Pedal Feature – Iron Ether Pt. 1

Good news, everyone!  A new post about pedals!  It’s been far too long and it looks like you’ve been working out.  Very nice.

Iron Ether logo

At this very moment I want to bring your attention to a rather unique pedal purveyor.  A few months ago I stumbled across, made up my mind I must have, and then acquired The Frantabit and Subterranea made by New Orleans based pedal erector, Iron Ether.  After I watched their demos I was really intrigued by the versatility of those two particular pedals (Subterranea review to follow shortly).  Both were able to achieve a wide range of sounds/tones and I couldn’t resist.  What really excited me was the fact that the Frantabit and Subterrenea make your guitar sound like not a guitar – more like a digital chainsaw in the former case and a fuzzy Moog synth in the latter.  Starting with the Frantabit as part 1, allow me to break it down for you, Morgan Freeman style:

The Frantabit

The Frantabit is essentially a bit crushing, sample-rate reducing, sound degenerating device capable of destroying and transmogrifying your tone in ways you never thought possible.  Bit crushing is caused by the reduction of the resolution or bandwidth of digital audio data.  The resulting quantization noise may produce a “warmer” sound impression, or a harsh one, depending on the amount of reduction.  If you’ve ever listened to techno or played a video game, you should recognize the sound.  It’s like your guitar is teleported to an alien world, but it gets stuck in between teleports and is deconstructed atom by particle, then passed through a series of fine mesh screens until you’re left with just a cloud of dust in some unknown dimension.  No foolin!  With control over the sample rate and bit depth (control over reduction of bandwidth), the Frantabit lends itself to being a highly flexible bit crusher.  On top of that, two separate modes only add to the craziness, with the ability to achieve some kick ass tremolo as well nice ring modulation with plenty of harmonics and chime.  Oh, did I mention that it can get all fuzzed and filtery too?  Like you’re the driver of a sputtery digital motorcycle (digicycle?).  For reals.  This pedal is tremendous for making noise and for adding texture to riffs when used more (or less) subtly.

Tweakablesquoted text is from the manual/Iron Ether’s website

  • “Sample Rate control: This control allows the user to lower the sample rate of the analog-to-digital conversion from 32khz down to <100hz, creating Nyquist aliasing effects – frequencies from the instrument begin to “fold” back downward, creating new harmonics and subharmonics. The frequency response is lowered as sample rate lowers, but instead of simply filtering out higher frequencies, they are mirrored back downward, to create strange harmonies and overtones.”  I don’t really know what that means, do you?  You could go get a degree in electrical engineering, or just take my word for it, the frequencies are weird and wonderful.  Like receiving an outer space transmission on your old tube radio.
  • “Bit Depth control: From a pristine 24 bits down to a massive fuzzed-out 1 bit, the Bit Depth control introduces digital distortion artifacts as the instrument’s amplitude is quantized into progressively fewer volume “bins”. Uniquely, with this type of distortion, the instrument actually becomes cleaner as it gets louder – the opposite of traditional harmonic distortion. Dynamic fuzz tones, digital destruction, and chiptune synths can be dialed in with this control.”  This one is fucked up, but like the previous feature it’s true.  You pick hard and the tone is clean.  You barely strum and your speaker is like a fuzzy whispery ghost.  It seems spooky and counter-intuitive, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.  You definitely get some wild fuzz tones with this knob – fuzz that is chaotic and soaring, which is great for bends and sustained notes.
  • “Mix: Controls the relative volume of the clean and effect signals.”  For those of you about to dismiss this pedal as another toy for noise nerds, please realize this feature makes the Frantabit quite useable in a musical setting.  By adding your clean tone, you can achieve such unique textures that I’m willing to bet no other pedal can give you.  Let it give it to you.
  • “Volume: controls overall volume.”  It can get LOUD.
  • “Degrade/Obliterate switch: This switch controls the behavior of the sample rate reduction.”  I like a switch with choices such as these.  If only I had a remote control with this function to use against those who disobey and annoy me…
    • Degrade mode is true digital sample rate reduction, as described above.”  At some settings the Degrade mode is perhaps the crunchiest, fuzziest, most ominous black cloud bass synth tone ever.  It can also provide you with lots of bit crushed ‘playing Mario Bros while the Nintendo is on fire’ sort of sound.  This thing can literally disintegrate your signal down to one bit.  Like pulling the thread on the sweater of your tone, you can hear it unraveled – naked and screaming like an altar boy in the night.  This mode is also great for producing your gnarly, sputtering, and ripping fuzz tones.
    • Obliterate mode is an emulation of analog aliasing effects – a harsh, harmonically rich “pixellated” sound, much like square wave ring modulation which creates synthy atonal waveforms.”  Obliterate mode is hard to describe.  How do you put things like digital bubbles, digital saws, digital bowling pins, digital pins and needles, static, crackles etc. into words and in a musical context?  Some settings give you really nice warm tremolo (as mentioned above) that can be choppy as well as change speed on each note you play.  Other settings give some nice ring modulated bell like tones and the other scrambled weirdness I feebly attempted to describe above.
    • “Expression Mode rotary switch: this 4-way switch allows the user to assign the expression pedal to any control:
      • S: Sample Rate
      • B: Bit Depth
      • +: Controls both Sample Rate and Bit Depth at the same time
      • M: Mix – clean/effect volume ratio”  This is also really cool and surprising on a pedal of this size considering it’s complexity and amount of knobs.  You have lots of options to tweak with your foot, and I have to say, one of the coolest things about this pedal is playing stuff while the knobs are ‘turning’.

