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Archive for the ‘delay pedals’ Category

While I did a “mini review” of the Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay a couple of months ago, that was in a shop in a controlled environment, and though I played it for almost an hour, there’s no better test of gear than using it at a gig where nothing is predictable.

After I originally auditioned the pedal, I anguished for the last couple of months about getting it. Why? Simply because of its price: It is NOT a cheap pedal by any means (I got it for $335), and it was always easy for me to reason why not to get the pedal. However, I’ve been a bit disappointed with my VOX Time Machine when using it with my acoustic rig. I thought that since it performed so well with my electric rig, that it would translate well to my acoustic rig. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Truth be told, while the Time Machine simply kicks ass with my electric rig, my tone feels and sounds “processed” with my acoustic rig. The net result is that I stopped using it for my acoustic gigs.

I knew I had to get a good delay that would work well with my acoustic rig, and I also knew that after auditioning quite a few digital and analog delays at the shop, it was the Deep Blue Delay that spoke to me. But the price of the pedal made me shudder, so I put off the purchase for the last couple of months.

Then yesterday, in a moment of weakness, I purchased the pedal on my lunch break at work. Jordan, the sales guy I’ve been buying gear from at Gelb Music for years, swears by this pedal, and he just said, “Dude, I know the price is steep, but there’s none better than the the Deep Blue Delay. It’s always on my board, and it’s almost always on. The VOX Time Machine is a killer pedal (he sold me that one as well), but you know how the Deep Blue sounded with the APX900 (Yamaha – I bought that one from him too – though he didn’t make a recommendation that time 🙂 ) when you tested it a couple of months ago. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.” Mind you, I trust Jordan’s advice implicitly. I’ve been buying gear from him for years, and have learned that when he raves about some gear, it’s not bullshit because he owns it or has gigged with it. And with the Deep Blue Delay, I’ve never witnessed him rave so much about a pedal!

So I am now the proud owner of the Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay, and like Jordan, I can’t rave enough about it! What about my Time Machine? It goes back on my electric rig board. I love that pedal because it has such a great sound with whatever electric guitar I use on it. But for acoustic, it’ll be the Deep Blue from now on.

Fit and Finish

With a gorgeous, shiny, blue powder coat finish, this is simply the most gorgeous pedal I have. I’m partial to blue, but the gloss is like a mirror, as the photos below show. If I have one nit, the blue LED is a bit difficult to see in bright lighting conditions, but that’s just small nit. Other than that, the pedal is solidly built. The knobs have good resistance without being tight, and the toggle switch is heavy duty. I’m not sure what kind of jacks were used but connectors snap into place nicely, so I’m assuming they’re fairly high-quality jacks.

Taking the back off the pedal, there are LOTS of wires connected to a foam-wrapped circuit board (that I didn’t want remove), so it’s clear that the Deep Blue Delay is completely hand-wired, save for the circuit board. The wires are all fairly heavy-gauge with thick shielding, which speaks to the quality of components used in the pedal. I didn’t want to lift the foam pad because the wires were so heavy and I didn’t want to have to deal with putting them back into place. 🙂 Mad Professor could’ve easily used thin-gauge wires for this pedal, but I like the fact that they opted for the heavier gauge.

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How It Sounds

I know that I use the words “awesome” and “incredible” on this blog. After all, this is a “best of breed” type of site. So let’s just assume that the pedal can be described with those words, and I’ll take a different tack and describe what that sound does to me.

I know a piece of gear is incredible when it just makes me close my eyes and soak up the sound it produces. That’s the effect the Deep Blue Delay has on me. The delay effect, even at high levels is always smooth, and amazingly enough sounds so natural. There is nothing processed about this sound. And unlike other analog pedals I’ve played, the Deep Blue Delay doesn’t get dark, which is what has kept me from getting analog delays in the past.

At last night’s gig, I turned a disaster into a way to fully evaluate the Deep Blue Delay. With my acoustic rig, since I don’t have too many pedals, I use my BOSS TU-2 to power up the rest of my pedals. But last night, I had forgotten that I removed the TU-2 to use at a gig last week, so when I opened up my pedal bag, I was shocked to see my TU-2 missing. Luckily, I had left my 9V plug in the bag, so I figured that it was a great way to use the Deep Blue. So I plugged my guitar into the pedal, and it went straight into my Fishman SoloAmp.

