The Pedal File – Pittsburgh Modular Patch Box Pt.2, The Module Breakdown

slothHeyyy youuuuu guuuuuuuys!  Are you sick of me yet?  Don’t answer that!  …Allow me torephrase: are you sick of pedals yet?  No, of course not!  I think we can all agree, pedals are the best.  (I know that I myself am questionable.)  So anyways, I’m back with more details on the Pittsburgh Modular Patch Box!

If you didn’t catch Part 1 where I give an overview of the PatchBox, click this link.  If you did, good job.  A gold star for you, and you may read on.  Don’t ask questions, just do what I say.  Geez.

 

So yes, let’s breakdown and discuss the modules offered in the Patch Box FX1:

Analog Replicator

The Analog Replicator is Pittsburgh Modular’s analog engineer Michael Johnsen’s original design, which I must say is formidable and everything an analog delay should be, modular synth or no.  Offering a mishmash of tweaky options and looking like it was reverse-engineered from a Tesla coil control panel, this is perhaps one of the most musical, versatile, earveloping (ear-enveloping), BBD-based analog delays.  (You know, bucket brigade device?  Read this if you’re scratching your head over what the hell a BBD chip is).   Seriously, it sounds awesome.  Listen to it for yourself:

The lush and complex sound of the Analog Replicator is provided not by one BBD chip, but two.  That’s right, PM don’t skimp when it comes to BBD chips.  This generosity grants one access to a variety of delay times and delay-based effects by selecting either one or two BBD chips in combination with the short mode (a delay time range of 10ms – 350ms) and long mode (10ms – 2600ms).  Short mode provides brighter and cleaner repeats (chorus and reverb are available by selecting just the one BBD chip and Short mode), while long mode brings on the dirty repeats.  The longer, the grimier (that’s what she said).

Tweakables

  • TIME Knob – Adjust the delay time.
  • TIME CV IN Knob – CV attenuverter used to attenuate and/or invert the incoming TIME CV signal.  (A dual purpose knob whose purpose I can’t quite discern.  Obviously it affects the CV signal, but I’m not sure how that affects the Time Knob in terms of the sound it produces.  Feel free to school me if you know.)
  • 4,096 / 8,192 Switch – Select between 1 and 2 BBD chips. 8,192 doubles the amount of available delay range.  (Very nice)
  • SHORT / LONG Switch – Select between SHORT and LONG delay ranges. Short range is bright and clean, long range is dark and dirty.
  • FEEDBACK Knob – Sets the number of repeats generated from the delay signal.
  • INVERT POLARITY Switch – In the up position, the switch inverts the Feedback polarity. This setting has an interesting effect with shorter delay times.  (I don’t quite understand exactly how this translates to affecting the sound either, but I’d sure love to dig in and find out!  Perhaps it’s like a phase switch to bring out different feedback frequencies?)
  • FEEDBACK CV IN Knob – CV attenuverter used to attenuate and/or invert the incoming FEEDBACK CV signal.
  • BYPASS SwitchEnable or disable the analog delay effect.
  • SPILLOVER Switch – Enable or disable the analog delay effect. Feedback is allowed to trail off.
  • INPUT DRIVE Knob – Audio signal input level control.  (Delays with this control are cool because who doesn’t like an overdriven analog delay sound?  Nobody, that’s who!)
  • MIX CV IN Knob – CV attenuverter used to attenuate and/or invert the incoming MIX CV signal.
  • OUTPUT MIX Knob – Sets the signal mix sent to the MIX OUT jack.
  • INPUT JACK – Audio signal input.
  • TIME CV Input JackCV input used to modulate TIME (length of delay time).  (This input and the following CV inputs are controlled by their corresponding knobs.)
  • FEEDBACK (FBK) CV Input Jack – CV input used to modulate FEEDBACK amount.
  • MIX CV Input Jack – CV input used to modulate the OUTPUT MIX.
  • DELAY OUT Jack – Delayed signal only output.
  • MIX OUT Jack – Mix of dry and delayed signal output.

There you have it.  One of the finest delays to ever be produced on Earth that can emit almost any delay based effect your dirty little heart could desire.  (It may yet compare to delays made on other planets, but that’s for another post!)  The Analog Replicator calls to mind the food the Lost Boys eat in the classic film Hook – it can be anything you imagine (but you have to use your imagination).  Ru-fi-OH!

www.pittsburghmodular.com/analog-replicator

Filter

Ah filters.  Good for enveloping wah sounds, flangies, phasies, carving tonez, brewing coffee, you name it.  PM defines their filter module, creatively titled ‘Filter’, as a state variable filter (i.e. a filter that can provide all types of filtering – high pass, band pass, and low pass), of which it is an apt example.  Filters can give one a surprising amount of access to a wide range of tones (especially with access to all filtering in the known universe as is the case with the Filter).  While this feature is not uncommon in synth world, it’s pretty damn cool in the guitar world because most guitar pedal filters only offer one or two types of filtering (usually low and/or high pass).