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

A final thing I found really cool about the Frantabit is that even with just the clean tone dialed in, the guitar tone was improved.  It reminds me of a tube preamp with nice clarity and top end chime.  You could just use this as a tone enhancer/boost and not use the effect at all.  …But you would be the most boring person in the world and I will hate you for not using this exceptional pedal to it’s 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.  Stick around for a demo video on the Frantabit and my next post – Iron Ether, part 2…

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

My Case of Why Flangers Rule – Specifically, the DOD FX75-B Flanger

The Pedal File - DOD logoOk.  I’ll admit it, I’m not ashamed.  I love flangers (and all modulation effects for that matter).  I get lost in the whooshing, metallic, stuck in a pipe sound that falls somewhere between chorus/phaser/really short delay.  I get hypnotized, mesmerized, and a little aroused by it (maybe not literally, but definitely figuratively).  I just read a Reverb.com interview with Josh from JHS pedals where they mention how flange is always last on everyone’s mind these days.  Reverb.com even references a Facebook survey they conducted where it was voted the most ‘out-of-date’ effect.  I strongly disagree and would like to clarify:  I think people think flangers are lame because they got overused in a lot of lame music.

The Pedal File - DOD FX75-B FlangerThink about all the crappy music out there with fuzz/distortion/etc.  But you don’t hear anyone claiming the Big Muff to be for losers who are living in the past.  This is because enough players have proven that fuzz can be awesome.  Flange has been deemed guilty by association.  However, Josh does prophetically claim the flanger will make a comeback in the next few years as it is showing up more on recent albums, and therefore people will start looking for (re)’new'(ed) sounds.  I’m here to see that happen because, like the title of this article says, flangers rule.

The way the effect was originally developed is interesting.  It was first discovered by the genius guitar/effects/recording pioneer, Les Paul – though he didn’t use tape, but rather employed phase shifting through acetate disks on variable-speed record players.   Later in the 60’s, flange was an issue encountered when recording long takes onto tape.  As the tape would wind around the reel, it would get weighed down.  This would make the reel turn slower by a few milliseconds, which doesn’t seem like much, but the perceived difference in speed would create the harmonic avalanche that we now know as ‘flange’.

Some smart person (allegedly John Lennon/George Martin – The Beatles’ producer) realized it actually sounded pretty cool, so a technique to recreate this phenomenon was developed.  An archaic method of flanging was achieved by recording two identical takes to two separate tape machines.  The machines would be played back simultaneously.  At some point (the point at which one would want some tasty flange) the engineer would put a finger on the edge or ‘flange’ of one of the reels, causing playback of that tape to be slightly delayed.  This pairing of the normal speed tape with the delayed tape is what produced this unique sound.  Pretty neat, huh?

I’ve mentioned before I’m not a big fan of Eddie Van Halen, but there is something about his guitar tone that really fascinates me.  He used a lot of chorus/flange and was all about crispy textures with a multidimensional tone that makes you feel like you’re a small animal being carried away by a large eagle.  But alas, who can stand to listen to Van Halen (or especially Van Hagar) for that long?  (I hate the 80’s.  That’s when the word ‘rad’ became popular – please stop saying rad, hipsters.  Plus, every musician during the decade seemed to develop some kind of musical retardation, except for maybe The Police.)
The Pedal File - DOD FX75-B

Even though I like the sound of that hideous guitar, it’s hard to get past the cheesiness that was inherent in music during the 80’s – like dipping your ears in a big fondue pot of cheeseburgers.   One thing the 80’s had right though was the sound of the flange (chorus is a runner up and another article topic).