I set up the pedal with the Delay and Repeat knobs at about 2pm, and the Level at 9am so I could get a nice, ambient sound that didn’t dominate. That created a hall-like effect that was simply delicious. I kept it at that setting for several songs. Then just as an experiment, I upped the level to 11, and then the skies parted and a voice rang from the heavens, “You have found s a sacred tone!” 🙂 Seriously though, I was completely blown away by what the pedal produced. The repeats were on the speedy side and the decay was a nice tail without being overbearing, and at that level, the wet/dry mix was just perfect!

The wonderful thing about the Deep Blue is that it seems like there’s a pre-delay built into the pedal. The one thing that sets this apart from other delays I’ve used is that at anything greater than low level settings, you get delay going right away. But even at 11am, whatever I was playing, whether finger picked or strummed, didn’t start repeating until there was space – or at least that was what it seemed like. Of course, at higher levels, the delay kicks in right away, but despite that, what you’re playing is invariably clear and doesn’t get washed out by the repeats.

Overall Impression

In other words, this truly is an incredible pedal. I’m still smarting just a little from the price, but as I haven’t played a delay for my acoustic as good as this – ever – it is well worth the price! I originally gave the Deep Blue pedal a 4.75 Tone Bones rating because of its cost. But my thinking now is that if that’s what it costs to get this kind of delay, then that’s what it costs, and I’m so much happier playing with this pedal in my signal chain. I’ve re-rated it as a 5 Tone Bones pedal. If you can afford it, this pedal will not disappoint; in fact, I’ll wager that it’ll make you practically squeal with joy!

About the Photos

Another hobby of mine – and no, I don’t sleep all that much – is photography. With this hobby, I don’t aspire to be a professional photographer, but I do like to take good photos. These photos were taken with a Nikon D40 with a f1.8 35mm fixed-length lens. All shots were taken in manual mode. I don’t remember the settings, but I shot about 60 photos and picked what I felt were the best shots. Then I used Adobe PhotoShop Elements to crop the photos and did a minimal amount of color correction on a couple of them. I believe that unless you’re going to make artistic enhancements to photos, you should set up your shots so you can “print” them immediately without color manipulation; that is, set up your camera so you don’t have to compensate later.

I know, this is a guitar gear blog, but going forward, I will be doing my own photos of gear. What I love about this particular set is that my camera caught the wonderful reflections off the shiny powder coating of the Deep Blue Delay. I find that marketing photos tend to be a bit too sterile. This is the best-looking pedal in my collection, and I wanted to do its look justice.

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Click on the picture to see an enlarged view.

VOX Time Machine Delay Pedal


Summary: If you’re looking for a super-quiet, dynamic and versatile delay that will cover a lot of territory, look no further. The Time Machine rocks!

Pros: Absolutely quiet, with no line noise at all. It is so easy to dial in great delay sounds with the Time Machine, it’s almost scary. I like the fact that it has more features than a basic delay pedal, but not so many that you spend all your time tweaking. Oh yeah… It sounds absolutely fantastic!

Cons:None.

Features:

  • Controls:  Level, Delay Range, Time, Feedback, ON SW, Tap & Modern/Vintage SW, Hi-Fi/Lo-Fi SW
  • In/Outputs: 1 x  INPUT, 1 x OUTPUT, 1 x DRY OUT, 1 x DC9V
  • Max Delay Time: 5800 milliseconds via Tap-Tempo, 1000 milliseconds via Delay control
  • Input Impedance: 1M-ohms
  • Output Impedance : 1k-ohms
  • Power Supply:  9V alkaline battery(6LF22/6LR61) or AC adapter(sold separately)
  • Current Consumption: 60mA
  • Dimensions: 143(W) x 121(D) x 58(H) mm / 5.63”(W) x 4.76”(D) x 2.28”(H)
  • Weight: 600g /1.32 lbs (without batteries)
  • Included Items: 9V alkaline battery (included)
  • Options: 9V AC adapter (not included)

Price: $199 street

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ This pedal has ended my search for a delay. It really is as good as it’s advertised.

