When you come across a pedal you didn't even know you needed, is it the best situation or the worst situation? I guess it comes down to your bank balance and hoarder tendencies, but in the case of the Wave Cannon MKII from Caroline Guitar Company, it's a great thing.
Who knew I needed this pedal? I have great fuzz pedals, great overdrive pedals, and even great distortion pedals. I have crazy, screechy, noisemaker pedals. I have low-gain drive pedals. And I have everything in between. I don't need any more pedals. But the Wave Cannon, oh my, I NEED the Wave Cannon. It can cover 99 percent of the sounds mentioned above.
While it's not remotely related to or even close in sound to a certain five knob, multi-faceted fuzz pedal from the American Midwest, the Wave Cannon reminded me of that pedal, because it is capable of just as many tonal permutations. Caroline describes the Wave Cannon of going from "cranked, lightly dirty amp tones to the sound of a furry Godzilla devouring a junkyard full of broken AC window units." Hyperbole? Sure. It doesn't really sound like Godzilla. But I can't think of a better way to describe the depth and breadth of this pedal. With the gain down low, it's a mild mannered overdrive. Crank the gain and it straddles the line between high-gain distortion and searing fuzz. Step on the Havoc switch and it blows up into self-oscillating feedback awesomeness.
Catch a Wave
Before you can dig in, you need to get a handle on the controls. The Wave Cannon MKII features knobs for Volume, Gain, Focus, and Tone. Rather than being labeled with these words though, the Wave Cannon features cool little pictures as labels for each function. The use of the "devil horns" hand gesture for Gain is an especially nice touch. However, as cool as the pictures are, they aren't ideal when you are just getting to know the pedal and dial it in. Along with these four knobs, there is a switch for Rumble. Rumble brings the thunder in the way of huge, pummeling, lows. Finally, you have foot switches for Bypass and Havoc (more on this later).
With the Rumble switch to the left and the gain below 11 o’clock, the Wave Cannon is a mild-mannered and very amp-like overdrive pedal. It offers great dynamics, an even frequency response, and allows the nature of each individual guitar to shine through. Crank up the Gain and the Wave Cannon turns into a high-gain distortion monster. It maintains great dynamics, but it slathers its own characteristics all over your signal. Transparent it is not. Rich and defined? Yes. Switch the Rumble to the right and you run the risk of blowing up your speakers (or at least knocking a few pictures off of the wall). In this setting it will work great with drop-tuned guitars and even bass.
Fire the Cannons
With all that I've mentioned above, the Wave Cannon MKII would already be an awesome pedal and a killer deal. But with the MKII version of the pedal, Caroline added the new momentary "Havoc" switch. What this switch does is engage a "crazy noises and oscillation" portion of the circuit. They’re the kind of squeaks, squeals, and motor-boating effects that can be adjusted from your volume knob, tone knob, and respective pickup combinations. Unlike so many pedals that do this, the momentary switch on the Wave Cannon MKII allows you to apply this effect in small and selected doses. You can use it to emphasize a certain passage or for the big ending of a song or a set.
I found that both the Havoc function and the Wave Cannon MKII in general work best when they are the first pedal in the line. If that's not possible, it's best to at least place them as close to the beginning as possible. Because while the Wave Cannon MKII sounds great anywhere in your chain, when placed too late or after buffered pedals, much of the interactivity with your pickups is lost.
What we like: The Wave Cannon MKII is an extremely versatile pedal that can run the gamut from tube amp overdrive emulation to heavy fuzz. The Havoc switch is a great feature for adding instant mayhem to your playing.
Concerns: While they are cool looking, the pictograph labels for each control make the Wave Cannon a little less user-friendly. The "devil horns" are obvious enough for Gain, but the others took some time for me to remember.