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vintage guitar reviews the twa little dipper

Space Talk

The TWA LD-01 Little Dipper
- By Phil Feser for Vintage Guitar Magazine

Based on a classic ‘70s design, TWA’s new LD-01 - with better tracking, quieter operation, and more vocal-like sounds – is not your run-of-the-mill auto-wah/envelope filter.

Inside and out, this box is well-executed.  It’s electronic elements include high quality PC boards, chassis-mounted Euro-style ¼” jacks, full-sized pots, and a true-bypass footswitch.  Controls include Ascension, Inclination, Diffraction, and two internal mini-pots to control clean/effect blend and noise-gate threshold.

Using an Epiphone Les Paul and EPS 400 with EMG single-coils, running through a PRS 30 (12AX7/EL84) combo, the LD-01 was impressively silent when receiving no signal.  And when being played, the effect was very smooth, with no shrill top-end or signal peaking one typically associates with an envelope filter/auto-wah.  The Ascension (threshold/sweep) control sets the threshold and depth of the sweep, while the four-position Inclination (filter/trigger) changes trigger time between the filters, allowing for a wide range of vocal-like sounds.

Manipulating the Ascension and Inclination controls produces smooth, funky, classic wah sounds and more vocal-like “ahhh” and “oooh” sounds.  While the LD-01 sounds very smooth and refined, it’s also very expressive and musical, especially when the Diffraction (fuzz/clipping) is dialed up, adding more of the attack and cut of an envelope filter, but in a more musical way, with more control.

The internally mounted Blend is an important part of the sound, as well, allowing for a big envelope-filter effect with a lot of sweep, while allowing the user to dial back the intensity and blend it with the unaffected signal.  In terms of signal strength when switching between humbuckers and single-coils, the Ascension nicely accommodates both, allowing easy guitar transition without having to obsessively tweak controls to compensate.

While the LD-01’s circuit is the star of the show, the chassis certainly doesn’t take a back seat.  Its heavy-duty steel housing is finished in glossy dark-blue enamel with silver metal flake, massive chrome knobs, and seven LEDs in the shape of the Little Dipper constellation; the largest serves and an on/off indicator, the other six as threshold indicators.

The TWA LD-01 Little Dipper may be the most unique, expressive envelope filter on the market today.  It’s funky, vocal-like sounds and astronomical motif are about as spacey-cool as it gets.

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