Four Vintage Effects You’ve Never Heard Of

June 8, 2013

By PGS Fitz

Let’s just call a spade a spade: effects pedals are a dangerous drug-- and most of us have the addiction. I’ve got a few rarities in my collection and am always on the hunt for something cool to add to my collection and/or signal chain. Here are four vintage effects you may never have come across or even heard of. Keep your eyes peeled for them when they cross your path—it may only happen once or twice in a gear-addict’s lifetime!


Ludwig Phase II Synth


Who ever would have thought a drum company would make something like this? The Ludwig Phase II Synth is neither a phase nor a synth, but rather a weird multi-effect that features a fuzz circuit along with “Animation” (it’s a tremolo effect!) and “Format Trajectories” (it’s a filter effect!) controls. It is thought that less than 1,000 units were produced between 1970-1971, and the Phase II Synth has had some ups and downs in the used market. It’s unique form factor and lights give it something of a dashboard/cockpit look—making it one of the few pedals around that actually looks way cooler than it sounds.


DeArmond 601 Tremolo


We all think of effects pedals as primarily being objects we stomp on with our feet, but back in the day, DeArmond made the 601 Tremolo, a desktop tremolo unit that appears to be the first commercial standalone effect ever manufactured. Looking something like a lunchbox (before lunchbox amps became cool, I might add!), the 601 has two simple controls for Increase and Speed and is known for its liquid, watery tone—probably because the instrument signal actually gets grounded through an electrolytic hydro-fluid that is housed in a canister inside the unit. This is one of only two times we’ll encourage mixing liquids with your electronics (spoiler alert).



Shil Ei ER-23 Echo Reverb


Shin Ei was a Japanese electronics manufacturer who produced under several different brand names in the seventies, creating some of the most unique effects of the day, including the Shin Ei ER-23 Echo Reverb. This spring-reverb time-capsule of a pedal has a cool space-age paint job and a sound all it’s own—less Fender-Reverb, more lo-fi psychedelic reverb on the verge of breaking up.



Tel Ray Organ Tone


Remember when we said there were two times we’d encourage mixing liquids with your electronics?  The Tel Ray Organ Tone echo/vibrato is the second one.  Known as an oil-can unit, the Organ Tone has a miniature motor which pulls a small rubber belt to turn a can that is filled with electrolytic oil; a pickup inside the can acts like a recording head as it sloshes around in the oil, producing echo.  Who needs tape, anyway?!*

*rhetorically speaking of course!



  1. Abbacus says:

    ....had a really wierd, wah pedal that had odd sounds, in addition to wah; like ocean surf, wind, and siren. Got stolen, back in 1973, along with my new Strat, and a friends late 50’s Strat, from my high school band room. Funny, my 4-bolt neck, 72 strat, that I paid $440. for New, at Denny’s Music, that used to be on 39th and Division, in Portland, and my friends 50’s Strat, that He paid About $360. used, for at the same store, probably got traded for weed, or spray-painted buy the kid that stole them -then dropped out of high school- but the wierd, wah pedal came back to me when a kid foolishly brought it to school one day. The vice-principal wouldn’t do a thing. I should have let my girlfriend kick his ass.

    posted on June 8, 2013 at 11:14 am
  2. Luis says:

    DEMOS pleeeease!!!!

    posted on June 9, 2013 at 8:35 pm
  3. Evan says:

    To Youtube, to hear these oddities!

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 4:19 am
  4. miguelao says:

    Ludwig Phase II Synth… Sonic Youth’s 90’s era, check it heavily used on The Diamond Sea.

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 4:26 am
  5. Spy says:

    Very good attempt… even though I already knew about the oil can and the tremolo (and I guess quite a lot of people do). But the Ludwig… how cool is THAT!!!!! And the Shinei… wow. Just wow.

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 4:29 am
  6. James Spina says:

    You folks always seem to take this guitar stuff to an esoteric level I LOVE! Thanks as always.

