Within a year of releasing their instant classic Warped Vinyl chorus/vibrato pedal, Chase Bliss Audio have now brought us the Wombtone, their take on what could be the ultimate analog phaser guitar pedal. Far ahead of that simple one-knob “Phase 90” mold, the Wombtone is packed with 6 knobs, 4 flip switches, 2 foot-switches, and 16 dipswitches for unparalleled control in an analog phaser… or nearly any analog pedal outside of the Warped Vinyl. There’s even an Exp/CV input and Tap/MIDI input for additional control possibilities. And of course Chase Bliss Audio’s innovative “Modushape” waveform creator is present from the Warped Vinyl as well. The Wombtone even features options for 4-stage and 6-stage phasing and a Feedback control to help you achieve your desired phasing sound.
One of the hallmarks of the Warped Vinyl is that with all the parameter control available, the most important stuff is right on top for dialing in sounds easily. The Wombtone also gives you 2 presets as well, so a couple of your favorite or more complex phasing creations can be recalled with ease. All-in-all there’s a lot going on with this pedal, and if the Warped Vinyl is any indication, the Wombtone is going to be a good one. Is it the best analog phaser pedal out there? Let’s run down the features and return to the womb in our Chase Bliss Audio Wombtone review.
All-analog signal path.
Ramp control knob can be set to control any of the 5 parameters (Volume, Feed, Rate, Depth, Form) individually or simultaneously via dip switches on the back of the pedal. Controls the ramp time in which this takes place.
Volume control knob sets the level of the effect.
Feed control knob controls the amount of feedback on the phasing effect.
Rate control knob controls the rate of the phasing effect. 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 phaser goes. Vocal tones can be found somewhere around 11 o’clock.
Form 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 or CV 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, Feed, Rate, Depth, and Form dip switches on the left side simply turn that parameter on or off for ramping or expression pedal capability.
Volume, Feed, Rate, Depth, and Form 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.
Stages dip switch selects between 4 and 6 stages.
MoByp dip switch activates momentary bypass, activating pedal only when Bypass footswitch is pressed in.
Tap Control dip switch allows tap tempo to modulate Ramp rate (r) or phaser Rate (p). 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:
Have you ever experienced something that was so good that you couldn’t possibly imagine its successor living up to or exceeding the reputation of the original? (I’m suddenly thinking of the Star Wars prequels.) It does happen on rare occasions though. (Empire Strikes Back = best sequel ever!) I received the Wombtone expecting it to be good – great actually – but I highly doubted that I would love it as much as I loved the Warped Vinyl and certainly not moreso. I was wrong.
Warped Vinyl vs Wombtone
While the Wombtone follows the Warped Vinyl with a generally familiar control layout and also being a modulation pedal, make no mistake, the Wombtone offers an entirely different palette of sounds and tone shaping potential. First, the most obvious difference is the Warped Vinyl is a chorus/vibrato pedal, and the Wombtone is a phaser. But there’s more that sets these pedals apart aside from the different types of modulation they offer. The Warped Vinyl is lo-fi and grainy; the Wombtone is pristine and defined. The Warped Vinyl is generally dark and ominous; the Wombtone offers a prism of color with which to paint your sound. Be warned: the clear question that arises when playing the Wombtone and Warped Vinyl is not which one to get, but which one to get first, as you’ll likely find enough to like about each one to want both on your pedalboard.
Familiar Rate and Depth controls are present on the Wombtone, giving you simple control of the phasing effect. There’s also a Feed knob that lets you essentially recycle the phased signal into itself for a more prominent effect. Its max setting is just on the brink of oscillation and covers plenty of musical territory throughout its range. 4 and 6 stage options also contribute to the overall character of the phasing with their intensity varying depending on how you adjust the Depth and Feed. It’s more of an apples and oranges difference to me than saying either 4 or 6 stages is better. I do find myself leaning towards the 4 stage option as it still offers a promiment phasing effect that has a greater range of subtlety at lower to moderate Feed and Depth settings. Thanks to the Wombtone’s trio of Depth, Feed and 4/6 stage variations, it produces some of the smoothest analog phasing you’ll find in a pedal. The Wombtone can easily sit alongside any of the great analog phasers (including the Musitronics Mu-Tron Phasor II from which the Wombtone draws its inspiration) while offering a deeper range of tones that most phasers can’t dream of competing with.
