Welcome to Effectrode!

The last word in rich, full-bodied guitar tone! - Vintage, high voltage, vacuum tube technology harnessed to create unique and exceptional effects pedals.

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Can I use the Blackbird tube preamp with my guitar amp?

Absolutely – that’s what it was designed for. The Blackbird tube preamp is not only a versatile tool for recording full-bodied, rich guitar tones direct, it will also add multi-channel capability to vintage and boutique amps. Typically modulation effects such as chorus, delay and reverb should be placed after the output of the Blackbird and before the guitar amp input. Fuzz, compression and boost pedals work best before the Blackbird input. You can also place effects after the transformer DI out. In this case use an instrument cable with mono (TS) jack plugs and the balanced out signal level will drop 6dB to work at the same level as the standard output on the Blackbird. Think of the Blackbird outputs as a ‘send’ and your amp or desk input would be the ‘return’.

What’s the difference between the Effectrode Helios and Mercury fuzz pedals?

The circuitry of the ‘Mercury’ fuzz is very similar to the ‘Helios’ fuzz, however the N.O.S. blackplate Philips 6112 tube in the Mercury is a much more efficient emitter of electrons than the 6N17 in the Helios. This is undoubtedly because of the huge engineering resources Philips/Mullard put into researching and developing the cathode coating materials in their tubes – their reputation for quality is legendary. What this means in terms of use is that this tube gives fatter, more robust sounding fuzz and some very nice tubey tones ideal for blues. I would put this little pedal against any top of of the range tube amp – it really sounds that good!

Can you modify the Blackbird?

Sorry, the short answer is no. There’s absolutely no space inside the Blackbird to make any modifications as it’s jam-packed with components. Inside there are three tubes with high voltage circuitry, four relays, nine pots for two independent channels, an output transformer and quite a lot of electronics. Just pick it up and feel the weight – it like a brick!

How do I change tubes in my Effectrode pedal?

Swapping miniature tubes in Effectrode pedals is as quick and easy as changing a light-bulb. First disconnect the pedal from the mains power outlet. A tube can be removed by gently gripping and pulling the glass envelope whilst wiggling it in a circular motion. When replacing a tube make sure the pins are aligned correctly with the tube socket and gently push it into position. Never use excessive force to insert the tube as this may bend pins. Tubes in Effectrode subminiature pedals (PC-2A Compressor, Helios Fuzz and Fire Bottle boost) cannot be removed as these are soldered in position inside the pedal.

What’s the difference between the Effectrode Tube Drive and other manufacturers tube overdrive pedals?

The Tube Drive has an all tube signal path based on three dual triode tubes, 4 gain stages, plus an active tube boost where the tubes operate at amp plate voltages. This gives a more natural amp-like tone in comparison to other tube pedals that utilise solid-state transistor or op-amp buffers and gain-stages to feed a single tube operating at low voltage (starvation).

Why is the volume level output from my Tube Drive so high?

This depends on what types of ubes you have installed. We suggest that all knobs are set at quarter (9 o’clock) and use that as a starting point. All the control knobs on the Tube Drive have a wide range which makes it possible to achieve clean boost, break-up, overdrive, distortion and modern saturated Soldano/Boogie tones from one pedal. Just about any miniature B9A tube can be used in the 12AX7 positions. The gain architecture of the Tube Drive is designed to work with different tubes. It has been tested with 12AX7, 12AT7, 12AU7, 12AV7, 5751 and 5965 tubes so far and will operate with mixed tube combinations. These tubes have different characteristic curves, which affects the overdrive response and tone in a more fundamental manner than just increasing the gain knob. So, for example, With low mu 12AU7s the Tube Drive becomes a clean boost pedal; with a 5965 in position one it has an exceptionally smooth response; and with 12AX7s (fitted has standard) it has a huge amount of gain range from blues to saturation – watch your volume level though!

How does the PC-2A compressor compare with ‘Brand-X’ stompbox compressor?

There is no comparison! The PC-2A compressor is in completely different league to boutique compressors cloned from the Japanese Ross op-amp circuit. The PC-2A is a miniaturised, ruggedised version of the Teletronix LA-2A studio compressor manufactured in the U.S.A. during the 1950s. The all-tube photo-optical circuitry means the PC-2A is a little more power hungry than an op-amp based compressor, but the tone quality is outstanding – beautifully smooth and warm, wrapping your signal in velvet.

What’s the difference between the Helios fuzz and Tube Drive pedals?

The drive character of both pedals is completely different as clipping is performed by germanium point contact diodes in the Helios fuzz and by driving tubes into their non-linear region in the Tube Drive. There is some first order low-pass filtering in the Tube Drive to tame the higher order harmonics to give it a smoother, more musical tone. There is also some high frequency premphasis before the first clipping stage. With the Helios there is similar premphasis but no capacitive low-pass filtering. The Tube Drive has an active Baxandall tone control which can reinstate the high-end so can sound crunchy and bight as well as devastatingly smooth and creamy.

What kind of service warranty does Effectrode offer?

