Loco Box Pedals
The demand for pedal-sized guitar and keyboard effects seems to continue unabated, and the latest answer to this demand comes from Aria. Their Loco Box range of effects comprises eight models, of which we examined four, together with an AC adaptor and the ECB-50 Effector Carrying Board, which holds up to five pedals and powers them from a mains outlet.
The Flanger is fairly typical of the range, its construction being common to all the other pedals. It comes in a die-cast metal housing sprayed matt black, with legending and knob caps in apple green. The foot-switch is a spring panel occupying the lower third of the body, with a positive action and a faint mechanical click as it operates. The chromed input and output jack sockets are identified on the switch mechanism itself; a red LED indicates that the effect is in operation, and as usual power is cut when the input jack is removed.
The 9V DC input on the rear panel has the centre pin as earth; access to the battery compartment is by removing a large knurled screw, which could be done without tools if only finger-tight. Both the screw and the compartment cover come free, however, which surely could have been improved upon.
The base of the pedal is rubber-padded for grip, and is removed via four cross-head screws. The PCB is insulated by a card sheet, but isn't screwed down at all. Certainly this makes for easy access, as all the connecting wires go to one side of the board, which can be simply swung to one side. Miniature pots are used on the control functions, and overall the construction is reminiscent of the Amdek effects range.
The Flanger circuit is based on a single delay line with three presets available on the board for minor adjustments. It's claimed to give 65dB signal to noise, and in fact the noise produced is quite acceptable for stage work, while not being up to studio standards. There are four controls — Speed, Depth, Manual, and Colour. Speed ranges from very slow — about 1 cycle every 30 seconds — to a fast vibrato. Depth interacts with the manual control, which sets the centre of the flanging cycle to an increasing degree as Depth is decreased. Colour ranges from a very even flanging effect to a highly resonant effect, while falling short of actual oscillation.
In use the Flanger is easy and positive to switch in and out, the LED is clearly visible over a wide angle, and the volume drop caused by use of the effect is small. Stated input impedance is 100K ohms, output impedance 5K ohms, weight 442g.
Recommended retail price including VAT is £56.42.
The AD-01 has a dark green finish and three controls, otherwise being similar to the Flanger. Power requirement is again 9V, the circuit being based on a single delay line and being quiet enough to suggest some form of compansion in use. The controls are Mix (between dry and echo), Delay (from 20-300mS) and Repeat (from 1 to feedback).
At very fast repeat speeds a nice metallic reverb is obtained, while the slower echoes and feedback are also useful; again the switch action is positive and the LED is clearly visible. Input impedance is stated as 1M ohm, output impedance as 220 ohm, Gain as 5dB, signal to noise as 70dB, weight 427g.
Recommended retail price including VAT is £82.38.
The Chorus has a blue finish and only two controls, Speed and Depth. It has two outputs, Direct and Chorus, in order to set up a stereo sound. Power is again 9V, a single delay line being used, and the stated signal to noise ratio is 75dB, although this seems a little exaggerated since the pedal does produce a significant 'swooshing' sound.
Combinations of the two controls can produce a very slow shifting effect, a faster detuned chorus, or a tremolo/vibrato effect. Nothing excessive, but equally useful on guitar, strings or Casio perhaps to give the sounds a certain richness and internal movement. Input impedance is stated as 1M ohm, output impedance as 1K ohm, Rate as 0.2 to 10Hz, weight 423g.
Recommended retail price including VAT is £45.62.
Clearly intended for guitar, the use of a distortion box on piano, organ or even synthesiser for 'dirty' sounds mustn't be neglected. The DS-01 has three controls — Level, Distortion, and Tone, and gives a wide range of effects. The circuit is simpler than the other effects, being based on a single op-amp IC, and this is reflected in the lower retail price. Finish is red, power is again 9V.
As usual the Distortion control sets the amount of 'fuzz' effect, the level control being used to preset the volume at which the distorted sound is required to appear — louder for lead lines, quieter for fuzzed chords perhaps. The DS-01 tone control is a little unusual, and appears to be of a mild band-pass variety. It doesn't actively boost bass or treble, but can place the emphasis on either of them for a variety of sounds from mellow to extremely piercing.
The fuzz effect is a little better than that produced by many similar pedals. It's very warm and clean, resists the tendency to 'break up' as a note decays, and is capable of a striking glassy effect when applied to single coil lead pickups. Although the maximum settings don't produce instant screaming feedback, the DS-01 would of course be used in conjunction with guitar amp controls normally, and together these should provide all the distortion effects desired. Input impedance is stated as 1M ohm, Signal to Noise as 85dB, weight 419g.
Recommended retail price is £34.75 including VAT.
Other Loco Box effects are the OD 01 Overdrive at £32.76, offering Level and Drive controls; the CM-01 Compressor at £32.74, with Compression level and Sensitivity controls; the PH-01 Phaser at £37.96, with Depth and Speed/Width controls; the GE-06 Graphic EQ, giving plus or minus 18dB in 6 bands for £42.06; and the previously mentioned ECB-50 Effector Carrying Board, which supplies mains power to up to 5 effects and includes a guitar tuning by pass facility.
Loco Box effects are distributed in the UK by Gigsville, (Contact Details).
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Review by Mark Jenkins