The Pedal File – NAMM Picks 2016

Welcome, everyone, to the first pedal post of the rest of your lives!  Today I’d like to (try to) be brief and just talk about a few shiny things that caught my eye from this past week at NAMM.

namm

With each passing NAMM I always hope the Land of Pedals will become more diverse, that cool new things will be made.  I’m sad to say the Land of Pedals got a little bit more gentrified with even more overdrive/distortion/fuzzes that all are transparent yet crunchy (even in milk!), give you lots of clipping options, blah blah blah (how many iterations of the Tube Screamer does one need??) and not a lot of innovation.  Stutter delays seem to be the other hot ticket right now – everybody and their mother’s third cousin twice removed once inserted made one of those.  Like, hellllo?  Don’t get me wrong, they’re cool, but not THAT cool.  Let’s move on to other ideas please!

At any rate, here are the pedals that stood out to me:

WMD Protostar

The Pedal File - WMD Protostar

A rendering of the control layout I found via Analoguezone.com


If you’ve never heard of WMD or their Geiger Counter bit-crushing/sample rate-reducing distortion pedal, I suggest you familiarize yourself now.  I’ll wait.  All I can say is these guys are known for weird stuff that boasts an amazing amount of control over the sounds their devices make.  The Protostar is based on their Super Fatman Envelope Filter and is a literal filtration playground, offering multiple filter modes, a CV patch bay, dry/wet mix, post filter compression, internal LFO, variable envelope control and more.  Check out the little video below for a taste.

Go to www.wmdevices.com for more info

Malekko Combover and Sneak Attack

Malekko has been releasing cool synth style effects lately, which seems appropriate as they have a whole line of modular synth modules.  Although these two pedals were technically revealed at last year’s NAMM, they were at this year’s NAMM and still haven’t been officially released so I consider them fair game.  Plus, they’re way cooler than most of the other ‘new’ stuff.


Sneak Attack
The Pedal File - Malekko Sneak Attack

This is a VCA (voltage controlled amplifier) amplitude based dynamics engine for controlling your volume similar to attack/decay controls on a synth.  You can set attack and decay time with short or long envelopes (up to 6s for both, offering envelopes up to 12 seconds in length).  I like that the envelope can be driven manually (say by your guitar signal or an input trigger), or by an LFO.  (Driving the envelope with the LFO produces unique tremolo effects.)  I assume manual mode will allow for those Slow Gear style volume sweeps, or at least I hope!

Combover

The Pedal File - Malekko Combover

The Combover is a spectral comb filter with a sequencer, sort of reminiscent of the ZVEX Seek Wah (which is basically an envelope filter with a sequencer).  The Combover can also be used as a notch or comb filter, which allows you to hone in on specific frequencies and really carve out your place in the mix.  Or, by running the sequencer you can produce filter-modulated rhythmic grooves that entrance.  Another worthwhile feature is the multi-mode sequencer with settings like Pendulum, Backward, Forward, and Random that can add exciting new movement and filter-modulated sounds to your tone cache.

Check out this video (from last year’s NAMM):

Go to www.malekkoindustry.com for info

Honorable Mentions:

Chase Bliss Tonal Recall
-A full featured delay the likes of which only Chase Bliss could unleash.  Basically an analog delay with digital control over every possible parameter, plus control over parameters you’ve probably never heard of on any pedal (other than one made by Chase Bliss).

Go to www.chaseblissaudio.com for more info

EQD Spatial Delivery
-A voltage-controlled envelope filter for all those auto-wah sounds, plus sample and hold capabilities for tripped out step filter Frank Zappa sounds.

Go to www.earthquakerdevices.com for more info

Hungry Robot The Wash
-An enticing delay made specifically for those looking to add a big ethereal wash of delay/reverb to their signal (Hungry Robot says the sound of this pedal would only otherwise be possible with three or four stacked reverb/delays), but with the ability to keep your guitar on top of the mix so you don’t get muddy.  Mud bad.

