Alexander Pedals Colour Theory Review
Otherworldly synth-sequenced sounds congregate in a brilliantly designed, board-friendly box for the brave.
*Recorded with an Eastwood Sidejack Baritone DLX feeding a Curtis Novak Jazzmaster Widerange bridge pickup into a Catalinbread Topanga, then into a Soundbrut DrVa, the Colour Theory, an Ibanez Echo Shifter (with subtle mix and repeat settings), and an MXR Reverb, and then routed to a Jaguar HC50 miked with a Royer R-121 and a Fender Rumble 200 miked with a Shure SM57, both feeding an Apogee Duet going into GarageBand with no EQ-ing, compression, or effects.
Clip1: Mod mode with rate at 9 o’clock, steps at 8, mix at maximum, and lag at minimum.
Clip 2: Pitch mode with rate at 2 o’clock, steps at 6, mix at 11 o’clock, and lag at noon.
Clip 3: Pitch mode with rate at noon, steps at 5, mix at max, and lag at minimum.
Limitless array of step-sequenced sounds in a compact, brilliantly conceived and executed package. Diverse control options. Very reasonable price.
Not for the set-and-forget set. Would be cool to be able to randomize all possible sequence and effect-type settings at once.
Alexander Pedals Colour Theory
Ease of Use:
Alexander Pedals' product arc has undergone an interesting evolution since its 2015 launch. Initial offerings were midsized single-effectors like the Princess Clang Royal Overdrive and F.13 flanger. Then 2016 saw larger, more ambitious boxes like the Super Radical Delay and Oblivion Vintage Delay, which featured more knobs, modes, and LEDs, and the ability to tweak extra parameters via MIDI.
The company now aims for a middle ground. Double-wide enclosures bedecked with bells and whistles are gone. But while the entirety of Alexander’s 12-pedal line (now dubbed the Neo Series) resides in standard-sized enclosures, half of them also surpass the sophistication of the Super Radical and Oblivion by incorporating OSC (open sound control) app compatibility and a near-invisible pushbutton that accesses many additional effects and functions. In a nutshell, they aim to please both tech tweakers and players who don’t want to think about anything other than the knobs at their toes. Here we take a look at the Colour Theory—a 2-footswitch stomp that pairs an 8-step sequencer with a 32-bit effects processor featuring pitch-shift, modulation, resonant filter, tremolo, synth-oscillator, and octave effects.
Weirdness Simplified … Or Not
Considering Colour Theory’s firepower, its top panel is a well thought-out and uncluttered affair. Four knobs administer dual functions, depending on whether the pedal is in standard sequencer mode or “parked” on a specific step within a given sequence (park mode is activated by holding down the left footswitch). Rate controls the speed of a given effect, and doubles as the means by which you alter MIDI values in park mode. “Steps” lets you select anywhere from two to eight sequenced intervals and enables you to tweak the primary parameter of the selected effect type (e.g., delay time, filter frequency, tremolo rate). “Lag” shifts the transition from one sequenced step to another, yielding angular, robotic, or jumpy transitions at minimum, or smooth ones at clockwise settings. Lag also doubles as the means of altering each effect’s secondary parameter (e.g., tone, filter resonance, oscillator wave). Finally, the mix knob governs the dry-to-wet-signal ratio for the entire effected signal, while in park mode it controls the dry-to-wet mix for the parked step only. It also serves a third function: Press and hold the select button, and mix alters the pedal’s output from -20 dB to +10 dB—a handy option for adapting the Colour Theory to different instruments and settings, or live and recording applications. You can also use it to change the order of sequenced steps to up, down, or random.
Pairs Well With Disco Ball
The Colour Theory could be named for its kaleidoscopic tone palette or its five oft-blinking multicolored LEDs. The topmost LED doesn’t just signify that the effect is engaged, it also changes color in time with the sequence rate. Each sequenced step has an associated hue, as indicated by the color-coded numbers surrounding the steps knob. Additionally, the left footswitch’s LED blinks in time with the programmed or tapped-in tempo, and the right footswitch’s LED lights when the footswitch is held down to cycle through the presets available via the pedal’s own hardware.
To keep track of which effect you select, the two LEDs at the center of the pedal change color as you switch presets or manually cycle through effect types. The top LED lights up blue, purple, or red to indicate selection of pitch-shift, synth oscillator, or resonant filter effect, while the bottom lights up in the same colors to indicate modulation, synthesized octave (PWM), or tremolo. A surrounding array of color-coded circles, each with three letters inside, helps further elucidate things.
The Colour Theory can also be tweaked via MIDI functionality and third-party apps that let you see and manipulate graphic depictions of pedal functions. (Alexander recommends Hexler Limited’s TouchOSC for iOS and Android devices.)
Close Encounters of the Raving Kind
If detailing the Colour Theory’s capabilities is daunting, describing its tones is almost futile. The range of bleepity-blipity-bloopity-bloppity, groink-gra-gronk-gra-grank, fa-fwow-fa-fwoo-fa-frar, and wee-weee-weeee-weeeoooooooo sounds is more akin to the aliens from Spielberg’s ’77 UFO flick snorting coke at Studio 54 than calmly communicating with scientists in the Wyoming wilderness. The aural possibilities are limitless and beyond common the tone idioms guitarists typically use. And that’s obviously the point.
The mix knob affects how heavy-handedly the pedal interacts with your guitar, but the Colour Theory often almost eliminated tonal differences between instruments, even with a significant amount of dry signal blended in. Even so, some of my favorite sounds were akin to morphing synth-fuzz blasts or stuttering double-helixes twisting into oblivion. Often I preferred higher lag settings that created more atmospheric mood shifts rather than stilted sqwonks.
Alexander Pedals couldn’t have done a better job of stuffing the Colour Theory’s powerful capabilities into a compact stompbox that nontweakers can put to practical use without blowing a brain fuse. But it can be daunting. On the bright side, you’ll get bonkers-in-a-good way sounds whether you dive deep or shallow. In all, it’s a compact, smartly configured means of getting sounds typically only available from larger, pricier, and more complex synth gear. Kudos!