REVIEW: GIG-FX Mega Wah

The Gig-FX roster of users includes such names as Prince, who played the Chopper tremolo pedal on Saturday Night Live; Adam Jones of Tool; Juan Alderete of The Mars Volta/80s glam shred band Racer X; Adrian Belew of King Crimson/Bowie/NIN; Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge and Creed; Living Colour’s Wil Calhoun; and Richard Fortus of Axl Rose’s latest incarnation of the Gunners.

WHY DON’T YOU CRY ABOUT IT
The Gig-FX Mega-Wah combines six wah effects and a volume pedal, in a sturdy, practically bombproof construction. The wah modes include Classic, in mono or stereo; Mega-Wah, which is described as the Classic wah on steroids; Trig-wah, a funky envelope filter type effect; Auto-wah, a straight-forward touch wah effect; Stereo- Wah, in which two circuits give twice the awesome wah power, especially good for use in stereo effects chains; Stereo-Reverse Wah, which reverses one channel for some phasey phreakiness; and Foot-volume control (does what it says on the tin).

The Mega-Wah operates with optical technology, which uses an LED array and an optical sensor to control the effect. In this design, the closer the LED gets to the array, the more intense the effect. It’s a method used on some other high end wah pedals, tremolo and compressor pedals, and the entertainingly squeaky Digitech Whammy Pedal, and it provides a very smooth taper difficult to achieve with traditional pots.

HEY, WAH HAPPENED?
The coolest feature of the Mega-Wah is the Stereo-Reverse mode. The ability to have one side wahing up while the other wahs down is undeniably funky. It reminds me, bizarrely, of Eddie Van Halen’s rarely heard and unorthodox wah technique, where he tends to rock the pedal backwards rather than forwards so the wah sweep goes from high to low instead of the other way around. This is such an attention-grabbing sound, especially in the context of 40 years of standard wah operation, that its inclusion here is a further breath of fresh air for this innovative pedal.

BOW-BOW-WAKKA-WAKKA-BOW-BOW-CHICKA-CHICKA
The Classic mode has all the vibe and tone of the original pedal it pays tribute to, while Mega-Wah takes it a step or two further. Trig-Wah sounds especially great with bass for those phat Bootsy Collins moments.

The sound quality and flexibility cannot be argued with, nor can the sheer number of sound possibilities. There was a little bit of extra noise audible with the review model, but these issues have since been addressed: At NAMM this year, Gig-FX released the second generation versions of the Mega Wah and Chopper that feature ‘Better than True Bypass’ circuitry, which will be incorporated into all gig-fx pedals in the future. Gig-FX explains: “Unlike True Bypass, there is no loud pop when the pedal circuits are engaged. gig-fx pedals use optical switching and are noiselessly by-passed when the pedal is all the way back. The bypass circuitry preserves signal harmonics better than a True Bypass by driving cable lengths at the optimum impedance value with open frequency response circuitry. In comparison, True Bypass pedals are audibly less transparent with losses of high frequencies into instrument cables, even expensive cables. Spectrum Analyzer test results of the gig-fx bypass v True Bypass are to be published on the company’s web site and provide definitive results. The tests were performed with cooperation from DiMarzio.”

SPECS:
All analog circuitry
Transparent bypass achieved by a FET switch
Stereo in/stereo out, mono in/stereo out
Optical operation.
Bypassed when pedal is in ‘heel down’ position
9V operating voltage, 30mA to 40mA current consumption

REVIEW: Carvin CT6M

Carvin’s California Carved Top, looks somewhat reminiscent of another popular double-cutaway mahogany/maple dual humbucker axe out there, but differentiates itself on several important fronts, including attention to detail and customisability. The standard base model is impressive enough, but want a Floyd Rose instead of the Tune-O-Matic bridge? You got it. Your name on the truss rod cover? Have at it. Birds Eye maple fingerboard? Of course. Hard-wearing stainless steel frets? You just gotta ask. Half the fun of owning a Carvin is knowing that while it comes from a rich 60-year heritage, it can be still be made to your exact specs.

