Over the years, Fender has used two different effects that are labeled “vibrato.” One simply modulates the loudness of the signal. The other is more interesting to me; it modulates
Over the years, Fender has used two different effects that are labeled “vibrato.” One simply modulates the loudness of the signal. The other is more interesting to me; it modulates the amplitude and also generates a swirling effect – almost like a phaser. I liked it so much that I studied its principles and have reproduced it with solid state technology.
Since I am not an expert in Fender history, I’ve taken my historical data from the Fender Amp Field Guide (ampwares.com/ffg). From that history, I see that Fender produced a normal sort of tremolo in its earliest amps that they later referred to as vibrato. This “vibrato” depended on the gain change that happens in a tube when its bias point is changed. This is the way most tube amps produce their tremolo, but there is a problem with this. The change in bias voltage also produces a change in the DC level on the tube’s plate. This DC level change has to be removed to avoid thumping sounds whenever tremolo is used. Different amps use various schemes to get rid of the thumps.
I imagine that this was what was on the minds of the folks at Fender when the Concert Vibrato was developed. In Figure 1, the signal from the preamp tube is sent to two filters; one is made up of R1, C1 and C2, the other is R2, R3, and C3.The first is a low pass filter, allowing the entire signal below a set cutoff frequency to pass through to V1A’s grid. The second is a high pass filter, letting all the treble above a set frequency to pass through to V1B’s grid. The high and low signals are then amplified by V1A and V1B and mixed together again by R6 and R7. What makes this interesting is that the bias of both V1A and V1B are changed by what I’ve called low frequency oscillators – LFO1 and LFO2.
LFO1 and LFO2 are the reverse of each other; when LFO1 goes up, LFO2 goes down. V1A and V1B make highs and lows and have loudness variations, but at opposite times. The equal-and-opposite LFO signals then cancel out when added back together at R6 and R7, but the treble and bass signals do not. This kills off almost all of the LFO DC feed-through.
Simultaneously, the phase shifts from the two filters cause the highs and lows to interact with each other right where they cross over. This causes a couple of interesting things; the mixed signal sounds like it’s varying in volume, but since different parts of the signal are consistently at a high volume you don’t get the apparent change in loudness like in simple tremolos. The phases of the two signals cause a cancellation in the middle of the sweep, causing a slightly moving frequency notch that appears, sweeps a little and goes away again. That moving notch is what causes the phaser sound.
I’ve redrawn the Concert Vibrato in functional style in Figure 2. This shows a little more clearly the two filters, the variable gain amps and the equal-but-opposite LFOs. The question I had was whether I could recreate the Concert Vibrato sound with solid state parts, so I designed two versions of Figure 2, one with op-amps as variable gain elements and one with JFETs. Both worked well, and both tend to make you forget the words to the song when listening to the guitar sound, one of the signs of a successful effect.
Schematics for both of my versions are on my personal web site, geofex.com, though they are not for commercial use without prior arrangements.
The Concert Vibrato is responsible for something that has puzzled me about Fender. Fender called tremolo by the correct term in their early amps, so why did they later get the terms vibrato and tremolo backwards?
The Concert Vibrato really does sound something like a vibrato, so calling it by the name made sense. I think they then decided to go back to the cheaper circuits, saving one and a half tube sections, but liked the market response to the name vibrato, so they never changed it back to tremolo. It makes for interesting speculation, anyway.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.