As we said in the beginning of our original Warped Vinyl review, “the Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl might just be the most ambitious analog pedal ever designed.” It’s a pedal that defied what guitarists thought an analog stompbox was capable of. It packed in more features and controllable parameters than had ever been seen in an analog pedal of its size, and most importantly, the Warped Vinyl sounded absolutely beautiful. Without a doubt the Warped Vinyl was an instant classic. Now the Warped Vinyl MKII is here, and as we’ve already sung the praises of the original Warped Vinyl and the genius of Chase Bliss Audio, this review of the Warped Vinyl MKII will focus primarily on the differences between the two pedals and assess any improvements and/or disadvantages between the two. You can visit our original Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl review for an in-depth analysis of the MKI as most of what we said still applies to this pedal. Here’s a quick rundown of the initial spec changes that have been made.
Warped Vinyl MKI vs Warped Vinyl MKII
The Warped Vinyl MKII has several noteworthy improvements over its predecessor. These include:
Dedicated Tone control for the wet vibrato voice
Slightly wider vibrato pitch range
Greatly expanded MIDI control including CC control of all knob functions.
Users can now select MIDI Channels 1-16. (MKI was preset to MIDI Channel 5).
122 user preset slots savable/selectable via MIDI. MKI had only 2 presets.
Dip-switches now mounted on the top side.
MKII So Soon?
It wasn’t Chase Bliss Audio’s intention to render the Warped Vinyl obsolete by releasing the MKII. It’s just a matter of striving ever further towards perfection. While some companies factor in planned obsolescence in their development plan, Chase Bliss Audio just found ways that their product could be improved and brought these changes to market as soon as possible. The original Warped Vinyl was already ahead of the curve in terms of sounds and features. The Warped Vinyl MKII may just put other chorus/vibrato pedals further behind in the dust. Here’s a list of the Warped Vinyl MKII’s other features before we dive into our Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl MKII review.
- All-analog signal path.
- Ramp control knob can be set to control any of the 5 parameters (Volume, Mix, RPM, Depth, Warp) individually or simultaneously via dip switches on the back of the pedal. Controls the ramp time in which this takes place.
- Tone (Ramp) control knob dials in the tone of the wet vibrato voice when no Ramp dip-switches are in use. All the way clockwise is transparent and shimmery, and all the way counter-clockwise is dark and murky.
- Volume control knob sets the level of the effect.
- Mix control knob can be set from 100% wet, to 100% dry, or anything in-between.
- RPM control knob sets the rate of the vibrato. Can be overridden by the tap tempo switch.
- 1 – 2 – 3 (3 – 6 – 8) toggle switch sets the tap division for tap tempo. A dip switch on the back accesses the “3 – 6 – 8” divisions.
- Depth control knob sets how wide the vibrato goes. Crank it clockwise for insane, pitch-bending modulation.
- Warp control knob sets the center point of the modulation. Set it counterclockwise to make the wave ramp up quickly and down gradually. Set it clockwise to make the wave ramp up gradually and down quickly. Set it at noon for a perfectly symmetrical wave.
- Left Wave Shape toggle switch sets the first half of the wave modulation. Left for sine, middle for triangle, right for square.
- Right Wave Shape toggle switch sets the second half of the wave modulation. Left for square, middle for triangle, right for sine.
- Bypass footswitch activates or bypasses the effect via true relay bypass. Can by changed to a momentary bypass via a dip switch in the back of the pedal.
- Tap Tempo footswitch sets the tap tempo and always honors the last two stomps.
- Preset toggle switch recalls presets. Middle position reflects current knob positions, right position recalls right preset, and left position recalls left preset.
- Exp input jack allows expression pedal control of parameters selected via dip switches on back of pedal.
- Tap input jack can be used for tap input or output with a regular ¼” instrument cable.
- Powered by 9-volt battery or 9VDC power adapter (consumes ~25mA).
- Volume, Mix, RPM, Depth, and Warp dip switches on the left side simply turn that parameter on or off for ramping or expression pedal capability.
- Volume, Mix, RPM, Depth, and Warp dip switches on the right side control whether the parameters rise or fall in ramp mode. This also affects the direction of movement with an expression pedal.
- Bounce dip switch makes parameters go back and forth (i.e. modulate) or ramp and hold.
- Lo-Fi dip switch makes signal noisier with some fidelity loss for authentic warped vinyl record sound effects.
- MoByp dip switch activates momentary bypass, activating pedal only when Bypass footswitch is pressed in.
- Tap Control dip switch allows tap tempo to modulate RPM rate (v) or Ramp speed (r). Bounce needs to be on to modulate Ramp speed.
- Tap Division dip switch selects from “1, 2, 4” tap divisions (1) to “3, 6, 8” tap divisions (3).
