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A flexible, chimey overdrive and an aggressive, high-gain distortion from Lovepedal are reviewed.

Sean Michael at Lovepedal is clearly a busy man. In this month's print issue, we reviewed four of his new line of ultra-compact pedals, and now we’re back to check out a pair of very different new offerings, the Kalamazoo and RedHead.

Both the Kalamazoo and RedHead are housed in die cast aluminum cases the same basic size and shape of an MXR Phase 90 (4.37” x 2.37” x 1.07”). The battery compartments are accessed via the back panel by removing four machine screws. For those who power their effects with a power supply, there is a 9VDC input located on the left side of the pedal. Each pedal also features true a true bypass stomp switch with accompanying blue LED. The input and output follow tradition with the input jack on the right and the output jack on the left.

I tested both pedals out with a Gibson Les Paul, Fender American Standard Strat and a Hamer Korina Special into a 3rd Power American Dream combo (blackface and brownface-inspired channels) and a 1970 Marshall Superbass through a Mojave 2x12 with Eminence Governor and 70s blackback Celestion G12M.

RedHead


Download Example 1
Les Paul, hard rock rhythm tone
Download Example 2
Les Paul, sharp, focused high-gain tone
Download Example 3
Strat, Ritchie Blackmore tone
All clips recorded through a 3rd Power American Dream combo with an SM-7 into a Summit Audio TPA-200B tube mic pre, direct into Pro Tools.
The RedHead is finished in a deep, fire engine red, which coincides with the aural design of the pedal—deep and fiery. Controls are Volume, Sustain, Tone, and Mids. Like the Kalamazoo, the top two controls (Volume and Sustain) are black knobs with white pointers, and the Tone control is a trim post. The Mids control is a switch rather than a knob and clearly kicks in a different midrange voicing. According to the website, this pedal is designed for high gain and explosive feedback generation. Let’s plug it in and see how it fares.

In Play
Once again I began with the Les Paul/Marshall combo and set all controls midway and the Mids switch in the left (off) position. This is clearly a different beast than the Kalamazoo, and I mean “beast” in the best way. The tone went from a dirty clean to a volatile monster with a downright irreverent mid sound that Billy Gibbons would be proud of. All the honk, grease, and gain you ever wanted came screaming right out of the gate.

Backing the Volume down and pushing the Sustain up resulted in a screaming, fiery sound with a pronounced pick attack that added an aggressive quality to the already aggressive tone. Pinch harmonics were never so easy to achieve, until I switched on the Mids switch. With the Mids on, there was a good amount of volume boost as well as a boxy tone that had honk and bite at the same time. Boxy isn’t a word usually used to describe a desirable sound but in this case it is—total character.

On the RedHead, the Tone control is the reverse of the Kalamazoo in that it adds bite and presence to the sound. I found myself constantly tweaking it to achieve various sounds from biting and angry to smooth and sustained. Backing the Sustain off to around noon and cranking the Volume resulted in the thickest, most badass attack I’d heard through my Marshall in years, and I loved the sound of the amp acting like it was going to give way at any second. This is not a subtle pedal!

The Strat ended up being my favorite guitar with the RedHead. As a huge Ritchie Blackmore fan, I loved how it easily conjured up Rainbow tones like “All Night Long.” Blackmore’s tone has always been a favorite of mine because it was aggressive yet clear, and when he hit chords hard you could tell the amp was ready to explode. Even in relatively low volume settings on both the Marshall and American Dream, it was easy to recreate that vibe.

The beauty of this pedal once again lies in the interplay between the controls. Much like a master volume tube amp, when you push up the Volume the tone resembles the thickness of power tube distortion and the Sustain acts very much like preamp distortion. With the combination of the two and setting the amp up to clean or slightly dirty there are a huge range of distortion tones available. Add in the ability to dial in extra mids or bite through the Tone and Mids and the possibilities are endless.

The Verdict
If you bought this pedal only for the ability to create aggressive and cool harmonic feedback it would be worth the price of admission. The fact that the RedHead offers up everything from vintage-inspired gain to modern, aggressive distortion made it a winner on every level for me.
Buy if...
you want aggressive yet musical gain with killer mids
Skip if...
you’ve never made a pact with the devil and don’t plan to
Rating...


