Mini-reviews: Wampler SLOstortion, Fender Mustang II, Joyo UD

Al Librero  |  March 03, 2012  |  Blogs / Life / Music / Reviews  |  0 Comments

I got to try out a few pieces of guitar gear this week and got some fairly interesting results.

1. Wampler SLOstortion

The worth of this distortion pedal is undeniable. Even though it looks pricey at first glance (around US$240 around the Web, and PHP10,700 from Jef at www.nelldenmusic.com), two things more than make up for it with its a) ridiculously wide range of tone and gain and b) independent clean boost circuit). I’ve actually had this pedal for more than four months now. But taming the mids has always been a challenge. It can sound messy, especially with the pedal in the Overdrive channel. I’ve always suspected that the inherent tone of my Vox AC30CC1 amplifier had a lot to do with it, but never bothered to investigate further, until now.

The first step was to test it intently with my small Roland MicroCube. With the amp model set to Brit Combo (the Vox emulation), it sounded pretty much the way it does with my bigger amp. Setting it to Black Panel (Fender Twin Reverb emulation) made a huge difference. Suddenly, the pedal sounded more focused even as you crank the gain.

Now, now… I know that some people might think that testing through an amp modeller for comparison is a horrible move. So, for the first time ever, I brought my guitar along with the SLOstortion to the Yupangco showroom to test it on an actual Fender tube amp (I was buying something anyway, so I wasn’t going to be shy about it, lol). Needless to say, the SLOstortion sounded awesome. It was actually difficult to make it sound bad (something I don’t say often). I wanted to take the amp home with me!

I suppose this is one of the reasons why some users at PhilMusic are starting to accuse the pedal of being full of hype with little substance, complaining about how dark and muddy it sounds. I’m guessing a lot of them are using British-voiced amps.

I’m not giving up on the SLOstortion+Vox combo just yet, but I’m definitely not going to let go of the pedal within the foreseeable future.

2. Fender Mustang II

I’ve been tempted to buy one (PHP12,950 at Yupangco/Perfect Pitch) for the past several months. I like the concept and its cost effectiveness. This week, I finally had the chance to test drive one. If I didn’t already have a Roland, I’d have bought it already. It sounds pretty good and there are more sounds you can work with than a Roland Cube. I wish I brought my laptop to test its USB connectivity (which isn’t available in competing brands and models). I seriously believe that the Mustang I and II are a great choice as a practice or jam amplifier. I just don’t know if the 40-watt II can convincingly keep up with a loud drummer. For that, one would probably need the Mustang III or IV.

3. Joyo California Sound and Ultimate Drive

Joyo has been making a name for itself all over the place. These things are pretty cheap. But they’re reportedly so good that a few so-called boutique builders have been caught rebadging them, rubbing off the Joyo markings from the circuit board and then selling them for like six times the original price.

I tried out the California Sound (PHP1,950 at Lazer Music) and thought it was pretty good — definitely built for high gain, but can be respectable even if you go to its lower registers. But the one I was really interested in was the Ultimate Drive (PHP1,800 at Lazer Music). It’s rumored to be a clone of the Fulltone OCD and the model that was reportedly rebadged by the boutique builders I mentioned about.

I used to own an OCD, so I already had certain presumptions regarding the sound. Those presumptions were seriously obliterated from the first strum with the pedal on. First of all, I thought it had a lot more gain than the OCD, or at least the sweep of the gain knob was very different. It also sounded brighter than I expected. Downside is that it gets a bit fizzy at higher gain settings. Yes, the Ultimate Drive is very much reminiscent of the OCD. But it should sound different enough to be its own pedal.

Good stuff across the board. It really is a great time to be a guitar gearhead now. Hopefully, I get the chance to try out some more of these from time to time.

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