The Pedal File: A Cool Pedal for Consumption – Keeley’s Absolute Wurst Random Harmony Generator

Hello, pedal heads!  I’ve been busy lately and I’ve got to say, I missed you more this time than any other time we’ve been apart.  Every time I got a text, I thought it was you…  Let’s not do that again!  Let me make it up to you.  Your pal, The Pedal File, is here once again to check in and provide you with knowledge about a new pedal that I think is pretty damn cool.  There, feel better?

Since I started this here blog, it’s been only getting harder to keep up with all the new pedals and pedal companies and all the crazy new gear related things that are perpetually coming out like a hipster in college.  That’s why I like to sacrifice my time for YOU to save YOU the trouble of sifting through all the clones and designs that have been done before to bring attention to only the coolest, tweakiest, most versatile pedals around.  I could be playing with pedals right now, but I want you to be on the forefront of pedal knowledge so I’ll keep typing.

 

The Pedal File - Keeley Pedals

Robert Keeley is one of the pioneers of the boutique pedal game (along with his mod offerings), but only recently has he been making bigger waves for his original designs.  Most of his pedals seem rather straight forward – boosts, fuzzes, a delay here or there, some compressors (although the Compressor Pro is quite an impressive piece of work), etc.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with his line of pedals.  Up til now, they’ve just been pretty standard and not that weird.

You even get two finish options.

 

The Absolute Wurst is the pedal I want to talk about today.  It goes way way beyond the aforementioned items of the mundane and was, perhaps, plucked from the board of a guitar player in a parallel universe where down is 6 and up is purple.  Catch my drift?  The short demo video teaser from Keeley (below) doesn’t really begin to showcase all the features, but judging from the descriptions it seems to me like the Absolute Wurst is going to be absolute tits.  I admire the ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude that Keeley exudes with this pedal.  Like he’s all, ‘Yea, what?  It’s not another compressor or fuzz or whatever.  What’s up, son?  I do what I want!’  Kudos, Mr. Keeley.  You have been awarded an extra point.

 

What really shrink wraps my baloney is the description of the pedal – a random harmony generator (like a Rainbow Machine?) with pitch up and down capabilities; a ‘broken-sounding’ pedal for ‘Experimentalists, Mathematical Atonal Nerds, and Noise-Scape Artists’.  Robert Keeley, did you make this pedal just for me??  I’m still waiting for it to come in the mail…  I also note that Keeley makes reference to the Gonkulator in the description, which if you’re not familiar was yet another ahead-of-its-time DOD pedal that combined distortion with ring modulation into absolute weird tones that everybody was scared to use when it came out.  This caused the pedal to have a short life, only to be sought after now for it’s weirdness in this more enlightened golden age of pedals we live in.  How much overlap does the Absolute Wurst have with the Gonkulator?  Some?  Not much?  A lot?  I don’t know!  Geez, sometimes you can be pushy….but I’m sorry.  Let’s not fight.

Tweakables – taken from Keeley’s wesbite

MODES
Random – Insane Random Harmony Generator – Pretty much unüsable.  Enjoy! ;-)  (I’d use it)
Pitch up – Cräzy Harmony Up.  Air Guitarist on Acid (aka “Chorus”)
Pitch down – The Drünken Bäss Pläyer.  Low synth sounds and other strange weirdness.  Unexpected throbs (that’s what I get when I’m in a room filled with pedals, and it also happens to be the name of the band that the Pope started with some of his top Cardinals to ‘back up’ their favorite altar boys ).

CONTROLS
Upper Left (knob) – Blend your original signal, dry to all the way wet.  All the way SELFIE or PANORAMIC for you FB or IG peeps.
Upper Right (knob) – Speed (in Random Mode)  — Pitch Range for Up and Down Modes.
Lower Left (knob)– Proximity – How close, or the Proximity to original note that the “harmony” is.
Lower Right (knob)– Gain – as in PutOut.  (Otherwise known as your mother)

Bypass – It’s either On or… Off.
Battery Free – Shoe Gazing turns it on and stuff – Power Drain 60mA or greater.
Keeley Engineered – Days of experience and thoughtful design in the foolish and absurd.  (And I thought I was the only one…)
3D Glasses – Not Required, but they do make the pedal sound better.

Perhaps I will get my hands on this guy someday and do a more in depth hands on review/demo.  Until then, check www.keeleypedals.com for more info.

What do you think about The Absolute Wurst?  Is there another pedal you really really want to hear me go on and on and on about?  Leave me a comment, or if you have something to hide, hit me up on my Contact page!

Thanks for reading.

Love,
Nick
The Pedal File

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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

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

Visual Sound Dual Tap Delay Vs. Earthquaker Devices Disaster Transport SR

Dec. 6th, 2013

Recently my wife and I attended a Reverend Guitars/Earthquaker Devices Q&A session at Guitar Riot where she won a Disaster Transport SR through their giveaway raffle.  (You should totally check out Guitar Riot if you live in or near NE Ohio.  Thanks again to them and EQD!!)  We of course were excited and began exploring it’s knobs about a week or so ago.  I thought it’d be cool to compare the Disaster Transport SR and Visual Sound Dual Tap Delay.   Check out the video.

Visual Sound Dual Tap Delay

vsdt

It’s sound is clean and crisp, the controls are simple and nicely laid out, and every part seems to be high quality – like you could forget it was on a chair and your fat ass could come crashing down on it and not even a knob would snap off.  Anyway the Dual Tap Delay is a great hi-fi delay that is still able to get weird with analog-type self-oscillation, rhythmic stutter delays, and time-warp effects.  Visual Sound makes a point that this pedal is made to be intuitive without the need to read the manual.  Read it anyway, it’s short, explains everything well, and has cool suggested settings to get you started.

