Strymon blueSky Review

 

Strymon is known for their dedication to maximizing the sound quality of common effects as seen in pedals such as the Riverside, Deco, DIG, and El Capitan. Housed in angular aluminum enclosures with bright anodized colors and descriptive names (that often pay homage to the builder’s home state of California), each pedal embodies the vibe of a contemporary sculpture. Strymon is well revered in the ambient and praise communities thanks to their expansive reverbs and delays as seen in the BigSky and TimeLine, respectively. Comprised of 12 reverb machines and vast control knobs, the BigSky is a great toolbox for those seeking a customizable ethereal tone. Preceding the BigSky, Strymon made a more compact stompbox to challenge classic reverb tones: the blueSky.

The Strymon blueSky is a moldable stereo reverberator powered by a dedicated high processing DSP. Housed in a vibrant baby blue aluminum chassis, the blueSky embodies the daydreaming quality of looking into a clear blue sky. The blueSky contains 3 Reverb Types that can be defined with 3 Modes, and the pedal has deep tone control by the way of Low Damp and High Damp knobs. The middle-oriented Pre-Delay knob sets the initial offset of the reverb, and the Mix and Decay knobs are conveniently placed at the top and enlarged for easy access to setting reverb mix and decay length. All of these settings are able to be changed in real time and saved into a preset on the Favorite foot-switch. I tend to have my Favorite set to the furthest extreme of my set in order to provide a quick stomp into spacey contrast.

 

Visit Strymon for more info about the blueSky.

 

Reverb Types

Strymon has considered a wide range of playing styles by choosing Plate, Room, and Spring as the 3 main reverb types.

Plate

With a high mix and shorter decay, Plate offers a long trail of sound reminiscent of a vintage rack effect. This sounds great when paired with a simple overdrive or basic phaser, adding a layer of depth to your sound. Plate is the clarity found in the blueSky. On the Modulate mode Plate sounds similar to a heavy chorus effect with clear high frequencies peaking out. Crank the Decay all the way up to hear a crisp, spacey sound.

Room

For the ambient lovers, and creators of lush walls of sound, Room reverb is your go-to setting. Room should be renamed to Room(s), as this reverb captures a large scale of room size options for reverbs. Almost behaving as a simple delay, the idea of enlarging the “room” you are playing in is a result of changing the Pre-Delay and Decay. Room can sound like a basic echo that quickly turns into a repetitive daze of sound bouncing off large walls. When Modulated, your signal diffuses and pools together for hazy long tones. Room sounds great on everything from single line riffs to large open chords. Turn up the Pre-Delay with the Mix at 100% for an ambient sound that swells and echoes almost infinitely.

Spring

Spring is a great option for those who want a more classic sounding reverb. Keep the mix low and you’ll get a hint of soft reverberations similar to hitting a bell with a mallet. Adding a slight tremolo to the tail of your input, Spring is effective on rhythmic chords and leads. I particularly love using Spring paired with Mod on surf rock styled riffs to get an old school beach bum vibe.

Shimmer

While I’ve covered the sounds of the 3 Reverb Types in Norm mode with a few mentions of the Mod option, the Shimmer mode creates the most unique quality of the blueSky sound. Shimmer can completely transform your signal into an organ, spaceship, or a beautiful growing pad that sounds like it would hail from a secret fairy garden. Shimmer on Plate is the organ playing in a sunken cathedral. This combination offers long expansive bell tones that swell upwards and surround your signal. Using Low Damp and High Damp allows you to pick apart these tones to perfectly embellish your existing sound. Shimmer on Room seems to focus on lower harmonic sounds, providing an interesting pitch difference when switching between settings. These frequencies act more like feedback, combining and washing together to create a great shoegaze wall of sound. With Pre-Delay all the way up, this Shimmer combo gives you a delayed attack that is more like a fade in. Shimmer on Spring adds more character to the bouncing, unpredictable nature found in an acoustic spring reverb. Even with Decay and Mix all the way up, the Shimmer still extends and recoils with the Spring sound, adding a metallic quality to the tail end of your signal.

Aside from the surface knob options, there’s also a -3dB Boost/Cut feature which can be achieved by pressing and holding the 2 foot-swtiches and turning the Mix knob. This is a handy feature for matching the signal level to your other pedals or adding a little boost or cut if needed.

Following the theme of other dual foot-switch Strymon pedals, the 3 reverb Types and Modes are only accessible via a small vertical switch. Changing the reverb types and settings quickly is rather difficult in a live performance. When the blueSky is mounted on a pedalboard, I’ve found it to be possible only when performing without shoes or bending down to switch between settings. This issue is solved by saving your preferred settings onto the Favorite foot-switch, but of course this limits you to only 1 preset and 1 live bank. This can be a draw back for those wanting more preset options, but the great sound quality of the available reverbs still makes the Strymon blueSky a worthy consideration.

 

 

The Strymon blueSky is a compact stereo reverberator that offers tone shaping possibilities through 3 reverb types, 3 mode variations including an excellent Shimmer, and multiple control knobs. With many reverb options it is easy to get lost when trying to find the perfect one. The blueSky contains a simple mix of classic reverbs that are able to be expanded into beautiful ambient designs that preserve the clarity of your tone. Reverb is one of my favorite effects and something I researched intensely before dedicating my rig to one pedal. Purchased years ago, my blueSky continues to provide a wide range of subtle echoes and atmospheric pads that always fit well in a live set.

That concludes our Strymon blueSky review. Thanks for reading.

Strymon Riverside Multistage Drive Review

Strymon has become synonymous with high-end digital effects pedals with the builder’s flagship TimeLine, BigSky, and Mobius pedals being pinnacles of delay, reverb, and modulation effects, respectively. But while Strymon have covered most bases with their wide range of stompboxes, many guitarists have been clamoring for the builder to tackle a dirt pedal in some form. The Riverside Multistage Drive is their first such offering, and it’s a take on an amp style overdrive & distortion that’s at once familiar yet quite unlike anything that has come before it.

Damage Control

While releasing an overdrive/distortion unit may appear to be a new frontier for Strymon, it’s important for guitarists to remember that the core team behind Strymon’s numerous pedals previously developed several tube-based overdrive and distortion pedals under the Damage Control moniker before later rolling out the Strymon brand. But this new foray into distortion shouldn’t be considered a return their roots for the crew that’s been around since the Damage Control days. Instead, the Riverside is a pedal that encompasses the history of the team’s work together, harnessing their years of accrued experience and sound design expertise while treading entirely new ground; the result has ushered in a surprisingly bold and unexpected new kind of drive pedal.

Features:

Sound Design:

  • Custom cascading multistage distortion topology provides a wide range of tube-inspired drive tones
  • Digitally controlled analog class A JFET input gain stage maximizes headroom while adding up to 20dB of pure analog gain
  • Precision crafted DSP gain stages provide detailed complexity and responsiveness
  • Low gain channel for smooth classic overdrive
  • High gain channel for modern saturated distortion
  • 3-band EQ with independent Bass, Middle and Treble controls
  • Selectable post-analog gain mid-band EQ push
  • Presence switch to tailor the sound for use with all amplifiers from dark to bright
  • Optional variable-threshold noise reduction helps tame noisy guitar pickups

Ins, Outs, Switches:

  • High impedance mono input
  • Mono output
  • Favorite footswitch to save a favorite setting
  • Expression pedal input allows the connection an expression pedal for simultaneous morphing control over multiple parameters (Expression mode), or logarithmic taper for smooth volume control (Volume mode)
  • Boost pedal input allows connection of an external footswitch for up to +6dB of analog boost, or to toggle the Favorite preset on other Strymon pedals (Favorite Out mode)

Audio Quality:

  • Ultra low noise, high performance 24-bit 96kHz A/D and
  • D/A converters provide uncompromising audio quality
  • Premium analog front end and output section
  • Super high performance SHARC DSP in a compact form factor
  • 32-bit floating point processing

More:

  • True Bypass (electromechanical relay switching) or selectable transparent Analog Buffered Bypass
  • Strong and lightweight anodized gold aluminum chassis
  • 9V DC power supply included
  • Power requirements: maximum 9 volts DC center-negative, with a minimum of 250mA of current
  • Dimensions:
    – 4.5″ deep x 4″ wide x 1.75″ tall
    – 11.4 cm deep x 10.2 cm wide x 4.4 cm tall
  • Designed and built in the USA

Visit Strymon for more info about the Riverside.