I should point out that not all flangers are equal.  Too many don’t have the kind of control you need (I prefer to have control over the delay time), or they don’t offer any good useable tones (most digital flangers).  There are a few companies like MXR that cater to the EVH fans or like Subdecay, whose flangers are more complex than a modular synth (not really, but they’re pretty intense) and cost well over $100.  But I’m here to remind you in this article that you don’t always have to look at brand new or boutique gear.  Some 80’s and 90’s pedals were well-made and can usually be found for less than $100.  A lot of them aren’t true bypass and whatnot, but if you’re open to the idea of modification or if you don’t care, vintage pedals are a great bet!
The Pedal File - DOD FX75-B
I’ve found a true flanging diamond in the rough in the DOD FX75-b stereo flanger.  It sounds so thick, metallic, and robotic.  Like dipping your guitar in electric molasses, this pedal takes your tone to a sticky gooey territory.  It’s easy to dial in a pretty shimmery chorus, but it also does to-the-max jet pack blast-off flange, as well as some vibe-y, rotary type stuff.  I can’t say enough how great this pedal sounds.  I love it so much, I now have two – just in case.  I plan on getting at least one of them modded to be true bypass (they do generate some noise at some settings) and have even thought about rehousing them both into one enclosure.

Tweakables:
Delay – sets the delay time, which controls the degree of phase shifting. Set it shorter for a chorus-y sound or longer for voluptuous flanging.  Like I said, this knob is really useful for different sounds (on chorus pedals too).
Speed – sets the speed at which the delay time changes – low settings are good for a thick chorus or subtle flange or crank it up for vibe-like throbbing, pulsations, etc.  (The width and regen have to be set around noon or higher for the vibe stuff).
Width – sets the range through which the delay time will vary.  I think of it kind of like a depth knob.  Turned all the way down, there is no sweeping time delay.  Turn it up and the time delay gets introduced to the phase shifting at the sweeping speed that is selected by the speed knob.  Lower settings = time delay sweep through a narrower range.  Higher settings = wider range.
Regen(eration) – adjusts the height of the comb filter peaks by controlling feedback through the delay circuitry.  This feeds the effect back onto itself for more phasing/time delay.  This knob is also what takes you from subtle to totally tripped out alien robot space monster sounds.

Even at low and subtle settings, I love what this pedal does to the guitar.  It excites your playing and makes it feel more alive while thickening the tone up a bit.  At more extreme settings, you can really impart a sense of movement and make people feel sea-sick.  The DOD FX75-B makes it hard to tell sometimes if it is actually chorusing or phasing, but that’s what I love.  It puts a mystical, intangible quality into your riffs.  I implore you to stop over-looking flanger pedals and dare you to put one on your board.  I guarantee if you’re a modulation fan, you’ll enjoy it.  If not, send it to me.

DOD is now owned by Harmon/Digitech who has released a few reissue pedals under the DOD name, but if you want in on the great DOD pedals of yore, your best bet is to check out EBay or Reverb.com.

Check out my band’s new single, ‘I Miss You’, for an example of how I used the DOD FX75-B to achieve 80’s tone for modern rockingness.

As always, let me know what you think!  Please leave me a comment below and tell me how right I am.  Or what your favorite flanger pedal is.

That’s all, thanks for reading!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

Recovery Effects: Cutting Room Floor Demo!

Hello all you tweaked out pedal people!  Time for an update from your favorite pedal peddler who tells you about pedals!  Please contain all excitement to the vicinity of your pants.  After doing my write up about the Recovery Effects Cutting Room Floor, I convinced myself (and probably no one else) that this pedal is really cool and unique and therefore must be acquired.  Now that I’ve thoroughly tweaked, probed, and prodded this pedal I decided I should do a demo video to share with you some of the awesomely weird things it can do – twisted things that a normal innocent pedal probably should not do, like an Amish kid on Rumspringa.

