Dr. No Effects Moon Canyon Review

 

The Moon Canyon is a pinnacle representation of an instrument that evokes inspiration before you even play it. Born of a collaborative vision shared by Dr. No Effects and Sarah Lipstate of Noveller, the Moon Canyon offers sonic scribes an assortment of effects with which to compose surrealistic musical odysseys and weave synesthetic tapestries of sound.

The Moon Canyon’s four foot-switches correspond to four effects options. Drive, Reverb, and Delay are its three onboard effects, and the pedal’s Loop allows users to add external effects to the signal chain. The foot-switch control arrangement provides a simple and effective means to bring effects in and out of auditory perception, opening and closing chapters of sound as you would thumb through pages in a book. The Moon Canyon’s sparse amount of knobs for so many different effects seems to indicate that the pedal places an emphasis on immediacy, letting musicians dial in sounds quickly and use the foot-switches to dramatically alter the soundscape with broad strokes. In stark contrast to the deep menu-diving and endless tweaking possibilities afforded by some pedals, the Moon Canyon is an instant portal to creating music… now.

The Moon Canyon arose on the full moon of May 30th, 2018, with 50 units being released on that day and 50 to be released on successive full moon eves until the limited edition of 350 signed and numbered pedals is completed. The pedal is a monolith, not only in regards to its size or for its manifestation under such auspicious circumstances, but because each pedal is nearly completely constructed by hand (with minor exceptions being the pedal’s circuit components, of course). From the molded and bubble-enclosed moon that adorns the center of each pedal (and lights up different phases of the moon depending on which effect is active) to the complex wiring, through-hole mounting of components, and graphic screen printing (and a myriad other things), each pedal is carefully constructed and then housed within a beautiful “book” box. A heap of other goodies are included as well: a keychain, patch, stickers, and photo cards. The presentation alone eclipses the effort I’ve seen from almost any other pedal release.

Here are some gorgeous photos of the Moon Canyon and a snazzy GIF:

 

 

 

 

Here’s a clip of some of the goodies the Moon Canyon comes with along with some of the first sounds I made when plugging in the pedal:

 


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by BestGuitarEffects.com 🎸🎛 (@bestguitareffects) on

 

Sound & Performance:

As implied before the Moon Canyon is very straight-forward in operation. While some pedals overwhelm with options, the Moon Canyon dazzles in aesthetics while providing an easy-to-use interface that helps musicians achieve usable sounds very quickly. The foot-switches are arranged in order of the pedal’s signal flow from right to left, facilitating an intuitive understanding of how its effects will affect your signal path. The simple parameter arrangement for each effect provides the bare essentials to facilitate achieving instant results. I’ll talk about each of the 3 effects in signal flow order and then come back to discuss the Loop. This will help paint a picture of how you might use the pedal.

 

Drive

On the right side of the pedal is the Drive section. At a glance it appears to offer a standard overdrive control layout with Drive, Tone, & Volume knobs; a switch on the side of the pedal gives users a choice of two Tone options.

The Drive circuit is based around a JRC4558D IC, a chip that is notable for its use in the TS-808 Tube Screamer and many other overdrive pedals. In testing multiple opamps for the Moon Canyon’s Drive, Doc & Sarah opted to use the JRC4558D in favor of other chips. The choice of asymmetrical (1n914) diode clipping also helps the circuit achieve a more “direct and aggressive” attack response and helps the Drive achieve a good response throughout the Drive knob’s range. Essentially, this makes the Drive more versatile and helps it excel whether you’re dialing in milder overdrive tones to give your amp more of a push or cranking the Drive to get most of your grit from the pedal itself.

The Tone switch on the side alternates between the dialed-in sound of the Drive circuit and the full-range signal. The normal sound has a cutting bite that creates a guitar tone that’ll punch through a mix. When you flip the switch to add in the low-end (by removing a cap from the opamp), you’ll get a bigger, fuller sound; however, this can mask the mid-range articulation a bit. I like using this setting sometimes when feeding the Drive into other dirt circuits, and it could be worth exploring with other instruments besides guitar. Otherwise, the carefully calibrated normal Drive sound will likely be the defining tone that most guitarists gravitate towards when playing the Moon Canyon.

