Overdrive pedal with delay offers exceptionally polished, produced-sounding tones
MSRP $199.99 / $199.99 "street"
By Phil O'Keefe
Based in Finland, Mad Professor is one of the world's most respected boutique pedal brands. The Golden Cello (Fig. 1) is a joint venture between Mad Professor and Guitar Center, and will be available in the US only at Guitar Center stores and also through Guitar Center online and Musician's Friend online. For those outside the USA, the Golden Cello will be available through the Musician's Friend website. The official release date is Friday, June 22 2012, but we were able to get a early look.
Figure 1: The Mad Professor Golden Cello Overdrive / Delay
According to the folks at Mad Professor, they set out to create the sound of a high-end overdrive running into a tape delay and high-end tube amp.
The Golden Cello's exterior is, not surprisingly, colored gold. The four white knobs on the top are labeled Volume, Delay, Drive and Tone. A single LED lights when the pedal is active, and a true bypass switch kicks it on or off (Fig. 2).
Figure 2: The Golden Cello's external controls
While I could use the Golden Cello to boost a slightly overdriven amp even harder by lowering the Drive control and raising the Volume, it was designed to work best when running into a clean amp; it doesn't rely on the amp to generate the distortion, and can generate the sound of an overdrive pedal pushing a tube amp all on its own.
The pedal's all-analog overdrive section uses FET and diode clipping to generate the dirt, which has a great deal of range - from nearly clean and only slightly breaking up, all the way to pretty heavily distorted. It's a smooth and sweet sounding drive, with hints of fuzz in some settings. While more of an overdrive than distortion or fuzz, the Golden Cello has traces of all three in its sound. This isn't a Big Muff variant, but like a Big Muff, there's gobs of sweet sustain and smoothness on tap, especially at higher Drive settings. However you can push it for an edgier and brighter sound, with a greater amount of variation and range to the distortion.
The Golden Cello is a very dynamic pedal, and it cleans up well when you lower your guitar's volume. It also responds well to variations in playing attack and dynamics, growling at you more when you really dig in, which is one of the hallmark signs of a excellent overdrive pedal. The manual says that the Golden Cello features "one of the most sought-after tones on the planet," and while no one at Mad Professor was willing to name specific sounds or players, it instantly creates that fat, creamy sustain-laden lead tone that players like Eric Johnson, Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana, Joe Satriani and Gary Moore have used to such great effect on so many of their songs and recordings.
The onboard delay sounds really cool. It's digital, but designed and filtered in such a way as to emulate the sound of old tape echoes like the Echoplex EP-3. The initial repeat is fairly clean, but subsequent repeats get darker and more distorted due to analog filtering in the feedback loop. Because several of the controls are located internally, it's not really a substitute for a full-featured delay pedal; if you constantly adjust your delay times and other settings from song to song, you'll still want your favorite tap-tempo multifunction delay pedal to complement the Golden Cello. However if want just a touch of snapback echo, or need a little "set it and forget" delay to fatten and enhance your leads and riffs, it's perfect. Having a delay included at all on an overdrive pedal at this price point is pretty unusual, and it does add considerably to the pedal's sound.
Four trimpots inside the pedal (Fig. 3) let you adjust the delay. Out of the box, the delay time is pre-set to approximately 380ms. Maxed out, the delay time will do about 450ms, and it can be set considerably shorter than the stock setting too. There are actually two delay chips in the Golden Cello, and two delay time trimmers that have to be adjusted "in balance" so that both are set to the same delay time for best results. This makes adjusting the delay time a bit trickier than on most pedals. A third trimpot controls the number of delay repeats, while the fourth (marked "Gain") adjusts the level of the overdrive signal feeding the delay circuit. Cranking this too much can lead to noise, and I felt the factory setting is optimal.
Figure 3: Four additional delay controls are located on internal trimpots
SOUNDS GOLDEN TO ME
While the sound of this pedal may have been targeted at rockers, I could also see it becoming popular among blues cats as well as alt and indie players. While not really ideal for all-out metal assaults, it can get quite dirty if needed…but what it does best is provide you with a well-produced "smooth, sweet, singing sustain" guitar tone in one box that will work with practically any decent-sounding clean amp.
While some might prefer external delay controls, that's kind of missing the point of the pedal, which is to provide a polished sound with minimal fuss; the onboard delay is an essential component of that, as opposed to a separate effect. Two hundred dollars isn't at all unreasonable for a high-quality boutique overdrive pedal, and when you think of it that way, the delay is practically a freebie - and it really does add considerably to the overall sound.
I enjoyed playing with this pedal a great deal, and appreciated the high "instant gratification" level. Plug in, adjust the intuitive controls and you'll be rocking out in no time. The Golden Cello really does offer a very attractive and polished lead sound in a small, easy to use pedal. Well done!!
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Associate 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.
how do you know its true bypass? I just got one and i want to make absolute certain its true bypass.