Tone Tips

OH CANADA!  A Rundown on our Favourite Builders from the Great White North

Eh? So you think Tim Hortons, hockey, beavers and maple syrup are all that Canada has to offer? Take off, you hoser. Sorry, but you better believe that the Great White North is home to some of the most innovative and respectable pedal makers anywhere in the world. So lace up your skates and grab a frosty two-four of Molson, because we’re about to give you a rundown on some of TRW’s favorite Canuck builders.

DR. SCIENTIST SOUNDS
Edmonton, Alberta

In the days before the modern megaverb, arguably the greatest reverberator in the
galaxy was radical. It was red. And it came from the quirky little mind of Ryan Clarke, the
man behind Dr. Scientist. The woman behind Dr. Scientist is Tanya Clarke, Ryan’s wife, and together they build each and every pedal. Ryan designs the circuits and Tanya designs the finishes.

Both are world class.

You’ve probably seen The Elements, the hyper-versatile dirt machine that not only sounds amazing and comes dressed in some of the most drool-worthy finishes around, but that also epitomizes the Dr. Scientist ethos—pedals designed with the working musician in mind.

From the swirly goodness that is the Cosmichorus (if you haven’t seen it, stop now and Google the “Zombies” finish for one of the coolest designs ever to grace a stompbox) to the hypnotic pulse of the Tremolessence, Dr. Scientist pedals come loaded with intuitive, yet robust controls that allow you to find unique sounds. 

And speaking of unique sounds, we’d be remiss not to mention the BitQuest, Dr. Scientist’s newest space-age exploration. It’s eight modes of both clean and dirty (you choose) bitcrushing, pitch shifting, modulation and wonderment.

Learn more at drscientist.ca.

DIAMOND PEDALS
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Diamond pedals boasts one of the most complete pedal lineups on the planet. There—I said it. And how can you argue? Fuzz, drive, modulation, delay, boost—it’s all there.

And to break it down, we could start in several places, but how about we begin where Diamond did—with the CPR-1 Compressor. Now in its third iteration, the Ferrari yellow make-everything-sound-better pedal has become the cornerstone of pedalboards around the world since it was first introduced in 2005.

And speaking of the Cornerstone, Diamond’s dual-stage dirt factory is one of the most underrated Marshall-in-a-box pedals on the market today. The midrange boost/cut switch makes tailoring it to your rig a cinch. 

And of course, we must give proper credence to the Memory Lane family of delays. The first two Memory Lanes—both analog, with tap tempo and some of the best oscillating repeats anywhere—have been retired to due to diminishing supplies of the NOS MN3005 chips they rely on, but we’re blessed to live in a world with the Memory Lane Jr. The digital evolution of a true original, the Memory Lane Jr. is the embodiment of the sonic excellence Diamond strives for. 

Want more? Go to diamondpedals.com.

EMPRESS EFFECTS
Kanata, Ontario

While not quite as robust, Empress Effects also holds claim to one of the most full-featured product catalogs out there. And with the company’s mix of superior sound quality, innovative features and intuitive controls, it’s no wonder why they’re one of the most popular builders in the game today.

The best thing about Empress is how much gets packed into their pedals. Pound for pound, pedals like the Nebulus modulator, Tremolo2, ParaEQ and Buffer+ are among the industry’s most feature-rich small-footprint pedals.

Likely most well known for its delay offerings, Empress took the world by storm back in 2008 with the introduction of the Superdelay. And if that little gem didn’t put the company on the map, 2011’s Multidrive most certainly did. Like most Empress pedals, both left the conventional approach in dust and inspired users to create sounds they could only dream of before. 

Continuing that positive trend, Empress recently released a stereo reverb pedal that’s loaded with a truckload of realistic and out-of-this-world ambience. And, thanks to its clever Beer mode, the Empress library of reverb algorithms can expand with all sorts of oddball modes that fall outside the norm.

Click over to empresseffects.com to find out more.

SOLIDGOLD FX
Montreal, Québec

The team at SolidGoldFX is small. And they wear lots of hats. (Figuratively, I mean. But it is Canada, so it’s safe to assume that a tuque or two could be found in their shop.)

Owner Greg, marketing guy Alex, builders Caroline and Tyler, and local engineer Christian keep the wheels on the SGFX bus moving—and together, they’re pumping out some seriously inspiring designs.
Take the ElectroMan, an analogue delay with an FX loop and a footswitch that sends repeats into oscillation at the push of a button. And did we mention the Tone control? (We love delays with tone controls.)