Street $199 - Lovepedal - lovepedal.com



Kalamazoo


Download Example 1
Strat, slight overdrive with chime
Download Example 2
Strat, Funk with hairy overdrive
Download Example 3
Les Paul, dark sustained drive
All clips recorded through a 3rd Power American Dream combo with an SM-7 into a Summit Audio TPA-200B tube mic pre, direct into Pro Tools.
The Kalamazoo is finished in chrome so shiny that you could easily use it as a mirror in a pinch. The finish adds an air of elegance that stands out and makes darn sure you’ll never forget where it is on your pedalboard. Controls are Level, Drive, Tone, and Glass. The Level and Drive controls are standard sized black knobs with white pointers while the Tone and Glass controls are smaller, black trim posts. Not only does having the trim posts conserve real estate on the face of the pedal, it also stops the Tone and Glass controls from getting bumped or easily moved. Level controls the overall signal and Drive sets the amount of overdrive. Tone and Glass are slightly different in design from traditional pedals (I’d never seen a Glass control on a pedal before) in that Tone is a treble softener or treble cut, kind of like a Vox AC30. Turning the Tone clockwise darkens or “softens” the treble. Glass, on the other hand, increases treble response without cutting bass. As you might guess, the push and pull between these two controls makes up a very wide range of tonal options.

In Play
Admittedly I cheated a bit and checked out the fantastic clips on the Lovepedal site before the Kalamazoo arrived, so plugging in there was a relatively high level of expectation already set. I began with the Les Paul and Marshall dialed in to a slightly dirty clean tone and set the pedal controls midway. Aside from the boost in volume, the first thing that struck me is how the Kalamazoo added its own signature while leaving the Les Paul/Marshall sound distinguishable. This setting was slightly darker than I anticipated, so I dialed back the Tone to fully counterclockwise, which opened up the sound significantly. Hearing how wide the sweep was, I decided to crank the Glass control, which added a good deal of bite without sounding brittle or harsh. This is where the beauty of the Glass control comes in. Most pedals don’t retain bass the same way when you crank up the treble control, and I appreciate the fact that this didn’t erase the “knock” I so love about Marshalls. Bringing the Drive up to higher levels increased sustain and harmonics while slightly compressing the sound more. It made everything denser and more complex, yet I could still hear every note clearly in chords—no small feat. The real treat came when I dimed the Level and pulled the Drive back to around 11:00. This setting became my favorite because it pushed the front end of the amp beautifully to make notes explosive and percussive. Surprisingly, even in the most extreme settings there was a negligible amount of noise added to the overall hum of the Marshall. In fact, it was downright quiet by any pedal standards. Rolling off the guitar’s volume knob didn’t totally clean up the sound, but it didn’t matter because the tone was killer even if there was some residual grit leftover.

Moving on to the Strat/Marshall combination, the Kalamazoo proved that it isn’t a one-trick pony. All the Stratiness came through and the guitar’s chime turned into a buttery and luscious tone that retained the majority of top end while somehow not sounding shrill. My beef with Strats is also their strength, that sparkly top end, but sometimes it can get a bit ice-picky with the wrong amp. Not to worry with this pedal, as any harshness was gone just by stomping it on. One setting that floored me was the Level up to around noon, the Drive down all the way, the Glass cranked. While slightly overdriven, the note definition was incredible and notes sweetly sustained before effortlessly feeding back to a beautiful bloom. Everything just sounded bigger and it gave my playing an instant boost of confidence. Nice!

The Hamer/American Dream combination fared equally as well, barking out big chords with the P-90s and feeling powerful and bold. With just a bit of extra Drive, the P-90s sounded like massive humbuckers while never getting overly grainy or undefined. And oh, the dynamic response…it’s amazing. You can go from a whisper to a roar with just the touch of your hand, which was truly inspiring.

If there was anything I wanted it was probably just a hair more treble response. There were times when I wished the Tone would go to -1 and the Glass went to 11, just for that extra push over the cliff. Then again, my amps weren’t set to be neutral, so it would be possible to dial in more brightness on the amp end of things. Either way, the tone was always stellar and inspiring.

The Verdict
The Kalamazoo is a winner. It imparts its own signature tonal stamp and has enough flexibility to go from slightly overdriven to blooming gain that sings like there’s no tomorrow. Anyone looking for gain and beauty (in tone and looks) in one pedal will very happy with it.
Buy if...
sweet sustain, chime and touch dynamics are what you want
Skip if...
you need more bite and treble in your overdrive
Rating...


