I like pedals. You like pedals. He likes pedals. She likes pedals. We all like pedals.
Today’s topic is another attempt to bring you up a notch on the pedal popularity scale. Whenever I find some cool pedals that I think are obscure and/or weird and/or versatile, I like to let you know about it so you can pretend to all your friends you found it first. Check out these two exciting pedals from two different little guy builders.
Warm Star Electronics – Shape shift Mountain
Scrolling the webs, I came across this pedal and was instantly intrigued. A compact yet super versatile Filter & LFO pedal? I’m down like Donald Trump at an all you can eat baby buffet. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but I assume he eats babies for breakfast, no?)
Shape Shift Mountain is the first pedal offered by Warm Star (built in collaboration with Delptronics, maker of eurorack modules, interactive music exhibits, PCBs, and other electronic design type stuff), which to me is a hopeful indication of more cool synth style pedals in the future.
At heart, the Shape Shift Mountain is a voltage controlled 24 db/octave low pass filter with an integrated LFO. It uses the classic SSM2044 filter chip used in a bunch of synths, but most notably the Korg Mono/Poly synths (if Korg used it, it’s gotta be good).
As the name implies, applying a multi-faceted filter, plus LFO to your guitar signal can give you mystical mountain sherpa abilities to traverse your guitar (or anything with a 1/4″ output) across precarious tone-scapes you didn’t know existed. The cool part is that you don’t really have to worry about avalanches. Unless you happen to have a jam spot right next to a mountain.
How versatile can the Shape Shift Mountain be? That’s just a silly question. Well, silly, for starters you could use this thing’s filter as an EQ of sorts to carve and whittle frequencies to boost leads or thin out/fatten up your signal, which are things guitar players do when they really want to cut through the mix. You could also employ this pedal as a unique distortion and really fuck your signal up with the gain, gnarl, and resonance controls. Or, you could tame it as the versatile filter and modulation source it is for filter sweeping and vibrato/trill sounds.
Like that mirror in Harry Potter that shows you your biggest desire or something (I don’t remember, I read that book like 15 years ago), the Shape Shift Mountain can show you what it is you desire. At least as far as filters and LFOs go. It would probably not be right for anyone looking for a steady, consistent, one-trick pony relationship with a pedal.
There’s only 50 being made in the first run (going now!) so you should probably get over to their page and tell them you want one before it’s too late!
Warm Star’s Demo
Cutoff – determines cutoff frequency of the filter. Select the frequencies that shall pass or shall not pass.
Resonance – amplifies or accentuates the cutoff frequency.
Gnarl – in the video it sounds like this knob generates a second frequency one octave below the original signal, but I can’t say for sure.
Gain – the gain seems like it could add an octave as well, but at any rate I’m sure adds gain and distorts the signal.
LFO Rate – rate of the LFO.
LFO Slope – control how the LFO fades in and out.
LFO Amount – depth of the LFO.
CV inputs – control cutoff/resonance via CV signals.
CV out – for LFO. Integrate this with your synth or CV enabled gear.
Expression inputs – LFO rate, amount, cutoff, resonance. Control a knob with your foot so you can do synth stuff while you play, like sweep the filter.
High/low – switch between a high/low octave?
Triangle/Square – waveform selector.
There you have it: a promising first venture out to pedal sea from a fledgling company. I think I speak for more than just me when I say I look forward to what Warm Star does in the future.
Check out www.warmstarelectronics.com for more info.
Parasit Studios – Into the Unknown Guitar Synth Deluxe
Possibly the synthiest synth pedal ever?
Parasit Studios isn’t just a pedal manufacturer, but a real live Swedish recording studio that also happens to make DIY pedal kits, many of which are pretty unique synth pedal-type designs. People who produce/engineer records probably have a good understanding of sound, so why couldn’t they make a great sounding pedal (case in point – Recovery Effects)?
The Into The Unknown (ITU) is a fine example of the above situation.
According to Parasit helmsman Frederik Lyxzen, what makes the circuit of the Into the Unknown pedal special is ‘that the octave up part is based on a frequency controlled oscillator so it doesn’t scramble chords like [the] usual octave circuit, and it tracks well over the entire fretboard…it can be very controlled, but also make super-glitchy sounds, fuzz, theremin sounds, synthy octaves down and up, flanger-ish modulation, drone-ish noise, oscillation, and more.’
The Into The Unknown’s filter and LFO sounds are similar to the Moog Freqbox, only the ITU seems a lot more musical and controllable. The fuzz on it’s own is one of the closest to sounding like an actual synth I’ve come across. Be warned, this pedal sounds pretty amazing and will surprise you with it’s satisfying ability to produce sounds that are strange and otherworldly, yet beautiful and inspiring…like Urkel.
Needless to say, when I saw there was a limited run of 25 being sold, I had to jump on it. Don’t fret though (terrible guitar pun), if you’re handy with a soldering iron, you can always get one of the DIY kits, or you can sign up for the mailing list and be notified of the next run.
Mix – blends between straight square wave fuzz and the synthesized VCO signal coming from the CD4046 PLL chip.
Sub – how much octave down you add to the signal.
Gate – sets input sensitivity. Can be very gated or glitchy, and can self-oscillate.
Rate – controls the speed of the LFO.
Level – controls overall output.
Filter – controls cutoff of the resonant filter. The middle position has a strong resonant peak. Check out the filter sweeps in the demo video. Super nice.
Track – controls the tracking speed of the VCO. Turn it up for a slow attack/decay of the octave up or down for a faster attack/decay.
Warp – the man who built this doesn’t even know how to describe this control. It’s interactive with the track knob and has a strong effect on the character of the modulation. Can produce ring mod sounds.
Switches – These switches are independent from the mix controls so you can add octaves to either the fuzz signal or VCO signal.
Octave down -Toggles between one or two octaves down (down position – two octaves down, up position – one octave down).
Octave up – The VCO signal will be one or two octaves up depending on the switch (down position – one octave up, up position – two octaves up).
LFO – Wave Shape selector/turn off.
I think you’ll agree this pedal is more than worth it’s weight in synths.
Check out www.parasitstudios.se for more info.
*Bonus: Interesting Article on LFOs and how they can shape your sound- http://www.emusician.com/gear/1332/the-ins-and-outs-of-lfos/36695
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading! Make sure to be quick if you want one to claim one of these fine pedals, and as always, feel free to let me know any thoughts you might have. Stay tuned for video demos!
The Pedal File