 

Reverb

The Moon Canyon’s Reverb is a no-nonsense affair. Once you activate the Reverb with its dedicated foot-switch, you just roll up the single center knob to bring in your desired amount of reverb. You just dial it in like you would the reverb on an amp with a single “Reverb” knob.

But while the Reverb seems light on tweakability, that’s not to say that a lot of care didn’t go into creating this sound. It’s evident that Dr. No chose a “less is more” approach and gave users a gorgeous reverb sound that could be easily added to the signal.

The Reverb itself is based on the Accutronics Belton BTDR-2H “long” variation that is capable of producing a long, spacious, hall-like ambience. Attentive ears will also hear a subtle modulation that gently ebbs and flows like the tides beneath a full moon. The overall reverb sound is smooth and playable, and while it can get quite wet, your guitar signal can still be heard in the mix even when the Reverb knob is maxed out.

 

Delay

The Delay section has the most essential controls a delay needs – Repeats, Time, & Mix – no more, no less. The effect is a digital delay based around a PT2399 chip and has been tuned to provide a warmer, lo-fi-ish, analog-like sound. The max delay time is somewhere over 500mS, a range calibrated by Dr. No to ensure that the PT2399 maintains the highest degree of sound quality when the Time is set to the longest duration of delay.

The Delay’s vintage style tonality works particularly well when pushing the Repeats knob into the oscillation range. In the range of between noon to 1 o’clock, you’ll get long delay trails that slowly fade into darkness. But as you push the Repeats up to about 2 o’clock, you’ll find a threshold where the trails start to continue indefinitely and oscillate. You can also set the Repeats (along with Time) to a nice sweet spot to create a bed of echoes that will sit under your playing. A further little push of the knob lets the oscillation increase to overtake your dry signal and push the wall of sound into oblivion. When you’re in the oscillation range, the onset of peak oscillation is also determined by just how far the Repeats knob is set. Dime the knob and the oscillation peaks almost instantly; dial it back to around 3 o’clock and the crescendo of feedback is more gradual.

 

Reverb & Delay Together

Before we move on to the Loop section, it’s worth going into greater detail about the potential of the Moon Canyon’s Delay & Reverb effects. Taken separately each effect fulfills their utilitarian functions. The effects are solid enough to cover a range of general uses; however, combining the two effects reveals some of the pedal’s stronger points.

Guitarists often use delay before reverb, but the Moon Canyon’s Reverb feeds into the Delay. This results in some notably different characteristics. The Delay can be used to extend the Reverb in rhythmic waves, carrying the ambience further than if you simply use the reverb alone. And the Reverb, in how it washes out your dry signal, adds a diffused quality to the Delay. Also, while the Delay is a pretty dry effect, the Reverb with its hint of modulation helps add more character to the Delay sound. All of these things are happening simultaneously and add more textural dimension to the sounds produced. The degrees of variation depend mainly on how you set the Mix & Reverb knobs, the parameters responsible for blending in the Delay & Reverb effects, respectively. While the range of textures available are confined to specific areas of pre-defined parameter ranges, the musicians who feel the gravitational pull toward this spectrum of sound design will likely get a lot out of the distinct inspiration that comes when playing the Moon Canyon. The pedal evokes styles of playing that are more sparse and fleeting, that bloom in cascades of ethereal echoes.

Here’s a clip where I play with some of the different effects in combination with emphasis on the Delay & Reverb:

 


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by BestGuitarEffects.com 🎸🎛 (@bestguitareffects) on

 

Loop

The Moon Canyon’s Loop provides a few other interesting possibilities. You can use the Loop Out & Loop In jacks to place other effects between the Drive and Reverb/Delay sections. This is an essential feature as other effects (particularly modulation) are usually placed between overdrive and delay/reverb pedals.

