Cave Passive Pedals

Cave Passive Pedals

Postby aussiemark » Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:45 pm

Guys, these are the pedals that I've been asked to test drive by the Australian manufacturer and help with R&D, so I'm basically an endorsed artist for these pedals. That said, I'm permitted to speak my mind about the finished products that are released to the public.

My recent review of the Cave Passive Pedals "Grunt" overdrive/boost pedal for bass certainly generated some spirited discussion on a number of forums. The Grunt has been on my pedal board for one gig, two rehearsals and a recording session so far, and I'm pleased to report that I'm still very happy with it. At the cover band gig I used the Grunt for the entire gig on the clean setting instead of a VT-Bass pedal, to give me a touch of grit whenever I dug in.

The second pedal that Cave sent me to test drive is the Octa-Bass, which is described at the Cave website ( http://www.cavepassivepedals.com.au/pro ... duct_id=71 ) in the following fashion - "This pedal gives your bass an “Octave Up” frequency or a sound similar to “Ring Modulators” if two or more notes are played simultaneously. A totally unique sound especially designed for the bass player."

Like the Grunt, the Octa-Bass arrived well presented in a hand crafted MDF box that is now standard with all Cave pedals. The Octa-Bass is built in the same powder coated gloss white aluminium Hammond enclosure as other pedals in the range, with just the one knob, labeled Depth.

I had incorrectly assumed that the Octa-Bass was going to give me an octave up as well as my original signal, similar to other bass octave pedals on the market. But the Octa-Bass is very different to what I expected - instead of adding an octave to my original sound, it replaces the original sound with an octave above, only. ie. the original frequency is removed.

With the Depth control fully anti clockwise, the sound is almost chorus like with just a hint of fuzz, and would be a useful solo tone in a grunge or alt rock situation. As you turn the depth knob clockwise the effect becomes more subtle. Because the Octa-Bass is passive, there are no issues with tracking, which often plague conventional octave pedals for bass. Double stops and chords present no problems for this pedal either, unlike most other octave pedals on the market.

The Octa-Bass is not as "bold" as the Grunt pedal and unlike the Grunt does not boost the signal. It's not a pedal that you'd be able to use for an entire gig, but for solos or some character fills it would have it's place.

The Octa-Bass is more suited to users of roundwound strings than flatwounds, as the way it dispenses with the original frequency is a little too dramatic an outcome when the beefy flatwound bottom end is subtracted. I certainly got a surprise when the bottom end dropped out as I kicked in the Octa-Bass. With roundwounds the transition from effect off to effect on is not as severe, and is more usable. All of my gigging basses wear flatwounds, so the Octa-Bass is not a pedal I can see myself using live.

Cave are developing a mechanical indicator for all of the Cave Passive Pedal range (instead of a traditional LED), and once fully tested and in production will be available some time in 2010.
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Re: Cave Passive Pedals

Postby aussiemark » Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:51 pm

And here is the original review I did on the Grunt pedal, before I was "endorsed" LOL

Recently, I came across some interesting eBay listings for guitar and bass effects pedals that operated without batteries, or for that matter, external power either. The seller, an Australian company called Cave Passive Pedals, describe their range of pedals as totally passive - no power source required.

I frequent several guitar and bass related online forums on a daily basis, and at two popular Australian-based forums interesting discussions began to develop about these pedals, so I decided to contact Cave Passive Pedals myself and find out more about their products. At that point in time there were no audio samples available on the Cave Passive website (unlike now, where there are numerous sound files demonstrating how these pedals perform), so I asked if it would be possible to hear audio samples. I explained that I was aware of the pedals generating a lot of discussion among the potential audience for this type of product, but in the absence of audio samples many guitarists remained skeptical.

I immediately received an email reply from Heath Cave himself, who provided some background on himself and his business, explaining that he is "a professional musician and electronics engineer so I combined the two as I found a definite need for good sounding pedals without the hassle of a power source". Heath said he would mail me an audio CD with sound samples. The day the audio CD arrived, Heath emailed me to let me know that he had also posted me a "Grunt" pedal for me to review.

The samples on the CD that have since been uploaded to the Cave website ( http://www.cavepassivepedals.com.au ) were enough to tell me that the Grunt pedal was not a gimmick, so I was looking forward to test driving one in the flesh.

The Grunt pedal arrived in a very nice hand made MDF box with a sliding lid, which Heath explained was normally used for the deluxe pedals in the range. The box itself gives the product the type of boutique look that appeals to pedal geeks, and would be a useful marketing tool.

