Every once in a while, someone who has “genius” written all over him hits the music scene.
In James Demeter’s case, it’s a moniker he earned through years of behind-the-scenes gear design, from his groundbreaking DI boxes to the Tremulator and a host of other innovations, all produced in a tiny factory in the San Fernando Valley.
We bumped into James at the Demeter booth at NAMM, and when he replied to my “What’s new?” query with a conspiratorial grin, we were certain good things were in the works…
First into my hands was the Fat Control, secret weapon of the highest caliber and originally produced as an onboard effect for guitarists, and now available as a stand-alone floor box.
Got a boring, flat sound from your Strat? Whine no more; the Fat Control adds a chunky, verrry musical mid boost with variable gain that lifts the sound out of the mix, adding a touch of subtle warmth and distortion that’s just killer.
We tried it in James’ little studio through a Demeter amp, using a standard Strat, and the pleasing-but-predictable guitar tones came to startling life with a little tweaking of the tiny black box. Not in-your-face obvious grunge, but subtle, musical, and real natural sounds that made rhythm chunky and fun, and lead playing a total gas. Onstage at local venues, it was just as dramatic, to the point where several people in the audience (guitarists – what else?) came up to comment on the sound and marvel at the itty-bitty box that did it.
Telecasters also are enhanced by the Fat Control, and although I’m not a huge humbucking fan, we did experiment with a ’59 reissue Les Paul, which already had a big, weighty sound. With a bit of adjusting, the mids did get more obvious, and the usefulness was quite a fine thing.
But, being a Fender guy, I loved the effect it had on my Tele. The construction, as with all of the Demeter gear, is meticulous, with a box that could stand up to an elephant, and fine wiring throughout.
The guitarist’s dream box, I am convinced, is the perfect compressor – one that doesn’t suck. Or breathe. Just transparent sound, with a hint of compression (no squashing of ze guitar, please!) and relatively quiet.
The model for this has always been the huge, old optical compressors used in the studio in the ’70s to great effect, and here James and his team have yet again excelled, producing the new Opto-Compulator (Comp 1).
The unit delivers a wonderful compression in a little black box, with gain matching (and further gain, if desired). The housing is, as usual, bulletproof, and the operation disarmingly simple, with volume and level of compression. The results, in aforementioned studio, were just about the best compression one could wish for – from a fine rhythm to singing solo sound, with sustain out the rear.
A great, great pedal. Nothing obvious about this effect, which is the whole point – it still sounds like your guitar, just better. Bigger, with mo sustain.
Last but not least is a piece initially designed for the studio, that has found its way into some sophisticated racks as well – the Demeter RV-1 Real Reverb.
This is a stereo, spring reverb that takes up one rack space, is built to last, and creates some of the most lush, authentic reverb you can imagine.
The two-channel/eight-input unit is only 10″ deep, but houses two spring sets, with delays of 1.5 and 3.5 seconds. The front panel is fairly detailed, but easy to understand, with an overload indicator for signal strength, and the ability to link or use the stereo feature. XLR and 1/4″ inputs are accessible, and the toroidal transformer design minimizes distortion and background noise – this sucker is dead quiet.
Its applications are so diverse – guitars, sure. But how ’bout voice, acoustic guitars, synths? An amazing tool, with the higher-end guy in mind, but what a find for a home studio or a studio cat who has a big rack in mind. At $699, it’s no light-weight, but well worth the price.
Demeter Fat Control/Opto-Compulator/RV-Real Reverb
Type of Effect: Mid boost/Compressor/Reverb
Features: Quality construction, professional-grade capabilities.
Price: $200/$249/$699 (list)
Contact: Demeter Amplification, 15730 Stagg St., Van Nuys, CA 91406, www.demeteramps.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.