NPD: Surfy Industries Blossom Point Pedal

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
27,031
Tucson
Finding a good Surf guitar sound is not hard, but duplicating the sound of a ‘62 Showman with a 6G15 tank, using readily available, contemporary equipment hardly a given. As is so often the case, it comes down to producing a low-volume sound, that has the dynamics of a big amp, really cranking.

When Dick Dale was playing the Rendezvous Ballroom, and blowing up amps on a regular basis, he could get that sound at will, and he described the sound of an amp just south of breakup as the “blossom point”. While Dick Dale did indeed keep things lively at the Rendevous, he wasn’t getting a sound that could be described as harsh. It was actually a very even sound and within the mainstream of the Surf bands of the time. He did blow up amps, but he was filling a fairly large venue with a single, 100 watt amp. No doubt that he was pushing things pretty hard, just to be heard. It was in this situation where he discovered that “blossom point”, where the amp started to sing.

The “blossom point”, of which Dick Dale spoke, was simply natural compression as the tubes got close to breakup. The trick, of course, is to duplicate this at lower volumes, and if you can add the flexibility of a Presence control … well, all the better. It’s a bit more of a balancing act, than just cranking up a Tube Screamer, and letting fly.

Considering that most of us do not have 6Gx series amps with brown faceplates, capturing the sound and behavior of that circuit can be challenging. The larger models of the 6Gx series had a Presence control, which could be adjusted to vary the amount of upper frequency signal in the negative feedback loop of the amp. When cranked fully clockwise, the highs fairly sparkle, but when turned down, the upper harmonics were somewhat shunted to ground. It’s a subtle, but useful, control.

Surfy Industries is a European company that serves the Surf Guitar market, with a variety of products, including the Surfy Bear, FET-driven spring reverb. Over the last few years, they have gotten into the pedal market and have an assortment of tremolo and vibrato pedals. One of the most unusual products is called the Blossom Point, which grew out of an earlier pedal called the Brownfacer; a pedal designed to put a little bit of 6Gx sound into your signal.

The question quickly becomes; just what does this pedal do? After taking ownership of one, I will chime in. The pedal has four controls. There are two very small knobs for adjusting the output level, and for attenuating the incoming signal, if desired. It would be possible to use this pedal as a boost, and it may be perfect for setting up a switchable overdrive based upon that boost. There is a Presence control, which strikes me as being very similar to the Presence control you would find on a 6Gx series amp. There is an on/off foot-switch, and I suspect that there is some sort of compression that the pedal employs, and this is not adjustable, to the best of my knowledge.

Testing the Blossom Point proved interesting. Into the front end of a Winfield Tremor, which is quite similar to a ‘62 Princeton, the Blossom Point added sparkle to the sound, especially if the Presence control is fully clockwise. The compression is subtle, but makes itself known with a longer decay of most notes. Surfy Industries recommends that the Blossom Point be the last effect in your chain, which means that my trusty Catalinbread Topanga was feeding its spring reverb emulation into the Blossom Point. To my way of thinking, this made for a pleasant and desirable result, as the reverb trails seemed to be somewhat tamed by the compression in the Blossom Point, but the signal going to the amp was lively and bright, yet controlled.

Plugging into a Winfield Cyclone, which is quite similar to an early AC-15, I found that the pedal was more subtle. I suspect that this is caused by the fact that the Cyclone uses an EF-86 pentode for the first preamp stage. This tube has a fair degree of natural compression, and I don’t think that the compressor in the pedal makes all that much difference. The Presence control still was perceptible, with this amp, but, IMHO, the Cyclone, with its EF-86 sort of already does what the Blossom Point seeks to do.

In the name of Science, I decided to extend my testing to two more amps.

The next one on my list was a Winfield Elizabeth. This is basically an AB 763, 40 watt amp with great reverb and a single 12” speaker. (Think Fender Black Panel Pro Reverb.) The Blossom Point and this map are a match made in heaven. I think that this is the perfect application of the Blossom Point. It was pretty much an instant Surf sound, as in Brown Panel Fender with some reverb added. Had I kept playing it this way, my mind would have left my body behind and traveled to Huntington Beach :)

This pedal is perfect for making a Black Panel Fender circuit sound like a Brown Panel Fender. I alternated between the Bright Switch on or off, and adjusted the Presence control on the pedal. There are a number of variations available which allow you to tailor the sound to taste. As part of my personal preparation for receiving this pedal, I recently listened to some Dick Dale recordings, just to refresh my memory of what the real thing sounded like. I have to say, that I was able to get very similar results, with all of the sparkle and presence of a vintage Surf recording.

