Review of: Meris Polymoon
Reviewed by: Gabriel TanakaRating:5On January 13, 2018Last modified:July 17, 2018
The Meris Polymoon is the 3rd pedal release from the SoCal based pedal builder, following on the heels of their other two recent offerings, the Ottobit Jr. and Mercury7 Reverb. Meris’ previous pedals were based on their 500 series rack modules, but the Polymoon is their first all-new offering in a dual foot-switch pedal format. While the Polymoon can generally be classified as a delay pedal or modulated delay, this general categorization doesn’t do justice to the myriad possibilities contained within the Polymoon’s unassuming little white enclosure.
The Polymoon was initially inspired by the concept of chaining together rack delay effects to create all-new sounds, a practice utilized in the 80’s by guitarists including Allan Holdsworth and Frank Zappa. Before the Polymoon, the notion of chaining together a series of ultra-high quality stereo effects algorithms was usually limited to either using rack gear, some very expensive multi-effects processors, or a series of high-end guitar pedals. The concept is rare in a pedal as it is, and the Polymoon is one the most advanced attempts at a delay this sprawling and complex.
While companies have said it before in various marketing copy about their products, the Polymoon really is like several pedals in one because it offers such a wide range of parameter options across a series of different effects. Put very simply, the signal flow of the Polymoon goes something like this: Input → Dual Dynamic Flangers in Parallel → 6 Delays in Series (with Early Modulation and Late Modulation options) → Dual Barberpole Phasers in Parallel → Filter → Output. While you could reduce the Polymoon to just a dry single-tap delay, this pedal is all about the journey to the dark side of the moon and beyond.
Here’s a rundown of the Polymoon’s features before we dig in.
- 1200mS real time selectable multiple-tap delay line
- Massive multi LFO modulation controls
- 6 custom tuned LFOs with adjustable waveforms for subtle to aggressive pitch shifting effects
- Adjustable Tilt EQ filter in delay feedback
- Tempo syncable stereo Barberpole Phaser
- Multimode stereo Dynamic Flanger w/ feedback
- Unique feedback topology
- Dimension control for smearing reflections
- Selectable quarter or dotted eighth note Tap Tempo
- Digitally controlled Analog mix control
- 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
- External Tap Tempo over TRS
- MIDI beat clock synchronization
- Premium analog signal path and 24-bit AD/DA w/32 bit floating point DSP
- Premium Analog Devices JFET input section
- Color – white powder coat with fine iridescent flake
- Designed and built in Los Angeles, California U.S.A.
- Premium quality 24 bit A/D and D/A
- 32 Bit floating point DSP hardware
- Premium low noise Analog signal path throughout
- Digitally controlled Analog Dry path for wet/dry mix
- Analog Devices JFET input circuitry
- Selectable True Bypass (Relay) or Analog Buffered Bypass
- 150 mA total power consumption
- Durable white powder coat with fine iridescent flake
- Current draw – <150mA
- Dimensions – 4.25″ wide, 4.5″ long, 2″ tall
Sound & Performance:
While the Polymoon has a lot of complex options and sound design features lurking within its tidy control surface, the visible knob parameters give you a solid place to start for dialing in some hypnotic delay sounds. The top row of knobs offers traditional controls for Time, Feedback, and Mix. The bottom row provides parameters for Multiply, Dimension, and Dynamics which we’ll discuss more in a moment. With the bottom trio of knobs set fully counter-clockwise, you’ll get a nice clean digital delay. It’s solid if you find yourself needing it, but things start getting much more interesting very quickly when you start using the other parameters.
The Multiply knob brings in more delay taps. Up to 6 are available. Each new tap adds a slight change in rhythmic feel, and if you’re running the Polymoon in stereo, you’ll hear that each tap also has its own panned position in the stereo field. In stereo the 2 tap option is a basic ping-pong delay; it’s a personal favorite along with the 3 tap option that repeats in series from left to center to right (or vice versa if you have your output cables reversed). On higher Multiply settings you’ll get delays that dance across the stereo field.
The Dimension control smears out the delay taps and extends the trails, changing the feel of the delay to a more reverb-like wash of ambience. The effect is quite prominent and begins to significantly dissipate the transient attack of your delay repeats as you push the knob up from minimum to around 9 o’clock. As you push the Dimension up to noon, your wet signal will have already transformed into a cloud of delay-ish reverb. At lower Time & Feedback settings this sounds like a bizarre chamber reverb. Maxing the Dimension with moderate to high Time & Feedback creates a larger atmosphere, similar in character to a cathedral or hall reverb. The controls are very interactive, so you can tweak those 3 parameters along with Multiply to get some cool interstellar ambience that’ll gladly fill in when you want some shoegazing reverb sounds.
When you turn the Dynamics knob up from its minimum position, you’ll activate a pair of parallel flangers that respond to your picking dynamics. The more you increase the Dynamics, the more prominent the flanging effect will be on your repeats in accordance with the strength of you pick attack. This can create a subtle movement that flows with gentler playing or a warped detuning effect when you really dig in. I found it really fun to play lightly and then hit a loud unison bend. It sounded kind of like several guitars bending the note from different pitches, coming gradually into proper tuning as the flanger began to calm from the initial attack with the successive audible repeats ringing out at the same pitch as my dry signal.
