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

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 – Catalinbread’s Echorec

1430002-4

Howdy pardners!  I was moseying down a dusty internet trail looking at delay pedals when one caught my eye that I think is worth sharing.  So everyone knows analog delays sound really good and most of them are at least loosely based on the sound of an Echoplex (fun and coincidental fact [for me at least]: In 1962, the Echoplex patent was bought by a company called Market Electronics based in Cleveland, Ohio.  Yay Ohio!).  Don’t get me wrong, they sound amazing, but I’m becoming a little desensitized to all the delay pedals that sound like another tape delay.

The silly Portlandia-dwelling hipsters at Catalinbread took a look at recreating another popular, but perhaps less well-known echo unit, the Binson Echorec.  The Binson Echorec is mostly known for being a big part of Pink Floyd‘s sound, as well as being used by other famous musician types in the 60’s.  The major difference of the Echorec was it’s use of an analog magnetic drum recorder instead of a tape loop.  It incorporated 4 playback heads and a spinning magnetic drum as its recording mechanism.  According to Catalinbread, ‘The Binson…has long captivated musicians for both its rhythmic and ambient characteristics. We managed to include all the features of the original (and then some) while still keeping it in a small standard pedal sized enclosure.’  Way to go!

Check out the video by Pro Guitar Shop.

Other tweakables include:
• The Swell knob controls the number of repeats regenerated – from a single repeat of each playback head to infinite repeats.

• The Tone control tilts the EQ of the repeats from dark and fat to bright and thin. Dark settings makes the repeats sit in the background. Bright settings emphasizes the attack, great for playing off the syncopated rhythms of the multi-head arrangement.  Makes me think of The Edge.

• The original Echorec had a maximum delay time of 300ms. The delay time on the Catalinbread Echorec goes from about 40ms -1000ms. And the cool thing is you can twist the Delay Time knob in real-time to get speeding-up / slowing-down, spaceship warp landing sounds!  Those are cool 🙂

• Mix knob goes from full dry to full wet giving a lot of flexibility to use the Echorec in a variety of situations, even wet/dry rigs by setting the Mix full wet.  I like being fully wet.

• The original Echorec had a 12 position switch which controlled the various playback head configurations. Since the original was mechanical with the disc only able to go one speed, not all combinations were available for use. The Catalinbread Echorec changes all that. With the ability to vary the delay time on the single playback head, we were able to include all combinations, which include rhythmic patterns not available before.  Sounds like a sweet idea.

I have to admit I might end up with this on my board.  What do you think about this pedal?  Do you have a favorite delay pedal?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File