With the Filter module, you can run control voltages to the CV in of each individual filter section, or the variable knob can sweep from one filter to another (or another).  The variable knob can also provide notch filtering for even further precision tone sculpting.  Now that’s a spicy a-filter!

The best feature in my opinion is the ‘Filter – Oscillation’ switch.  Set to Filter, you are gifted with a more ordinary, organic and sweet (as in pleasant) sounding filter.  Set to Oscillate, you will unlock the ability to play the filter if no incoming audio signal is present (a beautiful sine wave is produced), or alternatively you can mangle your incoming signal like Caitlyn Jenner’s face (oh snap!) and produce  tones PM describes as ‘ring mod’-esque or heavy distortion.  (If you’re familiar with the filter section, more specifically the Brute knob of the Arturia MicroBrute, I believe this is a similar idea.)

Demo Video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvHtLlujpz8#action=share

Tweakables

  • Q Pot – Adjusts the resonance (Q) of the filter.
  • FREQ Pot – Adjusts the Frequency of the filter.
  • L-H Pot – Sweeps between lowpass, notch, and highpass filters
  • QCV Pot and Jack  Resonance (Q) control voltage input and attenuverter.
  • FCV Pot and Jack – Frequency control voltage input and attenuverter.
  • 1-Q Switch Switch between Gain to 1 (VCA Mode) and Gain of Q (Standard Mode).  Basically switch between a regular filter reponse to a voltage controlled amplifier where the Frequency knob effects the volume of the signal rather than frequency.
  • F-O Switch – Switch between Filter and Oscillator Modes. (ring-mod and distortion is available by setting to oscillate).
  • LOW Jack – Lowpass Output
  • L-H Jack – Output based off of the L-H Pot
  • HI Jack – Highpass Output


PM points out that their self-described Jekyll & Hyde sound design philosophy is evidenced by this flexibility of the Filter module.  Everyone has a dark side right?  Dark secrets to tell like that one time you put your input into that pedal’s output?  (You dog.)  Well with the Filter module, you don’t have to choose a side.  You can simply straddle the line, kind of like how Courtney Love straddles the line between ‘musician’ and murderer…Oh double snap!  Point being, you can make this thing play nice.  Or not.

Another manufacturer quote to sum it up: ‘The goal was to produce a filter that does not have a single sweet spot. We worked to make every turn of a knob or flip of a switch offer something new and musically engaging.’  I’m engaged.  Extra points all around.

www.pittsburghmodular.com/filter

Crush

If you’ve had the pleasure of using a bit crusher before you may be aware that many existing bit crusher guitar pedals can make cool noises, yet many of them can be too trebly, too digital, and too harsh; you know, when it feels like you’re getting tattooed on your ear drums.  It can be a struggle to use them musically, especially in a band context.  The Crush module alleviates this issue by offering all analog juiciness that will still sound metallic and squashed, but ooze with sonic goo like you just stepped on a robot grub.

This guy is pretty simple, with only a few knobs and a switch.  Most of the controls are pretty standard for a bit crusher, like a sample rate control to select just how degraded your signal should be, and a mix control to be subtle or outrageous.

The really interesting feature of this module is the Interpolate/Step Mode switch.  Step mode offers regular bit crushed sounds, while Interpolate takes the crushed bits and tries to Humpty Dumpty that shit back together, but you know how the rhyme goes…  It doesn’t exactly fit nicely so your tone could be the sonic equivalent of a Picasso portait.  Far out.

Tweakables

  • Sample Rate Control – Sample rate control.
  • Sample Rate CV In Control – Sample Rate CV input jack attenuator.
  • Interpolate/Step Mode Switch – Step mode offers true downsampling. Interpolate mode attempts to smooth the downsampled waveform.
  • Output Mix Control – Controls the signal mix of the Mix Out.
  • Mix CV In Control Mix CV input jack attenuator.
  • SR CV IN CV input modulates the Sample Rate.
  • MIX CV IN CV input modulates the Output Mix.
  • INPUT Waveform Input.
  • CRUSH OUT Processed waveform output.
  • OUTPUT Mixed waveform output.