Street $199 - Lovepedal - lovepedal.com

Lovepedal''s mini''s bring the company''s quality tones to ultra-compact packages

Chances are good that, like many guitarists, you suffer from Gear Acquisition Syndrome and lust after every cool new stompbox that hits the market or appears on the forums. A side effect of this disease is a pedalboard that looks like an overflowing bowl of M&Ms, with brightly colored effects spilling out over the edges and onto the floor. If this describes your plight (it certainly does mine), you’ll welcome the new line of ultra-compact effects designed by Lovepedal’s Sean Michael.



Each stompbox comes in a rugged, diecast aluminum case that measures 1 1/2" x 3 5/8" x 1 1/4". Yeah, you read it right— that’s roughly half the size of an MXR Dyna Comp. Of course, this leaves room for only one knob per pedal—along with audio input and output, a 9-volt DC input, one or two LEDs, and the odd mini toggle. Michael has come up with a variety of approaches to the control issue, while continuing to focus on the stellar sound that has helped establish his reputation in the stompbox community.

We checked out four flavors of these little morsels, so read on as we throw down the lowdown. I tested these pedals with a 1965 Stratocaster loaded with DiMarzio Virtual Vintage pickups and a Reverend Reeves Gabrels model played through an Orange Tiny Terror and an Egnater Rebel 30.

Echo Baby


Download Example 1
The bright blue Echo Baby offers up 760ms of delay. Delay effects usually come with a host of controls, including blend, time, feedback, modulation depth and speed, and tap tempo, so how do you make a delay pedal with only one knob? Lovepedal has assigned that knob to control the length of the delay time, adding two trim pots accessible with a small screwdriver through holes on the bottom of the pedal for adjusting the feedback and dry/wet blend.

In addition to delay, the Echo Baby offers modulation. To set the amount of modulation, you hold down the footswitch switch for two seconds and then twist the pedal’s chicken-head knob. Once you’ve set the modulation amount, the pedal automatically adjusts the modulation speed and depth according to the chosen “time” setting—that is, as you decrease the delay time, the modulation speed and depth increase slightly.

Unless I wanted a sick warble at longer delay times, I found a relatively low modulation amount suited my tastes. At this minimal setting, the pitch waver adds a simulated analog-tape flutter to the echoes in both long and short delay settings. If you don’t want modulation, you can shut it off by holding the footswitch for two seconds and turning the knob all the way down.

The Final Mojo
I didn’t plan on getting out my little screwdriver in the middle of a gig to change the delay amount or feedback, so I set the unit for just a couple of repeats occurring well below the original signal. With the delay set on the short side, the Echo Baby created a reverb simulation that added warm depth to my Strat through the reverb-less Tiny Terror. Longer delay settings added a subtle sustaining tail to the notes. For me, this setting offers the maximum bang for the buck. It also allows you to dedicate another more-programmable or fully controllable delay to ambient or heavier slapback effects. However you choose to set up and use the Echo Baby, it will deliver gorgeous sounding, studio-quality delay.
Buy if...
you want a small-footprint delay that offers great analog-style sound.
Skip if...
you need full control at your fingertips.
Rating...


Street $219 - Lovepedal Custom Effects - lovepedal.com


Babyface Tremolo

Download Example 1
Tremolo replaced chorus as my modulator of choice quite a while ago—sorry, maybe it’s my roots-music upbringing or the fact that something about chorus screams “last millennium” to me. The lone knob on this tremolo pedal controls the rate—from extremely slow to near-ring-modulation ping. A mini toggle lets you choose between the opto sound (sine wave) of a blackface amplifier, a sawtooth wave that recalls the tremolo of an Ampeg amp, and a full square wave, which is suitable for stutter and chopper effects.

To access the Babyface’s depth and volume trim pots, you need to remove four screws and the back panel. Though Michael says he is considering drilling a hole to allow quicker depth adjustment, ultimately you’ll probably find yourself sticking to one setting. I chose to set the depth for a subtle tremolo level and pretty much stayed with the sine and sawtooth waves, as the square wave cried out for increased depth settings. However, I could easily see myself cranking the depth and turning the Babyface into a dedicated chopper pedal. Whether you go for subtle, amp-like trem or more extreme sounds, once the pedal is attached to your board, you’re not likely to be adjusting the depth very often. It might make sense to add a second mini-toggle that offered three depth options.