Please watch the demo for a taste:

The Cutting Room Floor is so awesome, in fact, it helped take my band’s (SexyPigDivas) new song to the next level.  There is a trippy breakdown part in said song that needed something I couldn’t put my finger on – like a texture or a certain effect that was eluding me.  On a whim I kicked on the new pedal.  The Cutting Room Floor’s insanely spacey random modulated delay sound was exactly right, materializing what I heard in my head that I didn’t even know I had heard at first!  Now I couldn’t imagine that part of the song without it.  Has a pedal ever done that for you?

Update on tweakables now that I have a feel for them:

Time – sets the delay time from short to long.
Intensity/Modulation – these interact with each other and the delay time control to bring about gritty doubled chorus-y sounds to delay with runaway blastoff yoshi modulation on the repeats – like playing through a maimed & dying tape machine that someone just went all ‘Office Space Office Space‘ on.  At some settings you can also achieve something close to half-step pitch shifts on the repeats.  It sounds like stuff is melting, if melting stuff had a sound.  Man.
Blend – blend the amount of effected signal with your clean signal.  I love this knob on any pedal and I don’t think I have to explain why…  This one is really cool because turned fully clockwise, your clean signal is totally removed.  Crank the delay time and get dizzy while you only hear the delayed part of the signal.  Tweak the time, intensity, & modulation and get ready for some really musically non-musical sounds!
Volume – controls your volume of course, but I noticed that as you turn it up, gain is introduced making the Cutting Room Floor also part distortion pedal.  My only complaint is the pedal volume becomes much louder than your unaffected signal at maximum dirt level.  I think it’d be perfect with separate volume and gain controls, but what do I know?  This can be a good thing, however, in the sense that you can plug anything with a 1/4″ jack into The Cutting Room Floor and find a good volume whether the signal is hot or not.  I found unity gain for my set up at about 1 o’clock.
Stutter/Reverb Toggle Switch – toggles between stutter and reverb modes.  Stutter mode is like turning the repeat knob (there isn’t one on this pedal) all the way up.  Near endless repeats that slowly decay and don’t self-oscillate.  This mode is awesome if you’re a sucker for atmosphere.  Reverb mode switches the delay to one repeat so you can get really great slap back delay/echo as well as doubling/chorus-y effects.
Freeze Momentary Stomp Switch – Only works when reverb mode is selected.  Stomp on the momentary switch to make the delay repeat as long as you’d like or only for a moment.  As you hold this down, the repeats layer, build, and become all gritty and bit-crushed until you think your amp might be exploding.  Hopefully it isn’t.

As you can see the Cutting Room Floor can play nice, but deep down it’s a dirty and debased delay/modulation/distortion pedal.  With this one pedal you can create tones and textures that will surprise traditionalists and noisies alike.  Just beware – I sure wouldn’t want to be left alone with it…  For instance, every time I put it away in it’s place I awake the next morning to The Cutting Room Floor waiting outside my bedroom door, and I swear it moves when I’m not looking.  Plus this one time a nice old lady told me that it tried to steal her handbag.  I told her this was a good pedal and it would never do that.  But I can feel there is something not quite right about it.  I’m sure it’s possessed or something.  Possessed with awesomeness!

For more info check out:  Recovery Effects

So what do you think of this beast, my friends?  Has anyone made the purchase based on my review?  Would you put it on your board?  Or would you chase it out of town with torches and pitch forks?  Let me know!!!

That’s all for now!  Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

The Pedal File: Yay Pedal News!

Hey there!  I realize you may not spend your time scouring the web for new pedals to feed your horrible pedal addiction, which is why The Pedal File is at your service.  It’s been  a minute and I’ve been seeing blurbs here and there about various new pedals that are getting me all bothered and excited!  I thought I’d share this stuff with you so you can also be excited and feel ahead of the curve and like you’re better than others (because you so are just for reading my site right now!).

Earthquaker Devices Palisades

Earthquaker Devices Palisades

I saw some forum posts about this new overdrive/distortion from the folks at Earthquaker.  Apparently some goober was touring the shop, took a pic of this unreleased pedal, and thought it was cool to post on Tumblr or something, which of course spread through the pedal community faster than Ricky Martin’s butt cheeks in front of a mariachi band.  No big deal, right?  Honestly, not a huge deal, but he probably should’ve asked if it was cool beforehand as it seems Earthquaker was scrambling to stop the wild speculation of what type of pedal it was and let it be known this was no hoax.  But now, ToneReport has the scoop that this baby is a indeed a distortion device, featuring parameters that seem to combine distortioning, EQing, and buffering.

