FX on Fire!
Vesta-Fire FX Pedals plus D-1X Digital Delay & L-1 Low Frequency Oscillator
New pedals on test
'Not another range of effects pedals' could well be the reaction of any IN TUNE reader to the news that Vesta-Fire, the well regarded Japanese rack mounted effects unit makers, have just launched their own series of pedals. On the other hand, maybe (especially given the flood of lower priced, lower quality effects currently on the market from Taiwan and Korea, and the relatively static number of higher quality Japanese-made pedals) perhaps there is a need for some new blood? To find out, we borrowed a full set of Vesta's pedal effects, plus their floor-mounted D-1X Digital Delay Unit and L-1 'Low Frequency Oscillator' add-on, to see how well they shaped up.
Bearing in mind the prices of these units (ranging from £35-£60), the Vestas are pretty reasonably constructed. The top section of each pedal is fashioned from sheet metal and the bases are rubber coated to prevent them slipping away from you on stage. However, the bottom halves are made of grey plastic, secured to the top (metal) section by four cross-head screws. This practice is growing among Japanese makers; witness the Arion range which has a nearly all-plastic construction. Either brand will probably stand reasonably heavy use, but couldn't be recommended for the toughest professional purposes, where possibly only 100% die cast metal will really provide the strength required.
A small (but we're afraid also rather negative) comment on the Vesta-Fires is that their battery compartments are accessed via click-in high density plastic covers. We could be wrong, but we can't see these plastic clips lasting for too long. Having said that, the Vesta-Fires are no worse or better made than quite a few other top-selling lines, so perhaps we're being over-fussy?
Although the most basic effects of them all, distortion pedals vary considerably in their quality, some sounding no better than tinny practice amp overdrives, others being capable of really usable 'square wave' sound fracturing. The Vesta is definitely in the latter category, with a rough-edged rasp which sounds suitably Motorhead-like in its break-up. It's not the most subtle effect, but, being provided with Level, Distortion and Tone controls (the latter working particularly well), it seemed variable enough and just right for the player who wants maximum distortion for solos. Like all distortions it tends to break up on chords, but works well on lead lines where overkill is the order of the day. As Distortions go this is a good one.
This is one of the very best Overdriver (as opposed to Distortion) pedals that we've tried. Fitted with Level, Drive and Tone controls, it produces a far smoother overload than the Distortion unit and has a nicely flexible tonal range, offering everything from Strat attack to Les Paul 'whine'. Even three note chords sounded smooth and unbroken via this unit, and even through a tiny 10 watt tranny practice amp, the sound we got from really was quite convincingly like a smooth valve overdrive. For the subtler guitarist we rate this Vesta pedal very highly indeed. It's extremely good value for money at £35, too!
Phasers are possibly a bit passe, but this is a good one and could still find a home with players who like this effect. Like many such pedals it does suffer from some degree of audible 'whoosh' (especially through loud amps), but it's no worse than many and has a nice tonality about it which more than makes up for this (very typical) phaser flaw.
Fitted with Speed, Depth and 'Colour' controls, the rate and depth blend offered is pretty good, and the stereo capability in particular makes it potentially very usable. It isn't the absolute best phaser we've tried, but it is far cheaper than the best and can face its competition on more than equal terms.
This was one of the Vestas which did a lot to convince us of how good this new series was. Provided with controls governing Speed and Depth, it provides a nice rich chorus effect, running across a very well chosen range and giving all the speed options you could sensibly need. The noise level is well suppressed on all these Vesta pedals, and the Chorus is certainly no exception. While there may be more varied-sounding Choruses around, this one has a really good, musical quality to it and does a great 12-string simulation among other things. Simple maybe, but the Vesta Chorus sounds really good in either mono or stereo and is recommended, especially at the price.
Offering controls governing Speed, Depth, Manual and Colour, the Vesta doesn't make its mark so much by doing what other flangers don't do, but more by doing what it does do very well. The range of effect offered is good (much on a par with other similarly priced flangers), but this one has a 'creamier' sound to it and isn't plagued by unwanted filtering noises, as are many lower cost flangers. For some reason which we couldn't follow, the top of the two outputs seemed to sound better to us for mono uses than the bottom one (it's stereo, of course, and we were testing it at the time in mono), but that hardly matters, as users can decide for themselves which of the two outputs to employ.
In terms of its range, it may be true that the Vesta Flanger is no better than most - but who really needs more range? What counts is the sound quality - and this one sounded really good to us.
This was the pedal in the range which bowled us over. Compressors have all sorts of uses, from smoothing-out picking attack to inducing endless sustain - but have you ever heard a Strat played through a 15 watt Custom Sound Cub sustaining, feeding-back and howling - all at around 5 watts output?! Seriously, this is one of the best pedal compressors we've used, not only for its ability to hold back unwanted levels (where it functions much like a limiter), but also for expanding the sound of a guitar to absolute overkill effects at impossibly low volumes. What's more, it's click-free! The general consensus of the IT testers about this unit was that we'd enter our Vesta-Fire competition to win this one alone. Fabulous value for money, that's all we can say!