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 4:31 am
  7. Jimash says:

    That Ludwig thing always gets me.
    I have a Fender Dimension IV oil can unit that makes a nice rotovibe type sound inserted
    into the reverb section of certain Fender amps.
    Its a Tel Ray item. Stil works .

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 4:40 am
  8. Dave Ambrose says:

    The legend of the Tel-Ray goes that the engineer working for the manufacturer (Lubow Brothers Corp., which later became Morely) was instructed to “tell Ray (Lubow)” when he came up with something good. :)

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 5:00 am
  9. Brian Williams says:

    I have a self-restored DeArmond Tremolo Control and absolutely love it.  I must say that I have yet to find a pedal that accurately emulates this unit for live use.  I must also warn that the unit is somewhat fiddly to keep operational.  The original fluid in the can is of dubious origin/safety and evaporates over time.  There is some speculation that the original fluid was mercury.  While it can be replaced with some effort with a suitable conductive fluid like Windex (works just fine in my case), Windex has an even faster evaporative rate and must be replenished to the correct level (the really fiddly part) periodically.  On the topic of the fluid level, I also discovered that the shape of the tremolo effect can be altered by tilting the unit by small degrees from one side to the other.  In fact, I used this method via trial and error to determine the correct fluid level in the can - fill or tilt to taste…

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 5:00 am
  10. CBJ says:

    You missed the Hammond Condor.

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 5:26 am
  11. 1946dodge says:

    I have a pog 2 which gives an organ tone too. But I would like to hear demos of all of the pedals you listed

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 5:31 am
  12. HItchcock says:

    I had a Ludwig Phase ][ at one time. It was my favorite effect ever. I lent it to a friend of mine who was supposed to use it on a record he was producing. He finished the record and moved to LA.
    I would like his head on a platter. I have a huge pedal board now and every effect I’ve compiled is part of my poor attempt to recreate “that sound” The proto synth is hands down my favorite effect ever.

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 5:43 am
  13. Mojave Johnson says:

    I have a couple of rare pedals, but not as rare as the ones shown here.

    The first is a DOD 585 Analog Delay, from 1982.  Although it’s a germanium chip delay pedal, this 18-volt pedal is the closest thing I’ve ever heard to a real tape delay - complete with degrading echos!  It has an incredibly warm sound, and can really howl and growl at high volumes!  Unfortunately, it does NOT have a true bypass, so you can still hear it even when it’s “off”.  Of course, the simple way around that is to split the signal before the 585 Delay and send its output to a separate amp, which is what I do.

    The second is a Boss DM-2A, also from 1982.  The DM-2 was produced from 1981-1984, and there are 3 versions, which can be approximately dated by reading the number on the compander IC NE570N.  Mine is the second version.  The only differences between the DM-2 and its successor, the DM-3 (sold from 1984-1988), is that the DM-3 has a built in high speed noise reduction circuit, an additional filter, and a direct out.  Both the DM-2 and DM-3 have a true bypass switch, which makes them much more usable in the real world.

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 7:17 am
  14. Randall Ayers says:

    Not to be a Kill Joy but those oilcan units used cancer causing PCBs in them and have all been recalled by their various manufactures for decontamination/destruction. I had both the Morley stand alone non pedal version and a Fender Dimension IV and they did things in a unique way that is not reproduced by other modern pedals. The sought after one is the Rickenbacker version Ry Cooder used. What ever you do do not open the oil can inside to minimize exposure.

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 9:09 am
  15. Will says:

    To Mojave….have a true bypass box made to isolate your noisy pedals. The switch isolates them from your chain untill you need them. You won’t need the extra amp! With groups of pedals through a tb switch, you can engage a ‘patch’ of preset pedals, and them remove them with one click of the foot switch. Nice.