The Grunt pedal for bass is a boost/overdrive effect in a small aluminum Hammond kit box, finished in thick glossy white duco. Initial impression is that the pedal is solid enough for professional use and looks the part as well. The Grunt is a very simple pedal, with a two position selector pot in addition to the footswitch and input/output sockets. I did sneak a look inside and saw that the main circuitry is fully enclosed in silicone, presumably to make reverse engineering difficult, but would also mean that troubleshooting and repair (if needed) might be just as difficult.

The two positions on the selector knob are labeled "Clean" and "Dirty", so you need to choose the setting you want before stomping on the footswitch to engage the effect. It really is a simple pedal, that performs in a slightly different way depending on how hot the signal level is that you are feeding it with.

For review purposes I tested the Grunt pedal on several different basses with the volume control on each bass set at maximum, and with my bass rig's preamp (Alembic F-1X) tone controls set flat. The basses I used were a Nash PB63 Precision with vintage spec Lollar pickup, a Nash 51P with a high output Duncan single coil, a Musicman Stingray with the standard active humbucker, and a Gibson SG Reissue with the beefy TB Plus humbucker.

Results with the Grunt pedal varied quite a bit from bass to bass, but not in an unsatisfactory way at all.

Let's start with the Nash Precision, which has a pickup output that I'd class as "standard" in terms of passive basses. With this bass, the Grunt pedal operated exactly as advertised - virtually identical to the audio samples on the Cave website. With the selector on the "Clean" setting, kicking in the foot switch gives a warm and full boost to the signal, with overtones of an old school tube amp. With a Precision, Jazz or most other passive basses equipped with standard output pickups you could use this setting as either a boost for solos, or leave it on all the time to give your tone some warmth through a solid state amp.

Switch to the "Dirty" setting, and you get a slightly fuzzy, overdriven sound reminiscent of a lot of records you listened to when you were a kid in the 1960s. On the Precision the Dirty setting is the same volume as the "Clean" boost (ie. there is no volume drop that I could detect at all), but the Dirty setting isn't as full and warm as the Clean boost, so at first listening it does sound thinner (bear in mind that this review was conducted at living room volume, not gig volume).

Each of the other 3 basses I used while I test drove the Grunt pedal have higher output pickups than the Precision, so the Grunt pedal performed differently with them - in a good way. With a stronger signal going to the Grunt's input jack, the Grunt's output was transformed into a pretty good approximation of an overdriven Ampeg SVT, which is the bass tone that a lot of bass players have inside their brain as the sound they desire. Don't get me wrong, this pedal certainly doesn't have the nuances and flexibility (or price tag) of say, a Sansamp Bass Driver pedal or a Line 6 VT Bass pedal - both of which can carbon copy an overdriven SVT - but the Grunt is pretty close, especially if you are giving it a hotter signal from your bass (or other pedals in your signal chain). With the Gibson SG Reissue, Musicman Stingray and the single coil '51 Fender style bass the tone while on the "Clean" setting was classic creamy Ampeg tube amp, and when the Grunt's knob was flicked to the right the "Dirty" setting resulted in the instantly recognizable crunchy overdriven SVT sound that will make many bass players, both young and old, salivate.

With the higher output basses the "Dirty" sound was fuller than it had been with the Precision, but was never harsh or biting. Both the Clean and Dirty tones are very usable, whether for a solo boost or left on all the time, depending on the style of music and your preference for getting dirty.

The Cave Passive Grunt pedal is well suited for bassists who play classic rock, blues, grunge, punk and, I dare say, even metal. At well less than half the price of a Sansamp BDDI, VT-Bass or other similar sounding overdrives and having a smaller footprint too, the Grunt represents great value, and the fact that no battery or external power source is required means that it's a very portable and quick to set up piece of gear to enhance your live or recorded tone.

The idea of powerless effects pedals is a good one, especially for musicians who regularly find themselves on small stages where running power to effects is cumbersome, or for bands playing a multi band night where fast changeovers between acts is the name of the game. A pedal such as the Cave Passive Grunt would also be an asset on a pedal board where real estate is at a premium, given that no power lead is required and the pedal itself has a small footprint.

There is a downside to passive pedals though - there is no LED to show when the footswitch is on. Many gigging musicians tend to rely on LEDs on pedal boards to know which effects are engaged, especially when multiple effects are being used at the same time. The lack of an LED would certainly be inconvenient for some guitarists and bass players, however this is the only negative I can find with the Grunt pedal.

