Adam “Nolly” Getgood has been making a name for himself as a producer and tone guru as much as a guitarist (ex-Red Seas Fire) and bass player (Periphery) lately, and as half of the production team known as Top Secret Audio (with Misha Mansoor) has been making his mark on albums such as Animals as Leaders’ The Joy of Motion and Periphery’s yet-unfinished and long-awaited Juggernaut. So when he reached out to VFE pedals to collaborate, I’m sure they didn’t hesitate.
He had a very specific need: he wanted a pedal that did the job of a Tube Screamer, but since the way he used an OD pedal was more like a mid boost, with the drive turned all the way down, he wanted one without any drive. This would allow the signal to remain squeaky clean while being boosted, but still give him the versatile tone-shaping of an OD. The idea was also to have variable high and low cut knobs, rather than just a single tone knob, for extreme control. That way, rather than having to curate a collection of various types of Tube Screamers and all their clones, you can easily tweak the controls on the Focus to your liking.
The Focus pedal delivers on its promise, and it sounds great. Aside from an enormous amount of clean boost (the Level knob), which you could pay a bundle for all on its own, it has Tight, Smooth, and Mix knobs, as well as Slope switches that change how steep the high and low pass is.
The Tight knob is my personal favorite and got the most use for me. It’s like an insta-djent switch, making even the lowest notes I could tune to clear and crunchy. Turn it almost all the way to the cut side for a Conquering Dystopia-style rhythm sound, and anywhere in the middle to clear up muddy tracks. Cutting the bass like that also makes your noise gate work better, as I find half the battle with trying to make a fast gate do what I want is that the bass tends to bleed over and trigger the gate before I want it to.
The Smooth knob also lives up to its name, bringing down some of the harsh high frequencies that suddenly become more noticeable when you cut out some bass. I usually left it about noon for rhythm tracks, and cranked it for leads to get rid of icepick-y treble.
The Mix knob is useful for real fine-tuning of your tone, although I pretty much left it on 100% all the time, mostly because I wanted to really get the sound of the pedal.
This pedal is something I wish I’d had for every recording I’ve ever done before this, and one that I’m sure will be used a great deal on the ones I do next.
Check out the video for a demo and check out the VFE website for more info and to buy direct.