Glenn Wylie has been experimenting with guitar effects pedals for over 10 years – when he’s not working on guitars or amps. In the Moonrock, he has come up with a unique pedal that is much more than just another distortion effect.
The pedal’s shiny housing is cast from aircraft-quality aluminum and features a thick steel base. Cable in and out, plus two control knobs and a footswitch comprise the basics of this unit. Inside, circuitry is neatly hand-soldered and it’s obvious this “stompbox” is well put together.
But don’t be lulled into thinking it’s all simple; part of the appeal of the Moonrock is that neither of its controls is marked. Learning how they work is part of the fun because the wily Wylie includes no instructions for using the pedal, leaving it entirely up to the player to find what best works for them.
For our tests, we grabbed a handful of guitars with a range of tonal characterists – a Gibson ’58 Les Paul reissue, Fender ’62 Stratocaster reissue, and a Danelectro U2 reissue. Test amps included a Danelectro Dirty Thirty, an old Supro Supreme, and a blackface Fender Deluxe Reverb.
Plugging in, we did some basic knob turning just to familiarize ourselves; the left-hand knob controls the distortion range, and it heats up pretty fast. By halfway, the unit burns with thick sustain and gushing harmonics. High notes produce an octave effect that’s particularly noticeable via a single-coil pickup. Push the knob further, and the distortion begins to morph into ring modulation/intermodulation distortion.
Finally, rotating the knob completely leads to a swell/compression effects almost like playing a tape backward. You pluck the string and the sound fades in, then moans back in with a compressed tone. In general, the tone seemed to work better with the two tube amps than with the more solidstate Dano. But it brought out the crunch in all three test guitars – even the lower-output lipstick-tube pickups.
The right-hand knob primarily sets intensity and saturation. It functions as a volume control but also interacts with the left knob to control the amount of harmonics, octave, and modulation. Cranking this knob led to a thick, howling fusillade of distortion. But, the guitar’s volume knob did a fine job of cleaning up the tone.
We spent some time experimenting with settings on both guitar and the Moonrock, and discovered the unit is highly interactive. Most of its effects can be changed significantly by adjusting the guitar’s volume knob and pickup selector. Even after a couple of hours of playing notes and turning knobs, we weren’t sure we had unlocked all the secrets.
What we have in the Moonrock is a distortion unit that’s much more than a distortion effect. It’s the sort of thing you can play around with, learn about, and use in a variety of applications.
Type of Effect: Fuzz/Distortion.
Features: Harmonic control, swell/compression control, proprietary circuitry, handmade, with no integrated circuits, true bypass switch.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s July ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.