Robert Keeley Dark Side review

Robert Keeley Dark Side review

Wouldn’t it be cool to walk into a store and just buy David Gilmour’s tone in a box? Well, now you can! Robert Keeley’s Dark Side boldly promise to provide the full experience and magic of David’s classic mid 70s sound. Here’s my review.

How do you present a signature sound in one single box? How can you capture not only the actual tone but also the feel of owning and operating something close to the original vintage gear? We’re talking about perhaps the most recognisable tone in the history of modern music and guitar playing.

But you can always expect something special from Robert Keeley. The bar is high but few seem to really understand tone as much as him.

The Dark Side is the second in a new line of artist inspired pedals. As the name implies, the pedal is designed to capture the essence of David Gilmour’s tones from Dark Side of the Moon, as well as Wish You Where Here and Animals.

The Dark Side has two sections, fuzz and modulation/delay. They can be used simultaneously and the different modulation effects and the delay, is selected with a toggle switch. 

The rear features the usual in/out jacks, as well as TRS send/returns for additional pedals, expression pedal and for swapping the order of the fuzz and modulation/delay sections.

The Dark Side is packed with an almost exhaustive amount of controls and I won’t go into detail on every aspect of the pedal here but rather give you an idea of how it all sounds. Please visit robertkeeley.com for all the details.

Fuzz

The fuzz is analog and based on the late 70s Op-amp Big Muff. A strange choice perhaps, since David never used that particular model, but the circuit has been seriously modified and the tone is perhaps closer to the early 90s Sovtek Civil War, with a thick saturated gain and that slightly throaty character.

A 3-way switch allows you to choose between scooped, flat or full (boosted) EQ modes, similar to the mid range switch seen on many Big Muff clones.

It’s got that unmistakable Muff tone but there’s plenty of harmonics present, with a raw edge and I have no problem dialling in some really nice silicon fuzz tones typical of the era. 

Delay

David Gilmour famously used a Binson Echorec during the Dark Side years and the multi head echo has been a popular offering among many makers lately. 

The Dark Side delay offer 12 different delays based on that classic Binson machine. David mainly used a single head but sweeping through the different stages, provides the full Binson experience with an impressive accuracy and authenticity.

Clones offered by Catalinbread and Boonar has more controls, providing a more authentic circuitry, but with a hint of organic sounding modulation and the basic controls for time, feedback and volume, you can easily dial in some lovely and very musical echo with the Dark Side.

Modulation
The modulation section feature four different effects: flanger, phaser, rotary and Uni-Vibe. All of which are representative for Gilmour’s 70s tones.

Select either flanger and rotary or phaser and UniVibe and use the blend control to either get the pure effect or, and this is very cool, dial in some new unique tones, like a Leslie with sweeping jet-like flanging.

Flanger

The flanger is undoubtedly based on the Electric Mistress that David used during the late 70s and early 80s. It sounds a bit dark and chorusy compared to the original, but some fine tuning of the controls takes it close to the ’76 Mistress, with that liquidy and slightly metallic flanging.

Less mid range and low end and a slightly wider sweep would easily have made it one the best sounding clone of the original Mistress available.

Rotary
Rotating speaker simulators often sound more like a chorus or flanger than an actual Leslie cabinet. The doppler effect depends on the resonance and distance between the horn and the surroundings, so to recreate this with convincing authenticity is almost impossible.

The Dark Side Rotary is designed to sound more chorusy than your conventional rotary. I assume that’s with David’s Yamaha RA-200 cabinets in mind, which indeed has more of that watery chorus character rather than the woody tremolo of the Leslie.

It sounds really nice on slow speed and you can clearly hear the sweep of the horn and the low hum of the speaker. On high speeds, it’s definitely more chorusy but perhaps a bit too much and it sounds slightly detuned or closer to a vibrato.

It would be very interesting though to have a dedicated mix control for the rotary. It would allow you to blend in the rotary “behind” the main chain of effects or, as David did, in addition to his Hiwatts, for that subtle rotary effect.

Phaser
Again, based on the MXR Phase 90 that David used on the 1974-75 leg of the Dark Side tour and the recording of Wish You Where Here. Not much else to comment on other than it’s hard to get any closer to the orange box than this!