Go to www.hungryrobotpedals.com for more info
That’s all for now, thank for reading!  I hope you feel a little bit more with it now that you know the scoop on the hottest new pedals.  No need to thank me, just stick around for more….you guessed it, PEDALS!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

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 – Pittsburgh Modular Patch Box, Pt. 1

Hello dearies!  It’s 2016 and what did I promise?  More weird, right?  Right!  (No, I don’t have any pictures of that rash I was telling you about…not that kind of weird, silly!)

What a glorious time it is to be alive in this world of gear that is perpetually producing new products that most of us could probably never even imagine like we live in some space age era where all the musicians play crazy twerk-pop-metal-step at the local Star Wars cantina.

I feel like everyday I see something and go, “Wow, that is really innovative and could change the shape of music as we know it!” Then I step away from the mirror, put on my pants, and start my day.  (Teehee)

So with the thought that the world of music will never be the same again, let’s jump right on in to today’s topic like a pool full of noodles: Pittsburgh Modular’s Patch Box – the modular synth made for us degenerate, drooling, lowly, foot-stomping guitarists.

pittsburgh-modular-patch-box-130415-616x440

‘Why should I care about modular’, you ask?  Remember that one time I talked about synth rigz and why a non-linear signal path has some advantages over the alternative?  To sum it up: MAXIMUM VERSATILITY.  (Nicky likey versatility, and you should too.)

First, a little background on the creator of the product/emancipator of our tone: Pittsburgh Modular [hereon referred to as PM for brevity] has only been frolicking in the land of the musical products industry since 2012 (the year the world ended and we passed through to a parallel universe, remember?  I’m glad cheeseburgers made it through too.  Whew, close one!).

In that time they’ve introduced a staggering list of products like their impressive modular synths, the Foundation and System series, as well as a bevy of individual euro rack units that can all play nicely together and make you into a veritable Dr. Frankenstein of sound as only a modular setup can do.

Patch Box Deets

According to PM, the Patch Box is ‘a completely new type of multi-effects pedal offering direct access to both the audio and control voltage signal paths. The ability to reroute any signal with a push of a footswitch or by quickly repatching a cable creates an infinitely customizable sonic palate.’  Tantalizing, no?  I don’t know about you,  but I love it when companies talk dirty to me.

So anyway the Patch Box FX1 is like your mom, all ready to go; it ships with a complete set of Pittsburgh Modular’s most popular effects modules that fit into the Patch Box enclosure, including the Analog Replicator (delay,) Filter (you know, filter for phasey/flangey sounds), Crush (signal decimator/bit crusher), and LFO2 (for all your wobbly vibrato needs), along with twelve high-quality Naszca Audio patch cables.

The following quoted text is from PM’s website:

‘The Analog Replicator is a versatile delay that can be bright and clean or dark and dirty with an adjustable range and voltage controllable delay time, feedback, and wet/dry mix. The Filter is a voltage controlled, analog, state variable filter offering creamy smooth low-pass, high-pass, notch, and band-pass filters in addition to a chaotic self-oscillation mode.  Crush is an analog signal decimator.  A voltage controlled bit crushing effect that breaks down an audio signal into larger and larger static chunks slowly turning any signal into noise.’  Go ahead and take a moment to mop up that coffee you just spit on the screen.  I’ll wait…

(Stay tuned for part 2 where I’ll dissect the modules included in the FX1 package in more detail!)

‘Access to the control voltage signal path takes the Patch Box FX1 to a new level. Control voltages are used to automate module parameters using modulation or expression pedals. An expression pedal or the output of an LFO can be directly assigned to one or more parameters at a time creating powerful, expressive effects.