Such sonic beauty in so simple a package!

www.pittsburghmodular.com/crush

LFO2

The LFO2 module is probably the simplest of the Patch Box FX1 package in terms of operation, but don’t underestimate it’s ability to take your tonez to higher levels of existence.  LFO’s (you know, low frequency oscillator) allow you to impart lots of mood and emotion into your signal, whether it be slow swirling modulation or quicker vibe-like warbles (thinking of chorus/vibe stuff).  Sometimes adding a little bit of LFO movement to a riff can be the bee’s tits.

The LFO2 is the perfect tool for creating a multitude of modulation with two separate LFO’s and plenty of wave shapes.  The first LFO section utilizes a Shape knob to allow access to saw, ramp, and triangle wave forms.  This feature is cool because you can have a fluid sweep between different wave forms, rather than flicking a switch and causing interference (or audible click) to your signal.  Just think of all the different textures, moods, and even frequencies/overtones that could be created depending on how they’re set…

The second LFO section offers access to triangle and square waves to offer even further options for sonic manipulation.  By mixing the 2 LFO’s together, what do you get?  Even MORE sonic options, duh!

I like to imagine LFO 1 is one galaxy and LFO 2 is another.  Tragically enough, these two galaxies are headed right for each other.  The inevitable collision is occurring, but you get to decide just how they collide, mesh, and intersect with each other as if you’re some sort of intelligent space being with the power to do so.  The only thing you can do is try to make beautiful music out of the situation.  Can you handle this responsibility?  (Say yes!)

Tweakables

LFO 1 (top)

  • FREQUENCY Knob – Adjust the frequency of LFO 1.
  • Shape Knob – Modifies the shape of the SHAPE and PULSE outputs.  (Lots of versatility here)
  • SHAPE Jack – Saw / Triangle / Ramp Wave Output
  • RANGE Switch – Switches the frequency range of LFO 1.
  • PULSE – Square / Pulse Wave Output

LFO 2 (bottom)

  • FREQUENCY Knob – Adjust the frequency of LFO 2.
  • TRIANGLE Jack – Triangle Wave Output
  • RANGE Switch – Switches the frequency range of LFO 2.
  • SQUARE Jack – Square Wave Output

www.pittsburghmodular.com/lfo2

You may still be unimpressed by each individual module, but keep in mind kids that since these are modular, you’ve got CV ins/outs to patch together and make sounds ain’t nobody ever heard before.  Remember that by creating patches, you have open access to the circuit itself and can create new pathways within the modules.  If that doesn’t excite you, I suggest you check your pulse.

I hope it has become apparent that PM wants you to have the best of both sonic worlds; to be able to play nicely with their modules, but also to wage intense, epic battles of destructive sound.  They want you to abuse and humiliate their modules and then take them out to a fancy dinner.  I like that idea because you know, being nice is cool and all, but sometimes you gotta just be evil.  The choice ultimately, is yours…

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading!  As always, feel free to comment and let me know what you’re thinking.  You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here…
Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

The Pedal File – The Time for Pedals is Now

Is there a more beautiful word than ‘pedal’?  I don’t think so.  Say it.  Say it again.  It feels good doesn’t it?  Mmm, pedal.

I love pedals.  I love experimenting with their sounds, tweaking their knobs, caressing their enclosures, rubbing my face against them, etc.  I’m always on the lookout for pedals that are well built, entertaining, unique, strange, experimental, and/or inspiring.  That’s why I’m here today to tell you about two cool pedals and how cool you are for reading this.  No need to thank me, just doing my job.

Keeley Electronics Vibe-O-Verb

The Pedal File - Keeley Vibe-O-VerbLately Keeley has been pumpin’ it out like Bill Cosby in a coma ward.  Seriously they’ve released like 25 pedals (give or take) in the last year.  Keeley must have employed Underpants Gnomes or something to do all this work for them in such a short time.  Pretty clever because they work for underpants, not money.

Anyway, I just caught a glimpse of the brand new Vibe-O-Verb and I was pretty impressed with Keeley’s most recent reverb rendition.  It’s a modulated reverb (usually reverb with chorus on the reverb tail), the likes of which have been around for a while, but the Vibe-O-Verb takes this idea up a notch like it was bammed by that fat greaseball Emeril himself.  With the Vibe-O-Verb you can achieve sounds that would only be possible with a reverb equipped with an effects loop, plus the other pedals for adding modulation to the wet signal; that could be a whole small pedalboard’s worth of space.  The reverb is dense and moody, full of movement, sway, and atmosphere, especially when utilizing the modulation.  You don’t want your reverb to be modulated all the time?  No worries, just turn the depth knob down and all you’ve got is the nice simple reverb to play with.  You Philistine.

fibonacci

Yup, that’s a galaxy and a cabbage.

