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: Les Paul (Maybe) Invented Looping

Hey pedal nerds!  What’s been happening?  Today I’ve got something slightly different for you – a short history lesson.  Don’t worry, it’s still about pedals.  Or is at least relevant to pedals.  This one is for all the loopers out there…

Up until recently I had never wondered about where the concept of looping came about for guitar.  I assumed it was a current invention considering how the market has exploded with all facets of loop pedals in the last ten years.  Then the other day I decided to watch some Les Paul videos on YouTube and was blown away by an old video of Les Paul and Chet Atkins on The Today Show.  (Please tell me you know who Les Paul is.  If not, hang your head in shame, recite three hail mary’s, and at least read his Wikipedia page.)

Les Paul - The Pedal File

Aside from their stellar playing, I was rather surprised by a little box attached near the bridge of Les Paul’s guitar, an invention he calls the Les Paulverizer (give the man credit for the clever play on his name).  He doesn’t describe it in terms of loops and whatnot, but watching him demonstrate made me realize that he is probably the first person to cultivate the idea of looping (although Robert Fripp and a few others did a similar thing around the same time), which should come as no surprise as he is the guy who basically invented multi-track recording and shit.

There he is looping a rhythm part, a bass part, percussion – everything that I thought modern people were only smart enough to figure out more recently with dedicated loop pedals.  It seems like the Paulverizer could also manipulate pitch by recording and playing back at slower speeds as it allows him to emulate a bass on the video.  Manipulating pitch by recording at one speed and playing back at another is also what gave him his way-ahead-of-its-time signature lead sound back in the the fifties that sounds like some kind of synth organ octave pedal reminsicent of the EQD Organizer.

The only issue is this video will not play outside of YouTube, so please watch it there after reading the article.  The Paulverizer demo starts at about 4:40.

I did some research and it seems like there is a little controversy surrounding Les Paul and his claimed inventions.  Some people say he claimed stuff that he didn’t invent and that the Paulverizer was hooked up to a reel-to-reel machine offstage and that everything was prerecorded.  The very earliest looping set-ups did utilize tape machines, but one can argue (and hope) the recording (or looping) was done live.  I’m not here to pass judgement because at the very least Les Paul was a fantastic guitar player whose work has shaped music and the technology surrounding it.  Many extra points awarded to him for even conceiving the idea of looping so long ago.  Watch the video and decide for yourself.

If you want to read up more on the history of looping check out these other articles.  It seems like nobody really knows who created the idea of looping.  *Cue scary sci-fi theremin music*

The Birth of Loop from Loopers-Delight
Looping from Guitar Player Magazine

That’s all for now, kiddies.  As always let me know your thoughts, desires, and criticisms by commenting, or you can also get ahold of me through my Contact page.

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.

Iron Ether, Part 2 – The Subterranea

Hello to you knob lickers and switch ticklers!  Ready for the next installment of my thoughts on Iron Ether?  No?  Well I guess I have to call tough shit on this one!  You’ll thank me someday for bestowing such wonderful knowledge upon you.  If you missed Part 1, click here.  Now that you’re up to speed, read on.

The Subterranea

All kidding aside, this is a fantastic synth/octave pedal.  Do you want your guitar to sound like a fat slob of a fuzzy synth?  Buy this pedal!  Seriously.  It compares (minus a few features) to the EHX Microsynth in tone, but excels far better at down-your-leg-dripping warm analog octave tone.  Also it has lots of knobs and switches and I’m into that.  Did I mention each one has a unique finish?  You never know what you’re gonna get, making each pedal it’s own collectible little work of art.  It makes for an attractive and superbly versatile pedal that can let you compete with the asshole synth player in your band who thinks he’s so cool with all his tricked out sounds.

You get a bunch of octaves (three to be specific), waveform switches on two of them, and a low pass filter on the third.  There’s a clean mix knob, which of course leads to a crazy amount of tweakability.  The blending of the octaves with the filter and waveform switches grant awesome power to this pedal to churn out unprecedented synth tones like a Moog – on fuzz, man.  Somehow Taylor Livingston (the man behind Iron Ether) designed this pedal to sound like a lo-fi arcade synth that tracks well everywhere on the neck, with any pickup.  Pleasing video game tones are hiding beneath higher notes on the neck.  You can use the low octave and filter knobs to make your guitar sound like a deep bass.  Playing chords makes it glitch out a bit, but this can get really cool when you bring your clean tone back in.  I found even just playing with one octave voice can provide hours of experimental fun.  It’s like a kingdom of rugged synths at your fingertips and you are their king and stuff.

