Pedal Feature – Iron Ether Frantabit Demo Video

Finally got a video up to show you some of the awesomeness of the Frantabit made by Iron Ether.  I wanted to show how an expression pedal can be used to get some interesting effects with this pedal.  Feel free to let me know what you think!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

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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

Recovery Effects: Cutting Room Floor

Greetings, I come in peace.  Unless you are an effects pedal – then I wish to become your owner and make you a slave unto me.  I’m not sure why I feel the need to open every post like this, it just kind of happens when I’m alone with my thoughts and a computer…

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But anyway, today I’d like to direct your attention to one of the weirdest and most interesting pedals I’ve seen in a while.  On top of being point-to-point hand-wired with no printed circuit board, I’m not even sure how to classify it because it combines functions not normally seen in one pedal.  Possibly ever.  The Recovery Effects Cutting Room Floor is a pedal designed by someone who isn’t afraid to really get dirty with experimentation (and I’m pretty certain this is expected of the user considering the unorthodox tones that can be brought forth).  This effect is like frankenstein, built of parts that never belonged together in the first place and brought to life through ritual black magic and a big tesla coil shooting lightning bolts into it.  I’m not even sure if Graig Markel, the mad scientist behind Recovery Effects, has even realized the monstrosity he’s unleashed on the world.  And now it’s too late….  The Cutting Room Floor is upon us.

Recovery Effects bills this pedal as a glitch, pitch, echo, modulation pedal.  Here’s a description in their own words:  “[The Cutting Room Floor]…offers mountains of wild modulation, delay, freeze and stutter.  Anything from light lo-fi chorus to broken-tape-deck sounds can be achieved with this unique pedal. Melt, then freeze tones in place, or use it as a gritty echo or faux reverb.”  At first I wasn’t quite sure how to interpret that description or the list of features for that matter.  Then I thought about the name – Cutting Room Floor, which is a film industry expression referring to edited portions of footage not used in the final edit of a film.  So you see, this pedal is like taking small bits of different effects units and jamming them into one nice tight enclosure.  Do the pieces belong together?  Maybe not, but it’s companies like Recovery that are raising the bar by re-imagining effects in a market overrun with clones and modifications.   And that my friends is what makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on my insides.

The Pedal File - Recovery Effects Cutting Room Floor

Tweakables:
*Don’t quote me on any of this since I don’t have a manual to use as reference.  Basically, I’m typing out my ass right now.  Just don’t smell my keyboard….

Time – sets the delay time.  Probably something like one or no repeats at minimum up to a 1000 ms at the max?
Intensity – sounds like it controls the amount of pitch shifts only on the repeats, like a modulated delay but the pitch shifting is random like someone (or something??) is cranking an invisible delay time knob up and down on the repeats.  This control (I think) can make sounds like hatching a Yoshi in Super Mario. Awesome.
Modulation – controls oscillation or rise and fall (like a sine wave) of the delayed repeats.
Blend – to blend or mix in your clean unaffected signal.  And yes, I do always have to point out that I really like this knob on any pedal.  And yes, stupid, I like it because it provides a lot more versatility than an effect that is ‘all or nothing’.  (I kid, you’re not really stupid…I mean, you can read, right?  If you’re American, that’s pretty damn good!!)
Volume – duh, to control how loud this naughty pedal can get.  Not sure if it goes above unity gain or not.
Stutter/reverb toggle switch – switches between stutter or reverb.  I can’t be sure how the stutter is controlled, but I get the feeling it makes the repeats cut off abruptly to make them sound choppy and tremolo like?  I think you press the freeze button and it momentarily engages the opposite function of what is selected by the toggle switch.  The freeze button also sounds like it slams and/or pounds the delay time knob causing crazy lo-fi tape delay self oscillation whirlpools that can suck you down faster than if you were caught alone in a dark alley with Justin Bieber.

Since I don’t have a manual or much to reference, you should definitely watch Recovery’s video and see for yourself.  It’s short, and I get the feeling it only scratches the surface of what this pedal can do.  Feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you think!  I think noisy noise heads would probably love this pedal as they can expect it to do a bunch of crazy things loosely related to delay, reverb, and unpredictable pitch shifting anarchy.  I love all the sounds on the video from the slap back garage verb, to the ambient chorus/reverb, to the lo-fi analog delay, and of course the ‘slamming the tape head’ crazy oscillating helicopter sound.  Anyone who is looking for that weird or experimental tone for their board should deeply consider owning this pedal.  I know I am as I would love to see everything The Cutting Room Floor can do.