You can also use the 4 jacks on the back side of the pedal to route the Moon Canyon’s Drive and Reverb/Delay into two separate effects loops on an effects switcher. This way you can place the Drive and the Reverb/Delay in any specific order within your switcher’s effects chain and activate them remotely. If you’re not planning on using the Loop, it could be a good idea to patch the Loop Out to the Loop In to prevent muting your signal should you step on the foot-switch by mistake. On the other hand, you could leave the Loop I/O disconnected and use the Loop foot-switch as a “mute” to instantly stop feeding any signal into the Reverb & Delay section. There will be a little signal bleed with this method as the pedal wasn’t intended to be used that way, but it’s a novel aspect that some users might find a use for. And while you’re at it, try routing the Reverb & Delay into the Drive by connecting your cables in this order: Loop In → Out I → In → Loop Out. It’ll produce some raunchy, gritty, shoegazey ambient sounds, and while it’s not how most guitarists would normally route the pedal, it could also be fun to try with a synth or other creative instrument/gear setup.

 

Dual Outputs

The Moon Canyon also has a pair of outputs. For normal use you just use the jack labeled “Out I” on the back of the pedal, but on the side is another jack labeled “Out II”. This lets you split the signal to another destination. If the Moon Canyon is handling all of your Reverb and Delay needs, you could just plug each output directly into two different amps. You could also split the signal to two different effects chains if you’re running a complex setup. It’s not necessary to use both jacks if you’re feeding the Moon Canyon into a stereo pedal as most stereo pedals accept a mono signal; splitting the signal to two amps is what most guitarists will likely use the extra jack for and only then if they’re not using a stereo pedal after the Moon Canyon.

 

Full Moon Magic

So when you put it all together, the Moon Canyon is a creative wonderland of ambience and overdrive that specializes in lo-fi sonic textures. The Reverb/Delay as a combo is what makes the pedal really something special in terms of original sounds, and the Drive is very solid and can hang with many other stand-alone overdrive circuits. The musicians who will most appreciate the Moon Canyon will likely be those who can vibe with not only the sounds of the pedal itself, but the impeccable attention to detail that went into creating every aspect of this art piece in pedal form. And where some might note the pedal’s simplicity in operation as a knock against its versatility, its elegant ease-of-use coupled with the ineffable charm of its aesthetic presentation contribute to what make the Moon Canyon such a special inspiration machine. It offers a rewarding experience that few musicians will be fortunate enough to experience if favored by the full moon.

 

Summary:

The Dr. No Effects Moon Canyon is a bold and aesthetically charming multi-effects pedal for musicians who appreciate instruments as art and look beyond simply the measure of their utility for inspiration. Yes, the Moon Canyon packs in a very solid Drive effect, and the Reverb/Delay combo captures a mood that is really something special to behold. But even more than the mere function of the pedal, the Moon Canyon is an object of physical and intangible beauty for musicians who really, really love pedals and appreciate the efforts of builders who go above and beyond to exert their full creative potential when making such talismanic instruments of wonder. Those of you who understand what this pedal is about can likely already hear the musical roads you’ll tread before you even step on the foot-switches. And those who choose to walk the Moon Canyon’s path will be taken on a journey that only this pedal can reveal.

Visit Dr. No Effects for more info about the Moon Canyon.

 

That concludes our Dr. No Effects Moon Canyon review. Thanks for reading.

Review: Spaceman Orion Analog Spring Reverb

 

While this article is arguably a “review” of the Spaceman Orion Analog Spring Reverb pedal, I’m approaching it from a different perspective than a typical pedal review. This article is more of a “showcase” of the Orion pedal. Yes, I’ll be assessing the benefits and features of the pedal as well as critiquing any areas in which its design and functionality could be improved, but I feel that this pedal deserves being approached from a point of view that transcends the goals typically inherent when writing a review. Of the Spaceman pedals released to date, the Orion seems like the builder’s greatest work and is more of a creative statement of artistic expression and the culmination of the builder’s ambition and expertise, and thus it warrants appreciation beyond just the measure of its utility. The Orion is unlike any pedal the world as seen, and that will become more clear as we delve in. So without a space related pun to get things moving…

