Real Horror-Show Harmonic Balance
When I moved to the UK almost five years ago, one of the first things I noticed was that boutique pedal builders were scarce. This puzzled me because the whole movement sort of started over here with legendary mod gods and creators such as Roger Mayer and Pete Cornish. I scoured the internet for local pedal pushers and one of the first ones to catch my eye was a little company called Fredric Effects and its funky little hand built Harmonic Percolator variants. I had stupidly sold my Chuck Collins HP repro and was looking for something to fill that zippy fuzz-overdrive void.
Fast-forward five years and as fate would have it, I am writing for the world’s premier pedal publication and Fredric Effects have bubbled to the top of Old Blighty’s boutique pedal market. I am finally holding in my rooker, a real horror-show of a pedal from my droogies down London way. Viddy well, o my brothers and sisters. It is time for an evening of small energy expenditure and huge tones…
Even Order Out of Chaos
This latest Utility Perkolator from Fredric Effects differs from the original circuit in many ways. As the name suggests, it casts aside vintage correctness in favor of lower noise, versatility, and utilitarian space-saving pedalboard accommodation. I must admit there was something special about the huge, slider-endowed Chuck Collins repro I used to abuse, but it was a real hassle to integrate onto my small gigging board—even after I reversed the inputs and outputs to flow with the rest of my signal chain. This Utility Perkolator crams all that HP sauce into a tiny custom-fabricated enclosure with side screw back mounting for flush Velcro or rubber feet applications. The harmonics (input gain) and balance (volume) controls will be familiar to Percolator purists, but the magic lies in that center switch.
Let’s start in the down position for more traditional harmonic percolations. This is the Germanium clipping section. Like the Interfax original, a ragged-yet-smooth zippy compression becomes more apparent as the harmonics are turned up. At minimal settings, a beautifully bubbly sustain injects heft and sizzle to chords and single strings alike. At full whack, the Germanium diodes boil over; creating a square wave squish that is simultaneously chaotic and articulate. It is worth noting that the Utility Perkolator uses Russian germaniums and a low pass filter to siphon out some of the hiss inherent in the original HP. Moving to the center position disengages the clipping diodes altogether and increases the volume of the balance control dramatically. This creates a less raggedy fuzz-overdrive that allows for full frequencies to blossom, pollinating the airwaves with sweet buzzing sustain. Switching to the up position engages the silicon clipping section. Crank it up for an angry hive of harmonic swarms that stings the strings and makes them swell up into a fleshy mess of organic pulp. This setting is for those allergic to the norm, however, the natural suppression of odd order harmonics inherent in the circuit always sounds musical, warm and intriguing.
What we like: The small footprint, added versatility and lower noise floor are welcome updates to the obscure and legendary Harmonic Percolator. Fredric Effects is no stranger to this circuit and it shows with this stellar latest addition. The Utility Perkolator sounds brilliant applied to guitars, bass, synths and drum machines. I also love the custom artwork and hand drawn stickers in the package. It brings back that special feeling of being a communal participant in something rad, like getting a favorite local band’s first seven-inch.
Concerns: Be careful with those side screws when changing a battery. Make sure to line up those holes perfectly or screws will strip and paint will chip. Better yet, power the Perkolator with a nine-volt supply and give nature a break.