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Mind meld: First impressions of the Vulcan Bass Overdrive by Pike Amplification

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Snaxster, Sep 11, 2016.

  1. Snaxster


    Nov 29, 2008

    This pedal is brilliant. To enjoy the real brilliance of the Vulcan Bass Overdrive, however, you have to understand the rationale of its audio and interface design. Until you do that, you’ll get some good sounds from it anyway; but at minimum you won’t be able to reliably match the volume of the pedal switched on with the volume of your bass when the pedal is switched off. More on that in a minute.



    My interest in the Vulcan was threefold:
    • Hear firsthand some of Spence’s new Pike Amplification work
    • Try one more time to find an example of a modern style bass overdrive that I can like to play
    • Confirm the hi-fi, high dynamics sonics I thought I heard in the first online demo.
    The results? Sonics confirmed. I found a modern bass overdrive that I like. Spence is still reaching and achieving, yet I predict that he has yet to find the limit of what he can create.


    In my experience (not exhaustive, but representative), speaking of the difference between modern and vintage styles, I found the quality and precision of the Vulcan’s sonics and control interface to be more like the Bearfoot FX Björn Juhl-designed pedals than any other I recalled playing. Generalizing, Spence is doing modern and Björn is doing vintage, but they are attaining some similar ends.


    The keys to using the Vulcan’s controls are
    1. the 6db boost of the dry signal when the pedal is on,

    2. the fact that the Volume knob affects only the wet signal, and

    3. the relationship of the Mix knob to 1 and 2.
    That sounds simple, and in a sense it is. But I promise you that unless you clearly grasp those three together, you will not get the most or the best of what the Vulcan Bass Overdrive has to offer.


    First try this: With the Vulcan switched on, turn Gain to 12 o’clock, Volume fully off (left) and Mix fully left. Play something for a few seconds. Then switch the pedal off. Then play the same thing again. When the pedal was on, you should have heard no wet signal, and only the dry sound of your bass presented louder. And when the pedal was off, you should have heard the sound of your bass softer than with the pedal on.

    Next try this: Leaving the controls as they were in the first test, switch the Vulcan on, and play quarter notes on an open string with your plucking hand. Then, still playing, use your other hand to slowly rotate Mix from full left to full right. Your should hear the net volume become softer as you rotate toward the right, until finally it is silent. Now, while playing as before, set Mix to 1 o’clock, then switch the pedal off then on and back every few seconds. You should hear the net volume be about the same with the pedal on or off.

    Lastly try this: Leaving the controls as they were at the end of the second test, switch the Vulcan on. Now set Volume to 11 o’clock and Mix to 10 o’clock, then play something. You should hear wet and dry signal mixed, and at about the same volume as when you play the same thing with the pedal switched off. I assume that this is an example of the now classic approach to blending in dry bass guitar signal with overdrive.

    Referring to those three tests, you should be able to set Mix and Volume to balance the dry and wet signals for any given Gain and Color settings.​

    You know what it is? Think of Mix as being the level control for your dry bass sound, and Volume as the level control for your overdriven sound.

    Also, even if Mix and Volume are not actually interactive, the effect of using them together amounts to as much. You’ll see.


    As for the Vulcan’s sound, I find that with bass guitar, in some of it's range (Color fully left, for instance) it can be a pedal that either must be used with some dry signal mixed in or that will need some low end to be added after the pedal. That's about spectral balance: prominent highs, not a loss of low end.

    Historically I like my drive pedals neat: drive only, with no dry signal. But in the Vulcan, the sound of mixed dry and wet signals is so natural that I don’t notice any mixing going on. From the attack on down, it doesn’t sound layered. Call it the Vulcan sound meld if you will.

    I didn’t say much about Color yet. The key to Color is getting the midrange right. Depending on your pickup selection and sonic goal, Color can either preserve and enhance your sound or it can subvert it (and that subversion can be aesthetic or frustrating, depending on your interests). This is most true of midrange-focused bridge pickup sounds.

    One other important thing: As the manual mentions, varying the passive tone or active treble control on your bass guitar is how you vary the Vulcan’s high frequency balance. The technique is quite effective. And unless you happen to want the Vulcan’s rather distinct high frequencies all the time, the technique is essential.

    In the Vulcan’s overdriven sound, the upper midrange and high frequencies make me wonder if there is some harmonic exciter stuff happening; its scintillation reminds me of that. But again, the Vulcan’s overall sound is natural.

    I almost forgot to say that I prefer the Vulcan Bass Overdrive powered with 18 volts.


    So far, when I design sounds on this pedal, and they are just to play bass guitar, not to experiment, I end up with a credible (evoking preamps, amps, classic channel strips, etc.) and vital-sounding result.

    It is what I consider to be a modern style of overdrive: fast, tight, detailed, and emphasizing higher frequencies. Yet like my favorite vintage style drive pedals, the Vulcan Bass Overdrive is tactile, dynamic, and sweet-sounding. This is a precise approach, not a romantic one; and it simply sounds and feels really, really good.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2016
  2. dannybuoy


    Aug 3, 2005
    You can do this, but the trick is to remember that the dry signal is at unity with the mix knob at noon, instead of the Darkglass pedals where unity is all the way to the left.

