With the release of Warped Vinyl mkII and Wombtone mkII, I figured the two biggest questions people would ask would be:
“What is different?”
I’m going to spend a little time here discussing these questions in regards to the analog design changes/modifications in Warped Vinyl. I’ll talk about Wombtone in a future post.
It’s probably easiest to start from the beginning, because it makes my hesitance/willingness to make changes a little more clearer if it has context. So bear with me if here if you’re into this sort of thing, if not, just skip to the bottom where I summarize the sonic changes.
I graduated from college with an electrical engineering degree in 2007, and I have been designing guitar effects pedals since 2008. I’d tinkered before that, and I’ve been a musician and gear lover for much longer, but 2008 is when I really started designing. The difference between now and then is pretty simple. Initially, I was designing for someone else – I was helping to take someone else’s ideas and make them a reality. This was really fun and rewarding for a while, but eventually I reached a point where I felt like I had my own contributions that I needed to make to the industry. I place an emphasis on the word need because it really did feel like that.
When started Chase Bliss Audio in early 2013, I spent nearly a year designing Warped Vinyl. This was an extremely exciting time, but it was also uncomfortable for many different reasons. A big reason why it was uncomfortable was that some nights I just couldn’t sleep, and there were times when I had a difficult time being “present” in my life because when I had free moments, I felt inclined to work on Warped Vinyl. It was strange, it felt physically uncomfortable at times. I felt like there was this thing inside of me that just needed to be released. I hustled side jobs to pay my bills and worked on Warped Vinyl any chance I could. I’ve never been one to be an “early riser” in my life, but I found (for the first time), it to be extremely easy to wake up because I so desperately wanted to get these ideas out of me.
I had designed vibrato and chorus pedals before, but this was the first time I had a completely blank slate. I was the one dictating how things work, how they should sound. That said, with the warped record aesthetic I was going for, I was not really concerned with noise. In fact, I almost welcomed it. I had listened to dusty old warped records and I wanted to recapture some of that magic. I also had a very specific idea of the voicing I wanted for the vibrato that would make it uniquely mine. After more hours experimenting than I’d like to remember, I found that old-timey, warm band-pass type voicing that was still relatively dark but with a few tricks and careful consideration to avoid “muddiness.” I felt really attached to it, and I completely loved how it ate up dirt and fuzz – something many vibrato/chorus pedals are terrible at. It felt perfect, it felt like this was something that was “mine.”
As everything else fell into place I wondered who would actually buy this product. I was really proud of a lot of the innovation in the pedal, especially the “ModuShape” LFO engine I had developed, and I knew nothing quite like that had been done before. When people would ask me who my customers were, I would just kind of shrug. I didn’t know much about how to run a business, and I wasn’t sure if this would be a sustainable business. I wasn’t sure exactly who would be interested in this type of pedal. What I did have was an intense, almost sick desire to get this pedal out into the world.
So very late in 2013, I released Warped Vinyl. And people liked it. In fact, people liked it quite a bit more than I expected. One thing I took special care to do with the design was to make it really versatile. More specifically I wanted it to do super weird stuff, but also subtle, more “musical” stuff super well. I think that is one of the reasons that it become popular. You could use it for something crazy, save that as a preset, but still use it as a basic boost or subtle chorus tone. With that versatility, however, there came some more requests and expectations. Some people ran quiet rigs and wanted to dial out noise/hiss, and some people really wanted the ability to brighten up the vibrato signal, especially in a live context to sit in a mix better. I struggled with this for a long time because I spent such a long time refining the design to “my” tastes that I was really hesitant to change anything about it.
Then, I started to mess with the design a bit more and do some modifications. In my own rig, I found that adding a tone control on the vibrato opened up the pedal to a whole new world of possibilities, especially with chorus tones. The beautiful part about that was that I felt like it was still producing a chorus that I found warm and organic sounding, even with the vibrato side of the circuit brightened considerable. I wasn’t expecting that, based on my experience with other vibrato/chorus designs, but it seemed the voicing I had developed didn’t mind getting those higher frequencies to play with. Related to that, I really hope this pedal starts making its way into more and more chorus conversations as I think it is a really unique and beautiful chorus, and deserves that distinction. I also made the decision to mitigate noise where I could without jeopardizing the tone I worked so hard to get, as this was an issue for some Warped Vinyl users. I was extremely careful not to change anything about the pedal that I felt made it so special in the first place. There was a reason that the pedal was popular, so I only wanted to make it better, I didn’t want to take anything away from it.
So, looking at things from a purely sonic perspective, really the only differences are considerations throughout the circuit to minimize noise, and this tone control to allow higher frequencies to pass through the vibrato side. Oh, and you can get wackier pitch stretches with the same ability to get subtle tones (why not?). The same exact character and color are there, and if you want to add in some more noise, you can always flip the “Lo-Fi” switch.
I feel like I owe a big “thank you” to you guys, people have supported me, and provided me with this feedback. It was psychologically difficult to deviate at all from my initial design, but thanks to you, I think we have made some real improvements to Warped Vinyl. Thank you all, so much.