Did I mention the delay space algorithms are based on the Fibonacci sequence?  If nature follows this pattern, why wouldn’t it be a good idea to model reverb decay time after it?

Tweakables:

Depth – this affects the amount of modulation on the reverb.  Set it low for a little or high for a lot, or turn it all the way down to eliminate the modulation.  I recommend leaving this up.
Rate – Also affects the modulation section.  Set it low for a nice wash, or high for faster rotary or choppy tremolo type stuff.
Decay – Adjusts the length of the reverb.  I’m not sure of the specifics, but based on the video it can be subtle or pretty cavernous.
Blend – blend in your clean signal.  You get to choose how much effect you want.  How liberating.

Modes:

harmonic reverb – imparts some choppy harmonic tremolo (basically like a vintage Brownface amp trem or Keeley’s DynaTrem) on the reverb tail.  Some settings end up sounding like delay as the reverb reverberates and the tremolo chops.
vibrato reverb – can do anything from subtle to extreme chorus/vibrato sounds on the reverb tail.  I don’t get into vibrato too much, but I really like the way it sounds on this pedal mixed with the reverb.  Of course the chorus sounds brilliant and seems perfect for getting all spacey and out there man.
phaser reverb – the most subtle of all.  Adds a notch filter to the tails.  From what I can tell this makes the brightness/darkness of the reverb shift from one extreme to the other.  Honestly it’s hard to detect in the video, but hopefully it’s more apparent when playing in person.

Check out the video from Pro Guitar Shop for a nice taste:

For more info:  www.keeleyelectronics.com

Mr. Black Shepard’s End

The Pedal File - Mr. Black Shepard's EndMr. Black is a small, but reputable company based out of Portland, Oregon.  They specialize in two categories of effects: dirt and modulation.  When I say specialize, I mean Jack Deville (the dude behind the mysterious company name) eats lesser dirt and modulation pedals for breakfast, which fuels his ability to produce effects that are perfect for getting all heavy and psychedelic like your momma on an acid trip.  Snap!

Mr. Black is kind of a big deal when it comes to modulation.  A lot of guitar players (and players of other things) swear by their Eterna reverb for it’s lush tone and I even once spotted a Black LTD Overdriver on the board of Jamie Stillman (owner of EQD).  My point again is that this guy knows pedals and has designed a real paragon in the Shepard’s End Infinite Flanger.

Now y’all should know by now that I think flangers are the shit, and thanks to this golden age of gear we live in there are more and more flangers coming out all the time; I’m only interested in the ones that sound good and/or have something unique to offer, and that’s why I want you to want the Shepard’s End.

The Shepard’s End is unique because it’s an infinite flanger, meaning it’s capable of producing what is called ‘barberpole flange’.  So what the hell is ‘barberpole flange’ you ask?  Well you see kids, in normal flanger pedals, the filter will oscillate, or move up and down, to create that nice pleasant whoosh that is so thrilling to at least my ears.  In contrast the Shepard’s End tricks are based on the Shepard tone or effect.  The Shepard effect creates the auditory illusion of a tone that continually ascends or descends in pitch, but does not seem to get any higher or lower (if you want to learn more about it click here).  Basically it means the flange wave has no beginning and no end (how zen), which means the filter can perpetually sweep up or down.  Like forever, or at least your brain is tricked into perceiving that it does (damn naive brains).  Hence the term ‘barberpole’ being applied here.  It can also do continual ‘through-zero flange’ and also features positive and negative regeneration, so your flange can sound more chorusy-phaser-like or like an imploding metal tubular black hole respectively.  This means that this is probably the weirdest flanger you’ll come across.  In the video it sounds very synthy and at times almost laser-like.

Tweakables:

Wave – adjusts the shape of the flange wave for upward, through-zero, or downward cycles.  Either way it’s gonna get goopy and it’s gonna go on forever, like a signal sent out into space in search of extraterrestrial life.
Speed – Adjusts the rate of the filter sweep.
Regen – Adjusts the regeneration, or the amount of signal fed back into itself anywhere from none to negative and positive.  Lots of tones reside here in this knob I’m sure.