Also, I tried using this with my 5 watt Winfield Typhoon. The Typhoon has the same EF-86 Pentode front end as the above-mentioned Cyclone, but the amp is working a bit harder than the Cyclone, at living room volumes. I could push the amp into overdrive fairly easily, and the compression of the pedal made for a pleasant sound. Clean, once again, the compression of the pedal was a bit redundant, because the EF-86 already had it handled. However, the Presence control still has an effect and adds some flexibility.

Playing such a pedal, obviously, I played some Surf, and I can see the appeal of the Blossom Point for Surf, pretty much from the first note. However, I did try several other genres, as well. For relatively generic Blues/Rock the effect is positive, adding a sense of restraint, but not killing the dynamics. Whatever the means the Blossom Point uses to compress the signal, it is subtle and tastefully employed. For Larry Carlton style Fusion, it comes through very nicely, with an understated sound that reminds me of a Dumble.

I also tried pushing the front end of the Tremor amp a bit, just into natural overdrive. Once again, the Blossom Point acquitted itself quite well, adding a tasteful restraint, while not inhibiting the ability of the signal to push the front end of the amp. It was a sound that I have never fully duplicated with an overdrive pedal. Using the output level control as a clean boost works well. I tried settings of this control from slightly below unity to full up and the sound remained uncolored, varying only in volume. The pedal itself didn’t break up, at all.

My conclusions are fairly simple. If you want a pedal that is dramatically apparent, the second you activate it, this is not going to fit the bill. However, if you approach the pedal with realistic expectations, you will find that it has a lot to offer. It is a tasteful and effective compressor, suitable for Surf music, but also for Rock, Fusion, Country, etc. You can set it up as a switchable clean boost, and have a very good clean unit. The input attenuator is a relatively unique feature and I could see it as being very useful for someone that is switching between a relatively low-output guitar and a higher output instrument.

That leaves the Presence control. I don’t have a schematic for this pedal, so I don’t know how this pedal accomplishes this, but if it works like the presence circuit on a brown-panel amp. It would amount to a negative feedback circuit (probably on an Op Amp) that has a pot which can be adjusted to control the proportion of the highs which are shunted to ground and not fed-back into the Op Amp. Like every Presence control I’ve ever used, the effect is subtle, but it does make a difference.

Experimenting with this pedal has been rewarding. I was able to create some very satisfying Surf sounds, using just the Blossom Point and a Catalinbread Topanga Spring Reverb pedal. When the Presence control is topped out, the Reverb Drip effect really stands out. If you turn the Presence down a bit, the effect is more of an understated compression. I would think of this pedal in terms of subtle enhancement to your sound.

What it’s not:

An Overdrive pedal
A Distortion pedal
An Equalizer pedal
A typical Compressor (It does compress, but it’s not a Dyna Comp replacement.)

What it is:

A subtle enhancer that helps you to get the sound of natural compression, at low volumes.
An adjustable clean boost.
A means to attenuate the signal of a hot pickup.
A meaningful Presence control.
 

NJDevil

Country Gent
Jul 9, 2014
1,631
Commack, NY
Great review Synchro. I know I really like mine as I got it over the Blackbird by VS Audio and The Falcon by Crazy Tube Circuits.

The other two I mentioned probably supply a bit more gain but was looking for the brownface amp presence. I think it might've been a bit more obvious for me as I was using it with a solid state Roland Blues Cube. I did get the desired effect. I think the one pedal that can do it better is the Revival Drive by Origin Effects........but at $600+, it better get what you want AND do the dishes!
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
27,031
Tucson
Great review Synchro. I know I really like mine as I got it over the Blackbird by VS Audio and The Falcon by Crazy Tube Circuits.