 

The Pedal File - Pittsburgh Modular Patch Box

The power of the FX1 does not live in the modules alone. The Patch Box enclosure is packed with the functionality of five highly tuned components integrated into the heavy duty steel enclosure:

  • a custom designed preamp that adds everything from clean gain to sweet distortion without overdriving the modules within the Patch Box.
  • dual, assignable expression pedal inputs allow the Patch Box to integrate 3rd party expression pedals anywhere into the signal path. This allows for realtime foot control of any voltage controllable parameter.  (How sweet and thoughtful of them to add this important functionality to allow guitar players more complete access to create cool modular sounds!  Heart emoticon!)
  • dual, assignable A/B footswitches expand signal routing options. Perfect for use as on/off switches or to flip between two signals, the footswitches can be patched up to enable/disable individual modules or route audio and control voltages.
  • a signal splitter is included for routing a single modulation or audio source to multiple destinations.  (It just sounds to good to be true.  I’m waiting for the catch to be something like every time you play the Patch Box, your life force is drained out of you little by little.  Until you’re dead.  Or something.)

The last stage of the Patch Box signal path is a master output level control. Adjust the output signal level to connect with a wide range of devices. The Patch Box FX1 can output anything from guitar level to line level signals.’

Get a taste:

Tweakables

Front Panel Controls  – taken from Patch Box manual
  • SWITCH 1 – patchable footswitch can be used as on/off or A/B switch.
  • SWITCH 2 – patchable footswitch can be used as on/off or A/B switch.  (The ability to turn an effect on/off OR switch from one to the other is a feature that opens up incredible possibilities alone.)
  • BYPASS – true bypass circuit enables or disables the entire Patch Box.
  • GAIN Knob – controls the gain of the 1/4” input jack. Signal begins to overdrive after 12 o’clock.
  • OUTPUT Knob – controls the output level of the Patch Box.
  • INPUTS Jacks – dual buffered jacks carry the preamp output signal. Patch into the signal input of installed modules or the OUT jack.
  • EXP 1 Jack- output of expression pedal 1. Outputs a voltage between 0-5v used to control one or more voltage controllable parameters of the installed modules.
  • EXP 2 Jack- output of expression pedal 2. Outputs a voltage between 0-5v used to control one or more voltage controllable parameters of the installed modules.  (Tweaking sounds in real time means another layer of versatility.)
  • MULTIPLE Jacks- used to split an audio or control signal. Patch a signal in and use the remaining two jacks as copies of the input signal.  (Man, the versatility is piling up like hot cakes!)
  • SWITCH 1 Jacks- used to patch through SWITCH 1. The center jack is always active so pressing footswitch 1 switches between activating the left and center jacks (LED off) or the right and center jacks (LED on).
  • SWITCH 2 Jacks- used to patch through SWITCH 2. The center jack is always active so pressing footswitch 2 switches between activating the left and center jacks (LED off) or the right and center jacks (LED on).
  • OUT Jack- passed audio from modules through the Output level control to the rear mounted 1/4” output jack.

Rear Panel Controls

  • INPUT Jack – 1/4” unbalanced instrument input.
  • OUTPUT Jack – 1/4” unbalanced guitar or line level output.
  • 15V DC Power Jack – 2.1mm barrel connector for external 15v DC 2.6 to 5A adapter.
  • EXP 1 Jack – balanced 1/4” input for universal expression pedal such as the Moog EP-3 or M-Audio EX-P expression pedals. When using the Moog EP-3, place the switch on the bottom of the expression pedal to the “normal” position.
  • EXP 2 Jack – balanced 1/4” input for universal expression pedal such as the Moog EP-3 or M-Audio EX-P expression pedals. When using the Moog  EP-3, place the switch on the bottom of the expression pedal to the “normal” position.

The versatility is getting thick enough to cut with a knife!  And those are the controls just for the freaking enclosure!

