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


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Rating:
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Last modified:October 14, 2016

Summary:

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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.

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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