Red Witch Synthotron Review – Best Analog Guitar Synth Pedal?


Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On September 25, 2013
Last modified:October 6, 2016

Summary:

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I love strange and bizarre guitar pedals. Any pedal that makes a guitar sound not like a guitar grabs my attention. And every time a new guitar synth pedal comes out, I’ve gotta try it. And a guitar synth from a company like Red Witch, makers of such gems as the Empress Chorus, Violetta Delay, and Fuzz God II pedals, is something I absolutely must put to the test.

The Red Witch Synthotron looks like it could be one of the best analog guitar synth pedals around, offering two separate analog synth voicings (+1 or +2 octaves up and -1 or -2 octaves down), a tone-shaping filter section, and some additional modulation effects to control of the overall sound and response of the pedal while being housed in one of Red Witch’s very compact dual-footswitchable enclosures. I’m anxious to try this one out, so let’s run down the features and get on to the Red Witch Synthotron review.

Features:

2 discreet, all analog synth voices.

True Bypass Syn footswitch for activating/bypassing the synth function.

True Bypass Filter footswitch for activating/bypassing the filter section. May be used independently of the Synth section.

4 Synth Control Sections:

Red column box controls the first oscillator.

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Flipswitch for +1 or +2 octaves up, Level knob for setting volume level, Decay knob for setting decay from zero latency (staccato) to longer delay times.

Orange column box controls the second oscillator.

Flipswitch for -1 or -2 octaves down, Level knob for setting volume level, Decay knob for setting decay from zero latency (staccato) to longer delay times.

Light Blue column box controls modulation and dry signal level.

Flipswitch for Tremolo on/off, Velocity knob for setting tremolo speed, and Dry knob for setting clean, unaffected guitar volume level.

Dark Blue column box controls Filter section.

Flipswitch for setting between Envelope Filter Mode and Sample/Hold Mode, Range knob for setting the sweep of the envelope filter (Filter Mode Only), Velocity knob for setting the speed of the Sample/Hold (S/H Mode Only).

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Sound & Performance:

I didn’t hesitate to plug this pedal in and start switch-flipping and knob-turning before I read the manual. The knobs are generally self-explanatory, but I’ll clarify their operation as I go along. A world of interesting sounds lies within the Synthotron, beckoning you with a call to the unknown.

You can essentially have up to three voices at any given time, your dry guitar signal, a +1 or +2 square wave synth voice, and a -1 or -2 square wave synth voice. The 3 signals (dry signal and 2 synth voices) can be easily blended to taste for a wide range of combined sounds, making the Synthotron quite adept at sculpting musical synth guitar tones. The +2 octaves voice sings with a violin-like sustain, while the -2 octaves voice will deliver an earth-rumbling sub-octave roar.

The sounds produced by the Synthotron are pure square wave analog synth beauty, providing jagged, yet smooth tones that can sound like you’re playing an 8-bit NES game, not a guitar. Since the Synthotron converts your guitar signal to voltage to trigger the synth voicings, your guitar and pickups don’t affect the sound, although pickups and their settings can affect the tracking. The Dry knob can be using to blend in your dry guitar signal for a more full sound with organic guitar textures woven within.

The Decay control knobs are a useful addition to the synth channels, allowing the Synthotron’s voicings to ring out in all their sustaining glory if desired. With the decay knobs rolled back to the left, you can achieve staccato-like note stabs. With the knobs fully clockwise, notes will trail off gradually. Since the Synthotron is monophonic, you can play another note to interrupt the decay.

My biggest complaint with any guitar synth is latency, and I’m happy to report that latency isn’t a noticeable issue at all with the Synthotron. The tracking is fast and quite accurate. The quality of response can vary depending on what kinds of pickups you’re using, but input level can be adjusted internally for optimum performance. On a related note, I typically recommend using a high quality compression pedal in your chain before any guitar synth to ensure an even note level for the best possible tracking. The pedal seems to perform best when playing at the 10th fret and above, and with the -1 or -2 synth voicing, you’ll have no problem getting notes from lower registers.

Flipping the Trem toggle switch to the down position activates an interesting Tremolo modulation effect to enhance your synth sound. Using the Velocity knob with the Tremolo allows you to dial in some really cool warbling lead effects, further adding to the Synthotron’s bag of tricks. I rather like the way it sounds just a little shy of being totally maxed out. The Tremolo adds some nice textures that are worth exploring.

The Envelope Filter mode provides a means to hone in on a specific frequency to further tailor your synthotronic sound. This effect can be added via footswitch to enhance your synth sound with a cool “filtered” tone. And the Sample Hold function adds some really cool movement to your playing. The Sample Hold function of the Synthotron is the first random movement effect I think I’ve ever liked. It pulses to the rhythm and will certainly inspire you lay down some grooves. These functions are available from the 2-way S/H toggle switch and may be used independently of the synth voices to affect your normal guitar tone in creative ways. Try the Enveloped Filter by itself for some auto-wah-style, funky chord progressions.

