Donner Vowel Mimi Wah/Volume Pedal
I've always been intrigued by the mini format wah pedals that appeared on the market a few years back.
The idea of having a small-form wah pedal that could fit onto my pedalboard seemed a good idea, but as I had already invested in a full size wah pedal, (in my case, the Ibanez WD7 Junior) it wasn't a priority for me to check out one of these smaller models. However, I've often wondered how my size 11 feet would cope with such a small treadle fx, so when Donner contacted me and asked if I was interested in reviewing one of their pedals it was a no brainer to choose their mini Vowel Wah/Volume to see how it performed. Donner did state that I could keep the pedal when finished, but this in no way affected how I judged this pedal. This is an unbiased review.
My first impression on taking the Mini Vowel Wah out of its neatly folded cardboard box was just how compact and solid it was. Given its weight, I just assumed that the chassis was metallic but on closer inspection it appeared to be constructed from a very dense and hard plastic material that gave it the feel of a die-cast construction. It's a sturdy looking little beast, which is quite impressive considering the pedal is pitched at the budget end of the effects market. The RRP of the pedal is only £45 and at the moment of writing, it is on sale for only £25 at idonner.eu
Being a mini format pedal, I compared it to my Boss equalizer GE7 for size and found it was the same height and width and about a centimetre longer, so an ideal size for slotting into place on even the smallest of pedalboards.
The Vowel comes in a fetching matt red finish with the treadle being capped by two grippy rubber pads to prevent foot slippage.
The layout is simple: in and out jack sockets, with friction washers under the securing nuts (which is good to see) and a standard 9v DC (-ve centre pin) input for power. The unit does not use a battery so you are going to need to run it off your own power supply.
The pedal, when in volume/bypass mode, offers a buffered, not true bypass, signal path, so if there's no power there's no signal.
The 'off' mode is when the Vowel acts as a volume pedal. In use, pushing down hard on the front of the treadle toggles the latching footswitch to change between the volume and wah modes. Switching is quiet and two red LEDs located under the front of the treadle create a nice, subtle halo effect around the front of the pedal to indicate the wah-mode is engaged.
Running the pedal in volume mode, the peddle feels smooth underfoot. There is about 3cms of 'treadle-travel' so it's not tiring to use and I was pleasantly surprised how 'planted' it felt for such a small layout stompbox. I did notice that when bringing up the volume from zero that the signal jumped in suddenly to a low volume shelf and then moved up smoothly from then on, up to full gain. This does mean that a smooth volume increase from zero to max is hard to achieve and this could be a problem for ambient players looking to create those classic smooth volume washes that are rich in reverb and delay. However, this feature does mean that mimicking the ol' pinky-finger volume-riding technique that some players use to remove the attack on medium tempo solos is very easy to do. So generally, it's a mixed bag on the volume front. I see the volume more as a freebie bonus; it's handy to have but I would not rely on it if I was wanting to mimic any Larry Carlton style of volume squeezing.
Now, in wah mode, the pedal is a different beast all together. The frequency sweep is very smooth and the treadle's light, but not too loose action, makes for a satisfying chewy wah experience. The effect is very vowel like, and the broad range is great for nailing those clean clicky 70s 'Shaft' vibes. I experimented playing a few of my favourite wah based solos and rhythms (think Thin Lizzy and Robin Trower here) and was generally impressed with the pedal's response. I did wonder if the wah at full effect was a bit too ice-picky but when I compared it to my Ibanez stalwart, I found it was pretty much the same on the extremes of frequency. I do think that the width (the 'Q') of the tone sweep is slightly less than than on some wah pedals I have tried, but it's a pretty subtle difference.
Overall, I was impressed by the pedal, especially at its price point. Yes, the volume sweep needs improving but the wah itself is on point.
In conclusion, the Donner Vowel volume/wah pedal is an impressive little beast for very little outlay and could well be a great solution for players wanting a manual wah pedal where space (and budget) are major considerations.
(pronounced: equal-sequel) "I suffered for my art.. now it's your turn"