The following is a guest review by Chad Beeler of BassEFX.com . If you are interested in guest posting, please contact me!
Several years ago, Spencer Doren emerged from the lesson room at Bass Northwest in Seattle. He had been taking lessons for a few years, improving exponentially every week it seemed, and started developing an interest in boutique pedals. He’s always gravitated toward R&B, funk, groovier stuff, so it was no surprise that he’d been acquiring a number of envelope filters. Mutrons, Maestros, etc… Anyhow, after his lesson, he came to me and said, “I’ve found the best envelope filter.” “Cool,” I said, “what is it?” “It’s a Lovetone Meatball, made in the UK.” He replied. “May I check it out?” I asked. “Sure!” It was pretty amazing. Fat, juicy, supremely variable. “What’d it cost?” I asked. “About $600.00 with the exchange rate.” he replied. That’s pretty steep, even for a boutique pedal, I thought, but it sure was a great pedal. Turns out that Lovetone was going under and the Meatball no longer available, so Spencer started musing about making it better, smaller, more affordable, and with fewer knobs. “If you have the means, you should totally do it.” I encouraged. “If you can get it closer to the $200.00-ish range, I’d totally buy one.”
A few weeks later, Spencer showed up for a lesson earlier than normal and presented a ball of wires, circuit boards, potentiometers, and knobs wrapped up in some gray foam. “It’s my new envelope filter,” Spencer said, “it’s for my senior project.” “Awesome, let’s plug it in.” I replied. It sounded fantastic. Inspired by the DNA of the “Meatball” pedal, he was definitely on to something.
Little did I know, that Spencer, seemingly unwittingly but more probably knowingly, was very close to starting his own boutique pedal company, 3Leaf Audio. So, after sourcing an appropriate metal housing, that ball of wires helped him ace his senior project, became the “Groove Regulator,” the first pedal marketed by 3Leaf Audio, and was subsequently upgraded a couple years later to the GR2. Since then, Spencer has added the “Proton” envelope filter, “PWNZOR” compressor, and most recently, “The Enabler” EQ/DI/Headphone amp to the 3Leaf family. And this week, he unveiled the latest and most likely last reworking of the GR2: The “Wonderlove” envelope filter, named as homage to hero Stevie Wonder.
This is where the phrase “arguably the best envelope filter etc…etc…” would be inserted. Tone, individual needs, budget, flexibility, can all be argued, justified, asserted, whatever, about any envelope filter available. But, taking into account all variables, the Wonderlove could be the best analog envelope filter ever produced. The Wonderlove achieves this by taking the basic filter sound of the GR2 and making it deeper and juicier. It has an expression pedal input for manual, wah-like filter sweeps, and all of the filter controls are now accessible externally for easy experimentation. The Wonderlove now utilizes soft-touch relay true bypass switching found on all the other 3Leaf pedals. It nails the classic, warm tone and is supremely flexible. Also addressed, is the “Down” sweep. It’s much easier to use and more flexible now that the hard to find “sweet spot” has been eliminated. And, it’s dead quiet. Lastly, it looks totally bitchin’, having been encased in a John Fromel etched box so no two are alike. All this does come with a price, up $40.00 from the GR2 at $269.00, so it’s not cheap, more expensive than the majority of over envelope filters available. (But it ain’t $600.00 either.) The Wonderlove, however, delivers.
Here is a list of features:
Sensitivity, attack, decay, tone, blend, resonance and boost controls.
Range (high/low), sweep (normal/reverse) and band (lowpass/bandpass) switches.
Expression pedal input.
Selectable true/buffered bypass via internal switch.
Soft-touch relay bypass.
I’ve included audio clips of the Wonderlove. It was recorded at my good friend, Dan Dean’s studio on Mercer Island, WA a little over a week ago. The demos are bass only, but based on how much guitar players love 3Leaf’s Proton pedal, several guitarists have stepped up to pre order the Wonderlove for its added flexibility and expression pedal input. Dealers, including Bass EFX, and players alike have already snapped up most of the first 100 to be produced, but there many available to order. The first batch is slated to hit at the end of June, so it will fun to listen to the feedback once players have a chance to run the Wonderlove through its paces.
About the author:
“I created BassEfx.com because the bass community clearly needed a place that would consolidate all the best effects pedals in one place. BassEfx.com gives bass players – and only bass players – a resource that showcases what’s available, offers the best advice and gets you the right effect. My background: I co-founded Bass Northwest, the world’s largest bass-only retail operation, and ran it for 15 years, (1994-2009.) In 30 years as a bass player, I’ve seen, heard, and played just about every amplifier, bass, cabinet and effect pedal imaginable.”