Keeley Electronics Caverns V2 Review

 

Even in my most minimal setups, there’s sure to be a dedicated delay and reverb pedal, and so I’m intrigued by the idea of these effects being designed to work together in one pedal. The Keeley Electronics Caverns V2 expresses this intent as a combination delay and reverb. It’s updated from the V1 with an improved layout of controls, wider foot-switch spacing, an optional buffer for delay/reverb spillover, and a Mod selection switch. It’s also presented in a more attractive and artful boutique appearance with a clean, modern, and airy graphic design. The colorful abstract triangle art on the case is a metaphor for the complex sound possibilities and interactions between the delay and reverb. The Caverns V2 encourages you to turn every knob, flip every switch, and get creative mingling the delay and reverb together, creating lush and complex sounds.

Features:

  • Keeley’s Magnetic Echo circuit which emulates an analogue tape delay
  • Classic Delay Blend, Time & Repeats knobs – Delay timing up to 680milliseconds
  • 3-way repeats Modulation switch with modes of Off, Deep, or Light for adding “Wow and Flutter”
  • Classic Reverb Blend & Decay knobs
  • Reverb Warmth knob that increases the analog tone or modulation intensity
  • Reverb Rate knob that increases the modulation speed of the reverb
  • A switch to choose between Shimmer, Spring, and Modulated reverbs
  • Discreet bypass foot-switches for the both the reverb and delay sides.
  • Trails or True Bypass – By default the Keeley Caverns in is trails mode, so when the bypass switch is on, the given reverb or delay will maintain the tone and continue in the buffer, ringing out again when bypass is switched off. The back-plate can be removed to change the setting to true bypass.
  • Plastic knobs with just the right amount of smooth resistance, and hexagon shaped for a sure grip
  • All metal casing

Visit Keeley Electronics for more info about the Caverns V2.

 

 

Sound & Performance:

For my testing, I used a 16-step sequenced semi-modular mono synth. I started with the delay side, then the reverb side alone, followed by mixing both effects together.

Delay side

The Magnetic Echo tape style delay is a monster. The trails are very warm and convincingly analog with a bit of lo-fi grit. I organized the delay testing by the Rate knob settings: shortest, medium, medium-long, and longest, followed by “playing” the rate name at higher blends and repeats.

Shortest Time (7 o’clock). At lower blends and repeats, the delay had a thickening effect to the sound, like a slap-back doubling. With the Blend and Repeats knob increased to around 3-plus o’clock, the delay sounded fast and metallic with an industrial bent. At the highest Repeats and Blend, it started to sound out of control from the feedback repeats, amping up the energy. This was the fastest and noisiest setting.

Medium to Medium-High Time (10 o’clock – 2 o’clock). At the medium rates, I could start to hear more musicality in the trails and modulation. Modulation in Deep mode adds a rich retro sound and wobble, and Light mode adds a delicate touch of the modulation. It’s great that the Caverns V2 offers both to suite diverse tastes. Deep mode created a greater sense of being off-balance, which can be a desired effect. At moderate Repeats and Blend, especially with the modulation switched on, there was a syncopated, wave-like quality of the music bounding in the air which added a dimensional feel. At the highest Blend and Repeats settings, the delay repeats started to tumble delightfully and deliriously into each other, the sound piling up and building further into a crescendo of a distorted and sleepy roar.

Longest Time (5 o’clock). At a low to moderate levels of Repeats and Blend, the repeats began weaving in and out of each other creating a loosely woven tapestry in the air. As the Blend and Repeats knobs were increased, Time seemed to be playing tricks as the repeats sounded slower, but catching up to other notes, bounding together in loping rolling hills. Modulation added to an off-balance drunken effect. At the highest Repeats and Blends, the distortion and feedback became an undulating belly of ambient noise.

Playing with Time. After testing with Time knob in fixed positions, I set about on a more chaotic adventure to play the Time knob. I kept Blend and Repeats in relatively high positions, toggling between just-in-control to out-of-control feedback. Starting with the shortest “metallic” sounding Time settings and quickly increasing Time, the sound rumbled into place. The effect of the repeats already in motion completing their cycle, rumbling and then settling, added a physicality to the sound. Speeding up Time had a watery trickling up effect, like a clock ticking faster into the future. There were different pitches to the delay as Time was sped up and slowed, alternating between the increasing pitch of a faster time and decreasing pitch of a slower time. Slowly moving the Time knob could be a way to introduce some intentional, almost plucked-string, musicality or evolving soundscape. Moving the Time knob faster can create gaping moments of chaos. The Time knob was fun and playable.

Reverb side

Shimmer – Shimmer mode is quite lovely and has a ‘particles ascending and spreading out’ pattern to it. The Warmth and Rate knobs act together to dial in the strength and tone of the shimmer. With Warmth and Rate at lower settings, the Shimmer is subdued and low in the background. With Warmth and Rate at higher settings, the Shimmer quality brightens into a celestial choir. When increasing the Decay, Shimmer becomes an incredibly thick and lush ambient atmosphere.

Spring – Spring mode is emulated well and is convincing. Dialing in the Warmth and Rate adds a more pronounced spring modulation. When Decay is all the way up, I could hear a more pronounced reflection in all the lush ambience, as if the sound was coming from inside a metal warehouse or stone cathedral. With a continuous tone, the spring mode adds a noticeable but small wobble of pitch modulation.

Modulation – Modulation mode adds a choral effect and can achieve reverb closer to room or hall by dialing Warmth and Rate up or down. At lower Decay and Warmth, it sounds closer to room. At the highest rate and decay the ambient sound whooshes and swirls around like a stormy cold front. It seemed almost like a subdued shimmer at the highest settings.

Delay and Reverb together – The delay and reverb are artfully well made for each other. The delay enhances and adds power to the reverb, while the reverb smooths out extreme time changes and the harsher feedback of the delay. The overall effect of them working together is lush, expansive, and stormy. It’s like painting emotion with thick expressive washes of sound.

A couple considerations

With a relatively hot input source, at a higher reverb blend and decay, and especially with the delay on, the sound would sometimes clip and distort in a bad way. I would prefer to have the sound source go directly into the pedal before the mixer, but I had better results controlling the clipping and moments of distortion by going into a mixer first where I could monitor the sound and ensure it didn’t go above the green into the yellow at all. This might not be as much of an issue for guitar but might be something to experiment with on synthesizers.

With the default trails mode out-of-box, it can be easy to forget some extreme sound is maintained in the buffer behind the scenes. One could be startled when switching the delay back on. It’s something to be mindful of, while it could also be intentionally used.

 

 

The Keeley Electronics Caverns V2 offers impressive and expressive sounds that can veer between peaceful ambience and potentially unruly soundscapes. Keeley’s Magnetic Echo is cherry. The reverbs are lush, convincing, and much desired emulations. Entire tracks could be composed with just the Caverns V2 and a sound source like guitar or synth. I could see it used in conceptual pieces that evoke concepts of time and stormy weather, as well as being a go-to favorite for making evolving ambient sounds in any context. Even at Caverns V2’s noisiest, it does a fabulous job preserving the inherent tone of the source material. It exalts both tone and your creativity. It’s also a very pretty & well-built pedal among a crowded scene of utilitarian plain designs and indie tattoo nightmares.

That concludes our Keeley Electronics Caverns V2 review. Thanks for reading.

Keeley Electronics D&M Drive Review

I must admit that when I first saw the Keeley Electronics D&M Drive, I wrote it off as just another dual overdrive pedal in a crowded market of such pedals. Even knowing that it’s a product of Robert Keeley’s renowned expertise at crafting outstanding overdrive and boost pedals and a collaborative effort with a couple guys who know thing or two about great guitar tones, I initially passed it over without giving it a second glance… that is, until nearly the end of 2017 when we were rounding up the Best Guitar Pedals of the Year, and our readers gave a massive show of hands that this was most definitely one of the year’s best pedals.

So I decided to try the D&M Drive largely on the merit of knowing that our readers are some of the most informed and knowledgeable effects aficionados around. And I’ve gotta say, you all spared us the shame and regret of possibly overlooking one of the best overall overdrive pedals to come along this year. So what’s the story here? Why is the D&M Drive such a big deal? Let’s put together a picture of the names behind this pedal; the reasons will become clear.