Chase Bliss Audio’s unique Modushape LFO waveform editor is present here. The “Warp” knob of the Warped Vinyl has been renamed “Form” on the Wombtone but still retains the ability to move the center point of your waveform for lopsided modulation effects. You can leave the Form knob in the center and use the Modushape flipswitches to select from sine, triangle, and square wave shapes. Adjusting these various controls with the Depth knob to mangle the LFO waveform will produce all kinds of weird and interesting phasing sounds. While some of the more strange and jagged LFO effects may seem more suited to the theme of the Warped Vinyl, it’s still very cool to have the range of LFO options available in the Wombtone as Modushape offers the easiest and most versatile way to create a custom LFO that you’ll find in an analog pedal.
The Ramp knob can be set to any (or all!) of the other 5 knobs to control their parameters in realtime via expression pedal (or CV). Dipswitches under the pedal let you select which parameters to assign the ramp to. You can even reverse their direction to have some parameter values increase while others decrease. A Bounce dipswitch lets you automate the Ramp function for foot-free control, making the selected parameters modulate back and forth at the rate set by the Ramp knob. You can also use the Wombtone for tremolo effects by setting Volume to ramp. Plug in an expression pedal for volume pedal control or fade-in-to-phase effects.
Another cool thing I really like about the Wombtone is using it as a tone-shaping preamp/boost effect. Turning down the Depth lets you use the Feed knob to fatten up the sound and set it to an ideal sweet spot. Raise the Volume past unity gain for a boost if you’d like. If you want to take it further, use an expression pedal with no parameters set to Ramp, and you can sweep through the phase range manually for cool notched-wah style effects. Sweeping through the phase manually also lets you pull off very slow phasing effects. You can create some rising and falling phasing that moves along with a chord progression. Better still, keep the pedal in heel or toe position for the tone enhancing effect, then sweep through to the other side for a dramatic effect in a progression. Very, very awesome.
Tap Tempo, CV, MIDI, & Beyond…
Tap Tempo is one of the biggest benefits of the Wombtone (and Warped Vinyl), letting you easily sync the pedal’s modulation to your music. You can sync to even and odd divisions ranging from 1, 2, & 4 via a top mounted flipswitch (3, 6, & 8 divisions are availalable by flipping a dipswitch beneath the pedal). If you send the Wombtone MIDI clock it will sync the LFO from the center point, locking in precisely to the beat. You can even use the selected Tap division with MIDI Clcok, and it will still sync with MIDI clock with your chosen division. Control voltage can be used with the Exp input, giving you further control of the Ramp effect or the manual sweeping of the phase I mentioned earlier. You can also use MIDI to Engage/Bypass the pedal, reset the Ramp, control Tap Tempo, and activate presets or “live” mode. That’s a lot of control.
I’ve tried hard to find faults with this pedal, but I’ve been unable to really. The only other things I can even think of that I’d like to see implemented are perhaps additional MIDI CC control of the pedal’s other parameters. Also, when using an expression pedal to manually control the phasing effect, it would be nice if the Depth knob could select the upper limit of the sweep in toe down position. Some expression pedals let you set to lower range at the heel position, so this little tweak would allow precise exp. pedal control over a very specific range. These are certainly not complaints, just suggestions that would make a stellar product even more awesome. The Wombtone is already at the top of its class in every conceivable way.
The future for Chase Bliss Audio is looking very bright. If you want ultimate control of top-notch analog effects pedals, there’s probably a place for the Wombtone in your future, too. (UPDATE: See our Chase Bliss Audio Wombtone MKII review!) Let’s see the final result.
I’m not going to say that the Chase Bliss Audio Wombtone is the greatest phaser pedal ever made, but it’s certainly the best I’ve ever played. If you just want a basic phaser of the highest sound quality, the Wombtone delivers – just stick with the Depth, Rate, & Feedback controls. If you want a labyrinth of analog phaser tone with complete control of nearly every nuance of its sound, the Wombtone is a must have. For those who want it all, the Wombtone is easily the best analog phaser pedal available today.
That concludes our Chase Bliss Audio Wombtone review. Thanks for reading.
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