Although it's out of the 'funny noises' line, the Buff & Loop is a very welcome addition to any effects range and, don't forget, this one could be just as easily used with other makers' effects if you're already fully kitted out.
Basically, the Buff & Loop is a buffer preamp and effects loop switching device all in one. So far as the amp side is concerned, this has several important possible uses. The first could be to compensate for the inevitable signal strength losses incurred when using long instrument leads. It also works to give you up to an extra 26dB of gain (controlled by a volume pot) which helps you counteract the low impedance outputs of some effects units. Further, you can use it to lift the gain of your guitar to overload your amp, or to lift the gain of a mike whose output is too low for an effects unit and then plug the result straight to a guitar amp. Most usefully, it can be employed to direct inject your guitar into a mixer or even a tape machine.
The 'Loop' facility lets you run your effects in several optional ways, either by inputting your instrument to the jack marked 'input' and connecting your amp to the one labelled 'output'. From there you can loop your effects from the send and receive jacks so that you can switch them in or out at will, using just one switch. You can also the loop to send your signal off to two amps without signal losses, or arrange your effects in two groups, enabling you to switch between the two sets as you like. Needless to say, there's a separate volume control for the loop, too.
Overall this is a very useful, extremely effective device with so many uses that we'd rate it as near indispensable whatever instruments you play. It works very well indeed and seems a steal at the price - buy one!
With silent FET switching and all of them relatively quiet in operation, even the least impressive of the Vesta-Fires is much better than average, and the best examples are very fine indeed. Excellent value for money overall is our verdict, with the Overdrive, Compressor and Buff & Loop really standing out.
RRP £176 & RRP £51
This unit sits outside the basic Vesta-Fire pedal range, partly because it's so much more than an ordinary pedal, partly because it has a higher price and partly because it is quite differently laid out. Where the pedals have plastic bases, the D-1X is all metal, fitted with two silent FET switching round click pads for on/off control. Only taking mains derived power (a single output mains 9v driver is offered for just £12), the Vesta has a single input on the right hand side and two outs on the left. The top one of these is a stereo feed (delay sound only), the bottom a mono (mixed dry and delayed signals). Controls provided include Input level (there are red and green LEDs to show ideal and overloaded input levels). Feedback, Delay Time Multiplier (from x0.5-x2), click set Delay Times 92, 8, 32, 128 and 512 ms) and Delay level.
Maximum delay time (using the multiplier on x2) is 1024ms, a respectable amount for the asking price, and the frequency range (bandwidth) seems to be very good despite the quoted figures, which show delay signals being cut off at 10kHz. That regardless, no significant treble loss was found to be present when the unit was set on its maximum delay.
In use, the D-1X is very creditable. The range of delay effects available covers all the usual possibilities of DDLs, with straight echo, doubling (ADT), and all the usual delay sounds - without unwanted noises, hisses clicks and bangs. The 1024 ms limit (and one or two other 'giveaway' specs.) imply that the same chip is used in the Vesta-Fire as is found in most of the semi-pro rack mounted DDLs, so it's not very surprising that the overall range of effects is more or less typical of a medium-priced rack unit - the Vesta's main advantage being that it's a floor-standing unit, hence rather more easily used.
The Hold facility, too, compares very typically with the best floor units available - 250-1024ms is storable, the function being set on or off via the left hand (LED indicated) footswitch. This is long enough for a useful piece to be laid down and held as a repeat, against which you can play another part, balancing the two levels together to get the proportions you want. It may not be as technically flash as one of the latest generation pedal samplers, but in practice, on stage, who the heck cares? The facility works, and works well.
Thus far, although the Vesta-Fire is a good quality digital delay at a reasonable price, it does lack a modulation facility, which would enable users to get Flanging, Chorus and all the other modulated variations on delay themes. No problem here, because all you have to do is buy the L-1 bolt-on low frequency oscillator and away you go, with not only these basic effects, but also heavily modulated 'spaceship' noises (like automatically sped-up and slowed down repeats when modulated through the 'Hold' function) which can make the Vesta-Fire an amazingly useful machine to have around.
On its own the D-1X is a good all-purpose digital delay, with the added advantage of being floor mounted. Add the screw-on and plug-in L-1 LFO and you get access to all the extra modulated effects for just £51 more - you even get switchable wave shapes thrown in, just to add interest!
As practical tools for working players, we found the Vesta-Fire units well made, quiet in operation, highly versatile (especially with the addition of the optional LFO) and lacking only an external trigger input (for triggering from rhythm machines, arpeggiators, synths etc) to make it complete. Compared with most similarly specified rack mounted units and DDL pedals, the Vesta-Fire looks like a good buy, it works very well and - especially fitted with the L-1 option - is very versatile. It does have one major competitor, in the form of the JHS 'Big Foot', which costs a bit less and does a fair bit more.
For all that, the nice thing about the Vesta-Fire is that you don't have to have the modulator unless you want it, and you can grow with it as you desire. Well made, great sounding with more effects than you could use in a month of Sundays, we'd say that this one represents a sensible (if not perhaps a best) buy.
Prices quoted in review all include VAT
More details on all Vesta-Fire units from M.T.R. Ltd., (Contact Details).
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