In a dose of irony worthy of Alanis Morrissette, Carl Martin has upgraded one of their vintage-inspired classics with a 2019 edition. Words by Peter Hodgson.
Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #134. Subscribe to our print edition here!
When you peer back into guitar history, fuzz and vibrato are among the first true effects to really capture the imagination and herald a shift in communal psyche. Would the ‘60s have been so revolutionary if youth culture’s collective ears weren’t swimming in swooshy, fuzzy goodness? Would Jimi’s “Star Spangled Banner” performance at Woodstock have been seen as such a rallying cry against the Vietnam War if it was played with a clean tone? Hell no!
It wasn’t that these effects had power in and of themselves to bring about social revolution, but they sure helped revolutionary artists to express their discontent with the status quo. The Carl Martin Purple Moon Vintage Fuzz n’ Vibe brings both of these effects together in a way that seems obvious, and yet I’m straining my brain to think of another pedal that combines the two into one unit.
The 2019 Purple Moon is considerably smaller than its previous incarnation. The old pedal had speend one and speed two knobs, controls for depth and level, mini knobs for fuzz and fuzz level, a speed one-two footswitch and the bypass switch. The new version pares it down to just a single depth control, level and speed, plus the mini fuzz and fuzz level controls. The single depth knob is located at the top left edge of the pedal so you can easily shift it with the side of your foot if need be, but my guess is that Carl Martin’s research probably found that a lot of players were tending to use only one speed setting on the former version. If that’s the case then it certainly makes sense to make a smaller version.
The unit is battery or nine-volt DC powered, and Carl Martin recommends using a good regulated power supply for optimum response. The die-cast housing feels very stomp-worthy, and although the fuzz controls are a little difficult to move, I only consider that a good thing. You don’t want to accidentally nudge your fuzz sound out of watt when you’re turning a vibe control. When the fuzz gain is turned all the way down, the pedal becomes a vibe only, although you can’t turn the vibe off and run just the fuzz.
CAUGHT BY THE FUZZ
Sonically, this feels a lot like the original Purple Moon. Starting with the fuzz turned all the way down to truly appreciate the vibrato functionality, we’ll echo the words of our review last time around; “the most immediately apparent thing about the Purple Moon is the way your dynamic range is maintained despite the vibrato. Usually this type of effect can obscure some of the details in your playing but that’s certainly not the case here. There’s plenty of space round your notes, and you can dial in a subtle shimmer at low depth settings or a deep, swooshing, Pink Floyd-esque tone with a more extreme setting. Bring on the fuzz at low gain and you’ll get some great edge and punch, allowing you to play harder-edged styles than the moody arpeggios that the fuzzless settings seem to encourage.”
The fuzz section doesn’t include a tone control, so you have to trust the very capable ears of Carl Martin when it comes to voicing this portion of the effect. Some players may prefer a smoother, more sustain-heavy fuzz. But then you realise you can simultaneously run clean vibrato and dirty fuzz tones, and that the fuzz is perfectly voiced to sit with the vibrato, creating gorgeous parallel sound chains. The more you explore, the more you’ll find.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This isn’t a pedal for those who need the ultimate fuzz with the occasional vibrato effect. Rather it’s one for players who need the ultimate vibrato effect married to the perfect vibe-friendly fuzz. It’s really easy to use. moreso now that this version does away with the twin speed controls. And it’s capable of inspiring you to discover new sounds rather than just recreating those of the past. So yes, apparently it does make sense to add some 2019 magic to a vintage-inspired voicing.
• Vibe controls for depth, speed and level
• Fuzz controls for gain and level
• LEDs to show vibe speed
• True bypass
• Nine-volt DC or battery powered
• Great usable vibe range
• Warm, gentle fuzz
• Great control layout
• No straight fuzz sound
• No fuzz tone control
• Stereo would be nice
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