This Article Was Originally Published On: February 3, 2015 #Issue 15.
The Company Line
We first introduced you to Spencer Doren and his 3Leaf Audio brand of pedals back in BGM #6, with a look at the GR2 envelope filter. A lot of water has passed under Spencer’s bridge since that review, and he continues to pursue his quest for the perfect envelope filter pedal. In fact, he ended up developing several different envelope pedals, including the Proton (reminiscent of the Mutron III) and the wildly variable – yet more intuitive than you’d expect – Wonderlove. Obviously, this guy has a thing for envelope filters. In addition to the two filter-based devices, 3Leaf Audio also offers the You’re Doom fuzz pedal and The Enabler, which is a stompbox preamp with a 3-band EQ, balanced DI, and a studio-grade headphone amplifier.
We had a chance to play all of the 3Leaf Audio pedals at the 2014 Winter NAMM Show, and while they all impressed, the Wonderlove and You’re Doom both really took us by storm, jointly earning a Bass Gear Magazine Best of Show Award. At our request, Spencer was gracious enough to send us both pedals for review. Let’s check ’em out…
Wonderlove Envelope Filter
Having spent a bit of time with the original Groove Regulator and the GR2, I had a bit of an idea of what to expect from the latest iteration of this design, the Wonderlove. If you are wondering about the name (please excuse the irresistible pun), yes, it is inspired by the classic envelope filter sound made famous by Stevie Wonder. The original Groove Regulator was product of Spencer’s efforts to build himself a tricked-out version of the classic Lovetone Meatball, and the GR2 was an evolution of this original design. The Wonderlove offers up even more control over the filter fun. This is one flexible envelope filter.
The first line of controls (with the largest knobs) are Sensitivity, Attack, Decay, and Tone. Sensitivity adjusts the response of the filter to you playing dynamics. The Attack control adjusts the initial response of the filter. Lower settings produce a fast, snappy attack; higher settings produce a slow, fat sound. Decay controls the time it takes the filter to “sweep.” Long, natural envelope sounds can be produced at the higher settings, while lower settings yield the quicker, more “bubbly” sounds. Much like the passive tone control on your bass, the Tone control dials back the maximum cutoff of the filter.
Two slightly smaller knobs are positioned near the middle of the pedal. The Blend knob adjusts the mix between the clean, unaffected tone and the output of the envelope filter. The Resonance knob adjusts the “wetness” of the tone, with higher settings producing a more aggressive sweep, with a sharper resonant peak. Positioned between these two knobs are three switches. The Range switch changes the frequency range over which the pedal operates. In the “up” position, we are walking in classic Mutron land. Set to the “down” position, the frequency range is expanded, allowing for very full-sounding filter sweeps. The Sweep switch adjusts the direction of the filter’s sweep: up or down (both of which produce very usable results). The Band switch selects between a low-pass filter (for a deep, full tone) or a band-pass filter (which is more cutting and aggressive, but loses some low end). I preferred the low-pass setting for slap, and the band-pass for fingerstyle (with some clean signal blended in, to beef up the lows), but certainly, great slap, pick and fingerstyle tones could be found in both settings.
The top edge of the enclosure holds the 1/4″ jacks for In, Out, and effects (“FX”) Send and Return, as well as the power adapter input jack. While the Wonderlove does not ship with an adapter, it can be successfully powered by any Boss-style (2.1mm center-negative) DC adapter ranging between 9 and 18 volts. The left side of the enclosure features the expression pedal input (which can be used to manually control the filter sweep) and the Boost trimpot, which can bump the filter output by up to 6dB. Much like the GR2, the FX loop on the Wonderlove can also be used in conjunction with external triggers. If you plug your bass into the FX Return, then whatever is plugged into the In jack becomes the trigger for the filter effect. As Josh pointed out in his GR2 review, using a drum machine or a synth can yield some interesting results.
A final treat can be found inside the enclosure: the true/buffered bypass switch. The ability to faithfully pass signal in true bypass mode when the pedal is not in use is a valued feature in many boutique pedals. However, there are times when a buffered bypass is handy (such as when you need to drive long cable runs). Having the option to switch between the two is a nice touch (and a feature that was also included on the GR2). It is also worth noting that the effects loop is always active in buffered bypass mode (even when the filter effect is bypassed), but not in true bypass mode.
The Wonderlove uses the same aluminum Hammond 1590BB as the GR2, but sports a raw, unpainted finish (which looks quite nice). The knobs are pedestrian in appearance, but very solid and smooth in operation. The switches are much beefier than your typical mini-toggle, and the wider, flat profile is very welcome to these fat fingers. Internally, the Neutrik jacks are all nearly mounted to the main PCB. This pedal oozes sturdiness and quality.
