Paradox Futura Review
A Jekyll and Hyde of modulation uses envelope-driven dynamics to open up pretty-to-twisted chorus frontiers.
Recorded using a Schroeder Chopper TL into a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe IV miked with a Royer 121 feeding an Apogee Duet going into GarageBand with no EQ-ing, compression, or effects.
Clip 1 – Bridge pickup. Envelope engaged, blend 10 o'clock, sensitivity 3 o'clock, level 1 o'clock, rate 3 o'clock, envelope controlling the rate, R toggle down, D toggle up.
Clip 2 – Middle pickup. Blend at 3 o’ clock, level at 1 o’clock, depth at 9 o’clock, and rate at noon.
Creative design. Mellow-to-manic modulation colors. Easy to switch between chaotic sounds and conventional ones.
Footswitches are close together. Some envelope settings might be too anarchic for some tastes.
Paradox Futura Multiparametric Envelope Chorus
Ease of Use:
I love Jekyll and Hyde effects—especially when they make freakish personality swings so painless to explore. The Mexico-built Paradox Futura envelope chorus is such an effect. You can use it to create lovely, liquid analog chorus tones, and then, in a moment, switch on an envelope to create disorienting, bizarre, and menacingly irregular modulation that responds to pick attack in many manic-yet-controllable ways.
Just like that party animal Mr. Hyde, the Futura’s envelope modulation can be unpredictable and an uncomfortable fit for proper company. But the Futura is a thoughtfully designed pedal that gives you many paths to explore in honing its wilder side. And it’s likely you’ll uncover scads of unusual and dynamically expressive sounds in the process.
Stuffed With Wobbly Weirdness
As we found in our review of the excellent and inventive Terran distortion, Paradox is not afraid of unusual sounds or unorthodox means of making them. And if you shoot just a quick look at the Futura, you’d probably assume that the array of five knobs, three toggles, and two switches adds up to a fairly considerable learning curve. But the Futura is neither as complicated nor as tricky to operate as it looks—at least if you accept a certain amount of anarchy in your tone-crafting life.
Even though the graphics (which seem to echo the look of the busy but tidy printed circuit within) obscure the names of each knob to some degree, it takes little time to get a more intuitive, natural feel for their function and layout. The depth and rate knobs that you would see on most chorus and vibrato effects make up the bottom row of dials. The upper row, however, consists of knobs that manipulate less common effect adjustments. There’s a wet/dry blend knob (which is nice, given how radical some of Futura’s sounds can be and how effectively they can work in small, backgrounded doses) and an output level control, which can be set to make the effect much louder or quieter than your dry signal. It can even work as a clean boost with the blend at all-dry settings. The center-top sensitivity knob controls the intensity of the envelope’s response to picking attack. It, too, is vital to crafting tones that can shock or tuck in tidily behind more conventional sounds.
The three-toggle array further shapes the response characteristics of the envelope. The center toggle selects whether the envelope affects rate, depth or both. The position of the R++ toggle determines whether the envelope increases or decreases modulation rate, while the D++ switch determines whether the envelope makes modulations more or less intense. The left footswitch, meanwhile, can work as a latch or momentary switch for activating the envelope.
Pretty To Punch Drunk
For a chorus effect that can get so genuinely weird, the Futura’s basic analog chorus tones aren’t especially nutty. Setting the depth, rate, and blend controls to maximum yields queasy pitch-shifting textures, but they aren’t worlds different or more radically unhinged than more basic chorus or rotary speaker-inspired modulation effects. That said, the basic chorus tones are dimensional, pretty, and well suited for subtle contexts with wet-dry mixes at conservative levels. In fact, some of my favorite colors came via intense depth and rate levels tucked behind a more prominent dry signal. It’s a sound many simpler two-knob chorus effects can’t produce, and one that other choruses with wet/dry controls don’t always do as well. There are many options for very lovely and immersive and subtle shadings to work with here.
And that’s a very good thing, because the Futura can get downright insane when you bring the envelope follower into the mix. It bears repeating that the Futura’s most practical design feature is the many ways it can duck in and out of twisted modulation realms with ease. That makes creating contrasts between mellow and maniacal settings endlessly fun. Some of this flexibility is down to the thoughtful inclusion of the momentary envelope switch, which has both practical and expressive possibilities. Using the momentary switch, you can set up the envelope for highly reactive and glitchy depth and rate oscillations and introduce them without varying pick intensity. It’s killer for charging, chugging rhythm riffs that you want to mutilate without letting off the gas.
But the most expressive potential comes from utilizing the envelope in latch mode along with a dynamic picking approach. The Futura’s envelope follower and the sensitivity control both have great range that enables you to color a delicately modulated arpeggiated line with dots and dashes of slightly to super-demented pitch wobble—just with a carefully placed pick accent. It can inspire uncommon phrasings, flip ordinary riffs on their head, and inspire whole songs, depending on your mindset.
The joy of using the Futura is the way it can move so deftly with your moods. The envelope-controlled modulation means you can punctuate and color guitar phrases and leads in very immediate, dynamic, and specific ways. But Futura is just as happy delivering reliably beautiful movement to simple parts. Mastering its sense of touch and nuance may take a little practice, but the enhanced tone vocabulary that even minor mastery enables could completely change the way you approach modulation.