The Pedal File – More Great Pedals Made by More Little Guys

Hi.
I like pedals.  You like pedals.  He likes pedals.  She likes pedals.  We all like pedals.

Today’s topic is another attempt to bring you up a notch on the pedal popularity scale.  Whenever I find some cool pedals that I think are obscure and/or weird and/or versatile, I like to let you know about it so you can pretend to all your friends you found it first.  Check out these two exciting pedals from two different little guy builders.

Warm Star Electronics – Shape shift Mountain

Scrolling the webs, I came across this pedal and was instantly intrigued.  A compact yet super versatile Filter & LFO pedal?  I’m down like Donald Trump at an all you can eat baby buffet.  (Correct me if I’m wrong, but I assume he eats babies for breakfast, no?)

The Pedal File - Warm Star Electronics Shape Shift Mountain

Shape Shift Mountain is  the first pedal offered by Warm Star (built in collaboration with Delptronics, maker of eurorack modules, interactive music exhibits, PCBs, and other electronic design type stuff), which to me is a hopeful indication of more cool synth style pedals in the future.

At heart, the Shape Shift Mountain is a voltage controlled 24 db/octave low pass filter with an integrated LFO.  It uses the classic SSM2044 filter chip used in a bunch of synths, but most notably the Korg Mono/Poly synths (if Korg used it, it’s gotta be good).homer

As the name implies, applying a multi-faceted filter, plus LFO to your guitar signal can give you mystical mountain sherpa abilities to traverse your guitar (or anything with a 1/4″ output) across precarious tone-scapes you didn’t know existed.  The cool part is that you don’t really have to worry about avalanches.  Unless you happen to have a jam spot right next to a mountain.

How versatile can the Shape Shift Mountain be?  That’s just a silly question.  Well, silly, for starters you could use this thing’s filter as an EQ of sorts to carve and whittle frequencies to boost leads or thin out/fatten up your signal, which are things guitar players do when they really want to cut through the mix.  You could also employ this pedal as a unique distortion and really fuck your signal up with the gain, gnarl, and resonance controls.  Or, you could tame it as the versatile filter and modulation source it is for filter sweeping and vibrato/trill sounds.

Like that mirror in Harry Potter that shows you your biggest desire or something (I don’t remember, I read that book like 15 years ago), the Shape Shift Mountain can show you what it is you desire.  At least as far as filters and LFOs go.  It would probably not be right for anyone looking for a steady, consistent, one-trick pony relationship with a pedal.

There’s only 50 being made in the first run (going now!) so you should probably get over to their page and tell them you want one before it’s too late!

Warm Star’s Demo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5uG2QovabI

Tweakables
Cutoff – determines cutoff frequency of the filter.  Select the frequencies that shall pass or shall not pass.
Resonance – amplifies or accentuates the cutoff frequency.
Gnarl – in the video it sounds like this knob generates a second frequency one octave below the original signal, but I can’t say for sure.
Gain – the gain seems like it could add an octave as well, but at any rate I’m sure adds gain and distorts the signal.
LFO Rate – rate of the LFO.
LFO Slope – control how the LFO fades in and out.
LFO Amount – depth of the LFO.
CV inputs – control cutoff/resonance via CV signals.
CV out – for LFO.  Integrate this with your synth or CV enabled gear.
Expression inputs – LFO rate, amount, cutoff, resonance.  Control a knob with your foot so you can do synth stuff while you play, like sweep the filter.

Switches
High/low – switch between a high/low octave?
Triangle/Square – waveform selector.

There you have it: a promising first venture out to pedal sea from a fledgling company.  I think I speak for more than just me when I say I look forward to what Warm Star does in the future.

Check out www.warmstarelectronics.com for more info.


Parasit Studios – Into the Unknown Guitar Synth Deluxe

Possibly the synthiest synth pedal ever?

Parasit Studios isn’t just a pedal manufacturer, but a real live Swedish recording studio that also happens to make DIY pedal kits, many of which are pretty unique synth pedal-type designs.  People who produce/engineer records probably have a good understanding of sound, so why couldn’t they make a great sounding pedal (case in point – Recovery Effects)?

The Pedal File - Parasit Studio Into the Unknown Guitar SynthThe Into The Unknown (ITU) is a fine example of the above situation.

According to Parasit helmsman Frederik Lyxzen, what makes the circuit of the Into the Unknown pedal special is ‘that the octave up part is based on a frequency controlled oscillator so it doesn’t scramble chords like [the] usual octave circuit, and it tracks well over the entire fretboard…it can be very controlled, but also make super-glitchy sounds, fuzz, theremin sounds, synthy octaves down and up, flanger-ish modulation, drone-ish noise, oscillation, and more.’

