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In our second part of our focus on the new pedalboards at Livingston Studios, we explore the modulation board. Let’s set those phasers to stun and all join in on the chorus.
Released June 1976 and with sales at over 7 million, the CE-1 was the first chorus pedal from BOSS. The circuit had already been used in the now-legendary Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus amplifier, and BOSS decided that it would be a great idea to take the chorus circuit out of the JC-120 and sell it as a separate unit. The result became the CE-1 Chorus Ensemble.
The CE-1 is based around the Matsushita BBD MN3002. This circuit is originally developed by Philips but Matsushita was given a licence to make it from the mid-70s. Its list of users reads like a who’s who of great guitar tone, including legends such as Jeff Baxter and Adrian Belew. It has also been dubbed the ‘Andy Summers in a box’ pedal as it does a wonderful version of the famous The Police guitar sound, but both Pete Cornish and Andy have confirmed that he never actually used a CE-1 (it was in fact a Pete Cornish-modded EH Electric Mistress).
The CE-1 is two stereo effects (chorus and vibrato) in one box. Vibrato is controlled via speed and depth controls while the chorus utilises just one overall effect level knob. This may sound limiting, but it’s quite the opposite as through its range this single control offers everything from subtle shimmering chorus to near Leslie cabinet simulations while never losing an ounce of its musical quality.
Next up is another Roland classic if of the rarer variety, the Roland AP-7 Jet Phaser. Want to pretend to be Larry Graham or in The Isley Brothers? The AP-7 is the pedal for that wildly distinctive sound. The Jet Phaser combines fuzz and a multi-stage phase controlled via four control knobs and a six-way mode switch that provides four distorted jet settings and two clean. The resonance control takes the phaser from mild to very pronounced, added to this are two foot switches; one for effect bypass, the other for fast or slow modulation rate. One of the coolest and wildest pedals of all time.
One of my favourite (and not just me, just ask Andy Summers or Dave Gilmour) flangers next, the Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Electric Mistress. The Deluxe Electric Mistress was designed by Electro-Harmonix engineer Howard Davis (who also designed the Deluxe Memory Man). It was offered alongside the original Mistress between 1978-81 and later reissued in 1999 (to present) presented in a slightly larger box.
The Deluxe features a noise filter, making it less noisy than the original Mistress. It has a slightly more jet-like tone, like the MXR, with a hint more mid-range and low end.
With all of the Livingston Studios boards, we attempted to source the originals as much as possible and we found the current large box Deluxe Electric Mistress has a considerably darker and less transparent tone compared to this original 70s model.
Being a big Les Claypool fan, I felt a ring modulator just had to be included on one of these boards, and as no corners are being cut we decided to go with only the finest, that being the Moog MF-102. For those not familiar with ring modulation, the Moog rebuilds your sound into two separate tones and then uses an internal carrier oscillator to spread those tones apart in the frequency spectrum. The higher the carrier frequency, the more the new tones are separated, serving up an astounding range of effects; from slow, velvet-smooth tremelo to chains jangling in a Chinese gong to classic outer space sounds. Instant DJ Shadow territory in a box.
Next in line are two pedals that put a twist on the board as they are not modulation pedals, however they perfectly compliment our selection.
Firstly we have a legendary and super-rare 1978 Ross Grey Compressor, possibly the most copied and revered compressor pedal circuit of all time (Keeley, Barber and Analog Man have all attempted a version). Warm, funky, juicy sustain, never harsh. Rare as hen’s teeth and the most sought-after compression pedal there is.
This pedal is famously the key element in the Trey Anastasio sound, by his own claim. When he temporarily took it off of his board fans were upset enough with the tonal change to actually start a campaign demanding he bring it back.
But aside from that guy, this was THE best compression pedal of the 70s and is the sound of countless hit records of the era.
After that is a script logo MXR Blue Box, not an everyday use pedal but wonderful on the right source. The huge double octave down fuzz creates some truly out of this world effects, think Jimmy Page on ‘Fool In the Rain’. Wonderfully subterranean and psychedelic fun.
Lastly is a stone-cold all time must-have, the Musictronics Mu-Tron III. Introduced in 1972 (our Livingston Studios board unit is a very early example) the Mu-Tron III was an instant success and was used by jazz/fusion guitarist Larry Coryell, Funkadelic bass player Bootsy Collins (for his ‘space bass’), guitarist Jerry Garcia and Stevie Wonder, who used it on his Clavinet for the song ‘Higher Ground’.