Meris Mercury7 Reverb Review

 

The Mercury7 Reverb was the first pedal release from Meris, a Southern California based builder currently comprised of only 3 team members. While at a glance the Mercury7 may seem like a pretty standard reverb, it’s actually more of a conceptual reverb instrument. After all, the sounds of the Mercury7 were inspired by the majestic use of reverb found in Vangelis’ original Bladerunner film soundtrack from 1982, and if you’re familiar with the work, that should give you a hint as to the kinds of sprawling cinematic ambience this pedal can produce.

The Mercury7 Reverb pedal was actually derived from Meris’ Mercury7 Reverb 500 Series module, the world’s first 500 Series based algorithmic DSP reverb. When you consider the Mercury7’s inspirational source and the fact that the Mercury7 was originally designed as a studio tool first, you can further imagine the perspective with which it may be best to approach the pedal. Expanding your perceptions in this way will help you see the Mercury7 Reverb as a portal that can open wormholes to uncharted dimensions of reverberant space.

 

Features:

  • Handcrafted Algorithmic Reverbs
  • Analog Mix & Dry Signal Path
  • High & Low Frequency Damping
  • Extensive Modulation Capability
  • Auto Swell Envelope (variable and foot-switchable)
  • Stereo input and output
  • Switchable input output headroom level for Guitar, Synthesizer or Line levels
  • Expression pedal control over all parameters simultaneously
  • Presets available via external 4-Preset switch or MIDI
  • MIDI in/out over TRS via the EXP jack
  • Premium analog signal path and 24-bit AD/DA w/32 bit floating point DSP
  • Premium Analog Devices JFET input section
  • Color – translucent coat of deep blue over brushed aluminum
  • Designed and built in Los Angeles, California U.S.A.

Specs:

  • Premium quality 24 bit A/D and D/A
  • 32 Bit floating point DSP hardware
  • -115 dB Signal to Noise Ratio (typical)
  • Premium low noise Analog signal path throughout
  • Auto Swell Envelope (variable and foot-switchable)
  • Analog Devices JFET input circuitry
  • Wet/Dry signal mix occurs in the Analog domain
  • Selectable True Bypass (Relay) or Analog Buffered Bypass
  • 150 mA total power consumption
  • Durable transparent blue powder coat over brushed aluminum
  • Current draw: <150mA
  • Dimensions: 4.25″ wide, 4.5″ long, 2″ tall

Visit Meris for more info about the Mercury7 Reverb.

 

 

Sound & Performance:

As is the case with the similarly laid-out Polymoon and Ottobit Jr. pedals, the Mercury7 Reverb has a surface arrangement of six knobs, a pair of buttons, and two foot-switches.

The main knob functions are generally self-explanatory, but some of the knobs function a bit differently from what you’ll find on some reverb pedals. For example, while the Space Decay sets the length of your reverb trails (the “decay”), there’s also a change in the way the reverb dissipates depending on where the knob is set. The knob will seem to expand and contract the reverb as you turn it, and the reverb seems to get “bigger” and more dense as you turn the knob clockwise. This makes it highly interactive with other parameters; as the reverb gets bigger and louder, you may need to attenuate the sound with the Mix knob. Likewise, the Lo Frequency and Hi Frequency knobs can help shape the atmosphere of the reverb. You can brighten the high-end to add more sheen to the reverb or dampen the highs for a boxier sound, and you can remove some low-end content for a thinner reverb sound or increase the size of the virtual room.

The two center knobs, Modulate and Pitch Vector, provide a couple extra surface options for augmenting the sound of the reverb. Modulate adds modulation to the reverb ranging from a light, smooth sway to deeper and more hypnotic movements. (We’ll discuss this a bit more when we get to the Alt functions.) The Pitch Vector knob selects between different pitch intervals that shift the pitch of the reverb. It’s worth noting the knob interplay again; when you add a Pitch Vector selection to your sound, you may wish to experiment with changing other knob values to get the perfect sound. With the -Oct setting, boosting the Lo Frequency can help dial in a booming low-end heavy reverb. With the Slight Pitch Down and Slight Pitch Up options, try using the Modulate knob to make an even more dizzying and vertigo inducing sound. With the 5th and Shimmer options use the Hi Frequency to really accentuate or suppress those glistening upper frequencies. You’ll also notice how higher Space Decay values cause the pitches to regenerate and continue cascading in the direction the pitch is shifting.

 

Alt Functions

Each of the Mercury7’s knobs has an Alt function which is accessed by pushing and holding the Alt button while turning any of the knobs. These functions add deeper levels of customization to the reverb.

The Predelay Alt function behaves slightly different from how I expected it to compared to the many other reverbs I’ve used. The maximum time you can insert before the onset of the reverb is relatively short, but it will let you add a little extra space before the reverb so that your pick attack and transients can breathe. Considering how subtle it is, this may be more of a set-and-forget parameter rather than one that’ll have dramatic effect on the placement of the reverb in a mix; however if you’re using the Mercury7 with other instruments besides guitar, you may find the Predelay useful for tweaking the response of the reverb to work well with different audio source(s). The Density Alt function “sets amount of initial build up of echoes before the reverb tank”. To my ears this seems to smooth out the reverb as you raise the Density. With shorter settings more detail of the reflections will be audible, but at higher settings the reverb seems more diffused. It’s worth exploring how this interacts with the Space Decay. If I’m using longer decay settings, I find myself liking to add more Density, but with shorter decay times, I like to keep it low to create a sparsely reflective response that seems more room-like.

There are a couple different modulation Alt parameters. The Mod Speed option sets the “dominant” speed of the modulation. I mentioned that you can dial in a range of modulation textures with the Modulate knob. As you increase the Mod Speed and raise the Modulate knob’s surface value, you’ll notice that there’s all kinds of gargling modulation happening. It sounds like the Mercury7 is using well more than one LFO to generate the movement, and it can go from subtle to sea-sickening as you increase both of these parameters. And if you add in the Vibrato Depth Alt function, you have yet even more modulation to add to your reverb, this time in the form of more subtle sine wave based pitch modulation. The vibrato has a set speed, perhaps a drawback for those wish for more from the vibrato function. You’ll probably not notice the counter-movement of the set vibrato speed if the Vibrato Depth is set low and if you’re using both of the modulation options at once; things will just get more interesting with all the movement going on.

The Pitch Vector Mix Alt parameter adjusts the mix between the normal reverb sound and the pitch-shifted reverb. It essentially lets you balance out how much of the pitch-shifting is in your wet reverberated signal. It can be tempting to just max it out so that when you activate the Pitch Vector you get a full-on pitch-shifted reverb, but it can be more effective to carefully set the Pitch Vector Mix by ear while the Mix and Space Decay are set to levels at which you generally use them. I personally went through a phase of feeling like I didn’t like the Mercury7’s pitch-shifting effects that much until I realized how critical it is to be mindful of how much Pitch Vector signal is blended into the virtual reverb tank. For me a Pitch Vector Mix setting around 11 o’clock generally works well for getting a nice Shimmer effect that is present without being overly prominent.

The Attack Time Alt parameter sets the onset time for the Swell effect. Let’s talk about that in detail…

 

Swell

The auto swell function has it’s own dedicated foot-switch. When activated the reverb will swell from silence to full volume in response to your playing. It’s good to set the Attack Time Alt parameter to get a response that suits the feel you want to accompany your playing. This function also works really well with the Mix cranked up for a fully wet reverb signal. Generous amounts of Space Decay will also help create a huge cloud of reverb, and you can hold down the Swell foot-switch to max the Space Decay to keep the reverb going while you auto-swell in more of your playing. This adds some extra performance flexibility to the Mercury7.

 

Cathedra & Ultraplate

It’s finally time to talk about the Mercury7’s two reverb modes. While some pedals come loaded with maybe a half-dozen, dozen, or even more reverbs, this pedal has only two. Is that a drawback? Well, if you just want a spring reverb sound, the Mercury7 definitely won’t be your first choice, but the two modes on tap do cover a lot of ground. Let’s discuss.

I’m a big fan of plate reverbs, and I like to try every plate emulation I can get access to. In short, the Mercury7 Reverb’s Ultraplate algorithm is my personal favorite plate reverb for using with a short pre-delay. In fact, the stereo spread of the Ultraplate is so appealing to me that I’ve been using the Ultraplate as my default “always-on” reverb for light to moderate ambience for the past six months. While the sound of the reverb may be more artificial than a room-modeled reverb, it does what I need it to do, and when compared to algorithms from other noteworthy pedals, I keep going back to the Mercury7. Since I literally just leave it on nearly all the time, if I want to use another reverb, I may stack another reverb that has a less impressive stereo sound in front of the Ultraplate. The Mercury7 Reverb creates the space for all the other pedals to sit in.

The Cathedra is arguably the Mercury7’s flagship reverb that really magnifies all of the sound design possibilities on tap. If you want something more restrained, you’ll probably stick with the Ultraplate. But if you want see how far you can travel, the Cathedra will take you beyond the horizon. The Cathedra has way more complexity in its sound and can absolutely dominate the frequency spectrum with its massive presence and extra long reverb decay. It you’re creating music with sparse instrumentation but want to create a mood through evocative use of reverb, you’ll find plenty of expressive nuance in using the Cathedra. The knobs beg to be turned while you feel audio into the pedal, and you’ll probably find it worthwhile to consider using an expression pedal to control multiple parameters at once.

 

 

Get Connected

I already mentioned how impressed I’ve been by how good the Mercury7’s Ultraplate sounds in stereo. (The Cathedra is awesome in stereo, too, by the way.) If you haven’t noticed yet, I can’t stress enough how highly I recommend trying this pedal in stereo. And running the Polymoon & Mercury7 together in stereo is the stuff dreams are made of. The Mercury7 and other Meris pedals also let you select between Line and Instrument level signals. This makes it easier to integrate the Mercury7 in a synthesizer based rig. You can also take full control of the pedal’s adjustable parameters with MIDI, allowing control of the pedal from a MIDI controller or sequencer. Meris recently released their long-awaited MIDI I/O adapter, and for my testing the Chase Bliss Audio Midibox worked perfectly fine.

 

Ups & Downs

I really want to find some faults with this pedal, but I can’t really find anything that is a deal-breaker. I will say that I’m starting to wish more reverb pedals would include a High Pass Filter to help make space for other low-frequency instruments rather than being able to do it only in post processing. It’s essential to separate elements in an audio mix, and a huge reverb can dominate the audio frequency spectrum. The Lo Frequency can tame the lows pretty well, but I usually like to just cut out all low frequencies below a certain point. Also, I have noticed that I wish the Alt parameters on all Meris pedals were labeled in small font beneath the main parameters. While I don’t spend much time adjusting them once things are set, that’s also the reason why Alt labels would be helpful – to help users remember which parameters are where for the occasion when users do need to make a quick tweak and aren’t sure which Alt parameter hides under what knob. The only other issue I can think of is that you will need a separate device (like the Meris Preset Switch) if you want to save and recall presets. I personally have all the Meris pedals set up with MIDI and find that to be my preferred way of interfacing with and controlling the Mercury7 (and other Meris pedals). The Mercury7 may not be as flashy seeming or “wow-ing” at first, but it sounds amazing and is easily among the great reverb pedals available today. And like I said, the Mercury7 has become the one reverb pedal I can’t turn off.

 

 

The Meris Mercury7 Reverb is a masterpiece of sophisticated reverb sound design, and the versatility of its two interstellar algorithms helps the pedal hold its own against reverb pedals that contain many more. The pedal’s two humble algorithms boast an incredible range of possibility thanks to a wide range of carefully calibrated parameter controls. It’s amazing how the Mercury7 (and other Meris pedals for that matter) can seem very simple to use yet house such a breadth of potential. Rather than be filled to the brim with different types of reverb (with many of them failing to inspire), the Mercury7’s Ultraplate and Cathedra are exceptionally well crafted, and the interactive parameter controls make it possible for these two modes to cover a lot of ground. The Mercury7 alone could inspire the atmosphere of whole albums, and this pedal will no doubt be used to score some cinematic masterpieces to come in the ensuing years.

That concludes our Meris Mercury7 Reverb review. Thanks for reading.

Interview: Alec A. Head of Ghostbound

 

Today we’re interviewing Alec A. Head, guitarist and vocalist of the Brooklyn-based band, Ghostbound. Their new record, All Is Phantom, just came out on June 1st, 2018.

All Is Phantom is grandiose in scale and is an evocative, cinematic listening experience. The opening ambient guitars of “The Gallivanter” and peaceful closure of “Goodbye” bookend a body of work that has many riveting and subdued moments throughout.

We’re going to be talking with Alec about Ghostbound’s debut record and get some insight into his inspiration behind it, the process of bringing it to life, and of course, ask about some of the pedals and effects he used on the record.

 

So Alec, Ghostbound has been compared to The Smiths meets black metal. How do you feel about that description? And what references of comparison would you offer to new listeners before they push play on All Is Phantom?

First and foremost, thank you so much for having me! While it would be hard for me to dispute the description in question, as the influence of The Smiths (and other guitar-driven post-punk/pop) is probably something that is permanently ingrained into my “musical DNA”, as it were, I do feel that the comparison is a trifle too simplistic for what we do. With that said, my own tagline for the project VERY early-on was “Crowded House gone black metal”, so who I am to judge? It almost goes without saying that I have literally no control over how we are perceived, so if there are those who want to make direct comparisons to specific artists, then have at it!

If I were to break it down on my own, I daresay that we (on All is Phantom, in any case) play an atmospheric and “holistic” blend of metal, post-punk, and ambient stylings with nods toward singer/songwriter-style balladry in the vein of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, black metal, and 80s “big music” in the vein of Big Country, The Waterboys, Crowded House, among many, many, innumerable other disparate genres. In truth, everything is permitted in the world of Ghostbound as long as we err on the side of “atmosphere”. The aforementioned is probably why I do not write the promotional material for this band, specifically :-)

 

This record has been a long time coming. When did you first embark on the All Is Phantom journey to start bringing this album to life? And what were some of the biggest challenges you faced in making this vision a reality?

My, oh my! This is the loaded question to end all loaded questions! In essence, I wrote the introduction to what eventually became “The Gallivanter” in Autumn of 2002. Over the following months and years, I wrote the foundations to what would eventually comprise roughly half of the songs that make up All is Phantom (“Wildest of Rivers”, “Earthen Ground”, “Intermezzo”, “It Goes Away”, and “Tidings”, specifically). Of course, life and other ambitions got in the way of my completing the record in any appreciable way during this time. Finally, there was one particular event that transpired in 2012 that caused me to abandon my other artistic endeavors in favor of focusing on music exclusively. This particular event would inform and enrich the lyrical themes that run throughout the record as well as spur me on to complete the aforementioned songs in addition to composing a few entirely new(er) songs altogether.

In 2013, I ended up joining two VERY different bands as a lead guitarist; a former co-worker of mine by the name of Greg Mattern is a singer/songwriter of considerable ability (I contributed the guitar solo to “Crazy” which can be heard here). He played a brand of folk-influenced indie rock with rather unique chord inversions and orchestral arrangements. More importantly, I joined avant blackened doom stalwarts Kosmodemonic as an additional/lead guitarist. Bozz, KD’s frontman, is able to string riffs and ideas together so brilliantly that it inspired and continues to inspire me to no end. So, at one time, I was in two radically different bands fronted by actual SONGWRITERS. Greg’s project eventually fizzled as far as being a fully-fledged band was concerned (though it would also be where I would meet Noah Shaul, my good friend and the only other member of Ghostbound until very recently), and Kosmodemonic is still together (we have a new record that is hopefully going to be released later this year), but this was essential to my own development as a composer, and I would work on the rest of the songs that make up the record accordingly.

To speak of challenges, I daresay that the biggest challenge we have faced thus far is finding the means to release the record. We had to sit on it for quite a bit before finding a suitable label (or, at least, a label with the means and desire to release it). So far, ATMF Records/A Sad Sadness Song is treating us very well and we are privileged to be among so many great, forward-thinking artists in the form of Deadly Carnage and Forgotten Woods, among others!

 

To which bands and albums would you give credit for inspiring such a sprawling, theatrical release?

Of course, there are too many to mention, BUT there a few specific bands and artists that inspired the idea of the “expansiveness” of the music that comprises All is Phantom.

Devin Townsend’s Ocean Machine – Biomech record was a massive inspiration as it pertains to the “size” of the music; essentially, it is a collection of intensely personal songs that was then densely layered with a massive wall of heavy guitar as well as effects-laden, pad-like guitar lines on top of Queen-like, overdubbed vocal arrangements. His recent material has not been as inspiring to me, but Biomech and Terria are both essential to the foundation of All is Phantom.

In The Woods… – Omnio was also a very important record for me. While they had their roots in black metal, the band would eventually evolve into something a little more “special” via sprawling, meandering songs and almost exclusively “cleanly sung” vocals along with ethereal atmospherics without abandoning black metal’s hallmarks of tremolo guitar lines and blast beats.

Agalloch – Pale Folklore. This record came out in the midst of a very fertile period for me. Once I heard this album, I stopped thinking of metal as being merely “heavy”. This was metal that also had a very strong sense of cinematic atmosphere and dynamics on top of a very “visual” quality. It stands as truly “transportive” music. The same idea applies to Ulver’s Bergtatt record. I daresay that this is what caused me to gravitate towards black metal as a genre – the idea that something could have all of the things that one can associate with metal, i.e. aggression, speed, and forward motion, while being simultaneously expansive and evocative.

Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden AND Laughing Stock – I keep going back to this idea of “expansiveness”, and this is not better exemplified than on these two records. Of course, one can argue that Post Rock was born after these records came out (though it would officially be coined in the wake of the release of Bark Psychosis’ masterpiece, Hex). These albums are almost beyond what we have come to know as “western music”, for me. I feel that these records are what happens when rock music reaches enlightenment; I hope to eventually get to a similarly ecstatic place with my own music at some point down the road.

Naturally, there are innumerable other bands and individual albums that inspired the “spirit” of this record (Alcest, Anathema, Wovenhand, to name but a few more), but I do not feel that there is enough bandwidth or space available via the internet itself for me to list them. It also bears mentioning that I am a massive film nerd, and the movies of Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Andrei Tarkovsky can also be seen as direct influences on the album.

 

Who are some of the songwriters and guitarists who’ve had an impact on your compositions and guitar playing?

I tend to be a fan of more guitarists who play in a more “textural” way than ones who are known to “play well” – I will take an interesting riff or arpeggiation over a sweep-arpeggiated tappy guitar solo any day of the week.

I, of course, bow at the altar of Johnny Marr; His ability to invert rather simple chord arrangements into deceptively clever riffs is something that will always inspire me. Geordie Walker of Killing Joke is PERHAPS my favorite guitar player ever, mostly due to his sense of economy and completely incredible, individualistic, atmospheric tone. I had this brief period around 2005 where I would try my damnedest to rip off Michael Hedges at every turn, and while I have since abandoned the “touch/tap” technique insofar as my own playing is concerned, his ability as a composer and player continues to influence me greatly – he was able to occupy the biggest amount of space with a single recorded guitar track. Alex Lifeson of Rush fame, Peter Yates and Nod Wright of Fields of the Nephilim, Vini Reilly of The Durutti Column, John McGeoch of Siouxsie and the Banshees fame, Dave Fielding and Reg Smithies of The Chameleons, the list goes on and on!