Sound & Performance:

To simply call the Riverside an overdrive, distortion, or even an “amp-in-a-box” pedal doesn’t do justice to the range of dirt sounds contained within this unassuming little pedal. The pedal’s 3-knob tone section and inclusion of a Presence switch indicate an amp-like style of tonal control which gives the Riverside massive flexibility for sculpting a wide range of overdrive and distortion tones to suit your guitar and amp set-up.

The Riverside excels when used as a more traditional overdrive effect, kicking it on to hit your amp a little harder right in the sweet spot to induce some break-up from the amp while adding some extra grit from the pedal as well. You can also keep your amp completely clean and rev up the Riverside’s Drive so that the pedal does all the heavy lifting. This approach can add all kinds of drive to your tone, from classic rock and blues overdriven sounds to high-gain full stack roar.

What makes the Riverside so enjoyable to play is how well it responds no matter where you have the Drive knob set. This is arguably the pedal’s secret sauce, and Strymon most likely isn’t going to share a white paper detailing how they’ve managed to get such a responsive range of playable sounds out of a drive pedal. Just know that for all the talk from builders in the past about how a particular dirt pedal has a wide range of usable tones, the Strymon Riverside surpasses almost any pedal I’ve come across in this area. Basically, the complex algorithm shifts the response of the pedal through the range of the parameter knobs to offer a varying degree of response depending on where the knobs are set. Every point of adjustable range has been fine-tuned to provide usable sounds. Every setting is a sweet spot. It just depends on what kind of sound you need in a given moment. But the Riverside is musical and inspiring no matter where you have the knobs set.

It’s also commendable how well the pedal responds to your input signal level. You can set the Drive to your preferred max level and cut your guitar’s volume level to reduce the drive from the pedal while maintaining a tonally balanced sound. This is a hallmark of many great pedals and amps, yet the Riverside seems to reinvent the game here in the subtlest of ways. An irony in playing the Riverside is that while I find myself using most pedals in a binary, off/on, “digital” manner, bypassing and engaging them as needed, the Riverside warrants a more analog playability in how it encourages expression from the guitar’s volume knob and the pedal’s Drive parameter. Pull out and expression pedal and “play” the Drive; you’ll see and hear what I mean.

From Low To High

There are 2 primary gain modes in the Riverside: Low & High. Simply put, think of the Low mode as your cleaner, milder drive channel. It’s better suited for general overdrive duties akin to how you’d use a standard lower gain overdrive pedal. It can get pretty gritty when you crank the Drive, yielding mild distortion when cranked. As the Drive knob morphs pedal’s response throughout its entire range, you’ll discover a wide range of usable tones and different applications.

Flipping over to the High setting adds an immediate girth to the sound, making the Riverside sound bigger and fuller. This is where the pedal really seems to take off from a typical overdrive or distortion pedal and ascend to a level of amp-like feel and responsiveness. It’s often difficult not to crank the Drive a bit and riff out with the thick distortion this mode offers. You can tame it and still use it like an overdrive, albeit a drive that’s more present and that sounds “bigger” than many drive pedals. Stack it with an overdriven amp channel for a ripping lead tone or simply use it on its own for adding an extra drive channel to a clean amp. It’s worth noting that the High setting is plenty capable of covering classic rock grit to modern high-gain distortion. With cranked gain you can even scoop the mids for the thrashier metal distortion that retains more note definition and clarity than hairier, muddier noiseboxes.

The Riverside has a built-in noise reduction feature (consult the manual on how to set it to your needs). This is invaluable when using higher gain settings as it’ll help keep your sound tight while maintaining a low noise level when you’re not playing. Kudos to Strymon for squeezing this feature in and for how smoothly it operates once you set it to taste.

Push It!

The Push switch adds a mid EQ “push”. Sounds simple enough, but it’s worth flipping back and forth on various settings to hear how it affects your tone depending on how you have the other parameters set. An easy use for it is to simply apply some extra mid-boost for your overdrive sounds. I also find it rather appealing to activate the Push when using the High gain mode; whether for classic distortion or mid-scooped metal tones, the extra mid presence lets your guitar sound cut through a bit more and adds a bit of extra touch sensitivity. It just adds a little extra bite without any top-end harshness.

There are some other interesting features that round out this exceptional pedal. You can set the Riverside to either true bypass or buffered bypass to accommodate either preference. There’s a Volume Mode which allows the use of an external expression pedal to control the Riverside’s output volume. You can also use an external foot-switch to control a boost up to +6dB. (The Boost and Volume Mode can also be used if the pedal is bypassed when set to buffered bypass.) There’s an onboard Favorite switch for saving a favorite preset to be recalled at will. There’s also a Favorite Output mode which allows you to activate the Favorite setting of another compatible Strymon pedal when pressing the Riverside’s Favorite switch. And of course you can use a Strymon Favorite MiniSwitch to activate/bypass the Favorite setting on the Riverside.

I was pleased that Strymon chose to have the Riverside “remember” its bypass state when last powered on. This is useful for effects switcher based rigs where you’d typically want all of your pedals to automatically enter their activated state when powering up your rig. But this does bring attention to my one major gripe about the pedal. I wish Strymon had implemented the possibility for the EXP jack to accept TRS switch control of the Bypass and Favorite foot-switches, similar to amp-style remote channel switching. Some other noteworthy boutique pedals do this, and it’s extremely convenient when using an effects switcher that has TRS control outs so that you don’t have to waste an effects loop to accommodate the a pedal. The Riverside sounds amazing enough to integrate into such a rig despite this inconvenience, but it’s a persisting annoyance considering a software update could potentially add this useful feature. And of course, it would be nice if Strymon would finally head the call to add MIDI control to their compact pedals, but I’m not gonna give ’em too much heat for that here. The TRS switching is the most essential order of business this pedal needs in a firmware update. With that being said, the Riverside is still deserving of my highest commendation.

The Strymon Riverside Multistage Drive is arguably one of the most versatile and musical “dirt” pedals ever released. If you noticed that I didn’t really talk about the fact that this pedal is a primarily a “digital” distortion pedal (with an analog front end), that’s because frankly, it doesn’t matter. The Riverside sounds incredible and blows away nearly any other pedal you can compare it to for amp-style overdrive and distortion. It may be hard for some guitarists to get that excited for what may seem at first like just another drive pedal, but the Riverside is a modern masterpiece of drive tones.

That concludes our Strymon Riverside review. Thanks for reading.

Strymon DIG Review – Best Dual Digital Delay Pedal?

Strymon-DIG-Review-Best-Dual-Digital-Delay-Pedal-01

The Strymon DIG Dual Digital Delay pedal follows in the foot-steps of the widely acclaimed El Capistan & TimeLine delay pedals and is aimed at replicating and expanding upon classic rack delay units from the 1980’s. The DIG features 3 delay types – an early 80’s inspired adm mode, a mid 80’s 12 bit mode, and an ultra high fidelity 24/96 mode. Aside from the various digital delay voicings, the biggest draw may be the unit’s twin delay lines which can be run in series, parallel, or ping pong (in stereo) configuration. There are 3 tap divisions for the main delay line and 5 subdivisions for the second delay line which let you create a wide array of offset rhythmic patterns. And yes, there’s even modulation for adding movement to the delays and of course stereo for pro rigs and complex twin amp setups. The DIG looks like a real powerhouse delay pedal. Let’s run down its full feature set and dig in.