Tweakables – Quoted text from Iron Ether’s website

  • “Octave: This controls the volume of the main octave voice. This voice is based on classic octave down effects and offers a fat sub sound. Some elements of the original signal’s timbre remain unaffected.”  This is gnarly.  You’ll forget what the hell instrument you’re playing and lose yourself in the deep dark octave-y goodness.  Oh yes.
  • “Filter: This controls the cutoff frequency of a lowpass filter on the output of the Octave signal. This allows for sounds from deep, dub tones up to funky harmonically-rich signals. The filter only effects the “Octave” voice.”  I wish this was controllable with an expression pedal as it would be a sweet ass sweeping filtered wah, but I guess it probably was too hard to fit in the circuit.  It’s okay though, it’s still cool.  You still can make an impressive amount of tones with just the Octave and Filter controls with your good ol’ fingers doing the job.
  • “Octo Synth: This controls the volume of a synth voice tracking at one octave below the input pitch.”  Indeed it does.  A fuzzy glitchy octave sort of like the EQD Bit Commander.
  • “Octo Synth waveform switch: This selects between a saw, narrow pulse, or square wave for the Octo Synth voice.”  This is an awesome feature.  Get harsh nasally quacking fuzz, or a more mellow and rounded character if it’s been a rough day.
  • “Uni Synth: This controls the volume of a synth voice tracking at the same pitch as the input signal.”  Another nice fuzzy octave to add to the mingling of octaves.
  • “Uni Synth waveform switch: This selects between a saw, narrow pulse, or square wave for the Uni Synth voice.”  Once again, shape your attack for what it is you want to kill…or stun if you have feelings.
  • “Clean: This controls the volume of the unaffected signal.”  You know the drill, adds clean tone, versatility, blah blah blah…

Check out Iron Ether’s website for more info.  Also, the rest of their line of pedals is totally worth your time:  www.ironether.com

Please also watch my video demo:

A final thing I found really cool about the Frantabit and Subterranea is that even with just the clean tone dialed in, the guitar tone sounded, well, better.  It reminds me of a tube preamp with nice clarity and top end chime.  You could just use them as a tone enhancer/boost and not use the effects at all.  …But that would mean you are a horrible person and I will hate you for not using these exceptional pedals to their potential!

I hope you found this ungodly creation from Iron Ether as interesting as I do.  As always feel free to leave a comment about your thoughts and to tell me how your day was.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

More Cool New Pedals of 2014!!

Hallo und guten tag!  Oh, sorry that’s German.  Oh well, good luck translating that sentence…   I try to keep up on the happenings of the pedal world so I can then report to you, the pedal enthusiast.  This year has seen some really unique and innovative designs – so many that I could make this a big long list.  But because I know you have the attention span of Honey Boo Boo in a butter factory, I’ve narrowed the list down to three pedals.  I want to bring your attention to a couple of boxes that are worth a percentage of your hard earned dollars from whatever it is that you do for money (you dirty person).  Get out your notebook, take some notes, and go buy these pedals.

MXR Phase 99

The Pedal File - MXR Phase 99

MXR has some cool pedals in their line, but they often get overlooked for other more boutique brands.  A lot of their designs are simple, standard effects – offering only a few knobs for tweaking, but they sound good as evidenced by the many recordings in which you can hear them by the many artists who endorse them such as Beats Antique and Dweezil Zappa.  But lately, it seems like the engineers over there have decided they wanted to do something a little different.  The MXR Phase 99 basically takes two Phase 90 circuits, joins them at the hip, and adds some nice tweakable features that I was surprised to see on a pedal from them.  A series/parallel switch?  Sweet.  A vintage switch?  Sexy.  A sync switch to synchronize the rates of both circuits?  I like.  I’ll elaborate under tweakables.