The other two I mentioned probably supply a bit more gain but was looking for the brownface amp presence. I think it might've been a bit more obvious for me as I was using it with a solid state Roland Blues Cube. I did get the desired effect. I think the one pedal that can do it better is the Revival Drive by Origin Effects........but at $600+, it better get what you want AND do the dishes!
It seems like a lot of pedals seem to reduce to some sort of gain/light-overdrive. I’m relieved that this one seems to be more aimed at keeping things clean, but interesting.
 

ruger9

Country Gent
Nov 1, 2008
3,672
NJ
Great review Synchro. I know I really like mine as I got it over the Blackbird by VS Audio and The Falcon by Crazy Tube Circuits.

The other two I mentioned probably supply a bit more gain but was looking for the brownface amp presence. I think it might've been a bit more obvious for me as I was using it with a solid state Roland Blues Cube. I did get the desired effect. I think the one pedal that can do it better is the Revival Drive by Origin Effects........but at $600+, it better get what you want AND do the dishes!

I had the Falcon recently... supposed to be tweed drive on one side and brownface/blonde drive on the other. I wasn't impressed. It went back immediately.
 

ruger9

Country Gent
Nov 1, 2008
3,672
NJ
It seems like a lot of pedals seem to reduce to some sort of gain/light-overdrive. I’m relieved that this one seems to be more aimed at keeping things clean, but interesting.

Alot of your review sounds similar to the Xotic EP Booster actually. It's only got one external control: level, but has internal dip switches for 2 modes: "normal" and "vintage". Trying to describe what it does goes beyond a mere EQ shift, I heard someone use the phrase "does something intangible to the sound and feel", and that's the best description I could think of for it. Alot of people use it as an "always on" pedal, and/or a "sweetener". It's a pedal you'd have to try, to understand.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
27,031
Tucson
While this can be used as a clean boost, that’s not its main function. The Xotic seems to basically be a 3 in 1 preamp, that colors the sound. The preamp in this pedal doesn’t affect the tonality; it’s actually crystal clear. From what I can tell, the magic is in the Presence control, and some mild compression.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
27,031
Tucson
Thanks for the great review Synchro. Sounds like a useful pedal for those that like the sound of their rig as is and just need to tweak it a bit.
That’s a good way to look at it. It’s a sound enhancer, and builds upon the sound that is there, already.
 

David MacNeill

Gretschie
Gold Supporting Member
Nov 13, 2022
100
Boise ID
I’ll be interested in your impressions of it.
What I am skeptical about is their suggestion of putting it at the end of the pedal chain, but that’s where the Presence control would be on a brownface so I guess it makes sense. Seems like it would boost any noise in the rig too, but we shall see.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
27,031
Tucson
It‘s a Make Gooderer, it just makes your guitar gooder.
Is “Make Gooderer” one-a-them-their fancy medical terms? :)

Actually, IMHO, make gooderer hits it, square on the nose. It reminds me of those BASF adds; at BASF, we don’t make the color, we make it brighter.
What I am skeptical about is their suggestion of putting it at the end of the pedal chain, but that’s where the Presence control would be on a brownface so I guess it makes sense. Seems like it would boost any noise in the rig too, but we shall see.
I may do some experimenting with this pedal, before I actually commit it to a pedalboard. One thing I want to do is test it with a buffer, and see how much of the difference is cable capacitance.

I may be a while, however. I haven’t been sick in over 5 years, but now I have a cold. If this doesn’t get better soon, I’ll fly to Minnesota and see if Doc’ Welters can help make me feel gooderer. :)
Combine it with a Surfy Bear and you’ve got Surf Guitar in a Box.
Pretty much.
 

David MacNeill

Gretschie
Gold Supporting Member
Nov 13, 2022
100
Boise ID
My custom-made Marshall-style amp does not have a Presence or a Bright switch, so this pedal should give me a new tone to add to my palette. The preamp is a Marshall Plexi clone. The power section is a mostly stock 18 watt Marshall. I have a master Pre gain feeding both a Normal and a Bright channel, which have been internally jumpered together. They feed a single Master volume. The Normal by itself is very thick and Marshall-ish, while the Bright by itself sounds like my old blonde Fender Bassman head with a little more attitude. Adding the Blossom Point’s simulated brownface Presence should, in theory, give me a third option. Just spent $170 to find out!
 


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