt Holl for a loop.
Those inconsistencies aren’t generally an issue these days. And admittedly the differences I heard when comparing the J Mascis version to my own current-issue Ram’s Head were small. At times I wondered if they were attributable to inconsistent potentiometers or some other factor. At other times, I became less sure that they even existed at all. But if pressed, I’ll stand by my assertion that the Mascis—at least at my preferred range of gain and tone settings (anywhere between 1 o’clock and maximum)—is both a little more buzzily aggressive and clearer in the high midrange. Perhaps the lesson here is to try both versions, or a few of each, in the flesh and let your ears decide.
There are many musical styles suited to the J Mascis Ram’s Head tone profile. Dave Gilmour fans that love his extra-grindy tone from live Animals tour bootlegs will seriously dig the way it both growls and soars with extra attitude. It also generates high-gain variations on psych-punk ’66 fuzz colors that would make a Super Fuzz blush. And high-desert-dwelling Iommis will love its doomful mass.
Whether or not you choose to spend an extra 17 bucks to acquire a J Mascis Ram’s Head rather than a regular EHX Ram’s Head will probably be down to the degree of your Dinosaur Jr. fandom, your completist tendencies as a Big Muff collector, or your preference for purple-on-white paint schemes. But while EHX insists that this circuit is identical to the less expensive Ram’s Head, I heard enough difference to underscore the notion that—even in times of tighter-than-ever manufacturing and component standards—small differences can exist among similar pedals, and that it pays to try a few out. Whatever the baseline, the J Mascis Ram’s Head Big Muff positively cooks for a 132 dollar fuzz, and is more than capable of the detail and copious power that made the Big Muff an indispensable part of the Dinosaur Jr. formula in the first place.
Electro-Harmonix J Mascis Signature Ram's Head Big Muff Pi Demo | First Look
This space-saving echo delivers a digital version of the classic tape unit.
Immersive, lush delay textures that sound fantastic in small doses or super-wet settings. Clever consolidation of Space Echo controls. Fun to use. Sturdy.
No independent bass and treble settings.
Boss RE-2 Space Echo
As good as digital emulations are today, there’s not much engineers can do to approximate the tactile experience of interacting with vintage hardware. Few devices illustrate this divide quite as effectively as tape echoes. Take it from a masochist who knows—tape echoes are intrinsically infuriating machinery. They break often, sometimes spectacularly, always expensively, and generally at the most inconvenient possible time. Think of your most-disloyal-ever significant other: Chances are, your fave tape echo will beat them hands-down for unreliability.
The problem, as any experienced tape-echo user knows, is that these lumbering analog hulks are instruments in their own right—with functionality and feel that that can become foundational parts of a playing style not easily replicated in the digital domain. This is especially true for the original Roland RE-201 Space Echo. It invites on-the-fly tweaks ranging from playful polyrhythms to time-smearing, oscillating mayhem. Its capacity to double as a mix-stage instrument in the studio also makes it extra-invaluable to many player/recordists. And it’s pretty hard to replicate the intuitive, hands-on experience of working with its well-spaced knobs and their unique taper, layout, and sensitivity.
Boss’ RE-2 ambitiously attempts to distill the RE-201 experience into a compact digital format. But unlike the RE-20 pedal or the new RE-202, which utilize larger, more full-featured layouts that approximate some interactive thrills of the RE-201, the RE-2 fits all that functionality into a standard-sized Boss enclosure. Inevitably, that requires a hidden function or two—like the digital preamp and twist functions, and the assignment of (optional) expression pedal functions. But what Boss accomplished here in terms of delivering a Space Echo vibe in a pedal for space-conscious players is impressive. And in practice, it’s a fun and inspiring unit.
One great thing about any Boss pedal is the seared-in-the-prefrontal-cortex familiarity of the form. It enables you to approach any compact Boss pedal with a lot more confidence. That sense of assuredness comes in handy with the RE-2 because there are a fair number of controls to manage. Packing that many control options into such a small space is not an enviable task. But Boss, to their credit, made the essentials—reverb, echo volume, intensity (repeats), tone, repeat rate, and a wow and flutter control—easily accessible via clever concentric knobs. The critical 11-position mode knob is vague and hard to read in low light, though. So, you’ll probably want to keep a printed copy of the head-combination matrix handy—or just navigate the multi-head sounds by feel.
