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One of the most useful tools in a seasoned- player’s arsenal is a good, simple, delay unit. These days, a lot of delay pedals offer a smorgasbord of features, with dazzling arrays of controls and knobs to shape and sculpt the delayed tone, and even loop it. You can almost forget how many cool tones can be coaxed from a conventional, 3-knob delay as the new Mellow-D by Studio Blue’s Levana Audio demonstrates handily.
More Than Meets the Eye
Anyone used to old, 3-knob analog-delay units like the Boss DM-2 and Ibanez AD-9 can use the Mellow-D blindfolded. There are familiar controls for Time, Feedback, and Level (which acts as a volume control for the wet signal). The circuit is digital, but it’s designed to emulate the warmth of older, tape delays. And the digital circuit enables the Levana pedal to significantly increase the available delay time, to a maximum of 1000 ms.
Familiar as it looks on the surface, the Levana has one very unique trick up its powder-blue sleeve. There’s a 3-way switch on the top of the unit that brings in two degrees of leftover digital distortion and applies it to the delayed signal. In the top position, the repeats come back with a higher frequency range. And in the bottom position, they kick back with a lower set of frequencies and a slight drop in fidelity that can help you radicalize your repeats.
Nothing Yellow about This Mellow
The pristine sounds of a Fender 60th Anniversary Telecaster and a Fender ’65 Twin Reverb combo were a perfect canvas for the Mellow-D to show off its warm, granulated, vintage-styled tones. The short delay-times are delightfully sputtery and perfect for bathtub-delayed, single-note country riffing. In this context, the pedal is super-responsive to pick attack, and the delay repeats distorted ever so slightly as I started in with a harder, more-defined pick attack.
Longer delay times are a treat as well, and reveal how well the Mellow-D really cops the tone of a well-worn, vintage tape delay. The dirtiness and lower fidelity of the repeats was much more noticeable when I had the Time control set above 10 o’clock— each repeat had a great, decaying quality that, at times, made me wish I could sustain each repeat. They sound that cool.
Some of the coolest tones within the Mellow-D exist thanks to the 3-way switch on the top of the unit. As I flicked the switch to the up position, a really abrasive white-noise rang from the Twin’s speakers. After dropping the Feedback control to just slightly a hair above the off position, I was able to hear the effect’s extremely eerie, digitally distorted repeats ringing in the upper registers of the highs. Bringing the Feedback control up made the effect more intense, and when I brought it up to around 9 o’clock, the signal bled into a glorious, self-oscillating feedback that stopped immediately when I started playing again— perfect for soundscape work, à la Robert Fripp and Brian Eno.
Levana managed to build a really great-sounding tape delay emulator, but the real treat is the pedal’s digital repeat distortion switch. I’m hard-pressed to think of any effect I’ve come across that sounds and reacts quite like it, which is a definite plus in terms of adding a new spin on an old idea. And if you’re often left wondering how to indulge your inner traditionalist and experimentalist with the same pedal, the Levana Mellow-D may be the key.
you need a great tape-delay simulator with extended delay-time and extra kooky-sounding uniqueness.
you need more control over the delay tone, and digitally clean repeats.
Street $259 - Levana Audio - studiobluellc.com
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