 

Drive to Perfection

Mr. Robert Keeley has had his fingers on the pulse of the boutique guitar pedal market for over 15 years. Since 2001 he and the Keeley Electronics crew have been modding and building custom pedals for guitar heroes including John Mayer, Brad Paisley, John Petrucci, and countless others. Any major style of boost, overdrive, and distortion pedal you can think of has probably been on Robert’s workbench at some point or another, and many of these classic circuits have been overhauled and refined into all-new Keeley Electronics pedals. While it could be argued that there are really only so many ways you can clip a diode and build a circuit around it, this is a pedal builder that has consistently found countless ways to squeeze every bit of sweet tone possible out of a box of wire and resistors.

Now enter Daniel Steinhardt and Mick Taylor, the two guys from whom the D&M Drive gets its namesake. Dan is the founder of The GigRig, a UK based company that specializes in building high-end effects switchers and utility products for professional musicians. Guitarists including Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, Andy Timmons, Noel Gallagher, and many other touring pros have relied on Dan’s careful attention to detail and tonal purity when crafting pedalboards that are would tour ready. Mick was previously an editor of UK’s Guitarist magazine, a gig which no doubt contributed to his own expertise when it comes to great guitar tones. Together Dan & Mick host That Pedal Show, one of the best resources for pedal related content on the Internet. If you have any doubt about the integrity of their ears for tone, head on over to their YouTube channel and peruse a few of their videos. If you love guitar effects pedals, you’ll likely be hitting the subscribe button before you leave.

So long story short – Robert Keeley, Dan, & Mick made a pedal. And it’s a good one. Here’s brief rundown of the D&M Drive’s features before we get into the nitty gritty.

 

Features:

  • 2 independent drive circuits – Boost & Drive
  • Boost & Drive modes may be used separately or together in either order (Boost → Drive or Drive → Boost)
  • Gain, Tone, & Level controls and bypass switches for each side
  • Order switch flips order of Boost & Driver channels
  • Top-mounted I/O and power jacks for minimizing pedalboard footprint
  • Optional TRS mode allows Boost & Drive to be routed to separate loops in an effects switcher.
  • True Bypass
  • Powered by 9VDC 55mA+ center negative power supply.

Visit Keeley Electronics for more info about the D&M Drive.

 

 

Sound & Performance:

 

Mick’s Boost

Let’s start from right to left. The Boost is Mick’s side of the pedal. It’s essentially a boost and low to mid gain overdrive. But it has a surprisingly wider range of use than is characteristic of your typical 3-knob overdrive. You often hear of overdrive pedals having specific sweet spots and applications that fulfill a specific purpose yet lack in overall versatility. Well, the D&M Drive’s Boost circuit is no slouch, and this side alone has plenty to write home about.

With the Boost side’s Gain knob turned all the way down, you can kick on the Boost and get a pleasing clean boost of volume. There’s plenty of volume on tap, so you can easily push an amp, another dirt pedal, or the Drive side into further overdrive. The mid-range is clear and not overly pronounced, yet it seems to have to enough subtle character to impart a little bit of pleasing extra flavor to your guitar signal. This makes the pedal surprisingly suitable to use as a tone enhancer, kind of like setting an Xotic EP Booster to unity gain for some extra tonal mojo. The Tone knob comes in handy here for attenuating your treble response to either add some extra sparkle on the top-end or warm things up by rounding off those highs, particularly useful for taming any harshness from a hotter single-coil bridge pickup.

One peculiar aspect of the Boost side is how the circuit seems to descrease in high-end response as you increase the Gain. This helps give the Boost side a warmer, more mid-focused boost when using it for typical overdrive purposes. I think most players will appreciate this subtle characteristic of the Boost circuit. The Tone knob works sufficiently enough for opening up the top-end a bit, but I second the notion of another publication’s review in wishing for some kind of Presence control. I’d be curious to hear how a Presence parameter placed before the Gain control might help keep that top-end open before it hits the dirt. But aside from that musing, it must be stated that the D&M Drive’s Boost circuit is very well developed and is likely to be the favored circuit among many discerning guitarists. As it stands, it’s easily one of my personal favorite boost/drive circuits.

 

Dan’s Drive

Now while Mick’s Boost side covers a few different bases, Dan’s side is primarily focused on delivered one thing: big, meaty drive tones. You could try to argue that there’s a few flavors in here, but it’s really all about big ‘ole dirt overdrive and distortion. You’ve just gotta decide how much you want.

The beauty of the Drive side is that it can provide all the dirt you need if all your your amp has is a clean channel, but if you pair it with a slightly hot and cracklin’ amp sound, you can get some beautiful drive sounds by pushing your crunch channel with this bad boy. That’s probably my favorite way to use it. Of course, if you are running into an amp with at least two channels, you can still find a middle ground setting with the Drive side that will work well with both.

 

Dynamic Duo

The really great thing about this pedal is that the circuits play off each other well. Just like how the two hosts of That Pedal Show bring different perspectives on gear with some overlapping tastes and an understanding of what they’re each bringing to the table, Dan & Mick have a pair of complementary circuits in the D&M Drive that offer something greater when their merits and strengths are combined.

A common setup in general and with this pedal is to run Boost before Drive. With the Boost First option you can get great results by keeping the Drive side to a more moderate setting and then slamming it a bit harder with the Boost to add some edge when ripping into a solo. Reverse the order of the circuits and a whole different set of possibilities opens up. You could just set the Boost for a lighter or moderate boost and get a really saturated lead tone when kicking on the Drive in front of it.

 

D&M Drive + Effects Switcher

The D&M Drive offers another very unique feature that sets it apart from other dual circuit drive pedals that came before it. Many professional guitarists have adopted pro-grade effects switchers (like the Free The Tone ARC-53M or Boss ES-8) to handle effects switching during live performances. This offers many advantages for gigging guitarists, most notably being able to control all of your pedals from a single condensed area rather than having to tap-dance all over your pedalboard. Dan came up with the clever idea of using TRS I/O jacks to allow guitarists to patch each circuit to separate Send/Return loops in their effects switcher. This lets you use both sides of the pedal from your switcher as you would from the pedal’s own foot-switches. This approach can also allow you to spread out the D&M Drive’s 2 circuits in your signal path with, say, a different favored overdrive pedal in between the D&M Drive’s Boost and Drive sections.

 

 

The Keeley Electronics D&M Drive is a top-tier dual overdrive pedal with two distinct circuits that work well together and are each capable of standing on their own. While many such “overdrive & boost” combo pedals feature solid drive circuits with a generic boost also on board, the D&M Drive boasts a roaring, hot-rodded Drive circuit and a Boost section that can cover a range of clean boosting and mid-gain overdrive sounds. Whether or not you’re a previous player of Keeley Electronics’ pedals or are familiar with That Pedal Show and its hosts, if you appreciate great overdrive tones, the D&M Drive has more than enough great tones to spare.

That concludes our Keeley Electronics D&M Drive review. Thanks for reading.

Keeley Loomer Fuzz/Reverb Review – Best Shoegaze Pedal?

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I was 3 months old when My Bloody Valentine exposed the unprepared world to their textural shoegaze masterpiece, Loveless. I didn’t grow up bathed in the wash of interlaced fuzzy drones, nor did I spend the springtime of my youth entering a trance state behind Kevin Shields’ wall-of-sound, but I promise you that when I did first did hear it, I was somehow overcome with waves of nostalgic bliss. It’s very important to me to know that in the age of Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a record like Loveless was made and inspired an entire generation of musicians to experiment with sonic textures, becaming a source inspiration for nearly every band I look up to regardless of genre. If you haven’t heard that record, go forth and listen to Loveless at your earliest convenience. Everything in this review will make just as much sense if you don’t, but you owe it to yourself to experience the oppressively atmospheric wash that My Bloody Valentine invented. It is arguably the entrance of shoegaze into the world of accessible music, and you too will find yourself hearing the precursor to countless undisputed champions of modern music.