The Into The Unknown’s filter and LFO sounds are similar to the Moog Freqbox, onlyurkel the ITU seems a lot more musical and controllable.  The fuzz on it’s own is one of the closest to sounding like an actual synth I’ve come across.  Be warned, this pedal sounds pretty amazing and will surprise you with it’s satisfying ability to produce sounds that are strange and otherworldly, yet beautiful and inspiring…like Urkel.

Needless to say, when I saw there was a limited run of 25 being sold, I had to jump on it.  Don’t fret though (terrible guitar pun), if you’re handy with a soldering iron, you can always get one of the DIY kits, or you can sign up for the mailing list and be notified of the next run.

Parasit’s demo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5uG2QovabI

Tweakables
Mix – blends between straight square wave fuzz and the synthesized VCO signal coming from the CD4046 PLL chip.
Sub – how much octave down you add to the signal.
Gate – sets input sensitivity.  Can be very gated or glitchy, and can self-oscillate.
Rate – controls the speed of the LFO.
Level – controls overall output.
Filter – controls cutoff of the resonant filter.  The middle position has a strong resonant peak.  Check out the filter sweeps in the demo video.  Super nice.
Track – controls the tracking speed of the VCO.  Turn it up for a slow attack/decay of the octave up or down for a faster attack/decay.
Warp – the man who built this doesn’t even know how to describe this control.  It’s interactive with the track knob and has a strong effect on the character of the modulation.  Can produce ring mod sounds.

SwitchesThese switches are independent from the mix controls so you can add octaves to either the fuzz signal or VCO signal.
Octave down -Toggles between one or two octaves down (down position – two octaves down, up position – one octave down).
Octave up – The VCO signal will be one or two octaves up depending on the switch (down position – one octave up, up position – two octaves up).
LFO – Wave Shape selector/turn off.

I think you’ll agree this pedal is more than worth it’s weight in synths.

Check out  www.parasitstudios.se for more info.

*Bonus: Interesting Article on LFOs and how they can shape your sound- http://www.emusician.com/gear/1332/the-ins-and-outs-of-lfos/36695

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading!  Make sure to be quick if you want one to claim one of these fine pedals, and as always, feel free to let me know any thoughts you might have.  Stay tuned for video demos!

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

The Pedal File – Some Great Pedals Made by the Little Guys

Hello there!  It’s The Pedal File back for more pedal-packed fun!  ‘Two posts in one month?’, you’re thinking.  I’ve got to try to keep up, you’re a feisty bunch, aren’t you?  The reason I write today is to tell you about some great pedals made by some of the little guys in the pedal biznass.  I want to remind you not to get swept up on the pedal bandwagon, and that there are some truly hidden gems among the ‘lower’ classes of pedal makers.  I’d like to prove that all pedal makers are equal until proven guilty by a court of unhappy customers on a pedal forum.  Or something.

VFE Pedals Tractor Beam

VFE stands for Von Rutter Family Effects, started by mathematician/physicist Peter Rutter as a hobby.  Not the catchiest of names, but he could have named his company Peepee Poopoo Pedals for all I care.  We’re here to talk about pedals and tone, not marketing.  The reason I include this company is because they specialize in giving you as many tones in one box as you can handle (seems like more of a disease than a hobby, but I can relate).   VFE offers pedals with so much tweakability and versatility, one pedal purchase from them is like buying at least 2 or 3 pedals from your favorite Run Of the Mill Co.
The Pedal File - VFE Tractor Beam
On top of that, you can design your own custom pedal with colors, art, knobs, etc. in their Pedal Wizard, and you can actually submit circuit design ideas to them that they might put into production.  One of the coolest things they do though is support any musical artist that uses their pedals.  Got a recording with a VFE pedal on it?  They’ll put it on the site.  The icing on the nipples by far though is when ordering a custom pedal, a percentage of the purchase goes toward an artist that you can choose from their artist program!  I can’t even decide how many extra points they get.  It’s a lot though.

