The huge range of unique, practical, and downright bonkers sounds within the Rainbow Machine makes it an ideal studio tool that can transform hooks and solos from ordinary to arresting.
If you’re a stompbox freak, it’s hard not to be knocked out by the creative explosion at EarthQuaker Devices. In the last half decade, the little Akron, Ohio, company—started by former Black Keys road manger Jamie Stillman—and its modest line of killer fuzz and distortion boxes has morphed into a hydra-headed beast that seems to turn out new sound-manipulation tools faster than Planters cranks out peanuts.
These days, EarthQuaker’s irreverence and sonic adventurism finds the company as willing to toy with analog circuits for purists as DSP pedals for bold experimentalists. The Rainbow Machine reviewed here falls in the latter category, and it’s a great example of how EarthQuaker’s willingness to be bold and deviant and to explore underutilized tone textures results in stompboxes that stoke musical invention just as much as they fine-tune your tone.
The Rainbow Machine is a pitch-shifting, modulating, harmonizing, time-warping pedal that not only alters pitch, but also gives you the power to transform those pitch modulations using time-based controls. The effect can be as radical as an analog synth in the hands of a science fiction soundscape artist, but it can also be subtle, tasteful, and highly effective in low-key applications where it can add unexpected and delicious textures to chords and simple leads and hooks.
Six Ways over the Rainbow
The DSP-driven Rainbow Machine is not the kind of pedal you’re likely to dial-in right out of the box. Some controls get more extreme on either side of high noon, others increase in intensity as you sweep clockwise, while others work in the opposite direction. To top it off, most of these functions are too deep to conveniently define with a single label. And some are just willfully and beautifully obscure. But what the Rainbow Machine lacks in intuitiveness, it pays back with power and flexibility. A little extra time spent learning the power and personality of each control pays big dividends in uncovering the wealth of sound potential in the Rainbow Machine.
The pitch control is perhaps the most vital knob. It determines the interval of the shifted signal. Whenever things get too squirrelly, returning the pitch knob to 12 o’clock is they key to dialing everything back. At noon, you get two tones in unison, tones that—depending on other knob settings—tend to have a slightly modulated reverb quality. Turn pitch all the way counterclockwise, and you get a tone that’s a fourth down from your fundamental. All the way clockwise, you get a tone that’s a third up. In between, the pitch knob yields a world of dissonant harmonies that can vary from mellow to monstrous and demented.
To the right of pitch, the primary knob adjusts the level of the pitch-shifted signal. The secondary knob controls the level of a second signal that’s an octave lower or higher than your pitch-shifted signal, depending on which side of noon you set the dial.
The tone control determines how bright or dark your pitch-shifted signal is, and it’s one of the keys to determining how subtle or radical the Rainbow Machine is in a given musical application. The tracking knob dictates the time between the fundamental and pitch shifted signals, enabling everything from arpeggio- to delay- and reverb-like effects. But the Rainbow Machine’s piece d’resistance is the magic knob, which induces intense regenerations and modulating trails that send the pedal into more cosmic realms and hallucinogenic states—it’s a control so powerful that it gets its own on-off switch.
It’s best—or easiest, rather—to begin exploring the Rainbow Machine from a more reserved setting. And when you do, you’ll discover that the mellowest settings are the ticket to interesting takes on familiar effects. Keeping the pitch knob even, adding a touch of primary and high-octave secondary tones, and keeping the tracking time short lends a modulated chorus effect that gives jazzy passages a little movement—especially with the tone knob rolled back. With the tone knob up, the chorus takes on a more flanger-like color. With all three pitch-related controls at noon, the pedal takes on a more linear chorus sound that you can shape with a touch of quasi-slapback echo and reverb as you sweep the tracking control counterclockwise.
Rolling the pitch-shifted signal to a full fourth down and keeping the primary and secondary controls at mild settings yields an almost-robotic, Duane-and-Dickey harmony-lead sound, while dialing a third up and moderating levels and delay can contribute a queasy barracho feel to Tex-Mex and country chord melodies and single lines. Though I didn’t have an expression pedal to control the pitch, even manual manipulation of the control gives you access to cool, seasick, quasi pedal-steel effects that would be a blast to use on the fly.
For all the sound-twisting potential of the Rainbow Machine’s pitch controls, it’s the magic knob that unlocks its most warped and extreme workings. Crank it and the tone knob up, twist the pitch control a little right of center, and turn the tracking knob counterclockwise, and the Rainbow Machine becomes a teleportation device—generating the kind of star-trail, fade-to-dream sonics that you hear in the intro to the Butthole Surfers’ “Who Was in My Room Last Night.” Yet, for all the narcotic psychosis unleashed by the magic knob, with tone and magic set less aggressively the Rainbow Machine will just as easily approximate an Echoplex-style short delay, replete with tape-warble-like modulation and an ethereal feedback trail.
The enormous range of unique, practical, and downright bonkers sounds within the Rainbow Machine could wear out even the most tireless knob tweaker. This wealth of sounds makes it an ideal studio tool that can transform hooks and solos from ordinary to arresting. It’s easy to imagine the Rainbow Machine as a show-stopping live device, too—particularly with an expression pedal in the mix. But for all its power to stop a listener in their tracks, some of the Rainbow Machine’s most beautiful sounds—like the modulated chorus and slapback—are the most familiar. And the Rainbow Machine does a remarkable job of making those tones just bizarre and left-of-center enough to inspire double takes. We’ve gotten used to such surprises and twists of reality from EarthQuaker, but even by their lofty standards, the Rainbow Machine is one very deep bag of tricks.
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level of performance. Rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. Railhammer Pickups have outstanding tonal balance. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.