Monday, March 14, 2016

Keeley Monterey Rotary Fuzz Vibe Review

A few weeks ago Robert Keeley announced his idea for a Hendrix in a box pedal. Based around his new Workstation platform than combines a drive section with a very versatile modulation section the Keeley Monterey Rotary Fuzz Vibe tackles the herculean task of recreating the tones of Jimi Hendrix. I say herculean because I think different people hear Hendrix differently which inevitably means some people will be disappointed in this pedal in that it may not sound they way they want it to. More often than not this has more to do with their picking hand than anything else but that is a topic for another post. I digress.
Monterey Workstation

Some time in the early 2000's a legendary pedal was built called the Captain Coconut. It had an authentic Univibe, Fuzz Face, and an Octavia built into it. Throw a wah pedal in front and a cranked Marshall Plexi stack behind it and you had instant Hendrix tones, if you had the chops of course. These legendary pedals have been sought after by collectors. IF your looking for authentic photocells and a perfect Octavia clone stop now, the Monterey is NOT what your looking for! If your looking for a pedal that oozes late 60's psychedelica, is a studio work horse, and sounds freaking amazing read on. 

I'll start by talking about the fuzz, unlike the standard Fuzz Face, this fuzz plays well with buffers. I've used it with active pickups and placed it before and after pedals with buffers and it sounds fantastic. It's extremely dynamic, responding to your volume control and your pick attack. It can sound a little buzzy when turned down but I found the trick is to push the level up to where it is pushing your amp a bit and the buzziness goes away and it starts to get that meltdown apocalypse sound that we all want from a fuzz. Now roll back your volume and it cleans up beautifully. The fuzz also stacks well with other drive pedals, I used it with an OCD, a Tube Screamer and my Zephyr fuzz and it sounded great with all of them. 

A video posted by @adhd_guitarist on

Next is the modulation section. There is three way switch to change between the Wah (harmonic and auto wah), the Vibe and the Rotary. There is also an expression pedal input to control the speed of the rotary and vibe or to act as a wah. I don't currently own an expression pedal but that has now moved up the on my wants and needs list. There is also an octave knob which will blend in an octave up or down. In rotary mode this changes the level of the tweeter in the rotary cabinet. There is also a level knob that blends in the overall effect of modulation. This is extremely useful in the rotary setting where the effect can be overpowering.  
This is a great rig

I'm a lover of all things vibe and phaser related. And I have to say I really love how deep and throby this vibe is. As I said earlier this is not a photocell vibe, it's really a phaser with a tremolo effect which gives a great approximation of a vibe circuit. It has a great sound to it. Do you want to play Pink Floyd's Breath? Perfect. Little Wing? Nailed it. I want to try this with an expression pedal but that will come later. Honestly for Hendrix sounds I can leave on this Vibe setting and throw my wah in front of the pedal and pretty much nail all of the sounds I'm looking for. 

The Wah section is really interesting. The depth knob can change the wah from an auto wah to a harmonic wah to a cocked wah. Once again with the added expression pedal can make this section a normal wah. For the cocked wah, roll the depth knob all the way to the left and use the rate to dial in the Q. The auto wah is pretty great too. It responds great to your picking dynamics and is a lot of fun to play with. But the real find for me was the Harmonic wah effect. I had never played with a harmonic wah effect and it has really blown my mind. I still don't fully understand it but it is crazy cool, it's a very unique sound. You know that sound at the beginning of Burning the Midnight Lamp? Add in a bit of upper octave and your there. This is such and interesting effect that Burgs did an entire video on it all by itself. This pedal is loaded with features.
The Octave knob is not it's own section and is not an octavia clone. This may bug some purist but I find it very useful. Octavia's are picky about where you play and what your overall tone is like, so they can be very tricky and many people complain that they have a hard time getting that octave up sound out of it. That is not the case with this octave knob. In the center position it is off, roll the knob to the right and you start to blend in an upper octave sound. Roll to the left and you get an octave down setting that is great for thickening the low end of your sound. Just watch your bass players eyes start to roll when you do it. 

The rotary section is more versatile than I thought it would be. It's not as three dimensional as a Strymon Lex but it is very convincing and I love the level knob that blends in your sound. In this mode the octave mode controls blend of the high and low speakers. One of the things I found interesting is that you can slow this down to a really organic chorus sound that doesn't sound metallic or processed like most chorus pedals do. You can even knock the rate down to zero but keep the depth up and get a flanger sound. This maybe the most versatile part of the modulation section. 

a small compact unit
Do you want all of these modulation effect to come before the fuzz? Open up the bottom of the pedal and there is a mini switch to do just that. This opens up a whole different feel and group of sounds on this tiny pedal. It's surprising just how small it is and for many people it has enough different sounds for it to be it's own pedalboard. Throw a delay behind it and a lot of guys could gig with just this and make every song sound different. One thing that is kind of cool is that there are 12 different paint jobs all with a metallic blue finish with art work inspired by Jimi's Monterey strat. You have no idea when you order which style you'll get. The Keeley Monterey is available direct from the Keeley pedals site and at select retailers. 

I keep using the word versatile. In some pedals versatile can be a curse, you have to constantly tweak to get it sound right but on the Monterey I have to say it's difficult to get a bad sound and it's just so easy to work with I felt immediately spoiled when I started playing with it. I've had it a week and I feel like I may have to update this review next month. I just keep finding cool sounds it this box. Check out Pt 2 of this review HERE

This review was completely unsolicited, I received no compensation for it and all views and opinions are my own


  1. Thanks for the great review. Got mine today - terrible hissing noise/no signal through the rotary/vibe/wah channel. Any issues with this so far? Disappointed that I'll have to send it back and wait even longer!

    1. So far so good here. I did have a different pedal from Keeley that the switch went bad a few hours after I got it. I emailed them and returned it and they sent another one out. They've got very good customer service. Hopefully the turn around time isn't to long for you I'm still loving this pedal.

  2. Hi there sir! Please send it back, we will repair any issue, refund your shipping and get it back to you Express. Just call us. Thanks! Robert Keeley

  3. Keeley Electronics lead the field in customer service and backing up their products - no worries! In 14 years of using products from the House of Blue Lights I've never experienced a failure & I feel fortunate for that because anything electronic can have an issue. I know Robert has my back! (insert James Brown's "I Feel Good" here) :o)

  4. TY for the review.. this looks like a pedal I need to have

    1. It is really very inspiring. I keep finding more sounds and uses for it. Thanks for checking out the blog.

  5. Hi,
    I don't understand volume /gain boost when i engage modulation and why this not happen when i use my Monterey with wireless system...

    1. Hi Zefreidz, The level control on the bottom left should control the output of the modulation section. Are you saying it only happens when your direct connected with a lead? but not through a wireless? I know the wireless will act like a buffer but I wouldn't think that would do anything. If you reach out to Keeley support they are great about answering questions.

  6. Yes only with a cable , sound very good with wireless....
    I Also got some strange noise with rotary when i use i gain on my amp,a bit disapointed with this pedal.