As far as “soloists” are concerned, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, and Steve Rothery (Marillion) are all beautifully expressive in their playing. On the more “metal” end of the spectrum, Luc Lemay and Kevin Hufnagel of Gorguts, Christian Bouche of Deathspell Omega, Devin Townsend, Bob Vigna of Immolation, Paul Masvidal of Cynic, Don Anderson of Khôrada/Sculptured/ex-Agalloch, and ESPECIALLY Piggy from Voivod will always be big inspirations for me and my playing.

In terms of songwriters, I daresay Nick Cave, Michael Gira, Kate Bush, David Sylvian, Nick Drake, Mark Eitzel, Jeremy Enigk, Stephen Sondheim, Mark Kozelek, Danny Cavanagh, Kevin Coyne, Scott Walker, Henryk Gorecki, Arvo Part, Mike Scott, Stephane “Neige” Paul, and Neil Finn are but a few of the individuals whose work continually informs and inspires me.

 

You’ve said that Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle) is your single biggest influence as a singer. What are some of his works that have had the most impact on you, lyrically and/or stylistically?

Yet another “can o’ worms” question! Faith No More’s Angel Dust ranks as my favorite record ever. It is arguably the most challenging record ever released by a major label, and I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when the meeting between executives expecting another “Epic” occurred. I like to imagine that they all put their heads down on the table or ran away screaming by the time “Malpractice” came on. I have quite the affinity for King for a Day/Fool for a Lifetime, as well. Both records are meant to be experienced on a whole, and yet no two songs sound alike in any way. Also, both records saw Mr. Patton truly coming into his own as a vocalist, whether he was crooning, rapping, growling, or shrieking like a banshee. No one can match his versatility. I have made own attempts to do so, most notably on “Roof and Wall” off of All is Phantom. The jury is still out as to whether or not I was successful.

I would also like to give a quick shout-out to other singers that helped shape my voice in the form of Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave, Scott Walker, Dax Riggs, Alan Averill, Jaz Coleman, Dominic Appleton, and Krister Linder.

 

I appreciate All Is Phantom when experienced as a whole as there are some recurring moods and a cohesiveness to the overall sound, but many of the songs can certainly stand on their own. Was the record intentionally written to be experienced as a singular event, or did you focus on the songs individually and just let them take form as a record?

I wholly appreciate you saying that! Thank you! In short, the record was written in an effort to be experienced in one sitting. I am of the generation where a record must have a beginning, middle, and an end. I want there to be a certain sense of “journey” to the music with branching paths and/or hidden doorways, to put it somewhat pretentiously.

 

Which song on All Is Phantom is your favorite and why?

Without question, my favorite song on the record is “Night Time Drowning”, mostly because it was one of the more recent songs written for the record. Additionally, it is the song where I wear my influences furthest out on my sleeve. One does not have to listen too deeply to realize that it is a homage to some of my favorite post-punk/goth/death rock recordings of yesteryear. I feel that it exhibits a certain tribute without being too retro or pastiche, and I also like that there is a genuine sense of looming menace/dramatic tension that runs throughout the song.

 

Any favorite moments on the record?

At around the 4:23 point of “Night Time Drowning”, there is a certain clean guitar part that comes in – it is mixed rather low and sits right underneath all the grandiosity and layered guitar tracks. I feel that it “breaks the song open” in the best way possible. Incidentally, it was something that occurred at the last possible minute and was not really “composed” beforehand.

In “Tidings”, I am rather big on the “bridge” sections that occur at around the 2:40 and 4:57 points. I feel that the clean/center-guitar parts and acoustic guitars are mixed rather well, and that combined with the overdubbed harmony choirs makes for a rather “lush” atmosphere.

I am also quite fond of the clean guitar tone I was able to achieve for “It Goes Away”.

Lastly, when I first heard the heavy guitars come in through the studio monitors while listening back to “The Gallivanter” after recording the main guitar tracks, I realized that this record was shaping up to be exactly how I envisioned it after so many years.

 

Can you tell us about the guitars and amps used on the record?

Happily! For this record, I utilized two different tunings. The majority of the songs are in E Standard/A 440, and a few of them are in D Standard (“Keep My Dreams Inside”, “Roof and Wall”, and “Goodbye”, respectively). For the songs in E standard, I utilized my custom-built Heritage H555. It is, in essence, an ES-335-style, semi-hollow guitar as it was built by a number of the original Gibson builders out of the original Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It boasts a set Mahogany neck into a Maple center block with curly Maple back, top, and sides, not to mention an ebony fretboard. At the time of the recording, I had a Seymour Duncan Custom Custom in the bridge position, and a Duncan ’59 in the neck position. For 99.99% of the clean tones, you hear the Duncan ’59, specifically, though the Custom Custom is used for the clean tones on “It Goes Away”. It bears mentioning that for a number of the rhythm tracks on “Tidings” and “Wildest of Rivers”, I also made use of an ESP E-II Eclipse that I had gutted of its active electronics in favor of a Bare Knuckle Rebel Yell in the bridge position and a Cold Sweat in the neck. I have since sold the ESP E-II, and I have also replaced the pickups in the Heritage with a set of Bare Knuckle Mules. I believe I was using a set of Rotosound 11-48 strings.

For the songs in D standard, I used my custom-built Monson Nomad, which was built by a wonderfully talented, Washington-based luthier by the name of Brent Monson (www.monsonguitars.com). This instrument is a unique beast in and of itself. It weighs in at around 12 pounds, and it also boasts a Mahogany neck-through construction at 25″, PRS-like scale with a Sapele body/”wings”. It has a Claro Walnut top that was salvaged from a 160-year-old dead tree, and an ebony fretboard. Surprisingly, its attack is somewhat “strat-like” in terms of the “snap and sizzle” thereof, but it sounds like no other guitar I have ever owned or played. At the time of recording, it had a set of Bare Knuckle Rebel Yells in both the bridge and neck positions, and a set of DR drop-tune strings in 11-54 gauge, but at present it has a Bare Knuckle Abraxas set resting comfortably in its woodsy contours, and I could not be happier with how it sounds. In point of fact, I love this guitar so much that I have since “retired” the Heritage from live use, and I have set the Monson up in E standard for any and all live performances going forward. I have since procured a Dunable Yeti for the D-standard material.

The smattering of acoustic guitar you hear was done via my Larrivee D-05 in standard tuning along with a set of John Pearse Phosphor Bronze 12-53 strings.

Amp-wise, all of the dirty/distorted tunes you hear were achieved via my trusty Orange Rockerverb MKII head through the studio’s own Bogner 4/12 cabinet, though for “Tidings” and “Wildest of Rivers”, I had split the signal between the Rockerverb and the crunch channel of the studio’s Bogner Ecstacy. 98% of the clean tones on the album were achieved through the studio’s old VHT (pre-Fryette) Deliverance, though I do recall that the clean tones on “Earthen Ground” were actually done via the clean channel of the Rockerverb itself.

 

Let’s talk about specific effects used to create sounds on the record. What reverb did you use in the opening guitars of The Gallivanter?

For the introduction to “The Gallivanter”, I used my Strymon blueSky set to maximum shimmer. There was no other pedal used for that part as I can recall.

 

At the end of The Wildest of Rivers there’s a cool droning ambience as the song fades out. How did you create that sound?

I believe that was achieved via the aforesaid Strymon blueSky with the mix set to its highest setting combined with the my Strymon El Capistan via the clean channel of the Orange Rockerverb.

 

I hear some modulation and delay on the opening guitar in Earthen Ground. What did you use there?

You heard right! If I am remembering correctly, it was the “Saltwater” preset of my Strymon TimeLine along with the studio’s ancient Ibanez CS-9 chorus pedal that was apparently once owned by Simon Gallup of The Cure (our engineer, the great Jesse Cannon, had worked on The Cure’s 2003 self-titled effort and Robert Smith had given it to him as a gift).

 

There’s some chorus on the intro guitars of (I Will) Keep My Dreams Inside; what’s your go-to chorus pedal?

The aforementioned Ibanez CS-9 was what I used on all of the clean guitars on which there is a chorus effect. I absolutely LOVE the tone that I captured on the record and, of course, the idea that the pedal may have once been owned and used by a member of one of my favorite bands ever gave it a little extra “mojo”. However, I then acquired one for myself only to have the thing break on me twice. I have since procured a BOSS CE-2W, and I daresay that it is the finest chorus pedal I have ever heard or used.

 

When the break hits in Tidings around 3:12, what are you using for the dirt on that single note riff? Was that just your amp? And did any dirt pedals make it on that or any other parts of the record?

That is a very good question for which there is not one ounce of mystery! That was entirely the Orange Rockerverb and no, there were absolutely no dirt pedals used on the record. I am a strong proponent of amp distortion, though I did recently purchase an Earthquaker Devices Dunes pedal, and I am using it as my “always on” overdrive for live use. I love it, so far.

 

Are there any other noteworthy effects that were used on the record?

Not as such! Essentially the only pedals used were a holy Strymon trifecta variation in the form of the blueSky, TimeLine, and El Capistan along with the old Ibanez CS-9 chorus.

 

What’s currently on your gear wish-list? Are there any interesting new pedals you’re looking at that might become part of the Ghostbound sound?

I wish I can say there were not! As an unabashed gear-head, I am always pining for new pieces of gear in every form! Of late, I tend to gravitate towards pedals that can only be described as “a little weird” as those are the pedals that truly inspire me to create. I am currently enamored with my MWFX Judder, and although I have yet to figure out a way to use it in our current set, knowing that it is on my pedalboard warms the ol’ cockles of my heart. I am currently hungering after the Meris Polymoon. I got to experience it first-hand at the Brooklyn Stompbox Exhibit, and I was surprised at how intuitive it was in terms of the hidden functions, et cetera. Also, it goes without saying that it sounds absolutely inspiring. I would be able to achieve the ultimate in ethereal soundscapes with the Polymoon along with their Mercury7 reverb. I never thought I would find a company that could top Strymon in this arena, but it looks like Meris is definitely it. It also bears mentioning that both of the fellows who run the company were incredibly nice and informative.

I also recently caught a YouTube clip of the Dwarfcraft Ghost Fax phaser pedal, and my jaw dropped to the floor. I have sold every phaser I have ever owned, but this one is looking to do something a little bit different. Additionally, the Red Panda Tensor pedal looks amazing; I have no real idea what it is supposed to do, but I know that I need it in my life.

Lastly, the Earthquaker Devices Transmisser is something that I have had my eye on for quite a bit. Virtually anything with which I can create an unearthly, synth-like soundscape is something I will want on my pedalboard forthwith!

 

What are your plans now? Any touring plans or other projects in the works?

At present, we are aiming to play live as much as possible. Noah and I made the effort to expand the line-up through numerous abortive attempts to play with potential additional guitarists and drummers, and we finally solidified the line-up earlier this year. We have the great Talha Alvie in our ranks. He also plays guitar and is the primary songwriter behind Karachi-based progressive rock band The DA Method. In addition, we are joined on drums by Jimmy Duke, who has years upon years of experience in innumerable Brooklyn-based hardcore/punk outfits. We recently played our FIRST SHOW as a live unit, and we are aiming to play our official album-release show in early August.

We are also in talks with a few visual artists in an effort to make a musical video for one or a number of tracks, though nothing has been set in stone as of yet.

Of course, we would love to go on tour, but we all have day jobs, careers, and/or families. We hope to do so soon, but the circumstances would have to be right.

Lastly, we are going to be commencing work on the follow-up to All is Phantom. Here is hoping that it will not take as long from inception to completion!

 

Is there anything else you’d like to share before we go?

I would just like to take the time to say “thank you”, Gabe, for your attention and support. It is greatly humbling to know that there are those who are interested in our work. I would also like to thank any potential fan that may be lurking around the proverbial corner. Feel free to give us a listen at www.ghostbound.bandcamp.com, and/or give us a visit at www.facebook.com/ghostboundthrone.

 

Alec, thanks again for joining us. We wish you the best!

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.

EarthQuaker Devices Pyramids Review

 

Have you ever wanted to join a cult but the worry of being judged by your peers has stopped you? Did you try to join one late at night in a McDonald’s parking lot only to be left with a handful of fries, a party hat, and never ending emptiness? I felt the same until I found EarthQuaker Devices. Harboring spirits and secrets in each pedal, EarthQuaker Devices has rapidly turned into the boutique pedal brand of choice for those who want to add an obscure, wild element to their rig. Known for their unique yet familiar pedals like the Rainbow Machine, Data Corrupter, and Avalanche Run that reimagined “standard” effects, EQD has gone even more specific and challenged the traditional flanger with the newest addition to their family tree: Pyramids.

 

 

Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Pyramids.

 

The Soul Servants Abide

Pyramids is a stereo flanger that you can mix, tweak, and morph from a smooth jet plane into something sounding like a contemporary art song played on a broken banjo.

With a first glance at this teal and purple box, right away your eyes are drawn to the 2 sets of rotary knobs offering the options of 5 Presets and 8 Modes. Unlike its pedal siblings, Pyramids not only offers the choice to construct and save sounds, but also a mix knob to level those effects with your input signal. All of these 8 Modes can be tweaked to your desire with dedicated knobs like Manual to control the delay time of your modulation, Rate to change the speed of your LFO, Width to control the range of the LFO sweep, and Mix for dry and wet control.

When you first plug into Pyramids it’s tempting to stay lost in a subtle wash from Classic Mode. With all dials turned to 12 o’clock, Pyramids gives you just a taste of what it must have felt like to be an 80’s rock star onstage with fans blowing in your long beautiful hair. Classic mode is all about that hallowed ageless tone everyone seems to be talking about these days. I like to mess with the rate and feedback to create a warping bubble that you could almost compare to a ring modulation. Classic sounds great on large open chords allowing you to hear the ebb and flow of your modulated signal in the background.

With a quick turn of the Mode knob, you’re now on Through-Zero. This preset is where you can get some whooshing jet sounds or cancel out your signal for momentary pauses. My favorite is having the Modify and Rate turned to 0 at normal speed to create a pause similar to turning the attack knobs up on your synth of choice. Roll up the feedback, slide between notes, and you get an almost reversed signal with that nice tasty layer of flange on top. Pair Pyramids with a hearty reverb pedal such as a Strymon blueSky to get some beautiful ambient chords.

With the Mix and Rate all the way up, both Barber Pole Up and Barber Pole Down sound like a Chorus mixed with the shakiness of a sawtooth wave. These modes let you control the tone of your modulated sound using the Modify knob acting as high and low pass filter. It’s interesting to hear the tonal differences between Barber Pole Up and Barber Pole Down by switching between the modes back and forth. Playing leads on these modes creates a unique warble sound that is easy to control with the Tap/Trigger foot-switch.

Like most people, I think lasers are pretty cool. Trigger Up and Trigger Down Mode are basically your excuse to point a guitar to your loved ones and show off your true musicianship with the power of “pew” “pew” “pew”. It’s a great party trick. Everyone will love you. These two modes control how your signal reacts to you picking or “triggering” a note. Trigger up lets you sound like a Kraftwerk intro by providing a high pitched rising sweep with every pick. Pick a note, then right after hit the Tap/Trigger foot-switch to get an immediate re-trigger of that rising sweep. Trigger Down is all of this, with more of a traditional sounding “pew” “pew” in which the sweep descends.

Step Mode is a huge game changer that removes Pyramids from the ranks of any basic flanger. This Mode sounds like an arpeggio constantly rising and falling. Modify controls the amount of glide between the notes, while Width controls the pitch respectively. The fun thing with Step Mode is that it can create an infinite set of steps looping forever with the Feedback turned all the way up. This means that even after the sustain of the guitar tone dies on a note you picked, the “sequence” of steps is still audible. Step Mode is very effective on synths and digital instruments, in which you are able to hold down a note without any decay.

Random is the final adventure through the elusive Pyramids, adding a chaotic mix of random steps in a fashion that is slightly more tamable than the Magic setting on EQDs Rainbow Machine pedal. Like the Step Mode, you can control the glide of these steps using the Modify knob. Having a slow/low Rate creates a beautiful Lo-Fi sounding shimmer that can suddenly drop into a lush sound of goodness. Use Random Mode on long open chords to get the full effect of sinking into a bowl of chocolate.

With so many Modes and Presets, the user is presented with a minor annoyance of having the switch between sounds manually using the assigned rotary knobs. For some this could seem cumbersome having to bend down onstage to switch between presets. This is something to think about but also something I think that is able to be helped by assigning your presets in order of your set. Of course it is ideal to have a foot-switch to shift between numerous presets in a loop, but with the rotary design on the Pyramids it is helpful to have that click of security between each sound so you can know exactly which one you’re on.

 

 

The EarthQuaker Devices Pyramids is a versatile stereo flanger that offers musicians unconventional sonic possibilities through 8 modes, 5 user presets, and multiple control knobs. As a guitarist, synth player, and producer, I’ve always appreciated those in the guitar world who aim to do something out of the ordinary. It’s easy to sum up the Pyramids as just a solid flanger, but it’s even easier to point out unusual amount of control the user has over such a simple effect. From washed chords to randomly generated leads, Pyramids is a multi-purpose tool that has a place in any rig.

That concludes our EarthQuaker Devices Pyramids review. Thanks for reading.

SolidGoldFX Electroman MKII Review

 

Maybe I’m getting older. Maybe I’ve tried too many pedals over the years. My expectations are both high and low. High in the way that I feel like I really need a pedal to do something different. Not even cool or great, but just DIFFERENT. Low in the way that this rarely ever happens. I have just come to expect so many pedals to just be “another one of those….” But from the moment I first sat down with the SolidGoldFX Electroman MKII, I knew it was very different. This came as a surprise to me. With eyes and ears open, I proceeded to dive deeper into this beautiful delay of mystery!

My first sighting of this pedal was in Andy’s demo. Right away I was in awe of the sound of the repeats and how they seemed to be wild, yet he had complete control over them. The hold function was so musical and just made sense to me. Right away, and without even really thinking about it, I assumed this was an analog delay. It wasn’t until after I had received it and was using it for about an hour that I got into the paperwork and discovered that it’s all digital! But that’s fine with me, especially when you take into consideration the quality of the sound and features of this pedal.

During that first hour of use, a few things really got my attention. First of all, the modulation. It’s really good. Maybe the best modulation circuit I have ever heard. The circuit design gets its unique qualities from having close ties to the SolidGoldFX Stutter-Lite Tremolo circuit. I spoke with the friendly sonic scientists at SolidGoldFX in hopes of getting the scoop on what makes this modulation circuit so magical. This is what I found out…

The Modulation element of the Electoman MKII is centered on a discrete transistor based circuit that is designed to provide a consistently imperfect waveform. This already sounds fabulous, as anything that has a nice natural, organic feel to it appeals to me. Many times, when using modulation or other LFO controlled effect, the thing that stands out to me as being so unappealing is the sense that it’s just a looping sound, repeating and never altering in any way. This modulation circuit is the kind you can turn up and actually use because it does not give you the sense of a looped sound at all. The intensity of the LFO in the circuit is also impacted by the speed setting of the Modulation circuit and will change depending on the speed selected. Another super unique part of the design is that the mod circuit itself is affecting the second delay chip in the Electroman MKII by creating a rippling lag in the second delay chip’s time. It is as if someone were feeding a delay into another delay and then micro-adjusting the timing of the second delay in real time. This is why the mod circuit has such a beautifully smeared quality to it. This is, literally, music to my ears.