(***Pedal File Editor’s Note:  Premier Guitar printed a press release from Earthquaker claiming the Palisades is basically a TS808 Tubescreamer with all the bells, whistles, mods, curves, and angles you could possibly want on the TS808 circuit.  Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the Tubescreamer, but I’m still excited because do you know what I’m a big fan of?  VERSATILITY!)

My favorite tweakables are:
-the ability to toggle between two different gain settings (via Gain A/B knobs & a stomp switch)
-you have some control over the bandwidth frequency going into the pedal with a rotary switch.  There are actually 5 total frequencies to select, so you have a lot of tone options there.  Kind of like a frequency knob on a distortion pedal (think the Rat here).
-another rotary switch selects how you want to ‘clip’ the signal or in other words – how do you want to distort the signal?  The Palisades offers 6 ways to do so:

Diode life (no clipping): not sure what this means.  I’m guessing you can use this setting more as a clean boost or for tone shaping?
LED:  more of a low-gain, edge-of-breakup sound
MOSFET: higher gain
Asymmetrical Silicon: clips the waveform unevenly or asymmetrically providing more compression/clarity.
Full silicon: I assume this is symmetrical clipping meaning it clips the positive and negative cycle of a waveform evenly giving the effect of more distortion (as opposed to asymmetrical clipping)
Schottkey diode clipping: I’ve never heard of this diode before.  After some research it looks like people traditionally put them directly in their guitar with a way to switch them on for more gain.  I like the idea of using something in a way it was not intended.  The description of the way they sound makes me think this has a ‘germanium’ texture to it.

This is apparently what happens when a man like Jamie Stillman gets to be alone all day with electronics.  If you need to replace your whole collection of overdrives with one pedal, this one could and should be it.

For some more info/pics check out the most recent ToneReport.

 

Wampler Latitude Deluxe Tremolo

Wampler Latitude Tremolo

I’m a big fan of Wampler pedals.  They are solid, versatile, and sound great.  So naturally I’m excited for their new deluxe tremolo.  The Latitude, much like the Palisades, is a knob-tweaker’s dream.  Most tremolos these days are suited for either a vintage or modern sound and feature about 2 or 3 knobs (yawn!).  Empress and a few others make very nice and tweakable trems but they’re awful expensive and big.  Wampler has proven again that they really can compete in the pedal trade by jamming so many cool features into such little enclosures (You get controls more recognizble on a delay pedal for instance, like tap tempo and four selectable time subdivisions).  Brian Wampler is stepping up his game, yo!

My favorite tweakables are:
– the wave form selector.  Select from square, bell, or sine waves for different trem flavors.  Get some vintage amp tremolo or modern helicopter (judo) chop.
-the spacing knob.  Increases the space between volume bursts or ‘throbs’ or ‘pulsations’.  It controls the amount of ‘dead space’ while you play.
-the attack knob.  Adjust from punchy all the way to rolled off attack.  Possibly can do volume swells.  Sweet!  With these three controls alone you can do much more than the average tremolo.

The Latitude has no price listed until the official release (May 29th) but I’d imagine this one falls around the $200 mark.  If you’re in the market for a new tremolo I just found it for you.

Check out Wampler’s site for more info.

That’s my update for you, I hope you feel that much more informed.  Stay tuned for some cool new things coming soon the the site!

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

Electro-Harmonix: MicroSynth

Hey all you knob lickers!  I’ve written another review just for you (don’t tell anyone because they’ll be jealous).  This one is long (winded) and detailed (much like my other reviews) so I will try to keep side-tracking to a minimum.  The pedal I want to talk about has confusing features that have led many a guitar player to sell or throw aside the glorious contraption that is the Electro Harmonix MicroSynth.  If you don’t know Electro-Harmonix then you should go back to pedal school and learn about Muffs and the six-hundred-thousand other pedals they have made sometime since the late 60’s.  They were one of the first companies to sell and mass market affordable effects for guitar/bass and have always been downright creative and original with their designs.  A testament to EHX’s more unique offerings (I’m thinking of the HOG2, POG2, Flanger Hoax, etc.), the MicroSynth was also one of the first guitar synth pedals and remains to be one of the best as most companies even today dare not tread into such experimental territory.

