By aBunchOfPedals –
If you’re familiar with rack-mount gear and high end audio equipment, chances are you’ve already come across Meris. They’ve made a name for themselves in the past few years with their 440 Mic Preamp, Mercury7, and Ottobit 500 series rack modules. Huge sounds are coming from a team consisting of three core people. Terry Burton (founder) is an engineer who has been working in the industry since 2000. He was a senior design engineer at Line 6 for over 6 years. After that, he was the founder of acclaimed SoCal-based effects pedal builder, Strymon, and worked as an engineer there for almost 5 years. When he founded Meris in 2014, Terry already had a ton of experience in pro audio, so it’s no wonder they’ve come up with so many cool pieces of gear. Next up on the team is Jinna Kim. She’s the creative director at Meris and is basically responsible for making the brand look so slick. She’s worked for a bunch of big name companies like Disney, Sony Pictures, and Lexus. All you have to do is visit their website to see her hard work pay off. It has a very clean, yet futuristic look to it, and that’s all her. Finally, we’ve got Angelo Mazzocco, DSP Designer and Engineer. Angelo also worked at line 6 and has made a name for himself by creating DSP coding and one-off instruments for some serious musicians like Eddie Van Halen, Dweezil Zapa, and The Edge. He’s also a pretty sweet guitar player who does all of the in-house demoes.
So, you have a mini dream team of people with more than 30 years of combined engineering experience and a killer brand manager. How could it get any better? Lucky for us, in Jan 2017 they decided to start making effect pedals and released one of the most impressive pedal lineups I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. They released all of this over the last year. I’m talking about the Ottobit Jr., Mercury 7, and Polymoon. They managed to take the massive sounds of their rack gear and squeeze it into a pedal-friendly format, all while keeping important features intact. Each of their pedals is packed with features like MIDI implementation, expression pedal control, presets, instrument/line level choices, stereo in/out, buffered & relay bypass, kill dry, and more crazy sounds than you can shake a pick at. The pedals are easy to use, and the manuals are written perfectly. Let’s take a look at what I personally believe to be some of the best pedals to come out in 2017.
First off, I just want to say that this pedal has the best bit crusher and low pass filter I’ve ever heard in a pedal. It’s so much more though. With a built in, programmable sequencer, you can easily get some crazy synth-like sounds and maybe even a touch of Dark Side of the Moon action. You can set the 6 step sequencer to control pitch, filter, or sample rate. Again, this is where the manual comes in quite useful. The sample rate reduction can be set from 48Hz to 48kHz, giving you a wide range of lofi sweetness. On top of all that, over 20 stutter modes makes glitching out easy. It’s especially useful with the tap tempo which makes the effect a lot more musical and easy to digest. Timing can also be set via external tap switch or external MIDI beat clock source. Ever wanted to sync up to 23.4 BPM? Well, now you can. Have you ever wanted to go full blast at 6,000 BPM? Say no more, – the Ottobit Jr. has got your back. Hook up a drum machine to this thing and have at it. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had with pedals involved this little guy.
As soon as you plug it in and start turning knobs, you know this is not your typical reverb pedal. Inspired by their 500 series module, the Meris Mercury7 Reverb has two modes: Ultraplate and Cathedra. The first one is modeled after a plate reverb with a fast build up; the second has more of a super lush build up with a slower swell (my personal favorite). There are some really nice tone shaping controls with low and high frequency filters to help you dial in that sweetness. Not only does the Mercury7 have in depth modulation controls, it also has vibrato and pitch shifting capabilities. The swell is just icing on the cake. Meris designed this reverb in hopes of capturing the sounds of the Blade Runner soundtrack, and I think they did it well. This is definitely some type of other worldly reverb. Go from subtle to spaceverb in a heart beat. It’s no wonder you don’t see many of these pop up on the used market.
They said this was a delay pedal… I’m not so sure that’s all there is to it. Built to resemble the rack delays of the 80’s, the Polymoon can hang with some of the best modulated digital delays out there. Of course it can do conventional delay sounds, but where it really shines is with the addition of the “Dimension” feature. It basically smears your delay repeats and sustains them, giving you some of the coolest pad sounds in a pedal. It gets to a point where it heads into synth territory, and you can’t really even tell it’s processing a guitar. If that’s not enough, there’s also a built in phaser and flanger with variable speed and depth options. Still want more modulation? There are 16 (yes 16!) further modulation modes that can be set to affect the signal in early modulation and late modulation positions. This isn’t your average modulation though; you can go anywhere from a familiar slow and shallow mod, to octave modulation, FM modulation, and tremolo to name just a few. Check out their website for an extremely in depth manual. If I had to choose, this would be my favorite out of the Meris pedals simply because it produces sounds I didn’t think were possible with a guitar.
All of these pedals are unique in their own way, and it’s pretty impressive to see them all come out within a year. So where does Meris go from here? One thing we know for certain is that they are gearing up to release their own MIDI I/O box and a 4 Preset Switcher. I’ve been using an early prototype of the Switcher for the last couple of months and can honestly say that it’s easy to use and looks cool, too. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what’s next for their growing lineup. Meris should be a builder on everyone’s radar at this point. Beautiful sounds, wonderful designs, and excellent customer service have all been common place so far when dealing with Meris. Here’s to 2018!
Thanks to aBunchOfPedals for contributing this article! Be sure to visit the aBunchOfPedals YouTube channel!