I have a confession: I was a ThorpyFX cynic. The pedals looked ostentatiously large and, well, they ain't cheap. To the first point: I was wrong. The Chain Home—Thorpy's take on the Vox Repeat Percussion tremolo effect—is slightly larger than a typical pedal, but the top jacks means it takes up less room than the average stompbox. To the second point: between hearing the pedal in action and taking into account the conversion from British pounds to US dollars, I'm a believer; there's some real mojo here.
In addition to fitting on my board, the pedal sounds absolutely gorgeous. The original circuit cuts some low end, so Thorpy's added a variable low-end boost. This feature, combined with the pedal's natural character, enabled me to dial in some wonderful clean tones: full, bright top end and strong, lean low end. What does this have to do with tremolo? Not much, but it tells you that two things. One: the Chain Home can function as a fantastic clean boost (unity volume is at 8:00 on the output knob—you read that right) and two: Those who buy this pedal are getting a great piece of kit.
But, let's face it, most of you are interested in the tremolo function, and rightly so. The original Repeat Percussion generated a reverse sawtooth wave tremolo. I've never played an original, but I've listened to a lot of Spacemen 3, and the Chain Home (so named for a radar system, apparently—just roll with it) nails that effect. For those that aren't familiar, imagine a square-wave tremolo, but with the edges rounded so, rather than a chopping effect, it sounds like your signal is bubbling, almost like an old '80s synthesizer.
The original effect, as noted, cut low end; the "Tone" control can restore that low end, and the taper of the knob is such that it can be fairly surgical. It was this sensitivity that helped me dial in the aforementioned clean tone, allowing me to control the low end even as I pushed the front of my amp. The original effect also suffered from a volume drop and, again, ThorpyFX has solved this problem by adding gobs of output. As with the Tone control, the "Boost" control has a very measured travel, so dialing it in is easy.
The same characteristics are apparent in the "Rate" and "Depth" controls, for better or worse. With everything at noon I had a brilliant, lively throb. Cranking the "Depth" control, however, made the effect feel unnatural, rather than more dramatic. Similarly, maxing out the "Rate" control resulted in a fairly modest rate increase that seemed well within the bounds of good taste; whether that's a plus or a minus is, of course, up to you, dear reader.
The bottom line, however, is that the ThorpyFX Chain Home does exactly what it's supposed to do, and does it supremely well. It addresses the limitations of the original while offering the same distinct effect. That it doubles as a gorgeous clean boost with tone control doesn't hurt. And, yes, it will fit on your pedal board—hopefully it'll fit your budget, too.
What We Like: Nails a classic effect while being user friendly and sounding gorgeous.
Concerns: The tremolo effect is very specific; those looking for an all-arounder or more traditional variations of tremolo may not find what they're looking for. But they could still use it as a clean boost . . .