Vintage inspired pedal with fuzz and vibe
By Phil O'Keefe
Denmark's East Sound Research and their Carl Martin brand should need no introduction to most people who are reading this. Their high-end effects are coveted by guitarists around the world. Part of their vintage series and manufactured in China, the new Carl Martin Purple Moon Vintage Fuzz 'n Vibe combines a dual speed vibe and vintage inspired fuzz in a single pedal. The Purple Moon is designed to capture the sound of the late Sixties and Seventies. Carl Martin says to think in terms of Hendrix, Gilmour, and Trower, and if you're like me, that brings to mind the sound of vibe and fuzz pedals, which all three guitarists used to great, uh, effect. (Sorry) This should give you some idea of what the Purple Moon is designed to provide from a sonic standpoint. Let's get the telescope out and take a closer look.
What You Need To Know
- Combining a vintage inspired vibe and fuzz in a single pedal, the Purple Moon is the only true bypass, all-analog, two speed vibe with fuzz pedal currently on the market from a major manufacturer.
- The Purple Moon Vintage Fuzz 'N Vibe crams a lot of switches and knobs into a relatively compact pedal that measures 4.72" W x 3.74" D x 2.2" H, and weighs 0.94 lb. The Purple Moon is, not surprisingly, painted purple, with the cool looking metallic purple paint offset nicely by the four large white knobs and white lettering. For the most part, the controls are easy to see, even in a dimly lit studio or stage.
- The input and output jacks are top mounted, which makes it easy to position the Purple Moon next to other pedals without the cables and plugs getting in the way. Input impedance is 1M Ohm, and the output impedance is 200 Ohm.
- The power jack is also top mounted. The Purple Moon can be powered by a 9V battery (and one is included with the pedal), or a regulated 9V DC power supply, which is what Carl Martin recommends for best performance. The power jack uses the industry standard 2.1mm center negative format. Battery compartment access is gained by removing the bottom plate. There are no trimpots or hidden internal switches.
- The fuzz doesn't appear in the usual or expected location - placed in series either before or after the vibe in the signal path, but instead is built into / within the vibe circuit. That means that the vibe can never be fully bypassed while the fuzz remains active, although you can lower it to be practically imperceptible. This design does open up some interesting interactions between the two effects, and is the heart of the Purple Moon's design.
- Because of the design, the controls are very interactive, and changes to the Fuzz and Vibe level controls can affect the other to a degree. This makes it a bit trickier to dial up in some ways, but allows for a lot more sonic variety and interaction between the two effects.
- There are two individual speed controls - Speed 1 and Speed 2. These allow you to set two different speeds for the vibe, and a dedicated footswitch allows you to toggle between them. Like a rotary speaker, there's a fast but perceptible ramp time when switching between speed settings, which is nice. It would be cool to have a separate control for adjusting that ramp speed, but short of using an internal trimpot, I don't know where they'd be able to put the control.
- There is also a pair of blue LED indicators - one for each Speed control. They illuminate to indicate which speed control is active, and they pulsate in time to the currently selected speed, giving you a visual indication of the vibe's speed. Even better, they are active even when the pedal is bypassed, so you always know which speed knob is selected, and what the current speed actually is. You can even switch between speeds while the pedal is bypassed.
- The Depth knob controls the depth of the vibe effect. At maximum settings you'll hear a deep, asymmetrical throbbing vibe, while setting it to its lowest setting makes the vibe all but disappear. The sound of vibe pedals is often debated, and is highly subjective, but I think the sound of this one is quite good - it's thick, chewy, and satisfying.
- The Level knob sets the overall output level of the Purple Moon. Curiously, it seems to have no effect on the fuzz; only the vibe. The level of the fuzz is controlled independently, which allows you to blend the two together in rather unusual ways.
- The Fuzz section of the Purple Moon Vintage Fuzz 'n Vibe is controlled by two much smaller mini knobs that are located in the center of the pedal. The Fuzz knob sets the amount of dirt. There's a fairly broad range available, but it leans towards the "I want to rock!" side of the gain scale, with tons of saturation and sustain available if you want it.
- The smaller Level knob controls the overall fuzz level. Setting this knob to the minimum setting bypasses the fuzz, and allows you to use the Purple Moon's vibe alone. Since there are separate level and depth/level controls for the fuzz and vibe, you can mix them together in whatever ratios you want, up to a point - remember, the vibe is always active whenever the pedal is active, although you can pull it down to practically nothing with its Depth control set to minimum.
- Switching is true bypass. A green LED illuminates when the pedal is active.
- The Purple Moon is covered by Carl Martin's one year limited warranty.
- There are no individual footswitches for bypassing the fuzz and vibe separately. Again, the design places the fuzz into the circuitry for the vibe instead of in series in front of or directly after it, which prevents the vibe from being bypassed separately from the fuzz.
- The small size, low height, and their placement in between the other, larger knobs can make adjusting the fuzz controls a bit tricky. Additionally, their position indicators are small notches in the knobs, which are also somewhat difficult to see. Owners may want to apply a small dab of white or glow in the dark paint to make that a bit easier.
This is an ambitious, and challenging pedal for a manufacturer to have taken on since it packs so much - essentially two pedals - into one reasonably compact unit, and connects them in such an unconventional way. Unfortunately, it does suffer a bit because of that smaller footprint in terms of the slightly cramped controls and the lack of space for separate switches for the fuzz and vibe, but the ability to switch between two vibe speed settings is something that is extremely handy, and is a feature that not a lot of other vibe pedals offer. That, plus the excellent sound quality make the Purple Moon a worthwhile purchase as a dedicated vibe pedal - consider the fuzz a very cool bonus if you wish. For others, the combination of vibe and fuzz will give them exactly the kind of vintage flavored tones they seek. The silicon fuzz is also a winner, with its thick, saturated sustain, but the knob placement and type, along with the Purple Moon's switching configuration make it much harder to use it independently of the vibe. Still, it's the interaction between the two effects that offers the most promise for creative guitarists, and the top-rate tone quality and range of adjustability will no doubt keep many players happily entertained dialing up interesting sounds for hours on end. It's a fun pedal, with a lot of cool tones and an unusual design approach that yields interesting results that sound fantastic. Give it a try if you have the opportunity!
Carl Martin Purple Moon Vintage Fuzz 'n Vibe ($148.40 "street")
Carl Martin website
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.