There's a wealth of digital and modelling devices available for a pittance these days. Set against this backdrop, it's easy to overlook the simplicity, not to mention the sound, of analogue stompboxes, particularly when it comes to sumptuous modulation and delay effects.
Fortunately, Belcat has set out to rectify the situation with a new wallet-comforting pack of three pedals, which can supplement existing stompers or lay the foundations for a whole new pedalboard.
The pack in question includes the DLY-503 Analog Delay, FLA-513 Flanger and TRM-507 Tremolo, plus six patch cables. Other sets are also available, including rock- and blues-skewed sets, but this assortment of stompbox staples is our pick of the lot.
Each unit features three controls that give you access to a range of sounds without distracting you from your playing. So, for the Analog Delay, that's time, level and repeat; for the Flanger it's rate, regeneration and depth, while the Tremolo features rate, depth and wave.
Paired to this ease of use is solid build quality. These stompers are metal-housed with true bypass and Boss-style control knobs, and are sturdier than similar pedals in this price range.
Of course, when it comes to sounds, you might think buying three effects in one stompbox splurge is a cash-saving compromise that comes at the cost of tone. Fortunately, you'd be wrong. While they don't include the kitchen sink, Belcat's threesome are rather good at what they set out to do, which is to provide warm vintage-tinged tones for minimum outlay.
Let's start with the Analog Delay. It is in fact a digital delay - that's right, digital - but one that emulates an analogue pedal, so if you're desperate for tap tempo and looping capabilities, look elsewhere.
However, if what you want is a dark echo to add a little atmosphere to your leads, this is ideal. Sure, its delay time may be limited to 350ms, but that's perfect for rockabilly or surf slapback tones and delays that complement rather than envelop your original guitar sound.
The Flanger, meanwhile, aims for that classic jet-plane-taking-off whoosh popularised by the likes of Eddie Van Halen. With clean tones, it gets you an Andy Summers-esque sparkle at faster rates and lower depths, but kick in the distortion and crank up the regeneration and you can get as - ahem - Unchained as you like. Faster rates also yield a Leslie-type rotating speaker effect.
Finally, Belcat's Tremolo wobbles into view, and while it may be the most subtle of the three, it snatches the 'most impressive' prize from its stable mates. Its wave control covers the breadth and depth of tremolo sounds, from The Black Keys blues shimmer to the helicopter chops of Rage Against The Machine's Guerrilla Radio. The buzzes and volume washes are all available courtesy of the rate and depth knobs. Best of all, however, is that this unit doesn't suffer from the perceived volume drop that can plague other tremolo pedals - the volume and tone are pitched just right.
Belcat has been in the pedal-manufacturing game for a long time, but it now faces tough competition in the lower end of the market from the likes of Mooer and Joyo. It's great to see, then, that the company has upped its game to provide optimum value for money and tone to boot.
Sure, there are a couple of nitpicky faults - the Flanger's swoop hangs in the treble region longer than the bass, and the Analog Delay can get slightly noisy with longer delay times - but that comes with the vintage voicing of these effects. And with patch cables included, not to mention those psychedelic paint jobs and cut-price costs, who could say no to such a seductive threesome?