Check out Recovery Effects’ website for more info.  As always, feel free share your opinions in the comment box below!  Oh and I almost forgot.  Head over to the Look page to see some cool new pedal acquisitions!

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

Pedal Feature – Henretta Engineering

Hey there, everybody.  I know what you’re thinking, two posts in one week?  What am I, an animal?  No, my friends, I’m a mere human being with a sick insatiable desire for one thing….pedals.  Plus I miss you and just couldn’t resist talking to you again after our last conversation went so well.  henretta
The good gents at Guitar Riot mentioned the miniscule pedals made by Henretta Engineering when I last visited the store.  Surprisingly, I’m not going to talk about the Choadblaster, despite it’s amazing name (that’s another post for someday I guess).  Sorry.  What makes this Chicago-based company truly unique is found in their cute color-coded 2″ x 2″ enclosures.  I had heard of/seen them before, but didn’t think much of them because I dismissed them as a novelty or gimmick.  I know, I can be so superficial sometimes.  You see, there’s no trippy or shiny graphics to drool over or external knobs for that thing called tactile sensation.  What, no tweaking???  Does not compute…  Don’t worry, you still have control over essential parameters via trim pots located inside the pedal.  Personally, I don’t know how I feel about having to open a pedal every time I want to tweak something, but for those who like to ‘set it and forget it’, these pedals could be perfect.


My favorites are the Green Zapper Envelope Filter and the Purple Octopus Octave Up.  The Green Zapper has a nice and musical auto-wah quack to it.  I think I even hear a little Frank Zappa tone in there.  Some envelope filters can be all treble-y and harsh on your ears and therefore make you want to throw them away or bury them in a deep hole in the woods.  The Green Zapper is set at a manageable starting point for the filtering of your envelopes (although you’re free to fuck it up as you see fit).  As it is though, this thing is fat and crisp and would please even the funkiest of soul brothas.  Check it:

The Purple Octopus sounds especially awesome.  It reminds me of a super gnarly old school fuzz pedal.  Leads produce an octave up, rusty knives cutting cold glass kind of sound.  Chords produce a really fat wall of sound explosion.  Sounds like someone is murdering a robot.  Watch the video:

I could see myself making some old-school synthy textures with these.

I have to admit Henretta has made themselves a clever niche having ventured into the opposite realm of most builders by taking a minimalist approach.  By embracing this philosophy the company is able to focus on the most important aspect of designing any pedal – tone.  We all know that this is all that matters.  Luckily all their pedals sound really amazing, especially considering the price and their appearance to be far from one-trick ponies.  And imagine never having to mark your settings or worry about knobs mysteriously shifting just enough to mess up that sweet tone of yours when you fire up at a gig (I’m pretty sure underwear gnomes have a division for this).  My lovely wife would be ecstatic if I had these because I am a notorious tweaker.  I like to tweak, tweak, and tweak some more.  Like at band practice I take only a quick 15 minutes to get something to sound just right, then I’ll tweak it again and have to start all over.  Bless her heart…I’m working on this, I swear!

If you’re a traveling guitarist and need effects as part of your rig, look no further as these pedals are so tiny you can fit the whole line on the smallest pedalboard ever (apparently someone did just that at Guitar Riot to make a sweet travel board) and into a backpack, overhead compartment, or clown car glove box.  Henretta also gives you the really cool option of putting multiple units (up to everything they offer) into one still pretty small sized enclosure.  They’ll even let you pick the order of effects and put on external knobs (to control some parameters) if you want so you can completely customize your own analog multi effects pedal unit.  Sweet idea!  They also do all kinds of crazy shit like adding BYOC circuits and effects loops for adding external effects.  That way you could use the compact version for travel and when you have the time and space you can expand your rig to include your other favorite pedals.  If you’re like me and you’re too afraid to let go of your tweaking ways you can even buy a ‘normal’ sized pedal with external knobs included.  But who knows I might have to get my hands on one of the little guys someday.

Check out www.henrettaengineering.com for more info.

What do you think?  Do you care if a pedal has knobs for adjusting?  Let me know!

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File