Another really cool thing about the modulation is that it seems to change a lot when you dial in the COLOR knob. On the darker side, the modulation seems to be tamed a bit and gets murky along with everything else. That’s to be expected and is what I like to refer to as “mud-ulation.” Then, around noon on the COLOR, the modulation really comes into its own, having a very musical and distinct characteristic. When the color knob is full clockwise (the bright side) the characteristics of the modulation seem to change to a high pass filter of some kind. This ever-changing behavior of the modulation circuit really adds to the realism of the voicing of this pedal. From an analog kind of sound with warm repeats and murky modulation, to a tape sound with HPF on the repeats, to a digital sound when you dial back the depth of the modulation. The pedal makes no outward claim to be these three voicings. Nowhere on the pedal does it say “analog,” or “tape,” or “digital.” Just the knob that reads “COLOR” along with the “FLUTTER” giving subtle hints at the analog and tape sounds that await with just a few turns of these knobs.

Diving deeper I discover that there is actually an effects loop on this pedal that allows you to add any kind of effect to just the wet signal. This is just the coolest idea. I also like that they have it assigned to one simple stereo jack that you can access with a stereo TRS insert cable. Yeah, hardly any of us have one of those laying around, but they’re very easy to come by or make, and when you’re up and running you’ll find that it’s much easier to pull the one cable in and out when wanting to remove the pedal from the loop. As soon as I realized this was a thing, I threw just about everything into that loop I could get my hands on. I was surprised how well the loop handed just about every single thing I sent through it. More on that below…

 

 

Features:

Sound Design:

  • A brand new, very unique and extremely musical modulation circuit
  • Two cascaded digital delay lines using a pair of PT2399 chips
  • Delay times up to 1,000ms
  • Option for tails on or off with a convenient surface toggle switch
  • Controls for Level, Repeat, Color, Flutter, Time, Mode, Warp, Speed, and Tails
  • Tons of Self-oscillation and gritty long repeat goodness on tap
  • An effects loop that allows you to add any kind of effect to the repeats
  • A customizable Warp foot switch
  • Two modes of delay using only the first chip, or adding the second at half-time

Ins and outs:

  • One 1/4” main input (mono jack, right side mounted)
  • One 1/4” main output (mono jack, left side mouinted)
  • One 1/4” fx loop insert (stereo jack, left side mounted)
  • 9v DC, center negative power jack drawing 40mA (top-mounted)

Knobs/Toggles:

  • LEVEL
  • REPEAT
  • COLOR
  • FLUTTER
  • TIME
  • MODE (two-position toggle)
  • WARP (three-position toggle)
  • SPEED (three-position toggle)
  • TAILS (two-position toggle)

Let’s have a more in-depth look at the main knobs of the pedal:

The controls of the Electroman MKII are fairly straightforward, but there are some interesting things to be found as many of these knobs, and the toggles interact with one another based on how you set them up.

LEVEL: Sets the wet signal from nothing to highly involved. I also noticed that when using the effects loop, level was SUPER important when dialing in dirt pedals that are in the loop. My guess is that the level control is somewhere between the loop and the delay line. When I had it up it seemed to really hit the repeats hard and went into a really cool oscillation even with the repeats only half way. When I dialed the level back a lot, it seemed to keep things more tame.

REPEAT: From a single slap-back repeat to completely overtaking your signal. The “WARP” toggle effects the behavior of the REPEAT knob even when you’re not using the warp switch. I also found the COLOR knob to be very stimulating on the repeats. The brighter you go with it, the more oscillation you get in return.

COLOR: Takes your delay from digital to “analog/tape” voicing. Some will have the opinion that the bright side of this doesn’t get super bright like some of the digital delays out there. The PT2399 delay chip isn’t really meant for full-on digital brightness. It’s always been known for more of an analog/tape kind of sound. Of course, many factors can determine this such as front end driver (if applicable), filtering (if applicable), how the PT2399 is configured, mix/summing amplifier, bypass configuration, etc. Even the guitar/amp you’re using will affect this in some ways. I would say this pedal has repeats that are definitely leaning towards the analog/tape sounds, up to, maybe, a middle of the road tone for digital delays.

FLUTTER: Controls the modulation depth, full CCW shuts off the modulation circuit. Now, here is where some of the other magic comes in. This has to be one of the best modulation circuits I have ever heard. There is also some interaction with the COLOR knob here. I can’t confirm, but I swear the modulation is adding a high pass filter on the repeats when the COLOR knob is full CW giving a very tape-like sound to the repeats. Further control of the modulation is achieved by setting the three-position SPEED toggle.

TIME: Sets your delay time from 70ms to one full second (1,000ms) of delay. Tweaking this knob with your toe gives all the warpy oscillation that you would come to expect from your favorite analog delay.

MODE: Changes between standard delay and a second mode that sends the delay signal into the second chip for half-time repeats. Great for that washy, shoegaze sound. This is a fairly common technique used in a few delay pedals. If you’re familiar with the Tonal Recall, it has the toggle for short, long, and both. This would be like long and both.

WARP: This option is kind of wonderful. Have you ever hit the “hold” function on a delay pedal and, even though it sounded cool, you really wish you could change the behavior of that switch? Well, this does exactly that. Three modes let you decide how you want it to act. Center position (my favorite) gives a subtle behavior, just dipping into oscillation and then smoothly coming out. Right position is “imminent lift-off,” as described by the manual. Full oscillation insanity ensues. Left position is somewhere between those two extremes.

SPEED: Offers three different speed settings for the modulation circuit. Slow in the center position (my favorite), fast to the right, and medium to the left.

TAILS: The Electroman MKII is buffered bypass. This switch lets you decide how you’d like the pedal to behave when bypassed. Trails are choked when the switch is to the left, and trailing when switched to the right. The pedal remains in buffered bypass whether tails is engaged or not. This helps to stabilize the design of the pedal.

Visit SolidGoldFX for more info about the Electroman MKII.

 

 

What’s new in the MkII?

Both versions of the pedal share some of the strong points of the MKII such as the effects loop and the warp foot switch. The MKII brings so many new features to the table; it’s almost like an entirely new pedal. The original knobs were very straight forward delay pedal offerings: LEVEL, REPEAT, TONE, and TIME. The MKII brings modulation to the table and adds a fifth knob with the FLUTTER control. The impressive bank of four toggles offering a combined 10 positions takes the functionality of the Electroman MKII into outer space! Options for Mode, Warp, Speed, and Tails really give you full control over this pedal. An increase in delay time from 600ms to 1,000ms rounds out the list of improvements. It’s hard to believe that all of these extra features come at an increased cost of only $25 over the original Electroman.

A delay pedal with an effects loop can change your world.

Yep. This pedal has and effects loop that allows you to input an effect or series of effects into the wet signal. That’s right, just like how the pedal adds a modulation to the delay trails, you can add in any kind of effect to the repeats. Want your delay trails to have a flanger on them? How about a ring modulator? No problem. Just plug it in and go for it!

I decided to have a little science project yesterday. I sat down with a box full of pedals and just tried each one in the loop. My first choice, Ayahuasca (a really nasty fuzz pedal), gave the repeats a low-fi, thin and gritty feel. I was surprised how much the dirt pedal really affected the repeats and the oscillation. I had my repeats set at about 3:00 and the dirt easily sent the repeats into a really nice, sustained oscillation. Dialing back the REPEAT, and to some extent even reducing the LEVEL knobs really did the job of keeping the oscillation right where you wanted it. Also, dialing back the OUTPUT on the Ayhuasca really helped to keep things under control. Next, I reached for an old 1980’s Peavey Chorus. It had a nice, subtle effect on the repeats. I even tried a few things that seemed rather unorthodox. An Empress compressor with the ratio set to 10:1 and a strong mix really made for a unique sound that almost changed the delay into a completely different pedal. Next was an Ibanez Analog Delay. Getting the TIME knobs of the two pedals to sync up made for some great rhythmic repeats and easier oscillations. A surprisingly great pedal in the loop was my Gravitas tremolo. It was just right and sounded like it belonged there. My favorite of all of the pedals I tried was the f.13 Flanger from Alexander Pedals. It just sounded incredible in the repeats. Using the mix knob on the f.13 allowed me to get it just right. Then I had a random idea. What if I could insert the Plus Pedal into the loop of the Electroman MKII and the f.13 Flanger in the loop of the Plus pedal? Took me a few tries to get it right, but I got it so that the Electroman MKII was doing its thing normally, repeats and all. Stepping on the Plus Pedal momentarily blended the f.13 Flanger smoothly into and out of the repeats. It was like magic… like gives you goosebumps magic. I’ve included a diagram on how to set all that up. Hopefully you will also find some amazing things to do with that loop!

 

 

Value, quality, and nitpicks

As I stated above, the Electroman MKII delay holds its own as a unique, feature-rich delay pedal. When you look at the asking price of $225, I think it’s an incredible value for all that you get. In fact, it’s only $25 more than the original Electroman! The price-point places it right in there with the current price for a new Deluxe Memory Man. I feel it’s a toss up between those two. Each has a few things better than the other, but overall, they’re kind of similar pedals, and I’d actually give a favor towards the Electroman MKII. For one thing, the build quality. This pedal, like all of the SolidGoldFX line of pedals, are hand-made. One look inside this thing, and I really understood the quality of workmanship. Everything has a nice, high-end feel to it. The knobs, toggles, and switches all give a sense of quality and attention to detail. I should also point out the aesthetic of the pedal is just spot on. The color of the enclosure is just gorgeous. Has that look of a 1970’s gold sparkle speedboat with a beautiful, thick layer of clear coat. The bold “ELECTROMAN” logo on the face of the pedal is also just right. My only slight nitpick of the aesthetic is that the labeling on the knobs is a little hard to read in the low lighting of my musical séance room. My other nitpicks are a little less forgiving. Let me first say, that the MORE I love a pedal… the MORE I seem to nitpick it. Feeling indifferent about an effect pedal doesn’t make me wish or hope for much of anything from it. It’s when I love a pedal that I tend to get all like “WHY???” My biggest nitpick of this pedal is the lack of a tap tempo. Especially on a delay pedal that has two foot switches. There must be a reason that the hold/warp switch doesn’t double as a tap tempo on this pedal. Hopefully, that reason isn’t that is was just deemed unimportant. That would REALLY complete this pedal for me. I mean it all depends on how you use the stuff. Lots of very fine effects, most of them vintage, do not have a tap tempo feature. However, these days, it’s really kind of expected. MIDI implementation, and even an expression pedal option, would also have been very nice. That small group of musicians that actually use MIDI is growing very rapidly. Most of us ignored MIDI until pedalboard controllers started getting very popular. Now a pedal that doesn’t store and recall presets just kinda makes you go “huh?” My final nitpick is a personal one. Some of us prefer side jacks and some of us prefer top-mount jacks. I’ve found, for the most part, side jack people are just the ones that don’t really care where they are. Top-mount jack people are mostly “top-mount or GTFO.” I understand why some compact pedals have side-mounted jacks, and I am ok with that. Then there are pedals that are in these wide enclosures and you open them up to find that the jacks cold have been mounted up top. It just kind of seems like a missed opportunity to me. That’s all. If you’re a top-mount jack fan, you understand what I’m saying. Still, all in all, the Electroman MKII is a great choice when weighing value, quality, and my wish list.

 

 

The SolidGoldFX Electroman MKII has a decidedly unique sound, insuring a firm spot in the overcrowded world of delay pedals. This one comes down to two things: uniqueness and versatility. The Electroman MKII simply sounds different than other delays out there. Hard to do and hard to believe, but they did it! An impressive list of features and a vast amount of versatility bring this pedal to your board. Whether you’re looking for the sounds of analog, tape, or digital, the Electroman MKII has you covered. Even if you get bored and want to change the sound of the pedal completely, you have the effects loops at your disposal for an unlimited potential to create any delay sound you can imagine! If you’re looking for a delay that is surprisingly easy to use, has multiple voicing capabilities, and a feature-set and sound design that sets it apart from the crowd, look no further than the Electroman MKII from SolidGoldFX!

This concludes our review of the Electroman MKII Delay from SolidGoldFX. Thanks for reading!

Moog MF Drive Review

 

In this article I’m reviewing the Moog MF Drive from Moog’s Minifooger line of pedals aimed at guitar and bass players. The MF Drive boasts all analog circuitry that is inspired by American and British tube amp tones. Its combination of gain-staging, tone, and filter knobs combined with a resonate peak switch and expression input beckons players to plug in and start experimenting with sounds and harmonic textures. Other pedals in the MF line include the Flange, Chorus, Boost, Ring, Trem, and Delay which cover the gamut of a classic pedalboard. You only need to venture elsewhere for the reverb.

The Minifoogers’ matte-black brushed metal exteriors make me imagine them as the hardworking soot sprites from Spirited Away. The soot colony come alive when they have a job to do, and the MF Drive is the outgoing one that scuttles up to befriend you. The Minifoogers’ sloped-front enclosure echoes the design of their larger Moogerfooger cousins. While Moogerfoogers are bigger and more complex modular-friendly hybrid pedals akin to what you’d expect if you cut out the dedicated panel section of a classic Moog synth, Minifoogers come in a compact pedalboard-ready size that drops most of the modular pretense while pragmatically being powered by a battery or standard 9v pedal power. A guitar player only has to deal with a mono I/O, expression input, and a few sensible knobs and switches. Players don’t need to be familiar with synth concepts to get full use from them.

 

Features

  • All analog circuitry, featuring premium OTA & JFET
  • Gain knob from clean to distortion
  • Drive switch: down is +6.8dB to +48dB & up is +16db to +57dB
  • Filter knob featuring Moog’s 4-pole ladder filter
  • Output knob
  • Tone knob used to control the dark to bright voicing
  • Peak switch: when engaged (up), adds +15dB boost at the Filter cutoff
  • Expression input for controlling the filter
  • Standard 9v power
  • True bypass foot-switch
  • Cast aluminum casing

Visit Moog for more info about the MF Drive.

 

 

Sound & Performance

I started with a close to blank-slate setting on the MF Drive: Gain all the way down, Drive switch down, Output at 12 o’clock, Tone at 4 o’clock, Peak switch down, and Filter all the way up

Guitar through the MF Drive

At these basic settings, the MF Drive adds a slight colored boost that makes the guitar tone more vivid. When the resonate Peak switch is engaged, the level-set Output needed to be raised to 2 o’clock. Moog’s documentation states that when Peak is engaged, this lowers the overall sound due to the shift in harmonic energy.

With Gain, Tone, and Filter knobs maxed and the Drive & Peak switches on, I found the MF Drive highly responsive to playing dynamics. Playing the strings softly, the guitar sound was bathed in a warm gentle glow. Going all the way up to strumming and picking urgently and ferociously made the guitar growl with a reverberating sting. With the Filter at about 10 o’clock, there seemed to be an intense scooped-out midrange to explore where the high-end snaps and crackles above a broad low-end rumbling across the horizon. This makes the MF Drive a fine tool to flexibly emote more dramatic passages of playing.

With the Peak switch disabled, all the frequency energy is there to explore. Adjusting the Tone knob down adds a bone-shaking girth to the low end. It’s not an even adjustment of tone, but it is exciting to explore. A high Gain setting with the Drive switch enabled set fire to the harmonic mid and high-end fuzz. Here, the dynamics of the player break through the dark heavy energy, igniting kerosene above the dark surface. Only the lower Tone and Filter settings at around 10 o’clock can contain it.

With the Peak switch enabled, there is a resonate and creamy swoosh when lowering and raising the Filter knob. With an expression pedal plugged into the Expression input, the MF Drive is fully capable of doing dream-like wah style filtering sounds. Even without a foot-pedal, in moments of longer fadeouts or feedback, tweaking the Filter knob up and down in a motion similar to note-bends and vibrato add some interesting phrasing which makes the Filter knob a playable aspect to the MF Drive. With the guitar volume, MF Drive Gain knob maxed, Drive and Peak switches on, and Tone at minimum, I increased the Output and lowered the Filter to get some self-resonant explosive feedback squelches and horn sounds. Although trying to play live with the resonant feedback and maxed Output could get unwieldy and hurt some ears, with some control and intention there could be some great sounds to sample and add effects to later later in your signal chain.

Synth Bass through the MF Drive

I figured a bass monosynth could mimic a bass guitar and help me explore how the MF Drive could serve synthesizers more broadly.

At the starting setting (the first setting listed above), the MF Drive provided a nice-sounding clean boost, making the bass a little sharper and more focused, similar to the effect of adding a touch of compression that would make it easier to set in a mix. I really liked the effect, so for bedroom producers on shoestring budgets, I would see using the MF Drive for polishing a bass recording as a viable option. In fact, a few days after I wrote that, I had a recording session with a bass guitar player using the MF Drive. The MF Drive was the first choice among four other overdrive and fuzz pedals for how well it helped the bass sit in the mix, while adding a touch of desired overdriven presence to the sound.

With the Peak switch disengaged, a lowered Tone gave my subwoofer a good workout, making the bass sound much heavier and deeper than it could go on its own. The Filter is excellent for smoothing out any rough edges, and when in overdriven territory, any harmonics and pulsing coming from the bass are enhanced.

For sound experimenters and synth explorers, it helps to ask yourself questions like, “What happens when I have a heavily filtered and highly resonant drone murmuring away?” I set both the synth and the MF Drive filters to 11 o’clock, fairly low. The resonance on the synth was turned up to 4 o’clock and the Peak switch was engaged on the MF Drive. I turned the Gain all the way up, and the barely perceptible pulses in the drone became more pronounced with the trance-laden grit of harmonics. This was the moment for me where I thought the MF Drive should be high on the list for noise enthusiasts and sound explorers.

The MF Drive pedal on the bass synth never got out of control. It’s almost like the MF Drive is more polite and fancy on a bass. Whether I added just a bit of Gain or pushed the Gain all the way with the Drive switch enabled, it all seemed in service to enhancing the bass sound in one direction another, rather than overstating the MF Drive’s character. It’s interesting to compare how sounds can get much wilder on guitar with the feedback, sound-shaping, and player articulation yet remain quite refined on bass.

The all analog circuitry is really something special in the MF Drive. The Gain sends the signal to an OTA before the Filter, and Tone sends the signal through an FET for “color” to add British and American amp characteristics. The combination of the MF Drive’s Gain-staging with the Tone, Peak, and Filter options enables a lot of flexibility in the sound-shaping of the overdrive as well as how powerful it sounds. These are some serious quality features that are designed to be highly customizable and react to the player dynamics.