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 9:38 am
  16. Jack says:

    do you know if these 2 liquid filled thingies use a similar, highly toxic carcinogen as the infamous (and highly sought after) morley pedal ?

    actually, i just goofled and answered my own question:

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 10:06 am
  17. Brian Bunt says:

    @ Brian Williams-I found one of those DeArmond Tremolos in the garage of the house my family moved into in 1971. i thought it was cool but i was 8 i didnt play guitar, i thought it was a sci fi toy or something. when i was 15 i figured out what it was and used it a few times, even recorded it on cassette. i wonder what became of it. the unit..i still have the cassette :(

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 10:10 am
  18. Colin says:

    I have a pedal the same as described by Abbacus, not the one he had stolen, mine was bought brand new in ‘75. It is a Shin-Ei multi effects pedal. The siren operates from a button switch in front of the pedal. Makes it interesting when using the Wah as if you get your foot too far forward you switch on the siren. I disconnected the siren or that reason.. Mypedal still works and is in constant use, I use the wah regularly, the surf and hurricane sounds are a novelty that amuses the crowd when playing surfing music, but that’s all they are. The switch that selects the effects can also select volume so that the pedal can be used as a volume control.

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 10:15 am
  19. Steven Sanborn says:


    posted on June 11, 2013 at 11:05 am
  20. marcus says:

    Wow I want the Ludwig. Them bad boys at PGS got me infected.
    And @Hitchcock:  the head on the plate thing seems only fair.

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 6:20 pm
  21. Howard Forton says:

    Anyone out there heard an Arbiter Doubler, a Gary Hurst design?  I have because I owned one and wait fior it Gave it away!!! Arrrrghhhhh

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 9:02 pm
  22. Steven Dallman says:

    I not only heard of all of them, I have the schematics in my files, and owned the Ludwig synth and an amplifier with TWO of the Tel Ray spinning cans in it, the Tel Ray Supernova. One can is an echo and the other the organ tone.

    posted on June 11, 2013 at 11:55 pm
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  24. Scott says:

    I have a working Fender Dimension IV and it sounds very cool. Despite the name however, it is a very 1 dimensional product. It has one sound and no controls for speed or intensity…

    And if you use it with a modern Fender amp like a 65 Deluxe Reverb Reissue, then you will probably blow the reverb tank. At least, that’s what happened to me. Running in my 73 Super Reverb or 70 Twin Reverb was no problem.

    posted on June 18, 2013 at 1:43 am
  25. Artie Fisk says:

    Used to own a Ludwig Phase II Synthesizer. Sold it for $900 back in ‘01 when they first started going for a lot of $$$. Bought it from Mojo Guitar in NYC back in 1987 or ‘88 for $25.

    It was unique, and great, and it gurgled like no other, but I’ll admit its uses were limited. It was noisy, and sucked your tone, and it was huge, and mostly the problem was, you could NEVER get it to do the same thing twice. It had fuzz on board, which was GREAT, and it created and animated those formant trajectories…I did some recordings with it, and it was indeed special. Don’t miss it much, though. You couldn’t EVER use it live. It just wasn’t that kind of thing. Looked cool, though. All those sliders and light-up flipper switches. Was awesome in a dark room if you were in the right frame of mind and had it running through some echo…

    posted on June 18, 2013 at 3:09 am
  26. Greg says:

    AHHHHH I own the first two!!! I forgot about the tremolo, but mercury is dried up in the trem so it won’t work. I wonder if it can be fixed/refilled? hard to forget the Ludwig! and it’s trem is fat!

    posted on June 18, 2013 at 8:26 am
  27. SteveDallman says:

    The oil in the cans is Union Carbide “Ucon” LB-65 oil and is not carcinogenic nor does it contain PCB’s. Repeating myths and misinformation does not help anyone. Information (including MSDS) on this oil is easily found online. There is no reason to spread fear. While an amp tech, I repaired quite a few Tel Ray, Fender, Morley and other units that used these oil can delays. None had PCB oil in them. As a manufacturing plant supervisor and Safety Director I had much experience with real PCB oil (used in substation transformers) including storage and safe, legal disposal.

    posted on June 18, 2013 at 11:52 pm
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