WHETHER IT’S TO COP HERBIE Hancock’s righteously rotund subhook on “Chameleon,” the fabulously filthy stank of Parliament’s “Flashlight,” or the deliciously deep low-end licks of Stevie Wonder, the funkier among us have long sought the wicked tones wielded by our synth-brandishing brethren. The deep-pocketed, adventurous set might spring for a vintage Minimoog, or any number of synths or pedals. But Tech 21, best known in the bass world for its venerated SansAmp Bass Driver DI, has perhaps a more practical option: The Red Ripper.
The Red Ripper is—at least on the most fundamental level—a bass fuzz. Housed in a sturdy, mid-sized stompbox and sporting a seductive sanguine powder-coat finish, the Ripper boasts an intuitive set of controls. Using the pedal’s LEVEL and DRIVE controls, I was immediately able to call up a wide range of distortion, spanning from mildly gritty to face-fryingly fuzzy. Its LOW, MID, and HIGH knobs provided a powerful 3-band EQ well voiced for bass; engaging the LOW PASS FILTER with its button attenuated the high end to remove much of the high-end hiss inherent with fuzz and distortion pedals.
Judged on the quality of the fuzz alone, the Red Ripper is a winner. But the Red Ripper has something no other bass fuzz has: the curiously named R.I.P. control. Tech 21 is understandably cautious about divulging how exactly this control works, offering only that it manipulates the harmonic content of the distorted signal, blending two different kinds of distortion to create a “tearing, shearing sound.” The resulting sound is exhilarating. With the R.I.P. knob set around noon and DRIVE at 2 o’clock, the Red Ripper took on the character of an envelope filter. Playing thumbstyle while palm-muting coaxed what I thought were the coolest tones out of the Red Ripper—laser-like stabs of pyow, pyow that made me feel like I was laying waste to a legion of Stormtroopers. Within minutes, I had dialed in at least a dozen cool saturated synth sounds.
Tech 21 has scored a direct hit with the Red Ripper. For hip-hop and R&B players looking to emulate the synth tracks from their favorite records—and to dial up a wide range of new tones— the pedal is a great way to go. Likewise, if you’re a rock player looking for a unique fuzz that’s extremely flexible in terms of both gain and EQ, and will give you a sonic signature all your own, the Red Ripper rules. For that, it earns a BASS PLAYER Editor Award.
TECH 21 RED RIPPER
Pros Sublime synth-like sounds; flexible EQ and gain controls
Made in U.S.A.
Warranty One year limited