You can find the Shepard’s End and the whole line of Mr. Black pedals at www.mrblackpedals.com

That’s all for now.  Thank you for reading!  As always feel free to leave me a comment about how your day is going.  Or something about pedals is cool too.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

The Pedal File: A Cool Pedal for Consumption – Keeley’s Absolute Wurst Random Harmony Generator

Hello, pedal heads!  I’ve been busy lately and I’ve got to say, I missed you more this time than any other time we’ve been apart.  Every time I got a text, I thought it was you…  Let’s not do that again!  Let me make it up to you.  Your pal, The Pedal File, is here once again to check in and provide you with knowledge about a new pedal that I think is pretty damn cool.  There, feel better?

Since I started this here blog, it’s been only getting harder to keep up with all the new pedals and pedal companies and all the crazy new gear related things that are perpetually coming out like a hipster in college.  That’s why I like to sacrifice my time for YOU to save YOU the trouble of sifting through all the clones and designs that have been done before to bring attention to only the coolest, tweakiest, most versatile pedals around.  I could be playing with pedals right now, but I want you to be on the forefront of pedal knowledge so I’ll keep typing.

 

The Pedal File - Keeley Pedals

Robert Keeley is one of the pioneers of the boutique pedal game (along with his mod offerings), but only recently has he been making bigger waves for his original designs.  Most of his pedals seem rather straight forward – boosts, fuzzes, a delay here or there, some compressors (although the Compressor Pro is quite an impressive piece of work), etc.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with his line of pedals.  Up til now, they’ve just been pretty standard and not that weird.

You even get two finish options.

 

The Absolute Wurst is the pedal I want to talk about today.  It goes way way beyond the aforementioned items of the mundane and was, perhaps, plucked from the board of a guitar player in a parallel universe where down is 6 and up is purple.  Catch my drift?  The short demo video teaser from Keeley (below) doesn’t really begin to showcase all the features, but judging from the descriptions it seems to me like the Absolute Wurst is going to be absolute tits.  I admire the ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude that Keeley exudes with this pedal.  Like he’s all, ‘Yea, what?  It’s not another compressor or fuzz or whatever.  What’s up, son?  I do what I want!’  Kudos, Mr. Keeley.  You have been awarded an extra point.

 

What really shrink wraps my baloney is the description of the pedal – a random harmony generator (like a Rainbow Machine?) with pitch up and down capabilities; a ‘broken-sounding’ pedal for ‘Experimentalists, Mathematical Atonal Nerds, and Noise-Scape Artists’.  Robert Keeley, did you make this pedal just for me??  I’m still waiting for it to come in the mail…  I also note that Keeley makes reference to the Gonkulator in the description, which if you’re not familiar was yet another ahead-of-its-time DOD pedal that combined distortion with ring modulation into absolute weird tones that everybody was scared to use when it came out.  This caused the pedal to have a short life, only to be sought after now for it’s weirdness in this more enlightened golden age of pedals we live in.  How much overlap does the Absolute Wurst have with the Gonkulator?  Some?  Not much?  A lot?  I don’t know!  Geez, sometimes you can be pushy….but I’m sorry.  Let’s not fight.

Tweakables – taken from Keeley’s wesbite

MODES
Random – Insane Random Harmony Generator – Pretty much unüsable.  Enjoy! ;-)  (I’d use it)
Pitch up – Cräzy Harmony Up.  Air Guitarist on Acid (aka “Chorus”)
Pitch down – The Drünken Bäss Pläyer.  Low synth sounds and other strange weirdness.  Unexpected throbs (that’s what I get when I’m in a room filled with pedals, and it also happens to be the name of the band that the Pope started with some of his top Cardinals to ‘back up’ their favorite altar boys ).

CONTROLS
Upper Left (knob) – Blend your original signal, dry to all the way wet.  All the way SELFIE or PANORAMIC for you FB or IG peeps.
Upper Right (knob) – Speed (in Random Mode)  — Pitch Range for Up and Down Modes.
Lower Left (knob)– Proximity – How close, or the Proximity to original note that the “harmony” is.
Lower Right (knob)– Gain – as in PutOut.  (Otherwise known as your mother)

Bypass – It’s either On or… Off.
Battery Free – Shoe Gazing turns it on and stuff – Power Drain 60mA or greater.
Keeley Engineered – Days of experience and thoughtful design in the foolish and absurd.  (And I thought I was the only one…)
3D Glasses – Not Required, but they do make the pedal sound better.

Perhaps I will get my hands on this guy someday and do a more in depth hands on review/demo.  Until then, check www.keeleypedals.com for more info.

What do you think about The Absolute Wurst?  Is there another pedal you really really want to hear me go on and on and on about?  Leave me a comment, or if you have something to hide, hit me up on my Contact page!

Thanks for reading.