 

 

The Moog MF Drive is one of the more unique and characterful drive pedals for those looking to explore their own tones. Although it would probably not be my first choice for easily dialing in classic Tube Screamer tones, I consider the MF Drive more like discovering other unknown high quality boutique amp tones “in the spirit of” some classic drive sounds but with its own take on things. The MF Drive can do a clean, slightly colored boost, and it can do a range of low rumbling landscapes and punctuated crackling fuzz. The knobs and switches are highly interactive, with some above average features to noodle over. The addition of Peak and Filter communicate the MF Drive’s unmistakable Moog DNA. It’s a bit of a pity there isn’t a Resonance knob, but that’s more my own biased expectation from a classic synth company. The Peak switch is tuned well, and having a filter plus any resonance at all are rare features to have in a drive pedal. The MF Drive is a Moog quality offering with a broad palette that’s well suited to helping you craft your own unique sounds and tones.

That concludes our Moog MF Drive review. Thanks for reading.

Top 20 Best Delay Pedals of 2018

Best Guitar Effects is back with a round-up of the 20 Best Delay Pedals available in 2018. The market is filled delays, and we wanted to narrow things down to the pedals that stand out the most. We’ll start with a short guide to delay pedals and the types available before we jump right into our list.

 

What Is Delay?

Delay is an effect that records audio and plays it back after a period of time. The sound may be played back once or multiple times or played into the recording again to create the sound of repeating, decaying echoes.

 

Do I Need A Delay Pedal?

Delay is typically used to add more texture to a soundscape by filling in the spaces between your playing with more sound. Delay can be used to create the impression that multiple instruments are playing at the same time or used to add more rhythmic interest to your guitar parts. Being able to create additional layers of instrumentation by delaying your playing offers inspiring new possibilities that go beyond what can be achieved with a dry guitar alone.

 

Delay Vs Reverb

While a reverb pedal produces ambient reflections of your playing, a delay pedal produces repeats of your playing. These effects are similarly used to manipulate the time and space where your playing occurs, and they’re both often used at the end of the signal chain. Some newer hybrid delay/reverb pedals even combine both effects in one pedal for greater creative flexibility.

 

Using Delay With Reverb

It’s common to place a delay before a reverb, but sometimes it can be worth experimenting with reversing the order of these effects. Putting a reverb after a delay can create a space for your delayed signal to sit in, but putting a delay after a reverb can make the reverb sound even bigger and longer by adding more texture to a reverb and extending its decay. Experiment to find the best result for your music!

 

Types of Delay

There are many types of delay and ways to achieve such effects, but these are some of the most common styles of pedal you’ll find in modern guitar pedals.

 

Tape – Tape delay is an early delay effect used in audio recordings originally achieved by creating tape loops on reel-to-reel recording systems. Commercially available tape delay units included the Echoplex and Roland Space Echo. (The sounds of the Binson Echorec can be argued to fall into this category sonically although it used an analog magnetic drum recorder instead of tape to achieve its echoes.) Some pedal builders have attempted to create tape delay sounds using actual tape, but you’ll most commonly find modern tape delay sounds using DSP to recreate convincingly authentic tape echo sounds.
Best for: vintage tonality, spacious echoes, characterful delays

 

Analog – Analog delay pedals typically use BBD (Bucket-Brigade Device) chips to achieve delay effects. Such pedals are usually characterized by a warmer, darker, and more “colored” sound. They’re also typically noisier than digital delays; however, some builders have made great strides towards minimizing the noise and other drawbacks inherent in older analog delay pedals. A few classic examples of analog delays are the Boss DM-2 and Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man which originally used Panasonic MN3005 BBD chips.
Best for: warmer tones, classic delay pedal sounds, old-school mojo

 

Digital – “Digital delay” as a style of delay is typically known for achieving more authentic repeats of your playing, reproducing the sound and nuances of your original audio signal. They’re cleaner, quieter, and brighter sounding than analog delays although many digital delays seek to emulate the sound of analog pedals. While earlier digital delays often simply used digital IC chips (the Princeton PT2399 is still a popular choice in some modern delays), many modern pedals push the limits of DSP to go beyond what “digital” delays were previously known for. The TC Electronic TC 2290 is a famous digital delay rack unit.
Best for: accurate repeats of source material, clean and bright tones

 

Reverse – Reverse delay simulates the sound of recording audio and playing it backwards. Original reverse tape delay effects can be heard in songs like Are You Experienced? by The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Tomorrow Never Knows from The Beatles’ Revolver album. Delay pedals achieve reverse effects by digital means, playing the digitally recorded audio backwards. Use a fully wet (or “Kill Dry”) setting to simulate classic reverse delay sounds.
Best for: mid/late-60’s reverse guitar sounds, experimental textures

 

Modulated – Most modern delay pedals offer some kind of modulation to apply to your repeats. You’ll see such options on many analog and digital delay pedals, and tape delays often have “wow & flutter” parameters to simulate the warbling of old tape. Essentially, modulation is a separate effect applied to various types of delay, but some guitarists (like The Edge) have made this such an integral part of their sound that it’s worth mentioning as a specific type of delay. It’s typically an optional effect, so you can either reduce “Depth” or deactivate modulation if you prefer a dry delay tone.
Best for: delays with movement and more presence

 

Other Types of Delay – There are many other less common types of delay. Dynamic Delay ducks the volume of the delayed signal when you play. Pitch-Shifted Delay is becoming more common with many pedals offering various types of pitch effects on the repeats. Multi-Tap Delay (or Pattern Delay) offers multiple delay taps, often with various rhythmic placement and positioning in the stereo field. Some pedals offer a Hold or Stutter Delay functionality where repeats can be generated at length for glitchy, stuttering effects. Granular Delay, while more common in VST software plugins than in pedal form, is a style of delay that chops up your signal into pieces and delays them. Most of these obscure delay effects are found in DSP based digital delay pedals, arguably the most flexible type of delay for a wide variety of uses.

 

The pedals that made our list aren’t in order from best to worst, but as the author of this article, I thought it would be fun to list the first few pedals that have become recent favorites of mine. Regardless of your personal tastes, there should be a pedal here that’s right for you.

Here are the Top 20 Best Delay Pedals of 2018!

 

Meris Polymoon

Builder: Meris, Pedal: Polymoon, Delay Type: DSP / Modulated

This year’s list of the best delay pedals is kicking off with the Meris Polymoon. Meris is a relatively new brand on the pedal scene, but with a series of 3 epic pedals released last year, Best Guitar Effects lauded the fledgling 3-person company as the Best New Pedal Builder of 2017. In short, Meris is doing awesome things, and the Polymoon is one of the boldest delay pedal releases in recent years. So what does it do? Well…

The Polymoon’s sounds range from simple digital delays to a whole signal chain of rack-quality effects stacked in series (with parallel signal processing if you use the pedal in stereo). If you turn the bottom 3 knobs of the pedal all the way to the left, you can use the top 3 knobs to dial in a simple delay sound. It’s solid and usable, and thanks to the Tap Tempo with quarter & dotted eighth note options, it’ll handle most basic delay duties with ease. By pushing the Alt button and turning the Feedback knob, you can use the pedal’s Filter to cut the lows for bright “dubby” delays or roll off the high end for darker, analog flavored repeats.

The bottom 3 knobs make things more interesting. Multiply adds in more delay taps in various patterns. You can use it to achieve ping-pong delays in stereo or patterns that bounce across the stereo field. It still sounds killer in mono, but the Polymoon is a must-try in stereo if your rig can accommodate it. The Dimension knob smears the repeats. At higher settings it can turn your delays into a reverb-like wash; small amounts provide a nice subtle diffusion that gives your delays a more ambient character. The Dynamics knob activates a pair of dual-flangers that can either respond dynamically to your playing or move via LFO. (Tip: With the delay Mix turned down, the flangers can still be applied to your dry signal.)

The dual-flangers are just one of the many modulation options the Polymoon has. The button on the lower right will add dual-barberpole phasers to your signal. You can have them locked in time with your tap tempo or churning along at a slow 0.1 Hz speed. The phasers make it sound as if your guitar is traveling through a wormhole in space. The Alt parameters of the two left knobs are Early and Late Modulation options, each being able to be either bypassed or set to 15 different active modulation options. There are options for standard chorus-like modulation, FM modulation, and Pitch modulation. Yes, you can select any of these options in the either Early or Late positions.

You can control every effect parameter of the Polymoon via MIDI. There are even a few surprise MIDI CC controlled parameters like Half Speed & Tempo (in addition to Time). The pedal also has 16 preset slots, but you’ll need to either use MIDI or the Meris Preset Switch (sold separately) to access them. The pedal can accommodate instrument and line levels, useful with synths or in the studio, and are several other global options for configuring the pedal to your needs.

The Polymoon has quickly become my personal most-used delay, and if you’re the kind of musician who can appreciate the myriad sound design possibilities this pedal offers, this forward-thinking instrument from Meris will like find a home in your rig as well.

Read the Meris Polymoon Review

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall (original & RKM)

Builder: Chase Bliss Audio, Pedal: Tonal Recall & RKM, Delay Type: Analog Delay

The Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall and Tonal Recall Red Knob Mod are at the head of the pack when it comes to classic analog delay tones for modern guitarists. Utilizing reissued MN3005 chips, the Tonal Recalls revisit and refine the sounds made legendary by pedals like the Boss DM-2 and Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man. While these pedals offer a slew of features, perhaps the most commendable aspect of these pedals is how Chase Bliss Audio engineer, Joel Korte, has been able to achieve an impressively clean, low-noise analog delay signal that can be contoured to taste with their respective Tone knobs. This lets you dial in classic analog delay tones similar to your favored vintage unit but with less noise and grit than the rustic pedals of old.

While the specs of both pedals are similar, the RKM is notable for containing 4 MN3005 chips (this original Tonal Recall has 2). This doubles the possible delay times up from 550ms to 1100ms. The additional circuitry raises the noise floor slightly, but most users won’t mind. The oscillation of the Tonal Recall RKM is also improved to be “smoother” to accommodate the longer delay times with higher Regen (feedback) settings. The RKM can also be slightly brighter than the original Tonal Recall, but both pedals can still be darkened for similarly murky delay sounds.

The modulation section is noteworthy for guitarists who appreciate the subtle movement of certain vintage delays. In addition to Rate & Depth controls, there’s a waveform selection switch that provides Triangle, Sine, and Square options. Crank the modulation knobs and flip this toggle for some weird sounds. Keep ’em low with Triangle or Sine waveforms for classic modulation.

The pedals also feature presets (2 onboard, 122 via MIDI), tap tempo with 6 selectable divisions, True Bypass or Buffered Trails modes, exp/CV control of knob parameters, MIDI control of parameters & other functionality, and much more. The pedals’ “Ramping” options will let you automate the movement of knob parameters for evolving delay sounds and unique performance possibilities.

The Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall and RKM variation are among this builder’s most loved and universally praised releases, and fans of classic analog delay tones will find much to love in either version.

Read the Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall Review

Tonal Recall: See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

RKM: See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

Free The Tone Flight Time FT-2Y

Builder: Free The Tone, Pedal: FT-2Y, Delay Type: Digital Delay

When it comes to straight up digital delays, Free The Tone’s Flight Time is arguably the new king of mono digital delay pedals. With a knob-less interface that recalls both the TC 2290 and the time travel input panel on the DeLorean from Back To The Future, the Flight Time FT-2Y is at once a tribute to the past and testament of the future.

The Flight Time FT-2Y succeeds the FT-1Y by adding Line/Instrument level options, a convenient Preset Swapping functionality, and a MIDI Out/Thru jack for saving presets externally or connecting other pedals. Perhaps more notable are the internal changes. Free The Tone has refined FT-2Y’s analog circuitry, power supply section, and digital circuits and firmware to dramatically improve the pedal’s sound quality. The FT-1Y already sounded fantastic (with a notable user being David Gilmour who has been known to use two Flight Time units in his rig), but the FT-2Y produces an even more high fidelity sound.

The Flight Time gives you plenty of options for crafting the perfect digital delay sound. You can set Delay level, Feedback, and overall Output level. Delay Time can me manually set in milliseconds or BPM or by using Tap Tempo and selecting from one of 10 subdivision options. You can set Modulation Rate & Depth for classic digital delay modulation effects. There are even dedicated Low Pass and High Pass Filters for creating a perfect delay tone to place in the mix. The unique Offset parameter lets you move the delay placement ahead or behind or a rushed feel or a behind the groove sound; this parameter is a subtle but very special aspect of the Flight Time that can enhance the feel of your delays and help place the repeats in your mix better. You can even flip the phase of the delays if needed.

There are some cool auxiliary features as well including a Trail function and the BPM Analyzer which activates an onboard microphone that will detect ambient rhythm sources and shift the BPM slightly to keep your delays locked in time. When I tested this function by playing along to recorded music and increasing or slowing the speed slightly, I was impressed that the BPM Analyzer actually worked as stated. This could be very useful when playing with a drummer who isn’t playing to a click track.

You can meticulously set the levels of all parameters and store them to 99 presets. You can also take control of most functions via MIDI. A novel Rec & Repeat function allows you to plug in an external foot-switch to gain use of very basic looping style functionality. I’m a big fan of the Hold function; while most of the Flight Time’s sounds are in a more traditional vein, the Hold could be used to trigger stuttering repeats at will. The only real drawback to the whole package is the fact that the Flight Time is mono only, but that’s perfectly fine if you’re running a conventional rig with one amp. And for live use it’s best to set up your presets and levels beforehand as you can’t quickly grab knobs for fine-tuning while on stage. But the precision with which you can craft your digital delays is second to none, and the Flight Time FT-2Y sounds flawless.

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

GFI System Specular Tempus

Builder: GFI System, Pedal: Specular Tempus, Effect Types: DSP Delay & Reverb (Multi)

The Indonesian builder, GFI System, has been impressing guitarists for the past few years with their ultra compact and powerful Clockwork Delay & Specular Reverb, each currently updated to V3 revisions. The Specular Tempus combines all of the algorithms from both of these pedals into one powerful hybrid delay/reverb combo.

The Specular Tempus gives you 13 reverbs, 13 delays, 3 delay & reverb combos, and 3 diffused delay hybrids for a total of 32 unique algorithms. You can save and recall up to 32 presets, configure the pedal for on-board tap tempo, send the pedal’s tempo to other pedals, and even use a 3-button foot-switch to control bank scrolling and tap tempo externally. There’s already a Send/Return loop, and of course, MIDI. The free SpecLab app for Mac & PC lets you access more functionality as well.

A trio of “Classic” delay modes includes Digital, Analog, and Echoes. The “Hybrid” delays take those 3 delay algorithms and diffuse the repeats for a reverberated delay sound.

There are 10 “Esoteric” delay options with many of them offering entirely unique sounds. The Spectral, Filter, and Formant modes provide coloration and texture to your delays; I particularly like the envelope-controlled Filter algorithm. The Spectral mode sounds almost flanger-like while the Formant mode adds a throbbing, vowel-like effect to your repeats. The Transposer & Ambiental modes add pitch-shifting to your repeats. The Transposer lets you choose from intervals including Unison, Sub-Octave, Minor 3rd, Perfect 4th, Tritone, Perfect 5th, and Octave. The Ambiental mode, possibly my personal favorite delay mode, is a stereo algorithm that lets you use a “Glitter” parameter to gradually color the repeats with either a Perfect 5th or Octave voicing for a shimmer like effect; the first couple repeats will ping-pong across the stereo field before resuming straight through the middle channel. It’s a very unique algorithm. The Dual Stereo, Dual Dotted, and Dual Gold algorithms make further use of the stereo possibilities, and the MultiTap 3 & MultiTap 4 modes each provide 4 multi-tap delay variations to round out the pedal’s delay offerings.

Among the host of Reverb modes you’ll find 3 more “Hybrid” delay options: Reverb+Digital Dly, Reverb+Analog Dly, and Reverb+Echoes. There are many excellent reverb modes available as well with a few standouts being GFI System’s signature Spatium algorithm, their beautiful 70’s Plate mode, and an excellent Shimmer that’s among the best around. The Voices and Swell modes are great Shimmer variations, too, and the Anti-Shimmer in “Doppler” mode produces some interesting vertigo-inducing pitch descension.

The best thing about the GFI System Specular Tempus is the fact that if you’re not sure whether to get a delay or reverb next, this pedal can fill the duties of either very well with some solid options for use delay & reverb together. It’s also a great choice for a positioning between the delay and reverb you already have on your board for expanded ambient possibilities. And if you just want the excellent delays without the reverb, the GFI System Clockwork Delay V3 is also well worth considering.

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

Catalinbread Belle Epoch Deluxe

Builder: Catalinbread, Pedal: Belle Epoch Deluxe, Delay Type: Digital Tape

The Echoplex EP-3 needs no introduction among tape delay connoisseurs. The legendary sounds of this machine’s smooth delay echoes, runaway oscillation, and sought-after pre-amp coloration give the EP-3 a reputation that has long spoken for itself. Catalinbread already found success with their Echoplex inspired Belle Epoch (Eric Johnson is a noteworthy fan and user). But Mr. Howard Gee sought to go further than any other pedal builder before and create the most accurate sonic reproduction of the iconic EP-3 in pedal form. His swan song of Echoplex emulation is the Catalinbread Belle Epoch Deluxe, the final word in attaining true EP-3 tone from a stompbox.

All the expected EP-3 amenities are here, from the juiced up 22-volt power rail and (late spec) JFET preamp to the articulate delay section that emulates the sound and feel of the Echoplex without the tape and associated maintenance. How does it sound? In a word: beautiful.

The Belle Epoch Deluxe’s primary controls for the delay are Echo Delay (delay time), Echo Sustain (feedback/regen), Echo Volume, and Record Level which sets the input signal level for when it hits the record amplifier. This unique control ranges from complete silence all the way up to a hot overdriven sound. It’s great for saturating the sound as it hits the delay; once it starts repeating, the delay signal will smoothly dissipate in a pleasing diminuendo to silence. The Echo Sustain can be set higher (around 1-2 o’clock before it starts oscillating) to really get those nice long decay times. The controls are highly interactive, particularly how the Record Level affects the Echo Level and likewise the decay from the Echo Sustain. As you refine the setting of one parameter, you’ll want to play with the others to get things just right. Luckily, it sounds pretty epic no matter where things are set; it’s just a matter of managing your levels and oscillation. And speaking of oscillation, there’s a dedicated foot-switch to kick on spires of oscillating repeats at will.

The left two knobs warrant some brief explanation. The far left knob selects one of six programs from the Echo Program Matrix. The Depth knob controls the depth of the accompanying unique modulation for each selected program. The Echo Programs include the Classic EP-3 tape voicing, a Dark “analog” voicing inspired by BBD analog delay pedals, a Roto-swirl setting that sounds like an EP-3 running through a Leslie, a Manually Sweeping Resonant Filter voicing that can produce wah-like sounds and other filtered tones, and two Deluxe Memory Man inspired modes, one for chorus and one for vibrato. An expression pedal is a must if you want to make the most of the sweeping filter mode or control the speed of the Roto-swirl’s rotating speaker effect. And a pedal is generally useful for adjusting volume on some settings or controlling the delay time, especially in combination with runaway oscillation.

This isn’t to be misconstrued as a review verdict or to heap more hype onto an already GAS-inducing pedal, but if you love tape delay, you need to try this pedal for yourself. And if you’re an EP-3 fan in any way, you likely need this pedal.