We provide a 7-Day 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. If you are not completely satisfied with our pedals for any reason, return it for a full refund of the purchase price, full credit, or exchange of your choice. We give you 7 days from receipt of the pedal. Should you find it necessary to return a pedal, it must be shipped within this 7-day guarantee period. All returned items must include a Return Authorization Number, be in the original packaging complete with the power supply, warranty card and owner’s manual, and show no signs of wear or abuse otherwise the return will either be refused or subject to a 25% restocking fee. Should you decide to return your pedal, please obtain a Return Authorization Number from us by email. Paypal payments will be refunded directly through Paypal. Refunds are made for product value only, excluding shipping and handling charges. All returns must:

  1. Include a return authorization number
  2. Be in the original packaging complete with power supply, warranty cards and manual.
  3. Be in brand-new condition, showing no signs of wear or use such as scuffs, dings, or scrapes on the pedal or collateral materials.

Additionally, all our pedals are covered by a five year parts and labour warranty excluding tubes. The tubes are warranted for a period of ninety days from the date of purchase. If you need to return your pedal for warranty repair, please contact Effectrode for Return Authorisation and information.

What methods of payment do you accept?

Our preferred method of payment is cashiers or personal checks (payable to ‘Effectrode’), however we also accept PayPal payments (add 2.5%). Shipments will be made to the verified shipping address on the account – if this is an issue, email us with additional shipping information. Note that all personal checks must first clear our bank before your order will be shipped. This will substantially delay the shipment of your order (approx 10 working days). If ordering from outside the USA please contact us for a shipping quote and new price total.

I want an Effectrode pedal with an extra knob/footswitch/CV jack. Can you do that?

Effectrode pedal designs are jam-packed with tubes, high voltage conversion and other circuitry which takes up most or all of the available space within the enclosure, leaving very little room for additional circuitry. Because of this, custom modification is usually not possible.

What is the difference between the Blackbird and Tube Drive pedals?

The Tube Drive and Blackbird both employ 4-stage tube clipping circuits to create overdrive and distortion. The clipping circuitry in the Tube Drive is optimised to produce more symmetrical clipping distortion, whereas the Blackbird is more asymmetric. In practice the Blackbird responds and operates like a typical tube amp. Another difference in the circuitry is in the tonestacks – the Blackbird has a traditional passive Fender tonestack. This tonestack was developed by Leo Fender back in the 1960s and used on his Deluxe and Twin Reverb tube amplifiers. Over the decades guitarists ears have unconciously become used (adapted?) to expecting this mid-scooped voicing as a standard reference eq as it is found in many other guitar amps including amps manufactured by Marshall, Soldano and Boogie.

The Tube Drive has my own custom designed active triode Baxandall tube tonestack. This has zero insertion loss and maintains mid frequencies and has a thick, powerful warm tone with an incredible amount of punch. This is especially useful when soloing or where you want the guitar to cut through the mix without sounding harsh or overbright.

Can you recommend a tube manufacturer?

We recommend using JJ Tubes. In our experience these are the only modern manufacture tubes whose electrical performance (gain and noise) comes anywhere close to the that of western manufactured N.O.S. (new old stock) tubes which possess superior metallurgy, cathode coatings and superior construction to modern tubes.

Can I power my Effectrode pedal with ‘Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 Plus’?

The short answer is, ‘No’. The Voodoo Labs, ‘Flatliner’ and ‘Trex Fuel Tank’ power supplies are designed or low-power transistor/opamp pedals and simply cannot supply enough juice for real vacuum tube gear. Effectrode pedals are more like tube amplifiers in their power supply requirements and demand high currents and voltages to operate correctly. A typical transistor pedal will use in the order of just a few milliamps, Effectrode pedals require a minimum of 1200mA.

What is the difference between the Tube-Vibe and Vibralux pedals?

The Vibralux has it’s phase-shift sections custom tuned for a spacious, more ethereal sound than the Tube-Vibe. The designers of the original Uni-Vibe adapted it’s sinewave L.F.O. (low frequency oscillator) circuitry so that it would generate a more ‘squared-off’ waveform at higher speed (modulation) settings for more pronounced, throbby in character. I designed the Vibralux with a view to create more shimmery and lighter chorusing sounds – you could say the Vibralux is more feminine in character. Additionally the Vibralux has dual LFOs so the sweeps are more complex, subtle and randomised – again, more feminine! (I know I’mn goingto get into trouble for saying that!). It really is a different creature from the Tube-Vibe. That said, on some settings there may be a little crossover in the character of the pedals, especially if the Tube-Vibe is set to ‘smooth’ mode. Technically these pedals do similar things, however like overdrive and distortion pedals, the differences in implementation yield essential in tone and ‘feel’ of the pedal when playing through it.

Do the tubes operate at true amplifer plate voltages?