I’m a big fan of guitar synth pedals in general, but I really, really like this pedal. Let’s see the final result.

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Overall-Rating-4.0

The Red Witch Synthotron is one of the best analog guitar synth pedals available. It features a small pedalboard footprint yet is packed with plenty of adjustable parameters for finding your perfect synth sounds. Tracking is fast, and the pedal responds very well to controlled dynamics. The ability to use the Envelope Filter separately from the synth adds even more versatility. This is one you should definitely check out if you’re looking for a guitar synth or an interesting pedal in general that will allow you to transform your guitar into an all-new instrument. Kudos to Ben and Red Witch for bringing this treasure trove of analog synth tone to the masses.

That concludes our Red Witch Synthotron review. Thanks for reading.

 
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297 COMMENTS

  1. Yup. It looks a weekend of video sounds & tweaking knobs with this pedal! Synthotron is old school wavey game sounds for the future. That’s right!

  2. I love the large range of sounds you can pull out of this box with the flick of a switch and twist of a knob! The kind of fun I’d have with this pedal might be counterproductive… But sooo enjoyable!

  3. YEAH!!!
    As my dear sweet mother always said…If you want rawkin, kickin gear that rules with an old school vibe, go
    with Red Witch!

  4. I was interested in finding a guitar synth pedal then I heard about the red witch and I’ve got to say I really like it. A lot!!!

  5. Most of your reviews match my personal opinion on the pedals. Now that i see this one with 5 stars, can’t can’t wait to get my hands on one!

  6. I’d love to actually screw around with a Korg Monotron on this– they’re interesting devices to throw through additional filters such as this, not to mention a mic for some really gritty vocodering. Sadly no one near me carries them to give it a test.

  7. The Synthotron is a dream come true for both guitarist and bass players. The analog vibe is quite apparent and adds greatly to its appeal..not to mention sound. Red Witch really nailed it with this one! That said, I plan to donate mine (should I win) to a local school’s band which can’t afford such luxuries. But, would definitely give it a “test drive” first to make sure it works……..then cry all the way to the school to drop it off……

  8. Sounds like a killer box! Love to win it but since your evil marketing dept. Demands my participation in social media I will have say stuff it! Until you can quit bending over for the NSA I will look els-ware.
    Love your newsletters though And over all you get an “awesome” rating from me! Keep me on your list, just don’t let the NSA know I’m a rocker
    Thanks guys!

  9. Absolutely THE coolest synth pedal I’ve seen! This along with the Bit Commander and Subdecay Octasynth all have totally unique sounds but the Synthoron really takes the cake for 8-bit synth sounds.

  10. Remember when latency was a problem?

    This thing looks like a lot of fun. I like the fact that you can combine 3 voices.

    Makes you want to get in the “lab” and start concocting all kinds of sounds.

  11. From the demo videos I’ve seen, this is one hell of a pedal. the range in synth tones is awesome. I could easily get lost for days playing this pedal. amazing.

  12. I would be as happy as a kid at Cmas morning with this Red Witch Synthotron. Great quality synth tones. I’ve recently been searching for great synth pedals that get far away from anything that resembles a guitar. This pedal seems to do a great job at that. Is it true bypass?

  13. This pedal is incredible, I haven’t seen anything quite like it! One pedal and it does so much. The sounds that come out of this pedal have a huge range and can apply to any style. Definitely number 1 on my wish list.

  14. Great review, sounds awesome – highly usable and undoubtedly loadsa fun. Red Witch delivers again and yet another pedal on the want list. Cheers.

  15. I love that Ben Fulton focuses not on clones or retro, but on trying out different ideas and widening the range of sounds available to guitarists.

  16. Cool and informative review. Looks like a great pedal from guitarists who don’t want to go the synth route. everything Ben makes seems like a gem. I think he has a diamond ear in how he arrives at the sound of his pedlas.

  17. This thing looks and sounds amazing. I have tried a few synth pedals so far and this one definitely sounds the most like a synth… I hope to score one of these some day.

  18. This thing is crazy cool! Who needs a keyboard player? Excellent for a 3rd guitarist/utility man. I would write more but I need to go play Mario Bros.

  19. haha seems like a pretty wild pedal. I want to try one for some of my old songs, see if a new sound will breathe some new life into them

  20. Cool deal, I kind of wish it wasn’t limited to only square wave though. Although the option of using it as an auto-wah/filter effect is really nice. Definitely seems like this would be great for an Anamanaguchi-type band.

  21. I have been meaning to add a synth pedal to my board for a while now and what could be better than a SYNTHOTRON! I really like the range this pedal seems to offer, very usable sounds just need to try one now

  22. Going to put in some serious overtime hours to get this as quick as possible. It would make an awesome addition to my new pedal board.

