Henretta Engineering Pedals
Prices: Green Zapper, Bluebird, and Purple Octopus, $125 each; Chord Blaster, $140
Bigger is not necessarily better – especially when you have a pedal board full of stompboxes, but still need room for just one more effect. In this case, miniscule can rule.
Enter Henretta Engineering and its unique lineup; eight analog pedals handmade here in the good old U.S.A., each with just a 2×2-inch footprint. Small is indeed beautiful.
Their square shape allows these little fellows to squeeze into spaces typically uninhabitable on pedalboards, and they are easily rotated to position their 9-volt jacks right to left, left to right, up to down, or down to up.
Add to this one more novel feature: These mini stompboxes are “no-knobbers.” Each has an on/off footswitch, but that’s it. Sound parameters are dialed in with internal trimmers; then the player can simply forget about the settings. It’s that easy.
Mastermind Kevin Henretta offers the Orange Whip Compressor, Bluebird Fuzz, Green Zapper Auto Filter, Mr. White Tweak Boost, Pinkman Dirty Boost, Crimson Tremolo, Purple Octopus Octave Up, and Emerald Prince Preamp. The concept, of course, is a nod to vintage Dan Armstrong mini pedals like the Blue Clipper and Orange Squeezer, but Henretta’s creations are simpler, rock-solid, and brand-spanking-new.
Henretta sets up all of the pedals for a Telecaster with vintage-inspired medium-output pickups. Users playing a similar axe may never need to open up these effects for tweaking. Otherwise, adjustment is simple, and the sound can be customized to the user’s rig.
Several Henretta pedals were tested in their stock settings with a ’55 Esquire, ’56 Strat, and Gretsch 6120 reissue through a vintage tweed Deluxe and Grammatico LaGrange amps.
On its factory trim settings, the Green Zapper proved closer to a compressor than a high-powered Mu-Tron III. To get more oomph, we re-trimmed the sound and dialed in a nice little funk chunk for a Bootsy Collins-approved vibe.
The Bluebird Fuzz gave a subtle yet sublime overdrive, adding teeth to the sound without distorting the tone, which is certainly something that can’t be said of all fuzz pedals. Think of it like an Ibanez Tube Screamer enriching that special tube-amp voice.
Finally, Henretta’s Purple Octopus worked well in adding overtones that rang clear, especially on the higher strings. It’s quite sensitive to the touch and picking on the guitar, but when you get those octave notes, it sings like a heavenly choir. Combining the Bluebird Fuzz and Purple Octopus inline proved great fun, resulting in a fine Octavia-like sound that would have made Mr. Hendrix smile.
But wait, there’s more. Henretta also offers a full-size stompbox. The Chord Blaster, is also handmade and all-analog. Sure, the world may not need another distortion box, but this one offers something special. The Chord Blaster boasts two differently voiced gain controls that work independently and together for a wide range of sounds. This dual distortion control is coupled with a simple Tone control of the see-saw type in which the bass is boosted on one end, the highs on the other. The yellow Blast knob distorts the upper mids while the red Chord knob distorts the lower mids.
Upon Henretta’s sage advice, the blue Tone and green Volume controls were set to noon. Then the Blast knob could be dialed up to the level of distortion and upper mid presence desired. From there, the Chord control filled up the bottom end. It doesn’t take much touch to intensify the fuzziness as it’s dialed up past 9 o’clock.
Gain is definitely the Chord Blaster’s thing. Again, it can be used like a TS9 Tube Screamer to add some edge to your amp, or tweak it until it shakes the spider webs out of your attic and dusts your house for you. Talk about almost unlimited options for shaping your sound! It’s difficult to think of another stompbox that offers so many ways to personalize your distortion.
This article originally appeared in VG May 2014 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.