Uni-Vibe
The Uni-Vibe is undoubtedly more associated with Hendrix and Trower than Gilmour, but what would Breathe have sounded like without it? In fact, when touring with “Eclipse”, an early work in progress version of Dark Side of the Moon, in 1972, the Uni-Vibe was featured on almost all of the songs.

The Dark Side Uni-Vibe sounds surprisingly analog, with a beautifully tweaked character and feel. That crisp top end, with the dark throb is easy to dial in and it sounds equally focused and authentic on high speeds, which is needed for songs like Any Colour You Like.

So, to sum it up, I think the fuzz sounds really great. Easily among the finest Big Muff clones on the market and I like the fact that you got the 3-way mid range switch, allowing for a wide range of different tones from the era. Including fairly convincing Powerbooster-ish overdrive when the gain is backed down.

The delay, phaser and Uni-Vibe also sounds really impressive and with a bit of tweaking, the flanger also does the job. The rotary is OK but in my head, I will always compare rotary simulators with the Strymon Lex, which is perhaps not fair. As mentioned above, it would be interesting to have a dedicated mix control for this one.

My main issue with the Dark Side is the fact that you can’t have a modulation effect and the delay selected at the same time. They share the same circuit and can’t be used simultaneously.

You can add stand alone modulation pedals with the send/return jacks in the back but as much as I love the fact that you actually can do that, it kind of makes the Dark Side less of a Gilmour-in-a-box. Delay is essential to all of his tones and it would be cool to have everything integrated in one box.

But I must say that I’m surprised and I’ve had such great fun exploring this pedal. Overall, it sounds great and I would have had no problem using it as a part of my rig or in a recording setup. It’s a super cool pedal for jam sessions or a trip to the cabin, when you just want to bring your guitar, a small amp and little else.

The Dark Side is also an excellent start for the novice pedal collector and Gilmour fan. You got everything at your feet. It sounds great and you can expand, with more pedals and connected them to the Dark Side.

See robertkeeley.com for more details and reviews.

Gilmourish.Com used for possible scam

I’ve been made aware of an e-mail that’s been sent out to numerous makers and dealers during the last couple of weeks. The e-mail is from someone claiming to be me and to be representing this site, Gilmourish.Com.

They use my name and offer a partnership between the recipient and my site.

THIS IS A SCAM.

Please ignore this e-mail if you’ve received one and please, do not associate what they are trying to do, with my site and my high standards for professionalism and ethics.

I’d be very grateful if you could report back to me (post(at)gilmourish.com), if you’ve received such an e-mail in the last week.

Thank you so much for reading this and for your cooperation. Please accept my sincere apology for any inconvenience this may have caused.

best regards,

Bjorn Riis
www.gilmourish.com

Buffalo FX M-1 Fuzz review

Buffalo FX M1 Fuzz review

What’s the best sounding, ultimate Big Muff on the market? Well, you tell me but I know you were probably as enthusiastic as I when Buffalo FX announced their new M-1 Fuzz a few months back. I’ve spent some time with it and here’s my review.

Steve and Buffalo FX have become one of the more popular brands among us Gilmour fans. Not surprisingly perhaps, as most of his designs are clearly inspired by Gilmour’s choice of pedals and tones.

Another reason might be that Steve seems to have an ear for good tone and what it takes to add something new to the classic designs, without completely changing them.

In my opinion, most of his designs are improvements. A few tweaks here and there to meet the more modern demands.

I’ve reviewed several Buffalo FX pedals over the years, including the Patriot, Powerbooster, Evolution and not least, the TD-X. I don’t think I’m biased. It’s more the case of having extremely high expectations.

The M-1 is not a redesign of the old Ram’s Head NOS BC239c, which is now discontinued. It’s a brand new design, although still based on the Ram’s Head circuit.

I did try an early version of the M-1 and after some back and forth with some comments (and I’m sure not only from me), the final version emerged, which what I’m reviewing here.

Like all of Buffalo’s current pedals, the M-1 is housed in a sturdy box, with top mounted jacks, bright led and true bypass switching. No battery. Only 9V (negative tip) adapter powering.

In addition to the familiar level (volume) and sustain (gain) controls, the M-1 also feature active treble and bass EQ controls allowing you to really fine tune the frequency range. 

While several Big Muff clones feature a contour/mid range switch or cut/boost control, the M-1 is designed with the classic Muff and Powerbooster stacking in mind.