Space constraints mean that some classic Space Echo features are hidden or consolidated into simpler controls. The very flexible bass and treble controls on an original (and the RE-20 and RE-202) become a single, if effective, tone control here. And the instrument-volume preamp control is a fixed analog preamp emulation option that, nonetheless, adds a discernible element of warm saturation.
Putting Heads Together
Much of the Space Echo’s allure is down to the painterly way you interact with it. And despite the RE-2’s size, you can still get pretty creative on the fly. With the pedal’s three virtual heads, it’s easy to create complex rhythmic textures that don’t collapse into a chaotic, odd-metered, miasmatic mess. The tap-tempo function adds a measure of additional control. It’s fun exploring these compound echoes, even if they lack some of the hiccup-y, polyrhythmic potential of virtual tape echoes with more playback “heads.”
Some players ignore the original RE-201’s spring reverb. But for this reviewer, it’s an essential part of the Space Echo sound that I love using on its own. It’s represented on the RE-2 by a nice spring emulation that complements the echoes in seamless fashion. Although it doesn’t have quite the character of the RE-201’s spring, it still sounds cool by itself.
Fitting all the functionality and feel of a Space Echo in a compact Boss Pedal is impossible. But if you drop the comparisons to the RE-201, the RE-2 is an engaging, flexible, and very practical delay with a lot of personality. Delay-soaked settings sound beautiful, rich, and immersive. Even players that have never touched an original Space Echo will still find a lot of expressive potential and utility here. The fact that the RE-2 makes so much of the Space Echo’s essence accessible in a small pedal is no small victory. I suspect that even a lot of jaded Space Echo purists with an interest in downsizing will find reason to celebrate.
The world-famous RE-201 Space Echo effect makes its return in compact-pedal form with the BOSS RE-2 Space Echo! Offering authentic multi-head tape echo effects with expanded delay times, the beloved spring reverb sound, and a ton of control over effects parameters, the RE-2 Space Echo sounds amazing with guitars and keyboards, as well as drum machines. An external footswitch/expression pedal input gives you creative hands-free control options, and the true stereo signal path is perfect for multi-amp rigs and studio mixing applications.
A practical preamp for the Screamer set and fuzz lovers alike.
Independent boost and drive circuits. Impressive and unexpected fuzz tones. Super versatile.
Differences between styles can be subtle at lower gain settings.
DSM Humboldt Silver Linings
When is an overdrive more than just an overdrive? That might be the question that led the engineers at DSM Humbolt when they came up with the Silver Linings preamp and overdrive. The Silver Linings’ three modes (normal, preamp, and mid boost) and three voicings or “styles” (soft, vintage, and hard) widen the field of possible tones considerably. And just a peek at the controls reveals there are plenty of tone combinations to explore.
With a Fender HSS Stratocaster in front of a clean Revv D20, I was impressed with the range of available drive tones. At lower gain settings, for example, the pedal delivers overdrive reminiscent of a driven black-panel Deluxe. The pre boost and pre tone knob can dramatically alter conventional overdrive sounds considerably. The pre tone functions like a tilt EQ—allowing surgical adjustment of highs and lows to reshape drive sounds. The pre boost adds up to 30dB of gain at the input, which gives you extra, and extensive control, of the distortion profile.
High gain sounds are a surprise. Cranking the gain and bass in the vintage-style mode generated a fuzzy tone that felt cool and compressed under my fingers. Using the Silver Linings as a preamp, meanwhile, is as easy as plugging the output into the return of the Revv’s effects loop. The results sounded and felt more direct and present, and this feature could be a lifesaver if you’re stuck with a subpar backline.
- A pedal that provides a wide arsenal of tones and settings
- 3 style switches: Soft, Vintage, and Hard
- 3 mode formats: Normal, Preamp, and Mid Boost
- Dual boost funcitonality with Pre and Master Boost levels to add extra gain and higher output
- Tone stack is a passive 3-band EQ
- Variable gain bandwidth adds unprecedented versatility