Many of us to this day still struggle to suss out that distinct wall-of-sound tone borne of Kevin Shields’ exhaustive studio work and bolstered throughout by the now-mythical Alesis MidiVerb and the Yamaha SPX90. Few companies have even tried to pull it all off in one package, leaving a hole in the market that is anything but shallow. Keeley’s Loomer, named for the second track on Loveless, aims to fill the void here, featuring both a thick Big Muff Pi inspired fuzz circuit with tone-sculpting response options and three different and unique reverb modes that are not quite what they seem on the surface. Keeley’s been getting zealous with their artist-based/ “neo-vintage” workstations lately, their latest releases including the Jimi Hendrix-inspired Monterey and the Dark Side, a foray into the realm of Pink Floyd. The Loomer is one step further into this grand, tone-copping experiment, and I think we’re all happy that Keeley stepped away from the more traditional guitar pedal vibe to attempt a riskier direction.

Features:

  • Three Reverb Voices: Focus, Reverse, Hall
  • Three Fuzz Response options: Flat, Scoop, Full
  • Seven Parameters:
    Level – Controls the output volume of the Fuzz circuit
    Fuzz – Controls the gain
    Filter – Controls the tone of the Fuzz
    Blend – Controls the amount of wet signal is blended from the Reverb circuit
    Decay – In Focus mode, this is both the Reverb decay time and the feedback for the dual delays. Reverse repurposes it as an 8-way switch for decay times ranging from 150-500ms, and in Hall mode it serves as the Decay time. So basically it’s a Decay knob.
    Warmth – Tone control for the Reverb
    Depth – Multi-purpose knob, controlling the amount of shimmer in the Hall reverb or the depth of modulation in the Reverse and Focus
  • Expression pedal input
  • Version 1 features a TRS input for inserting effects by use of a TRS Y cable, Version 2 replaces this function with an order switch
  • True bypass
  • 9v Powered

Check out Keeley Electronics for more info about the Loomer.

Okay, for housing two foot-witches and seven knobs, this thing is TINY. With elbowed 1/4” cables in the top mounted inputs, the effective area taken up by the Loomer is about 4.5”x4.5”, making for a ton of tone in a tiny package. The Loomer’s dense metal enclosure features a saturated pink homage to Loveless’ album art, and the blue LEDs next to the foot-switches detract nothing from the haunting decor. I thought it was extra clever on Keeley’s part to reverse the filter of the Warmth knob, making the dark (low-range) tones the furthest point clockwise and the brighter (high-range) tones counterclockwise, as if to insist we push the Loomer to its darkest capabilities.

You may be wondering where in the loop you can put the Loomer, considering conventional wisdom tells us Overdrive and Fuzz should be near the start of the chain, while Reverb should be dead last, leaving room for modulations, pitch-shifters, etc., throughout the space in between. Originally, Keeley included a TRS input to allow for signal-chain experimentation, but due to popular demand, they opted to replace this option with a button that swaps the fuzz and ‘verb on the fly.

I am actually writing this review with the TRS version in hand, so I can’t write about how well the swap button works, but I can tell you that through use of the TRS input, I can do fundamentally the same thing. More on swapping the reverb and fuzz later.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but if I have to have one of the two, I think I’d actually prefer the TRS input over the order button to add my own flavor to the signal chain or to re-order the reverb and fuzz with an effects loop switcher. That said, for most regular guitarists, the convenience of a button to swap the order of the fuzz and reverb on the fly can’t be understated. As Gabriel mused in his initial write-up of the Loomer, “Perhaps we can have them both?” Both are pretty neat options, so I’d like to see it if popular demand insisted upon it.

SOUND & PERFORMANCE:

On the right half of the Loomer is a 3-knob Big Muff-based circuit, the same circuit featured in Keeley’s Dark side workstation. You get a Level and Fuzz (gain) knob to control your input level, and a Filter knob to control your tone. The Filter knob is really intuitive, sweeping through a wide range of effective frequencies. Beneath the knobs there is also a neat little response switch that toggles between flat, full, and scooped responses, taking the fuzz circuit from a “nice-to-have” to a full-fledged contender ready to go toe-to-toe with any fuzz pedal on your board. This is a very versatile Muff inspired circuit.

The Scoop voicing refers, of course to a mid-scoop, leaving us with just the highs and lows of the frequency spectrum, making for a super aggressive, metal-worthy tone. Of all the voices, I found that this one was the least liable to turn to muddy mush when I cranked the fuzz knob. The Flat voicing offers a much more, well, flat EQ curve, giving you a relatively less responsive range of harmonic content. Meanwhile, Full responds openly to your playing, yielding warmer tones than the other two voices. All of them are high-gain, compressed, hairy options and which one you use primarily will largely be a matter of personal taste.

On the other half of the Loomer we have the meat of the whole enchilada: the reverb section. Now, the reverb consists of Decay, Warmth, Blend, and Depth parameters; all save the Blend knob have different functions depending on which of the Loomer’s three signature reverb voices you’re using. The Depth knob, which controls the more musical aspects of each voicing, is also controllable via expression pedal.

FOCUS

This gives you reverb into a dual delay into a quad-chorus. Now we’re getting exponential! The Focus is the ethereal reincarnation of the “Soft Focus” patch on the Yamaha FX500 multi effects processor, more affectionately known as “The Sound of the 80’s.” Seriously, playing with this voice clean felt like playing in a Genesis cover band. I promise that’s a good thing.

Studio engineers and atmospheric musicians alike have known since time immemorial that running a reverb through a delay garners long wispy tails of air. The dual delay aspect of this voicing is set to 250ms on one side, and 380ms on the other. This creates a thick blend of indiscernible wet signal. The quad chorus of the Focus adds even more body to the already luscious wash of reverb/delay, turning longer trails into impenetrable thickets of warble. The depth knob controls the depth of the chorus, meaning you can amplify the intensity of the effect when an expression pedal is plugged in. I’d love to be hearing this in Stereo right about now, but it’s a blast to play in mono, typical of how most guitarists play anyway.

REVERSE

This voicing got the most airtime in Keeley’s advertisements and tech demos leading up to the Loomer’s release and for good reason: the Reverse patch is badass. Based on the reverse effects of both the Alesis MidiVerb and the Yamaha SPX90, the Reverse is technically not a reverse reverb. Where traditional reverse reverbs applied in a studio environment are reversed wet reverb trails, the reverse voicing on the Loomer is technically a delay whose repeats play back affected by a volume swell. That swelling effect is made even crazier by the envelope-controlled vibrato, which will bend the note of your repeats upon responding to the attack of your playing. Keeley boasts that this is designed to simulate the pitch-bending of a trem-bar on a Jazzmaster or Jaguar. In that vein, the Warmth knob is meant to affect the tone the way a rhythm pickup tone pot on a Jazzmaster would. Coupled with the Filter control on the Fuzz half of the Loomer, the options for tone-sculpting are open and plenty.

I found the envelope-controlled vibrato to be a little oppressive without the use of the expression input. The rationale behind the use of the trem-bar on the strum is a matter of feel, not bending every note indiscriminately. Thankfully, we can control the intensity of each pitch-bend with an expression pedal, but that adds a layer of mastery we must surmount before truly unlocking the potential of this patch. What’s really beautiful about this setting is the way the repeats push the harmonic distortion of your signal when the Loomer is placed in front of a just-barely-overdriven amp. You know the sound of two notes a semitone away from one another behind an overdrive? Yeah? The Reverse voicing is like a constant wave of that. With the Warmth dialed toward dark and the fuzz filter just a hair past noon you get a really thick ambient rhythm tone.

HALL

The Hall voicing of the reverb half of the Loomer is a long Hall reverb with an octave-up shimmer that can be blended into the tone at will with the Depth knob (and the expression pedal as I’ve been harping on about.) There’s an undeniable musicality to slowly bringing in that choir of angels that I love to utilize as often as possible, sometimes to inappropriate effect. But getting carried away is arguably a worthwhile endeavor considering how much sheer fun results from the excess.

