Hands-On Review:BBE Soul Vibe, Mind Bender, Supa-Charger, and Sonic Stomp


Click here for all products by BBE.



Out-of-this-world pedals—or, in the words of ET, “BBE Goood!”

By Darius Van Rhuehl
Musician's Friend Staff Writer

 

Sure, I’ve owned a number of signature stomps from back in the day  and somehow managed to lose an equal amount. Replacements, like affairs  after your first big romance, never seem to be quite as good—purely  psychological? Maybe . . . besides, stomps are basically  one-trick-ponies, right? So I’ve contented myself with all-in-one boxes  offering hundreds of models of vintage effects that all threaten to be  good. But like most threats, there’s lots of name-calling and few real  knockouts—like the modelers that promise me the “authentic” rotating  speaker effect as used by Jimi Hendrix. (Can someone explain to me why  these models always have two speeds, both precisely the wrong one?)  Maybe there’s something to be said for one-trick-ponies after all,  especially when they really do the trick, like these BBE effects pedals.

 

What’s on the schedule for the BBE

 

Tonight on the BBE, we’ll be talking about four stomp pedals and  their significance in Anglo-European rock ’n’ roll relations (well,  three pedals and a multi-output power supply). For your viewing  pleasure, we have the Soul Vibe on BBE One, the Mind Bender on BBE Two, the Supa-Charger Power Supply on BBE Three, and the Sonic Stomp on BBE Four.

 

To start with, the build quality is certainly sturdy enough for the  job at foot and the control pots feel firm and consistent throughout  their range. Tonemeisters will appreciate the true hardwired bypass for  unaffected signal when the box is out of play. Another nice touch is a  very bright and handy blue LED indicator that pulses in time with your  speed settings (Soul Vibe and Mind Bender).  Confident that these pedals will stand up to happy feet, BBE offers a  five-year warranty on all. That said, let’s do some channel surfing.

 

BBE One—Soul Vibe

 

The analog Soul Vibe is BBE’s version of the Uni Vibe pedal that was an essential part of  the aforementioned Hendrix sound. This one hooked me immediately. It  nailed the “phasey” rotary speaker sound that all the multi-effects  modeling boxes I’ve tried have failed to deliver. The ability to dial in  the right speed for the effect is where the usefulness of this sound  lives. After all, music, with the possible exception of dance, isn’t  written in just one tempo.

 

As far as the Depth control goes, the deeper you go, the more  contrast you get between high- and low-frequency content, with a longer  excursion of the low-frequency end of the cycle. As an added bonus, the  manual gives you settings for signature Hendrix and Gilmour sounds. I’ve  been looking for this sound for a long time—journey’s end. And yes, I  played “Little Wing” with it.

 

BBE Two—Mind Bender

 

Remember that whole one-trick-pony thing I said at the beginning? Forget it. The analog Mind Bender gives you two pedals in one. This combination Vibrato/Chorus pedal  gives you plenty of sonic possibilities and a nice rotary speaker  effect. In addition to Speed and Depth, there’s an On/Off footswitch and  an A/B footswitch that selects Vibrato or Chorus. You also get the  pulsing On/Off LED.

 

I first tried going direct into my studio setup. The chorus effect  provided a sparkling shimmery sound to my guitar and a depth that really  filled up the stereo sound stage. Next, I ran it through a Marshall  DSL100 head and 1960A cab. That pretty much cinched it for me. “Sweet”  doesn’t even begin . . . The vibrato is a true vibrato, that is to say  it changes pitch. This effect can easily go from subtle to sci-fi at the  twist of the Depth control (I prefer subtle).

 

BBE Three—Supa-Charger Power Supply

 

What can you say about a power supply? Lots. This is one solid and  very clever setup, with eight outlets controlled by eight back-panel  DIP-switches that allow 9-, 12-, or 16-volt operation (16V on outputs 5  and 6 only).

 

I have all of my studio equipment connected to a power conditioner  that cranks out a steady 120 volts, which eliminates ground loops,  filters noise, and lets the gear operate at optimal levels. Good, clean  power equals good sound. (What happens to stomp pedals when batteries  start to get low is proof of that.) To put it to the acid test, I  plugged the Supa-Charger’s IEC power cable into an unprotected wall socket, a great recipe for noise and hum. Nothing. You see, the Supa-Charger,  with its isolated, regulated, and filtered outputs is like a mini  version of my very pricey power conditioner. Plus, its toroidal  transformer provides electronic isolation from input to output. That  adds up to zero hum and noise. A Selectable voltage lets you use it  anywhere on the planet.

 

BBE Four—Sonic Stomp

 

This is the one we’ve all been begging for: a stompbox version of  BBE’s Sonic Maximizer, which as is commonly known, was invented by  Merlin and Gandalf (yes, Gandalf the White). I can’t say how they  managed to cram the same performance and specs as the rackmount 482i  into this one, but there it is. Do you want clarity, presence, depth,  and vibrancy for your sound? No? To paraphrase Hans and Franz, “Buy it  now and thank me later.” (It works better if you say it like Ahnold.)

 

Stay tuned for BBE Confidential

 

BBE, whose mission seems to be all about bringing back what’s missing  from our sound, has done a remarkable job reviving three very rare  vintage pedals (don’t forget the two-in-one Mind Bender). And when combined with the magical Sonic Stomp Maximizer and brilliantly conceived Supa-Charger Power Supply, you have a sonic palette of the stuff that myths and  legends are made of. Me? I’ve come full cycle. It’s time to lose the  multi-preset modeling pedals. I’m thinking my next show will be all BBE  all the time.

 


Features & Specs


Sonic Stomp:

  • Frequency response: Program dependent
  • BBE: Low contour +12dB @ 50Hz
  • Process +12dB @ 10kHz
  • Signal to noise ratio: BBE on max 94dB
  • BBE on min 104dB
  • THD: 0.02% at 1kHz
  • Noise: BBE on max -87dBu
  • BBE on min -97dBu
  • Max signal level +7dBu
  • Input impedance: 1M ohm
  • Output impedance: 1K ohm
  • Hardware bypass: Yes
  • Battery life: 15 hours

Soul Vibe:

  • Speed and Depth controls
  • Opto isolator for consistent performance
  • True hardwire bypass
  • Blue on/off LED pulses at rate of speed control
  • Includes 9-volt AC adapter (North America only)
  • Easy-access 9-volt battery compartment
  • 5-year warranty

    Mind Bender:

    • Speed and Depth controls
    • Vibrato/Chorus mode switch
    • True hardwire bypass
    • Blue On/Off LED pulses at rate of
    • Speed control
    • Includes 9-volt AC adapter (North America only)
    • Easy-access 9-volt battery compartment
    • 5-Year warranty

      Supa-Charger Power Supply:

      • Eight selectable 9-, 12-, or 16-volt (5 & 6) outputs
      • Fuse protected
      • Selectable main input voltage
      • (120/240V)
      • 8 - 2.1mm x 2ft. and 2 - 2.5mm x 2ft. power cables
      • Blue power LED indicator
      • Standard IEC AC cable
      • 5-year warranty