Speaking of versatility, the true adventure seeker could mix-and-match a Patch Box setup to one’s own taste with the more than twenty different euro rack modules offered by PM.  You could also choose third party euro rack modules like Roland’s Aira series, Dwarfcraft’s modules, or any module that will fit in the space provided by the enclosure (What other industry makes products that compete in the same market yet can play nice together?  Society could learn a lesson from this).  The tonal possibilities are truly zen – beginningless and endless.  The Patch Box would make a great family heirloom where for generations your ancestors could honor you by finding new tonez through the next millenium.  Now that’s a way to be revered.

Conclusion

I hope I speak for everyone when I say that I appreciate PM’s desire to allow guitar players into the mystical realm of modular synth.  To be honest, I would have expected Moog to fill this niche (but they didn’t, so give PM a few extra points!).  In this age of music-related technological advancement there has been an aching, throbbing, pussing gap left only to grow bigger as guitarists’ and synth players’ available technology, and by extension, tones have begun to converge.  This festering gap has finally been filled by the Patch Box.  Let us all rejoice in the healing!  Hallelujah!

With a modular signal path applied to guitar, your tone isn’t pigeon-holed by those cute yet confining little boxes that can only make (x) amount of sounds.  It is freed, or even unleashed if you will, upon the world to do as it wishes, see the sights, and sniff the butts of whomever it pleases.  This may not appeal to you, but then I should ask, why are you on my website?   Also what do you have against your tone sniffing butts?  Hmmmmm?

Don’t get me wrong.  Pedals are still great.  I’m not giving up on them.  The Patch Box is just another tool that can open up a whole new world of possibilities and a whole new way to approach guitar playing.  Don’t be a Luddite about it.

You don’t need no special pickup or cables, no rules, no prisoners.  Thank you, Pittsburgh Modular for catering to us guitarists and making it so we can use the synth, the whole synth, and nothing but the synth.  So help us Robert Fripp.

Check out www.pittsburghmodular.com for more info.

Leave me a comment and let me know if you have any thoughts about the Patch Box and how it could affect your life.  Also stick around for Part 2 where I’ll dissect the individual modules featured in the Patch Box FX1 system.

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

Pedal Feature – Alexander Pedals Radical Delay Demo

Is it time for another post already?  I suppose it is considering you’re reading this and I’ve already written it.  Cause and effect, you know?

So anyway, I’ve got a Radical Delay in my possession to exhibit just for your eyes and ears; therefore I must share what I’ve learned studying this unique specimen up close in my laboratory.  Since I’ve talked about the Radical delay and it’s tweakables in a previous post, I’ll leave most of the details to the demo video and try not to repeat myself, myself, myself….sorry, I’ve gone and repeated myself.  Here’s what I found out:

Alexander PedalsThe Radical is a knob tweaker’s dream and will reward you a king’s ransom for experimenting with settings.  That’s why you’re here right?  To seek out the pedals that will give you unprecedented authority in the tonal realm like you’re a big bank and pedals are a world currency.  Well the Radical Delay is a currency you should be manipulating, you capitalist pig!

This pedal sure can do standard digital delay sounds (10-900ms) with all the dotted eighth note syncopation you could desire.  It’s fun to play licks and have them be augmented by the delay trails into something you did not expect.  From the moment I plugged into the pedal, I was sucked in and immediately inspired – It’s tones made me feel like I was drifting backwards and forwards in time at the same time, as if I was watching an old movie set in the future.  And this was before getting into the remarkable sounding chorus/vibrato modulation, bit crushed synthy sounds, octaves, detune, strange harmonizing fun house mirror Mario on acid circus pitch shifting arpeggios, AND pseudo flange/phase/rotary/organ tones that can be imparted on the wet signal (I think that about covers it!).  No, this delay does not self-oscillate, but more than makes up for it in droves with it’s little tricks and tweaks to delight your ears.  (Don’t worry, turning the time knob while passing a signal through the Radical will still create all those cool twisted warping sounds.)


