Review of: Red Panda Bitmap
Reviewed by: Gabriel TanakaRating:4On May 18, 2015Last modified:October 8, 2016
Did you know that Red Panda’s first effect offering wasn’t a guitar pedal? Okay, it was, sort of. It was the Bitcrusher algorithm/module for the (now discontinued) Line 6 ToneCore platform. After releasing this cool effect, Red Panda decided to strike out on their own and release the Particle Granular Delay & Pitch Shifter, one of the most inspired and original delay pedals to come along in years. Then after releasing the equally original and ethereal Context reverb pedal, Red Panda decided to revisit the Bitcrusher effect that put them on the map, so to speak. Thus, the Bitmap was born, and the cycle came full circle.
The Bitmap is a “bitcrusher with fractional bit reduction and sample rate modulation”. What does that mean? It essentially mangles and destroys whatever sounds you feed it in twisted and beautiful ways. The Bitmap does this by reducing your signal’s bit depth from 24 bits all the way down to 1 bit and anywhere in between, producing grainy fuzz-like distortion at lower settings. You can also reduce the sample rate to create all sorts of bizarre, ring-mod-esque harmonic overtones. The sample rate can even be modulated and/or controlled via an expression pedal. Of course, if you’re not familiar with how a bit crusher sounds, nothing can accurately explain it. So let’s plug it in and find out if it’s the best bit crusher/resampling pedal in our Red Panda Bitmap review.
- Fractional bit reduction.
- Sample-rate modulation.
- Expression pedal input for sample rate (CV-compatible).
- Blend control to maintain bass or add subtle crushing.
- Input gain switch to accommodate single or dual coil pickups and line-level signals.
- Output level control for consistent volume, can also provide extra boost.
- 3 color screen printed enclosure.
- Soft-touch knobs.
- True bypass.
- Made in USA, from PCB to final assembly.
Sound & Performance:
A bit crusher can appear daunting to come to grips with if you’re unsure how they work exactly. Fortunately, the Bitmap makes the concept of bit-crushing surprisingly easy to understand and, yes, just as easy to use in practice. I started out with Crush mode to hear the straight up bitcrushing effects this pedal offers.
With the Crush knob rolled down and the Freq all the way up, you’ll get a clean sound at 24 bits with a 32 kHz sampling rate. Basically, it sounds dry and clean even with the Mix rolled all the way up (fully wet). But once you start rolling up the Crush knob things get interesting. At settings as low as around 9 o’clock, you’ll hear some sizzling distortion creeping into your signal. It’s the nature of resampling and bit reduction causes this noise. While old-school samplers and digital audio workstations (or DAWs, like Ableton Live) filter out distortion and aliased components when resampling/bit reducing, the charm of a Bit Crusher (and hence the Bitmap) is that it leaves all those interesting elements in tact to produce the sounds bit crushing effects are known for.
At the subtle 9 o’clock Crush setting, something interesting happens when selecting between Hi/middle/Lo input options. While the middle position is generally a good overall setting to use with guitar, the Lo option (for drum machines, synths, and line level signals) causes a surge in input signal volume that results in even more harmonic aliasing distortion. Red Panda assures that no harm will come from selecting mismatched input levels, so feel free to experiment with the Bitmap’s 3 settings as it really pays off for dialing in or removing distortion. Just mind your output Level setting.
As you crank the Crush knob towards around noon, the bit depth is further reduced, resulting in more distortion and an increasingly prominent gating effect. Bitcrushers can be too chaotic (and damaging to your ears) if not held with some restraint. The gate keeps it in check while providing cool stuttering, staccato sounds reminiscent of gated fuzz. You can dial this in just right with an appropriate Hi/Lo switch setting to nail the rate of decay you’re looking for. Very synth-like. Just be aware that if you activate the pedal with the Crush knob all the way up and a lower volume Hi/Lo switch setting, you may get no sound and think your pedal is broken! It isn’t. If you feed a high level audio signal into the pedal you’ll hear it.
The Freq knob is where things get really interesting. At the fully clockw