Dwarfcraft Devices Twin Stags Double Tremolo Review


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Rating:
4
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Last modified:December 2, 2017

Summary:

We present to you the Dwarfcraft Twin Stags Double Tremolo pedal. This blood red stag is a rare beast, an ambitious pedal that offers two discreet tremolo effects, dual cv inputs & LFO outputs for integration with modular systems, and two expression inputs. The features alone are enough to whet the appetite, but how does it sound and function in use? Spoiler alert: top-notch, and the Twin Stags feels like an instrument among pedals.

Dwarfcraft seems to have a brilliant penchant and strength for building imaginative fuzz pedals, crazy pitch shifters, and modular inspired pedals. Others in that latter group include the Happiness multi-mode filter pedal and ARF (Attack, Release, Filter). I adore filter pedals, especially ones that offer modular integration, and those are two I’m also eager to try soon.

From Dwarfcraft I sense roots and appreciation for both classic to heavy electric guitar tones along with wild and fun sound exploration. There’s an integrity and strong vision at Dwarfcraft. Their pedals have a cool indy DIY esthetic and relay integrity in quality materials and craft. They offer a limited lifetime warranty, free repairs due to manufacturing defects, and a reasonable bench rate for mess ups that are your own “damn fault”.

I approached the Twin Stags with enthusiasm on its promising sound exploration and modular integration and also in part due to the reputation of this esteemed builder. But what happens when you plug in and play a pedal is most important. Here’s a feature overview before we get to my full review.

Features

The Twin Stags features two discreet tremolos. Each has its own:

  • Rate, Shape (saw to ramp), and Depth knobs (-/+, mid position = off)
  • 1/8” CV inputs to control the Twin Stags tremolo effects, bypassing the knobs
  • 1/8” LFO outputs before the Depth knob (attenuator) is applied>
  • 1/4” Expression inputs to control the LFO rates
  • LED rate indicator

Twin Stags singular features:

  • 2MOD1 switch that when activated (up) Tremolo 2 modulates Tremolo 1. When the switch is down, Tremolo 1 and 2 are both discreet tremolos again.
  • 1/4” mono input and output audio
  • Bypass footswitch with an LED light to indicate when the pedal is active
  • 9v power which upconverts to 18v

Impressions on Build

The dark red metal casing and mirrored stag line art are lovely and cool. The knobs have a good turn feel to them; they’re not too loose, so you can control more evolving changes, but also not too stiff, so you can make fast changes as desired. This pedal is fairly tall compared to other pedals, an extra convenience for having a raised platform on your back row of pedals, but it would make pedals behind it harder to step on, a non-issue with clever board placement on on a surface modular setup. The narrower knobs make it seem taller yet. It will just fit into my Pedaltrain board, and the bag zips snugly closed. Although it can fit into a Pedaltrain board and bag, I probably wouldn’t keep it in one. I would want to give it enough floor or table area to take advantage of all the wired modular integration that’s possible with it.

Visit Dwarfcraft Devices for more info about the Twin Stags.

Sound & Performance:

I integrated the Twin Stags with a modular Eurorack system, feeding it a simple VCO sine wave across a range of frequencies with a long gated decay and no other effects except for the Twin Stag.

Tremolo 1 and 2, each taken alone, in low to medium rates can serve classic tremolo expectations. Guitar players could set it and forget it basic tremolo sounds, but that’s not really the point of this pedal. It’s meant to be experimented with and tweaked, and things get extra fun when using Tremolo 1 and 2 in tandem.

Tremolo 1 is the faster of the two. All the way to the left, there are about 4 seconds between each cycle. In medium rate ranges and while moving the rate knob live, I achieved an effect that was sweet and expressive, something akin to the vibrato of a violin player at moments. At higher rates where it starts to self-oscillate, it’s a machine that takes off, asserting itself into the mix with its own tone and harmonics. This is delightful wow territory to discover as the higher rates are like adding another dirty synth, creating an industrial vibe as grime and pseudo-ring modulation are added to the mix.