I first saw the Spaceman Orion when it was unveiled way back at Summer NAMM 2015. It was hands-down the most exciting pedal I saw at the show, and you’ll see the Orion sitting firmly at the top of our Best Pedals of SNAMM ’15 article. In that writeup my hasty introduction to Spaceman mentioned the “master craftsmanship” that the builder is known for although that is something that can’t be fully appreciated simply by exposure to a few descriptive buzz words. I also mentioned how the Orion’s four knob controls exceed the versatility that you’ll typically find in amp-based (or amp-top for that matter) spring reverb units. It’s worth pointing out that at SNAMM I was only able to listen to the Orion through a custom headphone amp that Spaceman brought along to the convention, but the presentation was more than sufficient enough to reveal the Orion as an instrument very deserving of attention.

 

 

When I finally got to spend some time with an actual Orion unit in my studio, I was able to fully appreciate the nuances and intricacies of this remarkable pedal. Facing formidable competition from a host of multi-algorithm digital reverb pedals out there, the Orion still appears at a very respectable placing in our Best Reverb Pedals article. Even though the pedal is currently out of production, the Orion still remains on the top reverb pedals list. Pardon us if the continued exposure contributes to increased second-hand market prices, but the Orion will likely remain on our list until Spaceman decides to release an Orion II… And I really hope they do.

So let’s talk more in-depth about the Orion and why it’s the definitive spring reverb pedal.

Visit Spaceman Effects for more info about the Orion.

 

 

Sound & Performance:

I want to cover three aspects of the Orion reverb that seem to go unnoticed and under-appreciated by people glancing over and discussing this pedal.

 

Deeply Interactive Parameter Control

Perhaps the most favorable aspect of the Orion is how much flexibility it provides through its seemingly simple parameter layout. The pedal’s 4 knobs are neatly arranged across the surface of the pedal and are pretty self explanatory. But what isn’t as apparent without playing the pedal is how interactive and essential each knob is to dialing in the overall sound. This is one of those pedals that can pretty much sound good wherever you set the knobs (as long as the Volume is set high enough to achieve unity gain or add a little boost if you need it); it really just depends on the kind of sound you’re trying to achieve for a given part of a song.

The Blend knob dials in the reverb amount from nearly dry to about 95% wet. Surprisingly, the pedal sounds pretty amazing even when the Blend is maxed out, providing a wide range of wet reverb textures that can suit many needs. The Dwell knob “controls how hard the dual springs are pushed” and essentially drives the signal harder to produce more drip and reverberation. You can adjust the Blend with the Dwell to get the right balance of reverb presence. While the Dwell isn’t exactly a “decay” style knob, how hard the springs are hit can determine how long the reverb sustains. If you’re using lower Dwell settings, you might want to boost the Blend to make sure the lighter reverb is still audible in your mix; if you’re maxing out the Dwell for an ultra drippy spring sound, you might not need as much reverb blended in. In any case a nudge of the Volume will make sure your output volume is consistent in the mix when you activate the pedal.

The Tone knob is extra special and also essential to the Orion’s overall sound. Spring reverb units are typically at least somewhat dark in tonality, and the high-end is often rolled off to attenuate upper frequency noise inherent in the crude, lo-fi process of running a signal into springs and then capturing the spring vibrations. With the Orion’s Tone knob set lower in its range, you’ll be able to achieve the characteristically common frequencies of darker spring reverb units. And if you turn the knob clockwise, you can begin to brighten the tone significantly, boosting the top-end well beyond what is typical of vintage units or the single-knob spring reverb on an amp. If you were to push the Blend and Tone to higher settings, you may experience more pronounced noise (which is due to the nature of spring reverb design and not necessarily a fault of the Orion), but this wider range of parameter control can help dial in some unique sounds that can still find use in song parts and/or in a band setting where added noise would be less noticeable in the mix. The noise is never too distracting for me, but some users who’ve become accustomed to digital reverbs and are less familiar with the drawbacks inherent in actual hardware spring reverb units may need to readjust their expectations to begin appreciating the brighter (and somewhat noisier) tones the Orion offers.

