All Reviews

Big sounds abound in this affordable orchestra synth in a box.

Hip string synth tones. Communicates detail in complex chords. Freeze effects included.

High-mid transients can be pronounced in some voices.

$259

Electro-Harmonix S9 String Ensemble
ehx.com

4
5
4.5
4

Electro-Harmonix is a giant among pedal builders. What’s inspiring about EHX is that they’ve never let that stature keep them from taking risks. Take the company’s keyboard- and synth-inspired pedals: the B9, KEY9, MEL9, and Synth9. Each has been a success, but none were sure-fire hits. Guitar-based synthesis at accessible consumer prices is not easy. Yet in each case, EHX created something playable and useful to guitarists. And if they didn’t always achieve perfect replication of the keyboard and synth instruments that inspired them, the pedals often prompted new ways of relating to a guitar and new possibilities in performance and composition. The S9 String Ensemble is among the most realized of these pedals. Its sounds are rich and creatively executed. And the pedal is compelling in the truest sense of the word: It makes it virtually impossible to not consider new songs, new arrangements, and new styles as you interact with it.

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A lush, lively stereo chorus with tasteful, varied presets and controls that range from the classic to the crazed.

Excellent presets and reactive controls produce a lush variety of lovely classic and crazed sounds. Solid construction.

Pricey. Black divot dial marking are hard to read.

$300

VS Alchemy MkIII
vsaudio.com

5
4
4
4


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Pedalboard space be damned! Andy Timmons’ signature time machine delivers dual-delay potential in a single compact stomp.

Tons of delay tones and rangeful, powerful tools for shaping them.

A lot of functionality in a little box means close quarters for switches and dual-function controls that are tricky to change on the fly

$299

Keeley Halo
robertkeeley.com

4.5
4.5
4
4

There’s a zillion reasons to be excited about the Keeley Halo—a collaboration between Keeley and guitar ace Andy Timmons. For starters, it’s an express-train ticket to Timmons’ carefully honed delay sound: a spacious playground of echoes that dwells partly in the realm of reverb and lets Timmons’ fretwork breathe and gather momentum and size. It’s also a great pedal for players hooked on the possibilities of a dual-delay setup who have space constraints to consider. And it’s a perfect delay for players that want to dabble in multiple delay textures without the headache of programming and managing a million controls and presets.

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No tone control? No problem. Shuksan is big, bold, and versatile.

Power and surprising versatility. High-quality build.

Some players will miss having a tone control to mellow the mood.

$163

Spun Loud Effects Shuksan Fuzz
spunloud.com

4.5
4.5
4.5
4

The staying power of fuzz speaks a lot to the way it can transcend musical styles. And that adaptability and lasting appeal means pedal builders are still developing fresh designs like this Shuksan Fuzz from Spun Loud Effects. Relatively straightforward in one sense, it's different from most fuzzes in a fundamental way: the knobs enable control over its two main gain stages (out of three total)—an unusual approach that delivers big fuzz tones, but also a lot of unusual ones.

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