All in all, the Cave Passive Grunt pedal is a nice looking, quality built overdrive pedal in a sturdy road-worthy enclosure, with boost/overdrive tones that are extremely usable for gigging and recording purposes. If you are looking for the classic sound of an overdriven tube bass amp, the Grunt can do this for you, although you will need to be content with having just two settings at your disposal, and be able to survive without an LED to indicate when the foot switch is on. Of course, you won't ever have to buy batteries again nor need to connect the Grunt to your pedal board power supply, and it takes up no room at all on the board. On balance, the pros outweighs any cons with this pedal, especially at the very reasonable retail price.
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Re: Cave Passive Pedals

Postby Jerry » Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:32 pm

Are they coming out with any filter pedals? I'm always looking for the ultimate in quack. [smilie=cheeky-smiley-025.gif]
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Re: Cave Passive Pedals

Postby aussiemark » Fri Jan 15, 2010 9:32 pm

Here's a demo I made for the sceptics at GeeK Chat who challenged me to prove that a passive pedal could boost a passive signal. Everything is set flat, and it's at living room volume with a consumer video camera that has a built in mic, so the sound quality is not great, but it does prove that the boost exists :-)

www.youtube.com Video from : www.youtube.com
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Re: Cave Passive Pedals

Postby Sloom » Mon Jan 18, 2010 1:52 pm

Sounds pretty good. Yep, I hear the boost, and I dig the dirt! How much is that pedal anyway?

Never mind, I went to see the site! I like the absence of knobs.
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Re: Cave Passive Pedals

Postby aussiemark » Tue Apr 20, 2010 6:32 pm

I've just finished some more demo videos on a couple of the new pedals from Cave. One is the "second generation" version of the Grunt (Grunt MKII) which has variable drive and level controls, another is a fuzz called The Wasp, and the final one is a varitone called Furry Tongue. Considering these pedals don't use batteries or require external power they are very impressive little pedals, especially for old school rock and blues.

www.youtube.com Video from : www.youtube.com


www.youtube.com Video from : www.youtube.com


www.youtube.com Video from : www.youtube.com
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Re: Cave Passive Pedals

Postby aussiemark » Thu Apr 22, 2010 9:31 pm

I got a nice surprise in the mail today.

Image

This is a custom pedal made by Cave for me - it's the first Cave pedal with a mechanical indicator to show when the footswitch is on or off (remember, these pedals don't have any LEDs). Controls from left to right are Grunt, Drive channel A, Drive channel B and Level. The two footswitches are On/Off and Channel A/B. Each of the footswitches has a hole above it with a white painted mechanical disk that moves across the hole when the footswitch is engaged. You can see the "on" indicator above the left footswitch.

This is basically a two channel version of the Grunt MKII, with the "Grunt" control adding "character". I'll know more when I plug it in and give it a whirl over the weekend. This type of pedal should be able to take the place of a Sansamp Programmable Bass DI pedal (without the DI of course).
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Re: Cave Passive Pedals

Postby harleyyy » Thu Apr 22, 2010 9:35 pm

Wow! Awesome! Waiting for the demo vid of YOUR sig pedal. [smilie=cool-smiley-031.gif]
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Re: Cave Passive Pedals

Postby Jerry » Fri Apr 23, 2010 2:53 am

So very cool, and very rock star..............a signature pedal!
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Re: Cave Passive Pedals

Postby Sloom » Fri Apr 23, 2010 8:34 am

Yeah- aren't you something!! Now don't go forgetting about the rest of us... [smilie=grinning-smiley-044.gif]

Seriously, I was considering this pedal on the basis of that last vid demo. Sensible A/B choice here, and nice idea to replace LEDs with a simple sliding thingy- like the "Occupied" indicator on a Porta-John! [smilie=icon_biggrin.gif]

And it's passive, so it's Green! My kids'll love it, they're budding ecologists.

So how much "American"?
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Re: Cave Passive Pedals

Postby Cheap Bass Tard » Fri Apr 23, 2010 9:33 am

So when is the BABP version of this pedal coming to fruition??? [smilie=music-smiley-005.gif]
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Re: Cave Passive Pedals

Postby aussiemark » Fri Apr 23, 2010 5:03 pm

I need to field test this one first to see how the mechanical indicators hold up to gigging.

Heath Cave is already talking about a 3 channel model with individual tone controls for each channel, to compete with the Sansamp Programmable pedal.
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