Features:

Sound Design

  • Two simultaneous, integrated delays, with unique digital rack delay voicings
  • Five dual delay adjustment and tone shaping knobs: Time, Time 2, Mix, Mix 2, Repeats
  • One modern and two classic digital delay voicings: 24/96, adm, 12 bit
  • Five rhythmic subdivisions: Triplet, Eighth, Golden Ratio, Dotted Eighth, Dotted Quarter
  • Three choices for delay line modulation: Off, Light, Deep
  • Five “hidden” knobs for deep dual delay control: Delay 1 Subdivision, Sync/Free Mode, Filter, Config, Delay 2 Repeats
  • Selectable Free Mode disables subdivisions and synchronization
  • Press and hold Circular Repeats effect
  • 20ms – 1.6s delay range (40ms – 3.2s with Half Note Delay 1 Subdivision)

Ins, Outs, Switches

  • High impedance mono input, with selectable TRS stereo input
  • Stereo output
  • Three signal routing configurations: Series, Parallel, Ping Pong
  • Tap tempo and Bypass footswitches
  • Expression pedal input allows the connection of either an expression pedal (for selectable control over any knob parameter), external tap pedal (for remote control of tempo), or Favorite switch (to save a Favorite preset)

Audio Quality

  • Super low noise, high performance 24-bit 96kHz A/D and D/A converters
  • 115db typical signal to noise
  • Analog dry path for a zero latency dry signal that is never converted to digital
  • +8dBu maximum input level easily handles instrument and line signals
  • 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response
  • Premium analog front end and output section
  • Super high performance SHARC DSP in a compact form factor
  • 32-bit floating point processing

More

  • True Bypass (electromechanical relay switching)
  • Selectable Trails Mode with high quality, transparent Analog Buffered Bypass mode
  • 9V center negative DC power supply included, 250mA current draw
  • Strong and lightweight anodized carnation pink chassis
  • Designed and built in the USA

The DIG comes in the familiar smaller housing that’s recognizable from Strymon’s Deco and El Capistan dTape Echo pedals. It has a classy minimalist appeal with the control knobs and foot-switches sensibly spaced out atop its clean, anodized aluminum enclosure. The inside of the pedal shows a continuation of Strymon’s precision engineering and attention to detail with components cleanly mounted.

Strymon-DIG-Review-Best-Dual-Digital-Delay-Pedal-02

The pedal has dedicated Time and Mix knobs for each delay with both delays sharing a single Repeats knob. The Time knob is the master delay time knob, and the Time 2 knob sets the offset subdivision for Delay 2. A Type toggle-switch selects from the 3 available delay modes, and a Mod toggle-switch lets you select from 2 preset modulation amounts (light & deep) or no modulation.

The Tap foot-switch overrides the value of the Time knob for setting your tempo easily during a performance by simply tapping in your desired tempo. Easy to use and essential for accurate delay timing.

While the DIG features a single input and 2 dedicated stereo output jacks, you can open the pedal and flip the jumper to configure the input for TRS stereo operation (same as with the Strymon Deco and many of their other smaller pedals). This allows for full stereo integration in your rig including placement in the effects loops of 2 amps at once. Check out our video below to hear how that sounds.

Strymon-DIG-Review-Best-Dual-Digital-Delay-Pedal-03

The Science of DIG

A brief excursion before we continue. Strymon also published extensive information about the DIG regarding the rack delay technology it draws upon and the research that went into the pedal’s development. The DIG Digital Delay Technology White Paper is worth reading to understand the science behind the sounds you’ll hear. While many companies employ crude methods for attempting to emulate iconic sounds from the past, it never ceases to amaze how much rigorous effort Strymon puts into the creation of their pedals and their effects algorithms.

The adm (Adaptive Delta Modulation) delay draws off a conversion method that was originally utilized in telecommunications. The shortcomings of that conversion process created the sought after percussive delay characteristics that are recreated in the DIG’s adm mode. Strymon also sought to emulate the sonic characteristics of the circuitry in these classic rack delays, and the 12 bit delay type shows the most distinct tonality in its warmer, lo-fi texture. The 24/96 algorithm is an exercise in pristine digital precision, seeking to reproduce the full sonic integrity of the source material with subtle dynamic attenuation to let it better sit in the mix with your dry signal.

Visit Strymon for more info about the DIG.

See the lowest price on eBay.

Sound & Performance:

First, let’s talk about the delay types available and their associated aural qualities in use. Taking you back to the early 80’s, the adm mode has a sharper sounding attack that lends itself well to rhythmic delay playing. It’s generally useful when you want a delay sound that has a percussive bite. Each repeat hits with a distinct clarity and makes them noticeable even in a busy swirl of lingering echoes. The 12 bit mode has a noticeably darker sound in comparison to the other modes and is the warmest of the three. It’s a bit grainy but not quite as dirty as a typical ‘lo-fi’ digital delay pedal. Still, the 12 bit mode has the most distinct ‘character’ to its sound and can pass for an analog style delay that’s cleaner than most. The 24/96 mode is a full-on pristine digital delay with a hint of dynamics processing. The result is a very smooth delay sound that works great whenever a super clean delay is called for. I’d particularly recommend this mode for use with overdriven and lead tones to preserve the tonality of the distortion you’ve already dialed in from your amp and other pedals.

While the 3 delay types do have subtle variations in tone, you can further sculpt your delay sound with the Filter (secondary function of the Mix knob). This lets you roll off either the highs (turn left) or lows (turn right) or maintain a flat signal response (leave at noon). You could further darken the 12 bit mode for an even more analog-like response or maybe cut the low end in adm mode for brighter rhythmic comping.

 

Strymon-DIG-Review-Best-Dual-Digital-Delay-Pedal-05

The DIG’s Secondary knob functions access more options.

 

The Mod switch brings in two preset variations of modulation movement: light & deep. The light setting is very subtle and is a great always-on setting for most use if you like a hint of movement in your delays. The deep setting is more prominent without being too overwhelming. Try using modulation when using both delays with a higher Repeats setting; the subtle pitch variation helps the delays breathe, creating more depth and a huge atmospheric sound.

Master of Duality

Aside from the gorgeous sounds of the delays offered, it’s having 2 separate delay lines that makes the DIG such a standout pedal. Bringing up the Mix knob lets you hear Delay 1. The timing of Delay 1 can be set with the Time knob or tapped in via the Tap foot-switch. The default subdivision for Delay 1 is quarter notes, but you can also select half notes or dotted eighth notes (Delay 1 sub-function). Not only are these 3 of the most commonly used subdivisions for general single delay use, but they’re arguably 3 of the more useful subdivisions to start with for a dual delay setup. The default quarter note setting is a great place to start to become acquainted with the rhythmic variations you get when blending it with Delay 2 via the Mix 2 knob.

Strymon-DIG-Review-Best-Dual-Digital-Delay-Pedal-04Delay 2 is offset from Delay 1 by the subdivision set with the Time 2 knob. The 5 available subdivisions for Delay 2 are: triplets, eighth notes, golden ratio, dotted eighth notes, and dotted quarter notes. This provides plenty of rhythmic variation for your delays. I often gravitate towards the dotted eighth note setting, but the other options are worth trying as well. The golden ratio setting is particularly interesting as this adds an unorthodox feel to your delay rhythms. You can also activate Free Mode (Time 2 sub-function) to use both delays out of sync from each other. Very cool for dual slapback echoes at lower settings or chorusing when the knobs are rolled all the way counter-clockwise and some Mod is added.

The DIG’s default configuration is Series mode which lets the delays cascade into each other. With a higher Repeats setting the delays will start with an interesting rhythmic burst and then wash out in a thick ambience of echoes. It’s often best to keep the Repeats set reasonably low if you want to retain a prominent rhythmic dynamic while you play in Series. If you switch the pedal to Parallel, the 2 delays will trigger separately and remain in sync if DIG is in Sync mode. The rhythms may be somewhat less complex than if you feed them into each other in Series, but you’ll maintain the rhythmic definition even when using a very high Repeats level. Parallel mode also sounds amazing in stereo (see our video above). The Ping Pong mode will function the same as Series mode in mono. But if you’re playing in stereo, the delays will interact and bounce across the stereo field as you play. Be sure to have both Mix knobs set reasonably high to get the full effect.

The Circular Repeats effect allows you to grab the audio that’s currently being delayed and extend the repeats for as long as you want. The effect is activated at any time by pressing and holding the Tap foot-switch. It simply continues the repeats at the current volume level without fading until you release the foot-switch. You can play over what’s repeating without the DIG delaying what you’re playing over the Circular Repeats. It’s a very cool function that can add some unique delay sounds to your live performances. Try it after reverb or other delay pedal; using the DIG’s Circular Repeats to repeat the echoes of an analog delay without inducing oscillation is mesmerizing.

The EXP jack allows you to plug in an expression pedal, an external tap foot-switch or Strymon’s Favorite switch to save/recall a single preset. The expression pedal is set to control the Time by default. Make sure Delay 2 is synced to Delay 1 to control the timing of both delays at once. You can get some crazy warped sounds with higher Repeats settings. Considering the complexity of sounds offered by the DIG, it’ll be most tempting to use the Favorite switch to be able to recall a particular complex sound.