The Radical also offers some sensational slapback/short delay tones, especially when you start experimenting with the other aforementioned sounds.  It can become much more than just a delay in this way, and is great for adding subtle (or not so subtle) textures/atmosphere to riffs; so much so that it might only be apparent when you turn the pedal off, but trust me, you will quickly turn it back on.

If you’re looking for a straight-ahead digital delay that can do the usual delay tricks, the Radical can handle most of that, but you’re going to miss out on a lot of tonal/textural fun.  As I tried to demonstrate in the video, the Radical runs the full spectrum of subtle to extreme sounds (some that aren’t even actually ‘delay’), and for that reason I think you’d dig this pedal for anything – from your 80’s cover band to your cutting edge post rock, djent polka, ambient disco, space jam, dub step, emo band. I enjoy playing with this pedal immensely, and appreciate it’s ability to make me get lost in it.

If you want to get lost in the black hole of your mind ala Matthew McConaughnamahay in Interstellar, the Radical is your starship (watch out for Matt Damon though).  In other words, buy it!

For more info check out www.alexanderpedals.com

That’s all for now.  Leave me a comment with your thoughts!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

The Pedal File: Catalinbread’s Montavillian Ambient Echo

Good day, pedal filers!  It’s official, your favorite source of wacky pedal news can now be found at ThePedalFile.com!  That’s right, I guess I’m here to stay for a little while.  That’s good news for you and bad news for all the pedals I’ve yet to encounter.  May this be their warning…  Anyway, I’d love to tell you what else is new around the luxurious offices at The Pedal File HQ (hint: it’s a pedal) – the Montavillian Ambient Echo by Catalinbread Mechanisms of Music of Portland, OR.  My dedicated staff slaves and I love the creamy space feelings this unit provides, like being engulfed in a UFO tractor beam (what you’ve never felt that?).

Catalinbread has a full line of effects worth looking into, but delay is where they stand up and out, fully erect.  I posted before about their Echorec pedal, which is an impressive recreation of the Binson Echorec, as well their Zero Point flanger and Anchtithon fuzz/tremolo/mushroom pedal.  They also offer the Belle Epoch, their take on remaking the sound of the Maestro Echoplex EP-3.  As you can see, Catalinbread love their classic delays as much as Americans love rehashed music and cinema.  It comes as no surprise then that Catalinbread would be able to engineer a useful delay pedal with features that straddle the line between old school and modern, analog and digital.  (I’m going to coin a new term here – Digilog….  Trademark.)

Your first time with the Montavillian you will become enchanted, paralyzed, unable to escape the comforting trails of delay even though you recognize your own mortality could be at risk because, you know, if you don’t take a break from playing with pedals and at least eat something you may not make it more than a few days.  I barely was able to break myself away and survive.  Always remember, just because your pedals are machines, that does not make you one (Do pedals dream of electric sheep?).

I’m not here to blow smoke or talk in hyperbole (mmmaybe a little, but mostly just in ridiculous and absurd metaphors).  I bought this pedal, and I really love it because of its unique, versatile, and superb aural qualities.   (As you may know, that’s pretty much my checklist for an effects pedal.)

The Montavillian Echo uses the PT2399 chip (used more commonly in lo-fi delays like the Recovery Effects Cutting Room Floor, Caroline Kilobyte, Wampler Tape Echo and many others), but in Catalinbread’s words, “…rather than slavishly following the datasheet, we threw it out and ventured out on our own, using our ears to guide us, and what we achieved is a fantastic sounding delay.”  Indeed they have.  All I can say is their ears must be like freaking sherpas if they led them to such a majestic mountain of delayness.  Maybe I just don’t know shit about designing pedals and pairing components, but I’m surprised that a chip with such a lo-fi reputation could produce a delay so beautiful, so warm, so inviting.

The true Jesus fart (that’s what I call miracles) behind the great tone of this pedal is that this delay does not use companding to process your signal.  Companding is a combination of the words compress(ing) and expand(ing).  Basically, this means that in most analog/BBD-emulating delay pedals, your input signal is compressed, processed, then expanded back to input strength to the output.  Instead of the delay trails getting dirtier as they go, the Montavillian maintains clarity on the delay trails creating an almost reverby, pad-like effect.  (This is my favorite delay to get a realistic spacey synth tone when paired with fuzz and/or octave pedals like the EQD Bit Commander or Iron Ether Subterranea.)  It doesn’t take an engineering degree to understand that the less your signal is processed, the better and more pure your tone should be.  No companding = no strangling then smoothing out of your signal.  Your signal slides in there unimpeded like Bill Cosby at cocktail hour.

Tweakables: Quoted text from the manual

REPEATS“feeds signal from the output of the delay line to the input. This control allows for a single repeat all the way to self oscillation.”  It doesn’t take a lot to make this thing freak out.  In a good way.  Like the equivalent of a bunch of hippies flailing around not being able to control the urge to let their hands chase each other at a Phish concert.  (Okay bad example because nobody likes watching hippies chase their hands at jam festivals…Okay well, I do, for a good laugh.)
MIX“this knob is traditional in the way it mixes into your dry path the amount of echo you want. What is not traditional is the amount of boost it permits you to add… So many echo pedals out there can barely tune the repeat to unity with the gain. This is not at all the case with the Montavillian Echo! You can make your repeats much louder than the dry signal. This comes in really handy for short repeats for a dramatic doubling effect as well as self oscillation freakouts.”  You can impress your friends with these slick delay tricks that can’t be pulled off with everyday delay pedals.  The result can be pretty strange since the repeats are louder than your pick attack; it almost sounds like reverse delay.  Seriously I don’t know of another delay that can do this, but please correct me if I’m wrong.  An extra point shall be awarded for this feature on the official Pedal File Pedestal.
TIME“this knob allows for a wide range of delay times, ranging from around 60ms all the way up to over 600ms max time.”  I prefer 1000ms of delay time, but I realized with this pedal that 600ms is plenty for most delay effects.  I have not really found it to be limiting.
CUT “this knob is a really neato control that I haven’t seen before on an echo. It’s function is to sweep from about 400Hz to about 1500Hz, lowpass filter… When the knee sweeps to the high side it gives a nice little bump in the mids right before the subtle fall off. Tuning this knob allows you to sweep from old school BBD dark filtering to a clear repeat. It gives you the power to adjust your echoes so that they sit in the mix perfectly against your dry signal. This control also functions to EQ the tonality of self-oscillations.”  All of the knobs on this pedal are quite sensitive with a large range of tweakability.  The cut knob is probably the most important as this is how you go from brighter repeats to dark and warm analog style wash.  Herein lies the secret to getting versatile delay tones out of just one pedal.  No matter where you set it, the repeats trail off getting darker as they go, like a low pass filter city going to sleep.  Don’t be fooled, even the brighter settings retain a certain warmness and wrap your ears in a big fur blanket that drags you down by the fire to make sweet love.

There is something soothing about the Montavillian’s tones, more so than any delay I’ve played, like listening to ocean waves, Air (the band), or the cries for help of innocent pedals.  If delay ain’t your thing, but you want an interesting ‘boost’, you can use it like an old school analog delay preamp that can add a perceived boost and a bit of pleasing harmonics to your signal.  It instantly adds more balls to dirt pedals and is perfect for getting all psychedelic up in there.  Whether you drop more acid than Wayne Coyne or you play for Jesus in your worship band, you will love this pedal (and Jesus will too).

The Montavillian is a pedal that you plug into and you can’t make it sound bad, unless you play blues rock.  Or hair metal.  Don’t do that out of the privacy of your own home.  Otherwise you’ll be fine.

Check out www.catalinbread.com for more info

That’s all for now.  Leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts, and thanks for reading!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File