From what I recall of the original Groove Regulator and GR2, the Wonderlove seems to offer a wider frequency range, with deeper lows, but also more air up high. Perhaps as a result of this, the GR/GR2 struck me as being a bit warmer sounding, overall. Compared to my tried-and-true Q-tron, the Wonderlove is much more rich and full, but I couldn’t quite dial in that particular Q-tron “quack.” However, in my experience, the Q-tron (which I have used on 100+ gigs) has approximately one usable setting. The Wonderlove, however, seems to have no end of usable options on tap. And that’s before we pair it up with its funky little brother…
You’re Doom Fuzz
With a name that is a reference to a television show called “Frisky Dingo,” the You’re Doom fuzz pedal is technically referred to by 3Leaf Audio as a “Dynamic Harmonic Device.” I’ve been able to play a number of different great bass fuzz pedals lately, and the You’re Doom pedal stands out in several regards. The first thing you notice is that it’s a much more “synthy” sounding pedal than what you expect from a fuzz. After playing it a bit, though, other traits stand out, such as the unique throatiness of the You’re Doom and the lack of artifacts in the synthy tones.
The rolled-steel case for the pedal appears to be a custom design, and it gives the pedal a look that is conventional from a distance, but more unique when viewed up close. The Vol control adjusts the volume of the fuzz signal. The Mix knob allows you to blend the clean input signal with the fuzz signal. This is a great feature, as it allows you to dial in some clean low end to keep things nice and full. The Gain control sets the gain of the fuzz signal, as you would expect. What you might not expect is the wide range of tones on tap. The higher gain settings are actually more conventional-sounding fuzz tones. Set lower, the You’re Doom can yield foldback synth-like, tones. The Tone knob is not your typical high frequency rolloff, but rather, a 2-pole low-pass filter, similar to what you would find in a vintage synth. Turning it up (clockwise) decreases the volume of the upper harmonics. Set between the Gain and Tone knobs is the Shape switch. This alters the EQ curve of the fuzz signal, from a full, harmonically rich setting (up) to a mid-scooped tone, with accentuated low-bass frequencies (down).
Like the Wonderlove, the 1/4″ In and Out are located on the top edge of the enclosure, along with the DC adapter input. This input also accepts a Boss-style (2.1mm center-negative) DC adapter, but in this case, it’s a 9V only setup. Comparing the You’re Doom to other fuzz pedals, it’s very clear that Spencer Doren has dialed up something different, here. Analyzed in isolation, it does not seem as organic or natural as some of my favorite fuzz boxes. But when you play it in a mix – or just quit comparing it to other fuzz pedals and really get into a solo jam groove – it just seems like a full, harmonically interesting fuzz/distortion that really “speaks” well. You’re Doom strikes me as a vintage synthesizer that thinks it’s a fuzz pedal. Yes, it’s synthy, but darned if it doesn’t just sound great as a fuzz!
Things get really interesting when you use these two pedals together. I wouldn’t have known the possibilities if I hadn’t stopped by the 3Leaf booth at the Winter NAMM Show. I was amazed at the range of tones which Spencer was able to get from these two pedals, especially when you throw an expression pedal into the mix. The Doom works better in front of the Wonderlove than after it, but what really kicks is to run it in the effects loop. When you place You’re Doom upstream of the Wonderlove, the synth-fuzz effect is more prevalent, and it definitely sounds like something extra being added to the envelope filter effect. However, run in the effects loop, the synth-fuzz seems to blend seamlessly with the envelope filter, and allowed the Wonderlove to respond better to touch dynamics.
For some Bootsy types tones, run You’re Doom in the effects loop, and set the Attack, Decay, Tone and Blend to around noon, Resonance at 3 o’clock, Range switch set down, Sweep and Band switches set up. Adjust Sensitivity to get the right response from your bass. When you add an expression pedal to the mix, the Sensitivity/Attack/Decay knobs are disabled, and you are controlling the filter sweep manually. This is, literally, almost too much fun…
These are two great pedals, which work even better, together. The Wonderlove is the ultimate in terms of flexibility and range of usable tones in an envelope filter. The You’re Doom is a unique approach on a fuzz pedal, but works in more situations than you’d expect. Running these two together can take you to places you never thought you’d visit while playing a bass guitar.
|Enclosure:||Hammond 1590BB (aluminum)|
|Inputs:||¼” input, 9-18V adapter input (2.1mm center-negative), effects return|
|Outputs:||¼” output, effects send, expression pedal|
|Controls:||Sensitivity, Attack, Decay, Tone, Blend, Resonance, Range switch, Sweep switch, Band switch, Boost level|
|Other Features:||Green LED for power-on; choice of true or buffered bypass switching|
|Dimensions:||4.67" L x 3.68" W x 1.18" H (not including jacks/knobs/switches)|
|Enclosure:||Custom steel enclosure|
|Inputs:||¼” input, 9V adapter input (2.1mm center-negative)|
|Controls:||Volume, Mix, Gain, Tone, Shape switch|
|Other Features:||Green LED for power-on; true bypass switching|
|Dimensions:||4.37" L x 2.56" W x 1.37" H (not including jacks/knobs/switches)|