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

Empress Effects Echosystem

Builder: Empress Effects, Pedal: Echosystem, Delay Type: DSP (Multi)

The Empress Effects Echosystem is the successor to the Canadian builder’s famed Superdelay pedal. And rather than simply add stereo and a few other improvements to its mono-only predecessor, the Echosystem lets you use one delay or two at once in dual parallel, dual serial, or panned left/right in stereo. Not only that, but the pedal gives you dozens of delay algorithms categorized into various types, and any combination of two (even two of the same) can be used together. Needless to say, this pedal is deep.

Forgoing the deep menu-diving of some other multi-algorithm delay pedals, the Echosystem gives you knobs for the units tweak-able parameters all on the surface. The Thing 1 & Thing 2 knobs control unique parameters that are unique to each algorithm. Other than that you get standard delay controls for Mix, Feedback, Delay Time/Tap Ratio, Tone (which may also vary per algorithm), and an Output control to set your overall volume level.

The Echosystem gives users 35 presets for saving your complex multi-algorithm delay creations. You can assign an expression pedal to control multiple parameters at one. It even lets you use MIDI to take control over nearly every function. Empress Effects recently updated the pedal with a Looper that can be used with the delays, greatly expanding on the Echosystem’s creative potential.

This pedal has so much going on for it that it was crowned the best guitar pedal of 2017. If you prefer to keep things simple the Echosystem may not be for you, but all the options it has and with Empress Effects continually adding new algorithms by user popular vote, for many guitarists this may be the last delay pedal you ever need.

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run V2

Builder: EarthQuaker Devices, Pedal: Avalanche Run V2, Delay Type: DSP Delay + Reverb

The idea behind the Avalanche Run V1 delay & reverb was to take the simplicity and sweet sounds of the best-selling Dispatch Master and expand on the options and usability (w/ Tap Tempo, Tap Divisions, etc.) while still maintaining ease of use (no Menus!). The Avalanche Run V1 was a big hit upon its release, quickly becoming what could arguably be considered the pinnacle representation of an EarthQuaker Devices pedal. The Avalanche Run V2 Stereo Reverb & Delay refines their flagship pedal with several notable improvements.

While the V1 had similar delay & reverb sounds, the Avalanche Run V2 now features a true stereo reverb which creates a bigger expanse of sound when running the pedal in stereo. The V2 also features EQD’s new “Flexi-Switch” functionality on the Activate foot-switch; this lets you press and hold the foot-switch for momentary operation so that you can use the delay/reverb on very short segments of your playing. Try this with the Tails Mode to apply repeats to certain notes that will then cascade over your dry playing. As with the V1, you choose between True Bypass mode and 5 different Tails Mode options.

An interesting V2 update change has been the increase of enclosure width to be slightly wider than the V1. While some pedalboard space obsessed guitarists might initially glare at this, I think it’s a refreshing contrast to pedals that squeeze foot-switches so close together and so close to the edge of pedals. If you’re not using a MIDI effects switcher and actually plan to step on the foot-switches of your pedals during live performance, you need a reasonable amount of space between foot-switches to be able to activate effects without accidentally stepping on others. (This enclosure width with additional foot-switch spacing has also been implemented on the new EarthQuaker Devices Pyramids pedal, so expect this to be the norm on EQD’s dual foot-switch DSP effects pedals.)

But aside from the Avalanche Run V1 vs V2 changes, what really makes this pedal such an inspiration machine are its killer delay modes with the optional reverb for incredibly lush ambience. The pedal gives you Normal, Reverse, & Swell modes. The Normal is a standard hi-fi digital delay; you can use the Tone to roll off the high-end if you want a darker, more “analog” sound. The Reverse is a killer backwards delay; it’s a must-try with expression control for switching between normal and reverse delays at will. The Swell is a great ambient digital delay that swells in your repeats while you play; shoegaze fans will dig this one. My favorite mode is the Reverse, particularly for using like a standard delay but with the different textural sound of the backwards echoes. It’s killer with the reverb for floating, cloud-like ambience. The reverb itself is like a large room or hall for a nice, full sound, and you can use the reverb’s Decay & Mix to dial in something subtle or massive.

The Avalanche Run V2 is one of EarthQuaker Devices’ best pedals and still one of the best delay pedals available.

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

Strymon TimeLine

Builder: Strymon, Pedal: TimeLine, Delay Type: DSP (Multi)

While many builders have encroached on Strymon’s commanding lead in the area of multi-algorithm delay pedals, make no mistake, the Strymon TimeLine is still the boss when it comes to immaculate delays in a single self-contained pedal.

The Strymon TimeLine felt like a second coming in the world of digital delay and DSP processing. With a hulking colossus of a processor and an engineering team who knows how to make the most of it, Strymon dropped a bomb on the pedal world when they released the TimeLine. With 12 of the best delay machines the world has ever heard (and an excellent 30-second Looper) there is a breadth of delay sounds on tap that few pedals can even hope to contend with. The TimeLine is also a standout delay pedal in terms of MIDI implementation; it allows you to control any parameter or function (including all Looper functions) from any MIDI-compatible controller, pedal switcher, or sequencer/DAW such as Ableton Live. Whether you just want to drop it on your pedalboard and play or integrate it into your mad scientist MIDI guitar rig, the Strymon TimeLine covers all grounds with ease and efficiency and still holds its own in a sea of formidable competitors.

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

Chase Bliss Audio Thermae

Builder: Chase Bliss Audio, Pedal: Thermae, Delay Type: Analog / Pitch-Shifting

Chase Bliss Audio already pushed analog delay farther than any other builder with the universally acclaimed Tonal Recall and Tonal Recall RKM, and they’ve somehow managed to do it again. The Chase Bliss Audio Thermae is an analog delay and pitch shifter that utilizes 4 MN3005 chips to achieve some unbelievably amazing delay sounds unlike any that have been heard before.

The Thermae is a complex pedal that may initially seem overwhelming not only for delay pedal novices but even those already familiar with Chase Bliss Audio’s other master-crafted pedal designs. But after you wrap your head around the basics, you’ll be in for some of the most original and beautiful sounds you’ll ever hear from a delay pedal… even if you still don’t quite understand exactly how you’re achieving the sounds you’re hearing.

Here’s brief explanation of what the Thermae does and how it works…

With the Int 1 & Int 2 knobs pointed up at noon, you’ll essentially have a standard analog style delay. Instead of setting tempo with a “Delay Time” knob, you tap in your tempo with the left foot-switch. Standard stuff, but it sounds killer. You can use the resonant LPF to sweep the tone all the way down to silence, and pressing and holding the left foot-switch induces self oscillation.

Flipping the Modulation dip-switch on the top of the pedal allows access to the killer mod section. You get controls for mod Speed & Depth, a flip-switch for selecting triangle, sine, and square shapes, and a middle toggle control at adds glitchy warbling anomalies to the modulation for some extra bubbly textures. This is a unique difference from Tonal Recall and Chase Bliss Audio pedals that feature “ModuShape”, and it’s a really fitting addition to the weird sounds Thermae can make.

With the Modulation dip-switch in its normal “Off” position, the Int 1 & Int 2 knobs and their adjacent toggle-switches offer some wild sound design possibilities. The two knobs control a pair of pitch-shifting intervals that range from -2 to +2 octaves. The row of 3 flip-switches will set the tap-division of the delay and 2 sequenced pitch-shifting intervals. The sequence repeats at the tempo set by the Tap Tempo foot-switch (or MIDI Clock/MIDI Taps). The real complexity is in trying to wrap your head around intentionally creating sounds you think you want to hear, but I’d recommend not thinking about it too much and just enjoying the endless happy accidents you’ve stumble into. Just remember to save those discoveries as presets!

The Thermae is without a doubt the most original and innovative release from Chase Bliss Audio and definitely one of the most inspiring pedals to consider if you’re looking for something different than your run-of-the-mill delay pedal.

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

DOD Rubberneck

Builder: DOD, Pedal: Rubberneck, Delay Type: Analog Delay

DOD is a beloved classic pedal brand that has been on a big upswing in the past few years thanks to the efforts of Tom Cram and a team of talented individuals. DOD pretty much rose from the dead with its moniker appearing on several solid pedals in recent years, the greatest of which is arguably the DOD Rubberneck Analog Delay. Not only is it the best pedal in the DOD renaissance lineup, but it’s arguably the best analog delay pedal in the $200-300 price range.

The Rubberneck is loaded to the brim with features including some you won’t find in any other pedal. The most unique aspect of the pedal is its namesake “Rubberneck” feature that lets you stretch and compress the delay time to shift the pitch of your delayed signal up or down an octave, fitting for a pedal from a sister brand of DigiTech, the brand responsible for the Whammy.

The 3 large knobs provide controls for Time, Repeats, and Level. The smaller dual-concentric knobs give you control over modulation Rate & Depth and Tone & Gain, the latter parameters being particular useful for coaxing the best delay tonality and saturation out of this pedal. There’s also a tap division flip-switch and another switch that lets you activate delay spillover Tails and mute the dry signal. Pressing and holding the Tempo/Regen foot-switch activates oscillation, and a small mini-knob next to the foot-switch sets the onset for the regeneration. The Rubberneck effect is initiated as a momentary function of the Effect On foot-switch with the Rubberneck Rate mini-knob adjusted whether delay time is stretched or compressed and how quickly it happens.

Aside from all that surface control, there’s a Send/Return jack on the back that allows you to use a TRS cable to insert other effects in the delay chain. Another jack allows connection of the DigiTech FS3X Footswitch to remotely control Rubbernecking, Modulation on/off, and Tap Tempo/Regen.

The DOD Rubberneck is one of the most feature-packed and versatile performance analog delay pedals ever seen and an exceptional product that showcases the dedicated passion of Tom and the talented team who spared no attention to every detail when bringing this pedal to life.

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

TC Electronic Flashback 2 Delay

Builder: TC Electronic, Pedal: Flashback 2, Delay Type: DSP (Multi)

TC Electronic has been at the forefront of delay innovation for decades. From the legendary TC 2290 to pedals like the Flashback X4 Delay & Looper, Flashback Mini Delay, and Flashback Triple Delay, this builder’s delay algorithms have long been held in high regard.

The Flashback 2 Delay takes their standard-sized stereo delay & looper pedal to some interesting new places that warrant a closer look even if you’re already familiar with TC Electronic’s previous delay releases.

Let’s start with the delay modes available on the surface of the pedal. The lower right knob starts with the classic 2290 mode, recreating the sound of one of the most renowned digital delays ever made. The ANA mode delivers a pretty convincing analog delay sound complete with some subtle modulation. The TAPE mode is another classic delay variation with subtle modulation movement for a sound similar to the wow and flutter of aged tape. DYN is a dynamic delay that ducks the repeats while you play; as you play more softly or rest, the delays swell up in loudness. The MOD mode adds modulation to the classic 2290 sound; select the ¼ note + dotted 8th subdivision and you’ll have a convincing setting for The Edge’s Where the Streets have No Name sound. The CRYS setting features the excellent octave sounds from the Sub’n’Up, resulting in one of the best shimmering octave delays I’ve heard. RVS achieves an excellent reverse delay sound; use a Reverse TonePrint with “Kill Dry” On for classic psychedelic solos. The LOOP setting turns the pedal into a Ditto Looper style looping device. The last 3 options have default TonePrints already stored, but you have easily save and recall artist TonePrints or use the TC Electronic TonePrint Editor to make your own sounds.

The TonePrint Editor is huge draw here, and I applaud TC Electronic’s decision to make space on the surface selector knob to store 3 TonePrints. The app gives you immense control over tweaking the sound of your delays, even offering multiple modulation options, various stereo options with some templates, the ability to overwrite and set up to 3 parameters to be control from the pedal’s knobs, and more. There are over 50 delay templates to choose from with some recalling the sounds of other classic delays. Templates including BinsonEchorec, Echoplex, MemoryMan, RE101, CapstanDelay, and many, many others provide great starting points for tweaking your own sounds. I recommend the many “Dual” and “PingPong” variations if you’re into stereo delays.

Perhaps the coolest new selling point of the Flashback 2 is TC Electronic’s new MASH functionality which lets you press down on the foot-switch to activate real-time expression control over various parameters. The various onboard modes and TonePrints already have some default MASH options to give you a taste, and you use the TonePrint Editor to assign up to 3 parameters to be controlled by MASH. It’s a killer performance function that is not to be overlooked or underestimated. Try creating your own “Space Echo” inspired TonePrint and use MASH to crank the Feedback and Delay Time to send your delays out of orbit.

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

Electro Harmonix Canyon

Builder: Electro Harmonix, Pedal: Canyon, Delay Type: DSP (Multi)

The Electro Harmonix Canyon Delay & Looper is an incredibly versatile and value-packed multi-algorithm delay pedal. It gives you 10 excellent delay modes and a capable Looper. It also gives you tap tempo with selectable sub-divisions.

While the pedal has many modes, it’s the quality (not the quantity) of them that makes the EHX Canyon a standout value. It has modes that emulate the venerable EHX Deluxe Memory Man, a great Tape setting, Echo for a straight digital delay, Mod for rack-style modulated digital delay, Multi for multi tap delay effects, a solid Reverse delay that intelligently detects your playing to generate its repeats, a Delay + “Verb” mode that applies a plate reverb to your repeats, a killer Pitch Fork inspired Octave delay mode, a Shimmer mode that also draws on EHX’s killer pitch algorithms, and a great Sample and Hold mode that can achieve some awesome stuttering delay effects. Add to that a 62 second (!) Looper, and you’ve got a sure-fire hit pedal.

The Tap In jack that allows users to tap in a tempo via an external foot-switch may be the selling point that tips the scale in favor of this pedal over other single-stomp delay pedals. As great as the Canyon’s modes are, it begs us to wonder what a flagship EHX multi-algorithm delay with presets, MIDI, and a cooler name with less cringe-inducing artwork would be like. (Please, EHX, don’t call it the “Grand” Canyon. Ugh.) But the Canyon shows that EHX is more than capable of creating plenty of world-class delay algorithms. The Canyon has one of the best pedal releases of 2017 and is easily among the best affordable delay pedals you’ll find in 2018.

Read the Electro Harmonix Canyon Review

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

Source Audio Nemesis

Builder: Source Audio, Pedal: Nemesis, Delay Type: DSP (Multi)

The Source Audio Nemesis Delay is a pedal I’ve been looking forward to for quite a long time (…since Winter NAMM 2015, Summer NAMM 2015, & Winter NAMM 2016). It’s a powerhouse digital delay pedal in a reasonably compact format that features 24 delay engines (12 onboard, 12 accessed via Neuro app). That’s a pretty big deal already. Then there’s Stereo I/O, Tap Tempo, Hold a.k.a “Freeze” control, and complete MIDI functionality with up to 128 presets recallable via MIDI. And that’s just scratching the surface really.

The Neuro Mobile app offers incredibly deep control and preset management along with access to the 12 additional delay engines. Any of those delay engines can be downloaded and “burned” to any slot on the rotary encoder knob. The extra delay engines are definitely worth exploring as you’ll find a dark and warbly Oil Can delay, a Complex Rhythmic delay that offers more multi-tap variations, a high-passed Dub delay, and much more.

The real genius of the Nemesis Delay is in the sheer amount power it offers from its simple-to-use surface knob layout. No menu diving needed. Couple that with world-class delay sounds, and the Nemesis Delay is a winner if flexibility, impeccable sound quality, and ease of use are paramount to you. And should you want to explore everything this pedal has to offer, the MIDI functionality and Neuro Mobile app possibilities are a huge bonus when you want to get adventurous and want to dig deeper.

Be sure to explore the Intensity knob with each delay type as it functions differently in each mode. For example, in Analog Delay mode, the Intensity will act as a tone style control, giving you range of Dark, Warm, & Bright sounds. In the Shifter Delay the knob will select from pitch shift options including -1 Octave, +Minor 3rd, +Major 3rd, +4th, +5th, & +1 Octave. This gives you deeper control from the surface of the pedal without the need for menus.

Source Audio have been doing great things for about a decade now, but the Nemesis Delay will no doubt be the pedal that takes this ambitious builder to new levels of success. It was a long time coming, but the Nemesis Delay was well worth the wait.

Read the Source Audio Nemesis Review

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

Eventide H9 Harmonizer

Builder: Eventide, Pedal: H9, Delay Type: DSP (Multi-Effects)

Yes, the Eventide H9 Harmonizer is much more than a delay pedal. It’s the ultimate multi-effects stompbox. But if you were to use the H9 on your pedalboard for just its delay sounds alone, it’s still an exceptional value and may replace any other delay pedal you currently use.
A standard H9 comes preloaded with the Vintage Delay and Tape Echo delays. Additional delays can be purchased from the H9 Control app. An H9 Max comes loaded will all algorithms gives you all 9 acclaimed delays from the Eventide TimeFactor… and then some. The H9 exclusive Ultratap algorithm is a one-of-a-kind multi-tap delay that’s inspiring to behold. Then there’s also the recently released SpaceTime algorithm with fuses the TimeFactor’s Vintage Delay with a huge plate reverb and some modulation for good measure to create an outstanding all-in-one algorithm that’s an excellent last effect in your signal chain.

And let’s talk about the Eventide TimeFactor. I still remember when the pedal was first announced. Yes, I joined the many guitarists whose jaws collectively hit the floor when first hearing that Eventide would be bringing their acclaimed studio effects expertise to stompbox pedals. The TimeFactor was one of their first guitar pedals and is still going strong today. The biggest draw of this pedal is its use of twin delay lines across all 9 of its cutting edge delay algorithms, allowing rhythmically complex and tonally diverse delays that no other pedal can match (except the H9, of course). Its brilliant knob layout makes dialing in syncopated twin delays a synch, too. There’s also a dedicated (and recently refined) Looper, and I personally like “hacking” the pedal for series operation by cascading one delay into the other and using it in my amp’s effects loop. But if you don’t need the looper and want the amazing algorithms of the TimeFactor plus a whole lot more, the Eventide H9 Harmonizer might be the way to go.

Read the Eventide H9 Harmonizer Review

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

Strymon DIG

Builder: Strymon, Pedal: DIG, Delay Type: Dual Digital Delay

Simply put, the Strymon DIG is an immaculate sounding digital delay pedal. It’s one of the easiest to use twin delay pedals out there and has plenty of options for creating complex or subtle rhythmic delays. It has 3 modes – adm, 24/96, 12 bit – that each offer a difference in character, adapting this pedal to different styles of playing. Tap tempo, expression control, and stereo outputs (and optional stereo ins via TRS cable) add extra utility. Be sure to try the secondary functions as you can further tweak the tone, change the delays from series to parallel, and even activate a ping pong delay mode when using it in stereo among a few other things. The DIG is Strymon’s magnum opus in the realm of 80’s rack delay emulation.

Read the Strymon DIG Review

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

SolidGoldFX Electroman MKII

Builder: SolidGoldFX, Pedal: Electroman MKII, Delay Type: Modulated Digital Delay

The SolidGoldFX Electroman MKII is a modulated digital delay that has a unique sound and character quite unlike any other digital or analog delay. Using a pair of PT2399 digital delay chips the Electroman MKII utilizes these chips in tandem with a unique modulation section and “Color” control to produce a refreshing flavor of delay is hard to classify yet is incredibly musical and pleasing to hear. This pedal may be the best use of the PT2399 chips from a perspective of rating the tonality of the delays produced.