The Tractor Beam is for those of you who want to dial in an absurd range of phaser sounds.  Multiple selectable stages, inverted phasing, the ability to mix phaser and vibe effects together, the option of momentary switching for quick on/off effects, you can even adjust the brightness of your LED for Oprah’s sake!  You know what I think?  I think Peter Rutter is an alien-human hybrid creature created by the U.S. government to distract us with his tantalizing pedals from what’s really going on.  I’m on to you, Mr. Rutter…

Tweakables: Quoted text from the manual.
Speed – “Sets the speed of the phaser. In version 2, we increased the max speed by 50% and doubled the rate of the slowest speed. In order to have a super-wide range that is still easy to dial in, we had pots custom-made specifically for the Tractor Beam.”  No expense spared there.
Center – “Sets the center of the phase sweep. Turn counterclockwise for low-end throb, turn clockwise for watery shimmer, and set at noon for a full-range sweep.”
Feedback – “Sets the feedback, which is perfect for those slow, resonant phase sweeps. Clockwise = negative feedback, counterclockwise = positive feedback, 12:00 = zero feedback.”
Mix – “Blends between the dry, unaffected signal and the wet, phase-modulated signal. Because phasers get their sound by the interaction of the dry signal, the 12:00 position will yield the strongest phasing. Turn counterclockwise for a resonant tone with less pitch modulation. Turn clockwise for pitch modulation with less phase resonance.”
Stages – “Selects the number of phase stages. More stages = wider phase sweep. The 3-stage position is inverted, for reverse phase sweeps.”  Not like where a play is performed, silly.  Stages as in the number of peaks/notches in the phasing signal to give you different phasey tones.
Mode – “Selects the voicing of the phaser. P = synced phase sweep, V = warbling vibe sweep, PV = half phase, half vibe voicing.”
Internal Controls – “The internal LEVEL trimpot sets the output volume. NOTE: The JFET is factory set for maximum phase sweep – DO NOT ADJUST.”
True Soft Bypass – “All VFE Pedals use true bypass relay switching combined with effect-side FET switching. This makes for pure and smooth switching that is rated for a longer lifetime than you.”  Well now I feel inferior, but hey that’d be a cool heirloom to pass down…
DualMode Switching – “DualMode is a unique VFE feature that lets you setup the footswitch for momentary operation (press & hold = on, release = off). To activate, wait 5 seconds and then press tap+tap+hold until LED flashes.”  Maybe you just want to be able to throw some quick phase on only part of a riff, or even toggle the effect on and off – now you can.
LED Brightness – “Just because we can, there’s an internal trimpot to set the LED brightness just the way you like it.”  Not that I ever thought I needed this on a pedal, but I admit there are a few on my board that light up like frickin’ laser beams.
Carling Footswitch – “The part that you step on shouldn’t be made cheap. We use rugged, industrial grade Carling footswitches in all our pedals.”  Agreed, I always feel a little sour when a pedal company uses cheap components.  Nothing better than a pedal that feels like a brick in your hand.

asduigh984qaubgaiuh49…Sorry, I drooled all over my keyboard and my fingers were slipping.

Check out www.vfepedals.com for more info, but heed my warning: there are lots of pedals and lots of info – you might spend a long time on there.  Also check out the video demos by various people who are not me, and please also note that the demo is for the original version that was called the Enterprise.


Alexander Pedals F.13 Flanger

I’ve talked about Alexander Pedals in a previous post, but I just discovered this soon-to-be-released, soon-to-be a wonder of the pedal world: the F.13 Flanger.  As I predicted, flangers are coming back y’all, and this is one you should take a hard look at.  When I saw that the makers of the Radical Delay have a flanger coming out, it was difficult to contain my excitement, so I went down to my pedal dungeon to blow off some steam.  I feel a little better now…

The Pedal File - Alexander Pedals F.13 FlangerAlexander are another company that doesn’t want to insult your intelligence with copies and clones of everything else.  Matthew Farrow is doing his own thing, which enables you to do your own thing in return.  It’s sort of beautiful really.  The F.13 takes the company a step further in that direction.  This flanger has features that I have yet to hear of in another flanger, like step flangering (think step filter) and dynamic flangering(ydingdong) (think envelope filter/auto wah effects in the way your attack/signal triggers the effect).  Alexander have already forged a path with their small line of effects in their short existence, and I have to say I’m really excited for them to release more.

Unfortunately there isn’t even a demo video to hear how it sounds (perhaps soon I can fill the void), but I’m confident it will sound awesome.  Read on for knobbage.

