This article published in #Issue 18 in winter 2016.
Way back in 2010, we gave one of our Best of Show Awards for the Summer NAMM Show to a company called SWELL Pedals. They had a nice little lineup of tube-based stompboxes, some for guitar, some for bass. We were all impressed with the organic tones and solid build quality, which led to the award. We were aching to get one or two of these pedals in for review, and I had some follow-up correspondence with Mike Olienechak (the guy behind SWELL Pedals) along these lines. However, things never developed, and I kinda lost track of SWELL Pedals.
Not too long ago, I began reading about a new pedal company, called Myco Pedals, and gosh darn if their pedals didn’t look a little familiar. And “Myco” is very reminiscent of “Mike O.” Synapses began to fire… Shortly thereafter, I am in contact with Mike, and yep! It’s the same guy, but with a new company and a new line of pedals. Not wanting to miss the boat a second time, I jumped at the chance to get a pedal in for review, and Mike sent us his tube bass overdrive pedal, the Bepa.
Bepa (pronounced veer-uh) is a Russian word which means “faith,” or “true to the original.” The “original” in this case is that certain tone/vibe/feel found in many classic tube bass rigs. The Bepa features a single 12AX7 (run at high voltage), all-analog circuitry, 3PDT true-bypass switching and high quality components. The top panel controls include the gain knobs for the two “channels,” along with the Tone knob and a Master volume. One footswitch turns the effect on/off, and the other engages Gain-2. Along the top of the enclosure, we find the 1/4″ input jack, and two 1/4″ outputs, labelled “Amp” and “Rec.” The Rec output features a speaker simulation circuit, and is intended for recording purposes. The Amp output is – no surprise – the one you send to your amp. Power is provided via a (supplied) 12v AC power adapter. Myco also approves the use of either the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power AC or the T-Rex Fuel Tank Classic.
The enclosure itself is a dull grey, industrial-looking brick, with a bit of a retro/vintage vibe. It is unique to see the “hammer and sickle” emblem right next to the words “Made in USA,” but – like its maker – the Bepa is proud of its multi-faceted heritage. I do like the tube graphic, complete with dual lightning bolts and a promise of “High Voltage.”
So what ever happened to SWELL Pedals, anyway? I asked Mike about this, and he explained that while the business was doing well and growing from 2006 through 2008, the economic downturn in 2008 took its toll, and by 2012, he had to make the difficult decision to close SWELL. The new company, Myco Pedals, opened in January of 2013, but some major life changes and relocating to another state necessitated that Mike but things on hold starting in December, 2013.
Fast forward to January of 2015, and Mike was able to reopen Myco, and things have been going well, since. The marketing approach with the new company is rather different than with the former. SWELL Pedals had a lot of different “variations on a theme” pedals, but Myco will focus on fewer products aimed at what Mike feels is the “sweet spot” for each type of pedal. Later in 2016, Mike plans to introduce both analog/non-tube pedals, as well as tube amplifiers.
Yeah, But How Does It Sound?
The full, organic tones which attracted us to the SWELL Pedals way back when definitely live on in the Bepa. This is an organic, vintage-inspired overdrive pedal, for sure. Gain-1 is not a very obvious effect, and definitely something that you’d dial in and just leave in the signal chain all night. Gain-2 is where you find a more obvious overdrive effect, although even at full boost, it’s not what I would call “over the top.” Gain-2 is inherently louder than Gain-1, and you can certainly use Gain-2 as a volume boost, without introducing much more grit/grind than the Gain-1 baseline. The Tone control predictably cuts some high end. Most of the usable range of adjustment occurs to the left of “noon” (counter-clockwise) and I didn’t really hear much of a difference between noon and fully clockwise.
Although they were very similar, overall, the Amp output seems a bit more full, and the Rec out has a slight bit more cut. You can use either one interchangeably, and send one or the other to your rig, giving you an additional tonal choice.
The Bottom Line
The Bepa does not scream for attention, but it does sound very natural and musical. This pedal responds nicely to playing style, and varying your attack gives you a good range of overdriven tones. Once you try this pedal on your board, you may never want to take it away.
|Inputs:||¼” In, 12v AC power input|
|Outputs:||¼” Amp, ¼” Rec|
|Controls:||Gain-1, Gain-2, Tone, Master, footswitch for on/off, footswitch for Gain-2
|Dimensions:||5 3/4” wide x 3 3/4” long x 2 5/8" high|