By Jake Behr –
Review of: DigiTech Polara
Reviewed by: Jake BehrRating:4On January 6, 2017Last modified:January 10, 2017
HARMAN is a pretty massive music gear conglomerate, stewarding music tech brand giants like Lexicon, AKG, and, most importantly to pedal loving guitarists, DigiTech. Where many companies have deflated and vanished into the inner workings of such superpowers, HARMAN seems to have encouraged the geniuses under their umbrella to flourish and continue doing what they do best. Occasionally, and in the case of DigiTech and Lexicon, that means teaming up in an intramural endeavor to make tasty effects for use in the studio and on stage.
The Polara Reverb is one such example of the possibilities inherent in the combined efforts of Lexicon (known for their Reverbs,) and DigiTech (known for their guitar pedals,) working together.
- Three Parameters:
Level controls the volume of the affected signal
Liveliness controls the frequency response
Decay determines the length of the reverb trail
- Seven Lexicon Reverb voices:
Room – Fast decaying reverb; great for a touch of ambience.
Plate – Renowned studio reverb found on classic recordings.
Reverse – Reverb in reverse; quietly crescendos to full volume.
Modulated – Lush modulating reverb ideal for chords.
Halo – Shimmering reverb with cascading octave shifts.
Hall – Large encompassing reverb with warm decay.
Spring – Classic “surf” reverb; great for Rockabilly too!
- Tails On/Off Switch
- True Stereo I/O
- True Bypass circuitry preserves your tone in bypass
- High-Voltage operation for uncompromised signal quality
- Stomplock™ knob guard locks your tone in place and prevent tampering or accidental knob adjustments onstage
- Custom-cut Hook and Loop Pedalboard Pad to attach and lock your pedals to your pedalboard
The Polara is solid and tiny, housed in the same enclosure as its ambient sibling, the DigiTech Obscura. It seems so tank-like that I feel like I could hurl this thing from a moving car and play a gig within the same hour. There are four appropriately sturdy, smoothly sliding knobs and a tails switch. Side-mounted switches are pretty standard on a stereo pedal like this. I would have liked to have seen the Polara made a little taller to fit a top-mounted I/O configuration to save space, but that complaint is really reaching; the Polara is larger than a Ditto but smaller than a Tube Screamer, making space a relative non-issue. The yellow and purple artwork display a dizzying psychedelia on the matte blue enclosure, inviting the viewer to bathe in its hypnotic guile. A neat touch is the included Stomplock knob guard to keep your favorite settings spared from accidental movement when onstage. And they look like grumpy blockheads to boot!
Sound & Performance:
The big draw here is the ability to wield seven powerful Lexicon reverbs in a live scenario without lugging a rack around or running a laptop, especially for musicians who’ve been using Lexicon’s DSP in the studio. Each reverb is a neatly orchestrated instrument, distilled down to the essence of its rack/plugin counterpart.
Starting at 7 o’clock on the Reverb type knob, we have a vanilla Room reverb, emulating the tone of a medium-sized, reflective room.
The Plate is the fizzy, vintage wash that has seen somewhat of a revival in the boutique scene. With the liveliness turned low you can play over a soft, dark base that adds a gorgeous creepy element, and in the higher frequency ranges, becomes an all-encompassing sizzle.
The Reverse reverb kills the dry signal of your guitar and replaces it with an all-wet reversed reverb trail. I probably spent the most time messing with this one. It sounds like a ghost walking through you. This is great for spooky swells and ambient excursions and transitions near seamlessly from reversed to unaffected when you deactivate the effect.
Modulated ‘verb adds a flange-flavored reverb to the signal and helps to pop your tone out of a mix without too much of the mud commonly coupled with reverb. This is another effect that’s easy to get lost in, particularly in stereo.
I thought going into this review that Halo would be my favorite; I am naturally biased in favor of octave-affected reverb. While I liked this voicing an awful lot, I thought it was surprisingly tame. I was hoping to see the liveliness knob take on a more active role in bringing out the lower octaves in the reverb when dialed back, but it simply muffled the higher octaves. It is pretty with the liveliness set anywhere past 11 o’clock, though.
The Hall reverb adds that cathedral warmth we all know and love, fading out into a cozy, vocal decay.
Last but not least is a particularly splattery Spring tone, which is precisely what you think it is. My tone ended up kind of harsh with the Liveliness turned up, but in the mid-range the Spring was tight over single-coils and a tube-screamer. It won’t make you sell your vintage tube spring reverb unit, but it’s fun and adds more versatility to the pedal.
The DigiTech Polara sports simplicity and clarity that make it a fine addition to any pedalboard. The range of simple sounds it can pull off make it an easy replacement for a whole market of dedicated units, and the stereo spaces it conjures are glorious emulations that will transport your listeners to as spacious a paradise as you can dream. The only thing that really bothers me about the Polara is the reasonless shortage of knobs. With some of Lexicon’s studio plugins coming packed with as many as seven tweakable parameters, and some of DigiTech’s other products featuring dual-concentric knobs (I’m looking at you, Obscura,) the three-parameter configuration from an all-star crossover like this one just seems sort of… stingy. This is no doubt the product of a levelheaded studio mindset molded around the K.I.S.S. method, and while the Polara lacks the “crazy” to make it a game-changer for those looking to dig in and experiment, it does make for a great reverb, particularly for its reasonably asking price which is what it’s supposed to be. What DigiTech and Lexicon have done for us here is taken the brainwork out of establishing a great baseline reverb ambience for our guitar tone.
That concludes our review of the DigiTech Polara. Thanks for reading!