Electro Harmonix - The Pedal File

I get really excited about synth pedals.  I don’t know why I get happy to make a guitar sound like it isn’t.  Maybe it’s because ‘normal’ guitar tones bore me as they can be heard everywhere at all times on everything.  The MicroSynth is a gust of fresh air in this respect as it allows me (and you too) to push the boundaries of guitar tone the way I want to.  It combines fuzz, distortion, octave, envelope filter, and swell effects that are controlled with a row of highly sensitive and tweakable sliders.  The aforementioned sliders could break off easily as opposed to knobs (just be gentle with it – good touch only), but they save space and in my opinion make the visual aspect of tweaking this pedal a bit easier.  With these erect little mechanisms between your fingers you get to be the captain of a funky space ship time machine blasting off and into wormholes into alternate realities where you meet the Bizarro you and have to fight to the death because the Bizarro you wants to kill you and take your place back here in this reality!  …Ok, maybe that description is slightly hyperbolic, but seriously you can emulate a smorgasbord of sexy synth tones that will increase your rank amongst all your cool hipster friends.  Enough sillyness, let’s move on to the tweakage, shall we?

Electro-Harmonix lays out the controls pretty logically, but at first glance they can be rather intimidating. I’ve said it before – read your manuals!  You can save yourself from getting rid of a perfectly good pedal (*GASP*  THE HORROR) and also lots of frustration when a pedal doesn’t do what you think it should.  It doesn’t hurt if you are somewhat familiar with the basic controls of a synth either.  Or if you really don’t feel like reading even more information, just watch the video by Prymaxe Vintage.

Tweakables:
Quoted text is from the EHX MicroSynth Manual

The MicroSynth is split into”…four voices: GUITAR, OCTAVE, SUB OCTAVE AND SQUARE WAVE that are completely independent and fully mixable. The MicroSynth can modify these signals with envelope control for a variety of “bowed” or “blown” sounds.  In addition, a sophisticated swept filter control allows highly variable frequency adjustments to be applied to the overall output signal.”  In other words, you can pretty much never run out of crazy sounds to make, but that’s not even the tip of a giraffe looking up at the sun while jumping on a pogo stick on top of a big old iceberg.

PREAMP GAIN ADJUSTMENT – “The preamp gain in the MicroSynth has been set at the factory for use with a guitar equipped with single-coil pickups. If you will be using another instrument with higher or lower output, it may be necessary to readjust this setting.”  I remember messing with this, I think I turned it down a little to compensate for the humbuckers on my tele.  It did make a difference in the overall sound of the pedal and should be taken into consideration if you’re not playing single coils.

TRIGGER – “Determines the input volume at which the filter circuits will ‘turn on.’ It does not affect any other circuitry.  If the TRIGGER is set too high, the filter may ‘stutter’ due to multiple triggering. This is especially true if full chords are played.  It is best to set the TRIGGER at exactly the sensitivity needed for your playing.”  Mine tracks best when I keep the trigger set lower, somewhere between 1 and 5.  This is probably the most important setting to figure out to make this pedal behave the way you want and it’s hard to get a feel for because it responds to your pick attack.  Set it too low and it won’t sweep the filter.  Too high and you get glitchy sputtery filter-y madness…which can be cool, but only when you want it there.  Because the trigger is so important and relies on pick attack to get the amount of effect you want, I suggest putting this pedal first in your chain.  If you have a compressor try putting the MicroSynth after it, but pay attention to how this affects the tone and always do what sounds best to you.

VOICE MIXING section – “GUITAR, SUB-OCTAVE (one octave below), OCTAVE (one octave above), SQUARE WAVE. Each voice is completely independent and can be mixed with the others in any degree.”  This is where the tone crafting comes in…turn up just the guitar voice to add nice harmonic richness to your signal.  Turn up the other voices for dirty synth fun time.  Even without sweeping the filter, you can never run out of tonal combinations.

GUITAR – “Controls the output volume of the input signal through the filter.”  Set the start/stop frequencies together for fixed wah tone or apart for envelope filter sweeps.  Take the guitar voice away and you’ll forget what instrument you play.  You also might forget you are not a robot.  (..Rrrrreeemmmemmmmmberrr…)

SUB OCTAVE – “Controls the output volume of the Sub-Octave. The Sub-Octave effect only tracks single notes.”  This is a fat and deep sub octave, perfect for Moog-y style bass parts.  With the guitar voice mixed in you can still play chords and get them to track better.  Adding distortion can make things awful gritty.