The only real flaw with the DIG is that it’s so good and there are so many possibilities available that you’ll wish for more presets. I’d personally like to see Strymon implement MIDI on their smaller guitar pedals including the DIG as this could facilitate CC control and preset selection for guitarists with high-end MIDI-enabled guitar rigs. It would be especially awesome to use a MIDI CC message to trigger the Circular Repeats function. But While the Strymon TimeLine remains their flagship delay pedal (and arguably one of the best delay pedals around period), the DIG is holding a space of its own to make it a very worthwhile consideration for anyone seeking a simple or rhythmically complex digital delay sound. And for the record, the DIG is so good that it could sit alongside a TimeLine on your pedalboard and might even get my vote for the best individual delay machine Strymon has released to date. It’s that good.

Strymon-DIG-Review-Best-Dual-Digital-Delay-Pedal-07

Overall-Rating-5.0

The Strymon DIG is an absolute masterpiece in the realm of digital delay pedals and nails the vibe of those classic 80’s rack delay sounds while offering pristine modern digital delay tones as well. This pedal would be my first recommendation for anyone seeking one or two outstanding digital delay sounds to be used during gigs. The 3 delay types are sonically gorgeous. The basic controls are simple to use and dial in. And the rhythmic complexity of the DIG’s dual delay lines makes for some very interesting delay sounds. Guitarists with pro rigs might wish for more presets and MIDI implementation, but less complex rigs won’t miss those features. And, yes, playing the DIG in stereo is on another level altogether. Dig it?

That concludes our Strymon DIG review. Thanks for reading.

 

Want to buy the Strymon DIG?

See The Lowest Price On eBay

Strymon Deco Review – Best Doubletracker & Tape Effects Pedal?

Strymon-Deco-Review-Best-Doubletracker-Tape-Effects-Pedal-01

The Strymon Deco is an ambitious attempt to capture all the nuances and effects that can be achieved with two reel-to-reel tape decks in a single stompbox. While some pedals try to simulate tape echo or double-tracking effects, the Deco covers a huge range of tape style flanging, chorus, slapback echo, and longer tape echo delay up to 500ms. There’s even tape style saturation to add extra warmth, grit, and overdrive to your sound. Strymon have proven with their masterfully crafted TimeLine, Mobius, BigSky, DIG, & El Capistan pedals (to name a few) that they’re up to the task of tackling just about any type of effect, and the Deco looks like their next DSP powerhouse to provide guitarists with yet more unique sounds that you won’t find in any other pedal. Let’s talk features and get the tape rolling.

Features:

Sound Design:

  • Detailed recreation of the mechanics and technology of two vintage studio reel-to-reel tape decks and their interactions
  • Nuanced sonic delivery of the classic saturation effects of the tape record/playback process
  • Simple and intuitive Lag Time knob allows for slapback delays, tape echoes, tape flanging, tape chorusing
  • Two Tape Saturation adjustment and tone shaping knobs: Saturation, Level
  • Three Doubletracker adjustment and tone shaping knobs: Lag Time, Blend, Wobble
  • Three Doubletracker blend types to tailor doubletracked sound: Sum, Invert, Bounce
  • Five “hidden” knobs for deep tone tweaking: High Trim, Low Trim, Auto-Flange Time, Wide Stereo Mode, +/- 3dB Boost/Cut
  • Press and hold studio-inspired Auto-Flange effect

Ins, Outs, Switches:

  • High impedance mono input (internal jumper enables selectable TRS stereo input)
  • Stereo output
  • Two signal routing modes: Standard, Wide Stereo Mode
  • Individual Tape Saturation Bypass and Doubletracker Bypass footswitches
  • Expression pedal input allows the connection of either an expression pedal (for selectable control over any knob parameter), external tap pedal (for remote time control of Doubletracker), or Favorite switch (to save a Favorite preset)

Audio Quality:

  • Super low noise, high performance 24-bit 96kHz A/D and D/A converters
  • 110db signal to noise
  • +8dBu maximum input level easily handles instrument and line signals
  • Premium analog front end and output section
  • Super high performance SHARC DSP in a compact form factor
  • 32-bit floating point processing

More:

  • True Bypass (electromechanical relay switching)
  • High quality, transparent Analog Buffered Bypass mode
  • 9V center negative DC power supply included, 250mA current draw
  • Strong and lightweight electroless nickel plated aluminum chassis
  • Designed and built in the USA

The Deco is housed in Strymon’s familiar smaller aluminum enclosure like the El Capistan & DIG pedals, only this time sporting an electroless nickel plated “chrome” look instead of the usual anodized coloring. The arrangement of knobs, jacks, and foot-switches is similar as well for an overall appearance that fits in with Strymon’s growing family of effects. On the inside the stacked PCB’s are orderly with components carefully laid out, the Analog Devices SHARC processor being primarily responsible for computing and conjuring the Deco’s tape-inspired magic. The whole package is a work of precision engineering in pedal form.

Strymon-Deco-Review-Best-Doubletracker-Tape-Effects-Pedal-03

While the knobs cover the basic functionality needed for general use, pressing and holding the 2 foot-switches lets the knob adjust other hidden parameters. Saturation & Volume control High Trim & Low Trim, respectively. The Blend knob gives you up to 3dB of Boost/Cut. The Lag Time adjusts the Auto-Flange Time. The Wobble knob enables and disables Wide Stereo Mode. We’ll discuss these features in use in a moment.

Strymon-Deco-Review-Best-Doubletracker-Tape-Effects-Pedal-02

The pedal features a single mono in, stereo out configuration as well. If you want to use the Deco in a full stereo setup, you’ll need a TRS Y-cable with a ¼” stereo plug and 2 ¼” inputs. Then you’ll need to open the pedal and switch the jumper from Mono to Stereo input operation. It’s definitely worth trying if you have a stereo setup. An EXP jack lets you use an expression pedal, tap tempo foot-switch (for adjusting Lag Time), or the Strymon Favorite switch for recalling a single saved preset.

Visit Strymon for more info about the Deco.

See the lowest price on eBay.

Sound & Performance:

As fascinating a concept as the Deco is, I wasn’t as excited about this pedal as I should have been until I plugged it in and played it. I think it might be a little difficult for some younger guitarists to appreciate what the Deco aims to do and what exactly it has pulled off. Simply put, the Deco is the most satisfying and easy to use modern tool for replicating the effects and tonality that can be achieved by using a pair of vintage reel-to-reel tape decks.

The Deco is separated into 2 effects sections, each with their own Bypass foot-switch. On the right is the Doubletracker which provides a simple 3-knob layout for manipulating and mixing audio between the 2 virtual tape decks. There’s also a switch for setting the decks to be in phase (Sum), reversed or flipped 180 degrees (Invert) for correcting phase issues or changing tonality, or to send the output of deck two to the input of deck one for a more expansive sound or ping-pong like delay effects (Bounce). On the left is the Tape Saturation section which gives you controls for Saturation amount and overall Volume output level.

 

Strymon-Deco-Review-Best-Doubletracker-Tape-Effects-Pedal-04

On the left are the Deco’s primary parameter controls. On the right are the sub-parameters accessed by pressing and holding both bypass switches while turning the appropriate knob.

 

Tape Saturation

Let’s get down and dirty first. I was initially very skeptical about the digital saturation as most digital overdrive and distortion effects fall short of their analog counterparts. But it’s the nuances of the Tape Saturation that make the sound of the Deco so unique. If you think about how tape is utilized in the studio, it’s as a medium for recording audio. The sum of your entire guitar signal would be recorded to tape during audio tracking. Thus, the Deco is usually best suited at or near the end of your entire signal chain. You could put it somewhere in the mix with your delay and reverb pedals, in your amp’s effects loop, or maybe even inserted after the microphone preamp that’s miking your guitar cab (Deco has a Studio Mode specifically for this type of application). The kind of saturation you achieve from driving the input of a tape deck is different from what get from putting a fuzz, distortion, or overdrive pedal in front of your amp. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try it in front of your amp (as that sounds pretty good, too), but keeping in mind the perspective of how tape was used helps bring out the best of what the Deco offers.