Tweakables:
Speed 1 & 2 – controls the phase shift speed on both circuits.  You can set one fast, one slow, or however the hell you want to get unique phase tones.
Series/Parallel switch – run the circuits in series (circuit 1 into circuit 2 to create a more intense effect with exaggerated frequency cuts and peaks) or parallel (circuit 1 & 2 stay separated).
Vintage switch – engage a vintage voicing for the phasing.
Sync switch – like I said above, synchronizes both circuits to speed 1 rate.

Do you want to have classic phase tones, but with added flexibility and tweaking options?  Check this one out!


Check out www.jimdunlop.com for more info

Strymon Deco

The Pedal File - Strymon Deco

This pedal was just announced, and as soon as I read about it/listened to it, I knew I would more than likely own it someday.  The Deco (I assume it’s named after the popular art of the time of tape reels) is all about emulating old tape effects that engineers used in the early days of recording.  Offering a slew of effects like tape saturation for warmth/compression and overdrive, doubletracking for slapback, tape flanging, tape echo, and chorus, and with bypass switches for the saturation and doubletracker, it all feels too much like a wet dream…(what, you don’t dream about pedals?)

Tweakables:
Saturation – smooths out the sound with compression and fattens it up with a transparent overdrive.
Blend – mix between the tape saturation and doubletracker controls.
Lag Time – sets the delay offset like you were controlling a ‘lag deck’ and ‘reference deck’.  This is what gives you the doubletracking, slapback, flange, chorus effects, and tape echo (up to 500ms delay) effects.  Such a big and powerful knob…
Volume – duh, controls the output volume, stupid!
Wobble – adds random modulation from subtle to extreme just like tape would.
Type switch
– sum: the ‘tape decks’ are in phase
– invert: ‘lag deck’ is phase inverted
– bounce: right channel of the ‘lag deck’ is phase-inverted and bounced to the left channel input for ping-pong stereo effects, or a double-repeat effect when running in mono.

One pedal that can provide such a bounty of effects is surely worth a spot on your pedalboard.


Check out www.strymon.net for more info

Earthquaker Devices Afterneath

The Pedal File - Earthquaker DevicesAfterneath

If you haven’t heard of Earthquaker Devices at this point I’ll assume you’ve been living under a rock or you have just arrived to this planet from a distant solar system.  Welcome to Earth, watch out for humans – they suck.  But they build these things we call pedals, so I guess the ones who make them don’t completely suck, and Earthquaker Devices is on top of the pile of not-sucking.  Just released at Summer NAMM, the Afterneath is yet another unique EQD take on the boring old reverb effect.  The Afterneath is all about transporting you to another world that isn’t above or underneath ours  – it is after…neath (another angle would be a future world).  This one uses a ‘swarm of short delays to create wild and cavernous reverbs and scattered, short rhythmic delays with bizarre characteristics.’  It can self-oscillate, be bright or warm, and generally offers an abnormal and unconventionally open and ambient playground for the reverb lover.

Tweakables:
Length – Controls the decay length of the reverb.
Diffuse – Adjusts the spread of the reverb. Sharper with more attack counter clockwise, more ambient and washy as you turn it clockwise.
Dampen – Clockwise for brighter tones, counter clockwise for darker tones.
Drag – This digital reverb is made up of a bunch of short delays, this separates the delay lines creating a stuttering, pingy effect. This is the coolest control on the Afterneath, we highly advise slowly turning this while you let notes ring out for a cool warped speed effect. More delay as you turn it counter clockwise, more reverb as you turn it clockwise.
Reflect – Controls the regeneration of the reverb, turn clockwise for more wash and echos, counterclockwise for less. This will self oscillate if turned up high.
Mix – Blends the wet signal into the dry. Though it does not actually go full wet, it will gradually lower the clean level as you turn it clockwise and give the appearance of full wet.  This makes me ‘full wet’ just reading about it…

If you’re tired of all those reverb pedals that are so straight-forward, perhaps you should look into this one.


Check out www.earthquakerdevices.com for more info

So there you have it!  Three pedals that are new, exciting, and worth your time.  Feel free to let me know what you think, or what you consider to be sweet new pedals.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File