If you like to run stereo and/or have the amps to do so, this pedal will sound amazing and with two separate delay channels with the option to make one channel dry or effected.  It’s also great just using it for reverb or chorus, and it sounds awesome on vocals.  Delay A has a modulation knob for adding a really nice chorus to the effect, from subtle to vibe-like.  Both delays feature the ability to switch to manual control of the delay time if you like, and they sound really cool if you turn the knobs while a signal is repeating to create a warping effect.  Both also feature time division knobs that are set by the tap tempo button.  There are at least 16 ways to combine these divisions for sweet ass syncopated rhythms.  The Dual Tap has a really pleasant, warm sound with crystal overtones that will make your guitar shimmer like fairy dust without being too brittle (unless your tone is all treble and sucks to begin with).  It works well with distortion (not as well with fuzz or buckets of gain).  I’ve gigged and recorded with this pedal for a while though and it’s solid.

Tweakables:
stereo output – internal switch to make 2nd output effected or dry
tap tempo button – 4 different time divisions in tap mode [quarter note, eighth note, dotted eighth, & triplet] on both channels
modulation – adds a watery chorus, ever so gentle vibe-y-ness to the repeats (only on 2nd channel)
trails – internal switch to turn this feature on/off
tone knob – like the tone knob on your guitar, but for the repeats
repeats knob – number of repeats
level knob
-also has an external input for tap tempo control

(Extra point to Visual Sound for designing custom metal soft-switch buttons that make the pedal super easy to turn on/off and are really really sturdy.  You don’t have to stomp them very hard at all, but this pedal has some weird desires and doesn’t mind the abuse.   I like to wear stilettos when I play mine.)

www.visualsound.net


Earthquaker Devices Disaster Transport SR


dtsr

Despite having only owned this pedal a short time, it quickly has become apparent how awesome and amazing it truly is.  This delay is more lo-fi sounding, and it genuinely recreates the warmness and drifty nuance of a real tape delay.  The controls are also nicely laid out (check out the manual as I’m pretty sure this is one of the only pedals in EQD’s line that includes one.  ‘Nuff said).  I wouldn’t recommend sitting your fat ass on this one as it’s a little lighter on materials.  Not to say it’s not durable or well-built because it is.  This pedal can handle abuse, just most likely not more abuse than an innocent pedal should usually receive.

The ‘Senior’ as I like to call it, or ‘Seniorita’ when I’m drunk, is great at making you sound like a wall (of sound) or like you’re way out on the edge of the universe listening to space sounds bounce off the edge (of the universe) and back into space while they swirl around planets and trail after comets and whatnot…  It can sound like an Echoplex, but with more character in my opinion.  The DT SR creates atmosphere that can put you in an instant trance.   Whether you want to play complex riffs with added dimension that inspires or be a noisey noisemaker and control peoples’ minds, these knobs can do it.

Again you can use the delays separately or together.  Delay A has a really nice phaser/flange-type modulation at low settings and an almost pitch shift/ring modulator sound at high settings of the Depth and Rate knobs.  Delay B has a sensitive Reverb knob that goes from none to a generous amount.  Mix the two together for deeply satisfying washes of atmosphere.  Standout features of this pedal are the bleed knob, the expression pedal inputs for it, and the repeats knob.  First, the bleed knob allows the two delays to run in parallel mode (two separate delays) or series/parallel mode (delay A feeding into delay B).  Its like Delay B is delaying the delay from Delay A.  And adding reverb.  Got it?  Good, stupid!  This allows for all sorts of combinations and trippy rhythms.  You can also experiment with the knob somewhere in between and get even more sounds.   Furthermore, you can have expression pedal control over this function.  You can also control the repeats of Delay A with an expression pedal for those times when you want to get all Johnny Greenwood and throw it in and out of self-oscillation.

Tweakables:
modulation – (Delay A) depth/rate controls speed and amount – goes from subtle chorus-y to phase/flange to tidal wave pitch bends to ring mod-like super fast tremolo to pulsing alien spaceships to….you get the idea.
reverb – (Delay B) can be tweaked to induce all sorts of different sensual reverb sounds.
time – changes speed of delay from reverb-y slap back all the way to pretty spaced out repeats
repeats – changes amount of repeats.  Expression pedal control on Delay A
mix – changes amount of dry vs. wet signal.  Noon is 50/50, anything past that causes a volume boost.  It’s a good thing.
bleed –  allows the two delays to run in parallel mode or series/parallel mode .  You can feed delay A in to delay B without having delay B switched on for a cleaner rhythmic delay.
switching – This pedal features a cool switching system.  The outputs of both delays are always connected. This allows you to have trails by always leaving it on bypass or to use the bypass switch as the master on/off for true bypass.

www.earthquakerdevices.com

 Conclusion

Both of these pedals are worth their respective prices.  It just depends on what kind of sound and features you prefer for delay.  If you like something a little more familiar yet extremely versatile go with the Dual Tap.  If you like to experiment, find new sounds, and are a fan of analog tape echo, you won’t regret owning the Disaster Transport SR.  If you’re like me and are obsessed with having as many sounds as possible, buy them both!  Either way, both companies offer some form of lifetime warranties for their pedals so rest assured you’re making a good investment with the products proudly produced domestically by the good patriots of Visual Sound and Earth Quaker Devices.  If Jesus played guitar, he would use these pedals.  Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File