The Electroman MKII excels by giving you plenty of control over dialing in your delay voicing. In addition to the typical Repeats (feedback), Time, and Level controls, the aforementioned Color knob gives you a wide range of control over the voicing of your delay and seems to be highly interactive with the Flutter knob which dials in the depth of a beautiful modulation that falls somewhere between the sounds of a classic analog delay pedal and a warbly tape echo.

The flip-switches bring even more options. The Mode switch selects between a standard delay and a Dual Mode with a 2nd delay at half speed to affect the rhythmic feel of your repeats. The Warp switch adjusts the onset intensity of the Warp function (activated via momentary foot-switch). Speed gives you 3 choices of modulation speed. The Tails switch gives you optional delay spillover.

The Warp function is a big draw, having its own dedicated foot-switch for kicking in the self-oscillation at will for as long as you hold the foot-switch. This gives you great musical control over the effect. If you still want more varied delay sounds, use the TRS Send & Return jack to add other effects into the wet signal path for unlimited tonal possibilities. Until SolidGoldFX strikes again with an MKIII, the Electroman MKII will like remain one of the best and more original PT2399 delay pedals.

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

Strymon El Capistan

Builder: Strymon, Pedal: El Capistan, Delay Type: Tape (DSP)

There are lots of delay pedals that try to emulate the sounds of a classic tape echo, many of which do a pretty solid job, but the Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo is without a doubt the final word in authentic sounding tape echo delay in a compact pedal. With 3 different tape machines, each with 3 different modes of operation, there’s a huge foundation available for building the ultimate tape echo sound. While the 5 surface knobs make it easy to dial in your tone, there are 5 more “hidden” knob functions (including reverb!) for 10 total adjustable parameters. And while it certainly sounds amazing, it’s the tap tempo that really pushes this pedal over the top for me. Once you’ve dialed in the ultimate tape echo sound, you’ll always be able to sync it right along to the music via tap tempo without fiddling with sliding heads or tape speed. The El Capistan is a marvel of modern technology and the ultimate tribute to the tape echo machines of old.

Read the Strymon El Capistan Review

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

Rainger FX Echo-X

Builder: Rainger FX, Pedal: Echo-X, Delay Type: Digital

What happens when the mad genius behind the Dr. Freakenstein fuzz pedal decides to make a delay? Apparently, you get the Rainger FX Echo-X Digital Delay. This little monster is one of the more original and adventurous interpretations of a digital delay pedal I’ve come across. The Echo-X is an ambient digital delay that smears your repeats into long cascading trails of atmospheric bliss. You can use the included Igor foot controller to modulate the Rate or Feedback or even use it in Send mode to have only certain portions of your playing feed into the delay effect. Very fun. You can also adjust the input signal going into the pedal and overall output volume in addition to the standard 3-knob delay controls of Rate, Feedback, & Level. It’s also worth noting that the Echo-X’s compact form-factor has top-mounted jacks for super convenient placement on any tightly packed pedalboard. A killer design from one of the true punk outliers in the pedal game. Rainger FX nailed it.

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

Red Panda Particle

Builder: Red Panda, Pedal: Particle, Delay Type: Granular Delay

The Red Panda Particle is the ultimate wildcard on our list. With so many delay pedals remaining grounded in the past, this pedal blasts forward into uncharted territory. Using granular synthesis, the Particle chops your playing into tiny samples and warps your signal, often beyond recognition, in wondrously magical ways. This pedal is for those truly adventurous guitarists who want radical new ways to manipulate their sound. The Particle packs all kinds of otherworldly, ambient delay effects, wild machine-like glitch delay sounds, a great reverse mode, and plenty of sounds that cross pitch-shifting with delay for a playground of twisted delay phantasmagoria. It’s been around for a few years, and while we’d love to see an update with tap tempo, presets, and MIDI functionality, the Particle remains one of the more original and inspiring delay pedals around.

Read the Red Panda Particle review

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

That concludes our Top 20 Best Delay Pedals of 2018. Thanks for reading!

 

Tell us your favorite delay pedal in the comments!

Alexander Pedals Colour Theory Review

 

I am not cool enough to be exclusively employed as a writer for arguably the coolest guitar effects publication this side of the 21st century. By night, I will always be Jake Behr: obsessive, loquacious Pedal Dweeb. But by day, I am Jake Behr: obsessive, loquacious Printer. In the latter field, colour – exact colour – is everything, and there is an insane amount of factors that play into producing it, whether you’re mixing it by hand in a solo cup for a silk screening or tweaking CMYK curves for a digital print.

So when I heard that Alexander Pedals was releasing the Colour Theory Spectrum Sequencer, I had to see if it held up to such a lofty concept as the entirety of colorimetry. While I can’t say the choice of name is much more than aesthetic, one important aspect of colour theory (the concept, not the pedal,) kept returning to me when I was reviewing the Colour Theory: Metamerism.

Metamerism is a trick of the eye that occurs between two imperceptibly different colors that makes them appear identical due to factors such as reflectiveness, angle, or differences in color vision between observers. In an extrapolated (yes-I’m-reaching-to-appear-more-interesting) sort of way, the Colour Theory is an exercise in metamerism; where you may see a guitar pedal, I see a piece of synth-like rack gear with endless possibilities.

 

Features:

  • Eight-Step Sequencer
  • Sequence “Park” Pauses Sequencer
  • Multijack input/ouput for MIDI, footswitch, and expression control
  • USB Input for extended TouchOSC MIDI control and firmware updates
  • Tap-Tempo for Sequencer
  • Six effect types
  • Nine controllable parameters via multi-function knobs
  • TRS Stereo Output
  • Buffered Bypass

Sequencer controls:

  • Rate determines the speed of the sequencer
  • Steps controls how many steps in the sequence are played
  • Level controls overall output of the Colour Theory
  • Mix is the wet/dry blend
  • Lag controls how quickly the sequencer ramps to the next step

Step Controls:

  • External Control outputs a MIDI CC value to an external device
  • Value is the first variable parameter; Pitch shift, delay time, filter frequency, tremolo rate, oscillator pitch, or PWM octave
  • Amount controls the sequenced wet/dry blend
  • Tweak is the second variable parameter; Tone, delay feedback, filter resonance, tremolo wave, oscillator wave, or PWM modulation.

Head over to Alexander Pedals for more info on the Colour Theory!

 

 

True Colours

The Colour Theory hosts two effects for each type of cone in your retina, but any multieffects pedal can boast that wide a variety of tones. The magic that makes the Colour Theory so colourful lies in its eight-step sequencer, the rate of which is set by the left tap tempo footswitch. The top indicator LED will emit a different color light that corresponds to the color of the step as represented in the semi-circle surrounding the Steps knob. As the sequencer cycles through its steps, the values of every parameter in the Colour Theory will change per your specifications. You can set the order of the steps as well; you’re free to choose whether you’d like the sequence to reset at the last step, cycle backwards at the last step, or play the steps completely randomly.

The Colour Theory is the kind of pedal you want to work on in a well lit/potentially well ventilated area. There’s a lot of information printed on the front panel of the standard-sized enclosure the Colour Theory is housed in, as each knob works double (and in the case of the mix knob, triple) duty on parameters. With the sequencer running, the knobs control the sequencer parameters. Holding down the Tap Tempo footswitch will “Park” the sequence on whichever step the Colour Theory falls on at the end of a 2-second period, opening access to each knob’s secondary parameter bank. A little added bonus of the Park feature is that when the steps are parked, they serve as pseudo-presets that can be cycled through with the tap tempo footswitch. So if you like a particular tone in any given effect but don’t want to submit to the ever-changing churn of the sequencer you can easily recall and stay on that one static voice, modulating with external MIDI controls if you so wish. It’s like having six three knob pedals, each with eight presets.

The side-mounted MultiJack will enable access to the expression, footswitch, and MIDI capabilities latent in the Colour Theory. With the aid of a MIDI-to-TRS adapter such as Disaster Area’s own MIDIbox or MD-5P Multijack to 5-pin cable, the Colour Theory can also receive and output MIDI CC signals simultaneously. The output feature is particularly potent in this application, sharing the steps of the Colour Theory’s sequence with your other MIDI enabled pedals. The Rate knob determines the value of the output message when the pedal is in park; Chase Bliss, Strymon, and other Alexander Neo pedals will recognize the CC immediately, while some others may need a bit of coaxing.

For those guitarists who depend on external gear for automation and may not be super keen on relying solely on the admittedly limited Colour Theory for their tempo, note changes, etc., the MicroUSB port on the back panel will receive MIDI from an external source as well. The source of choice for Alexander is a neat little mobile MIDI control app called TouchOSC, which has been around for a while and has served as a tactile controller for everything from Synthesizers to Projection mapping projects. Alexander, in their infinite wisdom, has created a TouchOSC template for use with the entire Neo series, which in this case allows direct manipulation of the Color Theory’s parameters and presets from your tablet or smartphone, provided you have the appropriate USB adapter. A completely customizable interface allows you to send any MIDI message to the connected device, so you don’t even need to settle for the perfectly sufficient proprietary template if it doesn’t work for you. On the surface, this provides a simple and effective way to really dig in to the parameters and suss out exact tones without constantly bending down to tweak the pedal, but paired with the full MIDI implementation boasted by the Neo series and a little bit of elbow grease, this feature has the potential to serve as a whole method of instrument-like control. For example, say you’re running the Oscillator mode and you’ve set the first step of the sequence to the root of the song you’re playing, and each step above that in ascending major intervals. Instant arpeggio! Neat, but repetitive. With TouchOSC, you can quickly adjust the first step (or any step, really) to a different interval to change the colouration of the arpeggio without needing to park the Colour Theory. In “theory,” (you get it) entire songs could be played in this way with a few CC messages, so I’ll be duct taping a tablet to my guitar ASAP.

PIT

The top blue effect mode is a slippery, glistening pitchshifter that ranges from an octave down to an octave up. Surprisingly, this voicing recreates chords without the gross, unusable muddiness that many treadle-based pitchshifters are known for when coupled with more than one simultaneous note. It takes a lot of getting used to, but the sequencer literally takes the legwork out of nailing those classic pitchshifter tone in ways that your weak human legs would never be prepared for. The utility obviously differs depending on how rich your chords are; if you’re playing seventh chords with added sixes and ninths, maybe stick to octave shifts to keep from getting lost. It’s open season on two-finger power chords and single notes, though. Go nuts.

MOD

Your search for nauseous, vertigo-inducing pitch wobble ends today. The second blue LED indicates we’ve entered the domain of MOD, a digital delay-based modulation that takes the classic time warp sound inherent in modulating the rate of a delay and plants it center-stage. Blue was a good choice to represent this tone, as you’re likely to be reminded of the vast expanse of water that dominated your view that one time you barfed off the side of your grandfather’s fishing boat; MOD is the sound of seasickness. As we know, classic modulation is created by splitting a signal in two and delaying the second signal ever so slightly (or not so slightly) to fatten the new, combined signal and infuse dimensionality into your tone. MOD does what it does by generating that second voice, delaying it by 0 to 300 milliseconds, and letting the Colour Theory’s sequencer go full Jackson Pollock on it. The result is a weird, ever-changing modulation tone that invokes the very spirit of psychedelia.

You’ll want to sequence the feedback (Tweak) of the delay as well, especially at a slow tap tempo. Here you’ll notice glitchy CD skips that will push your next gainstage into overdrive. Slight variations on the time coupled with wild feedback oscillations will yield the most musical and unique tones the MOD voicing has to offer, creating a bizarre vibrato effect. In Park mode, the noise-haters will be pleased to find that MOD is chock full of classic delay and even reverb tones that may not make you question the ambient machines currently adding space to your board but will at least satisfy your need for a nice slapback. By turning the Value knob full clockwise, we unlock a melting delay tone that winds down of its own accord, descending in pitch almost immediately. Manually cycling between two voices via the tap-tempo footswitch squeezes even more pitch-bendy utility out of the delay and adds a level of control that works very well in a band context, where your ‘mates may not be super stoked about relying exclusively on one little box to decide the tempo of the song.

FLT

This effect mode ties with TRM as the most familiar voice the Colour Theory has to offer. It’s an ever-sweeping low-pass filter that packs an intense, resonant punch. You can park FLT to use it as a static filter, but if you’re hoping to pop an expression pedal in and nail a wah tone, you’ll be sorely disappointed, as the frequency of the filter isn’t controllable via traditional expression. Fret not, though, because it is possible; you’ll just need some sort of MIDI controller.

TRM

Sequenced tremolo is fun as hell! The obvious application here is rate modulation, which can yield glitchy jumps in tremolo time with each step in the sequence. However, the shape of the wave, which ranges from smooth sine to tight pulse, is also fair game to modulate via the Tweak knob. You can’t use the tap-tempo footswitch to control the tempo of the tremolo, but in my opinion, you’re not missing out on much. Dialing in a comfortable speed with the value knob isn’t difficult, and if you’re going to be sequencing it, you can ballpark it and not notice the difference while your signal is bouncing between tempos.

OSC

This effect is a sine wave oscillator that starts around B1 and ends on C5, a span of four octaves. It’s crazy and obnoxious in all of the best ways. Unless you’re going for a weird discordant or microtonal vibe, you’ll want to run this through a tuner when you make your presets, because the oscillator doesn’t lock to specific notes and there’s no real note indicator on the front of the Colour Theory. This can make it tough to tune the oscillator perfectly to any Western note. With the lag knob turned clockwise, the notes become less discernible and more like a meandering theremin. The tweak knob becomes a resonance filter for the oscillation, helping the signal to cut through more easily without demanding too much of the actual signal blend.

In my opinion, this effect is where the stereo capabilities of the Colour Theory become absolutely vital; the oscillator on its own sounds pretty cool, but it really blossoms when coupled with your other effects. Pair it with a spacious reverb and you’ve got a spooky sci-fi soundtrack on your hands. Run it through an octaver and widen that massive range, you greedy animal. You could even pop a weird sound conversion pedal into the line for a truly bizarre backing track. Oscillator fueled Miku Stomp, anyone? Just me?

PWM

The last mode is named PWM, which in the synth world stands for pulse-width modulation. In this application, we don’t get the full breadth of pulse-width modulation in the synthesizer sense, but the name is still a viable representation to hint at what the effect sounds like: PWM is an octave effect that converts your dry signal into a synthesized monophonic square wave and thrusts it into the deepest depths of hell. The Value knob determines how many octaves down you go, which starts at THICC AS HELL (one octave down) and ends sub-harmonically low (who-knows-how-many octaves down.) In fact, each octave past noon on the Value knob renders the signal so low that PWM serves, for all intents and purposes, as more a harmonically-reactive tremolo than an octaver. I should clarify for those unfamiliar with insanely low frequencies: at the lowest octaves PWM has to offer, your signal frequency becomes so low that you can hear the crests of the new sound wave as you feed it to the Colour Theory. As you play up the neck, the frequency of the crests increases, creating the illusion of a tremolo-like effect.

Critical to the tone and very name of the PWM effect is the modulation controlled by the Tweak knob. One of the things I noticed about PWM was a constant flange effect rolling over my signal at a fixed rate, completely independent from the modulation controlled by the tweak knob. The mono synth tone is also super reactive to the harmonic input of the dry signal, rounding out or sharpening in reaction to the position of your tone knob. PWM is definitely a melodic/lead voicing, as the nature of the conversion method makes it absolutely impossible to use it for chords in all but the rarest scenarios, but if you like squashed out mono-synth tones, this is the way to go. Maxing out the rate of the sequencer makes for a tweaked out, almost ring-mod tone, the intensity of which depends entirely on the values of each individual step. On the complete opposite end of that spectrum, there’s no shame in Parking on a tone in the sequence, running PWM as if it were a regular ol’ pedal, and calling it a day.

Colour Correction

In an arena so sparsely occupied as that of the sequenced multieffects pedal, what can be done to improve on this champion? For starters, a stereo input seems like an obvious choice. In most cases you have to make routing sacrifices when you have more than one stereo device on your pedalboard, and if any of those devices have a mono input, you lose out on the opportunity to route a stereo signal all the way down the line. If the output is TRS, why not the input? At this point, the change likely boils down to an expensive redesign of the circuitboard, so I won’t hold my breath on a solution to such a minor flaw that only the most nitpicky dweebs (see: me) would take issue with.

I’d also have loved to see more depth in the Colour Theory’s control and MIDI capabilities. A tap division option, expression control of individual effect parameters, sequenced lag; all of these would make for great, simple updates to the Colour Theory’s array of controls, even if they had to remain under the surface in the invisible realm of MIDI control. Another item on the MIDI wishlist is the ability to toggle or manipulate the Lag knob’s impact on individual parameters. Quite a few times, I found myself wishing that one parameter would move in lock-step with the sequencer while another lagged and wandered. OSC mode is pretty unmusical and in a practical sense close to unusable with the lag turned past 10 o’clock, but if I could turn the Lag off for just the pitch of the oscillator and let the notes lock in tightly to the tap-tempo while the Mix and resonance struggled to catch up, I would be truly satisfied. This would open up a whole new world of possibilities for every voice in the Colour Theory’s arsenal.

 

 

The Alexander Pedals Colour Theory stands head and shoulders above countless other pedals with similar raw tones on merit of its sequencer alone. In a guitar tone context, the Colour Theory isn’t just about adding its unique vibe to your ‘board. It’s secretly all about pushing gain and taking the inherent colour of your tone to the next level by way of oscillation, but it truly would not be a fifth of the pedal it is without its sequencing capabilities. With the ability to sequence not just its own, but other effects’ parameters, we’re looking at a watershed that continues Alexander’s NEO series’ trend of pushing the bounds of the classic guitar effects pedals into unchartered territory. It’s not just the kind of gear that inspires creative songwriting, it is a collaborator that necessitates songwriting in a way you might not be used to. It takes some work to grow accustomed to putting together sequences from scratch, even with the added ease of TouchOSC, but once you’ve laid the groundwork you’ll find yourself with a loyal partner in crime that may make you wonder what you ever did before it entered your life. When I said at the outset of this review that the Colour Theory resembles a piece of synth gear more than a guitar pedal, I meant it. Pulse-Width Modulation, Lag processing, Sequencing, Oscillators: all of these exist in a synthetic world that most red-blooded, riff-loving guitarists are only ostensibly familiar with. Don’t let that frighten you, though. The future is electronic… and colourful.

That concludes our Alexander Pedals Colour Theory review. Thanks for reading.

Review: Electro Harmonix Canyon Delay & Looper

 

The Canyon delay from Electro Harmonix is a brilliantly designed, beautiful sounding delay/looper that will far exceed your expectations. Inside the little box you’ll find 9 delays, a reverb, two octaves, a sample and hold, a looper, some modulation, tap tempo – the list goes on and on. In fact I struggle to think of a better delay when it comes to the list of features offered vs. size and price. This delay pedal feels like when you go to a restaurant for a huge expensive meal and they forget to charge you for the drinks! With all that value, you just feel like you’re getting away with something! A delay that inexpensive, you’d surely assume it’s not going to sound very good. Do NOT make that mistake here. The Canyon delay sounds as good as the best delays on the market. Considering all that it does, how incredible it sounds, and the impossibly low price point, it will surely find it’s way onto, like, a gazillion pedalboards.

