Friday, January 17, 2014

New Tremolo Pedal Review - noiseKICK FX Baltimore


I guess I'm writing gear reviews now.. This pedal was made down the street from my house.

A short history: I've owned the Boss TR-2 which, while being very versatile in terms of wave form options, dropped my clean signal 5-10db every time I turned it on, rendering it useless in a loud rock band.  Next I tried the tremolo effect on the EHX Worm.  That actually boosted the signal, and on my bridge pickup it could get quite abrasive.  That coupled with the lack of options (Range, Rate only) and the separate 24v adapter made this an unrealistic option.  Most recently I've used the incredibly tiny Mooer Trelicopter.  This trem has some nice features and sounds pretty good, but in terms of tone coloration, this sits in between the Boss and the EHX, but closer to the Boss.  I may have been able to over look this signal loss but for one small issue: it's small.  The rate knob is large and sits in the middle of the pedal, so every time I turned it on my foot knocked the rate knob up to super-fast!

Unsatisfied, I looked on Craigslist and found this guy who was making pedals out of Hampden, right down the street from my house.  I had seen noiseKICK FX pedals on CL before, and he finally posted a tremolo so I decided to try it.

After using the pedal at rehearsal last night, I can say that this is the smoothest vintage sounding tremolo pedal I've owned.  I honestly didn't fully understand what people meant when they used the word "vintage" to describe a tremolo sound, until I plugged this in last night.  The word "subtlety" comes to mind every time I turn a knob.  This may sound like a disadvantage, but the one thing this pedal does well (vintage tone), it does really well.  It also has dual LEDs, with one showing the rate and one showing on/off.

Unlike the other pedals I described, this pedal doesn't color the tone at all, and the gain knob lets you level it off so there's no tone suck or abrasive highs.  At about 12 o'clock, the output is slightly under the original signal.  At 3 o'clock, it is about level.  At full volume, it boosts the tone just enough to cut through even a heavy mix, but it keeps the original signal intact and doesn't cause any break up.  On the neck pickup, playing open low strings, the signal almost swells and makes for a really cool tone with tons of sustain.

The speed is very interesting too.  Most trems have one speed knob, and you can go from slow to fast using that knob.  This pedal has 3 knobs that control the rate: Speed, Spacing, and Fine.  This allows you 3 levels of control over the rate, giving you the ability to dial in exact speeds.  I'm not sure how advantageous that feature is yet, but using it has so far been a positive experience.  With all the knobs all the way down, it almost sounds like a very slow delay.  With all of them cranked, it's a very fast tremolo (though I have heard faster, almost a ring modulation tone).  This doesn't quite get to ring modulation heights, but for rock/blues purposes it's perfect.

The Depth knob brings the tremolo from less choppy to more choppy.  At 10 it's on par with The Smiths' "How Soon is Now," and at 0 it's--surprisingly--still got depth.  With the depth knob on 0, some tremolos will basically sound bypassed, but with this, 0 still means tremolo.  The Smooth knob doesn't have as drastic effect on the tone as I would have thought, but again, subtlety.

Overall I'm happier with this tremolo that I have been with any of the others.  The only non-positive things I'd have to say about it are these: 1) there doesn't seem to be a lot of variance in the wave form.  It can't go from a sine wave to square--it seems stuck (albeit pleasantly) right in the middle.  2) The blue "on/off" LED is really bright, but I'll just color over it with a sharpie or something.  3) this last thing I actually love, but I can see how it would draw some people away from buying: the button is on the right side of the pedal.  For me, I have this next to my overdrive, and having the switch on that side makes it easy to hit both the overdrive and trem at the same time.  PERFECT.

Wow, this is a lot more than I intended to write.. Basically I love this pedal, and will definitely try out some more stuff from them. You can find noiseKICK FX at the links below:

Twitter: @noiseKICKFX