The Final Mojo
Depth adjustments aside, at all settings the Babyface sounded warm, analog, and chock full of low end. The internal level trim ensured that I didn’t suffer from the psycho-acoustic volume drop that happens with some tremolos. If you need just one trem-type modulation, be it vintage opto or modern chop, this could be your pedal.
Buy if...
You’re looking for that one greatsounding volume-modulation effect.
Skip if...
you need a number of different trem tones quickly.
Rating...


Street $139 - Lovepedal Custom Effects - lovepedal.com


Pickle Vibe

Download Example 1
The Uni-Vibe is a classic effect, but unless you perform in a Robin Trower tribute band, you’re not likely to use this watery sound more than a couple of times a night. So why sacrifice a lot of pedalboard real estate to get it? Slotting neatly between two existing pedals on my board, the Pickle Vibe produced huge, inspiring vibe tones.

As with the Babyface Tremolo, the pedal’s single knob controls the rate. A blue LED flashes the tempo of the vibe, while a red one indicates the effect on/off status. There’s a sensitivity trim pot inside, but don’t bother unscrewing the back. I tried other settings and none sounded as good as the factory one.

The Final Mojo
As with most Uni-Vibe emulations, the Pickle Vibe responded best between the guitar and some sort of grit, whether an overdrive pedal, the slightly broken up Orange, or the lead channel on the Egnater. According to Lovepedal, rather than using an exact copy of the Uni-Vibe circuit, the Pickle Vibe generates those classic tones with a unique circuit. Clone or not, from slow psychedelia to fast Leslie blues, this pedal sounded so good it could increase the number of times I go for the vibe on any given night.
Buy if...
you want great-sounding vibrato effects in a tiny box—and at a great price.
Skip if...
you perform in a Robin Trower tribute band.
Rating...


Street $139 - Lovepedal Custom Effects - lovepedal.com


Amp 50

Download Example 1
Sean Michael made his bones largely on his “Church of Tone” pedal, the COT 50 Boost/ Overdrive. Lots of players agreed that it nailed certain classic-rock sounds associated with guitar icons like Jimi Hendrix and Billy Gibbons. For the mini version, Michael has modified his original design to afford cleaner tones at the bottom of the gain/bias sweep and dirtier tones at the top.

The Amp 50’s single knob adjusts the bias of the circuit, which causes some noise as you turn it. I found that, by putting a volume pedal or a muting tuner after this pedal, I could mute the noise—a good thing, as I could see using a number of different settings throughout a set.

With the gain/bias down all the way, the Amp 50 added a buffer-like sparkle to the clean sound of both the Tiny Terror and Rebel 30. Between there and 12 o’clock, a small amount of grit entered the equation— more so when using the hot-humbucker equipped Reverend than with my Strat. From noon to 3 o’clock, the Amp 50 became more overdrive-like, adding sustain to solos and crunch to rhythm chords. From 3 o’clock to full on, a fuzz effect started creeping in. Turned fully clockwise, the control produced a sound like an amp on the verge of destruction (in the best sense).

The Amp 50 is all about response. In its cleaner modes, it added a dynamic “give” to what would otherwise be an unforgiving clean amp tone. Backing off the guitar volume at almost any setting cleaned up the sound quickly. The pedal added a whole array of British sounds to the Egnater’s American-toned clean channel, while interacting much like a classic treble booster with the British-voiced Orange.

The Amp 50 also played nicely with other overdrive pedals. It was no surprise that it worked well in front of a Lovepedal Kalamazoo, but it also matched up delightfully with a Maxon OD-9, not only adding sustain but injecting a new British character to the tone. In either combination, the Amp 50 effectively turned my single-channel Tiny Terror into a three-channel amp.

The Final Mojo
Given all the ways the Amp 50 can enhance your sound without adding significantly to your gear load—or subtracting much from your pocketbook—it’s hard to imagine not picking up one of these mini-monsters.
Buy if...
you want to give your sound a character- laden kick in the butt.
Skip if...
you have all the tones you need.
Rating...


Street $129 - Lovepedal Custom Effects - lovepedal.com

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