Earlier in this series, I mentioned that I'd post my thoughts on the Behringer el-cheapo effects pedals that I purchased to use as temporary effects until I can find and afford my "holy grail" pedals. Last night, I had the opportunity to try the "complete" pedal board at practice. The overall results were almost exactly what I had hoped for, especially on electric piano and organ sounds. Summing the project up in one word: success!
So, let's talk a little bit about what $25 will buy you in an effects pedal.
I purchased the UT300 Ultra Tremolo and the VD400 Vintage Delay.
I've already mentioned that the construction is, well, cheap. The box is made of some sort of high-impact plastic, and that seems to include the hinge-point where the foot pedal switch connects to the chassis. I also already mentioned that the big, rubber pad on the base pretty much fell off in my hands when I was velcroing one of the pedals to the board. If you're a heavy-duty stomper, I really don't know how long this construction would hold up. I'd be especially concerned if you're not using some sort of pedal board.
Moving on to the controls, each pedal has three controls that operate smoothly, but they are, again plastic. They're also not attached to the chassis, but only held in place by the solder joints on the circuit board. The same is true of all of the input and output jacks.
The foot switches are not true-bypass, for those who are super-concerned about such things. I know that I eventually want all of my pedals to be true-bypass, even though this is not as much of a consideration for a keyboardist as it is for a guitar player.
Both pedals have a "standard" 2.1mm, negative-tip 9V coaxial power jack located on the right side of the chassis, next to the input jack.
Now that we've gotten through the common bits, let's look at the pedals individually
UT300 Ultra Tremolo
There are three controls on the tremolo: Rate, Depth and Wave. The Rate and Depth controls are pretty self explanatory -- they control the rate and amount of the effect. The Wave control is pretty cool. It allows you to select between a sine wave for a nice, smooth pulsation or a square wave for severe chop effects. But, it's not a switch, and that allows a choice of wave shape anywhere between sine and square waves for a wide range of effects.
In use, the UT300 is very transparent, in that there's no apparent coloration of the sound. Just a nice tremolo effect. I also noticed that there's no pop or volume jump when you turn the effect on -- gain is effectively at unity and the electronic switching is dead silent.
In all, the UT300 is a good sounding, predictable analog effect at a bargain price.
VD400 Vintage Delay
The VD400 Vintage Delay is a basic, analog delay that offers up to 300ms of vintage, bucket-brigade echo. Again, there are three controls involved: Repeat Rate, Intensity and Echo.
In this case, the Repeat Rate is the delay time. Turning the control to the left makes for shorter delays and turning the control to the right lengthens the delay time, from slap-back timings to the spacier 300ms setting. Intensity controls the number of repeats, and Echo is the mix between dry and wet signal.
Again, the sound quality is very impressive. Short delays and lower repeat rates are clean and warm. Cranking the Intensity control results in a delay that "gets dirty" as the repeats build, very much like vintage tape echo.
As with the UT300, switching is silent, and gain is nicely balanced -- no pops or jumps. Just nice delays.
Based on my experience so far, if someone told me that they were on a tight budget and needed some inexpensive pedals, I'd very likely tell them to consider the Behringer effects. While there are certainly caveats to the build quality, I think that as long as they're treated decently, they'll perform quite nicely -- especially if they're on a pedal board and powered using a 9V adapter. Obviously, you can't be jumping on these and simply throwing them into the back of your amp. But, for someone who needs something now while they're putting a better rig together, or for someone just starting to use effects, they're a bargain.
Behringer list American Musical Supply as the only on-line dealer for these, and that's where I ordered mine. Some local music stores carry the Behringer pedals as well, and if you can, I always suggest supporting your local music store. In my case, I would have bought at Coffey Music in Westminster, MD, if they had been in stock.