Matthews Effects Whaler Fuzz

  • By David A. Evans @tonereport
  • July 18, 2014

Call it the Whaler by Matthews Effects. It flits about the high seas of sound. See it now: here it dives into the classic, dark fuzz of the deep; there it breaches on a crest of contemporary distortion. If the reader is a hearty soul in search of holy fuzz, then hoist the sails and trim the jib because this truly musical pedal is spouting on the horizon.

At its best, the Whaler works with your instrument to enhance rather than muddle both tone and timbre. Much of this musicality can be discerned by playing around with the pedal’s compression or “Comp” knob. By turning the Comp knob fully to the right, the pedal adds a “round” sort of fuzz to both individual notes and strummed barre chords. Indeed, so pleasing was this overall tone that when this reviewer compared the clean and fuzz tones, he was happy to hear that the chiming of his clean tone mixed seamlessly with the fuzz of the pedal. Amazingly, he even discerned the ring of his guitar’s new strings. Some distortion effects simply hide this sort of nuance.

Adjustments of the Tone and Body knobs in this same Comp setting also produced fantastic, classic-sounding results. Turning the Tone knob to the 7 o’clock position sent the tone into small AM-radio land, or into a high-treble record from the psychedelic ‘60s. Turning the knob to the right was akin to placing the reviewer’s favorite soft, wool blanket over the speaker cabinet: the high end rolled off so that the tone was not muddled but instead softened and subdued.

The user really dips into uncharted waters when the Comp knob is turned back from the higher settings. The Whaler gave individual notes and chords a really cool electronic sizzle and pop. With the Comp knob turned to the 1 o’clock position, this player was able to achieve a dying battery sound. At the settings left of noon on the Comp knob, the dying battery effect acts like a noise gate. Strike a note or a chord and it will sustain for only so long until it cuts out. The noise-gate effect helps to reduce string noise that a fuzz effect might otherwise amplify. Interestingly, the gate seems to act in an almost aleatory manner.

At its most extreme, the Whaler seemed to totally disfigure this writer’s tone in a maelstrom of fuzz and noise. Yet the pedal didn’t actually obliterate the guitar’s tonality, it didn’t actually produce pure noise. With the Whaler, one can tread right on the edge of atonality, but if the waves ahead seem too choppy, it’s just as easy to dial back the Comp knob. Rest assured, because a hearty soul can still make a nice melody at these higher settings.

Play softly or aggressively—either way the Whaler will add sizzle and pop. For those adventurous souls, or even for those timid but intrigued souls, a one-time encounter with the Whaler might very well drive them to stalk its fuzz on the high seas of tone.

What we like: In its less extreme settings, the Whaler preserves the instrument’s tonal quality while fuzzing that tone up. Simply put, The Whaler’s made for electric sizzle and pop.

Concerns: The labels for the Input and Output knobs also appear to be the labels for the input and output jacks. Also, this user found the roll-off between the seven and 8 o’clock position to be a bit abrupt. Finally, the LED status light is bright enough to signal a ship at sea—bright enough, that is, to blind a player just when it’s time to play that big solo. This user saw the light!