Tweakables:
Rate – “Controls the rate of the low-frequency oscillator (LFO) for the flanger, from glacial to space invaders.  Controls the input sensitivity in Dynamic mode.”
Depth –  “Controls the maximum LFO sweep.  In Step mode, the depth control chooses downward steps, upward + downward steps, upward steps, or random steps.  In Dynamic mode, this controls whether the flanger sweeps down (less than noon) or up (greater than noon) based on the input signal.”  I really want to hear this thing!
Mix – “Controls the blend between the dry and flanged signal.  Equal mix is at 12 o’clock.  Hint:  Pitch vibrato is available with low Regen settings and fully wet mix.”  Very cool, normally flangers don’t have a mix control, but they should because sometimes you want just a little.
Regen –  “Adjusts the amount of flanged signal fed back into the modulation.  Zero feedback is at noon, clockwise increases the positive feedback for a standard flanger sound.  Twist this knob counter-clockwise for negative feedback and a unique “inside out” flange.”  I’d sure like to turn this thing inside-out…

Mode Toggle:
Step -“The flanger LFO is forced to “step” to eight different values for transforming robot sounds.  Sweeps either up, up + down, down, or random.  The random mode is similar to a synthesizer “sample and hold” effect but with flange instead of filter.”  Umm, I am seriously interested.  Damn you, Alexander, and your temptations.
Sweep –  “Traditional flanging is found here.  The LFO for the F.13 is actually a “hypertriangular” waveform, so that the flanger spends more time in the interesting portions of the sweep.  Hint:  Set the Rate control at zero for “filter matrix” style manual flanging.  The Depth knob controls the flange position.”  I might need a new keyboard, more drool commencing.
Dynamic –  “This one is kind of unusual, even for us!  The flanger delay time is set by the volume of the input signal.  The Rate knob adjusts the sensitivity, to allow for different pickups or effects before the F.13.  The Depth knob controls which direction the flanger will sweep when it hears the input signal.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you.”   I won’t.

And to think flangers couldn’t get any cooler, the F.13 is in my opinion the most enticing to date.  I’m impressed by Matthew Farrow’s creativity when it comes to pedal design.  It’s apparent that this guy has some experience with what he’s doing, and that each new pedal he makes will most likely be a pleasant surprise for pedal enthusiasts, thus proving that the pursuit of rockin tones will continue on.  There’s a perk to giving this company your money too – they’ll put a portion of it toward cancer charity in honor of Mr. Farrow’s brother.  Hey and unlike the Red Cross, I bet they actually donate it too!

Alexander only has a small line of other effects so far, but you should check them out.  Now.  Go on, get! www.alexanderpedals.com

So that’s all for now, kiddies.  I hope this will hold you over until next time, but until then feel free to shoot me a comment and tell me what you think, or get at me through my Contact page if you’re a little Anonymous Andy.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

The Pedal File: Cool Pedals to GAS Over

Sup homies?  Word on the street is you’re looking for your pedal fix.  I got just what you need and nothing you don’t.

I’ve gathered a small list of some cool shit that is happening now in the world of pedals.  I can’t possibly keep up with all that’s out there, but rest assured I’ve sifted through lots of pedals and selected the ones which excite and titillate the most.  You see, I’m doing all the thinking and searching for you so you just gotta read (assuming you can).  That’s right, just for you.

Recovery Effects Dead Session Filterbank

The Pedal File - Recovery Effects Dead SessionI stumbled across this beauty on Facebook today.  A new pedal from Recovery Effects??  Why yes, it appears that way!  I did a review of the Cutting Room Floor pedal, and I have to say they are one of the most innovative builders out there combining features not normally seen on pedals.  Recovery don’t try to imitate, no.  They’re all about pushing things forward and the Dead Session seems like a hopeful step in that direction.  No info is available except that it is a filterbank pedal ‘strictly for the freakers and tweakers’.  See, it was even made just for you and me.  If you are neither a freaker, nor a tweaker, why are you reading my blog?  Haha just kidding, everyone’s welcome here…………except no gingers.

Will the Dead Session do resonant LFO sweeps like the Sherman Filterbank?  Will it be more like an envelope-follower like a Mutron?  Will it give one ADSR controls to play with?  I don’t know anything I tells ya!  Quit it with all the questions already…  One thing is for sure – I really really want to find out.  And you should too.

You will probably see a demo of this pedal one of these days….

The Pedal File Editor’s update:  According to Mr. Markel, the Dead Session is ,”basically a 2 filter system- 1 resonant filter [with controls for] resonance, course and fine, and a notch filter section with 2 notch filters (hi / lo). The switch engages the 2nd filter.”

Don’t have any idea what that means?  Rather than confuse you, I’ll let the Wickiemedia video explain resonance and notch filters better than I ever could:

Check out Recovery’s website for more cool pedals

Function f(x) Clusterfuzz

The Pedal File - Function f(x) Clusterfuzz
I’m pretty sure I found this pedal through Effects Database, which is the most extensive pedal site out there (check it out if you haven’t!).

Function f(x) is new on the market with only one pedal to offer, but it’s worth taking a look at.  I don’t get into too many fuzz pedals, unless of course they get tweaky.  Described on their website as ‘a tweaker’s delight; capable of delivering medium-gain overdrive up to raunchy square [wave] fuzz tones,’ – you and your momma both know I had to find out more.

