Updated: Jun 2
Firstly, and let's just get this out of the way, look at that paint job. It's just amazing, and it comes in twelve different finishes so even once you've made your mind up to buy this pedal, you'll have the fun of picking the perfect pattern for you - if you go into the store that is - or you'll have a nice surprise when it arrives at your door if you've bought it unseen. And that is just an example of what makes Keeley's pedals so amazing - this attention to detail that just elevates their product that one step above others.
Okay, now that's out of the way, lets have a look at the features available. We've got:
A vintage-voiced, medium gain fuzz.
A rotary speaker effect.
A vibe (uni vibe) effect.
A wah which can be either auto, harmonic or controlled by an expression pedal.
Octave up or down.
A switch to have the fuzz before or after the modulation effects.
Expression pedal input.
Takes 9v standard centre-negative power input (no battery option).
Let's look at each of these in a little more detail.
What the Fuzz?
The medium gain fuzz uses vintage Fairchild Semiconductors, and as they aren't germanium this negates the issue of temperamental pedals that can change sound in hot or cold weather. If this silicon substitute is a good or bad thing is up for debate as some people just love the sound that germanium gives, being slightly smoother and maybe having a little more character.
However, Keeley promote this as a benefit in this pedal. They do produce other germanium based pedals though so this clearly isn't a company philosophy. Henrix's fuzz pedals would certainly have been germanium as Arbiter Electronics Ltd. first issued the Fuzz Face in 1966, with the Monterey festival that launched Jimmy into stardom in the USA being in 1967.
Whether silicon or germanium, the Monterey fuzz is lovely. It has good dynamics and is voiced perfectly, which is just as well as it lacks a tone control. There have been a couple of dissenting voices out there saying that the fuzz is too bright, and I can see this being the case on certain amps, but on the Two Rock I tested this unit on it sounded just right.
As mentioned, it is a medium gain fuzz - it'll not rip your face off and probably wouldn't suit Queens of the Stone age riffing but using the level control on the top left of the pedal in conjunction with the fuzz control, you can certainly push a valve amp into fuzz-face like goodness and stacking a boost or preamp style pedal infront of it really works great. I used a Lovepedal Tchula and a Hudson Broadcast to good effect.
The Rotary effect attempts to emulate a Leslie speaker and it does sound good. What I really liked about this effect was being able to adjust the simulated volume of the horn or tweeter sounds via the Octave dial. This provides great control over the tone of the fuzz, which more than makes up for the lack of a dedicated tone control on the fuzz circuit. If you're finding the pedal bright, this is definitely something worth experimenting with.
My favourite setting here was with the depth way down, the rate around 9 o'clock and the Octave dial around 10 o'clock. This gives a gorgeous, subtle chorusing sound with great depth of tone.
If you want to get wild though, crank the dials up and it'll take you on a spacey, phasing ride.
The Vibe is also pretty good and has that phase / tremolo sound that's associated with great photocell uni vibes. It's not quite as good as the Fulltone Deja Vibe in my humble opinion, but that unit costs almost as much as the Monterey and has much fewer features.
The Vibe is great with a little Octave thrown in and you can choose between an octave up or down, but you can't have both. With the Octave control at 12 o'clock there is no added signal; roll it left and you get the sub-octave and roll it right you get the upper. What's particularly good about this is that you can mix in a small amount of signal for a subtle effect, or go all out for around a 50:50 mix.
Again, my favourite settings were the more subtle with a little Octave up thrown in but if you want Jimmy's Band of Gypsies type feel, the Monterey will get you there easily.
The Wah available here is very versatile and worth the entrance fee alone. If you have the Depth right down, it acts like a fixed cocked wah with the Rate control changing the frequency. Plugging in an expression pedal takes control of the Rate which means that you can then utilise this setting as you would a traditional wah wah. It has a lovely vintage sound and works very well indeed.
Next up, until 12 o'clock on the Depth knob the Monterey acts as an auto wah, and as you go past noon you have a harmonic wah, sounding a bit like a tremolo but centred around the wah frequencies. And what's more you can add the Octave effect in while using the wah too.
As we've already talked about the basic control of the octave effect and the fact it controls the horn / tweeter for the rotary, it's worth going into a little more depth.
It's not a modern sounding octave, more like the older Digitech Whammies, and so you'll get a few artefacts thrown in and the tracking isn't fantastically sharp. This will be something that you'll either really like or hate - personally I felt it added character and really enjoyed it.
I was impressed with this pedal: the look, the feel, the versatility on offer, and the quality of the effects.
There are a lot of different sounds available and even a button on the back of the unit that changes the order of the fuzz and modulation effects, which is well worth playing with.
And remember: you don't have to have the fuzz engaged to enjoy the modulation. I really enjoyed playing the Monterey into a clean amp and loved the Vibe with a subtle Octave up, a little delay and reverb added with other pedals. Just beautiful.
One more thing worth discussing is whether or not the modulation effects are analog or digital, mainly because there's very little official information abut this. Some sites say the Octave is digital but the rest is analog but others say all the modulation is digital.
Either way, it's a brilliantly thought out little unit that I can see finding a space on many pedal boards: some people will love the dynamic fuzz, others the vibe and rotary, and for me it's even replaced my standard wah.
Take a look at the Keeley site here: