If you’re into shredding on guitar, who isn’t fascinated by Tom Quayle? I am — I’m not remotely into jazz/fusion but his legato style seems so effortless, just note pouring out like water from a waterfall. And his tone is smooth yet fast and articulate. So when Wampler came out with his signature pedal, I was positively salivating. No, I did know that getting a Tom Quayle pedal won’t make me play like him (I wish) but I am into smooth-yet-articulate tone. I also had high hopes after very much enjoying Wampler Cranked AC.
So this pedal is basically a stackable, tweaked pairing of Euphoria and Paisley Drive. Calling the former “Vintage” and the latter “Modern” were curious choices of words for labeling channels, though — I have no idea how those words are supposed to associate with the voicings of each channel. Each channel has the familiar Gain, Volume & Tone controls, with one two-way switch per-side, both of which change the EQ structure. The Vintage side can be Smooth or Fat, while the Modern side can be Normal or Throaty.
And one other key feature is the upper middle switch that lets you select routing — either channel 1 into 2, the other way, or separate. And you get two sets of ins and outs to go with that. So if you have it configured 1->2 then you plug into channel 1 input and channel 2 output. Get it? So this pedal’s stacking ability is its key feature.
Instead of Vintage vs. Modern, the channels should be called Bright & Dark, or Light & Shade, as they seem to be voiced to clearly contrast each other.
First, the Vintage side — I’d describe it as bright, fast, responsive, dynamic, amp-like. By “fast” I mean its response — this is what I really appreciate about Wampler pedals — it just gives you the sense that this pedal produces the note you just played earlier, sooner than other dirt pedals. And I’m not necessarily talking about sag, or lack thereof. A lot of so-called “dynamic” or “responsive” pedals do so because they over-emphasize the attack, but in the process end up becoming harsh and strident. And this pedal is so completely opposite of that — this feat of being so clear, so bright, so articulate without at all seeming artificial or forced is quite amazing. This level of responsiveness, I’ve only seen in Fuzz-Face type pedals, but then those are fuzz and when you set it at such a low-gain point, you typically don’t get any sustain either.
If you turn up the Tone in the normal setting the Vintage channel can sound thin, but then you can flip the switch to Fat to remedy that. Fat gives a huge boost to the lower half of the frequency spectrum, without losing the high-end clarity or sounding muddy. You do have to adjust the Gain and Volume, though, to compensate. This side is low- to mid-gain affair so it’s great for the verge-of-breakup sounds. It depends on your pickups’ output but with my Strat you can adjust the clean-to-breakup ratio with your picking strength until about 12 o’clock on the Gain knob. Speaking of Gain, you can turn it all the way down — and you get a clean boost. At the Gain completely rolled off, I couldn’t tell the difference between the bypassed and the pedal sound.
Now, the Modern side is quite a contrast. It’s dark, woolly, compressed, with lots of thick, mid-range hair. It has more gain and while it gets almost clean when you roll off the Gain, even at zero it still displays a hint of its mid-range hair. I hate to keep repeating the same word, but it’s like a hairier version of Tube Screamer. It definitely adds thickness to your single-note playing, but low-range chords will have a hard time keeping note definition. The Tone knob works the same way as the Vintage side, powerfully affecting the treble. As this side is significantly darker, you have to crank the Tone to about 9 o’clock to get bright tone, but with it comes — hair.
Flipping the toggle to Throaty gives another drastic change to its frequency map — this time to the upper-mids. The mid spike in Throaty mode is so drastic that it almost sounds like you have a cocked wah mixed in. The volume and gain boost is big, too.
If you’re purely a bedroom guitar afficionado, the sound of Modern side may seem a bit unappealing when playing by yourself. It’s all about the thick mids — the high gets tamed, the low loses tightness. But what this pedal covers is the range that really matters for guitars in a band mix. Check out Mike Herman’s expectedly excellent demo below:
Notice in the band arrangements, Mike often has the Modern side set to Throaty (switch up) and the resulting tone has a great sense of focus, it cuts right through.
So, the typical/default application here is that you set Vintage side up for clear, open and articulate chordal/rhythm work, and when you need fat single-note leads that cut through you stack the Modern side after the Vintage. Note that whenever you’re stacking overdrives, the one that’s later in the signal chain dictates the volume — so you’ll want to set up the Modern side to be louder than the Vintage side. I tried the opposite at first, but while I could get good sounds by stacking Modern into Vintage, in a live situation it may not be practical if you still use your Vintage side as the rhythm sound, as kicking in a boost in front increases the gain/saturation but not the overall volume, and typically more saturated tone results in compression, which sinks down in the mix.
Despite two channels and stacking options, this pedal came across to me like a no-nonsense workhorse pedal for professionals, rather than bedroom tinkerers. While the Tone knobs have a good range, they are there just to find a sweet spot for your guitar/amp combo and you’re not likely to fiddle with it to get a variety of sounds. Similarly, the stacking order struck me as something you play with until you get the order that works for you and you have it set. For me personally, the Modern side really doesn’t have a lot of application on its own as its bass is too loose and its thickness works against complex chords — so I get a great rhythm sound out of the Vintage side, and singing lead tone by stacking the two. That’s it. Once you dial it in, that’s what you’ll do with it. The controls are there to dial it in for you, but not to offer you a huge range of different sounds.
Which may speak for the intended audience/purpose of the pedal — Tom Quayle, whatever guitars or settings he may be playing in/with, always seems to have generally the same sound. That’s not knocking him at all, as I like his smooth-yet-articulate tone, plus it’s very hard to develop your own signature sound. And while the Vintage side is a fantastic rhythm overdrive, this pedal will not do hard rock or metal or Marshall or Vox sound, even though it can go from low to high gain. It just does its own thing. The pedal does have enough controls to help you dial it in with your setup. But be sure you aren’t looking for a flexible pedal that’ll morph to mimic/fit those other genres/tones. All the demos out there do a great job of showcasing this pedal, and that’s what this pedal does. if that works for you, fabulous!
For me personally, I did miss a low-end control with this pedal, as I kept wanting to tighten up the Modern side for lower notes. Throaty setting gives you a tighter impression thanks to its mid-range emphasis, but the Throaty setting did strike me as devoid of subtlety, even though I understand how useful it is in the right context. I did fall head over heels for the lovely Vintage side, how fast, articulate its attacks are — perhaps the best I felt in an overdrive. I’ll certainly be on the lookout for Euphoria now.