The brighter the warmth, the colder the shimmer will be, so I like to dial back that sharpness with the knob set toward the dark end. This keeps the shimmer from getting in the way of your playing no matter how much wet signal is blended into the chain.

SWAPPING CHAIN ORDER 

Originally included in the V1 Loomer’s box was a split TRS cable, which, should you choose to accept it, allows you to do one of two things:

1: Add an effect/effect chain between the fuzz and the reverb halves of the Loomer or…

2: Swap the fuzz and reverb halves of the Loomer (and also add effects between the two if you like).

The former is fine. It makes perfect sense to the sane mind; use the well-balanced and fully featured fuzz at the beginning of your chain, add your own tremolo, phaser, what-have-you in the middle, and end the chain with the beautifully rendered reverb. Boom, pedalboard complete.

To the more adventurous (read: less sane,) the latter is too tempting to ignore in favor of what makes sense. I am one of these people. I love just a teensy bit of fuzz after any reverb. It helps to pop you out of the mix if you’re getting washed out. If you want to get really crazy, the Hall sounds downright terrifying if you crank the fuzz, and what was once a chamber of cherubs singing praises to the universe has been distorted into banshees emerging from a disturbed burial site when you bring the shimmer into the mix. The Reverse can be made to sound identical to the rhythm tone in Loveless’ “I Only Said,” confirming the Loomer as the fastest route to a shoegaze baseline. The Focus’ nuances actually flattened out a little bit when fuzzed out, which I expected, but the way the quad chorus pushed the fuzz made for a brilliant and spooky lead tone replete with clippy, oversaturated modulations pulsing underneath.

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Overall-Rating-4.5

Wielding a fuzz that sounds massive no matter where you point the knobs and reverbs that are simple enough to be used by any genre but packed with experiment-worthy twists, The Keeley Loomer is bursting at the seams (screws?) with dark mysterious energy. The Loomer is the bread and butter to any shoegaze or post-rock project; it sounds like a black hole in a cathedral at its most extreme. I mentioned before that I think I’d have preferred Keeley stick with the TRS input as opposed to the order swap button, and I stand by that, but each guitarist has their own needs and reversing the order on the fly is arguably more convenient than running a cable from the output to the input and plugging your guitar and amp into the split TRS cable. Maybe Keeley could have gone stereo with the Loomer to get the full range of syncopation with the Focus and Reverse voices, but My Bloody Valentine recorded most of their heavy guitar tracks in mono, so that particular gripe is moot. The inclusion of an expression pedal input allows the guitarist a true musical flexibility that many other reverbs with similar sound quality at similar price points just don’t offer, and with a full-fledged fuzz attached, you can’t ignore it.

That concludes our review of the Keeley Loomer. Thanks for reading!

Keeley Electronics Monterey Review – Best “Jimi Hendrix” Pedal?

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The Keeley Electronics Monterey is the bold as love attempt by Robert Keeley and Co. to deliver an assortment of Hendrix-inspired effects in a single dual foot-switch guitar pedal. As if the name and artwork wasn’t enough to give away this hat tip to Jimi’s legendary 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, the range of effects included allude to Jimi’s range of effects laden guitar work. All the staple effects you’d expect are here – a vintage style fuzz, vibe, rotary, wah, and octave up (& down) sounds. While the Keeley Monterey is obviously inspired by Jimi, it takes this vintage inspiration into the 21st century in a unique hybrid analog/digital pedal that certainly goes well beyond the sounds of any late 60’s effects unit. Does it live up to the monumental reputation of the man himself, the one and only Jimi Hendrix. Let’s burn the midnight lamp and find out.

Features:

  • 5 effects types including Fuzz, Rotary, Vibe, Wah, & Octave
  • Inspired by the effects of Jimi Hendrix
  • Analog Fuzz circuit using Fairchild Semiconductor transistors
  • Rate & Depth knobs adjust Rotary, Vibe, & Harmonic Wah modulation
  • Rate of modulation can be expression pedal controlled
  • In Wah Mode setting the Depth knob counter-clockwise allows manual wah control via Rate knob or expression pedal
  • In Wah Mode moving the knob up left of noon towards the center position activates Auto Wah, and above center activates Harmonic Wah.
  • Digital Octave knob – octave off at center, left of noon octave down, right of noon octave up
  • In Rotary Mode the Octave knob controls the Spinning Horn/Tweeter level
  • Powered by 9VDC Center Negative power adapter (75mA+)

Visit Keeley Electronics for more info about the Monterey.

See the lowest price on Amazon.

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Sound & Performance:

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With Strat in hand I fired up the Monterey and let it rip. The right foot-switch brings in a classic flavored fuzz that, not surprisingly, sounds fantastic as fuzz is an area Keeley excels. The top two knobs control the Fuzz amount & volume Level. A tone control would have been nice, but remember, the old Fuzz Face pedals Jimi Hendrix used only had 2 knobs. The Fairchild Semiconductor transistors provide a smooth and musical fuzz that isn’t as temperamental as germanium and not as harsh as silicon. There’s plenty of great mild fuzz tones, and diming the fuzz turns up the aggression while not getting out of control. It even cleans up with your guitar’s volume knob even when the fuzz is maxed out. There’s also plenty of output volume on tap via the Level knob is case you can to overdrive your amp’s front end with the fuzz. A killer fuzz out the gate, and a great starting foundation.

keeley-electronics-monterey-review-best-jimi-hendrix-pedal-03With the Mod section set to Vibe, I hit the left foot-switch and brought in the Hendrix inspired “Uni-Vibe” flavored phasing that you’ll recognize all over Jimi’s Band of Gypsies LP. The vibe effects can get very intense as you crank the Depth, and while I usually like a heavy vibe, you can get some pretty prominent vibe sounds with the Depth as low as around 9 o’clock. While you can set the speed with the Rate knob, this effect really shines when you bust out the expression pedal. There’s a slight delay in the exp’s tracking which perhaps unintentionally works surprisingly well for getting that delayed speed change feel. When you bypass the fuzz section, the vibe gives you some lush movement for clean playing. So far so good.

The Rotary effects gives a similar flavor of phasing modulation to the Vibe setting. (As you may know the Vibe effect was originally conceived as an attempt to simulate a rotating speaker cabinet. While that effect failed to do so accurately, it became famous in its own right.) But what you have here is a sound meant to more closely emulate the real deal. The Octave knob gives you control of the pronounced high-end movement, similar to the separate horn in an actual rotating speaker cabinet. This effect shines with cleaner playing and expression pedal Rate adjustment. With the fuzz engaged it creates a more artificial sci-fi digital phaser sound which is really fun with higher Rate settings. Get weird with it. Jimi probably wouldn’t mind. Another fun effect.

The Wah effect is another obvious Hendrix nod, and Keeley adds a few twists. Turning the Depth knob all the down activates the standard Wah effect for use with an external expression pedal. My first issue with the pedal is here; there is a slight response delay in moving the expression pedal and hearing the change of the effect. The delayed wah sweep isn’t a big deal for casual Hendrix-inspired playing, but this would be more of an issue among pro guitarists who obsess about these little details. But the cooler aspects of the Monterey’s Wah don’t require an expression pedal. Unplug the pedal in this mode, and you can use the Rate to set a notched wah for ripping solos. Set the Depth to between 8-11 o’clock and bask in some seriously funky auto-wah sounds. Push the Depth past noon, and you get a modulated Harmonic Wah that’s a blast to play. The Monterey is still pulling through.

keeley-electronics-monterey-review-best-jimi-hendrix-pedal-04The Octave effect can be activated in the Vibe or Wah modes. You simply turn the Octave knob up past noon for the octave up or bring it down below noon for the octave down. While Hendrix connoisseurs will think of the Octavia for those singing octave up fuzz tones heard in Purple Haze, the Monterey’s octave sounds are more akin to those glitchy old-school digital octave effects. While the pedal does utilize polyphonic tracking, it’s the lag-time and digital warbling that may or may not be your thing. While an analog octave up would have added authenticity, it would have made the Monterey far more costly to produce. The digital octave sounds included are still a potentially interesting diversion or a path to getting outside the box and exploring weird and warbly soundscapes.

