By Paul Uhl –
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…
- 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)
- 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.
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!