Krapina, Croatia might best be remembered as being a major site of Neanderthal remains. However, there is nothing Neolithic about guitar pedals coming out of the Eastern European country. DryBell is a small boutique pedal maker formed by founder Zvonko Suhodolcan, an electric guitar player who in the mid ’90s started tooling around with amplifiers and effects for himself and his friends, while holding various jobs in electrical engineering.
Fast forward over 20 years and Zvonko was finally able to start his own “musical electronic laboratory” in 2011, which now proudly boasts a small line of high-quality stompboxes. A staunch believer in the “less is more” approach, Zvonko chose to be laser-focused on the mission of creating the best possible Vibe pedal in a regular, compact enclosure: yes, all the DryBell stompboxes currently on the market are inspired by the legendary (and extremely rare) Uni-Vibe, an effect born as a mediocre Leslie speaker emulator that ended up becoming an effect in its own right – more about its story here.
Here’s the board DryBell sent to our Brooklyn Stompbox Exhibit 2017, a perfect introduction to their two models.
The red V-1 Vibe Machine is the self-proclaimed world’s smallest uni-vibe emulation (it definitely was when it came out). Despite its tiny size, it sports all the features and tone of the vintage unit that inspired it, which was at least 4 times as big. The company uses custom photocells, matching them with specially constructed testers to ensure the true rotating vibe sound. Of course, the effect can be connected to an expression pedal, like the original, to control the speed of the oscillation by foot. An extra, nifty feature is the under-the-hood “acceleration” jumper that allows to speed up or slow down the oscillation just as a real Leslie cabinet would. Bright switch and optional output buffer are also welcome additions. The unit was very well received because of its practicality (most uni-vibe recreations are a lot bigger) and authentic tone at a fraction of the cost.
The newer V-2 Vibe Machine is very similar to the V-1, but was tweaked after the feedback received from V-1, and because of that can sound a little different. It has a series of extra features that make it ideal for knob/switch fiddlers. One of these is an input for an extra footswitch (the F1-L) that allows you to access the pedal’s tap tempo and two speed modes. It also adds three new ‘set and forget’ side controls to the V-1 arsenal: CHORUS, GRIT and CUSTOM, with the latter adjusting the input impedance when the new three way ORIGINAL/BRIGHT/CUSTOM switch is set to the CUSTOM position to balance the guitar’s brightness. The CANCEL function provides a warmer kind of bypass just like the original Uni-Vibe.
DryBell’s line of vibe pedals gives players consistently authentic tone and, with the V-2, ample room for fine-tuning, adding a modern facelift to a pedal that earned its stripes over 50 years ago. The company recently announced in its news section that it’s working on a new stompbox, mentioning that “this time it will be a completely different cookie” – so DryBell’s “Vibe-only era” seems to be coming to an end. But considering the engineering prowess they demonstrated with their Vibe Machine line, there are enough reasons to look forward with excitement and curiosity to their upcoming, not-so-vibey new product.