The review model is a CT6M, the flagship of the California Carved Top range. It’s a 25” scale, 8.25 pound behemoth with a mahogany body featuring an extremely high grade quilted maple top (2 centimetres thick at its deepest point) in Deep Sunsetburst finish, natural faux-binding and classy gold hardware. The maple waves in the maple top have that three-dimensional quality you only find in the top-shelf stuff, and I must have stared at it for about ten minutes before strumming a note.

The set-neck is also mahogany, but feels like real wood, with no gloss to slow you down as you zip from one end to the other in a Jason Becker moment. The neck features a 12” radius, 22 medium jumbo frets, a pristine ebony fingerboard, mesmerizing abalone block inlays, a flamed maple headstock overlay, Sperzel locking tuners and a pair of graphite reinforcement bars accompanying the truss rod. The neck feels pleasantly chunky, and fits snugly in the hand without impeding playing comfort or fret access. A graphite-Teflon nut keeps the strings from binding up at this crucial point, averting the possibility of tuning problems. The position markers on the side of the neck appear to be made of some type of polished metal, and seem to pick up whatever light is present in a dim room – crucial for when the stage lights go out between songs and you need to find your way from “Jessie’s Girl” to “Play That Funky Music” without coming in a semitone too low.

A pair of C22 humbuckers (with 22 pole pieces each) are complemented by master volume and tone controls, with the tone pot doubling as a push-pull coil split for a total of 6 distinct tones, ranging from Tele-on-steroids to Les Paul on red cordial.

Straight out of the box, the CT6M features a flawlessly buzz-free action from one end of the neck to the other. String height is medium height on the review model, giving the player heaps of room to dig in on gutsy chords but still low enough for smooth, effortless sweep picking or Santana-style tender moments, if that’s your poison. The fret ends are polished so smoothly that if you push the high E string off the fretboard the note glides up smoothly in pitch as if you’re using a slide or a whammy pedal. It’s a neat trick, and usually one that requires a bit of extra fret finishing from a tech – rare to see in a brand new guitar. A quick glance at the pickups reveals a little bit of factory tweakage of the 22 pole pieces to even out the volume of each string – another nice little touch that reveals further attention to detail.

So what’s it like plugged in? Well, it bears certain sonic similarities to other mahogany body/maple top twin-humbucker designs, but the attractively cream-coloured C22 pickups seem to add a few extra harmonics to the sound, like playing through a wah left in a stationary position. If you crank up the gain high enough, the tone is almost Satriani-like, with overtones and harmonics rising up into the stratosphere. Unlike most guitars, the tone knob is actually useful – roll it all the way back and the tone becomes even fuller, taking on an almost flutey quality. Santana tones are definitely lurking around, as are classic Led Zeppelin humbucker rhythm tones. Clean sounds are very solid and clear, and in a pinch this guitar is equally at home on cruisy jazz licks and speed-picked Megadeth riffs.

In single coil mode, the CT6M sounds like a heavy duty Telecaster, equally at home with bluesy double-stops, funky Chic-style rhythm or ballsy Junior Brown-ish country. Whether in single coil or humbucker mode the pickups seem to love Drop D tuning, with a gutsy tightness in humbucker mode or a tough-sounding punch on the single coil settings. The pickups are evenly balanced with each other no matter which setting is used.

The overall quality of this guitar is outstanding, from the big things like overall tone and tuning stability to the less obvious stuff like the positioning of the controls and the reduced mass of the smaller headstock, which helps keep everything nicely balanced on a strap and prevents the guitar from getting too neck-heavy sitting down. Sustain is impressive, playability is flawless, and the guitar looks as good as it plays. Best of all, you can choose your preferred options from a huge list of possibilities to turn this already impressive model into the guitar of your dreams.