Meris Hedra Review
A trippy, triple-headed pitch shifter.
Many cool tones. Solid build.
Difficult to operate.
Ease of Use:
The Hedra is the latest pedal from Meris, the company Terry Burton formed a few years after launching Strymon. An ambitious pitch shifter, the Hedra stuffs vast functionality into a 5"x4" enclosure. Actually, the term “pitch shifter” doesn’t do Hedra justice. It combines transposition with a complex delay/echo network that generates everything from subtle chorusing to dizzying pitch-shifted anarchy.
The Hedra houses three pitch shifters. You can set independent transposition intervals (up to two octaves, up or down) and delay times for each. Their respective output levels are always equal, though you can specify the overall wet/dry mix. Feedback settings are also global. Delays can regenerate as long as you like, but the same regeneration setting applies to all three shifters. A tap-tempo switch defines your master delay time, and then you specify the delay time for each pitch shifter in ratio to the tapped tempo.
The transposition quality is par for the course in this price range. That is, transposed tones are clearly digital, with a “bleaty” quality when heard in isolation. But they can sound fantastic in musical contexts—especially with profuse delay and downstream reverb. Regardless of the transposition, the Hedra responds reliably only to monophonic signals. Even with simple chords played through the pitch-detection-friendly neck pickup, multiple notes yield chaos. Depending on your tastes, that may be more a feature than a bug.
Other results vary from tight harmonizations to cascading pitch/echo effects of fractal-like complexity. With patience, you can summon a cornucopia of head-spinning effects, especially when you work the 4-position modal control, which configures the delays in series, parallel, both, or a spiraling feedback loop. My demo clip is a sampler of harmonized effects, recorded via an amp modeler to showcase Hedra’s stereo sound.
TheHedra supports “smart” pitch shifting. You can choose any key from a rotary switch, and then apply one of seven scale types (major, natural minor, melodic minor, harmonic minor, double harmonic, Lydian pentatonic, and minor pentatonic) for stacked diatonic harmonies. Everything works as expected, but you may encounter issues that arise with any smart shifter: Overly tight harmonies can sound cheesy depending on your tastes, and “smart” goes out the window if you change keys or introduce accidentals. The only solution is to switch programs on the fly.
Speaking of program switching: The Hedra can store 16 patches in memory, but you can’t select them without external hardware—either a MIDI controller or Meris’ $99 4-knob Preset Switch. (Not included, though Meris sent one with our review pedal. It works great!) A single 1/4" jack accommodates MIDI control, the preset switch, or a controller pedal—but only one at a time.
Expression control is simple yet powerful: You can morph between any two stored sounds. That means dual tones on tap plus all those potentially psycho-delic transitional states. Another cool feature: Holding down the tap-tempo switch adds a slow-rise swell effect to your dry signal and, by extension, the wet one. Some players purchase stompboxes solely for this effect.
Ease of Use?
The Hedra’s functions and options far outnumber its six knobs and two footswitches. That means lots of potentially confusing multi-function controls. On the Hedra, most knobs have three roles. One set pertains to setup and preferences, which you won’t need to access often. Still, you may find yourself constantly toggling between two sets of functions: the ones with names are printed on the enclosure, and the ones accessible when you hold down the ALT button. The secondary functions aren’t described on the pedal, and they aren’t exactly intuitive.
For example, the wet/dry mix knob becomes the delay feedback control when ALT is pressed. The three pitch knobs become delay time offsets. Even the bypass switch doubles as a pitch-smoother. You’ll need to do much memorization or keep the manual nearby. Meanwhile, the text that does appear on the box employs tiny fonts in a reflective black that can be hard to read against the gray enclosure and shiny silver knobs. Those knobs don’t use detents either, which makes it tricky to dial in desired values—particularly on the pitch controls, where four octaves of transposition intervals are crammed into the compass of a half-inch knob. I found the interface difficult to work with. Your experience may differ.
The Hedra is an ambitious pitch shifter capable of many striking sounds—many of which are hard to duplicate without a higher-priced multi-effector. However, its complex features can make for a complex user experience, especially with triple-function controls and no software editor. Brains and interface tastes differ, and some players will have an easier time than I did. Chances are they’ll concoct cool things with the Hedra.
Watch the First Look: