The Moon Canyon is a pinnacle representation of an instrument that evokes inspiration before you even play it. Born of a collaborative vision shared by Dr. No Effects and Sarah Lipstate of Noveller, the Moon Canyon offers sonic scribes an assortment of effects with which to compose surrealistic musical odysseys and weave synesthetic tapestries of sound.
The Moon Canyon’s four foot-switches correspond to four effects options. Drive, Reverb, and Delay are its three onboard effects, and the pedal’s Loop allows users to add external effects to the signal chain. The foot-switch control arrangement provides a simple and effective means to bring effects in and out of auditory perception, opening and closing chapters of sound as you would thumb through pages in a book. The Moon Canyon’s sparse amount of knobs for so many different effects seems to indicate that the pedal places an emphasis on immediacy, letting musicians dial in sounds quickly and use the foot-switches to dramatically alter the soundscape with broad strokes. In stark contrast to the deep menu-diving and endless tweaking possibilities afforded by some pedals, the Moon Canyon is an instant portal to creating music… now.
The Moon Canyon arose on the full moon of May 30th, 2018, with 50 units being released on that day and 50 to be released on successive full moon eves until the limited edition of 350 signed and numbered pedals is completed. The pedal is a monolith, not only in regards to its size or for its manifestation under such auspicious circumstances, but because each pedal is nearly completely constructed by hand (with minor exceptions being the pedal’s circuit components, of course). From the molded and bubble-enclosed moon that adorns the center of each pedal (and lights up different phases of the moon depending on which effect is active) to the complex wiring, through-hole mounting of components, and graphic screen printing (and a myriad other things), each pedal is carefully constructed and then housed within a beautiful “book” box. A heap of other goodies are included as well: a keychain, patch, stickers, and photo cards. The presentation alone eclipses the effort I’ve seen from almost any other pedal release.
Here are some gorgeous photos of the Moon Canyon and a snazzy GIF:
Here’s a clip of some of the goodies the Moon Canyon comes with along with some of the first sounds I made when plugging in the pedal:
Sound & Performance:
As implied before the Moon Canyon is very straight-forward in operation. While some pedals overwhelm with options, the Moon Canyon dazzles in aesthetics while providing an easy-to-use interface that helps musicians achieve usable sounds very quickly. The foot-switches are arranged in order of the pedal’s signal flow from right to left, facilitating an intuitive understanding of how its effects will affect your signal path. The simple parameter arrangement for each effect provides the bare essentials to facilitate achieving instant results. I’ll talk about each of the 3 effects in signal flow order and then come back to discuss the Loop. This will help paint a picture of how you might use the pedal.
On the right side of the pedal is the Drive section. At a glance it appears to offer a standard overdrive control layout with Drive, Tone, & Volume knobs; a switch on the side of the pedal gives users a choice of two Tone options.
The Drive circuit is based around a JRC4558D IC, a chip that is notable for its use in the TS-808 Tube Screamer and many other overdrive pedals. In testing multiple opamps for the Moon Canyon’s Drive, Doc & Sarah opted to use the JRC4558D in favor of other chips. The choice of asymmetrical (1n914) diode clipping also helps the circuit achieve a more “direct and aggressive” attack response and helps the Drive achieve a good response throughout the Drive knob’s range. Essentially, this makes the Drive more versatile and helps it excel whether you’re dialing in milder overdrive tones to give your amp more of a push or cranking the Drive to get most of your grit from the pedal itself.
The Tone switch on the side alternates between the dialed-in sound of the Drive circuit and the full-range signal. The normal sound has a cutting bite that creates a guitar tone that’ll punch through a mix. When you flip the switch to add in the low-end (by removing a cap from the opamp), you’ll get a bigger, fuller sound; however, this can mask the mid-range articulation a bit. I like using this setting sometimes when feeding the Drive into other dirt circuits, and it could be worth exploring with other instruments besides guitar. Otherwise, the carefully calibrated normal Drive sound will likely be the defining tone that most guitarists gravitate towards when playing the Moon Canyon.
The Moon Canyon’s Reverb is a no-nonsense affair. Once you activate the Reverb with its dedicated foot-switch, you just roll up the single center knob to bring in your desired amount of reverb. You just dial it in like you would the reverb on an amp with a single “Reverb” knob.
But while the Reverb seems light on tweakability, that’s not to say that a lot of care didn’t go into creating this sound. It’s evident that Dr. No chose a “less is more” approach and gave users a gorgeous reverb sound that could be easily added to the signal.
The Reverb itself is based on the Accutronics Belton BTDR-2H “long” variation that is capable of producing a long, spacious, hall-like ambience. Attentive ears will also hear a subtle modulation that gently ebbs and flows like the tides beneath a full moon. The overall reverb sound is smooth and playable, and while it can get quite wet, your guitar signal can still be heard in the mix even when the Reverb knob is maxed out.
The Delay section has the most essential controls a delay needs – Repeats, Time, & Mix – no more, no less. The effect is a digital delay based around a PT2399 chip and has been tuned to provide a warmer, lo-fi-ish, analog-like sound. The max delay time is somewhere over 500mS, a range calibrated by Dr. No to ensure that the PT2399 maintains the highest degree of sound quality when the Time is set to the longest duration of delay.
The Delay’s vintage style tonality works particularly well when pushing the Repeats knob into the oscillation range. In the range of between noon to 1 o’clock, you’ll get long delay trails that slowly fade into darkness. But as you push the Repeats up to about 2 o’clock, you’ll find a threshold where the trails start to continue indefinitely and oscillate. You can also set the Repeats (along with Time) to a nice sweet spot to create a bed of echoes that will sit under your playing. A further little push of the knob lets the oscillation increase to overtake your dry signal and push the wall of sound into oblivion. When you’re in the oscillation range, the onset of peak oscillation is also determined by just how far the Repeats knob is set. Dime the knob and the oscillation peaks almost instantly; dial it back to around 3 o’clock and the crescendo of feedback is more gradual.
Reverb & Delay Together
Before we move on to the Loop section, it’s worth going into greater detail about the potential of the Moon Canyon’s Delay & Reverb effects. Taken separately each effect fulfills their utilitarian functions. The effects are solid enough to cover a range of general uses; however, combining the two effects reveals some of the pedal’s stronger points.
Guitarists often use delay before reverb, but the Moon Canyon’s Reverb feeds into the Delay. This results in some notably different characteristics. The Delay can be used to extend the Reverb in rhythmic waves, carrying the ambience further than if you simply use the reverb alone. And the Reverb, in how it washes out your dry signal, adds a diffused quality to the Delay. Also, while the Delay is a pretty dry effect, the Reverb with its hint of modulation helps add more character to the Delay sound. All of these things are happening simultaneously and add more textural dimension to the sounds produced. The degrees of variation depend mainly on how you set the Mix & Reverb knobs, the parameters responsible for blending in the Delay & Reverb effects, respectively. While the range of textures available are confined to specific areas of pre-defined parameter ranges, the musicians who feel the gravitational pull toward this spectrum of sound design will likely get a lot out of the distinct inspiration that comes when playing the Moon Canyon. The pedal evokes styles of playing that are more sparse and fleeting, that bloom in cascades of ethereal echoes.
Here’s a clip where I play with some of the different effects in combination with emphasis on the Delay & Reverb:
The Moon Canyon’s Loop provides a few other interesting possibilities. You can use the Loop Out & Loop In jacks to place other effects between the Drive and Reverb/Delay sections. This is an essential feature as other effects (particularly modulation) are usually placed between overdrive and delay/reverb pedals.
You can also use the 4 jacks on the back side of the pedal to route the Moon Canyon’s Drive and Reverb/Delay into two separate effects loops on an effects switcher. This way you can place the Drive and the Reverb/Delay in any specific order within your switcher’s effects chain and activate them remotely. If you’re not planning on using the Loop, it could be a good idea to patch the Loop Out to the Loop In to prevent muting your signal should you step on the foot-switch by mistake. On the other hand, you could leave the Loop I/O disconnected and use the Loop foot-switch as a “mute” to instantly stop feeding any signal into the Reverb & Delay section. There will be a little signal bleed with this method as the pedal wasn’t intended to be used that way, but it’s a novel aspect that some users might find a use for. And while you’re at it, try routing the Reverb & Delay into the Drive by connecting your cables in this order: Loop In → Out I → In → Loop Out. It’ll produce some raunchy, gritty, shoegazey ambient sounds, and while it’s not how most guitarists would normally route the pedal, it could also be fun to try with a synth or other creative instrument/gear setup.
The Moon Canyon also has a pair of outputs. For normal use you just use the jack labeled “Out I” on the back of the pedal, but on the side is another jack labeled “Out II”. This lets you split the signal to another destination. If the Moon Canyon is handling all of your Reverb and Delay needs, you could just plug each output directly into two different amps. You could also split the signal to two different effects chains if you’re running a complex setup. It’s not necessary to use both jacks if you’re feeding the Moon Canyon into a stereo pedal as most stereo pedals accept a mono signal; splitting the signal to two amps is what most guitarists will likely use the extra jack for and only then if they’re not using a stereo pedal after the Moon Canyon.
Full Moon Magic
So when you put it all together, the Moon Canyon is a creative wonderland of ambience and overdrive that specializes in lo-fi sonic textures. The Reverb/Delay as a combo is what makes the pedal really something special in terms of original sounds, and the Drive is very solid and can hang with many other stand-alone overdrive circuits. The musicians who will most appreciate the Moon Canyon will likely be those who can vibe with not only the sounds of the pedal itself, but the impeccable attention to detail that went into creating every aspect of this art piece in pedal form. And where some might note the pedal’s simplicity in operation as a knock against its versatility, its elegant ease-of-use coupled with the ineffable charm of its aesthetic presentation contribute to what make the Moon Canyon such a special inspiration machine. It offers a rewarding experience that few musicians will be fortunate enough to experience if favored by the full moon.
The Dr. No Effects Moon Canyon is a bold and aesthetically charming multi-effects pedal for musicians who appreciate instruments as art and look beyond simply the measure of their utility for inspiration. Yes, the Moon Canyon packs in a very solid Drive effect, and the Reverb/Delay combo captures a mood that is really something special to behold. But even more than the mere function of the pedal, the Moon Canyon is an object of physical and intangible beauty for musicians who really, really love pedals and appreciate the efforts of builders who go above and beyond to exert their full creative potential when making such talismanic instruments of wonder. Those of you who understand what this pedal is about can likely already hear the musical roads you’ll tread before you even step on the foot-switches. And those who choose to walk the Moon Canyon’s path will be taken on a journey that only this pedal can reveal.
That concludes our Dr. No Effects Moon Canyon review. Thanks for reading.