Even it you keep the Saturation set very low, you’ll still notice a subtle hint of the Deco’s character and mild compression applied to your signal. As you increase the Saturation you’ll be treated to additional warmth that can extend up to a full-on tape flavored overdrive. The compression adds a smooth pillowy feel to the sound at higher settings that reminds me of optical compression. This grit imparted on your sound is surprisingly pleasing when it’s placed in front your amp or in an effects loop after your preamp. The sound doesn’t get overly harsh on the top-end, but there’s a sub-parameter for High Trim if you want to tame it or darken your sound a little. A sub-parameter for Low Trim helps reduce low-end if the saturation gets a little boomy. This is useful with higher Saturation settings and especially when using neck pickups with lots of low-end presence. The tone Trim settings apply to both the Tape Saturation and Doubletracker effects, affecting your overall tone.

Doubletracker

The Deco’s Doubletracker is in a league of its own in terms of the range of effects it achieves. While there are plenty of tape echo inspired effects (including the Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo), never before has one pedal produced such a wide range of classic tape effects. The Blend knob sets the balance between the 2 decks. Keep it around noon when starting out get a feel for the different effects. At the lower Lag Time settings left of noon, you’ll experience tape flanging effects. When you bring the knob up to the area between 12-1 o’clock you’ll hear tape chorus doubling effects. Setting Lag Time between 1-3 o’clock increases the timing between the decks for a slapback tape echo. And bringing the Lag Time up past 3 o’clock induces a full on single repeat tape echoes up to 500ms.

For all the various Doubletracker effects the Wobble knob is used to bring in a subtle to more intense modulation of tape speed to create movement. This will let your flange sway back and forth even. You can even achieve through zero flanging by dialing in the Lag Time around 9 o’clock with Wobble around 10 o’clock. The Wobble also adds the subtle movement for authentic tape chorusing sounds. When you’re dialing in slapback or tape echo effects, the Wobble with induce some of that “wow and flutter” style warped pitch modulation. If you keep Wobble at minimum while dialing in the Lag Time at lower values, you can create interesting filtered tones. Try flipping the phase between Sum & Invert to find an interesting filtered sound that adds color to your music.

Aside from the handy phase adjustment the Sum & Invert settings provide, the Bounce mode adds an extra layer of dimension to your sound. By feeding the output of deck 2 back into deck 1, you’ll achieve a bigger sound with an extra echo repeat being heard on the second deck. It’ll make the flanging somewhat less prominent when using low Lag Time settings, but the chorus sounds are interesting in this mode. You’ll find the Bounce setting most useful for adding an extra repeat to your delays.

It’s worth noting that in most cases, if you’re chasing authentic vintage inspired tape effects, you’ll probably want to use the Tape Saturation and the Doubletracker together. This gives you the full experience of tape effects and tape tone. Even with lower Saturation settings the warm blanket of tape tone imparted on the Doubletracker’s effects is simply gorgeous. It’s not mandatory, of course, and you’ll also find appreciation for the unsaturated, hi-fi sounds of the tape effects on their own. It’s just as tempting to leave the Tape Saturation always-on for a signature tape coloration that enhances your sound.

Deco In Stereo

Strymon-Deco-Review-Best-Doubletracker-Tape-Effects-Pedal-05You can have a lot of fun using the Deco in stereo. Even if you don’t normally run a stereo rig, try feeding your guitar from the mixer into the Deco via insert and split the output to the left and right output monitors or PA speakers. If you are running 2 amps, put the Deco in the effects loops of both and get ready for some fun tape echo excursions. The pedal has 2 outputs for running it to the front of 2 amps, but if you open the pedal and set the jumper to stereo input, you can use a TRS cable for true stereo I/O operation and more flexible positioning in a stereo effects chain.

The default stereo mode already sounds impressive, but if you set the Deco to Wide Stereo Mode you’ll send decks 1 & 2 to the left and right audio channels, respectively. From here you can adjust the Blend knob to opposite extremes to hear your signal on each side of the stereo field. The sounds are simply huge. When using Bounce mode with tape echo in regular stereo mode, the second repeat bounces back to the left channel. When in Wide Stereo Mode, the second repeat stays on the right. Subtle differences, but each worth exploring to find the sound you’re looking for.

Admittedly, the flanging effects are more prominent when you hear the 2 decks closer together in regular stereo or in mono, so Wide Stereo Mode isn’t always the clear first choice just because you’re running a stereo setup. Also, the cool comb filtering effects you can achieve with low Lag Times and no Wobble are mainly heard in regular stereo mode or mono. With that being said, the Deco is right at home in a mono rig either at the end of your effects chain in front of a single amp or in your effects loops, so don’t think you’re missing out by not running it in stereo.

Expression Pedal Insanity

While you can use a tap foot-switch for setting Lag Time or a Strymon Favorite Switch for recalling a single preset, plugging in an expression pedal adds the most interactive fun to the Deco. You can control any single knob function via exp pedal, but the Deco is already preset to control Lag Time, arguably the most fun parameter to get crazy with. You can sweep through the range of flanging and chorus sounds up to the slapback and longer tape echoes. Quick heel-to-toe transitioning (and vice versa) lets you warp the tape syncing for extreme pitch bending sounds. You can do all kinds of wacky things that wouldn’t have been so easy to replicate with actual tape decks in the studio.

The Ultimate Tape Effects Solution?

The Strymon Deco is amazing at everything it does. It perfectly executes its sonic vision and provides a wealth of great sounding tape inspired effects in a single compact pedal. I can only think of a few shortcomings, the most glaring being the lack of MIDI implementation. When Strymon standardized this compact form-factor for their smaller guitar pedals, MIDI effects switchers hadn’t quite become as popular are they are today. The convenience of MIDI control on high-end digital pedals should be the norm at this point, especially with Strymon pedals considering MIDI is so well-integrated in their flagship TimeLine, BigSky, & Mobius pedals. While presets would have been a dream come true considering all the amazing sounds the Deco offers, even just MIDI program change functionality for the Deco’s Type & mode options and CC control of Bypass & knob parameters would have made a huge difference for guitarists with pro-level pedalboards and rack rigs. Yes, you can use the Strymon Favorite Switch to save and recall a single preset. But there’s just so much this pedal can do, and it’s disappointing to have to spend a gig reaching down to turn knobs when you could change sounds more easily via presets and/or MIDI.

Also, while the single tape echo (or double echo with Bounce) is sufficient and adheres to the Deco’s strict vision, I’d love to have seen a Repeats control for adding additional repeats that can extend all the way into full-on tape oscillation. Considerations might have been made against this idea in favor of maintaining a familiar and less complex knob layout and/or to keep with simple reel-to-reel tape deck performance options. Of course, adding this extended tape echo versatility to the Deco might also have cannibalized sales of Strymon’s excellent El Capistan, and the company has shown reluctance to implement features in one pedal that could render another obsolete (Ex: El Capistan vs TimeLine’s similar, yet simpler dTape machine & Lex vs Mobius’ stripped down Rotary machine). While this undoubtedly keeps a greater Strymon presence on some pedalboards and keeps multiple products relevant to consumers, I’d love to see Strymon condense some pedal concepts while maintaining a full range of features to better serve the needs of end users. Come on, Strymon, release the flagship all-in-one multi-effects pedal already.

Minor gripes and commentary aside, the Deco is simply stunning to behold and my expectations were far surpassed in how much I thought I’d enjoy playing it. This is some of the highest praise I can give as inspiration is priceless.

Strymon-Deco-Review-Best-Doubletracker-Tape-Effects-Pedal-06

Overall-Rating-4.5

The Strymon Deco is a one-of-a-kind pedal that beautifully captures the experience and sound of using twin reel-to-reel tape decks. The Deco’s collection of tape effects – flange, chorus, slapback echo, tape echo, & tape saturation – are stunning in sound quality, implementation, and ease of use, making this pedal an indispensable tool for stage and studio use. Even if your leanings are towards modern tones and effects, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well the Deco brings sounds from the dawn of tape recorded audio into the 21st century. While I’d like to have seen MIDI functionality, multiple selectable presets, and a Repeats control for more tape echoes, this pedal was a risky release that still greatly exceeds expectations in its current form. The Deco is yet another example of why Strymon is one of the most innovative effects pedal builders of today.

That concludes our Strymon Deco review. Thanks for reading.

 

Want to buy the Strymon Deco?

See The Lowest Price On eBay

Strymon Mobius Review – Best Modulation Guitar Effects Pedal?

