Updated: Feb 15
Warning: this pedal is divisive! It's either going to be something you will love or hate - If you like Jack White's sound at all, you'll probably think it's great. But it is a pedal you hear and can either immediately think of uses for, or one that you think you'd never use.
But this isn't a bad thing; let's just say it's niche:) Personally, I love it.
The Distortion Sound
The Plasma Coil is a distortion pedal with a pretty unique sound. I'd say it's closer to a full on fuzz really than distortion as it doesn't have the tightness that you might want from a modern distortion pedal, sounding more like a muff or other silicon fuzz.
Like with the original Plasma Coil, the distortion is created by feeding a xenon tube with a high voltage - 3.5kV! - signal created by the signal from the guitar, the resulting electrical discharge provides the harmonic saturation. So you can probably tell that this unique way of creating the distorted signal is likely going to end up in a pretty unique tone.
The Third Man version of the Plasma Coil doesn't have the Blend control though, but has something even more special - octave effects!
Voltage: acts like a gain control
Increasing the Voltage simply pushes more through the Xenon Tube. This gives us a spluttery, spitty fuzz sound at lower settings, and screaming lead sounds with good sustain at higher.
Also worth pointing out here that when the signal is cut, ie you stop playing the guitar, then the voltage to the Xenon tube is also cut, resulting in a natural noise gate.
Volume: does as you'd expect
This has a good range on it and can really push a tube amp.
Low Freq and High Freq: very large sweep control of the different frequencies.
This means not only will you be able to get a great sound on a variety of instruments, but that the ranges go beyond what you might normally find on a guitar pedal, so some very extreme setting are possible. This is possible due to the nature of the distortion and the fact that the original signal is actually completely lost as it passes through the tube, with a new one created by the electromagnetic fluctuations around the tube - pretty ground breaking stuff!
One for the distortion, one for the octave effects. The second can be used as either a latch switch, or momentary - which is a great touch.
Effects: Octave Mayhem!
If the unique sound of this pedal hasn't already got you interested, then this is where it gets really exciting.
We have a 6 position selector control here which switches between the different effects available:
1 - a Volume Boost
2 + 3 - Subharmonics (both Bitcrush style)
4 - Octave Up (Octafuzz style)
5 + 6 - Combined Modes with Upper and Lower harmonics added.
My favourites were the position 2 and 4, both providing very useable sounds, with position 6 in particular getting pretty crazy.
Watch the video demo
Check The Pedal Out On Amazon Here:
Weight - 1kg
Dimensions - 16x11x10 cm
Switch on the back to change the Effects footswitch to latching or momentary
Power: the pedal does not take batteries, but is powered with a standard centre negative supply.
This thing is built extremely well, and has a reassuring heft to it. It's really solid and feels great. The footswitches are quality and I have no doubt they'll last a lifetime, and the only real concern might be the Xenon tube itself, as at some point this will go. Although Gamechanger Audio reassures us it has 10,000 - 70,000 hours of play time in each one.
It's a really well thought out pedal of exceptional quality and with a unique sound. However, as mentioned above, this sound will be something you love or just don't like much at all.
You really like Jack White's sound or want to experiment with different lower and upper octave effects and a pretty wild fuzz tone
You're not into this pretty specific sound, and have no use for octave effects or already have this pretty well covered with a Muff and a POG for example.