I tend to be a little wary of “signature” pedals because I’m really not one who wants to sound like someone else; besides, I’m not nearly as capable on the guitar as said artists. But now and then, I come across signature gear that forces me to take a good, long look: Not just because of the name behind it, but simply because it’s just a great piece of gear! Such was the case with the VOX Time Machine. When it first came to market, I have to admit that I was excited because I know that Joe Satriani is a real tone freak, and I figured that any kind of gear in which he has design input is bound to be pretty good. But the flip side of that is that I’ve had experience with other signature pedals that were really geared towards the artist and their playing style specifically, and frankly, that stuff has left me frowning. Not so with the Time Machine, which took me completely by surprise!

I’ve been in the market for a delay for almost a couple of years, when I gave away my crappy Boss DD-5 that had such perfect and precise delay that it just felt processed. It was nothing like my former DD-3 that actually sounded pretty good, but I lost that pedal after playing in an orchestra for a musical theatre gig (I didn’t have a board at the time, and only carried a couple of pedals). Needless to say, during that time, I’ve evaluated several delays, but none have really caught my fancy. They were either too dark sounding, as in the case of most analog delays, or they sucked tone, as in the case of many digital delays I’ve tried. My surprise with the Time Machine is that in either mode, modern or vintage, my basic tone was retained! But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

In my search, I came up with some criteria that had to be fufilled 100% before I’d even consider buying one. Here they are:

  • First, I wanted Tap Tempo. I’ve always hated having to bend over to tweak knobs; but moreover, I wanted to be able to match tempos with my drummer on the fly.
  • Secondly – and I know this is purely subjective – I wanted a good balance between tweakable settings and ease-of use. In other words, I wanted to have the flexibility to dial in a number of delay settings but not have so many that I’d be spending all my time tweaking knobs.
  • Thirdly, I didn’t want to ever have to refer to a reference manual to make sure I was using the pedal correctly. The “don’t make me think” rule had to apply. I should be able to dial in great tones in a matter of a few minutes, if not earlier.
  • Finally, and most importantly, the pedal could not suck tone, and had to be reasonably transparent. In most cases, I don’t mind a pedal putting an emphasis on a particular EQ range (like my Kasha overdrive does), but it should never remove a range or “feel” like it narrows the bandwidth of the signal.

There are lots of delay pedals I’ve evaluated that were particularly good in most areas, but none until I played the Time Machine ever fulfilled all four criteria. That’s how great this pedal is!

It’s Mean When It’s Green

I love the shiny, green apple finish of the Time Machine. Of course, the paint job doesn’t make the pedal. But the Time Machine is built like a tank, and is certainly gig-worthy. I imagine that JS had that in mind when providing his design input. The chicken head knobs give the pedal a cool vintage vibe, but not only that make it very easy to see where you’re at with your settings. The stomp switches are nice and smooth, and the pedal engages without producing any noise.

How I Did My Evaluation

I didn’t just test the Time Machine in isolation. I’ve learned that one of the best ways to evaluate pedals is to do A/B tests against other pedals of like kind to make a comparison. So I compared the Time Machine against a Way Huge Aqua Puss and a TC Electronic Nova Repeater at my favorite shop, Gelb Music in Redwood City, CA. My thought was to compare it against an analog and another digital delay. Sorry, but no clips because I was in a shop.

All my tests in the shop were done with a Fender Custom Shop Tele, plugged into the pedals (hooked together so I could quickly make a comparison without swapping), and into an absolutely superb-sounding and -looking Dr. Z Maz 38 with draped in blonde tolex. Mm mm good. 🙂 I chose a midrange wattage amp because I wasn’t interested in creating grind. I’ve never been one to use delay with overdrive – maybe a little. But in this case, I wanted to have an ample amount of clean headroom to work with, and the Maz 38 worked perfectly for that (for the record I REALLY want a Dr. Z Remedy).

Aqua Puss and Nova Repeater

I will most likely have reviews on the Way Huge Aqua Puss and TC Electronic Nova Repeater in the near future, but I’ll give you a quick run-down of the pedals. If you’re looking for a dark, swampy, blues delay. The Aqua Puss delivers that in spades. It has this certain ethereal quality that made me think of drifting on a boat in the middle of the Everglades. I actually really liked the pedal, but I was after something else entirely with my delay search – much more versatility – and the Aqua Puss was a one-trick pony. It does what it does exceptionally well, but don’t ask for much in terms of usability in a variety of styles.