Strymon-Mobius-Review-Best-Modulation-Guitar-Effects-Pedal-01

Strymon needs no introduction for guitarists who are familiar with the modern boutique pedal scene. Pedals including the TimeLine, BigSky, El Capistan, DIG, & Deco brought about a meteoric rise for Strymon to solidify their reputation among the elite developers of DSP based guitar pedals. Each of their previous offerings has sought to become the pinnacle of the type of effects they create, arguably with great success. The Mobius is Strymon’s take on creating the ultimate all-in-one modulation pedal.

Featuring 12 unique mod effects ranging from classic to cutting edge with many of the effects containing several variations therein (ex. Chorus contains 5 different modes!), the Mobius blows away nearly any other stompbox that comes to mind in terms of the sheer variety of sounds available. It also features stereo operation and Pre/Post mono routing for using different mod effects at different points in your signal chain. And it’s all housed in a familiar TimeLine/BigSky sized enclosure with a simple knob interface, a digital LED screen, and 3 foot-switches to round out what appears to be an extremely formidable modulation pedal.

Here’s a feature rundown before we dive into our Strymon Mobius review.

Features:

Sound Design:

  • Studio-class modulation algorithms deliver meticulous and detailed modulation experiences
  • Five front-panel tone shaping knobs: Speed, Depth, Level, Param 1, Param 2 (Param knobs assignable per preset)
  • Additional menu-driven parameters deliver extremely flexible tone shaping options and versatility
  • 200 easily accessible and nameable presets, save and recall at the press of a switch

12 Modulation Machines:

  • CHORUS: Full featured Chorus with five distinct modes—dBucket, Multi, Vibrato, Detune and Digital.
  • FLANGER: Deep and rich Flanger with a wide palette of sonic possibilities. 6 unique fl anger algorithms.
  • ROTARY: Accurate implementation of a rotary speaker cabinet commonly used with tonewheel organs and guitars.
  • VIBE: Recreation of the late ‘60s “vibe” circuit which was one of the first modulation effects of it’s time.
  • PHASER: Highly flexible phaser with 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16 stage, and barber pole modes. Feedback control and selectable LFO waveforms.
  • FILTER: LFO synced filter with three filter types, eight LFO waveshapes and variable resonance.
  • FORMANT: Filter type that emulates the human vocal tract and also features selectable LFO waveforms.
  • VINTAGE TREM: Three distinctively different classic tremolo sounds from the ‘60s.
  • PATTERN TREM: Pattern synced tremolo with user definable patterns and selectable LFO waveforms.
  • AUTOSWELL: Auto volume swell triggered by input signal. Rise time and envelope shape are variable. Speed/Depth knobs add chorus.
  • DESTROYER: Mangles your audio with bit & sample rate reduction, filters, and vinyl noise. Vinyl warping controlled by Speed/Depth knobs.
  • QUADRATURE: Advanced frequency shifter, AM ring modulator, and FM modulator all with selectable LFO waveforms.

Hardware:

  • Three rugged metal foot-switches for preset selection, effect bypass, and Tap
  • LED display for preset info, BPM readout, and extended parameter control
  • Full MIDI implementation allows extended control for those with more complex rigs
  • Sturdy and lightweight dark blue anodized aluminum chassis

Ins & Outs:

  • Stereo input and output
  • Expression pedal input with selectable control over any knob or combination of knobs, savable per preset (also configurable as external tap input)
  • MIDI input and output
  • Pre/Post Mode for flexible routing, allowing you to put Mobius in two different places in your mono signal chain

Audio Quality:

  • Ultra low noise, high performance 24-bit 96kHz A/D and D/A converters
  • 110dB typical signal to noise
  • 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response
  • +8dBu maximum input level easily handles instrument and line signals
  • Premium analog front end and output section
  • Super high performance DSP in a compact form factor
  • 32-bit floating point processing

More:

  • True Bypass (electromechanical relay switching)
  • Selectable high-quality Analog Buffered Bypass
  • Selectable Tap Subdivision, savable per preset
  • Optional Global Tap Tempo mode
  • Included 9V DC power supply (300mA required minimum)
  • Dimensions: 6.75″ wide, 5.1″ deep
  • Designed and Built in the USA

Strymon-Mobius-Review-Best-Modulation-Guitar-Effects-Pedal-02As mentioned previously the Mobius is similar in size to the Strymon BigSky & TimeLine pedals, housed in the standard enclosure for Strymon’s flagship multi-algorithm products released so far. At a glance there’s one noticeable difference with the Mobius: it has 2 less surface knobs than the BigSky & TimeLine. Fortunately, this results in no less depth of control as the Param 1 & Param 2 knobs are assignable to any of the parameters located in the sub menu. The 2 most commonly used sub-parameters are already assigned to the knobs for the selected effect or factory preset. If you’re unsure which parameters are assigned, a slight turn of either Param knob will display the parameter name on the LED display. It’s very intuitive in use, and knob-o-phobes who like to keep things simple will still be able to dial in great sounds without the need for much, if any, menu diving.

Veterans and tweakers will have no problem delving into what’s below the surface. A simple press of the Value knob pulls up the submenu for the selected effect machine. Then you simply turn the Value knob to select the sub parameter you want to adjust. Press it again on the selected parameter and turn the knob to edit the value. When you’re finished simply press the Type knob to exit the parameter menu.

To assign a parameter to one of the Param knobs you simply select the parameter you want to assign from the parameter menu, then push and hold the Value knob while turning the Param knob you want to assign it to. This lets you customize your effect presets for quick control of the parameters you use most frequently for that particular preset.

There are other nice little touches to the interface and display. Pressing the Type knob lets you alternate between viewing the preset name or the BPM/Tempo (displayed as either bpm or Hz, set in the global menu). Also, when using the Speed knob to change the tempo or anytime the tempo is being displayed, you can turn the Value knob to adjust the tempo in tiny increments for precisely syncing the Mobius to a song’s bpm.

Strymon-Mobius-Review-Best-Modulation-Guitar-Effects-Pedal-05

The Pre/Post routing is an invaluable addition to the Mobius that essentially makes it act like 2 separate pedals placed at different points in your signal chain that you can use separately, although one at a time. It works by splitting the stereo ins and outs into 2 mono signal paths. For example, this would allow you to place wah, autoswell, or vibe effects near the front of your chain and chorus, flanger, or other effects later in your chain. You could also have an effect placed in front of your amp or in the amp’s effects loop. There’s a Pre/Post option in each preset for setting your preference. Then whenever you activate that particular preset, the effect will be applied at the selected Pre or Post position in your signal chain. Pre/Post routing is one of the Mobius’ most valuable features that may warrant it taking the place of two other modulation pedals on your pedalboard.

While the Strymon TimeLine & BigSky specifically mention having an “analog dry path”, the Mobius does not. It appears that the pedal converts your entire signal to digital, processes it, and converts it back to analog when the pedal is active. When the pedal is bypassed, your original analog dry signal passes through unaffected. Fortunately, the 32-bit Sharc DSP processor, 20Hz-20kHz frequency response, 110dB signal to noise ratio, and 24-bit 96kHz A/D & D/A conversion all add up to superior signal transferral and audio processing so that your guitar tone remains in tact. I wouldn’t have known the dry mix sound was digital, and you most likely wouldn’t have either.

Strymon-Mobius-Review-Best-Modulation-Guitar-Effects-Pedal-03

Visit Strymon for more info about the Mobius.

See the lowest price on eBay.

Sound & Performance:

Now we’re going to dive in with the Mobius and discuss how it lives up in actual use, focusing on each individual effects machine. The goal is to see where this pedal excels and see if there are any shortcomings with any of the algorithms. Often multi-effects pedals do some things well while lacking in other areas, so let’s see if the Mobius is really the ultimate modulation pedal.

Chorus

5 modes: (dBucket, Multi, Vibrato, Detune, Digital)

Strymon-Mobius-Review-Best-Modulation-Guitar-Effects-Pedal-04Starting with the Chorus machine (which will most likely be the first effect you hear when first engaging the pedal), you have a choice of 5 different modes all based on Strymon’s dBucket architecture. The dBucket mode in particular is an analog chorus emulation which is just as warm and gooey as you’d hope, minus the extraneous noise that often comes with antiquated bucket-brigade chip technology. The Multi mode expands upon the analog style chorusing with multiple LFOs for an even ‘bigger’ and more lush chorus effect. The Vibrato mode is excellent for providing some characteristic ‘wobble’ to your guitar. Detune gives you a clean detuned effect that helps make your instrument sound a bit bigger and fuller in the mix by blending in a slightly detuned signal with your dry signal. And finally, the Digital mode expands from the Detune machine will full-on digital chorusing via LFO for a pristine, rack-mount style “studio” chorusing sound.

