If you don’t already know about this curiously weighty and immensely useful piece of gear then prepare to be enlightened as to what smart design and solid engineering can accomplish…
To some folks buffers are all pretty much the same. The most used argument is that electronically they can only be the same…Thus the intended result can only be the same. Of course the opposing arguments are that a $30.00 buffer is nothing at all like a $300.00 buffer. (They do exist.)
Steve Fryette has take something so polarizing and decided to meld it with something that has quite quickly become almost a necessity…namely a power supply (and a few extra features as well.)
That is the essence of the Valvulator (now manufactured by FRYETTE Amplification.) Simply said it combines a tube driven buffer/line driver with an extremely quiet and adaptable power supply. Then the whole thing is wrapped in a sharp looking (and feeling!) metal enclosure sturdy enough for the road. It you need a string point to a board intended for more serious use this would be a a great starting point for you.
The Valvulator is simply a solid piece of gear. It will actually add some substantial weight to your board. While this is something to consider for the user on the road keep in mind of all of the features offered here. It’s loaded.Having said that it is well balanced and quite attractive as far as power supplies are concerned. There are some sharp edges to look out for on the beautiful rounded machined cover though. With a beautiful arched cover plate that has a machined finish, this is as attractive as it is functional…and function it does.
A smart design, the instrument input and A + B outputs IEC socket adorn the left side and ground lift and power supply outputs are on the right, making for a clean and efficient piece of gear. When you start diving in all of the uses it offers you really being to appreciate why Mr. Fryette’s numerous designs have few detractors,,,and why he is so highly regarded in the world of amplification.
Heavy and robust its design is only outdone by its performance (and that is saying a lot as this thing is a BRICK!)
So here is a lift of the Valvulator’s functions:
Tube driven buffer and line driver
Power supply with enough output for several pedals
Additional output and more
Speaking of extremely clean and effective this buffer/line driver delivers on this description. Tone wise it is clear and yet somehow warm with a sense of instantly being plugged in to a HiFi system…subtle but absolutely delightful. It isn’t something you would want to turnoff when you have turned it on… This tube driven gem is a pedal board fanatic’s dream accessory if used properly.
The buffer has the usual additional benefit of being able to cleanly drive several feet of cable without a perceived loss of high frequencies or tone. It works quite well and makes cheap cables seem…well…not so cheap!
Having an extra output might seem like a superfluous luxury to many but with the increasing use of stereo rigs these days (especially with the advent of lightweight solid state pedal amps) it can be quite useful. And not just that. Tuner out? Sure. But what about a simple monitoring rig with a practice amp set at shoulder level? The drummer can hit as hard as he likes and you get a custom mix for yourself.
So how excited can you get about a buffer? Quite a bit actually. Besides the additional features of the power supply and extra output among them, this thing sounds great. Many online posts have been made that the buffer should only…well…”buff” and do no more but compared to its dry signal there is something going on. Tube or no tube it sounds more detailed and responsive in back to back tests on its own. IN the mix the buffer seems to help it sit more comfortably as well. This is definitely a reason to compare solid state buffers to this tube driven unit. What about a head to head with a Boss buffer?
On the power supply side, we find a quiet and flexible system The number of available outputs seems to sit right between “When would I ever use this many pedals in a night?!?” to “Just stick to a Tube Screamer and some cheap batteries dude…”
Between the single 12VDC and three 9VDC outputs there is something workable for just about any reasonably sized pedalboard. (The manual seems to mention that all outputs are overload and short circuit protected as well but it may be only for the 9VDC outputs. All are regulated.)
There are many detailed specifications we can pore over but they are provided by the manufacturer (currently FRYETTE Amplification.) The main takeaway here is it comes across as what a boutique amplifier builder would design if they needed a a power supply. Said builder would also know the value of a decent buffer and a sturdy build. They would also be quite adept at efficient design so it would compact and have many additional uses.
And that is exactly what the Valvulator is. That Steve Fryette is also be greatly proficient in tube topology is just the icing on the tone cake. It would make a beautiful starting point to any serious pedalboard.
- Many applications
- (Arguably) great sounding buffer
- Extra features quickly become necessary
- Getting harder and harder to find (are these even being made anymore ?)
- New they seemed pricey (but you get what you pay for)
- Heavy (but you get what you…lift for?)
A highly recommended “accessory” that defies a single name…find it used on the cheap and see if you can do without it. A definite recommendation for any medium to large pedalboard user.
Valvulator I V1 Line Driver Buffer and Power Supply Specifications:
Input Impedance: 1 megohm
Output Impedance: 600 ohm
Gain: Unity Gain at -20dB Nominal
Tube Complement: 1 12AX7WB Sovtek (Russia Selected)
Power Supply Specifications: 3 X 9VDC @ 80mA per output; 1 X 12VDC @ 150mA
Power requirement: 15W, 50/60HZ
Dimensions: (W x H x D): 6.75″ x 3.5″ x 3″ (17 x 9 x 7.6 mm)
Weight: 3 Lb. (1.4 kg)