    On the one hand this makes it difficult to use as they took the restrictive and unintuitive blend from the Darkglass pedals and made it even more unintuitive. On the plus side though, this setup allows you to boost the clean side above unity. Give me separate wet/dry volumes or a simple blend/master volume any day of the week!

    So, to get a lower overall output volume you have to just increase the blend and reduce the volume until you're happy with the level!

    One of my favourites, this pedal is.
  3. Bassmike62

    Bassmike62 Punch'n Ooomph provider Supporting Member

    In today, after ordering last Sunday, just in time for tonight's band practice... That was friggin' fast !
    Serial # 14, so an early production. Just starting to play with it.

    Pike Amplification Vulcan Bass OD.JPG
  4. DirtyDuke

    DirtyDuke Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 13, 2012
    guelph ontario
    Partner Southampton Pedals, Partner CCP
    The Vulcan XL is an underestimated gem. I love mine!!!
    fclefgeoff and Bassmike62 like this.
  5. Bassmike62

    Bassmike62 Punch'n Ooomph provider Supporting Member

    Indeed. Been eyeing it as well. How transparent is it ?
    DirtyDuke likes this.
  6. DirtyDuke

    DirtyDuke Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 13, 2012
    guelph ontario
    Partner Southampton Pedals, Partner CCP
    It has a wide eq range. The mids are great. Very flexible
    fclefgeoff and Bassmike62 like this.
  7. Bassmike62

    Bassmike62 Punch'n Ooomph provider Supporting Member

    This pedal sounds absolutely awesome and OP's testing suggestion are quite useful.
    My chain is sigged, I'm wondering where are you guys putting this pedal ?
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2016
    Marihino likes this.
  8. Blunder

    Blunder Supporting Member

    Feb 21, 2015
    Fort McMurray, AB
    How is it in comparison to the vmt?
  9. DirtyDuke

    DirtyDuke Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 13, 2012
    guelph ontario
    Partner Southampton Pedals, Partner CCP
    Not this again lol. :)
  10. Blunder

    Blunder Supporting Member

    Feb 21, 2015
    Fort McMurray, AB
    Genuine question lol. Really not trying to stir things up. They seem basically similar to me and my ears thanks to YouTube ..
  11. DirtyDuke

    DirtyDuke Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 13, 2012
    guelph ontario
    Partner Southampton Pedals, Partner CCP
    I know. Wasn't trying to be a donk:).

    There is a 50pg thread here argueing about Pike vs DG.

    I have owned every DG pedal and sti have some. The Vulcan and VMT c sound similar if u push them but that isn't there strengths.

    The Vulcan has a totally different od character and different mids. Both of great pedals but they are very unique from each other
  12. Blunder

    Blunder Supporting Member

    Feb 21, 2015
    Fort McMurray, AB
    I have owned every DG pedal and sti have some. The Vulcan and VMT c sound similar if u push them but that isn't there strengths.

    The Vulcan has a totally different od character and different mids. Both of great pedals but they are very unique from each other[/QUOTE]

    How are the minds on the Vulcan? I find the dg to brighten and take some punch from higher notes.mvulcan do this?
  13. invalidprotocol

    invalidprotocol Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2008
    I'm really liking the Vulcan. It is an interesting contrast to the DG VMT that I currently use for a hair of tube warmth. I added the Vulcan as a punch in for a bit more grit when needed. Interestingly they work well together when not overdone. The Vulcan is definitely more mid forward and I like the way it breaks up with a little more crunch. Nice stuff.
    DirtyDuke likes this.
  14. StayLow


    Mar 14, 2008
    Mine's much louder with those settings than with the pedal switched off, as you'd expect since you're boosting the dry signal and adding a bunch of effect signal to it with those settings.

    I so wish for a universal volume on the Vulcan. It's very difficult overall, and impossible at higher gain settings, to volume match your non-effected signal. Maybe most people prefer a boost, or just leave it always on so they don't care if the volume matches, but it should be possible not to have a big volume boost. A -6b toggle or chicklet could've fit on there someplace, surely. Or make the overall volume come down as you increase the effected signal volume.

    In my experience Spencer typically nails it with his designs. The form, function, esthetic, most importantly the sound, and so many little features put his stuff over the top. And typical of his designs no matter how you set it you can get a great sound - maybe not the sound you want, but a functional credible sound - rather than so many pedals with which you have to very carefully dial in one specific setting and hope no one looks at it sideways or it'll all go to heck. His Groove Regulator vs. other filters is a perfect example. The Vulcan is too, except for the volume thing which I consider to be a frustrating flaw.

    Also wish it took battery power. A larger enclosure would be well worth it to me. Seems the XL could've at least had a battery option. The knobs are too easily moved too, which is a problem when kicking at something repeatedly. Fender-style knobs and tighter pots like on his other pedals would be preferable.

    In extensive A/B'ing, I'm able to make a SansAmp Programmable Bass DI sound exactly like the Vulcan (or at least exactly like how I prefer to set the Vulcan's sound, using my basses, rigs, etc.), and the SansAmp costs less (used) and gives you the options of three programmed pre-sets as well as active EQ and a global volume control. Also can run on battery power.

    I'd rather carry the little Vulcan though, and I prefer its sound to every other small OD/dist pedal I've tried so far - numbering a couple dozen and counting - but damn that volume\blend ordeal is maddening.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
  15. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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