Plugging into the M-1 and switching it on, reveals that this thing is both loud and has tons of gain on tap. Still, the gain range is wide and, as you can hear in the clip, you can dial in pretty much anything from mellow overdrive tones to screaming fuzz. The huge amount of volume allows you to add a bit of boost and drive the front end of a tube amp, which adds to the smoothness and compression.

A common issue with most Big Muffs is that they’re either too boomy or a bit on the thin side. The active bass control allows you to dial in just the amount of low end you need for your pickups and amp and even for a smaller bedroom setup, which often needs a bit of low end boost.

The treble control behaves like kind of a mix between the treble on the Powerbooster and the tone control on a Muff, with noon as a good start for fairly neutral Muff tones. Unlike most Big Muffs though, the treble can be set quite high without any harsh overtones or thin sounds.

The M-1 sounds huge. It’s a loud beast, with that familiar growl and uncompromised attitude of the classic Big Muff. But there is a definition and clarity that I’ve never heard from any of the countless Muffs that I’ve played. Even at the highest gain settings, you can strum a chord and hear every single string and the attack in your picking is crystal clear.

The sustain is impressive and you can really hear the benefit of the mid range and slight compression that’s present in the tone. Increasing the bass and backing off the treble a bit, takes the M-1 closer to the Patriot and those early 90s Sovtek tones, with that throaty, almost hollow tone.

So, I guess now you’re all asking “which Muff out there is the closest to the M-1”. The Electronic Orange red Pig Hoof and Skreddy Rust Rod are close. Both are based on the Ram’s Head, with lots of gain and that raw, edgy tone. Still, the M-1 has more mids than the Pig Hoof and more string definition and top end than the Rust Rod.

The Thorpy Muffroom Cloud, with the same bass and treble controls, might be an obvious contender, but they sound very different from each other. The Muffroom, while still in that Muff category, sounds closer to a distortion, with a much more amp-like and pristine tone. The Muff, which still has the full Muff circuit intact, has much more of that vintage vibe and a more obvious link to the Muff and Powerbooster combo.

I could go on describing the pedal in detail but I think you get the point. This thing sounds awesome. Definitely one of the best Big Muffs I’ve played and, if you ask me, one of the best available on the market today. Not only with David Gilmour’s tones in mind, but for Big Muff tones in general, whether that’s dark grunge stoner metall or silky smooth Strat tones. Nothing to put my finger on really just both thumbs up!

Check out buffalo-fx.com for more details. 



Vick Audio Hypocenter Delay

Vick Audio Hypocenter Delay

Delay and echo is as synonymous with David Gilmour, as his Black Strat and Hiwatts. It’s the one effect that really defines his tone and sound and if you can only have one pedal, it should probably be a delay. Vick Audio’s most recent creation is the Hypocenter Delay. Here’s my review.

Vick Audio should be known to most of you. They’ve created some of my favourite effects over the last few years, including the ’73 Ram’s Head, Overdriver and the Tree of Life. The latter is my go-to overdrive over any.

What I’ve always liked about Mike’s pedals is the simplicity and no-frills attitude. Most of the pedals are based on well known classics, with a few welcomed improvements and everything is done with a great knowledge and understanding of tone.

The Hypocenter Delay follows in that same tradition and philosophy. It is digital, based on the PT2399 chip, but it sounds convincingly analog, with dark musical repeats and a very low noise distortion.

The pedal is housed in a T-Rex-ish chassis, with controls for volume, delay, mix and repeats.

The volume controls both the input gain and delay volume. The delay controls the time, ranging from 25ms to 450ms. Not the longest delays but enough to cover anything from slap-back to classic tape and analog echo. The lowest settings also creates a nice doubling effect, similar to some of the new double tracker pedals that have emerged lately.

The mix controls the blend between dry and wet signal and the repeats control, controls the number of repeats from a single repeat to fairly moderate self-oscillation.

The Hypocenter Delay runs on 9V Boss-style adapter and feature true bypass switching.

I must admit that I haven’t been too keen on analog delays up until recently. I preferred those pristine repeats and the accuracy you get with digital. But, over the last couple of albums that I’ve recorded, I tend to use echo and analog voiced delays more and more.

Of course it depends on how you’ll be using delays, but in many cases, I find analog and those dark reverb-like repeats to be more musical and they blend better with a distorted guitar signal.