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Overall-Rating-4.0

The Keeley Electronics Monterey Rotary Fuzz Vibe is a fun nod to Hendrix that offers plenty of cool and interesting new sounds for modern fans of the legendary guitarist. Aside from being one of the coolest gifts you could ever spring on a Jimi idolizing guitarist, the Monterey has a few tricks up its sleeve that any guitarist will appreciate. The Vibe mode is a standout, along with the great Auto wah and killer vintage style fuzz circuit. While pro guitarists with critical ears may question the authenticity of the digital effects onboard, casual bedroom guitarists will play long into the night on what is arguably one of the more just plain fun pedals to come out in recent years.

 

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Keeley Electronics Seafoam Plus Review – Best Digital Vibrato/Chorus Pedal?

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Where I’m at as a musician I often find my tonal progress ensnared in that familiar gear-head beartrap, obsessing over effects that could make my guitar sound less like a guitar and more like an organ (or a spaceship, or a fart) with no hope of moving forward without having said effect in my arsenal. I can’t help but envy the latest doodad with every imaginable feature, letting simpler, tried-and-true circuits fall by the wayside in favor of the most “textural,” which is a sometimes nonsensical term in my world. Usually, these pedals languish on my pedalboard uselessly until one of my bandmates calls me out on the poor use of real-estate, and I end up with a pedal I shouldn’t have bought and a guitar that sounds like… a guitar.

That said, over the last few days I’ve become strangely rapt with what most guitarists would consider a very traditional effect: a chorus. Contain your recoil. One would be right to defend the validity of the effect by invoking the names of the most celebrated guitarists who used it: for example, Nile Rodgers used a liberal coating of chorus to great party-inflicting effect in Daft Punk’s 2013 banger, Get Lucky. I’ll even go one step further and declare: this is not just any chorus. Robert Keeley has set the bar for the effect and any chorus and/or vibrato I vet will ever be subject to the Keeley Engineering Seafoam+ standard.

Keeley Electronics is famous a thousand times over for their outstanding compressor pedals, but they’re far from a one-trick pony and this guitar pedal is just one of several pieces of evidence that prove that fact. Put simply: I am in love with an effect that makes my guitar sound like more guitars.

Keeley-Electronics-Seafoam-Plus-Review-Best-Digital-Vibrato-Chorus-Pedal-03Features:

Mono In/Out

Rugged metal enclosure

Tiny Footprint

4 knobs controlling Rate, Depth, Mix and Space/Tone (depending on voice configuration)

Rate: Controls the speed at which the signal is modulated.

Depth: Affects the pitch modulation of the wet signal.

Mix: Determines the amount of affected signal is blended with your dry guitar signal.

Space/Tone: More on this later.

3-position switch for voice control (1) Dimension Chorus-Automatic Double Tracker (2) Seafoam Plus Chorus (3) Dual Seafoam Plus Chorus

2 internal dip switches allowing for Guitar/Bass and Modern (t/Vintage (Warm) modes

Visit Keeley Electronics for more info about the Seafoam+ Chorus/Vibrato.

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Sound & Performance:

Keeley Engineering first debuted the Seafoam+ at Winter NAMM 2014 as a sequel to their popular Seafoam Chorus. When BGFX originally set eyes on it, it was housed in a stereo, double-pedal-sized enclosure with a dedicated vibrato setting and delay/gain knobs to replace the original Seafoam’s blend knob. Keeley has since cut down on the footprint and added two voices in addition to an updated Seafoam algorithm. The latest consumer iteration is a small, mono box made out of a textured navy blue metal, featuring four knobs and a center switch that controls which of the three operable voices you’re using. Under the hood, there’s two dip switches that allow the user to change the algorithms to an onboard bass configuration and the tone from “Modern” to “Vintage.” The face appears to be screen printed with a white and (appropriately) seafoam green enamel logo. I have to say, the Seafoam+ boasts one of the nicest enclosures I’ve had my hands on and the footprint is unimpeachably tiny.

Keeley-Electronics-Seafoam-Plus-Review-Best-Digital-Vibrato-Chorus-Pedal-02Plugging in to this pedal I quickly discovered that I would struggle to find a setting I didn’t like. Despite its digital nature, the tone is comparable to a very clean high-end analog circuit. For those of us who appreciate the flavors of the past, the aptly titled Vintage option on the dipswitch adds a layer of warmth to the affected signal, making for a very buttery tone in all six voice settings without relinquishing clarity.

Out of the box my Seafoam+ was set to ADT, which stands for Automatic Double Tracker. According to Keeley’s website, this “True Chorus” functions like an actual three-piece choir, duplicating your guitar signal into three independent voices that resonate at different pitches and rates. This makes for some very plump chorus that sounds like what chorus should have sounded like a long time ago. What’s even better about this configuration is that it implements Keeley’s Abbey Chamber Reverb algorithm via the Space knob for a smeared-out, full tone that invokes pelagic imagery. I couldn’t find a vibrato sounding effect in the ADT voicing no matter what I did, which I guess does make sense due to the 3-voice nature of the chorus.

In Bass Mode, ADT is converted to a relatively basic flanger with feedback control allowing for additive or subtractive flange. I’ll be honest: I’m not a huge fan of flange in general and when I first discovered that Keeley opted to include a flange in the Seafoam+, I was skeptical. However, the simplicity of the Seafoam’s interface made it very easy to find a tasteful tone, and I might soon become a flange convert because of that fact. Of course, with the space knob at its extremes you can achieve some pretty wild modulations and I had fun making airplane sounds by maxing the negative/positive feedback.

Below ADT on the voice switch is the updated Seafoam+ voicing, a very clean and classic-sounding chorus. The algorithm relies heavily on an LFO and is based on a vintage Bucket-Brigade Delay analog-chorus circuit, so if you’re expecting that ramping pitch modulation that makes your sound throb, you won’t be disappointed. The mix and depth knobs can be brought clockwise for watery vibrato, and counterclockwise for a more chorus-y sounding effect. The space knob is also repurposed to function as a tone control for warmth or clarity in the wet signal. Bass mode simply changes the frequency response to accommodate more low-end applications. There isn’t much further to say there, but I did notice it added a bit more body to the low-end and played very nicely with overdrive.

The last setting on the voice switch is the Dual Chorus, which I tend to gravitate toward when I’m playing with the Seafoam+. It splits the frequency modulation into two bands, allowing for crazy saturated flux in the low end and absolute peace in the highs, or vice-versa. The Space knob is once again repurposed, allowing you control over which frequency band is being affected. This setting is actually what sold me on the Seafoam+. I have an especially bassy overdrive-fuzz on my ‘board that is so completely made by the Dual Chorus that I might just put them both in the same effects loop and use them together exclusively. The pulsating chorus underneath (or on top of) my signal left me wishing that Keeley had kept the stereo in/out for an even fuller sound but you can’t even count that as a detraction from the model itself. The effect is profound even in mono and this voice stood out to me as particularly expressive, achieving wide, boomy ambience and jarring vibrato with deft simplicity.

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Overall-Rating-4.5

The Keeley Seafoam+ Vibrato/Chorus is more quality bang for your buck than most digital chorus pedals on the market (including the original Seafoam) dream to be. With six unique voices on board, an MXR-sized footprint, the extended dipswitch options, and the more-than-reasonable price, the Seafoam+ isn’t just new and improved: it’s unique from its predecessor. It sounds awesome on its own, but my biggest impediment writing this review was the amount of time I spent just listening to the way the Seafoam+ made my other effects shine. You can go the traditional route and use it to pop your leads out of a mix or you can get weird and use it to bury your signal in wavering, watery wobbles. I do wish that Keeley had kept the Seafoam+ a stereo model to add further girth to its capabilities and maybe included an expression in for the sake of controlling the rate of the modulations in real-time, but neither of these concerns detract enough from the current iteration to affect my overall opinion: the Keeley Engineering Seafoam+ Chorus/Vibrato is a top-notch effect, and you should play it to hear so for yourself.

That concludes our Keeley Seafoam+ Vibrato/Chorus review. Thanks for reading.