Or, consider the Apollo II, an analogue phaser with tap tempo, expression control and 11 selectable waveforms that can be run through three different rhythmic patters for a phasing experience unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. 

And lets not gloss over the stunning array of dirt options. From the full range of amp-like tones in the Zeta and Beta Drive pedals to the fresh, yet familiar takes on vintage fuzz pedals like the Shin-ei FY-2, Big Muff and MKII Tone Bender, the team at SGFX consistently delivers innovative and intuitive effects that inspire creativity.

Find SolidGold at solidgoldfx.com.

RETRO-SONIC
Ottawa, Ontario

If you have a penchant for the effects of yesteryear, Retro-Sonic has that whole scene on lockdown. It all started in 2001 when builder/owner Tim Larwill sought to recreate the famed Boss CE-1 Chorus. Of course, building an accurate reproduction of a 25-year-old pedal isn’t easy—especially when said pedal relies on analog BBD technology—but when the Retro-Sonic Chorus was released to the masses, it was an instant hit. 

Today, the Retro-Sonic lineup also features faithful recreations of vintage pedals like the Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer and Ross Compressor. Additionally, you’ll find designs that draw inspiration from classic designs, but are updated with high quality components and true bypass.

For instance, the Retro-Sonic Distortion is an ode to the LM308-equipped ProCo Rat, complete with a trio of clipping options and internal trim pots to adjust the frequency response of the gain structure.

There’s also an analog delay based on the long-since-retired Boss DM-2 with an extended delay range up to 800 milliseconds and a tone control (epic), among other improvements. 

And if you want to relive the experience of the Boss FA-1 Preamp or MXR Script Phase 90—only a little better, perhaps—Retro-Sonic has those, too.

Discover Retro-Sonic at retro-sonic.com.

FAIRFIELD CIRCUITRY
Hull, Québec

The first thing you’ll notice about the pedals from Fairfield Circuitry is the stripped-down design aesthetic they employ. And while the hand-stamped industrial-chic approach is something that we’re really into, don’t let Guillaume Fairfield—the electro-wizard behind Fairfield Circutry—and his octuptlet of no-frills misfits fool you: they are juggernauts.
Look inside the The Unpleasant Surprise manual and you’ll find the phrases “sputtery ad-lib farts” and “crushes your signal to shit.” But even if that sounds scary, we challenge you to plug into one and not smile.

Albeit, if experimental gated fuzz isn’t your thing, there are enjoyable alternatives like The Accountant—an analogue JFET compressor that’s so modest it comes in a micro enclosure—and The Barbershop Millennium Overdrive—a clever little crunch box with a Sag control that reduces the voltage, adding saturation and character to the drive.

Then again, if you are indeed looking to test some sonic boundaries, check out the Randy’s Revenge Ring Modulator and/or Four Eyes Crossover Fuzz for a plentiful sampling of versatility and mayhem.

And then there’s the Meet Maude. Part analog delay, part compressor, it’s an adventure on the on the bright side of dark repeats.

Intrigued? Click fairfieldcircuitry.com for more.

TOETAGS ELECTRONICS
Québec

I think it’s safe to assume that the team at Toetags Electronics is comfortable with copious amounts of volume. Born from a love of doom, post-rock and noise-rock, they’re all about analogue. And all about the customer.

In fact, they recently set up a “proper environment” where you can demo their full line of amps and pedals in their shop, at any volume, to get a feel for what they sound like in a band mix. Very awesome.

The pedals, of course, are seven flavors of fuzz inspired by some of the all-time-greats including the Mk2 Tone Bender, Marshall Supa Fuzz, Colorsound Fuzz, Jordan Bosstone, Guild Foxey Lady, Dallas Rangemaster and Burns Buzzaround.

Inside and out, every Toetags offering is a celebration of simplicity. Featuring a mix of handpicked new- and old-stock parts, each pedal is hand-built and tested at proper volumes to ensure harmonically rich and balanced fuzz tones.

And then you get to the amps. Built to order with a focus on sound quality and durability, each Toetags amplifier is built in a locally-sourced cab made by woodworkers to exact specifications. If you love classic 50’s era tweed tones—with a twist—check them out.

Find them at toetagselectronics.com.

And that concludes today’s adventure through the land of Loonies. We hope you enjoyed it and are really sorry if you didn’t. But if not—take off, eh? And whatever the case, the next time you dig into a pile of poutine or find yourself craving a box of timbints and a Double Double, think a-boot your northerly neighbors and smile because Canadian tuxedos are a thing.

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