The Hypocenter has quite dark repeats, similar to the MXR Carbon Copy, and some might find this to be just a bit too dark, but compared to the Carbon and similar pedals, the Hypocenter seems to have more space or room. The repeats creates a nice and lush atmosphere, reminiscent of the Binson.

What I also like about it, is the fact that you can use the volume control to boost the overall signal into the amp and really crank everything for some wild ethereal echo sounds. In fact, when I did this review, I got such a cool tone doing that and I used it to record a solo for a project that I’m working on.

I would have loved to have some modulation built in. It’s not a huge draw back but I think analog echo, or the simulation of it, often sound more natural when you can add just a hint of warble or flutter.

The Hypocenter Delay is a beautiful sounding echo pedal capable of reproducing those classic tones of the 70s Gilmour, including the reverb-like soundscapes of the Binson. For a modest $139, this should be a great alternative for most budgets.

Check out vickaudio.com for more.

YellowSquash Sound Labs Acid Burn Overdrive

Yellowsquash Acid Burn

Overdrives are perhaps the hardest part of the whole tone building. You really need to find one that both sounds great to your ears and one that fits your rig. The Acid Burn Overdrive from YellowSquash promise to be a versatile alternative, suitable for a wide range of guitars and amps. Here’s my review.

As we discussed in the “Knowing which pedals to choose for your amp” feature, different amps require different pedals. An uncompressed, scooped Fender Twin often sound better with mids boosted and compressed pedals. On the other hand, a Marshall or Hiwatt might be easier to set up, with a wider range of pedals, although they often sound better with less compressed and slightly more scooped ones.

The Acid Burn might not be your typical Gilmour pedal. The name alone, might frighten off some players. I did a review of their Iron Fist compressor a while back and it’s truly one of the best compressors I’ve played. Naturally, I was eager to try their new overdrive.

The Acid Burn is housed in a MXR-ish box, nicely powder coated, with controls for tone, gain and volume. A fourth control, labeled “lean/fat”, allows you to fine tune that EQ stage. The pedal feature a bright led, 9V battery or Boss-style adapter powering and true bypass switching.

It’s hard to find any info on this pedal, but while it doesn’t really sound like anything specific, there’s a noticeable British character going on, with a fairly mild compression and a nice top end sizzle. Pedalwise, it’s close to a Powerbooster but there’s a lot more gain on tap and compared to a Powerbooster, the Acid Burn is easier to adjust for different pickups. 



Paired with a clean amp and single coils, the Acid Burn cleans up nicely when you roll back the guitar volume. It is bright, and perhaps a tad too bright for some delicate ears, but the powerful tone control lets you roll off some of that top end, without compromising the attack and presence. This can be further adjusted by adding some low boost and top cut, with the lean/fat control.

As you can hear on the review clip, the Acid Burn has a nice chime and bite with single coils. It has no problem cutting through and the attack and dynamics are very impressive. It responds incredibly well to your playing and let’s you alternate your picking for less or more gain.

With humbuckers, the Acid Burn gets more of that amp-like growl. Again, the lean/fat control makes the pedal very versatile and a bit of low end cut makes a huge difference, bringing out more of that top end presence. Naturally, with higher output pickups, you’ll lose some of the headroom but with the gain set low, you can get some really nice boost even with humbuckers.

So, where does that puts us amp-wise? The Acid Burn sounds great on all the amps I tried and although it did quite well with the scooped Fender, it did sound better on amps with more compression and mids.

As I said, the Acid Burn might not be your typical Gilmour pedal but as you can hear from the review clip, it does those late 70s overdrive tones perfectly. A Powerbooster can be a challenge on smaller amps and bedroom setups and the Acid Burn is an excellent choice for similar tones but a bit more compression and mids.

I really don’t have any major concerns here. The Acid Burn, like the Iron Fist, is extremely quiet and it works well in combinations with other pedals. Both alone and as a booster. Personally I prefer a tone control that doesn’t just open up everything past noon but rather adds a tad more compression. The gain also gets slightly fizzy if you turn it up all the way but that’s pretty much the nature of most overdrives with this wide gain range.

It always cool to play a pedal that doesn’t sound like a thousand others. The Acid Burn is capable of a wide range of tones and, as mentioned, it works especially well on smaller amps and bedroom setups for those classic, transparent overdrive tones.