 

Subtle Switching & Spring Suspension

Aside from the superbly interactive parameters, there are a couple interesting aspects of the Orion’s design which emphasize how much attention to detail was paid to ensuring that this pedal would be an ideal spring reverb for general pedalboard use. The foot-switch is of the soft-touch type that triggers a true bypass switching relay. This means that instead of hearing a loud click that causes noisy reverberations when you activate the pedal, you instead get a smooth switching operation that is consistently quiet no matter how hard you stomp on the foot-switch. This is critical for live use when you may activate and bypass the Orion multiple times during a performance.

Another noteworthy design aspect is that Spaceman have managed to suspend the spring reverb tank (with springs!) within the pedal so that stage vibrations don’t transfer to the reverb unit. Booming kick drums and low-frequency bass rumblings are less likely to be heard through your amp in the reverb – which is important if you plan on performing with the Orion.

 

 

These two features may be overlooked but are key aspects that contribute to the Orion’s stageworthiness. A lot of thought went into designing this pedal, and the effort and attention to detail shows. While the premium boutique build quality and collectible scarcity can make Spaceman pedals seem like studio novelties, the Orion has clearly been designed to be a stage ready ‘verb that earns its place on performing guitarists’ pedalboards.

 

Reverb Pan Crashing

So while the carefully suspended reverb module is resistant to external vibrations, you can still get those brash reverb pan crashes by jarring the pedal. Some guitarists may be wary of kicking their pedalboards, but you could always put the Orion in your amp’s effects loop and have a guitar tech by the backline jolt the pedal at key moments in a song performance. Extreme pedal abuse is never recommended, but the Orion seems well enough constructed to be able to withstand some mild force for the sake of performance flair. If anything this is a great trick you could try in the studio to produce some unique reverb sounds, and if you’re feeling extra expressive during the peak of a set, give the Orion a small kick or two.

 

 

Orion vs Full-Size Spring Reverbs

Amps with full-size spring reverb tanks often have just a single “Reverb” knob to dial in the amount of reverb you want. Amp top reverb units may offer some variation of Dwell (decay), Tone, and/or Blend (mix) controls, but they’re bulky, massive units that take up a lot of space. The Orion presents itself as a compelling alternate option as it has a real dual spring reverb tank and 4 parameter controls, yet it’s in the form of a reasonably small pedal which is very compact compared to amp-top reverb units.

It’s important to correct some possible misperceptions and hype-inducing assumptions before we continue. While the Orion does offer excellent spring reverb tones, it shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as attempting to be a superior replacement for your Fender ’63 tube spring reverb unit or the full-size reverb pan in your Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb. Yes, the Orion is a real spring reverb and has plenty of real spring reverb “drip”, but its sounds and character are best measured on their own merits instead of compared for 1:1 sonic accuracy beside vintage reverb units. The Orion uses an Accutronics Blue Reverb spring tank which is much smaller than the massive 16-inch long 2 & 3 spring behemoths associated with “classic” spring reverb tones, and this particular reverb module is part of a machine that aims to share its own voice rather than replicate the sounds of other spring reverb units. Still, considering that the Orion can achieve a respectably long reverb decay that can pass the 4 second threshold and has a wide range of sonic flexibility thanks to its Blend, Tone, and Dwell controls, some users will be able to argue in favor of the Orion offering superior performance in some circumstances. If you want the most accurate sounding spring reverb for classic surf guitar tones, maybe you’ll want to stick with your preferred vintage unit or reissue; if you want a modern spring reverb that produces its own spring reverb sounds and offers greater performance convenience, you may want to seek out an Orion and experience it for yourself.

