The modern effects pedal market is awash with a multitude of clever devices doing a multitude of clever things in a multitude of clever ways. And just when I thought I’d heard and seen it all, along comes a relatively new player from the land down under. MC Systems refers to their new Apollo line as “Dynamic Response” pedals, and although the suggestion that these pedals will change the way you play guitar is perhaps hyperbolic, they will surely make you re-think the limits of what effects pedals can do for your playing.
All MC Systems pedals are true bypass, can be powered by 9-volt batteries or external power supplies, come in cool black slip-case packaging, and are styled with a rugged, militaristic look. What really sets the Dynamic Response line of pedals apart is its patent-pending V-Switch located on the control face of each pedal. When the V-Switch is engaged, the amount of pressure used to enable the effect (basically how hard you stomp on the footswitch) changes the intensity of a given parameter. For instance, if you want more overdrive for the next song on your set list, simply stomp on your new NKM Dynamic Drive harder.
The sensitivity of the V-switch on each pedal can even be adjusted to “suit your shoe size” via a small access port on the bottom of each pedal. To top It off, each of the pedals Include a second footswitch labeled “Alternate,” which gives you Immediate access to a different preset parameter you might want to access quickly–such as a volume boost with a little extra sizzle for solos. Honestly, If this isn’t one of those “Why didn’t / think of that” situations, I don’t know what is.
To test these three MC Systems pedals, I used a Fender Stratocaster and a Gibson Les Paul plugged into a Vox AC30 and an Epiphone Valve Jr. head with a cabinet loaded with two Eminence P10R speakers.
NKM DYNAMIC DRIVE
With both single-coll and humbucker pickups the Dynamic Drive ($TBA) elicits warm and pleasing, medium to heavy overdrive, There was definitely more bite with the single-coils, but plenty of high end was evident with the humbuckers, too. Despite the pedal’s name, I felt that its dynamic qualities were not as responsive as they could have been. The pedal does produce a big tonal difference between light and heavy pick attacks-plenty of black vs. white, so to speak-but the shades of grey in between were slightly less obvious. However, that very trait also makes it a forgiving pedal for those with an Inclination to bash at the guitar, rather than caress it.
The Dynamic Drive really blossomed when I kicked in the V-Switch and added a little more preamp distortion to my test amps. Between the Drive, the V-Drive, and the Alternate presets, you can create a variety of great fat, punchy, or saturated guitar tones for almost any type of gig. And, best of all, with three separate presets, you’ll never have to bend over during the show (or during a song) to make tonal adjustments.
BSL HYBRID CHORUS
Chorus, delay, and other types of modulation effects are where I think the V-Switch technology can–and will–really shine, Like the Dynamic Drive, the Hybrid Chorus ($TBA) can provide multiple, on-the-fly settings to a player simply by engaging the footswitch. The true-bypass pedal offers controls for Depth, V-Depth, Rate, Alternate Rate, and Level, Once I got used to manipulating the controls, the V-Switch footswitch and the Alternate footswitch enabled me to achieve everything from lush swirls to watery vibrato effects to rotary speaker sounds, and even some interesting detunes. While the overall tonal quality of the pedal can be considered warm, It also reminded me more of the brighter, digital-sounding chorus pedals of the mid ’80s–only with more flexibility, and far more control over the parameters that make a good chorus pedal a “must have” In every guitarist’s arsenal. The level of versatility makes the BSL Hybrid Chorus unique among most other current chorus pedals.
SYD STRING REVIVER
The apparently strangely named String Reviver ($TBA) is really like a cross between a Sonic Maximizer and a treble booster. First off, it actually does do exactly what its name implies–which is add clarity and brightness to guitar strings. With the String Reviver engaged, every tiny detail in my playing technique was brought Into tight focus. It also added air and zip to a dark-sounding, humbucker-equipped electric, and the single-coils on my Stratocaster suddenly had a wonderful feel of space and acoustic-like definition.
The controls include Definition, V-Definition, Slope, Level, and Alt-Level, When the V-Definition parameter is engaged everything becomes even more pronounced. The Level and Alt-Level controls can be used to match your bypassed signal, or to set up one or even two levels of boost–which is very useful for blasting solos and riffs out of a live band mix. My only concern is that the pedal produces audible hiss when either of the Definition controls are set past the 2 o’clock position.