Zvex Vexter Super-Duper-2-in-1
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Gentlemen/women, start your engines. This pedal is so dangerous that I'm sure I'll be getting a lot of complaint emails that people have blown up their amps using it. So let's just start this off by saying I WARNED YOU TO BE CAREFUL. When using this pedal, start off slow, and monitor your amp for potential damage. Don't have too much fun! OK, have too much fun, but don't blow up your amp in the process. Unless that's what you want, of course, and well, gosh darn it, it's your right. Good ol' Pete Townsend did it. Well, at least he poked his speakers out. All right, I'll try to stay on track here.
Ahem. The SUPER-DUPER 2-IN-1 (TM) has two of my infamous but rather delightful Super Hard-On(TM) pedals in one small box, with two switches and LED indicators. HEY! I responded to your multitude of complaints that I don't put in LED's! Also, in this SUPER-DUPER 2-IN-1 (TM) (gosh I love saying that) is a Master volume control that lets you use it as an overdrive/distortion with any output volume. My my! How conventional, you say! Well, suffice to say, if it weren't there, you'd go deaf with both of those channels cranked up. This pedal is dangerously loud. Don't do what I did, and lean over in front of your speaker cabinet while turning it up. Ouch. Dang.
This channel is a conventional Super Hard-On (TM), which I will henceforth refer to as the SHO, in order to reduce potential offense to young ears and sensitive persons. Its gain control is on the far right, and it's LED is yellow. If you are familiar with the SHO, you'll know that it's a very sparkly sounding high input-impedance preamp with incredible headroom, wide-ranging gain (unity to 60 X), and a maximum volume that will knock out your fillings. Channel one has no Master Volume control, but it's cascaded into Channel 2, which does...
CHANNEL 2 AND THE MASTER VOLUME:
This channel has the very same circuit as Channel 1, but the bleeder resistor on the output has been replaced with a Master Volume control, which allows the user to turn down the output volume even if the gain is set quite high. The knob on the left is the gain, and the middle knob is the Master Volume, and the LED is red. When both channels are on, or if only Channel 2 is on, the Master Volume is active. If you leave the Master wide open, you have two identical SHO pedals in one box, which are cascaded.
WHAT DOES THIS PEDAL SOUND LIKE?
You might wonder just how insane this pedal sounds when you crank up both channels and turn them both on. Well, I'll tell you. I can't get my Les Paul to stop feeding back at any audible volume level on my Marshall when both channels are wide open, and that's with the amp set at 1. I'm happy about that. Of course, this is not the only setting on the pedal. I don't think there's a musician around who wouldn't be happy to have multiple clean boost pedals set to predictable levels available on stage. This pedal gives you a total of four volume levels, ranging, at your choice, anywhere from perfectly clean to ragingly overdriven. Level 1, your guitar is true-bypassed with both channels off. Level 2, you turn on Channel 1. Level 3, you turn off Channel 1 and turn on Channel 2. This is easy because you can put your foot on both switches at once and alternate between the two channels if you want. Level 4, you turn on both channels.
There is no tone shaping in this pedal. It's two perfectly linear high-gain high input-impedance preamps that can be cascaded, with a total gain that ranges from unity to 3600. That's right, the maximum gain with both channels wide open is a whopping 3600, which is so completely distorted, hissy, feedbacky, and insane, that you'll never ever have a steady relationship again. Or a lease. Or a pet. Luckily, with the Master Volume, you can listen to what it would sound like to lose everything you love at a reasonable volume. Naturally, because there is no tone-shaping, your guitar just sounds like a really loud version of your guitar, and your amp sounds like a really big version of your amp, and if your normal tone is somewhat bloated, it will get very very bloated when you use this pedal set to high gains. It does best if you are close to getting the tone you want out of your gear already, but just need a boost to make it go over the top. Keep in mind that you can set up the two channels to give you any amount of gain, from a soft bluesy boost in two stages to a crunchy rock level, to a wild sustaining beast.
HOW TO SET IT UP:
First off, with your amp on standby, plug in the guitar to the input jack (it has a guitar next to it), activating the battery, and the amp to the output jack (it has a speaker). Set the levels on both gain knobs (outside knobs) anywhere up to 3:00, and the Master anywhere you want. Step on the switches several times to equalize the voltages on the input capacitors and eliminate popping noises during switching. Turn your amp volume to a low level to start, and try listening to the two different channels individually and together, adjusting them slowly until you get to the levels you want. Set the Master Volume so that your final output level with both channels active is low enough not to blow up your amp. Remember that Channel 1 works best as the loud clean boost, and has no Master Volume when used alone. Channel 2 can actually distort by itself at any volume level using the Master to limit it's output level. When you turn the gain knobs, it's ok if you hear a rushing/crackling noise. That indicates that the gain and bias of the transistor are being reset. This noise gets more intense toward the right on each of those knobs, but does not in any way indicate anything is wrong with your unit.
COMMENTS ON THE GAIN CONTROLS:
I've taken a lot of flack for the SHO "crackle okay" knob's noise, which people mistakenly interpret in many different ways. I've seen reviews where the user believes that the pot is "cheap" or that it's "old," or "bad." This is not the case. The SHO uses a revolutionary approach to controlling the gain that resets the headroom, gain, and bias of the transistor at the same time, effectively re-designing the circuit for the optimum settings at each volume level. When the knob is not being turned, the unit makes no crackling sounds. It's not a simple volume control. If it were, the SHO wouldn't be so special. The SUPER-DUPER 2-IN-1 (TM) has this same kind of control for each channel.
IMPROVEMENTS OVER THE SUPER HARD-ON (TM):
This pedal has several improvements over the original SHO. The most obvious is that it's actually 2 SHO's in one box. Hence the name, SUPER-DUPER 2-IN-1(TM). It has indicator LED's, and they are very low-current (the whole pedal draws 3 mA total with both channels wide open.) The two indicator LED's are different colors so you can tell which channel is on in total darkness. There's a Master Volume so you can turn the unit into a distortion/overdrive with a very unusual sound.
Also, you may notice that the name can be safely spoken in mixed company, in front of young ears, and used in church. Yes, believe it or not, I get regular emails from people who can't use or buy an SHO because they are afraid of 1) being beaten up by their redneck friends/bar patrons/fans, 2) verbally abused by their girlfriends/wives/moms/dads, 3) raising questions from young people or giggles, pointing, and other goofy behavior, 4) generally feeling like idiots trying to explain why their pedal has such a controversial name. To my credit, the original name only ment to infer that the pedal is "super hard on your amplifier." Honest. No, really, HONEST! Ok, I took my cue from Mike Matthews Big Muff Pi, I guess. So sorry, everybody. But there are those people who think the name is it's best feature. Heh. Enough about that. Anyway, the SUPER-DUPER 2-IN-1 (TM) is a name I can proudly say in front of my mom. Until she asks, "two whats in one what?" which she will, eventually. She's that kind of mom.