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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Iron Ether, Part 2 – The Subterranea

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

The Subterranea

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

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

Tweakables – Quoted text from Iron Ether’s website

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

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

Please also watch my video demo:

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

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

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