Love,
Nick
The Pedal File

The Pedal File – NAMM 2015 Pedal Picks

The Pedal File - NAMM pedal news

Hello again.  I know it’s only been a day, but I thought about you all night long.  I had to let you know about mooooore pedals.  As you may know, the 2015 NAMM show just ended and many young supple pedals have just been released into the world.  While there are far too many to list, I picked my five favorites and compiled a list for you to eye-fondle.  Read on, these are in no particular order.  Just don’t get your computer keys sticky…

Source Audio – You might already know the Soundblox line of highly tweakable and progammable effects as well as the amazing Hot Hand Controller to control these pedals with a hand sensor.  Pretty cool stuff already.  This year they brought more stuff to NAMM than I can talk about in one post.  The REFLEX expression pedal really stood out for me and is the coolest expression pedal I’ve seen.  You can send three simultaneous standard expression (or CV) signals, MIDI continuous controller messages, as well as six LFO wave shapes.  With the control panel you can program which outputs are active, the depth and direction of the expression signal, and the curve of the tapers (not sure what they mean, but my guess is the shape of the waveform as it goes down to ‘zero’).  You can also assign one of its six LFO wave shapes with expression control over the LFO speed.  Plus, the Reflex can save up to 128 pedal configurations, recallable via the onboard controls or external MIDI program change messages.  There is so much you can do to your other innocent pedals with that…Just try to tell me that’s not titillating.  These guys have been busy!

For more info: www.sourceaudio.net

DOD (Digitech) – DOD is smart because they realize they need to compete with all these silly boutique pedal companies abound.  They’ve released a few new pedals that show they’re paying attention to the market by adding cooler and more colorful graphics as well as going beyond totally cookie-cutter tones.  The pedal that stands out to me is the new Boneshaker, whose circuitry was designed in collaboration with Black Tone Artworks (again showing their awareness of the rise of boutique).  This looks like a standard DOD-sized enclosure, but with a lot of tweaky features for maximum phalangeal stimulation .  The bonecrusher was designed with drop-tuned or extended-scale guitars, baritone guitar, and bass in mind, so the 3 band parametric EQ gives you a lot of low-end versatility with independent low level, low frequency, mid level, mid frequency, high level and high frequency controls.  The most interesting feature is the depth control.  A depth on a distortion pedal?  I know it sounds weird, but it adds low frequency growl.  Do you want your bass to be mean?  Turn that shit up.  I’m sure it can make even your puny little normal scale guitar sound pretty ripping too.  Check out this demo by Pro Guitar Shop.

For more info: www.dod.com

Moog – Everytime I hear about a new Moog product I feel like Jeffrey Dahmer in a morgue cafeteria.  Man how I love flange…I previously stated on this very blog that flangers would make a comeback.  Lo and behold, there were more than a few flangers being shown at NAMM this year.  The new MF Flange offers two types of flange – vocal comb filter and a more traditional flange as well as control over depth, time, feedback, and rate.  You can also control the time knob with an expression pedal.  If you’ve never invested in a Moog product, now is the time.  Their pedals are top quality both in sound (all analog, bucket brigade chips) and design (sturdy like your fat momma), and the Minifooger line offers an affordable Moog tier for even the most deadbeat of poor-ass musicians.  I’ve owned a Moogerfooger for about 12 years.  It’s one of the tweakiest pedals I own and it works just like the day I got it.

For more info: www.moogmusic.com

Catalinbread – These guys hopefully are on your radar by now because they’ve already made some great stuff.  I’ve talked about their delay pedals, but today I’m talking about the new Antichthon Fuzz Tremolo pedal.  This pedal is pretty nuts, being billed as a dynamic fuzz tremolo, a tone-generator that can be controlled with your guitar’s volume knob, and a harmonic fuzz drive.  With controls for volume, gravity, time, and space I can tell you I honestly have no freaking clue what the latter three controls do.  But I think that is the point.  The Antichthon is designed to be that new sound you’ve been searching for.  This pedal is made to be different every time you play, to surprise and inspire you and take you somewhere else outside our normal realm of existence.  That’s pretty out there, like the guy demoing their stuff in the video.  It reminds me a bit of the Fuzz Factory or Fat Fuzz Factory with all it’s gnarly tones, oscillations, and robot alien noises.  Just watch the video to get a better idea.

