Gadget Geek: Zvex Candela Vibrophase

Create effects by candlelight
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A simple tealight is all that’s needed to “fire up” the Candela Vibrophase tremolo pedal from Zvex ( How does it work? Two solar cells take electrical power from the tealight, and a Stirling engine, a 200-year old design, provides mechanical motion powered by the candle’s heat. The Stirling engine uses a hot cylinder, a cooling cylinder, and the expansion and contraction of hot air to drive a flywheel, which drives an optical disc. The oscillations of the optical disc interrupt the light from the candle going to the photocells of the phaser/vibrato circuit. You control the speed of the Stirling engine—and thus the effect—by moving a spherical neodymium magnet closer or further away, and that creates an electro-magnetic force that fights against the magnet and slows down when you get close.

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At $6,000, the Candela Vibrophase was meant to be an inspirational, one-of-a-kind piece; this clever bit of boutique engineering from Zachary Vex takes about 77 hours to make, according to, where you can find all of Zvex’s cool hand-painted effects pedals.