Saturday, September 8, 2012

Shake, Rattle and Roll - The Runoffgroove Tri-Vibe vibrato/phaser/leslie pedal

As I have stated on some previous posts, getting the best fuzz sound or for that matter getting the best sound from any guitar involves more than a few parameters: Picking style, pickups, pedals, amps, mic placement etc. All this is nice and all but sometimes there are more effects involved which really transforms the sound into something else, richer, more psychedelic, more dynamic and new. I am talking about the use of filters, reverbs, phasers, vibrato, tremolo, delay and chorus effects. The first effect I built which was not a distortion pedal was a PAiA Voltage Controlled Filter. Combining the filter with a delay pedal proved to be a super exotic source of psychedelic sounds. I knew I would some day get deeper into modulation effects. As those effects are usually tougher to build I was always intimidated to start one out.

The Swirly Vibes vibrato/phaser/leslie pedal
When I started to get deeper into the Hendrix sound I found the Univibe pedal to be something of a mysterious part of his sound. It is used heavily on Band of Gypsys - Machine Gun, and on Izabella. Later I found out that Gilmour actually used a modified version of the Univibe as the phaser on the opening track Breathe on The Dark Side album (The phaser on the Shine On riff from Wish You was an actual MXR Phase 90). The Uni-vibe was first introduced somewhere in the 60's by Shin-Ei and Vox and was intended to be used as a Leslie simulation. When ROG came out with the Tri-Vibe: a simple enough design aiming to get that sound, I thought it was a good way to get into the business. Even more interesting was the design allowing to combine two modulations together, namely pitch vibrato and phase modulation to get the rotary speaker (Leslie) effect, hence, the Tri-Vibe. I always had a soft spot for Leslie cabinets used in Hammond organs but also on Pianos (Don't Pass Me By - the Beatles), electric guitars (as used by Jethro Tull on Benefit - Guitars, vocals and flutes) and even vocals (John Lennon on Tomorrow Never Knows).

A great page for some info about the Leslie cabinet can be found on:

The ROG design looked very clever and interesting so I built it and stuck it in a modified tin chocolate box. After a few gigs I realized that I needed a stronger enclosure so I reboxed in a regular 1590BB Hammond style box.

ROG Tri-Vibe new enclosure
The circuit has two self explanatory knobs for INTENSITY/DEPH and RATE, and a three position switch to get the SHAKE (vibrato) in the center position, RATTLE (phaser) and ROLL (rotary speaker). I love the rate knob which gives you a wide frequency range from about 0.2 Hz up to 7 Hz or so, that's a few seconds a round to a few rounds a second. Both vibrato and phaser are smooth and gentle and sound pretty damn good. Only drawback of the VIBE effect is that is is really mild and you can really feel it on the high RATE settings. I really wish it was more pronounced. The PHASER swirl effect is milder than the Phase 90 by MXR and it is actually very close to the EHX SMALL STONE which I really like. The Leslie-like whirly effect which is a combination of the VIBE and SWIRL is very good in itself but it only reminds me of the Leslie effect and it, obviously, doesn't have the crunch which accompanies a real Leslie. You can add the extra crunch yourself and get much closer to an actual Leslie sound. Using a fuzz (or better yet the High Tyme Axis/Octavia Fuzz) before the Tri-Vibe on Bass or guitar yielded such a dynamic and rich tone that made me sit one evening playing a single riff over and over dosing off on the guitar. Even the minimum settings on both knobs gives a nice useful hi-pass filtering. I also implemented the suggested mod which gives you the rate indication on the LED which is pretty cool and very useful.

I cannot speak highly enough of this pedal. I can just say that our band's guitarist and me always fight over who will use it on gigs. He actually calls me before each gig to make sure I don't forget to pack it. I guess I might have to build another one. I found a few amazing preset settings which I use very often (in clock numbers for RATE and DEPTH): 9, 3 on Swirl, 11, 1 on Whirl, 2, 2 on Vibe and so on.

The Swirly Vibes patterns
The Tri-vibe is not a Uni-vibe clone and those seeking a Uni-vibe could be disappointing as it doesn't employ the chorus mode which the Uni-vibe is famous for. However as it does have the vibrato mode and 2 swirly/whirly modes, it is a very good replacement and can actually be even more useful than the original. I, therefore, named it Swirly Vibes and painted the enclosure with patterns of waves, swirls and whirls which I really really like. It took me forever to decide on the graphics and after several attempts which failed I went with this great pattern which I got from a designers website.

I discarded the Shake, Rattle and Roll modes naming and just painted a wave a whirl and a swirl to designate the proper switch mode.

This fantastic ROG schematic and layout can be found here. Don't pass on this one. I used the Tri-Vibe name for a while with the old enclosure but after redesigning the enclosure from scratch and putting so much effort into the swirly waves patterns I decided to name it "Swirly Vibes". This is exactly what the pedal does best - swirly vibes.

Bellow are two audio clips demonstrating the Swirly Vibes pedal. One demonstrates the Tri-Vibe with a clean telecaster tone, and the second utilizes the High Tyme Octavia/Axis fuzz in front of the Tri-Vibe. I used all three presets with several settings on each. Just run through the audio clips to hear it's versatility.

The Mixcloud player is slightly less intuitive than the regular Soundcloud because you have to press - "UP NEXT" to get the playlist to show you the tracks, but it is equally well designed.

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