 

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Keeley Electronics Compressor Pro Review – Best Studio Grade Compression Pedal?

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Keeley Electronics’ most famous pedal is the C4 Compressor, a Ross Compressor inspired gem that is still one of the best compressor pedals available today. Not content with having just one outstanding pedal in that category, Keeley released the GC-2 Limiting Amplifier, a dbx 160 style pedal that offers studio flavored compression/limiting. Now comes the Keeley Electronics Compressor Pro, the pinnacle of Robert Keeley’s long-standing experience making quality compression pedals. And this is a pedal that more than lives up to the expectations I had for it.

The Ultimate Keeley Compressor Has Arrived

Keeley-Electronics-Compressor-Pro-Review-Best-Studio-Grade-Compression-Pedal-02Keeley Electronics first showed the Compressor Pro and Winter NAMM 2014. While I knew this would be a pedal to keep an eye on, it would be yet another long year before Keeley would show it again at Winter NAMM 2015 in near-complete form. It was finally released shortly after, and now Keeley Electronics is making compression pedal history all over again.

The Compressor Pro shouldn’t be mistaken as simply an upgraded “Pro” version of Keeley’s original C4 Compressor as it actually has more in common with the GC-2 but with a greatly increased feature-set. The Compressor Pro features the same THAT Corp. 4320 chip, 1:1 through Infinity:1 Ratio range, and similar Gain & Threshold controls to the GC-2. In addition to the GC-2’s default Hard Knee setting, the Compressor Pro also offers a Soft Knee option for smoother compression. There are also dedicated Attack & Release controls and a convenient Auto mode for allowing the Attack & Release to respond naturally to your playing without being affected by the values of their respective knobs. A handy row of Gain Reduction LED’s and a Threshold indicator LED also gives you a visual indication of what’s going on.

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Warning: Playing this Compressor Pro
will cause ambient tones,
perfectly mastered tracks,
and addiction to Keeley gear.

You’ve been warned!

A summary of specs and features is below. Then onward to our Keeley Electronics Compressor Pro review to find out if it’s the best compression pedal around.

Features:

  • Device controls for Threshold, Ratio, Attack, Release, Gain, Knee, & Auto.
  • Compression LED Display – 7 Segment LED display for fast and accurate metering of compression and gain reduction.  Gain Reduction Levels of -1dB to -20dB are indicated.
  • Threshold LED Indicator – Bi-Color LED to indicate when compression is initiated and released.
  • Exact RMS Analysis (ERA) – Senses the true RMS value of the input program material such as your guitar, bass or drum machine.
  • Hard/Soft Knee Compression – Hard Compression for limiting or adding sustain, soft knee or Komfort Kompression for gentle compression, keeping performances lively and natural sounding without potential phase issues in parallel, or blending style compression.
  • Auto Mode – Program dependent Attack and Release times.  Set to Auto ON for worry-free performance and automatic Attack and Release times.
  • True-Bypass – No tone or signal loss when OFF.

Visit Keeley Electronics for more info about the Compressor Pro.

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Sound & Performance:

While there have been a few times a pedal I was excited about let me down, this is one of those situations where a pedal met and surpassed my expectations. The first thing I noticed about Keeley’s GC-2 is just as apparent here, the Compressor Pro is incredibly transparent. While old CA3080/LM13700 based Ross/Dyna Comp style compressors (including the C4 Compressor for that matter) seem to add a little something to your tone – and that’s arguably part of their charm – the Compressor Pro is on par with the most transparent compression pedals available. That’s due in part to being a VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier) compressor which are generally known for their quieter, more transparent performance when compared to the aforementioned Ross/Dyna Comp/C4 style of OTA (Operational Transconductance Amplifier) compressor. Then there’s also the fact that Keeley went all out with a THAT Corp. 4320 chip and other premium components. But beyond the compression type and spec-sheet hype, the bottom line is that the Compressor Pro is more comparable to a studio grade compressor in terms of sound quality (and features) than nearly any other compression pedal out there.

Keeley-Electronics-Compressor-Pro-Review-Best-Studio-Grade-Compression-Pedal-04One of the key things I like about the Compressor Pro are its Ratio options as I wish more guitar pedals would include a full Ratio range. Most of the knob’s range is dedicated to more subtle Ratios with fully counterclockwise to noon ranging from 1:1 (no compression) to a still moderate 4:1. Once you cross noon you’ll reach 5:1, 10:1, and then jump to Infinity:1 for extreme compression and limiting. As I mentioned before, the Compressor Pro is all about transparency. (That should be the key buzz word you get out of this review: “transparency”.) Even at the heaviest “brick-wall” setting of Infinity:1, the Compressor Pro doesn’t crush your tone into oblivion when it clamps down. For most front-of-signal-chain purposes though, most guitarists will probably have the Ratio knob set somewhere to the left side of half-way for subtle compression and around noon or a little higher for moderate to slightly heavier amounts of compression. If you need heavier squash for chicken pickin’, the 10:1 Ratio has you covered.

Keeley-Electronics-Compressor-Pro-Review-Best-Studio-Grade-Compression-Pedal-05The Threshold knob determines the volume level your signal must exceed before the compression kicks in. You’ll get a visual indication from the Threshold LED when that happens. You’ll also see the row of 7 red Compression LEDs illuminating to show you how much gain reduction is occurring. These visual indicators will be especially beneficial for those new to using guitar compressor pedals. Even advanced compression users will benefit because the rhythm of the lights will help you set your Attack & Release times with greater confidence. I personally like having the combination of audio & visual feedback when using more complex compressors.

Keeley-Electronics-Compressor-Pro-Review-Best-Studio-Grade-Compression-Pedal-06Having independent Attack & Release controls, the Compressor Pro is already more in line with a studio rack compressor than your typical guitar pedal. What’s more is that the Auto switch lets you bypass the knobs’ settings for a responsive attack and release that varies depending on the input source. Basically, if my understanding serves me correctly, the compression will vary depending on the dynamics of your playing for a very responsive and musical feel. You’ll notice the Compressor Pro responding differently when you’re playing single staccato notes or letting chords ring out. I spent plenty of time adjusting the Attack & Release and switching to Auto mode while monitoring the gain reduction LEDs and listening to how the pedal responded. Simply put, Auto mode sounds great and will most likely produce better results for your playing than all but the most experienced compression users would dial in via the Attack & Release knobs. For many guitarists I imagine this becoming their default setting regardless of how competent they are at dialing in their attack and release times.

The Knee switch is an essential addition to attenuating your compression for a variety of uses. Basically, a soft knee is curve for a more gradual attack while the hard knee is abrupt. For guitarists, the Soft Knee will typically be your setting of choice as this yields a smoother, more natural compression curve. Bassists may prefer the Hard Knee when trying to achieve a tighter, more consistent level. The Hard Knee setting is also what you’ll most likely use when using the Compressor Pro for hard limiting duties. Also, if you’re using fast Attack times in general and are really trying to tame any unruly transients or volume spikes, the Hard Knee may be what you need.

Compressor Pro vs GC-2 vs 4-Knob Compressor

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Compressor Pro vs C4

And that brings me to the Compressor Pro vs GC-2 Limiting Amplifier vs C4 4-Knob Compressor comparison. Basically, Keeley’s classic 4-Knob Compressor is a pedal you’d put in the front of your chain for attenuating your signal before it hits anything else. While it’s a pretty clean compressor that preserves the nature of your instrument, it does enhance your sound with subtle qualities of its own, more noticeable at higher Sustain settings. The Compressor Pro on the other hand, does not; it keeps the sound of your guitar essentially untouched. Again, it’s about “transparency”. While the C4 has its long-standing reputation as a pedal used by many professional guitarists and is arguably still quite transparent in its own right (especially when compared to lesser Ross influenced pedals), the Compressor Pro is simply truer to its namesake in that it is more akin to a rack-mounted unit than a stompbox. If you want dynamic control and sonic presence without a hint of coloration, the Compressor Pro is the winner.