- Sweep dip switch selects where Ramp sweeps. In “t” (top) the ramping (or expression control) will occur between the current Ramp knob position and the max position (fully clockwise). In “b” (bottom) the range is set between the current knob position and the minimum position (fully counterclockwise).
Sound & Performance:
How do you improve on something that’s near perfect? The original Warped Vinyl was designed to emulate the wobbly, swampy, lo-fi sounds of an old record player, and it did a remarkable job capturing that vibe. But at its core the Warped Vinyl MKII is an analog chorus/vibrato pedal and fits into general use as such. In this review I’m going to touch on some of the Warped Vinyl MKII’s features in detail and discuss how this pedal compares to the MKI.
The sound and vibe of the original Warped Vinyl, while wonderful to many guitarist’s ears, is still perhaps an acquired taste. The dry voice does have an almost hi-fi quality thanks to the premium components Chase Bliss Audio employs in their builds, but the wet vibrato voice is altogether different. It has a dark, mellow, heavily high-passed analog tone that gives the original Warped Vinyl its signature sound. The downside to some guitarists is that this limits the pedal’s utility to chorus/vibrato effects with that specific lo-fi tonality. While Chase Bliss Audio was offering switchable mods to customers wanting a brighter chorus/vibrato effect, the MKII solves this issue altogether while offering a greater range of sounds than the mods provided. The Warped Vinyl MKII’s Tone knob is a most welcome improvement as it opens the pedal’s range of tones to compete with any clean analog chorus/vibrato sound, easily besting most that come to mind. And if you dial in the Tone knob somewhere between 9-11 o’clock, you’ll find a dark sound that’s reminiscent of the original Warped Vinyl. That means you still have MKI tones with brighter and even darker options. Very nice. While the MKI was easily the best lo-fi chorus/vibrato pedal around, the MKII now rivals any similar tones you could put it up against, while still exceeding any other analog chorus/vibrato pedal in terms of its sheer depth of control.
When putting the MKII next to the MKI it’s instantly apparent that the MKII is significantly quieter than the MKI. While the noise was part of the original Warped Vinyl’s charm, it’s relegated to “optional” on the MKII. Yes, the Lo-Fi dip-switch is still intact on the MKII. But whereas the MKI got even noisier when you activated the Lo-Fi dip-switch, the MKII goes from clean and quiet to about as noisy as the original Warped Vinyl when engaging Lo-Fi mode. This means, yes, there is a single thing missing from the MKII: the extra noisy Lo-Fi mode from the MKI. But while a very small number of MKI users may miss the extra hiss and noise, now any guitarist seeking a beautifully clean chorus/vibrato can fall in love with the pristine sounds of the MKII while still having access to comparable MKI style Lo-Fi noise if they desire. Most guitarists will find this tradeoff well worth the exchange and well worth the cost of admission.
After A/Bing the Warped Vinyl MKI & MKII repeatedly I find that the Depth and RPM range of both pedals sounds nearly identical. On extreme Depth settings you may notice a slightly extended pitch on the MKII. (This is demonstrated in the Warped Vinyl MKII review video above.) While it’s natural to notice some very slight differences in same versions of a pedal due to minor variations in analog components, for all intents and purposes, the pedals’ other parameter controls seem to have the same range of sound and effect with one other exception: the MKI in my tests seemed to have slightly more Volume output on similar settings. For example, if the MKI’s Volume was set to noon, I’d have to set the MKII closer to around 1 o’clock to match the output. Again, this is a minor issue and probably due to slight tolerances in the analog components used. I don’t think either pedal was intended to have more or less volume range, and both still have plenty of boost on tap if you need it.
Top Mounted Dip-Switches
Okay, now this is a pretty big deal. It was already brilliant that Chase Bliss Audio had its array of 16 dip-swtiches poking through the bottom plate so that you didn’t have to unscrew the backplate every time you wanted to change settings. But let’s face it, there was still the issue of having to flip the pedal over every time you wanted to try a new dip-switch setting, very problematic if you’ve already mounted the Warped Vinyl to your pedalboard. The MKII solves this issue by having the dip-switches exposed through the top side of the pedal. Of course, the dip-switches are still tiny and may require a little screwdriver or pointy object to move, but this is still a much better location than the bottom. And there’s a sticker that indicates all their functions, so if you really need to change something on the fly, you can do so. (That sticker might be prone to peeling though. Here’s hoping the info can be screen printed on the pedal at some point.) The parameter label is also upside down, so you can read it clearly when looking over the pedal from above.
