As far as effects pedals go, one of the main added effects – if not the main one – is most definitely distortion. If we were to break it down, there are essentially three main types of effects that fall under the distortion umbrella; you have your typical distortion, overdrive and fuzz. They are very similar to each other in that they each give a gritty tone way but differ the small details that affect the sound. Overdrive effects, for one, are the mildest of the three and often give off that warm vintage sound that most think of when using vintage tube amplifiers with a decent amount of gain, sounding slightly gritty at quieter volumes and with much harsher distortion when gain is increased. Distortion effects on the other hand sound just as harsh at any volume level with sound alterations being much more intense. And finally, fuzz effects, or fuzz boxes, sound as gritty as a bit of overdrive but nowhere near as harsh as typical distortion. Fuzz boxes are unique in their sound due to the way in which they implement their desired effect – by taking the normal signal wave and altering it until it is almost completely square, then adding complex overtones through a frequency multiplier.
And speaking of fuzz pedals, one of the most memorable, if not most sought after, fuzz pedals around was Way Huge’s Swollen Pickle pedal. Although the pedal itself had plenty of fans due to its unique and consistent sound, it was the rarity of them that caused several Way Huge pedals to sell for over $1000 at auctions. For those of you unfamiliar with the story of Way Huge, the company made a name for themselves in the ‘90s for their unique sounding pedals packed into equally amusing designs. Founded by Jorge Tipps in 1992, Way Huge was known for only producing a limited amount of their popular pedals – nowhere near the vast amount of bigger companies such as Dunlop. By 1999, the company had closed down production, making their pedals even rarer, which is how several began being regularly sold at hundreds above cost. Flash forward to the present and Way Huge pedals are back and now under Dunlop, giving players who did not have the opportunity to pick one up back in the ‘90s the chance to experience some of the most unique pedals around, and at a way better price than you would find at auction. With that said, the Way Huge Swollen Pickle fuzz pedals was one of their showpieces and has now been brought back to life in the form of the Swollen Pickle MKII – pretty much identical in looks but brought up to date with new features and some different circuitry. So, for those of you in the market for a fuzz pedal that can more than hold its own while offering a unique and consistent sound, read on and check out what the Swollen Pickle is all about!
The Features of the Way Huge Swollen Pickle MKII
For those of you familiar with the original’s controls, the first thing you will notice is the addition of two small knobs labeled “Crunch” and “Scoop” which are both used to fine tune the sound, but more on that later. Your three main control knobs on the Swollen Pickle come as “Loudness,” “Filter” and “Sustain.” Your “Loudness” knob does just that, controls the loudness of your sound but as far as volume knobs on effects pedals go, this one can really crank up the sound level so it is definitely better than most in that department. “Sustain” works just as it would, letting you control the amount of time the sound remains before it becomes silent. The “Filter” control regulates the EQ range of the sound from a thin sizzle when fully clockwise to a fat, thick low end tone at counter-clockwise. It should be said that most of the controls here work in reverse of what you would normally get with your average pedal in that counter-clockwise will give you more of any given control’s function and clockwise will give you less. The range of the “Filter” was by far the best feature of the original and it’s definitely a positive to see that the MKII retained it exactly.
Notice the two inner knobs; left for
"Clip" and right for "Voice"
Alright, now onto the new features; we have the “Scoop” and “Crunch” knobs on the front face of the pedal and two internal controls (literally inside the pedal) labeled “Voice” and “Clip.” The “Crunch” control is pretty easy to get a sense of in that it will let your fuzz sound more like a classic distortion effect with a thick and compressed growl. The inner “Voice” control directly affects the intensity of the outer “Scoop” control from a light to heavy mid-cut while “Clip” will let you fine tune between a smooth or open ended fuzz sustain in regards to the overall sound. All of the settings and little adjustments that can be made make this an extremely versatile pedal but that same versatility works against it in terms of ease-of-use. Yes, the pedal comes with a manual but that does little to explain anything other than the where each knob is located and a few words of what they do. You will pretty much just have to mess around with the settings until you get a good feel for what each of the control knobs will do to your overall tone. It doesn’t make it any better that sometimes it felt as though the newly implemented “Scoop” feature works directly against the “Filter” knob. The added control is a plus, sure, but you will definitely have to give this pedal a bit of time to get accustomed with before going out and using one of these at a show. But once you get the hang of the pedal, it will definitely grow on you; the vast amount of tonal differences on this single pedal is amazing, no doubt, so it comes as no surprise that there would be a bit of a learning curve. If you want that classic sixties style buzz, a more modern and thicker crunch or even Pink Floyd-esque distortion, the Swollen Pickle will deliver.
The Value of the Swollen Pickle MKII
Those of you out there who have already had the pleasure of using the original Swollen Pickle when it came out in 1992 will find things as familiar as ever here but with a couple of added features for fine tuning, further extending the amount of tonal variations capable on top of the original’s already hefty range. The body is built solid and the original design is still there in all its vintage-looking glory. The battery life is on par with most versatile pedals in its range and offers true bypass to boot, but the sheer amount of versatility of tones is by far the best reason to go out and pick up this pedal right now. Although it will definitely take you a bit of messing around with all of its features to start to get a feel for each of its various controls, once you do, you will no longer wonder why Dunlop and Way Huge just had to bring back the one and only Swollen Pickle.