  23. I would love to win this pedal. I have never owned a reall synth pedal, and would love for this to be the first. The only pedal i have is a shitty korg ax5g, please help me out!!

  24. This is top of my list of pedals that I feel liek I need. If only so I can randomly bust out the Tetris theme music in the middle of a set for no apparant reason.

    More than that though, I can only imagine what I could do with this in a no-input mixing desk scenario. Looks awesome too.

  25. the sample and hold sounds amazing. would like to feed it through
    several fuzzes and a recovery bad comrade to get some mud on it.
    then loop it and filter to taste. yum.

  26. Oh Man! I saw this on line somewhere and have been saving up for it. An insane addition to my boxes. Thanks for reviewing this further!

  27. Dying to try this out, two questions:

    Anyone know if I can try it at a guitar center? (do they carry red witch?)

    How does this compare to the EHX microsynth? I’ve never tried any other synth pedals so it’s the only standard I have.

  28. Hey, would rather like to win the Violetta delay pedal as it suits more my music style but this pedal definitely sounds fun too!! ; ) The auto wah function sounds rrrrreally great!!! And it looks so cool 70s.

  29. I can’t wait to get this, you know guys this one is mine! (being a douche)

    One does not simply Win this pedal but me (being a douche²)

    Omg, This is awesome but I wont win this shit :| (being me)

  30. Okay seriously this is one of the coolest looking pedals I’ve ever seen. Reminiscent of the mu-tron with the coloring. Would be honored to win this and put it on my board alongside my empress chorus!

  31. I would love to see a Synthotron on my pedalboard. Already built me an Uglyface pedal ’cause crazy sounds are so cool. A Synthotron would be a whole new experience!

  32. I play guitar in an instrumental psychedelic band and would love this pedal to create more psychedelic noises. Plus I love red witch! :-)

  33. I play in an videogamey electronic act, but I am more comfortable playing with guitar(or Mandolin!) than synth. This is often a problem for me in recreating stuff live – generally I go for live mixing with some traditional overdriven or effects heavy guitar over it, but it would be nice to be able to find a synth pedal that really did it for me. I’ve tried the Line 6 and Digitech stuff and it’s not quite there, and the Microsynth is done to death. This looks a bit fresher and from the Review I think it may well be for me. I liked the Commodore 64-ish sounds it got with the S&H function at the start especially. Loved the Megaman 3 rendition too! My bassist would love this.

  34. This is all those wacked-out, cheese-meister 70`s keyboard sounds underneath my pesky digits..
    And in a box!
    All aboard!!!…..Last train to Prog central”…..
    Uh -oh, a quick pit stop for the MOtherShip,-
    Professor Funkenstein, adjust the modular sofa will You please”
    You just know this is going to end in trouble….There will be tears…And they won`t be mine!!
    Just remember,folks. There`s a big difference between kneeling down and bending over
    This has been a public info-disgraceful service ,brought to You by Red Witch pedals.

  35. I’m currently looking for a synth pedal and I’ve looked around to pick the best one – the synthotron is high on my list. In a way we’re so used to glitchy synth sounds that this one is almost too tamed, but once one found out how to use it and what for, I can imagine how powerful it can be… thanks for the compressor trick in the article BTW.

  36. Sounds like one sweet guitar synth! Thank you for the great detailed review, I never know what to expect from a synth pedal and this spelled it out perfect

  37. The Red Witch Synthotron is a winner. Never have I heard a guitar synth of this quality. I hope to win it, the people at Red Witch are true artists.

  38. The synthotron really has some unique tones. Other harmonizers like the pog and organizers miss the synth niche and fewer do it better than Red Witch.

  39. This thing could absolutely bridge the upsetting gap I have right now between playing guitar and making music with synths and sound design, I spend hours on each in isolation but would love a middle ground and the immediacy and expressiveness from playing guitar in a synth sound. Loads of tweakability with voices and filtering and s/h stuff, could make some pretty dirty riffs, yes please.

  40. I’m a huge fan of chip music and now I think I’m a huge fan of this pedal! I’ve been looking for a pedal to do 8bit sounding sounds for a while now and this seems to be the ONE!!!

  41. I’m trying to think about when I would use this??? There are other synth pedals that make this pedal sound like a toy by comparison. Grantedly, the ones I am referring to are also multi-FX processors and/or MIDI. I wonder how this pedal would sound combined with other pedals. I would really need to spend some time on this pedal to give a proper assessment and rate it.

  42. I want to win the Synthotron for experimenting and to break up the monotony of learning classic rock and just fooling around for a bit with something ‘odd’ to come up with something novel.

  43. The problem with these kinds of pedals is the tracking, this one sound pretty good but you would have to play it yourself to assess the tracking!

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