I was very sadly disappointed with the Nova Repeater. It packs a TON of features in its box, but for me, I was a little concerned that were just too many features. But despite that, it was easy to get a usable delay tone almost right away. The folks at TC Group certainly know how to pack in features, but they make them readily accessible, and very easy to understand. I actually had my heart set on getting this pedal after reading many reviews and listening to clips and watching video; and I almost purchased it a couple weeks ago. But I’m glad I compared it head-to-head with the Time Machine.

The Time Machine may not have all the features as the Nova Repeater, but out of the box, it wins hands-down in the tone department. The Nova Repeater sounded bland and dry – processed – when played in an A/B test between it and the Time Machine. And I detected a distinct loss in both highs and lows; in other words, bandwidth narrowing. That was not at all pleasing. That said though, the Repeater is still a great pedal, and apparently there’s an internal pot to calibrate the tone to your rig, so that’s a plus. But frankly, I’m not one to tweak that deeply. I probably would’ve still bought it if I didn’t do the A/B test. The tone is usable and really not as bad as I may have painted it, but it’s not as good as the Time Machine’s tone in my opinion.

Playability

If it’s any area where the Time Machine simply shined above the other pedals was how absolutely responsive it was to picking dynamics. Play lightly, and the delay is super-subtle; you almost feel as if it’s not there. Dig in a bit, and the pedal responds. I did a few lead lines to experiment with this, and was totally blown away. I set the Level control so I’d really have to dig in to get the delay effect, but for most runs, picked or legato, what I got was a more ambient effect – almost like reverb. Wow! That kind of pick response is probably what sold me the most.

In addition to dynamics, I just loved how easy it was to dial in various settings. The knobs are very nicely NOT over-sensitive, so moving a knob doesn’t result in dramatic changes in the effect. The net result is that you can get into a general area on the sweep of a particular knob, and make a couple of slight changes to zero in. How many pedals have we played where just turning a knob ever-so-slightly drastically changed the effect? It’s probably why I’ve liked my Boss CE-5 chorus for so long, and even though I’m currently bidding on a CE-2 on EBay, if I don’t win the auction, all won’t be lost because the CE-5 has a nice, consistent sweep on its knobs.

How It Sounds

Like I mentioned, the Time Machine is simply transparent. The Modern mode is truly transparent – at least to my ears – while the Vintage mode darkens the tone ever so slightly and adds some subtle modulation (it’s chorus-like) like you’d expect with an analog delay. But unlike many analog delays that I’ve played, the darkening with the Time Machine does more of a lower-mids EQ emphasis, whereas I’ve felt that analog delays cut highs. The Aqua Puss certainly felt like it was cutting highs, though it definitely compensated for it with some overall great tone. Back to the Time Machine, the net result is that in vintage mode, the tone becomes slightly more rich and lush.

I liked both modes equally well, though I’d probably tend to use the Vintage mode when playing absolutely clean, as it also adds a tiny bit of hair to the signal. It’s almost imperceptible, but it’s there. I loved doing some simple chord comps up on the neck in Vintage mode.

Modern mode, on the other hand, is like the Swiss Army Knife of the Time Machine, making it capable of fitting into any style of playing, from syncopated rhythms ala The Edge, to heavy chunk where you want to have a bit of slap-back.

The Time Machine also has a toggle switch for Lo-Fi and Hi-Fi modes, in addition to the Modern and Vintage modes. Hi-Fi apparently maintains tonal transparency, whereas Lo-Fi includes High- and Lo-cut filters. The difference between the two fidelity modes was subtle at best. I didn’t detect much of a cut in either highs or lows when engaging Lo-Fi; the EQ changes ever so slightly, but the bandwidth didn’t change at all. Again, I feel like it’s more of an EQ emphasis rather than a removal of portions.

Overall Impressions

I’m glad I took so much time to find a new delay pedal. As you can tell from my review, I love the Time Machine. It fulfilled all my criteria for what I wanted in a delay pedal. To me, it has enough adjustable settings to keep any tweaker happy, but it’s also super-easy to quickly dial in the right amount of effect. But not only that, it just sounds damn good!

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