 

Orion vs Digital Reverb Pedals

It’s really important to understand that since the Orion isn’t meant to be a compact clone of any vintage reverb unit, it isn’t attempting to rehash the sounds that digital reverb pedals try (often in vain) to emulate. Yes, the Orion does have that drippy character that digital reverbs usually have a tough time getting right, and I’m particularly impressed with how the Orion’s response to Dwell knob adjustments changes the feel of the reverb in a more organic and authentic way than I’ve heard from any digital reverb pedal. But there are two key tradeoffs to bring attention to in the Orion vs digital spring reverb debate. Digital reverbs are arguably cleaner and quieter, and multi-algorithm pedals usually give you access to presets which can give you a wider selection of quickly accessible sounds in a live performance situation. The Orion is a 100% analog pedal with real spring characteristics and other elusive qualities that I’ve yet to hear in a digital spring reverb. The analog nature of the Orion also means that, yes, it can be noticeably noisier than the pristine quietness found in a digital spring reverb; however, some guitarists would argue that such sanitized, noise-free spring reverb tones are sterile in comparison to the grittiness of a real spring reverb. I’ve played many of the most notable digital spring reverb pedals available, and I feel that overall, the Orion can hold its own against any digital spring reverb pedal. This owes thanks to the Orion’s authentic analog spring tank, its organic response to your playing dynamics and the nuances of your audio signal, and the wide range of parameter flexibility the Orion provides for affecting the reverb’s sound and response.

 

The Analog Difference

It’s really important to emphasize that the Orion is a unique sounding pedal that offers something beyond what can be achieved with most reverb pedals. When I compared it directly to many of the digital algorithms I’ve become accustomed to hearing, I could hear subtle differences in the way the Orion articulates its reverb sounds. This goes beyond the obvious different “types” of reverb I compared it, too. The differences I’m referring to likely stem from the contrast between the precise mathematical calculations of a digital reverb versus the real-world fluctuations of the Orion’s actual springs interacting in an organic way to create its reverberated ambience. The Orion just seems to have a more interactive quality and a character that I didn’t realize I’ve been missing from many of the digital reverbs that I’ve grown to love.

One of the most surprising aspects of dialing in the Orion is how many pleasing textures you can find hidden within its simple parameter layout. It can’t be overstated how crucial the Blend is. Rather than just set it and forget it, notice how the reverb’s droning quality becomes more apparent as you increase the Blend. Adjusting the Dwell then seems to make the reverb sound more or less intense. And since the pedal never quite gets 100% wet, you can play with a super wet signal that still contains the presence of your dry tone. While you can just dial in your ideal spring reverb sound and leave the knobs stationary, the rewarding interactivity of the knobs can inspire all kinds of unique sounds that may make the Orion even more fun to use during a recording session or in a creative jam.

Perhaps my favorite way I’ve come to use the Orion is in tandem with another reverb. As I’ve said the Orion can easily stand on its own, but rather than argue in favor of using this single analog pedal over a multi-algorithm digital reverb, I’ve discovered that the Orion can enhance other reverbs, particularly when placed before other reverbs in my signal chain. I’m very fond of smooth plate reverbs and using room reverbs for ambience, and by placing the Orion in front of another reverb, you can either create a space for the Orion to sit in (as if playing an amp with spring reverb within a room) or augment the reflections of the second reverb with spring-like qualities and extend these beautiful textures with the decay of the second reverb. Basically, if I’m already playing a digital reverb that I’m enjoying, adding the Orion in front of it seems to often create an even more pleasing ambience. This trick even works well when running the mono Orion into a stereo digital reverb.

I only have two seemingly minor criticisms of the Orion, and neither of my issues involve the sound quality of this pedal in any way. For all the efforts made towards design efficiency, I am somewhat disappointed that the Orion has side-mounted audio and power jacks, a particularly glaring annoyance on wider pedals that take up more precious pedalboard real estate. Sure, that’s been the norm on every Spaceman pedal to date, but while it would have involved cramping together some of the components on the Orion’s pair of beautifully arranged PCBs, I think the extra half inch of space reduced on each side of the pedal would have been well worth the change. A more glaring issue for me personally is that I prefer to avoid pedals with “lazy” relay bypass when using an effects loop switcher. Such pedals default to the bypassed state when powered up. I like when relay bypass pedals either remember the previous bypass state when powered up (“smart” relay bypass) or can be manually set to default to “active” when powered up. For guitarists that don’t use effects switchers this is a non-issue though, but for guitarists who buy premium pedals and control their pedalboard from a fancy central switching hub, I’d like to see this detail taken into consideration in the future.