For more info: www.catalinbread.com

EQD – Is there any introduction needed for Earthquaker Devices?  If you have any hopes of being cool you should at least smile and nod when someone mentions their name.  Their coolness goes beyond any mere trend or gimmick, however.  Their pedals are totally unique and can play as nice or as bad as you want, making rabid fans out of schooled shredders and know-nothing noisemakers alike.  The most eye-catching pedal for me is their Fuzz Master General.  This is based on the Ace Tone Fuzz Master FM-2 Professional fuzz, but of course with EQD’s mods and in their words ‘re-imagineering’, the Fuzz Master General goes well above and beyond what it’s vintage predecessor can do.  You get a full spectrum of dirt from nearly clean to full-on post-Chipotle fart explosions.  A voicing switch allows you to select germanium or silicon clipping for open fuzz or tight fuzz respectively, or an open transistor drive for ring mod octave up type stuff.  That covers more fuzz territory than yo momma in a wet suit.  Oh snap!

For more info: www.earthquakerdevices.com

That’s all for now.  I hope you feel like you’re keeping your head above the ever-rising waters of the pedal world after this article.  More reviews to come!

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

Pedal Feature: Pigtronix Quantum Time Modulator

Hey there, just another exciting post from your favorite neighborhood pedal pal, The Pedal File!  Today I’m going to talk about a versatile and otherworldly pedal – the Quantum Time Modulator, produced by Pigtronix.  Based in New York, Pigtronix have been getting my attention, along with the attention of pedal lovers everywhere in the pedal world for a while now with their complex and originally designed pedals like the Echolution delay and Mothership Synth pedal.  Pigtronix pedals are full of analog goodness and built so sturdily (no cheap plastic crap components) that they could probably survive a cycle in your dryer.  With a man like Howard Davis (you know, that dude who designed tons of legendary effects for Electro-Harmonix??) on their side how could they do any less?

Pigtronix Logo

Per usual, I’ve had my eye on this pedal for a long time.  I fell in love with Pigtronix after buying the EP-2 Envelope Phaser a few years ago, so naturally I was giddier than a hillbilly stranded on a desert island with a pack of goats to get my greasy hands on the QTM.  I’d first like to point out that the Quantum has a great name.  Anything that sounds like it’s out of a science fiction book gets +1 from me.  Secondly, I like Pigtronix’s own description of the pedal: Multi Dimension Chorus Horror Film Vibrato DynaFlanger.  That’s creative.  Does that creativity steep into the pedal?  Read on, loyal tone minion, to find out.

The Quantum Time Modulator is, in layman’s terms, a chorus/vibe pedal.  It’s great for adding depth, dimension, swirl, and space to your guitar (or bass, or synth, or ukelele, or whatever) like you’re flying a time machine into a black hole to another dimension (I feel dizzy).  While it is a chorus, overall the QTM produces tones more like how you say, ‘dimension chorus’ – the kind of “dimension” effects used in professional recording studios.  These effects can add to the spaciousness of instruments in a mix as well as double a track, i.e. make it sound as if there are two tracks playing when there is only one.  Add to that the ability to modulate the delay time via envelope (more on that below), emulate rotary speakers, achieve pitch vibrato and recreate classic tones such as the MicMix DynaFlanger utilized by the great Frank Zappa, the TC Electronics TC 1210 Spatial Expander most commonly associated with Alex Lifeson of Rush, and the Roland Dimension D chorus, and the QTM is a whacked-out-chorus-swiss-army-modulator-of-time machine.  ***If you wanna know more, go to the bottom of the page for more info.

At first glance, the QTM’s controls look deceivingly simple, which sport only three knobs (or as I like to call them, pedal nipples) and one switch to choose either chorus or vibrato mode.  Say whaaaat?  A chorus with three knobs?  And they’re labeled sensitivity, speed, and source??  And this thing is supposed to emulate three much bigger and tweakier rack units???  Are you scratching your head?  Well at least close your mouth while you think like an ape, stupid!  It’s easy to guess what speed does, but how bout all them other knobs?  I was confused and intrigued (confrigued?) by this at first, but once you realize the relationship the knobs share, it becomes simple to understand how these controls work in combination to give you a pretty unbelievable amount of  lush 3D chorus/doubling/vibe/flange tones with only three freaking knobs.  Everybody knows; usually a cool chorus pedal used by cool kids has to have a minimum of four knobs (rate, depth, mix, and delay time).  Duh!

Tweakables:  the majority of this text is taken from the manual.

