Alexander Pedals has brought us such gems as the Radical Delay and Golden Summer Reverb. With the La Calavera, the company is getting into the phaser game. Billed as paying tribute to days gone by while still looking to the future, it is no doubt the coolest-looking pedal I’ve seen in a long time. The sugar skull design looks cheerful yet foreboding, perhaps foreshadowing the tones within. Featuring four knobs and a three-way toggle switch, the Calavera is both user-friendly and very versatile. The knobs control Rate, Intensity, Mix, and Tweak. The Tweak knob has different functions depending on which mode the pedal is in. The three modes are: Suave, Dynamica, and Loco.
Suave mode is rich, wet, and full. It’s the phaser equivalent to John Stamos’s hair fresh out of the shower. If you’re looking for some classic phase tones, this is a good place to start, but there is a lot more going on here than a Phase 90 or Small Stone. In this mode, the Tweak knob determines the amount of regeneration in the phase signal. As one who uses phaser in a somewhat subtle manner, this mode is my personal favorite, and I found the most useable sounds for my tastes with the least amount of effort. Effortlessly cool—just like Uncle Jesse.
Dynamica, as the name implies, is a touch sensitive mode. The Tweak and Rate knobs are interactive with one another, and the phaser responds to the overall volume of your guitar signal. Set the Rate knob high and your guitar volume high, and listen as the speed decreases. Turn the Rate knob to a lower setting, and the speed increases when you increase your guitar volume. This mode takes some getting used to, but it is pretty rad, and could be the missing link in a transition passage of a song.
Loco mode is just plain crazy. The Tweak knob controls feedback in the phaser and this mode is linked to a ring modulator for wacky and over-the-top sounds. It’s the perfect tone for confusing your grandmother or upsetting your dog. However, I thought it sounded quite nice when layered, via loop pedal, with an acoustic guitar rhythm part. Single notes reminded me of the weird "boingy" sound on “We Only Come Out At Night” by The Smashing Pumpkins.
If I had to describe the La Calavera in one word, I’d say “alive.” If you want a phaser that stays in one place and never moves, this probably isn’t the one. But, if you have a sense of adventure, and want to discover new tonal textures and landscapes, this is right up your alley. Although it possesses a simple layout, this pedal goes very deep, and like a rowdy dog, it needs a companion that is willing to spend time with it. And as one who loves cool-looking pedals, I can’t say enough about the design. If you put this on your pedalboard, anyone who sees it is going to want to know what it’s all about. Besides looking like a magic fuel cell used to power El Chapo’s getaway bike, the La Calavera is clearly built with love and care using high-quality components that will likely last a lifetime. If you want to take your playing on a psychedelic spirit quest, look no further: La Calavera is calling your name.
What We Like:
Wide range of phase tones. Superb build quality. Awesome graphics.