After seven years in development, New Zealand effects company Red Witch released the Seven Sisters series of effects in 2011. In a world first, this series of effects are fully re-chargeable, running on a Lithium Ion cell similar to those found in a mobile phone or digital camera and internal charging circuitry. The pedals are connected to a regular power supply and charged initially for 12 hours upon purchase (four hours on subsequent charges) to deliver a whopping 120 hours of use between charges. The Scarlett is Red Witch’s overdrive offering in this alluring series of effects.
There are two LED light5s on the unit, one to indicate that the pedal has power, the other to indicate that the pedal is engaged. Beyond that, it’s a very simple setup: Volume and Gain. In the most successful overdrive pedals, the simplest controls often prove the most successful in sonic results. At 50% gain setting, the Scarlett provides a realistic and warm amp break-up tone. At around 75% lead lines start to sing while chords commence crunching, and at 100% gain the overdrive is creamy yet aggressive enough for a blues, rock or country howl. Diminutive in size (Red Witch claim that this series of pedal has in fact the world’s smallest pedalboard ‘footprint’) but big on tone with the added innovation in regards to power, the Scarlett is a worthy overdrive solution at just $159.95.
TOKAI SURFTONE TE STYLE ELECTRIC GUITAR
Japanese guitar company Tokai originally gained popularity throughout the twentieth century with their interesting copies of popular guitars. Now manufactured in China, the brand has been making a comeback of sorts in recent years. Exclusive to Australia, Tokai’s Surftone series of guitars recall the look and sound of the 60s. Finished in eye-catching surf green, the Tele-style model aims to capture the imaginations of more flamboyant blues and country rockers.
The guitar features the standard single-coil pickup in the bridge position coupled with a humbucker in the neck position, controlled by a standard three-way toggle switch. Tonally, this guitar doesn’t quite have the ‘spank’ one might expect from a Tele-style in the bridge position. The basic sound is there, but not quite as immediate as similar guitars in the same price range. The neck position is an entirely different story: twang and plenty of it. Although hotter than a single coil pickup, the neck humbucker is by no means over the top or too dirty here, just warmer. The tones here are balanced and robust; the type of sound that simply invites more playing. The middle position possesses a surprising tonality that really sells this guitar: not quite traditional, not quite modern, yet something pleasingly in between that really opened up both on clean settings and in conjunction with overdrive.
In terms of finish, there may be an issue regarding the frets. On the model reviewed, the frets had not been buffed back quite enough to sit flush with the fretboard on both the top and bottom of the neck, producing a coarse, uncomfortable feeling when sliding the playing hand into different neck positions. This is nothing that a quick trip to your favourite luthier won’t fix, but even at this price point that seems a little rough. Nevertheless, for many players, the aesthetics and tone of this 60s throwback will provide a nifty Tele-style guitar without breaking the bank.
The Tokai Surf Tone TE Style guitar retails for $649 with gig bag.
Reviewed at Collins Music, Bunbury.