Yes, the tubes operate at 300 Volts D.C. All pedals incorporate a transformerless high voltage power supply which is fully regulated and smoothed to ensure low noise. There are some manufacturers operating tubes at voltages as low as 12 Volts. I guess this is for economic reasons or for lack of ability in power supply design. It’s certainly not for better tonal quality because low voltage operation (current starvation) of tubes sounds terrible. To avoid an electrifying experience, refer servicing to qualified personnel only. High D.C. voltages of over 300 Volts are present in the circuit. Whilst working on the power supply design for these pedals, I’ve experienced an electric shock or two and it’s not a pleasant experience. Beware!

Are Effectrode pedals true bypass?

Yes. Signal is switched using an audio relay with gold plated contacts. A nice feature of Effectrode pedals is that they will default to bypass if power is lost to the pedal, ensrung that you can continue to play. These relays are designed specifically for routing audio signals whilst maintaining high integrity. Unlike multi-pole footswitches, which fail easily and were not originally intended for either constant use or audio signals, but for switching high voltages, hence their large size. This relay will outlast the three pole true bypass switches found other pedals. The realy also shortens the signal path, since it is mounted on the circuit board. In bypass, the signal is not routed through any internal wiring which prevents noise from getting into the signal. Remember: True bypass means that when the effect is disengaged, there will be absolutely no loss of tone from your guitar to your amp.

Do tubes really offer an advantage over transistors or op-amps in effects pedals?

Yes they do! Tubes used in well-designed audio circuitry offer a clarity, richness and purity of tone beyond what is achievable with solid-state (silicon or germanium) transistors, FETs, opamps or even the latest digital modelling technologies. To my ear, transistors and FETs often sound overbright, clinical and even brittle sounding. They are susceptible to transient overload and clip in a harsh and unpleasant way. Digital gear is even more problematic and will splatter the audioband with unrelated harmonic content if signal levels are too high. With careful design these effects can be minimised, however tubes are inherently linear, have immense headroom and produce beautiful soft-clipping when pushed out of their linear region. They’re the right tool for the job of audio signal processing. On an historical note, the first commerically available transistors were used in the mass manufacture of portable radios. The sound quality of these was not exactly audiophile. Additionally, I don’t utilise operational amplifiers in the audio signal path either as these were originally designed for the purpose of analogue computation before digital computers were technically feasible. A typical op-amp contains dozens of transistors and diodes on a silicon substrate and are always used in circuits with negative feedback applied to control their gain and frequency response. They are a quick and cheap way of making audio circuits, but are not in the same class as tubes when it comes to tone.

How often should I replace tubes in my effects pedal?

If operated well within their ratings, good quality signal tubes can last 100,000 hours or more; that’s well over 11 years of continuous use. To extend tube life, we recommend that the pedal is allowed to warm-up for at least one minute after being switched on. This is to allow the heater filament in the tube to heat the cathode, which is coated with a layer of barium and strontium oxide. This oxide layer gets torn off the cathode, a process known as cathode stripping, if the cathode has not reached it’s correct operating temperature, ultimately shortening tube life.

Which expression pedals are compatible with the Tube-Vibe.

I’ve tested the Roland EV-5 (and more robust EV-7) expression pedal with the Tube-Vibe and it works very well. There’s also a knob on the EV-5 which allows fine-tuning of the range of travel which is usful. One of our dealers also confirmed compatibility with the Moog EP-2 Expression Pedal and it should also be compatible with the Mission Engineering EP-1.

I can hear a faint low-frequency hum from my guitar amplifier with the pedal connected.

Earth loops can be a common cause of audio noise problems in setups using more than one item of mains operated equipment. If you are experiencing low-frequency hum from your guitar amplifier loudspeaker, then a likely cause is multiple return paths or loops to earth. The solution to this is fairly straight forward – the loops must be broken. This can be achieved by one of two methods. Either by lifting (removing) the earth on your guitar amplifier or tube effects pedal. Or removing the earth (shield) on the lead between the pedal and the amplifier. The second method is safer – note that the earth should feed forward i.e. the break in the shield is near the amplifier. In my experience best results have been obtained by lifting the earth on the guitar amplifier. However extreme caution must be exercised, as your amplifier will only be grounded through the input lead feeding it. Unless you are confident in what you are doing, seek advice from a qualified engineer.

Does the Blackbird sound like an American or British tube amp?

The short answer is “Yes”. This isn’t meant to be funny it’s just that, how do you define an American or British amp sound, let alone design a pedal to replicate it? For a start there’s a huge amount of variation in the designs of guitar amplifiers within America or in Britain. Differences such as circuit topolgies, that is, is the amp class A or class AB. Differences in tube types, triodes, tetrodes and pentodes. Different size and type of loudspeakers and transformers. There are literally dozens of variables even within amps from just one given manufacturer, let alone another manufacturer in another country.

Then, on the other side of the coin, there are American and British amp manufacturers that build amps of very similar design. For instance Jim Marshall based his early amps on Leo Fender’s Bassman amp design which he originally derived from the RCA Receiving Tube Manual. So there are Amercian amp designs that are electronically identical to British amp designs and there are American amps of very different design from other American amps. How can there be an American or British amp sound?