OCTAVE – “Controls the output volume of the Octave. The Octave only tracks single notes. This voice contains a small amount of harmonic distortion for added richness of tone.”  While most fuzzy octave up pedals give you just the standard octavia effect, this one grants you access to way more than that.  Poly filter sweeps, voice box synth, and laser gun sounds are at your fingertips.

SQUARE WAVE – “Controls the output volume of the Square wave.  Intensity of this voice is also determined by instrument attack or volume.  In all other respects it operates in a similar fashion to a standard distortion device.”  This goes from clean to monster fuzz, but with an overall analog synth filter-y quality to it.  It sounds even awesomer if you stack it with another distortion or fuzz.  Or both.  Set the stop frequency low, crank this up along with the sub octave and trigger and say hello to the ‘blown’ (as in a blown speaker) sound they talk about.

ATTACK DELAY – “Determines the time required for the voice signals to reach full volume. Higher-numbered settings can completely remove the initial attack of the instrument. Different delay times contribute greatly to the characteristic sounds of various instruments. It is recommended that you synchronize your playing to the speed setting of the ATTACK DELAY.”  I love this function.  Like the Boss SG-1Homer 3D, you can achieve those cool volume sweeps to sound like a bowed instrument or by selecting a faster rate a syncopated funky monophonic synth.   It’s surprising how much atmosphere you can create with this function.  I like to turn the attack delay, the resonance, and rate to maximum and set the filter to sweep either up or down.  Add a delay pedal and you’re instantly swept into that 3D world Homer found that one time behind the bookcase on that episode of The Simpsons.  You’ll be, like, running around on circuit boards inside of some giant computer.  In space.

FILTER SWEEP section –

RESONANCE – “Affects the degree of sharpness, or “Q” of the filter. Higher settings will produce a more emphasized filter sound and also add a slight boost to the signal.”  What the hell is Q you say?  It’s kind of like a resonance knob on a phaser (The MicroSynth happens to be a 2-pole resonance filter – the less ‘poles’, the brighter the sound, hence the signal boost).  This control is also important for those Moog sounds.  Add a little for a subtle harmonic boost (mids/treble) to your tone, or a lot to commence your trip on a synth space ship.  That sounds like a line to a funk song.

START FREQUENCY – “Determines the frequency at which the filter sweep begins.”  Start high or low to sweep up or down, the power is in your hands!

STOP FREQUENCY – “Determines the frequency at which the filter sweep ends. This is also the “resting frequency” of the filter, and if START and STOP controls are set at the same level no sweep will occur, though the filter will provide emphasis of that particular frequency band. In addition to lead synthesizer sounds, START and STOP controls can be used to simulate attack, decay, and harmonic content of acoustic instruments.”   As great as the envelope sounds I like to keep the filter fixed like this a lot of the time.  You can create dinosauric-ly massive tones this way with the different voices.  On the other hand by using more subtle sweeps, you can bring a new level of expression to your playing.

RATE – “Determines the speed at which the filter sweeps from START FREQUENCY to STOP FREQUENCY. It is recommended that RATE be synchronized with your playing speed.”  You can simulate a fight scene in Star Wars by setting the rate fast or create long and beautiful filter sweeps like you’re being pulled in by a space ship tractor beam.

The amount of tweakability and the range of control on this pedal really astounds me.  What I love is that it makes for limitless possibility for a guitar player (they have a bass version too, which a lot of guitar players use to take advantage of the lower and beefier register.  This one is still pretty beefy).  My only complaint is the high price tag.  The pedal doesn’t feel as rugged and heavy as I’d like for the cost.  And yet despite this the MicroSynth has been around for a long time, but doesn’t get the respect I think it deserves.  If you’re looking for a pedal that is completely different from anything out there with tones to infinity (not just wild ones – there’s amazing rock tones in there too), look no further.  If you play guitar but secretly wish you played synth (synth players shouldn’t get to have all the fun right?), if you like to experiment, or if you’re just bored with life on Earth and you want to escape the dreary confines of your shabby town and ride your guitar like a witch’s broom to a magical far away land in the sky, then you should probably buy this pedal.

What do you think of the MicroSynth?  Is it too much?  Not impressed?  Am I a liar?  Do I smell?  Leave me a comment!  For more info check out www.ehx.com

Thanks for reading!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File