Some tweaking skill is required to operate the Roctary; and because this pedal offers a plethora of tones it cannot be pigeon-holed into a particular sound. If we consider a simple function, you can add a subtle or very noticeable Octave effect (one octave up and/or one octave down) – in various ratios and a little or a lot in the mix.
In fact, so much in the mix that you can Kill Dry the guitar’s original signal so that you get nothing but the Octave tone(s). The same is true when using any of the features, in that you can Kill Dry if so desired and get nothing but the wet signal. Ignoring the Octave function, you can add some basic Tremolo, either at a very slow speed or a fast speed (but not so fast that it sounds like it’s sputtering out of control) and you can establish the acceleration when switching from a slower to faster rate. There’s also a Leslie setting so that the Tremolo has a swirling quality – just like a Leslie speaker. You also can add some Drive to the tone, which has a fine searing distortion quality. Those are some of the straight-forward tone descriptions. Once you begin tweaking the Bass-Horn (which defines the mix between woofer and horn), the Octaves and the Balance, you can achieve some strange and eerie guitar tones (if done in a subtle manner), and all the way to a huge blaring pipe organ (consequently, somewhere in the middle, there are some very authentic sounding Blues/Rock organ sounds that mimic the real thing).
OVERALL IMPRESSION: The Roctary is a steal at $129 USD – a pedal that has an addictive quality to it (hard not to play around with all the settings for several hours) and that allows such subtle nuances like a touch of Tremolo or Leslie, perhaps a dash of Octave up and/or done, or even a hint of added drive. However, what sets this ‘tremolo’ pedal from the pack is the ability to produce authentic sounding organ tones, from mellow, to Rock to a massive church organ. Consequently, the Roctary is not a one trick pony, but a combination of rotary speaker simulation with Octave features (hence the name, Roctary, merging those concepts) that allows an interesting vibe to your tone or an outright change of instrument with very authentic organ sounds. The various unique tones for both rhythm and lead are impressive enough, but even minor tweaking of any of the controls (Drive, Bass-Horn, Balance and Octaves) can produce very different results, and even more so when you use the Kill Dry setting and experiment with nothing but Wet. The Roctary offers so much that it can be used as a multi-tool on your pedalboard for when you need some Tremolo, or perhaps some Octaves in the mix or when your organist is away from band practice with the flu.
GENERAL USE: Output/Volume is controlled by the Level knob, and since the Roctary is not a big headroom type pedal, you likely can set it about 12-noon to start. The Tremolo aspect involves both a Slow and Fast speed selection, which you can alternate via the Fast footswitch (this allows you to set two different tremolo speeds). You also can set the acceleration (rising speed) between the Slow and Fast settings by holding the Fast footswitch and turning the Slow knob to an appropriate level. By setting the acceleration the Roctary acts just like a real rotary speaker, viz., the woofer rotates at a slower speed than the horn. The Bass-Horn knob varies the mix between woofer and horn (the type of speaker setup found in a Leslie speaker cabinet); think of it as a Tone control, although its effects are a bit more interesting on this pedal. There are two Octave settings (an octave above the dry signal and an octave below), and they can vary in mix, from completely off to very dominant when turned up completely (however, this also depends on the Balance knob that I’ll address soon); the Octave function turns on/off via its own switch. The Drive knob adds some dirt into the signal, which adds sizzle to a guitar tone if used sparingly, but really has its use when creating a ‘dirty organ’ tone, viz., Rock Organ Lead. Now, if you want a Leslie sound, so that the Tremolo has more of a swirling around the room quality, that is achieved by holding down the Fast footswitch while powering up the unit (thereafter, by pressing both footswitches simultaneously you put the Brakes on the speaker rotation and you hear only the usual tremolo; rotation resumes by pressing either footswitch). Another feature is the Kill Dry, which removes your dry signal so that you hear only the Roctary’s sound, and this is done by holding the Fast footswitch and rotating the Octave Up knob full counter-clockwise (reversing those steps reinstates the Dry). The Roctary is not overly complicated to use, but it takes an hour or so of tweaking and experimenting, a rather enjoyable process with this pedal. Next, the Balance indicates the degree of mix between Dry and Wet. If you set the knob about 9-o’clock the Wet is subtle, although audible and can add some very unique characteristics to rhythm and lead. Around 12-noon and the mix is 50/50, although the Roctary can overpower somewhat and depending on the other settings (more particularly the Octaves). Beyond 12-noon and the Roctary dominates. Finally, you can use an Expression Pedal to control Tremolo speed. This feature is great if you want to play some rhythm or lead lines that end with a stronger vibrato (if you listen to the Demo accompanying this review you will hear that effect near the beginning when the lead guitar plays over the acoustic guitar).
OTHER DETAILS: Roctary is a medium-sized pedal measuring 112 mm (L) x 100mm (W) x 55mm (H) with knobs (4.4 x 3.9 x 2.16 inches). The heavy duty steel chassis has a powder coated brown (with a hint of sparkle) paint job with cream lettering – for a pleasant vintage look. The eight plastic knobs are of typical fair and quality and should withstand normal use and abuse. All knobs have good quality pots (smooth and solid when turned). The two footswitches (on/off and tremolo speed selection) produce very subtle clicks when engaged or disengaged – there is no popping or significant signal noise when switching. The cable input and output, the expression pedal input, and the power input all are located in the back, which saves on pedalboard space, but also keeps them in a more secure location. The Roctary does not work via battery power and requires a standard 9VDC (center -) power supply, while consuming only 8mA of power.