When Electro Harmonix releases a new delay/looper pedal, guitar players stop and take a listen. And rightfully so. For decades, Electro Harmonix has produced some of the best delays as well as some of the best loopers on the market and have been responsible for much of the industry’s innovation and time-tested designs. I just need to say the words “Deluxe Memory Man”, and you’ll get what I’m saying. Along the way, Electro Harmonix has continued to add features to modern versions of the DMM keeping tweak-happy delay lovers content for years. So when I saw that they now had a very compact, multi-algorithm delay plus looper to offer, I was more than intrigued. The Canyon is somewhat of a “new ground” for Electro Harmonix in a couple different ways. The only other delay of theirs I can think of in this form factor would be the Memory Toy, a great sounding, paired-down grandchild of the DMM, but, alas, a one trick pony. The Canyon delay, however, has several tricks up its sleeve. We may have expected a multi-algorithm delay from Electro Harmonix to be in their much larger enclosures like a DMM size, or, at least, a Memory Boy size. But here it is… and it’s as tiny as a Toy. Here are the Canyon’s features before we go on.

 

Features:

Sound Design:

  • 11 modes (nine delay types, sample and hold, and a looper)
  • Delay times ranging from 3ms to 3 seconds
  • Tap tempo with tap devisions utilizing the internal switch or an external switch
  • Option for trails on or off via internal dip switch
  • Simple controls for Level, Delay, Feedback
  • Easy access to secondary knob functions for added tone shaping
  • Several modes offer a nice, musical “ramping time” feel as you turn the Delay knob
  • Tons of Self-oscillation and gritty long repeat goodness on tap
  • Multi-stage LED indicates several behaviors including note division and looper functionality
  • All of this in a super compact enclosure

Ins and outs:

  • One 1/4” main input (right side mounted)
  • One 1/4” main output (left side mouinted)
  • 9v DC, center negative power jack drawing 150mA (top-mounted)

Knobs:

  • MODE SELECT: An 11 position rotary knob for selecting the delay mode/looper
  • FX LVL: Controls the blend between your dry signal and your delayed signal
  • DELAY: Controls your delay time. All the way down is 3ms, all the way up is 3 seconds.
  • FEEDBACK: Controls the number of repeats of the delayed signal. One repeat to infinity

Let’s have a more in-depth look one of the main knobs of the pedal:

Mode Select: Here you can select nine delay types, as well as the sample/hold, and looper.
The nine delay types are:

1. ECHO: A simple digital delay where each repeat sounds exactly like the dry signal and repeats fade away cleanly.

2. MOD: A modulation delay. The same as the ECHO delay, but with added modulation for warm, complex repeats.

3. MULTI: Multi-tap delay. Each repeat of the delay is played back at exactly the same volume. Feedback sets the number of constant-volume repeats.

4. REVRS: Reverse delay. The repeats come back to you in reverse. However, this isn’t your dad’s reverse delay. This one features intelligent reverse echo. It actually studies your playing so it can produce reverse echoes that best suit your playing and delayed time. Tip: Use the secondary function to adjust the sensitivity of the intelligent pluck detection algorithm.

5. DMM: Duh. Deluxe Memory Man. For my money, this mode is where it’s at. It’s a perfect example of a well-tuned delay pedal. Everything just sounds perfect and beautiful when played in this mode. Organic echoes transform as they repeat and lush modulation is available in the secondary functions. Beautiful-sounding time ramping effects are at your toe-tips. Just tweak that DELAY knob and musical pitch-shifting repeats rise and fall before your very ears.

6. TAPE: Tape delay. This mode simulates the highly sought after tape delay units of the 1970’s. Echoes degrade and distort as they repeat with plenty of wow and flutter on tap.

7. VERB: Reverb plus delay. In this mode, each repeat has a plate reverb attached to it. Turn the feedback all the way down and this mode can be used as a reverb only with DELAY controlling the pre-delay of the reverb signal.

8. OCT: Octave delay. Man! This is the mode that took me by surprise. The octaves are incredible and track with absolute perfection! There’s a POG and Pitch Fork in this thing!! It sounds really cool and trippy to use it as a delay, but you can also turn the Feedback and Delay all the way down and you have a damn good octave generator. Get into the secondary functions to adjust the octave up and octave down.

9. SHIM: Shimmer delay. This mode has some magical things going on. A rich octave-shifted harmony of delight will roll out of your speakers. They achieve this by modeling a chain of four EH pedals. First the signal is fed into a Soul Preacher Compressor then split in two. Half of the signal goes into a POG2 Pitch Shifter and then into a Stereo Memory Man. Then the signal is merged and sent into a second Stereo Memory Man. It boggles the mind to think of what’s going on in there. But it sounds incredible. I can’t imagine a shimmer delay sounding better than this.

10. S/H: Sample and Hold: First of all, I gotta say, this is the first Sample and Hold I have ever used where I actually can hear a viable use for what is coming out of the amp. I set the Delay to about 9:00 and made clicking sounds on my strings to produce some really cool machine gun sounds, à la Jamie Hince of The Kills. Feedback controls the sensitivity of the pluck detection.

11. Loop: Looper mode. In loop mode, the Canyon becomes a full-feature looper pedal with 62 seconds of record time. A loop is stored permanently, even when the looper is powered off. Wanna record that cool loop and take it to the gig. Go for it! Wanna save that cool riff from rehearsal? You’re safe!

Secondary knob functions are as follows, per mode:

DELAY KNOB, FEEDBACK KNOB
ECHO: N/A, N/A
MOD: Modulation rate, Modulation depth
MULTI: Volume decay/swell, N/A
REVRS: Pluck sensitivity, N/A
DMM: Modulation rate, Modulation depth
TAPE: Tape distortion, Flutter mod depth
VERB: Reverb Time, Reverb tone
OCT: Octave up level, Octave down level
SHIM: Low pass filter, Modulation depth
S/H: Volume decay/Swell, N/A
LOOP: N/A, N/A

*If you feel like you’ve messed with the secondary knob functions so much that you’ve now taken your pedal so far out in space and you just wanna get back? No problem. The geniuses at Electro Harmonix left nothing to chance. You can return your pedal’s secondary settings to a factory default! This is also useful if you’ve purchased this pedal used and simply want to hear it on a “clean slate” so to speak.

While in Looper Mode, the knobs will function as follows:

FX LVL: Controls the output level of the loop playback
FEEDBACK: Controls the level of the existing loop that is preserved while overdubbing

The LED is also there to help you know what you’re doing. It will change color and/or blink to tell you valuable information such as:

In Looper Mode:

  • RED: Press the switch one time, the LED goes red and begins recording immediately
  • GREEN: Press the switch again, the LED goes green and begins playing back the recorded loop. Each time the loop cycles, the LED will briefly turn off
  • GREEN (dim): To stop playback, press the switch two times. Once stopped, the LED will show as green, but dim to indicate the presence of a recorded loop that is ready for playback
  • ORANGE: The LED will turn orange when you record an overdub on top of the original loop
  • RED (blinking): To fully erase a loop you press and hold for two seconds. The LED will go red and blink rapidly six times then go out. This indicates that the loop is fully erased

In Tap Division Mode:

  • RED: Quarter notes, no tap division
  • ORANGE: Dotted 8th notes (¾ of tapped delay time)
  • GREEN: 8th notes (half if tapped delay time)

Visit Electro Harmonix for more info about the Canyon.

 

 

Into the Canyon:

The Canyon delay is kind of a lesson in the idea that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get great quality. I’ll admit that I’m a goon. When I first took a peek at this pedal, I kind of turned my nose up thinking it was just another cheap delay pedal designed to meet a specific price point. We have all seen some examples of not only delays, but other pedals that are put out, even by great companies, that just seem to be so they can have an entry level offering in every category of effect. But the truth has been made clear in this review already. This thing is nothing short of incredible. Personally, I would probably pay upwards of $350 for a delay of this caliber of sound quality. Of course, at that price-point, I’d probably expect it to be stereo with presets and MIDI/expression control.

When I sat down with the Canyon, I was nothing short of blown away. As I went through the algorithms, I remember texting my buddy with videos of each one that I loved and how rich they sounded. I simply could not understand why and how this thing was so magical. There are several modes on this thing that, even if that one single mode was all I got for my $139.00, I would be totally fine. The “DMM” is one. The “Octave” is another. “Tape” is not far behind. Then you have a sample/hold and a looper?? Dang. Then, on top of all that, you have the secondary functions. That absolutely shoots this delay pedal over the top! Make sure you have a look at the manual to see detailed information on how far this pedal actually goes.

If I had to get really picky, I’d say stereo would be cool, similar to the TC Electronic Flashback Delay, which is the same size. That pedal comes in at about $30 more than the Canyon, but I’d gladly pay up for a stereo version of this pedal although the multi-dimensional qualities of the delays make you forget you’re running in mono. MIDI and expression would have been great as well but would likely have required a larger enclosure.

Then there is the appearance of the pedal. It has kind of a cartoonish graphic and a random, swooshy “Canyon” writing over the graphic. To me, as well as some of the guys in the forums, this just kind of lends itself to a “silly” appearance, as if it’s begging to not be taken seriously. Then again, there was that Crayon pedal, too, so maybe it’s fitting the theme? The white on white plastic knobs give it a simple, yet washed out appearance further taking the design in a somewhat “cheapie” direction. I thought that the design could have just been better planned. An appearance with more of a sharp, higher-end design, maybe something black, could have been executed and would have been a more fitting visual representation of the intricate sounds that this pedal produces. I am not saying any of this to knock on Electro Harmonix but rather to relate to you as the consumer. If you’re looking at this thing and thinking “It doesn’t LOOK cool,” fear not. This pedal delivers the goods. Just get used to the look of it and have fun with it! If the looks don’t bother you then you’re already ahead of the game. I thought the tap tempo feature felt a little clunky, but I always assume that’s just me. There is a remote tap input which helps a ton by allowing you to place the delay pedal out of reach, near the end of your signal chain, but have a remote tap close to your foot at the bottom of the board. I found that using the remote tap worked much better for a more seamless tap tempo experience. Same with the looper. It’s not the most intuitive one-switch looper I’ve ever used, but that is because this looper has a LOT more features than a standard Ditto Looper, and added features can mean added learning curve. Once I read the manual and got myself acquainted with how it works, it became a breeze to use properly. Again, a look at the manual works wonders here.

 

 

The Electro Harmonix Canyon Delay & Looper offers an astounding value and top quality delays. I cannot believe what you get out of this pedal at any price, yet it retails at under $140. I’d put this thing up against nearly any multi-algorithm delay out there. Seriously. The only place it falls short of the big boys is in its mono operation and limited external control options. Thankfully, many of us are running mono rigs and that simply won’t be an issue. At least they have the external tap tempo option, which I am sure will get used. When you cook all of this down to one simple thing it’s “how does it sound?” I’d take the Pepsi challenge with this up against any of the more expensive popular delays out there. If you were just blindfolded in a room and listening to this delay perform against its more expensive competition, you would likely struggle to tell the difference. Then you’d be struggling trying to accept that this thing does what it does. I had to just face the music and set aside my self-imposed negative opinions of a inexpensive delay pedal. Then, once that happened, I was kinda like, “Duh. This is a delay pedal from Electro Harmonix.” Why wouldn’t it be incredible? The features offered in the Canyon are as deep as they are grand.

This concludes our review of the Electro Harmonix Canyon Delay & Looper. Thanks for reading!

Review: Boss MS-3 Multi Effects Switcher

I am terrified to imagine a world where an introduction to Boss is necessary, but here we go. Founded as the guitar effects branch of Japan’s Roland Corporation during the rockstar legend-making yesterworld of 1973, Boss has always had a busy hand in helping to shape the trajectory on which guitar tones have evolved. Everyone’s had that proverbial Boss pedal on their ‘board at some point in their career, and whether you’ve taken it off for something with more bells and whistles, or it’s remained an integral part of your tone, there’s a sense of safety in those iconic enclosures that makes it difficult to depart from them entirely. Despite the boutique-saturated pedal market we enjoy, Boss still reigns supreme as the veteran CEO of dependable and innovative effects pedals, and today we’re looking at the Boss MS-3 Multi-Effects Switcher, a spiritual descendant of the MS Multi-effects series and ES-5/ES-8 Effects Switching Systems condensed into a smaller, equally utilitarian multi-effects pedal and effects loop switcher.

I’ve often expressed my general distaste for multi-effects pedals (though, paradoxically, I haven’t officially reviewed one that lacked merit), but in the case of the MS-3, we’re looking at something that takes an absolutely essential utility, effects switching, and fuses it with a ridiculously packed effects suite backed by Boss’s extensive history of quality and reliability. Atop such an already tall bastion of usefulness, Boss has also stacked a mind-boggling cadre of control features that shames even the most feature-rich pieces of gear you’ll find on the market today. This was easily one of the most complex pieces of hardware I’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing, and even having played with it for weeks, I’m still not convinced I know it completely.

Features:

112 built-in effects with up to Six Simultaneously active Effects Blocks

Slim, angled Form-factor

5 Programmable Footswitches

3 Programmable Knobs

Mono in, Stereo out with true Stereo or Left/Right Mono

3 Mono Effects Loops

2 TRS Control/Expression inputs, each capable of controlling two parameters

Control Output for external switching of amp/pedals

Backlit LCD and panel LEDs for on/off status of loops and effects

Global EQ, Noise Suppressor, Built-in tuner

Up to 4 MIDI patches on channels 1-16

Up to 8 MIDI Continuous Control (0-127)

Build & Functionality:

I was foolishly expecting the MS-3 to be massive, but to my delight it only measures out to about 11”x4”. For comparison’s sake, it’s about 4 modern pedals wide and two inches shorter than a standard enclosure. A wedged form-factor makes stomping effortless when placed nearest to the front of your pedalboard. The brushed aluminum of the chassis is historically known for being easily scratched, but I’ve been able to buff out tour scars inflicted on similar surfaces in the past. The first thing you’ll notice when activating the MS-3 is the brightness of the LCD screen; this thing is Sirius-bright. If the blinding white is too much for you to handle or if the brightness detracts from the text displayed onscreen in a practical, dark setting, a contrast control is found in the menu.

Though you should be fine cutting power to your whole pedalboard at once, I love that the MS-3 has a power switch. Too often for comfort, I’ve seen quite a few massive digital effects suites (and even some boutique amp sims) released into the market with no dedicated on/off switch, making every subsequent power-down a nerve-wracking experience, so the tactile comfort of flipping a power switch does wonders for my peace of (obsessive-compulsive) mind. Furthermore, the MS-3 sports an auto-shutoff feature which will power down the MS-3 after a certain amount of time if it fails to detect any incoming signal, movement on the knobs, or presses on the footswitches.

Boss boasts that the 24 bit, 44.1khz A/D D/A converters built into this unit keep your signal completely intact with practically no loss translating from analog to digitally-processed signal, and I can confirm: this thing is CLEAN. The only time I noticed any significant change in sound quality or hiss was when I used some of my own dirtier pedals, particularly DSP-driven effects.

If you hate deep-menu diving as much as I do, Boss has developed a companion editor software for the MS-3 for editing and saving patches, aptly named the Librarian. You won’t find much in the Librarian that you can’t dig up in the MS-3’s internal menu aside from the potentially infinite amount of presets saveable on your hard drive, but the option to use a graphic UI can improve your workflow in spades.

Like a few other deep effects switchers, there are two ways to play, and your use may vary depending on what kind of player you are. Memory Mode changes the LED indicators blue, and gives you relatively immediate access to 200 patches in banks of four. Each footswitch represents a patch in each bank. By default, pressing footswitches 1 & 2 simultaneously will bank down, while 3 & 4 will do the opposite. The footswitches and control ins are all programmable inside of any given patch, adding to the flexibility therein. For example, in Memory Mode you can set an overdriven tone in patch 1, then activate/bypass a delay in the same patch by hitting footswitch 1 inside of that patch. (More on this later.) Manual Mode in red is more of a classic switcher format with each footswitch representing a loop or function that’s programmed in. The four blocks controlled by the footswitches are represented on the LCD screen. There’s utility here even if your immediate response is to dismiss it as the inferior mode. If you’re more the type to prefer having all of your information displayed right in front of you, you can program each footswitch to control individual effects/loops, the control outs, tap-tempo, solo triggers, or the tuner. Scrolling through patches can still be accessed via knob 1, or via an external footswitch. If you’re of the mind to use one configuration and disregard the other entirely, you can even program the Memory/Manual switch for a total of five operable footswitches.

Full Assimilation

In a skin-deep kind of way, the beauty of the MS-3 lies in its ability to integrate your pre-existing effects via its effects loops. These three mono in/outs each comprise one effects block, and the block of three loops can be placed anywhere inside of the MS-3’s signal chain which helps when deciding what effects you’ll be running before, within, and after the MS-3’s loops. If you have MIDI-enabled pedals, you don’t even need to limit your loop choices to three pedals, as you can send program changes and continuous controller (CC) messages from the MS-3 to activate your effects as you need them.

Guitarists who run between gain stages via their amp’s effects loop can utilize a Loop on the MS-3 to achieve the good ol’ “four-cable” method, so they don’t necessarily have to force their preamp to take all of the incoming signal directly to the face. Simply route your guitar into the MS-3, out from one of the Loop sends to the front of your amp, out of the amp’s effects send back to the return of the MS-3 Loop, and back out to your amp’s return imput. There’s no level control on the loops, so you’ll be using 100% of whatever signal the pedals in the loops contribute, but in most cases you’ll have a mix knob of some sort on the pedal in question. It would have been great to be able to rearrange the individual loops, and the lack of parallel routing, especially in stereo, seems like a big missed opportunity. I can forgive these shortcomings under the auspice that the MS-3 simply lacks the hardware to make this possible, and given Boss’s trend of releasing a huge, no-chill mega unit after the success of a mellower, precursory unit, one could speculate that if we’re lucky, we may see switchable parallel routing and the addition to stereo loops in a hypothetical MS-5 or other larger sibling to the MS-3. You know what else would be nice to consider for our fantasy expansion? The ability to cannibalize one of the effects loops and reintegrate that external effect into the wet signal of the delay/reverb voicings. The MS-3 concept inspires a lot of ways that Boss may take it to new plateaus in the future.

Riding the WAV (And Friends!)

Since the MS-3 followers the previously released ES-8 & ES-5 switchers, you would be correct in guessing that the programming capabilities of the MS-3’s footswitches and controls aren’t as shallow as turning effects on or off. That degree of simplicity is an option via the CTRL menus, of course, but you don’t have to dig super deep to realize the possibilities are nearly limitless. The CTRL Assign menu will allow you to select the source that controls any effect parameter or MIDI channel in the MS-3. For example, you can route your expression signal to the MIDI out to control a MIDI-enabled pedal or use a separate footswitch to change your volume pedal to a wah within a patch.