Tremolo 2 can go slow in ominous 30 seconds cycles, which is great for evolving soundscapes. In medium to fast rates and working with Tremolo 1, it’s sort of a kick drum here, which brings me to one of the Twin Stags’ unique strengths of creating interesting rhythmic effects. At faster rates, when the Shape and Depth knobs of Tremolo 2 are the same direction, far left or right, the sound is like a metallic clang or bouncing ball. When the Shape and Depth knobs are in opposite direction of each other, there’s a reverse quality like fluttering wings. On a long decay at slow and moderate rates, the Twin Stags can sound like a delay.

The Shape knobs control the triangle core LFOs which move from ramp to saws and points between. The Shape knobs at the extreme left or right add more of a synth bite to the mix. At slow and medium rates the differences can seem to less noticeably affect the vibe. At higher rates, you can almost see the sound go frenetic like an electric cactus. I like that this pedal can be subtle and then veer into high energy and harshness.

The Depth knobs at 12 o’clock shut off a given Tremolo effect; Turning Depth o the left increases the negative depth and to the right increases the positive depth. I set both Depth knobs to 12 o’clock to start, and then slowly brought in one Depth knob at a time which helped me hear how the tremolos interact with the sound separately and how they interact with each other. It’s a good idea to explore the pedal like this to learn how the Depth knobs affect the sound.

The Bypass switch is solid. Even when the Twin Stags is creating wild high energy sounds, the Bypass switch is smooth, adding no loud pops or clicks to the signal path.

2MOD1 switch: In the down position, the Tremolos are discreet and don’t interact. In the up position, Tremolo 2 modulates Tremolo 1. With lower and medium rates, this effect smooths out the Twin Stags’ rhythmic effect. With Tremolo 1 going faster in the self-oscillation range, Tremolo 2’s rising & falling wave shapes are pronounced, creating stretching and constricting siren passages.

CV inputs 1 & 2 completely control the given Tremolo, bypassing the knob controls. This is a great feature for those seeking to integrate and control the Twin Stags with a modular system. Occasionally, a given LFO shape and rate would create more “clicking” than desired. I don’t see this as an issue with the Twin Stags, but rather the nature of the LFO shapes. Most of the time, it worked really well, so it’s just a matter of getting familiar ahead of time with what’s going to work well. Having the CV inputs feature definitely adds interest and value to this pedal for modular enthusiasts.

I feel like there are never enough LFOs to modulate all the possibilities, so it’s great to have the Twin Stag 2 LFO outputs to augment a modular system. The Rate, Shape, and Depth all work the same, except that with the Depth knob, the sound won’t cut out at 12 o’clock. Feeding LFO 2 at the slowest setting into the pitch of an oscillator really gives a sense of the range and how slow this LFO can go. LFO 1 at higher rate settings into a pitch created some enticing animalistic purrs to fuzzy motors. Using the Twin Stag’s LFOs to control other modular systems and features adds to the layers of what makes the Twins Stags versatile and playable.

Expression Inputs 1 & 2 modulate the Rate of each respective Tremolo. In testing with an Expression LFO wave generator, the wave shape cycles would come in and out, creating steady pulses with expressive blooms based on wherever the rate knob was set. The Expression inputs work with current knob settings, as opposed to the CV inputs bypassing the knobs. Using the Expression inputs and the Rate knobs together, I was able to create some intricate phrasing and calligraphy-like flourishes.

The Twin Stags contributes a gorgeous analog richness and dark bent. If I was making soundtracks for paranormal or artful horror movies or games, this would be one of my go-to effects. In a short period of time, I would place the Twin Stags among my favorite effects pedals, particularly due to its unique tremolo effects and innovative modular capabilities. It makes sense that I would fall for this pedal as it has both sound and integration possibilities that exalt experimental artistry.

The Dwarfcraft Devices Twin Stags can serve classic tremolo needs for guitarists while adding remarkable and versatile possibilities for sound explorers and musicians who want to have a pedal that can integrate with modular gear. I experienced a lot of delightfully creative zones while playing the Twin Stags, and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. There’s a vast emotive and animated territory to explore with it. It sparked my imagination many times in how cinematic it is. I can imagine using it for improvised experimental sets, as well as more intentional sound sculpting, and using it to generate a plethora of unique samples to further process or sequence. I would use it on any synth or guitar and possibly consider it for drum machines as well.

That concludes our Dwarfcraft Devices Twin Stags review. Thanks for reading.

   
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