The Tone parameter is particularly useful, allowing you to fine-tune your chorus. You could slightly darken a Digital chorus for a warmer sound, or you could try brightening up an analog chorus. The range isn’t too extreme but confined to a musical range that helps you get the most out of this effect.

The chorus LFO modulates in a standard sine wave for that characteristic swooshing chorus sound. Additional LFO options could have been interesting for more weird and wacky chorus sounds, but if you’re looking for bizarre and unusual, that’s still to come later. As is, these chorus sounds are among the best I’ve heard in a digital pedal, and I really like the dBucket’s warmth, clarity, and noise-free cleanliness. Also, you must hear this machine in Stereo. It sounds huge!

Flanger

6 modes (Silver, Grey, Black+, Black-, Zero+, Zero-)

The Flanger machine emulates the style of various bucket brigade flanger pedals. While the original form of flanging came from using to tape decks and slightly changing the speed of of one to warp the sound, traditional pedal flangers use LFO controlled delay lines to achieve a similar effect. Strymon made every painstaking effort to reproduce these sounds in the digital realm, and the effort paid off.

It’s a bit challenging to verbalize the intricacies of each of the Flanger’s modes, as they’re all variations of a similar theme. Ultimately, I find myself even unable to pick a favorite as each mode has a unique sonic character to make it a great choice depending on the sound called for in a given situation. But as far as offering a word of advise when exploring these sounds, keep the Manual & Regen parameters mapped to the Param knobs and spend some time adjusting them in each mode individually. The modes each respond a little differently, and the Manual & Regen settings are the keys to coaxing the best results from each one. The great thing is, their various textures are all generally pleasing to the ear if you’re into flanging at all.

One minor thing to add: I’d love it if there were a momentary through zero option similar to Strymon’s Deco where you could either press the preset’s foot-switch or Tap to manually apply flange in certain sections of riffs. This is a feature I would love to see in a software update if possible. Strymon is always diligent about optimizing and improving their products, so I’ll cross my fingers for that one.

Rotary

The Rotary machine is the Mobius’ emulation of a Leslie Rotating Speaker Cabinet. This effect was originally achieved by using hulking speaker cabinets in which the speakers would spin to create a mesmerizing ‘pulsing’ effect as the emanated sound circled around. A foot-controlled pedal was also used to change the speed of the rotating speaker.

The Rotary does a commendable job of capturing the sound and feel of an actual rotating speaker cabinet. This is another machine that sounds incredible in stereo. The Depth control acts to simulate the distance of two stereo microphones to achieve a canyon wide panning effect. Even in mono it’s still fantastic; I actually spent most of my time testing the pedal in a mono rig which is more familiar to most guitarists.

There are several other authentic touches as well. A Horn Level control adjusts the output of the virtual horn driver to reduce or increase high-end. The Preamp Drive lets you boost the ‘tube preamp’ to overdrive the sound a bit. My favorite aspect is the Slow Speed parameter that gives you 2 distinct speed settings. You can even set the Tap foot-switch to switch between the 2 speeds on the fly with an Acceleration parameter determining how fast the change in speed occurs. This is truly a standout algorithm and one of the best Rotary simulations you’ll find outside of Strymon’s own Lex pedal (which has a few more parameters but no tap tempo).

Vibe

2 Modes (Chorus, Vibrato)

The classic “Uni-Vibe” style of effect was actually an attempt at creating a rotating speaker emulation. It failed miserably, but it turned out to be a very interesting effect in its own right that is still highly sought after to this day. Its effect is similar to a phaser that uses a light source and an array of photocells to create its distinctive throbbing sound.

The Vibe machine acts as you’d expect with Speed and Depth controlling the rate and intensity of the effect. A parameter for Low End Contour beefs up the bottom end for a massive vibe tone. Headroom lets you create a pristinely clean vibe sound, or you can grit things up for a more vintage vibe tone. The Headroom’s effect on your guitar is more noticeable with cleaner tones. Adjusting the Waveshape value warps the waveform to make it sound more lop-sided, a characteristic trademark of some vibe pedals. There’s even the expected “Chorus” & “Vibrato” modes, and while Chorus is typically the default vibe sound, they’re both worth experimenting with.

The Vibe machine is particularly suited to being used in the Pre position when playing the Mobius in a mono guitar rig. This allows you to place the Vibe in front of your distortion, overdrive, or fuzz pedals. You can still experiment with the Vibe in Post for a heavier phasing effect or in a stereo setup, but Pre is where the Vibe belongs for most classic vibe tones.

Phaser

7 Modes (2 stage, 4 stage, 6 stage, 8 stage, 12 stage, 16 stage, Barber Pole)

The Phaser machine in the Mobius is one of the most in-depth phasers you’ll find in any pedal thanks to its many stage options available and the Barber Pole mode that’s capable of infinitely rising or falling phasing sounds.

If you want classic “Phase 90” style tones, the 4 stage mode has you covered. 6 stages gets a little funkier. Taking it to higher stage settings gets more intense and wacky. Cranking the Regen creates the more bizarre and extreme phasing sounds. Even at their most intense the modes are all still quite clean and clear. If you want to dirty it up a little, the Headroom control is present in this machine as well for adding a hint of grit.

The Barber Pole mode is a standout for me. Max out the Depth and set the Waveshape to Ramp for infinitely rising phasing or to Saw for infinitely falling phasing sounds. Both directions are awesome, and these are some of my favorite sounds the pedal produces. The Mobius is the mothership of intergalactic phasing sounds. Having it synced via tap tempo or MIDI Beat Clock is a dream come true.

If you’re running the Mobius in stereo, the Spread option is particularly fun for some extra wide phasing sounds.

Filter

3 Modes (Low Pass, Wah, High Pass)

The Filter machine gives you 3 distinct modes with which to modulate the tonality of your guitar signal through envelope filtering. This is the only mode I actually have any complaint with really, but that’s not because it falls short at what it does. There’s just a couple things I’d like to see that are absent. But I’ll get to that after I talk about the Filter actually does.

The Filter machine lets you utilize an LFO waveform to modulate the filter to reduce or increase certain frequencies. The High Pass and Low Pass modes act as expected, allowing you to filter out low or high frequencies, respectively. You can even use the Envelope+ or Envelope- Waveshape options to have your input signal control the frequency filtering. This is especially useful with the Wah mode for auto-wah style effects. The Frequency Mid parameter selects the frequency focus area and range while the Resonance can be used to accentuate the frequencies at the cut-off point. This lets you customize your wah sound and filter response in general.

I absolutely love envelope filtering effects, and I wish the Filter machine had a way to manually sweep through the full range of the HP & LP filters via expression pedal or MIDI CC. This would be great for manual synth-style HP/LP filtering. A Waveshape “Off” option might do the trick. While it’s fun to use an expression pedal to control the wah (you do so by turning down the Depth knob and assigning the exp pedal to control Frequency Mid), this isn’t as effective for foot-controlled filtering through a wide frequency range. Being able to deactivate the LFO (with a Waveform “Off” option) and assigning an exp pedal to control Depth or using the Depth MIDI CC might be more effective. You can hear that cranking the Depth lets the LFO sweep the frequency through a wide range; but you can’t deactivate the LFO for manual filtering. With a Waveshape “Off” option the Depth could perhaps then be used with Frequency Mid to set the perfect filter range for manual control. Perhaps alternate HP & LP modes could be utilized to achieve the ideal synth-style filtering. This is the only serious let down I’ve found with the Mobius, and it could be remedied in a future firmware tweak if Strymon agrees that a Waveshape “Off” option would be a worthy addition. Until Strymon ever ventures into releasing the ultimate harmonizer/guitar synth pedal, I’m hoping they’ll make this little tweak so that us guitar & synthesizer lovers can get our filter fix!

Formant

The Formant machine uses formant filtering to emulate human vocal sounds. You can select 2 different vocal characteristics with the Vowel 1 & Vowel 2 parameters, and the LFO will modulate between them. You can also control the formant filter with your picking dynamics via the Envelope Waveshape or use an expression pedal for vocal sounding wah effects. Expression control is an especially fun way to use this machine, and you can carefully articulate the vocal sounds as you play for great talking guitar effects. Simple and incredibly fun.