As you also probably know, I’m a sucker for anything with too many knobs plus some switches thrown in for good measure.  The Clusterfuzz is not modeled after any particular fuzz, which deserves an extra point.  Too many people out there just want to clone shit and sell it to you with a different label.  In fact, that’s how many pedal companies get started building before moving on to their own designs.  Function f(x) came out strong, showing maybe they aren’t afraid to do something new, which is why I’m telling you about them in the first place.

Tweakables include:
– Five clipping options for different saturation levels (no diode clipping, LED, FET transistors, and two silicon options).  Cool.
– A Filter switch for a second voicing.  Sweet.
– Volume, Tone and Fuzz knobs.  Probably necessary for a fuzz pedal.
– An “8-Bit” knob to dial in gated fuzz sounds.  Super sweet.
– Soft touch bypass.  Yes.  I prefer a soft touch (or momentary) switch on a pedal.  No noisy clicks or anything to clutter your sound upon engagement of pedal.

Check out Function f(x)’s website for more info

 

Alexander Pedals

I want to tell you about this fledgling company because they make very cool delay pedals – specifically The Radical Delay.  Started by Matthew Farrow of Pharoah Amps and Disaster Area Designs (they make awesome MIDI controllers for pedals), Alexander Pedals is off to a great start with a small yet unique line of effects that include another really cool delay pedal, a boost, and tremolo.

The Pedal File - Alexander Pedals Radical DelayThe Radical delay is like the name suggests – you know, different.  This pedal makes sounds that would only be possible otherwise with an effects loop-equipped delay with a bit crusher, phaser, some chorus/vibrato, and pitch shifter, and probably some other stuff thrown in the mix.  If you’re boring you can just have fun with the dotted-eigth note setting for cool rhythmic delays.  If you’re a wild and crazy guy (or gal) you’ll appreciate the gnarly ascending delay effects that sound almost like a Rainbow Machine.

Tweakables:
Time — Adjusts the maximum delay time from 10ms to 900ms.
Repeat — Controls the feedback of the delay.
Tweak — (Extra point for this label.  Also it is the word of the day.  Er, blog.) Tweaks a different parameter in each mode. See the mode descriptions for full details.
Mix — Controls the blend between fully dry and fully wet echo sound. 12 o’clock is an equal mix of clean and echo.

Mode Toggle:
Mod — Super-clean digital delay with adjustable modulation. The Tweak knob adds a luscious modulation to the delay.  At 12 o’clock there is no modulation. Clockwise adds a slow chorus and counter-clockwise adds a fast vibrato.  Chorus and delay sound like angels having orgies in heaven.  Such a pure sound.
Glitch — Pristine digital delay that you can mangle in unusual and interesting ways (I’m into that).  With the Tweak knob fully counter-clockwise, the Radical Delay will echo exactly what you play. Turn the Tweak knob clockwise to add some “ghost in the machine” style glitches and odd pitch modulation (Ok I’m aroused).  And with the Tweak knob fully clockwise, the Radical Delay sounds more like a synthesizer or video game console (And now I’m finished).  It kind of sounds like a bit crusher is added to the delayed signal only, which I have to say again sounds pretty god damn amazing.
Bend — Delay with pitch shifting that’s based on the earliest technology (aliens?) and spirals up or down with each repeat. Turn the Tweak knob counter clockwise to shift the pitch down or clockwise to shift up.  This one sounds kind of like a Rainbow Machine, which also has my ‘sounds god damn amazing’ stamp of approval.

*Hint: Turn the delay time all the way down and the Radical Delay will take on a whole new vibe. In Mod mode, you’ll find analog-flavored chorus. Glitch mode turns into a “bleep bloop” robot machine. And in Bend mode, try blending the dry signal in for glitchy pitch-shifted harmony lines.  Extra extra points for this feature.  The Radical Delay is asking for it, think of all the naughty things you and this pedal can do.

All that and a portion of your money goes to a cancer charity in honor of the builder’s brother Alex (hence the name).  So you can receive an awesome pedal and give some of your money to charity?  I guess that’s cool.

Check out Alexander Pedal’s website for more info.

That’s all I got for now.  Go forth, and live your life knowing you learned about a few more pedals that you should buy.  Just don’t forget who sent you.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment, or feel free to follow me to get updates on my next post.  Also, I almost forgot, I’ve added a Contact page so you can contact me directly with any questions, suggestions, or bad words you need to get off your chest.  Or on.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File