Sensitivity – this knob controls how hard you have to hit the string in order to produce a modulation voltage from the envelope circuit.  Lower settings will be appropriate for hotter pickups or in situations where you want only a small amount of envelope modulation to occur.  Higher settings will be needed for low output pickups or when you want to produce significant amounts of modulation via envelope.  As far as I know, this is a unique characteristic of this pedal.  In other words, the harder your attack, the harder the chorus modulates (kind of like an invisible hand cranking the depth or the delay time).  This adds a greater sense of dynamics by creating more dramatic modulation when you pick hard and more subtle modulation when you lay off.  Another way to think of it is like a regular envelope filter, but instead of a filtered wah sound, a heavier, swirlier chorus/flange sound is produced.  It sounds complicated, but it’s easy to get a feel for when you actually play it.

Speed – this knob controls the rate of the LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) modulation.  Slower speeds will create more spatial washes while faster speeds accentuate rotary and vibrato sounds.  This knob has great range.  I LOVE the lushness and depth at slow speeds as well as the movement and texture at faster speeds.

Source – this knob determines which of the two modulation sources (LFO or Envelope) is acting on the bucket brigade delay line.  When this knob is fully counter-clockwise (to the left in case you’re wondering) the Envelope is the only modulation source.  At full clockwise (to the right), the LFO is the only modulation source. Parked anywhere in between the two extremes causes the delay line to be modulated by a mixture of both Envelope and LFO.  This is a big part of the versatility of this pedal.  You know I love versatility….don’t you?

Chorus/Vibrato switch – when Chorus mode is selected the output is a combination of your clean tone with the modulated signal.  When Vibrato is selected, your clean tone is cast out of the signal like the town ginger to live a lonely life surviving in the woods.  All that is left is the pure effected signal that becomes, like, mayor and gets all the chicks.  That’s because effects are cool, kids.

The output can be either mono using a standard patch cable or stereo using a TRS (tip, ring, sleeve) cable.  As you can hopefully guess, the effect of the effect becomes stronger with a stereo setup or as Dweezil runs it – mono through one amp in a two amp setup.

The QTM sounds great stacked with other effects, especially anything that distorts.  I used it with a RAT distortion into a Moogerfooger MF-107 Freqbox into the QTM.  The Quantum made the tone sound better, while sometimes being so subtle that I couldn’t tell it was there until it was off.  The enhancement is hard to describe, but it seems to add movement, texture, shimmer, and depth making the signal more harmonically complex.  I found myself leaving it on most of the time while I played (unlike my pants).  Check out my video demo for an example:

Props to Pigtronix for somehow distilling three of the coolest and most unique chorus effects into one small unit (hehe).  Pretty clever considering their tonal overlaps.  The controls will leave any chorus vet feel like they’re looking at some kind of alien device upon first glance.  However, soon after first tweak, the role of each knob should reveal itself to you like Kim Kardashian in a grotesque photo.  Truly some of the best 70’s & 80’s chorus resides within this pedal along with a host of cool new modulation sounds to explore.  No matter what style you play (noise included), the QTM can easily find a place on your board.  Pigtronix didn’t just step out of the box.  They stepped out of the box, killed its family, set its house on fire, then turned around and took a crap on it.

pigtronix logo

Be sure to check out Pigtronix and their whole line of effects pedals.  You won’t be sorry.  Also feel free to leave me a comment at the bottom of the page with your thoughts.

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

***
MicMix Dynaflanger – this is a now discontinued rack unit flanger with the unique ability to control the delay time by the envelope of the input signal, creating weird and unexpected modulations.  This is part of what gave Zappa his beautifully bizarre tone on his ‘Shut Up N’ Play Yer Guitar’ album.  This was also the unit Dweezil Zappa used for Zappa Plays Zappa to achieve the specific tones of his father…until the QTM came about.  Check out this article for more info: http://www.zappa.com/zpz/tourlog/index.php?year=2008&month=6&day=6

TC Electronics TC 1210 Spatial Expander – this is a really expensive chorus/flanger rack unit capable of all sorts of modulation sounds (on top of making things sound better – this guy from a Sound on Sound article puts it on just about anything while recording for tonal enhancement).  Alex Lifeson has used one of these forever.  It’s made by TC Electronic and is based on the Haas effect, defined as the ability of our ears to localize sounds coming from anywhere around us.  In short, our ears determine the position of a sound based on which ear perceives it first and its successive reflections (arriving within 1-35 ms from the initial sound), which will give us the perception of depth and spaciousness.  This thing adds the depth and space.

Roland Dimension D – although it’s another rare one, this is the one you’ve probably heard of (the Boss Dimension C pedal is basically a mono version for guitar).  Instead of knobs, this unit has preset buttons that allow you to select different chorus effects with varying amounts of depth and speed and is known for its legendary stereo chorus effects.  The “Dimension” chorus effect is one where thickness, depth and a sense of width, is added to the sound to produce a kind of 3D effect.