The indicator lights above the Bypass & Tap foot-switches are actually buttons. Pressing the button above the Bypass foot-switch activates the Dual Barberpole Phasers. There are 3 speed options available. The Slow option is a churning 0.1Hz speed phaser that’s great for long slow sweeps. The Sync option moves at the fastest speed, a quarter note of the current delay time as set by the Time knob or Tap Tempo. The Slow + Sync option is a more moderate speed that’s locked in at a whole note of the delay time. This provides a consistent movement that flows well over multiple bars of playing, like steadily navigating through a wormhole in space.
More Below the Surface
The Polymoon surface controls already display a lot of potential for dialing in epic delay sounds, but there awaits a multitude of other options hidden behind the Polymoon’s pale curtain. Pressing and holding the Alt button while adjusting other parameters accesses various other functions. The first option many guitarists will seek is the option to switch from the default ¼ note delay tap division to dotted 1/8 notes. Simply pressing & holding the Alt button while hitting the tap foot-switch toggles between the two options. Some guitarists may wish for at least a few other tap division options (triplets?), but the two available settings will satisfy most common delay needs. And of course the Multiply options also add rhythmic variation.
If you want more from the Polymoon’s flanging effect, there are two additional Alt parameters worth exploring. The Alt of Dimension lets you change the direction of the envelope peak follower between up and down or select an LFO option. The Dynamics’ Alt function either sets the response speed, aka Attack Time, of the envelope or the LFO speed if the LFO option is engaged. While I initially favored the envelope options, the LFO flanging is also very nice when set to slower speeds. Combine that with the phaser and some intergalactic delays will ensue.
Another useful Alt sub-function is the Feedback Filter. This custom coloring tool applies filtering to the entire wet signal. When set at noon the response is flat, but turning it clockwise can dramatically high-pass your delay sound. Turn it counter-clockwise for a darker and warmer delay sound. It can get pretty dubby at higher settings or be low cut just enough to let your delay signal float above your playing. The darker settings can get quite murky, especially if you add modulation. Speaking of that…
Hex Modulation Matrix
The Polymoon has 16 Early Modulation & 16 Late Modulation options which can be applied to the wet delay signal. (The 1st option is Modulation Off, so technically that’s 15 active options.) Being able to apply any of these options or mix and match 2 of them in the Early & Late positions takes the range of sound customization to a whole different level of complexity.
There’s a set of 6 triangle LFOs that modulate the delay network. The Early Modulation is linked to LFO 1, rippling its effects across LFOs 2-5 while the Late Modulation primarily affects LFO 6. The manual provides more details about how it all works. I’m just going to cover a few of the kinds of sounds available.
5 of the options provide standard delay modulation with varying Rate & Depth settings. Yes, this is in addition to the flanging and phasing possibilities. The Slow & Moderate Speed settings give Shallow Depth to provide more subtle movement, adding even more multi-dimensional qualities to the delays. The Fast Speed options add a feel that’s more akin to a tape delay with super erratic wow and flutter. Even if you’re going for a cleaner, drier delay sound that’s free of the phasing and flanging options, adding a hint of subtle modulation from the Early and/or Late Modulation options will give you a bit of that classic 80’s rack-mount delay vibe. It’s definitely worth trying and adds yet another layer of flexibility to the Polymoon.
3 of the options provide FM Modulation. This is a glitchy, dissonant type of pitch modulation that kind of runs away in a swirl of noise. Traditionalists probably won’t get it. But if you’re already looking at this pedal, you’ll be intrigued. It’s worth pointing out here that the other parameter knobs are highly interactive with the Early & Late Modulation types. The FM Modulation particularly benefits from trying different settings of the Dimension and Multiply parameters to augment the FM noise into unique textures. Set the Late Modulation to 96Hz FM Modulation, crank the Dimension, and add some Slow Phasing for a breathtaking swirl of the most musical white noise you’ve ever heard.
The last 7 Modulation options are all pitch based. There are various combinations with intervals spanning an octave down to an octave up. Again, adding more taps adds more movement as different pitches leap in and out above and below the notes you’re playing. The Dimension proves itself useful yet again for turning the sound into a pitched pad effect. My favorite pitch option is the basic “Octave Down & Octave Up” setting, and if you just want to emphasize either the upper or lower octave, use the Feedback Filter to roll off the lower or upper frequencies, respectively.
Aside from the many options available to shape your sounds, Meris thought of just about every way musicians might with to incorporate this pedal in their setup. The first thing I did was enter the Global Setting Configuration Mode to activate the TRS Stereo Input for full stereo implementation. You can also set it for Kill Dry if you wish run it in a parallel effects chain or want to use it as an external insert/bus effect in a Mixer or DAW. The Polymoon also gives you Instrument and Line/Synth level options to interface with various audio signal levels. Buffered Bypass and Relay Bypass options are available, and you can have optional spillover trails and/or “Glide” for seamless transitions between presets. Glide sounds awesome, by the way, morphing the delay sounds as you change presets. Each of the Polymoon’s 16 presets can also have different settings in the toe and heel expression pedal positions for dramatic sound changes when you sweep the expression pedal. If you’re using MIDI for preset selection, you can also use MIDI CC 04 to control the exp sweep to shift between the different toe and heel sounds. Also, Meris will be releasing a 4 Button Switch for preset selection if you want to keep things simple yet still be able to access a few different sounds in a live situation. To make the most of this pedal via presets without using MIDI, the 4 Button Switch likely be a must-have when it drops in early 2018.