Compressor Pro vs GC-2

The GC-2 Limiting Amplifier is an anomaly as there aren’t too many guitar pedals that have a focus on limiting (although the terms compression and limiting are similar and often interchangeable). Essentially, the GC-2 is more like a Compressor Pro Lite as it is based off the same THAT Corp. 4320 chip and has similar limiting abilities. The GC-2 also compresses similarly to the Compressor Pro’s Auto mode. Now I absolutely love the GC-2 as an end-of-chain pedal for its brick-wall limiting. If you specifically need a pedal for that purpose alone, the GC-2 is still a great choice as the extra Attack/Release controls and Soft Knee option may not be as necessary to you. But if you want the versatility of having an ultra-transparent and more versatile front-of-chain compressor OR an end-of-chain limiter, the Compressor Pro covers both duties. Again, the C-Pro wins.

There’s not really much else to say here. The Compressor Pro sounds outstanding and features almost everything you could possibly want in a pedal. The only thing I could wish for is a side-chain input as that would make it even more ideal in the studio (or in my Ableton Live automated guitar rig as I feed audio signals into an external side-chained compressor during performances). But the Compressor Pro greatly exceeds the utility, sound quality, and feature set of most compression pedals while remaining relatively compact in size and should be one of your top considerations if you’re looking for an outstanding compressor for your pedalboard. The Auto mode in particular is so good that I almost wish Keeley would make yet another 3-knob compressor (Keeley Compressor Pro Compact anyone?) that just has Gain, Ratio, & Threshold knobs (like the GC-2) and a Knee switch. For those who just leave Auto mode on all the time, a Compressor Pro “Lite” would be yet another enticing Keeley compression pedal. But the extra versatility of the Compressor Pro makes it one of the best all-around compression pedals out there.

The Compressor Pro proves that Keeley Electronics is still a force to be reckoned with in stompbox compression.

Keeley-Electronics-Compressor-Pro-Review-Best-Studio-Grade-Compression-Pedal-08

Overall-Rating-5.0

The Keeley Electronics Compressor Pro is a supremely transparent studio-grade compression stompbox. This pedal is hard to beat when it comes to transparent pedal compression. The Compressor Pro also has a complete range of studio-style controls including an innovative Auto mode for greater ease of use. The Hard/Soft Knee options and extended Ratio settings also make the Compressor Pro equally well suited for standard guitar compression or hard limiting duties. I can also imagine some engineers finding handy use for this pedal in the studio for a wide range of compression duties. Not only does the Compressor Pro get my vote as the best pedal Keeley Electronics has released to date, but it’s one of the best compression pedals ever created. Try it and hear for yourself.

That concludes our Keeley Electronics Compressor Pro review. Thanks for reading.

 

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Keeley Electronics GC-2 Limiting Amplifier Review – Best Limiter Pedal?

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Keeley Electronics is perhaps the most well-known name in stompbox compression. After all, Robert Keeley’s classic 4-Knob and (recently discontinued) 2-knob Compressors have been going strong for over a decade, surpassing well over 40,000 guitar pedals sold. So when Keeley Electronics finally released their “Guitar Compressor #2”, or GC-2 as it’s called, it raised more than a few eyebrows. But the GC-2 Limiting Amplifier isn’t to be mistaken as a replacement for the legendary 4-Knob Compressor. As the name implies, this pedal’s focus is more so limiting as opposed to general compression. What’s the difference? Glad you asked…

Compression Vs. Limiting

Compression and limiting are essentially variations of the same thing: dynamic control that reduces volume peaks in audio. Basically, these effects make loud sounds quieter. A useful side effect of this is that quiet sounds will appear louder as your peaks are reduced in volume, essentially evening out your overall volume level a bit. This can also result in clean sustain which is very sought after among guitarists. Of course an unwanted side effect of compression/limiting can be that low level noise gets louder as well, making it important to use such effects with restraint and with understanding of how their parameters work.

Essentially, guitar compressors are typically used on the front-end of your effects signal chain. Compression helps even out your playing dynamics for a consistent signal that can be louder, punchier, smoother, and generally more flattering depending on what you’re going for. As limiting guitar pedals like the GC-2 are pretty uncommon, it’s important to understand how limiting is typically used in the studio to figure out how to best make use of such a pedal.

Limiting is one of the most important effects used on mixes and final masters of audio recordings. A limiter is typically the last effect used in an audio path on the master mix bus to put the final touches on the overall dynamics of a recording. Also, the technique of “brickwall” limiting is often used to put an aggressive ceiling on dynamics that prevents any volume peaks from crossing the selected threshold. Being a limiter in pedal form, the idea of using the Keeley GC-2 Limiting Amplifier as an end-of-signal-chain pedal opens up a few possibilities that typical stompbox compressors lack. All of that will be mentioned soon in our review.

The Legendary dbx 160A Compressor/Limiter… at your feet!

Keeley-Electronics-GC-2-Limiting-Amplifier-dbx-160-01The GC-2 packs another surprise under the hood: its “extreme high-fidelity THAT Corp. 4320” chip. These chips were conceived and created by former dbx engineers and deliver performance and response that rival the legendary dbx 160A, widely considered one of the best compressors of all time. The diminutive GC-2 Limiting Amplifier even sports a similar 3-knob control set and hard-kneed compression style as its dbx predecessor. Thanks to this chip and other ultra-high quality components, the GC-2 has a frequency response that extends far outside the typical range of guitar, making this truly a studio-grade pedal. This means two things: your tone will not be compromised and you can potentially use this pedal with other instruments and line signals for a style of compression/limiting that’s reminiscent of that dbx 160 sound. Very cool.

Now let’s run down the features and find out if this is the best limiter pedal around in our Keeley Electronics GC-2 Limiting Amplifier review.

Features:

  • Studio-grade compression in a pedal
  • User-friendly controls so you can find your perfect sound
  • Contains THAT Corp. 4320 chip
  • Controls for Ratio, Threshold, & Level
  • Attack Time: typically 15ms for 10dB, 5ms for 20dB, 3ms for 30dB
  • Release Time: typically 8ms for 1dB, 40ms for 5dB, 80ms for 10dB, 160ms for 20dB, 240ms for 30dB
  • Powered by batter or 9VDC power adapter (current draw: 15mA)

Visit Keeley Electronics for more info about the GC-2 Limiting Amplifier.

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Sound & Performance:

First, I’m going to evaluate the merits of using the GC-2 Limiting Amplifier as a front-of-signal-chain compression effect. The GC-2 is actually a modified version of Keeley’s Bassist Limiting Amplifier, a pedal designed for extremely smooth and even compression response, essential for consistent bass signals. The GC-2 differs from the Bassist in that it is designed to be less responsive to those ultra-low bass frequencies, instead responding within a range more suitable to guitar. It also has a “snappier” response and a quicker Attack & Release than Keeley’s Bassist Limiting Amplifier. But the idea is that it can really give you a level of compression that’s more even and consistent than what you may have experienced with other compression pedals.

When setting the Threshold and Gain knobs at around noon, you’ll typically achieve a setting that’s pretty much at unity volume with your bypassed signal. And with the Ratio knob rolled all the way down, the GC-2’s compression is at 1:1, producing no noticeable effect on your signal. If the Threshold Indicator LED is flashing red on any hard strumming or plucking, kicking the Threshold up a little towards 1 o’clock or higher ensures it stays green and isn’t compressing at all. From here I noticed something quite amazing. The GC-2 is perhaps the most transparent effect pedal I’ve ever heard. This is a very big deal. Most compressors, even considerably transparent ones including Keeley’s own 4-Knob Compressor, often impart their own sound, however subtle, on your signal. This can be a good thing in some cases and is often a part of what gives certain compressors their sought-after sound. But it’s really refreshing just how “not there” the GC-2 can be when engaged. I A/B’d the GC-2 without compression against my bypassed signal repeatedly and could never accurately tell when it was active or not. It doesn’t get more transparent than this.