It’s worth touching on another aspect of the Warped Vinyl MKII that less technically inclined guitarists show know. Even if you never touch the 16 dip-switches, the Warped Vinyl MKII provides more than enough control via its surface controls to make this the only analog chorus/vibrato pedal you should probably be looking to buy. If you’re not using the Ramp functions, the you’ll only need the “tone” aspect of the Tone (Ramp) knob anyway. And regarding the closeness of the foot-switches, if you’ve already set your vibrato rate via the RPM knob, don’t worry if you accidentally step on the Tap foot-switch when activating the pedal. Just give a hefty stomp over the whole foot-switch area to activate or bypass the pedal. A single stray stomp on the Tap foot-switch won’t change the tempo. In a pedal where both foot-switches activate different sounds, the closeness could be an issue but not as much when one is assigned to a tap tempo function.
Okay, this is where the the Warped Vinyl MKII starts to get especially interesting for tech-savvy guitarists. While it was neat that the MKI had the little flip-switch for Live mode and recalling 2 onboard presets, the MKII retains that while adding 122 MIDI savable/recallable presets. For professional guitarists who use a MIDI effects switcher/router this is a real convenience as you can now access a multitude of chorus/vibrato sounds with ease. Anyone who invests in a premium grade pedal such as this will want to get the most out of it and stretch the creative potential. The huge amount of presets helps, especially on an analog pedal. Oh and, all knob, flip-switch, dip-switch, and tempo settings can be saved and recalled via presets. Very, very awesome.
16 MIDI Channels
If you’re new to MIDI just know that there are 16 possible channels on which a device can send or receive MIDI messages. The original Warped Vinyl was preset to receive messages on MIDI Channel 5 (as is the MKII). But what if you want to use 2 Warped Vinyls with MIDI? What if you want to assign the Warped Vinyl to a different channel? What if another device is already using channel 5? No worries. Power up the MKII while holding both foot-switches. Then let go. Send a program change from the MIDI channel you want to set the MKII to and, voilà, your Warped Vinyl MKII is now set to a different MIDI channel. For MIDI users, this is very welcome news. And yes, there’s more…
Advanced MIDI Parameter Control
This is my personal favorite new feature of the Warped Vinyl MKII. Chase Bliss Audio added extra MIDI control allowing CC (continuous controller) messages to take control of the parameter knobs in real-time. You can also control the expression sweep and Tap functions via CC messages. I’ve already been using Ableton Live to sync the Warped Vinyl MKII to MIDI Clock and trigger clips that change parameters with manually programmed effect automation. If the Ramp and ModuShape flexibility somehow isn’t enough deep enough for you, MIDI CC control offers a whole new world of creative possibilities. You can even choose different Note Divisions to change the rate while keeping it locked in time with MIDI Clock. And yes, you can still activate/bypass the pedal via MIDI CC #102 as before.
It’s important to note that to use the MIDI functionality, you’ll need either an Empress Effects Midibox or an adapter from Disaster Area Designs. A dedicated MIDI jack wouldn’t have fit into the Warped Vinyl MKII’s small enclosure, so the ¼” Tap jack does double duty here. Guitarists who just plug in and stomp won’t miss the MIDI functions, but pro MIDI guitar rigs will find the extra adapter well worth picking up.
All of these changes and improvements represent Chase Bliss Audio’s different kind of design philosophy in comparison to many of the other pedal builders out there. While the Warped Vinyl was only out for a barely over a year, Chase Bliss Audio received plenty of positive feedback and input from customers and industry peers. They knew a better product was in reach, and they released it as soon as possible to the benefit of guitarists who asked for these extra features. At this point I can think of very little that might improve this stellar pedal. Perhaps if the output had a TRS stereo option, that would be nice for some setups. I’d personally love to hear this lush chorus in stereo. Other than that, Chase Bliss Audio have made a product that’s difficult to argue against as the best analog chorus/vibrato pedal available… and possibly ever made.
For more in-depth review coverage about the Warped Vinyl’s Ramp functions see our original Warped Vinyl review. And be sure to watch the Warped Vinyl MKII review video above for side-by-side tone/feature comparisons and sound examples.
Chase Bliss Audio has made one of the best guitar pedals released in recent years even better. Let’s see the final result.
The Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl MKII is still one of the best analog chorus/vibrato pedals ever created. This pedal outclasses nearly every other analog chorus/vibrato pedal that springs to mind when it comes to range of sounds, features, and overall tonal quality. The creative potential this pedal offers is unmatched, and yes, it even tops the original Warped Vinyl. If the dark, Lo-Fi only sounds of its predecessor kept you from buying the MKI, there’s no excuse now as the MKII can be cleaner, quieter, and more shimmery and lush while still capturing MKI-style tones when you want them. The expanded MIDI control and 122 presets also make the MKII ideal for adding to MIDI guitar rigs. I highly doubt a better analog chorus/vibrato will come along again unless Chase Bliss Audio releases a Warped Vinyl MKIII.
That concludes our Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl MKII review. Thanks for reading.
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