Electro-Harmonix Enigma: Q-Balls Bass Envelope Filter Review

Electro-Harmonix''s Enigma: Q-Balls combines the Q-Tron and Bass Balls for unprecedented levels of funk

Download Example 1
Hi Pass mode with the Start Stop set to play the entire wave
Download Example 2
Band Pass mode with the Start Stop set to play the entire wave
Download Example 3
Lo Pass mode and Distortion engaged with the Start Stop set to play entire wave
Download Example 4
Band Pass mode with all controls wide open
Download Example 5
Band Pass mode with all controls wide open
Download Example 6
Band Pass mode and Distortion engaged with the Start Stop set to play entire wave
Sounds clips were recorded using the Enigma Q Balls and a Kramer Disciple bass with EMG pickups. This was plugged into a SWR Marcus Miller Signature Preamp into a Presonus Firepod and  tracked within Nuendo.
For some years now the entity that is Electro-Harmonix has been wowing us with a variety of toys that are less than conventional by some standards. If it gurgles, wahs, burps, fuzzes, or generally creates something funky, EH has a knack for creating it and making it musical. One of their fortes in the industry has always been their vast array of envelope filters, including the legendary Q-Tron. Guitar and bass players alike have relied on the Q-Tron when it is time to bring da’funk since its inception. Going even deeper into all things stanky is the equally ominous Bass Balls pedal. With its cool filtering effect coupled with a switchable distortion, the Bass Balls has been known for taking the groove even further. Bass players in particular have been known to utilize both of these pedals in their setups, and now EH has combined the two into the uber-cool Enigma: Q-Balls.

As part of EH’s latest line of bass dedicated effects, the Enigma: Q-Balls may indeed be one of the Holy Grails of funkdom. The Enigma is housed in a sturdy diecast enclosure and offers a barrage of tweakability that knob-turners will adore. There are dedicated knobs for controlling Attack, Q frequency, Sensitivity, Decay, and even a blend control for maximizing the tone between direct signal and wet. There is a three-step Mode selector knob for choosing between Low Pass, Band Pass, and Hi Pass filters as well. This alone would be great, but just like a good infomercial, “wait, there’s more.”

The final two knobs are two of the secret weapons of the Enigma. With the Start and Stop knobs you can focus the starting and ending points of the Q filter sweep. You can set them both “wide” to get the effect of the entire sweep or set them “closer” in to get a more focused effect. This works particularly well for fast, dance-type bass lines, giving the illusion of an old analog synth bass. For further tweaking euphoria you can even add an expression pedal to the mix to control the Q frequency. How cool is that, kiddies?

Rounding out this fully-analog beast is the addition of separate Dry and Effect outputs and its other weapon of mass destruction: the footswitchable, bone-crushing analog distortion. With all of this firepower, bassists can now make their presence known, and the fact that the Enigma has a frequency range of 40 Hz to 3 kHz makes it even sweeter since extended range basses like five and six strings should have little worry of crapping out the Enigma’s signal with unwanted clipping.

Firing it Up
For testing purposes, the Enigma: Q -Balls was used both live and in the studio to truly test its capabilities. In both arenas the Enigma delivered from the get-go. The first thing that impressed me was the fact that, unlike some vintage envelope filters, the Enigma didn’t add any unwanted noise when engaged. This is something that players have learned to live with for the sake of tone, but the fact that the Enigma stayed quiet is obviously a priceless commodity especially when tracking parts. Thank you EH for making this improvement over the decades. Many a mixing engineer will love you and you don’t even know it.

So in trying to describe the tones and textures it is hard to focus on a single word. Obviously, “funky” could indeed encompass the joy that is the Enigma. Truthfully, it is quite more complex due to the countless hours of tweaking and sounds you can achieve from a relatively simple pedal. Greasy, furry, stanky, juicy, smooth, gritty, dirty, rambunctious, brutal, and even smelly are all represented in this somewhat unassuming pedal. In more layman’s terms you can dial up everything from Bootsy-style funk sounds to cool ‘80s-esque synth-like sounds without taking up a ton of pedalboard real estate.

The one thing as in all envelope filters that is something to be aware of is watching your gain on your gear with certain settings. Knowing that you are manipulating frequencies, it is real easy to blow speakers or fry tweeters. When going for either super Hi Pass settings or massive Lo Pass settings you should be aware that there is an eminent danger factor. The Enigma can rattle speakers at high volumes for sure, especially in Lo Pass mode. If you are really cranking, make sure you are using a rig that can handle it and you will have a much better day than if you blow your rig going off on a groove tangent.

The Final Mojo
All in all there is truly nothing to gripe about with the Enigma: Q-Balls. Yet again, Electro Harmonix has delivered an “out-of-box” experience that is truly cool. If you have an excuse to put one of these in your rig and be able to utilize it you ought to check it out. The groove will be thick and you will be one with da’funk.
Buy if...
you want to dominate the masses with supreme funkiness
Skip if...
you tend to run away from da’funk like a frightened school girl.

MSRP $189 - Electro-Harmonix - ehx.com

Multiple modulation modes and malleable voices cement a venerable pedal’s classic status.

Huge range of mellow to immersive modulation sounds. Easy to use. Stereo output. Useful input gain control.

Can sound thin compared to many analog chorus and flange classics.


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