Vintage Trem

3 Modes (Tube, Harmonic, Photo-resistor)

The Vintage Trem machine offers 3 different styles of tremolo modeled after the various trems found in old 60’s amps. The Tube mode achieves a smooth pulsing sound; vintage Tube tremolos would alter the bias on the output tube circuit to achieve a similar effect. This can get pretty “throbby” at fast Speed settings, but it always retains a smooth sine dip and swell.

The Harmonic trem adds some tonal filtering to create a pleasing, ethereal atmosphere. Combine this mode with some huge ambience from the Strymon BigSky and experience heavenly bliss.

The Photo-resistor mode emulates a bulb/photo-resistor tremolo for a harder trem that’s choppy with a more square sounding feel. This mode is a lot of fun to use with an expression pedal with a 16th note Tap Division for fast rhythmic tremolo effects with ring mod like undertones.

This is a very simple machine that’s quite versatile thanks to its 3 different tremolo modes. But if that’s still not enough tremolo for you, the Strymon Mobius has another surprise in store…

Pattern Trem

The Pattern Trem lets you create pattern sequenced tremolo effects. Have you ever heard of a pedal called the Goatkeeper? Pattern Trem is like that but better, the “Goatkiller” basically. Up to 8 beats can be sequenced with anywhere from 1 to 16 tremolo cycles per beat. You can have silence or your full signal occur in selected beats. There are 7 waveform options to customize the overall feel of your rhythmic patterns. You can even hit the Tap foot-switch once to restart the sequence, handy for syncing the pattern in a live situation. Also, you can use the Pattern Trem machine as a standard tremolo in case you want to keep it simple but take advantage of the unique waveforms available in this machine.

Autoswell

The Autoswell machine creates automatic volume swells based on the input signal. This is similar to using your guitar’s volume knob or a dedicated volume pedal, only easier and automated, assuming you set it up right. The Rise Time controls the volume ramp in seconds (and fractions of a second) to determine how long your guitar will take to rise to full volume after picking a note. The 4 Shape options help determine the “feel” and response of the swell curves to suite how you’re playing. For example, the Ramp Shape has a consistent increase in volume through it’s slope; other options will rise fast, then slow down, or vice versa. It’s best to experiment with these for the greatest effect. The Depth & Speed knobs add a chorus effect to the swelled signal. It’s not applied if the Depth is turned down, but it can add extra interest and movement before your guitar is fed into a delay pedal and/or reverb.

Destroyer

Strymon describes the Destroyer as “an intricate tool to mangle your audio”. This effect is awesome and could have been released as a unique standalone pedal. To start, it’s a full-fledged bit-crusher with extensive Sample Rate & Bit Depth control from 96 kHz down to 750Hz and 32 bits down to 4 bits, respectively. The machine’s name is appropriate as this effect can absolutely destroy your guitar and crush it to oblivion.

But that’s not all the Destroyer does. It has 8 optional Filter Shapes emulating sound sources including a 70’s clock radio, bullhorn megaphone, Victoria phonograph, a cell phone, an apartment intercom, and more.

You can also add Vinyl dust noise with its dedicated parameter control. This sprinkles a little snap, crackle, and pop over your signal. If you raise the Depth knob from here, you’ll add a little warped record style modulation that syncs together with the noise to the tempo set by the Speed knob. A Mix parameter lets you blend in some dry signal if you still want your audience to hear that there’s a guitar under all the dust and dirt.

This is one of the most fun and unique machines that just begs to be used for at least one song in your set. Come on… you know you want to.

Quadrature

4 Modes (AM, FM, Positive Frequency Shifter, Negative Frequency Shifter)

The Quadrature machine is another signal mutilating effect that will mangle your guitar beyond recognition if you’re feeling adventurous. AM/FM modulation and Frequency Shifting cover ring modulation and all kinds of utter frequency destruction. The Quadrature warps chords and single notes alike by manipulating amplitude and shifting the frequencies of your audio signal. This results in all kinds of bizarre and atonal sound effects. If you’re careful you can tune it in just right to harmonize with certain notes. But it’s often more fun to just get lost in the chaos and create a cacophony of crazy sounds.

I’m going to share a few of my favorite ways to make the most of this machine. Expression pedal control is a must. Try assigning parameters such as Speed, Depth, and Shift to the exp pedal for some semblance of control over the sonic madness. And assigning the Mix parameter is vital if you want to have some sections be dry with precise control over when you apply the Quadrature’s touch to your guitar. Another trick is to use the Envelope Waveshape to dynamically control the frequency shifting that’s occurring. Playing softly lets more of your natural guitar sound come through while picking notes harder mangles your instrument. Or you can just strum like mad for a sonic freakout. Combine this with exp pedal Mix control to apply the dynamic insanity on a whim and without warning. Too much fun.

Mobius MIDI Control

One of my favorite aspects of Strymon’s flagship pedals like the TimeLine, BigSky, and the Mobius, is the complete MIDI implementation across of their functions. The Mobius is just as strong in this regard as expected. All parameters have individual CC’s that can be controlled from you MIDI controller of choice, be it a keyboard, foot-switch, Livid Audio Guitar Wing, or DAW.

I’ve personally been experimenting with using Ableton Live to automate and control pedals during live performances. The Mobius generally responds well to everything you can throw at it whether simply recalling presets and activating/bypassing the pedal or using CC messages to control parameters in realtime. (See our Strymon TimeLine Review for an example video with some Ableton Live & Strymon TimeLine action.) Yes, like with the BigSky & TimeLine, you can automate the Mobius for “foot-free” control by sequencing your effects changes. Imagine having your own personal guitar tech (if you don’t already) who changes all your effects for you. The Mobius feels like it was made for this.

While the Mobius can basically do anything you could imagine with MIDI control, the only issue I have encountered is the lack of a “MIDI Clock On/Off” option on a per preset basis. There is, however, a Global option for turning off the response to MIDI Clock, but sometimes in a complex MIDI rig you’ll find yourself always having MIDI Clock running to keep your gear in sync. It would be nice to have some presets sync automatically by selecting “MIDI Clock On”; however, other presets that utilize realtime Speed control could be set to “MIDI Clock Off”. Granted not many guitarists are taking advantage of the deeper aspects of MIDI control (yet!), but this minor change to the Mobius (& TimeLine) would allow some of us a little more flexibility in our MIDI guitar setups.

Anything Else?

As I go back again and again through the Mobius’ effects machines, I simply cannot find any serious faults with the sounds available. This is a truly stellar modulation pedal. The Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Vibe, Vintage Trem, & Rotary are where I tried to look most critically, but I just can’t complain at all. These are superior emulations of those essential effects. They are generally cleaner than analog modulation pedals, but they still have plenty of warmth and feeling. And while the wacky machines like Destroyer, Pattern Trem, & Quadrature may seem novel to traditional guitarists, these effects will be essential to sonic experimentalists.

My few suggestions for improvement could easily be implemented with a software update. To recap, those are: a Deco style through zero flanging option for the Flanger machine, synth-like HP & LP manual filter control via a Waveform “Off” option in the Filter machine, and a “MIDI Clock On/Off” option per preset. But considering the range of great sounds contained within, the Mobius is as close to perfect as I’ve heard in a multi-algorithm modulation pedal.

Strymon-Mobius-Review-Best-Modulation-Guitar-Effects-Pedal-06

Overall-Rating-5.0

The Strymon Mobius is without a doubt the most flexible and versatile multi-effect modulation pedal I’ve played to date. With a full range of classic mod effects, all of impeccable quality, the Mobius is unfathomably good at everything it does. An unmatched range of chorus, phaser, vibe, tremolo, and flanger sounds are contained within. What’s more, there are several unique mod machines like the frequency shifting Quadrature, bit-crushing/lo-fi filtering Destroyer, and 8-step rhythmic Pattern Trem to add some unique sounds to your effects arsenal. The Pre/Post makes the Mobius indispensable and likely to replace 2 single-effect mod pedals on your pedalboard. The amount of painstaking detail that went into designing the Mobius and its effects is a testament to why Strymon is one of the premier guitar pedal builders around today.

That concludes our Strymon Mobius review. Thanks for reading.

 

Want to buy the Strymon Mobius?

See The Lowest Price On eBay