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

Pedal Feature – Sweet New Pedals of 2014

If you’re like me and obsessed, you keep up with all the news and products of the pedal world by reading blogs, checking manufacturers’ websites, and scouring the latest trade show news.  Wait, you don’t??  It’s just me?  Whatever, I can quit any time I want!  …Ahem, sorry…  Allow me to compose myself by telling you about some of the cool new effects that I’ve come across over the first month or so of 2014.

Blackout Effectors –
Cadavernous Pandimensional Reverb

cadavernous_reverb_blackout_effectors

I noticed that as soon as I started getting more into reverb, every company has now been making super cool reverb pedals.  I never thought you could need more than one, but the differences regarding features and tones make the need (perhaps want is a better word?) quite apparent.

The Cadavernous Pandimensional Reverb looks enticing with unique controls usually seen on delay pedals such as swell and regeneration.  Using these controls in combination can create self-oscillation.  Cool!  I can imagine all sorts of thick atmospheres being summoned with these controls.  Also via an internal switch you are free to choose if you want to engage or disengage the swell effect while holding down the swell button for creative dynamics in your songs and solos. The dampen knob is a low pass filter for darkening or brightening tone while the reflections knob adjusts the ‘room size’ or reverb time. Another great feature of this pedal is the dry mix knob.  I love me a dry mix knob so much I think every pedal should have one.  This allows you to mix in your clean signal to create dimension and keep your clean signal as intact as you like. By adjusting the reverb knob in conjunction with the dry mix, I’m sure you can make a staggering amount of ambient and dreamy tones.  More info can be found at: Blackout Effectors

Walrus Audio –
Descent Reverb

Walrus-Audio---Descent-Reverb

The Descent is an interesting take on reverb that tackles the usual sounds, but gets weird with ‘reverse’ and ‘shimmer modes’. Reverse reverb builds up before you strike a note, like a little ambient cloud hanging around your attack.  Shimmer of course is for when you wish to sound like a crystal wind chime on Jesus’ porch.

Other weird features include a dry mix as well as a dry signal knob.  Dry mix is that knob I love so much to add your clean signal to taste.  The dry signal knob is a separate control where you have the ability to mix your dry signal with an octave up and/or octave down for really cool ethereal effects more akin to the organ sounds EHX HOG/POG and Earthquaker Devices Organizer.  I’m not certain, but the tweak knob is probably a tone control for darker or brighter reverberation.  More info at:  Walrus Audio

MAK Crazy Sound Technology –
Space Reverb

spacereverb

I mentioned MAK in my previous post and am excited to actually get to try out this pedal and post a demo soon (I bought it on Ebay, no one sends me pedals to demo by the way).   This made-in-Ukraine reverb caught my attention because it also has three modes: ‘plate’, ‘ambience’, and ‘shimmer’.  I’m a big fan of plate reverb, which emulates the sound of an audio signal reflecting off a metal plate (hence the name).  The Beach Boys, Beatles, and My Morning Jacket have all used plate reverb to create very nice reverb washes in their music.  ‘Ambience’ reverb is described by MAK as ‘deep reverberation with NO ATTACK’.  To me this sounds sort of like a reverse reverb.  Lastly, ‘shimmer’ mode seems to differ from others by the way the company describes it, as a ‘unique technology named Dark Krystal [that] will grant your guitar [tones] from space-atmospheric-cosmic to otherworldy – underground sounding.’  That’s deep.  Check back soon for a more in-depth article about this one.  More info at:  MAK Crazy Sound Technology

Mojo Hand FX –
Speakeasy Preamp

mojo-hand-fx-speakeasy

Note: the Speakeasy demo comes in around 2:00 mins

I’m not that into preamps/boosts because they’re usually kinda boring.  Shaping and crafting tone is a relevant art and a skill, but ‘tone-shaping pedals’ are pretty straightforward.  This new preamp by Mojo Hand FX caught my eye because it’s based on the Echoplex preamp circuit.  I’ve seen other Echoplex preamp pedals out there, which seem like great tools for adding warmth, depth, and character to your signal.  The idea came about this one time when some guitarists realized that simply running a signal through an Echoplex with very short or no delay time made shit sound better – like an aurally administered analog beef injection.  The only problem is that an Echoplex is easily like $700 used and who has the money to justify that?  Well now you can afford to have better tone with this preamp, especially if you use a solid state amp and are lacking in tube warmth/compression.  The Speakeasy boasts an added tone control for tweaking your high end.  Good idea.  The toggle acts as a boost selection, from clean to fat and gritty.  More info at:  Mojo Hand FX

Wampler –
Deluxe Tremolo Prototype

Note: The Tremolo demo starts around 3:30, after the ‘Thirty Something’ (also a cool pedal).

I’m a big fan of Wampler pedals.  They’re sturdy and sound great, and they have enough distortion/overdrive/fuzz pedals to keep me occupied for a long time or at least a few weeks.  Wampler hasn’t strayed too far into the realm of modulation (their line only has one chorus, reverb, and delay pedal – all are worth checking out) so of course I’m intrigued by a new modulation offering from them.  The video is all I have to go by, so it’s hard to talk about the tweakables without making guesses.  I can see controls for speed (to set the rate), space (if it’s anything like the Tremulus Lune, for adjusting the loud/quiet balance of the waveshape… or maybe it adjusts the size of the wave from the highest-lowest points?), depth (controls the amount of effect), wave form (all the classic wave forms – sine, sawtooth, square, etc.), attack (probably to make it go ‘chop’ or be on the smooth, pulsating side), volume (duh), and also a time division indicator of some kind.  I have to say this pedal excites me, which means I’ll probably post an update once it’s officially released.  More info at: Wampler Pedals

Pigtronix –
Rototron Rotary Speaker Emulator

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2014-06

I’m a fan of Pigtronix. They definitely have come a long way over the last few years, releasing innovative idea after idea.  Their line includes everything from a one-knob boost pedal to an amazing synth pedal to envelope filters and distortions.  This latest pedal is an expansion to their modulation line, the most recent of which, the Quantum Time Modulator, made big waves in the pedal community for conjuring chorus, vibe, and flange tones reminiscent of the great Frank Zappa’s DynaFlanger.  I’m a sucker for chorus, and the Rototron seems like it can do some really tasty leslie-style chorus/vibe effects.  Nice.

Tweakables include stereo ins/outs, ramp, depth, slow, and fast knobs.  The ramp knob allows you to speed up and/or slow down the ‘rotation’.  By setting the fast and slow knobs you can change or ‘ramp’ between the two speeds by stomping on the Slow/Fast button.  Depth of course changes the amount of effect.  These features come together to make a simple, yet great and versatile effect.  More info at:  Pigtronix

That should be enough to keep you pedal junkies calm for a little while.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File