The Good, the Rad and the MIDI
If you’re among those of us on the fringe who insist on using MIDI to control every aspect of your gear, the Polymoon and other Meris pedals like the Ottobit Jr. and Mercury7 Reverb may have piqued your curiosity. Whether you’re using a MIDI compatible effects switcher or a DAW like Ableton Live 10, Meris pedals offer bold musicians the kind of unlimited possibilities that full MIDI implementation provides. To access the Polymoon’s MIDI functionality, you’ll need to select MIDI from the Global menu options and use an external MIDI adapter such as the upcoming Meris MIDI I/O or currently available Chase Bliss Audio MIDI Box. For this review I used the CBA MIDI Box, and it worked flawlessly.
Yes, the Polymoon has a MIDI continuous controller (CC) message for every single parameter and non-Global function. There is also support for Preset Send and Receive via MIDI Sysex or CCs, allowing access to whole libraries of presets stored on smartphones, tablets, and/or personal computers. But there are a couple small areas of MIDI operation that may confound some MIDI users. Using program changes to select presets automatically activates the pedal; a dedicated Bypass program change can bypass the pedal. But if you’re using the pedal with a MIDI effects switcher, you’ll still have to program your switcher to select presets (via program changes) and turn the pedal on and off with the Activate/Bypass CC. It’s easy to do, but this negates the necessity of the redundant Activate functionality of the current program change behavior. In my workflow when automating pedals for live performance, I’ll typically select presets via program changes at the beginning of a song and use the Activate/Bypass CC to turn the pedal on and off as needed throughout a song. Since Meris pedals will automatically turn on when selecting presets, I have to send a MIDI CC to bypass the pedal shortly after selecting a preset. Perhaps a beneficial use of the current program change behavior would be in a scenario where a keyboard player is using keys to send program changes to control a Meris pedal. This could offer a quick way to select from 16 different presets and immediately bypass a Meris pedal as needed. Users of rack gear may know of other beneficial scenarios.
Another MIDI anomaly is that since the Bypass program change is assigned to the program change typically labeled “1” on MIDI compatible hardware/software that I’ve seen, you’ll need to send program changes 2-17 to select presets 1-16 on your Meris pedal(s). A solution to all this confusion would be if Meris pedals had at least the option to only select presets (without activating the pedal!) when receiving program changes 1-16, and just in case the “Preset Select/Activate” and “Bypass” program changes are useful to anyone, perhaps those functions could be assigned to program changes 100-116 (Bypass = PC 100, Presets 1-16 = PC 101-116).
Aside from those minor MIDI quirks, I can’t really find a major fault with the Polymoon, but there are a few other minor things to share that don’t necessarily detract from my overall impressions of the pedal. As I mentioned before, some users may wish for a few more tap division options. It could also have been nice to have more than 6 Multiply options, maybe some with even more diverse placement of the various taps. If Meris can cram in 16 Alt modulation options around a knob’s range, more Multiply settings could’ve surely been added. Speaking of the Alt options, when accessing the 16 Early & Late mod settings, you’ll have to rely on your ears as you turn the knob to hear when a different setting is active as the options are tightly spaced; it can require more attention to notice the sonic changes when auditioning the more subtle modulation options. But none of these little things detract from the overall Polymoon experience as the pedal offers a massive amount of sound possibilities many users will barely scratch the surface of.
The Meris Polymoon is truly a one-of-a-kind pedal and a masterpiece of original delay design that harbors an incredibly diverse range of modulated delay sounds. Despite the pedal’s complex signal flow, it offers an intuitive surface interface that immediately yields inspiring results. As you delve below the surface, even more boundless possibilities are revealed. Alt knob functions expand the sound palette immensely, and the MIDI implementation, forgiven of a couple unorthodoxies, pushes the Polymoon’s versatility well beyond many pedals from rival builders. With delay sounds ranging from clear single taps to heavily diffused multi-tap delay ambience with filtering, flanging, phasing, and other modulation options, the Polymoon is a journey unto itself and is one of the most rewarding sources of new sounds guitarists are likely to find in a dual foot-switch stompbox. In other words the Polymoon is a must-try for delay lovers and arguably the most stellar offering from Meris to date.
That concludes our Meris Polymoon review. Thanks for reading.
June 18, 2018 at 8:48 am
I would love to have a dedicated stereo delay pedal for ping-ponging….there don’t seem to be many made with stereo in mind.
June 2, 2018 at 9:33 pm
I’m so keen to try any of the Chase Bliss Audio stuff. I think they’re doing really interesting things.