One particular function in the MS-3’s control wheelhouse is as close to black magick as I can fathom; in fact, when I discovered that it was capable of this forthcoming tone-witchery, I drew a salt circle around it to protect myself. Inside of the Ctrl Assign menus, you can tell the MS-3 to modulate any parameter from any onboard effect or MIDI-enabled pedal along a triangle, sine, or sawtooth wave LFO. I know. Those of us familiar with ramping pedals know what’s possible here, and the MS-3 excels at it. You can set the depth of the modulation to and from any point on the digital dial, and sync the cycle to either an arbitrary frequency or the internal tempo of the MS-3 divided from whole notes to 16th notes and all the dots and triplets in-between. It’s not quite a sequencer, but it comes pretty close. Oh, and did I mention there’s EIGHT Ctrl Assigns, and you can program each input to control multiple parameters? You want to sweep the rate of a dark chorus up to a tight chirp while maxing out your reverb wet mix and activate the Sound Hold effect block simultaneously? Go nuts, you beautiful crazy person.

Despite the Owners’ Manual’s insistence that we use Boss external footswitches and expression pedals, and though the Dual Expression pedal and FS-5U’s ilk are perfect for getting the most out of the MS-3, the effective list of non-Boss compatible external units is miles long. One such third-party footswitch option that I would be remiss not to mention is our very own resident overachiever Paul Uhl’s “Paul Switch”, a simple little doodad with height-adjustable soft-touch footswitches that he designed specifically as a companion piece to the MS-3. The reason I mention Paul’s pedal in particular is because he is an avid MS-3 user (the dude uses two) with an extensive history in MIDI and CV solutions. He has a few videos on programming the MS-3 on YouTube (not just in conjunction with his switch) that helped me get started, and he’s even gone so far as to create and manage a 500+ member Facebook Boss MS-3 Users Group for fellow users of the device that members of Roland UK monitor and occasionally participate in.

Building Blocks

Even if you’re convinced that you have all of the sounds that you could ever need (who are you kidding?) in your elitist boutique-only ‘board, the MS-3’s effects suite is one-hundred-and-twelve effects strong. I’ll say that again, but louder: ONE HUNDRED AND TWELVE EFFECTS! Included in this densely populated effects nation are eerily accurate facsimiles of many of the standbys that Boss has built their empire on. The OD-1, OC-3, and CS-3 are just a few classics simulated here. Most of the guitar effects have a Bass equivalent, so the MS-3 is a great addition to bass and synth effects chains alike.

Editing effects directly from the unit is a bonafide breeze. From the home screen, hitting the edit button will bring you into a menu displaying a graphic representation of the effects chain. Not including the Noise Suppressor block, we have six onboard effects that can be active simultaneously. FX 1 & 2 contain your Compressor, Drives, EQ, Pitch Shifters, and other weird goodies; MOD 1 & 2 are obviously the extended Chorus and Tremolo family; DLY and REV are what they sound like. On the front panel, Knob 1 scrolls through the effects chain, Knob 2 rearranges the blocks, Knob 3 scrolls through the effects type, and each block is activated or bypassed with the aptly named “On/Off” button on the top panel. In the “Edit” menu, the physical knobs correspond with the parameters displayed on the LCD screen. The depth of control is what I’ve come to expect from the MS-3; most of the effects have multiple pages worth of parameters and toggles to play with, in most cases adding more features than their analog predecessors had. If you want to save a patch, just hit the Exit and Enter buttons simultaneously.

In addition to the Parametric and Graphic EQs in the FX blocks, the MS-3 also has a Global EQ that covers the entire signal chain. This is a great way to dial in a nice overall tone palette going in to your amp before you even touch the patch-specific Para/Graph EQs which not only saves time but also allows more room for effects if you’re not fussy about stray frequencies.

Overdrive/Distortion

As recently as half a decade ago, digital overdrives and distortions were openly lambasted as the ugly step-siblings in the overdrive family with tone elitists relegating them to being used in emergency scenarios only with seldom few exceptions. Use a digitally rendered overdrive in a multi-effects pedal for the sake of convenience, and you were sure to earn condescending sideways glances by the overwhelming majority of your fellow guitarists. Today, however, not only has this superstition been washed away by the deluge of seamless gain plugins and software, but the pedal market has boomed with DSP-based overdrive modelers whose uncanny resemblance to the real thing has stumped many a pro, and there’s been no indication that this trend will do anything but grow in our lifetimes. Now that we’ve established how important this section is, let’s talk about the MS-3’s digital reflections of the truly essential growl-inducers we all know and love.

The first thing about the OD/DS that stood out to me was the overwhelming variety of voices available. Twenty different flavors of sweet, sweet dirt are eager to get under your fingernails in the Guitar drive channel alone, ranging from Clean Boost to Metal Zone (yes, that Metal Zone.) There’s also a much lighter Bass overdrive that includes six voices with increasing degrees of filth. It’s obvious to me that Boss has definitely taken their time to get as close to the real thing as possible, but how does it fare in practice? Favoring the language of my people, I started with the RAT voicing to see how effectively Boss was able to invoke that familiar distorted post-rock fury, and I was not disappointed; it rips in all the same ways that old black box could without tying up the same real-estate. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the clean boost added crystal clear volume and tasteful gain with no digital distortion. There are also Bass, Mid, and Treble boost variations that do what they sound like. The Blues voicing emulates its predecessor, the BD-2 Blues Driver, and effectively fattened up my tone with even-order harmonic girth, each note sizzling with surprising liveliness. I won’t expound much further, but there’s a Muff, Octo-fuzz, Guv’nor and Tubescreamer crammed in there too, to name a few more options.

All of the overdrives have a bottom-end boost/cut knob for expanded tone-sculpting on top of the obligatory Tone knob. On the third page of the Overdrive blocks, there’s an option to boost your volume further through the use of the “Solo Switch,” which like any parameter can be conveniently assigned to any of the footswitches on the MS-3 or to your chosen external footswitch. Personally, I like pairing the Solo switch in trigger mode and the Feedbacker effect in momentary mode on an external footswitch to really maximize my solo/sustain tones.

Overall, I’d say there’s an understated merit in the drives modelled here. Noise and hiss weren’t really a problem for me, and for when we’re not working with the silky-smooth cream of a boutique valve overdrive, these’ll patch any holes in your gain arsenal on a bad day. There isn’t much of a tonal gap between their interaction with real amplifiers and amp sims. I’d say the latter is closest to my taste in most instances, if only for the fact that you can more readily nail the tones you seek and not have to forego a drive that SHOULD sound good but just doesn’t like your amplifier. For that reason and for the sake of quick tweaking at gigs, I’d still advise any Tube amp users to hold onto their favorite drive(s), but once you grow comfortable with the MS-3’s drive section, you can relax knowing that you have a backup pedal that can produce a solid approximation of any kind of grit your music calls for. Plus, if you’re really eager to unload some weight on your pedalboard but lean heavily on overdrive or distortion, you can always map up to three of the OD/DS parameters to the knobs on the top panel and know that most listeners won’t be able to tell the difference between your live, MS-3 modelled tones and your carefully crafted analog studio tones.

Filters/Pitch//Weird Stuff

There are a few odds effects in the FX blocks that probably aren’t essential, and maybe two or three whose musical usefulness is nebulous at best, but most of them are nice to have, especially the few single-use effects that eliminate their physical single-use counterparts. For example, the MS-3’s Slow Gear effect is an auto-volume swell, a voltage-controlled swell that features a “Detect” threshold knob that controls how much signal it has to detect before it starts to increase your signal from zero, and an attack knob to lengthen or shorten the climb to unity volume. It’s a simple and effective way to swell in your signal without needing to tie your foot to your volume pedal. If I’m being honest, a physical auto-swell has no place taking up power or space on any ‘board in 2018, so the inclusion of the Slow Gear in the MS-3 is welcome. Sound Hold is the “freeze” in the MS-3. It’s another one of those simple effects you may not often need but can be clutch in those musical situations that require a drone, though you can’t expect much more than droning from it. It’s more or less an on/off sort of deal. There’s also a “hold”-on-steroids voicing called Warp which sounds like a delay set to infinite with flanging feedback. This is most applicable when used momentarily or in conjunction with volume swells, so Warp and Slow Gear are best buddies. The flexibility of this particular effect is stunted by a shortage of parameters with only controls for the mix and the rise and fall of the wash. Then there’s the Overtone effect which, appropriately, generates wavering overtones over the input signal to produce an organ-like effect.

If no multi-effects unit is complete without a wah filter of some sort, it would follow that the MS-3 is complete three times over with Touch Wah, Auto Wah and regular ol’ Wah. The Touch and Auto Wah effects can be set to band-pass or low-pass filters, but the classic Wah effect includes seven voicings to satisfy a range of tastes. As far as the pitchshifting & harmony effects go, almost everything you could want that involves pitch is compartmentalized into six individual effects. I almost panicked when the “Whammy” pitch shifter wasn’t where I thought it would be (filed under “Pitch Shifter”), but thankfully Boss included it in the Pedal Bend effect. Sound quality-wise, there is the occasional pitch-shift artifact here and there, and it gets expectedly crowded and discordant when playing chords, but it’s not hard to tease out a quality tone when playing single notes during solos.

The last effect in the FX block is the Sub-Delay, a short, digital-styled delay with a high-cut parameter. Initially, I wondered why this particular delay wasn’t placed in the Delay block with all the other delay voicings, but quickly came to realize that including a delay in a separate block from the only block designated for delays opens up great ambient possibilities, allowing you to stack two independent repeats. Hell, you could even go to five if you’re using the Sub-Delay in both FX blocks (2 repeats,) the Dual delay voicing (2 repeats,) and the Delay reverb voicing (1 repeat,) for truly unnecessary levels of washy ambience, but the possibilities are here if you want to indulge in excess.

MOD

The lushness is real. Chorus, flange, ring mod, panning tremolo… this entire effect block truly shines in stereo. If vanilla chorus doesn’t do it for you on its own, 2×2 Chorus is there to make all your modulation dreams come true. Two frequency-band choruses work against one another in stereo to produce vigorous warbles in the lows and serene zen in the highs or vise-versa. The Crossover parameter controls where in the spectrum the low and high modulations are split, keyed into frequency presets ranging from 100 Hz to 4 kHz. As if you weren’t spoiled enough, pre-delay parameters for both frequency bands determine the poignancy of the double effect and permit even further contrast between the flavor of your highs and lows. The Tremolo here is pretty basic, offering controls for waveform, rate, depth, and mix. Where the tremolo lacks in creative mojo, the Slicer effect swims in it. The Slicer effect is a Boss SL-20 Jr, packed with 20 mono, volume-targeting tremolo patterns. Phaser and Flanger are here too, ready to blow your head off with crazy sweeping modulations and parameters that most analog versions struggle to support. The Flanger can be run in full stereo and has a separation parameter to pan the signals left and right. There’s also a resonance control that ranges from tastefully subtle to unbearably nauseous, “Manual” that sets the center frequency that the flange modulates, and a Low Cut Filter in addition to your standard Rate, Mix, and Depth knobs. Meanwhile the Phaser has four step options (4, 8, 12, and BiPhase) for different flavours of phase-shift. The Step Rate knob controls (you guessed it!) the rate that the shifts take place and when activated produces some pretty rad digital bleeps in a similar way that a sample and hold does. This works against the actual rate of the phaser itself, and by setting them both to different tempos, you can create rhythmic patterns around which entire song structures could theoretically be built. Like most effects in the MS-3, the rate of all of the MODs can be set to either a numeric value ranging from 0-100 or to the MS-3’s internal tap tempo at multiple subdivisions.

DLY

I was thoroughly impressed when I played with the Delay branch of the MS-3. I could not find a single genuine flaw in the tones. Analog is dark and gritty in its attempt to recreate those bucket brigade delays we all love. The Tape delay even decays with wow-and-flutter. Also included is Boss’s modern classic Tera Echo which is a wild modulated delay/reverb with frequency-shifty trails. Much like its inspiration, the MS-3’s Tera Echo features a hold function that can be triggered via footswitch, perfect for building soundscapes. Setting the CTRL Assigns to momentarily max the feedback or flip the tempo will grant you access to the sorts of oscillations and pitch bends many plain Jane digital delays only dream about. I particularly like setting my expression pedal to control the tempo; you can program the heel down to leave your repeats locked in to the tap-tempo and sweep the time down to 1ms from there to pitchshift at will.

I (somewhat selfishly) wish at least one of the delay blocks had a quick loop function a la DD-6 to emulate the simple-yet-effective glitch stutters that the Boss DD-6 was capable of. You can get kind of close with the CTRL assigns programmed to max the feedback and activate the bypass in toggle mode on the same switch simultaneously but it’s not quite the same. Come to think of it, a looper would have been nice to include with the gift horse that is the MS-3, but we won’t look in that particular mouth. We’ve got plenty here.

REV

I love reverb too much. My relationship with reverb is bordering on unhealthy co-dependency. Reverb makes my wife jealous.

So I’ve been vigorously wringing my hands in anticipation of getting to this effect block, looking like a supervillian watching all the pieces of his carefully constructed plans fall into place. And as I expected, I was treated to eight super clean digital reverb voices that excel at creating the reflective ambient wash I’m addicted to.

The gang’s all here, too; Ambience, Plate, Spring, Room, two different Halls, a modulated Reverb and a Delay/Verb. The first voice in the selection is called Ambience, and it isn’t really a traditional reverb per se. It simulates a room mic picking up the sound of your instrument from a distance, the length of which is determined by the pre-delay parameter. This is an awesome way to add a 3-dimensional feel to your tone if it’s coming out dry but you don’t want a super recognizable reverb tone. The two Halls differ in the sense that Hall 1 is tight and more clear than Hall 2, the latter producing much more mellow and diffused reverberations. Plate glistens with metallic sheen, making the best use of the high-cut parameter out of any of the ‘verb voices to cut back on it’s particularly poignant high-end. Mod throws a slow modulation over the tail of the reverb, and Delay is (surprise!) a delay into a reverb. All of the reverb voicings can go full wet, of course, allowing us atmospheric nerds the space we require to transcend this lame mortal coil.

I have to say, while all the Reverbs in this block are gorgeous, I feel they could have been fleshed out a little bit more. For example, the modulated reverb voicing could have definitely used rate and depth knobs for its filter. You get high-cut and low-cut parameters, which is great, but you’re sort of stuck using the one tempo and the relatively shallow modulation that Boss gives you to work with. It sounds awesome, but the impact of that awesome sound is rendered kind of inert by the inability to tweak it in more creative ways. In fact, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the reverbs had basically the same parameters available for tweakage save a few exceptions with the only significant contrast being the fundamental differences between the algorithms themselves. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and the fact that you can put the Reverb block anywhere in the chain will help you experiment with different tones, but a few extra control additions would have been welcome.

Room for Improvement?

As impressive as the MS-3 is, we’re going to play hardball here and try to snuff out any possible room for improvement. If I were to head the project of updating the MS-3 or releasing a higher-end version and I had no resource constraints, what would I do to improve on what’s already here without adding too much to the cost of admission? Aside from the spillover, parallel routing, and Loop improvements I mentioned before, a successor could do with another CTL OUT jack (or three) for starters. The fact that there is only one Control Output (for up to two control modulation destinations when using a TRS cable) is limiting, especially if you have more than two pedals in your signal chain that don’t have MIDI but do have foot-switch enabled options switching options or exp/CV inputs. I also have to mention that being unable to relay CV expression to the pedals in the loop through the CTL OUT is mildly disappointing as well. That said, if you’re open to unorthodox and/or relatively complicated solutions, you can find a MIDI-to-CV converter by spending a few minutes on Google. So if you have a bit of money to spare in your budget and you don’t mind experimenting, something like that might make an invaluable companion piece.

While we’re on the external control tangent, how about a MIDI in? My ideal ‘board necessitates uninterrupted MIDI communication from my DAW to my MIDI-enabled devices all the way down to my vocal effects, and anyone with a similarly automated chain will make the same complaint. You can still sync to a global CV click by relinquishing a control input or output CV tap tempo by giving up the sole control out, but that in itself is a major bummer. In a band where most readers likely spend their musical time, the notion of having to actually stomp the box isn’t exactly heartbreaking, so I can’t rationally judge the MS-3’s viable utility on this fact alone. It’s also not entirely outside the realm of possibility for Boss to add MIDI-in via the USB input in the future; the prospect of future software updates is always a force multiplier for value, and while I’m not holding my breath (as full USB to MIDI capabilities would probably require a complete overhaul of the MS-3’s firmware), that addition will remain stubbornly at the top of my wishlist. I haven’t had the chance to test the viability of a MIDI-to-CV converter relaying data to the MS-3 through the CTRL ins, but coupled with the aforementioned CTRL out limit, even if it’s possible, there’s a high probability that there would be a severe bottleneck in the automation flexibility therein when compared to direct MIDI-in. For now, the lack of MIDI input creates a nigh-insurmountable obstacle for the growing population of solo musicians and bands alike that rely on MIDI automation from their DAWs and MIDI gear. I should also note in passing that the ES-5 and ES-8 feature MIDI-thru, but for the sake of comparison, it’s not a factor that justifies overlooking the extensive effects suite in the MS-3 considering nearly everything else in the MS-3 in terms of control is a direct carryover from the ES-5. It’s just an observation that I think you should consider if you’re truly happy with your effects (read: in denial) and only seek something with a little more pliability by way of integration. And as I was writing this NAMM 2018 happened, so I think it’s important to also mention that Boss’s new flagship unit, the GT-1000, features MIDI-in as well, so check that out, too, if that feature is a must-have for you.

One important feature in most huge effects suites is the implementation of reverb/delay spillover, particularly in the case of switching between patches. In a musical context, dropping out of a reverb with no trails can be a most effective mood-killer and often implies to the audience that amateur hour has begun: cue the turned backs and trips to the smoking alley. Okay, you have to have some pretty bad luck to catch such an apathetic audience, but a trail snuffed out before its time is a pretty big turn-off for me as a listener. In the MS-3, we get spillover, but only when turning the delay/reverb on or off, not when changing patches completely, or when bypassing a pedal in the loop. If you keep that in mind when you’re programming your presets you shouldn’t run into any catastrophic problems. It’s a safe bet to leave a MIDI-enabled delay or reverb after the MS-3, to prevent the dreaded cutoff. You’ll want to do this with a stereo delay in particular (if you run in stereo,) since the MS-3’s loops don’t support stereo, but the output does.

The Boss MS-3 Multi Effects Switcher will, without a doubt, be remembered as a pedal that set a new standard for all-in-one multi-effects pedals, especially at its price point. It’s just as impressive when used on its own in a pinch as it is integrated into an established pedalboard with your other pedals. The tones leave very little to be desired. The options for external control are impressive. Not to mention there’s a growing community of knob-tweakers discovering and refining the knowledge of what’s possible with the MS-3, lending their experience to beginners for the greater good. At the end of the day, what else could you want? Guys, I tried really hard to justify knocking off another half star, but I just couldn’t find a good enough reason. My suggested solutions to any “problems” mentioned here would be going way beyond the threshold of necessary features in a loop switcher or a multi-effects unit. Truly, the only thing about the MS-3 that might stress you out is that their are so many possibilities. In fact, the general unbiased consensus in the BGE crew is that with its mind-boggling effects suite, its deep and expertly crafted control array, and its flexible routing configurations, the MS-3 is arguably among the very best pedals released in recent years.

US Street Pricing: $399.99
http://www.boss.info/us/

That concludes our Boss MS-3 Multi Effects Switcher review. Thanks for reading!