Keeley-Electronics-GC-2-Limiting-Amplifier-Review-Best-Limiter-Pedal-02When cutting the Threshold down to where the Threshold Indicator LED begins to illuminate red, the GC-2 will begin compressing your signal at a ratio set by the Ratio knob. You’ll notice the compression coming in when rolling the Ratio from 1:1 to 2:1. The GC-2 still maintains its pristine transparency when compressing although you’ll notice it leveling off those volume peaks. Keeping the Threshold around the 10-12 o’clock range with Ratios from 2:1 to 4:1 produces more subtle effects. The compression has a hard knee and combined with the GC-2’s fast attack, produces a tight compressing effect that kicks in instantaneously. On the lightest settings, it’s barely noticeable, maybe taming a volume peak here and there. If you turn down the Threshold a bit and set the Ratio to around 4:1 or 5:1, you can get some pretty heavy compression that clamps down hard while not killing your tone. Very nice.

But the GC-2 Limiting Amplifier’s fast attack, hard knee, incredible transparency, and Infinity:1 ratio give this pedal even more utility at the other end of your signal chain. And that’s where some effects using guitarists will discover how indispensable the GC-2 really is.

If you’ve got a reasonably large pedalboard, you know how problematic it can be to constantly monitor the output levels of all your different pedals. Sometimes an output level gets set too high or maybe you activate 2 high output pedals at once that unintentionally produce a huge surge in volume. By setting the GC-2 to a pre-specified Threshold with an Infinity:1 Ratio, you can set up a “brick wall” limiting effect that will keep any high output pedal from blowing holes in your speakers or shredding your audience’s eardrums. Need a little more headroom for your boosts and overdrives? No problem. Just raise the GC-2’s Threshold to a setting that allows additional volume clearance. Yes, you can save your headroom while sparing your audience from an aural assault because you forgot to roll down the Level control on that monster fuzz pedal of yours. You could simply put it after an assortment of distortion and fuzz effects and get the job done. But there’s one more consideration…

So the GC-2 can prevent accidental walls of noise, but it can also work with such intended soundscapes. Maybe that self-oscillating delay pedal could benefit from a volume ceiling that keeps it from getting too out of hand. Now you can go on with your shoegazing and sonic experimentalism knowing that the beautiful noise you’re creating will have some sort of volume restraint. The GC-2 is perhaps the ultimate end-of-signal-chain pedal, keeping your precious tone in tact while ensuring no unwanted volume levels reach your amp and audience. I’m surprised it took this long for someone to release a pedal that does this job as efficiently as the GC-2 Limiting Amplifier. Big kudos to Robert Keeley and Co. for releasing this essential guitar compressor pedal.

The Keeley Electronics GC-2 Limiting Amplifier solves an unmet need of effects pedal using guitarists, and will find homes at the beginning and ends of many guitarist’s signal chains. (If you’re still unsure of which Keeley compression pedal to get, check out our Keeley 4-Knob Compressor review & Keeley Compressor Pro review.) Let’s see the final result.

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Overall-Rating-5.0

The Keeley Electronics GC-2 Limiting Amplifier is a true stompbox limiter and the ultimate end-of-signal-chain pedal for dynamic volume control. Drawing upon the legacy of the dbx 160A, the GC-2 provides a hard-kneed compression that adds punch and clarity to your sound while maintaining absolute transparency. It can be used just as well as your go-to compressor or boost as it’s one of the purest sounding compressors around. But pedal junkies who have large pedalbaords or simply like to experiment and make beautiful noise with a variety of pedals at once will appreciate the “brick wall” limiting offered by the GC-2. Nothing passes until the GC-2 allows it to. It’s definitely the best limiting pedal available today.

That concludes our Keeley Electronics GC-2 Limiting Amplifier review. Thanks for reading.

 

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Keeley Electronics C4 4-Knob Compressor Review – Best Compression Pedal?

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Reviewing the Keeley Electronics “4-Knob” Compressor almost seems redundant. After all, this is the pedal that put Keeley Electronics on the map and helped make Robert Keeley one of the most respected names in the boutique pedal industry. There’s no question as to whether the 4-Knob Compressor is a good pedal. It’s a certified classic in the realm of boutique guitar pedals. But with new pedal builders practically coming out of the woodwork and countless compression pedals released since Keeley’s classic “2-Knob” version came on the scene, it’s Best Guitar Effects’ continuing mission to discern which pedals remain at the top of the pecking order. Does the classic 4-Knob Compressor still hold up today? Is it the best guitar compression pedal around? We’ll help you answer that in our Keeley Electronics 4-Knob Compressor review.

Here’s a quick feature rundown before we jump right in with this one.

Features:

  • Controls for Sustain, Level, Clipping & Attack
  • Tone-tested components
  • True bypass switching circuit
  • Triple-pole double-throw switch
  • Powered by 9-volt battery or 9VDC power adapter (current draw: 5mA)

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Sound & Performance:

The Keeley C4 4-Knob Compressor is designed to do two things: compress your guitar signal and provide smooth sustain. It does that with four easy-to-use controls: Sustain, Level, Attack, & Clipping. The old 2-Knob Compressor (now discontinued) had the Attack & Clipping controls inside the pedal. The 4-Knob version, or “C4” as it’s now called, puts these essential controls on the outside as they’re quite useful for configuring the pedal to your current guitar and style of playing.

The Sustain and Level controls will be familiar to anyone who’s ever used or at least heard of the old Ross Compressor or Dyna Comp. The Sustain control essentially increases the amount of compression (ratio) and puts more of a squeeze on your guitar signal as you crank up the knob. The Level control sets your overall volume level. Easy enough.

Keeley-Electronics-C4-4-Knob-Compressor-Review-Best-Guitar-Compression-Pedal-02The Clipping and Attack controls are where things get interesting. The Clipping control limits the input signal going into the pedal before it hits the Sustain section. Think of it as a sort of pre-gain control. For lower level signals you may want to increase the setting or max it out. If you’re running a hotter signal or noticing additional noise or distortion, cut it back a bit. While the manual generally recommends leaving it all the way up, I find myself sometimes liking to pull it back a bit to decrease the amount of saturation produced from higher Sustain settings. What’s really interesting is how higher Clipping settings can liven up your tone and impart a very unique character on your overall sound. It adds to the vibe of the 4-Knob Compressor and contributes to why so many people love this pedal. The Keeley C4 Compressor has its own unique vibe and sound, a quality shared by the most famous studio compressors.

The Attack control adjusts the recovery time of the compressor, seeming almost more like a “release” control. Attack and release seem like both sides of the same coin here. A higher Attack setting gives your guitar a quicker, punchier sound, while lower settings make the sound “bloom” after your initial pick attack. The lower Attack settings are more useful for light chordal work and slower, fragmented playing for sounds that are lush and beautiful. The higher settings are preferable for quick, single note playing and when you’re using the pedal for singing solos that sustain at consistent volume levels.

And that’s part of what makes the 4-Knob Compressor so versatile. Whether you’re playing clean chords, dialing it in for searing leads, getting your funk on, or going for some country twang, there’s a setting here that’ll get the job done. This pedal is also the first stompbox I ever discovered was being used by studio engineers on a variety of instruments and audio signals. The Clipping knob comes into play here for handling higher line levels.

While Keeley Electronics have since released the GC-2 limiting Amplifier & Keeley Compressor Pro pedals, the classic 4-knobber is still going strong and stands out among other similarly Ross-inspired guitar compressors. I always look forward to seeing older designs reimagined. I’m one of those few guitarists that always think the best is still yet to come. But the 4-Knob Compressor got something right, and few pedals can even come close to the quality that Robert Keeley cooked up with this pedal.

The Keeley Electronics 4-Knob Compressor has still got it after all these years. It’s still up there with the best guitar compressor pedals. Let’s see the final result.

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Overall-Rating-4.5

The Keeley Electronics C4 4-Knob Compressor lives up to its reputation and is still one of the best guitar compression pedals available today. While inspired by some classic compressors, Keeley’s pedal has become just as much a legend in its own right. Whether you want subtle compression or heavier squashing of your signal, the 4-Knob Compressor always remains musical while adding a pleasing sustain to your guitar. And it has a unique tone of its own among stompbox compressors. Nothing around sounds quite like it. And fewer pedals still can compete with this level of sheer overall quality.

That concludes our Keeley Electronics C4 4-Knob Compressor review. Thanks for reading.

 

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