 

 

Summary:

The Spaceman Orion is simply a beautiful sounding and incredibly well-crafted analog spring reverb with a rewarding palette of ambient textures unlike any you’ll find in a digital reverb pedal. Rather than try to emulate the sound of other vintage units, the Orion treats musicians to its own reverb voices and should be celebrated for its own accomplishments. That’s not to say guitarists who prefer classic spring reverb won’t love the mojo and real spring “drip” of the Orion; many will most certainly love it, but this pedal may likely be best appreciated by approaching it from a fresh perspective. If you’ve grown used to playing only the cold and precise digital reverb pedals that have ruled the market for years, the Orion will open your perception to new articulate and responsive reverb textures.

That concludes our Spaceman Orion Analog Spring Reverb review. Thanks for reading.

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

 

Dr. No Effects Moon Canyon

Builder: Dr. No Effects, Pedal: Moon Canyon, Effect Types: Delay/Reverb/Overdrive

The Moon Canyon from Dr. No Effects was made in collaboration with Sarah Lipstate of Noveller and represents a bold artistic statement that goes beyond its aesthetic presentation. Just look at it – this is one of the most beautiful looking and artfully crafted pedals ever made and was clearly designed to inspire before you even plug in your instrument. Most importantly the Moon Canyon provides some unique sound design possibilities that warrant its inclusion on this list.

The Moon Canyon is actually a multi-effects pedal with delay being the final effect in the pedal’s signal chain. The delay circuit is based around a PT2399 digital delay chip, and the sound has been tuned to have a warm analog style character with a max delay time clocking in at a little over 500mS. The delay controls are simple enough with knobs for Repeats, Time, and Mix. The delays dissipate smoothly as you increase the Repeats, and as you push the knob past noon towards about 2 o’clock, the pedal will begin to oscillate for that runaway trails effect.

The Moon Canyon’s Reverb is placed before the Delay which goes against the convention of using delays before reverbs. But while this signal flow is less common and many guitarists seem to default to the standard “delay before reverb” pedal order, this aspect of the Moon Canyon is what contributes to its most unique sounds. The Reverb itself is a beautifully cavernous long reverb that also has a subtle modulation (which is more noticeable when you crank the Reverb knob and solo the effect). If you activate the Reverb & Delay together, you’ll feed the reverb into the delay, extending its ambience in a rhythmic pulse set by the Delay’s Time knob. In addition to the Delay’s ability to extend the Reverb decay, the Reverb will affect the sound of the Delay by imparting a diffused quality to the repeats which becomes more prominent as you increase the Reverb knob. Since the effects can be individually activated, you have performance flexibility to add Delay to extend the Reverb on a whim or play with a standard Delay before adding in Reverb to change the Delay sound; the foot-switches are also close enough together to quickly switch between both effects with a single stomp.

There are three other noteworthy features the Moon Canyon offers. The far right foot-switch activates a Drive section that brings in a very respectable 3-knob overdrive (with Tone switch) that is based around a JRC4558D chip, a revered IC that’s been used in the TS-808 and other noteworthy overdrive pedals. The Loop foot-switch activates an external effects loop that is placed between the Drive & Reverb, handy for adding in other effects. (I personally like to use the Moon Canyon’s Loop I/O to route the Drive and Reverb/Delay sections to two separate send & return loops on an effects switcher; this allows remote access to both the Drive and a Reverb/Delay combo setting.) The Moon Canyon also boasts two mono outputs for splitting the signal to feed two amps or separate effects chains. The Moon Canyon can satisfy your basic delay needs while adding some creative potential to your pedalboard.

Pre-Order the Moon Canyon at DrNo-Effects.com

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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.