Growing up in the early ‘90s my guitar heroes were Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), Adam Jones (Tool) and Justin Broadrick (Godflesh), so it’s no accident that I began experimenting with drop tuning early on. I’ve run the gamut when it comes to lower tuning, having owned an Ibanez 7-string and a 6-string baritone in the past. When I was asked to check out the Morpheus DropTune, I was excited but skeptical. After watching the company’s NAMM demo my expectations were high. Questions, concerns, ideas began swirling in my brain. Could I finally put lighter gauge strings on my guitars and let the Morpheus DropTune do all the work? The Morpheus DropTune is a polyphonic pitch drop pedal that allows the player to drop up to 3-1/2 steps in half step decrements. An Instrument tuned to E can be tuned down to Eb, D, Db, C B, Bb, or A. What separates this pedal from the rest of the pack is that with the DropTune you can play not only single notes, but full chords. There are also two Octave effects, one to drop the instrument down to a full octave, and an octaver that blends your original note and the octave note together. The DropTune comes housed in a slick silver-and-black metal chassis with 3 footswitches and a large easy-to-read display. Also provided is an Input, Line Out, Trim Level and a Mini USB for firmware updates—all powered by an included 12V DC adapter. Before going into detail on the features, I must add that the power adapter is small, taking up only one space on a power conditioner, which is refreshing, because power supply real estate is important.
The footswitch features are (from left to right): Down, Up and On/Off. The Down switch allows the player to move down in steps whether the unit is on or off. The Up switch only allows you to step up when the effect is off, but it doubles as a toggle switch when the effect is on to allow the user to toggle back and forth between the effect On/ Off—a red LED indicates when the effect is On. The rear-panel Trim Level knob allows you to adjust the line level input of the guitar, which you can also track by the input level meter on the pedal.
How’s That Drop?
Plugging in to the DropTune for the first time, I ran directly into my pedalboard from the output of the DropTune. Adjusting my line level, I first listened for any comparable sound difference between running the pedal in my signal chain and not running it. Although this pedal is true bypass, the guitar’s signal is being processed digitally, which can be a hard pill to swallow for analog enthusiasts. The pedal is very transparent and doesn’t seem to color the tone in any way. Clicking the effect on, I began with the first half step down, playing an open E chord in clean. I noticed immediately how well the DropTune tracked the notes of the chord I played. As we say in the digital music world, there was very little latency, which didn’t affect my timing when playing through the DropTune. With the initial test out of the way I began my descent. When I made it to two-and-half steps down there was a bit of warble when notes were sustained. This is also where my tone began to sound processed when playing full chords—a little disappointing at first blush, but to be fair I had to really listen for it, and it only seemed really noticeable while in clean.
The warble disappeared when I switched to distortion, especially at louder volumes. That being the case, I don’t think the warble and slightly processed sound would be noticeable when playing in a live setting. The DropTune does track single notes better than chords when tuning down to B or A. I had a lot of fun dropping down the full octave to bass levels, especially when I played my guitars that were already tuned low. The Octaver effect is pretty awesome, putting to shame other Octave pedals that can’t track both notes perfectly. Now the real test: could the Morpheus DropTune replace the .015–.068 gauge strings I currently have on my Gibson Les Paul DC that’s tuned to Drop A? For comparison, I plugged in an Epiphone Les Paul with .012–.048s, tuned to standard E, and began chugging a muted E chord dropped down to A by the DropTune. While the note was a spot-on match with the A of the Les Paul DC, there was a distinct difference in attack between the Epiphone and the Gibson. That comes along with using heavier gauge strings, which create lower frequencies than lighter strings. Although the DropTune can replicate the tuning, and do it very, very well, it won’t replicate the sound of heavier gauge strings on a guitar. This may not affect players who are just looking to drop a step or two, or hit that B note in the Steve Vai riffs they’ve been learning. The heaviest players may want to look at the Morpheus as more of a cool effect than a definitive solution to drop tuning. The Toggle was indispensible when using this approach—kudos to Morpheus for thinking of it.
The Final Mojo
The Morpheus DropTune is definitely a pedal worth checking out. Even for players who tune low, the Morpheus could serve as a useful effect, or allow you to drop even a few steps lower when playing a lead to achieve notes never before possible. While the DropTune may not be suited to my style at the moment, I could see myself owning one in the future. The Morpheus is well built, sounds good and is an innovative solution to tuning low, not to mention it’s made to be used with all stringed instruments. I should also point out here that while trying this unit out I didn’t notice any tracking difference between the lighter and heavier gauge strings, which happens with other units.
you’re looking for a drop-tuning solution without heavier gauge strings.
you’re comfortable tuning low and aren’t looking for a pitch effect.